Notable News (w42-w53)

It has been a little more than two months since the last entry of our journal. The weather has been relatively gray, since we’ve had very little snow so far, as it was—more often than not—rain and freezing rain, and lots of ups and downs in the temperature. The most notable events on the domestic front included a strange saga over the video of a panel at the book fair, where I also attended the launch of Solaris #208 and did a capsule interview with Catherine Sylvestre. We had again a problem of flicker in our electricity (strangely only on one side of the house), so bad that one night I thought my apartment had become a disco! Finally, we found the source of the problem (old wirings) and hired an electrician for a temporary fix but we will have to change the electrical entry in spring.

Somehow my sister’s cats managed to start the shower while she was on vacation. It lasted about twenty minutes before we realized that water was dripping from my bathroom’s ceiling. Luckily this small flood was relatively contained but we had to mopped the floor for a couple of hours in the middle of the night. The damage is limited but we will have to redo our bathroom’s ceiling…

The work-place was not too much a strain on my mental health, beside the continuing problem with the ventilation and heating system (strangely when this happens at another library of the borough they close immediately while we have to endure and work in very unpleasant conditions—that’s so unfair!) and some dubious decision on age classification of some mangas (Bride Stories, Nausicaa & Mafalda for kids! Are you joking?)!

readings2018Apple announced new Macs and iPads. We attended the vegan fest again, visited the Book of Hours and the Calder exhibits. I reached my reading goal for the year (fifty books! But, as usual, it was mostly comics and mangas). This allowed my to comment on  a few books (C Comme Cthulhu, Le Chat du Rabbin 8, Isabella Bird 3, Nous rêvions de robots, Pline 6, Ross Poldark, and a book about the New Yorker’s cartoons). I also wrote about the works (bande dessinée) of Philippe Gauckler: Convoi, Prince Lao and Koralovski. Unfortunately, I still watch too much TV and movies (A place to call home season 6, Mars season 2, Murder on the Orient Express, Outlaw KingPicnic at Hanging RockRBG, Solo, Transformer: The Last Knight, Traverlers season 3). Finally, I took some time to reminisce about the fanzine era and the old Protoculture days.

2018blogstatsI just completed my first year with so I don’t have much basis to compare this year’s statistics (although I remember that with Internic’s hosting I had ten times more traffic so either they were calculating it differently or I lost some followers in the switch or WordPress is not promoting the traffic as well). There is also a slight difference between WordPress’ and StatCounter’s numbers. Anyway, in 2018 I posted 319 entries (a 16% increase), acquired 68 followers and received (if we round up a little) an average of a thousand views per month or 350 visitors per month (about 135 returning visitors per month). It is not as much as I would I’ve liked but it is a beginning. The most important is that it keeps increasing from month to month. I’ll keep improving the blog and (hopefully) writing more so it will be at its best when I retire and make it my main occupation (in about 3064 days!). 


Doonesbury (2018/10/21)

On the world stage, the months of November and December had their lots of typhoon, floods, wildfires, tsunami, and violent protests in France, but it is mainly the U.S. Mid-term elections that retained the attention. In reaction to Trump’s insane White House, people went to the ballot with numbers not seen in nearly a century allowing the Democrats to retake the House by electing many young candidates, including several women (95), members of racial minorities (two Muslim and two Native Americans) or of the LGBT! Space exploration was also in the news as we landed another probe on Mars, explored more asteroids and mini-planets, and China landed a probe on the far-side of the moon.

All in all, 2018 was a very challenging year for everyone, so let’s hope that 2019 will be much better.

Through all this I tried to stay acquainted with the affairs of the world and gathered a few notable news & links — which I now share with you (in both french or english, slightly categorized, but in no particular order — note that, to save on coding time, the links will NOT open in a new window as usual), after the jump.

