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Friday
Mar072014

Titanfall Pre-loading goes live (PC)

Well, I just logged into Origin and Titanfall was ready for pre-loading.  It is a 49 gig download, so if your download speeds at home are a bit on the slow side, I wouldn't wait long before starting the download.  Since my home upload speed has recently been nerfed by my ISP, I won't be streaming my review playthrough, but I will be recording it locally and I'll have footage up along with the review on our Youtube channel.  I'm Nerdbloggerdan on Origin if any of you guys would like to add me.  See you in the trenches.

Sunday
Mar022014

Quite Quotable

Each deed you do, each act, binds you to itself and to its consequences, and makes you act again and yet again.

Ursula K. Le Guin, The Farthest Shore

Wednesday
Feb262014

THE GREAT TARZAN ADVENTURE #1: Tarzan of the Apes

Ballantine. Neal Adams art.Who doesn’t know Tarzan of the Apes?  I wouldn’t even venture a guess as to how many do simply because of Disney.  That being said, I’d bet not many at all these days know the story by Edgar Rice Burroughs that introduced the character to the world in the pages of All-Story Magazine back in 1912.  Until recently, I only knew Tarzan from films, cartoons, and comics, and it was not until I read Tarzan of the Apes that I realized I really didn’t know the character at all.  Tarzan is not a good-natured, ignorant brute, nor is he someone who tree-surfs through the jungle – he is unlike anything most people think they know about the character.  If you want to get to know the original Lord of the Jungle, you will want to read Burroughs’s book.     

Tarzan emerged from the pulp magazines, where one could read anything from sports stories to westerns.  The magazines were cheaply made to be affordable for the common, working man, so it’s not too surprising that the stories inside were escapism in their purest forms.  Many of science fiction and fantasy’s most beloved icons developed their talents in their pages, greats like Ray Bradbury, Robert E. Howard, C.L. Moore and Fitz Leiber.  Before they had begun to define the science fiction and fantasy we know and love today, Edgar Rice Burroughs had been creating characters and worlds that would loom large across both genres, inspiring writers and readers alike.  Tarzan proved to be his most lucrative creation and has gone on to become a cultural icon.          

Okay, if you haven’t read the book, be warned.  There be spoilers lurking in the paragraphs ahead.

Of course, most people know the basic story of Tarzan: boy raised by apes, becomes big and strong man, falls in love with Jane, they live happily ever after.   However . . . even this watered-down story regarding our ape-man hero is incomplete and often wrong in spots.  For example, the story of the fear and struggle surrounding Tarzan’s birth is hardly ever covered, nor what it was like for him maturing among the apes.  Personally, l had never encountered Tarzan teaching himself to read until I read Burroughs.  I knew nothing of his first interactions with other humans and how he ruthlessly killed some of them with – of all weapons –  a lasso!  And while I knew Tarzan visited the states, I didn’t know it was to meet Jane only to leave her betrothed to another man.  Where’s the happily-ever-after in that we’re all used to getting?

I enjoyed this book immensely and would not be afraid to say it may be the best Burroughs I’ve read.  It’s definitely one of my favorites.  My love of ERB stems mainly from the wonderful worlds he created and the fantastic adventures that sweep the heroes across those worlds.  I definitely wasn’t disappointed in that regard.  No, Burroughs’s Africa is not a Barsoom or Pellucidar, but it is just as wondrous and dangerous.  The apes, with their own language and customs, are not that far removed from the Green Martians from A Princess of Mars.  The scene where they gather for the Dum Dum to hold “council” and dance was marvelous.  I also enjoyed having Tarzan as a logical and rational protagonist (which was what I enjoyed most from Filmation’s Saturday morning cartoons).  He doesn’t have to rely on anyone, even when he’s transported to the “civilized” world.  If anything, he refuses to use anyone or anything as a crutch.

That being said, Tarzan of the Apes is not a perfect book.  I’ve heard Burroughs described as the “best worst writer.”  While I don’t proscribe to the idea he’s the worst, he’s far from the best.  His dialogue tends to be a bit stilted and plots a bit redundant.  It’s easy to argue that the man meets woman, woman can’t be with man because of social situation, man saves/wins woman through his heroic deeds is the basic plot of A Princess of Mars and At the Earth’s Core, just as it’s easy to say that he doesn’t write characters but uses character types.  The easy reply to that would be consider his medium – the pulps.  Burroughs is writing to entertain.  Pulp characters tend to be “types,” maybe more archetype than stereotype in the better ones, but that’s all the story needs.  Yes, the plots are similar, but it’s seeing how the protagonist will win out that’s important here. 

First ed. cover.Nonetheless, I would argue that Tarzan is more than a “type.”  He represents those ideals:  the individual unsullied by civilization, strong and resourceful.  Look at him early in the book – he is true to his ape upbringing.  There are he and his “people” and there are “others.”  Through the course of the book that concept changes, until he has meshed both world views together.  Tarzan becomes more than the “Noble Savage.”  He is a complex being born of two worlds, and because of these circumstances, we can see the pros and cons of civilization and the evil innocence of savagery.  In this regard, Tarzan is a precursor to what Robert E. Howard would examine in some of his Conan stories.  And again, there is that wonderful setting.  Burroughs is at his best when his imagination is allowed to run wild.  His vision of Africa is just as wonder-filled as his Mars and Pellucidar.  Burroughs’s strengths in Tarzan of the Apes, like they do in the best of his books, overshadow his weaknesses.   

Tarzan of the Apes is an excellent read.  Through the sheer power of his imagination Burroughs is able to take the elements of pulp fiction to another level.  The book is much more complex than most readers would acknowledge, definitely more so than the image of Tarzan that resides in the popular consciousness. 

And that is an excellent start to THE GREAT TARZAN ADVENTURE!  Nerdbloggers would love to hear what you folks have to say.  Feel free post to your heart’s content: agree, disagree, compare/contrast, discuss future reads, anything.  Next month, I’ll be posting my review of The Return of Tarzan, so any of you that would like to join the adventure, read or reread along.  The ebook versions are dirt cheap at Amazon.com.  You can get single books for free or the entire collection for under five dollars.  Project Gutenberg has fee ebook and free audio versions of the first ten books or so. 

You can look for the next adventure toward the middlish-end of March.  Hope to see you there!   

Sunday
Feb232014

Quite Quotable

Confucius once said that a bear could not fart at the North Pole without causing a big wind in Chicago.

By this he meant that all events, therefore, all men, are interconnected in an unbreakable web.  What one man does, no matter how seemingly insignificant, vibrates through the strands and affects every man.

~ Philip Jose Farmer, "Riders of the Purple Wage."

Sunday
Feb162014

Quite Quotable

"Such is oft the course of deeds that move the wheels of the world: small hands do them because they must, while the eyes of the great are elsewhere."

~ J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring