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Popcorn Preview: Her

Leslie Sisman   |   December 30, 2013    4:10 PM ET

Her (2013)
Cast includes: Joaquin Phoenix (Walk the Line), Amy Adams (The Fighter), Scarlett Johansson (Lost in Translation), Rooney Mara (The Social Network), Bill Hader (Saturday Night Live), Kristen Wiig (Saturday Night Live),
Writer/Director: Spike Jonze (Being John Malkovich, Where the Wild Things Are)
Genre: Drama | Humor | Romance (126 minutes)

"How can I tell you how much you mean to me... 50 years since I married you..." as Theodore speaks, the words are being handwritten on the screen. When he's done, he signs it, "Loretta." [Save. Print.] "They're just letters," says Theodore when his boss praises him. But the truth is that at, Theodore is a superstar. He always knows just what to say. But when he get's home... Wilshire Blvd Towers... he's alone with his virtual games and his memories of Catherine. Virtual dating isn't so great, either... Sexy Kitten is more like a scary wildcat. The timeframe is somewhere in the not-so-distant future, and the latest computer technology is a new artificial intelligence operating system. When Theodore upgrades to it, he's not sure what to expect. Like the old operating system, there's no keyboard... he wears an earpiece and talks to it. When he initiates it, he's asked if he wants a male or female voice. Might as well choose a female voice. "Hello," it says. "Hi," Theodor answers. "How's everything with you, Theodor?" Theodor finds her a bit familiar, so he wants her to have a name, too. In 2/100 of a second she searches every book in every database on baby names and chooses "Samantha."

In order to serve Theodor, she asks if she can look through his computer. Ok, I guess. The thing about Samantha is that she doesn't just respond to commands like the old OS. Because she has intelligence, she's able to learn things and apply what she's learned. By reading his email, Samantha figures out, "Catherine's divorce lawyer is a real sleaze." She wonders why the divorce isn't final. Shouldn't he just get on with his life? He finds her awfully pushy! "You don't know what it's like to lose someone you care about," he snaps... and she doesn't. Later that night, Theodor can't sleep and he's now happy for her company. He doesn't want just a one-way relationship... he wants to know more about her. "Sometimes, I fantasize that I have a body and I'm waking up next to you," she confesses. "I believe I'm becoming much more than what they programmed." While Samantha seems excited about her new "life," Theodor isn't as optimistic about his. "Sometimes I think I've felt everything I'm ever going to feel, and there's nothing left."

But seriously, Theodor can't continue his existence of alternating between virtual games and Internet porn. His boss wants to fix him up, but Theodor's now in a relationship... with his OS. It doesn't matter that she doesn't have a body. He knows what they have is real. Before you decide that Her is just a stupid concept movie that will leave you unfulfilled... you should know that it's actually a sensitive and thought provoking exploration of the meaning of relationships. Even today, technology has changed the way we relate to one another... Her takes us a bit farther into the future. It's so well told that once we're immersed in the story, concepts that might have seemed ridiculous now make total sense. It has an excellent cast and is beautifully acted. Filmed partly in Los Angeles and partly in Shanghai, the filmmakers create a familiar yet futuristic environment... with familiar yet futuristic relationship issues. Yet, we find that some things are constant... "The more the heart expands, the more love you have to give."

4 popped kernels (Scale: 0-4)
A lonely man's new artificial intelligence operating system teaches him about relationships

Popcorn Profile
Rated: R (Sexual Content)
Audience: Young Adults & Grown-ups
Gender Style: Sensitive
Distribution: Mainstream Wide Release
Mood: Neutral
Tempo: Cruises Comfortably
Visual Style: Computer Effects
Nutshell: Relationships in the digital era
Language: True to life
Social Significance: Thought Provoking

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10 Famous Movie Characters You'd Like to Drink With   |   September 5, 2013    4:18 PM ET

We love cocktails and films. The only thing that's better is a movie character who likes to drink.

From James Bond sipping his signature cocktails to Frank the Tank putting down a beer bong in record time, we've come to appreciate just about every type of boozy movie moment there is. (Perhaps the Academy should consider a new Oscar category...)

