Ma monture (suite)

Après vous avoir longuement entretenu de ma nouvelle monture (un scooter électrique “Écolo” de GreenPower avec batterie au lithium), je vais vous parler de quelques nouveaux accessoires…

En plus de l’obligatoire casque et câble de verrouillage que j’ai déjà mentionné, je me suis procuré un pantalon de pluie imperméable (sur-vêtement) ainsi qu’un couvre sacs à dos imperméables en nylon pour pouvoir conduire le scooter dans tous le genre d’intempéries que l’automne pourra nous apporter.

Malheureusement, mon projet d’installer un porte-bagage arrière de chez Dyad ($40) a échoué. Il semble qu’il y ait après tout de légères différences entre les châssis des DS1 et de l’Écolo; les fixations de côtés sont trop serrées et je n’ai pas pu l’installer. Je suis donc retourné chez Dyad mais ils n’ont pas les outils nécessaires pour l’ajuster en place et ils m’ont donc remboursé. Aucunes des boutiques locales n’offre de porte-bagage pour l’Écolo mais je trouverai bien une solution éventuellement (soit obtenir de bon outils pour écarter légèrement les fixations pour pouvoir mettre le porte-bagage de Dyad en place adéquatement ou contacter le fabricant chinois pour voir s’il offre des accessoires pour ce modèle).

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J’ai également acheté chez Dyad un sac en vinyl noir ($90) qui s’installe entre les jambes (dommage que Dyad ne présente pas sur leur site les accessoires disponibles; il faut se rendre à l’un des magasins pour savoir. Je n’ai rien vu de similaire ailleurs). Il remplit parfaitement l’espace mais les courroies pour l’attacher à l’arbre de direction (à l’avant) et au soutien du siège (à l’arrière) étaient un peu lousse alors je les ai “twisté” pour les resserrer. J’ai également fait de légères perforations dans le bas du sac pour y passer des attaches (“tie-wrap”) afin de maintenir le sac en place et aussi le sécuriser contre d’éventuelle tentatives de vol. J’en suis très satisfait.

J’ai trouvé un manuel en ligne pour le DS1 de Dyad mais malheureusement toujours aucun pour l’Écolo…

Finalement, j’ai aussi acheté une fixation pour iPhone Quad Lock ($120) qui s’installe sur le guidon du scooter. Le téléphone s’insère dans l’étui Quad Lock dont le système d’attache se verrouille solidement sur la fixation. Il y a même une couverture anti-intempérie qui s’ajuste sur le iPhone. C’est un accessoire très pratique. Cela permet de voir l’affichage de la navigation GPS pendant que l’on roule mais aussi de faire des vidéos de nos trajets ! En voici d’ailleurs un exemple (j’ai fait un tour rapide du parc mais comme je ne voulais pas vous embêter avec un vidéo de quinze minute j’en ai accéléré la vitesse (x8) pour le réduire à seulement deux minutes — warp speed !) :

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Écolo Lithium (Green Power HQ)

Une nouvelle monture

Après le début du déconfinement, lorsque j’ai été rappelé au travail, je n’étais pas très à l’aise avec l’idée de devoir prendre l’autobus et le métro. Heureusement mon travail se trouvait à distance de marche ou de vélo. Toutefois je me suis vite rendu compte qu’à mon âge, en pleine canicule, le vélo (et parfois même la marche) c’est plutôt épuisant. C’est alors que je me suis rappelé avoir déjà voulu acquérir un vélo ou une mobylette électrique juste pour le plaisir. Mais c’est tout de même dispendieux et le plaisir seul n’en justifiait pas la dépense. Par contre, dans les circonstances, c’était devenu presqu’une nécessité.

