Monday, April 27, 2009

Nonestic Linkage!

Hey, if you recall my mentioning the Nonestica book project that two very good friends of mine are working hard on, there is an update!

But, as it's not mine to share, here's a link:



Sunday, April 26, 2009

Next podcast?

Just letting you know we're trying to get the next podcast together soon. Some of us are up for a Wednesday morning (for the US) recording time, while we're still trying to see if the other is ready.

This one we're planning will reunite Sam Milazzo, Al Cook, and myself for more Ozma of Oz illustration discussion, but expect a bit more of a formal format this time. I've picked out ten illustrations to discuss and how to properly open it and close it.

If it works out, it should definitely be up at the end of the week. It's just that with three people who have jobs and lives and who live in three different countries with different time zones and different Daylight Savings Time rules (and two are in the Northern hemisphere, while the other is the Southern hemisphere), it can get a little difficult to find a good time for all of them to do such a call...

As such, don't expect both Al and Sam to appear together in many future podcasts...

Remember folks, I'm open to suggestions for topics, as I don't want to limit the podcast to one Oz subject. I've got my contact information in a link over to the side there...

(Please don't contact me to suggest interviews with yourself.)

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Wonders of Oz Episode 12

This is the last numbered episode. The next entry is Sam's "The Wonders of the Land of Oz," and then the finale.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Now What?

As you probably know, this year marks the centennial of the book The Road to Oz. As such, I've done blogs about the book and characters. Here's a list, with links:

The book itself
The Road to Oz - The Road Less Traveled?
John R. Neill - An Appreciation - Volume 1
Characters introduced in this book
The Shaggy Man

Now that I've done those, and that the year isn't even halfway over, what should I do next? Possibly looks at the books that Baum crossed over with in this book?

Saturday, April 18, 2009


I want to remind my readers that my looks at the Oz characters are based solely on Baum's works. This is no discredit to anyone else's Oz stories, I'm simply taking a look at characters as created by their original author.

The Shaggy Man is one of the oddest characters to come to Oz. We're unsure of where exactly he's from. He mentioned he lived in Colorado before Oz, and so did his brother. However, this doesn't mean that's where he's from. Dorothy meets him in Kansas, and he mentions he'd been in Butterfield, which may simply be "Anytown, USA," although it is an actual town in Missouri. (I like to think that it is, given that Missouri's right next to Kansas, and it'd give my home state an Oz connection.) He could be from anywhere, it's possible he and his brother wandered together.

The Shaggy Man featured in The Road To Oz, The Emerald City of Oz, The Patchwork Girl of Oz, Tik-Tok of Oz, and appeared in smaller roles in many other books.

Although other authors have come up with names, neither the Shaggy Man or his brother have names. (One name that I thought was really clever was Shaggy's name being Shaggy Mann. That occurred in Eric Gjovaag and Karyl Carlson's Queen Ann In Oz.) He's only known as the Shaggy Man, Shaggy, or Shaggy Man. His brother is only awkwardly known as the Shaggy Man's brother, or the Ugly One. (Of course, if Shaggy's name is Shaggy Mann, could his brother be Harry Mann?)

Shaggy appears to be a common tramp when he first appears in The Road to Oz, except he seems to be a likable person. He asks Dorothy the way to Butterfield, and she shows him the way, but, as is revealed later, Ozma transports her to a land outside of Oz as she is walking. Shaggy and Toto come along as well. Somehow, Shaggy sends Dorothy on the right road, by telling to choose the seventh road from where she begins to count, telling her that seven is a lucky number for girls named Dorothy. (Obviously, there is also seven letters in the name Dorothy.)

Shaggy reveals his likable nature is due to the Love Magnet, which he carries. He tells Dorothy he got it from an Eskimo in the Sandwich Islands. It makes people love the person who carries it.

Along the way, Shaggy gets to pay homage to Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream when the king of Dunkiton gives him a donkey's head. Despite this, Shaggy is able to help Dorothy and her new companions (Polychrome and Button-Bright) get to Oz, using his baseball skills from his childhood, and later summoning Johnny Dooit with the Love Magnet.

In Oz, he bathes in the Truth Pond, which restores his human head, but also forces him to tell only the truth. He reveals that he stole the Love Magnet from a girl in Butterfield who had too many lovers. When he took it, only one man continued to love her. Because he is now honest, Ozma allows Shaggy to stay in Oz, putting the Love Magnet over the gates of the Emerald City.

Shaggy appears in a supporting role in The Emerald City of Oz, joining Dorothy and Aunt Em and Uncle Henry (and others) on a tour of the Quadling Country.

Shaggy's next appearance was also brief, though a little more substantial. In The Patchwork Girl of Oz, he manages to rescue Ojo and his friends from the man-eating plants and guides them to the Emerald City, telling them about Oz and offering advice on the way. He leaves the story in the Emerald City.

Next, in Baum's final major use of Shaggy, Tik-Tok of Oz, he is outside of the Nome Kingdom, searching for his lost brother.

It is possible Shaggy and his brother lived together in Colorado for awhile, but at some point, they decided to part ways. Shaggy says in The Road to Oz that he does not care for money, but only for love. As Shaggy's brother became a miner (hmm... does that mean he was his younger brother?), Shaggy may have been repulsed at the quest for money and decided to leave. Still, they are brothers, so when he discovered what happened to his brother, Shaggy knew it was his duty to rescue him.

In Shaggy's adventures, he joins Betsy Bobbin, Hank the mule, Tik-Tok, Polychrome, Ozga the Rose Princess, and Queen Ann and her army, who are set on conquering the Nome King. Shaggy ends up traveling to the other side of the world, gets transformed into a bird, and eventually finds his brother.

Shaggy's brother has been transformed by the Nome King to become ugly, but the female companions help break the spell.

Apparently, now Shaggy's brother is over his lust for money (if it was present), as the Nome King had him imprisoned in the Metal Forest, surrounded by all the gems anyone would ever want. He is alone, without any company, and likely misses his brother.

Shaggy and his brother move to Oz permanently, and do some catching up. After this book, Baum doesn't use Shaggy much, except that he and his brother go search for Ozma when she's missing in The Lost Princess of Oz, and he is part of the rescue party for Dorothy and Ozma in Glinda of Oz.

Shaggy hasn't appeared in many Oz adaptations. He appeared in The Tik-Tok Man of Oz, where he may have been renamed "The Raggedy Man" according to some articles I've seen. He was also in Thundertoad Animation's adaptation of The Patchwork Girl of Oz, which was very much a book-on-screen adaptation. He also had a non-speaking cameo in Disney's Return to Oz.

Shaggy's a great character, despite what odd relationship he may have had with his family. Reliable and trustworthy, he's quite a popular subject of Queen Ozma.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Where's Wonders 12?

I was writing this on my other blog, then thought it should really go here. Beware of the technical jargon!
I still try to do Oz videos, but with my change in video editing software, making my videos is no longer as easy as it was. Those multi-layered videos are now made in a very complicated fashion, often the video and audio clips are compiled into separate files, then edited into segments, which will then be edited into the full-length video.

This makes for more tedious and longer work, though I believe the results are better than when I was using Windows Movie Maker. Yes, at times I am tempted to use it again, since the option is available since I got a new computer. The pro is I have more control than before of how the finished video will look. The con is that it takes longer.

My problem with Windows Movie Maker is that while it's easy to use, it's unstable. I wind up doing complex videos, and in order to do so, I often need to install new software and codecs. Movie Maker is often out-of-date with these and will become unstable with the new software. This makes it crash or run very slowly.

And that, dear people, is why Wonders 12 has been taking so long. I did try to get some good content lined up for it, but those plans fell through. Ah, well...

Emerald City Confidential

All right, I finished the game faster than I thought I would.

I enjoyed this computer game. It was a lot of fun, and as a Baum fan, I loved spotting all sorts of little references to the original books. The plot was fun and made you want to keep playing to the end (though there's a twist I saw coming).

The game's premise is that after a war with the Phanfasms, the magic of Oz has fallen out of balance, and the fairyland has become corrupted. They now use money, and law enforcement has grown tighter. Many of the Oz characters (using characters from Wonderful Wizard all the way to Magic) have set up businesses. The Shaggy Man makes Gumps for the Emerald City's taxi service, Cayke the Cookie Cook owns a diner, Woot the Wanderer owns an arena for magic duels, and the Lion is a corrupt lawyer who blackmails people who use magic.

You play Petra, a private investigator who has been given a case by Dee, who she quickly deciphers to be Dorothy Gale. Dorothy needs to know what became of her fiance, Anzel, but when Petra eventually finds him, she also finds he's wrapped up in dealings that could result the conquering of all of Oz by the Phanfasms.

The graphics are good, and the point-and-click gameplay is very easy to play. I also liked the music.

Probably the game's worst aspect is the lack of replay value. The gameplay and story is very linear, there is no adjustable difficulty setting, and there aren't many sub-quests that can be overlooked. There's an optional side quest to find seven emerald, ruby, and topaz buttons each for Scraps, and she will give you sketches for each one that can be viewed in the notebook, but unless you want all of the medals at the end of the game, it's hardly compelling enough to go back and play again, particularly as there doesn't seem to be a way to re-play the game without losing your completed data.

All in all, this is a fun play for $20. If you're a gamer, give it a shot.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Happy Easter!

Guess What I Got?

Well, I won't let you guess. I've started playing the RPG "Emerald City Confidential," but honestly, games tend to not stick with me as much as they used to, except puzzle games like Tetris or Solitaire.

It seems to be a fun game, a standard point-and-click, with exceptionally good graphics, and a fun device, Oz meets film noir. A private detective named Petra is the heroine.

Might take some time, but sometime, I'll talk about it more.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

My Top 10 Baum Villains

With the Wicked Witch of the West beating Hannibal Lecter, Alex DeLarge, and Darth Vader on Entertainment Weekly's list of the Top 20 Vilest Villains, I got to thinking, is she really the worst villain in all of Baum's writings?

Well, I can't think of twenty to rank, but... here's ten.

10. The Wicked Witch of the East from The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and The Tin Woodman of Oz
At first, I thought maybe she was the worst, but then, I thought, maybe not. She definitely had an interesting way about her. Although she kept the Munchkins as her slaves, she didn't seem to be too cruel, unless someone got in the way of her interests. And she may have also made travel to the Emerald City (or possibly out of the Munchkin Country entirely) difficult or impossible. (The Yellow Brick Road was unquestionably in bad shape when Dorothy makes her journey.)
9. Don Miguel Del Borgitis/Ramon Ganza from The Flying Girl And Her Chum
Here's a guy who is permanently hiding out, and will kill, and steal, and claim he's perfectly in his rights. Definitely deserves a spot on the list.
8. Ugu The Shoemaker from The Lost Princess of Oz
Seriously, he kidnaps Ozma on the side, then hides her somewhere and then doesn't care what happens to her. How bad is that?
7. Mombi from The Marvelous Land of Oz
Whether or not Mombi acted alone or with an accomplice (since the two accounts of the event differ), her kidnapping of Ozma brought an end to the old monarchy of Oz.
6. The Awgwas from The Life & Adventures of Santa Claus
They almost killed Santa Claus. There.
5. Felix Marston from The Suicide of Kiaros
It is noted that Felix Marston is not the true name of the character, but this guy's story sticks out in Baum's works as the only bad guy who got away with his crime, with no one suspecting a thing.
The Mangaboos from Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz
The Mangaboos are practically zombies who are intelligent, and don't require the flesh of the living for sustenance. Cold, heartless, they want Dorothy, the Wizard, Zeb, and the animals with them dead.
3. The Wicked Witch of the West from The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
You know she had to rank on here somewhere. And if you don't know why, go read the book again!
2. Prince Kara from The Last Egyptian
This villain has the distinction of being Baum's only villain who had the book named after him. Devious, treacherous, disloyal to his ancestors, and very rich, Kara really is a great villain. In fact, he's a lot like...
1. Roquat/Ruggedo, the first Nome King from Ozma of Oz, The Emerald City of Oz, Tik-Tok of Oz, and The Magic of Oz
Every reader of Baum's books finds the Nome King to be one of the best villains. Cunning and devious, he always wants things to go his way, and woe betide whoever tries to (or does) stop him!

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Aunt Em and Uncle Henry - My Take

Two of the most beloved characters in virtually all of the Oz books are, in fact, Dorothy's Aunt Em and Uncle Henry. To many readers and viewers, they seem to be the epitome of love in a family, the love that Dorothy longs to return to in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, and refuses to move to Oz without in The Emerald City of Oz. To some other people, they seem to be an image of a bland existence, or the image of the stereotypical farmer and his wife.

Baum doesn't say much about Aunt Em and Uncle Henry, in fact, he never gave them a last name, nor told us what "Em" is short for. (Emmaline or Emily?) In the MGM adaptation of The Wizard of Oz, Mrs. Gulch refers to Uncle Henry as "Gale," while in Disney's Return to Oz, Dr. Worley calls Aunt Em, "Mrs. Blue."

While Baum never said it outright, I think Dorothy's mother is Uncle Henry's sister. My only basis here is a sentence in The Emerald City of Oz, which begins "As for Uncle Henry, he thought his little niece merely a dreamer, as her dead mother had been." As it is Uncle Henry who seems to fondly recall Dorothy's mother, that is my only basis for claiming thus.

