I've taught SAT prep before. The events depicted in today's edition of Zits are not that far from what really happens. Fortunately, none of my students ever saw me as a flying monkey, just the material.
Monday, April 14, 2014
Sunday, April 13, 2014
Actually, this one is from over a week ago, after the Supreme Court ruled that, basically, money is speech in elections. My local paper ran a bunch of cartoons, including an Oz-themed one, but I forgot about hanging on to it or finding it online. So imagine my surprise when, in an online discussion, Ruth Berman pointed out a cartoon in her paper — and it was the one I'd cast aside! So, here it is! (Please remember that all political cartoons presented here are for Oz informational purposes only, and are not meant to reflect the views of myself or anyone else involved in this blog. Although in this case, I think it was a pretty dumb call.)
Yup, more to tell you about!
- This weekend's short story, another from Oz Reimagined, is "Dorothy Dreams" by Simon R. Green. After the elaborate world-building and taut storylines of the previous books in this collection, this slight little number came as a disappointment, as it's little more than an aged Dorothy finding herself back in Oz, and that Oz isn't really Oz in the first place. Yes, it's Oz as metaphor. I won't tell you much more, so as not to spoil what little surprise there is, but it just rang hollow for me. It also totally ignores every Oz book except The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. There is a nice little nod to other children's literature classics, however.
- The Land of Oz (not to be confused with the second Oz book) is a tie-in book to Oz the Great and Powerful, designed for beginning readers. It's a pretty simple retelling of the story of the movie, told in short words in large type. It's not terribly expensive, and a nice way to get some screen grabs in color, but for the most part unremarkable.
- Finally, the book that's gotten so many Oz fans riled up, Finding Oz: How L. Frank Baum Discovered the Great American Story by Evan I. Schwartz. I must admit, I was not expecting a lot from this book, which is probably a good thing, since I found myself enjoying it — but probably not for the reasons Schwartz would want me to. It kept reminding me of Katharine M. Roger's L. Frank Baum: Creator of Oz, in that Schwartz also did a lot of research into what else was going on around Baum during his life, and not just the personal highlights. And like Rogers, he tries to shoehorn a lot of those events into the creation of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. It rarely works well. Like a terrier with a rat, once Schwartz latches on to an idea of how history influenced Oz, he never lets it go. He's not able to back many ideas up, however, and creates scenarios when it suits his narrative. His ultimate goal is to show how his life influenced the writing of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, which means anything else after that was not important. He even admits in the endnotes that he moved a few events from later in his life up to tie into his thesis. And how could he so easily misspell the name of John R. Neill? He also manages to nail the anti-Native American editorials Baum wrote in South Dakota into the wood a few too many times, bringing them up over and over again in a way that I very much doubt Baum or his family ever thought of. And he attributes a lot of bits from The Movie to Baum, even though it was made twenty years after Baum died. (The story of Maud and the Bismarks becoming Aunt Em's crullers is just ridiculous.) The one intriguingly new bit of information I got from this book was Maud's background and her time at Cornell, but to be honest, with the amount of speculation that Schwartz takes part in here, that must be taken with a grain of salt as well.
Sunday, April 06, 2014
Now that my weekends are back to being relatively normal, I've started reading Oz short stories again. Today, it was another tale from Oz Reimagined, "The Boy Detective of Oz" by Tad Williams. This is set in Williams' Otherland universe (its version of Oz was first visited in River of Blue fire), which I'm glad I was vaguely familiar with. However, this story is also nicely self-contained, so you don't have to know about Otherland to get into this. Orlando Gardiner was once a real boy, but when he died prematurely his consciousness lived on in a huge series of realistic simulated worlds, created by the wealthy as a place to play. Orlando is called into Kansas to figure out what's been going on since it's latest reboot, and finds that a new version of Oz is superimposing itself onto the place. Orlando also must deal with the mystery of Omby Amby's missing head. He's not exactly dead, but he can't do much without his head, either. Orlando talks to the Scarecrow, Tin Woodman, Cowardly Lion, and Wizard during his investigation, but it's the Glass Cat who proves to be the key to solving this mystery. This one just never quite seemed to gel for me, and I wasn't terribly interested in what was happening. Still, the final solution is neat and ties things up nice, while leaving the door open for further adventures. (Seriously, are they already planning volume 2 that's all sequels to these stories?)
