Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Returning to Oz #31 - The End is upon us...

This is kind of old news, but thankfully it is the last of a backlog of blogs I've been needing to post. I'm trying to keep them separated by at least a day now.

(Note on downloading, I've no idea why, but Part 2 is repeated at the beginning of Part 3. You may want to skip downloading Part 2 for that reason.)

In this episode, Aaron Pacentine is joined by Celia Foster, mainly discussing one of the biggest concerns Oz fans have about "Return to Oz," the electroshock therapy.

A very large portion of the episode reveals that episode 32 will be the series finale... It's the end of an era. Aaron drops a few "spoilers" about it.

This episode was another solid entry for the series. I applaud it most heartily. Go ahead and download the episode!


Sunday, April 27, 2008

The World's Ultimate Green Car

Last week, I finished reading Sam Steele's Adventures: The Amazing Bubble-Car by L. Frank Baum, the latest installment in Hungry Tiger Press' Pawprint Series.

This is the third title the story has taken. It was originally published in 1907 as Sam Steele's Adventures in Panama, the second of the two "Sam Steele" books that Baum wrote under the name Captain Hugh Fitzgerald. This series didn't catch on, so the next year, Reilly & Britton reissued it as The Boy Fortune Hunters in Panama with the author's name changed to Floyd Akers. The first book got a similar re-packaging. The series sold considerably well, and four other books followed.

Thanks to Hungry Tiger Press' reprints of the series, I have now read five of these books, and the one I haven't read should be available sometime soon.

The new title fits the book rather well. In truth, the story only has one "Boy Fortune Hunter," Sam Steele, Baum's energetic, rich, daring, resourceful, selfish, and pig-headed hero. (More on that in a moment.)

The story opens with Sam Steele and his father and their crew taking a well-earned vacation during winter, when the Steeles are approached to take a badly damaged (and badly repaired) ship full of steel to San Pedro, California. Sam decides to undertake the voyage, while his father stays behind.

We are reintroduced to the staples of Sam's crew: Naboth Perkins, Ned Britton, and Nux and Bryonia, two Sulu men who faithfully follow travel with Sam on all his adventures. Joining the crew on this adventure is inventor Duncan Moit, who has just finished what he calls "The Moit Convertible Automobile," shaped rather like a bubble on wheels, impenetrable to almost any attack, it can also run on water as well as land.

The most curious thing I found about Moit's invention is that it runs neither on gasoline nor electricity, instead, once an explosive glycerine starts the motor, it collects, stores, and dispells compressed air to make it run. (With this, you realize, Baum conceived the ultimate green car! I'd take one of those...)

When the hulk they're sailing wrecks, Sam and his shipmates explore the land they beach on, discovering a dead man's journal, telling them of a hoard of diamonds! The only problem? The land where the hoard lies is owned by the Techlas, natives who are hostile towards white men and are ready to kill.

Sam Steele is at his worst in this book. He is willing to kill innocent Techlas just to get the diamonds, as the narrator, he makes several comments that are less than flattering about the Techlas, their cruel king, and even Panama itself. He's literally in it for the money! And in the course of the series, he acquires so much wealth that he comments in the last book that he and his friends have more than enough money to last them for the rest of their lives. (Of course, this is at the opening of that story, so it goes on to relate how they get some more.)

All the same, at some point in every Sam Steele story (with the exception of the first), Sam or one of his companions seem to appreciate the people they're taking treasure from, so it is quite possible that Baum intentionally made Sam pig-headed as a parody of the adventure stories for boys that were being written at the time.

Anyways, this book is still intriguing and well-written and is definitely worth a read. Go ahead and get it!

EDIT 5/3/2008: The air-powered car is in fact in development! Follow this link. (LINK) (Thanks to Matt Bloom for finding this!)

Thursday, April 24, 2008

I Went To See The Wizard!

(In this blog, I'm linking to several pictures of the theatre to help you visualize my experience a bit. Check them out!)

Today, I took the bus (and a little walk) to the Gillioz Theatre. By the time I got there (35 minutes early... that's me!), I saw the guy working outside centering the title "WIZARD OF OZ" on the front marquee outside.

Yep, the Gillioz, in association with the Moxie (a theatre that re-runs movies and shows foreign and independent movies and documentaries) was showing MGM's The Wizard of Oz. This was the first time I would be seeing this movie or ANY Oz movie on the big screen.

After buying my ticked (only $5), I entered, to discover a yellow brick pathway through the lower hall. Over to the right, an adoption center for dogs had a couple little dogs that were available for adoption, as well as a jar for donations. Closer to the door was a table where a lady was handing out free "Oz Kits," which contained some coupons (including a buy one get one free coupon for a dozen Krispy Kreme Doughnuts... I'll use that, never fear!), a little jar of bubble potion, and a card reading "How To Bring Oz To Life." I'm writing the card's text, unaltered, below.

