Ze comiques are ‘ard to translet

As everyone is moving back in to Haverford and gearing up for a new year, it is pretty weird to see it all happening from far, far away, in my little world of panels and speech balloons in Paris. Despite how far away I am, though, I’ve been doing a lot of work recently with English an American publications–and I think I would have to say that the work I’ve been doing in English has been more difficult in most ways than the work I’ve done this summer in French. I’ll start by talking about that.
Science fiction is a weird genre. And it adds a whole new level of weirdness when you read it in another language. There’s nothing like translation to really force you to think about the words that are on the page you’re reading–you can’t just let the meaning of each sentence wash over you and past you, allowing yourself to focus on the coherent whole, the way you do when you read. (At least when you’re reading for your own enjoyment). And when you really dig into science fiction words, you sometimes have to laugh when thinking about how they were come up with.
For instance, in the Star Wars universe there is a rubbery, tentacled species of alien called the “Mon Calamari” from the planet Dac. If you were to put that into a French Star Wars production without any attempt at transforming it, the species name is essentially “My Squid”–or “My Squiddy” if you want to get picky–but they’re both equally silly. And as soon as you realize that, you can just see the writer in the LucasArts studio going “Hmm, this alien I came up with looks like a squid. It’s lunchtime and I said I’d have this file done by 11… Let’s just call it My Squiddy in French, no one will notice.
That’s obviously a slight exaggeration; Mon Calamari is a decent alien name, but it shows how dangerously close to breaking the 4th wall of fiction you can get, if you don’t translate carefully.
So when I was asked to do a correction of the translation of an upcoming English edition of Barbarella, a classic French sci-fi comic series from the ’60s made famous by Jane Fonda, I had was excited. She’s an intergalactic hero who vanquishes her enemies with love and love alone. Lots and lots of love. Enough love that one of the translation issues was wondering how much of what was OK in France in 1968 is OK for a young US audience in 2014…

Barbarella image

www.youtube.com/watch?v=x3-E3xuQtqI
But besides that there’s a whole slurry of weird vocabulary: there’s the “Archivèpre,” ruler of the planet Spectra; there’s Big Bug the Astronef, Barbarella’s (awesome) spaceship; there are the “Bornes,” a bizarre, cultish Spectran species that walks around in army-like ranks and files, staring across the space-time barriers on the surfaces of mirrors, into a parallel universe; there’s “space-time” itself, which is sometimes “espace et temps,” sometimes “temps et espace,” sometimes “espace-temps,” it goes on and on and on.
How it usually goes is I make a pretty liberal correction of the original translation, and send it to our anglophone editors in London and L.A., both of whom are comic-book experts, only one of whom speaks French. Then we have long, detailed Skype conversations going one-by-one over the corrections that we don’t all three of us agree on, which is most of them. At least initially. Often, where I wanted to make a change to erase a French-ism to make Barbella more believable, the London editor wanted to conserve the original because old fans who read the comics in the ’60s will appreciate the authenticity. And I say, “but in the ’60s, they were pumping out a translation every two weeks and they didn’t have the time to spend on quality translations, but we do.” “And then he says to me, “Nick, this is supposed to be sent to the printer today…”
And then the L.A. editor creatively comes up with some new term that conserves elements of both perspectives, and we move on. It’s a constant compromise. I’m not too happy about some of my corrections that were vetoed, but I think that the editorial team we have has probably made for a more holistic, better translation than we would have had if any one of us had done it alone.
This week, I’ve started correcting a translation of a series that is written in French, about a boorish, caveman-like Belgian zombie-hunter and a pimply guy named Carl who has a thing for lady zombies. It takes place in an apocalyptic L.A. in 2064, in which both George W. Bush and Jesus have risen from the dead. It’s filled with French caveman speak, crude Belgian humor, crude L.A. humor, just straight crude humor, lots of post-apocalypse terminology. One of the worst parts: Sean Hannity STILL runs a radio show… In 2064… Wish me luck…

Zombies-That-Ate-The-World-4_zoomed

 

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Click here to begin

Screenshot 2014-08-26 12.25.59

 

Now, with four days between myself and Carleton College’s HumLab, with time to process my work and to admire mine and my co-collaborators’ final products, I feel ready to assess!

Although I am biased, I’m very happy with my own piece of our larger project.  (Which can be found here.)  I feel like the 50+ hours I put into my map show; creating it was truly a labor of love.  I’m also vicariously proud of everyone else’s products, as I understand how tedious and difficult using a world-mapping software can be for mapping mythological places.

