Image du mer-fleuri [002.020.183]

alius arcanum planta

[ iPhone 8+ / iPhone 11 Pro, Parc Frédéric-Back, 2019/07/12 & 2020/07/01]

Bon, encore une autre de ces plantes mystérieuses que je n’arrive pas à identifier malgré avoir passé tout l’après-midi à feuilleter mes nombreuses références botaniques. S.V.P., quelqu’un a une idée de ce que cela pourrait être ? Merci !

Well, yet another of these mysterious plants that I cannot identify despite having spent the whole afternoon leafing through my many botanical references. Anyone have any idea what it could be? Thanks !

MISE À JOUR (2020/07/02): Après avoir vérifié plusieurs suggestions (Lavande, Lupin et Liatris spicata) qui offraient quelques ressemblance mais ne correspondaient pas vraiment à la plante mystérieuse, j’ai continué mes recherche sur internet (près de cinq heures au total!) et j’ai finalement trouvé! Il s’agit d’une Dalea purpurea (dalée violette / purple prairie clover), une espèce de légumineuse (comme les pois et les fèves) qui appartient au genre Dalea, à la famille des Fabaceae, et à l’ordre des Fabales. (Sources: Google)

UPDATE (2020/07/02): After checking several suggestions (Lavender, Lupine and Liatris spicata) which offered some resemblance but did not really correspond to the mysterious plant, I continued my research on the internet (almost five hours in total!) And I finally found ! It is a Dalea purpurea (dalée violette / purple prairie clover), a species of Leguminosae (the pea or bean family) which belongs to the genus Dalea, to the family of Fabaceae, and to the order of Fabales. (Sources: Google)

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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Pictorial chronicle [002.020.144]

Happy birthday to moi


[iPhone 11 Pro, Samsung Q60T, 2002/05/23 ]

This year I gave myself a new TV for my anniversary. With the confinement I was watching more TV so I decided I was deserving an upgrade (my old Sony Bravia 40 in. is still in working condition but it is over ten years old!). I was looking for a recent model of smart 4K TV (UHD HDR LED) 50 or 55 in., with three HDMI input, compatible with Airplay 2 and under $800. The airplay requirement was leaving only four choices: LG (which I don’t like and it would be weird to have a TV of the same brand than my refrigerator), Samsung, Sony (too expensive) and Vizio (not carried by many stores).

I chose the Samsung TU8000 50″ and ordered it from Centre Hi Fi since it was in stock, with reasonable warranty and shipping cost (and they were promising quick delivery). Unfortunately, the salesman called me to tell it was back-order and that it would take several weeks to get it. I was pissed so he offered me instead a Samsung QLED Q60T at a very advantageous price (less than $100 extra). I got it a few days later, just in time for my birthday.

Now I am nearly sixty year-old and quite exhausted, having done a lot of yard and garden work (rising the concrete slabs in the shed to prevent water accumulation and planting an apple tree to replace the white ash that we had to cut down last fall), so I just want to sit down and rest — maybe read a book, write a little about it and watch something on my brand new 4K TV. With all this work I have read and wrote much less than I wanted.

However, the peaceful time I experienced this last two months is coming to an end. I won’t have much time left to do yard work, read or write anymore as I have been recalled to work. I’ll be working outside (for a change!) right in the middle of an heat-wave (one of the earliest the region has ever had)! And then back to the library and all those marvellous books. But I suspect that it will never be the same…

By the way, there are only 2555 days left before my real retirement !

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Status report (mid-May)


The life in the time of the coronavirus continues… 

This is my fourth status report since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic (the other three were in March, mid-April and the end of April). We have now been in confinement for eight weeks (or fifty-six days).

I have not read or written much in the last couple of weeks. Maybe because I was getting tired of my routine. Also, since I keep myself busy during the day, I read mostly at night. And for now I am still stuck reading the epistolary travelog of Isabella Bird in Japan which is a little laborious to read (lots of descriptions). As I keep falling asleep, I read barely a dozen pages every night, therefore it is a long enterprise. I want to start reading something else during the day (some manga or comics because it is “May, the comics’ month”) but there’s so much work around the house (gardening, painting, doing laundry, shopping for groceries, etc.) and other distractions (shopping online for a new TV, ordering gardening supplies, watching or reading news) that I never get to it. I also undertook tasks that were rather time consuming: editing a video interview with an author, updating the blog indexes and finally putting together the 2019 “notable news”.

Unfortunately, this joyous preview of retirement is coming to an end and I will soon have much less time to read or write. I have been recalled to work… at the community gardens! I chose to work in a library to stay involved with culture and, obviously, there nothing more cultural than to oversee the operations in one of the borough’s community gardens. Considering that we are in one of the boroughs with the worse coronavirus infection rate, within the worse city and the country’s worse province, I was quite reticent to expose myself to possible contamination by going back to work, particularly for a job that I didn’t choose. However, I didn’t have much choice (apparently they don’t give a damn if I bring the virus home and cause the death of my immunosuppressed sibling). To minimize the risk, I opted to work in the closest community garden, avoiding public transportation. And I’ll be very careful in protecting myself. Working outdoor, at walking distance, cannot be so bad (unless the weather doesn’t cooperate)…

I conclude with a list of posts where you will find links and suggestions to fill your confinement and entertain yourselves:

Take care of yourselves and stay safe !