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Le DS1 de Dyad

J’ai donc loué une mobylette électrique pour une semaine (chez Dyad) pour voir si cela en valait la peine, si c’était difficile à conduire et, surtout, si j’aimais ça. J’ai adoré! Après avoir soigneusement étudié les modèles disponibles j’avais choisi de louer un DS1 de Dyad car ils offraient de déduire le coût de location de celui de l’achat si j’étais satisfait et désirais acheter la mobylette chez eux. Le problème c’est qu’après ma semaine de location il ne leur restait plus aucun modèle pour la vente et ils ne prévoyaient pas en recommander cette année! J’ai donc commencé à magasiner ailleurs et à considérer tout les modèles possibles: des modèles similaires au DS1 de Dyad (l’Écolo, le Passeport), des vélos électriques (comme le Banana Boss, le Rad Runner 1, le Maxie Large, ou même le Paris), de plus grosses mobylettes style Vespa (Tao Aquarius, Vienna, Gio Italia, Mignon, UQi Pro, etc.), mais plus personnes n’avait quoique ce soit en stock ! Il faut croire que tout le monde avait eut la même idée que moi en même temps!

J’ai agonisé de longues semaines en soupesant toutes les options possibles mais c’était toujours trop gros, trop cher, pas de siège confortable, pas de place pour un second passager, la boutique est située trop loin, etc., et les fournisseurs me disaient tous qu’ils n’aurait du stock que vers la fin juillet au mieux ou encore à l’automne.

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L’Écolo

J’ai finalement trouvé une boutique (Kolo Scooter) localisée à proximité (dans Hochelaga) qui semblait donner un service de qualité (4.9/5 sur Google), offrait un modèle de mobylette qui correspondait à toutes mes attentes et qui devait en recevoir à la fin juillet. Il ne me restait plus qu’à m’armer de patience… J’ai pu enfin prendre possession de mon scooter de marque Green Power HQ, modèle Écolo version lithium, vendredi le trente-et-un juillet. J’en suis bien satisfait. Voici donc ce que j’en pense en détails… (après le saut de page)

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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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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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Steve Jobs

71wjwLLNYXL._AC_SL1500_“Witness the founder of Apple like never before. Steve Jobs paints an intimate portrait of the brilliant man at the epicentre of the digital revolution, backstage in the final minutes before three iconic products launches. Directed by Academy Award winner Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire), written by Academy Award winner Aaron Sorkin (The Social Network) and starring Michael Fassbender, Kate Winslet, Seth Rogen and Jeff Daniels.”

[Text of the DVD cover]

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

This bio-pic is telling us the life of Steve Jobs [played by Michael Fassbender] and his relationships with the people close to him (his daughter Lisa, Joanna Hoffman [Kate Winslet], John Sculley [Jeff Daniels], Andy Hertzfeld [Michael Stuhlbarg], Steve Wozniak [Seth Rogen], and Chrisann Brennan [Katherine Waterston]) through only three specific events: the launch of the MacIntosh (in 1984), the launch of the Next (1988) and the launch of the iMac (1998).

It is an interesting movie, cleverly written and superbly acted. However, because it is compressing all the story into those three events, it ends up overly dramatized. Also, if it expresses well the spirit and mentality of Jobs (without caring whether Fassbender looks like him or not), it is doubtful that the plots elements of the movie really happened the way it is depicted. At first, I was annoyed by this but, after all, it is based on Walter Isaacson’s biography and received the blessing of Wozniak, so it most have some sort of accuracy. I think it explains well the genesis of Apple and its very innovative products. If it barely broke-even at the box-office, it was very well received by the critics (with ratings of 7.2 on IMDb, 86% / 73% on Rotten Tomatoes and 82% on Metacritic). All in all, I think it is an interesting, well-made and entertaining movie. It’s worth seeing. stars-3-5

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

[ AmazonBiblioGoogleIMDbNetflixWikipedia ]

Also, you can check the official trailer on Youtube:

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Capsules

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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GITS SAC: Solid State Society

Ghost in the Shell: S.A.C.—Solid State Society is the third movie since 1995’s Ghost in the Shell anime adaptation. This feature-length TV movie was broadcast on Skyperfect! in September 2006 and released on DVD by Bandai Visual in November of the same year. Fantasia 2007 treated the fans by screening this excellent cyberpunk anime on the big screen! Directed by Production I.G.’s Kenji Kamiyama, fans can enjoy yet another high-tech sci-fi story, which is set in 2034, Tokyo. The timeline is two years after the last TV series (2nd GIG), as Japan is still dealing with the Asian refugee problems. 

SolidStateSociety-image2Major Motoko Kusanagi left Section 9 — Japan’s elite anti-terrorist unit — and was missing for over two years. She left because she felt that by acting alone she could investigate more discreetly (using multiple cyber bodies), more freely (without the irritating political oversight) and therefore more efficiently. For Batou, the absence of Motoko leaves his work meaningless and he picks & chooses the case he’s working on, taking assignments only when he thinks it might bring him closer to her. With the Major’s departure and Batou refusing assignments, Togusa was forced to become the leader of the team as her successor. Togusa is, as usual, a man of justice. Married and having two children, he’s different from the other team members who are all single — including the aging Chief Aramaki who has been struggling to deal with the fact that Section 9 has to move on without the Major. Other members such as Saito and Ishikawa keep their positions as network expert or sniper. All Section 9’s characters are extremely honest and act with a sense of justice and responsibility. They’re all faithful to their convictions as they were in the TV series. 

SolidStateSociety-image1Section 9 hired 20 rookies, and their latest mission is to solve a case involving politically charged hostages. Somehow, one of the terrorist suspects committed suicide on the spot, leaving a strange message: “The Puppeteer is coming”. At the same time, many other mysterious cases keep taking place, including one where a huge amount of abused children seem to have been kidnapped by an organization of ultranationalist retirees. What links all those cases together? It seems to be the work of a super-intelligent hacker who has been manipulating all this, but to do what exactly, no one knows… 

SolidStateSociety-image4This movie is first class entertainment. Like the previous movies, it offers great music and superb animation. It has all the complex socio-political background of the previous TV series and maintains the series’ trademark cyberpunk feeling, but Director Kamiyama injected the storyline with so many themes — such as mass suicide, terrorism, biochemical weapons, kidnapping, old folks’ problems and child abuse — and subplots that the story gets confusing. It’s not easy to follow what’s happening in this extremely intricate movie. After the screening I was not quite sure of what I had just watched and who the Puppeteer really was! It’s one of those cases where you really need to purchase the DVD and watch the key scenes several time in order to be able to really enjoy the complexity of the movie. 

SolidStateSociety-image3In my humble opinion, I think that Director Kamiyama should have simplified and streamlined the storyline, maybe sticking with Togusa’s plot-line. I bet the viewers could have felt more empathy towards the movie if it was a little less complex. The animation itself has an overwhelming beauty, but, using all the great animation technology and talent of Production I.G., I think Director Kamiyama could have created a masterpiece, if he had just come up with a more coherent story. In the end, the true identity of the Puppeteer is still not very clear — but maybe Director Kamiyama kept it mysterious on purpose? 

—miyako

Kôkaku Kidôtai: Stand Alone Complex — Solid State Society. Japan, 2006, 109 min.; Dir.: Kenji Kamiyama; Scr.: Kenji Kamiyama, Shôtaro Suga, Yoshiki Sakurai; Phot.: Kôji Tanaka; Ed.: Junichi Uematsu; Art Dir.: Yusuke Takeda; Char. Des.: Hajime Shimomura, Takayuki Goto, Tetsuya Nishio; Mechan. Des.: Kenji Teraoka, Shinobu Tsuneki; Mus.: Yoko Kanno; Prod.: Production I.G.; Distr.: Bandai, Manga Entertainment; Cast: Atsuko Tanaka (Motoko Kusanagi), Akio Ohtsuka (Batou), Kouichi Yamadera (Togusa), Kazuya Tatekabe (Col. Tonoda), Masuo Amada (Col. Ka Gae-Ru), Osamu Saka (Daisuke Aramaki), Takashi Onozuka (Pazu), Tarô Yamaguchi (Boma), Toru Ohkawa (Saito), Yutaka Nakano (Ishikawa), Yuya Uchida (Takaaki Koshiki), Dai Sugiyama (Proto), Nana Yamauchi (Togusa’s daughter), Yoshiko Sakakibara (Prime Minister Kayabuki). Available on R2 Dvd in Japan (BCBA-2606, 109 min., ¥9800) and on R1 Dvd in North America (Bandai/Manga Entertainment, #25176, Bilingual Dvd, 109 min., $19.98 US [Limited edition: $39.98 US], rated 13+). stars-4-0

