Thursday, September 29, 2011

Speaking Easy about Prohibition in Montreal

My grandfather, Jules Crepeau, middle with hat with dark band, beside Mayor Mederic Martin, cap. And some aldermen.

Hmm. I was scoping the web freestyle and discovered as song written in the twenties called Hello Montreal.

Perfect for my story, Milk and Water, about Montreal in 1927, when my grandfather was Director of City Services and when the Prince of Wales, the future Edward VIII and his younger brother, George, the future Duke of Kent, visited Canada and were received at City Hall at the beginning of their trip and stayed for a few days of leisure on the way back.

This song, Hello Montreal, was written by Willie Eckstein and is all about Montreal's status as a wet city, so to speak. Not a dry city. Full of Speak Easy's or is it Speakeasies.

Well, this is what I need... My play is about typhoid and the right to free drinking water and about French vs English in Quebec, but since The Prince liked to party, I'll have him go to a speakeasy. I don't think that's much of a stretch.

Which one? Rockhead's didn't open until a year later.

The lyrics to Hello Montreal follow.. and they are PERFECT for my story.

But first this story... My husband's grandfather, Thomas Wells, President of Laurentian Spring Water was married to May Fair, a first cousin to General Douglas MacArthur.

Well, she was a tall, thin good looking women who liked her booze. When she traveled down south, she would hide bottles of booze under her kids' pillows. When the agents came to check, she'd say "Don't wake the kids."

And I also read that Willie Eckstein was a pianist in a motion picture palace and verrrry popular. I can put in my Marion Nicholson story, when I write it. She went to the Motion Pictures in 1912.

Now for the lyrics..

shhhhh) Speak easy, (shhhh) Speak easy,
Said Johnny Brown; I’m gonna leave this town, Ev’rything is closing down.
(shhhh) Speak easy, (shhhh) Speak easy,
And tell the bunch: I won’t go East, won’t go West, Got a diff’rent hunch:
I’ll be leaving in the summer, And I won’t come back till fall,
Goodbye Broadway, hello Montreal.
With a stein upon the table, I’ll be laughing at you all,
Goodbye Broadway, hello Montreal. I’m on my way, I’m on my way,
And I’ll make whoop-whoop whoopee night and day.
Anytime my wifey wants me,
You can tell her where to call,
Goodbye Broadway, hello Montreal.
Yamo, yamo, I think I want a drink; Yamo, yamo, there’s water in the sink.
The sink, the sink, the sink, the sink, the sink;
The good old rusty sink;
But who the heck wants water when you’re dying for a drink?
Oh, “We Won’t Get Home Till Morning” Is the best song after all,
Goodbye Broadway, hello Montreal.
There’ll be no more Orange Phosphates,
You can bet your Ingersoll,
Goodbye Broadway, hello Montreal.
That old tin pail, that old tin pail,
Was never meant to carry ginger ale.
There’ll be photographs of brew’ries
All around my bedroom wall,
Goodbye Broadway, hello Montreal.
(shhhhh) Speak easy, (shhhh) Speak easy,
Asked Tommy Gray; I must know right away,
Are the gals up there okay?
(shhhhh) Speak easy, (shhhhh) Speak easy,
Said Johnny Brown;
You ain’t been hugged, ain’t been kissed,
Till you’ve hit that town:

I got the lyrics from the Deco Montreal website.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Mandalas and Madwomen and Enlightened Kittys

I'm gonna have the most enlightened cat in the world.

Yesterday, the TV 1000 Channel Thingy went down. Couldn't get any channel except Venus, for some reason..although I had to pay for it.

Aha! Conspiracy to get me to watch their lucrative porn offerings, I thought.

My husband was at work, so of course there was nothing I could do about it, but phone him and complain  and get him to phone the customer service people (in Philippines, apparently) while at work (because that is NOT my job)or watch the many movies I have on the PVR thingy.

Instead, I hooked my PC to the Giant Screen and listened and watched some of those spiritual harmonizing videos posted on YouTube... Solfeggio? Biaural beats..HZ harmonics..

Just what I might need to get me out of this creative funk I've been in.

