Tag Archives: review

‘Prince Brat and the Whipping Boy (TV Movie 1994)’ – review

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The Unlikely Duo in tandem

Tales of mistaken or traded identities between either by the irony of fate or whimsical voluntary submission bespeak our desire of realizing dreams and desires at one fell swoop without drudgery of going through rules and conformations of social norms and mores. From The Prince and the Pauper to Cinderella and to The Trading Places, the basic story lines contextualize the instant social mobility of improving one’s social status and the essence of human nature laid bare in dealing with new milieus. But forget the verbiage of latent sociological theory and academic analysis because after all, we all know that such wish for rapid social escalation is only father to the thought. So why not continue to enjoy the world of wishful thinking entertainingly translated on screen for the sake of art, such as this delightful movie Prince Brat and the Whipping Boy (AKA The Whipping Boy)?

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Guess who’s the prince?

The movie has a charm of Mark Twain’s The Prince and the Pauper and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, giving it impression of a spin-off from the two stories in all likelihood. But what makes it worth the viewing are the characters whom you find difficult to dislike and the detailed background setting that conjure up the spirit of the time and bring out the personalities of the characters delightfully rendered on screen. The young prince is not really a brat but a lonely child who needs love and attention from his ever busy king father. The prince’s impudent pranks are signals for sending emotional SOS to the king who puts the security of his kingdom before the attention to his one and only child. And there’s a young rat-catcher about the same age as the prince who accidentally finds himself as a whipping boy for the unhappy prince. What happens next is the gem of this movie in their subconscious quest for their cherished ends, their treasures at heart, through their eventful journey together in the unlikely duo of the prince and his whipping boy.

All in all, it is a little cute feel-good movie intended for all ages about what’s really important in life. Yes, we all may know the answer to it, but it really touches us in the denouement of the movie, leaving us with a feeling of warmth, affection, and jolliness, chiming the emotional, sentimental bells of our childlike imagoes. That said, if you want a movie that takes you away from your worries and sadness arising out of living adult life for some time, this movie might do good for you as it did for me for the day.

Birth of Underworld Train on 01/10/1863

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1863: A contemporary lithograph of a steam locomotive on the Metropolitan line near Paddington Station, courtesy of the Telegraph

As a commuter taking trains – that is, both overground and underground – to work, I deem it appropriate to pay a historical tribute to the opening of the world’s first subterranean railway in London, England on January 10th, 1863. The London Underground is the genesis of all the world’s trains running under the surface of earth, such as the New York City Subway, the Los Angeles Metro Rail, Paris Metro, the Tokyo Subway, et al, and for its perpetual legacies as one of the greatest inventions in human history that reconstructed social substratum as well as cultural setting, the commencement of the Underground 156 years ago from today deserves of its deferential recognition and universal commemoration. Thus is my reason I write this post as a personal token of my appreciation for the use of the Metro on a daily basis.

When the idea of operating underground railways was proposed, the public and the critics alike decried it, demanded it should be offloaded, for they all shuddered at the thought of going under the surface of earth, which Dante indicated in Inferno as where Hell existed, or a pit fit for the condemned prisoners only. Those who had their disbelief on such daring idea of tunneling underground simply dismissed it as stark nonsense or one big hokum. Some even feared about a remote prospect of the tunnels collapsing due to the weight of the houses. And to some, it’s an express ride to Inferno, because the very thought of traveling underground by train seemed so preposterous, so blasphemous, so revolting that round trips should be used as a severe form of punishment for convicted criminals. Besides, like their modern counterparts grumbling about cacophonous environment of construction nearby, the entire procedural only instigated noisome puncturing of the equilibrium of locals.

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Commuters waving their hats in the air during a trial journey on the London Metropolitan Underground railway, courtesy of BBC.com

However, to the consternation of all those critics and public, the result of the Underground, the subterranean train of Hades,  came to fruition of its revolutionary speedy efficiency and cultural experience that was truly one-of-kind. In fact, it proved a triumph of determination and Victorian engineering feat, creating a dazzling combination of Arts and Science in terms of its technical prowess and the novelty of uniqueness in all things creative and venturesome. In fact, on January 10th, 1863, 38,000 people rode between Farringdon and Paddington stations. There were 3 compartment lit by gas, and each of the compartments was designed with care for passengers because efficiency and beauty could accompany one another, never rival.

When I will be on the Metro tomorrow morning, I will think of those Victorian London passengers on the Underground and will likely to thank Directors and Engineers of the London Metropolitan Railway Company for opening a new era of public transport that has upended our patterns of life and shapes of our perspectives on our everyday life.

Suspenseful and Delightful: ‘Life on Mars’ – review

b5e443781078a20c96d0659effa12d5ed7444463A good detective drama propounds you with an jolting twist in a story line with verve and gusto, making it an enjoyable and enlightening view. In this regard, Life on Mars is an ingeniously crafted TV drama, packed full of elliptically well-written scripts, impressively executed performance of a fine cast, and highly detailed periodical background setting that renders all the more convincing verisimilitude of each episode that resurrects the past in a mind blowing way.