Saturday, April 05, 2014
Two more Ozzy incidents on Jeopardy!, and they happened to be two consecutive days in March. The first one was on the show for March 24, and sadly, I had some technical problems that kept me from successfully recording it. But that's okay, as it was a video clue anyway. I just had to find the painting in question online. So in the Double Jeopardy! round, when the $400 clue in American Art & Artists was uncovered, we saw this while Alex read the clue:
There's no witch and no rainbow in
John Steuart Curry's painting "Tornado Over" this state
Derek, the challenger on the right, rang in first and correctly responded with, "What is Kansas?" of course. It was a very tight match with a difficult Final Jeopardy! so he did not go on to win. Instead, Nancy, the challenger in the middle won, which meant she got to pick the first clue in the next day's show. She chose It's At the Smithsonian for $200, which gave us this clue:
And that catches us up with the Oz clues on Jeopardy! so far this season.
Thursday, April 03, 2014
In today's One Big Happy, let's just say that this isn't the first time Ruthie has mistaken one of our modern conveniences for an Oz character. (I'm still tickled over the time two different comics — one of them being OBH — both used the same joke.)
Wednesday, April 02, 2014
It's been a little while since I've posted a clue from Jeopardy! here. I've been busy, but unlike last spring I've been keeping track of which ones have Oz clues. Now that I have a little breathing space in my schedule, I'll see if I can catch up a bit here. So, going way back to the January 20 episode, one of the categories in the Double Jeopardy! round was Literary Byways. They stayed away from it for most of the game, but finally revealed the $400 clue as:
A few days later, in the January 24 episode (Sarah was gone by now, having won a total of six games), one of the Double Jeopardy! categories was Before and After At The Movies. Before and After is a popular category in both Jeopardy! and Wheel of Fortune that runs two phrases together, with the last word or two being the first word or two of the next one. So, for $1600, this clue was revealed:
Finally (for now), on the February 19 show, which was the third semifinal of this year's College Championship, Kevin, a junior from the University of California at Berkeley, uncovered the Daily Double in the Jeopardy! round, under the $800 clue in the category State Lines. He wagered $1000, and got this clue:
I have two more clues, from much more recent games, that I hope will be up soon. I just need some technical assistance to get them.
I just finished another book in my current spate of Oz-related reading. That book was Techniques of Writing Fiction by Eloise Jarvis McGraw, the final piece in my McGraw collection. Yes, I now have every book she wrote, and this one tells you how she did it. She gives some very good, common sense advice for how to write fiction, with all kinds of tips and tricks, most of which still hold up well today. Having talked with her a few times before she died in 2000, and read her articles in The Baum Bugle about how she wrote, I could clearly hear her style and sense in her writing, which is witty and charming and folksy, just like Eloise. Even though this was four years before the publication of Merry Go Round in Oz, there's a passing mention of Oz in her tale of how she first learned how to tell a story to a young audience. She also brings up examples from her earlier works, most of which I recognized (but now I'm starting to think that I should go back and reread some of her books). There's a lot of talk about writing for magazines that isn't terribly germane today, and absolutely nothing about using a word processor — plenty about making copies on your typewriter with carbon paper, however — but if you're a fan of her work, or just interested in getting some straight advice on writing from a good one, even though this was early in her career, you may just want to get this one.
The comics order also came yesterday, and since there were only two Oz comics, I read them both right away:
- Fables #139. Part 1 of a two-art story about Boy Blue's band going back to the Fable version of Scotland. No Oz in it, however.
- Tales from Oz #3. Okay, let's see how badly Zenescope messes up the Scarecrow's origin. (At least it can't be much worse than the origin revealed in The Royal Book of Oz.) Hmm, intriguing, and more in keeping with the Scarecrow's origin in the musical version of Wicked. Bartleby is a good man who has the trust of the people of Oz, so when he is summoned by the Wicked Witches of the East and West, it is to recruit him as an ambassador. The witches give him their word that all they ask for is loyalty, and that the people and their lands and livelihoods will not be harmed. Bartleby is successful with most (but not all) groups, then returns home to find that there is a reason they're called wicked witches. It does not go well for Bartleby or much of anyone else, including his fiancée Tessa, and the Scarecrow is the result. This book also contains the final part of "Good Dog", the story of what Toto was doing for much of the main Oz miniseries. One extra special plus to this issue is that Zenescope was selling an exclusive edition just for Emerald City Comicon while I was there last week, so I now have my first limited variant cover of a Zenescope Oz comic.
Tuesday, April 01, 2014
Hey, everybody, did you change your calendars this morning? (I have four of them to change this year just in my room, three of them Oz related! That was a job and a half.) When you did, did you notice today's date? Yes, it's April 1st. April Fool's Day. The day for jokes. That means some Oz fan out there might say something that's not true, and if you're not paying attention, you might believe it. I'm still traumatized by the reaction I got one year to an April Fool's joke I posted here that just went wild, and was even published in The Baum Bugle as fact, even though I had a link to the "original source" that indicated it was actually a joke. So please don't believe everything you read online (or anywhere else) today without a healthy dose of skepticism and checking out the source. Come to think of it, that's not a bad plan to follow every day anyway.
I do have plans to post here today, but no April Fool jokes. I do have something in mind that I may pull some year, but it won't be today.
Saturday, March 29, 2014
Thursday, March 27, 2014
Yes, I'm reading more Oz, or at least Oz-related, books right now. And now that I'm on my spring break, I suspect I'll get quite a few more read in the coming weeks. Here's what I've read most recently:
- Love's Serenade by Rachel Cosgrove Payes. The fourth volume in her romance series about the seven Lassiter sisters. With thee sisters married and the twins engaged, it must be Electra's turn! And sure enough, she's checking out all the boys in Brighton, particularly the wounded soldiers coming back from the Napoleonic War. But she has some big problems with the morose Captain Bothemer, who is convinced he's crippled for life, and therefore not worthy of much of anything. Of course, you all can probably see already how this is going to turn out, and you're right. For once, however, I didn't quite enjoy this book as much as her other romances. Everyone is just standing (or in the case of Captain Bothemer, sitting) around talking about their problems and how they feel about each other way too much, and there's not a lot of growth or character development until only about the final fourth of the book. But as always, it works out in the end, and now there's just one more sister left to marry off. But May (the youngest) gets her chances to shine in this book, as she doesn't have so many sisters around to share the action with any more, and she's finally starting to notice boys (although I doubt she's ever going to give up her love of horses).
- My reread, in anticipation of the author's appearance at this summer's Winkie Convention, is Paradox in Oz by Edward Einhorn. I've always said that this is one of my favorite books outside of the Famous Forty, and this just confirms that assessment. The spell that stops Ozians from aging has run out, and Ozma decides to investigate why, and restore it if possible. Research shows that she needs to find The Man Who Lives Backwards, who's now a baby, and so she must go back in time to meet him as a man. As this is impossible, a parrot-ox named Tempus is able to take her, as he can only do impossible things. But in the past, Ozma inadvertently changes the history of Oz! Fortunately, she's able to fix things in the end, with the help of Tempus, Glinda, and Mombi, the Good Witch of the North (no, that is not a typo; I told you Ozma changed h-Oz-tory). I've always been a fan of time travel stories, and Einhorn knows all the tricks about them and uses them well in this book. And because of some of the weird twisted logic of this tale, I think I got more out of it now than I did before, just because it helps to reread it. And Ozma gets to have an all too rare adventure on her own as well. I hope this gets reprinted before the convention, because I'm sure there are some people who would like to get an autographed copy there. (I was surprised to find my copy was already autographed, as I'd forgotten that I'd already met Einhorn at the 2000 Centennial Convention. But I'm still taking my copy to the Winkie Convention, as I haven't gotten it signed by illustrator Eric Shanower yet!)
Wednesday, March 26, 2014
Okay, technically, it's not from today, as it's now three weeks old. But I'm posting it today, so I guess that counts. Anyway, Laura found this edition of Savage Chickens and had to share it with me, for obvious reasons. But it's not for the squeamish, I'm afraid.
Thursday, March 20, 2014
Happy Vernal Equinox, everybody! (Or, for any readers I have in the southern hemisphere, Happy Autumnal Equinox!) The amusing thing about today's The Argyle Sweater is that, thanks to Oz the Great and Powerful (and, to a lesser extent, Return to Oz), there very well could be some similar venture between Oz and Disney, although probably not to the extent as shown here.
Saturday, March 15, 2014
Quick! Go on over to Kickstarter right now! If you haven't already chipped in to get this awesome Oz tarot deck funded, and you want to see it, time is running out! As I type this, there are about two days to go! So stop reading this and go on over! (Follow up: It was close, but they made it!)
And oh, there has been a lot of it! At long last, I've cleared out all of that other inessential reading of things not having to do with Oz, and gotten back to my latest round of Oz stuff. Naturally, the comics order came i, too, so let's start with the comics:
- Fables #138. We're taking a break from the regular storyline in this issue to see what Geppetto has been up to recently. Ooh, this does not bode well for the future! But no Oz. Next!