. But as it happens, my Burmese Cat sleeps on the receiver, cause it is warm. She's a mean little creature, with chronic sinusitis. Maybe this will help her in mind and body.

Now, I am no stranger to mandalas, or the power of the mandala, as I was a Jungian in College.

I'm pretty New Agey.

I dunno if it worked. Although this morning I emailed off a promo for my Threshold Girl ebook
to a well placed education media person who had invited me to, after procrastinating for a month.

It certainly can't help to clean your head or mind with these meditations. Let's face it, we spend about 24.7 filling our heads with images created by Corporate America, or infotainment news images, or sundry masturbatory nonsense, some of it fun, very little of it empowering. Our post-modern heads are filled with Times Square squared!

Edith and Flora Nicholson of Threshold Girl were spared such an experience in 1910. Their mental images were from nature, magazines or church (rose window mandala) and maybe an opera or motion picture show or two. And as I have written on this blog, those lace doily things 1900 women used to crochet or spin or weave in their "spare time" have a mandala meditative quality. No question. Witches, all of them!

At least these images allow our minds to work from the inside out and not the other way around.All that brainwashing.

No wonder we're all depressed!

Monday, September 26, 2011

P and P and A and W and Dick Cheney and Crash

Me in 1967.

I saw yesterday that Macdonald's (or Macdonald in Quebec) is promoting a 1967 burger. They are trying to lure us organic types with memories of the Best Year Ever.  Looks like a typical burger, but maybe the beef isn't as toxic. Maybe they might sell 1967 peaches. Ones that are juicy and fresh and not mushy and gross.(What have they done to peaches this year???)

I ate hamburger raw back then in 1967.  Basically. From my mother's kitchen, wonderfully spiced by her. Macdonald's hadn't made it to Quebec. I think only Kentucky Fried Chicken... or maybe that was later, too. Mike's Subs came in the early seventies, I think.  In 1967, my family sometimes ordered Chinese from the House of Wong on Queen Mary Road.

A and W maybe was around back then. But I was too young to have a boyfriend and my father would never have spent money on fast food. The Orange Julep on Decarie was a popular place. I probably only went there once or twice, though.

Also, in the News. Dick Cheney is slated to come to Vancouver to give a talk to promote his book (as if he needs more money. Am I right. Didn't one of his companies make a fortune from HINI, Tamiflu vaccine. Maybe I am wrong. And then there's Haliburton.

Anyway, a Human Rights group said Cheney should be denied entry due to his war crimes, his brazen defence of waterboarding and other torture.

Is Dick Cheney our Sumida Haruzo? Sumida Haruzo was the Kempei Tai soldier who led the waterboarding at Changi Prison during the Double Tenth. He was tried and sentenced to death and his trial is, apparently, a law school  classic. (I lent my copy to a scholar researching Ethel Mulvany at Changi.)

I wrote about him  (and mentioned Mulvany) in my play Looking for Mrs. Peel, as my grandmother, Dorothy Nixon, was tortured in the Double Tenth Incident. I had her diary or memoirs to work with.

Hmm. I saw Cheney interviewed on TV in the US and he claims that the 7 years post 9-11 where there was no attack on the US  was proof everything he did was Right and GOOD. By that logic, Peace in Our Time is proof that Police States work.

Pretty scary logic. Makes Democracy seem doomed. I believe it is. is featuring a talk where a Chinese man argues that democracy is bad for economic growth. (Or does he, I just saw the promo. I didn't listen to it as I didn't want to be depressed.)

Speaking of Tamiflu, we went to see Contagion yesterday and we liked it. A grown up movie. It reminded me of another film, in tone and pace, I just couldn't think of which one. Then at the end I saw in the credits that Contagion was a Stephen Soderbergh film. I still couldn't remember which film...It kept thinking "Crash" but then I remembered crash was by that Canadian Due South guy..Haggis..So I argued this with my husband over an expensive dinner in Pointe Claire. Outside on a  terrace with the St. Jean Street traffic zooming by! It was 25 degrees at 6 pm. In late September. My husband said Crash was by Cronenberg.  Anyway, it's the movie Traffic I was thinking of.