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20 Years of Protoculture


This article was first published in Protoculture Addicts #94 (Nov.-Dec. 2007): 21-27. It was celebrating the 20th anniversary of the magazine. For this version, I have added a few details and corrections, and I have omitted some illustrations (but added some new ones), as well as removed the sidebars (Uh?! for episodes 1-6, Top Uh?!, Where are they now) and the articles’ index that were part of the original article.

It might be hard to believe, but this magazine has been in publication for twenty years. I, myself, am amazed by this fact. Twenty years already? It didn’t feel that long. But, yeah, I’ve spent nearly half my life working on Protoculture Addicts, and I don’t regret a single moment of it. Like any anniversary, it makes me nostalgic (well, the fact that I am listening to soundtracks from Macross, Mospeada and Robotech while writing this certainly add to this feeling). It makes me think of the good ol’ years, of friends that I have not seen in a long time. But there’s no time for melancholy— anniversaries need to be celebrated! In the past, when I wanted to do a special issue, I usually added more colour. 

Unfortunately, I cannot do that now since we are already full-colour and we are still not big enough to add goodies like a free DVD. However, I quickly realized that the best way to celebrate the magazine was to tell you its story. I am sure that, once you know a little more about where it’s coming from, you’ll better appreciate the magazine. After all, it started like an episode of Comic Party or Doujin Work—a crazy idea in the mind of a bunch of idle college kids. So please, gather around, be quiet (gee, I feel like Uncle Carl when he was telling one of his anecdotes), and listen to this very special anime story… 

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The Complete Cartoons of The New Yorker

CompleteCartoonsNewYorker-covI acquired this phenomenally huge book in a sale earlier this fall and I paid only fifteen dollars for it. I have always liked the single-panel cartoons (often referred to as “gag cartoon”, in the likes of what you find in the series “For Dummies”, or in Herman or Bizarro, and, of course, in newspapers’ editorial cartoons) and the most iconic of those could be found in the magazine The New Yorker. So I was quite pleased with this acquisition. However, it is the type of nightstand book that you savour slowly and it took me a couple of months to go through its 655 pages and over 2,000 cartoons (about two weeks of actual reading). Unfortunately the used copy I purchased did not include the two CDs with all 68,647 cartoons ever published in the magazine (if so it would have taken me much more time to read!).

A New Yorker cartoon is usually made of one drawing (but sometimes of the sequence of two or three), plus a funny caption. Most of the time all the humour is in the caption… Here are some examples:


The cartoons are organized into the eight decades during which the magazine was published (from its founding in 1925 until the publication of the book in 2004) and each period is introduced by an essay by one of the magazine’s most distinguished writers: 1925-34 (introduction by Roger Angell), 1935-44 (Nancy Franklin), 1945-54 (Lillian Ross), 1955-64 (John Updike), 1965-74 (Calvin Trillin), 1975-84 (Ian Frazier), 1985-94 (Mark Singer) and 1995-2004 (Rebecca Mead). The book starts with an Editor’s Note by Robert Mankoff and a Forword by David Remnick, and concludes with an index of Artists.

In addition, for each era, you find a brief overview of a predominant theme (the depression, drinking, nudity, television, cars, the space program, slipper dogs, business culture, the internet and politics) as well as a brief profile (including a mini-portfolio) for a key cartoonist (Peter Arno, George Price, James Thurber, Charles Adams, William Steig, Saul Steinberg, George Booth, Jack Ziegler [about whom I’ve already talked], Roz Chast, and Bruce Eric Kaplan).

In a way, this book chronicles the history of the magazine, but also the history of the American society. Therefore, it is much more than just a funny reading as it provides great insights and understanding of the socio-politics of each era.

For me, the cartoons were funny most of the time (not LOL, but a chuckle or quiet giggle), but I also often didn’t get it (particularly the older ones — I guess culture change with time or the context was lost to us as sometimes you needed to be there to understand). However, I enjoyed reading this book immensely. If you have a chance, it is worth the time and therefore highly recommended. stars-3-5

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

[ AmazonBiblio MtlGoodreadsGoogleWikipediaWorldCat ]

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Outlaw King

OutlawKingPosterOutlaw King is a movie about the other hero of the 14th-century War of Scottish Independence. As Braveheart told us about William Wallace, this story is about Robert the Bruce. When the Scottish monarch died without a descendent, the lords called upon Edward I of England to chose a successor, a process known as the Great Cause. Instead he invaded Scotland and seized power. The Scottish lords rebelled but the superior English army prevails and the lords finally submitted. Only Wallace continues to fight. However, when he is captured and killed, the civil unrest convinces Robert the Bruce to take arms again. He is crowned king of the Scots in 1306 and, despite being outnumbered and a series of early defeats (like the battle of Methven), he succeeds, through guerrilla warfare, to push back the invader and finally defeat Edward II at the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314. He remains King of the Scots until his death in 1329 and is succeeded by his son, David. Ultimately, through his daughter Marjorie, one of his descendants (James VI/I, son of Mary, Queen of Scots) will reign over both Scotland and England (1603-1625). He is still today revered as a national hero.

This is a beautiful and enthralling historical movie about honour, power, courage and strength. Unfortunately, like most movies, it favours drama over historical accuracy. I particularly like the gritty and realistic depiction of the period, which feels just like Outlander (the first season is similarly about the Jacobite rising of 1745 culminating with the defeat at the Battle of Culloden) or Game of Thrones (some actors of this series appear in the movie: James Cosmo, Stephen Dillane and Clive Russell), but without the fantasy elements. 

Outlaw King, starring Chris Pine (Star Trek), Florence Pugh and Aaron Taylor Johnson, premiered at TIFF in September and was released on Netflix (and select theaters) on November 9th. It is rated R because of some full frontal nudity and graphic violence. The movie was liked but without too much enthusiasm (rating of 63% / 68% on Rotten Tomatoes, 7.0 on IMDb). It is very interesting if you are a fan of Scottish historical action movies, but remains quite entertaining nevertheless. stars-3-5

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

[ GoogleIMDbNetflixRotten TomatoesWikipedia ]

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Isabella Bird: Femme Exploratrice, vol. 3

IsabellaBird-v3-cov“Le Japon du XIXe siècle hors des sentiers battus !”

“Pour rejoindre Niigata, première étape de son périple, Isabella Bird a choisi une voie secondaire, rarement empruntée par les voyageurs étrangers. Au fur et à mesure que l’intrépide exploratrice s’enfonce dans la campagne japonaise, l’agitation des grandes villes et la splendeur des sites historiques s’effacent devant la misère du monde rural… Aux divers chocs culturels s’ajoutent des conditions de voyage de plus en plus difficiles, si bien qu’Ito lui-même a du mal à faire face à cet aspect de son pays qu’il ignorait. Mais l’aventurière refuse de se laisser abattre, et c’est sans fléchir qu’elle s’engage sur le dernier tronçon de la route d’Aizu !”

“Lancez-vous à la découverte d’un Japon traditionnel désormais disparu à travers les yeux de l’intrépide Isabella Bird ! Basé sur les écrits réels de l’aventurière, Isabella Bird, femme exploratrice est un récit passionnant sur la rencontre d deux monde; dessiné avec un rare souci du détail par Taiga Sassa, un nouveau talent prometteur !”

[ Texte de la couverture arrière ]

Je continue la lecture de cette série dont j’ai déjà commenté le deux premiers volumes.

IsabellaBird-v3p010Juin 1878. L’exploratrice britannique Isabella Bird et son guide japonais Tsurukichi Ito continuent leur chemin sur la route d’Aizu en direction de l’île d’Ezo (Hokkaido). La route est difficile et les villages qu’ils rencontrent sont plongés dans une pauvreté si grande qu’elle surprend même Ito. Pourtant les villageois semblent travaillants et déterminés. Le palefrenier engagé pour prendre soin des chevaux leur explique que la région a été dévastée par la guerre de Boshin. L’armée de l’ouest, menée par les clans de Satsuma et de Chōshū, y a écrasé l’armée de l’est. Les paysans ont été enrôlés de force dans l’armée, beaucoup sont morts, les villages ont été pillés et brûlés. Dix ans plus tard la région n’a toujours pas récupéré. 

IsabellaBird-v3p020À Tsugawa (Aga), l’expédition fait des emplettes, Ito se bourre de friandises et prépare un repas gastronomique pour Isabella. Elle en profite pour commenter (à sa soeur, à qui elle écrit) que la gastronomie japonaise, par la propreté des ses instruments, “la parcimonie et la précision de chaque geste, la délicatesse de la présentation, l’incroyable variété des mets, absolument tout, est imprégné d’une beauté particulière”. Le lendemain, ils prennent une barque pour un voyage mouvementé sur le fleuve Agano jusqu’à Niigata, où Isabella passe quelques temps chez les Fyson. 

Pendant ce temps à Tokyo, un botaniste nommé Charles Maries rencontre le consul général Harry Parkes et James Hepburn car il désir poursuivre en justice Isabella parce qu’elle lui aurait volé son guide, Ito, qui était toujours sous contrat avec lui. Maries considère que son travail pour découvrir de nouvelles plantes est beaucoup plus important que les pérégrinations sans conséquences d’une simple voyageuse. Parkes objecte qu’au contraire l’intelligence sur la géographie et les moeurs des habitants de régions reculées fournit par les aventuriers est indispensable au développement de la diplomatie et des échanges commerciaux de l’Empire Britannique! Il lui refuse donc son support.

Isabella Bird est un autre manga historique au récit passionnant et instructif, mais aussi plein d’humour. La fluidité de l’action est assez bonne. Et, si le dessin est loin d’être parfait (parfois les proportions ou les expressions des personnages sont bizarres), il demeure très agréable à l’oeil et surtout bien détaillé pour donner une très bonne expérience de lecture. À travers le récit divertissant des aventures d’Isabella Bird, nous découvrons deux cultures assez opposées: celles de l’Angleterre Victorienne et celle du Japon de la restauration Meiji. C’est un sujet très intéressant et je recommande donc chaudement ce manga.

Isabella Bird, femme exploratrice T03 par Taiga SASSA. Paris: Ki-oon (Coll. Kizuna), avril 2018. 208 pg, , 13 x 18 cm, 7,90 € / $14.95 Can., ISBN 979-10-327-0248-2. Pour lectorat jeune (7+). stars-3-5

Vous trouverez plus d’information sur les sites suivants:

[ AmazonBiblioGoodreadsGoogleWikipediaWorldCat — Youtube ]

© 2016 Taiga Sassa. All Rights reserved.

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Pline vol. 6: Carthage La Grande

pline-v6-cov“Dans le tome précédent : Au terme d’une traversée mouvementée, Pline, Euclès et Félix, flanqués de deux nouveaux compagnons, débarquent à Stromboli. Les uns exultent de se rapprocher de leur terre natale, d’autres se réjouissent simplement de fouler à nouveau la terre ferme… Les plus clairvoyants sentent planer le danger.”

“L’Histoire a retenu son nom. Mais que savons-nous du plus grand savant de l’Antiquité ?”

“Après une traversée mouvementée, Pline et sa suite débarquent enfin sur la côte africaine. Carthage et son animation, puis le désert et ses dangers, s’offrent au regard du naturaliste pendant qu’à Rome, les intrigues politiques et l’instabilité de Néron annoncent de funestes événements.”

Pline et ses compagnons arrivent enfin dans le port affluent de Carthage. Il y rencontre son ami Vespasien, qui attend de prendre officiellement le poste de gouverneur de la province d’Afrique. On apprend que le jeune garçon que Pline à recueillit est d’origine Phénicienne. L’expédition se lance  alors dans la désert en direction d’Alexandrie!

Pendant ce temps à Rome, Poppée donne naissance à une fille, qui ne survit malheureusement pas longtemps. Néron retrouve l’esclave Plautina qu’il abuse pour oublié que ses responsabilités le rendent misérable. Et Tigellin complote afin de faire d’une pierre deux coups — à la fois contre les chrétiens et pour la spéculation immobilière — d’une façon qui changera le visage de Rome à jamais…

Extraits des pages 5 à 9

Ce fascinant manga historique nous offre un récit à la fois instructif et captivant. Le graphisme de Mari Yamazaki et Tori Miki est plutôt détaillé (de plus en plus avec chaque nouveau volume) et fort agréable à l’oeil. Ce manga est très recommandé particulièrement si la Rome antique vous intéresse. J’attend avec impatience le volume 7 qui devrait paraître en janvier 2019!

Pline, vol. 6: Carthage La Grande, par Mari Yamazaki et Tori Miki. Paris: Casterman (Coll. Sakka), juin 2018. 200 pg, 13.3 x 18.2 cm, 8,45 € / $15.95 Can (ePub/PDF: 5,99 €), ISBN: 978-2-203-15361-5. Sens de lecture original, de droite à gauche. Pour lectorat adolescent (14+). stars-3-5

Pour en apprendre plus sur ce titre vous pouvez consulter les sites suivants:

[ AmazonBiblioGoodreadsGoogleWikipediaWorldcat ]

Pline © 2017 Mari Yamazaki, Tori Miki • 2018 Casterman pour la traduction française.

Voir mes commentaires sur les volumes précédents:

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Ross Poldark

RossPoldark-cov“Returning home from a grim war in America, Ross Poldark is reunited with his beloved Cornwall and family. But the joyful homecoming he had anticipated turns sour; his father is dead, his estate in derelict,  and the girl he loves has become engaged to his cousin. However, his sympathy for the destitute miners and farmers of the district leads him to rescue a half-starved urchin girl from a fairground brawl and take her home — an act that will change the entire course of his life.”

“Ross Poldark is the first novel in Winston Graham’s sweeping saga of Cornish life in the eighteenth century. First published in 1945, the Poldark series has enthralled readers for over seventy years.”

I first discovered this story through the TV series (the 2015 BBC adaptation with Aidan Turner and Eleanor Tomlinson, not the previous 1975 adaptation with Robin Ellis and Angharad Rees) which aired on PBS as part of the Masterpiece show. It is an excellent and beautiful historical drama, very well written and with great actors. It really shows all the aspects of the Georgian era’s society in Cornwall (the westernmost county of England): mostly the sentimental struggle of the main characters, of course, but how they manage to survive at a time when the local mining industry is starting to fail, and how the living conditions of the common people (miners, farmers, fishermen) could be so starkly contrasted with those of the nobility. It also subtlety talks about the political, moral or religious issues of the era. It was all fascinating and I couldn’t resist wanting to see what the books looked like (or at least the first volume).

The book series was written by Winston Graham, who based the story on many aspects of his own life. He was born in Manchester in 1908 but lived in Perranporth, Cornwall, for thirty years (1925-1960). He first met his wife when she was thirteen year-old and the character of Demelza is partly based on her. The series includes twelve volumes which were written in two periods. The first four volumes (Vol. 1: Ross Poldark, Vol. 2: Demelza, Vol. 3: Jeremy Poldark, Vol. 4: Warleggan) were written between 1945 and 1953. In 1973, after a long hiatus, he resumed the series and wrote eight more volumes (Vol. 5: Black Moon, Vol. 6: The Four Swan, Vol. 7: The Angry Tide, Vol. 8: The Stranger From The Sea, Vol. 9: The Miller’s Dance, Vol. 10: The Loving Cup, Vol. 11: The Twisted Sword, Vol. 12: Bella Poldark), the last one being published in 2002, just a year before his death. The first seven volumes are set in the eighteenth century (1783-1799) and depict the life of Ross and Demelza, while the last five volumes, set in the nineteenth century (1810-1820), are centred around their children.

[ WARNING: The following MAY contain traces of spoilers! People allergic to the discussion of any plot’s elements before seeing/reading the story themselves are strongly advised to take the necessary precautions for their safety and should avoid reading further. ]

The first volume starts as Ross Poldark (a young British army officer, member of the low and rural English nobility) comes back from fighting on the losing side of the American War of Independence. He has been wounded in the leg and his face is scarred. Unfortunately, he quickly learn that, during his two years absence, his dissolute father has died, their mine has been closed, his two lazy domestic have let his house and domain (Nampara, located near Truro) go into disrepair, and — worse of all — his young fiancé, Elizabeth, believing he had been killed, is now engaged with his cousin Francis! However, he has a strong character and doesn’t despair: he simply roll-up his sleeves, repair the house, plow the land and makes plans to get financing in order to re-open the mine. He is certainly not perfect and has a quick temper but he is a good man, and, seeing the plight of the local villagers, will do his best to help them and always fight for justice. His exceptional social position (privileged but still a gentleman farmer) allows him the move around flawlessly between the social classes, in both the peasantry, the mine workers on one side and the nobility on the other. 

Ross struggles to forget Elizabeth, his first love, and avoids meeting her. He helps his cousin, Verity, in her amorous affair with the captain Andrew Blamey, but it puts him at odds with his family, and deepen the rift with Francis. After the birth of their child, Geoffrey Charles, Francis is gambling too much at the instigation of George Warleggan and Elizabeth is seeking Ross’ help. The family more or less reconciles on Christmas 1787. His choice of Pascoe’s Bank to finance his business (and eventually some personnal enmities) will put Ross on a collision course with George Warleggan, the son of a blacksmith who became a banker and industrialist.

However, the most life-changing event will occur when Ross saves a thirteen year-old girl from a fairground brawl (started over the abuse of her puppy dog, Garrick). He takes her into his household as a kitchen maid and she grows up admiring Ross. But, at seventeen year-old, fearing that Ross could send her back to her abusive father, she seduces him. They will soon after marry despite all the gossips. Ross will slowly learn to love her. She is a coarse young woman but beautiful and, with the help of Verity, will quickly learn the manners of the nobility. She will always see Elizabeth as a rival, but, despite their tumultuous relationship, Ross will somehow be happy. This is as much her story as his.

Winston Graham’s writing is beautiful and easy to read. The story is not only captivating because of its drama, but also because of its description the Georgian society. However, there are substantial differences between the book and the TV series. For examples: Demelza has black hair and not a beautiful red mane like on TV; she boldly seduces Ross in the book while they simply “fall in love” in the adaptation. The book tend to be more realistic in its description, showing more violence and grit, while the TV series is more reserved. But that’s to be expected. On the other side, the TV adaptation shows more easily the beauty of the Cornish countryside. 

I greatly enjoyed reading this first volume (even if I already knew the story), but I am not ready to engaged in the long commitment required by such a large series. However, I strongly recommend it. Also, take note that I read the edition from the superb MacMillan Collector’s Library but there is another edition, the Pan Macmillan media tie-in edition [ Amazon / Goodreads ], which is probably more widely available.

Ross Poldark – A Novel of Cornwall, 1783-1787, by Winston Graham. London: Pan MacMillan (MacMillan Collector’s Library), 2016. 460 pg. £9.99 / $10.00 US. ISBN 978-1-909621-51-0. For readers fourteen year-old and above. stars-3-5

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

[ AmazonBiblioGoodreadsGoggleWikipediaWorldCat ]

© Winston Graham 1945.

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