Sometimes Systems Fail

Do you ever wonder how a writer gets to be famous? I do. When I read a so called best seller I wonder why it became popular? Most times it is obvious even to me that it is popular because it was a damned good, and well told story. Today, I completed a reading of James Patterson’s first book The Thomas Berryman Number. The library has several shelves of Patterson stories, and most I agree are good. The Thomas Berryman Number is not one of them, it is average at best.

To test an author’s credibility I will read his first work. Years ago, I was hooked on author James Michener. The first of his works I read was Poland. It was a great history of the country dating back to the time God created planet Earth. I learned, by reading thirteen of his works, that all of his novels began the same way, the first three chapters deal with creation, and evolution. The history and detail in his historical tomes take an average of a thousand pages of regular print. They are not books you can read in a weekend. I still remember reading Poland. It was a Memorial Day weekend, and once I got into the story I couldn’t put it down. After three days of non-stop reading I was half way finished at 500 pages. I put the book down down on an end table, and there is stayed for twelve months. After a year had passed without touching the book, I decided it was time to return it to the owner, but I had to finish it first. After another marathon reading session I finally finished

Then one day, I looked at Michener’s book list to see what I was missing. I never read his first stories. I ordered his very first one from the library and immediately immersed myself into Tales of the South Pacific published in 1947. Surprise, surprise, I knew the story from beginning to end. Rogers and Hammerstein used this book to produce the musical play titled South Pacific. The play followed the original exactly, and played on Broadway for 1,954 performances, and then was followed up with a movie.. The only exception was the book went into far more detail about the war in the South Pacific. I still rate this book at five stars, and it was a lot shorter than a thousand pages.

I used this same principal to decide if Patterson’s first work would turn me on as much as Michener’s did. Patterson’s first work disappointed me, yet he has written dozens of mystery stories which are all hits. I guess I’ll have to revise my system.

Time Spent Well

Most every night I have to watch a movie. Last night I got into a film from India titled Laal SIngh Chaddha. It is a remake of Forrest Gump, and it is very well done. No one will ever duplicate the role played so well by Tom Hanks, but actor Aamir Khan did an amazing job playing the part of Forrest.

The film makers made no secret that this was a remake of a famous movie. The man who wrote the original screenplay actually contributed to this remake. Of course they didn’t duplicate Bubba Gump’s Shrimp boat, but they substituted with an under wear factory that did just as well. They didn’t have Lieutenant Dan either, but his character was substituted by an enemy soldier who Laal saved along with his compadres who fought with him.

I thoroughly enjoyed this film because it was a good story with new characters along with old familiar scenes like the feather floating through the air at the beginning and end. This story is just familiar enough to be like the original, but also different enough to give it it”s own character. The film is over 2.5 hours long, but I found myself wanting to see more of the story just like I did with the original.

Where the Heck is Bhutan?

Not long ago I watched an Academy Award nominated movie titled Lunana, A Yak In the Classroom. It is a cute story about a young man from Bhutan who complained about his teaching job to the state supervisor in charge of teaching assignments. What was funny about this story was that the kid wanted to quit his job, and the Super held his feet to the fire by reminding him he had one year left on his contract. She then proceeded to change his assignment to Lunana the most remote school in the country. To give an example of how remote it is he took a train to the end of the line, then hiked uphill for eight days. (Hint: Never complain about your job to the person who can change it.)

The movie used local people to act, so in effect this was a reality film except it was acted to a script. One question kept rolling through my mind, “where the heck is Bhutan?” The scenery surrounding the village of Lunana is amazing, mountains, valleys, and streams. The people were friendly and made the story believable.

The teacher finally arrives, and is shown the school. It is a one room stone building with open windows and a door. He is then taken to his room where he will live. He falls asleep. At 8:30 the following morning he is awakened by a little girl who announces that school starts at 8:30 every morning and ends at 3:00 pm. He groggily dresses and finds his way to the kids who are all sitting on the floor in the classroom waiting for teacher.

After several weeks teacher is making friends and exhibiting some depression about his plight. The young woman he unloads on tells him he needs a Yak. The next day she walks into his class with a Yak. It is a favorite from her herd (a Yak is something like a cow). The Yak lives in the classroom for the remainder of the story. The story has a sad but happy ending.

I had to do a geographical search to learn where Bhutan is located. It is between China and India near Tibet. The population of Bhutan is 788,6015 and it’s Himalayan mountain peaks soar to 23,000 feet. The capital is Thimphu, population 114,551. Lunana has a population of 810.

And now you know!

