My Melody Girls

I could go on at length about crushes and such, but Melody relates most closely to three over the years, from younger than the kids in the movie to college age. Call them Carol, Ella, and Maddie.

Carol was fourth grade. I don’t actually remember that moment I first noticed and fell for her, and I was so young that I didn’t realize just what I was experiencing. There was a gulf between how it would be just a year later and how it was then. It was my first crush that wasn’t a teacher crush, and I will never forget how it felt. It would be the closest to how Daniel felt when he first noticed Melody in her ballet class. (I will never understand why some people refer to ballet class as “the school disco” when writing about the movie.)

Funny thing is there was dancing involved with Carol, whose name I didn’t know until several years ago. Someone posted a class picture from elementary school and there she was, exactly as I remembered, long, dark hair and what it turns out was a homemade skirt. Since that was a picture someone I was Facebook friends with from having gone to the same schools, but who looked much different later when she’d moved back to town and I knew her name, that solved it. I loathed gym. Because I had a mild physical retardation problem, with my coordination having been affected by damage from meningitis as an infant, it was bad enough anyway. The gym teacher was a sadist and just could not bear my inability to function normally. One day, more than one class was in gym at the same time, doing some kind of a dance thing. Carol wasn’t in my class, or I’d have known her name. She was in the class across the hall. That class was there. I believe this may actually be when I first noticed/fell for her, as we were dancing in gym.

During the course of the dance routine, there was holding of hands involved, however briefly. She was my partner in that. It was magic. That was the first and I believe only time holding hands was a thrill. She was pleased, decades later, that she could be a bright spot in the sadistic gym teacher’s class. She would have been receptive at least to knowing me at the time, since she lacked friends and didn’t think people liked her. She had a troubled family situation. I suppose in a way I did, in different ways. I believe I had already noticed her before then, but that was the big scene. I believe it was toward the end of the year, which makes it winter/spring 1971. It was around the time Melody was released, and she resembled Melody, close enough. We were just a year younger. I was 9 turning 10 around that time.

It was the following school year when I really “got” what I had been feeling and kept an eye out for her. That wasn’t going to work, since she had moved away. She briefly lived in a different town than I did then, the same town I live in now, three houses from where I am. Small world or something.

Yeah, there were others, some even getting less credit than maybe they deserved over the years. One, in particular, I sometimes feel was the one that got away, all the way back in sixth grade. But then came ninth grade.

I can’t say that Ella was lightning striking or love at first sight, but it may as well have been for the significance it had. She was in a couple of my classes and I ended up head over heels, but with little more idea of what to do about it than I’d had when I was in fourth. This was significant for being my last innocent crush, well past an age where I should have been having a crush and not thinking about getting physical. Had I been thinking that way, it might have gone better.

It’s hard to remember the day to day. I didn’t go around the school telling everyone I loved her, as Daniel ostensibly did with Melody, but people caught on. I did have one friend heavily in on it. I’ll probably write about him as my Ornshaw. We met essentially because of her. I simply started talking to him about it one day in homeroom. He shared math with us, and lived in the same town as her, if not the same part of town.

It turned out she was a member of a local drum and bugle corps, in the color guard. I started going to watch their practices, as well as lurking around her neighborhood. There were some funny exchanges or episodes between me, her, my friend Frank, her friends, her sister, and the other people in the Corps.

She also resembled Melody somewhat, if not as much as I think Cheryl did. The big thing was the expressions and reactions. Looking serious, intense, vexed… that was all there. The scene in the music room feels like watching me and Ella.

We never dated, but she was the first girl ever to say she loved me. After being evasive, that was yelled out, in public, as bold as it gets. I was floored. I remember barely being able to keep the bike upright as I rode away from the Corps bus she was on, all confused. The thing was, school was over. I eventually realized that if it was somehow embarrassing to be liking me at school, school being out for summer made it safe. That could have been the happiest summer of my life, for all I know. I largely just… stopped. Confused. Dazed. I still don’t understand it.

She didn’t get to be my first kiss, despite a scene in which we were goaded for me to kiss her for luck in an upcoming competition. I wasn’t going to do that in front of the entire drum and bugle corps. She suggested a rain check, and that’s how it forever remained.

My first and best kiss would be Daphne, of all people. I had thrown a party near the end of high school. She ended up on my lap, cuddling with me. This was good, since I’d hoped her coming to the party would spark something. My friend Perry drove my car to take her home, his then girlfriend, my friend Joan, in front with him, while I rode in back with Daphne. That’s when we kissed. That was it. She was completely done after that. But she could be a whole book herself, and this is not a post about her. She just came to mind for the first kiss. Still, none of the other three kissers came close. Nobody else but my wife ever said “I love you.” Nobody else was ever a thrill to take by the hand.

Then we flash way forward, second year of college, which would have been first year after college had I started on the normal timing and finished after the normal duration. I did neither.

Maddie ended up in accounting with me, and in history. She was cute but not beautiful, with short, dark hair. She struggled in accounting. I can’t say I fell for her at first sight or anything, or even that I seriously crushed on her. I did notice, and she noticed I noticed, and she noticed right back, and we sort of fell together without anyone having to be terribly forward, or feel timid enough for nothing to happen. If there was an innocence to it, it was the innocence of my not really seeing her as a sexual partner initially. In some ways she was just my buddy, and felt like a mismatch. Plus I was terrified at the prospect, since I was old now, yet embarrassingly inexperienced. We fell into dating, briefly. I discovered I had a jealous streak if she talked with other guys, even though I never expressed it and in a way we weren’t officially an item. I had some tremendous chances I blew. She will always be the first girl I dated, as far as I am concerned. She will always be that comfortable experience of coming together without effort or trauma. The biggest obstacle is I didn’t take her seriously. This would never have been a long term relationship, but it could have been longer and more involved. I’ll always feel bad about that.

Put the three of them together and you have Melody. Sort of. Maybe. LOL.

It’s Carol, and the timing, and my age and budding awareness, that makes me wonder how things might have been if I had seen Melody circa spring 1971 or so, when it was originally out. Releases didn’t work the same, then. It could be released at the end of March but be part of a double feature at the drive-in that summer. At that age, I had hardly ever been to a theater. It was always the drive-in.

Filming Is Hard

Or, to quote my daughter, “acting is hard.” I’ve been relating my limited experience in the filming of a video with children circa 11 years old to the challenges faced in filming Melody with, part of the time, hundreds of children. The core contingent centered on the age my daughter was in summer 2017.

My daughter’s 5th grade teacher was going to be on a network TV show, again, and they were pushing her as something of a superstar in the reality competition involved. Make people want to watch by promoting her. Add human interest by showing stuff about her. They had previously filmed on an entirely normal classroom day. That was awkward when my daughter had an inconveniently timed dental appointment and had to be extracted from the room without disrupting filming.

After the school year ended, I got a call from the teacher, inviting my daughter to be in a video being filmed on an upcoming Saturday. Well, of course!

Little did we know it would be a long, grueling day of takes and more takes, between waiting for setup of scenes, for under a minute that actually aired, with my daughter visible for perhaps a few seconds.

Most of the kids were not from the actual class the teacher had during the school year just ended. My daughter was tall for her age. About half the kids were children of the principal. Kidding, but a few were, and they ranged pretty young. There wasn’t an effort to go for authenticity so much as teacher plus kids. My daughter was sidelined somewhat due to her height and apparent age compared to the norm among the bunch of kids involved.

The first part was a faux classroom scene, which none of the parents there were able to witness being filmed. It was in the actual class, but rearranged and lit as a set for the video. My daughter wasn’t really in that at all, because they clustered the little kids in the area where the action took place. It was like a transformation of the teacher to something else, bounding across the desks, if I recall the details correctly.

The rest was basically a music video, in the hall and then outside. That’s the part where my daughter could be seen if you knew to look. The teacher and the kids around her were ad hoc choreographed with different moves, props and lighting, coming down the hall to music.

Outside there were scenes filmed of action on playground equipment, then in the parking lot. On the playground equipment it was action sequences. My daughter would have figured prominently in one bit, but she didn’t match the size of the other two kids, so they swapped her out. Then she was kind of at the end of the line because she was too tall in another scene. Kind of hard when you’re hanging from bars but your feet touch the ground. She was taller than the teacher, even then. Now she’s 5′ 4 1/4″ at the dawn of 13, and her brother is 1/4 inches behind her all of a sudden, six months shy of 12. That part featured the use of colored smoke effects.

Finally, there was a victory scene of sorts, where the kids mobbed around the teacher in the back parking lot of the school, cheering and throwing colorful dust, like powdered chalk, up in the air, then they all walked off into the distance at the cameraman was rolled after them on a little cart.

It was grueling, even just watching and waiting, let alone being in the cast of kids, directed to do this or that different ways over and over and over. I found it fascinating. There was a young guy who was the director. Totally looked the part. There were a few assistants or people with defined roles, like the cameraman and the art director. There was one young woman, kindly yet stern, super attractive, consummately professional, whose job seemed to be resolving problems and doing anything necessary to make things happen. Sometimes this involved the tool belt she wore. Sometimes this involved fetching things or helping the art person.

The kids were each supposed to bring a sedate outfit and a flamboyant or colorful outfit. With my daughter, it was hard to tell the difference! It started with sign in, so to speak, at a table up on the stage in the auditorium. I had to give them a release form and they reviewed the outfits. Then we waited, even before anything at all started. They gave something of an orientation. They served lunch for everyone, Subway, and had lots of snacks and candy. It took until lunch for the initial art, the classroom scene, to finish shooting. During the break, the kids all got shoelaces that lit up, worn turned on in part of what shot afterward. Those they got to keep.

It was easily supper time before we were done. Then that was it. We had to wait and hope to catch it when it aired or when someone posted it. As I said, it didn’t amount to much, after all that work and what they spent to send the crew there to produce it. I got some bits on video and in pictures, but we were barred from posting any of that online until after it had aired. I haven’t gone back and looked at any of it almost since then. Nothing earth shattering.

As my daughter would say, “So, that was a thing that happened.” It certainly didn’t inspire her to want to go into acting. Shy or not, last year she got up on stage and sang a cappella a song that she wrote, but that didn’t require acting or take after take while following a director’s instructions.

Now take that day and make it a feature film featuring kids. A lot of kids. The core cast of kids for Melody exceeded the number in that video shoot, let alone the hundreds of extras employed for the crowded scenes. The child stars may have considered it “a romp,” but it’s still work for all involved.

Comments

Not that anyone cares about most of what I’ve been posting, even if they’ve discovered it’s there, but I just fixed it so comments are available. Somewhere along the line it had gotten set to require an account on this install of WordPress. That is, I would have had to know you, create an account, give you the login info, and then you could comment. Now it just requires your first comment to be held for approval, which is the traditional setting. I’ll leave it that way unless it gets out of hand. I may have had it the way it was due to spam, especially combined with not posting here at the time.

Being Forward

In the video on the making of Melody, Tracy Hyde talks about similarities and differences between her and the character. For instance, they both love animals (though we only see this evidenced with the goldfish), which fits with Tracy having ended up running a boarding kennel which can be interpreted in some mentions to have been the family business.

She says that one difference is that she would not be so aggressive in getting a boyfriend, but instead waits for them to come to her. Is Melody particularly forward or aggressive, or does she merely make it obvious she is receptive, rather than being mysterious and letting Daniel flail around until maybe, just maybe, he does or says exactly the right thing?

Watching again, I can see how you could interpret her relatively assertive actions as being quite forward. To me they aren’t. If a girl actually wanted me, she pretty much had to bash me over the head and drag me away. It had to be utterly unambiguous, more so than should be necessary. It’s as if I were female instead of male.

What does Melody do? First encounter she smiles, which could be seen as encouraging, but is also just a pleasant acknowledgment that he is looking at her so intently and is in an awkward position yet trying. In assembly she just stares back with a serious look, or we don’t see a smile, since one appears in a still later. In the music room, she has no idea what to do. Make small talk? So she starts practicing and he makes it a duet. She smiles with her eyes while playing recorder. None of it is especially forward or demonstrative yet. In the cafeteria, the two look at each other when he gets redirected to a seat with the boys, but I don’t see strong encouragement there.

At the dance, she puts herself on display and pointedly keeps eyeing him. That seems like flirty encouragement, but it would be easy to ignore or to dismiss as too weak if you’re like I was. Or am. Obviously we get to see how mutual it has become then, after the dance. And agreeing to dance, well, that’s not being forward. He asked her. She just made it easy. As much so as is possible in the circumstances, anyway. Having danced, there’s something established, at least as a strong possibility. Seeking her out would have been reasonable. Seeking him out is not unreasonable on her part.

That said, in my experience, the stairway scene is forward. For a girl. It’s unambiguous enough, even for me, or should be. She waits, knowing somehow exactly where he will be after school is out. She adopts a bold stance, planted at the foot of the stairs, unmistakably wanting him to go with her. This is preceded by her having smiled at him in his post-beating discomfort.

He and Ornshaw start to walk past. This is painful to me, because I told myself aloud when watching it that I’d have been the idiot who went with my friend and then kicked myself forever. In doing so, I’d have hurt her deeply and that would have been it, so forget the crush buddy. She says nothing, just gives him, them, looks. Ornshaw does all the the talking. Danny walks over to her. They start to walk away and eventually run as Ornshaw gets more and more distraught.

That’s it. Now they are an item. That was the extent of her aggression. She planted herself in the right place at the right time and didn’t make it easy for him to pass on the opportunity. That’s not aggressive! That’s smart. That’s helpful. That’s giving the guy some feedback for goodness sake.

I very nearly didn’t date at all. When I got married, I can’t say it was to someone I’d dated, because we met online and knew we planned to marry before we met in person. That may be what was required for that to be possible for me, ever. So perhaps my interpretation of what is aggressive or passive on the part of a girl is colored excessively by my traditional shyness and timidity. When I called my wife on the phone for the first time, she sounded so offputting when she answered, I almost hung up and ran away. Speaking of why so serious. That didn’t have to involve a serious expression. It involved a serious tone. I took it to be something akin to anger, or a mood with which I would not want to deal. It was an incredibly close thing. And that after she had done nothing but encourage me, right down to sparking the whole flirtation online.