Oh, and Jennifer Ehle was in Contagion, speaking American, so  it took me a long time to definitively believe it was her. Some of those Pride and Prejudice acting ticks still there, though, so I worked it out by her fourth or so scene.  My, she looks young! She's also in the upcoming George Clooney movie, Ides of March, which was previewed at the before the movie.

Oh, and Colin Firth is going to star in a movie the Railway Man which appears to be based on a true story about the Thai Burma Railway. He promoted some action called Democracy is not a Spectator Sport in the UK last fall, I think. It was based on a similar Matt Damon sponsored event.

Matt Damon is in Contagion. See. This blog post comes together nicely. Oh and I drank a Root beer at the movie. I generally hate POP but they had no coffee. And I like Root Beer a bit because it reminds me of  A and W and 1967.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Freedom 55 in a Deep Global Recession

My mother with her family, the Crepeaus in 1925 or 6. They sailed through the Great Depression as he had a huge life pension from the City of Montreal. But he died in 38 and so his widow suffered after that. I think he may have been murdered, but hey.

I was at a birthday party yesterday (warm in late September) for a friend turning 57 just a couple of months before I do, and the hostess was mentioning that she visited the bank last week, to find a safe haven for some money belonging to her son. Thefinancial advisor there told her there was no safe haven. Indeed, there was a 25 percent chance that there would be a 'deep global recession'..coming up. DEEP GLOBAL RECESSION.


The hostess also discussed her retirement plans and all I could think of "We can't afford to retire."

Anyway, I've decided to create a new professional tag for myself. Genealogical writer, author. etc.
That's what I have been doing for 5 years now.

I've researched the background to 300 1910 letters written by my husband's ancestors, a family from Richmond Quebec, and posted them on and written Threshold Girl, about a college girl in 1910, and posted a draft at

I have written a radio play, Looking for Mrs. Peel, about my own grandmother, and her trials at Changi Prison, in an infamous torture incident, one in which Dick Cheney wasn't involved, and posted it at

And I'm researching background to my grandfather, Jules Crepeau, Director of City Services for Montreal in 1927 and am thinking up a story focused on the 1927 typhoid epidemic and the Prince of Wales' the future Edward VIII's one month visit to Canada. I've already found a great title for it: Milk and Water. As in French Canadian, English Canadian.

My grandfather will be forced to spend a few hours with my husband's grandfather, Thomas Wells, of Westmount, President of Laurentian Spring Water - and they'll debate the ethics of 'selling' water... Thomas Wells liked to run ads in the Montreal Gazette saying that Montreal water was filthy..dangerous, germ-laden. He was before his time...wasn't he?

And right now I am putting together an ebook, with psychedelic vintage visuals, about a prim and proper Presbyterian female drug addict in 1910. I'm basing it on a real life also..Women took a lot of nerve tonics in those days and many (most?) contained cannabis, cocaine, opiods, etc. I watching a lot of TED talks about the publishing industry to see what I can do to make it cutting edge.

So, I'm not making a giant leap to call myself a genealogical writer/author. And I do need a new profession. I received no call-back for that CBC copywriter job I applied for last month... SIC.

It was a blast from the past -applying for that job. (Although, unlike in 1979, I didn't borrow an IBM Selectric to type up my Resume, with nothing to put on said C.V. but a few freelance secretarial jobs and a Communications Degree.)

Upon graduation, decades ago, I would optimistically apply for jobs posted by CBC and the National Film Board, actually thinking I had some kind of chance for an interview, not realizing these postings were bogus, a formality, an obligation by public companies, and the jobs were already long taken, by people with connections, by people with pull.

Today the CBC online application asks you to indicate whether or not you are a member of a minority. I think they should add, women over 55 to the list of people who are discriminated against. Because no doubt we are.. Who wants to hire "mom" or even "grandma" for a job?

But I really feel sorry for the kids graduating today. My hostess's daughter, a beautiful talented person, is having trouble finding a job in her field, graphic design. It's 100 percent WHO YOU KNOW in these types of economy... And in a DEEP GLOBAL RECESSION, even that is not enough.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Ngrams and Google and 1910

I was depressed yesterday from all the news of the economy tanking and World Recession and Harper still determined to create a Canada where everyone is put away for smoking pot (according to Candian Press article on a report sent out by Public Prosecutors in Canada.72 percent of al prosecutions in our country last year were for drug offences. 10 percent of them serious drug offenses. Over 50,000 drug prosecutions and only 10,000 for EVERYTHING else. 3 for terrorism. I guess that's why Harper in this new crime bill wants to widen the definition of terrorism. Soon this form of dissent criticism will be blogger/terrorism.

So I went to, the place with speeches, some of them inspirational, most interesting and the second speech  I listened to was about Google Labs and their ngram database or whatever it's called.
Interesting, Very interesting. Because I am word person and this is a toy tailor-made for word persons.

So I went to their ngram toy on line and started entering terms. I started with "social evil" a term referring to prostitution that I knew was very specific to the 1910 and sure enough, the ngram, shown above illustratred that fact. Then I entered "drug fiend" because in the 1910 era they invented the term, to denote a lower class immigrant type on drugs ...and not the average Bible thumping corsetted Old Maid who ingested cocaine, cannabis, heroine in her tonics and cough medicines as a matter of daily course.

Sure enough, the ngram reveals that that term too was time specific,starting in around 1890 and tailing off by 1920.
I put in the term "race suicide" and saw that that term too peaked in 1910, showing up only 10 years earlier in 1900. And then it had a steady decline to the 1980's with an uptick around then.
I entered the name of all my favorite authors, to find they mostly peaked in the 1980's.. (I went college in the 70's).That says something about Boomers, I guess. That includes George Orwell.

Funny, the more Orwellian our society gets, the less people point to him.

Except for "Jane Austen". She peaked in the 60's as did "Pride and Prejudice". The ngram graph does not show anything after 2000, so maybe the Colin Firth effect isn't recorded there. Oh, I put in "Colin Firth" and that term had a astoundingly steady rise form 1980 to 2009. A straight line up, which shows something about his career I think.

And then I entered Shakespeare, who oddly seems to have a demonstrable downtick at two distinct times, during the two World Wars. Why? I wonder.
Because I am a "bad girl" I entered that term to see that there were hardly no 'bad girls' in 1800 but that term increased in use slowly and evenly throughout the 1800 and 1900's, rising to an apex in abou 1954, the year of my birth, then dropping quickly in the sixties and then only rising with the eighties. HMM.

The ngram for the word "temperance" shows that it peaked in 1890 and was on the way down in 1910, with a nadir of sorts after WWI, rose up again a few years later in the early 20's and has been in decline ever since.

The ngram for the term "suffragette" definitely peaked in 1910, with big fall in the 20's and slow and bumpy ride to about 1/4 of its 1910 popularity upwards through the century.

The term "suffragist" however peaked pre 1900 and then crashed and then had a steadier higher rise up through the century.

And then as a last act I entered the term "winsome" and sure enough it was used only around the turn of the twentiest century, peaking in 1910. I knew this from reading all the material for background to my Threshold Girl novel

Women had winsome smiles in those days. I'm still not sure what the word means. Sweet, I guess. Oh, let me look it up. "Charming in a innocent or naive way." Well,well.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

In Between Stairs_One Hundred Years Ago

The Nicholson Women in their Big Hats

If TV is any indication, 100 years later, we’re still obsessed with the Edwardian Era.

Downton Abbey is a TV phenomenon, still going strong after four seasons of self-consciously semi-satiric and soapy plot twists and great characters.

Downton Abbey, in my opinion, is merely a more stylish rehash of the original excellent Upstairs Downstairs.

As it happens, I watched all four seasons of the 1972-75 Upstairs Downstairs on dvd for the first time just a few years ago.   I had missed the show the first time around . My university years, you see.

I decided to finally take them it in because, for a rather long time now, I’ve been engrossed in my own personal Edwardian Era Saga. (Well, in Canada we call it the Laurier Era.)

I’ve been researching background to a stash of family letters from the 1910 era that I discovered in an old trunk, letters belonging to the Nicholsons of Richmond, Quebec. That would be Norman and Margaret Nicholson and their grown children, Edith, Herbert, Marion and Flora.

