Reading list for book to TV adaptations

iu_011One of my “things” is translations from one media to another.  I suppose it started with the James Blish adaptations from the Star Trek tv series.  Not the typical direction.  Although the next case that got me was the more common book to movie adaptation of Gone With the Wind.  I’m also going to make note of the order I encountered them.  ST was tv first, of course.  GWtW was movie first.

Lately I keep diving into translations of books to tv series.  I’m not currently pursuing any of these, but I wanted to start this blog entry as an outline for future blogs.

Usually when I say “book” I mean “audio book” and when I say “read” I mean “listen.”  An audio book is adaptation, too, especially an abridged one.  In truth, for a lot of these I’ve never actually read the book, but I’m assuming I can judge the faithfulness of a media adaptation if I’ve listened to an unabridged audio version.

Nero Wolfe by Rex Stout.  Absolutely THE best book to tv series.  Excellent, faithful tv adaptation.  Loose radio adaptations.  Movies, too, but I only vaguely remember one that starred Dark Shadows’ Thayer David.  About half the series is iur_001available on excellent audio books read by Michael Prichard.  Movie, radio, audiobooks, tv.

(I just found this — and am in shock.  William Shatner as Archie Goodwin.  That would have been 6 or 7 years before Star Trek.)

Brother Cadfael by Ellis Peters.  Faithful tv and radio.  Audiobooks available by a variety of readers, including some abridged versions read by Derek Jacobi who was in the tv version.  Audiobooks, tv, radio, and I still haven’t seen all the tv.

Dexter by Jeff Lindsay.  Even where the tv series uses plots and dialog from the books, it gives it a very different spin.  I love the first two books, don’t even count the 3rd as part of the series, and like the other books.  I don’t like the tv series.  However, I’m fascinated by trying to figure out why I judge them all so differently, so I keep re-listening and re-watched even the versions I don’t like.  Multiple audiobook versions for some, including read by the author. Audiobooks, tv.

Wooster and Jeeves by P.G. Woodhouse.  Multiple audiobook versions including same wonderful FREE versions from Librivox.  Multiple radio adaptations, most excellent and faithful and available online for FREE.  TV series is uneven in quality and faithfulness but visually gorgeous. Audiobooks, radio, tv.

The Dead Zone by Stephen King.  My favorite King book and not available as an audiobook.  All my previous examples were book series adapted to tv, and, of course, it’s much more difficult to stretch a single book into a series.  In this case, they did a terrible job of it.  I had mixed feelings about the movie.  Book, movie, tv.

The Dome by Stephen King.  As above on stretching a book to tv.  Awful book, awful tv.  Audiobook, tv.

Note: I was once a huge King fan, but he hasn’t written anything good in 20 years. He can still write “page-turners” though, but I’m usually so disappointed by the end.  I keep listening to the new audiobooks when they come out, since my library and/or Library2Go always gets them.  So far only one was so bad I didn’t finish it.  And only one was interesting enough for me to listen to a second time.  But when I get a chance to see a movie or tv adaptation, I watch it.  The only time I thought the movie was better than the book was when I saw the movie first.  But I’m not going to try to even remember all of them and if they were movies or mini-series.  They were mostly so forgettable that I forgot them soon after I read or watched them, so can’t do any comparisons.

The Cousin’s War by Phillipa Gregory.  TV version is The White Queen, which I love.  I’ve just started listening to the audiobook versions.  TV, audiobooks.

Flashforward by Robert J. Sawyer.  Very little similarity of book (okay) to tv (good).  TV, audiobook.

Dresden Files by Jim Butcher.  Very little similarity of books (variable from great to good) to tv (good).

Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes.  Not a tv series but I recently got engrossed in the adaptations and want to include it.  I had read the short story ages ago and thought it was a masterpiece.  When I saw my library had it as an audiobook, I took it out and was terribly disappointed.  When I tried to figure out why I discovered that it was a novelization made from the short story.  I also discovered there had been two movie adaptations, (when I watched the earliest one, I realized I had seen it before) stage plays, a musical, and an amazing number of versions on YouTube including one done with sock puppets.  I could write a book about similarities and differences of all these different versions.  I won’t.  But I will do a blog with some observations eventually.  Short story, first movie, audiobook of the novel, second movie, audiobook of the short story, YouTube versions.

