Archive for Korea

a journal of the plague and pestilence year [back to 1980]

Posted in Books, Kids, Mountains, pictures, Travel, University life with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 21, 2022 by xi'an

Read Havoc in its third year, best surprise of the [book] year so far! I picked this book from the exchange box in Warwick, presumably before COVID-19, but only started reading it on my last trip. While it starts as a murder mystery set during the reign of King Charles I, in an unspecified Northern city in England, it quickly turns into a more sinister tale of fanaticism and religious hate, as Puritanism engulfs the country, soon to lead to Charles I’s execution… The story is centred around the coroner in charge of the murder inquiry, mostly if vainly trying to escape taking side in the growing divide between fanatics and their victims, a most human figure with doubts and defects hindering his decisions. When this fails, the story becomes more allegorical and less realistic, the coroner turning into a Christesque figure. This book reminded me of the fabulous Instance at the Fingerpost by Ian Pears, which takes place thirty years later in Cambridge.

Cooked cherries in clafoutis from our tree for a week, before birds cleaned it dry.

Watched Taxi Driver, (모범택시) a Korean TV series (inspired from the cartoon The Deluxe Taxi) that I found most disturbing in its ambiguity about vigilante justice, hence interesting to a point, and the surprising movie 26 years, also based on a graphic novel, as it is about children of victims of the1980 Gwangju massacre, who are seeking to assassinate the former and responsible Korean president Chun Doo-hwan. (Who actually died only last year.) The film is quite interesting for this historical foray in not such a distant past. (The massacre took part on the same year as Solidarność was created and repressed, which I remember much more clearly, I am afraid.) And for being produced by crowdfunding, as usual investors were afraid of the political contents. The last 12 minutes of the film actually list all 15,000⁺ donors! The scenario is imperfect, despite characters being well constructed, and the final, never-ending, scene is a drag. Since the former president was still alive 26 years later, the story was doomed from the start, unless falling into alternate reality as in Inglorious Basterds…

hometown cha cha math

Posted in Books, Kids, pictures with tags , , , , , on June 4, 2022 by xi'an

In the Korean and highly popular TV series Hometown cha-cha-cha, the main character Hong Du-sik is skilled in an unrealistic number of abilities, including maths. With a maths olympiad gold medal (which is plausible for a country that won 86 of these) and a CSTAT problem resolution during a lunch. Not making much sense from a screen shot… In that respect, the series is catering to gender stereotypes as the other main character Yoon Hye-jin is struggling with similar problems (while finishing dentistry school first). There is also a young kid excelling in maths, while the two young girls in the show are struggling with their studies.

a journal of the plague and pestilence [and war] year

Posted in Books, Kids, Mountains, pictures, Travel, University life with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 28, 2022 by xi'an

Received my first biking ticket ever, not for [cautiously!] Xing one of the 60⁺ red-lights on my bike route but for driving [most respectfully!] on the sidewalk in order to reach Dauphine as roads are currently under construction in the area, traffic is a mess, and bike lanes are closed. Had I realised this was at all possible (considering the absence of sanctions on reckless car and truck drivers!), I would have stopped before reaching the Paris traffic police which was already ticketing another cyclist.Read Upright Women Wanted [on Kindle, a courtesy gift from Tor] for just a few dozen pages and then almost gave up out of boredom! I found of limited literary or scenarist interest, despite its nominations to both Hugo and Locus Awards 2021, but finished it in the train to Roissy airport… I am still stuck (and much disappointed!) on the first pages of Susan Clarke’s Piranesi, as the story (?) takes place in an endless complex of empty rooms and the descriptions are endless. By comparison, the growing madness perspiring through the Gormenghast series is at least providing a leading line that makes it worth reading! Although it won the 2021 Women’s Prize for Fiction, and was praised everywhere and nominated for many prizes, imho, Piranesi stands as far as possible from Clarke’s earlier masterpiece Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell… I do not think I will manage to ever finish this book!

Cooked a batch of kouign amann but failed to include enough butter! Still eatable. And made a rather successful attempt at tortillas, following a NYT recipe.

Watched Witch at Court (마녀의 법정), which proposes a [of course] highly unrealistic story of an evil policeman turned politician and eventually being faced with his crimes by the daughter of one of his early victims. As often in K drama, everyone is connected to the case, with prosecutors being relatives of victims or culprits (but not bothered by conflicts of interest), red herrings abounding, and trial outcomes being decided on the flimsiest proofs. Nonetheless, this is the one series I (fast-forward) watched that addressed the most frontally women exploitation and sexual crimes.

a journal of the plague and pestilence year

Posted in Books, Kids, Mountains, pictures, Travel, University life with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 5, 2022 by xi'an

Saw our fist Ukrainian applications for graduate studies at Dauphine, presumably numbers are going to rise in the coming weeks as the Russian aggression continues in the East and South of Ukraine…

Read The Unbroken by Cherae Clark, in part because it had been nominated for the 2022 Locus Award. The universe is vaguely inspired from the French colonisation of North Africa, with additional layers of magic and royals (the French occupation of Algeria actually started in 1830, during a monarchic intermede, but went full blast when the Republic resumed). And the central character is a colonial soldier, stolen from her parents at a young age and trained in the dominating kingdom, called Balladaire. (This sounds vaguely French if meaningless in the vernacular and there are a few French locations in the story. The suppression of religion in the empire could also be inspired from the French secular laws of the late 19th Century, even though it is unclear to me that secularism was at all enforced in North Africa, witness the existence of muslim courts, as most inhabitants were not French citizens.) While this could have been a great setting, the story falls flat (and even one-dimensional) as it is driven by a tiny number of characters that sadly lack in depth. To the extent of feeling like a school-yard conflict.

Cooked mostly curried butternut soups over the past month! And just restarted making radish stem pancakes as radishes are back on market stalls, often at a bargain.  Plus made an attempt at panak paneer and aloo gobi, just missing the paneer (I did not have time to make) and using mascarpone instead!

Watched Partners for Justice (검법남녀) a sort of Korean NCIS, between judicial prosecution and legal medicine, pleasant enough if burdened by too many coincidences and plenty of red herrings. Especially the second season, with darker sides of corruption, murder, and child abuse. A shocking moment was when the young (and central) prosecutor asks for death penalty during a trial, as I had not realised capital punishment was still a possibility in Korea (although not implemented since 1997). There was also an episode with a schizophrenic suspect where the scenaric treatment of his condition was abyssal… Hopefully not reflecting on the societal perception.

a journal of the plague and pestilence year [stop the war!]

Posted in Books, Kids, Mountains, pictures, Travel, University life with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 31, 2022 by xi'an

Still standing, impotent, facing Ukrainian cities shelled by Russian bombs…

Read the third & last volume of Arnaldur Indriðason‘s Inspector Konrad new trilogy, Tregasteinn, with no further enthusiasm… There are even more repetitions than in the previous volumes, including recaps from these previous volumes. If this is a literary style, it should be discontinued! If the author thinks the reader has trouble remembering what he wrote a few pages earlier, he should think again. If the author himself cannot remember what he wrote, this is worrying..! Also read Spinning silver by Naomi Novak, a mix of Eastern Europe tales, like Rumpelstiltskin, and of centuries of anti-Semitic persecutions, from a feminist viewpoint where all leading characters are women. While the book has been praised and nominated for the Nebula and the Hugo awards, and won the Locus award,I found it hard to keep up with the rather thin story and fell asleep while the characters were taking yet another sleigh among a fantasy version of Russia or Ukraine… Speaking of whi(t)ch(es):


Watched Juvenile Justice, a 2022 very dark and graphic Korean series on judges in charge of juvenile delinquents. The story is a wee bit thin and the many connections between the characters a cheap trick, with long static shots of the main judge lost in her thoughts and endless passages about her annotating mountains of reports on the case, but the resulting zoom on the judicial procedure and on the harsh penal system make it worth watching.

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