Daphne wouldn’t date me and she was the one I pursued most aggressively. We hung out a lot and actually did things as friends, and eventually she allowed me to take her on “a date.” Which was weird as a result of it not being real. She humored me.

One of my Melody-like experiences, in college, was sort of a mutual stumbling together without real aggression by either of us, but Maddie was closer to that than most girls ever were, and essentially asked me on the first thing that passed for a date. Maybe writing “go away” directed at me on a page in her notebook in accounting class was a form of being forward.

Later in college, but associated with my job, Layla asked me out and was entirely in charge. I would never have noticed her, let alone anything else, even after we were chatting amiably when she’d come into the store. By comparison, a much prettier, blond haired young woman hinted at me and it went right over my head until an older guy I worked with pointed out that she had basically just asked me out and I was an idiot. And that was the only shot I would ever get.

After college I ended up being a wedding date with Vera, who worked with my sister. She asked me. I hung out with her some, but that was really the only thing that could be called a date. There was no spark.

Some 14 or 15 years later came the wife. Even in her case I could have wiggled away and it could have been nothing, but she was the most assertive. That was what it took. I was ready never to be married or have kids, or for that matter, a relationship worth the name. I had given up cold turkey on the serial crush addiction and was learning to be myself, alone. Which sounds like a funny way to put it, but in my head I had the prospect of not being alone, before then. I was learning to accept it wouldn’t be otherwise.

Actually, counter-example to the wife, same time. There was a girl I always called Donut Girl. She worked in a donut shop near my office. Apparently she’d had her eye on me, seeing me go in semi-regularly to buy a couple donuts and iced coffee. One day she jovially said the two donuts I always ordered, getting my attention. Butternut coconut! Is that being forward? She was adorable. Might have been even younger than the wife would be, but probably close. I was aware of her after that, but I was never able to pick up the ball and close the deal. Presumably I could totally have asked her out, given/received numbers, whatever it is people do. If she was being forward, and was really interested, well… she wasn’t forward enough. Is that better?

My wife, since we have had issues over time, has told me many times that I would have no problem finding someone. No. I haven’t changed. I am still nearly that shy and I still have no idea how people go about dating. Without that effort the other way, I’d remain pretty hopeless. Having been married hasn’t made me bolder, and hasn’t made me feel more appealing. It’s crazy.

Why So Serious?

This overlaps a post I haven’t written yet, and perhaps should simply be addressed there, but perhaps I can shorten both of them by discussing this separately.

I’ve been there. I have had a Melody, sort of. I stared. I stalked, though nobody knew it was called stalking back then. How things went with Daniel and Melody, and how it felt to him, actually combines three girls for me, in 4th grade, 9th grade, and college. Since I have always been behind others in social development, the college thing isn’t as absurd as it sounds, and I’m thinking of specific elements.

For purposes of this, though, I am mainly remembering Ella, in 9th grade.

I remember how vexed she was by my interest. How serious she always seemed to be. How slow she was to smile or look happy. Melody strikes me the same way, except for returning the interest sooner. Even when they are together, she is serious.

It’s easy for me to misinterpret, or was in the past, and to be super sensitive to a stern or serious looking expression that wasn’t obviously and openly friendly or receptive. It was also as if you were angry or rejecting, if you weren’t overtly the contrary. I see the nuance better in the movie.

Conversely, in years past, I would put people off by seeming to smiley, friendly or jovial. I’ve had people see interest where there was none, or derision where there was none.

There were times when there was seriousness or a strong reaction that didn’t have a payoff. In the headmaster’s office after they’d played hookie, Daniel announces they want to get married and she turns her head abruptly with a shocked look at him. To me it seemed like “we decided no such thing!” At first, anyway. Then I decided it might mean “why are you telling him that!”

Anyway, I have seen the serious looks, the confusion, the stonewalling look that is as yet undecided on what to do about this. I have seen the annoyance of “everyone wants me to like him but what about ME.” That last in particular when Ella’s mother gave me and my bike a ride in the back of their station wagon and dropped me closer to home that I would otherwise have had to ride from. I really made a pest of myself. In the end, I hurt her terribly, as I didn’t know what to do when she reciprocated. All I knew was how to have a crush and the idea of a relationship, whatever that might entail.

Tracy Hyde did an absolutely brilliant job of capturing being a girl of a certain age range in that position. Perhaps it was simply because she was a girl of that age range and knew how she’d act, but she could have been Ella.

Reading

I live on inexpensive Kindle books. haven’t really read paper since my last reread of the entire Wheel of Time series, and my second attempt to read Game of Thrones. My first was in the nineties, when it was the only book in the series GRRM had written so far.

At any given time, I have huge amounts of material I have not yet read. I’m bad, in that I’ll skip it for something newer I am more enthusiastic about. It’s worse when things come out in rapid succession. I was reading a Victor Davis Hanson book on WW2. I read mainly fiction, but when I am not reading SF, fantasy, or the odd thriller or mystery, I do read a fair amount of non-fiction. Much of it ends up being series or new books by the same beloved authors. Christopher Nuttall figures most prominently.

The VDH book is great, but then I got notified of a new book in a series I enjoy. It’s book 5 in Magic 2.0, by Scott Meyer: Out of Spite, Out of Mind. I sprung for it immediately and switched my reading. Then before I got far in that book, I got notified that finally Mark David Ledbetter had released his next volume in an amazing US history series. Argh! Normally I’d have bought it immediately and read it next, but I decided to conserve the money until I’m done with the current book, so I added it to my reminders list.

This is how it goes, though. Last night I added a new book by an unknown to my reminders so I’d, well, remember it. It looked good, but it’s the slow time of year for work. This is why my mind turned toward writing and blogging.

Melody Links

I keep referring to this and that regarding the Melody movie, but I have been sparse with links. Even if I link in future posts or I retrofit with some of the links in context, I want to create a one stop place for some of them. It’ll help my own reference, too.

You can find multiple instances of the entire movie by searching Melody movie, but the picture and sound quality various, and sometimes they don’t synchronize. That, to me, is far worse than something like Spanish subtitles or having the video include the movie, then start again and show half of the movie after it’s over. That’s the best one I have found so far, until I can arrange to get the DVD, which is like pulling teeth and needs to wait until I can afford it anyway. So…

Melody movie (1971)

Incidentally, ignore all the nonsense about S.W.A.L.K. being the real/original title of the film. It was written, filmed and cast to be named Melody and the other thing was an unfortunate move by a distributor for some markets. Also ignore that some people, including the person who posted the above, refer to it as Melody Fair. That is the name of the Bee Gees song that was part of the inspiration for the story and name.

To Love Somebody, video right from the film.

Melody Fair, video right from the film, not the crispest picture.

First of May, compiled clips from the film, rather than the part of the film that uses the song. The song is interrupted by some of the most famous dialogue in Melody, then reprises, so it has to be adapted to be a straight music video for the song.

Melody BFI Panel Discussion - Right at the beginning is the part where we learn it was always Melody and how the alternative name happened.

The Making of Melody  - This has interesting stuff in it, including the difficulties of working with all the children and of complying with the law on children in films, and Tracy Hyde’s mother’s more sympathetic view of the law, discussion of Mark Lester’s education, and what it was all about.

Lame trailer for Melody  – I might not have gone to see it either, if I saw this trailer. Not sure if it’s original or if it was something done for a video release.

There’s all kids of other stuff. Variants of videos using the music, shorter clips of the film, looks at the locations as they appear now (video and still), reunion clips of Mark and Tracy, and so forth.

Storytelling, Part 2

(I keep forgetting to say spoilers at the beginning of posts like this, though it was released in 1971 so it’s probably not important.)

I was inspired to return to this because I was looking at my old writing and thinking again about the merits of discontinuities in the sequence of events. Not jumping around in time, but skipping the less important or easily extrapolated (or intentionally to remain in the imagination of the audience), focusing on a sequence of scenes or events that flow without filling all the space in between. It’s a resolution to the traditional “we’re walking… we’re walking… we’re still walking…” problem of some traditional fantasy novels. I think I, in my head as well as in what I wrote or made notes about, was too intent on describing the whole journey as they went.

Now, it is after the part I described previously that Melody really throws in a series of scenes with time between them that is not explicitly filled. You aren’t even necessarily clear on the length of time between scenes, or the length of time from now to the end. You see the important things and the payoffs. You wonder about some details, but the story isn’t reliant on giving you those missing details? I’ll resist examples now and give them as I go.

The last storytelling scene I noted was the end of the preliminary setup of who is who, Daniel adapting to what we figure out is a new school, and establishing his friendship with Ornshaw, who is both wise and troubled. The next part establishes the crush and the build of the relationship with Melody, the fallout from that, and the resultant ending for them, the other kids, and most of the adults.

I stopped before the “meet cute” scene. Daniel and Ornshaw had cemented their friendship. Going into school and up the flights of stairs toward class, Ornshaw stops to be amused by girls in a ballet class rather than heading up the next flight. He grabs Daniel and another boy to get them in on the mischief. Ornshaw is jeering the whole time, but Daniel sees Melody dancing gracefully and confidently, hair swishing, and it’s all over. The score makes clear that the world has gone away for Daniel and nothing else exists. Then the teacher catches them and hauls them in there, making them dance along with the girls or else there will be a trip to the headmaster. Daniel actually tries, staring at Melody all the while. She keeps smiling at him. That’s the first vignette.

Do we need to see the rest of the school day? No. We don’t even need to see the conclusion of their time in ballet, and what trouble they get in when they arrive late to the class where they belong. We can wonder and imagine, but it’s not vital to the story. A book might have room for more of that, but it’s still not vital. Not that I don’t love me some Robert Jordan. Conversely, I found Martin boring and a poor writer, and was only able to get into A Song of Ice and Fire via the Game of Thrones show.

Next vignette. School gets out. Daniel is on a mission. He ducks aside to a water fountain (bubbler, in these parts) to wait surreptitiously for her to come out. Then he follows when she and three friends go to the old cemetery to have Muriel demonstrate kissing on a poster of a teen idol. Too funny. A branch snaps. Rhoda says “someone’s watching!” They all look his way. He whistles casually and walks away. They all laugh, except Melody, who just watches thoughtfully. Or seriously, at any rate. She looks serious a lot. I know that range of looks, from when I was 14. But that’s a different post. That’s the first day of being in love, as discussed in the timeline.

Now to see if I can remember the order of everything without speed watching as I write. I may need to review to make sure.

Vignette three of Daniel and Melody drawing together is an assembly, which conveniently places them in the same large room. They appear not to have classes together, despite being the same level. Daniel stares across the room toward her. Ornshaw notices and figures out where he is looking. Amused, Ornshaw starts a whisper brigade across and toward the front of the room. When it gets to her, she turns to look back at some length, and he looks away, as one does when caught staring. Later we see a still image of her that is smiling in this scene, but as shown as “moving pictures” she just looks serious, maybe even a bit annoyed.

Vignette four appears to be later the same day. We were introduced to Melody playing recorder early in the film, practicing Frere Jacques. In economy of detail, we did not know Daniel played cello, unless I missed something. Not really necessary, but not surprising, given his dreamy, artsy nature.

He clunks his cello down the hall, opens the door to the music room, and there are Melody and Rhoda, waiting while we hear a tuba tryout through a closed door. He pauses, there’s surprise all around, smiles uncertainly at her, goes in and settles on bench on another wall. Rhoda and Melody giggle a lot and whisper furiously, sounding like part of it involves the feeling in the back of her neck from being stared at.

The tuba kid, little bigger than his instrument, leaves and Rhoda gets called in by the teacher, leaving the other two alone. After a moment of uncertainty, Melody blows a few notes and then starts playing Frere Jacques to practice. Daniel joins in for a duet, starting behind and offset from her in a cool way, following her lead as she plays faster and faster. She looks his way through this, and in among the seriousness you can see her eyes smile a couple times.

The teacher bangs out, stopping them abruptly, and gives him a note to take to the headmaster. It takes no imagination to realize that she did this to shut them up because they were loud enough to disrupt what we presume is Rhoda’s singing tryout. I would even surmise that she knows exactly what is going on between the two kids.

One thing that just now came to mind. We are late in the school year. Why are there what look very much like tryouts? Is it just the start of an extracurricular thing, even though we are already in May or even June? Or is it placement for the next school year? Or are we not supposed to ask because the scene of making beautiful music together worked so well?

Daniel leaves with a look and sort of smile. She goes into a thoughtful pose and expression, startled when his cello falls. That was a nice touch. At this point, we will realize, she is sold. The next bits are interstitial to the couple together, but are important to the story.

After school, some of the boys go near the tracks for the latest in a series of tests of a homemade explosive. It fizzles, and the laughter from that segues into laughter at an awful dinner part Daniel must suffer through with his parents and their friends. This seems to serve the purposes of cementing how awful his family is, mostly his mother, and shows a mischievous act, where he drinks his mother’s whole glass of wine while she is distracted.

That segues into a comparative scene at Melody’s house. She is watching TV while eating with Mom and Granny. It’s a humorously lame romance scene, which I believe was created for use in the film. Big difference from Daniel’s house, at any rate. But then Mom asks if she remembered to pick up her pink dress from the cleaner. Here’s where we see her sense of humor and type of mischief.

She says she didn’t, and elaborates that “the man made me forget.” She grabs the alarm clock to wind it, as she is dressed for bed, so it fits the scene. When asked, she elaborates that it’s a man in the cemetery in a raincoat. This freaks out the elder women and they ask if he touched her. She leads them on, knowing darn well what she’s doing. Wonderfully acted, especially when you can hear the air quotes around touch when she says “no, he didn’t touch me.” “Did he show you anything?” What sort of thing?” LOL. ‘Did he show you his legs?” “Oh, yes, I saw his legs alright.”

That fires Mom up to the point of wanting to call the cops, the only reference to that house having a phone. She assures them ‘oh no, he’s not there now” because he ran away after the brick nearly hit him. Did she throw the brick? This answer was hard for me to hear all of the first few times I watched the seen, but in response to “what boy?” she tells them: “the boy with the green ears and the ginger mustache, with a spear running through his head, wearing frog man’ flippers with a machine gun.” That’s the kind of thing I would have done! Smart ass kid.

Speaking of things I had trouble hearing or parsing, it sounds like Mom tells Melody if her father were home she’d get a bloody goody ardin. I wondered what in the world she had said, even though it was obviously meant to be a spanking. Eventually I realized it had to be “hiding,” as in “I’ll tan your hide.” But I digress

That scene ends with Melody popping her head back into the living room after being sent to her room. She says, with a smile, “he’s not got green ears at all, Granny. He’s quite a nice boy really.” So we know who she’s talking about there, even if the cemetery brick throwing scene is purely made up. They have made clear she’s sold.

The next vignette is lunch at school, presumably the next day. This one leaves us wondering what would happen if Ornshaw hadn’t interceded, and sets up a rivalry between Melody and Ornshaw.

We see Daniel getting his lunch and then heading across the room. He goes to her table and asks whether he can sit next to her. She doesn’t say no. She says “well, I don’t know. My friend Maureen usually sits there.” The surrounding tables and Maureen, coming up behind him, laugh. She watches as Ornshaw comes over and guides Daniel away. She and Daniel look across the room at each other after he sits down there. Ornshaw notices, makes a face at her, and she reciprocates.

Next vignette is a dance on what is presumably Saturday. This is where the play in full the song about a shy guy trying to get a girl to notice him, after we heard it much earlier on the radio when Daniel was first introduced. We can see Melody and her friend Peggy dancing, then we focus on a group of boys being at the dance but not dancing. Daniel and Ornshaw are among them, but Daniel only has eyes for Melody. For her part, Melody is obviously trying to attract him. Ornshaw makes fun of her being a stuck up know it all and girls being useless.

This leads up to Daniel saying “I’ve got to dance with her.” “You’re mad!” Ornshaw isn’t amused, and Daniel tries to get him to come out there and dance with Peggy while he dances with Melody. The other boys razz Ornshaw into going along with it. Bottom line is Daniel gets to dance with a receptive Melody very briefly. Peggy is really the one to ruin it, once you see past Ornshaw kicking her and think about it. She should know this is all about her friend getting to dance with her boyfriend-in-waiting, and should put up with the scenario. Instead she insults Ornshaw’s dancing and breaks it up. This leaves Daniel sad and concerned, Peggy sad, and Melody mad at Ornshaw and frustrated.

All of this has been pretty rapid fire. We have quickly gone from Daniel falling in love at first sight to this point, and Melody wanting him right back.

It shows two sequences after the dance. The first is another explosives test. Daniel is with the boys this time. Since they are always duds, nobody takes cover. This one works enough to spray them with dirt. They boys are excited. Things are approaching an explosive conclusion!

The second is Melody, still in her pink dress from the dance, in the bathroom. She is spilling out the contents of what is presumably her mother’s purse or makeup bag. We see her apply lipstick. Then we see her pick her hair up over her head and look at herself in the mirror. She looks a little silly, with the hair like that and the sheer amount of makeup she applied. Then her mother calls her for tea and she has a somewhat panic reaction, wiping the makeup off rather crudely, then looking at herself sadly.

Finally, it’s field day, or maybe athletics day across the pond. This is the ultimate vignette in the course of the build to the two being together, while also starring Ornshaw as the supportive best friend. There’s a lot of them talking and Daniel being embarrassed by his mother hanging around. Lots of fun scenes of kids and adults, just hanging out or participating in events. We see Melody and her friends here and there, but she’s not featured the way Daniel is. There’s a fun bit of payoff to her friend Muriel’s obvious interest in an older, much more mature boy.

Daniel and Ornshaw talk about winners and losers, and who says who will be which. After their conversation ends, To Love Somebody starts playing. There are scenes of the activity through part of the song, cheering but no dialogue. As it nears the end, Daniel’s race in the 220 begins. He is not expecting to win, but to be the one looking foolish by doing poorly. As he runs and the song reaches its end, we see his face, then her, back and forth through the ballet class, assembly, cafeteria, and dance. He gets the inspiration needed to push through to finish first and Ornshaw bursts with excitement. Then Daniel collapses. Faints away.

That’s a great spot for not showing what happens next! Can you imagine his mother being around and seeing that? People checking on and reviving him? Nope. We don’t need all that. All we need is his love for Melody gave him the winning boost.

This is unimaginably great use of the song and what it means. It captures how I feel about that song, one of my all time favorites by any artist, and helps capture how it feels to be in Daniel’s position. Now that I’ve seen it, I’ll never not associate the song with the scene, and I can watch the video of the song set to that every day.

Everything changes after that. This could be a place to stop and move on in a part three. This segment of the film gives the best examples of scenes that are just enough, leaving blanks that aren’t necessary to be filled. Actually, I will stop here. I need to make supper. I was going to add to this while some of the cooking happened, but my son got in the way and I sat back down. The kids are dying for supper, but he slowed it down by making food for himself before he starves. Silly.

Sixteen Years!

I managed to remember that it’s my 16th blogiversary before the day ended and I went to bed. On February 25, 2003 I made my first post on a blog I had finally setup. I’d thought about it much sooner and could have been in the class of 2002 instead. If I’d started when I first heard of those oddballs doing online diaries, which turned into blogging, it would still have been the late nineties. I never checked that out, but it would have been just my thing in retrospect.

My blogiversary preceded my wedding anniversary by just over ten months, so that was 15 years at the beginning of 2019. That was how we met. Along the way, it did occur to me that who knew, maybe I’d meet someone that way. Didn’t really expect it and it wasn’t why I started. The thought came to mind when I started meeting people online and attracted attention. It was social media before social media existed. There would be overlapping circles of bloggers who read each other’s posts and commented, as well as people who were there just to read and didn’t blog themselves.

My family didn’t know about the blog or pseudonym, as I recall, until I got married and particularly until we drove across the country, documenting it along the way. Big mistake for them ever to know. I’m still not sure I should be posting here or under this name, rather than somewhere I am unknown and building from scratch. Even more from scratch, since I posted so little for so long, scattered in so many places, in a blogosphere that all but disappeared.

For that matter, it’s funny to count it as 16 years when most of that has amounted to nothing. I stopped seriously posting by around 2009, doing it in fits and starts after that. Twitter was fun when it was new and I was big on it in 2007 and 2008, but it wasn’t blogging, and helped kill blogging for me, if not the Facebook would. Then Facebook became a place where you couldn’t say much lest it might offend someone. Both as a matter of what you posted and the length of what you posted.

I think I just blogged in the past week more than I blogged everywhere combined in the past several year. Few years, at least. There was a time I posted regular book reviews and sometimes food-related stuff. What I’ve been posting might be a weird mix and may need to break out of a rut, but it’s a start and it feels amazing.

Where I Went Wrong

There’s the standard “what would you change if you could go back to some point knowing what you know now” kind of thing. On some level, the answer to that is normally “but I wouldn’t want to give up these kids,” who presumably wouldn’t have happened in everything is different land. On the other hand, some different kids got lost in the shuffle that did happen. We just don’t get to know who they are. And the do exist, if you take many worlds quantum theory to be a thing, just with a different you. So don’t cry, Shopgirl. Don’t cry.

That said, and notwithstanding that there are many points where I could make changes happily, large or small, I often feel like I went wrong when I opted for the vocational agriculture program at my high school.

My brother’s first wife suggested it. She had dated boys who were in it, and had an extremely positive impression. Plus farming on some level was in my blood and in my experience. I did a lot of planting, weeding, and picking vegetables. I was around for a lot of cranberry harvests. I loved the growing of flowers, and my grandfather’s little greenhouse.

I had been a top student in chorus, and loved to sing. I’m shy, introverted, vaguely autistic, and terrified of singing in front of others, but I actually could sing. It’s in the blood and the family experience. Naturally I signed up for high school chorus.

We were on double sessions, and that dictated when some of the classes had to be held. It also rendered the two period vocational class a single period for that year. That was the same period as chorus. The school made the logical decision to drop the music and keep the vocational. Would I have done that if, say, at the end of eight grade I had know I could do only one? I don’t know. I might have gone with chorus and academics. It wasn’t a tough sell, making me an aggie, but it was a sell and not something that initiated within me. The best year of the vocational class was that first year. It was basically downhill from there.

If I could go back to eighth grade and the point of making such decisions, there is absolutely no contest in my mind. I would have chosen chorus. What else did I have that year? That would be a one to one trade, so I wouldn’t have to fill two periods. If I did, I might have ended up in one of the history classes I missed.

English, Algebra I, Earth Science, Gym for whatever part of the year that took and study hall the other part… there has to be something else. French! It was my third year of French, though I suspect it wasn’t a prerequisite to have taken the language in 7th and 8th grade. The class was obviously not memorable. I don’t remember it being bad, or especially good. I felt like I wasn’t learning much. When I started German in college six years later, I’d have told you I remembered almost nothing of French. However, I regularly ran into the problem of remembering the French for something instead of the German. But I digress.

I did meet one of my closest friends, Perry, through vocational. By rights he counted for a time as a third “best friend.” My second best friend, Frank, I met earlier that year and have meant to introduce in a post titled something like “My Ornshaw.” My second best friend died several years ago. My first best friend and I may as well be dead to each other, sadly. I am friends with the third one on social media, but he is absent a lot, and is not in the best of health. The first friend, Zack, married the ex-girlfriend, Joan, of the third friend. I was responsible for all of them having met, and particularly so for the union of the first to the girl. Small and convoluted and crazy world. Ditching vocational might have put an end to all that. I might still have met Frank, but with a different dynamic of classes, I might have noticed Ella less and someone else more. Ella helped trigger my befriending Frank, weirdly. There would be a lot of dominoes reversing back to upright in the scenario of no vocational. I can’t say those were bad things that should never have happened, and it’d be weird knowing the difference if I went back. It might be kinder if the terms were to make the decision then forget what came after the first time.

Chorus would have gotten me closer to some of the more academic and more musical kids who in part were already my peeps. I supposed I could have taken it as seriously or casually as I wanted. One concern I have is that I developed a health issue that would have destroyed my ability to sing properly in any reliable way. I still struggle with that, between sensitivity to what I am breathing, and reflux sometimes returning to haunt me.

It would have left me on a more academic track. After ninth, vocational did take 2 periods a day. That took the place of any two other classes, like a history or science or language. I made it worse in 10th grade! I signed up for electronics and the administration didn’t notice or stop me. That was a snootier vocational class that went three years rather than four, but was two periods per day. So four of seven periods in that year were devoted to the two vocational classes. Then it was English, Geometry, and gym. That was why I ended up taking the traditional 10th grade biology in 11th. At least that teacher didn’t hate me as much as the electronics teacher did. I still don’t know why, though it may have had to do with an awareness I didn’t belong in two vocational classes. It was a slap in the face to him when i got the highest grade on the midyear exam. I made a friend in that class who was my introduction to BASIC when he got an early Radio Shack computer. in 1977.

This has gotten long and gone in directions I didn’t intend.

I love to sing. My wife was one of the first people I could sing in front of with little discomfort, and with my kids it was completely natural. Now one of them sings like an angel and writes her own songs. One of them sings competently and taught herself guitar. The other one doesn’t seem interested in singing, but seems to do well on violin in school without bothering to practice, as if he’s just natural at it. I’ve gotten a bit more open about it. I’ve been known to sing along with or in the presence of people at work. A few weeks ago, I sang well the first little bit of Bus Stop by The Hollies for a young coworker who didn’t know the song.

I never wanted to be famous or felt comfortable performing, as my brother did. I’ve actually pondered in years past the idea of vocal lessons. I guess I can see wanting to be famous in that it was a bit of a rush when I was moderately “blog famous” around 2003/2004. When I worked in stores, there was one guy in particular I worked with for a while who, when we were together behind the counter, completed us as something of a comedic duo, entertaining customers. That was fun.

Something I’ve sometimes thought would have been interesting is getting into film. Before there was ever YouTube, and a venue for anyone to do that on some level. There were other reasons I saw a ton of movies circa 1998, but I also could see myself involved in the writing or creation of them. Not something I ever really mention to anyone, or think about actively. I find it hard to imagine acting, though. I am blown away when I see people adopting just the right expression in an artificial situation. I know how much work is involved, rehearsing, directing, doing many takes, getting just the right shots, so maybe you need only capture the right look that one take that’s a keeper. But still. I think I was put off of acting by a tiny play I was involved in during 6th grade. A few people each did a different little story, a series of plays for younger grades. My buddy Paul and I forget who else might have been in ours. It had something to do with picking berries. We laughed uncontrollably through the whole thing, barely able to deliver the lines, and laughed our way off the stage. It may only have been me and Paul, in the actual thing, since he’s the only one I remember. The two of us did much better when we built a telegraph. We both were interested in electricity, electronics and gadgets

So yes, I think I went wrong, not offense to my friends the change would affect, when I opted for the vocational program as I entered high school. I would have a very different life and there would have been more of an academic, professional expectation to pursue and fulfill.

Dialogue Dialog

I just found myself looking up the difference between dialog and dialogue when I found myself uncomfortable typing dialog, to mean words exchange between characters in a story, and changed it to dialogue. I am pretty sure I have been leaving off the -ue in that usage recently, without being tripped over into rebelling.

Looks like it’s overwhelmingly dialogue until very modern times, mainly as a computer term for a dialog box. This makes sense. Conversely, catalog was adopted more universally over catalogue, as an American spelling, long ago.

Modernizing Films and Shows

My youth, too. This is a topic I thought of long before discovering Melody, and had thought to write about in conjunction with it. I just remembered that when I sat down and started to read my unfinished book from a couple years ago. The very beginning holds up better than I had thought it would, for all I had been thinking of making substantial changes that would introduce the characters and modern location more fully. A tiny snippet:

Ben grumbled. He didn’t like camping much in the first place, so why should he have to help load the car with last minute supplies from the basement?

“Come on Ben, you dork!” His older sister, the older older sister, was probably no happier, but at least she loved camping. He was only in it for the swimming. Carrie put on her backpack and followed Lydia out the door and down the stairs.

