Archive for South Korea

Hellbound [지옥]

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

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…

journal of the [second] plague year [deconf’d]

Posted in Books, Kids, Mountains, pictures, Travel, University life, Wines with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 15, 2021 by xi'an

Read the third volume of Parker’s Engineer Trilogy, The Escapement. Which I found very slow-paced, with loads of mechanistic vocabulary I did not know, and it took me a while to read the book! Still, some sections are definitely worth reading, like the one on Necessary Evil, seen as the tolerance zone between exactitude and error, from and engineer viewpoint… And the final chapters are truly terrific, very dark and pessimistic, keeping me awake till the wee hours. Even though all pieces of the machinery fit too well in the end! But I also reflected on the ambivalent role of the very few women in this third novel, dooming the entire country while remaining stuck in the lover-wife-mother triangle, with no engineering or military role…

“He didn’t for one moment doubt the accuracy of the tables, but how on earth did the book’s author know these things? It could only be that, at some time in the past, so long ago that nobody remembered them any more, there had been sieges of great cities; so frequent and so commonplace that scholarly investigators had been able to collate the data-troop numbers, casualty figures-and work out these ratios, qualified by variables, verified by controls (…) to be inferred from the statistical analyses in a manual of best city-killing practice. Extraordinary thought (…) suppose the book was the only residue left by the death of thousands of cities, each one of them as huge and arrogant in its day as the Perpetual Republic—the Eternal City of this, the Everlasting Kingdom of that, squashed down by time and oblivion into a set of mathematical constants for predicting the deaths of men in battle.”

I also read La Saga des Écrins, by François Labande, in the iconic Guérin series, about the Écrins range in the French Alps, where we spent a fortnight last summer, a rather classical if enjoyable story of the climbers making firsts on the peaks of this “wild” area of the Alps. (As an aside, François Labande started Mountain Wilderness France, whose goal is to keep mountains as a place of wilderness and to clean them from artificial infrastructures.) The cover includes a very nice drawing of La Meige by Jean-Marc Rochette. I also read another delightful short story by P. Djèlí Clark, The Angel of Khan el Khalili. Obviously set in the same fantasy steampunk Cairo of the early 1900’s.

Still turning the crank of the new past machine, I made bigoli, the Venetian equivalent of soba noodles, with both an anchovies sauce and a clam sauce as well (if not from the Laguna!), a rhubarb clafoutis (not yet from our garden), Lebanese humus (without the skin!). Noticed a sharp rise in the price of BrewDog beers, thanks to the new taxes courtesy of Brexit! But still ordered a box of their Nanny State for the summer…

Watched the movie Jo-Phil: The Dawning Rage (!), which makes a great job of setting characters and installing a seedy atmosphere of violence and corruption but completely fails at delivering a convincing story, still gripping enough to watch till the end. And binge-watched a Korean TV series called Signal related to the stunning Memories of Murder (and a collection of real crimes in South Korea from the 1980’s to the last decade). While far from perfect, with a tendency to repeat some scenes twice, the usual theatrics of such series, and the paradoxes of temporal travel (!), the show is nonetheless one of the best Korean dramas I watched… Had  a quick look at the very Netflixy Shadow and Bones. To discover that the trilogy was merged with Six of Crows. Which is strange as the time lines completely differ. But logical if considering that Six of Crows is better written and paced than the earlier trilogy, albeit not outstanding. This is a 12⁺ YA read after all..!


my talk in Newcastle

Posted in Mountains, pictures, Running, Statistics, Travel, University life with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 13, 2020 by xi'an

I will be talking (or rather zooming) at the statistics seminar at the University of Newcastle this afternoon on the paper Component-wise approximate Bayesian computation via Gibbs-like steps that just got accepted by Biometrika (yay!). Sadly not been there for real, as I would have definitely enjoyed reuniting with friends and visiting again this multi-layered city after discovering it for the RSS meeting of 2013, which I attended along with Jim Hobert and where I re-discussed the re-Read DIC paper. Before traveling south to Warwick to start my new appointment there. (I started with a picture of Seoul taken from the slopes of Gwanaksan about a year ago as a reminder of how much had happened or failed to happen over the past year…Writing 2019 as the year was unintentional but reflected as well on the distortion of time induced by the lockdowns!)

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