Posted in Miscellany

The Rambler on the interview

In a post-industrial age, when the mingling of classes in streets is a norm, and social mobility is a reality in a society, the stories about royal families become reality period dramas that seem to give them a status that fuses the capriciousness of greek gods with the glamour of Hollywood celebrity.

When I saw twitter’s promotion of Oprah Winfrey’s Harry and Meghan interview, I thought no wonder they were sought-after media darlings, living Romeo and Juliet, and something to talk about when things looked bleak and boring. And I honestly feel no qualms about them being a subject of gossip or the tabloid because they live in public eyes, albeit they most clamor for the privacy of their lives. Otherwise, what is the absolute need to broadcast their stories on a central television station at prime time? (No YouTube, please, in respect of their royalty.) Oprah Winfrey, who now seems to have replaced Barbara Walters’ seat, looks fit to the royal couple pleading for upscaled sympathy from the American public unfamiliar with the constitutional monarchy and possibly slightly partial to the name and images of monarchy without knowing them well.

To put the wedding story of Prince Harry and Actress Meghan Markle on a par with Cinderella story is to ignore the fact she is from a privileged class in the States with expensive private education and parental support. Despite Princess Diana’s aristocratic family background, people sympathized with the lonely Diana because of her doe-eyed, ever muliebral innocent beauty that looked impossible for debauchery. By the same virtue of beauty fused with sensualness of exotic charm, the American actress/model Meghan charmed Prince Harry, who would even venture to Hesperides’ garden to bring her a golden apple should she request. And now Harry lives in the Golden State, the land of his Helen, with a face launching waves of media coverages.

Ralph Waldo Emerson said that beauty tames the savageness of brutes and allays the hardened souls of criminals. Oscar Wilde added that a beautiful woman is the subject of conversations wherever she goes. The lovely Meghan beaming with sparkling amethyst eyes adorned with apricot cheeks reminded me of a modern-day Helen of Troy. After all, Helen’s prodigal beauty saved her from her first the ireful sword of her first and lawful husband Menelaus, the king of Sparta to whom she betrayed the slain Paris’s brother Deiphobus, her third husband. Despite vehement feminist catchphrases brandishing anti-sexism, beauty is still a woman’s privilege to achieve social escalation in work and an undefeatable power to purchase indemnity for all faults and foibles.

In addition to the claimed blackness of Meghan’s heritage, the media seems to shoehorn it to fit her estrangement feeling in the procrustean bed to a histrionic degree because one cursory glance at her wouldn’t strike her as a black woman at all. I honestly think that if a woman is beautiful, then where she comes from does not matter. In fact, I feel something is not quite right when someone in her position keeps playing a race card as a chance gambit to muster her retinue against the criticism raised by her unwilling participation in royal attendances and cavalier attitude towards learning the royal manners, which appear antithetical to her carefree American spirit hard to domesticate.

Call it an acrid narrative of a woman who juggles the daily affairs of life with what she has. Or you may say it is the usual cynical delusion of reference to those who got it all out of passionate envy burned in a fury. Yet, the interview appears to be nothing but their formal excuse for their present life, public proclamation of their still regal sovereignty warning people not to speak ill of them, which is probably directed to the ordinary whom they regard as meddlesome. Well, then let them be whoever they want to be. Playing Romeo and Juliet’s roles in a public theater in long-run shows will only lose favor with the audience, especially with Romeo now being well-stuffed, looking like a rich American, and Juliet still looking fabulous like a luxurious Beverly Hills demimonde.  

Posted in book review, Miscellany

Who discovered America?

 

The question of “Who discovered America?” lends itself to enlightening trivia pastime, spawning a series of plausible answers. Leif Eriksson and Christopher Columbus contend the discoverer’s title, possibly followed by Walter Raleigh and Francis Drake, except one John Cabot whose name is lost with his ship somewhere in the Atlantic Ocean just as his mysterious disappearance during the final voyage. 

Giovanni Caboto, aka John Cabot, was a 15th-century Venetian maritime merchant, emigrating with his family to Tudor England in search of substantial royal sponsorship for his ambitious Far East expeditions. The age of expedition was imbued with the spirit of enterprise that propelled colonialism. England was no exception to the European competition. Spain and Portugal were the contenders for uncharted lands and undreamed waterways discovered by Christopher Columbus, Casco de Gamma, and Fernando Magellan. Cabot promised Henry VII that he would find the ways to the Shangri-La in honor of the land to the king with portions of profit for the homage. The king granted his royal patronage on the expedition in the hope of establishing a British mercantile empire around the world. After two misfortunate voyages, Cabot finally made it to what is now known as America in 1497 and called it “New Found Land.”



However, unlike his contemporary peers whose deaths are recorded either orally or textually, Cabot’s end as an explorer is undeservingly clandestine and amorphous. It is said that Cabot was a victim of mutiny among the seamen on his ship or that he settled in the New Found Land and died there. What is more confounding than the mystery of Cabot’s whereabout is the seemingly less recognizance of his achievement than that of the rival explorers of his time and posterity. Cabot was the first explorer who paved the transatlantic waterways between America and Europe, principally the British Isles, for the progeny.



Indeed, Columbus found the West Indies and the American continent by happenstance. Still, Cabot proved that rapid Atlantic travel was possible by sailing the west through the ocean, more substantially practical and influential than America’s ideologically symbolic discovery by Eriksson and Columbus. Would Cabot’s discovery of America under Henry VII’s banner be an issue for the recognizance of his achievement for independent minds of Americans liberated from the English sovereignty? Or, to put more blatantly, would the English royal sponsorship of Italian native Cabot’s exploration mar the spirit of American liberty? If England were still a Catholic country, would Cabot’s achievement have been of lesser brilliancy than those of his contemporary explorers? The questions of history require answers, but often they remain unheard and trail off in the wind of zeitgeist.

Posted in book review, Miscellany

music, the moody food for the mind

Music is a universal language of humankind, as perspicaciously illustrated in a segment of the film ‘Mission’ where benevolent Jesuit missionary Gabriel plays the oboe on the top of the stiff cliff surrounded by the heathen natives. The beautiful Gabriel’s melody enters the souls of the natives, stays there in wonder, enough to disarm all hostility toward Gabriel and open their hearts. The language of music intoxicates the heart and satisfies reason and nothing more.

But that is not what it is like in this world we live in. Music is perceived as an ideological, political tool for suppressing and propagating specific ideas by persecuting the proponent of a theory that irks the majority populace, as posited in scholar John McWhorter’s article “Is music theory really #SoWhite?” The article’s gist is that two music professors at Hunter College are in a row because of their different opinions about renowned Austrian music theorist named Heinrich Schenker criticized for his openly racist views on just about everything. Schenker is long dead, but his genius in musical theory still retains magnificence among academics worldwide, including those whom Schenker might not have regarded as kindly and respectfully. One of the proponents is professor Timothy Jackson, who highly esteems Shenker’s musical theories irrespective of his personal belief and ideas.

The nemesis comes in the name of professor Phillip Ewell. He is also a cellist and half-black, attacking his peer Jackson to defend Schenker’s racist views that are an essential part of his music theories, so to speak, campaign for Jackson’s dismissal from the college the count of racism. That is not the end of Ewell’s fury against Shenker and his admirer. The arrow also shots Ludwig Von Beethoven’s bust, whom Erwell thinks doesn’t deserve the genius composer’s high appellation because the panegyrics from white supremacists ornaments his abilities.

Reading the article with the images of the dead Shenker and the two professors at tirades, so to speak, in my mind’s vision, I feel like watching an inquisition tribunal or communist party’s kangaroo court where the innocent not committed crimes regardless of his/her personal faults or weakness is savagely summoned and tried without attorney testifying the truth. The truth, said Edgar Allen Poe, is the satisfaction of reason, the fulfillment of judgment. I understand Erwell’s fury erupted in the BLM movement’s wake, which brings the suppressed matters into the light. But the accusation of Jackson as a racist that hurled him to the center of controversial debates at the expense of his livelihood because Jackson spoke for Shenker’s work as values attributable to the benefits of arts doesn’t seem to hold water. You can have a heart burning with passion with a head kept in the cold with reason.

Posted in book review, 미분류, Film Review, Miscellany

Not impossible

It is supposed to be about being a woman that binds all women regardless of race and ethnicity across a great divide of time. Forget all others and let us focus on the parallel circumstances and kindred experiences as women. But alas, that seems only a tale told by a romantic fool such as I am. If you think this is hyperbole, then I suggest you read the tweets and comments on the recent news that a black actress plays the role of Anne Boleyn, the second wife of Henry the Eighth and the mother of Elizabeth the First, in the upcoming British periodical drama, which went viral among the learned and the general.  In addition to the vehemently acrid narratives on the racial authenticity of Anne Boleyn – especially from fellow women-, the juxtaposition of the two women’s images, the actress Jodie Turner-Smith and the queen Anne Boleyn itself, belies the popular sentiment as though to mock the actress’s appearance in the fashion of the Tudor period by making parallels with the classical portraiture of the Anne of 1000 days.  It has produced vociferous tweets full of fury from people who regard the role as audacious cultural appropriation faithful to the PC ethos of the time. 

Actress Turner-Smith’s playing the Tudor woman Anne Boleyn is indeed an innovational idea of breaking the typecasting based on the physical distinction for the roles thinkable and conventionally conceivable for the specific attributable characteristics of certain characters. Thus, non-whites playing the roles conceived for whites are seen as usurping the equilibrium of cultural heritage, upending the very foundation of national identity translated into racial identification, a sentiment prevalent even among the professed liberals anti-everything related to Trump, Republicans, and racism. The rejection of the race crossover representation on screen is supposedly due to the difficulty of following the story’s fluid narrative, unable to be absorbed in the story, not least because performers’ distinctive physical attributes mar the harmony of racial fluidity. But do we really?

I have watched a few good dramas (British) in which the races of performers do not pin down them to the racially charged roles. To illustrate, in Benedict Cumberbatch’s Frankenstein, the wife of Victor Frankenstein was played by a black actress. Besides, his father, M. Frankenstein, is a black actor, a fine ensemble of excellent thespians whose energetic performance brought Mary Shelly’s original Gothic story to a theatrical feast to the eyes and the mind. While watching the drama, I was not distracted by the black performers’ appearances being the father and Genevan Victor Frankenstein’s wife. Instead, the powerfully emotional and assiduously methodological performances resurrected the textual characters to real humans, full of pathos with vigor and wonder. Also, British Asian actress Gemma Chan, who played the role of Elizabeth Hardwick in ‘Mary Queen of Scot’s,’ is known for her versatile roles transcending her racial background. Her recent performance as a cyborg with a touch of humanity named Anita in ‘Humans’ is as naturally harmonious as streams of a river flowing into a great ocean, not highlighting her physical differences.

L-R Laura (Katherine Parkinson), and Mia (Gemma Chan) from ‘Humans’

So why the fuss full of sound and fury of the people who cannot accept the black queen in the Tudor drama when they are boastful of the most advanced mind since the age of Enlightenment? In the wake of the global Black Lives Matter movements, people have become afraid of the wind of changes as a frightful tsunami to subvert social foundations, upending the social orders adverse to their belief systems. Although I don’t eschew their concerns for the wind of changes as I am also conservative, not conventional in belief, the current vehemently acrid opinions about the black woman becoming Anne Boleyn are tokens of latent racialized hostility surfaced by the deluged dissents pouring forth from the socially suppressed sentiments. Indeed, you can’t ignore the differences between the two Anne Boleyns. Still, there are more commonalities than the images seen through your optical sensory input: that they are both women of elegance and confidence who are not afraid of expressing what they can. The actress shows she can pull off the character with what she has, and the queen her the courage to confront the criticism for being the cause of subsequent religious turmoil that changed the face of Christendom in spades. Let not prejudice darken entertainment. 

Posted in book review, Film Review, Miscellany

Roger Ebert’s Cinema Paradiso

A critic, according to Abraham Lincoln, has a right to criticize, but has a heart to help. Being a critic requires erudition drown upon a wealth of reading combined with a natural sagacity grown from enriched humanity wielded into an alchemy of words. A good critic with a poet’s heart guides the public with a lantern lighting the artist’s labyrinth in his world and helps us see the unseen in the far corner of a maze with a wealth of knowledge, sans arrogance of intelligence as Roger Ebert.

Unlike his other contemporary peers, Ebert was liberal in views, conservative in beliefs, and fair in judgments, the commendable attributes shared by Samuel Johnson, a 17 century English social/cultural critic, essayist, and dictionarian. He wrote a public in his mind and showed no peremptory atmosphere typically attributable to influential critics showing off their mastery of language not accessible to all due to their expensive private high education. Once Ebert trenchantly criticized a specific movie for its crude violence, abject dystopian portrayal of reality, and shuddering absence of humanity. The director of the film remonstrated with him in a public letter that Ebert’s criticism ignored the fact of life, which is akin to earthly circles of hell. Ebert replied to the director that if that was how he looked at the world, then it should not be forced upon the audience’s minds, exerting his raw and one-dimensional creation of reality upon the sentiments and judgments of the audience. Ebert believed that the world was worth living because there’s hope among the odds to sparkle before our eyes with joy flitting at our sides. This belief should be an essence of Arts that gives off beauty, pleasing to our senses that grows into reason. That is the purpose of arts, to which film belongs.

For this reason and my kindred perspectives on films in general, I miss Roger Ebert, although his writings are perennial. He didn’t grandstand with politically charged views on movies. He believed ‘Art is for Art’s Sake’ because films and books and paintings are not to be used as propagandas for a specific party ideology but to be appreciated for the minds’ food. W.H Auden said of his duty as a poet in society was to defend the use of language. I think Roger Ebert as a film critic in society was to defend the use of film as art to give life a shape.