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musings, thoughts, and writings of Barbara W. Klaser

October 1, 2022

About the future of this blog – and its current state

I’m in the process of reviving this blog, because I find myself missing the process of keeping a blog. But the software here is currently way out of date, and the theme (that which controls the appearance of the blog) was so customized by us in the past, that I know it will break as soon as I update the software.

One of the things missing in its currently broken state is my blogroll, the list of my favorite blogs. Even if it was visible, some of the bloggers I used to follow have stopped blogging, or moved their sites. Some no longer have their blogs at all, and some of them have sadly passed away. I apologize to those of you whose blogs are still in existence, even if not you are not currently blogging but your posts are still online, and your links are no longer visible here. Please understand that I hope to get my links to your blogs working again soon. Even if you’re no longer updating, I know there are some of you whose older posts are good to revisit from time to time.

So bear with me, visitors and fellow bloggers, while I begin posting again, and traverse a learning curve in order to manage a more modern, streamlined, and more secure blog.

I hope to eventually rebirth the blog, maybe with a new look and in a new web location. While these processes are ongoing as I find time for them and learn more, I hope to at least revive my posting with some regularity and get some interesting content flowing.

If you view this on a phone, or on some other device besides a desktop or laptop computer, or if you use any browser other than Firefox or Google Chrome, and if you notice things looking a bit wonky as a result, feel free to let me know in a comment. That way I’ll have some hint of what needs to be fixed going forward. The older blog was designed when smart phones were not much in use for viewing websites, and the security requirements over the entire web were a lot more relaxed.

— Barbara @ rudimentary 3:52 pm PST, 10/01/22

August 7, 2022

Netflix Persuasion and how The Birds helped me get over it

Let me state up front that I have not seen the Neflix movie, Persuasion, only the trailer and a few other clips, and this is not a review of that movie. I suppose what this really is, is an answer to all the hand-wringing going on over it, of which I admit I have been a part. But I’m pretty much over it now. Here’s why.

Back in June, when the new Netflix Persuasion movie was announced, and a bit later when I actually saw the trailer, I have to tell you, I was angry.

I’m a long-time fan of Jane Austen, I love Regency period fiction of all genres (there is more to Regency fiction than just romance), and I’ve researched it just enough to fall in love with a lot about that time of history. Fall in love, that’s what I said, which seems kind of silly I suppose when you consider the wars, the colonialism, the mad (ill) king, as well as slavery, poverty, child labor, sexism, homophobia, rigid class separation, and so on and so forth. But as a picturesque (to some degree) period of time in which manners counted so much, and the clothing worn by the upper classes was so beautiful, it can be just a pleasant fantasy for us today if we don’t think too hard about it, and knowing that Jane Austen engaged in some of her own criticism of some of the less savory things going on, I’ve felt justified in loving nearly everything Austen and a little of everything Regency.

It was also a romantic era for music, poetry, art, architecture, and gardens. My feelings about it haven’t changed. Add to that, there were abolitionist, labor, and women’s movements coming to life, and people wanting to cross those socio-economic boundaries. It was a time of great potential for good. Perhaps it’s also just far enough removed from many of the problems of today, or I can see enough improvement in those problems now, that it provides me some good contrast. Perhaps it gives me some hope that we’re moving in the right direction.

Persuasion is one of my favorites of Austen’s novels. It’s also her most mature and most serious. So, as I watched that trailer and read more about the movie, I grew incensed, indignant, and ultra-defensive of my beloved author and my second favorite of her main characters, Anne Elliot. So much so that I barely even absorbed the fact of the racially diverse casting, which should have been the highlight of the news about that movie. By the end of the trailer, I was seeing red, not BIPOC inclusion, which level of distraction from something to be celebrated I find sad. I have since seen comparisons to Bridgerton and a series called Fleabag, but I’m not familiar with them. I don’t subscribe to TV or a streaming service, haven’t for 12 years or so, which is why I haven’t seen this movie yet, so I guess I’m out of that loop, so this production (the trailer anyway) came as a bit of a shock as far as snarky comedy and fourth wall breaking. Maybe I’m just not with it enough to get it. I keep trying to deny to myself that my age might have something to do with that.

