Tag Archives: Writing

‘The Signal-Man’, by Charles Dickens – review

The Signal-Man (Original 1866 Edition): AnnotatedThe Signal-Man (Original 1866 Edition): Annotated by Charles Dickens

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Charles Dickens wrote this short story of a lonely signalman in 1866 based upon the Clayton tunnel crash in 1861. The setting of the story was a station by this tunnel with a dismal and eerie atmosphere around it, which dovetailed with the ambiance of the story itself. But while I was reading the story and thereupon, I was unsure of who’s the ghost here: the narrator or the signalman? First of all, the image of the narrator calling the signalman’s attention to him from above seems to me uncanny enough to conjure up the calling of a spectre wandering about the haunted tunnel. Or it might be that the signalman, the station, and the train per se were all in fact illusions, bewitched elements of the tunnel crash victims eternally haunting the place, not knowing their demise. Or in terms of modern psychoanalytical perspective, either the narrator or the signalman saw his own representations of the reality in his own mind, the hallucinations, which were different from and invisible to the others. And that is what I found this story at once hauntingly rueful and lingering with the images.

what i liked about “Upstairs, Downstairs” (TV Series) – review


upstairs-downstairs

A long time ago, somewhere in London there lived two families under one grand roof: one lived in downstairs, and the other upstairs, all behaving according to their modus vivendi that seemed only natural to accept without a shadow of doubt to contest. It was the time when a lady would require a parlor maid to groom her in her boudoir and a butler would act in the capacity of a superintendent of a household as well as a messenger incognito for his master. But to dismiss those “good old days” as an obsolete oppressive social institution is to deny the memories of those cherished in their everyday lives as portrayed unforgettably in a British television drama series, “Upstairs, Downstairs” (1971).

This is not like the overhyped “Downton Abbey” in the sense that the plot of the story involves these two opposite classes (the benevolent master and the content servant) in a very fashionable mansion. Contrarywise, this classic series of “Upstairs, Downstairs” is rich with feelings and thoughts that make the viewer empathetic to the characters and absorbed into each episode for the reason that they touch upon the heart of the viewer, let alone the fine performance of the cast and the elegant screenplay attuned to all.  On the point of purely subjective note, the character of Rose Buck, an excellent parlor maid who is beautiful both inside and outside is what gives to the ethos of the drama: she is all humanity, showing compassion toward the eccentric but tragic footman Alfred who was shunned from others. Notwithstanding her goodness and beauty, Rose is unlucky with her personal life, ever finding herself out of reach of love like the forlorn nymph Echo. Her character is universally appealing regardless of time, ethnicity, and class. And Butler Hudson may seem prejudiced and stuffy, but he has a heart, too. In fact, he’s a good father figure: stern but fair, strict but kind. No one in Downstairs is sacked coldly, come what may.

The residents of Upstairs are not your proverbial snobbish English aristocratic family whose haughtiness and zero regard for their subordinates are something to be enshrined in the temple of Marxism; the Bellamy family, headed by the magnanimous and highly respectful viscount Richard Bellamy, who was originally a son of a country parson, were all too human, woven into intricate relationships of love and loneliness, betrayal and misunderstanding. To put it in a nutshell, the Bellamys are a paradigm of noblesse oblige. No wonder Butler Hudson and his Downstairs family show such a high, heartfelt regard for the family like they are their real family.

If you are accustomed to the splendid British manor scenes that typify your image of the classic British class distinctions, then you might find this drama rather antiquated and boring as a period drama. But those of you who value stories and characters, not to mention fine scripts, this will feast your senses and sensibilities. What’s more, you don’t have to be British to enjoy this excellent drama that fuses historical backgrounds as factual grounds of each episode with interesting and empathetic characters with stories to tell which we could relate to one way or another. Good dramas are contemporaneous with any period of times, theirs and ours. 

Author’s Note: Since the acquisition of a Kindle Fire, I have been wallowing in the enjoyment of quality TV shows of the past. People ask me why I am hooked on the dramas or comedy shows of the bygone eras before my coming to the world. But as I firmly believe that pathos of humankind are transcendent of time and universal in every culture, my sensibilities channel me to the dramas that know no boundary of zeitgeists. I am open to all good TV shows so long as they are worth the viewing. 

mission impossible

 

It’s the busiest hour at the Union Station in LA. Trains decant crowds of people rushing toward their destinations like toy soldiers winded to the fullest marching forward at war. Among all this hoopla of rush hour actions, there goes Fido, an unlikely K-9 agent from Terra Canina. Fido knows no fear and always accomplishes its missions with fortitude and loyalty. One of the daily missions is to cross the frontline station to make a rendezvous with another  K-9 agent from Terra Canina. With the help of a human ally from Resistance against Confederation of Lumpish Rabble, Fido hurries the way to the rendezvous point with alacrity of speed and a burst of pep peculiar to the species known for fierce loyalty and universal magnanimity. The mission impossible became possible. 

Author’s Note: I shot this video last evening at the station on my way home after work because (1) I loved dogs; (2) the dog was right next to me on the escalator to the upper level; and (3) I felt a sudden feat of venturesome temerity to film the trail of the dog. Watching the dog took my momentary existential worries off my mind. Benjamin Franklin must have felt the same when he said the following timeless adage:

“There are three faithful friends – an old wife, an old dog, and ready money.”
untitled

Here’s Fido’s secret K-9 agent waiting for Fido at the rendezvous point

moleskine and me

 

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Moleskine Limited Edition, Snow White Notebook, Pocket, Ruled, Apple, Hard Cover (3.5 x 5.5)

Being a regular commuter from Camarillo to Downtown LA via train and Metro on weekdays requires light traveling; hence it was all over but the shouting that I would get a portable diary compact enough to carry about with me without adding even an incremental extra ounce to my already weighty messenger bag filled with a book, a Kindle Fire, a Traveler’s Notebook, a Makeup pouch, and a small stationery bag. Furthermore, I needed one such that it would be my ubiquitous mind’s reservoir in which I could preserve paroxysm of ideas, emotions, and feelings  conveniently at a coffee shop and on the train.

Out of such prerequisites for my traveling companion came this pocket-sized Moleskine Limited Edition Snow White Notebook at a quite reasonably affordable price. It is sturdy, well-bound, and even hard-covered, let alone prettily designed. There are choices of “Ruled” and “Blank” at your personal preference. (My recommendation is that if you choose a blank version of it, you will write more on each page, which is all the more economical.)

All in all, as a novice user of Moleskine notebooks, I glory in the novelty of it all with the haunting echoes of Sherlock Holms and Mr. Watson: “Excellent!” I cried. “Elementary,” said he.”

Author’s Note: I am neither an undercover agent for Moleskine nor a mystery shopper paid to write this review of the notebook. And no, I am not a would-be power blogger in search of sponsors or followers to promote my Blog. 

 

 

 

“Bad Ben-The Mandela Effect” by Nigel Bach – review

Bad.Ben_.4.The_.Mandela.Effect.2018-poster-frontThe smashing success of The Blair witch Project has spawned its eponymous genre of films with its proprietorial low-budget production consisting of indie directors, unknown (or low-profiled) actors/actresses, limited gadgetry, simple scripts, and straightforward plot to evoke an arch of Realism in Reality in touch with the everyday life of the ordinary. In European films, this neo-realism has already been constituted by the works of Lars von Trier in Dancer in the Dark, the Dardenne Brothers in Rosetta, and Vittorio de Sica in The Bicycle Thief. Maybe it’s because the New World is innately rebellious to anything coming from the Old World for the reason that it is simply too sophisticated to appreciate its artistic sensibilities developed through the flight of times. Whatever it might be, now is different. American Cinema Paradiso has never been so teeming with many an ingeniously creative realistic film made by ambitious directors who are not shy to translate their imagoes or imaginative world on screen in a way that makes it look real as impressively illustrated in Nigel Bach’s Bad BenThe Mandela Effect.

The genre of the film blurs on the boundary of comedy and horror. In fact, it delivers the sensuous kicks of laughing and shuddering, putting the viewer on the pleasure roller coaster ride. To begin with, the undeniably irascible bold-headed “Tom Riley,” played by Nigel Bach, who also produced and directed the film, with his thick southern New Jersey accent and the accordant “don’t mess-with-me” attitude is a great subject of comical caricature resembling none other than himself. Then there are the possessed satanic dolls that are more irritable than horrible because they get on Riley’s nerves. Even the profane language Riley employs to covey his frustration and to provoke fear in the evil dolls is not offensive but risible. Besides, the setting of the house, which is also the actor’s real house, renders the plot of the film a sense of verisimilitude, an illusion of watching a non-fiction documentary film based on a real event.

The real gem of this strangely attractive film is how the plot is unfolded with a wicked deception of the eyes and the ears of the audience even without special effects or ingenious editing. How a man like Tom Riley – the porky bald-headed fiftyish curmudgeon- can commend a screen presence would have been a challenge, had it not been for Bach’s natural way of delivering his lines without overtly dramatic emotions  and his elliptical plot of a plausible story of an everyday man experiencing the supernatural in everyday life. In fact, from the moment Riley gets to his new proud and really beautiful house of dream bought at a sheriff’s sale, we take the plot of the film for granted with a foregone conclusion until it gets us to the surprising denouement thereof with the kind of sensation and sensibility that Riley experiences over and over again. In this manner of empathy, we are in Riley’s parallel universe whether we like it or not during the whole film, come what may.

It is both fun and worthwhile to watch this one-man act without boredom for what is worth. It is a motion tessera elliptically put together by bits of Child’s Play, Paranormal Activity, and Twilight Zone studded with crude American sense of humor and practicality of the storytelling that does not impart preposterously and pompously supernatural ambiance. Other acerbic reviews of the film notwithstanding, this film deserves of applaud for its ingenuity to employ a modern theatrical version of ventriloquism, fusing Riley’s amusingly jagged story telling voice with the director’s own impetuous gushing of the realistically uncanny atmosphere he tries to create without elaborately intricate scripts or other fantastic cinematic bells and whistles.