I found this a very enjoyable read via my BlackBerry on my morning commute and before bed.
I was amazed at how well this novel appealed to me. For a science fiction novel published in 1912 (actually as a six-part serial in a magazine that year), it has stood the test of time quite well. Granted what we know of Mars makes much of the story ludicrous if you look at it strictly from a factual point of view. But if you suspend belief and imagine that Mars is actually not the Mars we know, but an imaginary world or planet of Burroughs devising, then it’s a fine story in an interesting setting.
After spending a very lazy Saturday avoiding the invasion of little green men from the Emerald Isle by baking bread, reading about life under Mao in China and watching action flix, Apollo and I took a long walk Sunday morning under an increasingly gloomy overcast sky. Oddly, we saw only one other dog, which looked like a miniature version of Apollo. Only three other people were walking during the nine o’clock hour yesterday. We passed by two clocks on our walk, both of which are broken (either not telling time at all or completely incorrect in their display). Here’s a couple of shots of the clock at the north end of Lansing’s long undeveloped Town Centre street:
As Terry and I were about to leave the house in the early afternoon, my father stopped by on a surprise visit, mostly in response to a status update I Tweeted late on Saturday. He wanted the nitty gritty details concerning my success in updating my Autostar hand-held computer control device for my Meade ETX-90 telescope.
A couple of weeks ago, I had downloaded the most recent Autostar Updater software from Meade and finally remembered to attempt the hardware portion of the update. Hardware and I have a long history of adversarial confrontations. Basically, I used several different connector cables between my laptop and the Autostar device: 1) a serial to USB convert cable, 2) a proprietary Meade serial to Autostar cable (looks very similar to a phone jack, not nearly as big as RJ-45 though), 3) the Autostar cable to connect to the Meade ETX-90 and 4) a universal 12 volt transformer and power cable to supply electricity to the telescope. Once all the connections were in place and secure, I fired up the software. I did an auto-detect on all available COM ports and the software found the Autostar on COM5. Then, I instructed the software to download the most recent firmware version (43Eg … an increase of nearly 20 versions over the 26Ec firmware that came on the Autostar when I received it) from Meade and proceeded with the download to the Autostar at the astronomically miniscule data rate of 9600 baud. The update amounted to about 36 kilobytes of data. I have text files that are larger than that. It took fifteen to twenty minutes to complete the transfer. Man, has data transfer come a long ways in the last decade or two.
I gave dad the bread I had made him Saturday, as well as the Netflix envelope with The Adventures of TinTin sealed in it so he could watch that movie and then return it for me to Netflix in a second unsealed envelope I sent home with him.
Without further ado, Terry and I headed to the Plaza branch of the Kansas City Public Library to attend a lecture and presentation by John Carter Tibbets billed as “From Africa to Mars! 100 Years of Tarzan and John Carter.” We arrived just in the nick of time and parked in the tenant parking garage, since I remembered to bring my security badge with me. I happen to work in that same building. As a result of the lecture, I decided to add the DVD of Greystoke to my Netflix queue. I remember watching it in the mid 80s, probably on a VHS tape, but decided now is the time to see it in wide-screen via DVD. I also acquired a movie poster for the John Carter movie, and other memorabilia, courtesy of Tibbets’ recent private screening of the film at a special showing to a select group of Burroughs aficionados. Tibbets closed the session with this wonderful quote from C.S. Lewis, summing up the why behind the timeless popularity of characters like John Carter and Tarzan:
To tell how odd things struck odd people is to have an oddity too much: he who is to see strange sights must not himself be strange. He ought to be as nearly as possible Everyman or Anyman.
— C.S. Lewis, On Science Fiction
On the return trip home, Terry and I detoured to Mission Med Vet to pick up Roxy‘s remains. We spent the drive home in silence, cherishing memories of her and missing her deeply.
I can’t wait until this weekend to see John Carter at the theater. I would have bought my tickets over lunch except my favorite theater has not yet listed showtimes for this weekend. I convinced my uncle to venture forth as well this weekend. But the real icing on the cake came with the short note he sent me this morning proclaiming his success in finding A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs at Project Gutenberg and getting it downloaded to his Nook Color.
My local favorite library posted a cool YouTube video via their Facebook and Twitter feeds that I’d like to share here, prefaced by their blurb:
Do you know who created Tarzan and John Carter of Mars 100 years ago this spring? Check out this video preview of an upcoming event featuring author, critic & broadcaster John Tibbetts celebrating the legacy of an American cult icon…
And thanks to an update from Sky & Telescope‘s Facebook feed, I learned that “Mars is at its closest to Earth for this apparition: 100.8 million km (62.6 million miles). Mars appears 13.9 arcseconds wide, compared to the 24″ or 25″ it reaches during its closet swing-bys. The last time that happened was in 2003; the next will be in 2018.” I saw Mars shining brightly this morning in the west before the sun arose, when I let the dogs out after they ate their breakfast.