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Wednesday, June 13, 2007Understanding The Donkey
Like children all over North America, pint-size Quebecers have been flocking to theatres recently to see the animated film Shrek the Third, or Shrek le Troisieme as it is known here. The only problem is they are leaving confused about what exactly that donkey was saying.
"The donkey is the main character we don't understand here in Quebec," explained Tristan Harvey, a Montreal actor who makes his living dubbing movies into French. "When you go out with your child and watch the movie, the children and the adults will say, 'I just don't get it. He speaks another language.' He's using Parisian slang that we just don't get."
Because the French-language version of the movie now on Quebec screens was dubbed in France, Quebecers have trouble following the dialogue. It is one example among many that led politicians in Quebec City last week to call for a law obliging the major Hollywood studios to dub their movies in Quebec, using Quebec actors. In an interesting twist on Quebec's age-old language debate, the fight is not against English but against the often incomprehensible dialect spoken in mother France.
The donkey in the French-language version of Shrek the Third uses Parisian slang, causing Quebec audiences to miss a lot of the dialogue.View Larger Image View Larger Image
The donkey in the French-language version of Shrek the Third uses Parisian slang, causing Quebec audiences to miss a lot of the dialogue.
The fight was taken up last week by Mario Dumont, whose Action democratique du Quebec leapt from nowhere to official opposition in the last election thanks in part to its message that the Quebec identity is under threat. During the election campaign, Mr. Dumont was preoccupied by perceived threats from religious groups seeking accommodation of their customs; now it is the Hollywood studios and the Parisian actors they hire to dub their films. His party tabled a bill last Wednesday that would force studios to have their films dubbed in Quebec before they can be released in the province. (Existing law requires that a French-language version be available but does not dictate where the dubbing is to be done.)
Mr. Dumont told reporters about taking his baffled children to see Shrek le Troisieme. "You have very Parisian expressions that are typical to Paris or France [and that] children of Quebec have never heard of, cannot understand. So this is the whole story of cultural diversity," he said.
It is also a story of a lucrative industry that actors fear could be lost if the major Hollywood studios abandon their commitment to dubbing in Quebec.
Quebec's Union des artistes, which represents film, stage and television actors, says the dubbing industry was worth $25-million last year, providing work for 800 people. Of that number, 200 are actors, most of whom work in relative anonymity, providing the French voices of Hollywood stars.
For example, Gilbert Lachance would not get recognized on the streets of Montreal, but he provides the voices of stars including Johnny Depp, Matt Damon, Tom Cruise and Chris Rock. Camille Cyr-Desmarais does not have bombsell looks, but in the Quebec versions of films she becomes Scarlett Johansson, Cameron Diaz and Salma Hayek.
The union annually rates the Hollywood studios on their performances in dubbing in Quebec, awarding prizes to the best and worst. The lemon prize for worst performance last year was shared by Fox and Paramount, which dubbed 52% and 42% of their films in Quebec, respectively. The top prize went to Warner, which dubbed all its films in Quebec. Overall, 73% of major releases were dubbed in Quebec, down from 78% the year before.
A 50-ton bowhead whale caught off the Alaskan coast last month had a weapon fragment embedded in its neck that showed it survived a similar hunt — more than a century ago.
Embedded deep under its blubber was a 3 1/2-inch arrow-shaped projectile that has given researchers insight into the whale's age, estimated between 115 and 130 years old.
"No other finding has been this precise," said John Bockstoce, an adjunct curator of the New Bedford Whaling Museum.
Calculating a whale's age can be difficult, and is usually gauged by amino acids in the eye lenses. It's rare to find one that has lived more than a century, but experts say the oldest were close to 200 years old.
The bomb lance fragment, lodged a bone between the whale's neck and shoulder blade, was likely manufactured in New Bedford, on the southeast coast of Massachusetts, a major whaling center at that time, Bockstoce said.
It was probably shot at the whale from a heavy shoulder gun around 1890. The small metal cylinder was filled with explosives fitted with a time-delay fuse so it would explode seconds after it was shot into the whale. The bomb lance was meant to kill the whale immediately and prevent it from escaping.
The device exploded and probably injured the whale, Bockstoce said.
"It probably hurt the whale, or annoyed him, but it hit him in a non-lethal place," he said. "He couldn't have been that bothered if he lived for another 100 years."
The whale harkens back to far different era. If 130 years old, it would have been born in 1877, the year Rutherford B. Hayes was sworn in as president, when federal Reconstruction troops withdrew from the South and when Thomas Edison unveiled his newest invention, the phonograph.
The 49-foot male whale died when it was shot with a similar projectile last month, and the older device was found buried beneath its blubber as hunters carved it with a chain saw for harvesting.
"It's unusual to find old things like that in whales, and I knew immediately that it was quite old by its shape," said Craig George, a wildlife biologist for the North Slope Borough Department of Wildlife Management, who was called down to the site soon after it was found.
The revelation led George to return to a similar piece found in a whale hunted near St. Lawrence Island in 1980, which he sent to Bockstoce to compare.
Last week, New Scientist Space posted a provocative story titled "Mars rover finds 'puddles' on the planet's surface." The story concerned a presentation made at the 2007 Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Aerospace Conference by Lockheed Martin physicist Ron Levin. The article reads in part:
A new analysis of pictures taken by the exploration rover Opportunity reveals what appear to be small ponds of liquid water on the surface of Mars....
This would be an amazing find, if true! How could the mission's scientists have missed this? And how could liquid water possibly persist in the sub-zero temperature and near-vacuum pressure at Opportunity's landing site? The article goes on to explain the basis for Levin's claim:
Along with fellow Lockheed engineer Daniel Lyddy, Levin used images from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory's website. The resulting stereoscopic reconstructions, made from paired images from the Opportunity rover's twin cameras, show bluish features that look perfectly flat. The surfaces are so smooth that the computer could not find any surface details within those areas to match up between the two images.
So many foods, so little time.
It's a challenge I face every week, deciding where and what to eat.
Recently, British food writer Anna Longmore compiled a list in Arena Magazine of the 50 foods you should try before you die.
Guess that narrows it down.
But Longmore didn't eat any of the items on her list. Not the elk heart, duck embryo or crispy pig's ear.
Deliciousness must be vouched for. Here's my list, shorter but fully endorsed.
These are must-eats: foods that will please your palate, expand your mind and gratify your soul. They are not chancy mouthfuls to gross out your friends. (Although I've eaten my share of those, from insects to fish sperm to snake.) Most are readily found in our restaurants and food shops.
So dig in, the clock is ticking.
Kobe beef sashimi
If you've only had Kobe beef as a burger, then you're missing the point. The point is fat. The richly marbled flesh is more white than red – in Japan, the grading goes from 1 to 12; our top-grade Prime would rate a 5 – and cooking melts the fat away. Try it raw, shaved into paper-thin slices, and surrender to the texture.
Oyster bars sometimes serve scallops on the half-shell. Pounce. When raw, their briny sweetness is intensified. The fat, orange comma of coral attached – as hermaphrodites, both sexes contain roe – is even better, like caviar but more delicate.
Hustler magazine publisher Larry Flynt told the Examiner "that the newspaper ad he took out last week offering a million-dollar bounty for evidence of illicit sexual activity with lawmakers has yielded about 200 tips so far. He said he'll let them continue to trickle in over the next two weeks or so before his team begins to follow up on them."
Said Flynt: "We'll be lucky if we get 2 to 4 percent hard leads that could yield a payout."
"Flynt, bedecked in a monogrammed silk shirt, a diamond bracelet and multiple rings, said he fully expects to snare a big fish or two from the effort. When asked why he decided to go ahead with this now, he reminded us that he also did this for the first time way back in 1976 and likes to do so regularly to expose the hypocrisy of high-ranking officials (he did it again during President Clinton's impeachment in 1998). With an election coming up, Flynt thought the timing was right."