Having finished this project, I’m now contemplating how Neatline could be used in classroom settings.  Because the software is so, so specific, unless you’ve used Neatline before, the program requires several hours to learn.  Unless a professor has room in their syllabus to devote at least one class to learning the software’s nuts and bolts, I feel that Neatline needs to be relegated to the realm of final projects: if a professor enjoys assigning more creative finals, outside of papers or exams, making a Neatline map could serve as one option for students.

Would I encourage the proponents of this summer’s HumLab to do another, maybe next summer?  Yes–I very much enjoyed my lab and being able to “take home” a “tangible” product.  Would I encourage students of Classics and other disciplines to attend the next HumLab?  Yes–especially humanities students, who don’t often get that “tangible” result from semester courses.  Usually, our products are reformed ideas, the takeaway of conversations between our peers and professors and between ourselves and texts, formalized in papers and exams.  Neatline provides a viable means of creating a more “tangible” product, one that is still a result of those aforementioned and ever so important conversations.

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An Interdisciplinary Lab

I have spent the last couple weeks at Carleton College in Northfield, MN. Along with 5 other students, I have been part of a humanities lab exploring classical mythology through maps using digital tools called Omeka and Neatline. First we found artifacts and entered them into a database with Omeka. We then made Neatline maps incorporating many of these images and exploring the lives of specific heroes (I worked on Herakles, also known as Hercules).

map

A portion of my map showing various locations relevant to Herakles

exhibit

Part of my exhibit exploring the 12 Labors of Herakles

I have taken many classics courses, but I’m a computer science major and have focused on math and computer science for most of my time in college. When I arrived at this program, I felt a little out of place. What’s a computer science major doing at a humanities lab? Everybody was excited about the opportunity to work on a hands-on project, because in the humanities that opportunity doesn’t come up very often. I was pretty open to whatever our time together would bring, and I didn’t necessarily know what I was expecting to get out of the experience.

One of the things I have really appreciated about this lab is the potential for people from very different backgrounds to learn something. My favorite part of our project was working on the technological side: thinking about user interface and map design. However, we also learned how to search for ancient artifacts in art databases and wrote up exhibits exploring interesting things about our heroes. Everybody had their own preferences about different phases of the process. There was little background knowledge expected coming in, which made collaborating much easier. We were all starting from scratch on our projects. It also meant that students from many different backgrounds ended up coming, which ultimately made our final projects richer.

I guess from this experience I gained an appreciation for how technology and the humanities can work together in valuable ways. I have never really had the opportunity to explore that before, because most college courses focus exclusively on one or the other. As a computer science person with an interest in classics, this program was a great opportunity for me to explore how the two can work together.

It was also really fun to come out of the program with a completed project – here is our website if you would like to explore: Mapping Mythology

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The Art of Connecting Artifacts and Maps

Kristine Mallinson, Denison University Class of 2015

When I first heard about the 2014 Alliance for the Advancement of Liberal Arts Colleges Humanities Lab at Carleton, I was not exactly sure what the program was going to be like. I knew that  there was going to be a group of students from different liberal arts schools examining Classical mythology in different ways. One group was going to be focusing on masks and the other on maps. I was particularly interested in the mapping mythology program. To my delight, I was accepted into that program. So, on Sunday August 10th I arrived in Minnesota for the first time excited to get started and learn more about what we would be doing. The first morning we discussed Euripides Heracles and different aspects about the play. Then we split into our different groups. In my group, Dr. Bryan Burns (our director) taught us how to use several different databases and explained that we would be using Omeka and Neatline. Now, I have never used these two programs and one should know that I am pretty bad with technology, however he said that they were simple programs.

Omeka is the artifact database, or at least that is how I like to think about it. Working at the Denison Museum during the school year and interning at the Toledo Museum of Art for a couple weeks this summer provided me with a good amount of experience working with different databases and  artifacts. I  was immediately interested and fascinated with the idea of using artifacts on a digital map to examine literary accounts.

The Journey of Theseus: the map on Neatline

The Journey of Theseus: the map on Neatline

The Life Travels of Theseus: exhibit page on Omeka

The Life Travels of Theseus: exhibit page on Omeka

I have decided to work  on mapping out the life and death of Theseus. I have used Plutarch’s  Theseus as the main historical source for his adventures. I mapped out his six deeds on his way to Athens as well as several adventures he partakes in after becoming the heir to the Athenian throne.  I am also interested in connecting him with different mythological figures and displaying this through an Omeka feature, exhibits.

