Google Translate vs. Bing Translate

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Just stumbled over a post announcing that Yelp will be using Microsoft Bing (rather than Google) to translate reviews on its iPhone app. I suppose this is noteworthy because one never thinks of Microsoft beating Google at anything (though I must say I like Bing maps better than Google maps, usually).

Normally, I use Google Translate, but just for fun, I typed the passage from the Garcia Lorca poem pictured above into both Google and Bing to compare. The poem, by the way, is called Casida del herido por el agua (Casida of the one wounded by water). According to Wikipedia, a casida (or qasida) is “a form of Perso-Arabic lyric poetry.”

From the translation by Paul Archer:

I want to go down to the well,
I want to climb onto Granada's walls
to gaze at the heart impaled 
on water's hidden spike.

It’s a lovely piece, though a mysterious one.

Here are the two machine translations:


Want to go down the well,
I want to climb the walls of Granada,
Heart to look at the past
By the dark waters of the punch.


I want to go down to the well,
I want to climb the walls of Granada,
To watch the last heart
By dark waters punch.

Granted, poetry is especially hard to translate, and neither is very close on the last two lines — why do they both associate oscuro (dark) with las aguas (the water) instead of with punzon (punch, awl, or pick, according to my dictionary)? Still, comparing the two, I’d say Bing did the better job.

Unfortunately, Bing doesn’t translate Filipino (Tagalog), or any other Filipino languages, so I can’t give up on Google translate yet. And clearly, it will be a while before machine translation will do as well as a human translator. Mostly, it’s handy for gaps in your vocabulary.

Image: A plaque on one of the exterior walls of the Alhambra, Granada, Spain. It’s a tribute to Garcia Lorca on the centennial of his birth. Photo: Nina Zumel

Friday Video: Mountain Ash

It’s Friday the 13th! And a full moon. Friday the 13th is considered an unlucky day in popular superstition, so today I’m featuring a sweet, gruesomely humorous little ghost story about bad luck. And about the Circle of Life, too.

Mountain Ash, by Jake Armstrong and Erin Kilkenny, was made as part of the Late Night Work Club’s animated collaborative film Ghost Stories. It’s one of my favorite pieces from the anthology.

Length: 4 minutes, 47 seconds.


Friday Video: Dream-laden Double Feature!

A couple of strange, dream-like videos today. Don’t try to make too much sense of them, just sit back and let the strangeness float over you….

First up: The Dream of Mrs. L.L. Nicholson from Oakland, California. Mrs. Nicholson was the winner of a 1924 contest run by the Oakland Tribune, asking its readers to write in with their most unusual dream. The winning entry was made into a short film, starring the dreamer (and family, in this case). It appears to have been shot on location at their home and other sites in Oakland, as well as near the Ferry Building in San Francisco. On her way to Marin, Mrs. Nicholson loses her baby, and adventure ensues! A delightful piece.

Length: 7 minutes, 24 seconds.

The version I’ve posted here has a soundtrack, added by Internet Archive user “kingwaylon”. Unfortunately, the soundtrack is uncredited.

The second video is what might have happened if Alejandro Jodorowsky had won the Oakland Trib’s contest, and Luis Buñuel had directed the resulting film. Or maybe vice-versa. Sombra Dolorosa (Sorrowful Shadow) was directed by Canadian writer, director, cinematographer and installation artist Guy Maddin. The piece features a widow who must wrestle El Muerto (Death), incarnated as a luchador (Mexican wrestler), to save the life of her daughter. An eclipse, papa’s ghost, a donkey and a mysterious rescuer are also involved. It’s a very odd piece, yet somehow I can’t stop watching it….

Length: 4 minutes, 3 seconds

Sombra Dolorosa was screened at the 2004 Toronto International Film Festival. Thanks to my tweet-peep @jeepers34 for sharing this one with me.


Friday Video: Life is Beautiful

Anton is a little man, literally and metaphorically. Tired of the world ignoring him, he decides that there’s nothing else to do with his life but end it…

This is a lovely animation, with a perfect, understated soundtrack. Writer/Director Ben Brand sums up in less than four minutes all the tribulations of Anton’s life, and how they led him to his decisive moment. I think all of us, at times, have felt internally what Anton experiences externally, and I like how Brand turned those emotions into these literal images of helplessness and insignificance. He’s also come up with one of the coolest theories of the afterlife that I’ve seen. Yay Anton!

