Droids and Ducks

The Automatic Detective, by A. Lee Martinez – It seems like every comedy author eventually takes on the noir private detective genre. Martinez, author of fantastic humor novels, sets his tale in Empire City, a retro-futuristic urban center full of robots, mutants, and flying vehicles. The protagonist, Mack Megaton, is a robot designed for battle by a mad scientist, but has reformed and works as a cab driver. When a family he’s familiar with is kidnapped, he turns to detective work to seek them out, assisted by technological genius and potential love interest (despite the fact that she’s human) Lucia Napier and his intelligent gorilla friend. He ends up uncovering a conspiracy involving aliens who introduced much of the technology to Empire, and an attempt to mutate everyone in town. I’ve always been interested in retro science fiction stuff, and this story mixes it with a funny plot and a believable robot narrator who’s just coming to terms with his more human feelings.

Donald Duck: Trick or Treat, by Carl Barks – A collection of comics from 1952 and 1953, which even the annotators admit isn’t really among Barks’s best work, although it’s still entertaining. It was around this time that he started focusing on his own creation Scrooge McDuck rather than the more famous character. The lead story is an adaptation of the cartoon Trick or Treat that I saw many times as a kid.

It serves to highlight some of the main differences between the Donald of the comics and the cartoons, with the latter remaining more of a jerk while Barks gave him a more well-rounded personality. The comic version mostly sticks to the original plot, but adds in a little more dialogue and a few additional scenes, including a bit with Hazel summoning up a bizarre ogre to torment Donald.

As for the other stories, one takes place mostly in flashback mode, with Donald explaining how his plan to get rich raising chickens suffered a series of misfortunes resulting in the destruction of an entire town. Another has Gyro Gearloose inventing worms that do all the work in fishing, and one with Donald’s nephews raising bees has some interesting art as our hapless hero avoids the bees and carries the hive back and forth across town.

Barks apparently decided one comic should be a dream sequence after determining that the idea of Scrooge climbing a mountain with stairs made of money was a little too ridiculous even for this universe. It ends with a good punchline, however: Donald wakes up not because of the stairs, but because Scrooge actually offers to SPEND his remaining fifteen cents.

Posted in Authors, Book Reviews, Cartoons, Comics, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

What’s Wrong with Who’s Who

As anyone who has read Jack Snow’s Who’s Who in Oz knows, it is an invaluable reference work for fans of the Oz series. On the other hand, they probably also know that contains many errors, some very minor, and others that make me wonder whether Snow had actually read the books all that carefully. For the most part, I did not list errors that also occur in the books themselves, and I allowed Snow a certain amount of creative license as Royal Historian of Oz.

I really think the book could have used some more cross-referencing. Perhaps more people would look for information on Nick Chopper under “Tin Woodman” than under his proper name, but it might be nice if there were a “See TIN WOODMAN” reference under “Nick Chopper.” There are other cases where I question Snow’s decision as to whether to go with a name or a constantly-used description. To give an example, Scraps the Patchwork Girl and Bungle the Glass Cat are both introduced in The Patchwork Girl of Oz. They both have names, but Scraps’s name is mentioned much more often. In fact, I am fairly sure that The Magic of Oz, in which the Glass Cat has a major role, does not even mention her name. Nonetheless, Snow lists Bungle under her name, and Scraps under “Patchwork Girl.” Still, as long as Snow at least mentions a character’s real name, I do not regard it as an error. I DO point out instances in which a character is indexed under something that does not make much sense. The best example here is Irasha/Irashi being listed under “Rough Pasha,” which he is never called in the text of The Hungry Tiger of Oz. It’s also strange when he lists some characters under their titles and others not, as with Captain Fyter and Colonel Crinkle (both under C) in contrast to Blug, Guph, Mugwump, and Whiffenpuff (all generals, but not listed under G). And I’m not including characters Snow omitted entirely, many (but not all) of whom are addressed in Ruth Berman’s appendix Who Else Is Who in Oz.

I will point out spelling errors, although I give a certain amount of leeway. I don’t think it matters that much whether Snow includes the hyphen in “Button-Bright.” Baum himself was inconsistent in whether or not Tik-Tok’s name should be hyphenated. On the other hand, since The Cowardly Lion of Oz makes it clear that “More” is Notta’s last name, spelling his name as “Notta-Bit-More” is definitely incorrect; and I did mention this error, as well as other similar ones.

I’m using the 1988 Peter Bedrick edition of Who’s Who. If any of these errors are absent in other editions, feel free to let me know.

Some errors appear more than once, so I begin this exploration of errors with a list of these.


1. There is only one Octagon Isle. Snow seems to think there are eight. Thompson does switch between singular and plural for the Silver Island(s), but I’m pretty sure she always identifies the Octagon Isle as single.
2. Snow must have missed the end of Ozoplaning, in which Ozma turns Bustabo into a red squirrel. He seems to think Bustabo kept the throne of Red Top Mountain, and Azarine and her friends moved to the Emerald City.
3. Loonville is in the Gillikin Country, not the Winkie.
4. Belfaygor is the Baron of Bourne, not of the entire Land of the Barons.
5. King Gos and Queen Cor drowned toward the end of Rinkitink. Snow persists on referring to them as if they are still alive and ruling.
6. Snow constantly refers to Skampavia as being near Ev. While this is accurate as far as it goes, it is much closer to Ix and Noland.
7. Nimmie Amee’s name is repeatedly misspelled.
8. The Comfortable Camel and Doubtful Dromedary are from Samandra; and Dorothy and Sir Hokus found them in the Winkie Country, not the Munchkin.
9. Snow often refers to rulers referred to “X the Nth” as the nth ruler of their respective countries. While not necessarily wrong, there is no reason to assume that there have not been other rulers with different names.
10. “Dicksy Land” is consistently misspelled as “Diksey Land.”
11. Snow refers to Marshland as “Mudland.”
12. The kangaroo from Emerald City is female.
13. While I have no problem with Snow “correcting” Thompson and Neill’s “Gnome” to the more Baumian “Nome” (I do much the same thing), he sometimes changes the title Gnome King to Nome King, which is confusing and inaccurate.
14. The Swynes’ children no longer live with them.
15. Snow has a habit of giving characters titles (usually “King” or “Prince”) that they do not have in the books in which they appear. Some of them can be considered artistic license, but others seem to be inappropriate or unnecessary.
16. The Duke of Dork lives on a castle-boat, not a “floating castle-island.”
17. Nadj of Norroway is a male king.


Abrog—Recurring error 15. Also, “King Peer”? Isn’t “Peer” already supposed to be a title?

Ato—Recurring errors 1 and 9

Azarine—Recurring error 2

Bal—Recurring error 3

Balloon Bird—Recurring errors 3 and 13

Bandmaster—Recurring error 13
His name, Oompah, is not mentioned.
Oz probably does not have trolley cars.

Barber of Rash—The picture is of Jinnicky’s barber from Purple Prince. These two might be the same character, and, indeed, that would make for an interesting story. Thompson never even suggests the idea, though.

Belfaygor of Bourne—Recurring error 4

Bhookus—Recurring error 16

Bill—He landed in the Munchkin Country, not the Quadling.

Bini Aru—Whether he “invented” the magic word is not entirely clear. Baum just says he “discovered” it. That’s not necessarily an error, but it’s something that deserves a mention, I think.

Bob Up—Notta Bit More’s name should not be hyphenated.

Bookman—There is no reason to assume that he NEVER contains the information anyone wants. He just didn’t have any information on saving the Emerald City from Ruggedo.

Bud – His real name, Timothy, is not mentioned. Granted, it’s never stated in an Oz book, but other characters are referred to by names they’re only called in non-Oz books. Dolly is the most obvious example.

Bullfinch—Actually a BLUEfinch

Bustabo—Recurring error 2

Button Bright – Another character with a real name mentioned outside the Oz series proper (Saladin Paracelsus de Lambertine Evagne von Smith), and not given in his entry.

Buzzub—Recurring error 5

Cap’n Bill Wheedles—His last name is spelled “Weedles,” not “Wheedles.”

Captain of the Paper Soldiers – Not really an error, but his speech indicates that all of the paper dolls in his village have the last name Cuttenclip.

Chalk—Recurring error 6
The entry ignores that Chalk was instrumental in CONQUERING Oz before restoring it. He only undid what he and Skamperoo had done in the first place.

Chalulu—He only told Hoochafoo to “do nothing” because there was no way to interfere with Randy’s tasks. There’s no reason to assume that’s what he usually advises.

Chief Scarer—He’s the gatekeeper of Scare City, not the ruler.
The people of Scare City are called Scares. Harum Scarum is the king’s name.

Chin Chilly – Snow claims, “Any humor [the Isa Posans] may have possessed at one time is now frozen stiff.” Actually, Chin does make a pun in order to cheat Prince Tatters, so he has SOME sense of humor, but admittedly not a very good one.

Chinda—He’s the Grand Bozzywoz, not “Bozzywog.” Interestingly enough, the word “bozzywog” DOES appear in the Oz books (in Handy Mandy), but context implies that it means something quite different.

Choggenmugger—There’s no indication that he “grew back together again.” I suppose it’s possible, though.

Chopfyt—Recurring error 7

Christopher—The people of Crystal City are only cold when Ojo and his friends first encounter them because of the Snow Dwarf King’s curse. That’s not their natural state.

Colonel Crinkle—Minor mistake, but he’s promoted to General before being sent to the slicing machine.

Comfortable Camel—Recurring error 8
“Karwan Bashi” is a title, not a name. I believe it is a Persian term, which means, roughly, “caravan director.”

Coo-ee-oh—What evidence is there that a Krumbic Witch is “about seven times worse than an ordinary witch”?

Cooks of Doughmain—Lake Quad is in the central green area of Oz, not the Quadling Country.

Cor—Recurring error 5

Count-It-Up—Since “Count” is his title, his name shouldn’t be hyphenated.

Cross Patch—Recurring error 9

Curious Cottabus—Since he’s not actually a cat, it’s somewhat unlikely that he’d be “first cousin” to other famous literary cats. Maybe it’s similar to how Ozga is “second cousin” to field flowers, though.

Dad—Fi Nance’s name shouldn’t be hyphenated.

Dear Deer—Recurring error 2

Dickus—Recurring errors 9 and 10

Didjaboo—Should be spelled “Didjabo”

Dicky Bird—Recurring error 10

Doctor Pipt—Why is he listed under “doctor”?
Jack Pumpkinhead’s last name is misspelled “Pumpkinghead.”