But there was background to my anger. It had already begun seething long before this movie appeared on the horizon. I’d been through two earlier botch-ups of the plot of Persuasion for the sake of movie-making, in both the 1995 and 2007 versions. Mind you, I do love both those movies, own them on DVD, and have watched them repeatedly. But why, oh why, I wondered with much hand-wringing (it’s hard to take myself seriously, looking back now), why could no one make a movie that was faithful to the story? Especially as regards Mrs. Smith? The most accurate screen adaptation of the story so far had been a 1971 miniseries which in other regards seems now sadly outdated.

Now I learn that the newest movie ignores Mrs. Smith altogether, in fact leaves her out? And then they have the gall to turn Austen’s subtle satire into veritable slapstick comedy? They do this with her most serious of novels, the last one she wrote before her untimely death? Sacrilege.

Again, hand-wringing. Please bear with me. I have a point to make, and maybe it will help some others who feel as I did.

In the midst of my outrage, something happened. I came across a documentary about Daphne du Maurier, and in the first few minutes of it there was a mention of her story, “The Birds,” being the inspiration for the Hitchcock movie with the same title. That sent me in search of the story, because I had not been aware of that, or somehow the information had never registered in my memory before.

The Birds Kindle Cover The Apple Tree 1952

I found The Birds and Other Stories, formerly titled The Apple Tree, and started reading it. I’m still not finished, so this isn’t yet a review of that book either. I’ve only finished reading the forward and one story, so far.

Read about The Birds and Other Stories on Wikipedia.

Fortunately for me, I began with the 2004 forward written by British film critic and historian David Thomson, titled, “Du Maurier, Hitchcock and Holding an Audience,” and my outrage flew up against Thomson’s window into reason. I read what he had to say about it, and then du Maurier’s story, “The Birds,” and my indignation and anger lifted their wings and flew away.

Du Maurier’s original story is quite different from Hitchcock’s rendering. But before I get to that, let me say that the original short story is excellent. Especially if you like horror, but even if you don’t. Horror is not a genre that I enjoy, ordinarily, and while du Maurier’s other stories might be called Gothic or suspense, this particular short story is definitely horror.

The story takes place in Cornwall, after the second World War, and centers around a man named Nat Hocken, a war veteran who works on a farm, where he and his family are provided a cottage. He’s a disabled veteran, so he’s given some of the easier work, and is happy to work alone most of the time.

One day, while pausing to eat during his workday, Nat notices some odd bird behavior, which he doesn’t take seriously until he is actually pecked at by some birds. That night, an unseasonably cold night, birds start trying to get into his house. At first Nat blames their behavior on the cold. But then they get into the cottage and attack both him and his son. As the night progresses, he and his wife have to take extraordinary steps to protect their two children.

When he made his movie, Hitchcock moved the story forward in time, and across an ocean and continent to Bodega Bay, California, and created entirely new characters. His film only resembles the short story in that the main focus is on strange bird attacks on humans, which increase in intensity, with strange lulls between attacks, and the main action of both the printed story and the movie takes place in small seaside towns.

WARNING, spoiler ahead:

Eventually, in the short story, a pattern emerges in the attacks. They seem to follow the tides. But the cause of the attacks remains a mystery, and the end of the story doesn’t provide any promise of a resolution, only the survival of one small family, and only for the time being. It’s quite chilling! Of course, so is the movie. I was in my early adolescence when I first saw it on TV, in the late 1960s or early 1970s, and both my sister and I, as well as our friends, were so haunted by the movie that one day on our walk to school we became overcome with fear of a large flock of starlings and we all ran terrified down the street.

With The Birds, I never experienced that conflict I have between written fiction and adaptations into films, because until now I’d never read the story. I just thought of it as a wonderful, suspenseful, scary vintage movie. As an adult I can watch it with tongue in cheek, even laughing at the absurdity and melodrama.