Messenger From the North

I watch a lot of movies, and I am particular about the themes. I prefer stories about real people and not those of Hollywood gangsters and shoot em ups. Some of that stuff might be going on in the real world, but not to the extent to which writers and movie makers lead us to believe. Maybe I am living in a bubble here on the edge of the mid-west near one of the largest cities in North America. Yes, we have crime, and yes, we have murders, but why make movies about them? Isn’t that reinforcing the bad behavior, i.e. by glorifying it in film?

A few days ago, I came across a movie titled Chloe and Theo. This story had all th elements of a great movie, it was funny, it was sad, it was tragic, and it had a message. The premise of the story is that a tribe of Inuit Indians living on the ice fields of the arctic circle have seen a trend of warming that is shrinking their ice, and forcing the animals inland, and away from their habitat which is the ice and the frigid waters of the arctic. They decide to send a messenger from their tribe to speak to the elders, and to give them a message of pending doom. They pick a single man named Theo not because he is a smart guy, or a diplomat, or a scientist, but because he is the only one in their village who can speak english. The village elders give him a pouch filled with cash to make the trip.

Theo lands in New York and is amazed at the tall buildings the hordes of people, and the noise. He often laments that where he is from there is a simple beauty to the empty, whiteness, and silence of the ice. He checks into a low cost flop-house and goes looking for the elders. Along the way he meets a young woman who is homeless after she recognizes him as an eskimo. She befriends him only because she thinks he is different, and she wants to know all about him. Theo asks her to help him find the elders. She takes him to her tented area in a dilapidated building where many homeless sleep. She introduces him to what she considers to be an elder. He is in reality a informal leader of the homeless group to which she belongs. Theo is not satisfied, so the group begins a brain storming session as to who they should try to get him to see. At first it was the President of the USA, but the idea falls apart when the FBI gets involved and asks too many dumb questions. Eventually, they break from the FBI and return to brainstorming. The elder in the group has a brainstorm, why not take Theo to the United Nations, and the story goes in that direction, but again proves to be fruitless.

Another plot is to introduce him to the producers of a big TV show, and they succeed in getting a meeting with them. The homeless group and Theo enter the building and are getting into an elevator when Theo balks, he wants to walk up the 62 stories to reduce his contribution to the carbon footprint left by the elevator. He walks while the homeless group is waiting for him to arrive. Nerves take over and the producers insist of leaving, but the homeless are persistent and make Theo’s pitch for him. The scene ends with all of them leaving the conference room as Theo finally arrives.

To make this long story shorter I will only say that these characters all made the story believable. Before the end of the film they are successful in finding a way to get Theo’s story to the Elders. They celebrate and give Theo a gift of a pair of shoes to replace the heavy boots he has worn since he left his Northern Village, and as he has always done throughout the story he takes a walk to try his new shoes, and to clear his head. Then something unbelievable happens and the story ends.

This is what I rate a five star film * * * * *

Out of the Darkness, Into the Light

Yesterday I came close to losing it. The day was a typical dark, dreary, and rainy December late fall day. After so many years experiencing the same symptoms in the same months I have self diagnosed myself with Light Affective Disorder or LAD. It affects my mood, and causes me to become lethargic, energy-less, and sad. All I want to do is eat, sleep, and cry too. Fortunately, for me I can overcome most of the symptoms and make a day of it. Yesterday was a losing one. Finally, after finishing reading a Tom Clancy book my mood began to pick up. I called a restaurant and made reservations for two for supper(note the emphasis on food). We left in the dark at 4:45 to make a five o’clock reserve at a restaurant we have never been to. Upon arriving, the police had Main Street blocked off. Change plans, go around the block and come in from another direction. The other end of Main was also closed. The restaurant was in between the two blockades. I envisioned a gas leak or some other disaster pending, not knowing why all the emergency vehicles were there I decided to change plans again and go to a place that we know very well. There was to be no adventure on this evening.

At Docks restaurant, I asked the owner what was going on down at Main. His answer surprised me because the day was so rotten. It seems they block that section of Main to cater to a Village festival every Sunday from 1 – 5 and allow crowds to walk freely from business to business without traffic concerns.

After dinner we explored a neighborhood to see some Christmas lights. A couple of days ago I was touring on Google maps and came across a house that was marked as Czyz Family Light Show. It was worth the effort to find it in the dark, and I’ll go to see it again.

I read some more before retiring and then made a huge mistake at 11:00 p.m. Normally, I turn off and go to bed, but this time, instead of turning out the light and closing my eyes to sleep I turned on Amazon Prime Video and found a movie. For whatever reason I watched a Mark Wahlberg movie called Joe Bell. Mark’s performance as the father of a gay boy got to me and held my attention till the end which I hated, but ends are ends, and that is all I can say. I finally turned off the lights and closed my eyes at 12:40 a.m.