Life on Mars?

We’ve come through the worst of it, but last week our city was besieged by an unrelenting cold snap. It got so bad at one point that a rumour started spreading that Winnipeg was actually colder than the surface of Mars. Bartley Kives wrote an interesting column debunking this whole “colder than Mars” business and you can read it here.

In any case, the idea of Winnipeg being colder than Mars really took off on social media and we were ever so briefly an internet meme on Twitter and Facebook. We became famous for something that everyone here already knew: winter is cold.

And then in yesterday’s Free Press, there was an article about a Manitoba woman who has been short-listed for a potential “One Way Ticket” trip to Mars to set up a colony. The Mars One Project is hopeful that they will get a colony established on the Red Planet by 2025. You can read the article here.

So Mars has resurfaced in our collective consciousness, and with that in mind, I’ve pulled together some library resources that have to do with Mars the planet, and other Marses out there.

We might as well start things off with Bruno Mars.

Bruno Mars

Bruno Mars

This Grammy Award Winning singer/songwriter will be bringing his Moonshine Jungle Tour to the MTS Centre on August 2, so now is as good a time as any to pick up his 2010 debut CD, Doo wops and Hooligans and see if you want to check out his show. If you like him, why not give his second release, 2012’s Unorthodox Jukebox a listen too? In any case, listening to his music may just take your mind off of the weather outside.

“An astronaut’s guide to life on Earth” by Chris Hadfield

astronaut's guide[1]

Okay, I’ll admit this book has nothing to do with Mars, but it IS the story of Canada’s most famous astronaut, and the work that he did on the International Space Station in 2012/13 will certainly help pave the way for future interplanetary space travel. @cmdrhadfield, as he is known on Twitter, spent six months as commander of the ISS and during that time, in addition to his duties as an astronaut, took time to make short videos about life in space, and tweeted many photos of the Earth as he saw them from the space station. By the time Hadfield returned to Earth in May 2013, he was a true celebrity and even recorded a wonderful version of David Bowie’s “Space Oddity”, to which I’ll link here. He even received Bowie’s blessing and permission to record it. How many astronauts can say they are on speaking terms with David Bowie?


Speaking of David Bowie, he’s probably the best proof that Martians exist and are walking among us. To get you started, why not check out “The Best of Bowie“, a 2 CD set, which includes “Space Oddity” and his other space themed song, “Life on Mars?”.

“Postcards from Mars: the first photographer on the red planet” by Jim Bell

postcards from marsOver 150 000 images of Mars have been sent back to Earth from the various Mars Rover missions. Jim Bell, the scientist who was responsible for the photography of these expeditions, has selected 150 of these images for inclusion in this book. I don’t know about you, but I’ll take Portage and Main over Mars’ Valles Marineris any day of the week. Talk about bleak, am I right? No wonder those Martians keep wanting to come and take over Earth, eh?

Veronica Mars

vm-Veronica-Mars-splash[1]Yes, I realize the only connection to Mars is the main character’s last name, but now is the perfect time to catch up with all three seasons of this TV show. The show has been described as “Philip Marlowe meets Nancy Drew” and I wouldn’t disagree with that tagline. The series begins with Veronica Mars in grade 11 in Neptune (get it?) High School. She doesn’t really fit in, but she begins to gain the trust and respect of her classmates by solving mysteries with the help of her P.I. father. I realize this description does not really do the show justice, as you just have to watch it and see for yourself how mesmerizing it becomes. Also, you’ll be in a good position to watch the “Veronica Mars Movie”, coming to theatres on March 14, if you binge-watch the series now.

“An Anthropologist on Mars” by Oliver Sacks

anthropologist on marsAgain, nothing to do with the planet here, but it gives me a chance to promote the work of neuroscientist Oliver Sacks. I’ve been meaning to do an entire blog post on him, but for now I’ll just mention this one book. “An Anthropologist on Mars” is a collection of seven portraits of neurological patients. They range from a surgeon who is immobilized with Tourette’s tics unless he is actually performing surgery, an artist who lost the ability to see colour, but who adapted by working only in shades of gray, and the title essay about Temple Grandin, a professor of animal science who finds it impossible to form meaningful relationships with humans but has become an expert on animal behavior.

You can read more about Temple Grandin in her own words with her book “Thinking in Pictures“. HBO also made a movie about her life in 2010 starring Claire Daines.

Talking about “Mars” wouldn’t be complete without mentioning a couple of classic sci-fi treatments.

The Barsoom Series

john_carter_low[1]Edgar Rice Burroughs (of Tarzan fame) wrote a series of adventures in the early 20th century about an American Civil War veteran, John Carter, who ends up on the Red Planet (known as Barsoom to its inhabitants) and ends up getting involved in an alien war and must rescue a princess. You know, the usual. The books are really fun and are required summer backyard reading, as far as I am concerned. Also, Disney made the first book of the series, “A Princess of Mars” into a movie back in 2012. I seem to be the only person that I know that actually enjoyed “John Carter“, so why not borrow it and see for yourself whether I have terrible taste or if it is actually good. I have no sense of these things.

The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells

war of the worldsH.G. Wells’ classic novel of Martian invasion was serialized in 1897 and has appeared in many forms since. Most notably, Orson Welles’ 1938 radio adaptation that was so realistic people thought it was a real radio report of an actual alien invasion. You can borrow the recent take on H.G. Wells’ story, featuring Tom Cruise and the dulcet tones of Morgan Freeman’s narration. Stephen Spielberg’s 2005 movie had a number of nods to the earlier 1953 adaptation by George Pal, including cameos from Ann Robinson and Gene Barry.

Ray Bradbury’s Martian Chronicles.

martian chronicles

And finally, you can’t talk about Mars without mentioning Ray Bradbury. That’s a written rule somewhere and I do not want to run afoul of our potential Martian overlords. Ray Bradbury’s Martian stories build upon the tropes created by H.G. Wells and developed by Edgar Rice Burroughs and are the basis for many of the stereotypes we have of Martian culture in current day fantasy/sci-fi genres.

Hopefully there is something here for you to enjoy during our next cold snap, or maybe something to bring with you on your one way trip to Mars.


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