Doubtful Dromedary—Recurring error 8

Dragonettes – The one who appears in Wonder City is most likely Evangeline, who is mentioned by name in the other Neill books.

Enorma—The indication given in Grampa is that the stream killed her, rather than simply making her “as meek and mild as a puppy.”

Fi-Nance—Her name shouldn’t be hyphenated.

Flub Blub—Recurring error 15

Fluff – According to Queen Zixi of Ix, her real name is Margaret.

Gardener—His title is misspelled “gardner” at one point.

Gaylette—Her name is actually “Gayelette.” It’s spelled correctly once in the entry, but incorrectly at another point, as well as in the heading.

Getsom and Gotsom—Recurring error 11

Ginger—He is a servant of Jinnicky, not Mogodore.

Godorkas—Recurring error 16

Godown—Her kingdom is generally called Stair Way, not “Stairway Town.”

Good Witch of the North – Her entry ends with a statement that “Dorothy has said that some pretty important things have transpired involving the Good Witch of the North,” and that it “would take a whole book” to describe them. While this could be a reference to Giant Horse, it’s worth noting that Snow wrote a different entry for Tattypoo, implying that she wasn’t the REAL GWN despite Thompson obviously thinking she was. I don’t think it’s ever been confirmed whether Snow was working on his own book about the GWN, but other authors have picked up on the idea of a GWN separate from Tattypoo. Not an error, just a curiosity.

Gos—Recurring error 5

Grandmother Gnit—Recurring error 12
Her people are Fuddles, not Fuddlecumjigs.

Great Dragon—His kingdom is beneath the Gillikin Country, not the Winkie.

Hah Hoh—Actually, the other Kimbles DO laugh at his verses.

Handy Mandy—She ends up living in Keretaria, rather than at the Court of Ozma. Then again, other characters who don’t officially live in the Emerald City are considered part of her court, including such notables as the Scarecrow and Tin Woodman.

Hiergargo—It was the star that exploded, rather than Hiergargo himself.

High Coco-Lorum—Thi only APPEARS to “jump about the landscape.”

Himself—He is referred to in Handy Mandy as an elf, a dwarf, and a gnome; but never a leprechaun.

His Woodjesty – I have to suspect it would have been better to simply list him as “King of the Twigs,” but it’s not like this appellation is strictly wrong.

Hokus of Pokes—He is from Corumbia, not England. This is admittedly confusing, however, as Thompson indicated that he was from King Arthur’s court before apparently changing her mind on this point in Yellow Knight.
His first battle (against the Sultan of Samandra) was actually a victory for him. The Sultan cursed Hokus/Corum AFTER being defeated.

Hurrywurree—His name should be spelled “Hurreewurree.”

Ianu—This character is a boy, not a girl.

Jack Pumpkinhead—He looks upon Ozma, not the Wizard, as a parent.

Jaguar—He encountered the Tin Woodman and his companions in the Gillikin Country, not the Winkie.

Jam – His full name, Jonathan Andrew Manley, is not given here. It is, however, given in the entry for his mother, Mrs. Manley.

Jellia Jamb—She actually first appeared in Wizard. Granted, Baum never specifically says this, but it’s strongly hinted, and Thompson confirms it in Ozoplaning.

Jinjur—She and her army were armed with knitting needles, not hatpins.

Jinnicky—He first appeared in Jack Pumpkinhead.

Joker—His entry should be later (after the “Joh” entries).

John Dough—He encountered the Fairy Beavers on the Isle of Mifkets, not the Isle of Phreex.

Kaliko—The Chief Steward in Ozma might actually be a different character, in which case Kaliko’s first appearance would have been in Emerald City. This is, admittedly, up for interpretation; and I prefer to think it IS Kaliko in Ozma.

Kangaroo—Recurring error 12
She is not the only kangaroo in Oz. Magic briefly mentions another kangaroo, named Tirrip.

Kerry – Probably a simple typo, but “Munchkinland” is spelled “Munchikinland.”

King of Fix City—His name, Fix Sit (sometimes given as “Fix It”) is not mentioned.

King of Play—His name, Capers, is not mentioned.

King of Shuttertown—Shutter Town (the way Thompson spelled it) is in the Munchkin Country, not the Winkie.

Konk—Snow refers to him as “King Konk,” but “Konk” is a title, not a name.

Krewl—There’s no mention of his name being changed to Grewl.
He actually becomes the gardener’s assistant, not the gardener.

Kuma Party – Recurring error 13

Kynd—His successor is Phearse, not “Phearce.”

Leopard—His name, Spots, is not mentioned.

Lonesome Duck—The text indicates that his diamond palace is in the Gillikin Country, although it’s close to the Munchkin border.

Lucky Bucky – No mention of his last name, Jones.

Maltese Majesty – It seems incongruous that the King of the Twigs is listed as “HIS Woodjesty,” and this character isn’t “HER Maltese Majesty.” Not a huge deal, though.

Marcia—Recurring error 11

Marygolden—While she’s a princess who lives in the Winkie Country, calling her “Princess of the Winkie Country” is a bit misleading.
She was disenchanted by Speedy, not the Yellow Knight.

Mifkets—They really aren’t much like the Scoodlers, but blame Neill for confusing the two. The Mifkits of Scalawagons seem to be a combination of the Mifkets and the Scoodlers.

