Status report (End of April)

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The life in the time of the coronavirus continues… This is the third status report since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic (the other two were in March and mid-April). We’ve now been under confinement for six weeks (forty-two days — a true quarantine) ! 

Despite the apocalyptic feelings we get from the news, the moral is good. However, I am still slightly apprehensive that this heavenly isolation will ends. It starts to feels like an early retirement. But the world has to follow its course and the show must go on. I could be recalled to work anytime within the next two or four weeks. In order to avoid giving the impression that I had been sitting idle through this paid leave, I’ve sent to the libraries’ blog a few reading comments (manga and comics — since “May is the comics month”) that should be posted in the following weeks… (I’ve already contributed more than a dozen comments in 2017-18 and now more are coming).

Evidently, I kept busy. Beside my weekly postings and writing about the latest Notable news and Earth day, I took a break from reading and commented mainly about movies (The trip to Spain, Steve Jobs, Colette, Book Club) and a superb anime TV series (Ghost in the Shell: SAC_2045). I wrote less because there was still a lot to do around the house: plumbing projects to finish, tiles to be replaced, a tree stump to be removed (although I’ve quit on this one), gardening, etc. 

[ iPhone 11 Pro, house work, 2020/04/20, 28-29 ]

Although I still have some gardening and painting to do, I am planning to go back to reading and writing about it. I still have a few novels to read (now I am reading the Japan epistolary travelog of Isabella Bird, Unbeaten Tracks in Japan — it’s so long and made mostly of descriptions) but I will concentrate mainly on manga and comics (I still have plenty of those to read!) because “May is the month of the comics” (Mai, le mois de la BD — for lack of activities in the libraries, the NFB is offering us a selection of films made by cartoonists or drawn from comic books). 

Indeed, May is at our doors! May, the most beautiful month of the year! The warm side of Spring that brings back the colour green, leaves on the trees, bugs & birds and… flowers! And, of course, the latest Star Wars movie (episode IX), The Rise of Skywalker, will start streaming on Disney+ on May the 4th [be with you]…

Stay safe !

[ Traduire ]

Image du mer-fleuri

Syringa vulgaris

DSC_1755

[ Nikon D3300, Jardin botanique, 2019/05/24 ]

DSC_1756

Cette image nous donne une idée de la forme des choses à venir… Il s’agit bien sûr de fleurs de Lilas commun (Common lilac en anglais), une espèce d’arbuste ornemental de l’ordre des Scrophulariales, de la famille des Oleaceae et du genre Syringa. La fiche signalétique nous indique que c’est le cultivar “Maréchal de Bassompierre”. Le lilas a aussi des qualités médicinales (friction contre les rhumatismes, infusion contre l’engorgement du foie, effet hypotenseur). Toutefois, pour beaucoup, cette fragrance rappelle surtout le printemps. Que j’ai hâte à l’arrivé du mois de mai ! (Source: Wikipedia). [ Translate ]

Ghost in the Shell: SAC_2045

Ghost-in-the-Shell_SAC-2045_Main-PosterWhen sustainable war spawns a “post-human” threat, Major Kusanagi and her Section 9 team are called back into action.

In the year 2045, after an economic disaster known as the Synchronized Global Default, rapid developments in AI propelled the world to enter a state of “Sustainable War”. However, the public is not aware of the threat that AI has towards the human race.

Full-body cyborg Major Motoko Kusanagi and her second-in-command Batou are former members of Public Security Section 9, who are now hired mercenaries traveling hot devastated American west coast. This land is full of opportunity for the major and her team, they utilize their enhanced cyberbrains and combat skills from their time working in Section 9. However, things get complicated with the emergence of “post humans,” who have extreme intelligence and physical powers. The members of Section 9 comeback together again in order to face this new threat.

[Text from the official website]

>> Please, read the warning for possible spoilers <<

Anime Story

At the end of the Stand Alone Complex TV series, Section 9 is disbanded. In this series, the team has become a mercenary unit named GHOST that operated outside Japan (mostly in the United States) for the last six years. The only former member that didn’t joined GHOST was Togusa. He hesitated because of his family and later regretted the decision. He eventually divorced and found a job at a private security company. The Prime Minister asks Aramaki to reform Section 9 and Togusa is put in charge of locating his former colleagues.

After a failed mission where they were defending a one-percenter against the attack of a group of outlaws, the GHOST team is kidnapped by the NSA who want to use them in a mission to capture Patrick Huge, the rich owner of a tech company. The target reveals itself as a formidable opponent that can anticipate their move and even hack their cyberbrains. As the Major is about to be taken over, Saito terminate Huge. Smith is furious because he wanted him taken alive in order to study him. He explains that Huge was what the NSA calls a “Post-Human.” So far, humans have improved themselves with cyberbrains and cyber-implants. However, the post-humans are the opposite: A.I. which somehow have succeeded in taking over the brain of humans and therefore represent an unprecedented threat to humanity. Unfortunately, Smith consider the GHOST team as a liability and want to eliminate them. He is stopped by Aramaki who arrives in extremis with new orders from the American President. The new Section 9 mission will be to hunt post-humans.

It’s episode 8 and the real story finally begins. The team is back in Japan after six years (Batou came back a few days earlier but got entangled in a bank robbery). There are three post-humans that have been identified in Japan. One is an ex-boxer who seems to have a grudge against corrupt politicians. He kills the Prime Minister’s father-in-law and then goes after Teito himself but stops short of killing him (maybe he felt that he was a good man?). The next post-humans to be identified is a teenager that wrote a program creating mob justice. As they are investigating his story, Togusa get infected by some of his code and disappears! Will he becomes a post-human too? To be continued… in the second season (another twelve episodes, directed this time by Shinji Aramaki, but no release date has been announced yet).

>> End of Warning <<

I’ve mentioned this series recently and was eager to have a look — although I was sure that I would totally dislike its 3D animation. Yes, a few aspects of the CGI are quite awkward — the movements of the characters seem sometimes odd despite that fact that it’s motion capture animation and some character’s hair, mostly Aramaki’s and Tokusa’s — but the 3D quickly grow on you and you eventually even forget that it’s there as you focus on the action and the story. The character designs (by a Russian artist) are faithful and pleasant (the Major sure looks like a doll!) and the storytelling is excellent: well paced and captivating. My favourite part is that, as usual with Ghost in the Shell, the cyberpunk background world (socio-political setting, technology, etc.) is quite superb. 

Interestingly, the story seems inspired by the work of transhumanist Ray Kurzweils, who predicted that the A.I. singularity would occur in 2045. One element of the story that differ from the previous series, which are generally nippo-centric, is that the first half is set in the United States (which has experience some sort of civil war again). Also, when I watched the series on Netflix, no dubbed version was available yet because the coronavirus lock-down has delayed production (I am more of a subtitles guy anyway). 

So far, this new Stand Alone Complex series seems not much appreciated by the critics, considering the very average ratings that it is receiving (6.0 on IMDb, 47% on Rotten Tomatoes, and C+ on ANN). Anime fans are probably irked by the 3D animation. Too bad for them. It is an excellent anime, well worth watching. It is entertaining, an appropriate continuation of the franchise and, despite my initial misgivings, quite beautiful. A must see for any anime, cyberpunk or Ghost in the Shell fans. stars-4-0

[ Traduire ]

Continue reading

Fragments I

1. THE TRAIL

Luckily, I’ll ride that trail
If not it will be hell
It matters little what I’ll find
The return is what I really mind

Each step will increase the weight
Of this life I hate without escape
I fear any radical change
And death seems out of range

No oblivion in immortality
No perfection in misery
I must journey on this despicable path
And to destiny spare my wrath

10-01-90

2. THE WRECK

On your ship you’re the only master
And alone responsible for its disaster

14-03-90

3. THE VOICE

My dreams are my bane
Each night they make me insane
A voice shout: “Leave him alone”
And when I woke up all hope was gone