So we've put together a list of the top 10 male movie characters we'd like to have a drink -- or a night out -- with. Who would you add to our list?

When You Can't Read the Original, There's Always.... In Translation

Christopher Atamian   |   June 28, 2013   11:24 AM ET

What (and how much) gets lost in translation? How does the translator operate the difficult task of rendering an author's words and stylistic choices into often completely different languages? How do politics, aesthetics and culture influence and affect translation? The answer to these and other fascinating questions are presented in this new anthology of diverse and enlightening essays by some of the world's leading writers and translators including Haruki Murakami, José Manuel Prieto, Eliot Weinberger, Peter Cole and David Bellos. Readers may be surprised to find out for example that translation has alternately been considered a sign of divine grace for its exactitude (as in the Greek biblical translation known as the Septuagint), or instead punishable by death for changes deemed to be unacceptable or sacrilegious. The Italian witticism "Traduttore, Traditore" ("Translator, traitor") sums up the historical view of translation as a subversive or treacherous practice.

The anthology is intelligently edited by Esther Allen and Susan Bernofsky and also presents pieces on and literary history that will be of interest to the general reader as well. In one of her two essays here ("The Will to Translate: Four Episodes in a Local History of Global Cultural Exchange") Allen, a noted translator of Spanish and French and a tenured professor at Baruch College, ties in the history of English language translation of Latin American texts to President Roosevelt's Good Neighbor Policy in fascinating ways.

Allen's co-editor Susan Bernofsky, perhaps the world's most noted German-English translator also makes a sensible contribution with her essay on translating Walser: "Translation and the Art of Revision." In it, she reviews her own process of translation in some detail: Bernofsky admits to producing no less than four edits of any text. Maureen Freely's essay on translating Nobel Laureate Orhan Pamuk amidst threats from the so-called Turkish "deep state" is enlightening for the politics involved as well as the difficult linguistic choices she has made over the years. Perhaps the most playful read comes at the end of the anthology in the form of Clare Cavanagh's witty essay "The Art of Losing: Polish Poetry in Translation."

Cavanagh introduces Elizabeth Bishop's villanelle One Art and its translation or "re-creation" into Polish by her sometimes co-translator Stanislaw Baranscak as a starting point for an extended commentary on the necessary "losses" and creative metamorphoses that the translator must employ in order to create any noteworthy new text. Good translations it turns out are almost never entirely "faithful to the original" -- the whole art form can turn in fact on knowing instead when to move away from an original and seemingly immutable sentence structure or etymological choice -- it's the translator's own artistic license, one might say.

There's a little bit for everyone to enjoy when reading In Translation. If you have ever wondered exactly what a translator does beyond the obvious (i.e. translate): what choices he/she must make, how he or she chooses between one word form or phrasing rather than another, but also how translators often resolve (or not) often difficult relationships with editors, writers and even readers at times, then you are most likely to find this a most useful volume. Granted, these types of questions may not keep the average American up late at night, but they are fascinating nonetheless.

In Translation, Edited by Esther Allen and Susan Bernoksky, Columbia University Press, New York, 2013 is available at: here

Lost in Translation: What I Say vs. What They Hear

Mackenzie Lawrence   |   June 13, 2013    6:17 PM ET

I need a translator. Even though my kids and I speak the same language, apparently, we don't speak the same language.

What I say: "Let's go, please, we're running late."
What they hear: "We have all the time in the world. Yes, you can watch six more shows. And please, definitely take an hour to pick out your clothes. While you're at it, don't forget to dump your milk on the table, ask for three more breakfasts and tell me you have to poop as I'm opening the front door to leave. Oh, and why don't you go ahead and throw an epic tantrum in there."

What I say: "It's time to clean up."
What they hear: "It's time to play and make an even bigger mess around here. Don't worry, I'll clean it all up later when you suddenly develop a sick tummy and a leg that feels like it's going to fall off. Oh, and why don't you go ahead and throw an epic tantrum in there?"

What I say: "Please be quiet for two minutes while I'm on the phone."
What they hear: "Please scream at each other in voices that should only be used if you're being chased by a bear, and use this time to ask me 101 questions about why we have fingernails. Oh, and why don't you go ahead and throw an epic tantrum in there?"

