I have one word for you: Netflix.
Over the past two years, Netflix has revolutionized my relationship with our “home theater,” a lavish facility here Chez Stoux D’Ent that includes a two-bit DVD player hooked up to a 13-inch TV. No expense has been spared to bring high quality entertainment into our gracious home!
I was always the person who got to the video store and—put on the spot—could not think of one thing I actually wanted to watch. Half the time, I’d just get overloaded and confused and go home with nothing.
Those days are over. Thanks to Netflix.
(I swear I’m not getting kickbacks from the company for writing this. I swear. But if you, Joe Netflix Marketing, are reading this now, feel free to get in touch with an offer. Everyone has a price. And the price of a graduate student continues to drop as her dissertation drags on. It’s a little-known scientific law called the “Inverse Sell-Out Principle.”)
And I get a lot of knitting done while I’m watching my DVDs from Netflix. Shelley can vouch for this:
Oh, dear God, why? Why? Dogs don’t wear shawls!
We’ve been systematically watching all the extant episodes of Deadwood and, inevitably, Battlestar Galactica. Some of you who know about my uneasy relationship with sci fi and fantasy will peg Alex as the prime mover behind BSG. I’m just
dying patiently waiting for the humans to triumph over the cylons— predictable inspiring as that will be—and for it all to be over.
In the meantime, I’ve made the Regia Bamboo socks, the ones I so cruelly abandoned in August when I took up with Icarus in Vegas, my BSG project:
Ever notice how no one ever knits on a space ship? I just want to point that out.
But I can highly recommend a delightfully maudlin, 1979 Soviet film we got from our “people” at Netflix entitled The Irony of Fate, or Enjoy Your Bath.
Not only does Irony have Soviet production values that are so bad they’re good, but it features many strange and jarring jump cuts, enough to make you suspect that the editing crew was painfully underpaid, driven by unreasonable time pressures, and chronically drunk on Stoli.
Comrades, these were good and prosperous times in Soviet Union!
But if you watch it, watch it for the subtitles. I guarantee you will not be disappointed.
To be fair, most of the dialogue was translated pretty well (and, I want to emphasize, certainly far, far better than I could do from English into Russian), but the film also includes several songs sung by its main characters. Here things went terribly, horribly wrong.
Song lyrics that were presumably mellifluous, even moving, in Russian were evidently fed word-by-word into a Russian-English dictionary by someone with a rudimentary grasp of the English language and they came out on the other side limping and bleeding, maimed beyond all recognition:
“I cognize both wisdom and happiness…” Cognize?
“You have left your besom in the bathhouse/
And the trumpets are deaf making you…”
Anyone who can convincingly explain to me what “besom” means in this context wins a ball of Trekking XXL and an honorable mention in the design contest. Even if you don’t design anything.
And my personal favorite, which deserves a little context: the gist of the song—as nearly as I could make out through the fog of translation—was that it is potentially better to experience love that is not passionate, but steady and sustainable.
“I do not blush from a stifling heat upsurge/
Whenever your sleeved arm rustles my trousers.”
(For proper scansion—if, heaven help us, that nicety enters into this foul rendering at all—I believe that here “sleeved” is to be pronounced in two syllables, “sleeve” and “ed”.)
Let’s hear from the translator, shall we? What have you got to say for yourself, Boris Mikhailovich?
“Comrades, I translate Russian song into good English with large dictionary using first word I see in entry. Is usually most popular!”
Apparently, Boris Mikhailovich also provided translation services for other films, giving us such wonderful English titles as (I’m not making these up), “Galoshes of Happiness,” “The Old Bandit Chaps,” and “Karl Marx: Young Years.”
Only heaven knows what was intended by the original Russian titles, and heaven keeps its secrets. Even in the face of a stifling heat upsurge.