Posted in Miscellany

a league of their own

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Reading a section featuring a small, pleasant Q&A type of interview with a writer in The New York Times Book Review on restful weekends gives me a kind of voyeuristic fillip to be privy to the life of the writer; moreover, the usual question of whom to invite for dinner is the gist of such small pleasure. I’ve found it quite stimulating to think about my own list of people to have dinner with. Therefore, I have herein drawn up my own list of invitees to confabulate with. Here’s my list of guests:

  • Eleanor Roosevelt: The paragon of the First Lady of the United States with Intelligence that ministered to her moral character, she put her philosophy into action by actively participating in social services. Besides, Mrs. Roosevelt possessed a polished but common sense of humor and wits communicative to people of all social strata with her timeless adage: “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”
  • Joan of Arc: The Virgin of Lorraine, The Patron Saint of France… Such are the epithets of this patriotic French maiden who was burned alive on the counts of witchery and treason, which was of course conspiracy concocted by the French ecclesiastical dignitaries collaborating with the English against whom Joan of Arc fiercely and courageously fought to victory. She was neither a religious fanatic, nor a hallucinated mooncalf, nor a certifiable schizophrenic. She might be a simple peasant woman but a courageous, headstrong, and smart woman of faith who did not even protect her face during battles with the English amid the attacks of sharp arrows, axes, and lances. No wonder did Mark Twain praise the Virgin Knight forthwith: “Whatever thing men call great, look for it in Joan of Arc, and there you will find it.” Besides, her simplicity of faith excelled the pomposity of ecclesiastical knowledge by saying thus: “About Jesus Christ and the Church, I simply know they are just one thing, and we should not complicate the matter.” I can learn many things from Joan as a True Model Woman who embodied Intelligence, Femininity, Courage, and Faith.
  • Marilyn Monroe: Born as Norma Jean Baker, she was not a blonde bimbo whose physical attractiveness belied her ceaseless pursuit of knowledge concomitant with her pursuit of the meaning of life she desperately wanted to ascertain. Monroe enrolled in evening college courses in New York City when she had no schedules during the daytime. Behind her pretty persona of a movie star, there was a profound shadow of existentialist. Also, Monroe’s down-to-earth personality and kind nature would make her a lovely company striking up a convivial conversation at the table full of strangers.
  • Jane Birkin: Her bohemian look – that effortlessly sensual but charmingly delightful facade with simple French Chic style is always timeless and boundless, appealing to Womankind imbuing with a sense of emulation of the style. In fact, such qualities of Birkin had one time convinced me that she was French. She seems to wear sexuality like she’s wearing her favorite set of perfumes, which is never vulgar nor degrading. Once a shy English girl is now a sensuous cosmopolitan woman demonstrating admixture of art and individuality in the most fashionable way. She will be a delightful addition to my lunchtime table.

In view of the above, my guests of honors are an eclectic company of women, past or present, surprisingly and strictly non-professional authors who make a living by writing only, although I did not intend it to be that way. Or maybe my preconception of professional authors – especially women – as highly volatile artists with inflated egos, dazzling intelligence, divine beauty, and impressive achievements might have played a vital role in excluding unconsciously any of them from my circle of companions. But so did Michelangelo; he was never befriended with his contemporary Leonardo Da Vinci, who in fact lambasted his untidiness as a sculptor in comparison with a baker. Nor did Michelangelo make friends with other famous artists. Instead,  he was a friend of some obscure artisan who helped around various artists by doing sorts of drudgery. It all boils down to the fact that having a good company of kindred spirits can do a favorable service to your soul, making you feel charitable and magnanimous, so much so that you can- to quote the swashbuckling Oscar Wilde- “forgive anybody, even one’s own relatives.”

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Posted in book review

‘Joan of Arc: A Life from beginning to end’ by Hourly History – review

Joan of Arc: A Life From Beginning to EndJoan of Arc: A Life From Beginning to End by Hourly History

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

They condemned her as an irreparable heretic, apostate, idolater, and witch and then burned her at stake even though she saved them from their enemy. And yet, in spite of such egregious treachery of her own countrymen, she knew no surrender to fear with stalwart faith in the Cause she intransigently believed to be her divine mission from the greatest man above as the flame rose to her nose, and then engulfed her therein, turning her to ashes. She was no less a figure than Joan of Arc, the Maid of Orleans, the Virgin of Lorraine, whose bravery and belief – be it ever spiritual or psychological- epitomizes existential will to meaningfulness to live a purposeful life, as is vividly and elegantly related in this book.

