7.22.2014

Metrofiction is back

If you've been reading this blog for a while, you've probably seen me mention the Metrofiction site, which was originally created a decade ago. John Deaver (who passed away in 2006), John Banas, MM Plude, and I met in a fiction writing class and formed a writing group. I decided to set up a website for the group, and called it Metrofiction since we all took the writing class in the city and I'd been living in the city for several years.

When the site was established, popular blogger Arthur Chrenkoff contacted me from Australia to find out about submitting a story. After his story was posted, he ended up getting his novel published!

I took the site down for a few years because I was getting more involved with radio and my podcast (which also meant I didn't post here as much), but decided to resurrect it because I'm working more in the language world again.

I also included John Deaver's story that he submitted to the original site. I wish he was still here!



6.30.2014

David Tennant's American accent

I was watching a news show and saw a promo for Gracepoint, which is the American version of Broadchurch. I can't believe I haven't seen Broadchurch since I've seen a lot of other British TV shows, but now I'm interested. But what I'm more interested in is David Tennant, who has an American accent in Gracepoint.

He's Scottish, but he's already stretched himself by using a British accent for the various TV shows he's done there. But in Broadchurch he has a strong Scottish accent, so I'm sure he was able to relax. However, in the American show, I bet he had to work very hard at developing the right sound. I don't know how successful he is because I can't find videos online that show his performance at length. All that seems to be out there are previews, like this one:



A number of British press outlets have quoted Alicia Lutes from her interesting analysis of his accent, and props goes to the Guardian for providing the link to the article (others didn't). Lutes criticizes his accent but I don't think it's so bad, at least the tiny parts I've seen. Maybe if I could watch an entire episode, I'd be a better judge.

Actually, Erica Buist gives an interesting analysis in the Guardian that is a counter-argument to Lutes' criticism. But I am not taking sides since I don't have enough to go on.

A nerdy type took the time to put together a comparison of the two TV shows' trailers, so you can see how Tennant switches between his Scottish and American accents. You can also see how similar the two shows seem to be, which seems risky since anyone can see either and might be annoyed at how close they are.



One person whose American accent is weak and who seems self-conscious about it is Poppy Montgomery (which I criticized before). It seems like she's trying so hard to have an American accent, it makes her acting suffer because she doesn't show much emotion and seems like she's in accent-survival mode. Because I'm aware of her struggle, it keeps me from just sitting back and enjoying her performance. I've seen her shortcomings in Without a Trace and a TV movie she was in called "Murder in the Hamptons", but TV Guide includes her in a "Worst American Accents" list for her "confusing" accent in Unforgettable. She's really Australian, yet doesn't seem to use her native accent in TV interviews, either.

Anyway, we'll see how David Tennant does in the new show and if other people approve or criticize him in his American portrayal. And for the record, there are plenty of Americans who can't do a proper British accent or even southern American accent, so it looks like various actors need good voice coaches.

5.27.2014

Getting unstuck

I haven't posted here in a while because I've been reading a variety of books to blog about, and was asked to interview businessman and writer Barry Moltz for another blog. So I spent time reading his new book called How To Get Unstuck: 25 Ways to Get Your Business Growing Again, formulated questions, and worked with the answers. I could've easily asked him questions by just skimming his book or didn't really have to read it at all, but if someone wants me to do an interview about a book, I read the entire thing.

So I read the book, asked him questions, wrote an introduction to the interview, and submitted the post to the blog. Unfortunately, it didn't fit the blog's format, so instead of trying to rework it to make it fit, I decided to post it here with a more expanded introduction that fits *my* format, which is not business-y or agenda-driven (which a lot of blogs have become--stiff, impersonal, self-serving, over-functional, etc).

I've done work for Barry over the past year and have had a good experience working for him. He's also a consultant who knows what he's talking about because he's experienced failure and success, and is honest about his struggles. That's why the book he wrote is helpful. You also don't have to read it from beginning to end because it's set up to solve a variety of business problems, so you can just look up the issue you're dealing with and read that part.

