Status report (early July)

The life in the time of the coronavirus continues… 

This is my fifth status report since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic (the other four were in March, mid-April, the end of April, and in mid-May). It has now been fifteen weeks (or one-hundred and seven days) since it has all begun. It has been forty days since the beginning of the slow re-opening and my return to work (thirteen days since we’ve restart taking the public in the library for a limited offer of service). 

On the domestic side of life, I can say that I feel I have not been doing much in the last month and half… I didn’t do much around the house (it was either too hot or raining). As usual, I probably watch too much television: like rewatching the Ghost in the Shell: Arise series and several movies (also, to fill the time, I started watching again the 2004 series of Battlestar Galactica). However, I have been reading enough to catch up on my tsundoku… (hurray!) and write a little about my readings (dBD #141, La sphère d’Or, Unbeaten tracks in Japan, I’ll never tell, De Gir à Moebius, and several other French comics that I covered in the article “Sherlock Holmes en bande dessinée (2)”).

Weather — The temperature was unusually warm lately (above average) and often quite dry. So much so that the vegetation in the parc often took a yellowish colour. Thankfully, it rained periodically enough to keep everything alive. In the last week or so it has been quite hot and humid. Enough to discourage any sustained outside activities, although we still take our daily walk.

Health — With the confinement (probably because of slightly bigger meal and less activity) I have gained weight. My blood pressure and glucose are also higher (maybe because of an increased stress?). I have also experienced digestive problems, my usual recurring pain at the end of the digestive track as well as some chest and shoulder pain (probably muscular). Overall, I feel in good shape but it could be better. Unfortunately, I know that with age nothing gets better…

Work — All is fine at work. My usual library being still closed for renovation I was assignment to another one. This new place is at a nice location (at walk/bike distance from home) and has a nice team (although, since the people of my library working there are in extra, we perform mostly boring jobs). However, there was one painful incident: a customer refused the answer the covid “questions” and to sanitize his hands upon entrance. As I was insisting (to follow protocol), he became increasingly disagreeable, up to implying that I was doing so because of my ego or because I was racist. I was just trying to do my job. I was putting my health at risk (and the health of my family) in order to give him access to the library and he has shown absolutely no appreciation or gratitude for it. All I ask is some respect. If I was hurt by being called a racist (and I will come back on this subject) what really pissed me off was that my colleagues didn’t show much support when I tried to explain that he refused to follow protocol and insulted me. I don’t know, maybe they just didn’t understand me well: it is hard to express yourself calmly when it’s hot and your are talking through a mask and a face-shield. What happened to “we must absolutely ask ALL the covid questions and not let anyone in that doesn’t answer properly”? And then they told me “you know, we get insulted all the time. You have to get used to it” implying that I was weak to let it get to me. We are supposed to have a policy of not tolerating any disrespect and bullying (no respect, no service) and, yet in the end, that man received the service he came for. If you are tolerating such disrespect OF COURSE people will feel empowered and continue with the same behaviour. It is the wrong attitude. Anyway, that incident bothered me for weeks as I kept thinking about it…

One thing that I spent a lot of time on lately, was shopping for a nice electric bike or scooter. In this epidemic, I want to avoid public transportation (bus & subway) and if my work place for now is at a walking or biking distance, it is quite tiring in the summer heat (and I am closer to sixty than fifty years-old after all). I rented one for a week and I liked it a lot, but when I wanted to purchase one not a single store in the metropolitan area had any in stock. I guess everybody had the same idea at the same time and I was too late. An electric BIKE looks cool (particularly the Banana Boss, the Rad Runner 1, the Maxie Large, or the Paris) but it is quite expensive and a standard bicycle seat is really hard on my backside. Strangely, a scooter is less expensive, as well as being much more confortable and versatile. I’ve been checking several nice models (Écolo, Tao Aquarius, Vienna, Gio Italia, Mignon, UQi Pro, etc.) but now I found a good store and I am just waiting for them to receive some stock later this month…

Many important events happened in the second quarter of 2020 ( the end of May, June and the beginning of July) but I don’t want to spend much time on those current events. However, the world stage was dominated by the three great plagues of the era. First, the coronavirus. So far, the world has suffered over 10 million cases of infection resulting in over half a million deaths! We dealt relatively well with it in Canada, but the U.S. in on the verge of total catastrophe as it reopened too soon and they are now seeing an horrible surge in infection (over fifty-thousand new cases each day!). 

The second plague is Trump. I would think that we would get used to it by now but his mishandling of the coronavirus response (no national coordination, not enough test and PPE, not urging confinement, distanciation, and wearing masks, etc.), his constant lying, and his rhetoric encouraging hate-speech and inciting to violence kept making everything worse. Sometimes, I think he just doing it on purpose. If he is not a Putin agent, he is certainly an agent of chaos. He loves it. I can’t wait until November… 

The final plague is racism. Following the death by police abuse of George Floyd and many other subsequent similar baffling incidents, the American urban areas erupted in spontaneous protests against this pervasive institutional racism that literally plagues the U.S. How did we moved from a pandemic to riots in the streets? (Without much social distancing hence the cases surge) We all hoped that it was getting better but I guess we got negligent — the coronavirus confinement and Trump inducement somehow seem to have put salt on the wound — as it now seems worse than ever. It must be dealt with once and for all. With police reform certainly (defunding, demilitarizing, new structure, call it what you want — I always thought we should have several level of policing: the unarmed street or biking cop, the patrol police answering to theft and hold-up, the inspector, the riot police and now we should have a force of psycho-social worker for domestic violence, teenage trouble, neighbour disputes, etc.), but the disease goes further than that. Social reform and massive investments to reduce inequality (in education, in job opening, in housing, etc.) are necessary. With the recent movements like Me-Too and Black Lifes Matter, I feel that the world is effervescent and on the verge of great changes, just like in ’68. However, we will have to be patient. Real change takes time. But now the seed of change, the idea that it is possible, has been planted in people’s minds. It only remains to take care of it and watch it germinate… But the first step toward that change is for American to go vote in November.

Racism has always bothered me. All my life I tried to treat everybody equally, not letting their opinion, behaviour, the size of their nose, the colour of their eyes, hair or skin (pink, brown, “black”, “red” or “yellow”) distract me from the fact that we were all the same. Human beings. I always tried to be tolerant (sometime failing: for a while I became quite intolerant toward religion, but now the only thing I can’t tolerate is intolerance — and stupidity). When I was a teenager I thought that the best way to solve racism was to intermarry and eventually we would all become of the same skin colour (that’s what I did, unfortunately I never had kids — too much trouble!). However, skin colour is just an excuse for racists: in fact they are just afraid of the difference (people thinking, dressing, talking, etc., differently than they are). There are many culture on this world and, if we just learn about them, we see there is no reason to be afraid. We discover that this difference is beautiful, that it is a wealth. Those people usually are against (or ignorant of) science. Science is telling us that, genetically, we are all the same and that there is only one race: the human race. I always wanted to write about this complex and touchy subject (and someday I will). Unfortunately, whatever you say or write will always receive criticism: you didn’t say this, the way you say that is discriminatory, it is not enough, it is too much, etc., so I am waiting to have the right words. However, if you stay silent,  it is worse because they say that you are complicit, that you are encouraging racism by saying nothing. I prefer to show support by my actions: I won’t protest in the street but I’ll always try to be equitable, unbiased, and just. If I see someone being discriminated (racially or otherwise) I will try to defend them. And I’ll stay silent. If I scold you for doing something wrong (like misbehaving in the library or trying to cut the waiting line to enter the bus) and you answer be accusing me of being racist, I’ll stay silent. But just know that calling me a racist is the worst insult that you could give me…

I feel the end of this year will really be difficult… Take care of yourselves and stay safe !

Also, I found time to stay a little 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), after the jump.

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Unbeaten tracks in Japan

41u2qa+Cp-L“The firsthand account of a British adventuress as she treks though the Japanese outback in 1878, traveling alone among “degenerate” Japanese and “savage” Aino, and recording it all for posterity in this book, a classic of its kind.” [Promotional text]

“Isabella L. Bird’s voyage to Japan in the 1870s reveals a country steeped in ancient customs and a rugged landscape of beautiful, flowing hills and country pathways.

As of the first Western women to author a book about the Japanese islands, Isabella Bird was keen to relay her observations as accurately as she could manage. The isolationist policy of Japan, which forbade any foreigners from travelling inland, had only recently been lifted. Bird was thus able to witness the urban culture of Tokyo and the rural areas surrounding it, together with the large, northerly island of Hokkaido.

The author offers her observations of the architecture and customs of the native Japanese, and later the Ainu minority ethnic group. Northern Japan’s rural culture is revealed as being enormously different from the modern society the world knows today. Modern residents or aficionados of Japan will however recognize many surviving hallmarks, such as the supreme hospitality and generally well-mannered behavior of the locals.

Despite hailing from and exhibiting the values of the condescending culture of Victorian England, Bird manages to relay a good impression of Japan prior to its rapid modernization in the 20th century. Her views reflect their time; although she had a Japanese translator and guide as a companion, she was unable to grasp the social graces of the area, and acutely felt herself an outsider. She does not lapse into despondency however; instead, she by turns indulges in good-natured mockery of Japan’s insular society.”  [Text from the back cover of the Pantianos Classics edition]

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

I first learn of Isabella Bird when I started reading the manga series by SASSA Taiga dedicated to her traveling in Japan (see my comments). Isabella Bird was a real British adventuress that traveled around the world to relieve her back pain and melancholy as well as to satisfy her curiosity. She first went to the United States in 1854, then in Australia, Hawaii (called at the time Sandwich Islands), and back to the U.S. in Colorado to see the Rocky Mountains in 1872-73. Five years later she went to Asia, travelling through Japan, China, Korea, Vietnam, Singapore and Malaysia. In 1889, she went to China, Persia, Kurdistan and Turkey. In 1897, she went back to China and Korea to travel up the Yangtze and Han rivers. Her last voyage in 1904, at the age of seventy-two year-old, was to Morocco where she wanted to meet the Berbers. 

It is extraordinary enough for a woman to have been travelling so much almost alone but it is even more interesting that she wrote a lot about it as she published around twenty books describing her journeys. It seems that most of her books are the collection of letters that she wrote to her friends and relatives describing in every details everything she saw during her travelling. 

She went to Japan in 1878 (at the age of forty-seven year-old) with the goal to explore Ezo (Hokkaido) and meet the Ainu — she seems to have an interest in learning about the indigenous people of each country she visited. However, she chose to travel from Tokyo not by the easier sea route but by the more difficult inland road, first to Niigata and then Aomori and Hakodate — hence the title Unbeaten Tracks in Japan. It must have been a very difficult journey. Almost every day she wrote to her sister Henrietta back in England, describing to her the Japanese landscape and its vegetation as well as the culture of its people (their houses, clothings and usages). Her observations are particularly interesting because she describes Japan at a time of change, ten years after the Meiji Restoration, witnessing the last remnants of the samurai culture as well as the beginning of the modernization of Japan. The book collecting all those letters was first published in 1880 and an abridged version was published in 1885.

Now that I have read the original words of Isabella Bird I can better appreciate the manga. We can see that, if the anecdotes and the facts told in the manga seem fairly faithful, the character’s open and understanding attitude toward the Japanese people is not entirely truthful. In the manga, she barely makes any negative comments in her description of the Japanese while in her work, Isabella Bird has the condescending, and even sometimes contemptuous, attitude towards the Japanese that one would expect to find in any British aristocrat of the time. And her translator and guide Ito, which is the key to every scenes in the manga, is hardly mentioned in her book (and when she mentions him it is often to mock him; although, she brings the subject of his previous and unfulfilled contract with the botanist Charles Maries).

She describes the Japanese as busy people, talks about their “miserable physique and the national defects of concave chests and bow legs” (p. 9), or being “so lean, so yellow, yet so pleasant-looking, so wanting in colour and effectiveness” (p. 10). She adds “I never saw people take so much delight in their offspring (p. 56) (…) but it is not good for European children to be much with them, as they corrupt their morals, and teach team to tell lies” (p. 87). However, she finds them polite, civil and honest (p. 75). In the deep country, she finds that people are poor, almost naked and quite dirty. She keeps even harsher words for the Ainu. She calls them “magnificent savages” and “children” (p. 175), “a harmless people without the instinct of progress” (p. 168) characterized by their “apathy and want of intelligence” (p. 173). They are often naked, drink too much sake and the Japanese (including Ito) say that they “are just dogs” (p. 181). She says that “They have no history (…) their houses and persons swarm with vermin, they are sunk in the grossest ignorance, they have no letters or any numbers above a thousand, they are clothed in the bark of trees and the untanned skins of beasts, they worship the bear, the sun, moon, fire, water, and I know not what, they are uncivilisable and altogether irreclaimable savages, yet they are attractive, and in some ways fascinating (…)” (p. 184). So, it is not all bad as she even finds them “charming in many ways” (p. 202) and that they are sometimes “superb-looking men, gentle and extremely courteous” (p. 168).

It is a very interesting book but, unfortunately, the epistolary travelog of Isabella Bird in Japan  is a little laborious to read as it is long and consisting mostly of descriptions. I must admit that I kept falling asleep and could read barely a dozen pages every night. Therefore reading this book was quite an enterprise, but all worth the effort because it offers a unique view on the Meiji’s Japan. It is a good reading but mostly for the Japanese history fanatics as well as for those who read the manga and are curious to learn more about Isabella Bird herself.

Unbeaten tracks in Japan: An account of travels in the interior, including visits to the aborigines of Yezo and the shrines of Nikkô and Isé, by Isabella L. Bird. London: John Murray, 1885. 136 pages. The book is available for free download on Amazon Kindle, Google Books and Gutenberg Project. stars-3-0

For more information you can consult the following web sites:

[ AmazonBiblioGoodreadsGoogleWikipediaWorldCat ]

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Vendredi nature [002.020.157]

Historia Naturalis

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[ iPhone 8+, Musée de la Civilisation de Québec, 2019/06/26 ]

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Cette image est particulièrement chère à mon coeur, puisqu’il s’agit tout à la fois d’histoire naturelle, d’un auteur romain et d’un livre ancien ! Selon la fiche signalétique ci-haut, c’est le plus vieux livre de la collection du Natural History Museum of London, une édition vénitienne de 1469 du Historia Naturalis de Pline l’Ancien (dont j’ai beaucoup parlé à cause du manga qui lui est consacré). C’est donc l’un des premiers livres a avoir été imprimé en Europe après la Bible et ce à peine trente ans après que Gutenberg ait inventé l’imprimerie à caractères mobiles. J’en suis bien jaloux !

J’ai pris cette photo en visitant l’exposition “Curiosités du monde naturel” qui se tenait au Musée de la Civilisation de Québec du 16 mai 2019 au 19 janvier 2020. J’en ai déjà parlé dans mes plus récents billets “Vendredi nature” (002.020.017024, 031038045052059066080087094108 et 150). Voir aussi le vidéo memento de ma visite.

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Notable News 2019

If you are bored by your confinement, here are links to over five-hundred-fifty news stories for all taste (well, mostly for mine).

Like I said in my latest “notable news” entry (for the beginning of 2020) I completely skipped over 2019 (my last entry before that was in January). I guess I was a little busy. On the domestic front there is not much to say. I don’t want to look back too much on 2019, since it was a bad year — and, now that we know that 2020 is even worst, why bother? I guess I wrote a lot about it (you can check the blog indexes update). I feel the same for what happened on the world stage (refer to Wikipedia for the events of 2019, from January to December).

However, despite everything, I always stay acquainted with the affairs of the world and collect links to the notable news story of the time. I call it scrap-linking: it’s like scrapbooking but instead of collecting old newspaper articles in files or scrapbooks (like my father used to do), I just collect links to news-story on the internet. Therefore, with this blog entry, I would like to make some sort of a review of the year through those links. Be aware that they are in both French or English, slightly categorized, but in no particular order, and of course, because this is old, some links may have become dead or completely irrelevant, sorry about that — also note that, to save on coding time, the links will NOT open in a new window as usual. I am sharing all this with you >> after the jump.

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Notable News (Winter – Spring 2020)

As you know, I periodically reflect on the latest notable news , both in my life and in the world, and gather links to the stories I found the most interesting during that time (as a kind of press review). My latest entry on that subject was in January of last year. I’ve skipped the notable news for 2019 (I was a little busy — but I’ll come back to that later) but here they are for the first third of 2020 — I can’t believe we are already in 2020. This will be another decade of disappointment and unfulfilled promises. Where are the cyberspace and the body implants we were promised?!

There is not much to say about what happened on the domestic front. It has been quite busy (and exhausting) at work but I think I dealt pretty well with it. The library was undertaking renovation works to install a sorting “robot” for the returns and completely redo our working area and the counter. Preparing for those renovations and organizing a temporary set-up in order to stay functional and open to the public during the works was quite an ordeal. However, we did well and survived. And then we closed because of the epidemic…

The winter was relatively mild, and spring was early but cold. On the subject of health, I was plagued by a litany of problems: first, with all the hard work at the library, I literally broke my back (getting a serious sciatica), then got a bad flu/cold and finally was deeply pained by a kidney stone (I get one about every ten years). However, I am much better now as the calculus has recently passed. Funnily, despite doing lots of physical work around the house and regularly walking around the parc, I still managed to gain a couple of kilos. You know you have attained a certain age when idle conversations tend to focus more on your ailments than on the weather!

I have also been doing satisfactorily well in my reading and writing. I find it quite extraordinary when, after finishing a book in the previous night, I wake up in the morning with almost the entire reading comment in my head! Doing both reading and writing on a regular basis is a good training for the mind and it seems to get easier and easier with time.

The news on the world stage were dominated by the American election (mostly the democrats’ primaries and the stupid antics of the president — nothing really new there) and the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. At first, like everybody, I wasn’t too concerned. It was just something happening in China. Then, when it became clear that it was spreading easily with cases in Korea, California and Iran, I voiced my concerns to my boss, asking her what was the plan in such circumstances (it was late February or early March). I was told that they weren’t told of any plan. There was not even a sanitizer distributor in the entrance of the workplace — which should have been mandatory. When the government started telling people to stay home and we closed to the public (March 13th), I started really worrying because we were still working and using public transportation. I was afraid to bring the virus home (since one of my family members is immunosuppressed and I am myself at risk because of hypertension). I was just about to tell my boss that I couldn’t continue to work when they decided to send us home (March 19th). 

Not being sure how long this forced vacation (with pay!) would last, I decided to make the best of it and catch up on my reading/writing. Although, after a few days of this coronavirus self-isolation, I realized I hadn’t done much. I wanted initially to read a book or watch a movie each day but I didn’t (maybe it was too ambitious?). I did a few things around the house and wrote a couple of blog entries about the current situation and offered suggestions of stuff to do. But I should be doing more. If not I was afraid to wake up at the end of this “staycation” having done nothing. And there was so much to do. I am happy to say that, so far, I am doing well.

With the pandemic in full swing it is hard to think back about other events that marked the beginning of 2020. In January, beside the usual fires and floods or the conflicts in the Middle-East, we can find noteworthy the American airstrike on the Baghdad Airport to assassinate Qasem Soleimani, Prince Harry and Meghan leave the British Royal family, as more cases are reported the Chinese authorities start investigating this unknown pneumonia outbreak that will become the coronavirus pandemic, and the impeachment trial of Trump moves into the Senate.

In February, we see the first deaths of coronavirus outside China (first in the Philippines, then in Hong Kong, Japan, France, Iran, South Korea, Italy, USA, etc.), the Iowa Democratic Party caucuses are a disaster, Trump is acquitted on both articles of impeachment by the Senate, Harvey Weinstein is found guilty, the Dow Jones starts dropping, and there’s a first possible case of communal transmission of the coronavirus in California.

In March, Pete Buttigieg, Amy Klobuchar and Michael Bloomberg drop their presidential candidacy and endorse Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren also suspends her campaign (without endorsing Biden yet), the coronavirus outbreak is getting bigger and we see the first death in Canada, following an oil-price war between Russia and Saudi Arabia the Dow Jones drop even further, WHO officially declares the Coronavirus outbreak as a pandemic (3/11) prompting some countries or states to follow China’s example in implementing a lockdown (Italy, Spain, California, Canada, New York, India) and several major events (sport, concert, convention, etc) are getting cancelled. WHO announces that there are at least 20 vaccines candidates in development for COVID-19. Meanwhile, Wuhan (capital of the Hubei province) ends its lockdown and starts reopening.

In April, Bernie Sanders suspends his presidential campaign and endorses Biden, the number of confirmed coronavirus cases passes two million worldwide (4/16) as the pandemic keep growing. The mitigation measures are working and so far the hospitals, if very busy and despite the shortage of PPE, are not overwhelmed as it was first feared. Most countries have put financial measures to help their citizens live through the lockdown and are now planning to slowly ease their containment mesures. The main problem remains the insufficient testing and, in the USA, the absence of Federal coordination. Trump, in his self-absorbed usual incompetence, is definitely not up to the task (I just can’t understand why this guy is still in power). If you would rather burn down the country than admit you’re wrong, you’re not only a bad person, you are also pure evil. Anyway, the month is not over yet, so I’ll keep an eye on the current events, however depressing it might be.

Finally, as usual and 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), after the jump.

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The empire of corpses (anime)

EmpireOfCOrpses-dvd-covFrom the studio that produced Attack on Titan comes a captivating historical action thriller based on an award-winning novel by Project Itoh. In an alternate version of 19th century London, the world has been revolutionized by “corpse reanimation technology” creating armies of undead who serve the living as laborers across the globe.

In an attempt to revive his dearly departed friend, young medical student John Watson becomes obsessed with replicating the work of Dr. Victor Frankenstein—the legendary corpse engineer whose research produced the only re-animated corpse to possess a soul. But when his illegal experiments put him at odds with the British government, Watson is drafted into a worldwide race to find the lost research notes of Victor Frankenstein before the secrets of the human soul fall into the wrong hands.”  [Text from Funimation website]

This anime movie is based on a novel by Itō Satoshi (left unfinished after his death it was completed by his friend Enjō Tō) published in August 2012 by Kawade Shobo Shinsha. It was also adapted into a manga by Tomoyuki Hino (I have recently commented on it).

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

EmpireOfCOrpses-illo1In 1878, young Doctor Watson illegally resurrects his dear friend Friday. When caught he is sent by M, the head of the British secret service, on a mission to Afghanistan via India. With the help of Frederick Burnaby and Nikolai Krasotkin, he must recover the Notes of Victor Frankenstein which have been found by Alexei  Karamazov. Until now, corpse technology can reanimate people only as soulless zombie apt to perform only basic menial tasks. However Frankenstein was able to produce a corpse with a soul, free-will and speech — known as “The One”. His Notes would allow to tremendously improve corpse technology and are coveted by all the great powers of the world.

EmpireOfCOrpses-illo3He finds Karamazov and discovers with horror that his new technique to improve corpses rely on live subjects ! He also learns that Karamazov is no longer in possession of Victor’s Notes as he left them in Japan. One year later, Watson, Friday and Burnaby are in Tokyo and, with the help of Seigo Yamazawa, break into Osato Chemicals (Friday hacks into the security system!). Unfortunately, they are too late, “The One” is already there and, after a fierce battle, escapes with his creator’s Notes. The team is again saved by Ulysses Grant and Hadaly who bring them to the United States on the steamship USS Richmond.

However, “The One” arrives in San Francisco first and takes over the Paul Bunyan, a super-computer working on steam and electricity. Using ultra-sound, he sends a wireless command to all corpses, turning them into berserks who attack people (typical zombies like in The Walking Dead). This also affects Friday, who needs to be sedated. “The One” is finally captured by M who transports him to the Tower of London. So far, the storytelling has been quite excellent. Unfortunately, from that point, the story gets muddled and confusing…

EmpireOfCOrpses-illo4Hadaly has her own agenda. Like Watson, who wants to give a soul to Friday, she is seeking a soul for herself — as she is revealed to be a mechanical automaton created by Thomas Edison. With her help, the team leave for London aboard the submarine Nautilus. They crashes the Tower Traitor’s Gate to discover that M has nefarious intents. After analyzing the Notes, he uses the Babbage analytical engine and Victor’s brain to send another wireless code that transform Britain’s corpses into berserks but also takes control of the humans! His motivation for doing that are not very clear: he wants to bring peace to the world (?!)…

However, “The One” escapes and kills M. As he plays music on a giant organ, he takes control of the Babbage engine. He is motivated by hatred and revenge against humanity, but also wants to give a soul to Hadaly, who he calls Lilith, to make her into the bride that Frankenstein refused him. He also wants to take over Friday’s body to form the perfect couple. Of course, after a long battle, Watson succeeds to stop him, causing the destruction of the Babbage engine and of the Tower, and restoring to the people their souls and wills. In the end, with the help of Friday, Watson experiments on himself. Then, after very long ending credits, we finds Watson four years later with a new adventure partner named Holmes and Hadaly now goes by the name of Irene Adler!

>> End of warning <<

This anime movie is a superb example of steampunk story — a type of alternate history (or uchronia) set in a more technologically advanced Victorian era. I like the idea to create “necroware” to program the dead (in a way slightly reminiscent of Westworld) using a neural plug, a modified typewriter and punch-cards or Charles Babbage’s Analytical Engine! The retrofuture world that the story depicts looks quite fascinating.

The premisses of the story are also quite innovative. While historical fiction often uses real historical people as characters, this story interestingly uses illustrious fictional characters. If some of the characters have really existed (Ulysses S. Grant, Frederick Burnaby, Thomas Edison), most of them come from the works of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (Watson, Holmes, Irene Adler, “M” could also possibly be for Moriarty or Mycroft), Ian Fleming (M, MoneyPenny, Osato Chemicals), Fiodor Dostoïevski (Alexei  Karamazov, Nikolai Krasotkin), Mary Shelley (Victor Frankenstein and his creature), Daniel Defoe (Friday from Robinson Crusoe), Jules Verne (the Nautilus submarine), or even Auguste de Villiers de L’Isle-Adam (Hadaly, the android from The Future Eve). This shows a great literary culture from the writer.

EmpireOfCOrpses-illo2For the most part of the movie the storytelling is excellent. Unfortunately, in the end (the last third of the movie), the story gets overly mystical (crystals?) and too many parts of the plot are left without any explanations. The whole part with Alexei Karamazov is not very clear: what are his motivations and end-game? Same thing with “M”: what does he want to accomplish? The conclusion of the story is rather confusing and disappointing. However, the greatest assets of the movie is its really beautiful animation (particularly the background art which is quite superb). The battle scenes are also very well executed.

The animated movie is much better than the manga. It’s more beautiful, the story is better organized and more fluid, the action scenes are easier to understand. I like the Russian exploding corpses — explosions are much more fun when animated! Also (and I rarely say this) the English dubbed version is very good. The movie was less appreciated by the general audience (6.0 on IMDb, 42% on Rotten Tomatoes) than by anime fans (A- on ANN, 7 on MyANimeList). All in all, it is a very good movie, worth watching, particularly if you are a steampunk fan.

The empire of corpses (屍者の帝国 / Shisha no Teikoku): Japan, anime, 2015, 120 mins; Dir.: Ryoutarou Makihara; Scr.: Hiroshi Seko, Kōji Yamamoto, Midori Gotou (based on the novel by Project Itoh & Toh Enjoe); Char. Des.: redjuice, Takaaki Chiba; Art Dir.: Yūsuke Takeda; Chief Anim. Dir.: Hirotaka Katō, Takaaki Chiba; Mecha Des.: Gorou Murata, Hitoshi Fukuchi, Junya Ishigaki, Shinobu Tsuneki; CGI Dir.: Emiko Nishida; Music: Yoshihiro Ike; Studio: Wit; Prod.: George Wada, Noriko Ozaki, Takashi Yoshizawa; Cast: Yoshimasa Hosoya / Jason Liebrecht (Watson), Ayumu Murase / Todd Haberkorn (Friday), Kana Hanazawa / Morgan Garrett (Hadaly), Taiten Kusunoki / J. Michael Tatum (Burnaby), Akio Ohtsuka / Sean Hennigan (M), Daiki Yamashita / Micah Solusod (Krasotkin), Jiro Saito / Kenny Green (Yamazawa), Kōji Ishii / Greg Dulcie (Grant), Shinichiro Miki / Mike McFarland (Alexei Karamazov), Takayuki Sugo / R Bruce Elliott (The One). Available on bilingual Blu-ray/DVD from FUNimation ($34.98 US). stars-3-5

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

[ AmazonANNGoogleIMDbOfficialWikipedia ]

Also, you can check the official trailer on Youtube:

©Project Itoh & Toh EnJoe / THE EMPIRE OF CORPSES Licensed by Fuji TV through FCC to Funimation® Productions, Ltd. All Rights Reserved.

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Miss Hokusai 2

Miss_Hokusai-2-cov“Elle fumait la pipe et n’avait pas bon caractère. Mais quel talent !Voici le second volume d’une chronique pleine d’humour à la découverte d’une femme libre et d’une artiste : la fille du génial fou de dessin Hokusai, dont elle partagea l’existence excentrique dans le quartier des peintres et des courtisanes à Edo.”

[Texte du site de l’éditeur et de la couverture arrière]

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Miss Hokusai (百日紅 (さるすべり) / Sarusuberi / lit. “Cent Cramoisi” qui est le nom que les Japonais donnent au lilas des Indes) a d’abord été publié en feuilleton entre 1983 et 1987 dans le magazine hebdomadaire Manga Sunday avant d’être compilé en trois volumes par l’éditeur Jitsugyou no Nihonsha en 1987, puis en deux volumes par Chikuma Shobō (format bunko) en 1996. Les deux volumes ont été traduit en espagnol chez Ponent Mon et en français chez Philippe Picquier. Ce manga seinen historique, écrit et illustré par Sugiura Hinako, nous raconte des épisodes de la vie de O-ei, la troisième fille de Hokusai, et de son entourage. Il a été adapté en dessin animé en 2015 par Production I.G. sous la direction de Keiichi Hara. J’ai déjà commenté le premier volume et le dessin animé dans un billet précédent.

Ce deuxième volume nous offre quinze histoires relativement indépendantes les unes des autres. On y voit encore le travail que O-ei fait comme assistante de son père,  Hokusai, le célèbre artiste d’ukiyo-e de l’ère Edo. Toutefois, plusieurs des histoires mettent de l’avant des personnages secondaires, souvent dans des aventures amoureuses qui impliquent des courtisanes. De nombreuses histoires ont aussi une thématique fantastique, évoquant ces histoires de fantômes dont la culture japonaise est friande. 

Malheureusement, la nature anecdotique des histoires et le fait qu’il est difficile de distinguer entre eux les nombreux personnages rend la lecture un peu pénible. Chaque récit est intéressant en soi mais l’ensemble manque d’homogénéité et reste un peu confus. 

Étant plus une historienne qu’artiste, Sugiura Hinako n’avait pas de véritable talent pour le dessin. Le style de ses mangas (fait de lignes simples à l’encre avec du zip-a-tone pour les textures) est donc frustre, plutôt grossier et peu attrayant. La pauvre qualité graphique du manga n’est racheté que par le fait qu’il est inspiré du style traditionnel des ukiyo-e (estampes japonaises) et des kibyōshi (romans illustrés) eux-même et qu’il tente de reproduire très fidèlement les détails architecturaux et vestimentaires de l’époque d’Edo et plus particulièrement de Yoshiwara (le quartier des plaisirs de l’ancien Tokyo). C’est cet aspect historique authentique qui rends le manga intéressant malgré tout.

Donc, laborieux à lire, le deuxième tome est beaucoup moins intéressant et organisé que le premier. Cela reste une lecture intéressante mais seulement pour les amateurs de l’histoire du Japon. La façon la plus agréable d’apprécier ce récit reste encore le dessin animé.

Miss Hokusai, tome 2 par SUGIURA Hinako. Arles: Éditions Philippe Picquier (Coll. Picquier Manga / BD ), août 2019. 346 p., 15 x 22 cm, 19,00 €  / C$ 27.95. ISBN 978-2-8097-1419-7. Un extrait est disponible sur le site de l’éditeur. Pour lectorat adolescent (14+). stars-2-5

Vous trouverez plus d’information sur les sites suivants:

[ AmazonBiblioGoodreadsGoogleWikipediaWorldCat ]

© Masaya Suzuki • Hiroko Suzuki 1996. Tous droits réservés. © Éditions Philippe Picquier 2019 pour la traduction française.

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Alpha

Alpha-dvd-covAlpha is an epic adventure set in the last Ice Age. While on his first hunt with his tribe’s most elite group, a young man is injured and left for dead. Awakening to find himself broken and alone, he must learn to survive and navigate the harsh and unforgiving wilderness. Reluctantly taming a lone wolf abandoned by its pack, the pair learns to rely on each other and become unlikely allies, enduring countless dangers and overwhelming odds in order to find their way home before the deadly winter arrives.” [Promotional text]

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

This is an interesting action movie which is not only entertaining but can also be educational. Through its storytelling it tries to teach us two concepts: first, how our distant ancestors were living and also how the domestication of the wolf might have happened. It is a nice movie with a beautiful photography (and lots of CGI!) and a very simple story: boy gets hurt and left for dead, boy make friend with a companion of misfortune, and boy tries to survive and come back home. Unfortunately some scenes lack realism and are rather unbelievable. 

The movie did well at the box-office (doubling the production cost) and was relatively well received by the critics (with ratings of 6.7 on IMDb and of 80% / 71% on Rotten Tomatoes). It was slightly less appreciated by the audience and what might have hurt it was probably that the viewers had to suffer not only through the “fake” language spoken by the protagonist and his family (we have no idea what kind of language those people were really using) but also the necessary subtitles (the American audience tends to dislike having to “read” a movie).