Each chapter draws up on the substantial aspects of Joan’s purposes, acts, and achievements rather than illustrates religious or spiritual overtones in anecdotes or legends to glow her in a halo. The narrative takes us to where Joan of Arc witnessed the English occupiers’ hectoring of her village folks, including little children by beating, and we feel her indignation at the perpetrators of such violence on her soil. We also come to know that the divine messages she received were not directly from God but through St. Michael, the archangel, St. Margaret, and St. Catherine as the messengers of God with the three divine missions. That Joan of Arc had three cardinal missions of (1) taking up arms; (2) rallying the French to defeat the English occupying army; and (3) putting the Dauphine Charles on the French throne betokens her guiding lights of her life, her purpose of life that constantly reminded her of a “why” to live for. So we follow Joan, a tall and lean girl with her raven hair cut in bob attired in shining armor that weighted about twenty pounds to the frontlines of hand-to-hand combats fighting against the English army without her helmet on to boost morale of the French soldiers and got her neck pierced by an arrow. Then the narrative puts us forward to the dark cell of Joan harassed by five lewd English guards and to the heaps of stake where her body was consumed to ashes.

The lucidly vivid descriptions of each chapter in cogently casual narrative are the elemental force of this book that brings the grist to the mill for the visualization of the whole story as though it were played on a screen. In fact, while I was reading toward the end of the book, a song called “Bigmouth Strikes Again” by the Smiths, in which Morrissey sings, “Now I know how Joan of Arc felt” was starting to being played in my mental stereo set with heightened emotions. It also illustrates the canonical facts that many of us may be unaware of: (1) that it was the French, including the dauphin who later became Charles VI wholly thanks to Joan, who sold her to the English; (2) that Joan, for none other reason than being only human, attempted at several escapes which ended in foils; and that (3) it was twenty-two years after her death on fraudulent grounds of treachery and heresy that the Trial of Rehabilitation exonerated her from such preposterously erroneous charges, thanks to the troubling conscience of Charles VI who belatedly endeavored to make it happen.

This is an excellent primer on further study on Joan of Arc with a comprehensive overview of the time as regards the relationship between the Church and the politics, the role of the Church, and its dominance over society, let alone people. It will induce you to look at Joan of Arc not as mythological French virgin whose legacy exclusively appertains to the French as their patron saint only, but as a human who tried to do what she believed was right despite any biological or social inhibitions that she had to rise above. In this regard, Joan is an emblematic figure of courage, hope, and self will to achieve her existential values as someone with purposes in life, someone whom we can identify with in one way or another in our daily struggles of contemporary life. Upon reading this book, you will come to understand what made the American humorist Mark Twain offer such approbation: “Whatever thing men call great, look for it in Joan of Arc, and there you will find it.” Indeed, her steadfast attitude toward her firm belief is something we can deem truly inspiring and remedial to apply to our own way of fulfilling demands placed upon our daily tasks in life.

Posted in Film Review

‘Ocean Waves’ (1993 film) by Tomomi Mochizuki – review

ocean-waves-49Some stories are better told in animation. The characters become vividly alive in a way that your imaginary world effortlessly conjures up before your very eyes by a witchcraft of wondrous imagination. It’s a world of fantasy, but it is also a realm of parallel universe where reality is poetically translated through the avatars living in the creator’s make-believe world without the alloyed feelings and crafted emotions by way of thespian performance. It also enables the characters to perform feats of wondrous physical motions and a wealth of emotions effectually, which real persons can hardly accomplish. That said, animation as an established genre of performing art deserves of legitimate artistic appreciation and merits its own place in the canon of cinematography.

“Ocean Waves” a 1993 Japanese anime television film directed by Tomomi Mochizuki and written by Kaori Nakamura based on the 1990 eponymous novel by Saeko Himuro is worth noting the beautiful cinematic qualities and elegant storyline that spreads through the mind and lingers there in alterations so deep that they are felt almost physical. The setting of the film is in the city of Kochi, located on the Japanese island of Shikoku. It tells of the first love developed by Taku Morisaki whose story flashes back to his high school years in Kochi as he catches the sight of a familiar woman whom he has fallen for on the platform opposite at a Tokyo subway station. It’s Rikako Muto, a bright and beautiful new girl transferred to his high school. At that time, Taku did not realize that he was besotted with her. However, as Taku narrates the events that have brought her into his life, Taku comes to know that for all these times, he has been crazy about her. It’s a moment of great awakening of love, an epiphany of adulthood, all in the calm recognition of meaning of love as to see the essence of another human being in the inner most core of who the person is. Taku and Rikako has known their own faults and frailties since they first met in school, and now they see one another’s innermost core of their personalities, which are the essential traits and features of the beloved person to actualize their potentialities in love with awareness and understanding.

