Porquerolles Day 6

July 19, 2015

The last day of the conference. Before 11 a.m. the lectures were all over. I wasn’t sure if I paid attention to them well. During the coffee break, I found out everybody I know was to leave the island immediately except for Ernst Jan. We went to see them off at the port in the middle of the day under the blazing hot sun. It was that laid-back kind of atmosphere that made my eyes half closed. All of a sudden, Ougustine came to hug us and went to join the line. Then I noticed the line moving and that signified the departure of my friends. I only managed to locate Elektra who called out to me, and Julie beside her. We hugged and kissed and bid farewell. It was so brief and there wasn’t any chance to say goodbye to anyone else that I hung out with. The next moment the port was empty, leaving me a bit bewildered- a feeling I had long time ago. I always find it hard to digest that friends who created and shared fond memories can just disappear from my life this easily. But I also realize for truly sociable people, it happens all the time and they don’t lament it.

Two hours later, Ernst Jan and I were sitting at Le Pelagos. After the Delft native introduced me to their rowing culture and their enormous civil engineering revolving around dikes, somehow we came to the topic of Israel’s conflict. I looked up at him when he used the word “aggression”, albeit in a careful tone as if that would irritate me. I did find it offensive as Israel never acts unprovoked (okay, minus that 1956 war). So far I had seen myself as a little ambassador of Israel to the world, ready to discuss any complex problems in an educated manner. But before I could make a statement, he said in the gentlest possible way – in a mosquito’s volume – that Farah was a refugee from Lebanon. I gasped and my mind went blank. But that was not all. Her house was destroyed when Israel invaded southern Lebanon. The whole family fled to Egypt where soon afterwards there was unrest and again they had to run away. Eventually they settled down in France. And now Farah lives in Australia where she did her research. For years she could not speak to an Israeli. When she met Israelis she got so angry that she felt like punching them in the face. Only a year ago she gradually overcame this.

As the story unfolded, the images of my limited interaction with Farah came rushing through my mind. I always introduce myself first and foremost as a student from Israel because I never like to present myself as being from China. Like most, Farah verified that this most-definitely Chinese looking person is not Israeli. But why in the world did I add, in the face of a Lebanese, that I like to pretend to be Israeli, only falling short of declaring myself as a self-appointed Israeli ambassador? I somewhat perceived a tip of the iceberg of my silliness when she naturally pursued: “Why do you like to pretend to be Israeli?” There was apparent underlying meaning pointing to her distaste towards Israel. But I chose to ignore her being uncomfortable and clumsily shrugged it off by saying “It’s just fun.” Now that I came to know what kind of bitter personal history she had had, I totally regret my insensitivity. Perhaps later on we got along well: the next day she told me how her nervousness before the presentation could be manifested in her shivering voice; in the afternoons we went to beaches together; during a coffee break I offered my condolence for her stolen bikini; the last morning I think she came to sit right in front of me at breakfast. But all this is perhaps due to me not being Israeli, and/or her being more mature.

I remember that miss universe incidence where the Israeli girl still in the army service cheerfully insisted in taking a selfie together with the Lebanese girl. I sneered at the narrow-mindedness of the Lebanese when it was reported that Miss Lebanon was harshly criticized for that photo. Back then, it again proved for me that only the Arab states perceive us as the enemy, refuse to accept coexistence and perpetrate the century long hostility, whereas we don’t hate anyone and just want to make peace. So when we come across someone from the other side, we lightly go up to them believing we should make friends with them and they should NOT have a problem in making friends with us. But for them, they could not take it lightly. No matter how legitimate a reason Israel has for launching the offensive, what happened on the ground were massive destruction of civilian infrastructure and large-scale displacement of the Lebanese population. Displacement, what a neutral sounding word! But now I suddenly see the substance in this word by relating it to a real person, whom I spoke with and respect. Sometimes our simple-mindedness, innocence, mixed with insensitivity can become stupidity. How can I blame those people for not ready to befriend us?

Ernst Jan asked me to imagine myself being in Farah’s situation. But I could not. I was already saddened and I knew I could not take it to place myself in her shoes. That would be too agonizing. For all these years, I have refused to see the real pictures of any human misfortune, be it the suffering of Gazans, the stories of our fallen soldiers, or the Holocaust. Therefore I love to read history books written by serious scholars. Largely devoid of emotion, I can stand reading numbers, which I forget in a millisecond, or words like displacement, casualty and death. And after reading the books, I believe I know what happened without having to undergo mental depression. But real pictures are indeed there. Sometimes they are just suddenly before your eyes without warning. In the future, I will still hide behind the texts. But this shock lesson indeed significantly influenced me towards giving more weight to the ordinary civilian on the other side when thinking about the conflict. read more …


Porquerolles Day 8

July 8, 2015

It turns out that La Tour Fondue only serves for Porquerolles. In order to go to Port Cros, one has to be in Port d’Hyeres first. As expected, this one hour morning cruise was one of salty breeze, gentle sunlight. Leaning on the white rail, I sometimes gazed at the northeastern end of Porquerolles tilting at an unnoticeable pace, wondering what I had missed due to the previous day’s accident; sometimes I stared at the dancing white foams creating a glistening rainbow. There I gradually slipped into drowsiness, and Melville’s beautiful narration emerged in the center of my consciousness:

…lulled into such an opium-like listlessness of vacant, unconscious reverie is this absent-minded youth by the blending cadence of waves with thoughts, that at last he loses his identity; takes the mystic ocean at his feet for the visible image of that deep, blue, bottomless soul, pervading mankind and nature… In this enchanted mood, thy spirit ebbs away to whence it came; becomes diffused through time and space…

I came to Port Cros mainly because of the advertised underwater trail. To reach it from the port, one first needs to hike along the cliff edge of the island for 40 minutes. Even though the cliffs ran fast down to the water, the thick vegetation gave me a very comfortable sense of safety. It was such an enchanting trail because you never completely lose sight of the sea or the impenetrable forest. On the left, there was the sound of waves crushing against the rocks; on the right, there was the synchronized buzzing of cicadas celebrating the heat. I have freedom in my left hand and love in my right hand. Here there was such a variety of trees growing wildly into each other that made the shady trail barely passable. Upon arriving at the destination I was almost sorry.

But at the same moment, I suddenly realized I hadn’t rented any snorkeling equipment yet! That’s of course very typical of me. I ran up where I came from, saying Bonjure to all the people that just started flocking to the beach. Got the mask and tube for almost twice the cost of that on Porquerolles. On my way back to the beach, I chose a different route, steeper and more winding. And obviously I don’t mind getting acquainted with this scenic part of the island by walking it three times.

Now I finally got to what I came here for. Plage de la Palud was a fluffy beach again. The shallow water was muddy. The underwater trail turned out to be quite similar to Crique de la Galare. Yellow carpet, white ginkgo leaves and rolling grass thickets glittering with sunlight rays. There perhaps were a few more kinds of fish. I spent about 40 minutes around the area, looking for the true face of the murderous medusa to no avail. I would conclude that it wasn’t boring, but definitely not very breathtaking. It shouldn’t be surprising though. After all, these three islands are so close to each other. There’s no reason to expect anything different in the underwater landscape. So probably I didn’t miss much by dropping the second snorkeling destination the other day.

In the afterthought, what was really nice about Port Cros was definitely its intimate cliff trails. The island is an official national park (the smallest in France) where trees are specifically protected. I left la Palud and its screaming, laughing kids altogether. As soon as I ran into the bosom of greens, it was all tranquility and solitude again. Along the way, I discovered several more picturesque coves where no bathers visit.

When I got to the east most point, I already felt a bit tired and wanted to turn westward back to the village. But over there I lost the trail. I looked back and saw clearly the trail led me here. But before me was some extremely difficult rock climbing down to the water. And it wasn’t the right direction that Google Maps pointed for me. I stood there for a few minutes, not knowing what to do. Just then, though I was all alone all this time, just when I needed help, two human beings magically appeared before my eyes. They were coming from high up towards me. Then I realized I was supposed to climb up. I gladly greeted the two guys hiking the opposite way and said “Youu saved me!” “Why?” “Here I thought the trail led me to nowhere and I was stuck. Then I saw you guys coming down and now I know where to go.” They laughed and wished me good luck. read more …


Porquerolles Day 7

July 5, 2015

Late in the morning around 8 o’clock, I got to Porquerolles Plongee and literally had the store owner open up his shop by ringing him while standing right outside. Since it was already impossible to catch a boat bus to Port Cros at that hour, I decided to rent the snorkeling equipment here and explore eastern Porquerolles.

The first destination of the two is Crique de la Galere. It was a pleasant morning walk out in the country, uneventful compared to that adventurous first hike. The final descending “acces plage” part was a highlight because it’s narrower, shadier and thus more fun to maneuver among the tree branches and spider webs. The slope is much milder compared to that of Gorges du Loup, but therefore also stretches much longer. It’s the same type of rock found at Gorges du Loup, but here it’s covered with soil and trees, whose roots form natural stairs all the way down.

When I arrived at the opening (nobody was there except for many boats at the mouth of the bay), the sea didn’t surprise me with a breathtaking view. And I, unfazed by the sight of a freshly dead seagull, settled my bag beside it. When was the last time I snorkeled? It took me quite a while to relearn my snorkeling devices. When I finally plunged into the water, the underwater world welcomed me with blue and yellow. The shallow water bottom is mostly covered with yellow fluffy carpet and white rolled “gingko leaves”. Only small fish hung around here. Twenty meters away, I spotted my first pray with non-negligible size. It soon joined its friends and swam in a school of ten. They look tasty, by which I mean they are not dressed vividly. This is because the general environ is yellow and they can’t hide from the birds if they are not also yellowish. Yah, blame the vegetation here. So with my Eilat trip in mind, namely the most lushly corlorful coral reefs, clown fish and numerous other types of fish of distinct geometry, Crique de la Galere didn’t impress me too much. But of course, the clear blue water is always a soul-soothing substance.

Exercising the norm of the snorkeling game: fish chasing, before I noticed, I was already at a considerable depth, where the boats parked. The blue here got darker and more enigmatic. I had to constantly come out to the air to make sure I’m close to the boats so as not to be too isolated. This was proven to be a last wise thought after all the bad decisions I would make before it.

So after taking in a full hour view of the ever charming water, I found myself 150 meters away from my bag. Feeling it’s time to rock the road again, I decided to take off my mask and give it a non-stop straight-line swimming back to the shore. Just over 100 strokes, suddenly I was attacked by an acute pain on my forearm and I instantly gave out a cry of terror. (I’m sure my scream was still echoing at the bay today.) I looked to left and saw nothing. Imagination told me it must have been a flesh-eating fish with an entire mouth made out of sharp teeth. In total panic I then raised my left arm and saw a scary region with many small purple dots that looked like poisoned pores. I must have been mad by now. I was so frightened and started fleeing towards the nearest boat clumsily, completely forgetting about the newly-learned fast swimming technique. read more …


Elements of Ergo Proxy : V

March 14, 2015


Timothy is the opening and ending character of this episode. He is a harmless boy, who taught Pino directly or indirectly some important life lessons. But his voice was of a developed teenager in pubescence. Looks like he is overprotected by Quinn that he still acted like a small child. And in the end when he looked at Pino diving, his face especially his enlarged nostrils somehow remind me more of a voyeur than anything.

As they played and drew pictures, the sound of gunfire was heard afar. The resulting casualty was what was shown right after the OP. And the antipathy towards Vincent among the older residents started to grow. So again, Vincent found himself unwelcome by yet another community. Just as a riot was about to break out, Hoody cheerfully lied to those idiots and saved Vincent.
Quinn was worried that Hoody was telling lies upon lies that it would get to some critical point where everything loses control. Hoody certainly didn’t have a long term strategy to cope with all these. But look just how humorously this crisis was solved by Re-l’s visit. There actually came a negotiator from Romdeau! More comical than Hoody’s doodled face.
The “negotiation” is both funny and information rich. Judging from Hoody’s sensational faces and hesitant fingers, he probably didn’t know very well what proxy is. But his words also contained some degree of truth. His knowledge could come from the books – Hoody loves reading. I doubt he has personally came into contact with a living proxy, since he was originally from Romdeau. Re-l probably also figured out he was just bragging out loud. So in spite of her strong interest in proxies, she just went on and ignored Hoody.
Oh but the most hilarious part was the “exchange” of words between Hoody and Re-l. Someone has designed a perfect conversation for Re-l and Daedalus so that everything Re-l said seemed like unconditional agreement to Hoody. Confused but more driven into ecstasy by the unexpectedly smooth diplomatic victory, Hoody’s mind was instantly disabled when the next second Re-l started talking about some cleanup operation. He couldn’t grasp anything that had came to pass except that he correctly felt the danger was real. So he seized Vincent as his last straw of hope. And his face spoke of utter desperation.

As Vincent was trailing after Re-l towards her aircraft, he asked “Can I really go back to the old life”. He wasn’t seeking reassurance as Re-l thought. But that was a more fundamental self-questioning. Re-l diverted his philosophical line of thought by supplying him the only realistic option: back to Romdeau. But that wasn’t what Vincent wanted. Just then, perhaps inspired by the word “going back”, he suddenly had this idea of going back to Mosko, to where he thought he originally belonged.
But before he could entertain this idea, he spotted security bureau’s drone. Soon both of them were cornered to a dire situation. Re-l tried to rescue Vincent, who was on the verge of falling off the cliff, at the same time also to fend off the attack from the probe. But she was hit and paralyzed by her broken “space” suit. And then as I’m pleased to see, Vincent’s self-rescue program was triggered (right at the bottom of the cliff where nobody could see him) and for just a blink of an eye, Ergo Proxy blasted out and flew before Re-l’s eyes like a missile. To be frank, this flash was so short that at first I just had this vague idea that something strange happened. But then I quickly dismissed it. Simply put, I didn’t realize that was a proxy Re-l saw! The real highlight of this episode, easily missed on me…

But the suspicious part of it is that when Re-l got out of her suit to examine what happened at the bottom of the cliff, Ergo Proxy retired just in time to let her see an unconscious Vincent floating on the water. If this can be explained away by saying Ergo Proxy only came out to kill the probe that threatened him, then what about the probe’s camera? Its camera certainly should have captured everything Vincent did. Raul was able to read out Vincent’s face in the last few frames of the first probe Vincent killed. Now this second probe even pursued Ergo Proxy for a second after his transformation. So by now everybody inside the dome should have known that Vincent can transform to Ergo Proxy. But there doesn’t seem to be any indication in the coming episodes! Ah okay, I guess the many bullets Vincent and Re-l shot at the probe didn’t really go wasted. Its camera was probably still working but the transmission unit was likely damaged.

Finally let me collect some cute moments: 1) Pino stretching her rabbit ears after reproducing Timothy’s drawing in the beginning and 2) Pino pretending to be a Maneki Neko after doodling Hoody’s face.

Another side note on the name of Centzon Totochtin that first appeared in this episode. Wikipedia says it means 400 rabbits in Aztec mythology. Hoody simply read too many books. One only has to recall that Joe Bousquet episode.



Elements of Ergo Proxy: IV

March 5, 2015

Signs of Future, Hades of Future/Futu-Risk

The meaning of the subtitle is very unclear to me. So let me just forget about that.
The episode opens with Re-l investigating Vincent’s former residence. The report of possible escape routes of the infected Autoreivs also contains personal information of Vincent. As I have been wondering since I read Re-l’s iPad, what on earth was the exact detail of Vincent’s personality hexagon chart. (Is 720p not enough?) One thing is for sure: it looks rather a twisted shape. I bet that can be an official certificate to prove he is a real mug.
As she sat on the bed, Re-l asked

What was he searching for, just before he resigned himself to death.

So I am able to confirm that she still thought Vincent dead at this moment.

As for Vincent, it is another lengthy struggle in a series of nightmares like it has always been after going through the transformation process. In this fragmented dream, apart from his impressive depiction of Re-l’s slid-off eye shadow, an important but brief scene of him killing/hurting Monad was shown, which was overlooked by me when I could barely figure out who is who. I’m certain when Vincent gave that bloody blow to Monad, he was in his proxy form. In his dream, he just substituted his current self into the memory.

After he finally got over this, through the conversation with Hoody, Vincent suddenly remembered he previously jumped from the dome. Then he got infuriated and couldn’t comprehend how come he is still alive. Hahaha, now that’s funny! You are a proxy, dude! And I have this speculation that Pino probably saw his transformation back there for the first time. She has good eye sight. But for Pino who only recently got a heart, she wouldn’t find it dreadful. To her it’s the same kind of discovery of how this world works as that a green centipede will move when poked by a stick.
Aside from centipedes, it’s suggested by Quinn that there are also plenty of rabbits. Perhaps that’s how the wind boat got its rabbit related name.

As Quinn was giving a lot of information about how this small commune lives off the warmth and garbage of the dome, a probe came flying over to execute its daily routine. Before Quinn was able to tell him that Autoreivs are not targeted, Vincent ran to Pino’s rescue and neatly shot dead that probe. Just then, a creepy smile appeared at Vincent’s mouth corner which is totally incompatible with a mug person. Does he have a personality disorder even when he’s conscious? In any case, by finishing off this probe, Vincent revealed his continued existence to Raul and consequently to Re-l as well.

Having been baptized in a new kind of experience called agony in the previous episode, Raul found himself getting increasingly emotional, as if contracted Cogito Virus. He now doesn’t even care about the proxy anymore as he firmly believes Vincent holds the key to everything.

Around the same time, Re-l showed Daedalus the body of Monad. Such is the end of Monad, sigh. A huge hole on her chest. She died upside down, entangled in industrial cables. Never got to reunite with her lover again.
Daedalus couldn’t believe an undying proxy with Amrita cells can be killed. Re-l then went on to tell him another proxy killed her. Since Daedalus knows what Re-l had witnessed so far was probably true, he had all the reason to believe this statement of Re-l too. Perhaps it’s from this moment on, Daedalus came to know of the existence of a second proxy.