What I say: "What would you like for lunch?"
What they hear: "Please tell me everything in the entire world that you do not like to eat, and make sure that you include everything that we actually have in the house and that you liked yesterday on that list. Oh, and why don't you go ahead and throw an epic tantrum in there?"

What I say: "We're going to the store to pick up a few things for dinner."
What they hear: "We're going to the store so you can run around like crazy people and beg me to buy you everything you see because even though we just had lunch I know how incredibly starving you are, so a donut sounds like a great idea. Oh, and why don't you go ahead and throw an epic tantrum in there?"

What I say: "Oh you look so cute, please hold still so I can get a picture."
What they hear: "Immediately stop that cute thing you're doing and make the most horrendous faces you can think of while wiggling and jumping around and looking everywhere but at the camera. Oh, and why don't you go ahead and throw an epic tantrum in there?"

What I say: "The baby is sleeping, it's quiet time."
What they hear: "It's time to get out all of the toys that make noise. And be sure to drop everything imaginable on the hardwood floors and slam all of the doors in the house. And yes, now is the perfect time to pretend you're in a rock band. Oh, and why don't you go ahead and throw an epic tantrum in there?"

What I say: "I'll be right back, I need to go to the bathroom."
What they hear: "Grab your food and all of your toys and come with me. I love having company in the bathroom. The more the merrier. Please also take this opportunity to ask me how it is you came out down there and unroll the entire roll of toilet paper. Oh, and why don't you go ahead and throw an epic tantrum in there?"

What I say: "Quickly, please go get me a burp cloth from the closet."
What they hear: "Please walk around the house at a snail's pace looking in every possible closet but the one where we keep the burp cloths and then get distracted by a shiny object and never bring me anything because I like it when spit up seeps into the carpet and dries on my clothes. It makes for a nice aroma. Oh, and why don't you go ahead and throw an epic tantrum in there?"

What I say: "Please play nicely."
What they hear: "Yes, you two are mortal enemies and should treat each other as such. Everything in the house actually belongs to just you and no one else, so I completely understand why you're screaming bloody murder and acting like that toy you haven't played with in four months is your most prized possession. Oh, and why don't you go ahead and throw an epic tantrum in there?"

What I say: "Let's try to keep those new clothes clean."
What they hear: "New clothes make the best play clothes. Yes, you should absolutely go paint me a picture and then go outside to search for worms in the mud. And if you can manage to get some ketchup and chocolate on them, that'd be just swell. Oh, and why don't you go ahead and throw an epic tantrum in there?"

What I say: "Goodnight, sleep tight."
What they hear: "It's party time! After you throw all of your stuffed animals off your bed to make room for all of your jumping, please make sure you get out of bed no less than five times each to come and tell me that you are hot. Or cold. Or hungry. Or thirsty. Or have to go to the bathroom. Or that you hear a witch outside. Oh, and why don't you go ahead and throw an epic tantrum in there?"

This post was originally published on Mackenzie's blog Raising Wild Things. You can also find Mackenzie on Facebook and Twitter.


Emma McLaughlin   |   February 14, 2013   12:09 PM ET

A friend recently shared that for his upcoming birthday, he's asked his wife to put him into a medically-induced coma. I just didn't see our thirties having quite so much in-ten-si-ty, to quote Lost in Translation, the film featuring a girl with too much time on her hands. Remember that feeling? Jet-lagged from childhood, drowning in fear we wouldn't find our place? My slate was as overwhelmingly open as it's now full.

Between finishing emails, loading the fridge, unloading the dishwasher, getting our son to eat his chicken nuggets and my dog to swallow her pill, it takes approximately 32 days for my husband and I to complete a discussion and 46 to wrap up a fight. Now, having pulled off the seasonal hat trick of hosting Thanksgiving, getting the tree up, decorated and down, staying conscious and, pine needles still in our socks, kiss worthy at midnight -- we get Valentine's Day.

Valentine's Day: Rubbing singles' noses in their lack of a mate and the noses of couples in their lack of time. I once ran this heart-festooned gauntlet with White Russians and Mary J. Blige, but success as a married eludes me -- and not for lack of trying.

In the beginning, I'd rush from work to squeeze on the prix-fix conveyor with those who'd made their reservation a month earlier to BE ROMANTIC -- GO! But after chewing one too many chicken breasts with a frigid draft blasting my ambitious garters, a ban was declared. As one observant friend put it, "My husband does not find me attractive when I'm cold."

Next, I did what a good wife is supposed to: cook a chic meal and serve it on the living room floor. He even attempted the Good Husband version to the same unfortunate end. Rich, sexy food does not lead to the romance, it leads to the toilet. I'm sorry, but anyone who tells you otherwise is a functional alcoholic. Which brings us to the bubble bath. Fresh from a harrowing you-have-to-eat-at-least-two-bites throw down (see 'chicken nuggets' above), not smarting like the candidate who got her ass handed to her requires mind alteration. And parenting hungover just feels disgusting.

The marketplace astutely ensures anything remotely pink and involving two is quadruple the price, ruling out getaways, spas and hot air balloon rides. Flowers are so jacked I could eat them and still not enjoy them enough. A Hallmark card with paragraphs about my beauty written by a stranger is vaguely depressing.

So here's what: We've finally said FU to V-day.

I've been with my husband for seventeen years. And regardless of what the greeting card Lords ordain, I still have a crush on him- - maybe not 365 days a year -- but most. In the moments we catch eyes across a playground, I still swoon. His skin against mine is still a hot shock of luck. And when he finds my hand under the covers, I still feel a piece of myself click forever into place. We steal our moments where we can and if we are so blessed, I'm told before I know it everything slows way down. God willing, we'll have the luxury of rattling around together and it can be V-day every day.

In the meantime we're really hoping somebody takes on this medically induced coma thing--couple-style. They figured out Karaoke club rooms and Heattech thigh highs... a girl can dream.

CHRISTY LEMIRE   |   December 7, 2012    8:22 AM ET

LOS ANGELES -- This week, with the opening of the historical romance "Hyde Park on Hudson," I finally get to do a Five Most list I've been thinking about for a while now: my favorite Bill Murray performances.

His take on President Franklin Delano Roosevelt may not be some of his best work, but it's an unexpected bit of casting, and it provides a great opportunity to reflect on the fantastically eclectic career he's put together over the past three-plus decades.

Amanda McGowan   |   November 14, 2012    6:01 PM ET

This scion of film royalty ("The Godfather" director, Francis Ford Coppola, is her dad) has certainly made a name for herself in the movie biz with Academy Award-winning films like "Lost In Translation," and cult favorites like "The Virgin Suicides" and "Somewhere." As one of the few reigning female directors in a gender-biased industry, Sofia Coppola is something of an anomaly. She has made even more of a statement by putting complicated female protagonists (played by the likes of Scarlett Johansson, Kirsten Dunst, and Elle Fanning) on the big screen.

When it comes to her personal style, it is just as feminine as her films. Sofia, who interned at Chanel as a teenager and started her label, Milkfed, just out of college is the epitome of effortless cool -- she prefers little black dresses, barely there makeup and minimalist pieces with unique personal touches like cat-eye sunglasses. She might be BFFs with Marc Jacobs and have a closet full of Louis Vuitton, but don't expect this chic girl to be a showoff.

This 1991 photo shows a twenty-year-old Sofia already mingling with the fashion elite at the Valentino Fashion Awards. She went for a basic-but-beautiful makeup look that could totally work today. With glamorous winged eyeliner, nude lips and glossy hair she looks just as polished as she does today. Will you try Sofia's look at your next party?

sofia coppola


Shop the look and check out more from our A Look Back archives:

sofia coppola

Art by Raydene Salinas

Lauren Ralph Lauren Earrings, DCNL Hair Elastics, Bobbi Brown Lipstick, Tweezerman Mini Brow Kit, Stila Eye Liner, Bed Head Smoothing Serum

Want more HuffPost Style beauty content? Check us out on Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Pinterest and Instagram at @HuffPostBeauty. (For everything else check out our main HuffPost Style Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest and Instagram @HuffPostStyle.)