Mira—Recurring error 11

Mo-fi—This is his name, not the kind of animal he is.

Mugly—This character is described as “an ugly little Mugly,” but that doesn’t mean his NAME is “Mugly.” (I guess it COULD be, though.)

Nadj—Recurring error 17
He hasn’t personally been alive for three hundred years.

Nandywog—He’s only twenty feet tall, not twenty-four.

Nikobo—She’s very much female, not male.

Nimmie Aimee—Recurring error 7

Nome King—No mention of his transformation into a cactus

Octopuss—She lives at the bottom of Lake Quad, not on the Octagon Isle.

Omby Amby—He isn’t the same as the Guardian of the Gates. Snow makes the same mistake in his Oz books.

Orange Blossom—Her brother is King of the Golden Islands, rather than the Silver.

Ork—His name, Flipper, is not mentioned.

Ozwog—His name is actually spelled “Ozwoz.” Since “Ozwog” wouldn’t fit here in alphabetical order, I’m assuming “Ozwog” is a typo.

Panta Loon—I don’t think there’s any indication that any of the Loons other than Bal can float away.

Peer Haps—Recurring error 15

Peg Amy—Sun Top Mountain is in the Winkie Country, not the Gillikin.

Peter—His last name, Brown, is not mentioned.

Peter Pun—His transformation was a result of the Sultan of Samandra’s magic, not his jokes.
The Yellow Knight DOES have a sense of humor, and he makes several jokes in Royal Book (as Sir Hokus).

Pinny and Gig—They ended up settling in the Gillikin Country, not the Munchkin.

Planetty—She landed in Ix, not Ev.

Postman—Randy and Kabumpo encounter him in the Quadling Country, not the Gillikin.
There’s no reason to assume that’s he the only postman in Oz.

Potaroo—Recurring error 13
An argument could be made that the character is first introduced in either Tik-Tok or Hungry Tiger.

Prime Piecer—“Scraps” is misspelled as “Scrapps.”

Prime Pumper—The fact that he no longer lives in Pumperdink isn’t mentioned.

Prince Perix—Recurring error 15. In fact, he’s even indexed under “Prince,” when Thompson never said he WAS a prince!

Princess of Monday Mountain—Her name, Pearl Borax, is not mentioned.

Private Files—His first name, Jo, is not mentioned.

Professor Grunter Swyne—Recurring error 14

Queen of Ev—Evrob’s name is misspelled “Evrok.”

Quiggeroc—He’s simply referred to as the Chief Digger in Lucky Bucky, rather than as a General. It’s not unlikely that he’s also the General in times of war, but Neill never explicitly states this.

Quink—“Quink” is a title, not a name.

Quox—The Original Dragon does not live in Oz.

Radj—Recurring error 17

Reachard—Recurring error 10

Realbad—His real name, Ree Alla Bad, isn’t mentioned. I’d say it’s because Snow doesn’t want to spoil the plot of Ojo, but he apparently didn’t mind including spoilers in the entries for the characters Isomere, Mooj, and Ojo.

Reera—There’s a reference to her being a “Yookoohoo Witch,” but Tin Woodman indicates that Yookoohoos and witches are different kinds of magic-workers.

Rosa Merry—The button boys distribute their wares to the Gillikin Country, not the Winkie.

Rough Pasha—He is called “Irasha” and “Irashi,” and given the appellation “the Rough,” but is never actually called the “Rough Pasha” in Hungry Tiger. This wasn’t a good way to index him.
Only one year passed in between Irasha’s stealing the throne and Evered’s regaining it.

Roundaboutys—Should be spelled “Round-Abouties.”

Sally—She naps in Captain Salt’s pipe, not Ato’s.

Santa Claus—“Knooks” is misspelled as “Nooks.”

Scissor Bird—His name is Nipper, not Ripper.

Sevananone—Recurring error 1
His fellow counselors are Sixentwo and Fourandfour (spelled “Four’nfour” in Captain Salt), not “Sixantwo” and “Fouranfour.”

Shagomar—Recurring error 2

Shampoozle—Recurring error 13

Shirley Sunshine—Recurring error 4

Sizzeroo—This is a very minor mistake, but he technically did leave his island when he parachuted down to the Emerald City.

Skally—Grampa and Tatters actually encountered the bandits in the Munchkin Country.

Skamperoo—Recurring error 6
He never actually watched Ozma rule Oz. For an in-universe explanation, perhaps the rather odd wording in the entries for Skamperoo and Chalk have to do with how so few Ozites remember his conquest, or an agreement with Skampavia not to go into too much detail.

Sky Terrier—Thompson actually spells this dog’s breed as “Skye Terrier.” Snow’s spelling makes the joke more explicit.

Slayrum—Realbad’s bandits actually became Winkie farmers, not Gillikin ones. I suppose they could have relocated, though.

Smirch – Recurring error 11

Smith and Tinker’s—I’m not sure why that apostrophe is in the heading. It’s an entry for the characters, not the firm.

Snorpus—There’s only one Silver Mountain, at least within Handy Mandy.

Snufferbux—His full name, Snufforious Buxorious Blundorious Boroso, is not mentioned.

Soothsayer—Why does Snow say he “misdirected” Kabumpo and Randy to Jinnicky’s castle? Jinnicky ends up solving their problem.

Speedy—His real name, William, is not mentioned.

Spezzle—He retired during Purple Prince.

Squealina Swyne—Recurring error 14

Starina—Why is this a separate entry at all?

Stork – This character is female in the text of Wizard.

Taka—Pirates reports that all of the Menankypoos (not “Menankypooians”) sank to the bottom of the Nonestic Ocean. Ozma then restored them to their kingdom.

Tattypoo—Snow suggests that she wasn’t the real Good Witch of the North. Could he have been thinking that there were TWO Good Witches of the North?

Terrybubble—Speedy is from Long Island, not Philadelphia.

Tighty – Shutter Town is once again said to be in the Gillikin Country.

Tip – Snow goes out of his way to avoid revealing the twist ending to Land, which is fine, but it’s weird when he doesn’t seem to mind spoiling the plots of other books.

Tip Topper—Recurring error 15

Tip Topsy—Her last name is actually spelled “Toppsy.”

Toddledy—He lives in the Ozure Isles, not the “Azure Islands.”

Tom—His full name, Zebbediah Jones, is not mentioned. (And he’s one of Snow’s own characters, too.)

Torpy—He is not the Chief Wake.

Tottenhots—They live in the Winkie Country, not the Quadling.

Trot—Her real name, Mayre, is not mentioned.

Tsing Tsing—She is referred to in the present tense, even though she is dead.

Tubeskins—His name is actually Tubekins, which is correctly spelled in the entry itself, but not in the heading.

Twink—Her real name, Abbadiah Jones, is not mentioned.

Twobyfour—“Skampavia” is misspelled as “Scampavia.”

Uncle Bill Hugson—I certainly hope that “bother-in-law” was a typo!

Uncle Billy—His full name, William J. Harmstead, is not mentioned.

Unk Nunkie—His real name, Stephen, is not mentioned. Baum usually spells the character’s name as “Unc,” but the first chapter title of Patchwork Girl spells it “Unk” and later authors followed suit. So I’d say it’s a mistaken spelling, but not really Snow’s fault.

Vanetta – From what I can recall, she’s referred to by name twice in Lost King, once as “Vanetta” and once as “Vanette.” I’m glad Snow just stuck with one spelling, but you could make a case for the other.

Vinegar and Mustard—Rash is pink, not red.

Wam—“The only important magic” is a bit of a value judgment, but I would say bringing Crunch to life and planting the Travelers’ Tree were also important.
He was first mentioned in Cowardly Lion.

Wantowin—Kind of a superfluous entry, since the character is already mentioned as Omby Amby.
His last name, Battles, is not mentioned.

Wilby—His last name, Whut, is not mentioned.

Wizard of Oz—His balloon probably did not actually land in the central green country, since the Wicked Witch of the West drove him out of the Winkie Country.

X. Pando—His name should not be hyphenated.

Yoop, Mrs.—She is a Yookoohoo, not a “Kookoohoo.”

Zixi—She presumably has not lived for quite “thousands of years” (she is 683 during Queen Zixi of Ix), but this is a mistake the Wizard also made in Road.

Posted in Characters, Jack Snow, John R. Neill, L. Frank Baum, Oz, Oz Authors, Ruth Plumly Thompson, Uncategorized | Tagged | Leave a comment

Whores in My Head

Pixies, Doolittle – I think this might be the band’s most popular album, and it was certainly the first one I heard. It’s not my personal favorite, but it’s quite solid. I remember reading that the working title was Whore, but the final name referred to Dr. Dolittle. They spelled his name with an extra O, but that’s pretty much par for the course with the Pixies. Despite the raw, electric sound of the music, there are a lot of themes on it related to nature, so someone who talks to animals is pretty appropriate.

Debaser – As with the opening song on Surfer Rosa, it brings in one instrument at a time, this time starting with the bass. The lyrics refer to the surrealist film Un Chien Andalou, in which the most famous image is an eyeball being sliced.

Tame – The Pixies are largely known for quiet verses and loud choruses. This song is good example of that, with the dynamics resulting largely from not using guitar on the verses. From what I’ve read, the lyrics are about the effort annoying college women put into looking sexy.

Wave of Mutilation – The first line, “cease to resist,” refers to the song “Cease to Exist” that Charles Manson wrote for the Beach Boys. The title seems to be referencing this odd combination as well, and the line about driving a car into the ocean was apparently something several Japanese businessmen did around when Black Francis wrote the song.

I Bleed – The harmonies between Frank and Kim Deal work well here, with the latter singing melodically and the former basically reciting them. The last verse is about a cliff dwelling in Arizona where you can put your hand inside an impression of an ancient handprint. I like the picture that accompanies this song in the liner notes, showing a bell lined with teeth. It’s a disturbing and fascinating juxtaposition.

Here Comes Your Man – A very poppy number, which Frank once said he found too chirpy and sugary. This is somewhat in contrast to the lyrics, which are about earthquakes and hobos dying on boxcars during them. It’s perhaps the most immediately accessible Pixies song, and I don’t consider that to be a bad thing. The band’s music videos tended to be very minimalist, and this is probably the most famous one. It mocks the convention of lip-syncing in videos by simply having Frank and Kim hold their mouths wide open during their vocal parts.

Dead – This one returns to the theme of disturbing stories from the Bible, in this case that of David and Bathsheba. This guy was a legendary hero and the founder of a dynasty of kings, but the most prominent source on him says he basically raped a woman, got her pregnant, and then had her husband killed. The Good Book is an excellent resource for really dark song subjects. I read that there’s a klezmer cover of this song, which sounds like an awesome idea, but I’ve never heard it.

Monkey Gone to Heaven – Another quite accessible song, if not quite as catchy and melodic as “Here Comes Your Man.” It actually has a bit of an environmental theme, making reference to the dumping of garbage into the ocean and the hole in the ozone layer. Frank has said that the refrain isn’t really related to anything else, but was just what he came up with to fit the music. Someone must have liked it enough to make a monkey with a halo the picture on the album cover. References to man as five, the Devil as six, and God as seven are common in Jewish numerology. So it’s kind of a hodge-podge, but it works.

Mr. Grieves – A fun, mostly fast song about death and the apocalypse. It was apparently the source for the album title, due to the lyric “pray for a man in the middle, one that talks like Doolittle.” Frank has admitted that it’s thematically connected to the previous song, and both mention Neptune (he’s the “underwater guy who controlled the sea”).

Crackity Jones – This one is about a mentally ill roommate Frank had while studying in Puerto Rico. He apparently frequently talked about someone called “Paco Picopiedra,” who turned out to be Fred Flintstone. The actual Spanish name for the character is Pedro Picapiedra, but I’m not sure who made the mistake. “Thirty miles by hundred miles” are the approximate dimensions of the island.

La La Love You – Drummer David Lovering takes the lead vocal on this slight and intentionally silly song about sex.

No. 13 Baby – Basically just a song about attraction to a woman, although Frank has said it’s largely a combination of various images he remembered from growing up. “Viva la Loma Rica,” literally meaning “long live the rich hills” (well, more or less), was a gang that was active in the Los Angeles area during his childhood. While he didn’t actually know anything about them, they were referenced in a lot of graffiti. The number thirteen was a common tattoo at the time, standing for the thirteenth letter of the alphabet, which in turn stood for “marijuana.”

There Goes My Gun – The second shortest song on the record doesn’t really have a lot of content, but it’s interesting and catchy. Frank has said it’s supposed to be mysterious, like someone was shot, but you have no idea whodunit.

Hey – There’s an interesting arrangement to this one, which Frank has said turned out to be the band’s only rhythm-and-blues song. The lyrics are once again quite sexual, and apparently inspired by old stories rumors about relationships.

Silver – The only song on the album for which Kim receives a writing credit. From what I’ve read, the band was never really interested in what she wrote, although I guess she later had an outlet for her songwriting with the Breeders. Something about the general sound makes me think of cowboys out on the lonesome trail, although there’s also distorted guitar that you wouldn’t generally associate with western music.

Gouge Away – Here, it’s more the verses that are loud and the chorus fairly quiet. It covers another messed-up Bible story, that of Samson and Delilah.

Posted in Albums, Frank Black/Black Francis, Music, Pixies, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Long Walk Off a Short Pyramid

Dr. Ben Carson has been the subject of much mockery for a lot of reasons, but one of the most prominent is that he thought Joseph built the pyramids to store grain. Apparently he didn’t even make this up; it’s an idea that dates back to at least the sixth century. It’s based on the story in Genesis about how Joseph, after having been sold as a slave in Egypt, entered into the Pharaoh’s good graces by interpreting his dream about fat and skinny cows as being about seven years of plenty followed by seven of famine. On Joseph’s advice, the Pharaoh bought up a bunch of extra grain during the first seven years, then basically had a monopoly during the next seven.

This was hardly the only attempt to link the pyramids with the Bible, however. In The Ten Commandments, Jewish slaves were shown building the structures during the reign of Ramesses II.

The problem is, Ramesses ruled during the thirteenth century BC, about 1000 years after the height of pyramid building. Later dynasties would revive the practice with smaller, less impressive pyramids; but that was some time later than Ramesses’ reign. The Exodus was probably not historically true at all, but if it was, it likely happened long after the pyramids were already a fixture in Egypt. The all-too-neat figure of 480 years between the Exodus and the building of Solomon’s Temple given in 1 Kings suggests it was in the fifteenth century BC. The movie didn’t start this association, though. For that, we have to go back to at least the first century AD, when the historian Josephus mentioned Jewish slaves building pyramids in his Antiquities of the Jews. If you actually look at the Bible, however, it says that they built the treasure cities of Pithon and Rameses, not the pyramids. For that matter, estimates of when Joseph would have come to Egypt are usually after the building of the most prominent pyramids as well.

Other Biblical personages have been linked to the building of the pyramids. In 1859, a British scholar named James Taylor put out a book about the Great Pyramid, claiming that Noah had it built after the Flood.

He also popularized the idea that twice the size of its base divided by its height is quite close to pi, which is apparently true, but probably not as impressive as Taylor thought it was. He also added the more ridiculously nationalistic assumption that the pyramid was based on a unit of measurement equal to the British inch. Apparently Noah, who is said to have built the Ark based on the incredibly variable unit of measurement known as the cubit, invented a really exact system for the Great Pyramid. This helped to popularize the idea that the structure was a great repository of ancient knowledge preserved for the ages. Josephus wrote of two pillars containing the knowledge of Adam’s son Seth, one of brick and one of stone, the latter being intended to outlast flood as well as fire.