Well, now that I’ve already departed from just tv adaptations, I’ll mention I recently got off on radio adaptations of short stories.  I have a massive Sheldonian spreadsheet to help me organize my collection.  But that’s for a future blog.

Coincidence, synchronicity or illusory correlation?

{6422393D-AA82-413F-895A-6F4416725399}Img400The Silent Wife by A. S. A. Harrison and The Red Queen by Philippa Gregory

Pure coincidence, synchronicity or illusory correlation? I read The Red Queen as part of my recent Wars of the Roses interest and The Silent Wife just happened to be available when I was looking for something on Library2Go. But the same oddity struck me in both books.

In the first half of both, I kept admiring the way the authors showed the hypocrisy of the main characters while the characters were oblivious. But by the second half, it was so extreme as to be ludicrous and the characters were saying things that, in real life, would have forced me to say “Did you just hear yourself?”  I got to wondering if the author was intentionally going for laughs.

In The Red Queen, it was stereotypical religious hypocrisy. On the one hand, that was ingrained in the culture of that period, Divine Right of Kings and all. On the other hand, it’s become a cliché in our culture to the point that even an atheist like me feels sorry for well-meaning church-goers when I see it trotted out again.

In The Silent Wife, it was the everyday hypocrisy that we all do to get through the day, of not noticing our own faults while seeing clearly those of others, only taken to an extreme, and with a background of Pop Psychology. This is one of those rare books that, as soon as I finish it, I have to reread. I haven’t decided yet if the author is extremely clever and I missed some subtle points or extremely sloppy and there were some things that had no point at all.

Reading List for What’s Wrong with the World?

Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain by David Eagleman
The Hidden Brain : how our unconscious minds elect presidents, control markets, wage wars, and save our lives by Shankar Vedantam.
Brain Bugs: How the Brain’s Flaws Shape Our Lives by Dean Buonomano
The Psychopath Inside by James Fallon
The Murderer Next Door: Why the Mind Is Designed to Kill by David M. Buss
The World is Flat — A Brief History of the Twenty-first Century by Thomas L. Friedman.
Exposed: The Secret Life of Jodi Arias by Jane Velez-Mitchell


Video lecture series: Neuroscience of Everyday Life — Professor Sam Wang, Ph.D.  —


Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco Stork
Sirius (1944) by William Olaf Stapledon
Odd John (1936) by William Olaf Stapledon

What’s wrong with the world?

An old friend of mine posted a comment on FB about the recent school shooting, that got some interesting responses, including mine.  I thought this blog would be a better forum for my thoughts.

First, let’s try another little thought experiment. Write down all the famous murderers from the last 20 years that you can think of. Then do the same for scientists. How many of each did you come up with?


Anyone can get a gun and walk into a school and instantly achieve a level of fame normally achieved only by entertainers (I include sports figures and politicians in that category). What difference does it make if they die in the process? We’re all going to die.

But that’s just a piece of the puzzle.

Human brains evolved over millions of years to optimize survival in a non-technological world. Increasingly, we have to deal with aspects of technological development that our brains are just not made for and the rate of change keeps accelerating. Our brains are designed to cope with small communities of people we know where, when we get angry, we can’t do much more than punch somebody, and, whatever we do, only a score of people will ever know.

Lethal weapons, mass communication and transportation speed are just a few of the things our brains are not wired for. Mass shootings are just one of the most showy results.

Is Loyalty a Virtue?

This portrait was executed with a normal right shoulder line, which was altered later to give a slight tilt. —

My current “thing” is the Wars of the Roses, which illustrate a lot of interesting problems with the concept of loyalty. If you decide to support something — King, person, cause, country or whatever — and later decide that was a bad decision, how can it be a good thing to continue to act on the basis of that bad decision?

I can see why the King thinks your loyalty to him is a virtue. It’s certainly makes his life easier to know that his supporters will back him no matter what he does. I can see that it makes your own life easier if you can make a decision and then forget about it, to not have to constantly reevaluate.

The only case I can see when it might be the ethical thing to do is when resisting the temptation to change only because you want to be on the winning side, especially the temptation to try to make both sides think you’re loyal to them until one of them wins. And even then, I could argue that you have a higher duty to keep yourself, and others you’re responsible for, safe.

But what if the King has changed and is doing evil things? What if the situation has changed and the King you supported, through no fault of his own, is no longer the best person to meet the needs of the country? What if you have matured, and your greater knowledge makes you realize it was naive to make the decision you did? In all these cases, if you continue to be “loyal” after you realize continuing your support will do harm, how can that be a good thing?

My Wars of the Roses Reading List

Actually, I have difficulty reading, so this is mostly audio books and some video.  And I’m frugal, so this is what I’ve found that’s free.

The Wars of the Roses were a series of dynastic wars for the throne of England. They were fought between iu_007supporters of two rival branches of the royal House of Plantagenet, the houses of Lancaster and York in several sporadic episodes between 1455 and 1487.  —

Librivox Audiobooks:

The Lives of the Queens of England Volumes 3&4  Agnes STRICKLAND (1796 – 1874) and Elisabeth STRICKLAND (1794 – 1875) —

Richard III (Makers of History series) Jacob ABBOTT —

Margaret of Anjou Jacob ABBOTT —

A Child’s History of England Charles DICKENS —

A Short History of England G. K. CHESTERTON —

David Hume, The History of England —

Library2Go —

This Sceptred Isle — BBC radio series —

Other library/free sources:

The Wars of the Roses: The Fall of the Plantagenets and the Rise of the Tudors by Dan Jones —

The Cousins’ War Series by Philippa Gregory

The White Queen — a British television drama series in ten parts, based on Philippa Gregory‘s historical novel series The Cousins’ War

Richard III:The Unseen Story (2013 TV Movie) — extraordinary forensic detective story explains how the discovery of Richard III was made, from the first cut in the ground to the final DNA analysis. —

The Morality Meter: An Ethical Thought Experiment

What if you could buy a Morality Meter?  I imagine something that looks like a wrist watch.  It would come in different models with many different settings and would monitor your actions (or thoughts, if your morality worries about “lusting in your heart” or some such) and give you a reading for your choice of time interval.  The “10 commandments” or “7 Deadly Sins” models would tell you how many you violated and how many times.  The “Harm None” model would give a reading on the harm you’ve done, the “Kant” (The greatest good for the greatest number) on the good you’ve done, and the “Karma” on both.morality meter

Of course, you could set your preferences to answer the questions about “Harm none of what?” and “Greatest  number of what?”  People?  All people are only some?  Animals?  All animals or only some?  One good dose of antibiotics could really mess up your score.  Although there are all those living happily in your gut.  But neither your thoughts or actions have much effect on them, while taking antibiotics is a conscious effort to kill things.

I’d want a weighting system.  I feel I have a much greater moral imperative to see to the welfare of my cats than I do to any other cats.  I think parents have a greater responsibility to keep their children from harm than other children.  And grandchildren.  Cousins?  Neighbors?  Those would all be in your preferences settings.

Anyone who’s wrestled with questions of vegetarianism has given thought to how they feel about eating different animals.  Most people are horrified by whole idea of cannibalism, and most Westerners would be almost as horrified by the thought of eating dogs and cats.  Increasingly people are weighing questions about if it’s morally equivalent to eat mammals and fish, fruits and vegetables, organically grown or not.  I feel guiltier when I eat pork than beef, duck than chicken.  Why?  Because I’ve cuddled pigs and ducks, but not cows or chickens.  That makes a difference to me.

If you could buy a Morality Meter, would you?  Do you think you’d be surprised by the readings?  What model and settings would you choose?  Would you modify your behavior to get better readings?  Or just change the settings?  What if there were a badge model, so everyone could see your readings?  Would you use it?  Would it become fashionable?  Would it change our society?  Would governments find some way to get money from it, making the phrase “Sin tax” literal?  I suppose there would be an authorized “Government” model (as well as models authorized by various religions).

Is this a purely theoretical thought experiment?  Is there a behaviour with many harmful consequences that governments have put up signs all over the place telling you their standards, and we have meters telling us how closely we’re following them?

Well, we have speedometers in our cars and posted speed limits.  (And, yes, the government has a way to make money out of people who “sin.”)