Overall, I have learned a lot about online databases for artifacts as well as how to use Omeka and Neatline. All of these resources will be beneficial in my further study of the Classics. While I am still perfecting how I want to display the life and death of Theseus, it is safe to say that this is an interesting way of moving the humanities into a lab and that I have learned a lot. At the end of the week, I am excited to see what each person has created and how they decided to display different myths.

Click here to view the map of Theseus

Click here to view the exhibit about Theseus 

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It’s All in the Details

This weekend, we each floated in and out of the Weitz Centre for Creativity to toil away on our own masks. By Friday we had followed our research curiosities to their limits, chosen our particular questions and scenes to test them with, and begun the detail work on our masks. In addition to taking part in the group scene from Euripides’ Herakles, I chose to stage the climactic scene in the Bacchae, when Agave is loosed from the grips of Dionysos’ madness. I’m attempting to test the legibility on a static mask of Agave’s shift from mad pride and joy to shock, horror, and disgust. Agave
Today, as Kat, Olivia, and Clara worked on elaborate headdresses, I moulded my last of four masks, Pentheus’s decapitated head. Tomorrow, Pentheus will be painted, and lines will be memorized…we perform for the maps section on Thursday, so the pressure’s on!Pentheus

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Mysk and Math – A Carleton Experience

Hey folks. I am also part of the two week long Myth and Mask Colloquium that has been flooding this blog with posts recently. They’ve all done a pretty good job of explaining why we’re here, so I’ll keep that part brief. We eleven college students (or in my case, recently graduated college student) have come together at Carleton College for two collaborative workshops. What that means is that we’re doing school stuff, except it’s different because we’re not paying anybody money to do it. Our respective schools are funding our time here, and in exchange we have to make something interesting that they can show people.

This is going to be an image-heavy post. I’ve been taking a lot of pictures to document the process because I just got my first smartphone, and people with new phones like to wave them around at other people.

I am in the workshop group that is investigating the role of masks in ancient Greek theatrical performances. I’m glad about that, because I don’t understand maps or computers, which is what the other group is dealing with, bless their hearts.

We began the first week by embarking upon general research into the subject of masks and myth. We learned a lot.

Heracles

“Heracles as an old man, naked, raising the club against his phallos ending in seven snake-heads.”

We engaged with the material according to our individual interests. Since I had the opportunity to perform in mask last semester (in the Aaron Cromie-directed Bi-College Theatre Program Mainstage Show, The Serpent Woman, in the style of Commedia dell’Arte), I focused on the performative aspects of mask. Body movement, acting technique, that sort of thing.

Believe it or not this taught me a lot (that's me on the left, photo credit to Paola Nogueros).

Believe it or not this taught me a lot (that’s me on the left, photo credit to Paola Nogueros).

Once we built some context for our task, we set about the mask construction process. I don’t really understand how materials interact in the physical world, but the process involved putting wet bandages all over our faces–the kind that harden into casts. The process also involved Vaseline, as many awkward processes do.

vaseline

I won't tell you it wasn't weird.

I won’t tell you it wasn’t weird.

Even Haverford’s very own Laura McGrane participated in the terrifying process! Now we all have disembodied versions of our own faces that we can gaze upon whenever we want.

But that wasn’t enough for us intrepid explorers of antiquity. Next we poured plaster into the faces so as to make molds that would let us replicate the experience of making masks without using our own tender faces over and over again.

uncanny

Jesus approves.

We have since been using the molds to make masks with the hopes of using them for live performance. The masks are supposed to represent different characters from The Heracles of Euripides. We’ve been using clay to alter our casted features into different emotional registers. To do that, we had to learn about emotions.

This is what 90% joy looks like.

This is what 90% joy looks like.

The above app is called Grimace. It lets us adjust that face’s emotions on a sliding scale and note how the positions of his features change. Those six options apparently represent the complete range of human emotions. We’ve been using the app on the very nice iPads that the very nice people at Carleton were very nice to supply.

I also took an online quiz and learned that I am not a sociopath when it comes to recognizing human emotions.

It’s pretty weird to be touching our own faces all day.

This is Clara. The human emotion on her face is called "Explaining".

This is Clara. The human emotion on her face is called “Teaching”.