“An author takes three or four years to write a fine novel; it’s his whole life. Then other people take it over completely.”
– Alfred Hitchcock

But with Jane Austen’s Persuasion this conflict seems especially fierce for me, perhaps because it’s my second favorite of Austen’s stories, I’ve read it numerous times, and I feel a connection with the character of Anne Elliot. I feel her empathy for her friend Mrs. Smith, the one person she gives up her usual serene demeanor to defend. I feel this so much that when I saw the recent movie trailer I almost went ballistic. But I won’t go into that any further. What reading the forward to du Maurier’s short story, “The Birds,” did for me is of great value. A brief quote from the forward may help explain:

“… Still, a serious writer needs to be wary of the movies – don’t look for too many thanks, and keep away from the shooting if you’re sensible, because writers’ feelings are seldom spared.”

Alfred Hitchcock’s own words (as related by Thomson), when asked how many times he had read the story before making the movie: “What I do is read a story only once, and if I like the basic idea, I just forget all about the book and start to create cinema. Today I would be unable to tell you the story of Daphne du Maurier’s ‘The Birds.’ I read it only once, and very quickly at that. An author takes three or four years to write a fine novel; it’s his whole life. Then other people take it over completely.”

If you get a chance to read the full forward to this edition of The Birds and Other Stories, I highly recommend it, as well as the title selection of the book. I’m still in the process of reading the rest of the stories.

This forward served very well to calm my anger over Netflix’s Persuasion, and that may be the best thing I took away from it, thanks in part to du Maurier, in part to Alfred Hitchcock, and in perhaps even greater part to David Thomson’s ability to make sense of it to me.

As readers, we think we’re reading what the author wrote, feeling what they felt, getting out of the story precisely what they put into it. But that’s an illusion. We project ourselves into everything we experience, and that includes artwork, music, books, movies, even history or the news. Every story we take in becomes in a sense our own, affected to a greater or lesser degree by an unconscious mind we’re unaware of, as well as our conscious thoughts, memories, and wishes. I own my impression of Jane Austen’s work, but it’s not her impression of it, and it’s clearly not the same impression anyone making a movie from it has. Even if they come close to mine, they’re working in an entirely different medium from the book, which can’t do what the written word can (though it can frequently do more), and possibly shouldn’t try too hard to mimic.

It’s natural, as people who love to read, that many of us form our own mental images and impressions, and that we long to see those impressions acted out on a stage or screen. But it’s not going to happen very often that our impressions match even loosely what someone else makes of the story.

One day perhaps someone will come up with a screen version of Persuasion that does what I think it should, even better than BBC did in 1971. But if they don’t, I still have the book, and my enjoyment of it, which is a deeply personal experience. I’m happier as a reader if I let that be enough.

— Barbara @ rudimentary 4:27 pm PST, 08/07/22

July 31, 2022

Book Review: Solaris, by Stanislaw Lem

I recently read the 2014 Kindle edition of Solaris by Stanislaw Lem. (See cover art for the Kindle edition on the left, below, and for the currently available paperback in the center, below.) I’m not sure why I don’t recall ever hearing of this book before my recent introduction to it. It’s apparently considered a science fiction classic. I found a mention of it a few weeks ago, in an older book by John Gardner, and that mention intrigued me, so I decided to give it a try. I’m glad I did. It was originally published in 1961 (original cover art shown on the right, below).

— Barbara @ rudimentary 12:00 pm PST, 07/31/22

July 19, 2022

Comic-Con San Diego 2022

I confess I’ve never been to a Comic-Con, even though they take place in my home town, but I am a Star Trek fan from childhood, when the original series first aired (yes, I’m that old), and perhaps some of my readers are as well. So here are some tidbits about the event:

The Official Star Trek Universe Guide to San Diego Comic-Con 2022

Paramount+ Bringing Star Trek Back To Comic-Con With Hall H Panel Promising “Reveals And Surprises”

Don’t forget to bring verification of vaccination or a negative COVID test, and to wear a mask.

