Archive for mai, 2015

mai
19

The Lost World

You may recognise the title from the screen adaptation of Michael Crichton’s novel of the same name; however I would like to talk to you about the first novel sporting this title: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s original The Lost World, which has little in common with the film. Perhaps his most famous work after the Sherlock Holmes’ adventures, it depicts the fictional expedition, lead by Professor Challenger, into the Amazon and more specifically onto a mysterious and seemingly unreachable plateau.

400px-Cover_(The_Lost_World,_1912)The point of view from which the story is delivered is, for me, one of the most enjoyable aspects of the novel. The events are related through the letters young reporter, Edward Malone, sends to his editor. Indeed each chapter is addressed to Mr McArdle and starts by either a short recap of previous events or by immediately setting the mood when the expedition group are in a tense situation. Doyle even plays on this sometimes having Edward write as though he only hopes his letters to be found when he is unsure of surviving or whether the letter reaches its correspondent at all.

This would have been particularly effective at the time of this novel’s first release (in 1912) as it was published serially in a well-known magazine. Although I wish I too could have experienced such a fresh and suspenseful reading, I found that the overall tone set by Doyle through Edward’s eyes and pen was still very entertaining. Moreover this novel being such a classic nowadays I already knew some of the main plot points, but nonetheless I caught myself several times pondering excitedly about events to come or the resolution of some predicaments the protagonist is in.

Not only is suspense well built in and between chapters but The Lost World handles the theme of discovery and exploration masterfully. Indeed it features great descriptions of the lush Amazonian jungle, taking us through what transpired as quite a varied landscape. The narration of the long journey to the actual destination and the preparations made, prior and during, really conveys the feeling of being involved in the expedition. Doyle manages to intrigue, if not amaze, his reader throughout the book.

The main characters composing the core of the expedition team are all well fleshed out and intriguing in their own right but the portrayal of the peculiar Professor Challenger outshines the rest. Behind the instigation of the whole journey he is depicted as an irascible individual convinced of his intellectual superiority, very provocative, aggressive even, in his speech and also prone to resorting to violence. He is a very interesting character whose interventions further contribute to the dynamic rhythm of the novel. Doyle later wrote four other stories featuring this prominent figure among the protagonists.

I will end this post by a warning, or at least a caution, some passages may shock you slightly as an underlying assumption of white superiority can be felt and more broadly that there is a hierarchy of “races”. Especially when it comes to the way the leading members of the team consider the rest of their party, composed mostly of natives. [Minor spoiler ahead] Notably it can also be perceived in their reaction to a specific primitive tribe and what they deem as acceptable or natural in how they treat them. However I thought this dated perception was rather enlightening; as long as you are well aware of it, the differences in mentalities helps to emphasise the changes since then. It can also be appreciated as a way to contextualise this piece of work and to some degree “ease into” a similar reading atmosphere, a kind of sample if you will.

 

-Guillaume C.

 

mai
14

Book presentation: Stephen King’s « The Dark Tower » cycle

Hello everyone!

I bet you know Stephen King. You loved the movies adapted from his books. Shining, Mist, Misery, Desolation… no, not The Lawnmower Man. Please. Anyway, great movies, but I think you haven’t read his books (I mean, the books that were not adapted into a movie or a TV show). What a huge mistake. Stephen King is an excellent writer, and almost all of his books are masterpieces. If you have the opportunity, read some, they absolutely worth it. Try to read Cellular, because a film based on it will be out in 2016. Basically, it is a story about people becoming zombies because of their phones (it is a bit more complex than that, but I don’t want to spoil it for you, sorry).

But I’m not writing an article about that. I’m here to talk about the major book series by Stephen King, The Dark Tower series. It’s a set of 8 books that tell the story of Roland of Gilead, travelling the Mid-World to find the Dark Tower. The Mid-World is an imaginary world invented by Stephen King when he was young, alcoholic, and addicted to heroin.

So, here is the background: the Mid-World is a parallel world that has lots of connections with our world. It is a blend of magic, chivalry, post-apocalyptic sci-fi and old westerns. The Mid-World and our world are maintained by 12 Beams, some sort of pure primal energy. The Dark Tower is in the center of all the Beams, and therefore its destruction would end the two worlds. Bad luck, some dark sorcerers want to destroy it, to create another world where they would be gods.

 

The Dark Tower

A concept art made by Guillermo del Torro. No big deal.

The main character is Roland of Gilead, the only remaining Gunslinger, an old order of knights founded by King Arthur. Roland has been trying to find the Dark Tower for years, without success. But somehow, he manages to enter our world and meets his future companions: Eddie, a junkie from the eighties, Odetta, a legless schizophrenic lady from the fifties, and Jake, a kid from the nineties.
Together, they will travel the Mid-World to find the Dark Tower.

latestThis is an un-official map of the Mid-World.

But, you know, sometimes, the journey is more important than the destination. Stephen King created a very complete world, with lots of elements, stories, cities, and characters. Roland and his companions will travel around this world and meet tons of people, villages, enemies, and will hear lots of stories. The places vary a lot from book to book: a post-apocalyptic city with a civil war, the remnants of old kingdoms, small villages with lots of traditions, huge forests, and even a time-travelling station.
The descriptions are very precise and it’s really easy to imagine yourself in that world, imagining extraordinary places, and roaming around with Roland. And if you can’t, there is a lot of fan art on the interwebs.

darktowerlongroad

Another very interesting thing, is that All of King’s books are connected with The Dark Tower series. If you read Black House (Territoires in French), From a Buick 8 (Roadmaster in French), Hearts in Atlantis or even Mist and Shining, you will see connections, sometimes obvious. In Black House, the final part of the story takes place in Thunderclap (Tonnefoudre in French), a very hostile place in the Mid-World. In Hearts in Atlantis, there is even a common character: the main character of this story is helping Roland in the 6th book. But the best and best exploited connection is definitely Mist. If you know the Dark Tower extended universe, you can guess where the mist and the creatures come from. I will not spoil it for you of course, but if you are a fan of Stephen King like I am it is really awesome to have additional knowledge of the stories because you’ve read The Dark Tower.

So, anyway, if you like Stephen King and you have lots of free time (the 8 books are about 4500 pages), give it a shot. It’s totally worth it. Plus, huge news, Sony Pictures decided to fund the Dark Tower movie project, by Guillermo del Torro. So, if you want to say to your friends “Oh my god, the books are SO much better than the movie”, you’d better start reading now 😉

Yours in reading,

Grégoire Meyer

mai
08

A major triumph for humanity : Philae to explore the universe !

The 12th of November was a big day for the scientific world : the lander has succesfully touched down the comet « Tchoury ». Indeed, the European Space Agency (ESA) had warned that such a manmade object’s landing was not guaranteed.

 

Philae is a Rosetta‘s robotic space probe lander which aims is to collect information about the comet « Tchoury » in order to make a detailed study of the star. All comet studies should help humans to understand the creation of the universe and of our Solar System. The Rosetta project was developed by the ESA and the spacecraft was launched March, 2, 2004 on an Ariane 5 rocket, from Guiana Space Center in French Guiana. As a matter of fact, the intensity of gravity is less important at the equator than at the poles. Consequently, it is more economical in fossil energy. Moreover, engineers use the gravity of stars and planets to help spacecrafts reach their goal with a minimum energy consumption.Rosetta's_Philae_touchdown

Rosetta arrived on « Tchoury » last august and launched Philae after a few months of observation. Its landing on the comet was filmed and broadcast « live » on the 12th. It did not happen as expected by ESA scientists. Would you believe that Philae bounced twice and during 2 hours, before it really landed ? In fact, the harpoons, initially expected to anchor the engine to the « soil », did not work suitably . It provoqued dust clouds that revealed the existence of complex organic molecules on the comet. This discovery may imply that stars are composed of amino-acid or even complicate molecules that could have been transported (we do not know how) to the Earth and are suspected to be a factor of development of life on our planet. The person in charge of the German-built COSAC instrument which detected these molecules, Fred Goesmann, said that one of them has been identified, without saying more.

Moreover, Philae is equipped with a thermometer-hammer, MUPUS, which measured a – 150 Celsius degree temperature and a soil « hard as solid ice » (ESA). But according to scientists, the entire comet can not be that dense because of its porosity.

French Toulouse « Etudes Spaciales » team leader, Philippe Gaudon, revealed to the press that, Philae is slanted at a 30% angle, stuck near a cliff. After 57 hours of data collecting, Philae went into sleep mode because it had no more energy. But it is equiped with batteries that can recharge thanks to solar pannels. Unfornately, Philae’s location did not allow it to receive a lot of solar energy (only 1 hour per day). But the engineers succeeded in redirecting its solar pannels in order to improve the duration of exposition. Anyway, it had enough time to send a large amount of data that humans will analize during the months to come.

 

Nevertheless, the goals have been broadly fullfilled. Indeed, even if all Philae’s instruments may not have worked according to plan, ESA scientists did not expected to go that far in the mission. The data collected will probably give some answers to a lot of questions about our universe. This progress can be compared to 1969 Apollo 11 & Neil Amstrong’s first foot on the moon.

Niels.

mai
05

Unbroken : a short film review.

Unbroken is the second film directed by Angelina Jolie, based on the life of the Olympic athlete and World War II veteran Louis “Louie” Zamperini (whose life is described in Laura Hillenbrand’s book Unbroken : A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience and Redemption). Once a troublesome kid, Louis Zamperini became a very promising runner thanks to his big brother dedication. Joining the United States Army Air Forces as a bombardier during World War II, he had to survive in a raft for 47 days along with two other members of his division after their plane crashed in the middle of the ocean, only to be found by the Japanese Navy and sent to a camp dedicated to prisoners of war. There, he had to endure all the torments and cruel trials ordered by the war criminal Mutsuhiro “The Bird” Watanabe who tried to break him as much as he could.

