Your RDA of Irony

Monday Miscellany

Topic I: The Depths of My Depravity

This weekend I attempted to corrupt an innocent mind by telling her that John Wesley had founded the Methodist School of Acting. I even offered her a famous example of Methodist acting:

“I couldah been a contendah–which would notah been possible if we was subject to predestinarian determinism. So my one-way ticket to palookaville was a mattah of Free Will.”

Topic II: What is Chinese for Aquitaine?

I recently discovered that China has a recycling policy. No, I am not referring to the use of human waste for fertilizer or packing material. (And keep in mind, the “compost’ on your Walmart purchases may not all be from China; Walmart rarely gives its employees washroom breaks.) My revelation occurred while watching the Chinese costume epic “Curse of the Golden Flower.”

Set in Medieval China (of course, that could be only 70 years ago), the film depicts a web of palace intrigues. The Empress and the Emperor are plotting against each other; their three sons are exploited as pawns but those young princes have machinations of their own. In the first 30 minutes, I saw one poisoning, one of those marvelously choreographed martial arts duels, and two seductions (one verging on incest). For all this hectic activity, something about the film seemed remarkably familiar. Suddenly, I recognized what it was: a Chinese version of “The Lion in Winter.”

As Mr. and Mrs. Tang, Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine have lost their sense of humor but gained a much better wardrobe. Tenth century China was richer and more sophisticated than twelfth century Europe. The Tangs’ casual opulence surpassed the best that the Plantagenets had to offer. But the Tang dynasty also seems more disfunctional than the Plantagenets. At the end of “The Lion in Winter”, Eleanor is going back to prison, the princes are in rebellion, but everyone is alive and in a comparatively good mood. As “The Curse of the Golden Flower” ends, the Emperor is still cheerful, but he has beaten to death one son, forced another to suicide, and driven the Empress mad. Spare the rod…

And I am looking forward to more Chinese recycling. I anticipate an epic about a headstrong if footbound heroine during the Taiping Rebellion: “Gong with the Yin”.

  1. Peg Pruitt says:

    Another sequel: a Chinese boatman sells his soul to the devil in “Damn Yangtze.”

  2. Then, courtesy of Kipling, there is the story of two northern nomads who Khan-nive their own empire in China: “The Manchu Woo Peking”

  3. Peggles says:

    There is a new Chinese animated series coming up – a group of seven dwarves enter a cooking competition. The series is titled “Whistle While You Wok.”

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