Comic-Con Requiring Attendees Show “Health Pass,” Wear Masks At All Times; Security Staff Will “Support Adherence To The Policy”

“In case there’s any doubt in year three of the pandemic what an approved face covering looks like, the organizers add the following: “Face coverings should completely cover the nose and mouth, fit snugly against the sides of the face, and not have any gaps.”

“All attendees are also required to provide verification that they are fully vaccinated — two shots — or provide proof of a negative test taken within 72 hours.”

— Barbara @ rudimentary 12:15 pm PST, 07/19/22

July 3, 2020

Shadows Fall is available again

My romantic mystery novel, Shadows Fall, is available again, since June 2017, as a Kindle-only e-book, to purchase, or to borrow through Kindle Unlimited. New print copies are no longer available.

Shadows Fall at Amazon

Shadows Fall Cover

— Barbara @ rudimentary 9:32 am PST, 07/03/20

June 30, 2011

Rescued Kittens

We’ve been busy here raising some rescued kittens born to semi-feral and stray mothers, getting the adults spayed and neutered, and bottle feeding three litters. We’ve now found homes for all the kittens, including the two we’re keeping. We’re very happy about this. But I sure wish people would spay/neuter ALL their pets and do everything they can to keep them with them permanently. This is a preventable problem that nonetheless seems to be epidemic.

— Barbara @ rudimentary 3:58 pm PST, 06/30/11

December 8, 2010

Last chance to purchase Shadows Fall

The time has come for me to end my self-publishing adventure once and for all. If you’ve intended to read my romantic mystery novel, Shadows Fall, but never got around to it, you can still purchase a Mobi-Pocket or Kindle version of it for the remainder of December.

Update, as of March 2011, Shadows Fall is no longer available for purchase.

Thank you from the depths of my heart to my readers, blog visitors, and all of you who’ve encouraged me and supported my efforts in the past few years, especially my husband Ken.

EDIT: My romantic mystery novel, Shadows Fall, is available again, as of June 2017, as a Kindle-only e-book, to purchase, or to borrow through Kindle Unlimited. New print copies are no longer available.

Shadows Fall at Amazon

Shadows Fall Cover

— Barbara @ rudimentary 2:19 pm PST, 12/08/10

May 31, 2010

Book Review: One For Sorrow

The John the Lord Chamberlain mystery series, by Mary Reed and Eric Mayer is set in sixth century Constantinople, also known as Byzantium. I’ve been meaning to read this entire series for some time, but I waited until I could get the whole series.

One for Sorrow begins with a rowdy May festival commemorating the founding of the Empire’s capitol. The public entertainment includes a trained bear and a lovely female bull leaper who reminds John, Lord Chamberlain to Emperor Justinian, uncannily of a former lover. The evening’s continuing street revelry results eventually in the escape of the bear. In the chaos that follows, John finds his friend Leukos dead in a back alley near a house of ill repute. John is ordered by Emperor Justinian to investigate the death, since Leukos was the Emperor’s Keeper of the Plate and he appears to have been murdered.

John questions his friend Isis who operates the brothel, as well as an innkeeper with a shrewish wife, a knight from King Arthur’s court on a Grail quest, a stylite or “pillar saint” living on top of a column, and the ancient wandering soothsayer who was consulted by the victim shortly before his death. John even looks up the beautiful bull leaper, partly to satisfy his curiosity and partly to appease his young friend Anatolius who declared he was in love with her at first glance. When the Emperor abruptly calls off the investigation, John, for reasons of his own, continues his sleuthing against the Emperor’s wishes, risking the emperor’s deadly wrath.

All these colorful characters and scenes are wrought in realistic and believable detail. Interwoven are John’s reminiscences of his years as a mercenary, his enslavement and subsequent mutilation (John is a eunuch), as well as his grief for his lost relationship with a Cretan woman.

I found myself identifying with John, and I found the story line intriguing, with just enough historical detail to keep me turning pages and looking forward to my nightly forays into Byzantium. I especially liked the way the authors handled the conflicting belief systems, the early Christian church with its internal dissent and imperfect leaders as well as followers, and the outlawed but persistent paganism. All in all, this is a fascinating mystery. I was impressed with the interweaving of the various story lines, and the care the authors took to do careful research without weighing down the story with unnecessary material or emasculating its fictional elements (John’s condition notwithstanding). It held my interest and kept me in suspense to the harrowing climax, all the while feeling as if I was there in that distant time and place, uncertain what would happen next, but also with a little time to explore the scenery. The pace was very well balanced in that regard, which made this a fun read for me, in which I could savor each chapter.

As an added bonus, the book includes a glossary in the back with helpful historical details that aren’t necessary for enjoyment of the story, but are nice to have. There’s also a map of sixth century Constantinople in the front.

While I highly recommend One For Sorrow, I want to point out that it was only the first in a series of eight mysteries so far. I’ve read a couple in the series now, and the other, Four For A Boy, was every bit as good. The eighth book in the series, Eight for Eternity, is available now, and I was very tempted to read that before this one. After all, it got a starred review from Publisher’s Weekly, and my experience with two of the series titles so far convinces me that these are readable and enjoyable in any order. So if you’re anxious to delve into the latest first, I doubt you’ll be disappointed.

One For Sorrow
Mary Reed and Eric Mayer
Poisoned Pen Press 1999
ISBN 1890208426

— Barbara @ rudimentary 6:37 pm PST, 05/31/10

April 14, 2010

Time passes so quickly

I did not intend to leave the blog hanging for so long. Blame it on the passage of time, which seems so often to run away from me these days.

I’ve been busy, but with what I’m at a loss to tell you. I have not been writing, not fiction at least. I have become somewhat addicted to Facebook and at least one game there. If I’m spending a lot of time there, though, I would have to blame it more on their slow site, or maybe my slow computer, than on avid interest in what’s on offer, except for keeping in touch with some special people, and well, ahem. My name is Barbara and I am an Internet addict.

I’ve been reading a little. Right now I’m in the middle of The Interpretation of Fairy Tales by Marie-Louise von Franz. Before that I enjoyed Sepulchre by Kate Mosse.

I started knitting a pair of socks.

But spring is here, and it’s so beautiful outdoors that one can’t help but spend a lot of time gazing out windows when indoors, or being outdoors enjoying our spring weather. The hooded orioles arrived in from Mexico in March this year. March! I don’t remember them ever being here so early. The weeds arrived early, as usual, with our several deluges of rain late in the season. Flowers, flowers everywhere, and birds. We’ve spotted a goldfinch or two. A pair of red-tailed hawks honored us with a close encounter a few days ago. Raven (the black cat) added a few more head counts to his distinction in the neighborhood as a gopher hunter. It’s a ghastly business, killing gophers, but as a result of his eradication efforts my poppies aren’t getting eaten as soon as they bloom. Aloe vera blooms, in a spray of soft orange flowers, outside the nearest window as I write this, and hummingbirds hover frequently there to take sips of nectar. This is way too much distraction from blogging for me. But I’ll try to return here sooner next time.

— Barbara @ rudimentary 4:36 pm PST, 04/14/10

November 28, 2009

Dear Dad

My dad, Don R. Walker, passed away yesterday, with my sister and brother, Helen and Doug, by his side. He was 86 years old. As my sister mentioned in her message to relatives and friends, my dad was proud to be a veteran who served in the US Army during World War II. He was born in Missouri, and met my mom, Priscilla, when he was stationed near San Diego. They married in December 1942. They celebrated their 59th anniversary a few months before my mom’s death in 2002.

It’s a strange feeling when both your parents have passed, a kind of changing of the guard between generations. And yet, immersed in memories at the moment, in many ways I still feel like a child. (more…)

— Barbara @ rudimentary 1:08 pm PST, 11/28/09

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