Like Upstairs Downstairs (and Downton Abbey) these letters cover the exciting era of the suffragettes, Model-T Fords, the rampant Typhoid Epidemics. Fun stuff . But all from a decidedly middle class (and oh-so- Canadian) point of view.

These family letters number over 300, and they are full of ghosts and gossip, and gossip about ghosts.

The Nicholsons were prominent E.T. citizens (cash poor and connection rich, as it happens) and they knew all the other leading citizens and they filled their letters with news about said citizens and all the goings-on of their town, “the Local News” as they slyly called it.

In 1910 Richmond was at a tipping point: It was bleeding citizens to the big city and the wild but job-rich West. So, the letters are doubly significant.

In the back of my mind, these past 5 years, I had an idea to convert these family letters into a quasi-fiction of some sort, to re-imagine them for a young female audience.

But it wasn’t until last year, when I stumbled on 1911 Canadian Census online that all the pieces for this story suddenly fell into place.

The faded entry for the Nicholsons of Richmond. Margaret lied about her age to the census man.

There before my eyes, in rather faded gray pencil strokes, under Richmond-Wolfe, Quebec, was ‘the official’ statistical story of the Nicholson family – and their entire community.

In a June 1911 letter, Margaret actually mentions being enumerated in a letter to her husband who is away in Ontario working on the Transcontinental Railway.

”The Census man was around, I gave him your age as 60. Is that right? I always save five for myself. How was that? He did not take Herb's or Marion's. So that is over.”

Yep, Margaret lied on the Census. She lied about her age, about her husband’s salary, about her daughter Edith’s salary.

Much worse though, her other daughter Marion, my husband’s grandmother, was left off the Census entirely. She is not listed in her family residence on Dufferin in Richmond, and not at her Montreal rooming house on Tower. I did find prodigal son Herb at a rooming house in Qu’Appelle , Saskatchewan. He is one of six boarders there. One other is a bartender and one other, YIKES, a woman working as a stenographer. (Had temperance-minded mother Margaret known she would have caught the first train out West and dragged him back by his ear.)

With this wonderful online resource, I was able to travel back to Richmond Quebec in June 1911, EXACTLY one hundred years ago, and snap another complementary mental picture of that interesting community from another, less anecdotal (less bitchy?) angle.

And one NEW Census fact surprised me (sort of): French-Canadian families lived all around them!

You see, you wouldn’t know it from the letters. Call it Two Solitudes Syndrome.

Right then and there, I decided to include a two solitudes-style theme in my quasi-fiction based on the letters, which I have called Threshold Girl and published it on Amazon. Kindle. (3 bucks. A bargain!)

Threshold Girl tells the story of Flora Nicholson, the youngest Nicholson child who graduates from St. Francis College in 1911 and is accepted at Macdonald Teachers College in beautiful Ste. Anne de Bellevue (despite failing French.)

So, I decided to create a pivotal fictional French Canadian character, for context. But which French Canadian would young Flora Nicholson, over-protected youngest daughter of straight-laced (literally!) Presbyterians, meet up with?

The Milliner! This was the age of big hats, after all. And in 1910 women of all persuasions, all classes, loved their hats.

According to the 1911 Census, the milliners in Richmond were Miss Vitaline Goyette, 27 and Miss Eugenie Hudon. So, I created a milliner’s apprentice, a Miss Gouin, who is lively and outgoing, a little too much for rather repressed Flora. (Millinery was the ‘glam’ job for women in 1910, but apprentices were largely unpaid, and this sad fact figures in my story.)

The online Canadian Censuses serves up many treasures for the aspiring writer of Period Pieces.
At the turn of the last century, I can see from the 1901 Census, almost every family living in the posh College Street area of Richmond had a live-in servant. By 1911 almost nobody did.
Something serious changed over the decade.

So, in 1910, it wasn’t only the cash poor Nicholson women who had to sew and wash and press their own shirtwaists and mince their own beef for the cottage pie and beat their own carpets out on the front lawn twice a year.

Clearly, most middle class women in Richmond, in that era, lived an IN-BETWEEN STAIRS kind of existence. They aspired to the genteel life, giving teas on their day at home, going to the local Opera House, but they still scraped their knuckles raw in the scullery after the fact.

Why was that? Well, likely because the working class women were choosing to work in factories rather than as domestics. (So I further made Miss Gouin from Magog where the Dominion Textile Factory was located.) 
Magog Dominion Textile Workers in 1911 census. They ALL worked 60 hours sic, the legal limit, even casual workers.

Yes, in 1910, there was a Servant Problem in Canada and if you believe the press reports, it was the very rich who were truly suffering. One Society Woman, at a 1913 meeting of Montreal Council of Women complained that the lack of qualified nannies was, indeed, ‘a child welfare problem.’

Flora’s school, Macdonald College was founded to teach the agricultural sciences to young men and the domestic sciences to young women. In this way, young women destined to marry would become better homemakers (and solve all the problems of industrialization: dirty houses, dirty habits, dirty thoughts) and poor women would be trained as domestics.

A sexist, racist and ill-conceived policy, it has been argued by eminent historians over the century, and who am I to disagree. And just one of other good reason to study the Edwardian (Laurier) era, 100 years after the fact. (Over and above the pretty costumes.) Not only in the UK, but here in Canada. Lest we see history repeating itself.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Emmy Awards and Maggie Smith and Flora Nicholson

Flora Nicholson, 1910, detail of larger photo.. Nice one, I think.
Flora looks very young here, but it's definitely 1910... I know from the hats the other Nicholson women (out of the picture) are wearing.
I see that Downton Abbey won an EMMY award and Maggie Smith too. I commented on how good Maggie Smith was in the first season episodes.
I've been watching a lot of Turner Classic movies and a lot of Maggie Smith. Even in some lesser Ivory Merchant vehicle with Alan Bates... and Isabel Ajani.. And of course, I just saw Room with a View, again. And Howard's End, which I fast forwarded through a lot.

They left in the naked bits in Room with a View. When I rented that movie on Video Tape in the late 80's or early 90's, the naked swimming scene was all blotched out.
Ridiculous as the scene is so pivotal.
Anyway, I think I will stick this picture that I just created from another on my Threshold Girl pdf..
The story of Flo in 1911/1912

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Purple Robes and Princes 1927

I'm listening to an historical comedy, called the Giant Ladies That Changed the World, by "The National Theatre of Brent" actually a male comedy duo. FUNNY.
And I'm writing this post.. with more about the Royal Visit in 1927. By the future Edward the VIII and his brother George, the creepy Duke of Kent and by Prime Minister Baldwin and wife. (Where is he in the picture?) Mederic Martin's robes are purple velvet with some plush brown fur. Can ermine be brown? Maybe beaver.. :)
Anyway, apparently, according to the Gazette, 4000 people turned out see the dynamic duo and the boring PM =and 2000 guests were presented. Imagine! Can that be right? 2000 went home unhappy,tho.. Many of the unlucky society ladies complained. So it is very likely that my grandmother and my husband's grandfather and grandmother may have been presented, or were at least in line to be presented. (I'm putting that in my story.)
The Prince of Wales kept looking at this watch apparently. Can't blame him. So Mederic Martin took the cue. (I bet he took the cue from my grandfather, who as I said, ran the ROYAL show, usually.)
Whoops, I had to pause the Suffragette Play.. I can't concentrate. Anyway. Again, according to the Gazette, some people tried to climb on the stairs of City Hall for a better view, but were pushed away. So that guy sitting there, who I assume is my grandfather, had to be an official.
If my grandfather were keeping an eye on things, he would like that vantage point. High up.
According to the report, Martin said he had little time to talk to the Prince. But the Prince liked him, supposedly, and liked partying with him, so that goes in my story too.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Railway Man, Colin Firth and My STORY

Granny in her cell. Changi.
How weird. I just finished a post where I mention the King's Speech, 'cause it's about a visit Eddie 8 as le Prince de Galles (with a brother and Prime Minister Baldwin) made to Montreal in 1927, and then I see that Colin Firth, the actor who played George VI has signed on to do an Australian picture based on a book called The Railway Man by Eric Lomax, published in 1997, about a man's torture at the hands of the Japanese during WWII. About the Thai Burma Railroad I guess.
Well, on Amazon the book gets five stars...from most people. Gee, must be good. (Well, only 37 people rated it, but still.)
I guess this book is better than my Looking for Mrs. Peel story about my grandmother's experience at Changi Prison, where she was tortured, sort's complicated. Well, she was brought to the brink of death...
Oh, well.
No part for Colin in my story anyway, as it's about the Women's Camp at Changi.. and the Double Tenth Incident... Indeed, there are no men in the story, well, only minor characters and they are, how might I put it, largely impotent.
They are imprisoned, after all, not able to act as protectors to the women. Their key role in war all gone. Or they are in a small cell, being taken away at night to be tortured. Pathetic really.. but sweet and kind, too. That's sort of the subtext of my story. And Mr. Firth can't play an impotent character... so to speak.
These poor men. They are (were?) real people. My grandmother certainly felt sorry for them. Especially the fact that they were starving to death before her eyes. So she gave up her share of rice....Another woman prisoner, tho, thought these starving men were playing the women for fools, acting more hungry than they were to elicit sympathy. (Not likely.)
Anyway, I'm not surprised this is The Railway Man is an Australian film. This storyline is Down Under's war story and they do it A LOT.
Britons have too many war stories to choose from. The War in the East is not important in their mind. (In Nella Last's Television Story, they make a joke about that.)
And even though I've put a lot of Canadiana in my book, this story doesn't appeal in Canada either. I should have put more about the Ferry Command... at Dorval.. (My British Dad was in the Ferry Command..that's why I am here. Hmm. Maybe I will.)
Anyway, it's mostly people from Australia who look up my Looking for Mrs. Peel story. Who look up Changi.
And yet the storyline has relevance today to all Westerners, Americans, Canadians, Britons. All the 'torture' business, in the news. The story we largely ignore because we don't want to think about it.

Edward VIII in 1927, and my grandfather.

Well, with Madonna making waves with her new film WE about Wallis Simpson and Edward VIII, I thought I'd write about his visit to Montreal in 1927. I've been researching it for my story MILK AND WATER, about my grandfather Jules Crepeau in 1927.
I've posted Threshold Girl, about Flora Nicholson, a student, in 1910 at
And the beginning of the picture essay about Edith, Diary of a Confirmed Spinster at
I visited City Hall Archives today and the very nice lady there helped we find what she could on the visit. This picture above and the invitation to the gala in le hall d'honneur.

The reception was at 10. 45 in the morning, according to the invitation, on August 1, 1927. It was for Son Altesse Royale le Prince de Galles et Son Altesse Royal le Prince George, his younger brother.... Not the George who became King, right. He was Albert or Bertie as everyone now knows because they saw the King's Speech, which also goes on about THAT WALLIS WOMAN.
Anyway, Prime Minister Baldwin also came along on the trip, but he wasn't invited to this affair :)
Anyway, I think my grandfather is in this picture. I blew it up below. The woman near him looks like my mom, who would have only been 7, so it might be Alice, her 27 year old sister.
The Gazette report says the Princes had a busy day, the next day, playing a complete round of golf in Laval des Rapides, (you haven't lived til you've been to Laval des Rapides, what can I say).
And then they attended a garden party, way up in Westmount (but of course) near the Summit.
I wonder whether my grandfather attended the gala. I strongly suspect he organized it all. That was part of his extensive job description as Director of City Services. He did it all. I bet he even ironed Mederic's ceremonial robes pictured here, or he got his wife Maria, my grandmother to do it.

Monday, September 5, 2011

The HELP Review from 'an expert's' point of view

Jessica Chastain and Octavia Spencer from IMDB THE HELP listing.

I went to see The HELP this weekend, with high expectations, from good word of mouth, (which is usually a bad thing). But, like most viewers, I thoroughly enjoyed the film and the time passed quickly. And it's a long movie.
I noticed that on Rotten Tomatoes, the critics weren't as enthusiastic as the public, although still enthusiastic at 76 percent.
And I wondered why.
So, I read some reviews.
Some critics thought THE HELP movie glossed over the serious subject matter and that the characters were cliche.
Now, I am writing a story about the 1910 era, the era of the Servant Problem. Like this story (based on a book by Tate Taylor with a screenplay by Kathryn Stockett) I am intertwining fact and fiction, the little personal picture with the big public picture.
Threshold Girl is at
And lately, for research, I watched all the episodes of Upstairs Downstairs, the classic (and very uncliche) story of the class divide in the Edwardian Era.

I didn't find the characters in THE HELP cliche, either. (Allowing for the fact that the film medium generally deals in cliches.)

If you like a character, care for the character, the character isn't cliche. (And the actors here are some of my favorites... Leslie Jordon (I've just seen him on Boston Legal DVDs) Allison Janney, Mary Steenburgen, Sissy Spacek. But it is Viola Davis's movie - and she'll get an Academy Award nomination for her performance.

This is a chick flick, in that it has mostly female characters. Maybe the white men (young, grim, former Old Miss halfbacks, all re-suited up in business grey) are cliche, but they are incidental to the plot, like the sexy young blond is incidental to the plot in mainstream male-dominated Hollywood movies.

Oddly, the one sexy blond in this film is one of the most likeable characters. (Jessica Chastain)

And the other characters (real women, all shapes and sizes) are all interesting too.

Anyway, The Help's one failing (according to some critics) is why the movie is so popular in the first place. It's a feel good movie despite the heavy duty subject.) The movie doesn't demand that we ask ourselves to figure out 'what has changed' and what hasn't. So as to adjust our own behavior. (According to Nora Ephron movies have no effect on people's actions or moral compasses. It's not that kind of medium.)

The Help story is told through the eyes of a kind, enlightened college girl, who wants to know the MAIDS' point of view, because she is a curious journalist type - and she loved her own nanny.

We are allowed to identify with this young woman.

Yet, few of us are brave and ahead of or time. We are ALL more like the shallow socialites in the film than the gutsy (naive)ambitious journalist. We follow the crowd, because it is safer. We allow injustices to happen, before our eyes, rather than protest and lose the approval of our tribe.We are all doing it right now.

Now more than ever. These are serioius SHEEPLE TIMES. (Unlike the 60's, when half the population was under 25 and the middle class was feeling comfortable and prosperous and so generous in their beliefs.)

To me this The HELP story is about unevolved herd-like men and women (the socialites, who are living out their high school paradigm because they are so sheltered) and the super evolved black maids, who have been there, done that and seen it all... indeed, as maids they have an intimate view of how the other half lives.

These are the one with a real story to tell, yet they have no voice. (The movie ends promising this is changing.)

Some things have changed for African Americans since 1960, for sure. But we still have a caste system in the Western World. We still have people we allow to take care of our children and old people for no money and a patronizing form of recognition from us, their superiors. (Philippinos are 'so good' with old people, they respect them in their culture." I've heard otherwise enlightened people say this.)

And as a recent NYT article (MLK is weeping in his grave) suggested, the black community in the US is not that far ahead after 6 decades, socially speaking. The overflowing jails tell the story. Class-line entrenching laws against commingling in public were merely transformed into draconian drug laws, applied extremely unevenly between whites and visible minorities.

I heard an expert on the BBC claim that these laws were enacted as a reaction to the Civil Rights Movement. As in 'NEVER AGAIN" will we let the lower classes rise up.

(Actually, I was asked to write a story from a cleaning women's point of view for Chatelaine about 10 years ago. I found a local woman, a friend, who worked as a cleaning woman in our suburb. I recall she told me that her employers treated her as if she wasn't there, having intimate arguments in front of her. I also recall she was fed up with some of her clients asking her to clean the bathroom with vinegar and soda. Too bad, I don't still have a copy. It wasn't one of my favorite articles. I was commissioned to do it for a special WORK issue.)

A dirty job... Nixon, Dorothy // Chatelaine;Nov2000, Vol. 73 Issue 11, p185
Discusses housecleaning and gives advice for how to manage it. INSETS: Tales from the trenches;Sunday.