• • •

SolidStateSociety-covIn 2034, two years after the departure of Major Motoko Kusanagi (after the events of the TV series, Stand Alone Complex, which starts in 2030 and before the second movie, Innocence, set in 2032), Togusa is now in charge of Section 9, which has been expanded with the addition of several new recruits. Batou, frustrated to have been left behind by the Major, is still looking for her and therefore picks & chooses only the cases that seem related to his quest. A string of strange incidents — starting with a series of suicides, followed by the kidnapping of many children, and an economical conspiracy plotted by a group of old ultra-nationalists — seem to lead to a mysterious super-hacker nicknamed the “puppeteer.” The Major is carrying her own parallel investigation — which leads Batou to suspect her of being the puppeteer. In the end, the real identity of the perpetrator is the most surprising revelation of all. 

This movie is directed by Kenji Kamiyama, the same person who directed the Stand Alone Complex TV series. It is therefore not surprising to find here the same excellent quality of production, as much in the design as in the animation. However, if the director succeeded to masterfully tie up all the elements of the story in the TV series, he seems to have difficulty to do the same in a movie format. Solid State Society feels like a long TV episode where he tries to compress the storyline of an entire series. There are too many sub-plots and the different elements of the story are mixed together in such a complex way that it sometimes lacks coherence and the viewers get confused (it took me at least two viewings to understand the complexity of the plot and even then I am not sure I understood everything correctly). 

The timeline of the various series and movies seems confusing as well. The first movie is supposed to be set in 2029, while Solid State Society is set in 2034. It is not clear exactly when Major Kusanagi left Section 9. Also, they should have encountered the Puppet Master / Puppeteer before (in the first movie), but no mention is made of a prior encounter as if the first movie never happened. In fact, it feels like Solid State Society is a retelling of the encounter between the Major and the Puppeteer. 

Despite the complex socio-political themes and the beautiful animation, Solid State Society does not have the same depth than the previous movies (directed by Mamoru Oshii) and it certainly doesn’t have the same contemplative beauty. It is a very nice movie, but it is much more demanding to the viewers than the TV series and even the previous movies — which you all need to have seen to really appreciate and understand this movie — so I would recommend it mainly to the die-hard Ghost In The Shell fans. Nevertheless, Solid State Society (and GITS in general) is the epitome of intelligent SolidStateSociety-Dvd-ratingscyberpunk anime (a genre that, unfortunately, we don’t see often). Finally, I must add that the Limited Steelbook case edition (which contains three discs: one disc with the main feature, one disc full of extras, and the Solid State Society soundtrack CD) is totally awesome. 

—clodjee

Bandai / Manga Entertainment, #25176 (ISBN 978-1-59409-831-4), Bilingual Dvd, 109 min., $19.98 US (Limited Edition: $39.98 US), rated 13+ (Violence). See back cover.

You can also check the trailer from Youtube:

For more information you can consult the following web sites:

[ AmazonANNBiblio • GoogleIMDbProduction I.G.Wikipedia ]

Ghost In The Shell: Stand Alone Complex—Solid State Society ©2006-2007 Shirow Masamune • Production I.G. / Kodansha. 

Those articles were first published respectively in PA #94: 76 (November-December 2007) and PA #93: 83 (September-October 2007).

Please also check the following Ghost in the shell articles:

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GITS: Stand Alone Complex 2nd GIG

Anime Story

2004 was a great year for theatrical anime releases in Japan. It brought us Hayao Miyazaki’s Howl’s Moving Castle, Katsuhiro Otomo’s Steamboy and, of course, Mamoru Oshii’s Ghost In The Shell 2: Innocence. However, most of the Japanese anime industry’s production, and what really sustains it, remains the television series, like Gundam Seed, Fullmetal Alchemist, and yes, Ghost In The Shell: Stand Alone Complex. 

SAC-2gig-logoGhost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex was a big hit in 2003 and Japanese DVD sales did great, so the creative team at Production I.G. decided to bring out a second season (titled “2nd Gig”). Now fans can look forward to another 26 episodes of cyber-political intrigue and action. 

Sac-2gig-illo11I can easily imagine that director Kenji Kamiyama was under a great deal of stress, with his work being compared with Mamoru Oshii’s Innocence, and to meet the fans’ expectations after the first season! Despite the high stakes, the young director was up to the task and I think he did a marvellous job. The “2nd Gig” is even better and more intriguing than the first season. He succeeded totally in creating his own world, telling the story in his own personal style, and we don’t even feel the need to compare his series with Oshii’s movie. Each has its own merit. 

Kamiyama not only respected Masamune Shirow’s original manga, but he gave it life by detailing, even more so than Oshii’s movies did, its near-futuristic setting defined by the interaction of humanity and technology in a complex Asian geo-political environment. His strong, captivating storytelling is very well supported by the superb animation, the beautiful and elaborate artwork and an enchanting soundtrack. It is so great to see that there is such a great new talent in Japan, able to create a serious and intelligent story that can both entertain our senses and stimulate our mind. It is not surprising that both seasons of the TV series have received a great deal of acclaim, not only from anime fans, but also from those who seek serious science fiction shows. 

SAC16-illoASAs the “2nd Gig” starts, Section 9, which had been dissolved at the end of the 1st season, is resuming its job as an anti-cyberterrorist mobile unit. Although the team has returned, their work isn’t easy, and many difficulties lie ahead of them. The Japanese political landscape is changing and the government is keeping a close eye on their special police. The “Laughing Man” case might be solved, but it doesn’t take long for another terrorist organization, “The Individual Eleven,” to show up. Who are they? Are they the result of another “Stand Alone Complex”? They seem to be stirring up an uprising against the Asian immigrants and refugees. Could it be that simple? But some other politically-motivated forces seem to be at work. Can Major Motoko Kusanagi and her team unravel the complex overlapping political plots before they affect the nature of the government? 

Technology might be omnipresent in Stand Alone Complex, but it is not overwhelming. In the “2nd Gig,” Director Kamiyama and Production I.G. keep an even greater focus on the human side of the story by exploring the characters’ hearts and emotions — even in the case of some of the terrorists. Each key member of Section 9 has a dedicated episode where we learn more about their past and personality. It is not done simply to paint a richer background; every single bit of information has its meaning. They also give a more humane face to the government (more likeable than the usual fat, corrupt, old minister) with the new Japanese prime minister, a young, good-looking lady who embodies the beauties (and sometime ineptitudes) of democracy. In contrast, there is the ugly face of Gohda, a shady character who embodies the threat of militarism. Also, the intelligent Tachikoma robots (their name means “standing, spinning top”) are back with a new, expanded sidekick role (definitely inspired by Motoko’s cute “helper” programs in the Man-Machine Interface manga). With their cute voices and comical comments, they give a human feel to the technology. 

SAC14-illoASThe terrorism and the Asian refugees’ problems seem to be an allusion to the Palestinian question and to some conspiracy theories that surfaced after 9/11 in Europe and in Japan (such as, American right wing groups being behind 9/11 in order to justify military action abroad and domestically limit civil liberties). But it is only used to emphasize the fact that, even in the future, terrorism — the favorite style of warfare of the 21st Century — is still omnipresent and we still haven’t found a way to deal with it. Despite all the advanced technology, humanity is still facing tremendous problems (war, pollution, corruption, poverty, overpopulation, crime). Nothing changes, and even the future’s future is still uncertain. Is there a solution to the crisis? Is there a possibility for us humans to be saved? The answer in “2nd Gig” might be in the origami cranes that appear in some episodes and that symbolize the prayers for peace and salvation. All we can do is, like Section 9, act with courage and determination (even if it means going against the rules sometimes), pray and hope for the best! 

In conclusion, “2nd GIG” is even better than the first season. While still very political, dealing with terrorism and immigration problems, it also elaborates on more of the personal history of each of the main characters, including Major Kusanagi. The cyberpunk political intrigue is at moments a little complex, but it is the most intelligent anime series I have ever seen and it is superbly animated. It’s not all action, there’s also drama — and I did cry a few times. A real masterpiece! Of course, such an exceptionally excellent anime series cannot be seen only on TV. SAC-2gig-ratingsYou have to purchase the DVD to watch it over and over again, to enjoy all the minute details of this superb animation and share the experience with your friends! And if after that you want more, the series was followed by a movie: Solid State Society. 

