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a journal of the plague, sword, and famine year [no end on sight]

Posted in Books, Kids, pictures, Statistics, Travel, University life with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 12, 2023 by xi'an

Read the second volume of The Craft Sequence, Two Serpents Rise, by Max Gladstone,  with great difficulties as I found the story (again) poorly constructed, despite some characters being mostly well-designed (no connection with volume 1, except for taking place in the same universe, if at another time period). Mixing steampunk and hard fantasy involving gods does not work well in general and particularly there…. Following a New York Tĩmes review of the sequel, I also went very quickly through the Unwanted Dead, a first volume by Chris Lloyd, HWA Gold Crown for Best Historical Fiction winner for 2021, following a (s)hell-shocked PTSD-ed Paris police detective during World War II, when German troops arrive in the city. Not very realistic imho, as the nosy inspector happens to cross paths with Hitler during his very brief and unique visit to Paris as well as in Compiègne, and with a disappointing resolution of the wagon murders, but well-documented and with no obvious anachronism (except the unlikely presence of bathrooms in all apartments!, and the detective drinking whisky). (A wee nitpicking: Neuilly-sur-Seine (west of Paris) seemed to be confused with Neuilly-Plaisance (east of Paris), but the author acknowledged to me a general tendency to confuse east and west, just like I usually confuse right and left…) Overall, I found the Berlin Noir (Philip Kerr’s) novels more impressive and engaging!

Had a matcha flan in Paris, following a tip from Le Monde!, but was somewhat disappointed by its mild flavour, if comforted by the hojicha kokicha (made solely of tea stems) they served. And an excellent Filipino dinner in Kenilworth. And a yummy lamb Turkish Gözleme next to the ATI in London. While snacking the rest of week on Mysore dosas made on the street next to the Statistics Department at Warwick.

Watched (via a neighbour screen, on the flight to Martinique!) La Nuit du 12, a French thriller that got elected as Film of the Year (2022) by the Le Masque & La Plume (France Inter) audience, following a police investigation in the Maurienne valley after a particularly grisly murder of a young girl, one of the most fascinating aspects being that the crime remains unsolved despite the police efforts. In an impromptu home-made (!) Michelle Yeoh cycle, rewatched Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon after reading a particularly positive article in The Guardian. While the fighting scenes are definitely worth watching, esp. the trio fight on ice, the story remains rather lame. And Everything Everywhere All at Once, which I had also partly watched in the plane, but found highly unsatisfactory overall as lacking purpose, despite some great scenes between Michelle Yeoh and Jamie Lee Curtis ! Concurring with the strongly critical analyses in The New Yorker and the Guardian at the failure of the Daniels to find a purpose and a pace. (To quote from the latter, “these often impressively nutso formal backflips land in a position of pedestrian sentimentality, and then upbraid anyone resisting the viscous flood of sap for their cynicism.”) The scenes around the Everything Bagel are interminable…

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).

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