February 21, 2012
What happens when good stuff goes into the Public Domain

One hundred years ago, this month, Edgar Rice Burroughs published the first story about John Carter and his adventures on Mars, known as Barsoom to it's inhabitants. The story was hugely popular and launched his legendary career.

Soon after this, he wrote Tarzan, and began a career of writing wonderful fiction series that inspired many in the 20th century in both science and literature. Ranging from Pellucidar, the hollow Earth, to Venus, to the Moon, the stories focused on adventure in new worlds. Hugely successful, Burroughs was wealthy enough to buy a ranch estate in Southern California large enough that it literally created the city of Tarzana around it. Burroughs died in 1950 and the age of 74. Personally, I've read many of his stories and have come to love them, especially the Barsoom series.

The laws of copyright are complicated and elude my understanding when it comes to figuring out exactly when stories leave copyright and enter the public domain. Regardless of my understanding, somehow, much of Burroughs early work has entered the public domain. Several years ago, I printed my own edition of A Princess of Mars.

Today you can see what happens when good stories enter the public domain.

Besides the widely advertised movie of John Carter, there are five different comic book series and a new book of short stories.

Top left: Warlord of Mars by Dynamite Comics - Retelling the basic John Carter story
Top middle: John Carter: The World of Mars by Marvel Comics - A prequel story to the soon to be released Disney movie
Top right: Under the Moons of Mars - An anthology of new short stories taking place on Barsoom by various authors
Bottom left: Warlord of Mars: Fall of Barsoom by Dynamite Comics - Tales of Barsoom from before John Carter arrived
Bottom middle: John Carter of Mars: A Princess of Mars by Marvel Comics - Retelling the basic John Carter story
Bottom right: Warlord of Mars Dejah Thoris by Dynamite Comics - New adventures of a scantily clad Dejah Thoris

A sixth comic, John Carter: Gods of Mars is coming out later this year.

As you can seen, a literal plethora of new art, stories, and interpretations of the story of John Carter and Barsoom happening, 62 years after Edgar Rice Burroughs died, helping to introduce a new generation to his wonderful work.

Much of this is due to the stories falling into the public domain, allowing new artists and writers to get involved in the world of Barsoom. The publishing world has not collapsed and Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc. is doing fine still licensing content, selling merchandise, and holding conventions, 62 years after the original author died.

On the back of the Under the Moons of Mars book is this statement.

Clearly, this effort is a sign of the future as more stories fall into the public domain. Imagine how great it would be to have new takes on Superman, Mickey Mouse, and Bugs Bunny by various artists and writers. Clearly we have a while to wait until some of those fall into the public domain, but what we see about John Carter is a good sign.

Of course, nothing is simple when money is involved, so recently the Estate of Edgar Rice Burroughs sued Dynamite for trademark infringement, which is different than copyright. As the legal battles continue, I will be happy to read everything and help pay this generation's artists and writers for their work in continuing the story of Barsoom.

If you want to read the original stories for free, visit the Project Gutenberg where much of his work is available in a variety of digital formats.

Posted by michael at 06:59 AM
February 17, 2012
Making Cha Siu at home

After marrying into a a Chinese family, I was introduced to cha siu, an Asian style of roasted pork that I've come to love. A little cha siu over rice is fantastic treat. You've problably seen it before or had it inside a bun.

cha siu
Photo by hensever

Cha siu is marinated and roasted slowly on skewers to melt off the fat and crisp up a bit. While visiting family in Cincinnati, we have home made cha siu and I decided to try it at home. With a Crufty twist, of course.

I bought a couple pounds of pork shoulder and sliced it into strips.

For the marinade, I used the mix my Chinese mother-in-law gave me. I considered researching recipes, but when your Chinese mother-in-law tells you how to do something, you listen.

Traditionally, cha siu is bright red and this mix was no different. I think red dye was the majority ingredient. It was time to don the nitrile gloves to prevent permanent staining of m hands.

I mixed the marinade and soaked the pork in it. Overnight into the fridge it went, to suck up the maximum amount of flavor.

I got into my mind that I need to roast the cha siu hanging vertically and not in a pan (as I was shown by my Chinese mother-in-law). I went out and got some inexpensive metal skewers. Here I realized that this might not be the optimal plan. I had been taken in by the picture on the seasoning mix that showed the pork on a skewer, like a shishkabob. I did my best to hang it, but could think of a better way in the moment.

I hung it in my smoker from an upper rack and set the burner to keep the heat around 350 degrees. After about 45 minutes, it was done. Easy breezy.

Roasted cha siu, still on the skewer.

After slicing, it appears to look like cha siu. Red ring around edges and glistening with melted fat. I tossed it onto a bowl of rice and begun to eat.

It was OK. Not bad, not great. Just OK. You could taste the seasoning, but just not as strongly as what I get at an Asian butcher. As you can see, I had plenty of leftovers.

There are two changes I'll make the next time.

First, I'll simply rub the seasoning on the pork, rather than adding water. I think this will allow more of the sugar to stick to the pork and get caramelized in the cooking to maintain the delicious sweetness. Just like a dry rub in smoking, the maximum flavor will come for the spices and flavors sitting directly on the meat overnight.

Second, rather than a vertical skewer, I'll hang the strip from a hook, letting gravity to do it's work. It will avoid the skewer sag and let even more of the fat melt off. Also, it will be a lot easier to handle and I'll avoid burning my wrist on a skewer.

Overall, I'm pleased with the outcome, but plan try again for better results.

Posted by michael at 09:04 AM
February 03, 2012
Ten Things I Believe

Things I believe

  • R2D2 is the true hero of the Star Wars saga.
  • Pennies should be eliminated.
  • The dollar coin should replace the dollar bill.
  • There should be playoffs in Division 1 NCAA Football.
  • Deckard is a replicant.
  • Lee Harvey Oswald didn't act alone.
  • The Designated Hitter is an abomination.
  • Gimme Shelter is the best Rolling Stone song.
  • Fighting should not be allowed in professional hockey.
  • Fish Out of Water is the best Disney character.
Posted by michael at 11:50 AM