“Fine,” he said grudgingly.

 By the time he got down two flights of stairs, he had almost caught up with his more enthusiastic siblings. They were at the back of the open part of the basement, looking at the shelves where odds and ends were stored.

 Ben noticed light glowing from under the plywood door to the landlord’s storage area and thought that seemed odd. Nobody ever went in there, and the landlord certainly wasn’t around just then. As he approached the girls, Carrie threw an unopened tarp package at him.

 “Here, carry that to the car,” she ordered.

 He picked up the tarp and the bag of snacks he’d dropped while trying to catch the unexpected missile, turned around and stopped cold.

 Not only was the light under the landlord’s mystery room door brighter now, but also the door was ajar. He had never seen it open. It was normally locked. Presumably it was locked. He had never checked it out. Why would he? But now…

The connection here is that they are going to find themselves in the past, but with one piece of modern technology.

What if the events of any given movie from the past were now? How would you write the same scenario? How amusingly or distressingly would that truncate the plot?

In Melody, phones are barely a thing. They exist, and toward the end are used, but people don’t seem to use them casually, or even have them if they are lower class or poor. Not like it’s the ancient past, after all. If I’d had a crush in, say, 1972, in theory I could have picked up the phone and called the girl, if I could obtain her number. It’s just that I wouldn’t have dared. I didn’t call my junior high crush until after I’d already made, in my eyes, a fool of myself. She liked me a lot but didn’t *like* me, and wasn’t bothered by my foolishness the way I am (decades later, we are friends on social media).

Now? Kids are online, depending on parents and age. They have phones after a certain point. I could say much about the wonders of being young now. The sum of human knowledge at your fingertips? I get absorbed sometimes for hours online, learning things, surfing from one topic to the next. I’d have been in heaven. Timid about calling? Where you might write a note decades ago, if you thought of it, you can write an e-mail or a text. It can spread embarrassment at the speed of internet, but hey. The tools for communication and knowledge are so much better, if less charming than alerts whispered across a room from kid to kid.

This happens in written fiction, too. Wheel of Time would be dramatically less drawn out with instant communications. It becomes more compressed and actions more effective as speeds of travel and communication improve in the manner they do during the series.

I’m so stuck on Melody, I am having trouble thinking of old enough examples to be deeply affected if you updated for internet or ubiquitous smartphones. It’s funny to picture the kids in Melody rushing home to get on their Xboxes to play online games with each other, but that’s a possibility. But then, it’s hard to imagine how one might put internet and a game console where people like the Perkins lived. Under those conditions, what kids would be excited about hanging out together in an overgrown cemetery?

I was thinking I should do a series of posts inserting new technology into old stories to imagine something along the lines of how it should have ended. We’ll see. They’ll need to be less lame and more coherent than this one, if so.

Melody and Religion

After getting hooked on the movie, I looked up the differences between US and UK schools. Remarking about them to my oldest yesterday, she proudly already knew, and refers to her grade level appropriately when communicating with British people. This isn’t the post on that topic, but I also noted that religion was incorporated into the schooling. This wasn’t just a fictional thing. In the making of Melody video, Mark Lester talks about his on set schooling (and they also talk with his tutor) and lists subjects he studies. One of them is scripture.

The headmaster is obviously a religious figure, whether that is normal or not, and the first class you see any of the kids in is one he teaches on religion. It’s meant to be, and is, very funny. It shows how frustrating the kids can be, how impotent or incompetent the teachers can be, and the mischievousness of some of the kids. It’s also one of the points in the movie where I could not make out some of the words, or heard them wrong. I couldn’t distinguish “matzos” and eventually saw what it was online, where someone else asked.

In my case, between the accent and the sound quality of the video, when he spoke in that class I heard “pick up thy beard and walk.” Every time. Since it was completely nonsensical, I actually looked it up and was able to determine it was bed: “pick up thy bed and walk.” Even I not only could gather the biblical context, but also was pretty sure I’d heard it before as a child. I got dragged to church with varying regularity until I rebelled for good at 13. I still love the actual church. An ancestor was the first minister when it was built, my grandfather was sextant and a lay speaker, and the building is striking. I used to help clean it, and mowed the lawn when it had one, and felt reverent toward it. Had crushes on a couple of the girls there, too. One of those let me in free to see ET when she saw me in line for the movie when she worked at the theater years later.

I don’t know if religion is a universal subject in British schools, but both religion and education can be tools of government control of or influence on the population, so putting the two together would make sense from that perspective.

Later there’s an “assembly.” Plot-wise, it is a chance to get Melody and Daniel in the same place at the same time, since they don’t spend time in the same classrooms except by accident, as when he fell in love with her. It helps cement that he is interested, and lets a bunch of the other kids in on what’s happening in the process. Another place where Ornshaw is instrumental. Plus it gives us the lovely picture of her, turned to look across the room, smiling at him, to show while he races and To Love Somebody plays. We don’t see the smile in the footage used in the actual scene. She just looks serious.

In the assembly, the teachers all gather up on the platform in front and the headmaster starts calling kids up for the sorting hat. Wait, wrong movie! And no, that’s not a young Ron Weasley we see ever so briefly at the dance, but it sure could be. The headmaster, once he has silence, has them open their hymnals to a hymn number he can’t remember without his glasses, and starts leading them in song in his lovely voice. James Cossins vies with Roy Kinnear for my favorite adult actor of the film. His name always makes me think of Jamie Cousins, though. She was a girl in my grade. Never knew her, but a friend, more of a friend of a friend who was part of the proverbial gang, had a huge crush on her.

I finally got around to looking up the hymn they sing. I may well have heard it in church in my youth, but I’d never remember that. I’d caught enough of the words, even beyond the first three in triplicate, to find it easily. The song is Holy, Holy, Holy. Logically enough. It’s about the trinity, thus the triplicate holy.

Turns out it’s used for Trinity Sunday. What the heck is that? Now I know that’s the first Sunday after Pentecost. But what the heck is that? That’s the fiftieth day after the resurrection. It’s observed seven weeks after Easter, so it also moves, and that means Trinity Sunday moves.

All of which goes back to my looking at the timeline of the film. Not that the hymn couldn’t be used any time of the year, and not that the assembly is on a Sunday, but given the time of year the film obviously occurs, they would have to be near Trinity Sunday at the time. In 1970, the year Melody was Filmed, Trinity Sunday was May 23. In 1971, the year of release, it was June 6.

I previously surmised the assembly to have been on a Thursday. I might have expected it to be a Friday or Monday, if adhering to a weekday near the Sunday being observed, but this might all be nothing. It could simply be that they periodically have whole school or whole grade level assemblies that incorporate religion and/or other purposes. Still, the film is basically May/June. That’s when a lot of filming fell, when they are in the school year, etc. Someone could have been thinking it through in that much detail, or it could simply have been a famous and somewhat catchy hymn to employ. Given that nothing seems accidental in this film, though I might question some details or have done them differently, I lean toward it being intentional.

The only other things we see of religion are Daniel’s parents and their friends making fun of the devout, at least the Catholic ones, and Ornshaw stumbling over and skipping the finer details of the marriage rites in a prayer book.

Zap!

There’s an almost indescribable experience that I have been party to just three four times that I can remember. It’s memorable, so I would expect to remember them all. There’s fuzziness between these and falling in love at proverbial first sight, but clearly they aren’t necessarily the same.

This is seeing someone across a room or whatever separates you, and it’s completely electric. Jolting. Perhaps exhilarating. Perhaps disturbing. Perhaps confusing.

The first was with my big high school crush, call her Ella. Not my only or even my first crush in high school, but the most significant unless you count the significance of a girl we’ll call Daphne, who left me believing no girl could ever want me.

Except the zap moment was later. I forget exactly the year, but it was either toward the tail end of high school, or after high school. While I didn’t lose absolutely all interest until three years after high school, when I ran into her and we talked at length just before I started college later than the rest of my age cohort, the main even was 9th and into 10th grade. My brother, by comparison, still dwells on a girl from 8th grade, fifty years ago. She’ll always be a part of my personal history and memories, but we wouldn’t actually have been suited for each other. I’ve been in touch with her sister in the past couple years, expressing condolences after their awesome mother died, but I haven’t seen or talked to her since 1982 as far as I can remember.

Ella was working in a department store, the only one of its name and kind, rather than part of a chain. I had no idea of this when I walked in. I set foot in the door and our eyes met across the distance between the door and the checkout she was manning. It was absolutely electric and I was floored. It was as if the intervening years had never happened. If I’d never seen her before, I’d call it a love at first sight moment, but I knew exactly who she was and was a bit uncomfortable. It was obviously a mutual thing.

The second instance, if it counts, is the one I’d somehow forgotten that led to the strikethrough at the beginning. Call her Tammy. Summer of 1983, between first and second years of college, I was floating around a chain of stores as a temporary assistant manager, covering vacations. First or second day at one store, she walked out of the back room and toward the front. Zap! Not sure there was an mutual there, but for me it was the love at first sight zap. She was one of the sweetest people you could ever meet. She was athletic and was going to college in Maine when she wasn’t home for the summer. We talked a lot and she was a great employee, but I just couldn’t bring myself to ask her out. I had the impression she might already have had someone, but it wasn’t clear.

It was during that interlude that a girl I’d met at a different store earlier in the summer also landed at that store for some hours and made a different impression on me. At the first store, she acted weirdly like “don’t you dare be interested in me!” Not a problem, since I wasn’t, even a little, even though she was objectively attractive. She’s how I first heard of Def Leppard. She was going to a concert one night after work and I had never heard of the band, which was huge then. That girl ended up acting miffed, obviously enough so that even I noticed, that I was not acting interested in her. She was the cause of my forever associating a particular Def Leppard song with Tammy, and to a lesser degree with her. (Naturally I started hearing Def Leppard songs after that, after never having heard one before.)

Flash forward just a little and it’s New Year’s Eve, on the cusp on 1985. I had landed in a specific store as a regular cast member, so to speak. Someone who worked in a completely different store, call her Layla, lived near my store and would come in there sometimes. While I’d never noticed her, she’d noticed me. This is something I think about when I wonder how many girls there were over the decades who might have been interested but gone utterly undetected by me, with or without effort on their part. She started conversing with me when she came in, and even helped free with a lottery crunch one night when I shouldn’t have been alone at all, let alone in the face of a then huge jackpot. Made me nervous to have someone who didn’t work in the store behind the counter, even just feeding cards into the lottery machine, so after a while she left, but that made her more of a presence. We became friendly in a talking and talking about everything way, but it never registered to me that she was or that I ought to be attracted. Indeed, the downfall would arguably that I was not, but I wasn’t exactly dating anyone else.

She invited me to a New Year’s party at a relative’s summer house way out on the Cape. I agreed. I wasn’t a real party person, but hey. We had Chinese on the way. Yum! Everyone but me at the party was a girl. She was the only one I knew, though I would see some of them again.

We had not been there long, hanging in the kitchen initially after bringing in the Chinese leftovers.

A girl walked into the kitchen. ZAP! Never experienced anything like it. Not even any other zap moment. I’d call it chemistry at first sight, more than love at first sight. She was a short-haired blond girl we’ll call Beth. Turned out she went to my college. This was a mutual zap, though not sure what she made of it or how she internalized it.

That made the rest of the evening completely surreal, since all I really wanted to do was be with Beth. Alone. I was with Layla and completely focused on Beth. I managed to irritate Beth because when she told me where she lived at the school, in a rental house, between ambient noise and her accent, I couldn’t parse the name of the road and had her repeat it a time or two. She was from a rich town on the North Shore, which must have given her just enough of a different accent to trip me up.

Although I could easily have ensured nothing else ever transpired between me a Layla after the one date, we did kind of date for a while. It was never properly consummated and was doomed by my relative lack of attraction to her, but she was a decent person. It was on her account that I’ve ever been to New York City. Good memories.

She also marked a point where I rebelled against my programming. Daphne had conditioned me not to be wanted. Just because a girl was on a date with me didn’t mean it was acceptable to, say, put an arm around her when the moment was right, or kiss her, or think that sex might be a possibility.

Prior to Layla, I had hung out with a girl we’ll call Maddie, from some of my college classes. We essentially went on three dates, after drifting inexorably together in the face of her initial reluctance despite being interested. I was reluctant, and it helped doom things, because I didn’t perceive her as intelligent enough. That was part of the meet cute, or what helped get us together: Her need for help in accounting. For me it was the easy first semester of many accounting classes. For her it was the first of two required semesters for folks who weren’t in that major, and was a dire struggle. So I tutored her.

Maddie wasn’t beautiful, perhaps, but she was cute as a button in a way, and was very much attracted to her, yet always dubious. It was the perfect storm of someone I could be friendly and easy with, and someone attractive to me.

Our last date was when I drove north of the city, to where she lived, to go out for her birthday during the summer. Her family was at a cabin in New Hampshire, and she was staying with her grandmother, as I recall. We’d have had the house entirely to ourselves for whatever we wanted to do, but I was a little slow and she had been dealing with a crying grandmother before she came to meet me, convinced her little girl was going to lose her innocence or something. I later realized that that was exactly what Maddie wanted out of the relationship, but wasn’t aggressive enough to ensure in the face of my denseness and Daphne’s damage.

We went to a tourist place in Salem, on the water. At one point, we sat on a bench looking out at the water. It was just a few minutes. I had the powerful urge to put my arm around her, as would be logical in that situation. Daphne popped into my mind with a proxy “no, don’t touch me” and I Just Couldn’t Do It. That intercession in my head was a turning point. From there, I convinced myself I wasn’t interested in Maddie, she wasn’t smart enough or good enough for me. I could do better.

It was the regret from that when I was with Layla that countered Daphne’s influence, even though I just wasn’t that interested in Layla except perhaps as a matter of opportunism.

The next zap I witnessed took ages to arrive. It was at a workplace. A new, young manager arrived. We had never met. I was in a room for a meeting. She walked by the room, met my eyes through the window of the door, and did a double-take. I have never seen anyone react to me that way. The closest might be Beth, but that was more proximate and mutual chemistry. This was more like watching someone fall for me at first sight, or at least find me more attractive than I’ve ever been. It’s all the more fascinating because we aren’t and perhaps never had been on the same proverbial team. I have never stopped being intrigued, and will never forget it. I could be misinterpreting entirely what it was about, but there was massive surprise in the reaction, whatever the case.

