Archive for Quentin Tarantino

a journal of the plague year² [reopenings]

Posted in Books, Kids, pictures, Travel, University life, Wines with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 30, 2021 by xi'an

Returned to some face-to-face teaching at Université Paris Dauphine for the new semester. With the students having to be frequently reminded of keeping face masks on (yes, the nose is part of the face and need be covered!). I do not understand why the COVID pass did not apply to universities as well. I also continued an on-line undergrad lecture in mathematical statistics, as I found that the amount of information provided to students this way was superior to black-board teaching. (I actually gave some of these lectures in a uni amphitheatre, to leave the students free to chose, but less than 20% showed up.)

Read the very last volume of the Witcher. With a sense of relief that it was over, even though the plot and the writing were altogether pleasant… And Naomi Novik’s Uprooted, with a permanent feeling of amazement at this novel been praised or awarded anything. Once more, I had missed that it was a YA [but not too young!] novel. Still, so many things go wrong, from the overly obtuse main character to the transparent plot, the highly questionable romantic affair between the 100⁺ year old wizard and the 17 year old teenager he more than less ravished from friends and family, to the poor construct of the magic system, and to the (spoiler alert!) rosy ending. As I read the book over two sleepless nights, not much time was lost. And it had some page-turning qualities. But I’d rather have slept better!

Watched Kate, thinking it was a Japanese film, but quickly found to my sorrow it was not. Not Japanese in the least, except for taking place in Tokyo and involving cartoonesque yakuza. To quote the NYT, “as cheap as a whiff of a green tea and musk cologne called Tokyo wafting over a department store counter”. Simply terrible, even lacking the pretense of story distanciation found in Kill Bill… And then came by chance on Time and Tide, a 2000 Hong Kong film, a much better distanced action picture, with enough ellipses and plenty second-degree dialogues, some mixing Cantonese and Portuguese, plus highly original central male and female characters. I am wondering if the same could be filmed today, given the chokehold of the PCC on the Hong Kongese society and the growing censorship of films there.

Had a great month with our garden tomatoes, as we ate most of them. With a dry spell that stopped the spread of mildew and the aggression of slugs. And had a steady flow of strawberries, a second harvest that is not yet over. And more recently (late) figs, although I bring most of them to the department. The fig harvest seems to be less plentiful than last year…  The last and final product of the garden will be a collection of huge butternuts that spontaneously grew out of last year seeds.

a journal of the plague year [confined reviews]

Posted in Books, pictures, Travel, Wines with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 23, 2020 by xi'an

Watched TV series His Dark Materials produced for the BBC, which is much much better than the earlier film, as the actors are all fabulous—first and foremost Lyra, but also Ma Costa, the Gyptian Muter Courage—, the gypsy community is given a much stronger role, the characters are deep and complex, as eg Mrs and Mr Coulter, both ready to sacrifice kids for the greater “good” without appearing as absolute monsters! The special effects are a wee bit deficient as often with BBC productions but not enough to make a case. Although I sort of cringed each time a bear moved!

Read The Voyage of the Jerle Shannara trilogy by Terry Brooks, which I noticed standing on my son’s bookshelves. The original Shannara Trilogy was one of the very first fantasy books I read in English in my undergrad years (after Lord of the Rings of course and possibly The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant), which did not leave me with an everlasting feeling of superlative literature, to say the least. This avatar of the original Sword of Shannara trilogy did nothing to improve my feelings as the plot is lazy at best, with super-powered villains suddenly acting, last second deus ex machina rescues, endless internal debates, heavy hints at treacheries and double-treacheries, and, worst of all!, intrusion of 20th century technology, e.g., computers, AIs and robots, that the far future characters make sense of. Only suitable for a time of lockdown and even then… I should have left it on the bookshelf! Incidentally, one fight scene against a cyborg was highly reminiscent of the black knight scene in Holy Grail!

Watched by chance Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs. For the first time. And was totally un-impressed. Highly pretentious construction falling flat from being a modern reconstruction of antique dramas, endless dialogues (which could have been cut by half if removing all the occurrences of fucking from them), boring and threadbare story, and artificial characters that essentially make no sense. I cannot fathom why this film is so highly ranked..! (And even less to witness it being compared with Rashomon!)

Read [part] of Jin Yong’s Legends of the Condor Heroes (射鵰英雄傳) but, lockdown or not, I simply could not finish it. Despite its fantasy approach to Chinese martial arts, which I usually enjoy (at least in planes!), and some proximity with the Judge Dee stories by van Gulik, the story felt very contrived and somewhat out of reach, plus [not yet] Genghis Khan being depicted in a fairly positive way [at least in the part I read]. Too irrealist for my reading buds, I presume…

Cooked plenty of new dishes, thanks to the delivery of weekly farmer boxes, from radish stems & buckwheat pancakes to celery roots purées, to fregola sarda (leftovers from ISBA 2016!) con acciughe, to chard gratins, to pea pod and cauliflower core soups, to flaxseed bread and buckwheat naans (as we ran out of wheat flour). We also managed to use and survive most of the out-of-date cans and bags that had stood forgotten in the back of our cupboard… Not visiting a supermarket for two months was actually most pleasant, living very nicely from the above mentioned farmer boxes and the occasional delivery from a cheesemonger, and supplementing weekly visits to the baker with attempts at home made bread.

Read Matha Well’s Murderbot diaries, my first read on a Kindle!, for free courtesy of Tor. Starting with All Systems Red, which won the 2017 Nebula Award for Best Novella, the 2018 Hugo Award for Best Novella, the 2018 Locus Award, and the American Library Association‘s Alex Award. Very good if somewhat classical (Blade Runner anyone?!) trope of the rogue robot turned autonomous and human, so human! This is a sequence of novellas which means a fast-paced story and an efficient style. (Including a less exciting third novella, due to a lazy scenario.) More mind-candy à la John Scalzi than profound literature but quite enjoyable for a quick read during lunch or tea break! But which induced me to buy the first and incoming novel in the series,  Network Effect. (To be commented in a subsequent entry…)

Leading to (re)read the Interdependency trilogy by John Scalzi, the last volume in the series being just out. Very lazy buildup, in the traditional spirit of a few people driving the future of the entire Universe, with unlimited resources and unrestricted hacking abilities, but with funny dialogues, as usual with Scalzi. In this binge (re)read, I actually realised the frustrating intricacies of Kindle ordering as (i) I could not use my amazon.com account and hence none of my associate gains (ii) I could not merge several amazon.fr accounts and (iii) prices varied a lot between using directly the Kindle and ordering from amazon.fr…

And even growing some salads and radishes over the two months and eating them before the end of the lockdown, as the weather in Paris was quite mild most of the time. Although it meant a daily-basis fight with slugs. The arugula did not resist that well, though…

Reading Tade Thompson’s Rosewater for more than a month, having trouble keeping my concentration as the story goes in loops and not a particularly well settled plot. With a central idea of an alien race taking over humanity a few cells at a time. Which reminded me of Greg Bear’s Blood Music I read during the first year of my PhD. The book has some appeal, from being located in Nigeria 30 years from now to America having completely vanished from the map after Trump pulled the ultimate drawbridge. It won the 2019 Arthur Clarke Award after all! But I found it too hard to complete to even consider embarking upon the next two volumes on the trilogy…

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