Letters From Home

Life looks at infmom / infmom looks at life

November 21, 2017
by infmom
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How to adapt a book series to a TV series. Or not.

There are several ways to go about turning a book or a series of books into a TV series. A lot depends on the books, of course, but it also depends on how the series producers and writers feel about the adaptation. The results of each choice are considerably different. And the success of failure of the adaptation doesn’t necessarily reflect on the source material. Here’s some of the most common ways I think book to TV adaptation is done, with examples.

Books? What books? Bones

Kathy Reichs’ series of novels about forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan was supposedly the basis for the TV series Bones. However, the screenwriters did nothing more than borrow the name and profession of the primary character in the books. Nothing else was carried over. The show, truthfully, is a remake of the earlier Crossing Jordan, with pretty much the same characters (the plucky heroine who solves murder mysteries, the law-enforcement partner, the strict but still flexible boss, the geeky co-worker, the best friend, etc etc etc).  This did not keep Bones from being a very watchable show, and indeed, I watched most of the shows in its ten-year run (as I watched all of Crossing Jordan years before). But, since I also read all the books, I know that TV Temperance Brennan is absolutely positively not literary Temperance Brennan, and never the twain did meet.

Books, a place to begin: Longmire

The adaptation of Craig Johnson’s Longmire series of mystery novels starts with the core cast of characters and their location in Wyoming, takes out some less-often-seen characters, adds in some primary characters not found in the books, and then sends this group of people off on whole new adventures. It differs from Bones in that these are the people in the books. They just go off in different directions. There are some changes to the relationships that form a central part of the novel series, and Walt and Henry are noticeably younger than their literary counterparts (yup, I read all those books too).  With the exception of one or two episodes the plots of the shows are not drawn from the books, so there is no expectation that any original story has to be followed. Most of all, it’s easy to accept the actors who were cast to play these characters, even if their appearance does differ somewhat from the books, because the screenwriters stayed true to the original concept while striking out into new and literarily-uncharted territory. The show just posted its final season on Netflix and wrapped things up in an appropriate manner, while the books continue and the current one has ended in a spectacular cliffhanger.

Books are so pesky: Outlander

Sometimes someone buys the rights to a series and appears to be determined to make a faithful adaptation. However, as time goes on, the producers become more and more convinced that they know better than the author did. It’s a given that a certain amount of abridging and reshaping is essential for a TV adaptation, because a lot more nuance and exposition is possible in a book, especially books as lengthy as those in the Outlander series.  However, cutting out scenes and characters that set up very important parts of the later story, removing characters who play a major part later on, transforming characters into something they never were, taking characters whose physical attributes forms a major and ongoing part of the narrative and casting actors who look nothing like them, and changing the storyline willy-nilly as time goes on gives the lie to the notion of faithful adaptation. It works OK for people who’ve never read the books, but this series of books has a large and devoted audience (disclosure: I started reading Outlander before the first book was even published and have inhaled every one of the books as they have hit the press) and the book readers know when the screenwriters are playing footsie with the plot. Which has been happening more and more often as time has gone by. This is just the third season and it’s beginning to look like Jamie and Claire’s story will be unrecognizable by the time the series ends. We shall see.

Books, remixed: Bosch

Michael Connelly did the adaptation of his Harry Bosch novels for the TV series, and chose to take the plots of the novels and remix them to make entirely new stories. Thus, if you’ve read the books (I’ve read ’em all, see the pattern in the post?) 🙂 you may think you know where the storyline is going, but it ain’t necessarily so.  The timeline is completely different, due to the decision to make miniseries Harry younger than literary Harry, which made it necessary to make the secondary characters younger as well and adapt the stories to a present-day setting rather than the past that the novels inhabit. (Harry Bosch will always look like Dennis Farina to me, no matter how good Titus Welliver is in the role, sorry.) There are elements added that are not in any of the books that were combined to make the episodes. Italian gangsters are changed to Armenian gangsters, for example, and Irvin Irving is African American and not a complete jerk like his white literary inspiration. Characters from later books appear earlier, and the resolution of some plot elements is changed. None of this detracts from the quality of the series, which I am sure is entirely due to the author having complete control. I’ve read thousands of mysteries in my lifetime and by this time there are precious few authors, no matter how good they are, who can keep me guessing till the end. I can nearly always figure out whodunit….  but not with Michael Connelly’s books. The one time I actually picked out the bad guy before the book ended I was literally hopping up and down for joy.  🙂

