The New Ugu

I guess it’s time for Oziana 1984. The cover by Melody Grandy shows a typical inhabitant of the Pink and Blue Countries of Sky Island, which is relevant to the first story. The introduction explains that, since L. Frank Baum’s text didn’t mention the curled arms and legs that John R. Neill gave the Blues, she didn’t draw them. Maybe Neill meant them to go with the winding cords that the Blues use as weapons.

“The Blue Raindrops of Oz,” by Camilla Townsend – This is largely a sequel to Sky Island, with Trot’s return to the place she conquered and the former Boolooroo of the Blues still causing trouble. He comes across a chest of magic and a statue of a brownie, which he brings to life.

With his newfound powers, the villain turns people in the Pink County into statues, but the brownie comes to realize that his master is doing something wrong. The brownie turns out to be the Rain King‘s daughter Sapphrisse, enchanted by a magician named Thorgose who was bent on world domination.

The character Thorgose, who doesn’t actually appear here, intrigued me, so I used him in a short story I wrote, although I don’t know that I’ll ever do anything with it. It also includes characters from The Laughing Dragon of Oz. The author, who wrote this as a teenager, is apparently now a professor specializing in Native American history, which is pretty cool. She read the story for YouTube.

“The Piglets’ Revenge, or How Eureka Became Pink,” by Glenn Ingersoll – There have been a few different attempts to explain the mystery of how Eureka, originally a white kitten who looked pink under the light of one of the Mangaboo suns when introduced in Dorothy and the Wizard, actually is pink in later books. It’s said to be the result of light manipulation in Gili Bar-Hillel’s “Pigmentation,” a magic amulet in Chris Dulabone’s Colorful Kitten, and a color-affecting insect in David Hulan’s Eureka. In this tale, she’s confined to a room in Ozma’s palace and blames the Nine Tiny Piglets, even though she was the one who caused trouble in the first place. When she escapes from her room, she chases the Piglets with the intent to eat one of them, but falls into a tub of the Wizard’s permanent pink dye. Then, true to her character, she tries to turn her pinkness into a point of pride. Ingersoll gives names to all of the Piglets in this story. David Ingersoll was again the illustrator for this one.

“The Pronunciad,” by Robin Olderman – Playing on Alexander Pope’s Dunciad, these three verses are about names in the Oz books that are often mispronounced, or for which there is no official pronunciation: Ev, General Guph, and Kalidahs. I’ve never thought of Ev as being pronounced with anything other than a short E, but I have heard it said “eve” on occasion. For Guph, as Eric Shanower pointed out, he’s not a goof, and he has plenty of guff. “Kalidah” is trickier, but I say it like the beginning of “kaleidoscope.”

“The Mystery of the Missing Ozma,” by Jay Delkin – I believe this is the last of the Great Detective stories, and even though Melody was involved in this issue, the only one she didn’t illustrate. Instead, Shanower, who co-wrote the first of these tales, did the pictures for this one. While every one of these Detective stories has an element of parody, here it’s very much brought to the forefront.

When Ozma goes missing in a situation remarkably similar to that in Lost Princess, the Detective and his unidentified biographer (an illustration suggests it might be Baum himself) goes searching for clues, and finds out that the culprit is Ugu the Shoemaker‘s twin brother, also named Ugu. The Wogglebug solves the problem by using a wishing pill to wish the whole thing had never happened. Another amusing moment is when Dorothy volunteers to be “a member of the successful search party.” While “A Study in Orange” had Ozma turning Toto into a bloodhound, here the Detective is assisted by a dog named Ozzy. Dr. Nikidik appears here as an assistant of the Wizard’s and brother of Dr. Pipt‘s, a very different portrayal than in John Philip Lewin’s books; but in line with the reformed Nikidik of Hugh Pendexter’s Wooglet. It’s pretty silly that Ugu’s brother would be almost exactly like him, but it is an intriguing idea. The only specific difference we’re given is that his castle is made of grass instead of wicker. Maybe this means he worked as a landscaper or groundskeeper, but then, the other Ugu made shoes, not baskets.

The back cover artist is anonymous in the issue’s credits, but maybe somebody knows who it is. They provided a drawing of the Queen of Corabia with the dog Confido. This canine ended up living with Marygolden in Yellow Knight, but it’s presumably her mother in this picture.

Next time, we’ll find out about the origin of Jack Pumpkinhead’s clothes, a chaotic situation in the palace kitchen, and how ice cream can come to life.

Posted in Art, Camilla Townsend, Characters, Chris Dulabone, Eric Shanower, Hugh Pendexter, Humor, John R. Neill, L. Frank Baum, Magic, Melody Grandy, Names, Oz, Oz Authors, Poetry, Ruth Plumly Thompson | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Baum’s Birthday Blowout

Yesterday was L. Frank Baum’s birthday, and the day before that, Michael Booth set up a virtual event to celebrate. There weren’t that many attendees, but it included presentations, and I’m too disorganized and socially awkward to arrange something like that. The first presentation was by J.L. Bell, who talked about the significance of the Little Wizard Stories. Even though they were written by Baum and published in book form within his lifetime, the collected volume doesn’t generally make the cut as far as official Oz books go. They were slight, and largely promotional material for Baum’s return to the series with The Patchwork Girl of Oz. Still, everyone was in character and Oz still worked the same way as in the books, unlike the earlier Queer Visitors from the Marvelous Land of Oz comic stories. They also demonstrated some development in how Baum wrote about Oz. Some fan-written works used ideas introduced in these stories. Chris Dulabone wrote a book about the Imps from “Ozma and the Little Wizard,” and the Squirrel King from “Jack Pumpkinhead and the Sawhorse” is a villain in Bill Campbell and Irwin Terry’s Lavender Bear.