> Please, read the warning for possible spoilers <<

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Ghost in the shell: Stand Alone Complex (anime)

Overview

GITS-SAC-logoWith the TV version of Ghost in the Shell (Kokaku Kidotai) director Kenji Kamiyama (and his production team — including the full support of original creator Shirow Masamune) is bringing a new dimension to the standard police detective drama adding a techno-cyberpunk flavour. Not only is this a very high quality show visually (HD full-digital screen to satisfy even the most hard-core fan!), but it is also full of exciting, intelligent storytelling. You can see that the writers really put forward their best efforts to attract viewers. 

SAC-KusunagiCCThe story is set in a future Tokyo populated with high-tech doohickeys, and lots of cyborgs and androids. Fans of Ghost in the Shell find out immediately that this story is quite different from the manga or games. It’s a kind of alternate world created for the TV series, closer to what was already developed for the movie. The manga is funny and set in a fictitious future (lots of made-up names) where Section 9 is an international anti-terrorist unit. The TV series’ setting feels less like a militaristic anti-terrorist outfit and more like a special police force dealing with cyber crimes. It is more serious and more realistic. Nevertheless, like the movie, which was based mostly on the manga, the TV series is using bits and pieces of the manga’s story. We could consider the TV series as a prequel to the movie, whereas the new manga, Man-Machine Interface, is the direct sequel of the original manga. 

GHSill02RSo what do they mean by “Stand Alone Complex”? It could mean that the series is mostly made of stand alone episodes (self contained stories), with a few more complex episodes (the “Laughing Man” story arc). However, episode 6 also provides another explanation: it refers to the fact that Laughing Man’s imitators are independent copycats, created without an original. To me it seems that Production I.G.’s writers want to make the point that “It’s extremely difficult and almost impossible today to stand alone in this complex society of computers and networks.” Each episode throws enormous amounts of technical information and detail about computers, science and politics for the viewer to digest. At first, for an average nincompoop like myself, the contents of this show can be too much, but with a bit of patience it’s certainly educational. I think, in a way, it’s charming to see so much information on technology. Compared to ordinary anime shows, the amount of dialogue and information is quite huge. 

You really have to sit down and watch this TV show over and over again to catch the small details and to understand better. In this respect it shares much in common with its source, the manga. On the other hand, despite all this, the show can also be watched as an intelligent police/detective drama. The viewers can try to solve crimes with Section 9 members and get great satisfaction to see the conclusion of each cyber-crimes case. But don’t think that the show is as slow paced as the film — there is still a lot of action! 

SAC-illo02The characters seem to be like normal humans, but in fact most of them are cyborgs (or with some sort of cybernetic enhancement). I wonder if, in the near future, when humans begin to replace body-parts to improve their lives and live more comfortably, we’ll have different kinds of crimes? It’s the same type of premise as in Patlabor : if technology takes us there, the nature of crime will change. Of course we’re all human, but how in the world can we live and “stand” with our own personalities in this extremely complex society of the future? In this show, all criminals are making statements of a kind (politically, individually or otherwise). 

SAC01-03This is certainly a strong series evolved from speculative fiction, with excellent (and exotic Russian sounding) music by Yoko Kannno (Cowboy Bebop, Escaflowne and Macross Plus) and viewers will enjoy this full-action crime fighting anime! In our opinion, this series clearly shows one thing: good writing and storytelling make a great difference! There are many shows with high quality visuals, but with weak stories. Ghost in the Shell is one of the best shows to come down the road in the last few years and hearkens back to a period where stories and strong characters were the main focus. I’d like to send out enthusiastic applause to the creators of this show! 

Despite its high quality animation and intelligent story, the show has a few annoying details: the original opening is much better than the 3D one which starts with episode 3 and there are some technical impossibilities (like the cloaking devices which are not consistent with those in the movie). 

SAC08-02This anime won’t disappoint you — in fact, you’ll be totally hooked! A must see show that I’d recommend to anyone. In order to understand the TV series a bit better it is recommended to have seen the movie or read the manga (you would already know the characters and technological background), but you will probably manage anyway if you just dive straight in (you’ll find some helpful information, right after the jump). The series was very well received with critics’ rating of 8.5 on IMDb and of 67% / 100% on Rotten Tomatoes. Enjoy !

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

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