1416149053-UNBROKEN-TITLE-CARD-FLAT

With this film, Angelina Jolie wants to pay tribute to Louis Zamperini who passed away on July 2, 2014 at the age of 97. If I was kind of afraid it wouldn’t match my expectations, it was a good exercise and a very inspirational story.

Let’s say it immediately, the film has been criticized and considered by some as yet another movie made to glorify the all mighty America, but it shouldn’t be watched with this mindset. You may regret the fact that Japanese soldiers were the only ones presented as cruel and merciless military forces. As long as you keep in mind that there are no nice guys and bad guys in times of war, you can concentrate on what’s important and the goal of this film : to portray the strength of mind of Louis Zamperini. And this detail is what makes this movie a little bit more than yet another story of epic American soldiers fighting against the Big Bad Japanese. You’re not watching an American hero trying to endure the treatment of Japanese executioners, you’re watching a formidably tenacious man keeping faith and hope even when exposed to the worst trials that humans can inflict on each other.

If you’re not interested in this kind of inspirational film, or if you’re fed up of those war environment movies, you can still do it your way : it’s a good and well-paced story, but not a masterpiece you’re forced to watch. In contrast, if a more insightful vision of the will power catches your attention, you should enjoy this production.

It deals with the faith of a man, of how your life and that of those around you can forge your mind, of how far one can go and endure just for the sake of not giving up. Not a masterpiece, but still an inspirational movie about a man whose will, story and courage command respect.

Maxime Bak.

mai
03

Sketching the numeric way

When you come from a traditional background, sketching in a notebook or on a simple piece of paper appears very natural, and allows you to feel free in your drawing. It is as most people say, a direct way from your mind to your hand. The quicker and more instinctive the sketches are, the more dynamic they appear.

So when crossing over a numerical media, it’s sometimes difficult to keep this natural vibe while drawing. Here are some tips and ideas for sketching on photoshop. These are all my way of approaching the numeric media, and they are in no way universal.

  • Photoshop is a different tool , take advantage of what it offers.

Sure you can draw lines on the software and pretend it’s a sheet of paper, and most of time it can be quite good looking, but while you’re at it, why not try what’s different ? Unlike a pencil and a notebook, here you can draw the masses, and the volumes by drawing with a large brush.

wip_1

  • Learn to adopt new useful tools

Some tools in photoshop are particularly adapted to speed painting/sketching. Let’s just talk about two of them.

tuto_1

First, the lasso tool is a great way to experiment and draw neat forms. You can just start a painting by doing random forms with the lasso and paint in them with blur brushes or even texture brushes. An amazing artist, Jama Jurabaev, did some videos about his process on the lasso tool, it’s quite instructive : https://vimeo.com/12201858

Secondly, the burn/dodge tool is very useful to quickly adjust values. Use it with a round blur brush to highlight the parts of your drawings that are more exposed to the light.

  • Play with the fusion options of the layers

In photoshop you have access to many fusion modes on any layer. This fusion mode expresses the way the colors and values and the layer will react with the layers that are beneath it. You can try many things and get unexpected results by testing fusion modes. One that works well : create a new layer and paint light on it with a saturated color, then put it on the density color – mode. It creates colorful lights and gives depth to your sketches.

wip_2

  • Learn some shortcuts

When working fast, the last thing you want, is to spend time looking in your toolbox. Here are some useful shortcuts I use to make life easier :

Alt (while having the brush tool) : color taker

L : lasso

B : Brush

Ctrl + T : transform

Ctrl (while transforming) : stretch one point of the transformation square to give a perspective feel.

V : move a layer or a selection

Alt (while moving) : copy layer or selection

Space + mouse : navigating into the canvas

  • Not all filters are useless

Generally speaking, filters are to be avoided when you are painting. They are quite messy and can make you think that it will hide the flaws of the painting underneath. But when nicely used, they can be quite useful. Some filters like strength, add noise and the various blurs can have a great effect when used with precision.

  • Have fun painting

Try your best to not be restricted by the software, use one tool at a time. If you feel confident and secure while you’re painting, nothing bad can happen.

wip_3

There, I hope you’ve enjoy these tips, these are obviously  my opinion and from my experience, and I am in nowhere near to being a good artist, but I feel it could help some.

Keep drawing, painting and posting.

Lucas

 

Recent comments

  • DigZon technology

    18 août 2015 |

    Keep up the great work ethic.

  • insurancewhisper.com

    10 août 2015 |

    This article has inspired me. It’s profound, interesting and worthy of a positive comment. I try to give good content its due and this deserves a top rating. Thank you.

  • Mathieu

    22 mai 2015 |

    Very interesting article. Could be usefull to me in 2nd year, that is if LePivain makes us study this one.

  • Mitzi

    15 mai 2015 |

    This article and many other on your page are very interesting.
    There is a big chance to go viral.

  • admin

    10 avril 2015 |

    Beautifully written