Two Entirely Unrelated Thoughts

Here they are:

1. It’s fun to look at reviews of your work in languages you don’t know and try to figure out what the hell they’re saying. I think this one’s in Norwegian, but honestly, I can’t tell. But it looks like the reviewer liked, anyway.

2. My big-ass monitor continues to be teh crack, particularly in portrait mode, in which nearly every single Web site in the world is able to be looked at without scrolling. Really, before it arrived, I felt kind of stupid for springing for it, because it cost so much more than I thought I could rationally justify, and I suspected eventually I could come to resent it as an example of profligate indulgence, marking me as one of the people who will be up against the wall when the revolution comes. But it makes such a difference in how I work and view things online that now I think the expense is justified.

Now I don’t worry about it being the thing that marks me for proletariat vengeance; no, the thing that will mark me as prole chum is the fact that because of my bitchin’ new 24-inch monitor, I kind of look at my 20-inch iMac like it’s a pile of puke. That’s Gen-x yuppie indolence, people. And I’m guilty.

35 thoughts on “Two Entirely Unrelated Thoughts

  1. Clearly, it’s a review of the English language edition, and I’m impressed that the reviewer doesn’t feel it necessary to translate the excerpts for his readers. Can you imagine writing a review of a French or German book and not translating the excerpts for Joe American Book Reader?

  2. How about if you hook the new monitor up to the iMac, and use the external in portrait mode and the internal in (of course) landscape?

  3. Yes, it’s Norwegian, and the reviewer liked it a lot.

    My Norwegian’s pretty rusty, but I think at one point he said it was “like Jerry Seinfeld sat down and wrote new script for Full Metal Jacket.” I’m assuming that’s a compliment, like the rest of the review…

  4. If they’re adjacent to each other, why not connect the Dell monitor to the iMac also? Looks like the monitor supports multiple inputs (DVI, VGA, etc.), and the iMac has a DVI-out port that will also serve as a VGA port with the right adapter. With the iMac’s built-in monitor spanning capability (configured in the Displays preference pane when multiple monitors are attached), your desktop would be a 20-inch horizontal and 24-inch vertical simultaneously….

  5. I like the namechecks in the review:

    - Heinlein (of course)
    - Seinfeld
    - Full Metal Jacket
    - Tarantino

    Now I’m trying to imagine either Tarantino directing Jerry Seinfeld in Clockwork Orange, or maybe Kubrick directing an episode of Seinfeld when Jules and Vincent show up. With an interstellar war background, of course.

  6. I looked at the 30-inchers, but for my needs, they’re simply too much. The 24-incher verges on being too much as it is.

  7. Heinlein is mentioned in the review, but in this context: “My first attempt at reading Heinlein was – as my regular readers know – a total failure. “Old Man’s War”, on the other hand, is one of the greatest reading experiences of my life.”

    The five out of five star rating is another giveaway, by the way… :-)

  8. Hi John, and thank you for mentioning my blog, even though most of your readers probably can’t understand anything I’ve written.

    As your helpfull commentators has pointed out I liked your book a lot. Of all the books I’ve read this year it’s the absolute best, or at least equally good as Endre’s Game by Orson Scott Card. You write the kind of story I would have wanted to write myself if I was an author (so now I don’t have to change profession).

    What got me to think of Tarrantino was actually John Perry’s drill sergeant. His background story reminded me of Christopher Walken’s story about the gold watch in Pulp Fiction.

    And about not translating the excerpts: I read all my fiction in english – english is spoken as a secound language by all Norwegians (below the age of 40 at least), so there is no risk in me not translating the quotes for my readers. Maybe my blog should be in english as well, but for now I’m most comfortable writing in norwegian – and there is little domestic competition for SF blogs in my country, so that makes it stand out.

    Actually, in the company I work it’s decided that all written communication should be in english. And in January we have to start talking english at the office as well, because we have hired a russian to come and work with us, and our only common language will be english :)

    Keep up the great work, Scalzi, and I’ll keep recommending you to all my norwegian friends.

  9. If you’re interested about what people write about you in languages you don’t understand, I published a positive review in my latest fanzine, SFF-bulletin 153.

    “Old Man’s War, av John Scalzi\footnote{ISBN: 0765-31524-6}

    Även i Old Man’s War har människan börjat kolonisera rymden, men här är inte universum till största delen tomt, och rymdvarelserna är inte i stort sett vänliga. Nej, här är det kamp med näbbar och klor om de resurser det finns brist på, till exempel planeter. Således: rymdkrig! Mänskligheten representeras i rymden av kolonisationsunionen (CU), som har bestämt att endast folk från länder med för stor befolkning i förhållande till sina resurser får kolonisera nya planeter. Enda sättet för någon från västvärlden att komma ut i rymden är att gå med i armén, och det får man bara göra som gamling. Eftersom ingen vettig människa vill ha en armé bestående av förkrympta och utslitna sjuttiofemåringar är det underförstått att man får genomgå någon form av föryngring vid mönstringen. Hur det går till är det däremot ingen av de potentiella rekryterna som vet, eftersom man, när man väl stigit på rymdhissen för sina tio års tjänstgöring, aldrig får komma tillbaka till jorden eller ta kontakt med någon där. Huvudpersonen, John Perry, är en av dem som väljer det militära istället för att bli gammal och skröplig. Det visar sig att det som väntar är att få medvetandet överfört till en nyklonad och genetiskt förbättrad kropp, som alltså inte bara är ung utan också stark och nära på osårbar. Givetvis blir det orgier, både bokstavligt talat och bildligt talat (i livsfarliga sporter), när ett gäng pensionärer plötsligt blir fräschare än de någonsin varit. I den nya kroppen ingår också en dator med meddelandesystem och mycket mera, en BrainPal, något som nästan alla tycker är väldigt irriterande. Tänk dig själv hur det skulle vara att vakna en dag och ha en besserwisser i skallen. (En som inte är du själv, vill säga.) Det visar sig också att CU har för vana att använda DNA:t från dem som inte överlever tioårsperioden mellan mönstring och avresa till att klona nya soldater, och dessa klonsoldater får givetvis nya personligheter. De har vanliga amerikanska förnamn med efternamn från forskare och filosofer, och kallas Spökbrigaderna. Spöksoldaterna har aldrig varit vanliga människor, så de föredrar att inte umgås alls med de äckliga människor som pratar med varandra istället för att skicka BrainPal-meddelanden. Detta upptäcker John Perry när han träffar på Spöksoldaten som har hans frus kropp, Jane Sagan.

    När man läser Old Man’s War måste man komma ihåg att berättaren i allra högsta grad är opålitlig. Den är berättad helt och hållet ur en infanterisnubbes synvinkel, och han är medvetet utesluten från all nyanserad information om de politiska skeendena. Visst, det är inte Djup Litteratur, och visst är det Heinlein som inte bara spökar utan rent av präglar boken, men jag ser den inte som ett försök att ut-Heinleina Heinlein. (Och, det måste erkännas, jag var en av dem som nominerade boken till Hugon. Bra fluff är undervärderat.)”

    (The conclusion: Good fluff is underrated.)

  10. Torbjørn: Nice blog. Well written. I’ve bookmarked it now and will check it once in a while.

    As far as English as a second lanugage goes, I imagine Norway to be much like Denmark in that regard, so most young(ish) people speak it, but not all of those speak it well. However, I do think that people who like science fiction are more likely to have good skills in English than average. I might be wrong, but I imagine it to be so.

  11. Nick said:

    Can you imagine writing a review of a French or German book and not translating the excerpts for Joe American Book Reader?

    To be fair, I suspect Torbjørn would have translated an excerpt from a French or German book. But English? The Norwegian SF afficionado who doesn’t read English is, for all practical purposes, a mythological creature. Hell, even my 15-year-old son has done most of his reading in English for years. (And yes, he liked both OMW and TGB. He’s miffed that TLC isn’t out yet.)

    The review, BTW, is more than just positive: it’s positively gushing…

  12. I was teaching a technical course in Oslo a few years ago (for the really big computer company that employs me but whose name I will not mention). The course was taught in English and, although English is the common language among techie types around the world, I always feel a bit of concern about speaking clearly (and not too rapidly). As it turned out, there were no language problems at all… and when I did a bit of channel-surfing on the television in my hotel room I quickly saw why. American programs are very popular on Norwegian television and those programs are broadcast in English (with Norwegian subtitles). Thus, not only do most Norwegians study English in school, they have been exposed to countless hours of “Friends” and “Seinfeld” and every other hit TV program. They not only understand English, they understand it best with an American accent.

    Earlier this year I was in the Miami area with my family and, having some time to kill before our flight home, we wandered around in a large upscale shopping mall. I heard far more English being spoken while wandering around a similar mall in Oslo than I did in that mall in Florida.

  13. Ahh – that explains the exchange I had with a teenaged Norwegian girl not long ago. I had written an article on genetic chimerism, and she wrote me asking for a less technical explanation for a biology paper. I was a little confused as to why she was writing a foreign language author for her information, though impressed with her facility with English.

  14. Hey Scalzi, I’ll take that “pile of puke” off your hands if you’d like ;->

    David (who just had another Windows box go belly-up and thus has, perhaps, slightly different standards for puke-dom)

  15. It’s true that everyone under the age of 40 does in one way or another utter sounds that can be recognized as English.

    Sooner than later, I will be more accustomed to reading English than Norwegian, since I haven’t read a Norwegian book in almost a decade, and the same goes for films and television (and I’m living, as far as Norway goes, quite a long way away from anything remotly civilized)

    Btw: Androids Dream and Ghost Brigades are romoured to arrive at my doorstep some time tomorrow. I’m looking forward to pamper myself with “fun” fiction in what must be the most depressing holidays)

  16. The typical Scandinavian poster on boards that I frequent has better English skills than the average American on the street.

  17. “My big-ass monitor continues to be teh crack”

    What is the inside joke with the spelling “teh”? I really feel like I’m missing out here.

    Of course, I’m the same fella who wondered, “Who the hell would name their cat Ghlaghghee?”

    Please include me in this circle of knowledge that I watch from afar.

  18. The next step is to get a dual monitor set up.

    From there, it’s just a hop, skip and a jump to four monitors on one machine. Bwahaha.

  19. because of my bitchin’ new 24-inch monitor, I kind of look at my 20-inch iMac like it’s a pile of puke.

    Clearly it’s time to get one of the shiny 24″ iMacs, then. See, the market provides solutions to your problems.

  20. Thanks for teh info John.

    Wikipedia said that “teh” is “so common…that it has made the jump to deliberate usage particularly when satirising newbies.”

    Hey, am I being satirised?

  21. In one sense I feel cool because I know what “teh Noob” means, but in another…not so much.

    Another sign that I’m a “Noob” to the lingo:

    While trying to type “teh” I typed “the.” Maybe someday “teh” will become the standard lingo on the web and it will be cool to type “the.” Until then, I’ll wear my “Noob” badge with pride.

  22. I’ve observed the same thing in the Netherlands: English is required in schools, and everyone under 40 can at least understand it. Disney movies and other kid-targeted stuff is dubbed into Dutch, but everything else is English with subtitles. Most Dutch people also know either French or German; they certainly don’t expect foreigners to learn their language!

    I wouldn’t be surprised if Dutch, Norwegian, Swedish, Danish and Icelandic became dead languages within the next four generations, tops.

  23. There are many areas where bilingualism persisted for long years without the two languages being in competition with one another; I wouldn’t be quick to write off those European languages.

  24. Yes. Because Americans will never learn another language, and people will always want to talk about them without being understood.

  25. Given that Rätoromanisch is still alive and (more or less) well in Switzerland, I wouldn’t be too quick to announce the impending death of the Scandahoovian and Dutch tongues. Though our respective populations may approach true bilingualism over time, and the native tongues are being influenced by English. (Sometimes in ways that make me wince, but that’s another story.)

    John:

    Yes. Because Americans will never learn another language, and people will always want to talk about them without being understood.

    Well, you don’t have the same incentive we do, given one continent-wide language and the fact that English has, pretty much, won the battle for World Tongue.
    If we want to speak to anybody but ourselves, we have to learn another language, and it’s always been thus. Norway has about the same population as Maryland, and even if we consider all Scandinavians as speakers of more-or-less mutually comprehensible languages, there’s still fewer than 20 million of us. (I exclude the Finns here; they speak utter gibberish.)

    Still: Practical considerations apart, learning foreign languages is a worthwhile endeavor in and of itself. It’s been said that you don’t really know your own language until you’ve learned another; I think there’s more than a grain of truth in that.

    By the way, this “talking about people without being understood” thing is vastly overrated. Once, many years ago, I had dinner with a bunch of fellow Norwegians in the Latin Quarter of Paris, and we commented among ourselves (in Norwegian) on what a gorgeous creature our waitress was. As it turned out (and you’ll have guessed this already), she was Norwegian, and grokked us perfectly. As luck (or possibly our, ahem, *cough*, innate decency) would have it, no words had fallen that were even remotely offensive, so no real harm done — but whenever I feel the urge to badmouth Americans (or anybody else), I’ll do it to their faces, thank you very much, in a language they can understand.

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