John wrote his own story, “Ojo and the Woozy,” in sort of the same style; and even before that, there was Robert Pattrick’s “Hank and the Scarecrow of Oz.” I jokingly asked if there were any Big Wizard Stories, and the answer was that “Little Dorothy and Toto” has a big Wizard.

The next presentation was mine. So many people I know hate public speaking, but I generally like it. Sure, I’m nervous, but it’s the kind of nervousness that gives me adrenaline rather than the kind that makes me want to hide. I made a PowerPoint for it, and that’s the first time I’ve made one of those in years. It was on death and aging in Oz, something I’ve discussed before and other fans have as well, but I thought it somewhat related to birthdays.

I mentioned how I’ve seen the idea a few times that Ruth Plumly Thompson came up with the idea of wishing on your birthday to control aging, but I don’t recall this actually being mentioned in any of her books. Two of the main things I thought of that maybe haven’t been discussed quite as much as others were how Oz wasn’t initially said to be deathless, and it might have been an idea Baum carried over from The Magical Monarch of Mo; and whether there’s a recovery period when Ozites’ bodies are cut apart. There are cases of heads and other body parts operating on their own, but it also seems like Ozites still need to eat, drink, and breathe, which would be impossible if the head isn’t attached to the body. Maybe there’s a certain amount of adjustment there. I inadvertently skipped over a few things that were on my slides, like John R. Neill’s stop-growing age and the odd way death works in the Blue Country of Sky Island, but they wouldn’t have added that much. I didn’t think to look at audience reactions when I was talking, but maybe that’s for the best.

The next speaker was Philip Lewin, who discussed how magic works in his version of Oz, and how some darker aspects worked their way into the land when Lurline’s enchantment was beneficial. After all, some of the beings in the series are kind of horrific in certain ways, but they’re generally used to it. Phil’s idea is that, after Lurline’s sister Enilrul cursed the place, she mitigated the effects somewhat.

Then Michael talked about the history of the Oz Film Manufacturing Company, and we saw some trailers for new edits of the silent films. Finally, Tim Tucker gave a quiz on Kahoot, which is pretty standard for these Zoom meetings. It’s a very different experience from taking a quiz at a convention, as it’s all multiple choice, and you get a better score if you answer very quickly. The choices are represented by colors, which is confusing when the answers are DIFFERENT colors. Some of the questions were pretty hard, delving into obscure details. I ended up winning that. Anyway, it was fun, and Michael has said he wants to do another one sometime.

Posted in Bill Campbell and Irwin Terry, Characters, Chris Dulabone, John R. Neill, L. Frank Baum, Magic, Oz, Oz Authors, Ruth Plumly Thompson | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

There’s No Crying in Baseball

Electric Dreams – Beth had wanted to watch this pretty much just because of the connection to Giorgio Moroder, who wrote the music. He’s known for his work with synthesizers, and was highly influential in the development of disco and electronic dance music. He also composed the music for The Neverending Story. Maybe Top Gun is the more famous movie he scored, but I haven’t seen that, and Story was very important to my childhood. Looking at his Wikipedia entry, it says he was born in 1940 in the Kingdom of Italy. That would have been during Mussolini’s fascist regime, but apparently Italy technically had a king until 1946. What I guess would be considered this film’s theme song, “Together in Electric Dreams,” was one he wrote with Phil Oakey of the Human League. As far as the plot goes, it’s about a San Francisco architect named Miles who’s trying to design earthquake-proof bricks, and is talked into buying a computer by an electronics store clerk. The computer turns out to be capable of learning, communicating, and feeling, hardly an original idea for the time. While a romance develops between Miles and his new neighbor, a cellist played by Virginia Madsen, the computer thinks it’s in love with her as well, and tries to sabotage Miles. I don’t have that much else to say about the film, but it is interesting that Madsen’s character is very intrigued by the computer’s imitation of the music she plays, and it’s a large part of why she’s interested in Miles in the first place. So she doesn’t think it’s a cheap imitation that’s going to put professional musicians like her out of work? I was thinking a bit about this recently, and how the original function of the synthesizer was to imitate instruments, a lot of synth music instead utilizes its functions that don’t sound like any real instrument, showcasing the bleepy computerized sound instead of trying to avoid it. But then, I’m generalizing here. The name of the film was later used for a TV show based on Philip K. Dick’s work, unrelated to this, although the computer in the movie does dream of electric sheep.