Speaking of looks, I have most always been convinced, to one degree or another, that I was completely unattractive, even ugly. Girls fought to sit with me on the bus in kindergarten when I was a cute little blond boy, but that was about the end of it. Once in a great while I get some input to the contrary. I’m long since biased enough that it takes essentially no data to convince me the negative direction, and endless data to budge me in the positive direction. I’m like that in other things. Any negative is absolute truth and set in stone. Any positive is unbelievable.

The most recent particularly compelling positive came when my oldest friend, Julie, and her older sister, had an 80th birthday party for their mother. My mother and sister also went. When I walked in, both Julie and her sister, having not seen me in decades, with no stake in doing so, said ‘WOW!” in reaction to my appearance. Good wow, not bad wow. In my favor, I am relatively well preserved, and my hair may not have been overdue for cutting at the time. But I am still overweight. I was persuaded when I was a kid, and was actually not that heavy, that my weight was a huge personal failing entirely my responsibility and rendering me unacceptably ugly. Daphne indirectly contributed to my internalizing that outlook. When, during college, I lost so much weight that I started to look anorexic, I remained convinced I was too heavy and, even if not, unattractive. That almost anorexic weight was almost a hundred pounds below where I am now, which really is 30+ pounds too high.

Anyway, I digress again. This is why verbosity was my reputation and ended up in my blog name. Believe it or not, when i started typing, I chose this topic because it was a brief post. Ha! Shows what i know.

I Had Forgotten

Thinking and writing about girls I had crushes on, I had forgotten my experience in 8th grade with a girl who had a crush on me. I’m trying to think of a pseudonym, since I’m thinking everyone should be protected that way, but should be able to be referenced with a proper noun. Not that leaving names out has always helped, when people know who I am talking about, entirely aside from whether I’m being a raving lunatic at the time.

Dora. That works. No maps or backpacks though.

Dora teased and tormented me all through 8th grade math class, last period of each day. It was a wild bunch generally, with me being the island of calm studiousness. “Bright spot” in 7th period math, the teacher called me. I had no idea what she was on about, but even then I knew some of it was a little risque.

It’s not that she was unattractive. She was more mature than a lot of the girls, and looks more womanly in the yearbook picture, taken at the beginning of 8th grade, than most of the girls. She was also the center of wildness in the class. Had I been paying attention and had I been thinking of who I might date for more mature pursuits, that could have been interesting. I was completely focused on my 7th grade crush for the first couple months or so of 8th grade, until I embarrassed myself by, in writing and not in so many words, saying I loved her.

Then I was focused on the rebound crush who was safely less attractive. In there I was also crushing to some degree on a friend’s younger sister, and a different classmate who, I’m reminded by the yearbook pictures, was stunning. Call her Jane. I actually had noticed Jane in 7th and it was because of something she wrote for English that made her sound like me, enjoying the woods, shooting a bow and stuff. In high school, don’t recall seeing much of Jane until she was in a class with me in 12th grade, getting razzed a lot because she had gotten married at a very young age. I gathered this was sped up by the loss of whatever family had been raising her.

But I digress. Dora would have been exciting, maybe brought me out of my shell, maybe corrupted me in some ways. I also didn’t see her in high school. At all. She was there, but she was among the crowd who could be found out drinking and smoking, and circa 11th grade was rumored to have gotten in a bar fight that caused her to miscarry.

She’s not one of those I feel bad about letting down, because I didn’t fully catch on until after the fact, and it would have been odd even if I’d have gone for it. If she had been even more forward and just plain asked me out, I don’t know how I might have reacted. It was one of the most obvious hinting or acting out campaigns I have ever seen from someone who was apparently interested.

Feeling for Mr. Perkins

I’m not sure I’m completely clear or settled on it yet, but as a father, I felt for Mr. Perkins – and the other adults in the family – when Melody melts down over being unable to marry Daniel immediately at the age of 11. We never see Daniel’s parents aware of it, or having met her, which is itself fascinating. I could also comment about his mother’s reaction later. But this is me, as the loving dad to Melody, perhaps with my own perspective from a later time, as well as from having had the potential to be a Daniel.

First, we don’t see what precedes the bit of conversation, or what follows. We go from Melody having her head on Daniel’s shoulder while he talks intently to her, sitting in the cemetery in the rain after the rough day that followed the perfect day, to her being home, Mom toweling her wet hair as she sits at the table.

It suits the needs of the story for the parents to be at a loss, so my take might derail events yet to unfold.

As explored in Moonrise Kingdom, which I have researched but not yet seen, sometimes it’s about the ritual. Even I might not have considered that until I saw it explained. Moonrise Kingdom was inspired in part by, and has parallels to, Melody, but is more modern.

I would want to acknowledge the feelings they have for each other. I would try to give an idea of what marriage is about, what it exists for as an institution, even if I didn’t want to go into a sex education lesson of at least the level, and maybe more, than a kid that age ought to have any time now.

I would point out that she can spend time with Daniel, as she has been, without being married. People do that before marrying, sometimes for many years. Even if you’re sure, you can simply be dating until you are of age.

I would point out that there is a legal age, which they are and were under, so no marriage could happen that would be legally binding. It would be a ceremony and might have meaning to them, but they would have to do it for real later.

Because marriage is in part an economic unit, and for the stable raising of children as well as mutual support, and only in part an extension of romance, it doesn’t really fit while you are yet a dependent child of the marriage your parents are in. It assumes you are adult in ways that have nothing to do with sex.

As old as the kids seem in the movie, which is as old as kids around me seemed when I was that age, they are still kids. Melody’s plaintive meltdown shows that. It’s out of character compared to Melody’s assertive enticing of Daniel away from Ornshaw, but the film shows a whole gamut like that.

Personally, I would have allowed, even encouraged, them to continue seeing each other and given them a chance to drift apart or else come of age together. With the free range nature of things then and there, you could hardly stop them from spending all their time after school together anyway.

The trick would be gently talking her – them – off the ledge of obsession with marriage as the only answer to the intensity of what they feel. Daniel hits on an important point when he yells at the headmaster that morning. They are young, not stupid. That has always been a guiding principle with our kids. They may lack knowledge or experience, or lose control of emotions more easily than they might later, but they are not stupid.

Long Long Time

I have always loved this song, from the time it was relatively new and I was young. For all she did later, it and Different Drum define Linda Ronstadt for me. But it makes me feel remorse, based on my interpretation of what it is about.

This is the lament of a woman scorned. Worse, not really acknowledged, by a man so cold or indifferent that he either never noticed her interest, or didn’t care enough to do anything with it if he did. Further, he has made a habit of this, breaking hearts along the road of oblivious omission.

I am kind of getting into personal things I’ve yet to post, or that I might have posted a long time ago in a different blogosphere. (It’s a travesty that blogosphere just got flagged as not a word by automatic spell check.) I have had crushes, been outright in love with, or passingly noticed many girls or women over the decades, not so much recently. I have despaired of their general lack of interest in me, but to the degree that I was addicted to the feeling of being in love without being willing or able to bring it to fruition, this served my purposes. If it was what i was seeing, good. If I could make myself perceive it as what I was seeing, that worked too.

Yes, autistic tendencies. Yes, it may be that that’s about feeling too deeply rather than being insensitive, with the coping making it appear the same. Yes, I am oblivious to subtlety, or don’t believe it, or at times have found it convenient not to believe it. Girls aren’t supposed to be forward or aggressive, doncha know. Still, eventually I realized that I had left some disappointment in my wake. Heck, long ago. Introspection in the past few years, after I killed an old friendship beyond recovery (or at least buried it beyond exhumation), made me think more about many things like this.

Sometimes being shy is just being shy, and being anxiety-ridden is just anxiety beyond escape. But sometimes I had some idea, or should have, what I was doing. Sometimes it felt like revenge on all girls for what one girl did at a sensitive age.

I have seen that a girl seemed interested and been completely inert to it, or falsely oblivious. I once called a girl in college, after she’d been in a class with me, chatted at some length, and despite being able to tell she was receptive, copped out and… did nothing. I’d have had a date, if I’d have known how to ask. I could tell she was disappointed. I still feel bad about it, and she was just a minor crush. My main college crush got left in the lurch once my interest was clear and she was receptive. I just… stopped. It was pretty crazy.

My big high school crush had much the same experience. I essentially ran away in confusion once she clearly and unambiguously reciprocated and I had no idea what next. Ouch. I could go on.

Much as I love the song and feel for the sentiment, it makes me sad for anyone, known and unknown, I ever might have hurt by running away, being indifferent, or not even noticing.

 

Storytelling

One of the things I wanted to write about in regard to Melody and myself involves the skill involved in the storytelling – the presentation and progression involved in showing what needs to be shown, without starving or overfeeding the audience. We get a wonderful, thought provoking, moving story without being left short and wanting more, beyond a modicum of curiosity or blanks we might like but needn’t have filled. Much is shown, not stated in dialog, enhanced with setting sequences to songs. I was sure this would be a huge post, so I have hesitated to start. Perhaps I can start, get as far as I get, then complete the thoughts in subsequent post(s) if needed.

I started writing a book a couple years ago, finally bringing together some ideas and things niggling at my mind for many years as to setting and such. I ended up drifting away from it, partly because I got busier, partly because writing is hard, and partly because loss of focus, direction, or inspiration can derail you for a time or a lifetime. Melody, specifically the way the story was presented, has helped inspire me. Along with that, I’ve had some additional ideas, and may be ready to try again. As I wrote, it was already visual and film-like, to me. Not hard, being inspired by my childhood, where I grew up, and my kids.

Needless to say, anything that goes into this kind of detail about the movie will spoil it if you haven’t seen it.

First, the setting is established while a Bee Gees song that had been unfamiliar to me plays. Completely suitable, though, since it talks about morning, ends in evening, and how it’s the morning of his life. It is the morning of the lives of the children involved, and the introductory song seems to touch on a dreamy relationship at the end of the song. It has a childlike innocence and magic, and urges patience. This fits with details much later in the film, but could have helped inspire it:

building castles in the shifting sands
in a world that no one understands

I probably had heard and dismissed the song years ago, but I love it now. It means so much.

You see the area where to story will take place from the air, and then you meet Daniel and Ornshaw as they participate in Boy’s Brigade. Ornshaw first, in fact, then Daniel held up as a comparison. We get an idea that Daniel’s mother is obnoxious and snobby. We get an idea of Ornshaw’s situation and see Daniel’s home life. Even his father makes fun of his mother’s antics.

Daniel seems sweet and innocent, but lights his father’s newspaper on fire by way of acting out. The song we hear playing on the radio is the same one the kids will dance to days later, a nice touch.

Then we meet Melody, the title character, to instrumental strains of her theme song, as the rag man arrives out front and she looks wistfully at what’s in his cart for trade. This introductory part does the job of portraying a more childlike side she is perhaps already losing. It also, in a more subtle way than Danny’s acting out, shows the anarchic nature of children when she takes clothing from the house to trade for things.

Back with Daniel, we learn he is talented at painting, but his mother objects to his moving to painting nudes and having something that someone gave him at school to show what they look like, She subtly destroys his painting and diverts him with the model rocket his father had broken, while she takes the material showing topless women. Thus we learn he’s good at painting and building models, and cement that she’s a lousy parent, not very nice at heart.

Back to Melody, we establish that she plays the recorder, which she’s doing in the bathroom to her mother’s annoyance. It appears that her mother and grandmother might not know she had traded clothing for a goldfish. The pinwheel is a symbolic connection to childhood. Sent to find her dad at the pub and get money for ice cream (we never see ice cream until she is with Daniel at the seaside, intentional resonance or not), she takes her newly acquired goldfish for a walk. During this part, Melody Fair by the Bee Gees plays, and it’s essentially a music video for the song. She doesn’t go find her father at first, but lets the fish go for a swim in a metropolitan water trough, still in the same spot at Lambeth and Kensington Roads almost fifty years later, but as a planter.

After catching the fish back into its jar, she heads to the pub, which is also still there. She looks through the windows, and into the door as an entering customer holds it open, but waits outside, looking worried. I had the impression kids weren’t allowed in. Her dad steps out, drink in hand, no indication how he ever knew she was there. we see her show the fish and presumably explain her mission, and he gives her money and tousles her head. She may make fun of him spending all his time in the pub later, and may glare at him repeatedly as only a girl that age can, but they obviously adore each other. She walks off. We segue into a scene of mayhem as kids race through an overgrown cemetery to school.

The initial introduction of the main two characters, and to a lesser extent the tertiary main character, are basically complete and now we set the stage with the school and surroundings that will play a big role. There’s an extended crowd scene of kids doing as much mischief as they can manage on the way to class. We meet the headmaster and get a humorous introduction to both the lame instruction and the challenge the kids can be.

That segues into kids going to morning recess, or break. The play games, fight, hang out and talk, one of them smokes, and we get to meet some of the supporting cast of friends. We see Melody in the context of a big group of friends, including the one who has kissed boys and is most advanced. Very much 5th grade as would have been familiar to me in 1971/1972. All the girls laugh when Muriel says she never used to kiss boys because she thought kissing would bring babies.

We move to history class with Daniel and Ornshaw, with more humor about the teaching. Ornshaw asks a valid question, showing how smart he actually is, but gets treated as cheeky and stupid.

After school, some boys go out by railroad tracks while one of them tries his latest attempt at a homemade explosive. Daniel follows. He’s apparently new and has no friends in the school yet. They tell him to go away, but Ornshaw defends him and he joins in. Bomb is a dud and they go to the bus stop. First bus leaves without most of the kids, then Ornshaw and Daniel establish their friendship by going out on the town, to Trafalgar Square, running around and goofing off to Give Your Best to Your Friends. This parallels a similar, later sequence when he is with Melody.

When Ornshaw needs to get home, Daniel freaks him out by getting a taxi, because money. This is one of many ways in which class distinctions are established.

