Archive for BD

a journal of the plague, sword, and famine year [with avocados]

Posted in Books, Kids, pictures, Travel with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 28, 2023 by xi'an

Read two books by Alix E. Harrow, A Spindle Splintered and A Mirror Mended, which are modern takes on Sleeping Beauty and Snow White. Rather hilarious for their tone and dry humour, if rather YAs… And Undercover, a novella by Tasmyn Muir. Rather well-build steampunk around a moving city and… zombies. Plus a new volume of Blake and Mortimer, a gift from my son, which is a come-back to more standard scenarios in the series, set in the 1950’s between Berlin and the USSR. Hence much enjoyable. Not at all like These Violent Delights, by Chloe Gong, which I could not complete reading. I bought this book last Fall in Brussels‘ English bookstore, in the horror section shelf!, attracted by the prospect of a gang war in 1926 Shanghai. But the story is terrible, the style appalling, and the characters laughable, the proclaimed connection with Romeo and Juliet making little sense…

Made heaps of guacamole from the 2kg of local avocados we brought back from Martinique. Still unclear about cooking with the accompanying fresh tamarind box. Ice cream, as the flavour on sale at the Fort-de-France airport?! If not tamarind, we had a great (or slow) time eating our way through Martinique, incl. the highly original Habitation Céron at the Northern tip of the island and its most unusual mix of flavours.

Watched The Pale Blue Eye, by Scott Cooper, which stemmed from the appealing concept of involving the then-West-Point-Cadet Edgar Allan Poe in a crime inquiry, but flopped rather miserably with unbearably slow dialogues, a ludicrous incursion of dark magic, and a terrible ending. And both Knives Out, Glass Onion (#2) being much better in my opinion. Craig’s acting is superb (with his Southern accent), the scenario twists most enjoyable, if far from realistic, and the satire of tech billionaires a balm. The earlier Knives Out is too cluedo-y, with the final twist revealed way too early, and too much sympathy for one character. (But having Jamie Lee Curtis acting as a redeeming feature!) I also finished All quiet on the Western Front, which somehow disappointed me, maybe because E.M. Remarque’s book is one of my favourites. And I could not entirely recover the friendship bond between the troopers that was central to the story, presumably due to lengthy gory scenes or the accumulation of woes in the final hours before Armistice. The last third of the film stalls, somehow bogged into the prospect of the coming disaster as the troopers are in the hellish landscape of the front lines. The heavily stressed opposition between the muck of the trenches and the refinery of the Compiègne wagons (despite the stale croissants!) was quite unecessary, as Remarque’s point was to stay away from the higher spheres (as opposed to his later books, like Drei Kameraden). [The Guardian of 13 Feb features a highly interesting interview of Lesley Paterson,  the Scott screenwriter of the film who not only spent 16 years making All Quiet &tc., but also financed it through triathlon winnings!]

a journal of the plague, sword, and famine year

Posted in Books, Kids, Mountains, pictures, Running, Travel, University life with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 11, 2023 by xi'an

Read over the last week of 2022 and in the plane to India, three books by Katherine Addison, The Goblin Emperor and both volumes of The Cemeteries of Amalo. While the steampunk side is very light, the universe is rather well-conceived and the stories compelling, esp. the duology that follows a priest able to connect with recently deceased people, towards seeking murderers or scone recipes. Too much introspection and self-pity, too many descriptions of itineraries in an imaginary city, unnecessarily complicated names, but pleasant nonetheless, with a fascination with (imaginary) teas and tea-houses. I also read All the Horses of Iceland, which turned out to be an historical novel on an early Icelander’s trip to Mongolia and his bringing home the ancestors of the famed horses of Iceland. Very well-written and full of historical tidbits.

While visiting Ivan Vautier’s restaurant in Caen with a scallop menu was a continuation of a family (almost) tradition, I cooked very little over the period except for making my own garam masala from spices I bought in India. Put to use in weekly fish curries. I also tried to bake dosa (ದೋಸೆ), this very thin rice-flour crêpe ubiquitous in South India, but it ended up closer to a galette!

Watched most of The Good Detective, a rather conventional Korean TV series (meaning the same police stations, endless shots of police stations from outside, post-work dinner parties, intricate blackmail situations, widespread corruption, massive conflicts of interest, as in series earlier watched). But enough originality to keep me interested. And second-watched Belfast in the plane to India, a black-and-white film by Kenneth Branagh, focusing on a Protestant family during “The Troubles” and sounding (!) rather engaging, if possibly soppy (as sound was off).

a journal of the plague, sword, and famine year

Posted in Books, Kids, Mountains, pictures, Running, Travel, University life with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 9, 2022 by xi'an

Read two successive books about seeking lost sisters, The Last House on Needless Street and Second Sister, after finishing the third book in a row involving a dead god, aptly named Three parts dead. This third one was rather enjoyable, thanks to the world construction, except for a blah ending. The first one, by Catriona Ward, is perplexing, complex and frankly a bit stretched in its gradual exposition of a multiple personality (disorder) patient. The “horror” side never really set for me, which is fine as it never does. Furthermore, this is the very first book I ever read where I saw a few words (correctly) written in Breton, as well as a thread with the Breton myth of ar Ankou, the local Death personification. Kudos for that! The second one, a physical book that I picked rather instinctively / hurriedly in a Barnes & Noble in Philadelphia is a thriller set in Hong Kong. Despite a bit too much of infodump on internet (in)security and hacking, and some caricaturesque sides, incl. the final coup de théâtre!, I enjoyed it as a page-turner. (But I now wonder if I am not getting prejudiced against Kindle books..!) Except for the anti-protest paragraph. Also read a nice BD, Les Animaux Dénaturés, borrowed from Andrew, which is an adaptation the 1952 book by Vercors, that I saw eons ago as a theatre play. The interrogation on what constitutes humanity (vs. simianity) is the driving force of the story, but it is somewhat marred by the killing of a newborn child that seems to negate the whole fight of the main characters.

Thanks to a short (train) visit to Coventry, I stayed overnight in the center of the city and enjoyed a fabulous dinner with friends at Jinseon Korean BBQ Restaurant, recently reviewed by Jay Rayner in The Guardian. Marinated thin slices of beef, pork, and lamb almost immediately cooked on the white hot (ring) coals, along rice and plenty of kimchi and hot sauce. And a sip of soju. Not an everyday fare, for sure, but quite delightful (and even more as my single true meal over two days!)

Watched a fraction of Swedish Black Crab, with Naomi Rapace playing the central character, but despite potential connections with the current survival war of Ukraine against the Russian terror, I quickly lost interest in the very shallow plot and in the accumulation of unrealistic scenes and heavily programmed eliminations of the characters (sorry for the spoiler!). For one thing, expert skaters skating 100km should not take days to cover the distance. For another, a military commando operating in the far North should wear appropriate clothes, not a sweater and a loose scarf!  Luckily enough, I have had no screen nearby [me] to distract me on my round trip flight to NYC from reviewing Biometrika submissions. (The flight back to Paris amazingly took less than 6 hours, thanks to extremely strong tail winds.)

a journal of the plague year³ [lazy we]

Posted in Books, Kids, pictures, Travel, University life, Wines with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 12, 2022 by xi'an

Had the opportunity [Xmas gift!] to visit the Botticelli exhibit at the Musée Jacquemart-André in Paris. Besides the sheer beauty of the paintings, while is timeless, I was also impressed by the activity of Botticelli as an entrepreneur and designer, declining his signature on different media and delegating part of the realisation to employees. Read the beginning of the third volume of Raven’s mark, Crowfall, but could not complete the book as the story was terrible and the main character mostly disintegrated (both literally and scenario-wise). Too bad that an initially great if grim universe construction could not keep up till the end. (Involving deities is always risky in this branch of the literature!) Also read another BD taking place near Cayenne and other places we visited, if in the 18th Century.

Watched over a lazy weekend two several admittedly terrible movies whose only appeal was watching in the vernarcular, Major Grom: Plague Doctor, and Minnal Murali. Also was rather disappointed by Don’t look up, because I found the satire too heavy-handed. And hence failing to engage readers about the sloth pace of governments and influencers to face the climate crisis, favouring futile or immediate concerns (as shown by French gilets jaunes putting la fin du mois above la fin du monde, or UK media cycling on BoJo’s partygate when Russia is about to invade Ukraine!). I also presumably missed most of the US-centric undercurrents.

Jean-Claude Mézières (1938-2022)

Posted in Books, Kids, pictures, Travel with tags , , , , , , , , , on January 30, 2022 by xi'an

%d bloggers like this: