Archive for Netflix

a journal of the plague year³ [beginning of the end?]

Posted in Books, Kids, pictures, Travel, University life with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 29, 2022 by xi'an

Made my first trip to Warwick this year despite the travel restrictions imposed by the omnipresent Omicron version. My flights got repeatedly cancelled, meaning I had to fly through Schipol (thanks for the Gouda cumin cheese and stroopwafelen!) and leave at more-than-early hours (even by my standards!). But had more conversations than usual, plus delivered my lecture masked-face-to-masked-face to 19 Warwick students, the first time in 709 days!

Read [in French] the two BDs of Milo Manara on Michelangelo [Merisi or Amerighi da] Caravaggio, which was a Xmas gift!, with as always great in the large scale and character drawings, if not Caravaggio’s chiaroscuro, but less in the scenario, esp. the second part and even more esp. given the agitated life of the artist. And another BD taking place in Cayenne, in 1742, whose drawings also appear in local guides.

Watched 14 Peaks: Nothing is impossible on Netflix, following Nepalese mountaineer Nirmal Purja [of Everest jam fame!] and his team as they manage to climb all 14 eight thousander peaks over 6 months. Including Shishapangma in Tibet, with the added hardship to procure a climbing permit from Chinese authorities for that mountain. The documentary focuses a wee bit too much on Purja’s persona and not enough on the team of sherpas and on the climb itself. Except for the summitings there is very little about the technical difficulties of each summit and the hardships and failed attempts. For instance, the amazing feat of first installing fixed ropes for all 14 summits is only alluded to. Despite reservations about the use of supplementary oxygen (without which, as stressed by Messner, the attempt of climbing all 8000ers in one season would have proved truly impossible and suicidal) and heliporting from one base camp to another, the enormity of the achievement of this team of sherpas remains a monument in the climbing world. (Even only considering that Everest, Lhotse and Makalu were climbed in two days total!)

Hellbound [지옥]

Posted in Books, Kids with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on December 24, 2021 by xi'an

Xing glass bridges [or not]

Posted in Books, Kids, pictures, R, Statistics with tags , , , , , , , on November 10, 2021 by xi'an

A riddle from the Riddler surfing on Squid Games. Evaluating the number of survivors (out of 16 players) able to X the glass bridge, when said bridge is made of 18 consecutive steps, each involving a choice between a tempered and a non-tempered glass square. Stepping on a non-tempered square means death, while all following players are aware of the paths of the earlier ones. Each player thus moves at least one step further than the previous and unlucky player. The total number of steps used by the players is therefore a Negative Binomial Neg(16,½) variate truncated at 19 (if counting attempts rather than failures), with the probability of reaching 19 being .999. When counting the number of survivors, a direct simulation gives an estimate very close to 7:


but the expectation is not exactly 7! Indeed, this value is a sum of probabilities that the cumulated sums of Geometric variates are larger than 18, which has no closed form as far as I can see


but whose value is 7.000076. In the Korean TV series, there are only three survivors, which would have had a .048 probability of occurring. (Not accounting for the fact that one player was temporarily able to figure out which square was right and that two players fell through at the same time.)

Looking later at on-line discussions, I found that the question was quite popular, with a whole spectrum of answers… Including a wrong Binomial B(18, ½) modelling that does not account for the fact that all 16 (incredibly unlucky) players could have died before the last steps.

And reading the solution on The Riddler a week later, I was sorry to see this representation of the distribution of survivors, as if it was a continuous distribution!

squid games

Posted in Books, pictures with tags , , , , , , , , , , on October 30, 2021 by xi'an

Following my son’s prodding, I watched the Korean series Squid Games a few weeks ago, before it became a worldwide phenomenon, as illustrated by the French national public radio, France Inter, hosting a talk show with a philosopher and a psychiatrist on the layers of the game! And the French Ministry of Education warning primary and secondary school headmasters of the dangers of copycats in the playgrounds… My overall impression was one of originality with comparison with other K drama series I had watched, even though the realistic early scenes of a deeply indebted and failed father reminded me of several of them, not to mention the beginning of Parasite. The switch to the game playground was much less convincing, with the military organisation of the guards rather caricaturesque, growing worse with the appearance of the fromt row (?) evilmaster, and hitting ludicrous levels with the depraved male clients from all over the World. It seems to me that the series was trying to mix too many layers in its motivations, from the Korean debt culture, to organ trafficking, to keeping family structures, which made the result unconclusive and unsatisfactory. It sounded too artificial to be really dystopic. And knowing most of the characters were going to die (sorry for the spoiler!) did not help in relating to them. But overall I fail to see why this easy twist of children games is such a danger for humanity. Or carrying any deep message to the World. After all, The Most Dangerous Game did not change the course of history!

journal of the [second] plague year [away]

Posted in Books, Kids, Mountains, pictures, Travel, University life, Wines with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 12, 2021 by xi'an

Read Fred Vargas’s Seeking Whom He May Devour (L’Homme à l’envers), which I found on a bookshelf of our vacation rental in Annecy. And got more quickly bored by the story as it is plagued with the same defects as the ones I read before, from a definitive issue with Canadians (!), to an attempt to bring supernatural causes in the story and reveal them as fake by the end of the book, to a collection of implausible and caricaturesque characters surrounded by the usual backcountry morons that would rather fit a Paasilinna novel, and to the incomprehensible intuitions of Inspector Adamsberg. I also went through the sequel to Infomocracy, Null states, albeit this was a real chore as it lacked substance and novelty (the title by itself should have been a warning!).

Watched Night in Paradise (낙원의 밤), another Korean gangster movie, which seems to repeat the trope of bad-guy-on-the-run-meets-lost-girl found in my previously watched Korean Jo-Phil: The Dawning Rage, where the main character, a crooked police officer is radically impacted after failing to save a lost teenager.  (And also in the fascinating The Wild Goose Lake.) The current film is stronger however in creating the bond between the few-words gangster on the run and the reluctant guest Jae-yeon who is on a run of a different magnitude. While the battle scenes are still grand-guignolesque (if very violent) in a Kill Bill spirit, and the gang leaders always caricaturesque, the interplay between the main characters makes Night in Paradise a pretty good film (and explains why it got selected for the Venice Film Festival of 2020). Also went through the appalling Yamakasi by Luc Besson, a macho, demagogical, sexist, simplist, non-story…

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