I’m a crossword puzzle dork. I’ve been this way since I was a kid; there seems to be no medical treatment for it. I can get through a day without coffee but get really twitchy if I don’t have time for a morning crossword, even if it’s only the little one in the Japan News, which takes five minutes and I do with a pen.
The NYT Sundays are the best, of course, and some of the constructors are truly inspired. Kudos to Charles M. Deber for this one:
Turns out the trick is to add a letter A to some standard phrase to come up with a new one. Here are some of the themed answers:
Where smart shoppers shop?
MENSA WEAR DEPARTMENT
Plight of an overcrowded orchestra?
THREE MEN IN A TUBA
Introduction to opera?
FIRST AIDA KIT
Bit of winter exercise?
A WALK IN THE PARKA
Geraldo rehearses his show?
A RIVERA RUNS THROUGH IT
Sandwich that can never be finished?
Years ago, NHK asked me to take a program narration script and turn it into subtitles. I learned some basic rules, like how many words the average person can read in a given amount of time, and that varies according to whether your intended audience is native or non-native English speakers. You don’t want too many subtitles; it’s tiring for the audience and detracts from the images. And you don’t want a subtitle to cross over a scene change. That’s just tacky.
After that, it’s all about style. Unless the person is talking really slowly, you can only subtitle about half of what they’re saying, so you have to determine which are the most important words and find a way to fit them into the available time. It’s much like solving a crossword.
I’m a minimalist. Don’t explain anything that you can see. Don’t repeat. Don’t spell out numbers. OK is always OK; don’t use “okay”. Ignore words like “um” and “yay!” They’re self-explanatory.
I’ve worked on a lot of NHK programs, mostly documentaries. Usually the narration is dubbed and the interviews are subtitled. So the natural next step for me, I thought, would be to move on to directing the dubbing. I’ve been doing that for about a year now and love it. It’s challenging, but in a really great way. And how often does your hobby cross over into your professional life?
Last week, I was contacted by a production company affiliated with NHK. They asked if I could do that for the international version of a program they’re producing.
“Sure. I’d be happy to.”
Turns out the production company is in Fukuoka. They’re planning to import me, paying for the flights and a hotel, so I can direct the dubbing there.
My first business trip.
For those of you who do this kind of thing all the time, I can understand that you’d be jaded, but this is pretty thrilling for me.
And all of this because I’m a crossword dork.