scruta

Either you are sorting it out, or you are full of it.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

真的假的?For real?

[Ferret is getting his beard trimmed at a local barbershop. It's a quaint affair run by a Husband and Wife team. An Old Woman walks in with a strange request.]

Old Woman

你们是烫头发的,对吧?

You all do perms, right?

Husband

[while maneuvering a buzzer around Ferret's face:]

是,烫头发可以的。

Yeah, we do ‘em.

Old Woman

假发呢?假发是真发的假发,不是假发的假发。

How about wigs? It’s a real-hair wig, not a fake-hair wig.

[The Husband is confused. Ferret is even more confused. Note: The word in Mandarin for "wig" 假发, jiǎfà literally means "fake hair." All well and good unless you're talking about wigs made out of fake hair. "Fake hair fake hair?" It's enough to confuse anyone, including a native speaker.]

Husband

什么假发的假发?

What are you talking about? Wig what?

Old Woman

那个假发是用真头发做的,是上海最有名买假发的店的。质量很好。头发是真的。

The wig uses real-hair. It’s from one of Shanghai’s most famous wig shops. The quality is really good. The hair is real.

Husband

哦,你要烫真头发的假发。真头发的话, 可以的。

Oh, you want to perm a real-hair wig. If the hair’s real, no problem.

[The problem is solved. As to why the Old Woman felt the need to assert the quality and source of said wig is anyone's guess. The Wife walks in.]

Wife

你好。

Hello.

Old Woman

[to the Wife]

我要烫真发的假发。可以了吗?

I wanna perm a real-hair wig. Can I?

Wife

什么意思?

What?

Husband

真头发的假发,真头发的假发。

Real-hair wig, real-hair wig.

Wife

哦,好的。真头发的,没问题。

Oh. Sure. If it’s real, no problem.

Old Woman

好的,我去拿假发吧。

Okay. I’ll go grab the wig.

[The Husband finishes trimming Ferret's beard. Ferret pays and leaves. He ponders the oddities of the Chinese language and one important question: why in the world the Old Woman was so keen on perming her wig?]

posted by ferret at 10:17 pm  

Friday, May 20, 2011

Shanghai as a Butterfly Net

Shanghai caught me.

It caught all of us.

It caught all of us who wanted to change into something else, spread their wings and fly far, far away.

(I go to sleep at night hoping that I might again be released and not end up tacked together under glass, watched occasionally by a great magnified eye.

I wake up hopeful. My wings are still strong, and this net is full of holes…)

posted by ferret at 5:08 pm  

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Translation: 无标题的涂鸦

I found this simple poem scrawled on the bathroom wall in a local coffee shop. What most impressed me was the usage of the word “了”. The symmetrical repetition of this character worked well to illustrate the author’s desire to put all of these things in the past. I came up with two translations where I tried to maintain the rhythm and repetition of the original.

剪了发

戒了烟

忘了她

Translation #1 (more literal)

Cut my hair

Quit the cigs

Forgot her

Translation #2 (a stretch)

Cut off hair

Stayed off cigs

Swore off her

posted by ferret at 1:35 pm  

Friday, May 13, 2011

False Start #58

Intimacy is like being a tour guide.

You show a stranger places that you know all too well, places you talk about from a practiced distance, giving interesting tidbits here and there. Still, there are associations with these places, names and people that lie below the surface. There are things you don’t dare to bring out: the gnarled teeth of the smile of a man who bumped into you in the alley after you lost your job; the sounds of your feet shuffling over a wide square on the day you found your goals in life; the fronds of an old tree that droop so low every spring, letting you grab them, giving you hope.

You don’t dare to share these things.

Still, if the right traveler presses you, perhaps you will.

posted by ferret at 2:36 pm  

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Politics in China

Two young couples on the beach look at the sea.

They comment on how blue the water is seen from afar,

How clear the sky is, punctuated by clouds of white.

They point out a child playing in the surf.

Inside the waves there’s trash:

Shampoo bottles

Styrofoam computer packaging

Shreds of tarpaulin

Energy drink wrappers

Wooden meat skewers

Neon drawstrings

The top of a toilet plunger

Juice boxes

Chair legs

Paint canisters

Packing beads

The leg of an action figure.

The child picks up the leg and waves it in the air.

The couples begin to describe his movements.

They still aren’t talking about the trash.

Not yet.

posted by ferret at 2:10 pm  

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