East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai

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Did this guy ever see a movie?

I’ll ramble a bit, if you don’t mind. This post is somewhat connected to the Things I learned from the Movies post a few days back.
Sort of like a reboot.

Last night we were reading a passage from a novel, me and some friends.
It’s a good exercise, reading aloud, and see what it sounds like. It helps a lot.
Robert E Howard used to speak aloud the passages he was typing, or so they say – and it’s a good practice… well, ok maybe not bellowing out loud each and every phrase, but reading some passages aloud helps.
roastAnyway, the thing we were reading was incredibly bad. But really bad.
This was just some people sitting around a table, having lunch (roast with potatoes, that sort of stuff), and it was supposed to be a quiet naturalistic scene, with some sort of emotional charge underneath.
It was ghastly.
The prose was stilted, the dialogue was made of wood, the whole set up lacked life, rhythm, humor, that spark that brings the scene to your mind’s eye.
It was horrid, and it failed on every point. A disaster.
We laughed a lot, we cringed a lot.
But mostly laughed.


And so it happened that me and my friend Lucy just ended up saying the same thing:

But did this guy ever see a movie in his life?

Which led to an interesting discussion, and it was fun because Lucy is a writer and a movie montage and editing expert1, and I’ll try and summarize it here, for your entertainment. Continue reading

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The Shanghai Bund

Today I gave a good shake at The Mother of Lightning, the story I’m writing for Pro Se Press’ The New Adventure of Ned Land – hoping I’ll be able to finish it, and they’ll like it.
The deadline looms closer, it is time to check the details and nail the box shut for delivery.

The story is set in Shanghai in 1871, and that’s the tricky part, because this is exactly the moment in which the British and the French, aka The Most Favoured Nations, were redesigning the former fishermen’s village in their own image.
The Bund was there but it was not yet the wonder it would be in the 1920s, and a lot of the city was very different from the Shaghai we usually get from movies or novels – the Paris of the East.

1775939So I went through my collection of old maps and books,a nd finally fell back on Peter Hibbard’s The Bund, Shanghai: China Faces West, a wonderful historical and architectural guidebook to the waterfront of Shanghai.
The book, published by Odyssey, is beautifully illustrated, with both old and new photos.
Some complain that it is not up to date (it was published in 2007) and so it does not work – or so they say – as a proper guidebook when you are out in the field, but for an armchair traveler or a writer looking for details about the Shanghai Club, it is an absolute treasure trove.

I was a little surprised in finding out that some of the details I had put down on the fly while writing were actually correct. But I’ve spent so much time reading (and sometimes writing) about Old Shanghai, that apparently I know the ins and outs of it better than I remember the streets and bus stops of my hometown.

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And talking about King Arthur…

arthurIn his comment to my Robin Hood post, Keith Taylor said…

Just put me down as a fan of Robin Hood from way back, and of King Arthur too.

Which came just at the right time as I had been walking down memory lane with a few friends, here, these days, reminiscing about Arthur of the Britons, a 24 episodes British series that first aired in 1972 and I caught the next year when it was distributed in Italy.
And boy I liked it! Continue reading


That archer guy from Sherwood

And so it turns out my friend Clara Giuliani, over at Scribblings, does not like Robin Hood, and actually finds a certain sympathy for John Lackland, of all things.
While I nursed my broken heart1, I thought that I do like Robin Hood and therefore, today being the eight-hundredth anniversary of the death of King John Lackland, why not make a post about the best Robin Hoods out there?

Let’s recap the basics: Robin Hood is the character in a number of ballads and folk tales, and later stories, poems and romances, whose historicity is debated and does not really interest us here right now.
From th every beginning (that is, from the 14th century), Robin is described as an anti-clerical champion of the lower classes, very respectful of women (probably because he is a devout of the Virgin Mary), and an excellent archer and an enemy of the Sheriff of Nottingham. What’s not to like, I wonder!
His companions from the start include Little John, Much the Miller’s Son, and Will Scarlett, while Maid Marian and friar Tuck will come later with the reteling of the story.
Continue reading


Ten lessons from swashbucklers and adventure movies

This post is part of the Things I Learned from the Movies Blogathon, a good opportunity to see movies in a different way, and learn something from them.
Soplease direct your browsers to the Speakeasy and the Silver Screenings blogs for a full list of the blogs involved and the various topics of this crash-course in learning stuff – for better or for worse – from movies.


And then check out what’s coming, because here on Karavansara we’ll discuss

Ten lessons from swashbucklers and adventure movies

What else would you expect? Continue reading