Alternate Timelines and Yesterday (Spoilers)

As I mentioned in another post, I loved the Yesterday movie. It left a lot of questions and speculations, if you care to ask or entertain them. I’ll try not to be entirely specific, but the spoiler warning is in case I drift into spoilage or you consider some of the roundabout chatter to spoil things even though it’s more about storytelling mechanics and such.

Alternate timelines are a science fiction staple. It is common to ask “what if thing didn’t happen” or “…happened this other way” and tell a story from there. However, you can find yourself in an alternate  reality and you know – if not instantly – things are different. However, you might not know the full suite of things that are different. You might not know the point of departure that led to those things. Finding out some of that can be part of a story. Leaving things open to conjecture can be fun, too.

In a story idea I started writing and didn’t finish but am still working on and improving in my head, the thing was not only a different timeline, but in the past relative to the timeline of the travelers. The mechanism was a portal of unknown origin. Things being different becomes a big part of the story, even as some things are familiar.

As I came up with things that would be different, in a local area to local people, I came up with a series of how could that be, and eventually I looked at what might be the point of departure. Even though that may never be known to the people involved, I wanted to know. But once I knew, it made me think of all the other things that could be different, which helped give me my theory of timeline inelasticity.

Well, Yesterday is nothing less than a story of crossed timelines as entered unceremoniously by the star of the film, but never explained. It would hardly surprise those who haven’t seen the movie yet to know that no Beatles isn’t the only thing we learn is different. The nature of things that are different sets the expectation of how far back the point of departure goes. In the case of the movie, possibly farther back than the one I came up with for my story fuel. Possibly hundreds of years. At least to the 1800s. It doesn’t explore to any real degree the knock on effects of the Beatles themselves having been eliminated as a cultural and social influence. It’s highly focused on being the story it is, and there might be a lesson in that.

That it’s an alternate timeline begs some questions. How did Jack get there? Presumably the other timeline exists. Did that Jack die and his consciousness and memories went to this Jack? Does that Jack remember no Beatles and find himself surprised to be in a timeline with them? How related to all this was the global power flicker?

If they are playing it as not an alternate timeline, but one that was miraculously altered, it’s not just a memory wipe of sorts. There are physical effects. Jack’s Beatles albums are simply absent from his collection. One would expect anything like memorabilia, toys, posters, anything inspired by them to be gone. That’s easy and even mandatory in an alternate timeline that is physically different. I just can’t see it being the same timeline and same people. Easier the other way, for a given person to transfer over and replace the existing analogue, or for the consciousness of the two to swap between otherwise extremely close timelines.

From there, thinking about a different timeline, you can think about how any given life might have been different. You could go crazy doing that. Fun!

Bushcraft

I added bushcraft as a category because it’s one of my interests, but I haven’t posted about it any more than I’ve practiced it. I end up being more armchair and wishful thinking than practitioner. I watch videos of others. I wish I’d known to take advantage of the opportunity I had when I lived in the middle of the woods when I was a kid. It was some of my early YouTube viewing that led me to Alone when the show was new. I found Mitch Mitchell’s videos and was intrigued because he was obviously local. I could tell by the appearance of the woods where he shot videos, and then one day he had Market Basket matches.

This goes hand in hand with a prepper mindset. That’s something I grew up with. There were the grandparents who’d survived extreme poverty and acted accordingly the rest of their lives. Cue the importance of rotating your canned food and such. It doesn’t hurt that I’ve been through extreme poverty and, by some standards, still am. Then there’s the Cold War mentality that never went away and had terrorism thrown on top of it. It really marks your psyche to grow up with the threat and even the assumption of the nukes raining down any time. As far as we knew there were no prime targets right around us. My grandfather’s employer’s munitions business was a thing of the past. The local testing grounds, secret at the time, were WW2 vintage. Boston and the route 128 region would have been a big target, though, so close enough.

I’m decidedly haphazard about these things. At any given time, as long as water and natural gas or other means of cooking were not an issue, depending on how we rationed it, five of us could go weeks on the food in the house. Take away electricity and we’d end up gorging on what’s in the freezer before rationing through the cabinets, but hey. There are useful things in the vehicles, but perhaps not complete or ideal sets of useful things. I could set up a pretty good camp out of the trunk of the car, for as many people as the car holds, but we’d pretty much be in the clothes on our backs and lacking things like blankets. The truck has less room and I’m less free to stuff things in behind the seats. It’s her baby. Otherwise it might have been replaced by something more practical years ago. Still. I had a scheme to equip it with a survival pack of sorts and just haven’t completed the task yet. A lot of the stuff I have that should be available to do that, or to grab and go from the house, is in “where did I put that” limbo.

That overlaps the set of things I take camping because they’ll be needed or just in case. Some of it’s sitting here in an undersized backpack that’s perfectly nice, but is a lesson in looking at specs when contemplating an Amazon purchase, and figuring out just what those dimensions it list will mean in person. I took it last summer to a friend’s cabin in Maine. I camped in the yard. It’s back up in the woods and on enough land to have been perfect for messing around. Build this or that type of natural shelter. That sort of thing. It was like 100 degrees The Whole Week and nobody wanted to do anything. Except go out to eat and go in the local pond repeatedly, giving myself a great opportunity to get severe swimmer’s ear. The same pond was the location of the July 4 fireworks and a little carnival, which was cool. Kids went on a few rides. Ironic, since we never go to the little carnival that finances the fireworks in our own town. Too expensive. Probably not far removed in cost from the one in Maine. But vacation! In Maine! So that’s different?

I don’t intend to go to the cabin again, even in the unlikely event the chance arises.. I haven’t put in for the vacation time I often take the week of the 4th, and have made no specific plans. It’s been a few years since I took the kids camping at the state forest. Last time it was pretty awful due to an invasion of what you might call city folk. For the kids camping = swimming. I might try going myself for 1-2 night outings just for away time. I may have talked about this when I grumbled about my difficulty focusing. Try doing some writing. Use paper. Otherwise I’d say do a bunch of reading, but reading isn’t as much of a problem. Anyway, the kids are getting old enough to have stronger opinions about going or not, and to be able to stay home if they choose. The youngest doesn’t like camping the way the other two do, and of course the wife simply doesn’t camp. The kids wouldn’t eat the campfire food I made that one time. We end up eating a lot of junk/convenience food or going to the local fast food. Sad.

Rambling aside, I’ve had ideas for a while now about incorporating bushcraft, or simply camping, into fiction. For that matter, the beta of the portion of a book that I started did just that. Kids are about to go camping with their dad when they find themselves in an alternate past, so they have backpacks and a couple things they’re carrying. They find themselves in a swampy woods and make themselves a shelter to sleep in the first night, after some initial exploration and finding a good spot. Complete with a nearby outhouse that existed in real life in that time and place. In our timeline, anyway.

One of the things I think about sometimes is incorporating a “survival” scenario, inspired by my own half-assed prepping and randomness, where you’re stuck getting by with what’s on you, or what’s in your vehicle, rather than with the ideal supplies. Shades of one of the periodic YouTuber scenarios. Lost hunter, all you have is a pocket knife (if that), for instance. Overnight with $10 in supplies picked from a dollar store or Walmart is always fun, but contrived. If I found myself off the road in my car and through hand waving a scenario wasn’t disabled but also couldn’t leave the area by much or get help, I wouldn’t have food and water. I wouldn’t have a pot for boiling water. I’d have more than one tarp and, last I knew, a tent. I’d have a tiny first aid kit and there might be a lighter or matches somewhere. I’d have no spare clothing, blanket or sleeping bag. I’d have a bunch of tools and odd junk. I’d have a folding saw, the key knife in my pocket, a self-lighting Coleman 2 burner propane stove and probably a small thing of propane, and an old propane lantern. There’d be at least two flashlights, some rope and twine, some duct tape, and a bunch of empty soda bottles and cans.  There’d be a dull hatchet. Empty, never used 2.5 gallon gas jug. It’d be downright cushy, entirely aside from any scenario in which you have an intact vehicle meaning you have instant shelter, and an anchor for extending shelter around it given things like tarps.

Then there’s the scenario where I am on foot. I have my keys and the tiny but sharp key knife. I have a pen or two, some pieces of paper towel, the contents of my wallet, and whatever I am wearing. That gets much more rustic.

In the truck there’s a small bag packed with tools, a tiny first aid kit that has a crappy folding knife and some matches tucked in it, maybe a tarp, maybe a trash bag, some rope, some empty bottles and cans, a flashlight or two, and not much else. It’s less roomy to shelter in. Given enough of a tarp, the bed could be covered for an off the ground sleeping shelter. Stuff in some dead leaves?

I’m rambling. It’ll be interesting to see what Alone does with a more northerly location this year. Some of it depends just how late in the year they started filming. I amuse myself sometimes by chastising the contestants, who know and have practiced a lot more than me, for doing silly things, or failing to do things, when I probably wouldn’t make it as far as them. There’s another element of the not fully prepared scenario: Writing it as someone who only has academic knowledge of survival skills.

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.

Forming Ideas

After the previous post, I poked around and discovered the trick of creating a Google Form to enter writing ideas from anywhere that the URL will bring up the form. It can be set to go to a spreadsheet, rather than simply being shown in the results tab when you’re on the form as the user who created it. Making the type of input a paragraph provides freedom for it to be extensive and freeform as  needed.

I have a shortcut to it on my phone and have tested it, though not over phone data rather than WiFi. I had meant to do that in the parking lot at work this morning.

It does me no good if there’s no internet, but if I am in a store or in a parking lot or whatever and have my phone, I can record a thought. That’s a start. I need to get the link onto my Kindle as well.

Writing and Distractions

I’m flowing with writing ideas, and I see it as the only thing I want to do that I can see myself doing. I also see it as a way to make a living, maybe even a decent one, as I head into my old age and increasingly toward my actual underfunded retirement. As opposed to the state of semi-retirement I have occupied for eleven years for various reasons and circumstances. One of the reasons I’ve been blogging relatively heavily is to have that flow going, and to have at least some outlet for the urge to write. I’ve actually written for a living, in a sense, in the past. It’s just that was a role pioneering Microsoft’s web-based tech support in the nineties, rather than the traditional forms of writing you might picture.

The trouble is, I feel privileged if I am able to complete so much as a blog post without losing track of what I was saying due to interruption or distraction.

First, the wife – sometimes the kids, but 98% the wife – interrupts freely without regard to whether I may or may not be concentrating or in the middle of something. We are back to a closed door not mattering, let alone the “working” sign not working. The latter has been foiled by my forgetting ever to flip it from “Working” to “Miller Time” but then again I almost never like to be interrupted. It doesn’t matter if I am writing, working on a web site, doing the proverbial checkbook, reading, or watching something.

Second, myself. I’m on this computer, online, and even if internet is down, with solitaire playable on it. Worse, perhaps, last time I made a major attempt at book writing, I had to be online because I used Google Docs.

I don’t have the space to adopt Jerry Pournelle’s monk’s cell concept, with or without the computer there being online. It would create a clear “do not disturb” zone for others, and a psychological change for my own benefit.

As unimpressed as I’ve been with Martin’s writing, I love his idea of writing on a dedicated DOS computer using WordStar. My first major word processor was WordStar 5.0, on a 286 with DOS. One of the good DOS versions. I think it was 3.3, then I was fortunate to have my newer version be 5 and then 6. I missed the ones before 3.3, and the versions between that and 5, except in passing on computers that were not my own. I adored WordStar 5.0 and had many of the keystrokes memorized. While I was using that, I actually had the chance to try WordPerfect and thought it was about the worst thing ever. My roommate loved it. You could do fancier things if you had the time and inclination to learn how. To be fair, I didn’t need anything fancier than you can do in Windows Notepad. I eventually used others, most notably Ami Pro, which created the resume I used for getting the job doing tech support that, it turned out, was for Word 6 (and the earlier ones if anyone called). I had tried Word 2 and dismissed it before that, but I fell in love with Word 6. It helped to have had intensive training on it.

So I have three problems:

  1. I get distracted too easily, as if I have ADHD more than I ever would have credited.
  2. I get interrupted by others.
  3. I have technical and environmental issues that maximize distraction and hinder focus.

Another thought: I have been known to have trouble bringing myself to reread my stuff to revise [case in point: right here I got interrupted for about an hour, with the biggest component being the wife], edit, or rewrite. This fits well with a possible attack on the goal and problem that I am considering.

We have sometimes talked about my going camping all by myself as a solitary retreat, even for a night. This idea originated with the wife, oddly enough. It makes sense. Camping is the kind of thing I can afford. She doesn’t camp, unless you count the level of rustic involved in going to a friend’s cabin in the woods, using an outhouse or composting toilet, having no refrigeration and modest cooking facilities, and having electricity via a solar setup or generator. There’s hot water and a well. You pretty much have to use the generator to run the pump to fill the tank to have some showers. When we all went there last summer, it was ungodly hot and that was miserable. I spent a lot of time in a pond and that gave me a severe “swimmer’s ear” infection. We almost entirely ate restaurant food or stuff that needed neither cooking nor cooling.

