Showing posts with label Edgar Rice Burroughs. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Edgar Rice Burroughs. Show all posts

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Who knows what a Gryf is?

Good question.  The Economist compared the EU to a triceratops, a big, extinct, dinosaur, generally believed to be a plant eater along the lines of the dinosaurian rhinoceros. Only with more horns up front.  Then they went on to call for conversion of the triceratops into a gryf. 
   So what's a gryf?  Tarzan, on one of his adventures into darkest unexplored Africa, encountered them, and they looked like triceratops (Tarzan even recognize them as such in the book) but they were ferocious man eaters instead of herbivores.  I happened to have read that very Tarzan book as a child.  My summer camp library had a copy.  The book (Tarzan the Terrible) was published back in the 1920's and I never saw it for sale anywhere. It's like really out of print.   
   Anyhow, an Economist writer read the long out of print Tarzan book, and  thought the Edgar Rice Burroughs fictional monster would make a good simile or metaphor in 2017.  Groovy.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Juan Williams on Johnny Can't Read.

Juan had a handsome op ed in the Wall St Journal yesterday entitled "The Scandal of K-12 Education".  He cited some really awful statistics on the terrible performance of black and Hispanic kids in the public schools. Without getting into the numbers, they are really really bad.  And Juan cries out to do something about it.
    Thinking back on my experiences learning to read, I don't really remember the school doing all that much for me.  I can still remember the night it all came together and for the first time I could actually read a real book, not a picture book.  It was "The Land of Oz",  (L. Frank Baum).  Granted the schools did some ground work, we all learned the alphabet song, we learned phonics, and we started with "Fun with Dick and Jane" a worthy but boring beginning reader.
  But, I learned to read because I wanted to read.  Reading was fun, an enjoyable pastime, as good as watching TV, especially TV way back then.  There was so much good stuff to read.  The Saxonville library was open every day and it was on my way home from school.  I stopped in every day or so to get new books.  And they had a bunch of really cool ones.  There was a series, bound in orange, of biographies of famous Americans.  I read them all.  There was the "Landmark" series with books about the Battle of Britain, the Tokyo raiders, the Royal Navy in WWII, and other things to catch the interest of an grade school boy. And really good science fiction by Andre Norton, Robert Heinlein, Ray Bradbury, Isaac Asimov.  And the Tarzan books, the Tom Swift books (the old series), the Oz books, the John Carter books, Tolkien, Robert Louis Stevenson, Mark Twain, Jules Verne, James Fenimore Cooper, Walter Scott,.  And comics.  If there was ever something printed that just cried out to be read, it was a comic book.  Scrooge McDuck, Blackhawk, Tarzan, Batman, Captain Marvel, Plastic Man, Superman, and more.  Parents and teachers disapproved of comic books back then, but they were a tremendous incitement to learn to read, certainly more stimulating than playing computer games.  We would spend our own money to buy them.  Ten cents an issue, they are more like four dollars now.  Every kid had a stash and every kid read them.
   The other incentive to read was that my parents did it.  Dad read the paper every day and he read bed time stories to us every night.  If Dad did it, I wanted to learn it too, just to get with it.
   Bottom line, learning to read is a self motivated thing, schools can help, parents can help, but the kid has to want to do it himself. 

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Pioneer Science Fiction Authors

Jules Verne is probably the first author of what we would consider science fiction.  He wrote in the late 19th century, sometime after the US civil war.  His best was "20,000 leagues Under the Sea".  Verne wrote in French, and I still remember the kinda shabby English translation I took to summer camp one year.  Verne's prose was probably only mediocre in French, and was down right miserable in English translation.  But the story was gripping enough to overcome weaknesses in the writing.  Disney made a good live action movie in the 50's, with James Mason as Captain Nemo and Kirk Douglas as Ned Land.  Technicolor, with a fine Nautilus and great underwater shots.  Not for nothing did the US Navy name their first nuclear sub Nautilus.
   Next in line was Edgar Rice Burroughs, the creator of Tarzan.  ERB's first published story was "A Princess of Mars" back in 1912.  John Carter's derring do, deadly sword play and beautiful Martian princess set the style for space opera that lasted up thru Star Wars.  Princess Leia inherited a lot from Dejah Thoris.  The sand people riding their Bantha's look pretty much like Green Martians riding their Thoats.  Burroughs followed up with about ten more Martian stories over the next 30 years.  The first three are the best, the later ones are pot boilers.  
   Edward Elmer Smith (EE Doc Smith) first story "Skylark of Space" was published in the 1920's.  It was "super science".  Lots of high tech (for the 1920's) stuff, powerful space ships, resourceful scientist/engineer heroes, pretty girls, evil drug runner bad guys.  EE Smith kept publishing right up to his death in 1965.  I'd rate his stuff good for kids but a little corny for today's grownups.  I encountered Doc Smith as a kid and still like him. 
   There were plenty of other science fiction writers back in the day, but these three are my favorites from the era before John W. Campbell.