- Visit our concession stand and purchase a Lollypop Guild lollypop or other fine treats
- Blow bubbles when Glinda appears on screen
- Experience the winds that sweep Dorothy away to Oz
- Read L. Frank Baum's "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz" when you return home

(Can't argue with that last one.)

Sponsors for the event were listed on the other side of the card: Borders (where I bought a copy of Tin Man on DVD), Chick-fil-A (who had an abridgement of Ozma of Oz as a premium in their kid's meals sometime ago), Springfield's Incredible Pizza Company (who once had an Oz Playroom, but last time I visited, it was gone), and Krispy Kreme (who are just plain awesome... oh, and they all but chased Dunkin Donuts out of town).

After getting my ticket taken, I entered. Through the rotunda, a green electric light was shining. Baum would have approved. I carefully made my way through the lobby to the auditorium.

The stage (on the left, only photo) looked quite appropiate...

Before the screening, they were playing the songs and overture and Tornado music from the Movie in order. They were likely playing the selections from the soundtrack CD, as I noted the extended "If I Only Had A Brain." During this, they cycled through trivia for the movie and advertisements for the sponsors (I already knew most of the trivia, but they surprised me with a couple items * .)

Halfway through "If I Were King Of The Forest," the Movie started. 4PM sharp!

I believe the version of the film they used was the same restoration for the 50th Anniversary release, but the Warner Brothers logo before the Movie was quite modern. There were pops and scratches in the picture, in many places, especially since it was on a big screen, it was a little blurred, but, unlike recent re-issue film copies, this was not cut to widescreen.

My overall enjoyment of the film was, I would say, a medium level. I guess I've seen the Movie on DVD and video (and a few times, TV) too many times. I made sure to get a good seat, but it was still worth an ovation at the end.

One of the best parts was after I had left the theatre. On the bus I was taking home (which would be followed by another walk), a couple who had also seen the Movie (and bought a lollipop) talked about their experience and gave their bottle of bubble potion to a lady who hailed from Kansas. (They didn't ask her name... Hmm...) She blew a few, and the husband of the couple mentioned he owned the recent restoration. (He failed to note 2-disc or 3-disc.) I was tempted to break in, but decided I'd have more fun with my ears than with my mouth.

Yeah, I guess I listen pretty well. (Whenever I make it to an Oz convention, I'll probably be doing a lot of listening...)

* The two trivia items that surprised me were that "Nikko" is also the name of a city in Japan where a temple holding the See No Evil/Speak No Evil/Hear No Evil monkey statue resides; and also that the sparks from the Ruby Slippers was actually dark apple juice squirting from the shoes, sped up to look like sparks. (Wonder how many pairs they had to repair for that shot.)

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Tin Man Part 2?

I've gotten a few e-mails recently asking about the possibility of the SciFi Channel doing another Tin Man mini-series. Let me answer the question here:

Tin Man did very well ratings-wise (which, for TV, is that matters), so there is a good chance they will do more Tin Man stories.

In an interview with the writers of Tin Man, they mentioned that both a sequel and a prequel are being thought of, but which one they are doing was not decided by that time.

The media has made it out that SciFi may make this a regular series. At least Neal McDonough (Wyatt Cain/the Tin Man) has expressed interest. In addition, the rest of the cast are not exactly the biggest stars, so going into a regular-paying television series might appeal to them. (With the exception of Richard Dreyfuss, but given how the character went in the mini-series, it's doubtful his character would return anyways.)

Fans have expressed interest in a sequel, but as of yet, no word has been released to the public about any new developments in a possible Tin Man franchise.

Right now, as far as anyone knows, there may be another mini-series, maybe just a TV movie (I kind of doubt we'd see a theatrical release), or a full-fledged TV series. It just has not been decided yet. But be sure, if I hear anything, I'll blog about it.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Poll - Please vote!

Hey, as you know if you've been following "The Wonders of Oz" video series, episodes 4 and 9 have been split into two parts because they'd run over YouTube's 10-minute limit.

There are only three episodes, but as I'm getting into more and more recent subjects, I have a lot more material to use, including video. (Such was the case of Wonders 9...) This could very well mean that more episodes could be split into multiple parts, in fact, we are planning a special episode dedicated to Disney's Return to Oz that MAY be going over the limit of 10 minutes.

The question is, would you rather just watch a 1 part episode, or do you mind a multiple part episode?

As such, I have set up a poll on the sidebar of the blog (I'm making a YouTube video to ask the question tomorrow) for you to voice your opinion. If the vote is yes, then I will continue making episodes, just letting episodes flow a bit freer; but if the vote is no, I will attempt to keep it under 10 minutes.

I've also added a third option, that I should decide for myself. This is for that crowd, but if this wins, it'll be the same as if "yes" won.

So please, vote now! (By the way, you can vote only once as the poll saves a cookie on your computer to let it know if you've voted or not.)

EDIT: 4/30/2008, the poll has been closed for a few days now. The Score was as follows:

Take your time: 5 votes
Keep them short: 1 vote
Decide for yourself: 2 votes (It did say 3, but I had voted once to ensure easy voting.)

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Wonders 9

I got Wonders 9 finished! I hope you enjoy!

I noticed AFTER making it that I included no songs from the movie... Oh, boy...

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

BAD News!

This just in, I figured I'd share it...

Judy Johanson, president of the Oz Park Advisory Council in Chicago, wrote to the International Wizard of Oz Club last week regarding theft of some plaques in the Oz park. The park contains sculptures of the Tin Man, Cowardly Lion, Scarecrow and Dorothy & Toto.

Four weeks ago someone stole the 24 X 30 bronze plaque from our Scarecrow sculpture base. On April 10 someone stole the plaque from the Cowardly Lion.

She is asking anyone's help in notifying Oz fans all over the country that if they see them for sale anywhere or are approached to buy them, to please call the Chicago Police Dept at (312) 742-5870. You may also contact Judy at ozwitch@att.net

Hopefully, we can get whoever did this brought to justice.

(Feel free to share this, even if you copy it word-for-word.)

Sunday, April 13, 2008

New Links and Videos

Hey, I added a few new links today, mostly to blogs, but these are some pretty good ones! You may want to check them out!

Also, since the last time I posted one of my home-made Oz videos, I've put 2 on YouTube... So, here they are. Note that my Aussie friend and correspondent Sam Milazzo conceptualized these, but I did the work! (And, sometimes, tweaked with what he came up with, so it's my work, too.)

This is a re-dubbed clip from the Japanese "Wizard of Oz" Anime that starred Aileen Quinn and Lorne Green in the English version. What Sam did was write up new dialogue, and also wrote up a scheme for the music to work. We did subtitles as there was no way I could get anyone to record the lines.

This is a trailer for the 30th Anniversary DVD edition of "The Wiz." This does not mean I love the movie any more than I have previously indicated. I thought it could also make a nice little bait and switch trailer for Wonders 9.

Wonders 9, by the way, coming along very well. It will be done by the end of the week... Boy, after this, only three episodes left. Well, I will be doing two special episodes and a finale, but still, Wonders is coming to an end.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Words of Wisdom to Would-be Writers

Okay, recently, people have been sending me their Oz stories to be evaluated. I'm always glad to hear of new Oz books, but I can't help everyone.

Of course, I have my own life to live. Believe it or not, I do spend time off of my computer, doing things that don't have to do with Oz. I work a job, meet friends, go shopping, all that good stuff. That's not to say I wouldn't take time out to read a good Oz story, though...

Another matter is that if I tried to help everyone with their tales, even if I tried not to, traces of one might end up in another by some suggestions I make.

Yet another matter is that I am currently working on several Oz projects, including a book project that I have some input for, so I kind of have my hands full. I like to help people, but there's only so much I can do, and I'm not the only Oz fan out there who can help. (And probably, not even the best.)

And now the most important matter: the big problem is that these writers send me their stories unsolicited. When you send someone a story, be it a friend, stranger, publisher, etc., it is well-advised you ask them before sending one single word of your work. If it's a friend, no matter how good of a friend they are, they might not be interested at that point of time. If it's someone who you're not very familiar with, you could be asking for trouble. They could steal your story and use the plot or characters or other content. Most publishers and other such businesses will either discard or return unsolicited material without looking at it. If they come out with something that is in any way similar to what you came up with, they know you could sue. Even though they probably have the better/trickier lawyers, they really don't want to deal with it.

Now, if you want to send me or anyone else your story, here's what you should do:

1. Write the intended recipient first and ask if they would be interested in reading or helping you with your story.
2. If they say they will, send them the story.
3. Don't include notes about your story. It should be able to stand on it's own without prior or additional knowledge. If your story needs to have attached notes to explain certain items, then you kind of failed in your storytelling. It might be a good idea to rewrite before sending it. (A lot of good Oz stories, for example, briefly mention the origins of characters and other elements in just enough detail so as not to lose the reader. This practice was started by Baum himself.)
4. Don't be pushy and expect an immediate response. Give the person their time to read and/or evaluate your work.
5. If they give you negative criticism, don't take it personally. Nobody produces Grade A material all the time, and you are no exception. Rather, be receptive to their criticism and try to learn from it.
6. Don't publicly lose your cool. You'll come off as immature and ignorant and stories about you can spread until you're practically blacklisted.

So, anyways, there you go. Like I said, I am always interested in new Oz stories. I might be busy, though...

EDIT: Eric Gjovaag of the Wonderful Website of Oz (and his own blog), suggests you check out section 8 of his online FAQ. If you're trying to get your story published, this contains some very useful information.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

The Wiz VS OZ

Prior to my viewing of the 30th Anniversary DVD of The Wiz, I re-watched probably the worst Oz movie of all time: Oz: A Rock 'n' Roll Road Movie from Australia. Well... I couldn't help but draw some comparisions, so here we go.

1. Dorothy is older
In Oz, Dorothy is played by Joy Dunstan, and the character is a supposedly 16 groupie for a band called "Wally & The Falcons." (I think she looks about 18-20.) In The Wiz, Diana Ross portrays her as a 24 year-old schoolteacher (Ross herself was 34... and she was really pushing it.)

2. Modern-day setting, not in Kansas
In Oz, Dorothy is a native Australian, as are all the characters. The pre-Oz sequence is in 1976 Australia. In The Wiz, Dorothy is in 1978 Harlem.

3. Re-imagined storyline
This applies to both, but while The Wiz is an original adaptation, Oz is a moment-for-moment remake of the classic MGM movie.

4. Oz is based on a real place
In The Wiz, Oz is a re-decorated version of New York City. In Oz, Oz is in Victoria, Australia, and the City (no longer Emerald) is Melbourne.

5. Dorothy's quest is altered
In The Wiz, Dorothy is not just returning to Harlem: she is learning to become self-reliant. In Oz, Dorothy wants meet the Wizard, up close and personal. VERY personal.

6. Dorothy's friends have different backstories than the original book
(Assuming you know how the book goes...)
OZ: Surfie, a dull-witted surfer who worries about sharks. A bump on the head helps him think clearer and solve many of the group's questions.
THE WIZ: This time around, the Scarecrow has been picked on all his life by the crows who he's failed to scare. He reads bits of literature, but eventually realizes how to think for himself.
OZ: Greaseball, "a greasy mechanic who's real uptight," he will go so far as to damage other people's engines to achieve his own desires. Later, he accepts Surfie, then Killer as his friends, and begins to really care about Dorothy.
THE WIZ: He seems to have been working in carnivals and fairs and seems to be completely mechanical. He claims "dashing good looks and irresistable attraction to all the wrong women." Later, he realizes he really does care and love his friends.
OZ: Killer, "a biker too scared to fight" is all bark and no bite, but he's the one who knocks Truckie (this version's Wicked Witch of the West) out cold and later gets them into the Wizard's party.
THE WIZ: Drummed off the throne of the Forest for posessing no courage, his real problem is that he doesn't realize he should stop running from his fear, until he takes torture from Evilene and withstands it, even telling Dorothy not to give in.

7. The Wizard is different
In Oz, the Wizard is a rock superstar. In a theory I have of this movie, Dorothy is actually living in an alternate future where Wally of "Wally & The Falcons" has made it big (revealing to Dorothy that his singing is not that great, but it sounds awesome when amplified and synthesized).
In The Wiz, the Wizard is more neurotic and cowardly than his book counterpart. In addition, he is a failed politician from Atlantic City. When Dorothy tells him at the end that he needs to let the people know the truth (in the book, in my opinion, it was all right for him to do so because the Wicked Witches were dead and there was no longer an imminent threat to the Emerald City), he shies off, showing Dorothy someone who is even more scared to interact with people than she was.

8. Glinda's arrival has changed
In Oz, Glinda (and the Good Witch of the North, remember, beat for beat remake of the MGM movie!) has been replaced by a gay shopkeeper named Glin who gives Dorothy the Ruby Slippers from his shop, then later picks her up from a beach and drops her off in the City. Later, he enters the bathroom at the Wizard's party, where Dorothy and the Wizard are in the shower together, revealing that he is also the Wizard's publicist, and telling Dorothy the truth: "There's thousands of you and only one Wizard," leading Dorothy to realize "Fame and fortune **** you up!"
In The Wiz, Glinda seems to be responsible for Dorothy's trip to Oz (as she is seen in the heavens near the beginning, with the twister in her hand, which she blows away), and later arrives at the end, telling Dorothy the truth of the Silver Slippers, and telling her that "Home is knowing, knowing your mind, your heart, your courage. If we know ourselves, we're at home anywhere." (This speech is followed by the number "Believe in Yourself.")

So, all in all, here are two movies, from the same time period (Oz was released in 1976, The Wiz in 1978), based on the same story. Which one is a finer film? For once, The Wiz wins hands down for reasons not previously discussed, there are things in Oz that make it lose: sex, nudity, profanity, drug and alchohol use, oh, and extremely offensive lyrics in the song "Living in the Land of Oz": "350 years ago, the black man lived in peace and the land was tilled, now a city of millions covers the soil, the blacks have all been killed." So, throwing in a song that advocates genocide... Yeah... Never thought I'd say it, but The Wiz is better.