Besides swimming if there’s a pond, walking in the woods with someone who appreciates it (myself), cooking campfire food for the only one who wants it, and reading a lot, that would be a chance to write.

On paper. Realistically, I’d have to write on paper. It’s hard enough to bring a Kindle or two and a phone, keep them charged if the duration is long enough to need it. To write I’d either have to do it on a Kindle or get something portable but bigger. Or use paper.

If I use paper, I can write anywhere. I can sit in a parking lot! I used to write handwritten letters that way. I could pointedly get out of the house, go sit somewhere and spew into a notebook. Not in the yard, since I’d have no peace there. I’d have one of the neighbors standing by the car talking my ear off. Or at the picnic table.

I’d need to get the stuff into electronic form later, and that would force me to read what I had written while transcribing. There would inevitably be at least minor edits and corrections in the process. This may be the part that pushes me hardest to do it.

Another thing I’ve concluded is that I need multiple ideas going at once. I flit too much between things. If the things I have for flitting between are different pieces of writing or planning on paper for stories, then I am more likely to get something done on some of it, rather than nothing on any. That isn’t tied to where I write and the mechanics of it. It’s tied to recognition of my own inability to focus indefinitely on one project without flagging or pursuit of a shiny thing.

I’ve sometimes wondered if I ought to dictate some of my writing. It strikes me as slow yet spontaneous. If I were to work at a modern computer, dictating could be an option for creating a version that needs serious editing. It might have enough of a different feel, revising that, to keep me from dragging my feet. There’s a… stigma, for lack of a better word… associated with speech to text dictation. I spent years supporting Dragon Naturally Speaking for a law firm. I also did a presentation in college – in 1984! – on the state of work being done on voice recognition technology. At the time, they thought they almost had it. Even Dragon was sketchy and got gradually better over several years in basically the early aughts. Now it’s pretty much a given that any voice will be recognized with reasonable to near perfect accuracy by a device, without training or speaking carefully. That’s massive computing power and AI for you. It’s how we have spy devices for our homes, able to understand what we say when we address them. But I digress.

If I get in the writing habit and work on the distraction and focus angle, so long as I have the ideas, this could work.

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.

Trouble Is a Friend

Something triggered the vague memory of a music video I used to watch. I couldn’t remember who it was, but I remembered a bear and an eye, and the thing being partially animated. I also knew that it was associated with my friend Paula, because I discovered the artist through her Facebook likes several years ago. The song seemed fitting for her, and was one of two by the artist that I found I liked a lot. The other one was The Show, which is cute.

Anyway, I started out with something like female singer music video bear eye and got nowhere. Then I remembered she was Australian! Female Australian singers gave me a scrollable horizontal row of artists and there she was, a couple scrolls over: Lenka.

If that hadn’t worked, I might have thought to look at Paula’s profile to see if I could rediscover who it was from her music likes. After Paula’s awesome son died in a tragic work accident maybe three years ago, leaving two babies and a young wife behind, trouble was definitely more of a foe for her. The whole thing still jars me to the core, and I’m not family as she is. I hadn’t even met him, but he was highly regarded and my town rallied behind his family.

I digress and the digression is making me cry. In a way, the whole thing hits close to home because I did have a crush on her in 6th grade, when she was in 5th, and the interest never completely died for all it was never red hot as it was with someone like Ella. She would arguably be the more likely of the two candidates for a Melody-like story based on my own youth. I had planned probably to include an analog to her, and her brother, in my alternate timeline book(s). If my life had gone just slightly differently, she would be one of the more likely people for me to have had kids with at a younger age than what actually happened. (Jeez, that brings up another topic!) As such, the death hit me in a “could have been my kid” way even more than just having a contemporary’s kid I’d never met die might have.

Enough of that. Here is Trouble is a Friend by Lenka:

 

 

Awstats Not the Most Useful Thing

I’ve grumbled about this before, including in the recent post about a hit for Tracy Hyde pics that, when I search it, brings up no actual result pointing here. Now I also see one for Tracy Hyde photo, same deal. Most of the “search phrases” reported by Awstats are things like attacku3k, pressdjv, changing1gx, holdk6w, etc. Completely strange and bogus. Then again, the referrers are almost completely fake, too: Referrer spam, in hopes you might click them when you look at your stats, or something. Some of them are topical, at least, like one that points to something on how to be assertive.

Why purport to show search strings in the stats when obviously you can’t or won’t? So far this month, through about 90 minutes ago, I have about 437 hits from Google. The rest are trivial. By comparison to supposed hits from other sources like “direct address,” “bookmark,” or “link in e-mail,” search hits are trivial. However, that is based on “pages,” which is a number inflated by spammers or other malicious sources hitting things on the site that might not even be visible to people. It’s what happens when you get a relative monoculture of one convenient CMS such as WordPress. Or even an oligarchical culture of a few such things, rather than a wild west of people writing their own HTML. Then again, the nature of the web is relatively transparent regardless. Back in the day, PCs using a Microsoft OS got viruses or malware, and, as people would say, “Apple doesn’t get viruses.” Aim at the big target.

So really those Google hits are probably actual people less a portion of malicious sources arriving via search, and are some fair portion of the 2317 “unique visitors” so far this month. Yet the stats can’t see what the search strings were and report them? I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s some obfuscation from Google going on, since they are in the business of reporting their own results if you sign your site up with them. Google Analytics, in my experience, is a bit like hitting a gnat with a sledgehammer. Also I haven’t seen actual search strings there, on sites where I have used it, though it’s possible they must be if you look hard enough through the mess that is the interface.

The most useful thing I can discern currently is that an overwhelming amount of my traffic is now from Great Britain, with the next two being a race back and forth between Japan and United States. That’s how it settled out since blocking enough malicious IP addresses to reduce the numbers from the usual suspect countries. What do I post about a lot? Melody, the 1971 movie. Where was it filmed and where did it eventually if not instantly become popular? Great Britain. The actors tend to be from England or elsewhere in the UK. Some of them are actually part of the movie’s fandom. Where was it a runaway hit? Japan. However they’re finding it, that’s gotta be the source of a lot of traffic.

For some reason, this post is particularly popular as a landing page, and has been almost since I posted it, but after that is the category for Melody. Above both of those are the main page, naturally, and the feed. How are that many people reading via RSS? This is not my blogging heyday. Heck, in my blogging heyday, I’d have considered these great stats. I’ve had individual posts avalanched with tens of thousands of hits in years past, but not in a long time. Anyway, after that some of the results include popular ancient posts on an archived site at this domain that was created in Expression Engine and never ported to WordPress. Brave souls, going there when the pages consist of long lists of PHP errors before and after the actual post. The version of PHP on the server outstripped the version supported by EE.