Books, tell it like it is: Poldark

This is the second PBS adaptation of Winston Graham’s Poldark series. I never saw the original, because in those days PBS stations were most commonly found on UHF channels, and our only TV was so old it didn’t have a UHF tuner. Strange but true. So I came to the current show with no preconceptions. I had not even begun to read the books yet, but eventually I remedied that by buying a complete set and digging in. What I found is that Poldark, unlike other adaptations, stays true to the original. While some plot elements are abridged or condensed, which is always necessary, and some of the actors look nothing like their characters as described in the book, the writers clearly know and love the books and have striven to make the adaptation look and feel like the books it’s based on. And the complexity of the storylines is never thrown away for the sake of “entertainment.” It’s easy to get swept up in the story, and the people are real. All the actors are first rate. To my way of thinking this is how an adaptation that stays true to the books should be. No plotline hanky-panky. What a concept.  🙂 It’s always a wrench when the series ends for the season and then we have to wait and wait for the continuation. At least I’ve got that whole set of books.

So, is this the way it looks to you? Am I way off base in the way I see some of these things? I would really like to hear your opinions.

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October 24, 2015
by infmom
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When the tea is bagged up yonder

Growing up in central Virginia in the 50s and early 60s, I developed an appreciation for rock, country and old-style gospel music that continues to this day. During the Kim Davis flapdoodle I made a Facebook comment “When the roll is called up yonder, she’s downstairs.” I’ve been meaning to turn that into a full sized song parody….  so here goes.

When they worship God and Mammon and repeal the Golden Rule
And they’re sure the only righteous way is theirs,
When they hate the ones that Jesus blessed and follow human fools
When the roll is called up yonder, they’re downstairs.

Refrain:
When the roll is called up yonder,
When the roll is called up yonder,
When the roll is called up yonder,
When the roll is called up yonder, they’re downstairs.

On the airwaves all across the land, collection plates are passed,
And the preachers, not the Lord, get all the shares,
And the sinners hate the sinners and a lot of stones are cast,
When the roll is called up yonder, they’re downstairs.

Refrain

Let them call themselves believers and in lies put all their trust.
Let them quote from scriptures sorted out with care,
Then when all their lives are over and their hatred’s gone to dust
When the roll is called up yonder, they’re downstairs.

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May 2, 2015
by infmom
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Moving right along

Yup, another new theme. Dunno if it will make the contents more appealing, but at least Google’s not giving me what-for about not being mobile friendly.

I’m going to TRY to add new posts a lot more often than I have been doing lately. Stay tuned.

Hope you'll recommend my posts via your favorite social media. Just don't copy the material as your own.

January 17, 2015
by infmom
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One ordinary day, with containers

(with apologies to Shirley Jackson for adapting her title)

Container Store in Pasadena, California

Container Store in Pasadena, California (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Ya know how one thing leads to another?

So, my beloved 40 yr old sewing machine croaked. Kenmore model 18033, I salute you.

I bought a new one. Electronic. Learning curve.

It came with a limited selection of presser feet, unlike the old one that had just about every foot known to humankind at the time it was manufactured.

Then I found out I could buy a BIG package of sewing machine presser feet for the new machine (the old ones will not fit it) thanks to my daughter who bought that package for HER new sewing machine.

The package arrived, and it was full of goodness and also very very flimsy.

It occurred to me that the Container Store sells clear plastic divided containers.

It occurred to me that I had a small, multi-drawer cabinet out in the storage room that would be perfect for storing miscellaneous sewing stuff.

It occurred to me that my sewing and quilting books were almost all in the bookcase in the parlor instead of in the office next to the sewing machine.

It occurred to both my husband and me that if we were going to venture to the Container Store, there were some other things we should buy, like a bin to put sweaters in because the old one is terminally bulged out and the lid doesn’t fit any more. And like kitten proof containers for all the miscellaneous stuff we each have on the tables next to our chairs in the living room, and a kitten proof container for my “nightstand” which is actually an old wooden root beer crate that I scrounged from a grocery store circa 1973. (Remind me, I need to write a post about kittens.)

OK, so here’s how it went today: I cleaned all the junk out of the little cabinet, brought it in and washed it. Then I had to find space for it near the sewing machine. Which led me to go into the parlor, look at what was on that bookshelf behind the door into the hallway, and remove a goodly portion of it to be recycled. Ran the Shark over the shelves to get rid of a ghastly accumulation of dust, rearranged all the craft books by type of craft (jewelry, wire, beading, design, etc etc etc), picked a few worthy sewing and quilting books to move to the office, evicted a large collection of books from the office and put them in the parlor…. phew. Then we went to the Container Store. Came home with clear plastic containers for the sewing stuff, two plastic toolboxes to put in the living room to store miscellaneous chair-side stuff and remote controls, one small latching container for my nightstand, and a big plastic bin for the sweaters. Everything but the sweater bin has been put to use. We gotta save SOMEthing for tomorrow.