According to the historian, the stone pillar still stood in Egypt, and it later came to be associated with the Great Pyramid, despite the fact that a pyramid isn’t a pillar. In 1864, Scottish astronomer Charles Piazzi Smyth combined these ancient stories with Taylor’s concepts, and claimed that the Great Pyramid predicted the future, including the end of the world.

His theory involved something about a mention of the birth of Jesus being thirty-three inches from one of Jesus’ death. What he interpreted as the prediction of the end was about 1881 inches from the one about the birth of Christ, so some people took this as meaning that the world would end in 1881. It obviously didn’t, unless maybe we’re all living in some kind of virtual reality programmed by Noah on Seth’s computer made of Atlantean oricalchum on Mount Moriah.

This is without even getting into how the pyramids were designed by space aliens, or how the existence of pyramids (albeit quite different ones) in the Americas mean there must have been contact between Native Americans and Egyptians, because obviously multiple human societies couldn’t have thought of stacking rocks on top of each other on their own.

And in the twentieth century, Czech radio engineer Karel Drbal claimed that pyramids could sharpen razor blades, which I guess is why depictions of ancient Egyptians show them with such nicely trimmed beards.

And there’s always the theory from a Futurama episode that the Great Pyramid was built at the behest of alien cats from the Thuban System, who wanted to use it to siphon power from Earth.

(I believe one of the shafts in the pyramid actually did line up with Thuban, which would have been the North Star at the time it was built.) I think people are just disappointed that such ornate, impressive structures were built just to bury kings. If you look at history, however, it’s pretty much a constant that obscenely rich people like to spend money on pointless stuff that looks cool.

Posted in Astronomy, Cartoons, Christianity, Conspiracy Theories, Current Events, Futurama, History, Judaism, Middle East, Religion, Science, Television | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Show Me the Way

When I was in the sixth grade, I received Greg Bear’s Eternity as part of a gift exchange. I read part of it, but for some reason I never finished. It was actually the sequel to another book called Eon, and I decided to check both out again recently. Eon takes place in the early twenty-first century, with the Cold War still raging and nuclear war between the United States and Russia being basically a foregone conclusion. At the same time, a strange asteroid has appeared in the sky above Earth. It turns out that this planetoid, known as Thistledown, comes from the distant future, and houses a society where people are able to store their personalities and transfer them into new bodies.

They’ve also managed to open the Way, a passageway between universes, only to find that it’s been invaded by alien beings. The mathematician Patricia Vasquez visits the station, and it turns out that she was instrumental in creating the Way. She ends up being transported to an alternate Earth where Alexander the Great didn’t die as young as he did in our world, and the Macedonian Empire continued until the present time. In Eternity, Patricia’s granddaughter seeks an entrance to the Way. On Earth, Thistledown has become a presence in the twenty-first century. When first starting to read the book, I thought it was strange how the technology to transfer personalities into new bodies existed a few mere decades in the future; but Eon does explain that. It was also interesting that the Cold War themes had already become a bit outdated by that point, as it was around when the Soviet Union collapsed. A third book, Legacy, is a prequel to Eon (even though tit takes place farther in the future) in which a Thistledown agent investigates a world in which evolution has proceeded in much the way Lamarck proposed, leading to collective organisms that can control how they develop. Honestly, I found the plots a little difficult to follow at times and the characters sometimes difficult to keep track of, but the ideas were quite interesting.

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Heal the World

I was reminded recently of the games developed by Quintet in the early 1990s, which deal with various religious themes. Their first game was ActRaiser, released by Enix for the Super Nintendo.

It’s a combination of simulation and action where you play God. This is often loosely the case with many simulation and strategy games, but here it’s quite blatant. It was censored somewhat for the American release, calling your character the Master and your adversary Tanzra, rather than simply God and Satan, but the general idea remains.

You monitor the world from a flying castle with an angel to assist you, helping or hurting the citizens of towns that grow up during the course of the game.

Raining down destruction isn’t always just something you can do if you want to be a jerk, but is required for building up the best settlements. If you destroy the cheaper buildings, the people will build nicer ones. Superman took the same approach in an early comic. I can’t say it’s all that realistic, as actual people would probably just build even cheaper dwellings for their poor. The action comes in with side-scrolling sequences where you incarnate in a statue and fight monsters in order to make various areas inhabitable.

There was a sequel with some of the same themes, but they removed the simulation segments and made it purely side-scrolling action, and hence nowhere near as interesting.

Soul Blazer, known as Soul Blader in Japan (which actually kind of makes more sense, as the hero’s primary weapon is a sword), was not a sequel, but was somewhat similar in execution.

Basically an action role-playing game, the hero is an angelic avatar sent to the human world by God to battle evil. The setting is the Freil Empire, ruled by King and Queen Magridd, who sold all the souls in their territory to the devilish Deathtoll in exchange for money. In a rather Animistic approach, not only do people have souls, but so do animals and plants.

In fact, even dead plants made into dressers and such have souls.

That makes me wonder what the royals were planning on buying with their dirty money.

As you fight monsters in dungeons in a top-down view, the living things and their dwellings return to the empire. Two of the main characters are the inventor and artist Dr. Leo and his daughter Lisa, named after Leonardo da Vinci and one of his most famous paintings. The scientist created the machine that enabled the rulers to contact Deathtoll, an airship, and paintings that lead to other worlds.

