Tag Archives: writer

thank-you from author Ian Mortimer

Although Abraham Lincoln said, “Don’t worry when you are not recognized, but strive to be worthy of recognition,” it’s always delightful  to hear when a writer whose work you value highly and like very much appreciates what you have done in connection with the work. For recognition is a great motivator for a dilettante, especially an amateur hobbyist writer, to keep it going in the awareness of her abilities that are in many times smoldered, undervalued, and simply ignored.

So naturally, I am pleased to find my review of The Time Traveler’s Guide to Elizabethan England by Ian Mortimer gets noted and even quoted on the author’s Twitter today.  Mind you, my dear reader, that I am not an autograph hunter, chasing that usual Thank you- I really- appreciate-your -kind -reviews- on-my-book facade, which I find conceited and empty even, nor do I canvass any such vain cajolery from authors of books like a destitute attention-seeker. Rather, I am glad to know that there are people who appreciate my works however humble they may be, and the happiness becomes twice when such recognition comes from those whose works I like. So it’s a mutual respect between a Reader and a Writer, and vice versa.

On writing, Stephen King and J.K. Rowling advised in harmony that a good writer requires disciplines and perspiration. True that some of the best writers are natural with their craft bestowed upon them by a supernatural being. But I also believe that many of the great writers work hard by writing continuously and reading copiously. That gives me a ray of hope, and so should you.

Forma Urbis: the ancient Roman’s cyclopean map

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Forma Urbis

Everything about Rome – the Eternal City – was grand and majestic, including the Pantheon, Roman Coliseum, Library of Celsus and Pont du Guard, all of which represented the magnificence and loftiness of the Empire stretching from the West to the East, from the North to the South that meant to last for eternity. And the size did matter to the ancient Romans; the bigger the artifacts were, the better they got to be. Proud champions of Bigness, the ancient Romans developed a cartographic masterpiece called “Forma Urbis,” meaning a city map, only on a bigger-than-life scale like you had never seen before had you been a Roman citizen at the time.

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During the reign of Emperor Septinus Severus (193-211 AD), this behemoth map delineating a street plan of Rome mostly with symbols came into being as a cartographic statement of grandeur and power, practicality and divinity of the Empire. The map took up an entire wall of Temple of Peace measuring 60 feet wide and 43 feet high. It also depicted Rome’s urban landmarks across 5 square miles from grand temples of various warehouses of the city. This majestic map of the Eternal City bestriding the wall of the temple, however, lacked tax collection information and other bells and whistles of administrative functions. Hence, its manifest function was believed to be no more than an august ornament, a source of civic pride and awe to the spectator.

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Does this giant map still exist? The question is very much similar to whether or not a megalodon, a supposedly extinct species of shark that lived about 23 to 2.6 million years ago, is still alive as there are frequent veritable accounts of witnesses of the creature elsewhere in the world. Although the existence of Forma Urbis is verifiable based on historical contexts, the actual form of the map exists as 200 fragments to this date because throughout the succession of ages, the bits and pieces were purloined by treasure hunters, especially during the Renaissance period. Nevertheless, for what’s all worth, the ancient Roman’s intention to preserve the artifact succeeded in the legacy of the grandeur of the Empire that wasn’t built a day, and to which all roads led from the four corners of the world. This vignette about Forma Urbis from an anthropological vantage point also reveals a picture of the society that tells of the standard of beauty and the glory of the Empire as contextualized into this fragment but still perennial legacy of the Eternal City.

P.S. This miscellany is based on my reading of an article about the eponymous subject from the recent issue of National Geography History; I find the magazine an excellent source of acquainting myself with many an interesting historical fact covering from the time immemorial to this date across the Atlas, leaving no one, no country, no culture behind, all of which are finely written by erudite writers whose academically impartial viewpoints of their subjects are worthy of applause. You can never be bored with new knowledge, and your mind will never be the same ever.

Isn’t this irony?

Our post-modernist culture is nuanced with anti-establishment of anything traditional and proper, such as decorum, mores, and codes of chivalry. The result of degradation of the values under the pretext of establishing a New Brave World is illustrated  in the following cases of Manifest Grand Irony of Liberalism that is supposed to be synonymous with altruism and niceness.

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A Nazi sympathizer? Are you kidding?

According to this week’s edition of The Spectator, an anonymous former British Prime Minister revealed his hatred toward Theresa May by saying that she should be stabbed or done harmed in the most despicably atrocious fashion that reminds me of the gruesome murder of women by the Reaper of Whitechapel in the late Victorian period. Then there is a British conservative party leader named Esther McVey, who was maliciously excoriated by John McDonnell, a British Labor party politician instigating the mass in public to “lynch” her. Also, the First Lady of the U.S. Melania Trump was criticized for her supposedly apocryphal colonial fashion in Egypt by the media which also prompted the subsequent rebukes from the public. And this does not stop in the West. The first female president of Republic of Korea, Keun Hae Park was preposterously ousted by her radical left-wing contender Jae in Moon on the count of accepting bribery from a prominent business conglomerate based on unfounded grounds. Besides, Moon’s myrmidons maligned her reputation with indecent computer-generated photo-ops of her to destroy her political career as well as her personal life in prison because she was a leader of a conservative party.

What the aforesaid ladies have in common is not only their conservative affiliations but also their social defenestration from their societies that show neither sympathy nor solidarity among the members of the parties and of the humanity in general. But then, woe betides anyone declaiming against the faults of the demagogues! Criticism of a political rival on different stances with courtesy is countenanced and actually encouraged in democracy, but contextualizing it in the egregiously violent words toward the women amounts to terrorism and therefore should be publicly deplored in full force and effect. Besides, however strong-willed and imperturbable the aforesaid women might seem in public, they are “ladies” deserving being treated with courtesy, for none other than being women because they are women. Where has all the honorable, respectful chivalry gone? It’s a code of honor, civility, respect toward womanhood that is transcendent of geographical, cultural, and racial boundaries. Just because they are conservative does not give anyone a license to harass them with malicious verbal remarks or gestures marshaling a mass prompting for the behoof of their political hegemony.

To top it all off, the aforesaid betrays the usual faux-pas of declining against their contenders ad hominem, not on the ground of substantive factors or evidence, as Shakespeare corroborated thus: “Condemn the fault, and not the actor of it?” So it’s not altogether based on the standard of Reason but the manifestation of appetites, the raw emotions, the unbridled egos. Sounds antiquated, abstract, or even priggish? – Maybe so, but the men speaking about the women in the aforesaid manner are beyond the pale because it IS a violence of men in power against their women peers in a form of sordid verbal harassment. And it makes me wonder why #MeToo tweeters seem to connive at it, doing nothing to mobilize the supporters for pillorying the guilty men as usual.

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Jane Eyre (1983 BBC TV Mini-Series)

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Jane Eyre, the Timeless Classic

Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre (under the pen name of “Currer Belle” to discombobulate her biological determinism) is neither a romantic novel about a lonely young woman falling for her rich master nor a proto-feminist literature subtly championing women’s economic independence and choice to select their lovers on their own. It is a story of a resilient and noble spirit armed with education, clothed in canopy of humanity, and adorned with reflective beauty of the mind that transforms physical plainness into comeliness. That’s what makes our heroine Jane Eyre timelessly unforgettable, undeniably attractive; perchance, that’s why this novel has been made into a series of film versions for television and cinema resurrecting the ambience of the period and bringing the hauntingly impassioned characters into life. Of all the dramatized adaptations of Jane Eyre, this 1983 BBC mini-series version merits itself in the movie firmament as the magisterial translation of Charlotte Bronte’s original novel, wonderfully delivered by a cracking screenplay, a brilliant cast of performers, and a truthful setting of the story, resembling none other than themselves all together in this riveting panoply of Bronte’s dazzling creation.

Dramatized by Alexander Baron, this TV series is composed of eleven episodes that faithfully capture the epochal moments of the passionate heroine Jane Eyre from the moments she was cruelly castigated by her callous aunt and her equally sordid cousins to her eight years of boarding school experience, to the fateful encounter with the brooding but vulnerable Mr. Rochester, and to the consequential events packed full of surprises and serendipity worth every reward to the lonely Jane. The gem of this BBC miniseries is that each of the episodes is treated as a small story – that is, a story embedded in a whole story as if it were a short story itself – so you can skip the early years of Jane and jump into her employment as governess for Adele, the only daughter of Mr. Rochester at Thornfield without feeling adrift from the previous story that will defenestrate you to the middle of nowhere in the whole story. Of course, for those of us who have read and re-read the novel since the time immemorial, it’s a foregone conclusion, but even if you haven’t, take heart and play it fast forward to meet the grown Jane (although she’s only nineteen years old.) in her tantalizing suspenseful moments with Mr. Rochester and even St. John Rivers.

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Zelah Clarke as Jane Eyre and Timothy Dalton as Edward Rochester

At the heart of the drama lies the commendable performance of the characters: Jane Eyre, played by Zelah Clarke, Edward Rochester aka “Mr. Rochester”, by Timothy Dalton, and St. John Rivers, by Andrew Bicknell invest the drama with the beautifully nuanced dialogues and gestures, which are never outlandishly displayed, vying for individual attentions, but harmoniously concerted that impart the gusto and the verisimilitude to the story. In fact, the appearances, gestures, and diction of these three characters are exactly what I have always imagined them to be in my mind’s eye. Clarke’s rendition of Jane Eyre is the finesse itself that would make Charlotte Bronte happy with her performance as well as physiognomy. Jane is a passionate soul, but conservative, if not conventional. She is an intelligent woman who loves her gruff but deeply hurt and lonely Edward Rochester as her equal despite a sea of age difference and his petulant past. Unlike other Jane Eyres played previously and posteriorly, Clarke’s Jane epitomizes the heroine of oddly beautiful enigma personified: the plain but pretty, expressive but demure, passionate but docile, sensitive but strong, patient but yearning… Which is befittingly summarized by St. John Rivers, wonderfully and unforgettably played by Andrew Bicknell: “She has rather an unusual face…The grace and harmony of beauty are wanting in her features, she is not at all handsome…” I have seen other film versions of Jane Eyre, but none other than this Clarke’s Jane Eyre has won my approval in terms of all things regarding the heroine of Charlotte Bronte’s original novel.

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Andrew Bicknell as St. John Rivers

That goes the same for Timothy Dalton’s irrepressible Edward Rochester and Andrew Bicknell’s stoical but misguided St. John Rivers. On a personal note, Bicknell seems to nail the role down as handsome and intelligent St. John Rivers, who prioritizes his religious duties as a parson over his human feelings and emotions for his beautiful and kind-hearted admirer Rosemund Oliver in arbitrary belief that stoicism is the grist for the mill of vocation as a man of cloth. He believes that it is his calling to be a missionary in India and that it behooves him to abnegate sensuous delights to which a man is naturally inclined with all his might. Watching Bicknell playing the character makes me wonder if the casting director or the screenwriter had the uncanny ability to conjure up the spirit of Charlotte Bronte and ask of her the fitting image of the character prior to the production of the drama. The tall, imposing manly figure of St. John Rivers with beautiful Grecian facial features and golden hair is just as the description created by Bronte in the novel as if she had seen Andrew Bicknell in the peculiar alchemy of literature that enabled her to look into the future and to see her character incarnate.

All in all, this 1983 BBC miniseries of Jane Eyre will arrest your full attention to the every scene of the episodes without infelicity and pomposity that classical period dramas sometimes tend to produce on account of obsolete diction and outlandish gestures that look incongruously emphatic to our modern senses and sensibilities. This is a quaintly gorgeous drama without the ostentatious glamor of television drama exhibiting luminous Vanity Fair; it shows that just simple good scripts based on the loyal adaptation of the original novel and excellent performance of the fine cast that seems to be destined for the roles can translate the imaginative world of the author into the visual firmament of television drama this beautifully and impressively in a way that makes you feel the emotions of the characters by passing over to their inner worlds.

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