- Tales from Oz #2 features the backstory of the Cowardly Lion. If I'd had any doubts before, this issue makes it very clear that Zenescope's version of Oz has absolutely nothing to do with the books. Here, the Lion is a prince among a race of Lionmen, but because he prefers reading and beauty over fighting, his father and brother label him a coward. Of course, as he grows up, everyone learns that there is more than one kind of courage. This reminded me a lot of The Lion King and some of the Klingon issues Worf had to deal with in Star Trek: The Next Generation. There were a lot of cliches in this one, but it was also well presented, with very few skinny scantily-clad women with large breasts, and may be the best Oz work Zenescope has produced so far.
- There were two issues of The Legend of Oz: The Wicked West in this month's order. First, Issue 15 wraps up the story of the flying monkeys and the golden cap, and then Gale has her first encounter with one of her old friends since returning to Oz. The Tin Man certainly knows that there's something different about her this time, and in Issue 16, we find out what! Glinda comes to confront Gale about her recent actions, and discovers that Gale is now the Wicked Witch of the East and West. With that much power, however, comes that much corruption, and Glinda warns Gale that there could be big trouble coming. Gale also has some words with Tip, and Glinda tells Gale about some of her predecessors as the Wicked Witches (with a very surprising guest appearance).
- Speaking of comics, one of the books I read was Fables Volume 5: The Mean Seasons. This is a collection of three short tales, spread out over seven issues of the original comic book. The first is our first look at what Cinderella really does (and ties in nicely with her two miniseries, notably the very Ozzy Fables Are Forever), one about one of the Big Bad Wolf's adventures during World War II, and the main story, which deals with the election of a new mayor and its aftermath, while Snow White and Bigby must cope with becoming parents. Bufkin makes a few appearances, as does a little blonde girl among the witches of the thirteenth floor who will later be revealed to be Ozma, but that's it for the Oz content.
- My short story for the weekend (and very possibly the last for a few weekends) was "Lost Girls of Oz" by Theodora Goss, another selection from Oz Reimagined. Oh, this is a fun one! Intrepid San Francisco reporter Eleanor "Nell" Dale goes undercover to find out what has happened to several missing girls, and discovers a covert underground (literally!) method of taking them to Oz. Having read the Oz books as a child, she's intrigued, and goes herself, only to become part of Ozma's army to invade the United States! Sadly, we never get as far as the planned invasion of California, but I really want to see that! (Gee, this is the second consecutive story in this book where I wanted to read the sequel. I think they're doing something right!) Ozma actually has very good reasons for invading the Great Outside World, and it would be interesting to see if it could succeed. This is an epistolary story, by the way, told in a series of letters Nell writes to her sister Dottie, and it's clear to see why Nell is such a successful reporter, because she really has a way with words. Again, this is not a traditional, Baumian Oz (although Goss clearly knows the books well), but that's the whole point of this collection. It didn't stop me from enjoying this story!
- It took some work, but I managed to get ahold of the 75th anniversary Wizard of Oz special issue of Life Magazine. Lots of nice pictures, lots of good background (much of which I already knew, but there were still a few surprises), and it even talks about Baum and the books, and previous and later adaptations (yes, even Return to Oz). I can't help thinking, however, that a good pass by an Oz expert could have made this even more invaluable, as there are a few tall tales that have been debunked, but are still presented as established facts here, notably it's initial box office and critical reaction. Still, it was a fun read, and makes for a nice addition to my collection.
- Nelebel's Fairyalnd by L. Frank Baum. Many years ago, Michael O. Riley started the Pamami Press as a way to combine his love of L. Frank Baum and hand-made small press publishing. The very first book he put out was an edition of "Nelebel's Fairyland", a short story Baum wrote for a San Diego high school newspaper. Most of the copies were bought up by a single individual, and that was the last anybody ever heard of it! So when Riley decided to revive Pamami Press a few years ago, one title he put out was a new edition of "Nelebel's Fairyland". Other than that first edition, I've managed to get all of the other Pamami Press books, so it's nice to finally have this one to add to the set. It's a gorgeous little book, clearly put together with love and care. You can see and feel the impressions the type made into the paper, and the illustrations and colors are used very nicely. What makes this edition special is that Riley had access to Baum's original typescript, which had some small differences to the published version, and Riley took advantage of that. If all you want is the story, there are less expensive and more accessible ways to get it, but this is a beautiful little artifact.