So I can discern a few things mainly by looking at the stats. Melody posts generate some interest. So do some of the music posts. Google sends me a lot of mystery traffic from searches. For all I know, a lot of that goes to the archived site. A weird number of people use the feed. Most of the traffic is nefarious. All I get for comments are spam ones, which I believe these days are generally automated. The mix of pages people visit via HTTPS is substantially different, with the residual politics category and history category being far above Melody, but the total coming that way is dwarfed by plain HTTP.

It’d be fun to see a better report of the search results, but oh well.

How It Should Have Ended

I still haven’t done the Melody blurb rewrite, but thinking about that has left me amused to imagine Melody getting the Honest Trailers treatment, or the How It Should Have Ended (HISHE) treatment. Obviously I can’t readily create videos that would emulate those, even if I came up with content that would make them work, but I can imagine Epic Voice Guy talking about coming for the short skirts on pubescent girls and staying for the story of love, friendship, and childhood anarchy in a world of clueless adults.

As for how it should have ended, that’s a darn good question! It’s possible that the ending is perfect for what the movie strives to do, and it’s just the questions of what happens after that make it feel incomplete. Moonrise Kingdom doesn’t leave us hanging in the same way. But then, Moonrise Kingdom also deals more seriously with the marriage thing, and leaves the kids knowing they can’t really get married, but a ritual won’t hurt. You can see Sam and Suzy ending up together forever. But Sam is more Ornshaw than Daniel. Heck, Suzy is perhaps more Daniel than Melody.

Melody could have ended with each of the lovebirds having it explained to them what marriage is about, even without the sex talk and detail of that part, and about the legalities. They could have been allowed to have a ceremony that would mean something to them and then carry on without there being trauma. If they drifted apart, well, that happens, but they could simply have been particularly young boyfriend and girlfriend until they grew up enough to have it not be unusually young and still loved each other, or grew up enough to grow apart and move on. Perhaps if the adults have sense, when they are rounded up and returned home after the ending, or when they return home themselves upon realizing they’ve nowhere else to go, that might be how it goes. That’s about the happiest after-ending you could have without invoking pure fantasy.

Not what I set out to cover in this post, which is already much longer than I’d expected, but I had further thoughts on the class and family aspects. You have Ornshaw, essentially an orphan, low class but super smart, if sassy. You have Daniel upper/middle class but may as well be an orphan, with a horrible family situation and a mom who is simultaneous neglectful and an overbearing helicopter mom before the term was invented.  Then you have Melody, working class but with a more normal, which is not to say imperfect, family situation. We watch Daniel fall in love with her family and perhaps that makes him love her even more. Arguably the scenes with her father are meant to contrast with Daniel’s father, absent even when present, entirely disengaged. For all Melody finds her dad buffoonish at tea, for Daniel it’s a pleasant switch.

Anyway, How It Should Have Ended: Melody. That would be fun. An honest trailer would be easier, since you could use actual footage and create a voiceover. I wouldn’t begin to be able to animate any HISHE type of video.

When You Never Watched The Movie…

You write a DVD cover blurb that sounds like this utterly ridiculous one from the Melody DVD:

An excellent musical score by the Bee Gees adds appeal to this curious little movie about two ten year olds, Daniel and Melody (Mark Lester and Tracy Hyde) who are completely taken with each other and announce to their parents, in all seriousness, that they plan to get married. This marriage is not planned for the distant future, but as soon as possible. The uproar that is caused when their seriousness becomes clear is not too surprising. Their best friend Ornshaw (Jack Wild) is not too thrilled with their plan either. What makes the film work is that the entire story is told from the children’s point of view in which the grownups’ objections, since they have no relation to the truth of what the children are feeling, come across as silly or inconsequential. This film is a reunion of sorts for Oscar-winning Oliver! co-stars Mark Lester and Jack.

My aim is to rewrite this using the same amount of words/space, so my text could be used in the same spot on a DVD case. Or as a brief description that might actually make the film sound like something you might enjoy seeing. I transcribed from the case to help with that end, but that allows me to post and critique it her. This is vastly more annoying than the reviews you see by people who sound as if they never saw the film.

The music not only adds appeal, but also was incorporated into creation of the story concept and the writing of the script. That phrasing sounds like damning with faint praise.  That gets worse when it is described as “this curious little movie.” That tells me the writer found the movie odd at best and is warning people that there is a good chance they won’t like it.

The kids are not ten. They are eleven. While their age is never outright stated, the school year and time of year makes them 11 or so close as not to matter. This also fits with the ages of the actors, though that is moot in that Jack Wild was 17 and Lesley Roach was 16, yet they were playing kids who were also 11. It’s possible that kids in the grade level could be as old as 12, but few would be lower than 11 by late in the equivalent of American fifth grade. Not that it matters. My equivalent crush with some surprising similarities was around the time I turned 10.

Why do we need to mention Mark Lester’s name twice? Why do we cut off in the middle of Jack Wild’s name, at the end, so he is mentioned one and a half times?

At no time do the kids announce to their parents that they intend to get married. It is probable that both sets find out, but the only ones we see knowing and doing a poor job of talking her out of it are Melody’s. The closest we see Daniel coming to announcing it (which doesn’t mean it didn’t happen off-screen) is when his mother finds the note saying that they are eloping.

Melody and the love between the two kids is central to the story, but not remotely the only part of it. If you could say it’s about one thing, that would be love. But it’s love between friends as well.

About the only thing in the description that is accurate is that the story was told from the point of view of the children. I’m not sure it’s the objections to the marriage idea that come across as silly and inconsequential so much as it is the general incompetence of the adults that makes them come across that way in general.

I might never have paid enough attention to this to tear into it, except my oldest used the description as the basis for her decision not to watch the movie. That was what cause me even to read it. I was horrified.

Temptation Eyes

Or: One of My Stranger Misheard Lyrics.

When The Grass Roots came out with Temptation Eyes in 1970, I just loved it. It’s so catchy. It never gained any special association with an individual. It was too early for that. I know I heard it partly via my brother, but it didn’t really stick as a song associated with him. One of the guys in the band actually reminds me of him in appearance.

Later I associated I’d Wait a Million Years with Daphne, appropriately, since I’d have had to wait that long. Midnight Confessions came to be associated with the wife’s wandering back when it was at its height and I was at my most irritated and hurt about it. I had an entire playlist of songs for that. (Speaking of, I love when I’m banging away at the keyboard and she starts talking, so I keep pausing to try to remember what I was thinking and saying, then bang furiously some more before the thought can slip again, rinse and repeat, as during these two paragraphs up to about where I started this parenthetical. But if I can do that, it beats all the times I’ve been trying to type something and just had to stop, never again to remember my train of thought.)

So the funny lyric things? Remember I turned 9 in 1970. Then they sing “I want her all for myself” with the words somewhat slurred, I was hearing “I wanna roffle myself.” Roffle?! I had no idea what they were saying. Now we have ROFL, so if you hear roffle it might be ROFL. It didn’t take long for me to figure it out. Not years and years and needing the web to do so, at least. Too funny.

I’m surprised the song didn’t chart higher. At the time they were current, this and Sooner or Later were the songs I knew them for. Two Divided By Love, too! How could I forget that. It was another from my separation playlist.

 

But What’s The Plot?

I’ve been thinking a lot about a variant on the type of story seen in Melody or Moonrise Kingdom, based as a starting point on personal experience and local settings of the time. I’d need to start by putting it into writing as a fleshed out story, not by having grandiose ideas that I could go right to a screenplay. However, it’s helping me to visualize how it might play out on screen. I’d already found myself using that trick for a story set back similarly far in time, with kids suspiciously like my own and a younger me running into each other because science fiction. I’ve even thought of integrating the two ideas to some degree.

I realized that I am not sure I have a point. For me personally it’s nostalgia and what might have been. What is the audience getting from it? What do they get from the others?

I haven’t watched all of Moonrise Kingdom, but I’ve watched clips and seen it dissected and so forth. It’s partly a personality study and shows that the two of them complete and kind of heal each other. They also help the community they are part of… grow up, or something like that. It’s a stylized presentation. It shows the importance of rituals, even if they aren’t legally binding, in a way that Melody never manages or attempts to talk about. It will forever be important to Daniel and Melody, and leave a lasting tie between them, that they were “married.” It doesn’t matter that it’s not legal. It doesn’t matter that it was performed by a friend, in front of a group of friends and classmates. It doesn’t matter that Ornshaw never finished saying “…man and wife.” It doesn’t matter if they remain an item or ever marry for real, though that would make it even more special.

Perhaps it’s about the importance of family and about being understood. I really have to watch Moonrise Kingdom soon. From what I have seen, it looks like I might find it both less charming and relatable, and more coherent than Melody.

Melody is about love, mostly. Love of friends. Puppy love or romantic love, depending how seriously you take it at that age. Some have said the real story is the relationship between Orshaw and Daniel, which tosses out class distinctions (which also exist with Melody, who is a happier middle between the two boys), and which survives Melody, despite having been threatened by the girlfriend coming between them.

It’s about how serious love between the kids is, to the kids, in the face of adults being old miseries. It’s about how ridiculous the adults seem, to the kids, and in fact are more objectively. Yes, it’s a nostalgia trip to when many of us felt that way, looked through that window and saw That Girl who stopped our world in its tracks. Or had That Boy look at us like that and found ourselves taken with the fact that he was “quite a nice boy, really.”

I’m still not sure I see the rebellion as being anything but support for the rest of the story. It did notice, speaking of little details, and forgot to mention that at the end it’s not the groups of boys and girls, but a group of all the kids, celebrating the same end, having wanted the same thing. Maybe I’m missing something.

Incomplete, inaccurate, or varying in mileage as my offhand conclusions may be, they represent something that’s a takeaway from the films. I need not only a climax to the story, more dramatic than boy likes girl, girl reciprocates, they hang out, things get in the way, they run off to the woods or something, they are found, people are sorry they picked on poor Rudolph., but also something learned or demonstrated. Or I’m over-analyzing and could have been an English major instead of an accounting major. Accounting is never analytical, after all.

This is the part I find myself thinking about now. Characters, including supporting characters, their motivations, their interactions, and the outcome and lessons of it all.

Mick Jagger

Seeing the news – if it’s not an elaborate April Fool’s joke – that Mick Jagger needs heart valve surgery made me think that he needs Camille Davis (Muriel) to kiss him and make him all better.

Speaking of Muriel, I have only met one Muriel in my entire life, at my first job, in late 1979 or the beginning of 1980. I liked her a lot, and loved the name. She was, compared to me at the time, a much older woman.

I never thought of using the name for one of my kids. It’s not ideal with the actual surname, but wouldn’t be ridiculous. The wife vetoed Wendy. I didn’t come out and suggest Karen. Kaylee would have fit, but we weren’t sure we wanted to bandwagon onto a Firefly name. Melody would have been ideal, had the name come to mind at all. It would have flowed better with the same middle name and the surname. She has an angelic voice and writes her own songs, so the music association would fit. I didn’t realize how much I liked the name Molly until later. It would also have worked, if not fit as ideally. Middle name would have needed to be different. But I digress.

I tend to associate the names Muriel and Ariel with each other. There was an obscure song when I was near the end of high school that was named Ariel. It seems to be a more common name than Muriel, and of course it was Disneyed. I know one Arielle. Same name, variant spelling.

The M thing is something I noticed in passing recently. Melody. Muriel. Maureen. Peggy is usually short for Margaret. That just leaves Rhoda the odd one out. None of that was probably intentional, but certainly when writing a story you get lots of leeway in selecting names. It’s like having a bunch of babies!

Joking aside, I hope Mick has successful surgery and recovers well. He’s in good shape. He has to be to do the things he does on stage.

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.

Concert Dates and Life

I recently realized that it’s 2019 and that I might be able to determine online the exact date of each of the concerts I had ever attended. In the process of almost complete success at this, I realized that I had been to even fewer concerts than I thought. I have already covered them almost completely in posts here. There’s only one or two that I missed, and if it’s the one, then it’s not a huge story. I expect I’ll include that below the list. I’ll put them in order, with artist, opener if noteworthy, date and venue.

Beach Boys
May 20, 1979
Providence Civic Center

Bee Gees
August 28, 1979
Providence Civic Center

Cheap Trick
Feb 28, 1981
Boston Garden

Moody Blues
July 15, 1981
Providence Civic Center

ELO
Oct 3, 1981
Boston Garden

Foreigner with Joe Walsh
Nov 5, 1985
Worcester Centrum

Pink Floyd
May 6, 1988
Foxboro Stadium

Styx with Pat Benatar
June 27, 1997
Great Woods

The Guess Who
2005???
August 31, 2002
South Shore Music Circus

The last one was weirdly stubborn. It has to be 2004 or 2005. It was warm. It wouldn’t have been warm in the part of 2004 it would have been or in the part of 2005 it definitely couldn’t have been. That puts it not earlier than April and not later than August 2005. Generally the Music Circus was a summer thing, unless I am mistaken, so that fits. I know it was not 2002, which is the year for which a date wanted to pop up.

I am almost certain Pink Floyd was the 6th and not the other date, the 8th. The flying pig didn’t work well at my show. It famously failed at one of them but it didn’t say which. There is video of it working flawlessly on the 8th. It was mildly rainy. Weather data for the 6th suggests it was the wetter day.

There was some minor possibility the year for foreigner was wrong, but the gap from it to Pink Floyd is right.

Apparently Cheap Trick was my third concert, and was the only one I didn’t mention before. It fits my memory of having gone twice to Providence, once to Boston, and then one last time to Providence. I always think of Providence as my favorite, although the Music Circus was a cozy venue. I went to Cheap Trick with my cousin, whose chauffeur I tended to be for a couple years. I was still driving my first car at the time, which he loved as much as I did. It was a 1969 Chevy Nova.

Cheap Trick was just amazing. I wasn’t terribly familiar with them, but playing live was what they did best. They were unusual in becoming huge due to a live album. They were amazing even from the nose bleed seats the entire length of Boston Garden opposite the stage. They were the farthest seats I ever had for a concert.

When we left, we found someone had siphoned gas from the car and it was reading empty. We made it home from Boston, with my cousin making up song lyrics, shades of Running On Empty, about the experience of riding along on fumes hoping to make it. We did. I dropped him off and made it home. These days there would have been numerous opportunities to get gas along the way. Not then at that hour. Even now, driving down the highway through Boston you don’t just see gas stations sitting right off an exit. You have to know they are there. If I come from the north and am running low, I don’t actually stop for gas until the Randolph/Stoughton/Avon exit on route 24, since that’s the first place where I know just where to go.

Looking at the dates, the last one of the early concerts was just before I got my first apartment. While I only had the first place for nine months, I segued from that to living at my father’s house and starting college three years after my peers. No more concerts for me! In 1985 I was still in college but things were weird. I had dated Layla from New Year’s Eve, last day of 1984, until it trailed off entirely that spring or just into summer 1985. I was feeling a bit rebellious. There had been a robbery late in 1984 at the store where I worked, where Layla had taken to coming in and chatting with me at length. I freaked out and quit. My stepmother yelled at me, not long after when she figured this out, “you’re not quitting!” I looked for work that wouldn’t be retail. At this point in school I was taking the first semester of Intermediate Accounting, and I believe I was also doing Auditing and Business Law II concurrently. The latter two memorable because they were both with the horrible professor I ended up with for five different classes in my major.

So I looked for work with CPAs locally. I was easily discouraged, so I tried three of them. On the third one, I decided to try Just One More. I opened a phone book, ran my finger down the listings and went with the one that “felt” promising. I wish that kind of thing were as reliable as my ability to “know” there’s going to be a speed trap. That guy hired me to start in February, when tax season would actually be getting underway. So I ended up back at the store, and doing both things once the other one started. I ended up doing almost everything an accountant would have done, just not doing an audit. As far as I know, he only had one audit client anyway. I prepared worksheets for it. I ended up there for nine months, until way after tax season. The CPA started acting odd in ways that made me wonder if he was having a fling or something, but what was actually happening is he was working on selling the practice and retiring. That, I learned not long after, was why the timing of when he was done with me. It was also why his daughter, who became a CPA herself not that long before or just after I was there, got another job and set the stage for my staying there past April.

I’d have been terribly busy up until shortly before the Foreigner concert, but money wouldn’t have been as much an issue as sometimes.

That summer, I think it was, Frank and his first wife packed up to move to Florida. I had the opportunity to help drive the truck to Florida and they would pay for a cheap flight back north. I’d get the drive and maybe a few days and then be home. My stepmother, on the heels of the job thing, insisted I was absolutely not going. In retrospect, going then would have been vastly preferable. By around the time of Foreigner I probably already planned to take the spring semester off and go to Florida to stay with Frank for a few months or more.

During this time, I was probably suffering what we’d now call PTSD from the robbery. This was exacerbated for a while by the fact the guys got caught and I had to go to court a couple times. Heh. One of those times, the girl who’d been there behind the counter with me for the robbery was also there. Later she moved to New Hampshire or something and fled being a witness. I drove her home afterward and she asked me in to “smoke a joint.” I had a test that day I had promised to show up for if I was able to get out of court in time! Mr. Honor Above All was so intent on keeping that commitment that he completely missed that sharing a joint was not what she was after. She was cute, too.

Under the whole thing of actually dating someone early in the year – someone I wasn’t really interested in – and the having a second job I was intensely proud of and things seeming great and my keeping busy, I was falling apart. It’s probably not so much that the divorce of my parents many years before came back to haunt me as it was provoked into being part and parcel of the PTSD, stress, anxiety, arguably depression interlude. My stepmother wasn’t without good points or intentions, but couldn’t have known she was interjecting herself into that sort of maelstrom and not necessarily the best one to do so.

Right, concerts. After Foreigner, I went to Florida at the end of December, without permission. Drove 1550 miles and thank God the car had no problems. Ended up living there in my friend’s apartment for about six weeks. After a couple weeks, I got a job full time nights at a convenience store. That was a lot of work but was fun, interesting, and different from the ones I’d worked in up north. When Frank abruptly decided he hated Florida Just That Much and was moving to New Hampshire now, I liked Florida enough to be tempted to figure out how to stay. My biggest concern was how to finish college. My stepmother had vehemently assured me I would never finish, which meant there was absolutely no way in hell I was going to Not Finish. Apparently my not graduating high school was a black mark, and the stellar GED scores that set me on the road to college were not enough to matter. I’d have been trying to support myself, by myself, in a strange place, while trying to get credit for the bulk of an accounting degree transferred to a more expensive school that required five rather than four years for the degree. The best I might have done is kept the job, rented a room – on basically a couple days notice that we were leaving – and hung out down there for longer. I could have gotten some other job on the side and just used my time for making money. The sad thing is I never so much as set foot in the Gulf of Mexico. That waited until a couple years later when I was in Galveston. I wasn’t really a beach person. Plus I was in a funk, even being in the good weather and warmth, and having my sinuses clear up while there. I seldom felt healthier as an adult.

Since I had vexed my father and stepmother so thoroughly, I moved in with my older brother when I got back. I took a job nights at one of the same stores I’d worked at through college. Eventually I ended up delivering papers for the rest of college. I returned to school via summer classes that summer, then did three more semesters and more summer classes in 1987. My last class was a final in MA318 on December 16, 1987, so I was officially class of 1988. Originally started in the class of 1986. In effect, I took an extra year, subtracting out the semester off.

My stepmother was disgusted enough that she gave my mother a hard time for taking me to celebrate “graduating.” Which is to say, I got my degree. I refused to participate in the graduation ceremony. I was still scarred by my high school experience. I picked up my diploma from the office in the administration building. I was also nearly as disgusted with college by then as with high school. I was unhappy with my accounting professors and didn’t want to do anything to make them look good. This put taking the CPA exam right out of the question. Besides, I wanted to do cost accounting. Ha! That pretty much meant being a CPA first. I was a disappointment in that regard, since I was one of the two top accounting students along the way in my year. They fully expected me to take the exam and be able to pass. My rival certainly did, then went to law school as well, emulating the horrible professor. Heck, last time I remembered his name and looked online, that guy had even become a professor like his hero, my nemesis. We were closest to being buddies in Accounting Theory class, which only had five of us in it. There was a girl in the class who had somewhat of a brain under the ditzy, but I dragged her across the finish line and made sure she didn’t blow the class. She’d not study or anything, and just before the class I would brief her, so she’d know what we’d be talking about and what to say if asked a question. She would repeat verbatim what I had told her. She got an A- while my rival and I each got a B+. This was an unvarnished example of the female professor favoring the one female student. She had been my beloved cost accounting professor a couple years before. In fact, that was what I took along with Intermediate Accounting I. That and something else. It was Auditing and B Law II the next semester. Anyway, I lost most of my respect for the cost accounting professor over her handling of the theory class. I dragged that girl into getting through the class, but the high grade was entirely in the imagination of the professor. She was probably a B. My grade was perfectly fair, so it’s not sour grapes about that.

It’s going to be weird when my kids graduate and I’m expected to attend, even though I am over it by now. I did actually attend the graduation ceremony for the year I’d have graduated if I’d not taken a semester off and had stuffed in enough classes in summers before then. The commencement speaker was a judge who got up and espoused communism. It was great! Seeing people I had known and offended enough for them to ignore me was also cool. That was the last graduation I attended. The caliber of commencement speech did nothing to encourage me when it would have been my turn.

Lucky for me, I graduated into a pretty dramatic recession and hijinks ensued. I’d have done pretty much everything differently if I had it to do again. That pink Floyd concert would have been close to my time of official graduation. I wouldn’t have gone had my brother not made it happen. I wouldn’t even have known there was a concert. That heyday was over for me. It’d be nine years later before I went to another, by which time we were into the era of nostalgia tours.

So there you have it. More than you ever wanted to know about me and the interlude when I fell apart, loosely in the context of “hey look, Google knows when most of the concerts happened way in the past.” This is a heck of a way to avoid more important things I needed to do.

Update:
I found out for certain that I was quite wrong about when the Guess Who concert was, so I corrected it in the list above.

The Worst That Could Happen

I have always loved this song. I just happened to play it on my rounds through clicking YouTube song videos, and decided to post it before I go to bed.

 

The weird thing is, I am pretty sure I had a strong association with a specific crush along the way, but I can’t remember for sure. It probably morphed into a generic pining. Nope! I remember now. It may have had other associations and was probably generic, but one of my biggest crushes actually did get married after rejecting me. The guy was a dick and I knew it. That didn’t end well. I very much associated it with Jemma in advance of and after the marriage, even though I not only had given up by then, but also was somewhat irate at her treatment of me and at myself for bouncing back to her after I couldn’t bring myself to ask someone amazing like Sarah out.

I may also have associated it with Ella along the way, before I got over her for good, which was before the Jemma thing. Ironically, Ella never married. She never had kids. She had the same boyfriend she lived with for years, but that’s it. It almost feels like she didn’t find someone, so to speak. Her sister did marry, but also never had kids. The pair of them sometimes remind me of my stepsisters, who never married or had kids.

Anyway, the song is from the perspective of a guy who believes marriage to be a horrible thing. That was never my outlook. Not that I don’t have complex, nuanced views on the topic of marriage. However, it’s also hurting him terribly to lose the girl beyond any kind of recall, to something permanent. He knows it’s what she wants and needs, and he couldn’t and wouldn’t give her that, but that makes it no easier to take. Relatable. Pining not for the girl you can’t have, maybe one whose attention you can’t get in the first place, but  for the girl you had but couldn’t keep.

I realized when it started to play that it falls at least somewhat into the category of songs I can’t resist singing when they come on. Because that’s what I did. The first one out of several in a row to provoke that response. That’s another post I’ve been playing with in my head for one of these days. The list is long, so one post can’t be exhaustive. So I’ve been letting the idea percolate in an effort to remember as many as I can that are prime ones.

Start With The Goldfish

I discovered a couple things last night. One is a better quality Melody on YouTube than the movie I linked in my Melody Links post.

Another, specifically found when I plugged the Saucy Turtles Make Terrible Bathmats Charlie “memory maxim” (that I heard as “memory maxie” until I saw the correct text in a transcript) into Google to see if it was unique to Melody or was something found in nature, so to speak. It was obviously made up for Melody. No surprise. They were going for the adults seeming ridiculous.

I found a video with Alan Parker and David Puttnam, centered mostly on making Melody and how they came to be in the movie business.

The big takeaway from that is that forever after they first screened Melody, they’ve been saying to get to the goldfish sooner. Like right away. What they saw was that the first ten minutes were dull and didn’t pull people in. Once you got to her and the goldfish, people were hooked. This is actually what I was picturing, anticipating getting the kids to watch it. I was thinking I’d need to tell them to be patient, maybe give them an idea how things were being introduced, and figure when it got to her they might find it a bit archaic but certainly more compelling. Archaic is exactly part of why I want to have them watch it. I just want to do it movie night style with the DVD that will, I would hope, translated more crisply to the TV than even the best YouTube one.

A smaller takeaway was that Melody essentially did well in markets where it was allowed to retain the name Melody. Japan, mostly. I knew they had considered releasing it as To Love Somebody, but I was not aware that it had been released under that name in the United States. Kind of makes asking people if they saw “Melody” when it came out in 1971 even sketchier. At least that name made more sense than S.W.A.L.K., the name the distributor insisted on for the UK and not sure how far beyond.

One of the comical parts was Alan had no idea how to write a script formatted to look like a script. It was all a learning experience, based on what other scripts looked like. He was also a bit taken aback by the detail he had to include, notably in describing every bit of the scenes set to music that had no dialogue at all.

Finally, there’s a better description of how Alan came to do some of the outdoor filming of mobs of kids. It was the sports day. It was absolute chaos, yet magic happened.

Worth a watch if you’re curious about the details of how they pulled the whole thing off, and bits about their later careers and how Melody and their start with it influenced things.

Start with the goldfish. Brilliant advice.

Update:

I watched the new movie link to the end and found that not only are the opening credits slightly different, but also the end in this release doesn’t show the words “To Love Somebody” on the screen where it appeared in other releases available on YouTube. That might be what distinguishes a copy made for the American or any other market when that alternate title was used, even though they never show any title but Melody when the film starts. I also confirmed that the entire video is crisp as it looked at the beginning. Technically I didn’t know the whole thing was good when I linked it. Just seemed logical.

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.

AWstats

To get an idea of traffic here, I normally look at AWStats through the Cpanel utility on the web hosting. It drives me crazy, though, because it can be so hard to tell what’s actually going on. In theory, it gives you search strings that were used to get here. In reality, it doesn’t return enough of those to correspond to the traffic it claims comes from Google alone. In turn, the referrals from Google and other such things aren’t remotely enough to account for total traffic. At least it’s generally possible to get an idea of what the real traffic is, versus the traffic hitting from nefarious sources for reasons having nothing to do with reading my keen and witty insights.

One thing that surprises me is the amount of traffic that seems associated with feed readers. In the heyday of blogs, that would be a given. On a blog that went many years being mostly neglected, and that had much of its contents stripped in a change of CMS, and most of the rest stripped in a change of direction, that lost much of its readership all the way back in 2004… I think it was 2004… When the wife was hot to switch to a clever new domain and name after less than a year here. I’m just surprised that there seem to be so many, in effect, subscribers for me to bore because I won’t stop mentioning that Melody movie and such.

On the other hand, there are no comments, besides a few a day of spam comments. This could be because there’s nothing to say, but they certainly are enabled. I’d see it if any were held for moderation, which is the default if you haven’t commented before and been approved. I was a little nervous about comments, in case I say something unforgivably stupid again. On the other hand, if I lose my mind unawares, that’s a quick way for me to find out and mitigate any public displays of ignorance.

Anyway, it’s a shame Site Meter died many years ago. That was always the standard, and if not perfect, gave useful info. I don’t think I have this on Google Analytics, though I could add it if not, but I’ve never found that information particularly helpful. If nothing else, I’m not generally interested in hitting gnats with sledgehammers.

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.

Now I Remember

I was going to write about something I’d been thinking of before and during work, which, having not noted anywhere, I promptly forgot. I’d been thinking about how I’d write a movie of an alternate timeline of my life – or just the alternate timeline – to have a scenario that would be Melodyesque. Not a rewrite, and still a product of days gone by, but a “how it should have ended” sort of thing.

I could see it happening with Carol, though holding true to the original timing we’d be on the younger side. I could see it happening with Paula, which would be complicated by her being a year younger and eased by her brother being a friend.

Interesting exercise, and it depends on how some things are changed. Carol’s only real friend was relatively near to where I lived, so that might factor in. It wasn’t until a year or two later that I perceived that friend as being an unpleasant person who hated me, and I didn’t yet consider her father to be evil.

Unlike Daniel, I would never have thought to tell a friend I had a crush on a girl. Further, during part of this time, my best friend was a girl, Kara, who was a year older than me. Still is! Funny how that works. Changing that might help.

The environment was extremely rural. Suburban at best, but I grew up in the middle of the woods, 1/3 of a mile down a dirt road from the main road and the nearest houses. The major intersection in town featured a little liquor store/variety store with a gas pump. Walmart would be unheard of for a long time to come. There was nothing like bus service. You couldn’t hop a train and go to the seaside.

Options for being together would have been things like hanging out at one of our homes, walking or hanging out in the woods, riding bikes around, or hanging out at one of the available beaches at the lake in town. There was an ice cream place it would have been possible to bike to, and not a lot else.

I’ll have to think about this and come back to the topic to see if I can create a timeline/set of events, or an outline, for each of them. I’m getting sick and need to be up extra early, so I need to eat something, knock myself out, and try to sleep an abnormally long time. Actually, looks like the longest possible sleep I could get would be 7.5 hours if I hustle and sleep promptly and the whole time. For me that’d be amazing, but it doesn’t sound like it right now.

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.

Many Worlds

Looking at this article on parallel universes reminded me of thoughts I have had from time to time. It also reminded me of the theory that some things like deja vu and dreams that then happen are associated with quantum leakage from relatively proximate alternate timelines. That is, for there to be infinite parallel universes in which what could happen did happen, there are points of departure, just as you’d see in alternate history fiction. The more recently and/or less dramatically the alternate diverges from the one we experience, the “closer” it is. We might recognize it and be unable to detect a difference unless it affected us very personally.

The story I started a couple years back involves alternate timelines and, between them, time travel. Since it is based in part on people and places close to me, in some ways it was easier. In others it’s still hard, because writing is work, and it’s personal so I want even more for it to be perfect.

But that’s not where I was going with this. When I think what if this, what if that, presumably it has happened, or will happen if time flows slower there, in a parallel realm. All the regrets. All the wishes. All the OMG what if THAT had happened. In an endless multiverse, they all did or will, and are all playing out in many ways. They range from I took the day off work yesterday to I was never born. They range from an elementary crush being the childhood sweetheart I went on to marry young, to I never met anyone and remained single. And that’s just a tiny range of examples that are me-centric, let alone all the things that involve others but change things for me. My brother might never have met his first wife. I would never have met my old best friend. He would never have met his wife as a result. He would never have broken his back while working for me shoveling driveways. He would then have graduated with his high school class. I was due to have a best friend like him, so it would have been someone else. The prime candidate had a sister I was crushing on at that point. Maybe she’d be the one. Or at least I’d have known her well then, instead of getting to know her better than I ever knew him, decades later.

Anything could happen.

It also shows, if we are bold enough to take the lesson, that at any point going forward, we can throw the switch on which variant we occupy. Do that thing. Don’t do that thing. Everything changes, somewhat. Bigger things or cumulative things, bigger changes. Maybe it’s not for the better. Maybe it is. You build your reality. I know this. I’m still hopeless at embracing and acting on it. It’s a weakness.

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.

Sixteen Years!

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

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

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

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

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

Dialogue Dialog

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

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

Modernizing Films and Shows

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

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

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

“Fine,” he said grudgingly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Chicane She Came

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

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

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

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

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

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

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