After you beat Deathtoll, with Dr. Leo losing his life in the process, your character asks the Master to make him human so he can live with Lisa.

Lisa, who has been touched by the Sovereign of Sorrow and gone insane, plays a role in Captain SNES.

Another Quintet action RPG, Illusion of Gaia (Illusion of Time in Europe), was originally going to be released as a sequel to Soul Blazer. It really isn’t, though, as it takes place in its own world.

I think my brother had this game, but I never saw much of it. I did look at the map, and I noticed that most of the locations are ones that exist in the real world, only not in the same places.

There are versions of the ruins of Macchu Picchu, Egyptian pyramids, the Great Wall of China, and the Tower of Babel. The evil Dark Gaia has launched a comet that can alter the world and speed up time. The ending of the game has the world change into our own. Terranigma, another Super NES game, is loosely considered to be the third game in the Quintet Trilogy.

I’ve never played it nor seen it played, but as with the others, it appears to center around related themes without any direct connection. Again, the hero has to restore a world much like our Earth, this time a hollow planet with an underworld on the inside.

The Granstream Saga, released for the PlayStation instead of the Super NES, is also sometimes considered part of the series.

Posted in Animism, Maps, Religion, Uncategorized, Video Games | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Legends of Obscure Characters

Legends of Oz: Dorothy’s Return didn’t contain very many references to the larger Oz series, even when they appeared in the source material. The China Country and the field-mice were there, as was a smaller version of the Sawhorse; but Gayelette and Quelala, the Hammer-Heads, Ozma, the dragons from The Tin Woodman of Oz, and the Wizard as a resident of Oz were all omitted. There were, however, some largely hidden references in the characters the Jester had turned into puppets. When watching the film, I noticed that one of the cases was labeled “Grand Bozzywoz of Samandra,” and wondered if anyone important was in the other ones. The movie’s trivia page on the IMDb now contains this information:
“From left to right the name plaques (with the characters’ first year of appearance in parenthesis [sic]) read: His Woodjesty of the Twigs (1922), Bandmaster of Tune Town (1927), Queen Else of Somewhere (1976), General Blotz (1935), Dainty China Princess (1900), Glinda (1900), General Candy Apple (1989), Grand Bozzywood of Samandra (1930), Ferryman of Winkie River (1917), Chief Dipper of Pumperdink (1922), and Baron Belfaygor of Bourne (1929).” Here are some screen captures of the characters:

How these particular individuals were chosen isn’t clear, and almost seems like someone just looked through a list of characters from the books to find ones that sounded interesting or important. Most of them ended up being from Ruth Plumly Thompson’s contributions to the series. Also, the names rarely match up with their appearance in the books, either in illustrations or textual descriptions. The King of the Twigs, never named in Kabumpo in Oz but called “His Woodjesty” in Who’s Who in Oz because it’s how one of his subjects addresses him, is a walking, talking tree.

None of the puppets looks like one of those, and if the IMDb is to be believed, then he’s the cowboy in the yellow hat. The Bandmaster of Tune Town, a rather imposing figure with the name Oompah, here looks to be a dwarf.

Queen Else looks more regal in the movie than in the book, but she’s still the closest so far.

General Blotz is a rather large man in Wishing Horse, an important official to the Queen of the Black Forest.

In the film he looks like a lawn gnome. Based on what we’ve seen so far, I’m going to assume “Bozzywood” was a legitimate typo, not a joke on the Jester’s part. In Yellow Knight, the character’s name is Chinda, and he’s a prophet working for the Sultan of Samandra.

The movie’s version looks a lot like the Munchkin Mayor from the MGM film.

The Ferryman of the Winkie River is presumably the one in Lost Princess who is unable to communicate with animals, but I’m not sure why capturing him would be at all worthwhile.

I don’t believe the Chief Dipper of Pumperdink is ever depicted in the books, but he’s the official in the kingdom who sees to dipping lawbreakers in a well of dye. And I guess Belfaygor having a mustache suggests someone might have at least glanced at Jack Pumpkinhead, but he mostly just looks like another cowboy.

His main feature in the book was a red beard that wouldn’t stop growing, but he lost it before the end.

I had considered that they might look different because they’re puppets, but the picture of their being restored to life has them looking pretty much the same aside from the lack of strings.

Out of the group, the only ones who are actually rulers in canon are the King of the Twigs, Else, and Belfaygor; and their territories appear to be fairly minor. Most of the others are officials in rulers’ courts, with the Ferryman being a loner. I guess it’s possible that the Jester didn’t enchant this particular bunch for their political power, but because they did something to bother him. It’s unlikely we’ll ever really know.

If they’d wanted to hew closer to the books, what characters would have made better choices? Well, that kind of depends on when this is supposed to take place, which is difficult to determine because the film starts in a modern-day Kansas. When King Skamperoo removes the leaders of Oz in Wishing Horse, they include the royal families of the Munchkins and Gillikins, who weren’t appointed until the end of Giant Horse. John R. Neill’s Runaway refers to a state visit from the ten most important Gillikin monarchs, but they’re never identified. There’s some speculation as to who the monarchs might be here.

Posted in Characters, John R. Neill, L. Frank Baum, Oz, Oz Authors, Ruth Plumly Thompson, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment