Thursday, October 21, 2010

Fun with subtitles

My hearing is bad, and I don't hear consonants (21 letters of the alphabet, if you count "y") as well as an unimpaired person, so when I started to watch the Granada Television Sherlock Holmes series with Jeremy Brett, I was happy to have the subtitle option. How could I have known how much subtitles would amuse me? After seeing countless mismatches between what is spoken and what is shown, I wonder how subtitles are generated—by computers that "hear" very literally and with no powers of comprehension or discretion, or by humans with equally limited powers? (My bet is on computers.)

Here are just a few examples from just a few episodes, with the spoken word or phrase first and its subtitle following:

genteel ruffian = Gentile ruffian
squalid rooms = scrawled rooms
five and tuppence = five crumpets
cigar ashes = cigar action (insert Bill Clinton joke)
foolscap = fools kept
Flaubert = Flabare
Jabez Wilson = Jay Beards Wilson
Hezekiah = Ethic Guya
Da Vinci = De Vinci
signature writ large = signature at large
trampled underfoot = trouble underfoot
place me in the dock = place me in the dark
hansom cab = handsome cab
period of mourning = period of morning
small brougham = small broom (Watson's transportation to the train station! Perfect for Halloween!)

Not only am I relishing the performances of my favorite actor to portray Sherlock Holmes, Jeremy Brett, but I am gobsmacked by the nonsensical phrases that appear to roll off his tongue and those of the other characters, including the "Gentile ruffian." Now imagine the deaf who don't have my ability to hear most of the dialogue and therefore to parse the subtitles. While it seems reasonable to me that the young woman running through the house is shouting frantically for "Alice! Alice! Alice!" surely the deaf must wonder what signifies her calls of "Ours! Ours! Ours!"

Sunday, October 10, 2010


Change instills in me apprehension and discomfort, but lack of changes creates a more chilling effect—depression. To me, depression is the anxiety and fear not that life is bad, but that it will always be the same, that there will be no more "bends in the road" to anticipate. Some changes lead to a downward spiral, but many, perhaps most, are more positive. It seems easier to avoid the bad than to cause the good.

It's a little after three o'clock on a sunny, warm, nay, hot afternoon in October, summer's final curtain call. Change is all around. The chlorophyll is fading, leaving behind mixed palettes of yellow, orange, red, and brown. The trees in front of the Flamingo green two weeks ago, are casting more leaves than shade. The management has put out the annual call for the removal of air conditioners. Dragonflies no longer rule the day, nor fireflies the night, yet the pesky housefly still pesters the people who dine al fresco.

That was J. and I yesterday at Bonjour, where we ate breakfast before going to Morton Arboretum. We had gone there last Sunday, then on to dinner at Bavarian Lodge in Lisle, but we arrived late in the afternoon and spent a little too much time in the gift shop. A pre-sunset walk around Lake Marmo under overcast skies had yielded a few hints of color here and there.

This day promised to be sunny and warm. My knee (suspected torn meniscus), which had been feeling better on flat land, had taken a turn for the worse Friday, keeping me half awake most of the night. When I woke up early, it was all I could do to get to the bathroom on it, so I went back to taking meloxicam and to wearing a knee stabilizer. I envisioned sitting in the car, being unable to walk down any of the arboretum's trails, and hindering J. from seeing as much as he could.

Praise be to NSAIDs and stabilizers. As I wandered around the annual Columbus Day book sale, it occurred to me that my knee, unstable and painful for the previous 24 hours, was back to functioning at 60 percent. Walking may not be wise, but how could I not walk among the trees and waters on a sunny, 81-degree October Sunday? As I said, praise be to NSAIDs and ACE. Even after a mile or so of walking, the swelling was noticeably less.

My favorite spot for walking at the arboretum is along the DuPage River, and this was the perfect afternoon for it. Having to walk slowly i in such a place on such a day is no bad thing. Although there had been a line of traffic on both sides to get into the arboretum (one woman, far along in pregnancy, got out of an SUV's back seat with another person while it was in line, presumably to make a dash for the bathroom), and the parking lots were full to overflowing—understandably, Chicagoans can't get enough of this last burst of fine weather ahead of five to six months of dreary—we encountered only a few groups of people along the river and a few more at Lake Marmo, where our trail led. More splotches of color were evident, especially around the lake, and in places the tall grasses shimmering under the low sun show display their own kind of beauty.

I would love to have gone further, but one difference between my 20-year-old self and my current self is a new awareness that the body can indeed be broken and that I'd rather prevent that than have surgery or risk the ability to walk normally, without limp or pain. There's still too much of Starved Rock, Buffalo Rock, and Matthiessen I want to see.

We took the main route through the west side, where we found several colorful vistas—but little available parking. In most cases, we had to be content with taking it all in from the road. Fortunately, those behind us didn't seem to be a great hurry.

We wanted stop at Joyful's CafĂ©, but Yelp has the hours wrong—it was already closed—so we settled for a brief stop at Bello Tea in Downers Grove. They looked like they could use more business at 5:00 on a beautiful Saturday.

J. dropped me off at Argo Tea in the theatre district while he went to work. He didn't think it would take long. My Plan B had been to catch the bus at State and Lake if it looked to be a long wait. As I was sipping pumpkin chai, a breaking news alert popped up on my iPhone: a southbound #6 bus had run off Lake Shore Drive near the Stevenson Expressway ramp and hit a tree. Hmmm. I sent a text message to J., who called me a half hour later to say, "It looks like I'll have to work late—would you mind taking the bus?" Hahaha. (I found out later the accident had occurred earlier than the alert, at about 6:00 p.m., at which time we'd been enjoying the scenery from a logjammed Eisenhower Expressway.)

He picked me up at about 9 o'clock. As we headed past Museum Campus, we could see flashing emergency lights and lanes blocked by flares. Farther south, workers were sweeping lanes, which by then seemed clean of debris. I looked for the bus and signs of the unfortunately tree it had hit, but saw neither. We came upon the bus at the 31st street exit, being towed, its right front side caved in. Later I read that at least 35 passengers were injured.

J. got me home in one piece, then, after tea and cookies, he too made it home whole. There may be more visits to the arboretum, but already I can feel that some of the most beautiful of the changes are behind us, as well as the cast of the shadow of a long, cold winter of unvarying gray. Has it already been five months since I was last intoxicated by the scent of lilacs?

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Dream: Back to school

I was in a dark, oddly deserted apartment, where I noticed that there was no TV. I thought about my roommate, realizing that I'd seen her here only once, several days ago.

I was eating lunch at a picnic table with two boys I understood to be my friends, although they were ignoring me. Suddenly there was something I had to tell them. They didn't listen at first, but I felt immensely gratified when I did get their full attention.

"I just had a vision or dream in which my major was hiking and backpacking," I told them as though this were the most wondrous thing in the world, which to me it was, even as I mentally noted that I had not mentioned anything difficult, e.g., rafting. They seemed happy for me.

I asked the boy next to me for a tiny piece of the half chicken he'd just taken, but instead he gave me something from the scraps left behind. I felt distinctly unloved and unappreciated.

As in other dream, I recalled that I have a degree, and I was starting to realize that not only was my academic performance just as bad this time, but that I wasn't getting the degree I seemed to want, in hiking and backpacking.

That will teach me to sign up for Road Scholar.