Life is Beautiful premiered at the Dutch Film festival in 2013. Directed by Ben Brand, written by Ben Brand and Ilse Ott.

Length: 8 minutes, 37 seconds.


Friday Video: The Door in the Wall

A lovely, spooky little piece by Stephen Gray, who also made some nice adaptations of M.R. James stories. I’ve tweeted before about his twenty minute Rats adaptation; I plan to feature another of his shorter adaptations on a future Friday Video. The Door in the Wall was written by David Lilley, and directed by Lilley and Gray.

Length: 2 min. 20 sec.

If you’re the kind who likes to peek behind the curtain, you can also watch The Making of The Door in the Wall.


Friday Video: The Visitor

A short video to enjoy on lunch or coffee break, or after your workday is done:

This is from a series of youtube videos called “Ghost Stories from Japan”. They appear to be short segments from an old TV show; I’m guessing it was done in the ’90s, from the clothing and hair.

I’ve watched several of them; they’re all pretty good, but this one has always scared me the most. Don’t watch it in the dark!

Length: 5 min, 3 sec. Use the CC icon at the bottom of the video if you don’t get the subtitles.

If anyone can tell me what the series is called, please drop a comment below. Enjoy!

Pentametron: Twitter Poetry


I was working on another post, and it’s not going anywhere right now, so instead I give you: @pentametron. Pentametron monitors Twitter for tweets in iambic pentameter: ten syllables, in the rhythm

da DUM da DUM da DUM da DUM da DUM

and then retweets them in rhyming couplets.

If you’re on Twitter, you can follow them, but the couplets don’t come together; sometimes the two lines can be several minutes part. You should check the @pentametron stream directly every so often, so you can take in the versification all at once.

Here’s a little ballad I put together by cherry-picking from the stream. Enjoy.

Friend zoning has become a mastered art
we should’ve grown together.. not apart

Live half a life and throw the rest away.
Don’t even matter what the haters say.

I’m looking at the mirror on the wall.
My body’s just a canvas. Scars and all.

I got a very patient boyfriend — #blessed
depressed depressed and very badly dressed

Que sabra esta de amigos no?
I will forever be a loser so.

Come out the dark and step into the light
I’m ready for another snowball fight

Chatting with the Books Spirits Again

I meant to put up a Halloween post this year, continuing the book-scrying theme that I started last year. Alas, the last couple of weeks have been ridiculously busy, and I missed the date. But today is All Saints’ Day, and tomorrow is All Souls’ Day, also known as Day of the Dead or Dia de los Muertos — a time to remember and honor those who have gone before us. So I can still put up a book-scrying post, as a way of honoring writers from the past and the wisdom of the words that they’ve left to us.

Besides, it’s fun.

Here’s the procedure: write down the question, close my eyes, open the book at random, and point. Read the sentence or paragraph at my fingertip.

This year I chose The Book of Fantasy, edited by Jorge Luis Borges, Silvina Ocampo, and A. Bioy Casares. It was a glorious mistake, this choice, because I really have just barely the time to squeeze out this post, but I haven’t read the book in a long time, and now I want to…

Skull book

So here we go.

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White-as-Ice-Drops and the Five-and-Two Little Men

In honor of the bicentennial year of Kinder und Hausmärchen, by the Brothers Grimm, here’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, retold using only the thousand most common English words, at least according to the Up-Goer Five Text Editor. It’s harder than you would think.

My narrative is based on D.L. Ashliman’s translation of the 1812 version of Snow White, abbreviated because it was getting really long. Note that in this version, the queen is Snow White’s biological mother, and despite what Disney would have us believe, the prince didn’t wake Snow White up with a kiss.

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My Multiple Personalities

A shoutout to Susie Lindau for her hot-off-the-press post on the Typealyzer. A Swedish gentleman named Mattias Ostmar “imagined” (as he put it) a site that tries to figure out your Myers-Briggs type, based on the writing style of your blog. The analysis is based on a corpus of writings collected by Mr. Ostmar, and a text classifier written by his colleagues at uClassify. It’s all for fun, of course, as the site creators would be the first to admit.

Every time I take the Myers-Briggs, I get a different result. I also suspect that the way the test is given will reflect back more who you want to be (or how you want to think of yourself) than who you really are. But my blog reflects who I really am, doesn’t it? What does my blog say about me?

Let’s find out.

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