Thursday, August 20, 2015

My sad but illuminating Dining Room Table Documentary

A documentary about the Kuala Lumpur Book Club, made on my dining room table in real time.

A side-bar to Colonial History, the KL Book Club has gone down in history as a purveyor of sleazy literature to thrill starved planters' wives, but it was much more and my grandmother was the secretary/librarian for a long time.

The beginning of Looking for Mrs. Peel available on Amazon in Kindle. 


"All Things are Connected" Chief Seattle

The year 1967 has been described as The Last Good Year, by Canadian historian Pierre Berton,  also as The Year That Changed Cinema, by Time Magazine, as well as the Best Year Ever in Pop Music by, well, just about everyone.

In and around Anglo Montreal, that memorable year, radio was the communications medium of choice for young people. Kids listened to the likes of Buddy Gee on CKGM, Dave Boxer on CFCF and CFOX's Charles P Rodney Chandler on their chintzy transistor radios and kept track of the respective weekly hit lists.

One of the most popular new DJ's was an import, a former British merchant marine sailor named Roger Scott also on CFOX. In late May of 1967 Scott aired 'pirated' tapes of the Beatle's Sargeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Album, before it was officially released. My older brother was mightily impressed.

In the US it was the Summer of Love and the Summer of Race Riots -two facts I couldn't ignore because my British father preferred getting his news from American Walter Cronkite, on the CBS television station WCAX Montpelier Vermont - and as was the norm, we had but one black and white tv.

But these same heady Expo months were also a time of tension in the Middle East with Six Day War where we came close to nuclear war ….again... and 'the tipping point' for Vietnam and a time when decisions were made that 'signaled the end of Britain's' imperial adventure'.*
According to Historian Matthew Jones, in 1967 the British wanted to pull out of 'East of Suez'(Singapore, Malaysia and the Middle East) entirely. While school children from Victoria to Gander were learning the words to CA NA DA, Bobby  Gimby's  giddy centennial year signature song , the Americans were putting pressure on the British to stay. President Lyndon Johnson even bribed them, offering to back the pound sterling and "solve all your financial problems."* So, if Lyndon Baines Johnson appeared to carry the weight of the world on his shoulders, as he rode that long long escalator up past the kitschy photographs of Marilyn Monroe and Humphrey Bogart in the American Pavilion at Expo 67 on his official visit, that's because he did. (* Matthew Jones' Decision Delayed Historical Review.)

Malaysia, the 15th country to sign up for the World's Fair - in July '64 (plot 3320 Ste Helene's Island) didn't have a pavilion in the end. They had pulled out; perhaps because Singapore had been expelled from the Malaysian Federation in 1965 ( to quell the unrest between the Chinese and the Malays) and couldn't come up with the money. Tunku Abdul Rahman Malaysia's first PM had visited the Expo site in '64.

One wonders what Bobby Gimby felt about all this: the so called Pied Piper of Canada, a former CBC musician and bandleader, and a Canadian cultural icon, is reported to have composed them an unofficial anthem, Malaysia Forever, and earned his whimsical moniker, on a visit to Singapore in '62.

The song itself is steeped in mystery; no former colonial or expert in Malaysian studies I have reached has ever heard of it. Negara Ku has been Malaya's (Malaysia's) national anthem since 1957.

Looking For Mrs. Peel:  A Play (All Rights Reserved 2010 Dorothy Nixon)

with new information on the Double Tenth Incident at Changi Prison (Civilian Internment Camp) during WWII. Based on a true story. Dialogue by people is recreated by me, generated from my -or my grandmother's -point of view and is speculative and not intended to cast anyone in a bad light.
Based on a true story, as they say, or a 're-imagining of a mostly true story with some fictional elements based on historical memory and record, personal memory and family myth.'

"The keynote of this whole case can be epitomized in two words: Unspeakable horror. Horror, stark and naked permeates every corner and angle of this case from beginning to end....Opening speech for the prosecution. Double Tenth Trial as reported in Malaya Straits Times."

A Tale of Simple "Worth" or the Gypsy's Warning

"Cross my hand with silver pretty lady, if you'd see,
What the future holds in store for you and how soon you will be free,
Cross my hand with silver (if you have none don't be shy)
I'll take it out in food or booze (or Gordon's Special dry)
Just cross my hand with silver or call at Cell Fifteen
With any simple offering, (be sure you are not seen)
No cumshaw ever comes amiss but if you have it handy
The fates show true benevolence if first well laced with brandy,
The lines engraved upon your palm are clear as mud to me,
There's fame and food and fortune and a journey on the sea
But a lurking danger threatens and a white-haired lady frowns, (It isn't Eve or Nella and it isn't Mrs. Chowns.)
Fate draws a veil across the name, but one thing's plain to see,
The danger is averted if you put your shirt on me."

Scene One : Nixon Living Room. Montreal,  November  1967

SOUND: Television, (Murdersville episode of The Avengers TV Series) someone being dunked in water and crunch of eating.

British man on TV: (sx water) You could spare yourself this Mrs. Peel. (sx splash) You know what we want (sx splash) Who knows you are here?

Martha: Dorothy , d├ępeches-toi,  come say goodbye to your grandmother. This is your last chance to see her. She’s leaving for the airport very early tomorrow morning

Dorothy : (sound  of crinkling of cellophane bag, crunch of crackerjacks being chewed)

Martha: And, adjust the rabbit ears on the TV for Heaven’s sake!  All that interference.  Mrs. Peel's face is covered in snow!

MUSIC: Red Rubber Ball. The Cyrkle 196