A League of Their Own – This came up in conversation with Beth as something she’d seen and I hadn’t, so we watched it together on Friday. I’m sure you already know what it’s about, but I want to pad out this review a bit. It’s a fictionalized version of the story of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, founded in 1943 when the fate of men’s baseball was dubious due to World War II. In the movie, the co-founder of the league is a chocolate bar executive, but it was actually Philip K. Wrigley, who ran the gum company. The company and Wrigley Field were named after his father, and they owned the Cubs. The team includes several well-known actresses, including Madonna as a trampy woman and Rosie O’Donnell as a tough Staten Island native. Tom Hanks plays the team manager, a former professional baseball star who’d become an alcoholic. The main focus is on Geena Davis, perhaps sometimes at the expense of the other characters. There’s one scene where a messenger shows up with a letter saying that one of the players’ husbands had died in combat, and it’s played like it’s supposed to be a relief when it’s not Davis’ husband, as if that somehow makes it better. She also has a lot of tension with her sister, who’s played by Lori Petty. I don’t think I’ve seen her in anything else, but I know she was Tank Girl. What I really want to know, however, is what sport DOES include crying.

Behind the Candelabra – This was based on a book by Scott Thorson about his relationship with Liberace. Michael Douglas plays the pianist, and Matt Damon is Thorson. While primarily sexual, Liberace also says he wants to adopt Thorson, and pays for him to have plastic surgery to look like a younger version of him. Thorson becomes a drug addict, allegedly due to all the drugs the plastic surgeon gives him. He becomes paranoid, and annoyed at Liberace’s turning to pornography and peep shows, and desire for an open relationship. Thorson ends up suing his former lover and having to settle for a much smaller amount, but does visit him one last time before he dies of AIDS. It portrays Liberace as controlling, a devout Catholic despite being gay, and against celebrities being vocal about political causes. Apparently this was released by HBO because Hollywood studios thought it was too gay, something that I guess was still a dealbreaker in 2013. From what I’ve read, Thorson is still an addict, and has been arrested for burglary.

Posted in Catholicism, Christianity, Drugs, Games, History, Music, Religion, Sports, VoVat Goes to the Movies | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Anti-Chaos Committee

I’ve finished several books recently, but I was holding off on writing about them not just because I had other stuff to do, but because it seems like I don’t do much else besides book reviews these days. Oziana isn’t a book, of course, but it’s still literary material. Anyway, I’m going to try to clear out the backlog here.

The Raven Spell, by Luanne G. Smith – This is sort of a historical fantasy murder mystery. A private detective investigating a case in London finds himself knocked out and missing memories. He consults two sisters who are witches, one of whom is able to take and restore memories. A serial killer turns out to have magical assistance in his murders. It had some engaging ideas, but it didn’t really stick with me that much.

Gilded, by Marissa Meyer – The author who wrote the Lunar Chronicles returns to fairy tales with a take on Rumplestiltskin. Instead of taking place in a science fiction themed future, however, this is set in old pagan Germany, with mentions of some old Germanic gods. It’s a combination that works well. Serilda, a miller’s daughter, is an accomplished storyteller who has a habit of telling tall tales. She lies about being able to spin straw into gold not just to the local king, but to the Erlking, leader of the Wild Hunt, who inhabits a haunted castle that had long since been abandoned by humans. And the Rumplestiltskin character is Serilda’s love interest, although he still requires payment from her for his magic to work. He has no knowledge of his past, but Serilda manages to piece parts of it together, partially due to her skill that at least some of her stories come true. There’s going to be a sequel to this one soon, and it looks like the name of the little man will be significant.

Constance Verity Destroys the Universe, by A. Lee Martinez – The final book in the trilogy about a superheroine who’s constantly having adventures of many different sorts and spanning many different genres, and her attempts to have some semblance of a normal life. One interesting thing about these books is how so much of this happened offstage, so we’re introduced to a whole lot of strange characters Constance knows from past adventures, but only bits of what these adventures actually were. The Caretaker, who’s considering marriage to her boyfriend and adopting a kid, learns of a prophecy that she’ll destroy the universe, and becomes the target of those who hope to prevent it by doing away with her.

Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America, by Ibram X. Kendi – This was a recommendation by somebody I haven’t talked to in a while, but I only just got around to checking it out and reading it. It’s a complex take on racism in American history, based largely around the premise that it isn’t just the outright racists who cause problems, but also moderates who go along with prejudicial ideas even while not fully buying into them. It’s sort of like Martin Luther King’s criticism of white moderates, which is certainly mentioned in the book. There’s also a lot of focus on how many different excuses have been used for racism, and how antiracists sometimes utilize racist premises in their arguments. It goes back to the beginnings of slavery, and how supporters of it found a way to convince people it was God’s will, something that certainly wasn’t taken for granted by everyone at the time. One popular idea was that slavery was a way to civilize primitive Africans, and that idea continued after slavery was abolished. Kendi addresses the concept of “uplift suasion,” that of Black people being polite and cultured to set a good example for white people, part of the larger issue of victim-blaming. One abolitionist argument was that it was slavery itself that made people unfit for society. There was also an ongoing call for Black people to either move back to Africa or to some other colony set aside for them by the United States. There are a few different figures whom Kendi particularly focuses on: Cotton Mather, the preacher who popularized the defense of slavery and racism; Thomas Jefferson, who admitted slavery was evil while taking advantage of it himself; William Lloyd Garrison; W.E.B. DuBois, the sociologist who supported civil rights while still holding some misguided ideas; and Angela Davis. The title comes from a speech by Jefferson Davis. I was also interested in how Kendi interpreted various movies, including King Kong and Planet of the Apes, to be about white fear of Black people. It was a fascinating but very disturbing read, especially considering how many of these issues still remain at large.

The Chaos Curse, by Sayantani DasGupta – The last book in the Kiranmala and the Kingdom Beyond trilogy sees the heroine trying to prevent a marriage between her father, the evil serpent Sesha, and the Demon Queen Pinki. She learns of a plan to merge all stories into one, and hence comes across beings from Greek and Norse mythology, children’s books, and nursery rhymes. There are even some Winged Monkeys in there. Other cultural references include Kiran tricking somebody with a scene from The Princess Bride. There’s also an educated tiger and lizard that sends messages, and time and dimensional travel. DasGupta manages to tie a lot of it to the immigrant experience and multiculturalism. The illustrations by Vivienne To do a good job of representing both the mythology and folklore aspect and that of the ongoing parody of the media and commercialism. One story mentioned in the book, that of a woman escaping from a predatory animal in a rolling gourd, is one for which I remember a variant from my childhood where it was a lamb in a drum trying to get away from a wolf. And I still have to wonder if media personality Twinkle Chakraborty’s accent, where she replaces various vowels with “oo” sounds, is based on anything real. I just today checked out the last book in the Aru Shah series, and it kind of seems like Kiranmala has the same relationship to it that Dreamworks used to have with Pixar, using the same basic idea for a movie but putting it out first. But obviously there’s a lot to work with when it comes to Indian mythology and folklore, and DasGupta’s work is more specifically Bengali and has its own style of humor. It also made me interested in reading the Thakurmar Jhuli, the source for many of the characters in the series, and there apparently is a fairly recent English translation.

The Brightest Fell, by Seanan McGuire – The eleventh book in the October Daye series has Toby’s mother Amandine suddenly showing up to demand that she find her other daughter Torquill. To make sure Toby does this, she kidnaps her boyfriend Tybalt and her fetch’s girlfriend and traps them in their animal forms. To solve the case, Toby has to team up with August’s father Simon Torquill, the same man who turned her into a fish. There’s a bit about how knowes are created, and an exploration of how pixies work in this version of fairy lore. The edition I read also includes Of Things Unknown, a novella about the cyber-dryad April O’Leary trying to bring her mother back to life.

Posted in A. Lee Martinez, Authors, Book Reviews, Christianity, Fairy Tales, German, Greek Mythology, Hinduism, History, Humor, L. Frank Baum, Magic, marissa meyer, Monsters, Mythology, Norse, october daye, Oz, Oz Authors, Philosophy, Politics, Prejudice, Relationships, Religion, seanan mcguire | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Go Big or Go Home

Scan by Jared Davis
This is Oziana for 1983. The cover was drawn by Eric Shanower for the previous year’s Winkie Convention, then repurposed here. It features several of L. Frank Baum and Ruth Plumly Thompson’s characters, with High Boy having a special place of honor.

“The Way to the Emerald City,” by Melody Grandy – This is part of what later would become Melody’s Tippetarius in Oz, the second Seven Blue Mountains book. While a complete story in itself, it does hint at a larger story, with the appearance of Amadin (whose true identity is revealed in the series, but not here) and the village of Townsville (not the one the Powerpuff Girls live in). Aleda, a girl from North Carolina, hang glides to Oz and meets a lonely giant who’s afraid of smaller people, and wants to keep her. Eventually, she convinces him to take her to the Emerald City, and it turns out he’s the heir to the throne of Big Top Mountain, called Huge Mountain in the books for copyright reasons.

“Cornucopia Oziana,” by Everett Avila – This is a collection of five very short pieces addressing things that are mentioned but not elaborated upon in the books, specifically Emerald City and Scarecrow. We’re told the lyrics of the foolish song that the Chief of the Whimsies sings, what additional tricks the jugglers of Bunnybury perform and what the symbols on their clothes mean, how Lord Googly-Goo was punished for his villainy, and what the conference Ozma had with Jack Pumpkinhead and Professor Wogglebug was about. It’s said that Pon uses Googly-Goo’s confiscated money to build a bridge across the Great Gulf that surrounds Jinxland, but Phyllis Ann Karr’s Gardener’s Boy reports that there was never a successful bridge built until late in that book.

“The Fate of the Yoops, or, The Yookoohoos of Oz,” by Frederick E. Otto – The prolific Oz writer brings together the Yoops and Reera the Red to provide some resolution for their stories. Mrs. Yoop, here given the first name Ali, seeks out Reera to find a way to remove her transformation into a green monkey. Reera makes Ali bring back her husband, who’s locked in a cage in the Quadling Country, bringing along a donkey named Thrug as a companion. The story was illustrated by Rob Roy MacVeigh.

Reera ends up double-crossing both Yoops, however. Paul Dana would later use the title Yookoohoos of Oz for one of his books, and in his version of things, Mrs. Yoop and Reera are sisters. They’re estranged, however, so their acting as if they don’t know each other in this story can still work. It’s difficult to work out a timeline for the Yoops, as they’re pretty popular in fan-written stories. I did try to fit together a few tales of Mrs. Yoop in the past. Interestingly, this also isn’t the last we’ll see of Thrug, either.

“Nero Zeero: Snoz of Oz,” by Jay V. Groves – I thought I remembered this story being longer than it was, perhaps because it sort of has two different plots. One is that Queen Ann Soforth of Oogaboo is throwing a birthday party for herself, and Ozma sends Dorothy, the Scarecrow, the Cowardly Lion, Tik-Tok, and the Sawhorse to attend. Along the way there, everyone’s nose grows a few inches. Eric Shanower does an amusing take on how these characters look with larger noses.

The spell doesn’t work on Tik-Tok.It turns out that the culprit is Nero Zeero, King of Snozland, who believes that longer noses mean extra intelligence, and hence he’s doing everyone a favor. The party arrives in Snozland by accident, following a sign that had been turned around (how isn’t explained, and probably should have been, even if it had just been a sentence), convinces Nero to reverse the spell. He comes along with the others to Oogaboo, and he and Ann hit it off. It ends with their wanting to marry, but whether they went through with it is, I suppose, up to the reader.

Next time, Big Brother in Oz! Okay, not really, but it IS 1984. Actually, we’ll get a return to Sky Island, the Nine Tiny Piglets, pronunciation difficulties, and the Great Detective investigating a copycat (but not a literal cat).

Posted in Animals, Art, Characters, Eric Shanower, Fred Otto, L. Frank Baum, Magic, Melody Grandy, Music, Names, Oz, Oz Authors, Phyllis Ann Karr, Places, Relationships, Ruth Plumly Thompson | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

May the Light Shine Upon Thee

Here’s something that was interesting to me and probably isn’t to that many other people, although maybe you’re an exception. That is the novelization of the first Dragon Quest game. The author, Hideo Takayashiki, wrote adaptations of the original three games. I’m not sure how many games were novelized, but I do remember seeing that the author of the DQ5 book sued the makers of Your Story for using some of the details she invented, including the hero’s name. And there’s some talk of someone starting a translation of the DQ4 novel, but only made it through part of the first chapter. Anyway, I believe all of the first three were written after 3 came out, so the writer was able to incorporate some elements of that game, which was a prequel to the first. The story reads like fairly typical fantasy, a bit darker than the game itself. The translator used the original English names for things, so it has wyverns instead of chimeras.
There are back stories for the supporting characters, including a witch who was in love with Erdrick, and a priest who became the Dragonlord‘s chief wizard. The hero, Aleph, is accompanied part of the way by Garcilla, a wandering warrior with a giant eagle companion.

The plot is a little more complicated than what we’re told in the game, with the Dragonlord having stolen the Sphere of Light about 200 years previously, but needing it to recharge before he could complete his conquest.

During this attack, towns were destroyed and the land altered, explaining the terrain changes in between DQ3 and 1.

The issue of game worlds being really small is partially explained by how Alefgard is still recovering from this disaster, but also that what we see in-game is only representative of what’s actually there; the towns have more than, like, twenty people. Aleph is born in Hauksness in the Damdara Desert, and visited by three wise men bearing gifts, Nativity-style. The Dragonlord’s forces destroy the town, which is why it’s in ruins during the game, but the baby is taken away and raised by a blacksmith in Brecconary. Since we have no idea where he’s from in the game, it’s nice to get some explanation for him. Princess Gwaelin is also said to have been almost killed but then raised by someone else, and not taken to the cave until the events of the story, which contradicts what little we’re told in the source material.

And the Dragonlord himself is confirmed to be the son of the Dragon Queen who gave Erdrick the Sphere of Light, which I had suspected anyway, and which is why he considers the Sphere to be rightfully his.

The island where the Dragonlord’s castle stands is said to have been a shrine to Rubiss, presumably in between the time when the castle sank into the ground after the defeat of Zoma and when the new villain…raised it somehow, I suppose. The real-world deities Mitra and Ishtar are both referenced, and I believe the former is also mentioned in the novel about Rubiss, of which only one chapter has been translated into English. And speaking of potential connections between games, I just recently found out that the sequel manga to Emblem of Roto reveals that Erdrick has some Dragovian blood, as does the hero of DQ8.

Posted in Animals, Babylonian, Book Reviews, Comics, Dragon Quest, Magic, Monsters, Mythology, Names, Persian, Video Games | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Lions Are a Beast’s Best King

I might as well move on with my Oziana reread to the 1982 issue, which has a rather more abstract and stylized cover than earlier ones. It has a picture of the Cowardly Lion and a mountain inside a larger Lion’s head, and the Scarecrow, Tin Woodman, and Billina incorporated into the border. The artist is Jill Sparrow.

“The Scarecrow’s Appreciation Day,” by Ben P. Indick – We start out with a short play, but still pretty long for this magazine, as per the introduction. That’s probably why the issue has small text set in two columns throughout. The play is much like Ruth Plumly Thompson’s A Day in Oz, with a few Oz characters hanging around talking to each other, interacting with the audience, and making a lot of jokes. It’s mostly just Dorothy, Ozma, the Patchwork Girl, the Wizard of Oz, and of course the Scarecrow. They also reminisce about and reenact past events, including the Scarecrow and Scraps’s first meeting in The Patchwork Girl of Oz, Nick Chopper’s first appearance in Land, and Dorothy’s meeting with the straw man in Wizard, although the last one is in the style of the original stage play. Because of the limited cast, some of the lines from these scenes are spoken by different characters. Everyone is planning a celebration for the Scarecrow, who’s still depressed about not having a family. His experiences in Royal Book are mentioned, but he says he never feels like Chang Wang Woe’s family was his own. The Wizard then uses parts of the Scarecrow and Scraps to create three scarecrow children. Kim McFarland did something similar years later with her “Labor of Love.” I have to wonder if this play was ever performed, or just printed. Rob Roy MacVeigh provided the illustrations.

“The Change Made by the Magic Turnstyle,” by Edith Ellen Reuwer and Jay Delkin – This was written by a young author and punched up a bit by Delkin, but obviously without changing all that much. I guess I have mixed feelings on this, as I’m sure it’s exciting for a kid to see their own work published essentially as-is, but I also think there were a few minor alterations that could have been made to resolve contradictions. The basic idea is that Dorothy uses Jenny Jump‘s Turn-Style (which is spoken of as if no one has used it in over thirty years), and an unseen temperament button turns her into a tyrant. Maybe this is where the idea for Dorothy Must Die came from. (Okay, probably not.) After Dorothy is changed back, the button is destroyed. It’s not entirely clear whether anyone was aware of the temperament button before this, as it’s said that it “could not be seen by human eyes,” but Jenny seems to know about it later on. I suppose Jenny could have seen it with her fairy eyeglass, but when? The story also uses the idea from Wishing Horse of the Soldier with Green Whiskers’ beard turning red when danger is near.

“The Cowardly Lion and the Courage Pills,” by Glenn Ingersoll – Glenn, who wrote this when he was sixteen, has said that this one was largely inspired by Thompson, which is likely why it includes Herby the Medicine Man and the Magic Fan from Royal Book. Thompson was also known to sometimes make the Lion way more fearful than he ever was in Baum, and that’s the case here. The Wogglebug, with assistance from Herby and the Wizard, tries to find a cure for the Lion’s cowardice.

While the pills they make don’t actually improve the cat’s courage, they do help to keep him awake during an invasion by the Blorgens, evil creatures who look like tiny rose arrangements and can put flesh-and-blood beings to sleep.

Illustrator David Ingersoll offered his take on their appearance. The Wizard explains that they had been put to sleep for 1000 years by Nelebel, the fairy from Baum’s short story “Nelebel’s Fairyland.” And it ends with a gag.

Next issue, we have giants, big noses, and small vignettes.

Posted in Animals, Art, Characters, Humor, John R. Neill, L. Frank Baum, Magic, Magic Items, Monsters, Oz, Oz Authors, Plays, Relationships, Ruth Plumly Thompson | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

It’s Hip to Be Hypocritical

I’ve been thinking of a few things recently with regards to politics, especially in terms of Republicans. They’re hardly original ideas with me, and I’m sure many people have expressed them better than I have, but I’m going to say my piece anyway. One is the sense of hypocrisy and projection. It’s no secret that Donald Trump did this all the time, as evidenced by the 2016 Saturday Night Live debate sketch where Alec Baldwin’s Trump accuses Hillary Clinton of having orange skin. It’s hardly a surprise that some people who spread the whole Pizzagate/QAnon thing about all their political rivals being pedophiles turned out to be pedophiles themselves. They’re all pro-Trump, and even if he’s not actually a pedophile himself, he has no problem making inappropriate jokes about the subject. Remember when he talked about walking into a teenage girls’ dressing room, or being sexually attracted to his own daughter? Obviously this doesn’t apply to everyone making these accusations, any more than all homophobes are closeted. But it seems worthy of notice. Projection is a pretty human thing, I guess. It comes back to the things people hate about others being the same as the ones they hate about themselves. But really, you’d think someone who’s a pedophile would try to entirely avoid the subject as much as possible, right? By accusing other people of it, aren’t they casting suspicion on themselves? I recently came across this Tumblr post that addresses conservatives accusing others of grooming or indoctrinating kids. It seems that, at least sometimes, the whole reason they think other people are doing these things is that it’s what they’re doing themselves, “because that’s how they relate to their children, with authoritarianism.” As such, kids simply being exposed to other viewpoints, or anything that just generally makes the parents uncomfortable, is seen as dangerous. That’s why they often hate public education in general. It’s certainly fair to criticize aspects of the public education system, but a lot of what it’s about is teaching critical thinking, even if it’s not always effective in that respect. Everybody who teaches or relays information is going to have a viewpoint, but not everyone is going to insist you have the same one. I’ve certainly been guilty of assuming other people think like I do, but I realize I’m often wrong. Tied into this is how people think it’s okay when they do something, but not when other people do. Sometimes it’s a case of the in-group, only thinking things are bad when done by someone of a different political party, or a different race or gender. I wondered about Trump constantly saying he was for “law and order” when he was known to have broken laws.

Later, I found out that this expression originated with Nixon, and was always explicitly racist. The whole concept of the racist dog whistle is somewhat new to me, I guess because I’m kind of a sheltered white guy. But I suppose it’s only hypocritical if you think the law should apply to everyone, instead of only to people who aren’t white. It’s sort of like how the same people who think their kids learning that gay and trans people exist don’t seem to care so much about child marriage.

I’d written most of this before hearing about the Supreme Court being primed to overturn Roe v. Wade, but that’s the same kind of thing. Not only is there hypocrisy in people credibly accused of sexual harassment making decisions about women’s reproductive systems, but I’m sure the decision wouldn’t stop any rich people from having access to safe abortions.

Another thing that comes up is people using the same tired arguments over and over again. I recently saw a tweet (quote-tweeted, that is) with someone claiming rape isn’t a big deal if the person is dressed provocatively. Not only is this argument totally ridiculous, but it’s so overused as to be a cliché. Sort of like “If we evolved from monkeys, why are there still monkeys?”, which apparently also still shows up quite a bit.

Another one that I’ve seen crop up from time to time, including pretty recently, is that women tend to be looked over for promotions and raises because they’re not good at negotiating. Replies to the most recent instance I saw of this pointed out how there’s empirical proof of women being treated poorly just because they’re women, and of forthrightness being seen as a positive for men and a negative for women. But even if that weren’t the case, why should negotiation be the key to success in a job, unless maybe your job is to be a negotiator? It’s not only wrong, but the whole premise is flawed. That’s not to say it would be any better for people to come up with NEW terrible arguments, just that it’s really tiresome to see these same comments when they’ve already been addressed. And in regards to sexual assault, isn’t it kind of strange when someone’s reaction to allegations is indignance? If they’re really innocent, I would have to think they’d respond with fear, but no. I mean, I’m sure I’d be terrified in that case. This was very much the case back in the Brett Kavanaugh hearings, where not only he but many other Republicans thought that the allegations even being brought up was just insulting. It comes back to a sense of entitlement and not thinking the rules apply to you, I guess. It’s not necessarily proof that these people actually did something, but it’s suspicious.

Another such annoying thing is people in power making their personal tiffs everyone else’s problem. This is something I thought of back when Chris Christie was Governor of New Jersey, and he purposely slowed traffic on the George Washington Bridge. And why? From what I’ve heard, just because the Mayor of Fort Lee didn’t support him. So he’s inconveniencing everyone who needs to take this bridge because he’s mad at one guy? This happened quite a bit with Trump as well. There was that feud with Jeff Bezos of Amazon, and his trying to get all his supporters to hate Facebook and Twitter just because they banned him. Never mind that they let him get away with flagrantly breaking the rules for years, and probably only cracked down on him due to public outcry. And now we have Ron DeSantis in Florida wanting to punish Disney (at the expense of the taxpayers, no less) because they withdrew their support for him.

It’s kind of funny to see pro-corporate politicians fighting with major corporations and pretending they now hate “Big Tech.” I have plenty of issues with Facebook, Twitter, and Disney as well. But these politicians don’t hate them because corporatism enforces and increases the wealth gap. They’re perfectly fine with that. They just don’t like being criticized, and act like these companies are their personal enemies. Maybe that has something to do with thinking corporations are people. I saw something on Tumblr about how Elon Musk might be rolling back restrictions on transphobic comments on Twitter because his latest space ex, Grimes, is now dating a trans woman. No idea if that’s actually true, but it sounds like the kind of thing a rich jerk would do.

Posted in Capitalism, Conspiracy Theories, Corporations, Current Events, Economics, Education, Politics, Prejudice, Television | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Quran So Far Away

I’ve now read through the Quran, mostly using this translation. I know it’s really only considered authentic in Arabic, but I can’t read that language. Discussing Islam can be kind of awkward, especially because the amount of Islamophobia in the Western world. Antisemitism is still rampant as well, but it’s different, which is probably why that isn’t considered a phobia. Every religion (every major one, anyway) has its dangerous extremists, and it’s hardly fair to judge all the followers by them. I can be pretty critical of religion, but I try not to extend that to criticizing its followers, unless they’re actively doing something harmful. Just as a book, the Quran is kind of boring and repetitive. Over and over, we’re told that Judgment Day is coming, that believers will go to Paradise where there are streams of running water (probably more important to a desert people than to other societies), and disbelievers would burn in Hell. It also keeps challenging those who don’t believe to write better surahs. I’m not sure if this means better stylistically, more accurate, or what; but I don’t think it would be too hard to come up with something better edited. I believe the Quran was released in parts, which is probably a factor in why we keep getting the greatest hits over and over again. From what I know of the culture in which Muhammad grew up, the Arabs of the time were mostly polytheists, although there were some Jewish and Christian communities in the area. Allah was already the name of a god, and likely associated with the Judeo-Christian one, but also presumably worshipped together with other deities. As such, Muhammad constantly reiterates that Allah has no partners.

A lot of the ideas in the Quran are taken directly from the Bible, with pretty much every important figure considered a prophet and reinterpreted to have been Muslims. Since the term just means “one who submits,” I guess that’s accurate as far as it goes. There’s also a fair amount of stuff from Jewish and Christian legend that isn’t in the Bible, like Abraham’s rebellion against his father who made idols, King Solomon having been a sorcerer who could summon demons, and Mary’s back story from before she married Joseph. Jesus is said to have been an important prophet who was born without a father, but not Allah’s son, and that the crucifixion was essentially fake. The idea that Jesus didn’t really die on the cross bears some resemblance to the Gnostic Gospels. It’s often thought that Surah 5 refers to Mary as part of the Trinity, but it’s not entirely clear. Maybe she should have been, as that whole thing is kind of a boys’ club. There’s also a weird reference to Jews thinking Ezra was the son of God, and whether that’s a misinterpretation or the belief of one specific Arab Jewish community of the time, I couldn’t say. Another strange passage talks about Jews being turned into apes for breaking the Sabbath. The whole thing with the Satanic Verses in Surah 53 is that Muhammad was initially tricked by the Devil into speaking favorably of pagan goddesses, but later changed the relevant passage. There does seem to be some nod to Arabian folk religion in the inclusion of the jinn, being made from smokeless fire, some of whom are believers and others deceivers.

One of the jinn, Iblis, became Satan when he refused to bow to the newly created Adam, and decided to lead humanity astray instead.

Iblis is also sometimes referred to as an angel, however. I believe the first time I came across the name Iblis was in Jorge Luis Borges’ The Book of Imaginary Beings, which simply uses the name as that of the ruler of the jinn, not as the Devil.

The violent aspect of Islam, that of jihad or holy war, also seems pretty specific to Muhammad’s own time. What I’ve seen is that he and his followers were driven out of Mecca, but later returned to conquer it, and then launched campaigns against other tribes. There are references to angels assisting Muhammad’s forces in battle, and something in Surah 105 about an army attacking Mecca with war elephants, only to be defeated by a bunch of swallows.

I suppose it’s convenient to speak of divine intervention during battle, as during the heat of fighting, it’s difficult to be aware of everything. On the other hand, armies sometimes win battles against the odds, and saying God is on their side makes it awkward if they lose a later one. Another oddity in the Quran is that the faithful are not only supposed to be served in Paradise by eternally virginal women, but also by handsome boys, as seen in Surah 76. The book condemns homosexuality elsewhere, but does it become okay after you’re dead? I have to wonder about these magical servants anyway, whether or not they’re intended to be sexual partners. Do they have free will? Do they want to spend eternity serving others, or do they have no choice? Are they being punished for something? Or are they essentially automatons?

Posted in Arabian, Book Reviews, Christianity, Gnosticism, History, Islam, Judaism, Language, Magic, Middle East, Mythology, Religion | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Chrono Crosstalk

Chrono Cross was released about a month ago for the Switch, so I bought a copy. It’s digital, which I kind of don’t trust. I think you have to buy it from Asia if you want a physical copy. But it didn’t cost that much, and changing cartridges on the Switch is kind of a pain. Anyway, the last time I played it was probably twenty or so years ago, when it was still fairly new, and I only made it as far as Fort Dragonia. I’m past that now, so I figured it was a good time to write about it. The follow-up to Chrono Trigger (more on that later) features a boy named Serge, who lives in a small fishing village in the El Nido Archipelago. He finds himself in an alternate world, largely the same but with some significant differences, most notably that the Serge of that world died ten years ago. He joins up with a young thief called Kid, who’s after an artifact called the Frozen Flame and a cat-headed villain named Lynx.

As the game progresses, you have to switch between worlds to find things that exist in one and not the other.

The game has a lot of playable characters, but you can only have three in your active party at a time. I think the in-game excuse for that in Trigger is that only three people can enter a time gate at a time, but I’m not sure there is one in Cross. So far, I’ve recruited a magician, a demi-human with a boat, a mad scientist, a shape-changing animal used in lab experiments, a talking pink dog, and a fairy. They all have their own ways of speaking, like Kid’s Australian accent, Luccia’s German one, and Pip and Poshul’s childish speech impediments.

I guess this game did the corny accents and dialects before Dragon Quest started to in the English translations. I know there are some characters who will only join if you make a certain choice. While Trigger had an active time battle system, this one is entirely turn-based, but has some interesting quirks. Instead of just attacking, you get several hits per turn, and can build up to more powerful ones. Instead of the usual spells and items, you have elements of various colors, their potency depending on such factors as a character’s innate elemental color and what other colors have been used recently.

It’s kind of complicated, but I’ve generally been able to muddle through it pretty well, although bosses can require equipping more elements of a specific color. They all reset after a fight.

You don’t have the normal experience level system, but instead power up from some regular battles and all of the boss ones. From what I’ve seen, characters you aren’t using also power up somewhat, so you can switch between them without too much trouble. Most recently for me, Lynx exchanged forms with Serge, and banished the hero to a dimensional vortex with an impressionistic design.

I’m subscribed to a Facebook group about the Chrono games, and there are so many posts there about whether or not Cross counts as a sequel to Trigger. Why there are so many with the same topic, I couldn’t say. Check before you post, people! Some people have quoted an interview where writer Masato Kato says it isn’t actually a sequel, but from context it seems like he means in terms of gameplay. The story definitely results from the events of Trigger, but it features mostly new characters and locations. But I think it does try to split the difference between being a direct and spiritual sequel. None of the main series Final Fantasy games take place on the same world, but they have a lot of recurring monsters, items, and such. Every game has a character named Cid, and he’s usually an engineer, but he’s clearly not the same guy. Cross does a little of that kind of thing, in that some of the characters are very similar in name, appearance, and/or personality to ones from Trigger: Guile and Magus, Luccia and Lucca, Glenn and Frog; and even the delusional Pierre is somewhat based on Tata, the kid who thinks he’s a hero. But at least some of the original Trigger characters are mentioned in Cross, and Luccia is said to have been an associate of Lucca. And there have been some hints that Guile could be Magus, but without his memory so it doesn’t actually affect the plot. I’m sure I’ll have more to say on this topic when I’ve played more of Cross.

Posted in Animals, Chrono Trigger, Final Fantasy, Magic, Monsters, Names, Video Games | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment