Read any good movies lately?

Do you ever watch foreign films or TV with subtitles?

Until a little more than a year ago I always said I don’t want to read a movie. I want to watch the scenery and the faces of the actors. And, I’ve always wondered what I was missing when a long piece of dialogue spoken in a foreign language is boiled down to just a short sentence or a few words. A character in the show may rattle off a three minute soliloquy but the caption at the bottom of the screen simply reads, “I agree” or “Right on, dude!”

Actual screenshot of my TV with captioning on. This character in a story set 300 years ago is calling someone “a dork”.

Sometimes the translators who write the captions don’t really have a handle on American English, especially slang and cultural references that don’t suit the time period of the movie.

These things always bugged me until last year when my wife, the lovely and feisty CarolAnn Williams, turned me on to Korean TV.

I don’t remember how she came across the TV channel, Dramafever. She’s not Korean. She doesn’t have any Korean relatives or friends and has never been to that part of the world but Korean TV shows have no sex, violence or bad language. The comedies are whimsical to the point of innocent absurdity and the dramas are skillfully produced with quirky plot twists. CarolAnn loves them. It’s practically all she watches. And now I watch them with her.

Together we enjoy the many Korean historical dramas of the Joseon dynasty which dates back to 1392. These are tales based upon real kings and queens who lived three or four hundred years ago, of battling royal consorts and political factions plotting to grab power. Wars are waged with swords and arrows; fights involve a lot of shouting and flashy martial arts, our heroes flipping high in the air for no apparent reason before they kick three guys at once.

(In Korean historical dramas once you’ve been kicked to the ground you’re out of the fight, the same as dead.)

I looked them up: “Comminate” – To threaten with vengeance. “Scapegrace” – A mischievous rascal. (These days we’d probably say, “asshole”.)

The plots are engaging, the acting is generally excellent and the costumes are colorful and fun.

Best of all, those subtitles are sometimes hilarious. And sometimes they actually expand our English vocabulary.

And along the way we’ve learned a Korean word or two. For example:

“Pyeha, paliga yeollyeo issseubnida!”

Which means, “Your majesty, your fly is open!”

Those beautiful Swedes

I have a friend who does consulting work around the world; he has clients in the U.S., all through Europe, New Zealand, Central and South America. Occasionally he passes through Dallas and we catch up over a meal.

He told me one thing that he’s noticed in his travels is that the Swedes are the most physically and facially beautiful people in the world. He said when he first started doing business in Sweden he caught himself staring at people because they were just unnaturally attractive.

Swedish actors Peter Johansson, Anna Sahlin and Måns Zelmerlöw. Photo: Maja Suslin/TT

One evening while out to dinner with a group of his clients in Sweden he had drank just enough wine to ask the question that had been nagging at him for awhile.

“Do you people realize how beautiful you are?” he asked. “There are no ugly people in your country.”

They laughed and told him immodestly yes, they do know that. Whenever they travel outside their national borders, they said, they find other people in the world a little unsettling.
Isn’t that hilarious?

Daylight Saving Time

I don’t really care. I’m the least busy person I know.
 
Everybody still says we’ll all lose an hour’s sleep Saturday night. Not me. I go to bed when I’m tired on Saturday and wake up Sunday morning when I’m finished sleeping. The clock says whatever it says, I don’t care.
 
If you do have to awaken at a particular time on Sunday and you’re afraid losing an hour’s sleep will kick your butt I have two suggestions: go to bed earlier or change your plans.
 
Seriously, why is this a big deal?
 
It’s exactly the same as when you fly into a different time zone that’s one hour ahead. Does that wreak havoc in your life for as much as five days as they keep telling us in the news? I don’t think so.
 
Lately we’ve been treated to sensationalized news stories telling us how changing the clocks one hour leads to more highway deaths for sleepy drivers and more heart attacks and strokes for people who have trouble adjusting their bodies to the arbitrary numbers we call time.
 
Oh, puh-leeze!
 
I don’t mean to be a jerk but if you have a heart attack because of Daylight Saving Time I’m guessing that your heart was in critical distress before you changed the clock.
 
But here’s the good news: if we insist on maintaining this silly tradition we’re darned close to living in a world where all clocks change themselves. Your computers, tablets and phones already do this. Watches, clocks on stoves and in cars can’t be far behind.
 
And you know what that means?  Nothing. Blessedly, nothing.
 
We’ll never notice anything except that it suddenly stays light an hour longer.
 
“Hmm. I guess the time changed last night.”
 
That’s all we’ll say.
 
If TV and radio stop beating us over the head with stuff to worry about we’ll all be fine.

Emily’s Gift

CarolAnn and I just sent a birthday gift to our daughter-in-law, Emily. Took just thirty seconds to pick it out and ship it. ?

Gift giving isn’t what it used to be and a lot of us old geezers are highly annoyed by it. Back in the day we’d think about it a lot and then head out to the mall to find the perfect gift for that special someone. Then we’d go home and gift wrap it. If that person lived far away we’d package it and take it to the post office. The whole process could take half a day or more but it was gratifying. It was fun to think of our loved one opening the pretty package and being surprised and delighted by what was inside.

Sending a gift card via email as I just did takes no time at all. No thought. The efficiency of it is undeniable and that doesn’t mean we love our daughter-in-law any less, of course. It just means another tradition has fallen to our modern addiction to efficiency.

We don’t write letters anymore. Heck, most of us don’t even bother with email anymore. We text. We tweet.

Occasionally we use our phones as phones and actually talk with each other but that’s starting to seem like a special occasion these days. I’ve even started texting people to make an appointment to talk with them on the phone. No kidding.

Here’s what I think:

I think adapting to change is difficult as we get older but our only alternative is to refuse to change. Those who do that just sit on the porch and watch life pass by without even bothering to wave to them.

I think wistful longing for the past is natural and fine in small measure. Nostalgia is warm and comforting but it’s no way to live.

I want to keep learning to keep living. These days I find I’m constantly learning from my children. And why not? We taught them the ways of the world with hope they’d make it better. I think they’re doing that, even if we don’t always understand or like the changes.

Scrabble

I just read a story in the news about Allan Simmons. That’s Britain’s best-known Scrabble champion. Among other distinctions Mr. Simmons is the former Chairman of the World English Language Scrabble Players Association and has written half a dozen books on the subject.

Just let that sink in for a second. He writes entire books about Scrabble, six of them so far.

Anyway, Mr. Simmons has been banned from international competition for three years because he allegedly violated official rules governing the blind selection of letter tiles. These rules are very detailed and specific. He says he didn’t cheat but he admits the procedure is so wonky he might have picked tiles out of the well protected bag with his palm facing south or northwest or something like that, who cares? Well, he doesn’t and that’s what I love about the story.

Did I mention that he’s written six books about Scrabble? I think that’s amazing.

?How many of us would put all of our life’s work, no matter how insignificant it may seem to others, behind us and just move on?

Allan Simmons is 60 and ready for a new start. I think that’s inspirational.

?The meaningful things in your life don’t leave you. It’s the other way around.

Christmas from the attic

Carolann and I spent this past weekend getting Christmas out of the attic.

She goes up and hands everything down to me, box after box of Christmas treasures we’ve collected together for nearly thirty years.

A lot of people these days hire professional house light hangers.

They do a beautiful job. Too good, if you ask me. Everything’s weirdly perfect. And it’s expensive.

And I think there’s something wrong about sitting inside the warm house watching TV while strangers decorate your yard. Wrong for me, anyway.

We used most of what we’ve had for decades: boxes of tangled, ancient light strands in various sizes, some all-white, some multi-colored; some working, some not. We have one light in the line of dozens along the driveway that flashes. Just one. That’s fine.

Decorating tip: dangling cords can be hidden behind brick columns.

We didn’t do any precise planning. We sort of decided where to put stuff as we went. The pros get their work done in a couple of hours or less, I guess. We spent two days and part of a third. We’re still not sure we’ve finished.

Through the process we made three or four trips to the big box hardware store and wound up spending almost as much money as we would have for the professionally perfect jobs though ours is a decidedly unprofessional result.

It’s a bit of this and that but I like it.

We’re proud that we have no giant blowup characters powered by air at night but left to puddle, lifeless, all over the yard during the day.

See, to passersby our Christmas display is just another mish-mash of color and cords I suppose but to us it represents Christmases past, when our kids were little and we were young.

It means absolutely everything to us.

Our house, self-decorated. Perfect in its imperfections.