Starring Gandalf?

The news is that Rosamund Pike has been cast as Moiraine for the Wheel of Time series. First casting decision and apparently touted as the star, also with producer credit.

She looks close enough to the part, even if her hair is a bit light in its natural color. She’s about the right actual age, to within a couple years, and manages to look younger than she is. Ambiguous.

The thing is, calling her the star would be like casting Gandalf and calling him the star in a Lord of the Rings series. She’s an important character who is as responsible as anyone for saving the world, but she also spends a large chunk of the two years real time of the events of the main 14 books dead, out of action. Gandalf. If you take the one prequel book, or inflate things to show more of the 20 years of her life that led to the events of the main series, or somehow eliminate the time she spends dead, then it fits better. But she still doesn’t get a lot of proverbial screen time compared to other star characters. Not in the longer run.

Given that they are blurbing the series completely inaccurately versus what the actual storyline is, it’s less surprising. My hopeful take on the blurb is misdirection, trying not to give away too much, preferring to obfuscate for those who didn’t read the series but might be interested in such a fantasy show.

If I had expected them to cast one person first, it would have been Rand. However, for viewers who aren’t readers, that means nothing or, worse, gives away that he’s the messiah. You let it become apparent that Jon Snow is that important later, even with a finished series.

The Iron Throne

I don’t really have much new to say about the Game of Thrones finale, but I at least wanted to post using the correct episode name. Since it doesn’t show the name initially, I guessed that the episode was A Dream of Spring, as many had assumed.

When I went to watch the bonus “making of” episode well after 9:00 last night, it was not yet available, so I did my neglected rewatch of the finale. I didn’t hate it in the first place, though I understand the complaints. I neither like nor dislike it more after a rewatch. Well, maybe I dislike it more. I particularly liked one YouTuber’s alternate ending to the series. Any such thing pretty much requires going back multiple episodes. The bottom line in that was that to kill the Night King you had to go burn the weirwood on the Isle of Faces, but doing so removed magic from the world, and with it Jon’s resurrection. The show really did nothing to address the magic system and whether it would wane, go away, or grow further. Some have considered the birth of the dragons to have increased the level of magic. The weirwoods obviously are magic, and with them the fact of the Three Eyed Raven.

I loved Sansa telling her uncle to sit down when he was giving a long campaign speech.

I would be surprised if Bran is not who GRRM intends to “win” the game. Really, the Starks won. I would be surprised if the details of how the outcome happens are anywhere close to the same. I wouldn’t be surprised if in the books we get some of the more virtual and magical elements I was waiting for, even if he ultimately meant for the battle for the throne to be primary and meant for it to be a battle with dual threats: ice and fire. I buy Arya as the killer of the Night King. It does explain her arc. Maybe that’s not straight from Martin. He did sit down with the producers and give them the rundown on where the characters were intended to end up, so if he died and given the lack of books in the latter part of the story, they could finish it with the broader strokes of “as intended.”

I do believe Dan and Dave wanted to move on and rushed the final season. The final season could easily have been longer or have gone through a season 9. But this is why, as I read somewhere after posting about the Wheel of Time show, they intend to cover more than one book of WoT per season. Even at 2 books per season that’s seven seasons. Some of the books don’t really give you half a season of material, if you really trim things down. They might be able to do it in five. As I surmised in my look at the episode titles, the first five episodes take us into the second book and thus we ought to be at least through the first two books by the end of season one. Books four and five are thicker and meatier, so it might get harder in places. You can’t really shortchange the Dothraki (borrowings again?) Aiel too much, take out Asmodean and the need for training, that sort of thing. The walk through Rhuidean is vital. At least the show will have books to work from the whole way.

Leaving Drogon alive with Dany’s body is a huge fan fic opening, if nothing else. So is Bran’s effort to locate Drogon. So is John in the far north. So is Arya’s voyage of exploration.

We never learned what the voice from the flames said to Varys. I always expected we would. Did that simply have no significance beyond helping set his direction in life? Was Varys in some way vital to saving the world indirectly? GoT did something similar to WoT in that characters who might not have been the most major were vital by doing things like saving characters who then did something vital. In WoT, Rand couldn’t have saved the world without, in particular, Perrin, Mat, Nynaeve, and Moiraine. Min helps him know what needs to be done and with his sanity. Egwene brings the Aes Sedai and is a Big Damn Hero. Elayne teaches him politics and how to be a king, and is a good war leader. Thom keeps him alive along the way. It goes on. Lan teaches him how to fight and some of the politics as well, and is a Big Damn Hero. Perrin wouldn’t be Perrin without Faile, much as most of us hate her. There’s a fundamental interconnectedness. Theon turned out to be vital. Baeric had a vital role.

The thing is, if R’hllor is the god of fire and light, and helped oppose the Night King because that’s ice, the opposing force, then what of fire getting all out of control in King’s Landing. It strikes me that a form of potential evil helped against a different evil, then flared itself. The R’hllor people always preached for Daenerys and that makes sense, but that makes them evil on the fire side, along with her.

I loved the back and forth between the different wolf items. Ironically, Bran doesn’t use a wolf, but a raven. Jon represents as Stark, perhaps the most so. Bran represents as Other. Sansa struck me as hollow. I mean, perfect and appropriate ending for her. What she always wanted. But it rings hollow and forlorn through all the pomp and acclaim. Arya goes off to her doom or perhaps amazing things. Jon seems forlorn but is in an appropriate place doing the appropriate thing, protecting the free folk.

It occurs to me that the most Thom Merrilin figure from GoT is Davos. Thom has a bit of Arya, skilled assassin. He is also a gleeman (or more of a court bard), which is not something they have, not in an overt way, in GoT.

I love that the iron throne was melted down. It needed to go.

I did start to watch the special episode, but it was late and I was bored. At the point when I stopped, the episode wasn’t what I’d expected. I was thinking there’d be a lot of talk about what they were thinking when they created this season, maybe a look back at the series and memories of making it. I wasn’t expecting costumers and stuff. Maybe I’ll watch the rest some time.

The Wheel of Time (Spoilers)

The show. The idea of it is scary. On the plus side, we at least know how the books ended, and will know every detail of how it differs as it’s boiled down to essentials for television. There’s a lot that can be pared down harmlessly.

I say spoilers because this spoils the books and may, through free extrapolation, spoil episodes of the show. Run away if you want to remain free of any details before watching, if you’ve never read the series.

After Game of Thrones, one of the things there’s trepidation about is the elements of Wheel of Time that Game of Thrones borrowed that people will think were borrowed in the opposite direction. The game of houses. Breaking the wheel. The Dragon. The wolves. Some fantasy elements are of course fantasy elements. You find them in fantasy. Both are fantasy.

In WoT, the magic is more overt, the threat of supernatural evil is the main point, and fewer people die unexpectedly or gratuitously. There are politics, though. You end up appreciating in the end that some of the painstaking, overly detailed machinations are instrumental to preparing for the final battle to save humanity and, well, the wheel. In WoT, “breaking the wheel” is a bad thing that the evil purportedly wants to do.

Looking at IMDB, there are five episode titles known so far. They are Leavetaking, Shadow’s Waiting, A Place of Safety, The Dragon Reborn, and The Flame of Tar Valon. My extrapolation from this is that the first five episodes take us through the events of the first book of the 14 in the main series (an additional book is a prequel). The first episode will involve the events in and around The Shire that lead to the hobbits leaving with Gandalf, evading harm and pursuit. We’ll meet the people of Emonds Field, in The Two Rivers region, nominally a part of the large nation of Britain Andor, in the heart of Europe The Westlands. We’ll meet a number of main characters: Rand, Mat, Perrin, Egwene, Nynaeve, Moiraine, Lan, and Thom. Some of the secondary characters return later, but the most important of them is Tam, Rand’s father. Depending how closely it hews to the route of travel and events of the books, we could meet some of the whitecloaks, AKA Children of the Light, sort of a militaristic religious order so good that they are their own brand of evil. We could meet an additional major character, Arya Min. That’d be important enough to leave in in some form.

It’s hard to picture all this in an hour, unless the premiere is extra long.

It sounds like the second episode features fleeing evil minions and resorting to hiding in a place so bad that even they fear to enter it. Shadow’s Waiting is the plain English meaning of the old tongue name Shadar Logoth, which was originally a great city known as Aridhol. During one of the interim fights against the Shadow a thousand or two years ago, Wormtongue Mordeth advised the city that to fight evil they had to outdo that evil. They succeeded, becoming a pox of competing evil counter to the evil of the Dark One. Going here is incredibly dangerous, and the residual evil wants to hitch a ride out into the world with you.

Presumably the episode will include the flight from Shadar Logoth and the fellowship being separated. After that, we’re separately following Merlin Thom, Rand and Mat, Perrin and Egwene, and the adult threesome of Lan, Moiraine and Nynaeve.

The third episode could refer to much later, when the gang starts arriving in Camelot Caemlyn, the capital of Andor. It could also refer to what they wish for: A place of safety. The thing that popped into my mind was the time Egwene and Perrin spend with the gypsies Tinkers, a pacifist culture that travels around in garishly colored wagons, camping for a while then moving on. We meet an important secondary character then, and more of those in the further travels of Egwene and Perrin leading to their arrival in Caemlyn. That includes our introduction to wolves. Rand’s group wind up on a ship headed down one of the major rivers that tend to cut mostly north/south down the continent and are important to trade and communication. The captain do be another important minor character. He do be from Greece Illian, where people do be talking a bit oddly. But the ship isn’t that safe, and is no longer term than the Tinkers. We don’t see much of the other three again until Caemlyn. The two groups that include youngsters make endless journeys, walking, walking, hiding, fleeing evil, being lucky, and eventually reaching the city and the Inn where all were to go even if they got separated. The inn might be the place of safety in the title. It’s where Rand, and the readers, first meet Sam Loial, an Ogre Ogier, part of a race of usual peaceful, large alien elves. Just don’t wake the dragon and make him put a long handle on his axe. Another major character. The innkeeper is a minor character of some note. Rand seems to have this effect on people he encounters. Even when it’s not in… Taverns. (A pun for people who know the books.)

I have to assume that The Dragon Reborn for purposes of an episode title incorporates Rand’s first fight with what appears to be the Night King Dark One. This is the point in the series, at the climax of the first book, when readers know unambiguously that Rand Al’Thor is The Dragon Reborn. When Gandalf persuades them to leave the village and Merlin comes along to help watch out that they are not misused by Gandalf, it’s not clear to Gandalf which one of the three contemporaries it is. It’s arguably clear to the readers from the beginning who will be the Three Eyed Raven Dragon, since Bran Rand gets the first POV chapter. But then, he gets much of the POV and the structure isn’t the silly one Martin used. Still, we see the Nazgul first from Rand’s perspective.

There’s a lot to that, if the episode covers everything from leaving Caemlyn as the proverbial place of safety. Shoot! I forgot the events in Caemlyn that introduce us to Elayne, a very major character, the daughter-heir (princess and presumptive future queen) of Andor. Her mother, Morgase, her brothers, Gawyn and Galahad Galad are significant if not major. Her mother’s Aes Sedai advisor, Elaida, becomes a major, accidentally evil character. Aes Sedai are a society of female channelers (magic users) based in the White Tower in the city of Tar Valon. Moiraine is one of them. Egwene, Nynaeve and Elayne are all particularly powerful in potential, to be trained. We also get our first look at Logain, who ought have been a more major character. He falsely claimed to be the Dragon Reborn and has been captured by Aes Sedai. Men who can channel become insane after a while and get dangerous because of something the Dark One did three thousand years ago. The show runners have said Logain will have an expanded role in the show. That sounds promising.

Where was I? Right. From Caemlyn they have to travel to the Lands of Always Winter Blight in the far north, and locate the last Ent Green Man in a cone of safety, where he guards a secret. They use The Ways to do part of this trek, but those are dangerous. Loial makes this possible, since he can read Elvish and that’s what the signs in the Ways are in, so he knows where to go to guide them through.

The last listed episode is The Flame of Tar Valon. That has a particularly special meaning to anyone who has read the last book, A Memory of Light. In the meantime, it is one of the titles that the leader of the Aes Sedai carries. She is the Pope Amyrlin Seat, or simply the Amyrlin. Her title is Mother, no hatching of dragon eggs or freeing of slaves required. Along with some other titles like Breaker of Chains and Keeper of the Seals, she is The Flame of Tar Valon. Thus the episode has to involve meeting the Amyrlin, who at the time is Siuan (swan) Sanche, in a city near the border of the Blight after the climactic events of the first book. This puts us in the beginning of the second book, The Great Hunt. Siuan is a major character and a long time associate of Moiraine’s, which they have made an effort to obfuscate. Moiraine is suited to being out in the world, while Siuan is suited to politics and ruling. Siuan was a commoner. Moiraine was royalty from France Cairhien. They have been on a mission since being the only people to know the Dragon had been reborn. We meet her and some of the other Aes Sedai, plus some of the Night’s Watch Northmen borderlanders. I would guess that by the end of this episode the girls have headed down the river to Tar Valon. It could also end after the Horn of Winter Horn of Valere has been stolen by Gollum and people, unexpectedly led by Rand, have been sent to track it down. It might not take more than two additional episodes to speed through the events of The Great Hunt, which includes our first encounter with invaders from across the Atlantic Aryth Ocean. (Joking aside, The Wheel of Time takes place on Earth, in a far future relative to us.) They tamed the Americas a thousand years ago, turned sort of Japanese, maybe Chinese, and are now returning to reclaim Europe for the empire that descended from King Arthur’s son. But that’s in future episodes, so stay tuned.

It’s interesting how little we’re actually hearing and seeing about this series. That’s potentially worrisome. Who knows what kind of budget Amazon has provided. When Game of Thrones started out, there was huge buzz. There were looks at sets and costumes and such. Even though I’d been unable to get into the book, it had me all excited. Things don’t always go perfectly. GoT had to toss out their first episode, rewrite, reshoot, even partially recast it, and make sure they’d gotten it right. We’ll see.

Casting alone will be a landmine. The characters have very specific looks. Ygritte Avienda needs to be cast as someone who’d look a lot like Ygritte, speaking of borrowings GoT made from WoT. Jon Snow Rand Al’Thor will seem like he has a very similar Wildling/Free Folk Aiel girlfriend/antagonist who thinks he knows nothing. Rand’s height, eyes and hair are a thing. He looks like he should be Aiel, not from Andor. Min and Elayne are pretty distinctive. Min might be a taller Arya, more or less. Gendry Perrin needs to look like a blacksmith, not as tall as the other boys but not short, but stockier, muscular, big armed, with bushy dark hair and eventual if not initial facial hair. Mat is taller, more wiry, capable of moving like Oberon if needed, as deadly in a fight as anyone.

But I digress. I’ve spent way too much time on this.

A Dream of Spring? (Spoilers!)

I can’t sleep, so I thought I’d post about the Game of Thrones finale while waiting for my alarms to go off to wake me for work. Normally I don’t work Mondays, but agreed to do an extra day. I am assuming the episode name. I didn’t notice whether it had a name assigned when I watched. They’ve been labeled with numbers recently when I’ve watched, and I’ve been surprised that all the YouTube people seem to know immediately the actual names that get slapped on later. Not only am I working tonight, but I’m working earlier than normal, which made it even worse trying to ensure I didn’t have to wait to watch after I came home later in the morning. I got 2 hours sleep, woke up because I couldn’t breathe anyway because of being sick, watched, then tried unsuccessfully to sleep another hour or so.

Well, I’d heard some details that were leaked and there was some accuracy to them. In that regard, some things were as expected. In “fan service” regard, some things were as expected.

I was expecting some cryptic, or maybe not so cryptic, indication of a new, or not convincingly killed, evil stirring even if it’d take thousands of years to come to fruition in a new cycle. The closest thing we might have gotten to that is Drogon.

By the same token, I was half expecting a “land ho!” moment.

Jon fulfilled his actual destiny, mirroring Arya’s. No way he could be king after that, even if they’d allow it to any Targaryan.

Punishment or not, he is de facto one of a threesome of powerful Starks. Or foursome, if Arya is going to pull a Luthair Paendrag Mondwin, but a single ship changes that dynamic and who knows if the Pacific holds an extra continent.

Best small council ever.

A Song of Ice and Fire scene was not as people imagined but was indeed there.

Tyrion’s fate was good.

I never expected to see some of those people again and it took me time to remember who Robin was.

The white book was as expected.

Ser Podrick.

Not surprised the deaths were concentrated in episode 5.

The show’s version of “break the wheel” succeeded pretty well. It still gets me that they took that expression from Wheel of Time and changed the meaning from something bad and mystical/philosophical to something good/political.

Fate of the iron throne marked an expected checkbox, but with a twist. Interesting that nobody did sit on it one last time.

At one point I was half expecting a showdown of badasses between Grey Worm and Jon.

In a way, the whole thing was epilogue. I didn’t find it boring. I already saw one person complain they did.

I loved Bronn’s outcome.

Ghost! Everyone happy now?

No Nymeria, though. No super pack coming to help Perrin in the Last Battle.

That’s about it for now. Maybe I’ll have more thoughts later. Alarm starts going off in 3 minutes, so it’s time to make some coffee and start pumping myself up.

Still Confused, Apparently

I keep thinking of the kids in Melody as being in 5th grade, in US terms. In looking at stats, I ended up reading my own post on ages in Melody and found that I had concluded that they were equivalent to 6th grade. That because they are “First Form” and that is the year when you’d generally turn 12. In the US, sixth grade is the year when you’d generally turn 12. This does fit the story better, in that it was the earliest there were generally strong interests in the opposite sex and kids have girlfriends or boyfriends.

So I’ll have to remember that when I think about the story it’s sixth grade, it’s on the edge of 12, not fifth and 11. That means Tracy Hyde was a year young but looked older (well, her apparent age was highly variable in the film), and Mark Lester was exactly the age (looking on the young side of close enough to it). Jack Wild of course was playing much younger than his actual age, and always looked at least a year older than the age he was attempting to play. Perfectly plausible in the real world and Ornshaw’s apparent circumstances.

I could totally see this happening to me in late 6th grade. Heck, that was when I met my best friend, Zack, who would probably have been a crush had he been a girl. My daughter, a year older than that, has a huge girl crush on her best friend, even though she’s never shown any sign of being interested in anything but boys. Other than that, I still wondered about the 4th grade crush who disappeared, and had a crush on Paula, who was a year and a third younger than me. She’d be the obvious analogue for a scenario based on my life. If I merged her and Carol, I’d have dancing, but she’d have a brother who was a friend in my own grade. There’d be an alcoholic father, but a more stable, larger family otherwise, and more friends. Clearly the idea of writing something based loosely on me has not let go. Not a big market for youth romances, though, notwithstanding the success of Moonrise Kingdom.

But I digress. Writing this was intended to poke fun at my memory and to help reinforce what I had figured out previously so I might not forget it this time.

Timeline Elasticity

If any of you follow all my babbling here, you know I think about alternate history scenarios, and alternate timelines to ours based on points where events large or small departed. One of my fiction ideas, started but never remotely completed, was one such based where I grew up. In it, I had certain changes I knew I wanted, then started thinking about what would have had to happen in the wider world to make it so. I could stick to lesser changes, and certainly I could keep it ambiguous. However, I arrived at the change possibly deriving from there having been no Teddy Roosevelt. I knew that was a huge change, but in fact it’s more so than I had realized, based on subsequent reading of history.

Digression from the main topic: TR gave us the Spanish-American War and the advent of the United States as an empire. He really kicked off the progressive movement, a creature of both right and left, and inaugurated massive changes to the size and role of government and collusion with big business interests. Things may have been ripe to lean this way in any event. That’s where the title of the post comes in. Who knows. We might have had no Great War, or no US participation in it. Take that away and you change the economy. It’s more certain there’s no Second War.  I’d originally thought about Wilson being eliminated, but it was TR who put us on a collision course.

The first big thing that impacts is a company that makes fireworks never becomes a munitions company, never becomes as big, never makes the owner as rich, never has residual effects on my family history.

When thinking about timeline changes, you can butterfly up a storm and treat it that all bets are off. You can also treat events as being somewhat elastic relative to what we knew in our timeline. I suppose that’s kind of a temporal-centric outlook, as if we are the One True Timeline. But if it’s elastic enough, then it’s not going to diverge as much as it would otherwise across a wide range of moderate changes.

What I mean by timeline elasticity is that things happen like JFK still becomes president around the same point in time, even with a good bit of change prior to that, even with one or more other presidents having been different. It snaps back, as best it can.

I would think that if you want to use that as an approach when planning out an alternate timeline, then you would have to be consistent. You can’t plead timeline elasticity when people question Nixon being president despite there never having been a Teddy Roosevelt, but wildly diverge on something that would be just as elastic. To put it another way, you’d treat the initial departure as your science fiction gimme and be “realistic” with other details. The “gimme” thing is a concept I got from Allen Steele. He said “you get one gimme” for your story. For instance, faster than light travel that simply exists and you don’t need to explain or justify at length. It’s the impossibility you’ve allowed yourself. But that’s what you get, and the rest follows or is logical.

This whole thing came to mind again in relation to Melody, of all things. I had been thinking it would be entertaining to reference Melody in the alternate timeline, which would be visited in the past, just a few years after Melody’s release in our timeline. I pictured having it be more successful. The thing is, change things enough and does it ever happen? If it does, would we recognize it? Just one thing is the minimum change: Mr. Perkins has an uncle who lost his hearing when a bomb fell on Berwell Street in the war. No war. No bomb. No story. Unless the uncle was destined to lose his hearing and the cause changed.

Now, it’s possible I could invoke some of the changes I want without such a huge point of departure. It’s possible strategic local events could do what I want, and nobody would notice much difference otherwise. On the other hand, the deeper story, including why and how people ended up crossing between timelines, seems to factor in the bigger source of change.

Besides, I still have a chance to use Melody in a story if I want. All I have to do is write a puppy love story based on myself, but in which I’ve seen the movie.

I suppose you could say that A Sound of Thunder was elastic. When the scared time traveling dinosaur hunter steps on a butterfly and changes everything, people are still people and things seems quite familiar. It’s just that the wrong guy got elected and English has changed slightly. Over millions of years of evolution that’s not much.

At least you don’t have to worry about these things if you change something now that matters going forward. For instance, changing physics to eliminate explosives, electricity, and some other details, while also adding subtle degrees of more mystic elements working. I had a similar but more radical idea years ago. If I wrote it now, people would think I was inspired by Dies The Fire. Or possibly Coldfire Trilogy. When I read the latter, I tried to figure out whether the author had been one of my pen pals. I briefly corresponded with a bunch of other aspiring SF&F writers found via the Writer’s Digest Book Club, and told some of them more about my ideas than I probably should have. In some ways, Coldfire was completely different from my biggest idea at the time. In others it was disturbingly familiar. Alas, there’s not really anything new under the sun, in some permutation or another.

The Long Night Rewatch (Spoilers!)

It’s been almost a week, so I will be freer with details than I was when I watched it the first time. The episode was chaotic and dense enough that I opted to watch it again this morning before tonight’s new episode airs.

I liked it even better the second time.

I am not remotely unhappy or even especially surprised by Arya’s role. In retrospect, it was not only telegraphed during the episode, but was also what drove her sometimes odd story arc throughout the series. In the “making of” after the episode, they talk about knowing it’d be her for at least three years. The question the wife had was whether that dates back to when they had the sit down with GRRM to have him disclose to a key group what his plan were for the various characters and ending, or whether this was an independent decision. If the latter, it makes one wonder if in the books who does it will ultimately matter less than what comes after, or other events. Speaking of what comes after, I see tonight’s episode as almost a part two (probably the first portion amounts to that, realistically, then it goes in the direction of what’s next) showing aftermath, spread of knowledge of details, and reactions. If one wanted to build a false myth and redirect away from her skills, they could fake that Jon did it, but they’d have to think of that fast.

I had actually meant to post thoughts on how we might not be done with the proverbial Dark One and, as such, not done with Rand AKA Bran having an important role. In the Wheel of Time, (spoilers!) the Dark One turns out not to be a corporeal being, but rather the ethereal personification of entropy. The God of Death, in a sense. The Dark One (DO) employs minions and an agent, or avatar, to act out in the world, with circumstances that allow the DO to touch the world making him increasingly able to do so. The Creator has an even less direct role. The Dragon is the person who acts as the Creator’s champion; the savior. The DO is represented by Ishamael, later resurrected as Moridin. Rand, Dragon Reborn, defeats and finally kills Ishamael, but this doesn’t defeat the DO.

The nature of the Night King is such that he was just going to kill Bran physically, once they were done staring at each other and doing whatever was connected with that, which may have been something virtual or astral. They are both connected to the Weirwoodnet and are greenseers to some degree. But was the Night King the Dark One, or was the Night King the avatar of the Dark One, who is ultimately unaffected by his avatar’s unmaking? If the force the Children of the Forest harnessed in creating the Night King always existed and continues to exist, well, it may have to take a long rest, but the proverbial wheel still turns. If that’s the case, is the GoT version of DO still able to touch the world, or is he the equivalent of trapped away until next time in a few thousand years when someone drills a bore into someone’s chest with obsidian at a weirwood tree?

I loved the echo between Lyanna Mormont and Arya Stark. I loved Lyanna’s heroic demise. She saved a lot of people from that giant and was every bit the badass we knew she’d be.

Arya was delightful to watch as she whirled through wights. It was fascinating to see the long game center on her, with her as much the agent of the Lord of Light, Creator or whatever the force of good, life, or anti-entropy might be as Bran was. Action element and mystic element separated between two people.

If Bran was manipulating things all along in the past to make sure events played out as they did, we may yet see some of that depicted on the show. I’d be surprised if there’s not at least a little cleanup of that entire plot line. I’d also be unsurprised if there’s not reason for him to contribute to how the politics goes, or to prep things for some long in the future repeat of the battle with evil.

I noticed this time the echo between Sam and Jon. Sam was almost useless and might as well have been in the crypts to get attacked by undead late in the episode. Yet he fought bravely enough, enough of the time, to have survived, if not without some hiding or cowering. Edd died protect Sam, and maybe that was as much Edd’s role all along as Baeric’s with Arya. And to different degrees Mel’s and the Hound’s, though the Hound remains with us. Toward the end there, all the badass fighting by Jon was for naught. There was as much hiding, cowering, confusion and despair as there was accomplishment.

The charge of the light brigade, as it were, was brilliantly done to show what they were up against. Melisandre made the Dothraki literally forces of light, so you could see them swallowed and extinguished by forces of darkness. I was fascinated by Melisandre’s greeting to Grey Worm.

House Mormont is no more. Jorah went out as a heroic badass in exactly the way we might have expected. Sam’s sword was incredibly useful. Perhaps that was tied to the depiction of Sam as being not especially useful. He owned the weapon, not the skill, and he knew it.

Melisandre had ways of knowing things, so it was no surprise for her to dredge up “not today.” What’s fascinating in retrospect is why Jaqen H’ghar was in King’s Landing in the first place and why he took Arya in as a trainee, then let her decline and leave once she’d passed the test. There have been theories about him all along. He was supposed to kill Ned but it was moot. He was Syrio. That sort of thing. It makes sense that she’d be prepared to do what needed to be done later, but someone would have needed to know. Was Bran manipulating people? Was H’ghar working with the forces of R’hllor?

What else? Been working on this off and on long enough to have lost track of things I might have been thinking.

I wasn’t surprised the Night King wasn’t harmed by fire. He was supernatural in origin. He had to be unmade at a weirwood, in just the right way. I loved the look on his face when the flames cleared.

I’m waiting to see Varys have an actual role this season, and a fitting death. We know it’s coming, after Mel predicted it. Will we ever learn what he saw in the flames? I wonder if he will be a traitor.

Anyway, can’t wait for the next one. I’ll update this or mention it later if I see something glaringly missing.

Update:
I haven’t rewatched that part to catch it myself, but I saw an intriguing catch from when Jon was facing off with Viserion and he seemed a bit lost. Apparently he stood up an yelled at the dragon, which would seem to most an odd mode of attack. Allegedly what he yelled was “go!” He apparently had seen Arya waiting to get past the dragon and used distraction to allow her to get through at the right time. That certainly changes things. I’ll have to look for it.

Game of Thrones 70 (Likely Spoilers)

At least, idle commentary that might allow you to extrapolate enough to constitute spoilers.

First, I actually went back to HBO Go to see what the episode title was and am astounded that it is listed as Game of Thrones 70. I’d been referring to it as Battle of Winterfell leading up to the episode, because, well, that was what it was expected to be and what it was. It’s almost as if the actual title was supposed to be inserted where a placeholder had been, and someone forgot.

Next, if you watched it you can guess at what key moment I yelled out “YES!” loudly enough to be heard through the wall and closed door from the other room. Not what I had expected, but not something surprising either.

After last week’s episode when Bran made himself sound like Rand Al’Thor and the Night King sound like the Dark One from Wheel of Time, I wondered if there would be some degree of virtual jousting between them as if the Godswood at Winterfell was Shayol Ghul and this was Tarmon Gaidon.

I feel like I need to rewatch to be sure I caught who did or didn’t survive more accurately, but I will probably see that information detailed soon enough by YouTubers. There were three super appropriately heroic deaths that were clear, and another that was both heroic and explained a lot. Or raised questions.

I really can’t say much without outright discussing it. It threw a ton of theories and deeper stuff out the window, overall. Maybe not for how the books will do things when they select someone to finish them in a decade or two after Martin has pulled a Jordan but less untimely and with slower writing.

Update:

I haven’t checked HBO again, but others seem to be referencing an episode name of The Long Night. That would make sense as a name, since it was essentially all over the course of one night.

Endgame of Thrones

Given the wordplay possible with Endgame and Game of Thrones, and the cultural event that is this weekend in both regards, my overactive imagination can’t help going all Number of the Beast via the quantum realm.

An expansive take on quantum many worlds theory is that anything that can happen as a branch of reality creating a parallel universe not only does happen, but also any fictional reality exists as an actual reality in its own universe (or presumably its own infinitely branching multiverse). Heinlein’s Number of the Beast, not IMHO his best work ever, yet intriguing enough that I read it twice, long ago, delves into that, notably by visiting Oz.

So I find myself picturing the Avengers gang going astray and landing in Westeros in the midst of the… endgame… of the Game of Thrones universe as, up to that point of departure, depicted in the TV series. Puny Mountain! Hulk smash. But perhaps I’m just easily amused.

A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms (Spoilers)

Wow! We knew Martin had been a fan of Wheel of Time, and friendly with Jordan, but somehow I never pictured it quite as starkly as Bran being the Dragon Reborn and the Night King being the Dark One. All the “break the wheel” stuff, with a different meaning of course, last season drove me crazy because of the direct lifting of the term by the Game of Thrones show writers. Seeing Bran describe himself as the latest incarnation of the enemy the Night King needs to defeat in order to bring on endless night was perhaps the most glaring parallel there’s been.

Anyway, what a great episode, for all it’s a setup episode for the big action, and for all it continued to tick boxes of what we wanted or needed to see. When I saw the title, after the ending of the first episode, I figured it was Jaime-centric and he had to be the knight in question. I mean, obviously that much episode and stuff needing to happen would mean it couldn’t all be about him and updating the folks at Winterfell on his actual story. I just never expected the Brienne angle.

They continued the people showing up, being together for the first time, or after a long time, maybe the last time. It was chilling, some of the scenes where you might guess a death is being foreshadowed, or especially where “you’ll be safe in the crypts.”

Gendry! And now she knows. Both things. One might have fun with the fact that they represent elements of Mat and Perrin.

Daenerys learned the truth at arguably the best possible time, in the best possible way.

I was expecting “burn them all” to come up. Bran and Jaime went about as expected, if in somewhat of an afterthought way, since Bran was right he couldn’t have disclosed it to everyone.

Little Bear is brave. A shame she’s going to die.

Theon’s story has become fascinating to me. I know ultimately he saved her, but I wasn’t expecting the warmth between him and Sansa. Let alone the part with Bran.

I have to wonder if Bran and Night King will end up having a virtual duel alongside the physical fighting, as in A Memory of Light. The parallels aren’t exact, however much I make of Bran being Rand. In some ways, so is Jon, who is also Perrin, even though Gendry is also Perrin. Jon is certainly a reluctant king.

The little girl made me think of Shireen.

I expected fireworks with Tormund and Jaime being in the same place with Brienne.

Anyway, I actually want to watch this one again. I’ve never watched a second time, but there were a few words of dialogue I missed due to uneven sound. Next week is the big one! An entire episode devoted to battle, and at that it might leave us on a cliffhanger that concludes in episode 4. We’ll see. Episode 6 will have to be the conclusion and epilogue post Night King, and episode 5 will presumable be whatever battle follows that at Winterfell. It may be that there is a battle involving the dead after they defeat Winterfell and move south while the living flee. It may be that the dead are defeated or close enough next week and the rest is about Cersei, the throne, and the political fate of Westeros. Throw in fixing the seasons, if defeating the Night King doesn’t take care of that, and you have a bit more to tell.

At Least I Can Watch Game of Thrones

Somewhere along the way, Comcast talked the wife into adding TV and we got a lower bill for internet service that way. It’s pretty much basic plus HBO. Unlike The Orville now that Disney owns it and wants to punish Comcast’s customers, I can actually watch Game of Thrones on the web.

Despite Martin’s problematic writing of great concepts, and my resulting inability to read the first book, as if it were Winter’s Heart or Crossroads of Twilight, but without excellent context to keep you slogging, I absolutely love the show. I didn’t watch it really, apart from some clips, until after the first six seasons had aired and a guy I used to work with ensured I was able to see it. He later did the same for the seventh season, before he left us for parts unknown.

I fell asleep early last night, in response to that being closer to my normal schedule anyway, and my having gotten too little sleep Saturday night. I woke in the wee hours enough to stay up for a while and watch it.

Of course it was thrilling to see it again after the hiatus, but there were a lot of obligatory moments, and at times a feeling of dialing it in, that weakened the episode. Still, there were many things that needed to be done or checked off and it was well presented for doing so. There were the meetings of people who haven’t been together in a while, or have never been in the same place. Arya and Gendry flirting was everything the shippers could want.

What I don’t get is Bronn. I can’t remember the setup from the previous season that left him in King’s Landing and working for Cersei. WTF? Obviously I missed something, and I find it hard to believe he would actually do the thing she asks of him. Mercenary, yes, but we’ve seen he’s more than that.

Bottom line: I enjoyed it and can’t wait for more.

I’ll Have a Screenplay Yet!

I’m laughing at my title, but anything is possible.

Even as I was bemoaning the difficulty of forcing yourself to do work that requires creativity, while I was at it, I added major components to the idea that’s been percolating in my head for a story a bit like Melody or Moonrise Kingdom, featuring elements from my own youth. Not sure I have an ending exactly, but I have a crescendo brewing.

I just have to keep reminding myself that the setting can never exactly duplicate what I knew back then, even though I would set it then.

I am also toying with the idea of incorporating one or more kids having seen Melody into the plot. I had already thought of that for a book idea I’ve had percolating for much longer. Indeed, I thought of combining the two things. Melody meets SF/fantasy.

I need to work on something of an outline for the more basic version and see how many holes I still have at this point. Perhaps then i can flesh it out and actually write it. All this writing of essentially stream of consciousness blog posts has gotten me used to the idea of sitting down and writing something. If I can put that to more directed use and then edit appropriately, maybe magic will happen to an old guy. Okay, not really old, but getting there and needing life to change. It’s harder to let yourself be truly old when your oldest kid won’t even be 15 until later this year.

More Concerts

I mentioned previously my first and most recent concerts, and said I’d fill in more later. It’s later. I’m afraid I don’t remember the order of the concerts after the Bee Gees and before Styx with Pat Benatar. For what it’s worth, whoever opened for the Bee Gees was nobody you ever heard of and was pretty bad, but I still thought it was mean that people booed them so mercilessly. I rather like the more modern approach of pairing bands that are closer to peers than to have an unknown like Jimi Hendrix open for the Monkees. But to be fair that’s a nostalgia tour marketing concept.

It’s so weird trying to drink anything when you’re numb after getting a filling. Just a side note.

I am pretty sure my last concert before Styx was Pink Floyd, in my only trip ever to Foxboro Stadium. My youngest brother treated me. I wouldn’t have thought to go to Floyd, as much as I loved The Wall and wondered how Roger Waters had gotten into my head when I first heard it at Daphne’s house when it came out. And of course, I try to do a non-Melody post and what happens? There’s a direct connection between Melody and Pink Floyd! Sir Alan Parker went from ad copy writing (writing marketing material is fun! But it can be hard and takes a lot of creativity, from what exposure I’ve had to doing it) to writing a screenplay to directing. The screenplay was Melody. The directing bug bit him when he did some second unit stuff, not even credited, I believe, on Melody. Outdoor stuff with gangs of kids. The field day specifically, if I remember correctly what I read about it.

Parker went on to direct, among other things, Fame, which I saw with my friend Perry and possibly Joan in 1980. Love me some Irene Cara! Speaking of connections you can make, you go from Irene Cara to Electric Company to Joss Whedon;s father to Joss and, you name it: Avengers, Buffy, Dr. Horrible, but of course for me it’s Firefly. We considered naming our middle child Kaylee. Turned out it would have fit, but it had also become surprisingly common, in one spelling or another.

Digression. It’s what I do. It’s who I am.

Then Parker directed Pink Floyd: The Wall, which was released in 1982. I didn’t see it until 1985, at Layla’s house. It was pretty wild. Not what the album made me visualize. More fascinating than the fact that he connects to Pink Floyd and it’s fun to make these connections is that he directed a large gang of rebelling school kids in The Wall. It seems somehow… familiar. Gotta teach your children well, not employ darkly sarcastic thought control.

That Pink Floyd tour was the one where they had a huge pig suspended over the place. Not sure the whole thing worked as intended. The lasers in the foggy air were wicked cool, though.

I am 99% sure that the concert I went to before Pink Floyd was Foreigner, with Joe Walsh as the opener. I didn’t know from Joe Walsh at the time, apart from Life’s Been Good, which is actually a song I associate with my friend Frank. His show was awesome. I was in the men’s room when Rocky Mountain Way started. I remembered the song from my childhood, but couldn’t have told you who did it, and wouldn’t have remembered it if not prompted by hearing it. I wasn’t expecting Life in the Fast Lane, another song I associate with Frank. So there were three hits, and the stuff I didn’t know at all was good. The way music you hear in concert is usually better than you might perceive it to be if you tried listening in another setting and format. I’m not sure I would say he was worth the ticket all by himself, the way Benatar was, but he was damn good.

Foreigner, the original lineup, was just amazing. The connection to Floyd is that I took my youngest brother to Foreigner, his first concert ever. That was at the Worcester Centrum, my only trip to that venue. He was blown away. That was his response, some time later, treating me to Pink Floyd.

Foreigner was one of those bands that seemed like they kept playing and playing and playing and it would go on endlessly, with every ounce of energy at the end that they gave away from the beginning. The live version of Hot Blooded is great live. It doesn’t belong on my greatest hits CD, thankyouverymuch. They have the distinction of being the only band ever to leave my ears hurting. It lasted a while, too. That’s not necessarily a good thing, but I guess it’s a risk you take.

One relatively early concert I went to was one of my all time favorite bands who are the Bee Gees, the Moody Blues. Not one of the amazing, fancy concerts where they have an orchestra to help them do justice to things like the tracks off Days of Future Passed. Passed, not past, people. There’s probably a linguistics lesson in there somewhere, but I’m no Mark David Ledbetter.

This was not one of my better concerts. It was cool. I got to see the Moody Blues! Their new music was also good, from Long Distance Voyager or whichever one they were promoting. The company was abysmal and made the evening miserable. If I were to talk about songs reminding me of Daphne, the girl who messed with my head so thoroughly that I arguably still haven’t recovered, I would have to include Moody Blues as an entire band. Luckily that doesn’t ruin them for me. We both already loved them. It was one of the things we had in common. That and space. I’m not sure I ever met anyone else who shared my dream at the time of starting a private space launch company. Obviously that didn’t happen, but it was at the heart of one of my earlier book (series) ideas after I realized if I couldn’t ever do it I at least could fictionalize it. I was floored when I read Heinlein’s The Man Who Sold the Moon a few years later and saw the commonalities and by how many years he’d beaten me to it, albeit in short form. I don’t know when I might have read it had I not signed up for a US literature class for which part of the reading came from Heinlein’s The Past Through Tomorrow. After having bought that for the class, and having been thrilled the professor was that cool, I had to drop the class before it even began. I made sure to sign up with the same guy a later semester, but then he had switched to Lovecraft. Just not the same! Though I don’t regret the exposure to it. It was something my late uncle loved.

Wow, that was a digression. I only remember who one of the other people with us was. She and he are both FB friends these days. I think another one of the people with us may have been a guy she pined for and had ground down into having sex with her, once, and ensuring I knew about it, while maintaining the bizarre… virginal?… act toward me. That aside, everyone seemed to be in a tempestuous mood. The drive there was unpleasant and argumentative. The mood in the group of us in the venue itself was, well, moody. It was a relief for it to be over, even though the concert proper did settle things down.

In terms of company and the moods people were in, that was the worst. It wasn’t as bad taking abuse from Zack’s sister over my accidental purchase of seats with an obstructed view for ELO. Which I know I mentioned somewhere, but should also go in a post specifically about concerts. Moody Blues were the third of my three concerts at Providence Civic Center. I can remember two at Boston Garden, but I may be forgetting one. I’ll get back to the rest of the concerts another day.

Time for a Reread?

Someone on the Wheel of Time group on Facebook posted a question about the consequences of something that happened near the end. I didn’t remember that thing happening. That might mean it’s time for a reread.

I read the first five so many times it’s ridiculous, since when I first read those books, they were all that had come out. I’ve read the sixth one a lot, but after book 8 I no longer did a reread prior to each new release. That made “the slog” even worse. The slog is when you get to books 9 and 10, and arguably 8, and it… just… drags… while the pieces move around the chess board. In book 11, Jordan’s last complete one before he died, I said “Jordan’s back!” It was classic Robert Jordan, back in good form.

What I found when I finally did a reread of the entire series was that the slog isn’t as much of a slog when reading start to finish without waiting for the next book. There actually are super exciting and consequential things that happen even in the worse of the books, since – and this has to be hard when writing such a series – each volume has a climactic conclusion, even if nothing seems gripping before that.

It has been a couple years or so since my last reread. I think I have read the final book twice, but maybe it’s been three times. That one needs it more than normal, and if nothing else, it’d be worth my picking that one alone up. Since then, being largely broke and hating what publishers have done to book prices, I have been reading mostly indie books on Kindle. Great discoveries, that way. For instance, I’ve never read a Christopher Nuttall book I haven’t liked, and mostly more than that, even when I go into it thinking I’m not so sure this is my thing. That reread, of all the books I have in paper format, took something like six months. The complete thing is a big commitment. I’m tempted to get them all in Kindle format, but they are one of those things where you don’t save much money by saving the publisher  100% of their marginal cost of publishing a book.

Anyway, even when I read the first ones, I sometimes see something I missed, and I always find I forgot the exact order of events or little details. It also changes it to have read to the end of the series, since there is a crazy amount of foreshadowing.

It’s a shame I was unable to get though even the first Song of Ice and Fire book, Game of Thrones. I love the series and the idea of the books, and appreciate the rabid fandom and the details I learn about the books from YouTubers, but to me GRRM just wasn’t a very good writer. It’s better to be a writer who’s as “not very good” as him and wealthy from your work than it is to have nothing more than ideas that may never make their way to print. That doesn’t make it any easier to slog through it, and it doesn’t make it any easier to pick up the book, open it, and recognize whether I have read a given passage or not on my last attempt. I’d drop it without marking my place and not be able to tell where I was. I could open it to later in the book, start reading, and not recognize that I had missed anything. I’ve never experienced anything like that.

Perhaps next winter, when I’m especially broke unless the pattern changes, I’ll reread all or some of WoT again.

As for the TV series, I am worried. I love the idea that it’ll be brought to life, but it could be a disaster so easily. It just feels too much like it’s being done to be done, by people who may not love or understand the books. It requires massive condensing, and it would be easy to mess that up, just for starters. We’ll see. I’ll be watching and no doubt commenting vociferously.

Sequel

I was thinking never mind a remake. A sequel could have been interesting. It could have answered some questions that will be left forever up in the air about what happened after, or it could have continued to leave ambiguity while still picking up later.

It could have been a bit like having a sequel to The Cutting Edge, another favorite movie of mine. Figure skating meets romantic comedy! What could be better? Besides something that resonates with my own childhood as dramatically as Melody manages. You come along later in their lives and they’re married. Hijinks ensue with their own kid and/or themselves. Times change. Kids not entirely. That they married for real would be some vindication, without regard for how they arrived there after whatever hell there was to pay for the antics at the end of the original.

Of course, in fan fiction anything could happen. A while back I saw someone posit a scenario where they find themselves at Hogwarts via the trolley. Surreal. Or you could put them in a post-apocalyptic situation. TEOTWAWKI could hit while they are off on the trolley, and they are fending for themselves, trying to get by with the clothes on their backs. Pure fantasies of whatever variety.

Skipping ahead would certainly fit the storytelling pattern of the movie. Just as we never see what happens when Daniel collapses after winning the 220. His mother panics! Get the medic! Maybe we don’t need to do more than infer just how traumatic it was for everyone to get their lives and schooling back to something passing for normal. Maybe we don’t need to know how the kids became married old miseries. They just are, and we revisit old friends later in their lives. Ornshaw graduates Top Gun, becomes a hero and gets to return there as an instructor. Wait, wrong movie. Since he’s actually smarter than the teachers, he goes on to become one and show how it’s done. Daniel becomes famous for his art. or at least struggles to make a living at it other than by illustrating Melody’s stories she writes for children.

Or we could throw them together years later, after they’d been torn asunder. Their love will never die, but if they are separated for a while, it takes the right circumstances for a reunion and a more adult romantic comedy before they actually live happily ever after together.

None of which is exactly where I was going with this. The wife started talking and had trouble stopping, much as happens too often when I start typing.

If you go with the Heinleinesque scenario of all realities existing even if they are fiction in our own, then there’s a very real alternate reality, timeline, dimension – whatever you care to call it – in which the events of Melody happened. Number of the Beast, but we’re not in Oz anymore. We don’t know anything about the fine details of that reality in the parts we didn’t get to see, or that came after, but they are happening to those people in that world. Except in the many worlds theory, we have infinitely branching timelines in which any little variation that could happen does happen, each propagating a new universe. Some seem familiar, even indistinguishable. Some seem utterly alien. It takes so little to make a change. A movie that’s released in 1971 and flops in the United States instead does well and makes stars of the people involved, or bigger stars of the already famous ones. That’s a huge ripple through time. Tracy Hyde becomes a household name. She has more and bigger roles. She never becomes a legal secretary. A ten year old boy who’s not entirely different from Daniel Latimer sees it and his life is changed. A far cry from seeing it 47 years later than that and feeling zealously happy yet wistful. Might not be as big a change as we’d have if that movie George Lucas released in 1977, you know, the space one, hadn’t flopped, but… oh wait, that one didn’t flop.

If you put those two concepts together, then every fiction is its own timeline, and every one of those varies and branches infinitely. The one captured by the purveyor of a piece of fiction in our world is just the one we know, not all that could be. Imagine that Icy Hot Song if Ned never lost his head. Or if Avienda, I mean, Ygritte, survived. You know nothing, dear readers.

Seriously, though, a sequel could have been fun. It would have required greater success of the original. While there’s been a great deal of inspiration provided by Melody, despite its cult status, giving us things like Moonrise Kingdom, since most people never heard of Melody, most people wouldn’t care to follow the rest of the story. A shame, but there it is.

1971 Was so long ago, I had to check with my siblings to see if we maybe had seen Melody. As expected, it was no. Never heard of it. I figured that the possibility existed that I could have seen and forgotten it. I doubt it, though. Much as I love First of May and Melody Fair, neither of those came to my attention until later in the seventies. I’d have known them from the movie. The thing is, I know for a fact that we went to see Flight of the Doves in 1971. I remember it being a big deal to my sister. That was yet another Jack Wild film. Yet all I can remember is that I saw it. I remember nothing about it. I remembered parts of the Planet of the Apes movies vividly. My father took as to all four, regardless of whether they might have been age appropriate. I think of myself as having an excellent memory, but things do get spotty from my youth. That wasn’t the best year ever, either, since my father had left in early 1970 and the divorce would be final in the latter part of 1971. Ironically, 4th grade was an exceptional school year for me, and that was 1970-1971. I had both my first crush on a peer, Carol, resembling Melody, and a crush on my pretty blond math teacher. I crashed in 5th grade and had one of my worst school years.  I’ve mentioned it before, but seeing Melody right when I had that first crush in Daniel-but-shyer (and younger) fashion would have been fascinating.

I’m rambling. (I know: “No kidding! You just figured that out?” Heh.) I should be asleep and instead I’m going on and on without saying anything further that pertains to the post. So I’ll stop and survey the damage now.

Free Range Kids

It annoys me that there has to be an expression to describe “free range children.” Back in the olden days, we simply called them children. Yes, not a Melody post! But that inspired it, because it’s such a dramatic image of another time and place. The past is, after all, another country, and that was another country and in the past. It was also a different environment from the one I grew up in, city instead of rural.

I learned to ride a bike when I was 8, rather old because of my mild physical retardation from meningitis as an infant. I believe I talked about this in one post or another in the past few weeks. Once I could ride, that was it! I was gone! I had wings. Nobody thought a thing of my riding three miles to visit friends.

Even before that, though, I was walking all over the woods, to the nearest beach, to the store (over a mile away), and of course to the bus. We had to walk a third of a mile just to get the bus to school. It was rare and frigid for me to get a ride. My mother walked me to the bus, which stopped even farther away, for the town’s version of kindergarten. That was for a short time during the summer before first grade. It gave them a chance to teach us how to go to school and give us some bare preliminaries. Which was funny for me, since I already knew how to read. I don’t remember ever not knowing how to read, so I would guess I learned sometime in the 3-4 years old range. It was physical retardation. After that I walked with my older siblings for first grade, with my sister for second grade, and by myself thereafter. My kids had to walk to elementary school just a little farther than my walk to the bus. We ended up being expected to walk with them through third grade, even though they were considered fine to walk home by themselves.

Someone called the cops on the youngest when he went out to play with a kid about three houses down the street at the age of about 5. That was a little young, but it was also close, with a sidewalk and not busy street. I never did figure out who called. We taught the kids from a young age not to dash into the street and how to cross safely if they needed to. Compared to where I grew up, it’s downright urban, but really it’s a quaint old factory town’s downtown, the outskirts of it, basically suburbia, in a town that ranges to pure rural, cranberry bogs, and thick woods.

Circa first and second grade, I hung out with a kid, Reggie, who lived about a mile from the end of our street (end of our street being the bus stop, 1/3 of a mile from our house). He was on the other side of the main intersection and only traffic light in town. The big business at the junction was a liquor store/variety story with a gas pump. While we spent some time in his house, mostly we ranged around outside. We freely crossed the street. We walked back along the main road most of the way back to my street. We would collect bottles to turn in at the store so we could get ice cream bars or candy. Nobody thought the slightest thing of it that six or seven year old kids were doing this. That would have been about 1967-1968.

I think the last time anyone worried about my going walkabout was when I “went to pick blueberries” when I was 3 and it was the wrong time of year. The dog went with me. Then they went out in the woods and swamp to find me. I gather I wondered what all the fuss was about. Since my father’s business was maybe a tenth of a mile or so up the street from us, I would range between there and the house, almost as early as that age. I’ll never forget being no more than 5 and rushing down the path that was a shortcut between the two, trying to get home and failing. The business had an outhouse. The outhouse tended to attract hornets and I didn’t like it anyway. What a mess! I remember my mother cleaning me up while I stood in the bathroom sink. At least if all we had to do was pee, well, we lived in the woods. The world was our urinal.

I had to save this so I could go to bed on time. It’s always disorienting to pick back up on something like this after it has sat. If it veers off from this point even more than usual, that’s why.

Actually, I can remember going up the street to a building my grandfather worked out of, not long before he was disabled for good, and riding down the street with him on a giant bulldozer. I probably wasn’t even 4 yet then. I know i was extremely young and it’s one of those super early but vivid memories. He had worked for the original owner of all the land around us, who died two years before I was born. He had actually been involved in draining the swamp and building cranberry bogs many of the adult relatives would be employed on during harvest when I was little. We would hang out and watch, maybe hand pick rogue cranberries from the banks around the bogs. The house I grew up in was built for the guy he’d worked for, whose wife then refused to move there. That was how my grandparents came to buy it. My parents took it over when my grandparents couldn’t afford the payments. Originally they had planned to buy land and build a new house across the street. Weirdly, that house exists in my head, along with an imaginary house that never existed on a rise on the other side of the swamp from where we were. Both of those are yellow, whereas the house we ended up in was always white. The house on the other side of the swamp would appear in dreams when I was a kid, with us living in it. It wasn’t something I simply imagined. The house we didn’t build is more a matter of imagining it, knowing it could have happened, rather than it being pure fiction of my subconscious.

Anyway, when I was a kid, I walked all over. I rode my bike all over. When my father’s shop was in another part of town, I walked there from school some days. There was no special permission needed to leave school on foot rather than bus one day.

By the same token, if we were absent from school we were absent. Daniel and Melody didn’t go to school that day and paid the price later. In my case, we were supposed to take a note to the office the next day. I remember that in high school, but not in elementary. However, I seldom missed school in elementary. I was sickly after moving to the house I grew up in, mysteriously, and they eventually injected me with gamma globulin as an experiment to see if it’d help my immunity. It was years before I was sick again to any degree. Then I was sickly the last two years of high school and beyond, to varying degrees ever since. Since the cause became clear after a while, that provided insight into the mystery of my chronic ailment when I was very young, and why (I found out later) it didn’t start until after we moved. Also, it didn’t actually not affect me during the years after the gamma globulin. It just stuck to the more subtle aspects.

If one of my kids missed school, especially elementary, you had to call by a certain time. Like calling out sick from work. In middle school you just call the office, rather than there being a special voicemail line for it. If you don’t call them, they call you to find out if you know your kid isn’t at school. After all, kidnapping! Is! Rampant! Or something.

While my kids are mostly homebodies, they do stuff like walk to the store. The major street between us and many things you might want to walk to is not for the faint of heart, but between us and downtown, and to cross either main road downtown, is not so bad. The oldest is 14. She had a good friend not all that far away, and would walk there, but the friend’s mother kind of freaked out at the idea of doing so, especially in the dark. Conversely, the day her kid got off the late bus and came here, her mother called the police to come get her and was completely freaked out. Granted, the kid was messing with her mother by having her phone’s “battery die so she couldn’t call.” Probably just as well the kids had a falling out. You get too restrictive, then you have offspring who explode later. My kids wouldn’t feel like they couldn’t ask to go, or tell us where they were going. They aren’t as free range as I was in part because they don’t care as much, and in part because it’s a different place and time. At least we’re not stopping them, and they’re all old enough that nobody should be reporting them as unaccompanied kids as so many idiots have done with no good reason.

When I watch Melody, it’s awesome to see the kids roaming around London. They’re not only going to and from school, but also gallivanting around otherwise. It’s awesome to see two 11/12 year olds able to hop on a train and go to the seaside – on a school day! – and nobody questions it. Nobody wonders why they are hanging around at the beach, going on rides, riding the train, all without an adult. Or nobody wonders enough to call the authorities, anyway. that’s old enough that even here and now they might be fine. We’re nominally walking distance from the commuter rail to Boston and points between here and there. Two of the kids are old enough to ride as unaccompanied minors, and would probably receive little or no scrutiny.  In theory, one of them could decide to walk over to the station and pop up to Boston for the day, as long as they had the money. It’s kind of the equivalent. At the actual and apparent age of Melody and Daniel, that wouldn’t be possible. The youngest might even pass for old enough, if it came to it. I can’t see why any of them would think to do that, but it’s there.

When I was 14 and 15, I was riding my bike to high school, about five miles. I was riding to my friend’s house, an additional maybe two miles. I was riding to buzz around Ella’s house, go to the next town north from there, or a couple towns east of there, to watch drum and bugle corps practices, and I was riding home, often in the dark. The power of love. Google tells me the ride straight home from the far flung east practice would be about 7.4 miles. From the northern practice spot straight home would be about 9.6 miles. From the launching point where the group would go to practice, just a few houses from Ella’s, it’d be 5.9 miles to or from home. From there to the eastern practice spot would be about would be about 7.3 miles. So I’d go 5.9 miles, then 7.3 miles, then from there home 7.4 miles, all to stalk Ella and get those extra looks at her and see her in action, wielding a flag or a wooden rifle as part of a choreographed performance. All to the tune of MacArthur Park. It was a bit obsessive. No wonder I related so much to the boy in Endless Love when I read it several years later, and when I saw the film. Even though that was a sexual obsession and it hadn’t occurred to me yet that I ought to be after that as part of it.

I digress. But my point is I was still a freshman in high school, 14 turning 15, and I was everywhere. At that time in my life, I thought it’d be the Best Thing Ever to ride a bike across the whole country. It’d be cool, still, but I’m kind of used to driving. I’d love to drive across the country again, and glad I got even a marginal chance to do it once.

Do kids ride around like that these days? Even in the name of love? Maybe I’d have been glued to video games if we’d had them then. Who knows. Maybe technology moots the whole thing.

Ages In Melody

I was thinking. I know, sounds dangerous. Unless I am mistaken, we are never given a definite age for the kids in the movie. Right? There are now two references that come at the possible ages indirectly.

One is when Melody is inconsolable with her parents, after the bad day that followed the day they skipped school to go to the seaside. When told that people generally wait to see if they like each other when they’re older, she asks how old. Her father says “in their twenties, older sometimes.”

She plaintively says “but that’s twice as old as I am now.”

Which only tells us she is at least 10, and that much was already obvious. She could be as old as 12 and still shorthand it to “twice as old” in reference to twenties.

We do know that Tracy Hyde’s age was 10 at the very, very beginning of filming in May 1970, and 11 from May 16 through the end of filming in August.

We also know that Mark Lester’s age was 11 when filming started in May, and 12 when filming ended in August, since his birthday was July 11. Probably just as well he was a year older, as it worked well for them to look the same age in the film.

Finally, we know that Jack Wild was 17 during filming, and turned 18 the September 30 not long afterward. He very much looks and seems older in the film, while still looking young enough to pass. In his case, actual age of the actor tells us nothing.

Now that I know what the headmaster is actually saying to Melody after Daniel discloses that they want to get married, there is another clue. Which I guess is about what I always took to be implicit. “I assume you’ve already promised your fair, freckled first-form hand in marriage to this young gentleman?”

As I noted, I could never figure out that the headmaster was saying first-form in that exchange. That’s an indication of grade or level in school, or it was at the time. First form in North America is equivalent to 7th grade. The surviving British term seems to be sixth form, but in that article it notes:

Pupils started their first year of secondary school in the first form or first year, and this was the academic year in which pupils would normally become 12 years of age.

In the US the year for turning 12 would ordinarily be 6th grade, or the 7th year of school including kindergarten. In a typical system with a middle school, that would be the first of three middle school years. I went to a jr high system, so elementary went through 6th grade, jr high was 7th and 8th, and then it was four years of high school. I think the system that ends at 10th grade, or 11th year, makes a lot of sense. A lot of high school was repetition or boredom, and that could be a good point to separate out the harder core academic track students from those who would pursue a more vocational or job training path. But I digress.

I had always imagined this as 5th grade, and thus particularly early, based on their ages. Further, it is obviously late in the school year, based on my analysis of the timeline from various cues. That’s a big difference, 5th to 6th. You could say that was the leap from cooties to not cooties, generally speaking. It didn’t take a stretch to imagine a similar story happening to me in 5th grade. For 6th it would just have been a matter of being one of the lucky guys who had a girlfriend. There was one I knew of in just my classroom, which was one of four or five classrooms for the grade.

In Melody, the kids actually seem younger and more innocent than that, except sometimes they don’t.

I’ve seen reviews or commentaries that range from describing the kids as 10 years old to 12 years old. Then again, I’ve seen reviews that made me wonder if the reviewer actually watched the film. Sort of the equivalent of dashing off a last minute book report for school based largely on the jacket description and what you imagine was in the book, or get from opening and reading a couple paragraphs in a few places and maybe the conclusion.

Speaking of conclusion, I think what I should probably conclude is that they are in the equivalent of 6th grade, AKA 7th year, and that if they are 11 in the film, they won’t remain so much longer. It all works with the skilled depiction of showing the two of them growing up dramatically over a short time. For that matter, it’s not clear either of them were still comfortable acting as young kids even when they still were shown that way. Melody was out of place with the gang of little kids mobbing the rag man. It was just… what she knew at the time.

So I’m going to call them 11, but high side. I am prepared to believe that Tom Ornshaw was actually older, maybe by a year. Wiser, if not. He’s a study all by himself. Bright but treated as stupid. Clearly older in outlook and wisdom than his form one cohort. I’m going to call them 6th grade.

Mrs. Ginger

Not really a point to this. I’m just still struck by seeing one of the most attractive women I have ever seen arrive at my friend’s mother’s house for a family and friends party on Sunday. The occasion was my friend being out from Las Vegas and having a birthday this week.

If I were young, this is one of those times when just seeing the girl would have left me smitten. It would have been all over. She drew my eye before she even made it in the door. Because I am old and have learned a thing or two, and I am not my brother, I didn’t stare, but it wasn’t easy. I was going to say I’ve never had a crush on a ginger, but there was a minor one in college. Genetics being what they are, marrying one would probably have given me kids with red hair, or some variant between that and blond, with less pronounced brown. At different times, even the kids I have with a dark haired woman have exhibited substantial amounts of red, and one of them is still a dirty shade of blond. Hey, English, Scottish, Irish, and, for them but not me, Swedish.

The woman in question, whose relationship to the family holding the party is unknown to me, is married and has a couple young kids. She’s old enough to start to wrinkle and, well show a ginger’s sensitivity to sun. I’d guess somewhere not a lot to either side of 40. And that reminds me of what I wanted to post about. Which makes her technically young for me, and old for what I’d normally see as super attractive.

In a book, a series of books, that I never wrote, the heroine was a redhead. As if I were Heinlein or something. Notwithstanding my not having run into any I got interested in, she was matched with a hero based on an ideal of me. If I wrote the thing exactly as planned, these days it would sound like I was basing the hero on Musk or Bezos, and various villains on the current political class and Bin Laden/ISIS. It’d need some updating. Internet didn’t even exist then. I was working on what little I did of it at the point when I was hanging out and flirting with Vera, who worked with my sister, and being her date to her sister’s wedding. Funny thing is that the bits I wrote and the bits I planned or imagined are in my head just the way books I read would be, or scenes from a  movie I watched would be.

Mrs. Ginger could easily be the heroine of that series, several years after the beginning of it. She looked the part. No wonder that was what I’d imagined.

That Was Fun

As mentioned in the previous post, there was a party at Naomi’s mother’s house and I went with the middle child, who was interested in trying the expected Middle Eastern food. The youngest was upset when we got home that I hadn’t invited him, which I did weeks ago to a firm no. He assumed we’d had awesome food, which we did, but not from his perspective. He felt better when I listed off what we’d eaten. The one who went loved it. Bonus, there was lemon cheesecake! She loves cheesecake more than almost anything. She had to spend a couple hours being bored while Naomi, Sally and I gabbed, though she enjoyed watching the little kids and tiny dog playing. She also  got a piece of lava rock to bring home, from Naomi’s stepfather, who was enthusiastic about her interest in science generally and geology particularly.

There were a bunch of assorted relatives there, and some adorable little kids. A late arrival, no idea the relation, had a couple more, but older, like first grade. My eyes locked on that woman before she was in the door, and I had to make a point of not staring, she was so stunning. Basically a ginger. She seemed super nice to boot. If I were younger and prone to those serial crushes, she’s exactly the sort of scenario where her walking into a room might change everything.

I ate way too much, mostly because of the shrimp someone brought, with a dip based on mayo and Greek yogurt, seasoned with wasabi and I forget what else. There were also pita chips, pita pieces, amazing spinach dip, awesome cheese spread, hummus, feta cubes, olives that were actually good – my second encounter ever eating an olive and finding I liked it, crackers, cheese, baked ziti with sausage meat included in it, and fantastic salad. Besides cheesecake, there were good chocolate chip cookies, and squares with chocolate chips, coconut, and walnuts. The kid who thought he’d missed out *might* have tried the pasta dish and not much else. Well, there were potato chips, so he could have had those.

It was actually hard to leave because the conversation really got rolling, about books and such. But it was time to go so they could wind down and we could settle in for the night. I could be later, but there’s school in the morning.

One thing that’s funny is Naomi still thinks of me as the go to person for computer questions, even though she is pretty clueful herself. She’s gone through more computer antics in the past ten years than I have. Mostly I have things that work or don’t, and if they don’t, I somehow get something that does. Since we went broke, I spent a lot of time using hand-me-down machines. This one is a $239 refurbished Dell compact desktop, sort of thing I wouldn’t have been caught dead using back in the day. The old machine is a hand-me-down laptop that I retrieved files from for someone before the hard drive died. That was over 10 years ago, and it sat for a long time before I confirmed they didn’t want it back. I had to replace the drive and, it turned out, a bad memory stick. It got full and slow enough I needed better. I’d used it as a clamshell with keyboard, mouse and monitor all attached. Before that I had an old laptop someone else gave me. It had no disks and was kind of a mess, but I couldn’t reinstall it or fix some of the deep down settings. My last good computer I built died before that and I couldn’t keep anything I had around working reliably enough. So we talked about some of the stuff she’s been through and things she’d told herself to ask me about. Her best computer was her first one, which I’d helped her get from what turned out to be a local dealer at a computer show, back when those were a thing. We later used that dealer to supply computers for the business, until I started building them all myself.

Storytelling Part 3

Might as well get around to finishing what I started in Part 1 and Part 2, and finish spoiling the whole 48 year old Melody film for the almost everybody who’s never seen it. Of course, you can see it if you want, using the link discussed here.

When I left off, we had gone through the vignettes of Daniel falling for Melody and then attempting to get her notice, summed up in the great use of To Love Somebody during athletics/field day. This also ends with one of those things that never gets explained or expanded upon, but is pretty dramatic, when Daniel faints after winning the race with visions of Melody going through his head. We don’t know how long had passed between the dance and field day, and we don’t know how much time passes between field day and the next school day shown. Except we do, because we are about to have firm evidence that the timeline is one week from the time he sees her in ballet class to the day they first hang out together.

I could write about how short that seems to me for the sort of scenario the kids are involved in, and for certain things to have been said and done. I went through something like it, less successfully, and we’re talking months, not a week. But that might be another post. I also learned just when filming took place, besides that it was in 1970 and happened to include May, so Tracy Hyde had birthday cake on the set. It was May to August, which supports my observation about the state of vegetation in some scenes. Since filming is hard, it makes sense to have taken that long. But not longer, allowing editing and production time before it started being released in March 1971. You figure the horrible dinner party scene took an entire day of filming, and that was just one little scene to show more about how awful the adults in the Latimer family were. The scene in the headmaster’s office took a lot of takes because Mark Lester was too unflappable to express anger without being provoked sufficiently. Which might explain some of Tracy Hyde’s acting in that scene, depending on how things were spliced. But I digress.

He loves her. She seems to reciprocate. Just one thing remains. It’s another school day, and we see Daniel and Ornshaw both get in trouble with the beastly Latin teacher for not being able to present what was supposed to have been “prepared ‘omework.” We never see the kids doing homework in the film, or worrying about it, but they probably had at least as much as my kids tend to have. That’s vastly more than the almost none I had at their ages, but the British schools seem to have been different from my experience.

After school the boys go to the teacher’s office to face his wrath. Ornshaw has the trick of stuffing a towel down his pants to soften the blow while he pretends it hurts. He has Daniel do the same, but Daniel gets caught and is actually harmed after Ornshaw has left the room. Nice bit of acting, the look on the teacher’s face when he notices the towel and pulls it out. This whole thing ties into a couple of later scenes.

When Ornshaw comes out, he sees Melody hanging around one floor below, waiting. He knows darn well why she is there and tries to encourage her to move along. There’s been animosity between them and of course Daniel is his so don’t come between them please. Too late!

Daniel comes out, sees her, and she smiles at him. I haven’t written about how much the apparent age or maturity of the kids varies through the movie, but in this part she looks particularly old and mature. At any given time, the school blazers tend to contribute to that. I suspect that the filming was long enough that growth was a factor, so they look taller or shorter at points during the film. My youngest is very nearly the exact age as Mark Lester during filming. He’s growing like a weed, and any second will become the tallest of the three kids, even versus the exceptionally tall one who just turned 13. She’s just taller than I was when I turned 13, but then I grew 4 inches in the five months after I turned 13, getting most of the way to my final height. The youngest is that height almost a year and a half sooner. But I digress. I risk digressing into my son having crushed on a girl who played cello, which made him more enthusiastic about his decision to play violin. I think he got over that, but there’s an example of a crush at that age.

There’s not really talking in any of this, except by Ornshaw. He doesn’t want to lose Daniel, yet he helps by telling him not to let her see him cry, then taking the towel from Daniel so he doesn’t have to carry it. They start down the stairs.

There’s Melody, planted inexorably at the foot of the flight of stairs, in a pose that could be described as forward. It’s completely confident and unambiguous. The boys stop. Ornshaw looks at Daniel. They continue and Ornshaw resumes trying to get Melody to toddle off. When they get to the bottom, she just looks at Daniel, saying nothing, meaning everything. Ornshaw talks, trying to persuade Daniel to go do things with him that afternoon. Anything! Just to be with his friend. It’s a great way of showing just how heartbreaking this will be for Ornshaw.

Daniel walks to Melody,a s she walks away, stops and looks back. They walk off together while Ornshaw pleads. Then they run to the doorway where they’ll go down the final flight of stairs.

We see them round a corner and come down an aisle between seats that would be used for assembly, heading to the door at their theme, First of May, starts to play. The next part is brilliant visual storytelling with no audible dialogue.

We see Daniel try to carry her bag for her, to her amusement, and then she takes it back. They walk close, obviously a pair. When they walk through an arched stretch in the schoolyard, they hold hands, then let go when people might see them.

Oh heck. You can see this sequence without ever watching the whole film. You just need the video of First of May with cemetery scene left in.

They talk as they walk along, but we don’t know what they say. They make their way to an old cemetery and end up chasing around like puppies for a bit, playfully. Then they are walking together again, holding hands as they head into another section of cemetery. Ultimately it’s her leading him to a spot. The music fades and they are sitting, talking.

She says that her friend Muriel says that he’s been going around telling people he loves her, which she doesn’t mind, but why not tell her if he has to tell someone. She’s always the last to know. That last has just the right plaintive tone. Apparently Daniel has been busier than we’ve seen. Perhaps this was why they showed him being impetuous enough to light his dad’s paper on fire, or forthright enough to tell the director of the Boy’s Brigade that he didn’t know what he was doing there, it was his mother’s idea. You need to have enough innocent boldness, or just boldness, to do something like going around telling everyone you love some girl in school.

Sharing the apple is a cute touch. Not sure I’d ever have done that. Germs, you know. It fits the song. Some of the later cover art they did features the apple in a way that sums up the themes of the film. I have never figured out whether there was a point to her tearing up a handful of dead grass or vegetation when he hands her the apple.

She does most of the talking.He’s very quiet, and we’ve already seen that she’s more social, talkative, and can be a smartass when expressing herself. To the degree she reminds me of Ella, a similarity is her being surrounded by groups of other girls who were her friends at school or from the drum and bugle corps. In 9th grade, we read The Merchant of Venice in English, which was one of the classes we shared. She was kind of behind me, so I couldn’t stare at her there as I did in the horrible algebra class. I loved that book! I used to describe the friends around Ella as “Portia’s train,” the way that sort of retinue was described in the book.

She observes it’s nice there, and that her mom tells her not to go there but she’s not frightened. Nothing to be frightened of when you have the boy with green ears and so forth. LOL. Looking for something to say, since he’s about as much help as I’d have been around that age, she looks around and then reads a nearby gravestone. The name of the woman on it is Ella Jane, appropriately. They’d been married 50 years of happiness and then he died just two months later. This is crucial, since this sparks the idea of marriage. Storytelling prop.

I wonder if that’s a real gravestone or if it was a prop they produced for the purpose of the story. I’ve seen video of people walking through the very cemetery decades later, but nothing where someone found the exact spot.