We find that Ornshaw takes care of his grandfather and will have hell to pay if he doesn’t get home now. Daniel volunteers his mother to come help them out, as she does social welfare volunteer work.

That ends the beginning part of the film, where the basics are established. Melody and Daniel haven’t met yet. Daniel and Ornshaw had immediately become besties. This makes Melody displacing Ornshaw possible, because it will put Melody into Daniel’s life. At least, sooner rather than later. Same school, same year, they could have met eventually.

Now, my story started with minimal setup, then action, of sorts. That could work, but now I am thinking that maybe the kids should be better introduced. In writing it can be explained, but if it were on screen, there would have to be establishing scenes that show in a wider way where they are, who they are, why they are there, and how they reach the scenario where the action starts. I figured out how I can make this happen and give what comes next a more logical basis to boot. Since I was thinking about the story and the pacing as a result of this, I also solidified how to deal with one of my concerns about the later sequences. For that matter, they are not the only character and scenario to be introduced. That one was actually going to have more of an introduction, but I see how I can improve it, and perhaps that will unstick me on that part. I hadn’t even been able to begin writing it, and had written the character starting from the point where he meets the other three.

This observation is more about the storytelling subsequently in the film, but I was struck by the use of vignettes separated in time, sometimes ambiguously so, and by what was left out because every little thing need not be told or shown. It might not affect my writing, but I also observed just how much can be conveyed by minimal action. Tiny bits of dialog. Expressions, looks. Tracy Hyde was a master of that. It’s a wonder she didn’t have more of an acting career, but perhaps that’s a reflection of how poorly Melody did at the box office, and how long it languished before getting a DVD release in 2010.

I may break down the rest of the story later. I also need to talk about my Melody-like experiences, and about the mechanics of production. Having been there for one long day of shooting footage with a bunch of kids, I can imagine how grueling it was. All the more so after hearing the description of the whole day of shooting it took just for the obnoxious dinner party, and the large number of takes it took of the scene in the headmaster’s office, where the director thought he’d never get Mark Lester riled up enough to express Daniel’s anger.

Roy Kinnear

I found myself watching Melody and thinking Mr. Perkins, whose name we learn in passing is Richard when Daniel is at tea, seemed super familiar. I looked him up and sure enough! He was Mr. Salt, whose name we learn in passing is Henry, in Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory. Two great 1971 releases!

Thinking about it just now, how much does Peter Ostrum/Charlie remind you of Mark Lester/Daniel?

It’s a shame Roy Kinnear died so young, at 54 in 1988. He was 36 when filming Melody. To me he looks perhaps a bit older, but that might be hair and demeanor. He may be my favorite adult in the film, drinking problem or not. Perhaps I could relate, having not so long ago had daughters that age, and having a son basically that age. The times are different, as is the place, but when he was talking to a hysterical Melody about being unable to marry Daniel, I could see myself in those shoes. I’d meant this observation, and how I’d have handled it, to be a different post. Indeed, this was supposed to be about having noticed who he was and having been tickled by him in both roles.

Update:

I later learned from a good transcript and a replay to listen and watch lips to confirm it that Mr. Perkins is named Reg, not Rich. Presumably short for Reginald.

Identity Part 1 (Possible Orville Spoilers)

The Orville. Wow!

The wife interrupted me right here, so now I have to think about what I was writing.

My comment at the end of the episode was that if Disney could write a Star Wars film of the caliber, that franchise wouldn’t be struggling.

It’s a complete game changer, and that after I thought the new view of the Moclan was a game changer, but in more of a long term way. We did get an answer to the question that entered my mind last week: How many planets/species are part of the Union. Over 300. Which, going back to the previous episode, makes the Moclan pretty impressive, if they are considered so important to keep happy. But I digress.

I was excited to see an Isaac centered episode, which also made it a Dr. Finn episode. It seemed so mundane, until Isaac collapsed.

It answered my question of how you get a non-biological species out of nowhere. Who builds the first androids? Where are they?

In the latter part of the episode, I was thinking of Terminator. I was thinking of Borg, except the Borg are part biological and will assimilate you.

How can Earth be saved? I suspect the answer finds a clue in the title of the episodes, but I guess we’ll find out next week. Whatever happens, if Isaac is back on the crew, he will never be the same character we thought he was. I expect his home may never be the same, and the ship will never be the same. It’s all fun and games until it’s an all out war for survival that, if they really want to shake things up, could bring your heretofore enemies in on your side.

I was blown away, in a season of being blown away, once we got past the first couple episodes that made me say WTF.

It’s a Square Dance On the Floor

Something I noticed, as soon as I realized that they didn’t use the original introductory portion of the Bee Gees song Give Your Best in the Melody movie. It starts with “I’m just a clown…” in the film. Where it is used to good effect as musical illustration for Daniel spending time cavorting with Ornshaw, then again to emphasize the parallels when Daniel is skipping school with Melody.

The first couple lines are:

It’s a square dance Mr Marshall. It’s a square dance on the floor.
It’s a square dance Mr Perkins. It’s a square dance to be sure, to be sure.

Perkins.

I can’t help wondering if that inspired Melody’s surname, Perkins.

Chicane She Came

There’s no work due to icy conditions, so I should be back in bed long since. I didn’t want to wake up in the first place. Instead, I am thinking about songs.

Melody is based loosely on the songs Melody Fair and First of May, two old favorites of mine. I never thought of writing a story based on them per se, but to me the latter, in particular, told a story. It was bare bones yet evocative. I could imagine young love, much as depicted in the movie or perhaps a wee bit older. I could imagine the years going by and either wistfully remembering that, having drifted or been driven apart yet still loving each other on some level, or the years going by and the relationship growing mundane while still ultimately being in love and remembering that first day. You can be “old misery” and still remember what it was like, still love each other, even if you don’t always act the part.

Melody Fair is one of my misheard lyric songs, due to the muddled, drawn out way they sing the word woman. Still, hooker was a strange thing to hear. I figured it out quickly, but sheesh.

She’s a pretty girl who perhaps doesn’t think she is, doesn’t try hard to be, and feels down. Cheer up, make an effort, be the pretty girl you are, have a better life.

Many years ago, I did have a rough story idea inspired by or vaguely based upon what one might expand the ELO songs Strange Magic and Can’t Get It Out of My Head to depict in your mind. Those are two of my favorites. I also love Mr. Blue Sky, but it actually goes best with the entire side of Out of the Blue that it ends, collectively known as Concerto for a Rainy Day. That whole side is itself a story of hopelessness, depression, feeling suicidal, then coming out of it. I always associate it with an old friend who loved it and went through that suite of feelings in the first three songs when he had a broken back I always felt responsible for and guilty about.

My story idea would have been science fiction or fantasy. While not fleshed out and not thought about much in years, it probably would have involved time travel in some manner, our world ending, and a literal stone age dawn.

Thinking about this today, I remembered being told vehemently by someone, I remember it as my older brother but am not certain, that it was “walking on a wave’s chicane” dammit, not “walking on a wave she came.” Apparently the lyrics with the album used chicane, but people have attested to hearing it clearly from Jeff Lynne as she came. There doesn’t seem to be a definition of chicane that means a wave’s foamy crest. It seems weird that you would ascribe an intentional S curve not dictated by natural features to a wave. In either case, it is obvious this woman, whatever she is, appears to be walking on the crest of a wave. She also flies, which could explain how she could stay on top of the wave when she’s not flying so high. Unless high is a state rather than a position.

Melody Timeline

This may be too ambitious. I may need to save a draft and come back, but hey.

As I may have touched on lightly before, I am intrigued by the timeline of the events that are and are not depicted in the film Melody. Not like I haven’t spoiled away without mentioning it before, but this is going to cover pretty much the entire film’s events. You can watch it free on YouTube, in some quality. I am going to get the DVD when and if I can manage it. I expect that to be a revelation, between the sound and picture quality and the viewing size.

First the three main characters are introduced. It isn’t a school day, which suggests perhaps a Saturday. I have other things to say about this sequence, but that’s a whole post.

It’s clearly not winter, or even the near outskirts of winter, even such as it might be in London, at any time. We are not seeing an entire school year, nor are we seeing the beginning of the school year. The kids in their level are clearly established and comfortable in their school. My understanding of the education system there would make it their first year in that school, with the first five years, equivalent to kindergarten through 4th grade, having been elsewhere.

The film having been written around First of May by the Bee Gees suggests that we could interpret the timing in general to have been around that part of the year, with the first itself maybe having been a significant date. I’d propose it to be the date they hung out after school and she took him home for tea, or else the date he fell in love with her when seeing her in dance class.

We have the introduction, which sparks the friendship with Ornshaw and gives us an idea what the three of them are like.

Then there’s a day when Daniel and Ornshaw hang out after school and we learn more about everyone, between that and scenes in school. Interestingly, we see that up until that afternoon, Daniel really isn’t in with, buddies with, the other boys in the school, almost as if he’s a newcomer.

The third day depicted is when Daniel sees and falls in love with Melody, then follows her after school, and finally shows up at Ornshaw’s humble abode to help with housekeeping.

Next day depicted we see an assembly. Ornshaw creates a whisper brigade when he sees Daniel staring at Melody, resulting in her looking back.

The following scene could be the same day, or a different one. I choose to call it a different day. Daniel drags his cello to the music room, finds her waiting to have a lesson or whatever, and plays a duet with her on recorder after her friend Rhoda gets called in by the teacher.

Still on the same day, in the evening, we see Daniel suffering a dinner party with his parents and their friends. We see Melody watching TV while eating dinner with her mother and grandmother. It turns out she forgot to pick up her pink dress at the cleaners. She blames it on the man in the raincoat at the cemetery, leading to an exchange in which we see that she is a smart-ass, and that she obviously likes Daniel a lot. We never see a scene like even a more subdued view of what she leads them on with, and it may or may not be based on anything at all.

Next day, the lunch scene. After he’s done reminding us he played Oliver, Daniel tries to sit with Melody in the cafeteria. She doesn’t say no, but just says her friend Maureen usually sits there. It’s possible she might have made room, but Ornshaw retrieves him and lots of kids laugh. She stares a little at Daniel across the room afterward, and makes a rude face at Ornshaw.

Then there’s a monthly dance. This strikes me as a Saturday thing, or a Friday thing. Kids have come to it in street clothes, rather than what they’d be expected to wear to school. It can’t be the same day as the lunch scene. She’s dancing enticingly. Daniel is hanging with Ornshaw and a bunch of other boys, mostly making fun of the dance. Daniel gets Ornshaw to go out on the floor and offer to dance with Melody’s friend Peggy while he dances with Melody, if they’re willing. It’s going great until Peggy revolts, insults Ornshaw’s dancing, and he kicks her. Afterward, still daytime, the boys gather to see the latest homemade explosive tested. Melody puts on makeup in the bathroom until her mother calls her for tea and she wipes it off, looking alarmed and sad.

The next scene is athletics day, what we might call field day in my neck of the woods. And if that works the same, it’s right at the end of the school year, in the last weeks, if not days. I hadn’t thought of that aspect of the possible timing before. This is when they make unimaginably perfect use of the song To Love Somebody.

This segues into a new school day in which Daniel and Ornshaw get in trouble with the Latin teacher and have to go after school for a paddling. Afterward, Melody is waiting and despite her not saying a word and Ornshaw’s best efforts, Daniel goes with her. Cue the song that is their theme: First of May. This is the big day when they are officially together, such as it is at 11. They hang out all afternoon. She points out that if he’s been going around telling everyone he loves her, why not tell her. Then she reads a gravestone where the wife died after 50 years of happy marriage, and the husband followed her after only 2 months. This becomes perhaps the most famous dialog of the film. She asks if he’ll love her that long. He says yes. She doubts. He says “I’ve loved you for a whole week already, haven’t i?” They smile about it. They go to her flat. She opens the door, steps in, and when he hesitates, she pulls her in by his school tie. Too funny! They have tea with her family and she glares at her father a lot, as only a girl around that age can.

The “loved you a week already line” is a clue that it’s been a week since the day he fell, which definitely means my thinking later about two things being the same day would be right.

The state of vegetation at this point, visible particularly in the cemetery, would indicate it’s pretty late in spring or getting into summer. British school goes much longer than in the US, so near the end of the school year would actually be in July. That would make this not May 1st, and would mean substantial time had already passed if the meet cute happened on May 1st. Probably that’s a red herring, an artifact of the song used in and toward the concept for the movie. Conversely, filming could simply have gone on long enough for me to think it’s later in the year than is being depicted. We know filming was taking place in and around May 1970, since Tracy Hyde turned 11 on the set in May. I don’t know when it started or just how long it took. They used the large number of child extras for mob scenes early and then moved on to scenes with fewer people.

The next day that is shown is the day the two of them skip school and go to the amusement park and seaside on a train. There is no way they planned that and did it the very next day. I just don’t buy it. Sure, it’s possible, but they’d effectively just gotten together. There’s a clue later that there are days of life before that we don’t see because you don’t show every detail of everything on film.

The next day, beyond a doubt the actual next day, is when they face the headmaster’s wrath for skipping school. Now, they tell him they want to get married. Well, Daniel does, and she looks startled. Somehow, when they each get to class, the classmates know or extrapolate their desire to marry. They have a very bad day. This leads to the famously heartbreaking scene of them sitting in the cemetery in the rain, her head on his shoulders, him holding his satchel over their heads to try to keep some of the rain off. That day ends with her sad, frustrated parents not doing a good job with why she can’t get married and what maybe should actually happen next. Her father makes it clear that Daniel has come home for tea with her a number of times, and they really like him. That points to some number of days and amount of time spent hanging out together that we don’t see on screen. Daniel is in bed, fidgeting thoughtfully. I have to write about the differences between the respective parents and families sometime.

Finally, the last day shown also seems like one that might not have been planned until later, so might not be the very next day. All the more so because of the reaction the classmates initially had toward them wanting to be married. Now the classmates are helping, even if some are still amused or think it’s a lark. It seems like the rebellion had to have taken some planning. However, this might have been possible earlier in the school day and during break, since the kids actually left school during morning break and didn’t return. I am inclined to place this the very next day, but would believe it if I were told it was later.