We also resisted eating lunch in Pasadena and supper at any local restaurant. We feel virtuous.

Hope you'll recommend my posts via your favorite social media. Just don't copy the material as your own.

December 10, 2014
by infmom
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In which sophomore English comes alive

Dunno if it’s still true, but in My Day, sophomores in high school had to read Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar. I dutifully read it, of course, and I got straight A’s in most subjects in those days so clearly I knew enough about the play to satisfy the teacher (who probably rapped Marcus Antonius over the knuckles for being a wiseass, back in the day).

But I never really appreciated the role of Cassius in the plot. I mean, who would, with almost all the bombastic speeches going to the other guys? Cassius did get quoted, memorably, by Edward R. Murrow, so that’s something–but I bet most people remember the quote (the fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves, that we are underlings) but not the character who delivered it.

Enter the creative people at Pendant Productions. They do a fantastic lineup of original full cast audio dramas, and they also do Shakespeare. Which is how Cassius re-entered my life, and in a good way. Because the people at Pendant are so creative, they didn’t feel they had to stick with the old ways of doing things when they tackled Shakespeare, so, in this incarnation, Cassius is female.

Me.

I did some acting and some professional voice-over work, back in the day, and when the casting call was anounced for this production, I sent in my auditon for Antonia (yup, gender change for that, too). The director asked me if I’d do Cassius instead, and I said sure. Not realizing that Cassius gets more lines than anyone in Act 1… wowzers.

The production’s complete now. Give it a listen. Find the links at Pendant Production’s Wild Bill Show.

Oh, and if you want to hear more of me (of course you do) check out Phantom Canyon, a rip-roaring horror story that will knock your socks off.

Hope you'll recommend my posts via your favorite social media. Just don't copy the material as your own.

November 1, 2014
by infmom
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Once more around the literary block

Participant-2014-Facebook-ProfileSo I finally made up my mind to participate in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) again this year. I would have done it last year, but there’s something about having major surgery on November first that kind of puts a crimp in things. Although I might just be making excuses, since the very first year I participated I was flattened by a vertigo attack for about ten days at the very beginning of the month and still managed to crank out 50,000 words.

Well, never mind. I’m off and typing.

Hope you'll recommend my posts via your favorite social media. Just don't copy the material as your own.

October 13, 2014
by infmom
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Harlan Ellison and me

English: Harlan Ellison at the Harlan Ellison ...

English: Harlan Ellison at the Harlan Ellison Roast. L.A. Press Club July 12, 1986. Los Angeles , California. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I heard today that Harlan Ellison has had a stroke. His mind’s still going strong, thank goodness. I think it’s time to write about him, since I’ve been amazed by his talent, intelligence, wit and depth of character for most of my life.

I started reading science fiction when I was in the third grade, which was when I was either 7 or 8 years old, and I got hooked for life. A few years later I encountered Harlan Ellison’s stories for the first time and became an instant fan.

As I learned more about him I admired him more. Here was someone who stood up for his principles regardless of the cost, and who would never compromise just to make things easier. On anyone. He clearly had an intelligence and a level of fearlessness far above those of mere mortals.

My father, a professor of 18th century English literature and ordinarily not much in tune with contemporary writing, heard about Ellison’s victory over Frank Sinatra and cheered. He didn’t know who exactly Harlan Ellison was, but if he could stand up to a notorious show business bully and win, he must be Someone indeed. For once in my life I could talk about a literary figure from experience my father did not share. That felt good.

I had hoped someday to be able to meet Mr. Ellison, but it didn’t seem likely. I did not go places he was likely to be, and vice versa. When I heard he was in poor health I thought it even less likely that we’d ever meet.

And then everything changed. In January, I received an invitation to David Gerrold’s birthday party. I’ve known David for many years but never would have guessed that I was high enough up the friends list to merit an invitation. After I picked myself up off the floor, I accepted. I’m a sociable person, to be sure, but I don’t go out a lot and hadn’t been to a party of any kind other than family events for longer than I can remember. It was somewhat daunting to consider.

For a number of years I’ve been subject to occasional vertigo attacks of varying intensity, everything from “I can’t get up off the floor, so don’t ask” to “OK, I’ll stagger if I move suddenly but I can function.” The day of the party I woke up with that familiar spinning feeling. Oh crap. As the day went on it was clear that it was a minor attack, but still, for any other activity I would have called in sick with regrets. Not this time. This was truly a once in a lifetime event and by golly I was going to suck it up, take some Antivert and go.

I’m not a name dropper so I’ll just say that I saw and talked with a whole galaxy of superluminaries, and those were just the people I recognized. There were many more whom I would surely have known, but I thought it would be tacky to go around asking “Who’s that” all over the place. I gathered up my nerve, approached some of the people I did recognize, waited for a suitable break in the conversation, introduced myself and made a few “lordy, I hope this is not too inane” comments before leaving the celebrities in peace. After a while, I got some food from the buffet and sat down at a table full of congenial people and introduced myself and sat back to enjoy the conversation.

A little later, I noticed Harlan Ellison in the next room. Oh my god. Harlan Ellison. Well, there was just no way I was going to walk up to HIM and introduce myself. Uh uh. Because I knew what would happen if I made any stupid remarks, he’d eviscerate me on the spot. He suffers fools not at all. Some of the people at the table knew Harlan and we chatted a bit about him. Then I got up to go to the bathroom, telling the lady on my right that I’d be right back.

When I got back, there was Harlan Ellison sitting in the chair I had left. I stopped dead. What was I going to do? He got to a break in the conversation, or so I thought, and looked at me. So, under the influence of dizziness and drugs, I began as bravely as I could, “Hello, Mr. Ellison, my name is Marte…” and he snapped back “You’re interrupting me!”

If my brain had been working at anything approaching normal speed I would have made some mild comment like “Well, you did take my chair.” But all I could do was gasp and say “I’m sorry.” The lady on my right said something to me and I replied to her and Harlan snapped “You’re still interrupting me!” I did manage to say “I was talking with her,” but that got a “It doesn’t matter, you’re still interrupting!”

OK, so at that point I did what any sentient being with a few functioning brain cells would do–I went and found somewhere else clear across the patio to sit quietly by myself.

A few minutes later, I was very surprised to hear Harlan call over to me, “Sorry, Marte!” I smiled, waved a hand and called back that I was OK. Which I mostly was.

Later, as I was wending my way to the bathroom again I passed Harlan talking with a group of people. He said “Hello, Marte!”

I said, somewhat nervously, “Hello, Mr. Ellison.”

“Oh,” he said, “you don’t have to call me that. You can call me king, or emperor…”

“Whatever you say!” I said, trying to sound un-flustered.

“…or shithead!”

“Oh no, no, I would never say that.” (and no, I wouldn’t.)

At that point someone else came along to talk with Harlan and I escaped to the bathroom. And I didn’t really get a chance to talk with him again. But what could I have said, anyway? That I’d admired him for most of my life? Would that have sounded like a comment on our relative ages? (He is, after all, a mere 16 years older than I am) Honestly, I don’t know what I would have said. I felt it was best not to try. Better not to irritate him again, and thus part on good terms between author and fan.

Not long after that, David cut the cake, I ate my share, and headed for home. I was exhausted and spinning and just hoped that the GPS would guide me safely home, which it did. I conked out and slept for 14 hours after that and woke up the next day with only a little vertigo and a lot of memories that still make me blink to this day.

Thank you, David, for a once in a lifetime invitation. And thank you, Harlan, for everything you are and everything you have done or will do. May you recover swiftly and take arms against the world again. Soon.

Hope you'll recommend my posts via your favorite social media. Just don't copy the material as your own.

September 30, 2014
by infmom
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It’s a good thing…

…. that I like doing things like this.

Boy, have I said that a lot over the years, when it comes to out-stubborning some kind of technical glitch. So far, I have been able to out-stubborn multiple software “upgrades,” new software installations that woofed their cookies, installation of new gizmos, transfers to new equipment, removal of crapware, eviction of malware (not, I am happy to report, on MY computer) and a whole host of other things that routinely drive anyone even moderately technically competent nuts.

I know this isn’t the most widely read blog in the ‘sphere, but when the whole thing’s crashed it’s even less well read than ever. I just went through three days of trying to out-stubborn both the software and my web hosts. Now, I hasten to say here that I generally like the web hosts (1&1) but across all platforms and in all venues where technical support people are given scripts to read (and this is hardly the only place where that’s the problem) I keep running into situations where the script doesn’t fit the circumstances. (I’d love to get a load of the comments I’m sure the cable company has attached to our account.)

So…  ok. Problem vanquished.