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Status report (mid-April)


The life in the time of the coronavirus continues… Not much have changed since my first status report at the end of March (I can’t believe it was just two weeks ago!). Since then I kept busy by reading, watching TV and writing on this blog. I wrote a few book comments (Félin pour l’autre vol. 1, Miss Hokusai 2, The Walking Dead vol. 25, The Walking Dead vol. 26, The empire of corpses vol. 1) and some movie comments (Cézanne et moi, Alpha, The chaperone, Crazy Rich Asians, Monsieur Ibrahim et les fleurs du Coran). I also commented on some anime (The garden of words, The empire of corpses), noted a few noteworthy news (Anime & manga news, 43th Japan Academy Prize), talked about Spring (Expression of hope, Un quartier fleuri, Ménage du printemps?) and shared some poetry.

We have been under confinement for a month now. After a while just reading and writing, or watching a little TV and taking a stroll, gets boring. So I change my routine a little. I wrote less and worked in the garden more (cleaning the backyard, preparing the flower/vegetable beds, chipping piece by piece the stubborn tree stump). I also undertook a new project: changing the toilet bowl and sink in the basement washroom. It’s more complicated than I thought (nothing is standard in this damn old house) but it’s getting there. After that I’ll change the sink in the toilet of the first floor… There are plenty of stuff to do to spend time.

I try to avoid the news. It’s too depressing. I think we are dealing with the crisis well, here. However, the U.S. are a real train wreak. That’s what you get when your leader is a moron. Pity. The recovery will be long but we’ll get there.

Stay safe.

Update (04/17): I was plagued for two months and half by a kidney stone. It was quite painful from time to time and was messing with my whole system. It finally passed. Hurray! 

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Image du mer-fleuri [002.020.099]

Un quartier fleuri

[ iPhone 11 Pro, VSPE, 2020/04/08 ]

En se promenant dans la quartier cet après-midi, nous avons constaté qu’en plusieurs endroits des fleurs commencent à percer et à fleurir, mettant un peu de couleurs dans ce printemps triste et sombre… Nous avons ainsi pu observer des violettes (viola), des crocus (crocus en anglais aussi), des jacinthes (Hyacinth) and une jonquille (daffodil). De quoi réchauffer le coeur !

Notre promenade (tout en gardant nos distances) s’est poursuivie dans la parc, où nous avons pu observer encore un couple d’outardes (Bernaches / Branta canadensis / Canada goose) et même des mésanges (poecile atricapillus / Black-capped chickadee)…

[ Translate ]

Status report (March)


The life in the time of the coronavirus continues… I’ve now been in self-isolation for over a week (actually for about ten days) and I am doing well. There are no signs of any symptoms so far and I am in good shape (physically and mentally) — although I still suffers from kidney stones from time to time. I try to stay fit by doing at least an hour of walking (if possible reaching ten thousand steps) and thirty minutes of cardio (by shovelling the backyard or sweeping the driveway) every day — while keeping my distance from people which is really not a problem for me. Unfortunately we had a couple of days of rain and I couldn’t reach my goals during that time. 

I also stay fit mentally by keeping busy with my blog and doing stuff around the house. First, all this reading is a great help in lowering my tsundoku pile. Second, since I am theoretically still working for the library, I try to do some reference work by writing as much reading suggestions and comments as possible. I have everything I need here to keep busy.

The moral is good — despite spending lots of time watching the news, both local and American. I really don’t mind the isolation. Now-a-day — with tons of books & Dvds, the television and the internet to make the mind travel — can we really be isolated anymore? In a way, the only apprehension is about going back to work and ending this very productive streak. However, the way things are going, I don’t think I have to worry about that for a while…

At first I was hoping to read a book and watch a movie every day, but all the walking and doing chores around the house take some time. I have not written as much as I would have liked. So far, I wrote a list of thing to do to keep busy during the isolation, my usual “Natural Friday” entries (about the dodo and the megaladapis), a comment about the second volume of Histoire en manga, a suggestion list for long series of manga in French, and a series of articles about Ghost in the shell Stand Alone Complex (manga, anime TV series, 2nd Gig, Official Log book 1, and movie) as well as the original manga. More (so much more) is in the works.

In the meantime, things are not doing so well around the world. We seem to cope well here in Quebec, but the situation looks dire in Europe and, particularly, in the U.S.. Here are some links to keep yourself informed:

Please, stay put and safe — and keep reading.

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Life at the time of the Corona

Or what to do when you’re stuck at home because of the COVID-19 social distancing mesures. 

There is not much we can do besides sleeping, taking walks in the park (while keeping our distance from other people), reading books, watching TV series or movies, or using the internet to virtually travel elsewhere. We took a little time to gather for you a few suggestions of places where you can find pleasurable distractions. Enjoy !


All libraries are closed but — if you don’t already have a good book collection at home or a nearby book store — you can always rely on digital books. Beside the obvious commercial options (Amazon, Audible, Barnes & Noble, Kobo), here are a few suggestions to find free digital books:

More precisely, if you want to read free manga online (see also a list on epubor), here a few suggestions:

Movies & music

There are plenty of free music streaming sites on the internet (Spotify, Pandora, Google Play, iHeartRadio, etc.) but personally I use mainly Internet Radio, Stingray, and TuneIn. 

However, beyond the commercial streaming sites (Amazon Prime Video, AppleTV+, Disney+, Hulu, Netflix, etc.), the free movies streaming sites are less well-known. Here are a few suggestions:

Also, if you are interesting in Japan and Japanese culture, I suggest you stream shows from NHK World.

Virtual visits

You can find a lot of places to visit virtually on Google: Art & Culture, but here are a few suggestions:




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Entrevue capsule: Jonathan Reynolds


Voici la seconde des trois entrevues-capsules que j’ai réalisé avec des auteurs de SFFQ au Salon du Livre de Montréal en novembre 2019. 

Les entrevues-capsules sont de mini-entrevues avec des auteurs (surtout de science-fiction) de chez nous. Le principe de ces entrevue est de s’en tenir à deux ou trois questions de base (qui êtes-vous, que faites-vous, etc.) et que l’entrevue ne dure pas plus que deux à cinq minutes. Cela doit être compacte et bien se digérer!

Jonathan Reynolds est un prolifique jeune auteur qui se spécialise surtout dans la littérature d’horreur québécoise. Il a co-fondé la maison d’édition Les Six Brumes en 2001, a publié de nombreux livres (particulièrement aux Éditions Z’ailées) et est coordonateur de la revue Solaris depuis le numéro 195 en 2015 (j’ai déjà commenté par le passé sur ce magazine fondamental de la SFFQ). Les Éditions Alire publierons son roman fantastique Abîmes au printemps 2020. Vous pouvez en apprendre plus sur lui en consultant son blogue ou son site d’auteur

( video aussi disponible sur Vimeo )

Entrevues à venir: avec Yves Meynard (Chrysanthe 2. Le Prince rebelle).

Autres entrevues-capsules disponibles: Catherine Sylvestre/Francine Pelletier et Sébastien Chartrand.

[ Translate ]


Let me out of here!

I’m crying because I’m alone
My heart is cast of stone
If I feel other lights in the Realm
It seems that I can’t reach them

Let me out of here!

Everything is cold and mute
I’m a prisoner in a jail of flesh
I will escape, I’m resolute
I will be the new Gilgamesh

Let me out of here!

I knocking my bloody fist
Against the wall of my humanity
I want to go, cease to exist
Escape from all this insanity

Let me out of here!

As ever nothing is totally free
Sometime the price of freedom
Is another kind of captivity
So who want of this kingdom?

Let me out of here!

No, the universe is not perpetual partying
But a gaping hole where we keep falling
Fear the day when we’ll hit the ground
‘Cause the Styx’ freezin’ water will touch our crowns

Let me out of here!

Yes, I go around alone in society
‘Cause I hate the disembodied presence
Of this awkward and unsightly humanity
Only in suffering there’s less repugnance

Obsecro, libera me!


Note: This poem doesn’t respect any traditional form as it is made of six quatrains (stanza of four lines) with loose or poor rhymes (predominantly crossed, ABAB). As usual for me, it is heterometric (the metrical length varying from six to twelve syllables with an average of nine).

It explains the feeling we can find in the expression “please stop the planet ‘cause I want to get off” ! I felt cramped and trapped in this physical form and I wanted to be more (by killing myself?) or I felt dead and I wanted to really live? I felt lonely and disappointed in my fellow humans… 

I was not satisfied with this poem and I reworked it several time, adding a few more stanza. The last two were added in French and it felt awkward to have a bilingual poem, so (luckily) I succeeded to translate them while somehow preserving the rhyming (although it still sounds better in French, see bellow). I also added the last line in latin (please, free me!). [2020/01/08]

[ Traduire ]


Non, l’univers n’est pas une perpétuelle fête
Mais un trou béant où nous tombons sans cesse
Craignez le jour où nous toucherons le fond
Car alors l’eau glacée du Styx touchera nos têtes

Laissez-moi sortir d’ici!

Oui, Je vais seul de par le monde
Car je hais la compagnie désincarnée
De cette disgracieuse humanité
Et seul, la souffrance est moins immonde

Laissez-moi sortir d’ici!