The story evolves around the protagonist Sam (brilliantly played by John Simm), a clever, sharp-witted DCI with a heart who after a near-fatal car accident, finds himself awake in the year 1973, four years later he was born, as DI in the Manchester Police Department. The cause of the mysterious teleportation to the decade and the dilemma of Sam trapped in the past are the gist of this wonderfully thought-provoking drama which otherwise would be just another cop/crime drama with gratuitous hot car pursuits, bloodshed crime scenes, and mindless half-nude scenes. Sam constantly wants to return to what he believes to be the present or the reality, but the police department of the past needs his help. And that’s how the entire two seasons of the drama are unfolded.

Life on Mars is fun to watch with a delightful combination of 70s American cop drama appeal in appearance and scintillating synthesis of SCI-Fi and Psychological Suspense in content. It is a modern detective procedural worth the watching. You will have no guilty feeling of indulging in  the entire two seasons at one setting on your Kindle Fire because it will both entertain your senses and spur your mind on to think about your own reality.

How they stole Christmas spirit

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They dispirited Joy to the World; no more Christmas carols, no more resplendently colorful lights of Christmas trees, let alone no more exchanges of Christmas gifts. Instead, they brandish a Five-starred Red Flag, chanting party doctrines and Chinese cultural manifesto amid a flow of flashy foreign imports and an ostentatious charade of manufactured exports produced in high volume sales at a low unit margin of profit in world market. To paraphrase the universal Shakespeare, I must be cruel, only to be kind: Thus truth begins and reality remains behind. It is indelible truth that in this time of global community, indispensably interconnected by mutual needs and benefits, what is reckoned an Orwellian idea of totalitarianism as fabulously satirized in Animal Farms and 1984 is really happening in our time.

110179To come upon an article from the Internet issue of The Guardian on Chinese government’s banning on Christmas celebrations spurred me on to write this piece of short essay. The journalist objectively reports that the Communist government crack downed on Christmas celebrations, dismissing as “western festivals” that have no cultural values on their Chinese cultural heritage, which should be in turn actively promoted among the comrades. The governmental institutions, schools, and bureaus relayed a directive at the behest of Xi Jinping, disapproving of observation of Christmas as well as practice of Christian religions, under the pretext of “maintaining stability” and cohesiveness of Chinese cultural legacies. Moreover, the myrmidons of Xi, the cult of Communism, ingratiate themselves with old-fashioned propaganda that urges Chinese people to refuse all other foreign (especially, western) festivals because they will corrupt the purity of their culture and weaken their party ideals.

However, such is not a sudden raid on non-Chinese customs or anything that might look threatening to the despotic hegemony of the Communist Chinese Party. It has always been there, but now the tip of the iceberg is beginning to show by Xi’s political ambition conflated with his proud Chinese ethnocentrism. With respect to religious freedom in China, it has not been changed since the Cultural Revolution. For instance, China does not have diplomatic relations with the Vatican, and it has its own version of schismatic Chinese Patriotic Church of China, which the Vatican does not recognize. Not only the Catholics but also other Christian denominators are persecuted. The article informs the reader that the police raided a children’s Bible class, shut churches, and arrested the members because they practiced the religions outside of officially sanctioned institutions, which are in fact none other than governmental institutions vested with the ostensible canopy of a few de rigeur religious objects.

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Woe betides Xi, his myrmidons, the extreme Chinese jingoists, and their sympathizers who blindly declaim about their cultural superiority and proud ethnocentrism lasting for centuries despite their historical losses against the British, the Japanese, the Americans, and the Koreans. According to Ma Jian, a Chinese-British writer whose wife Flora Drew is his English translator, in China Dream, a satire about the Chinese communist totalitarianism, the Party developed a neural implant called the China Dream Device that is inserted to a person’s brain to wipe out his entire memories and dreams and to enter the Party ideals for the glory of New China built upon a gauche mixture of blatant consumerism and blind nationalism. The result is a Big Overfed Child who only thinks for himself and behaves without a decorum of civility common to Civilized Man.

Xi and the Party should first learn by heart that Christmas is not a byproduct of western materialism – which ironically has become their chief god – or an epiphenomenon of western imperialism under the aegis of European Christendom. Christian or non-Christian, Western or Eastern, Christmas is a joyful, a feel-good day that has been celebrated for centuries. It’s a most celebrated holiday season around the world that imparts a sense of warmth, togetherness, love, and hope. It does not require of anyone a special membership to enjoy the spirit. Besides, Jesus of Nazareth was not western but eastern because Israel was and still is geographically located in Asia. In light of the aforesaid, what the leaders and its Leader of the Party should understand is the cultural, religious foundations of not only Christmas Day but also all other legacies of humanity that transcend the subjectivity of time, territory, and tribe because as Edmund Burke also attested: “The standard of reason and taste is universal in all human creatures as regards principles of judgment and of sentiment common to all mankind.” Without the knowledge, China will still be clothed in the Old Mao Suit that does not fit.

 

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Celts Vs. Romans?

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Asterix (L) and Obelix (R)

In The Adventures of Asterix, a popular Franco-Belgian comic strip whose protagonists Asterix and his friend Obelix in a village of Gauls during the Roman occupation in 50 BC outwitted their Roman colonialists with Druidic magic potion and spontaneous ingenuity laced with Celtic sense of humor and and mysticism, the Gauls were constantly at war with the Romans in the reign of Julian Caesar, who was bent on subjugating the culture of the colonials, let alone the recalcitrant Celtic spirit, to that of the empire. But it wasn’t always like that, pace popular conception of the Roman ruling of the Gauls and the Britons as widely portrayed in popular culture. The relationship between the Romans and the Celts was quite peaceful and even surprisingly symbiotically beneficial – that is, at least prior to the emergence of Caesar and Claudius.

The Romans and the Celts were in Apollonian co-existence bound by flourishing trade and cultural exchange between the two peoples. There was a long period of peaceful trading between the Mediterranean Romans and the Celts of Gaul inhibiting modern-day France with exports and imports particular to each of the regions. To illustrate, the Gauls were known for their penchant for diluted Mediterranean wine that was transported by boat on the sea and wagon in land from the Peninsular. The Romans received in return Celtic slaves who never seemed to be short of a supply because there was a surplus of slaves in Gaul where frequent raiding among the tribes was the sine qua non of such abundance of exploited manpower to be used to tend the Roman vineyards and other aristocratic estates. Gaulish chieftains offloaded excessive number of newly acquired slaves by trading them off for proverbial Roman wine to distribute it to his followers as an ostentatious display of their wealth and prowess in their tribes. In fact, the Gauls’ love of the Roman wine was so undeniably famous that among the Romans the stereotypical image of the Gauls as drunkards slurping wine through their long, drooping mustaches was widely circulated in the empire.

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Asterix and Obelix in the Roman Army

Olive oil, tableware, jewelry, and other luxuriant goods were among the popular Roman exports, however expensively they were sold by canny Roman traders, who then bought metals, cured hams, beer, and hunting dogs from the Celts at low prices. Notwithstanding such discontentment in terms of fair trade, the prosperous bartering of the goods between the colonials and the colonialists brought the grist to the mill of effective management of the colonies in the context of regarding economic and political stability that could/would have been otherwise in turmoil as a result of despotic constraints on the preexisting native social and political structures characteristic of colonialism. This favorable symbiotic relationship between the Romans and the Celts (the Gauls in France and the Britons in Britain) greased the wheel of the cultural and political expansion of the empire by egging the Celts on to adopt Roman-style systems of government and the young ones on to enlist in the Roman army as auxiliaries.

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Julius Caesar

However, the pacific era of the Roman-Celtic relationship saw cataclysmic waves of change that would punctuate the stability of the status quo as destabilizing forces loomed large in Western Europe: Firstly, the prospect of Germans occupying the Alps was a cause of concern to the Roman Elite. Secondly, Julius Caesar, the ambitious Roman ruler who was seeking for a popular acclaim to fortify his rulership in the empire as well as booty enough to get himself out of debts, determined to impose his despotic rules on the peoples of the conquered lands as portrayed in The Adventures of Asterix. Then later, there came Claudius, the lame and slightly deaf emperor who was spared of his life by his nephew Caligula perhaps on account of such physical defects. Claudius launched a campaign of conquest in northern Europe to attain military prowess in the region and thus enforced totalitarian policy on the management of the colonial systems, discouraging autonomous trading and social and cultural exchanging between the colonial and the colonialist.

In light of the above, the relationship between the colonialist and the colonial sometimes begets unexpectedly mutual benefits in terms of cultural exchanges between the two peoples counter-intuitive byproducts, such as attested in the case of the Romans and the Celts, which could lead to diversification of native cultures, enriching the wealth of cultural legacies that would become another mode of new culture. If the Celts had been vehemently resisted against the cultural influences of the Romans as a result of the conquest of their lands, the cultures and history of Western Europe would and could have become very different from what we have known today, such as the English language, architectural and other historical artifacts, and political systems. In my opinion, sometimes, the colonial regime is not altogether downright evil in the sense that it somehow results in amalgamation of cultures favorable to both of the ruling and the ruled, not out of the benevolence of the former for sure but of the necessity of governing the conquered in the most effective way in order that the conqueror may quell the social and political dissonance arising out of the inept administration of the colonial affairs. In point of view as held by Ancient Athenian historian Thucydides, one must listen to the other less popular side of the story to transcend the subjectivity of times and to test the validity of truth. In this regard, I opine that however adamantly one may object to the benefits derived from the Roman-Celtic relationship, it attests to the fact that it enriched the cultures of both of the peoples and helped them reshape their ideas of epicurean ways of life that has passed on to the present progeny.

 

Author’s Note: The inspiration of this essay comes from my reading of “Traders to Invaders,” written by Barry Cunliffe, formerly professor of European archeology at the University of Oxford, from December 2018 issue of BBC History Magazine.

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