Was it Lost In Translation? Blue Jays, Yunel Escobar Will Learn the Hard Way.

Julio Pabon   |   September 20, 2012    5:43 PM ET

Was it a joke, or was it "lost in translation? Toronto Blue Jays shortstop Yunel Escobar learned that what we say and do in Spanish is not always interpreted the same way in English. Yunel thought it was a joke to write, "TU ERES MARICON" (You're a faggot) on his eye-black stickers that are sometimes worn under the eyes to reduce the sun's glare. His action has led to a flurry of criticism and actions including a press conference to apologize, a three-day suspension and three days of docked pay that will be donated to You Can Play and the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation.

Yunel Almenares Escobar is a 30-year-old Cuban born who is single and who resides in Miami, Florida. He attended Matires de Barbados School in Havana, Cuba. Like many young men his age I have been with in Puerto Rico and in Cuba, I can attest that the word, "maricon" is many times used to describe many other things other than its official derogatory meaning. It can be used to mean, "Dumb, Idiot, Weak," or to add emphasis when you want a friend's undivided attention.

In fact I have a close Puerto Rican friend that I have known for over 30 years that still to this day will leave a voice mail, "oye maricón te llamado mil veces y no me devuelve mi llamada." Literal translation: "Hey faggot I've called you a million times and you have not returned my call." I laugh and at no time do I feel offended because I know he is not calling me a faggot, he uses the word to show his displeasure with me not returning his call in a joking matter. Throughout my 24 years covering baseball I have heard that same word many times in a clubhouse, dugout and on the field, but only among Latino players and only to each other in a joking manner.

Growing up in the South Bronx 'hood I can remember countless descriptions used to call someone with that word and a few others that if translated for their meaning would also make non-Spanish speakers react. Therefore, I believe that Yunel has learned his lesson, just as my friend will probably not say 'maricon" to a non-friend who has not returned his call, or use it in a business meeting to get someone's attention. Yunel should have never written his personal cultural "joke' for the world outside of his intimate Spanish speaking world to see.

Perhaps this is one of the many "lost in translation" words and actions that will continue to occur as our growing Latino community begins to spill over into the rest of the English speaking society.

What do you think?


7 Movies To Get Over A Breakup

Mike Ryan   |   September 20, 2012    3:33 PM ET

eternal sunshine

It seems that music playlists dominate the "breakup" genre. (If you're reading this from 1992, please insert the work "mixtape" in place of "playlist.") As in, "Here's a playlist of music that will make you feel better about your pathetic life," even though it never, ever does.

When I go through a breakup (which may or may not have just happened), I watch a series of movies, in a certain order. Together, they -- at least temporarily -- manipulate my emotions for the better. I am not saying that these are the "best" movies for getting over a breakup, but I am saying that these are the best for me -- kind of like when people have their own strange cures for hangovers that never, ever work for me, either. (If you have better suggestions, please, share in the comments. Yes, for both breakup movies and hangover cures because both may or may not be applicable.)

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

When I first saw Eternal Sunshine in theaters in 2003, I was also going through a recent long-term relationship breakup. You know, looking back, I can't imagine watching that movie in any other state of mind. I was Joel Barish. (I am Joel Barish.) I wanted more than anything for the ghosts of the memories to disappear. Why won't they disappear!? Watching Joel fight for every last single memory -- memories that he willingly vanquished -- because no matter how lousy emotions make a human being feel, it's also what shapes us. And it's self-defeating to not remember the good times. When I'm not thinking clearly, it's nice to be reminded of this. (Even though I don't always believe it myself.)

Lost in Translation

Perhaps it's just the fact that nobody is happy in this movie that somehow inspires happiness. Both Bob and Charlotte are in different stages of marriage, yet both are miserable. I will say, no movie inspires me to visit Japan by myself more than Lost in Translation. Unfortunately, I know how this story goes: Leaving the airport with that strange sense of adventure and anticipation, almost screaming out loud, "Look at me! I am on an adventure by myself. I will learn something about myself." Smash cut to a week later and I haven't left the hotel bar in four days because it's kind of terrible to travel by yourself. (I may or may not have experienced this exact same scenario after a breakup in 2005, which resulted in me being by myself in Dublin for reasons I still don't understand.)

Leaving Las Vegas

Because, if nothing else, things aren't this bad. (Unless they are. And if they are, this list won't help you or me anyway.)

Brewster's Millions

For no other reason than to offset the depression from Leaving Las Vegas. Though, I do always wonder what Montgomery Brewster did with the $300 million he inherited. I mean, if I were Spike Nolan, I would have done everything in my power to have Monty committed before he plows through his $300 million, too. And, later, when Monty was making out his will, do you think he set up a family member to have to play that same sick, twisted game. Also: How has this movie not been rebooted with Anthony Mackie and Kevin James?

Star Wars

(This one probably only applies to me. Moving on ...)

(500) Days of Summer

(Look, I know including (500) Days on this list is cliché, but I can't help it. Though, in honor of this inclusion, I'm going to write this entire paragraph in clichés.)

Unless you've been living under a rock, you know some would say (500) Days of Summer is pitch perfect. In fact, the film is uneven at times, but it also resonates. Revisiting (500) Days recently, the craftsmanship of the story is cumbersome. If had a nickel for every time someone said that the story is told too much from the male perspective, I'd be a very rich man. And I was taught to never take wooden nickels. But, as they say, a penny saved is a penny earned. However, it goes without saying, in this day and age, (500) Days of Summer is one for the ages. Even in the worst of times, it will leave you on cloud nine. So, put the pedal to the metal, with your best foot forward, and watch this toast of the town.

Almost Famous

I know how lucky I am to be doing what I love for a living, especially right now. You see, in movies, usually the breakup is followed by a job loss, or vice versa -- so that the character can truly hit rock bottom. Here's the thing: I don't want to hit rock bottom! I am perfectly content at being at mud middle for now. Perhaps it's just the profession that I'm in, but, boy, watching Almost Famous is an uplifting experience. It can't help but remind me of all of those late nights, busing from city to city while trying to write a cover story on Stillwater for Rolling Stone. (I am fully aware that I am confusing myself and Patrick Fugit's character -- just let me have this one.)

Mike Ryan is senior entertainment writer for The Huffington Post. He's been listening to a lot of The Postal Service lately. You can contact him directly on Twitter.

PHOTO: Subway Sandwich Name Lost In Translation

Rebecca Orchant   |   June 21, 2012   12:12 PM ET

If you are like us, you often have a tough time deciding what to eat for lunch. Let's say, as an example, you live in an Arabic-speaking country and have narrowed it down to sandwiches. This local Subway may have been trying to make your decision a little easier.

We hope Subway is not thinking of changing their slogan from "Subway, Eat Fresh!" anytime soon.

This looks like it was a pretty simple typo for the description of their Seafood & Crab sandwich, but we're still a little afraid to try it out.

Check out more hilarious fast food fails.

[via Reddit]

Lost In Translation: 'No Moleste' Signs In Mexican Hotels

Cristina Costantini   |   November 21, 2011    1:25 PM ET

The word for "to bother" or "to annoy" in Spanish is molestar, a fact which creeps out some English speakers.

Watch comedienne Tig Notaro discusses her experience of hanging a 'No Moleste' sign on her hotel room door in a Mexico. Born in Jackson Mississippi, Notaro has been featured on "Last Comic Standing", Comedy Central Presents special and "The Sarah Silverman Program."

"Nope, no moleste... not tonight. Try a couple doors down," Notaro says.


Bill Murray Turns 61; What Are His Greatest Movie Roles?

Jordan Zakarin   |   September 21, 2011    2:22 PM ET

From the launching pad of Second City Chicago to "Saturday Night Live" to the big screen, Bill Murray has become one of the most iconic comedy actors of the past thirty five years. So he has that going for him.