One chapter that stood out was about understanding financial statements. Some people are really into numbers, so they take the time to check their balance sheets and other statements to make sure their cash flow is good. But many business owners find it tedious and intimidating to analyze the numbers, so they continue along in ignorance. Then when they notice that they have major financial problems, they are surprised. Checking financial statements isn't as exciting as doing the business, but if a business owner doesn't understand them, they're going to end up broke or not making what they should. Barry says in the book that he sold a business for way less than it was worth due to such ignorance.

I haven't read every business book and blog out there, but there isn't a lot of advice that includes understanding financial statements. It's not a sexy topic and seems really dry, and the lack of such information really makes me wonder if those "experts" understand their *own* financials. After reading Barry's book, I realized that an enterprising person can create a niche by giving financial advice to business owners who are afraid or uneducated about financial statements. The person can break down the complexities for any kind of entrepreneur to understand through books, lectures, and various media, then create their own successful business through that! So take this idea and run with it because I'm not numbers-minded.

But it's not like no one talks about financials. In one business reality show called The Profit, Marcus Lemonis will look at a failing business' books and let the owner know how off the mark they are with their own estimates. Even restaurant reality shows like Kitchen Nightmares and Restaurant Impossible talk about the economics of running a restaurant and tell the owners to think about what they're actually spending on each meal.

Anyway, below is the Q&A I did with Barry, who's super-busy but seems to still enjoy non-work aspects of life.

What is the biggest problem that causes business owners to get stuck?

Companies only do sales and marketing when business is slow. They need to have a systematic way to always do marketing so they can be there when customers are ready to buy.

What are your suggestions for creating a system?

You’ve got to watch my videos or take my class :-)

I was surprised to read that many business owners don’t understand financial statements. Why is that, and what should they do?

They do not get an education on how to read financial statements. It is not intuitive and they are afraid to ask their CPA for help.

Why are they afraid, and what do you suggest for learning how to read the statements?

They are afraid they should understand the statements but don't. Read about how to learn in my book How to Get Unstuck.

How can business owners avoid complacency?

Always ask, “Am I still solving a real pain for a customer who can pay to fix it?”

What if you've discovered that you're no longer solving a pain?

Morph the business to find the pain.

What’s a good way to stand out in a down economy when there’s also so much competition?

Connect personally with customers. This can be done through some pretty slick tech to show that you really care.

What slick tech do you recommend?

No slick tech but using CRM [Customer Relationship Management] and Social Media work--be personal.

How can business owners maintain their passion and productivity?

Ask yourself, “Why am I really doing this, and how do I want to make a difference in the world?”

Do you have suggestions to go through that reflective process?

Ask everyday, “Why am I in the business I am in?” Take time off during the week, month, year to reflect.

5.09.2014

In too deep: a stilted translation

I saw a post at Madameriri and decided to translate it because it was titled: "I often tell foreigners 'I don't watch anime'." What I should've done is finished reading it before I dived [or dove] in, because I thought it was about a Japanese person who doesn't like anime. So I slogged through it, and by the end I realized that the writer *did* like anime, or at least didn't mind them.

Not only did I spend a lot of time translating it, but my translation ended up sounding like stilted English. And that's the problem a lot of translators have: do you try to stay true to the original text, or do you write/edit it to make it sound really smooth and natural in the target language, thus majorly reworking the original author's word choice?

I've been trying to figure out what to do. I'd spent all this time translating it, plus the title was deceptive, and the original writing seemed sort of vague and circular in how the author was trying to make her point. I was thinking of not posting it because it sounds sort of odd, but I didn't want all that work to go to waste. So I've decided to post the stilted version instead of rewriting the English to sound like a regular blog post. Did I do the wrong thing?! I don't know! But I hope it makes sense. I need to let go and move on! So here it is, the translation of「私は日本のアニメは見ない」という外国人にありがちなこと:
Japanese anime have been popular abroad for a while. But even now, there are a lot of people throughout the world who have a prejudiced view of anime. Japanese anime are for "geeks who like Japan" or they’re what "kids" watch, so I decided to not watch them.

Until now, when foreigners asked me which anime I watch, I’ve usually said, "I don't really watch them." If I had seen any, it was just one of Ghibli’s, or what I'd occasionally watched with my siblings. Basically, I hadn't really seen them--that's because I decided I didn’t like them, and because of the image they have.

When I’d hear people talk, I’d think, "How pitiful." As a result of deciding not to watch anime, I've probably missed out on seeing a lot of great ones. It’s up to the individual to watch or not watch anime. And even if they disappear from society, they'll still live on. But saying, "I don't like that thing" can give the wrong impression, and that person’s life and outlook can seem narrow.

Other than anime, these things have often come up:

"I don't trust raw fish, so I don't eat sushi."
"I've never eaten blue cheese and it seems impossible. I will not eat it."
"Indian movie? I haven't seen one, not interested."
"Since I get along well with Japanese people, I don't need foreign friends." …etc.

A while ago, I met an American foreign student who wanted whatever she ate and saw explained to her. For instance, when we ate champon, she asked questions such as, "How was this soup made?" "What kinds of seafood are in there?" "Is the seafood in here also in America?" "Where does the shrimp come from?" etc. She ended up not eating champon, and I was disappointed that I couldn't introduce her to that delicious Japanese food.

Perhaps if she'd trusted me and tried the champon, she probably would've thought, "Unforgettable Japanese flavor." It would've been good for her to take even just one bite. It would’ve been good to do it, even if it tasted just slightly good.

It’s better to try eating something instead of being afraid. Then someone can decide if they like it or hate it. If someone doesn't eat it, they won’t know how it tastes, so they can't say anything about it. Even if it doesn’t taste good, it's good to understand that it's "bad."

A while ago, I didn't like anime or manga. At that time, after my foreign boyfriend (who's now my husband) pretty much forced me to watch anime, I thought, "Japanese anime are wonderful." Until then I'd decided, "Anime are something kids watch" and thought I was stupid for believing that.

Inside of me there's a subconscious "decision" box that's been cleared, but it's difficult. I really want to protect the box, and by making the box important, I protect myself, though it reverses unexpectedly.

When I try Out of the Box thinking (thinking outside boundaries), the best benefit for me is that I am not like others. And if I don’t like myself, I have to first try.

Maybe I will start to know things my entire life.

4.28.2014

Calm down introverts: you don't have to act extroverted

Even though I've done a good job of hiding it, I'm more extroverted than introverted. In fact, I'd say I rarely get to express that aspect of my personality (a rant that I'll get into in another post), but when I do get a chance to act how I really am, ie, talkative and extroverted, I'm quite happy.

But sometimes I meet people who are *too* extroverted, like they're trying too hard to act that way. I really like talking to outgoing people, but the folks I'm talking about seem to try too hard. Sometimes those people will tell me that they're really introverted, and I say I'm surprised. But upon further reflection, I'm really not because they seem to be over-compensating for their introversion. It's the forced behavior that makes me become more quiet, and those faux-extroverts will ask me why I'm like that, or they might make some snide remark to someone--or even me--about my deficiencies.

More than once I've talked to people who go out of their way to be really talkative and cheerful...like *too* cheerful, and I'll pretty much clam up and not say much because I'm not into phony conversation. I really am excited about stuff, but I don't want to have to manufacture such an attitude to match their hyped-up one. So what's happened is they'll say something disparaging to a common acquaintance about me. Some people might be appalled I didn't say much, or I seem cold and distant. Well if they would just take a breather, then I would say something, but they seem to go on to the next thing and want me to follow along. Basically, I'm the real deal, they're not, and they seem to be so wrapped up in creating their extroverted persona that they don't bother to discern my true one. Or sometimes they'll ask questions and we'll "talk" but they'll be so hopped-up they'll over-ask or over-talk and I feel like we're not connecting. Which probably also annoys them. I just want to say, "Calm down...be who you are. Then I'll talk more and you won't be annoyed with my reaction."

On the other hand, I've talked to people who are truly outgoing and are energized by people. I had a job where I'd sometimes have to talk to salespeople and other talkative folks, and I had a fantastic time. It was much easier to talk to them because they were sincere in their communication and were ready to interact with the world. Since I'm basically the same but didn't have as much chance to show that side of my personality, I was ready to participate and I think they enjoyed my side of the conversation, too.

So here's some advice to introverts: use your analytical powers to judge people, then talk to them accordingly. I don't know about what other true extroverts think, but being hyper and over-talkative and aggressive does not impress me; it makes me clam up and wonder what's up with you. There is nothing wrong with introversion, unless you are socially inept and don't know how to have a conversation with someone. Then you need training. But talking a bunch because you think that's what you're supposed to do makes you seem oblivious to social rules, and the resulting judgement when I don't respond how you want makes you seem super small-minded.

A while ago I worked with someone who talked a lot and barely listened...he seemed to talk too much to the point where another more extroverted coworker asked if he was dull-witted, or what was going on. I just said, "He's introverted," and the coworker understood: overcompensation.

If you act like yourself, a lot of people would probably appreciate you. And you don't have to smile all the time either. Calm down. There are all kinds of people in the world, and the more mature of us appreciate diversity.

4.12.2014

Are we supposed to play roles?

I've been reading the book Lonely, and it's made me wonder if we're expected, or if society is set up, for us to play roles as we get older. I think when we're in school and we have an outgoing or social personality, we naturally make friends who we can call or hang out with at random times. We don't need structure to connect with others because our interests and personalities help us to bond with them more organically.

But as we get older, most of us have to work to pay bills, and to advance in our careers, we have to navigate tiresome interactions that cut into spontaneity. Not everyone can be trusted because they have their own agenda or they're simply not good people. Or they could just be boring conformists.

Some people amazingly stay in touch with their school friends, so even if they're isolated in a new situation, they manage to have some type of social life that doesn't require them to be anything than who they are. There is so much movement and individualism in American society (the one I know best since I live here), that it's like people are putting up fences around themselves as they proceed on their own tracks. So crossover seems to occur in structured situations: work, kids' schools and activities, or groups people join.

There are many causes of loneliness (which I want to discuss in another post sometime), but one of them is the lack of connecting with people through natural interactions. If someone gets involved in an organization, it's easy to communicate with people through formal events or plans. But what would happen if the organization ceased to exist? Would those people want to hang out and even help each other? What about mothers who are in the suburbs raising kids and connect with other moms around them through sports, park programs, PTA, etc? When those kids grow up and move away, they won't have the kids' activities and goals to work within to connect to other parents. So their role is a mother, a working professional's role is entrenched in a socially inclined workplace, and another person is on the board of some group. Their roles are set, and they come with places they belong.

But is it possible to belong without having a formal title or role? I know only a few people who don't tie relationships to roles or responsibilities. They just like to connect with people and make an effort to communicate despite the context. But it seems most people expect pieces to be in place, and when a piece of the environment is gone, the cord is cut.

American society seems transient and temporary, which I think causes isolation and loneliness.

4.07.2014

I'm back in language land

It's been almost 10 years since I've started this blog, and when I first started it, I was doing a lot with language: writing, editing, translating, reading...plus, I was an aspiring fiction writer and needed a space to express myself and my love of language.

Then a lot happened in my work life, and part of it consumed my mind to the point where I really didn't have the space or energy to write much here. Basically, I got interested in the radio biz when I met Rick Kogan, then eventually got some work in it about a year after that. Then the drama began, and I was trying to balance dealing with the challenges of the [not always nice] people and the business itself, which seems to be hanging by a thread (when you compare it to other media and entertainment outlets). Somehow I've managed to stay in the business for eight years, and recently achieved the seemingly impossible: I've been hired to write and edit at one of the top stations in the U.S.A.

Until recently, I'd been so focused on audio, though I did continue writing and editing for various businesses the whole time I was working in radio. Plus, my podcast was getting a lot more traction, so I focused more on that because it was satisfying to get positive reactions and lots of hits. (But this blog had gotten lots of hits too, especially before social media took my attention away as well.)

I just didn't have the headspace to think about language other than when I taught English as a Second Language (ESL) or used it at work.

But now that I have this unbelievable gig, it's totally reignited my love of language. I sit there wondering how I can make active verbs more effective than passive, and I just feel good because what I write goes on the air to millions of people within minutes. It's a satisfying writing experience.

I've even begun to read more because I feel more settled at a great station that seems to have no drama. It makes thinking off the clock easier and more accessible because I'm not wasting brain cells trying to figure out a survival strategy.

So I'm going to post here more often, and get into language enjoyment once again. And I still have more to say about my months-long absence, but it's time to eat something now :D