Now, all I have to do is actually WRITE something from time to time.

Hope you'll recommend my posts via your favorite social media. Just don't copy the material as your own.

December 17, 2013
by infmom
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It’s official. I have no fashion sense.

My mother had a great sense of style, and no matter what she wore, she looked fabulous. She picked out my clothes for me till the time I went away to college and I had no problem whatsoever with that. I have never had any particular interest in shopping for clothes.

jeans watch pocket

jeans watch pocket (Photo credit: Muffet)

Since I’ve been out on my own, I have worn whatever’s required for work, and in my off-work hours it was strictly jeans and a t-shirt or a sweater. Now that I’ve retired from working for other people and have been working for myself, it’s jeans and t-shirts or sweaters all the way.

I’ve long been a fan of shopping for nearly all my clothes at thrift stores (I draw the line at buying underwear or shoes there, let me make that perfectly clear).  Since I’ve been on Weight Watchers for just over a year, I have lost 35 pounds (with more to go) and it makes no sense to buy brand new clothing when my size changes from month to month. So I have been visiting the thrift stores more often.

And thus I have discovered that the manufacturers of women’s jeans do not believe women need real pockets. Before I caught on to this, I bought a couple of pairs of jeans with pockets so short I could barely fit the length of my fingers in them. (They went right into our donations bin–no sense hanging on to stuff that doesn’t work.) Maybe other women just use the pockets for decoration, but I keep stuff in my pockets. Always.

I have a nail clipper in my pocket just like my dad did. I have a plastic carry case with earplugs in it (because my hearing is so sensitive I can’t survive in the outside world without them). I have a Victorinox MiniChamp knife, because you never know when you’ll need one of those tools or a tiny ballpoint pen. And I have a teardrop shaped, clear quartz stone that I’ve carried around for close to 30 years.

That stuff takes a certain amount of pocket depth. I do not want to risk losing any of it. In fact, I put away my stone because it fell out of my pocket so many times (fortunately, here at home where I can easily retrieve it) and started carrying a much smaller, less lose-able stone instead. (Story of stone-carrying, a hereditary trait, something to be told another day.)

So it is clear that I am out of step with what is fashionable once again. If I find jeans that fit me at the thrift store, the first thing I have to do is push a hand into the pockets to see if they’re real or just a fashion accessory. I put back a lot of jeans that would otherwise be fine. And there’s no consistency among brands, either, so I can’t be assured that I pick this or that brand I’ll get actual pockets.

What’s a non-fashionista to do?

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November 22, 2013
by infmom
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11/22/63

11/22/63

I was not quite 13 years old and in the 8th grade in Fairfield, Iowa. Since our house was only two blocks from the school, I almost always went home for lunch rather than eating in the cafeteria.

I had just started making a sandwich when I heard my mother say “Oh my God!” She was not a daytime TV viewer, so I’m guessing she heard the news on the radio, but I just don’t remember for sure.

My parents didn’t allow a TV in the living room–in this house, it was in their bedroom. I joined my mother in the bedroom and we stared at the TV in disbelief.

Then I ran back to the kitchen, threw my sandwich away and raced back to school. A group of my friends was standing around outside the front door and they (quite naturally) did not believe me when I blurted out the news.

Our homeroom classroom was one of only a few that had a TV in it (so we could take conversational Spanish lessons on KTVO, Kirksville-Ottumwa) so I insisted that we break the rules and go to the classroom and turn on the TV. On any other day, doing that would have landed us all in a boatload of trouble… but not that day.

The teacher, Mrs. Adrian, kept the TV on and we watched in stunned silence. KTVO was an independent station that got its feeds from several sources. It was Walter Cronkite who gave us the final news. Not long afterwards, the principal, Mr. Carter, came on the PA system to anounce it to the rest of the school.

I remember that day as being dark and grey, but whether that was the weather or the news coloring my memory, I do not know.

I was watching TV in my parents’ bedroom on Sunday. My mom told me to turn it off because enough was enough, but I wanted to watch them move Oswald. There was a bang and a tussle, and I thought he’d tried to escape. Then they announced he’d been shot as well. I don’t remember which news feed I was watching, but it wasn’t the one that’s endlessly replayed when that day is talked about. I’ve only seen the images I saw that day once since then and I didn’t think to make a note of where it came from. I have what’s commonly called a photographic memory and I remember images quite clearly, so I do know what it was I saw.

I wonder if we’ll ever find out what really happened? Between the true believers and the conspiracy theorists, the waters have been muddied so much that I doubt anyone will ever find the facts.

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