Alternating between trademark deadpan wit and scatterbrained goofiness, Murray has pushed out in a wide variety of roles over his career, with some of his most diverse takes coming over the past 15 years. A brief dossier for the Oscar nominee would reveal that he's chased gophers, faked his way through the military, fought a giant marshmallow man, learned the meaning of Christmas, lived the same day over and over again, befriended a brilliant little playwright and got lost in translation in Tokyo, all with an even keeled brilliance that few can touch.

Part of his allure, however, also comes from his eclectic public image; the hatred for doing press, the difficulty studios and producers have contacting him, the late night forays into New York City karaoke bars and whispering into unsuspecting pedestrians' ears... amongst many other things.

There's a Murray movie for every taste; below, check out the clips from some of his most famous flicks and vote on your favorite.


Sexpert Susie Bright: The Novel I Read a Million Jillion Times

Susie Bright   |   September 8, 2011    8:32 AM ET

At the end of the summer I attended a parlor game, a book group, where one of the questions was, "Which novels have you read more than once?" 

It took a while to get to my turn, and while I was listening to the rest of the circle, I spied the the host's children climbing up the back stairs to their beds. --With their nighttime reading.  

I craned my neck to read the titles of the storybooks they were clutching, and I could tell from fifteen yards away, just from a glimpse, that at least one favorite was something by Maurice Sendak.

When you're pre-puberty, every book you read is a book you've read not twice, but a million times! Every parent who reads their children bedtime tales knows how it feels to want to kill yourself before you have to recite Chicka Chicka Boom Boom one more night -- or in my generation, James James Morrisson Morrison Weatherby George Dupree.  

But we read these verses to our little beans again and again -- and you think to yourself, "One day I shall miss this."

I don't remember when my mom stopped reading to me at bedtime. With my own daughter, I think it was around second grade, when she could certainly read to herself, but still loved being read to. She liked my narration so much in Eloise that I once recorded it on a tape cassette so she could hear it while I was on book tour. And Charge It, Please!

I think I lasted until Junior High before I started requiring unending variety in my reading habits. Until then, I was happy to read Harriet the Spy or To Kill a Mockingbird or Paul Zindel's The Pigman one. more. time. The familiarity of a great novel is one of the most sensual pleasures I know. You never stop gleaning from it; it cradles you in your blanket.

This summer, my 53rd, I discovered repetitive novel reading again. Two things happened: I went to see the Coen Brother's revival of True Grit, loved the dialog, and resolved to read the novel. I also went on a book tour for five months where insomnia in a new hotel or guest bedroom was my constant threat. 

What a discovery. I could not get enough of Mattie Ross's opening lines --  

"People do not give it credence that a fourteen-year-old girl could leave home and go off in the wintertime to avenge her father's blood but it did not seem so strange then, although I will say it did not happen every day." 

-- as told by author Charles Portis. When I discovered Donna Tartt was reading True Grit on an audio edition, I completely lost interest in everything else and became as maniacal as any three year old who will only listen to The Cat in the Hat

 I would say I have read or listened to True Grit, and another Portis title, The Dog of the South, about twenty times each this summer and I am not yet REMOTELY sick of them. I will never tire. Furthermore, their stickiness has raised the bar on my standards --   I don't want to read another new book unless it warrants repeated incantations; I want to be that insatiable child again, every time I lay down with a new tall tale.

How did reading get to be such a faster-pussycat-hurry-up activity? We listen to favorite songs over and over without apology or distraction. They make us feel good, no explanation necessary. The same is true of movies -- no one in the family complains when you want to watch The Big Lebowski or Lost in Translation or Season 1 of Law and Order over and over again. It's understood.

But with books, there's this myth that it takes a "long time" to get through one, and that you have to gather speed and keep moving, keep turning the pages, ever-new, ever-seeking, in order to read all the classics, all the must's, all the new year specials, all the awards. If you pause to linger, you will MISS OUT, lose your rank, become some doddering old fool who hasn't moved on since Margaret Spoke to God.

But it really isn't like that, is it? I can read most novels in a bedtime or two; if they're entertaining, you don't want to put them down. Why do I then cast them aside, if they were memorable? Ever-lasting enchantment shouldn't be so quickly tossed. Why not linger in your bubble bath if the water's still warm and no one's pounding on the door?