- And finally (for now), a flipbook reprint edition of two of Baum's rarest titles, The Army Alphabet and The Navy Alphabet. The latter was reprinted a few years ago, but this is the first time The Army Alphabet has been reprinted in over a century, and also the first time the two have been available together. There's a good reason they're so scarce: They're not that good! Each is a pretty straightforward turn-of-the-century alphabet book, with a rhyme to go with each letter. This is clearly written in the aftermath of the Spanish American War, as there are some callbacks to that conflict. Baum did manage to slip in a few sly bits of humor, however, and while he's clearly not a hawk, he's also a patriot who is proud of the work of the armed forces. The best reason to get this is, in my opinion, the illustrations of Harry Kennedy. He does a fine job with some bold, poster-like work that still has fine details. Charles J. Costello's hand lettering also deserves praise (although his lower case q's look an awful lot like g's). Publisher Marcus Mébès includes a note about the technical issues involved in putting this edition out, but I can't help thinking that a scholarly introduction, putting some of the words used into historical context, would have improved this volume. Still, it's great to have them both available again in such a nice edition.
Wednesday, March 12, 2014
Sunday, March 09, 2014
I dove into this week's short story, "Emeralds to Emeralds, Dust to Dust" by Seanan McGuire (the second story from the Oz Reimagined anthology), with some trepidation. Before I ever encountered this story, I'd become a little bit of a McGuire fan through the Hugo Award-winning podcast, SF Squeecast. So I was doubly delighted when she contacted me last year, and offered to help with my panel on Oz comics at last year's Emerald City Comic Con. She is a wonderful person, had some great comments on Oz comics, and signed my copy of Oz Reimagined right on the first page of her story. So I was really hoping I would like this one. But the first few pages made me think, "Uh-oh." This is a version of Oz where Dorothy was just the first of a wave of people coming to Oz from the Great Outside World. They're called crossovers, and are treated by the Ozites as an unwanted immigrant minority. Much of the Emerald City has become a crossover ghetto. Naturally, it did not prove to be politically acceptable for Ozma to have Dorothy, the most famous crossover of them all, in her inner circle, so she was kicked out of the palace. Dorothy is now grown up and living in a squalid apartment, straddling the line between the Ozite-occupied Uptown and Downtown, the crossover region. Dorothy has also learned a little magic, and is now taking the title Wicked Witch of the West. Yeah, this version of Oz is not going to be popular with a lot of hardcore Oz fans. But it was also so well written and dealt with logically that I found myself sucked in, and I really enjoyed this story in its own right. Anyway, to get back to the main plot, a murder has been committed, and since it took place in Downtown, Ozma expects Dorothy to deal with it. She does, and finds the killer, but it may have made her life a lot more complicated. There are several other adult situations and key details that I left out, but I think this is enough to give you the idea. McGuire clearly took to the "reimagined" part of this anthology, and makes the most of it. The murder mystery is pretty much secondary to her worldbuilding, which is striking. I'd love to see more stories set in this version of Oz. I just wouldn't want to live there.
The new comics order came, and so naturally there are some Oz comics in it. Here are the ones I've read so far:
- Oz #6 by Zenescope. This is the conclusion to the series, and even though it's Zenescope's grim-and-gritty take on Oz, all ends happily. The Wicked Witch has the complete Veridian Scepter, but it proves to not be enough to defeat all the forces of Oz. In the end, Dorothy gets it back and deals with the witch. Much to my surprise, unlike other books of this type, Dorothy doesn't become the new Wicked Witch of the West or Queen of Oz or something, she actually gets to go back to Kansas, with Toto. Ah, well, I suspect we'll see more of this version of Oz before long (beyond the Tales from Oz series, that is).
- The Steam Engines of Oz: The Geared Leviathan #3. Hey, is this really the last issue of this arc? I thought there would be one more. Oh, well, they still managed to wrap it up nicely and satisfactorily, with a neat twist ending. Yes, the twin wicked witches are dealt with, and with a twist that I didn't see coming. It seems both of them have different reactions to their mother's legacy. But the real star of this book is Victoria. Until now I felt she'd been overshadowed, but here she shines. Not only does she get to put her mechanical skills to good use, but we also find out something about her in the end that will forever change her and our perception of her. So now Victoria has new duties, but they've also set things up very nicely for another series in which she has to find out more about herself. (Yes, I'm being deliberately vague so as not to give away any surprises.)
It's been a year and a day since Oz the Great and Powerful opened, and I'm ashamed to say that I still haven't written a review! (To be honest, I think that's due in part to my continued conflict as to what I actually think of it!) But as I was thinking about this, I also remembered the first time Mila Kunis went to Oz, in this dream sequence from That '70s Show: