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.

Sunday School

We’re talking – well, mostly the wife is talking while I play solitaire so my mind won’t wander – and the subject of Normal Borlaug came up. I had forgotten Borlaug’s birthday was on March 25th. Back in my blogging heyday, I would observe his birthday with a post. He was one of the greatest humans in history.

I interjected that I’d first heard of Norman Borlaug in Sunday school, of all things. Before I rebelled when I was 13 and refused to go to church any more, I would go some weeks and up to a certain age there was Sunday school. This could be fun and interesting, actually. I remember reading and learning about Borlaug in some publication that was the Sunday school equivalent of Weekly Reader. I never forgot that, young as I was.

For all I wasn’t religious and rebelled, I have a soft spot for the church basement where Sunday school was held. I also remember is being in the parish house when I was really little. I also have fond memories of the sisters I crushed on via church, first the one a little older and then the one a little younger than me.

Oh, I remember what I wanted to say besides mentioning Borlaug. School was for the most part a negative experience for me. Sunday was a day off from school. Thus there was extreme dissonance in putting the words Sunday and school together. Ugh. It didn’t have the pressure of school, but it was something I had to do and didn’t want to. It also involved people. A group of people of some size. This was never good for my autistic side and the need for down time.

Something Else I Learned Online Today

I had no idea that there was symbolism for kissing without kissing associated with sharing an apple.

Personally, seeing it in Melody, I thought: Yuck, I wouldn’t share an apple and take overlapping bites like that. I also thought: That’s so cute. I also thought: Well, if you’re in love and you’d kiss, how is it any different, risking the shared germs?

So it makes sense.

I just assumed the apple was included, besides as a useful visual, in reference to the lyrics of First of May. I assumed it was additionally included as a reference to growing up, becoming less innocent, learning to love, drawing on the “apple” reference from the bible in a sense.

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.

Marriage

It’s super ironic that the wife and I got married in the first place. When she was a blogger and I was a blogger and we met as a result, along the way she wrote a post about marriage. I was the only one who seemed to understand and agree with it. It’s been so long, I don’t remember exactly how she put it. I don’t recall it being all that clear, but I’d had the same thoughts. It’s long gone from the interwebs.

I’ll revisit the topic. I believe I have done so over the years, but it’s been a long time and much has happened over the years.

Marriage as we know it is a legal shortcut that helps you get things that governments can give you, or recognize, or steal from you differently. How rich is it, then, that there was such a push to make same sex marriage legal? You’re petitioning the government to let you have the same tax advantages as traditional marriages. You’re petitioning the government to grant you social security survivor benefits and such. You’re petitioning the government to save you legal costs of making arrangements that would have relatively the same results as automatic inheritance or next of kin rights and duties. You can give anyone your power of attorney, living will, or your possessions in event of your death. Marriage makes it easy. Heck, it even makes adopting a new surname or hyphenated surname easy, without getting a legal name change, which you certainly could do if you were committed and wanted to have the same name and have children with the same name as both parents.

That’s basically it. That’s why people seek it. Anything else is ritual, as I know was explored in Moonrise Kingdom and, less overtly, Melody. Not that the power and emotion of that is to be dismissed lightly, but anyone could “marry” you with no legal weight attached if that were all it was. In fact, if marriage has its origins mainly as a religious ceremony, it has origins as a ritual, a rite that might not have anything to do with government, but gives you the recognition of the church if you or enough others around you care about that. If a religion purports to have power over your reproduction, calling it a sin or an evil if not sanctioned, marriage is a powerful rite indeed. It’s always about power, about control. That’s how some people roll if we let them and don’t teach them well or worse, if they are beyond teaching. Religion and government fit naturally together, when they are not instead competing.

Freedom of association is one of those things that simply exists. Putting marriage in a box of how it must be is a restriction of that freedom.

In reality, there is no reason any person or people cannot form a bond with any one or more others, in something that looks a bit like marriage or like something we might not recognize, to achieve the same things marriage can achieve apart from the legal automation above, in practical and emotional spheres.

My favorite example is Heninlein’s line marriage concept. It’s a form of polygamy, which is not even a little bit wrong. It’s stable, has economic strength, is long lasting, and provides a wonderful framework for raising children.

Sex is just a small part of marriage, and it doesn’t even require sex. It just creates a socially acceptable construct for that to take place, historically. Lots of marriages turn entirely sexless, or mostly sexless, but they don’t end. I might not have gotten married if I’d expected that to happen. On the other hand, my reaction was “that’s it, that’s what all the fuss is about?” Perhaps I should have taken that to mean I was about to marry the wrong person and needed to have gotten around more, rather than being mystified that this was the driving force of civilization and culture. And not that it meant I wanted to sit out the last ten years, either. When it’s bad it’s good or something? But who is to say that you have to restrict yourself to a marital partner for that? The local priest? Please. Maybe one of the other spouses would work out well for that. Heh.

Even without tax benefits, marriage is about economic stability and mutual support. It’s about a stable environment for children. It’s beyond hard to raise children alone. I wanted children and got them, with a partner who is absolutely on the same page when it comes to raising kids. We knew that ahead of time. It might be as important, no more important, to know where you stand on that before marrying. That would be hard for 11 year olds to have a grasp of, even if they knew that eventually their relationship would involve sex. The thing is, if you’re stepping outside the marriage for sex, it potentially puts kids outside the marriage, and you need to be willing to deal with that possibility. They are as much yours as any you had with spouse(s). If nobody minds any of this, that makes it a de facto nontraditional marriage anyway, even if you’re officially in the traditional government construct of two spouses.

When I got married, part of the impetus was that I was having trouble affording the apartment and bills by myself, and maintaining housekeeping by myself, though at least it was just me to pick up after. I was thinking I’d have a partner on the home front, a booster encouraging me to go get ‘em at the business, and an economic contributor to help even things and make paying everything easier. Two people cost less than double. The reality was gaining a dependent and then kids when I was barely covering myself, but the concept still stands, and kicked in later. That was almost eleven years ago, less than a year before the ten years ago thing. A group marriage might give more potential dependents, but it also gives more hands. Something of a tribe, more than a traditional man and wife. I’ve known people you could call “heterosexual life mates” who have some of the benefits of a marriage, economically, without there ever being sex or a legal marriage, same sex or not. You can’t always know those two women who have lived together for many years are lesbians, or that one or both wouldn’t be thrilled to have their way with a man. In ways that matter, they are family.

How would I explain marriage to Melody and Daniel? Well, it might be time for them to know about sex in more than a vague way, if they don’t already. I would tell them it’s more about mutual support, about a stable environment, all that. I would tell them that having romantic love for each other is wonderful, and is how marriages often start, but that there is more to it than that, and those feelings might not survive, or remain so strong. Just having those feelings and wanting to be together all the time is not reason to be married, even if it were legal at that age. But marriage is a legal vehicle anyway. People can be together without ever being married, and be perfectly happy. Perhaps even happier. Live, be together as much as you can, continue growing up, and see what happens in a few years.

Politically, things went the wrong direction. Instead of forcing government to recognize more marriages, which has slippery slope potential for those who hate the idea of things like legally sanctioned polygamy, we should have been backing the government out of marriage. Why should it be licensed? Why should it have special treatment?

Well, I can answer that last one. You give special treatment to what you encourage. Encouraging people to make more people and be able to raise them in a stable way is what a government does to subjects when it wants to ensure more subjects without simply importing and, ideally, integrating them. If we aren’t subjects, why treat us as such? The government here is us, not a king.

Marriage shouldn’t exist as a legal vehicle controlled by government. People should be able to have any arrangement they want that is marriage-like or family-like without permission, so long as nobody is harmed. Actual harm, not pretend harm. That doesn’t mean there can’t be religious rites, or private purveyors of registration or contractual arrangements that are ready made for common scenarios. It’s just an odd thing to do with government, even if it goes back millennia.

Orville and Connections I Make

I watched the latest episode of The Orville a while ago. I have to go to bed too early to watch it Thursday night, so it’s a Friday morning ritual once I am home. As I told the wife, not every episode is going to be in the best science fiction ever aired on television that last week was, but it was good, and unexpected. For instance, I knew River Tam there had to be involved in the destruction somehow, but I wondered if she could destroy ships with her brain or what else the mystery mechanism might be.

I was also telling the wife that they not only have an Admiral Halsey, but also an Admiral Perry. Heinz Doofenshmirtz would be sad. Everybody knows the name Ted Danson, but the wife didn’t recognize Victor Garber, who plays Halsey. She never watched Alias at all, not even a little as I did. Other than that, to me his most notable role was as one of the friends in Sleepless In Seattle, one of the me movies I named. I forgot While You Were Sleeping when I wrote that post. Those two movies sound antithetical to each other, but I lean toward loving both of them.

Scrolling all the way down, I found Garber’s first role was as Jesus in Godspell, released in March 1973. Doesn’t look at all like the distinguished older gentleman we’ve long seen him as in more recent decades. There’s a video of the song Day By Day as used in the film, and you can see him there. However, the song was on the charts before then.

We sang Day By Day in chorus in 6th grade, which was the 1972-1973 school year. 99% Sure it was 6th, not 5th, and it’d be logical all around, plus well timed with respect to the movie, notwithstanding the song and stage production weren’t new. I’ve long had it on MP3 and just can’t help singing along with it, despite not being religious. It makes me happy and takes me back.

So there you go. From Orville to Godspell and chorus at the twilight of elementary school. It’s the fundamental interconnectedness of all things at work.

Melody and Religion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

All of which goes back to my looking at the timeline of the film. Not that the hymn couldn’t be used any time of the year, and not that the assembly is on a Sunday, but given the time of year the film obviously occurs, they would have to be near Trinity Sunday at the time. In 1970, the year Melody was Filmed, Trinity Sunday was May 23 24. In 1971, the year of release, it was June 6.

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

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