The people portrayed in this movie are “the solutreans” (which was originally supposed to be the title of the movie). They were early modern humans (Homo sapiens also called “Cro-Magnon”) living in Europe during the Upper Paleolithic (c. 20,000 years ago) and using a sophisticated flint tool-makingindustry”. The movie certainly took some artistic license but it looks rather accurate to me.

The movie is quite loveable and entertaining but, personally, it is above all this effort to depict a prehistoric culture that made it interesting. It is worth seeing, mostly for dog lovers and if you are curious about the solutreans. stars-3-0

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

[ AmazonBiblioGoogleIMDbOfficialWikipedia ]

Also, you can check the official trailer on Youtube:

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Capsules

Vendredi nature [002.020.094]

Felis sp.

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[ iPhone 8+, Musée de la Civilisation de Québec, 2019/06/26 ]

Chat momifié, Égypte antique [c. 2000+ ans], Natural History Museum of London.

Les Égyptiens momifiaient des chats (que l’on croit élevés pour cette unique fin) afin de les offrir à la déesse Bastet. Ce spécimen, qui est un don de l’Egypt Exploration Society, a été déterré par l’égyptologue anglais William Matthew Flinders Petrie entre 1900 et 1907. Il s’agit ici d’une espèce indéterminée d’un animal du genre Felis, de la famille des Felidae et de l’ordre des Carnivora. (Sources: la fiche signalétique de l’exposition et Wikipedia [FR / EN]).

J’ai pris cette photo en visitant l’exposition “Curiosités du monde naturel” qui se tenait au Musée de la Civilisation de Québec du 16 mai 2019 au 19 janvier 2020. J’en ai déjà parlé dans mes plus récents billets “Vendredi nature” (002.020.017024, 031038045052059066080 et 087). Voir aussi le vidéo memento de ma visite.

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L’Histoire en Manga (2)

T. 2, L’antiquité grecque et romaine

Histoire_en_manga-2-covL’Histoire en Manga: Une collection pour découvrir toute l’Histoire en image.

“De la guerre de Troie racontée par Homère à l’émergence de la démocratie athénienne, des conquêtes d’Alexandre le Grand à la naissance de la culture grecque, du règne de César à la naissance du christianisme, ce manga raconte… l’antiquité grecque et romaine.”

“170 pages de bandes dessinées pour plonger avec plaisir dans l’Histoire… avec en + … des pages explicatives pour chaque chapitre, un cahier documentaire en fin d’ouvrage pour restituer les évènements dans leur contexte, des frises chronologiques, et des cartes…”

[Texte de la couverture arrière; voir aussi le site de l’éditeur ]

Après un premier volume qui nous introduisait à la préhistoire et au moyen-orient ancien, cette série de manga éducatif (Gakushū manga) se poursuit avec l’antiquité grecque et romaine. Ce second volume était originalement intitulé Gakken Manga — Nouvelle Histoire du Monde, 2: Le monde grec, romain et méditerranéen  [ 学研まんが NEW世界の歴史  2 ギリシア・ローマと地中海世界 / Gakken Manga nyū Sekai no Rekishi 2: Girishia, rōma to Chichūkai sekai ].

L’artiste a changé et on note une amélioration dans la qualité du dessin. La narration et le découpage du récit est conçu pour son effet dramatique afin de préserver l’intérêt du lecteur malgré le sujet un peu trop académique. Cette fois, je n’ai pas noté de fautes orthographiques ou factuelles (ce qu’il ne veut pas dire qu’il n’y en a pas). Toutefois, le principal défaut de l’ouvrage réside dans le fait que l’on tente de raconter plus de trois-mille ans d’histoire en moins de deux-cent pages. On y présente donc que les faits saillants d’une histoire pourtant riche en détails. Périclès est traité en à peine deux pages! Trente-six pages pour César et la République romaine (avec quelques pages consacrées à Cléopâtre — qui faisait d’ailleurs la couverture de l’édition japonaise) et à peine vingt-cinq pages pour l’Empire romain qui n’est d’ailleurs présenté qu’à travers l’histoire du Christianisme… Un cours éclair donc.

C’est néanmoins un bon manga éducatif qui peut servir à introduire le lecteur (jeune ou adulte) à l’histoire du monde d’une façon intéressante et divertissante.

L’Histoire en Manga: T. 2, L’antiquité grecque et romaine, par Fûta Kanta (dessin) et Hidehisa Nanbô (texte) (Traduction par Aurélien Estager). Montrouge: Bayard Jeunesse, septembre 2017. 192 pages, 16 x 23.5 cm, 12,90 € / $C 24.95. ISBN 978-2-7470-8391-1. Pour lectorat adolescent (11+ ans). stars-3-0

Vous trouverez plus d’information sur les sites suivants:

[ AmazonBiblioGoodreadsGoogleWorldCat ]

© Gakken Plus 2016. © Bayard Édition, 2017 pour la traduction française.

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