06-90
Sejanus
Morwajal

Note: A few more thirty year-old fragments from my notebooks, scattered verses that never made it into poetry. No real form, but at least it rhymes. Maybe one day, if inspired, I’ll take the time to recycle them into proper poetry… [ Traduire ]

Book Club

BookClub-dvd“Diane (Diane Keaton) is recently widowed after 40 years of marriage. Vivian (Jane Fonda) enjoys her men with no strings attached. Sharon (Candice Bergen) is still working through a decades-old divorce. Carol’s (Mary Steenburgen) marriage is in a slump after 35 years. Four lifelong friends’ lives are turned upside down to hilarious ends when their book club tackles the infamous Fifty Shades of Grey. From discovering new romance to rekindling old flames, they inspire each other to make their next chapter the best chapter.”

[Text of the DVD cover]

>> Please, read the warning for possible spoilers <<

Four friends of a certain age are meeting regularly for their book club. As they feel they are stuck in their life, they will find the courage to go beyond their confort zone and try new experiences after reading Fifty Shades of Grey ! It is the proof that books can change your life !

Like most rom-com the story is very simple, but quite funny and mostly dialogue-based. The acting is excellent (which is to be expected considering its strong cast), the storytelling is well knit — although it doesn’t offer many surprises. It was very successful at the box office (making about seven times its initial budget) despite very average ratings from the critics (6.1 on IMDb, 54% / 52% on Rotten Tomatoes and 53% on Metacritic). All in all, it is very entertaining. It’s a good movie to forget all your troubles for a moment. stars-3-0

To learn more about this title you can consult the following web sites:

[ AmazonBiblioGoogleIMDbNetflixWikipedia ]

Also, you can check the official trailer on Youtube:

[ Traduire ]

Capsules

Colette

colette_poster“After marrying a successful Parisian writer known commonly as “Willy” (Dominic West), Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette (Keira Knightley) is trans­­planted from her childhood home in rural France to the intellectual and artistic splendor of Paris. Soon after, Willy convinces Colette to ghostwrite for him. She pens a semi-auto­­­biographical novel about a witty and brazen country girl named Claudine, sparking a bestseller and a cultural sensation. After its success, Colette and Willy become the talk of Paris and their adventures inspire additional Claudine novels. Colette’s fight over creative ownership and gender roles drives her to overcome societal constraints, revolutionizing literature, fashion and sexual expression.”

[Text of the DVD cover]

>> Please, read the warning for possible spoilers <<

It takes the British to produced an interesting bio-pic about the iconic French writer Colette! The movie is very simply made (the budget must have been small) but the sets are very nice and authentic (it was filmed in Budapest). The acting is also quite superb particularly for Keira Knightley. Like all biographical work it is certainly dramatized but it seems quite faithful to the highlight of Colette’s life. The movie focuses mainly on the period when Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette (played by Knightley) was married to Henry Gauthier-Villars (aka “Willy”, played by Dominic West), the writing of the Claudine novels and her lesbian affairs, first with American socialite Georgie Raoul-Duval (played by Eleanor Tomlinson, of Poldark fame — although her attempt at an American accent is rather disappointing) and then with the aristocrat Mathilde de Morny (aka “Missy”, played by Denise Gough) — which could be considered the French Gentleman Jack. The movie ends as she separates from Willy, after his Claudine betrayal, and finally starts her prolific solo career as a writer.

Colette offers a very good cinematic experience: it is beautiful, interesting and entertaining all at once and it makes you discover who Colette really was if, like me, you don’t know much about French literature. The movie seems to have gone relatively unnoticed (small box-office of  $14.6 millions) despite a rather good critical reception (ratings of 6.7 on IMDb, 87% / 70% on Rotten Tomatoes and of 74 % on Metacritic). However, it is definitely worth watching (and it is currently streaming on Netflix). stars-3-5

To learn more about this title you can consult the following web sites:

[ AmazonBiblioGoogleIMDbNetflixOfficialWikipedia ]

Also, you can check the official trailer on Youtube:

[ Traduire ]

Capsules