As much as I admire Ernest Lubitsch as a subversive force in 30s Hollywood, especially for The Man I Killed and Trouble in Paradise, I keep coming back to a particular anti-Lubitsch argument made to me by Elaine May, of all people, the one time I was lucky enough to meet her (in Bologna the summer before last). According to her argument, if I remember it correctly, Lubitsch pretended to be more daring, free, and worldly and less middle-class than his films actually were; her main example was Heaven Can Wait, which I suspect irked her in part on feminist grounds. When I asked her if she meant that Lubitsch was roughly akin to someone like H.L. Mencken, she said, “Exactly.”
I remembered this conversation when I recently went through Criterion’s excellent two-disc edition of Lubitsch’s Design for Living (1933), including an interesting interview with Joseph McBride about the script that I saw before reseeing the feature, and William Paul’s superb analysis of both Trouble in Paradise (1932) and Design for Living, which I saw just afterwards. McBride is very good about Lubitsch’s collaboration(s) with Ben Hecht (screenwriter) and Noel Coward (playwright), and Paul is especially acute about the way the usual terms of praise heaped on Lubitsch (such as “sparkling” and “frothy”), which often relate to food and drink metaphors, are actually instruments for undermining the seriousness beneath his playfulness. Read more
Cuba held elections for its organs of local government, the Municipal Assemblies of People’s Power, on November 27. A delegation of youth from the United States observed the vote first-hand as part of the US-Cuba Youth Friendship Meeting.
Coming from the fundamentally undemocratic US Empire, it was the first time that many participants saw a functional electoral system in which the masses actually participate, and in which the majority truly rules.
The polling site was inside a newly constructed cultural-technological center, which also houses arts programs, classes, a computer lab, school graduations, and community events.
At first arrival, we were surprised by how efficiently the voting process moved. There were not long lines at the La Corbata polling site, while in the US it is typical for voters – especially in poorer neighborhoods – to wait in lines for hours to cast their ballot.
A local election official explained that all citizens and permanent residents of Cuba are automatically registered to vote at age 16. At 18, they are eligible to be nominated to run as a delegate.
The nomination process happens in the weeks leading up to the election. Between October 21 and November 18, more than 6 million voters – 73% of those eligible – attended the neighborhood assemblies for the nomination of candidates.
Nominees are chosen by local community groups, including the Committees in Defense of the Revolution, the country’s largest mass organization, with more than 8.4 million members out of a population of 11 million; the Cuban Federation of Women, whose membership includes more than 85% of all eligible Cuban women over 14 years of age; and the Communist Party of Cuba.
The Communist Party of Cuba is not an electoral party; it does not “hand-pick” candidates; and party membership is not a requirement to run for office at all.
Before the election, the National Electoral Council goes house to house to verify voters’ information. This year, after Hurricane Ian devastated the Pinar del Río province in the east, election officials surveyed people still evacuated or sheltering there to ensure they would have voting access.
Cuban elections are always held on Sundays, so that voters are not restricted by their workdays to participate in democracy.
On November 27, polls opened at 7:00 a.m. and were scheduled to close at 6:00 p.m. The National Electoral Council used the power granted by the Cuban Constitution to extend the polling hours throughout the country for one more hour so that a greater number of citizens could exercise their right to vote.
In the US, elections that are scheduled on Tuesdays during work hours – combined with the inaccessibility of polling sites, strict ID requirements, racist voter intimidation, and a general lack of civic education – impede most of the working class from participating.
The US pushes the falsehood that Cuban elections are “not competitive.” In reality, every Cuban municipality must have at least two to eight candidates running, in order to ensure that voters have a choice. In La Corbata, three candidates were running, all of whom were women.
Competitiveness in US elections has continued to plummet as corporations expand their monopoly over our ostensible democracy, or rather, oligarchy. In the November 2022 midterms, less than 8% of US Congressional districts were considered competitive.
When Cuban voters enter the polling station, they confirm their voter information, receive a ballot with straightforward instructions, and fill it out in a booth. Then, they place their ballot in a box guarded by local elementary school students.
Youth have always worked at the forefront of the Cuban Revolution, so it is a very honorable role for them.
Any citizen can assist in the public vote-counting process. Official results are reported the same day – unlike in the US, where it takes weeks or even months to tally votes, despite being one of the richest countries in the world, with access to much more advanced technology than blockaded Cuba.
If no candidate receives over 50% of the vote, the election moves to a runoff the following Sunday. This will be the case in 925 of Cuba’s municipalities after the November 27 elections.
Moreover, the community can recall their representatives at any point once their terms begin.
Another key difference between US and Cuban elections is that in Cuba, there is no “traditional” campaigning. The community-nominated candidates cannot spend any money on campaigning, but they are still accessible to voters to discuss any issues.
Candidate biographies, highlighting their experience serving the community and their membership in different organizations, are posted outside of the polling place.
Voters make an informed decision based on the candidates’ genuine qualifications, not on flashy campaign mailers or attack ads made by Super PACs.
As a result, the energy at the polls was completely different than what is typical in the US, where crowds of campaign volunteers or paid workers gather outside holding signs, passing out literature, and urging voters to support their candidates.
Political violence often escalates outside of polling sites in the US. During the 2022 midterm elections, there were even armed militias intimidating voters at ballot drop boxes in some states.
In the US, and all capitalist “democracies,” elections are determined by the amount of money invested in a campaign, which buys advertisements, mailers, staff, and other resources to reach likely voters.
Political campaigns in the US more closely resemble reality TV shows – sensational, polarizing, and completely divorced from the material issues at hand.
North Americans’ shallow conception of democracy contributes to their confusion about the Cuban system. Some believe ridiculous anti-communist propaganda claiming that Cuba is staging its elections or paying actors to tell us lies.
As I wrote in Multipolarista in May, it is easier for many North Americans to believe that Cuba is lying about their democratic achievements – free healthcare and education, guaranteed housing and employment, constitutionally enshrined anti-racism and gender equality – than to come to terms with the fact that our own government is choosing to deny us those same rights.
The far more advanced character of Cuban socialist democracy is exactly why the US is so intent on obfuscating and blockading Cuba’s reality. Their example shows us what is possible.
For more than 60 years, a small island of 11 million people has resisted the biggest, most violent empire in history. If a true workers’ democracy can be realized 90 miles from our shores, it can be realized here too, and in every corner of the world.
Calla Walsh is a co-chair of the National Network on Cuba, a coalition of organizations across the United States fighting to end the US war on Cuba.
La traduction française de Zelda: Link’s Awakening a un charme particulier. Le texte de Véronique Chantel est plein de rimes, raccourcis, bizarreries et étrangetés, qui collent parfaitement à l’esprit « Twin Peaks » du jeu. Tout cela en respectant les contraintes techniques de la Game Boy, qui obligeait par exemple le texte français à être à peu près de la même longueur que le texte anglais ou japonais – d’où la nécessité de faire passer les informations essentielles en peu de mots.
« Vis ta vis ! Sois un peu plus motivé ! » Ce pêcheur m’a longtemps fasciné.
Mais le texte français comporte malgré tout une imperfection : les lettres majuscules n’ont pas d’accent. C’est dommage, car au delà de la lisibilité, le sens de certains mots change parfois en fonction des accents : « OEUF SACRE » n’est pas la même chose que « OEUF SACRÉ », ni « NAUFRAGE » que « NAUFRAGÉ ».
Un Œuf Sacre, c’est quand même pas la même chose.
Cette omission est dûe à un compromis technique.
Pour chaque traduction, les programmeurs du jeu ont ajusté le code du jeu aux nécessités typographiques de chaque langue. Par exemple, la version japonaise permet d’afficher des diacritiques sur certains caractères ; et la version allemande gère les lettres comportant des trémas. Et le code utilisé pour afficher les diacritiques sur les lettres majuscules peut utiliser au maximum deux signes différents (par exemple un tréma et un accent).
Mais le script français aurait besoin de trois accents : aigu, grave et circonflexe. Plutôt que de passer un temps précieux à supprimer cette limitation, l’équipe de traduction a donc préféré désactiver la gestion des accents sur les majuscules. Vu les contraintes de temps de développement, on les comprend.
Restaurer la gestion des accents
Toutefois, en explorant le script français, il s’avère qu’une unique ligne de texte comporte une majuscule sur un accent : il est écrit « NAUFRAGÉ ». Et de fait, dans les graphismes stockés en mémoire, on trouve bien deux accents : ◌́ et ◌̀.
Comme la gestion des diacritiques est désactivée pour le français, dans le jeu cette lettre est simplement affichée comme un « E » majuscule, sans accent. Mais cette lettre est un vestige des tentatives d’intégrer la gestion des diacritiques à la version française, avant que soit finalement entérinée l’absence d’accents sur les majuscules.
Cet accent, désactivé dans le jeu original, n’avait pas été vu depuis 29 ans.
En modifiant le reste du texte, pour ajouter des accents aux autres majuscules, il devient alors possible d’afficher des accents sur toutes les majuscules du jeu !
Toutes ? Presque. La limitation technique originale, qui empêche de gérer plus de deux types d’accents, est toujours présente. Comme les accents aigus et graves sont déjà présents, il manque l’accent circonflexe – ce qui empêche d’écrire un mot comme « POISSON-RÊVE ». Fâcheux.
La solution serait de trouver un espace inutilisé dans la mémoire graphique où stocker les pixels de l’accent circonflexe. Ce n’est pas simple : sur la Game Boy, la mémoire graphique est très limitée – et les accents doivent occuper le précieux espace des graphismes qui sont chargés en permanence en mémoire.
Comment faire ? Après quelques recherches, il s’avère qu’un emplacement n’est utilisé par le jeu que lorsque l’inventaire est ouvert. Il serait donc théoriquement possible, quand le jeu ouvre l’inventaire, de remplacer l’accent circonflexe par le graphisme dont l’inventaire a besoin – puis de restaurer l’accent circonflexe à la fermeture de l’inventaire.
Et ça marche ! Grâce à cette astuce, il est maintenant possible d’afficher les trois types d’accents dans le jeu.
Avec de bon yeux, on peut voir dans la mémoire graphique l’accent circonflexe être remplaçé par un autre symbole lorsque l’inventaire s’ouvre.
Il est donc enfin possible d’afficher correctement le texte ci-dessous :
Zelda: Link’s Awakening Turbo-Français
Le résultat, c’est le mod le plus futile de tous les internets.
Zelda: Link’s Awakening Turbo-Français ajuste le script français de Zelda DX, pour ajouter des majuscules aux accents partout où cela est nécessaire. Parfaitement in-dis-pen-sable pour les fans français du jeu.
A developer came to me a week ago with a project they’d been working on for over a year. The proposition of what they offered and the importance of what it would mean to historical software at Internet Archive was so compelling that within 48 hours, we’d announced it to the world.
More than a fascinating site, though, it represents some philosophies regarding the Archive’s stacks that are worth exploring as well.
The first thing that strikes a visitor to the site is either how strange, or how nostalgic it looks. The site is strikingly simple and references the first few years of the world wide web, when backgrounds were grey by default, and the width of the screen was almost always under 640 pixels. Same with the link colors, and use of (to the modern era) small icons next to the words and links. This is a version of the world wide web long gone.
However, underneath this simple exterior beats the heart of a powerful search engine and an astounding amount of processing that has analyzed millions of files to make them easy to interact with. If your area of research or interest is vintage/historical software, we’ve all been handed a top-class tool to discover long-lost files and bring them back instantly.
A Quick Reminder about CD-ROMs
From (very roughly) 1989 through to the early 2000s, CD-ROMs (and later DVD-ROMs) were one of the primary ways to transfer heaps of software or large-sized programs to end users. Instead of spending hours or literal days transferring software you may or may not have wanted after you received it, you could go to stores or on-line and purchase a plastic disc that contained between 600-700 megabytes of information on it.
The potential of this, in fact, was so strong, that there was an entire industry of providing databases, news summaries, and even all-digital magazines using this format. Booklets of CD-ROMs became resplendent, and libraries could allow patrons to check out these discs to do research with them.
Besides these more institutional compilations, an industry rose up of companies compiling software, artwork, music and more and selling them to end users. Companies with names like Walnut Creek, Wayzata, Valusoft, and Imagemagic would have catalogs of CD-ROMs to buy. Starting out with software from bulletin board systems and gathered from FTP sites, these CD-ROMs quickly ran out of easy-to-find material to fill, and an era of “shovelware” began, allowing these products to claim “thousands of files, gigabytes of materials” while pulling from more and more out-of-date sources.
As websites, torrents and other means of transport brought the era of physical media for software to a close, the world was left with a finite, contained pile of titles that had come out on CDs. And, as luck would have it, people have been uploading those out of date files to the Internet Archive for years.
The Final Piece
Therefore, sitting on the Archive, are tens of thousands of these CD-ROMs of the past. And for a very long time, it’s been possible to download a Disc image, analyze its contents, search for useful or potentially interesting items, and then find a way to make them work again.
That last piece, in fact, is the hardest – not just knowing where the files you’re looking for are located, but to be able to browse them without a massive host of helper applications scattered to the four winds. There are dozens of archive types, dozens and maybe hundreds of multimedia formats, and, even more frustrating, archives within archives – making everything that much harder to find.
DiscMaster has fixed this.
Within the search engine is the ability to find millions of files, categorized by type or size or date or extension, and then be presented them instantly. Three decades of computer software with layers upon layers of obfuscation are brought immediately to the top.
The developer wrote applications to grind through the contents of a CD-ROM and present them with previews that wouldn’t require anything but a browser to see. This can take hours to pull out of a single CD-ROM, but the results are breathtaking.
Audio and music files play in the browser. Flash, IFF, Bitmaps, Fonts and more display in preview. Macintosh, PC, Commodore, Atari and more are presented simply, without a mandate to track down the proper utility to figure out what they are.
In other words, vintage and historical software is back from the obfuscated darkness.
In the short time that Discmaster has been online, success stories are appearing. Authors are finding shareware programs they lost track of decades ago. Original versions of software that were thought impossible to track down just pop up in the search engine. And organizations dedicated to creating catalogs of now-dormant formats are suddenly handed a thousands-of-items to-do list on a silver platter.
The Philosophy of the Support Site
The ramifications and discoveries from Discmaster are going to be coming for a very long time – even if a researcher has a light memory of something they’re looking for, the search results will guide them in the right direction faster than ever before.
But beyond that, this site shows a different approach to the Internet Archive’s materials that’s worth seeing more of.
With over 100 petabytes of data, representing a mass of materials with all sorts of containers, metadata, and approaches by contributors, the Internet Archive has to be as general as possible. This generality extends to the presentation, search engine, and storage of the items.
It is a major effort to ensure the data stays secure, the metadata is searchable, and the ability to upload nearly anything results in a usable item details page.
But that’s kind of where it has to stop.
It’s asking an awful lot to both maintain an entity like this, and also design, say, a specifically-geared site for a relatively smaller set of people and needs. It can be done, but when energy and funding are limited, it’s sometimes best to stick to basics.
Perhaps seeing Discmaster in action will encourage others to interact with the Internet Archive as a pool, a container of resources that could receive some of the powerful analysis along specific lines. If they can then be fed back to the Archive at the end, even better; but let a hundred supporting sites bloom.