Anyway, she observes “he only lasted two months after she died.” Finally speaking a full sentence, Daniel says “he must have loved her very much.” This is pretty much the most famous dialogue in the entire film.

She asks him how long is fifty years. He gives the reply in number of school terms, which shows how young they are and how limited their worldview is. It’s also kind of funny.

She asks “will you love me that long,” turning to look at him with an adorable smile. He nods. She says “I don’t think you will.” Wise observation, but hey, it can happen.

He replies “of course, I’ve loved you a whole week already, haven’t I?” He smiles and looks almost tongue in cheek. He laughs slightly and they both smile. This is when we first hear him say he loves her. It gives us the timeline from the day he sees her to now, locking everything through that day into place. I know life can move fast at that age, but it seems like too little time for the strength of the friendship with Ornshaw, and for the antics between Daniel and Melody to have happened and come to fruition. It works great for the dialogue, though! This is the scene that Tracy and Mark reenacted on at least one of their reunions decades later. The acting here is great, and so is the way things are conveyed.

First of May reprise kicks in as they continue eating the apple and looking at each other, and we segue into them walking along a road again. I’d love to be able to read lips to know what they are saying when they stop and try to duck through the fence to jaywalk. They pause and are foiled. Not sure, but I assume that is trying to show them being kids and not always angels. Then they are walking through the yard in front of her building. A little girl runs up to her and they pause for a kind moment between her and the kid. Maybe that means to show them as not little any more, by comparison. They reach her door and they have an exchange. It may be that he has seen him as walking her home, and is reticent, while she is inviting him for tea. She opens the door and, in one of my favorite, funny touches, she reaches back out the door and pulls him in by his tie. Inside the door, she looks amused, as well she should. Even though it was different sets and might have been widely separate days of filming, it’s seamless. Her mother and granny look up from the table and at the doorway, surprised. Melody announces “he’s come for tea.” This brooks no dissent.

We get more of her family dynamic when they are at tea. We see her being daddy’s girl, since he is home. We see tension between him and her mother, if not outright fighting as we saw with Daniel’s parents. Her father is obviously someone who can’t do with silences, so he has to find something to talk about, a story to tell. Melody gives him a number of “if looks could kill” looks as he goes along. Ultimately, though, it’s a nice interlude. It cements things and caps off the day.

At no time do we ever see Daniel’s parents meet or be aware of her. Interesting.

This is the end of certainty about the timeline of events. The vignettes used in telling the story until now could have been separated substantially from each other in time, if not for the confirmation on this day that it all took place over a week. To me that timetable is a borderline anomaly, or creates some. But it’s a story. You make decisions and trade-offs.

And so we have no idea whether the next day is the next day or sometime later. The only evidence we have that it’s not the next day, beside it seeming rather abrupt, is when Melody’s father refers to Daniel having been to tea multiple times. That suggests a longer build up once he is her boyfriend, and more opportunity to reach the point of planning that day together. Also that would give more time for them to be so attached that marriage seems reasonable to them, at least in their perception of it. They don’t always seem innocent enough to be that innocent.

The next scene is a morning at school, attendance, and they aren’t there. We see they are on a train. They hop off, looking sort of furtive even though by then who’s going to catch them. There are a lot of questions about how they managed to sneak away like this. They are dressed for a day of fun. That means their school clothes, blazers, satchels… those are all at home, should someone notice. They had to get out the door that way, with what they were carrying for the day out, not for school. But that’s mechanics that are outside showing the story. We can wonder and imagine, but really it just is. Hand wave.

We see them on amusement park rides. During some of this the some Give Your Best plays, as it did when Daniel hung out for an afternoon with Ornshaw. We see them eating cotton candy and buying ice cream cones. We see them walking along the beach in bare feet, spying and then jumping on trampolines. Then they watch a wee kiddie pageant, which she is totally into and he tolerates because he is with her. We see them sitting on a sheltered bench, which is still there. You could go sit where they sat, if you wanted to seek it out. Mostly it’s companionable silence, which is a great thing to be able to have with someone, but they converse and some of it is lame. It doesn’t entirely fit with them having hung out and talked on other days.

If that tells a story, it tells how limited their world is. They talk about what they would be doing in school right now if they were there, and what subjects they like. He pretends he doesn’t like history so much after all, since she hates it. She loves geography. Can’t blame her there. That actually factors later, as some things do throughout the film.

When the rain is over, we see them on the beach, building a sand castle and talking idly. Her dad doesn’t like the beach and usually stays home, “in the pubs, mostly.” She’s aware of his drinking problem, if it’s a problem.  That reaches back to the beginning when she had to go find him at the pub. That pub is still there, operating under the same name. His family rides in the car, but they don’t generally get out. The adults have a row and don’t talk until they get home. We get some of their view of adults firsthand, besides the over the top adult acting intended to convey how kids see them. He goes down and steps into the water with a container, brings some water back, and then she wonders why it all went away. That’s particularly lame, because a six year old would probably understand that water poured onto sand is going to dissipate through it. Do they really want us to see the kids as being that young and ignorant?

While patting sand in place, one of their hands pats onto the other one’s hand and they are sort of… startled. I don’t know why, given all the hand holding they did, even if it was just the one day prior and this is the very next day. Still, that is the impetus for him asking if they should get married. She thinks maybe someday, perhaps, which is a smart answer. They talk about how old might you have to be before you can get married. As old as our parents? He worries if they wait they might be “old miseries.” Great expression! The wife is an old misery. LOL. Too much social media. I never would have said LOL in blog posts 15 years ago. Most adults they know are old miseries. Melody stands and looks out across the water, getting sandy hands in her hair and wistfully saying to the world at large “I don’t know. I really don’t know…”

That segues into a scene where the two of them pop up from behind a screened enclosure, now wearing their swim suits, clothes hung on the enclosure. Initially holding hands, they run down to the water, step in, then step out because it’s COLD. you hear her say “I’m done!” while pointing to herself. Then she goes back in, which he is supposed to do together with her. He’s a little slow about it. She kicks water to splash him, then he splashes her, and fun ensues. Considering he stepped into the water shortly before this, if it was cold he should have noticed. A little glitch there. That scene ends with a musical thud. We see nothing of when and how they get home, the rest of their day, the reaction at home if any of the parents figured out what they had done, nothing. This is another absence of telling what isn’t essential to be told. I’d expect to see more of it in a book. A film or show would trim things exactly this way.

It goes straight to the two of them in school clothes, insides the door of the headmaster’s office, unambiguously the next day. This scene required many takes, at least the part where Daniel gets angry and yells at the headmaster. We don’t see anything about how they wound up being sent or called there. We don’t see whether there is or will be interaction between school and parents.

I should note, as I may have before, that if kids that age skip school here, the school calls home to see if the parents know the kid is home. A parent is supposed to call to tell the school the kid will be out. In elementary it’s a special number where you leave voicemail. In middle school it’s just calling the office. I don’t know if anyone goes to even that length in high school. The schools seem to be good at treating the kids as being older and more responsible as the get older in age and year. In my day, there was nothing like that. There was no hyperactive fear of kidnapping, which is what actually drives the safe to school line concept. We were simply expected to take an excuse note from a parent the next day and give it to the office.

Anyway, the headmaster is funny. He’s actually quite gentle with them, and I saw Mrs. Latimer’s hand in that. since she is buddies with him and he’d want to keep in her good graces. The range of expressions from Melody during part of this is amusing, since I am not sure that’s what we ought to be seeing. I can’t help wondering what the director was telling them during this. When the headmaster stands behind the two of them and puts a hand each on one of their shoulders, she looks at his hands and has a “get that off me you creep” look, an amused look, a worried or alarmed look, an amused look, and so forth as he speaks.

When Daniels tells him they know what their priorities are: they want to get married, she whips her head to the side and looks at him like WTF. I mean, we never saw them actually come right out and decide with each other that yes, this was absolutely what they wanted to do. However, that doesn’t mean they didn’t. I figure the look was more “OMG why are you telling him that.” Then, when asked if she’s offered him her hand, she says she doesn’t know, she’s not sure what it all means. That sure is a switch from their vehemence. Daniel gets mad because he thinks it funny, but it’s not and he’s treating them like they’re stupid. The headmaster tells them that’s it, “the matter is finished.” Then the real fun starts.

They go back to their classrooms. Weird thing is that if they got sent to the office while other kids went to class, they should be entering a class in progress. Instead, they are entering classes where the kids await arrival of the teacher. She gets tormented, even by some of her closest friends. He gets tormented worse, and ends up in a fight on the floor with Ornshaw. Latin teacher breaks it up. Daniel is nursing his bloody nose while Ornshaw apologizes from the next desk, feeling terrible.

After school, in one of the most iconic scenes, we see Daniel and Melody sitting in the rain in his cemetery. Her head is on his shoulder and his arm is around her neck. His other hand is holding his satchel above them, in a vain attempt to keep them from getting completely soaked. We don’t know what he is saying, but he is talking furiously to her. That is the one clue I figure we have that says the next day’s events take place the actual next day, rather than at some later date. We don’t need words, anyway. This tells the tale of what the day has been like for them and his strength in trying to make her feel better.

Then she is home, hair getting dried, sitting at the table while her father does most of the talking to her and her mother interjects from behind. Granny lurks around back there, and we see some good facial acting on her part. They know about her wanting to get married and are telling her people just don’t get married at her age. In this whole scene, she seems pretty young, whereas there are so many times she seems older than she is. They do a poor job of explaining. She doesn’t accept it. If the plans for what in film terms appears to be tomorrow have already been made, it is moot anyway. As I said, I felt for her father here. Tracy Hyde does an excellent job being pathetic. It calls back to her love of geography. She likes being with Daniel more. Daniel is home, in bed, thinking. We see nothing of his parents.

Final bit. Flash to what we could take to be the very next day. Complete turnaround from the classmates. Daniel’s mother is frantic because he left a note that they were eloping. First we have known that she has any clue about the girl or the depth of things, and she’s a mess. It’s ridiculous. Headmaster takes her call, assures her things are fine, he’d seen them in class. He’ll go check. When he does, he learns one of the classes never came back from morning break. The one kid there is the kid who’s been trying to make a homemade bomb the whole time. Turns out their classes went to the railroad arches for a wedding.

Headmaster gathers up the teachers to go break it up. As they are driving off, Mrs. Latimer drives up in her fancy car and ends up following. Nothing to worry about. They get to the barren land by the rails and break up to try to flush out the kids. Meanwhile, Stacey, the bomb kid, has run off to warn them the teachers are coming. Obviously his planned role. The headmaster is so oblivious, he doesn’t notice Stacey had a bomb right on the desk when he walked in and asked where the others were.

We see the kids gathered and Ornshaw starting the ceremony. The kids laugh and he tells them it’s not funny, it’s serious. Rhoda is the maid of honor, even though during most of the movie you might think Peggy or Muriel were closer friends. I didn’t identify the boy who seems to be the best man. I like Rhoda. The actress, Lesley Roach, was in a lot of stuff before Melody, then disappeared after 1976. We had a local family named Roach when I was a kid.

It’s funny when Ornshaw tries to read the whole thing, fumbles it, and basically leaves it as taking the respective other to be their husband and wife. “Will you?” “I will.” “Yeah, I thought you might.” same with Melody, blah blah obey blah. “I will.” She has kind of a blushing bride look, and seems amused. Maybe Tracy was trying to keep a straight face and almost not managing it. This also had to be funny if they shot the scene earlier in filming than they did some of what built up to it. The more extras involved, the earlier they shot it. These were more the core group, but they still might have done this sooner and then completed what had only the main characters afterward.

Before Ornshaw can say man and wife, years before this was a thing in Princess Bride, Stacey gets them the warning and they scatter. The main wedding party goes one way. The rest go the other to run interference. At this point it’s a revolt. It was just the thing with Daniel and Melody that provided the impetus. This is where Teach Your Children plays. I’ve seen it described as out of place or inappropriate. I don’t think so, for the scene and the ending the team decided on. I might have come up with a different ending, though I can’t say what.

The kids fight back with the teachers, who are outnumbered. Eventually it’s down to Ornshaw, Melody and Daniel, running from the evil Latin teacher. They lose him and Ornshaw has the newlyweds hop on a hand trolley that we saw in a much earlier scene of a test of one of the explosives.

In the meantime, Stacey has lit his latest bomb attempt and tossed it into the back of Mrs. Latimer’s car. It works spectacularly. He is amazed and overjoyed. That stops everything in its tracks, including, briefly, the running that Ornshaw and the newlyweds are doing, while they and the Latin teacher look back to see what the noise had been. The headmaster and teachers run away. Mrs. Latimer looks at her burning car in dismay, looking completely lost. More than she had during the brawl.

That’s it. Teachers are a mess and not looking good. Kids are not going to be able to escape being in trouble. Mrs. Latimer is going to have to explain the car to her husband and might want to reexamine her life. The honeymoon is presumably going to be short because where can they go, what can they do? They’re 11. It’s not a real marriage. They can’t support themselves. They’re carrying nothing but the clothes on their backs. But all of that is neither here nor there. What happens next. What people face. Those aren’t part of this story. Leave it to the imagination. Leave it as an ending that is too absurd for reality so why ask those questions. It was fun and told a tale that was meant to be told.

I don’t think I accomplished with this set of posts what I thought I was setting out to do. It ended up being more of a breakdown of the movie, much as people on YouTube break movies or show episodes down and look at what happened and some of the finer points in videos. I still say that watching this and seeing how the story was conveyed helped inspire and make me think, with respect to my old story that I should complete eventually. The lesson for me is it being OK to leave gaps and leave unanswered details the reader doesn’t have to know. There’s also a lesson in tying elements from earlier to later, and how to introduce people and places.

It’s late and I should already be in bed, since alarm time is 2:15 AM. I either have to leave this a draft or publish it but then proofread it when I get home later in the morning. Probably the latter.

My Ornshaw

Well, I was going to do a post with that title, specifically about my late friend, call him Frank even though he’s too dead to be offended by anything I might say, and ways he, and his interaction with me, remind me of Ornshaw. And Jack Wild.

In some ways, though, my old friend Zack could be written about similarly. In other ways, I was Ornshaw to Zack. Frank was rather introverted to be as overtly cheeky, though he was pretty good with snide or intelligent but not appreciated observations or questions. Zack wasn’t introverted and could be as cheeky as any of us ever got. I, especially as I age, have that cheekier side, though in many ways I am very much Daniel, but less extroverted or mischievous. Especially when I was young. It ends up rather relative.

Zack gets the “girl disrupts friendship” award the most. That really never happened with Frank. However, the friend-love as portrayed in Melody was more between me and Zack, mainly in that direction, and less so with me and Frank. I never got a girlfriend. Certainly not when there was a strong bond between me and Zack. Frank didn’t get a girlfriend at a young enough age to matter, or one that was a strong enough emotional bond.

Zack eventually got a first girlfriend in the form of the same Daphne I have mentioned as being so trying for me in other posts. She recently apologized to me for not realizing how I felt about her, which seems odd because I was completely unambiguous. I have never been that clear or overt. I seem to try harder in hopeless cases and less hard if chances are better. Because success bad? While wanting no part of me, she wanted or even lusted after my friends in inverse proportion to their interest in her.

So she dated Zack. He got to make out a lot but that was the extent of it. I was miffed and it maybe somewhat took him away from me at the same time she was insulting me with her actions. Jealous, even, though somewhere along the line my interest had waned enough that it was probably more insulted than jealous. I also thought he could do better, and he did, later. The one Daphne really wanted was Frank, who she did eventually “date,” if you know what I mean. He had no actual interest, but at the time she was available and nobody else was. Sad.

Zack ended up with Joan, who had dated Perry up to around the time he went off to college. It was funny, since the first time they met, she didn’t like him. I inadvertently triggered the whole thing. Later I helped ensure they stayed together. But I lost him to her in at least the way Ornshaw lost Daniel to Melody. Or at least it added impetus to something that might have already been underway. In that, I represent Ornshaw. I was also perhaps the freer spirit when we first met at 11. Except at the same time Zack would say outrageous things I would never have dared, even between us. He got me used to using swears, even though I’d certainly heard them from an earlier best friend, Kara, and from the world at large. She once told me about having looked up the words to see if they were in the big dictionary at school when she was in sixth grade and I was in fifth. No, it may have been fifth and fourth, come to think of it.

On another note, I think Ornshaw needs more credit for intelligence and sense. He’s obviously street smart. He’s poor/lower class, part of the class elements shown in the film. It seems he’s an orphan, if he is in the care of his grandfather, or perhaps more accurately, caring for his grandfather.

He’s a troublemaker and smartass, sure. He’s also either older than his grade level, or more mature. His having girly magazine pictures behind his bible in scripture class is a nice comparison to Daniel’s innocence in having gotten a girly magazine from a boy at school so he knows what they look like to try his hand at painting nudes. He’s completely matter of fact about it when his mother finds what he is doing, bored and on an artistic exploration.

What was Wellington doing in Spain in the first place? That’s a good question! I had to look it up. It has a valid answer, which might have been outside the scope of what the teacher wanted to discuss in history that day. Nice these days to have the internet. I never thought to wonder what Talavera was, even though I saw it referenced heavily in a series I like.  In that case, it’s the name of a ship, presumably named after the battle. To dismiss Ornshaw out of hand? Rude.

Questioning the merit of learning Latin? Not unreasonable. It would be easy to come up with reasons to study Latin and convey them, but why not just add some extra beatings to the schedule? Rude.

Ornshaw is also wiser than his ostensible age about girls and what people might be up to. He knows what Melody wants when her finds her waiting after the Latin punishment, and assiduously tries to get her to go away. He doesn’t want to lose Daniel to her, and at the same time advises Daniel not to cry in front of her and disposes of the towel for him. He eventually buy into the importance of the marriage ceremony and that it’s serious, not funny, when the other kids in the rebellion are still laughing despite knowing why they are gather together. He knows to try to be offputting to Melody in the cafeteria, and has jumped in to guide his friend away from either any further embarrassment, or falling into her clutches then and there. He’s smart enough to know that while Daniel’s mother is obnoxious and he has it bad that way, Daniel also has it good in a way. He knows that school won’t be forever. Those kinds of observations and bits of wisdom really remind me of Frank.

If I take Frank to be my Ornshaw, it fits with Jack Wild. Drinking contributed to Jack’s death, even though he’d kicked it long since. Smoking, too, which is where they don’t overlap. Frank died at 52 of cumulative effects of drinking. I somehow missed that he was an alcoholic until the last maybe dozen years of his life. That’s a surprisingly good job of hiding it.

Oh well, This ended up long, but it covered two posts that I’d been thinking of writing.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Ender’s Game

I am officially a homophobe and enemy of good LGBT polifodder everywhere because I darkened my soul with a viewing of Ender’s Game at the theater. I paid money! Oh my god I must support Card’s alleged views! The humanity! What would my gay uncle gay nephew, gay friends, and muddled nephew niece think!?

Aside from that, holy crap was it a brilliantly done movie.

Stunning visuals, amazing acting, brilliant adaptation, to the extent I remember the book after so long. I read the entire set through Children of the Mind, but one could easily stop with Ender’s Game. I forgot some details like his older brother. The main thing is that they did a stunning job on the challenge of fitting what mattered to tell the story into the length and format of a film, and made it look arguably better than my mind’s eye ever did.

I saw it at a $6.50 matinee on a modest screen. I’ve heard it gains from the big screen, but I was more than happy. I was also pleased they did not make a 3D version. I’ve gotten used to seeing most of the big movies in 3D and perhaps on a rilly rilly big screen in comfy seats that still lack enough leg room (and I have short legs!), but I was both on a budget and not concerned with that, on top of being saved by that production decision.

Backpacks

I was thinking about backpacks just the other day. My three kids all had to have them to start kindergarten. It’s required. I already knew that they were pretty much ubiquitous these days, but…

I was in school until 1979, and never once had a backpack. Not even in high school. Nor did other people, at least not enough for me to notice. Books and such were carried in your arms. It was awkward, inconvenient, even sometimes painful, but at least during school there were lockers, and generally not everything had to come home overnight. Yet I am no sure how we managed without them.

College was different. While I didn’t start college until 1982, they’d long been a given in that environment. I may not have known that until contemporaries started college in 1978 and 1979, but by the time it was my turn, I knew to head to the store and spend $30 (in 1982 dollars! For one far less good than my kids have for much less!) in anticipation of the backbreaking load of books I would have to cart around.

Funny how that works, seeing the same topic addressed right after I’ve pondered it myself.

Either-Or

Yesterday I saw Atlas Shrugged Part 2. This time around, it was playing at a nearby Regal theater, which also showed Obama’s America, so I didn’t have to drive to a far-flung, unfamiliar theater, as I did for Part 1.

Of the two, Part 2 is unquestionably better, and not merely due to the meatier, more exciting material. It also did not suffer from the cast changes as I thought it might.

If there was ever any question that Atlas Shrugged falls in the science ficion genre, this movie, even more than the book, argues that it does. Simply being future/alt-history suggests it, without some of the futuristic technologies or elements.

If there was ever any question that John Galt was inspired by Nikola Tesla, this movie, even more than the book, makes clear that he was. Among the special effects are those associated with efforts to get Galt’s “motor” for drawing unlimited power from the air to work without Galt around to help.

As an aside, such a device represents the ultimate intellectual property challenge. Obviously, if anyone can build such a device, can know how, have access to it for reverse-engineering, then selling electricity generated from it would not be lucrative for long. The very reason Tesla lost backing for the very device he allegedly had working or near to it. As such, it would have to remain a black box, unable to be accessed to reverse-engineer. At that, simply knowing such a thing was possible would set others on the path of figuring out how to create their own. On the other hand, one might accept it quickly falling into public domain or generating competition, given what it would do to the world, and given the other ways its inventor could then make money.

Anyway, I liked the movie a lot. The script was pared down from the source material skillfully, with inclusion of key points, some of which I might have expected to suffer. What it could not convey was Reardon’s internal guilt and thought processes that made blackmailing him successful. I am not sure this would have been clear to a viewer who’d never read the book, despite being subtly implicit.

The flash forward opening was a nice touch, drawing us in with excitement and adrenaline. The fact that it is set in near future modern times actually helps Reader’s Digest things. All the action regarding the tunnel disaster and the buck-passing is distilled into the central control room and the scene itself.

The root of money speech was there, briefer but more than adequate. The breakout was there. The cabin was there, but barely, and wasn’t it in New Hampshire originally? And not sitting on a flood plain, immediately beside water? The wet nurse was well done, and well acted, in that you could see the character developing and thinking without a word.

Most of the casting was good, even great. Esai Morales, whom I knew from the ill-fated Caprica, was a better Francisco. Lillian was equally good, perhaps better, even if the original was the one to fit my mental image. This one was at least as good at portraying that form of evil. I could see Cheryl’s gears starting to turn before the movie was out. I couldn’t remember if she had her final scenes in 2 or 3, but must be 3. Dagny was better. Reardon was as good or better, though he could have supplied the voice of Batman in the most recent films. Robert Picardo rocks anyway, and did in this. Even having read about Teller’s small speaking role, I almost missed who it was, and there were faces like that of Michael Gross that looked familiar but I didn’t place at the time. Wyatt wasn’t in it, but they showed his picture on the news as the guy from Part 1. I’d love to see him back, even if he is not as described in the book.

On an unexpected note, I loved the soundtrack, or score, if that’s the better term. I don’t usually even notice a soundrack. I stayed through the credits mainly for the music.

I’m still amused by DB Sweeney as Galt! And we still haven’t seen his face, even at the end, when he finally becomes a person, not a question. I will forever think of him as Doug Dorsey from The Cutting Edge, one of my favorite “good bad movies” of all time. I’ve watched it at least six times. In Part 3, seeing him in the actual role may allow me finally to picture him otherwise.

There was one point when I thought we might actually see Danneskold, who has been almost entirely left out of the movie adaptation, but it proved instead to be the scene when Reardon calls his lawyer and finally orders up a divorce. About time.

The times depicted are worse and yet shockingly similar to our current ones. The actions of government are familiar, as are the consequences. The use of consequences of government to justify even worse actions of government are familiar. Even timeless.

Could someone see it without Part 1? Absolutely, if they’ve read the book. Probably, even if they haven’t. It doesn’t start with one of those total recaps, but you get enough of an idea the circumstances and background. Perhaps I am biased.

Overall, it’s a better adaptaion than we might have had cause to expect, considering the density of the source.