The emotions are elegantly nuanced in the narration, but we know that the feelings are all present in the ways that the characters move and talk. That is the beauty of this animated film that renders no less visual and dramatic effects than other genres of film. Director Mochizuki is a young, ambitious director whose punctilious attention to details and the authenticity of the ambiance and theme of this film speak to our lost days of innocence in this world of collapsed grand narratives, gratuitous sensual expressions and super abundance of raw, unbridled charge of emotions that are hard to be empathetic to the minds of those who are likely to find solace in quietude. Walt Disney said animation offers an effective medium of story-telling and visual entertainment which produces pleasure and story that people of all ages everywhere in the world can enjoy and relate to. For these reasons, this film is worthwhile to be noted.

Posted in book review, Miscellany

Have my say @ bbc history revealed

I wrote this letter to ediotor of “BBC History Revealed” during my lunchtime today upon reading an article about the Wild West. A prospect of its publication is beyond the pale, outside the boundary of even the slightest hint of flattering hope and vain wish. Yet, I was egged on by to express my opinion on it as a new frontier-woman in California with the literary advice from Henry David Thoreau and Horace Greeley that the West is where we can start anew because of the Pacific Ocean, a terrestrial version of Lethe, the river of forgetfulness.

Dear Editor:

The article about the Wild West in this month’s issue was particularly interesting, since I am a recent immigrant from the East to the West: the restive nature, the swashbuckling gunslingers, the outrageous outlaws and the ruthless vigilantes were all embroidered on the popular Hollywood-generated image of the West that became something of a  factoid to people living outside the West.

Even though the U.S. Census Bureau declared in 1890 that no more western frontiers were left to conquer, I believe that the culture and ambiance of the West remains here in California. As someone who lived many years in New Jersey and the New York City before moving to Camarillo, the most distinctive characteristic of California is its unsullied beauty of nature in replacement of the skyscraper jungle as I see every day on the commuter’s railways.

Surely, there’s no more John Wayne, Clint Eastwood, Gary Cooper, or Paul Newman with Robert Redford walking in the streets. Yet, the spirit of eternal youthfulness is still nuanced by a combination of its beautiful rusticity of nature and a diversity of people interacting with the special aura surrounding the land.  For this reason, the West has not lost its charm with its continuous saga of immigrants in search of better future and the timeless beauty of nature.

Posted in Film Review

‘A Harlot’s Progress (2006)’, directed by Justin Hardy – review

71+BMGiROqL._RI_Throughout human civilization, prostitution has been arguably something of a necessary evil, intentional or unintentional, an institution of erotic bartering between a client and s prostitute for wants of flesh and fortune. For a client, it’s all about releasing his rapacious libido in a brothel, whereas for a prostitute offering a pleasure of the flesh can be a means to a social mobility in a period when women’s place was confined by biological determinism. But that social mobility would be possible with the intervention of Goddess Fortuna. ‘A Harlot’s Progress’ follows a life of an unfortunate prostitute named Mary through the eyes of William Hogarth, an English painter and social critic renowned for choice of his subjects crossing the strata of the social class system for inspirations.

The painter Hogarth chooses Mary as his unofficial muse for various paintings depicting modern moral subjects as a series of picturesque statements of social criticism on the oppressed conditions of the poor whose lives are already determined by their biological and social statuses. Likewise, Mary’s downfall from a beautiful courtesan to a common, over-the-hill backstreet slut is already a foregone conclusion for the nature of the profession. Besides, she’s not exactly cut out for a fine prostitute with artful plans to forward her rank and condition; she has a pride but no courage. She yearns for a polite society, but her frailty of character prevents her from advancing in her career to a mistress of a high-birth man. In other words: Mary chose a wrong job that ruined her life.

The film is said to be based upon a true story with references to the famous figures of William Hogarth and his friend Henry Fielding, the author of Tom Jones. It gives the veracity of the event with a charge of authority, rendering the story of lachrymose life of Mary emotionally powerful and factually unchallenged in the veneer of historicity. Yet, in terms of objectivity of the stance that the film takes, its view on prostitution in the 18th century London is clearly askew on the side Mary because she is cast as being a victim of the social evil with her purity of the soul torn apart by men’s rampant animalistic sexual desires as presented by all uniformly unattractive and perverted men on screen. In fact, the only pitiful character in the film seems to be Mother Needham, who is mercilessly abused on the pillory for three consecutive days and nights of stoning, defiling, and cursing from the public who were once or twice her clients and neighbors. The sight is sufficient to incite pathos because of her plea for life authentically delivered by the excellent performance of actress Geraldine James.

No one can throw stones at Mary for her life of “sin and depravity” because there’s no one who is immaculately cleared of guilt and sins to judge her character as arbitrator of morals. But then she is responsible for her own life with her own free will to choose to be a harlot. For not all destitute women driven by abject economic conditions are succumbed to the trade of the flesh. Nonetheless, this film is a good period drama that resurrects the ethos of the time with the parlance, habits, and costumes of different classes peculiar to the 18th century, well executed by a cast of classically-trained fine thespians.