For the first time ever, I'm able to share a movie of Melville Jacoby himself. These snippets of 16mm movies were shot in the 1930s and are accompanied by excerpts from a moving letter he wrote his mother in early 1941 about why he pursued his dangerous careert.Mel was on a boat from China bound for Manila and, eventually, to the United States. He had just finished a year's work as a stringer in China and the region of Southeast Asia then known as Indochina. There, in the city of Haiphong (a part of modern-day Vietnam), Mel had been arrested and briefly detained by the Japanese, who'd accused him of being a spy. As he traveled back to the United States, he wrote a moving letter to his Mother in which he attempted to reassure her about the risks he'd taken in the previous year. Check out the full post to see the video.
"...Then would come the noise of the bombs falling. The bombs didn't screech or whistle or whine. They sounded like a pile of planks being whirled around in the air by a terrific wind and driven straight down to the ground. The bombs took thirty years to hit. While they were falling they changed the dimensions of the world. The noise stripped the eagles from the colonel's shoulders and left him a little boy, naked and afraid. It drove all the intelligence from the nurse's eyes and left them vacant and staring. It wrapped a steel tourniquet of fear around your head, until your skull felt like bursting. It made you realize why man found he needed a God."
I was digging through the collection of materials I have at my place related to Melville Jacoby and found a photocopy of a lovely letter written to Mel 74 years ago today. The note was sent by Chan Ka Yik, one of Mel's best friends. The two were roommates at Lingnan University in Canton (now Guangzhou) while Mel was an exchange student there. The letter responds to an earlier mailing Mel had sent. It describes Chan's fondness for his roommate, and, in many ways, is the sort of letter anyone might send to catch up with an old friend. But these greetings are described against a backdrop of war. Though calm seemed to have returned when Chan wrote the letter, it was clearly still a presence.