So how many days were we shown? Let’s see…

We are shown 12 days for sure, if I counted right scrolling through the above, and we can add in a pair of Sundays, for 14 days.

If they go consecutively to that point, Friday is the duet, unless it’s on the same day as the assembly. It could be. She and Rhoda seem like they might be talking about Daniel staring at her. If that’s Friday, we skip a weekend until the next school day, and the lunch scene can’t be until Monday. If not, lunch scene could be Friday. If we’re going for the most compact timeline possible, that’s Friday and the dance is Saturday, so something happened 6 days that week, 1 day the prior week, and we’ve covered two Sundays.

That makes athletics day the Monday after the dance. I am taking that to be a standalone day, devoted to that stuff.

Tuesday would be the big day when they get together officially and have tea with her family. We are shown him going to tea then. It is implied by her father that he went to tea some number of times afterward. That’s the black box. All that came before could be back to back, but there’s the implication that there’s a gap before the next day we are shown, or her father phrases poorly. Since he fumbles for words in other ways, that’s possible. Daniel having loved her a week already, if he’s being exact, measures from the Tuesday before, which would indeed have been the day it happened. That’s a straight shot of consecutive days, and makes sense to me based on the extent to which I have been there in my youth.

On some subsequent day, not likely the next one, the kids skip school for the seaside. If it’s consecutive, then it’s Wednesday., day 12. Definitely the next day after that is the bad day of fallout, day 13, a Thursday. If it’s all consecutive, without those extra days of the relationship building and taking him home for tea, the final day is Friday, day 14. If I figured it right.

I’m figuring life happens, and it needed some build to get from the establishment of the relationship to the day at the seaside, so it could have been as long as weeks before then, but afterward the whole thing wraps quickly. The timeframe from meeting the characters to the end is probably not much more than a month, even if it’s more than 14 days.

All of this really makes me want to post a commentary about the parents. It’s late for bed, so not now. I thought this would be quicker, but I got too descriptive. There was a reason for the blog name, way back in the day. I’ll have to review this tomorrow and edit if I typed anything wrong or goofed in other ways.

Decisions, Decisions

Get to bed early or write another post of at least moderate length? I haven’t been getting enough sleep, but lately it seems if I allow enough time for sleep, I’ll just wake early and be unable to sleep during the last 2+ hours. Alarm goes off at 2:30 AM. That’s 8 hours from the absolute earliest I could be asleep if I hurried to bed now.

On another note, following my initial click to publish this, I think my categories need help. I see things I am not sure I’d use and feel like there are things missing. Almost as if the blog had been neglected for years…

Magic Ponytail

Yes, Melody again. I have things to say about what I call the “meet cute” scene, but I just watched closely enough to be sure the filming goof I that had left me confused before was indeed a goof.

I’ll cover the thoughts and feels, too. That is exactly how it happens. As much as other scenes and uses of songs grabbed me, this scene was the epitome of being young and falling in love “at first sight” with a young lady. Maybe she’s been in your school and maybe you’ve seen her before, or maybe not, but then it hits you. The world stops and there is nothing else.

Daniel’s friend Ornshaw grabs Daniel and another boy as they are about to head up another flight of stairs, pulling them to the window of a door to a room where dance instruction of some girls is happening. Ornshaw is facially jeering and laughing at the girls, and perhaps the adults, and gets the others in on it, if not as derisively. Daniel is as fascinated as amused in the first place, then he sees her. Musical notes of their theme, First of May, slow and wistful, can be heard. Melody is dancing, tossing her hair as she spins and looks upward in slo-mo, somewhere beyond fetching.

Now he has only eyes for her, and he certainly isn’t laughing. Then there a bang, Ornshaw looks startled, and the teacher opens the door to pull them in and punish them by making them dance ballet along with the girls.

Daniel actually makes an effort, trying to keep his eyes on Melody the whole time. She notices and smiles at him twice. The next scene is after school, all the kids thundering out the doors and taking off for whatever they get up to on the run home, while he ducks aside to a drinking fountain to watch for her to come out the door. Then he follows, gets caught watching her and some friends gathered in the overgrown cemetery, and heads away while her friends laugh and she looks thoughtful. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

One resonance for me is that there’s a dance connection with my first crush from fourth grade. To be visited later, but aspects of Daniel and Melody remind me of aspects of that first crush, my second really major crush, the most significant one of high school, in ninth grade, and a girl from my second year of college, eight years later.

Back to the movie goof. We see melody with completely loose hair as he sees and falls in love with her. (This is a key point when I look at the timetable of the film events.) Then we see her with her hair tied back in a ponytail, with a blue ribbon or bow. Depending on shot or angle, she is back and forth from being one way or the other and ends up mostly in the ponytail. This is a filming discontinuity, where she was one way for some takes and the other way for other takes. They were put together without concern for the difference. Not important, but I noticed.

I just love that part. I love lots of parts. It’s the initial turning point in the relationship between Ornshaw and Daniel, highlighted in the earlier part of the film. Ornshaw triggers the fact that a girl would come between them, yet continues to facilitate.

About Time to Update Theme

If I’m going to make a habit of posting, I really should change the theme to something better than the default that existed at the time we moved AV to WordPress. I have one I customized and used across multiple topical blogs a few years back, nice and crisp. Still not sure I intend to go with incorporating this into a suite of blogs as that would imply. Heck, still not sure I shouldn’t pack up and become more anonymous. The ridiculous post that mortified me and led me to examine myself so intently was seen bay more people who know me personally than I might have suspected, though that would only have taken one stray person seeing it and letting others know. Template change would be minimal.

Ironically, I want to write. That’s part of the point, exercising the writing juice. Usually I’d trip up on trying to make things perfect and then forget I had something to say. This may all come out as too stream of consciousness, and there may be typos or awkward constructions I don’t catch as I go, but it’s writing. If I am to get back into my book, being in a writing flow will help. So I’m noting the theme needing work, but instead of leaping on it, it’s a “do I have to?” kind of thing.

Melody Remake

Melody is definitely a product of its time. One of the topics that came up in the BFI roundtable video was someone wanting to do a remake. The director and writer didn’t understand how that would be possible, on the one hand, and on the other hand described Moonrise Kingdom, partly inspired by Melody, as a remake. That movie is one I’ve never seen, that never pinged my radar, but that I’d now like to see. It appears to be funnier and perhaps less adorably innocent, while leaning that way.

But a remake? A new Melody? Hard to imagine. An exact analog? Just about as hard to imagine. You might have to do it as a time travel movie to capture anything like it, or as a memory/dream of the past. I could totally see either of those kinds of scenarios. Peggy Sue Got Married, but with a childhood crush. Since mine all went wrong, I could imagine making one go right, or giving it a better shot. But if you go back and are the youngster, knowing what you know, you’re not exactly innocent. Maybe you go back as a friend or classmate and exert influence.

You know what I wouldn’t mind? A book version. Not sure it’d sell, but the film leaves me wanting more detail, to know more about what they are thinking and feeling, and about their families and situations. I’d been thinking to post about the timeline of the movie, what happens when, how much time passes between scenes/events, and how much time the whole thing covers. Maybe I’ll launch right into that, now it’s on my mind. I am normally a reader of SF and fantasy, though I’ve been known to read almost anything. What would you call it? Fictional biography? Young adult romance? Juvenile romance? Emphasize the school aspect, the other kids and the revolt, and call it something else?

Yeah, I don’t think a remake seems like a good or viable idea. A direct one would be a period piece, but the past is a foreign country and it’s hard to capture the scenery or the feel with modern locations. A book? I’d read a book that was the exact story, expanded. Heck, I’d read the script it was made from, and watch any deleted scenes. It’s a shame it was made in pre-VHS days, let alone pre-DVD days. Few people even had cable TV then. If Melody appeared now and had mediocre box office, it’d be out on DVD shortly, complete with deleted scenes, interviews, etc. It’s amazing we have the 17 minutes of “making of” footage we do on YouTube.

Melodye and a Dog Named Boo

Funny thing with the Melody movie discovery is that I have a story of my own involving that name and with a connection to 1971, but the name was spelled Melodye. I never knew the name until my recounting the story on Facebook led someone to goad me into researching.

However you spell it, in retrospect it’s a great name and I could easily have used it for my daughter. I’d long since realized the same about Molly. But that’s neither here nor there.

When I was a kid, on the green in the town of East Bridgewater would be free concerts on the gazebo/bandstand. I’d go sometimes, usually with my grandparents, sometimes with additional family. A local country group called The Chisholm Brothers played more than once. While I was never a big country fan, it was fun, especially since my grandfather had taught one of the guys to play harmonica and got pointed out in the audience one time.

In 1971, Lobo released Me and You and a Dog Named Boo. I loved that song from the first, and still do. It’s hard to resist singing along. That’s the 1971 connection, but I have no idea what year we are in at the concert. I can guess. Obviously the earliest it could be is sometime 1971, if the song was released early enough int he year to be a hit before those summer concerts. No way, even if I didn’t know I was older than ten. (This all brings to mind another topic: music and my life. Note to self…)

It wasn’t 1974. I wasn’t that old. Thus it was 1972 or 1973. I believe it was the former, because the following summer I’d have been focused on hanging with my friend and would have been less likely to have stayed with my grandparents a lot. 1972 Put me at 11, and a sensitive age. I was in chorus and loved to sing, but was terrified of singing alone in front of others. Though that is its own story and had more of a basis than mere shyness or anxiety.

So here are these guys, performing at this little concert on the green, and they put the daughter of one of them up to try her hand at singing for us. She was older than me. Three years older, I now know, and that would have been my guess. I was 11, she was 14, and she sang Me and You and a Dog Named Boo beautifully. I was smitten. Obviously it was one of those transient things, if you don’t count that I never forgot it, and never forgot how it felt to be instantly taken with her. Not to mention admiring her voice, her nerve getting up there and performing as I was sure I would never be able to dare, her choice of song, and the fact she did it so well.

I kind of miss the mystery. Having searched starting with little but her surname, now I know she was Melodye Chisholm, now Bushkin. I also learned that I knew her aunt’s family when I was younger. Apart from having attended my childhood church – her father still does, so I could have found out a lot of this just by asking my sister the right questions – her cousin was a good friend of my cousin, and we spent a fair amount of time hanging out when I was around my late teens and maybe into my twenties. Small world.

So there’s my Melodye story inspired by my attention having been drawn my Melody.

Unfortunate

While I was at work or in the car I had at least one post and update in my head. Can’t begin to remember what they were, except probably at least one had to do with my Melody series, haphazard as it is, and pretty sure one had to do with the mea culpa on my old friend. Perhaps I’ll remember as the day passes. Easy enough to say something about the former, at least, even if it wasn’t the one I was mentally composing. I haven’t scratched the surface. I was thinking how obsessive it might seem. Almost as if I have traits that are autistic or OCD.

Ooh! I remember part of it! Teach Your Children, update to the previous post, which I dashed off before work.

Melody Ending Again

Revisiting my discussion of the ending of Melody from the prior post, Discovering Melody, after seeing a video of a BFI roundtable discussion that included Waris Hussein, Alan Parker, Mark Lester, and Sheila Steafel. Also contributing is a rewatch of a “making of” video from the time when it was filming, in which they talk to some of the cast and crew, and show small bits being filmed and directed.

One of the themes being explored was the anarchic nature of children. The ending seemed a bit extreme, but it had been brewing through the film. The teachers were depicted as being lousy, and the kids were increasingly rebellious until the proverbial explosion. Since Daniel and Melody could be considered “good kids,” it was funny that they were at the center of it, or the spark for it, in the end, but hey. Both of them are also shown being kids and being random, naughty, rebellious, or wise asses. Lighting his father’s newspaper on fire always struck me as completely out of character for Daniel, but that’s funny because it was still the establishing scenes of the movie and we didn’t know him that well yet. His father made me think of Mike Brady. Looking at IMDB, I can see why. They were also just two years apart, so of an age at the time.

The director or writer also referred to Melody and Danial “running away.” I wondered if they meant that was what the two were doing at the end, or if they meant the day playing hookie to the seaside and amusement park.

Notwithstanding that they might be trying to run away, they’d still end up home and back in school. While it’s clearly late in the school year at that point, it clearly wasn’t the final day.

On another note, before it’s off to work, in the other post I noted that the ages of Mark Lester and Tracy Hyde were the same. She turned 11 during filming, in May 1970. He was actually a year older, turning 12 in July, probably after filming was done. So they were both “11″ during at least part of the shoot, but the ten month difference would explain why they seem so identical in apparent maturity. If that makes sense. Girls tend to be ahead, so it made it seem more likely they’d latch onto each other. Plus his character was artistic and thoughtful, all the more reason his impish behavior to his father seemed odd. But there will be more on the families and such in a different post. Hard not to overlap the topics, but if I wrote it all in one, I’d forget things even more than I do already, and it would be way too long even b y my standards.

Update:
I realized later that the song used during the end rebellion is a big tie-in to the idea that the teachers are lousy and the rebellion has been simmering as a result. It’s the major song included that’s not by the Bee Gees: Teach Your Children by CSNY. I always loved that song. Looking at Wikipedia, it gets better, given the homemade grenade used at the end:

Nash, who is also a photographer and collector of photographs, has stated in an interview that the immediate inspiration for the song came from a famous photograph by Diane Arbus, “Child with Toy Hand Grenade in Central Park.”

 

Bring Back That Loving Feeling

People who know me are aware of my weakness for romantic comedies and, to a lesser degree, romances or those elements in things not otherwise of that genre.

Since we had marital problems, I developed a jaded view of such things. Not that I get to many movies anyway, and Meg Ryan’s heyday is long past. It got to where I couldn’t bear to watch something like that. I was inert in the face of sweet romance depictions, and cold to the idea of watching any.

This may even go back as far as the point when I gave up and stopped having serial crushes and being addicted to the feeling of being in love. After my final crush, still a friend, but then so are my first crushes, at least in Facebook terms of friends, I gave up. I didn’t expect ever to have anyone interested in me. I had all but never dated. I had never had someone I’d really have called a girlfriend, though a couple of them probably qualified briefly. I never learned what you do when you’re interested, and I was always too interested. I’d become convinced over the years that nobody could possibly want me, even thought there were elements both of self-fulfilling prophecy keeping me safely distant and my relatively autistic traits involved there.

Meeting the wife wasn’t especially romantic, though I tried to make it as much so as possible. It was an intellectual and philosophical match, long distance, helped by her boldness. Perhaps that was why our story, meeting and marrying through blogging, wasn’t as appealing as it could have been. Another blog friend was always surprised it hadn’t been picked up by the press or turned into some kind of a story somehow. It certainly isn’t romantic now, even though there might be love there, and a strong bond that makes it hard to imagine growing old apart. Older, at this point. Heh.

Still, the real distaste for the genre was worse in the past several years, and extended to the idea I simply couldn’t ever love romantically again, or have those feelings even in theory. On some level, because I never had a reciprocated romantic love, I have never learned how that works in practice. With something of an open relationship, in theory, she has told me now and then that I should meet someone, and it should be easy. I reject that out of hand because I just don’t know how. Despite having married and bred, I still find it hard to believe anyone could want me. Maybe more so, after things went sideways. I still, at my age, have trouble perceiving women as being either asexual, unromantic (men are definitely the more romantic gender, as far as I can tell), or worse. It remains a surprise to me when I see signs to the contrary, and I tend to discount anything that counters an opinion I formed early and often.

But I digress, it would seem. I popped back in to post this right after the Melody post because it was going to be quick and not take me away from other things for long.

I may have understated how long ago I discovered Melody. It might have been, say, a year ago. I pecked at it and thought it was cute in the bits I watched, but I didn’t see enough of it to get the whole story. Now I am in love with it. I think this relates to my recent thaw in attitude toward the genre, if not idea it could ever, or could ever have, happened to me. I always loved romantic songs, but have been much more into them recently, really feeling it. That movie and remembering back through my life, forlorn as it was in many ways, has only enhanced it.

I feel better knowing that one of my favorite types of films will no longer seem offputting to me. It comes along with a hopeful, optimistic attitude. That’s always better.

Discovering Melody

I love the Bee Gees. I have since I was a kid and they were still producing their early, pre-disco hits. Before my record collection got destroyed, dating to before CDs were big, I owned most Bee Gees albums and had heard songs dating back to the earliest days of singles only, found on collections later. I saw them in concert on August 28, 1979 and it was amazing, though I was sad that some of the favorite older songs were done as a medley. This sets up how I came to be playing videos of Bee Gees songs on YouTube. I still do that sometimes, even with music I own. Early in our marriage, the wife gave me a four CD Bee Gees anthology. She tolerates them, unlike her distaste for The Carpenters.

Recently I discovered that favorites of mine, less mainstream than some even among their older hits, had videos associated with scenes from a movie. Heck, it wasn’t even that recently, but it was recently I went back and watched the movie in full. Repeatedly.

The movie is Melody, released in 1971, just before I turned ten. It didn’t do well in the US, and I never saw it back then. It was popular in Japan and a few other places, which is perhaps the only reason it’s not even more obscure. Besides the Bee Gees connection and two of the kids in it being famed child stars of the time. They had rights to several Bee Gees songs, so the writer incorporated Melody Fair and First of May into the plot. It would be easy to assume the songs were written for the film, but they predated it. It also makes perfect use of To Love Somebody, which may be my favorite Bee Gees song of all.

I have so much to say about or inspired by it, this is going to end up being a whole series of posts. I just created a subcategory for the film under the movies category. It dredged so many memories and feelings. It has also been a study in making a good movie and telling a story. Had I seen it at the time, and no been inexplicably bored or sleepwalking through it, it would have been formative. While this isn’t the topic I intended to explore in this post, the year it came out I was one year younger than the age depicted of two of the main characters, who in real life were also that age during filming a year before. That is, Tracy Hyde and Mark Lester are is two years my senior. Correction: mark Lester is three years my senior. She turned 11 while they were filming, April 1970. He was already 11, turning 12 in July 1970. The other primary actor was already about 17, but looked young. I interpret him to be slightly older than them, but in the same grade level in school. That was the late Jack Wild.

At the time when the movie released, I was experiencing my first crush, in fourth grade. I was completely clueless, except it felt amazing. I didn’t really understand what I was feeling. Seeing such a thing shown in a movie would have been interesting, especially given Melody’s somewhat resemblance to the girl in question. I never knew her name! It was pure chance that I learned several years ago her name is Cheryl.

One of the first things I wanted to write about after seeing the movie was the ending. Now, if you don’t want to be spoiled, even though it’s coming up on 50 years old, go search on YouTube and watch it: Melody movie. Some are better than others in picture quality, but some have unsychronized sound that can drive you crazy.

At the end, there is a revolt of the classes the star characters are in. Melody and Daniel are in love and want to get married, because isn’t that what you do to be together all the time? Sweet and innocent, and not taken well by the adults and, initially, classmates. You go from scenes of heartbreak to what appears to be the next day – timeline of the thing is another post – when they are just getting married. Daniel’s annoying mom finds a note he left saying they are eloping, freaks out, contacts the headmaster, and when he finds the kids never showed back up after morning break, the chase begins. The ending is entertaining, but in some ways feels disconnected from what precedes it. And yet, how do you end a film in which 11 year old fifth graders, were they American, are in such serious puppy love that they want to marry and can’t understand why they can’t, with too much they don’t yet know. I remember how love felt then, and I don’t recall any barking. If it were me and someone reciprocated, I might not have been thinking in terms of marriage, but I would have understood exactly how the characters felt.

The headmaster and bunch of teachers, plus Daniel’s mother, drive off to where they’ve learned the kids are. The kid who has been trying to make a successful homemade explosive during the course of the film was the only one to stay behind. He runs off to warn the others and reaches them just ahead of the adults. Being a fan of The Princess Bride, I can’t help thinking “man and wife, say man and wife” when they are interrupted right after they give the “I will” responses to the friend who is officiating.

Of course, this is not a real marriage, and they are being kids. The sheer level of panic strikes me as uncalled for. It wouldn’t be as exciting an ending, though, if the kids did the ceremony, went back to class, and everyone carried on. Prior to the elopement note, you never see Daniel’s parents being aware of Melody, even after the day the two kids skipped school to go to the seacoast. Whereas Daniel meets her parents and they like him a lot.

While the other kids give the adults a hard time about being captured, Daniel and Melody run off to escape, aided by Ornshaw, Daniel’s ne’er do well friend who figures so heavily into the story, including provoking the “meet cute” scene where Daniel falls at proverbial first sight. Eventually they get on a trolley on the rails – one of those little flat carts you propel by pumping two ends of a handle up and down. So it ends with Daniel and Melody riding off into the distance on an partly overgrown track.

My thought: Now what?

Seriously, I couldn’t help thinking what happens next.

Besides Melody and Daniel, now “married,” heading off, the chase of the kids ended when the kid who’d been unsuccessful with improvised explosives manages to blow up Daniel’s mother’s fancy car. Class issues in the film are another topic. And there’s good reason that one of the categories the movie falls under is black comedy. The teachers run off. The kids cheer and dance around. Mom looks lost and bewildered.

Is there anyone who won’t face consequences? What happens.

First, where are Daniel and Melody going to go? What are they going to do? Unless it turns into fantasy, like a fan thing I saw where they’re suddenly at Hogwart’s and people are wondering how 11 year olds can say they are married, the answer is home. They go home. And they go to school. And they continue to hang out together as much as possible. Which they could have done without the whole marriage notion.

If you extrapolate from First of May, they are in love while others are being kids, but it doesn’t last. Or if it does, when they are sufficiently older, they have lost their romantic feelings for each other. I know someone who set her sights on marrying a classmate when we were in third grade. Third! They recently moved to Maine, and have a bunch of grandchildren. The long term isn’t impossible.

The mom has to get home and explain to her husband what happened to the car. When Daniel does go home, they won’t exactly be happy, unless they are willing and able to shrug it off and move on.

Melody will arguably be in the least trouble at home. Her family are as supportive as they know how, a loving, lower class family rather than distant or absent. Her family isn’t involved in the ending at all, and would not be in a panic the way Daniel’s mother was.

The teachers and headmaster have to slink back to the school with proverbial egg on their faces. Assuming there are no authorities that give them trouble, the best thing they could probably do is carry on teaching as if nothing ever happened.

The rest of the kids are going to have to return to school later if not that day. They’re going to be seeing and dealing with those horrible teachers again. That could be bad, unless everyone just pretends nothing ever happened.

It’s definitely a fictional ending, because consequences.

Regrets

Before I get on with other posts, I have to address wrongs. I have no idea whether it will be seen by anyone in question, or by anyone who knows anyone in question, but I will have gotten it out there.

A few years back, I got extremely angry at my erstwhile best friend. I don’t even remember precisely what I posted about on FB or what the comment on it that triggered me was, but my friend had every reason to have been annoyed enough over the years to have been frayed into saying something that conveyed disdain or irritation, and while I overreacted, some sort of overt split was years, perhaps decades, overdue. I could go into detail about what was wrong with me, and the history between us, but the short version is that he is a good man and I should never have spouted vitriol here, even without naming names or expecting anyone who might know who I meant to see it.

We met the year we each turned 12, hit it off, and were almost inseparable that first year. In a way, it was as much a heterosexual boy crush on my part as a friendship. He was in some ways more mature than me, in others more sheltered, and was always more focused. I worshiped him, essentially. This kind of relates to things I have to say in other posts about other things in my life and relationships. This also is a bit of the insight I gained from being introspective for a long time following being called on the horrible post and taking it down. There are other people less capable of introspection and realizing it’s not necessarily them, but you. So at least I have that going for me, even if getting there took falling off an emotional cliff.

Not that I didn’t know some of the ways in which I was irritating long ago. I just tended to ignore them. Perhaps I thought it was part of my charm or something?

In all reality, our “best friends” stage could be measured as as little as a year and a half. The second summer, we weren’t so inseparable. He had other things going on. I didn’t so much. But we remained close friends to some degree for a number of years. He married another friend of mine, which was great for them and traumatic for me, as these things are.

Over the course of time, some of the traits that he found annoying were enhanced by my admiration of him. Who wouldn’t want to be more like him? This entire incident and my examining it deeply finally knocked through my head that he is just a man, an ordinary person with strengths and foibles.

The wife was amazed I called him one of my best friends, since we didn’t act it, and she’d have thought we had nothing in common had she not been told. She saw it first, or at least admitted it. By the time we were 20, if I had made no effort to remain in contact, or vice-versa, we’d have been people who once knew each other, not so much different from people I once knew in school.

There are similarities with my history of serial crushes that were a form of addiction as well as a somewhat autistic trait. Starting at a fairly young age, with little or no break, I always had a crush on some girl or another, but I would never act on it enough to have a relationship. The harder to get someone was, the closer I’d come to trying. The more receptive someone was, the faster I’d back away and move on. The high of feeling “in love” was, in retrospect, what mattered. I finally broke that addiction and, frankly, gave up. Then met my wife in more of an intellectual relationship where she was more the driving force then I was. It actually took longer to get past my best friend worship, and was more traumatic and hurtful to others.

Knowing myself matters.

Being aware of the pain and anger I can provoke with words matters.

Will what happens now, what I think and feel now, actually matter in twenty years? Will it seem foolish in retrospect? A long term outlook on what’s really important matters.

There are no words to apologize adequately. I don’t know if my old friend saw what I posted, but he had to have heard about it if not. There’s no reason to try to be buddies now. I am chastened, and he wasn’t really part of my life by then. What I did and said wasn’t really forgivable and I know it. I just wanted to get this out there. I’ll try not to do that sort of thing again to anyone else, and be quietly delighted for him when I see things like the arrival of his first grandchild.

There is another person, going back to 2008, hurt by what I posted. It’s not as personal, not as absurdly stupid on my part, but is arguably another thing I could have restrained myself on. In this case, it was local news that touched upon my family and events of my youth. It took me a while to get inside the potential feelings of the person at the center of the news and grasp how it might have felt to him to have details posted. He did lasting damage to us as part of the fallout, but I am sorry about that nonetheless.

But the past is the past, whatever regrets or joys it might hold. Moving on.

Here We Go Again?

I can’t believe it’s been almost two years since I last posted. Well, I can. The urge to write has to be there. Taking the time has to be there. Feeling inspired has to be there. Not being skittish about posting has to be there. And I have to have made up my mind where and how and what i am blogging.

The plan referred to years a couple posts ago was that I would render this old personal blog a culture and perhaps personal oriented blog in a whole set of blogs on various topics. It has the benefit of being well established. I had thought I’d start using my real name rather than a pseudonym or pen name. After all, if nobody will hire me and I’m semi-retired as a result anyway, who cares if my political leanings offend. I’m leaning back the other way.

I’ve even considered starting completely fresh. New name. New domain. Too many people know me personally despite the pen name. This is not the post to address the grief this has caused, but this has had everything to do with the lack of blogging, going back as far as eleven years.

Part of the trouble with the suite of blogs idea was the work it would involve to do it right. Doing it right would mean the hope of making some money at it. My expectations have lowered. I just need the creative, intellectual and emotional outlet.

Should I bother to post here? I don’t know. There are things I must post here before it’s too late. One, anyway.

Beyond that, I have been bursting with inspiration. A single film I never saw when it came out in 1971, which might have been formative if I had, has given me enough to say to write several posts. If I wrote only one, it would be verbose even for me and would make no sense at all.

I have learned that I can roadblock myself with planning, preparation, and second thoughts. Granted, I need to be thoughtful enough to avoid hurting people with words I’ll forever regret, but I don’t need to spend weeks or months thinking about what domain, what topics, what blogging package and template or to hand code, only to lose my inspiration or nerve. It’s much like perfecting the resume getting in the way of job hunting, or perfecting every angle o your business idea keeping you unlaunched.

So here’s a warm up post that says not much but declares that I expect to fire away. Stay tuned… (Also, forgot to mention that I’m increasingly disturbed by the way social media in general and Facebook in particular co-opted blogging. That’s another incentive.)