I like to ask people what they think the “right” speed is.  I don’t think anyone has every answered “the speed limit” which seems to me the most obvious answer.  “The speed of traffic” or “5 miles over the speed limit” are the most common answers.  One guy was very insistent that it was perfectly legal to go 5 miles above the speed limit.  Not just that cops didn’t stop you as long as you didn’t go faster, but that it was legal.

Admittedly, this fascinates me because my father when teaching me to drive told me the “Speed Limit” was just that — the upper limit — and you should only go at that fast when road conditions were perfect and you were passing someone.  The “right” speed most of the time, he told me, was 5 mph below that.  Slower at night or in the rain.  Of course, everyone passed us.  One of the two times I was ever stopped by a cop was for going too slow when my father was giving me a driving lesson.

I generally drive at the speed limit.  I go over it when there’s someone tailgating me.  There have been other times, when I’ve gotten behind someone going a lot slower, and I passed them, but the car in front of them isn’t going much faster, so I keep passing, and speeding up to do so.  I was in the grip of the competitiveness that’s probably the source of most driving behaviors.

There’s that joke “How can my checking account be overdrawn?  I still have checks left.”  I imagined getting pulled over and saying to the cop “How can I be speeding?  There are still cars in front of me.”  (Better yet, like the joke about Heisenberg, the cop would ask “Do you know fast you were going?” and I could answer “No, but I know where I am.”  Sorry, that’s one my favorite jokes, but I don’t dare tell it because I don’t know anyone I could be sure would get it.  But since I doubt anyone will be reading this, it doesn’t matter here.

Even More Fun

Rulers of England v9.4My current “thing” is the Wars of the Roses, which got me to make a correction to this masterpiece infographic of mine. The left side is a mnemonic rhyme I discovered that I think I’ve finally memorized, with the matching actual names and dates on the right.  Along with various other visual clues.

The Wars of the Roses are tougher than any of the other periods I’ve studied because there are so many confusing names of the key players.  Bunches of Margarets, Richards, Elizabeths and Edwards.  I think I’ve finally gotten most of the straight in my head. In Ancient Roman History, there are gazillions of “Gais Julius Caesars” but historians have given them more distinctive names such as “Caligula.”  (Trivia: Caligula would probably be really upset that he’s now known by his childhood nickname, usually given the translation of “Little Boots.”  But recently I heard another translation which he would have liked even less.  “Bootsie”)

Why do I keep thinking of Sheldon’s “Fun with Flags” as I write this?  But I think I’m different because I don’t imagine than anyone else would be interested.  I suppose I’m putting this out hoping someone will be, but I don’t expect it.  I definitely feel better now that I have this blog where I can write about this stuff.

I also keep thinking of Sheldon when I realize how devastated I’ll probably be when Liz dies and this will be outdated.

Having fun

I thought I was unique in this, but maybe it’s a common Aspie situation.  When I was in high school, my mother told me that I didn’t need to get straight A’s all the time.  I ought to go out and have fun instead.  The problem was, I knew how to get straight A’s, but had no idea how to have fun.

I fear I wasted a lot of time in my adulthood making myself do things because I knew other people enjoyed them.  I kept hoping I’d learn to like them.  I was probably in my 30’s or 40’s before I decided I didn’t have to force myself to go to parties.  I was never going to learn to like them, and why should I go to them when I didn’t.

So what if my idea of having a good time is to lose myself in a spreadsheet?  Or if my idea of great art is a really good infographic?  Is that really something so shameful that I don’t dare say it in public?  It’s not like I kill people for fun or something.  I’m weird but I’m not hurting anyone.catfamilyI spent a lot of time making this for my own reference.  It was a lot of fun.  Why should I be so embarrassed about admitting that?

Brave New Big Brother World

keep-calm-softt-kitty-shirtOne fun thing about being an elderly SF fan is remembering when “1984” and “Space:1999” were visions of the future and marveling at how differently things turned out.

Did anyone ever write about a future where Big Brother’s intrusion into our lives was in the form of advertising?  I remember a few with all-pervasive advertising, but not so personally targeted.

I’m not spooked when I get on Facebook and see ads related to searches I’ve run on Amazon, ebay or Google (although it was funny to see what came up after I did some searches for a friend) but is Big Brother reading this new blog of mine?  That’s the only reason I can think of to keep showing me an ad for this shirt.