Clara has been instructing guiding motivating inspiring urging helping us. I’m so hesitant to select a specific word choice because this model of making-learning-doing is very much experimental for the humanities, and our roles are not exactly clear in a lot of ways. That lack of clarity allows us more freedom than traditional academia, though it also allows us more confusion. That being said, Clara has been a fantastic mentor in the process, and I appreciate her willingness to engage with all of the materials alongside us. This sort of active professor-student collaboration is one that I think should be cultivated much more in a collegiate environment. It’s good to have a professor as a partner in our task, rather than an overseer. One thing is for sure–the folks who are running this colloquium are motivated and eager to provide us with anything that we might need. For example, they let us have a big ol’ projector for two weeks, and we’ve been using it to host group movie nights in the on-campus townhouses that we call home.

We watched World's Greatest Dad to honor the memory of Robin Williams on the day of his passing.

We watched World’s Greatest Dad to honor the memory of Robin Williams on the day of his passing.

Anyway, the making of the masks has been fun. We pour things, peel things, paint things, and stab things.

Contrary to appearances this is supposed to be Heracles not Oedipus.

Contrary to appearances this is supposed to be Heracles not Oedipus.

We also got attacked by a bat, but we’re okay.

It was a learning experience in that I explained to people that Batman did not become Batman by being bitten by a bat.

It was a learning experience–I had to explain to my fellow collaborators that Batman did not become Batman by being bitten by a bat.

Before I end this post I want to give you a taste of the kind of concepts we’ve been exploring. There has been a lot of talk about ambiguity of expression (think the Mona Lisa), and a lot of debate about just how much range of expression an ancient Greek mask could have embodied. I think after making our masks, we’ve come to the conclusion that they can portray quite a range indeed, depending on the angle at which they are viewed. I imagine that range will widen even further when they are worn by embodied performers, but for now, here are five pictures of my (unfinished) masks at different angles.

angle 1

angle 2

angle 3

angle 4

angle 5

Pretty neat, huh? Aside from the fact that my Heracles appears to have spent too much time in the tanning salon, the range of expression is evocative. This coming week will be spent putting the masks to the test in our best attempts at performance. So that’ll be funny.

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On losing eyelashes for the sake of scholarship and art

On Sunday afternoon, eleven students from liberal arts colleges across the country arrived at Carleton College for the inaugural AALAC* Humanities Lab. My lab, “Mask, Character & Myth,” is investigating the function of masks in Greek tragedy. For modern audiences accustomed to small, indoor theaters and the close-up shots made possible in cinema, masks can seem like an obstacle for actors to overcome. Italian playwright Carlo Goldoni summarized this view in the eighteenth century: “The actor must, in our days, possess a soul; and the soul under a mask is like fire under ashes.”

The Greeks, however, found tragedy deeply moving, masks and all — it certainly did not seem “soulless” to them. How, then, can we imagine masks, not as a hindrance, but as a catalyst for creativity?

Each of the five members of my lab has chosen a research specialty to explore; mine is the differences between masks for chorus members and those for main actors. Eric Csapo observes that in artistic representations of the theater, chorus members are more clearly identifiable as “actors,” whereas members of the main cast are often subsumed into their new, mythical identity. Consider, for example, the famous Pronomos vase:

Pronomos 360[2]

Most of the chorus members are talking to each other while holding their masks, officially out of character. The Heracles actor, however, is labelled “Heracles” and, even though his mask is off, it looks just like his actual face; he has no distinct identity of his own. Are mythical figures like Heracles so strong that they overpower their actors’ own identities? How might the mask’s influence over its wearer change, depending on whether it is a choral mask identical to 11 others, or a representation of a unique, legendary character?

Alongside these academic inquiries, we’ve been getting our hands (and faces) dirty in our lab — because why should science students get all the fun? On Tuesday, we covered each other’s faces in bandages to make masks. It can be a little unsettling to be unable to see, speak, or move your face for nearly half an hour, so the unmasked among us took turns reading Winnie the Pooh aloud to pass the time.

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When I pulled my mask off, some of my eyelashes were stuck in the plaster. The sacrifices we make for art…

On Wednesday, we poured plaster into those masks so that we can now make masks from those molds, instead of losing eyelashes every time we want to try something new.

 

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Plaster mold of my head in a swim cap. My parents will treasure it forever, I’m sure.

Now, we’re hard at work making and painting masks for the characters we’ve chosen. I spent yesterday playing with modeling clay in an attempt to make my face look like an old man’s face, since I’m creating masks for Amphitryon and the Heracles chorus.

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In my defense, there’s scholarship on the role of asymmetry in masks…

Art projects were never a strong point of mine, but I’ll make it work eventually…I hope.

Next week, we’ll start actually performing selections from tragedy while masked, so stay tuned — there’s sure to be a wealth of embarrassing and wonderful photos and videos…

*Alliance to Advance Liberal Arts Colleges

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gods, and masks, and murders, oh my!

My work in progress.

My work in progress.

 

The first week of the Hum Lab: A Consortial Workshop is coming to a close.  We arrived in the land of ten thousand lakes as a motley, enthusiastic crew of students from various liberal arts colleges and of various majors, bound together only by our shared reading of Euripede’s Heracles and a general confusion about what would we could and would produce over the course of an intensive, two week, collaborative working period. 

Many research articles, Google Docs, and plaster molds later, and our projects are beginning to (literally) take shape.

Half of us are working on contextualizing and recreating tragic masks of the sort that would have been utilized in 5th century B.C.E. Athenian theater; tragedies were all performed in mask. There is not a whole lot of information running around about this, but some visual evidence remains in vase-paintings (especially the famous Pronomos Vase) and texts (the often-quoted, but dubiously reliable descriptions of the origins of drama that Aristotle writes, for one). There is also a significant amount of contemporary scholarship about the symbolism and purpose of tragic masks, exploring everything from the meaning of a frontal gaze, the possibility that masks protect the actor and spectators from the spiritual and moral pollution of the atrocities portrayed in the tragedies, and the role of ambiguous facial features in the perception of human emotion. 

While these and some other, more technical questions (i.e.: can spectators see the features of a mask at the distance that would have been typically between a viewer and the performing space in the 5th century B.C.E.) will be tested once we have our masks, my own particular interest is in the dramatic portrayal of the divine in Heracles.

Hanging over the play is the gods’ role in justice: do they uphold it or do they toy with it for their own pleasure or perhaps they are outside of it altogether? Moreover, just like the humans in the play, the gods are constrained by fate, by more powerful beings, and by their own flaws. At the tragic crescendo of the play, Heracles’ returns from the underworld just in time to save his family from the murderous plotting of a political usurper– only to then kill them himself in a fit of madness brought on by the goddess Lyssa. The spectators are privy to a conversation between Lyssa and another goddess, Iris, just before Lyssa sets Heracles to doom.  Lyssa states that Heracles does not deserve to be subjected to the horror of killing his children, especially because he faithfully served the gods in his recent labors; Iris waves away her objections, and so Lyssa accepts the will of Iris and Hera. In one line of text, it is as if her moral compass’s bleeping warnings of cruelty never sounded off; she gleefully describes how her madness is inescapable and overpowering, and sets off to destroying Heracles’ family.

In making a mask of Lyssa, I am attempting to explore the imaged manifestation of the divine in the Greek tragic world. It seems, from the little historical evidence remaining, that divine masks were not much different than mortal masks– and that the gods’ actions within the tragedies were just as troubling of the question of free will and right action as the mortals’. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Mapping myth at Carleton College

Thanks to Haverford’s own Hurford Center for the Arts and Humanities and Carleton College’s humanities center, eleven students are currently spending two weeks at Carleton, located in Northfield, Minnesota to participate in the HumLab: A Consortial Workshop.

I’m woking on mapping the interlocking myths of Jason, the Argonauts, and Medea and linking these intertwined stories to both material and mythical spaces and ancient artifacts.  I’m using Omeka to catalogue the artifacts I want to use to tell this story, and Neatline to map it into both our world and that of Greek myth.  Here’s a behind-the-scenes screenshot of my project thus far:

Screen Shot 2014-08-15 at 2.41.43 PM

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House Managing during a Festival

physicalSo the summer has been chugging along. I’ve continued to do some marketing work for Links Hall, creating ticket sale pages and programs for visiting artists. I also cleaned up the digital archives, updating them through June of this year. Next week I’ll start updating July’s events. The big news from July was Physical Festival, a 9-day festival celebrating physical theater. There were two weekends during which visiting companies performed, and during the week local Chicago artists took the stage, including a scratch night. I house managed a night during the weekend. This involved checking people in at the door and selling tickets, cleaning the space before and after the show, and basically just being available for whatever the artists needed. The house manager’s perk is that they get to watch the shows once everyone has been checked in, so I was fortunate enough to watch Out of Balanz from Denmark perform their adorable 2-man show “Next Door”, and to see 3 artists from Oregon perform their new show “Circo de tu Corazon.” It was a really lovely night. I’ll be sad to leave in a few weeks.

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