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Alethea & Athena
The Christmas program 
17th-Dec-2017 08:07 pm
Well, nobody at church today seemed too upset at us for not showing up to help with the Primary kids singing at the party last night, so that was a relief. Bishop did get on our case about all the great food we missed out on, so we said, "Yeah, we were working, but thanks for rubbing it in." We're getting cranky these days.

Anyway, today was the big Christmas music program that originally I was supposed to play six pieces for. As it turned out, a member of the bishopric saw the script and was like, "Uh, yeah, this is way too long for sacrament meeting," so they pared it all down and took out all the choir numbers, which meant I was almost no longer needed. I accompanied one duet and all the congregational hymns, except for one where they had a fancy piano/organ duet going on (that was obviously written to show off the skills of the pianist, because the organ part was straight from hymn book and the lady playing the organ didn't use the pedals at all). And that parenthetical will tell you what my attitude was throughout the whole thing--mostly just sitting back and being critical of everything. I don't know if it makes it better or worse that at least I realize I'm a snob. The songs were all very nice, though. And the Primary kids did get to sing this time, and they were super cute.

In other news, I actually had a dream this morning where some random guy criticized our translation of Land of the Lustrous by saying we used too many quotes from TV or something. We didn't in real life, but this was a dream; I took it to mean he felt we took too many liberties with the translation, so I started lecturing him on how there's no such thing as a one-to-one translation. My dreams are so mundane.

Today I'm thankful for getting to sing a bunch of Christmas songs (actually, I played them on the organ (I don't use the pedals, either) and piano mostly, but I did get to sing the one congregational number), the Primary kids actually singing loud enough for people to hear them, getting to open up our copy of Japanese the Game (we ordered it kind of on a whim over a year ago, and now that we have it, our mom's learning Japanese!), and actually having a use for this game.
19th-Dec-2017 02:10 am (UTC)
That dream... thank you for sharing it. In a not very roundabout way, it brought back something that’s been lost to me for many months in over worked student burnout: the real inspiration, my motivation for studying all this in the first place.

My first passion is, will always be, Sakurai’s lyrics (BUCK-TICK). They’re infamous, and fans get very ugly over them. The vast majority of fans demand word for word as the only correct translation (even though the jibber doesn’t make sense, and they themselves might not even be native English or know Japanese at all), spiked with a dose of a few other elements: projecting one’s own cultural heritage instead of understanding they’re actually Japanese, denial and suppresion of sexual elements because they can’t handle it, lack of familiarity with and denial of heavy and dark esoteric/pholosophic/religious content due to personal religious taboos and fears (you’ve got to know the concepts being expressed to wade through cagey metaphor and word play), and the good ol’ refusal of rich multi-tiered translations (which occur in finer Japanese poetry and ancient Shinto prayer... between that and visual kanji character puns, translations are thrillingly 3D in a way that’s impossible in English). And a sprinkling of katakana loan words that hide as English but are actually yet another language (I’ve actually found Tibetan esoterics masked as English in one song- a total thrill). Ah yeah, makes for friendly territory all ‘round. LOL But I love every moment of it. That kind of intense translation work is one of my greatest passions in life. If I could work with the Japanese Visual Kei music industry as PR translator and Personal Assistant translator for tours and interviews, it’d be a dream job.

I’d forgotten... it had become meaningless, soul draining slogging. Remembering all those battles over translations reminded me of my passion, why I’m doing this.
20th-Dec-2017 04:52 am (UTC)
Wow, I don't think we've ever dealt with something with that many layers of meaning, although I am curious to know how Tibetan can mask itself as English. Projecting one's own cultural heritage is something we've seen a lot, and probably been guilty of ourselves, seeing as it's not a conscious thing to do.
20th-Dec-2017 09:41 am (UTC)
Ooh! It’s one of my favorites. I’ll spare you the bulk of it, because it’s one of those translations that decompresses from Japanese into something the size of a thesis. LOL.

Please excuse the bawdiness, it’s just who they are... we’re talking BUCK-TICK, you know? I’ll keep it as PG as I can. It’s so raunchy, the band couldn’t even perform it live in its original form, and more than a decade later they diluted it enough to allow Sakurai to be able to perform it for a fan club only show... in the dark, wearing a mask. Yeah. That intense.

Basically, the song has at least two major layers. On the surface it’s Sakurai relating a personal erotic BDSM fantasy, tied up and being whipped etc. by a Dominatrix. As the song progresses, she starts to lose control and show her real, fierce self. (I’ve seen some translators insist that it’s actually her nail polish peeling off, not her facade slipping)

The soul of the song is actually ceremonial magic. It’s a ceremony of the sacred mysteries of purging out the destructive, devouring, greedy side of one's psyche symbolized by Typhon, the dark chthonic god that rules volcanic forces, to reunite one's connection to the divine. Typhon killed the Sun god Osiris, and his wife Isis sets out on a struggling journey to reunite his dismembered parts and resurrect him (on the surface in a sexual and broad-band fertility rite)- the mysteries of the eucharist (divine marriage, or "Enlightenment").

It makes connections to and mentions directly Typhon several times. At one point-

“A Powa of purification and resurrection,
Typhon goes on a spree of violence”

In English it’s read “The power Of purification and resurrection”, but འཕོ་བ་ Powa is a Tibetan Vajrayana Buddhist rite of death and resurrection. The Japanese pronunciation is the same as the Tibetan pronunciation, but superficially you assume that it’s English.

20th-Dec-2017 05:22 pm (UTC)
Translators who insist on only one meaning had better have a darn good reason to exclude the other potential meanings. Japan has been using double+ meanings in poetry for centuries. As we like to say, if the question is,"Does it mean A or B?", the answer is almost certainly, "Yes." Also, I feel like things such as nail polish peeling off have been used as metaphors for the facade being removed and people showing their true colors even in English writing for a long time...but I don't have any examples, so I couldn't say for sure. Still, it really doesn't seem like a far-fetched conclusion.

As for the Powa thing, wow, they really seem to know a lot of stuff. Again, we would say it's not necessarily Tibetan masquerading as English, so much as doubling as English, because both meanings work in the context.

Anyway, it's neat how so many Japanese things incorporate elements of other cultures and mythologies.
21st-Dec-2017 04:47 am (UTC)
Definitely. Rule of thumb with Japanese tends to be: is each permutation valid in context? Then it’s intentional. Now try to fit that into the translation. When playing with Sakurai translations, I’ve ended up resorting to color coding the layers to make them easier to follow. That must be difficult to handle in your line of translation work.

Yeah. I wish more of that over here... the US rather expects the world to come to them and adapt, and doesn’t like to flow in the other direction much... especially in entertainment and the arts.


On the side...

There’s one that particularly blows my hair back translating- 道化師A from their 十三階は月光 album. Two of the distinct layers bear no resemblance to each other. One is a lush romanticized carnival sideshowy reworking of centuries old tale of Pierrot the clown murdering his wife, this time at the behest of his mirror reflected narcissistic subconscious in a schizophrenic break (traditionally he Freudianly makes her laugh to death in bed); the other layer is intensely autobiographical, a bitter wallowing in what the notoriety of stardom has been like. The whole thing is profound... absolute genius writing.

21st-Dec-2017 06:08 am (UTC)
Fortunately for us, we don't deal with a lot of poetry. Even now that we're doing anime, the higher-ups tell us to just give the most literal translation of the theme songs possible. We tried once to translate a song like we usually do, incorporating English versions of the kotowaza that were used instead of a straight translation, but our boss was like, "No, don't do that."

The worst we had to deal with was a couple of tanka that played off of each other in volume 12 of Noragami. We ended up writing translation notes that gave alternative translations to each of the poems, because there was just no way to fit all of the relevant meanings into one translation. Fortunately, in most instances, we find it's surprisingly easy to get the double meanings to work, unless there's also a visual component.

I get the feeling it's less of the US expecting the world to adapt and more US creators being too lazy to research anything, so they just come up with their own original stuff. Or based everything on their own favorite entertainment...which of course was made in the US.

Wow. Those lyrics sound intense, in more ways than one. Kinda makes me want to read all the classics (like, all of them) to help me be smart like all these people...
20th-Dec-2017 10:47 am (UTC)
PS- That language hopping mask technique is common in quality Japanese Visual Kei. Example :

BUCK-TICK is assumed to be weird English loan word jibber, and Japanese it is commonly written in katakana only 「 バクチク」(“Firecracker”) to red flag that there’s a foreign source for it, but it’s actually very coarse German hiding in plain sight: “Bück Dich”, (“Bend Over!”)
20th-Dec-2017 05:24 pm (UTC)
Weird that people would think a band name doesn't mean anything...but I guess in the States, people do tend to choose names based on, "Hey, that sounds cool."
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