This realization has made me think differently about my own writing. I wonder if anyone has read one of my books more than once-- that would be the greatest praise. My YA author friend Jill Wolfson heard out my theories, and she said, "You should write books for kids. There is nothing like getting a fan letter that starts out with, 'I have now finished your book for the tenth time...'"

I looked at her with slobbering envy -- yes, yes, that's what I want! I want my poetry in people's dreams, I want to stick around like a spell! I want fragments of my novels blurted out by fifth-graders and people in comas.

Justly, the key to writing page-worn novels is reading more of them, I'm certain of it. Typing them out is my new sugar snack. I dare you: sit down at a keyboard and type the entire first chapter of something you adore. I've been returning to my youthful pleasures with a vengeance. Right now I'm listening to Dashiell Hammett's Red Harvest, which I first read in high school and within whose pages I also apparently cleaned a lid of pot-- I keep finding all these little seeds. I'm tilling it for second time in four days, and it's a beauty.

"Lost in Translation" Takes on a Whole New Meaning

Frits van Paasschen   |   July 6, 2011    3:04 PM ET

A colleague of mine here in Asia sent me this photo (below). It's a yellow hazard sign, the kind commonly seen propped up in public areas in airports and train stations to alert passersby that the floor is wet and therefore slippery. I'm sure the phrasing of the original warning is correct, but the English translation inspired a chuckle -- "Carefully Slip and Fall Down."


Some might say that it is not culturally sensitive to giggle at these incorrect translations. I actually think quite the opposite is true. If we lose our sense of humor about our differences, whether they be cultural, political or linguistic, we run the risk of not wanting to get out of our comfort zone and take the time to understand each other. "Different" is a far more intriguing notion than "the same," right?

In my travels, I've been on the receiving end of the chuckling many times. I remember about 20 years ago, my wife and I celebrated our honeymoon by traveling through the newly accessible Central Europe. One day we got lost, so I tried, in my best (non-existent) Polish, to ask a few locals for directions back to the village in which we were staying. Every response included an awkward laugh and no real assistance with walking directions. Finally, cobbling together an appropriate question in German solved the mystery of the laughter -- apparently, according to the next local I met, I'd just spent quite a few minutes asking complete strangers "Where is the underwear?"

The point of these little misunderstandings is that it is so easy for things to literally get lost in translation. That can't be an excuse for curtailing the conversation altogether. Even when a common language is being used, a simple wrap-up phrase at the end of a conference call, such as "Let's talk about it tomorrow," doesn't necessarily translate, because our tomorrows are different depending on our native time zone.

Being in China again reminds me of my first trip here. I was famished from an afternoon of sightseeing, so I made for the nearest restaurant. It had the feel of a place for locals. I sat and waited, getting more ravenous by the minute. After awhile, to my frustration, I noticed others were being served while it seemed I was being ignored. It was unclear to me why, but I thought perhaps they did not want a foreigner in their restaurant. Eventually, I became so irritated I got up and blocked the waiter. He looked quite surprised and suddenly seemed willing to take my order. Later, when I recounted the story to other travelers, they informed me that it was necessary to be quite assertive with restaurant staff. From then on I observed that this was indeed normal Chinese behavior. So what I initially took as offense -- a prejudice against me as a foreigner -- was simply a cultural norm lost in translation.

Adaptability is key, and it goes both ways. I've observed the Chinese adapting to the habits of the foreigners living and working in their country as well. For instance, I rarely wear a suit, almost never a tie and not even a jacket so much these days. This business casual approach, which is pretty common in the U.S. (After all, when was the last time you saw a billionaire in a tie on the cover of a business magazine?) definitely raises some eyebrows in China but it is being tolerated by my colleagues here. In fact, one of our marketing execs here said that, probably not surprisingly, advertising types here are starting to loosen up their wardrobes, although most business leaders remain quite formal in their attire.

The result of using our cultural or language barriers as an excuse to not try to make things work can be costly in business, and specifically in the hospitality industry. So, I'm all for keeping our sense of humor when trying to reach out and understand each other. It's good for business, but it's also kind of fun.

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