Other people feel that Dorothy is not a blood relative and was simply adopted by Aunt Em and Uncle Henry, and possibly adopted their last name, which works with Mrs. Gulch's statement in the MGM film. My problem with this is, how would Uncle Henry have known anything about Dorothy's mother?

The reason for Dorothy not having the same last name as her aunt and uncle is simply that if her mother married, she would have her father's last name, not her mother's. If she was Uncle Henry's blood niece, it would be impossible for them to share a last name without them changing it legally, or if Dorothy's father also happened to have the same last name, but was not part of the same family. (For example, my last name, Davis, is very common, but I'm not related to the guy who does the Garfield comic strip.)

I once came up with a nasty explanation of how Dorothy could have the same last name as her aunt and uncle and be Henry's blood niece: Dorothy was born as a result of adultery or rape, and for some reason, Dorothy's mother is no longer her guardian. Needless to say, no one, not even me, liked that idea when I shared it.

As for myself, I tend to ignore the names that have been given them by anyone but Baum.

I've been working on a screenplay of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz for awhile, and in writing, I decided it would help the story if I delved into the story of Aunt Em and Uncle Henry, even if it was mainly in my own imagination. I eventually built up a backstory for them, and Dorothy's parents. As I wound up with more story than could be incorporated in my screenplay, I started a fan fiction that I'm still working on, which told the story of Aunt Em through excerpts from her diaries.

In this, my own version, Aunt Em (I paid a tribute to the MGM film and called her Emily) has the maiden name of Stanton, which was the middle name of one of L. Frank Baum's sons, and was also used by Baum as a pen name. Henry has the last name of Carpenter, which was derived from an annotation in The Annotated Wizard of Oz (Chapter 1, Note 3), which tells of some in-laws of Baum's, who may have been the inspiration for the couple. The meeting I arranged for Emily and Henry was, in fact, based on how my grandparents on my mother's side first met. Except, while my grandfather served in World War II, I had Uncle Henry as a veteran of the Civil War.

A lot of the names I used in the story are derived from Baum's life and works, a few from my own family. (Marie, the middle name I give to Emily, was the name of my grandmother, and is one of the middle names of my sister.) I did throw in one reference to an Oz movie in the naming, Dr. Williamson is named after Nicol Williamson, who played Dr. Worley and the Nome King in Disney's Return to Oz. The names that Emily picks for her eventually miscarried baby are from main characters in Baum's Flying Girl and Aunt Jane's Nieces series.

I haven't gotten too far into the story, but in the latest part, Dorothy's mother and father have been married.

Dorothy's mother is named after Baum's mother-in-law, Matilda Jewell Gage, one of the late 19th Century's greatest feminists. Dorothy's father is named Charles, after one of Baum's favorite authors, Charles Dickens.

Eventually, Charles dies in the sinking of the USS Maine, the event that launched the United States into the Spanish-American War. Matilda and Dorothy go to live with Aunt Em and Uncle Henry, but something will happen to Matilda. Exactly what is going to be saved for the screenplay only, but it's no longer the snake bite that I once derived from The Diamondback, a short story by Baum about a rattlesnake.

What is important about Matilda dying in Kansas on the farm is not that I've worked out a nice way to say "how this happened," but the effect it will have on the family, most importantly Uncle Henry. In The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, Baum writes the following paragraph to describe Dorothy's uncle...
Uncle Henry never laughed. He worked hard from morning till night and did not know what joy was. He was gray also, from his long beard to his rough boots, and he looked stern and solemn, and rarely spoke.
I took from this that Uncle Henry has closed himself emotionally. The reason, obviously, has not been disclosed by Baum, so I had to fill in my own: when Matilda died, it was in an event that Henry felt he could have prevented, and he feels that perhaps Dorothy resents him for it.

This would also have an effect on Aunt Em. With a niece who has just lost her mother, and a husband who refuses to speak, she is forced to be the strong one, who holds the family together. I once commented that if I was adapting the book to a modern-day setting, Aunt Em would be filing for divorce. She is partly relieved, in the final bit of "prologue" I set up for my script, when a neighbor who is moving away gives Dorothy a puppy, which helps her move on.

This leads up to a story that isn't told at all in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, which tells what happened back in Kansas while Dorothy was in Oz. Uncle Henry, now realizing the loss of Dorothy, finally opens up to Aunt Em, and they reconcile at last.

The book The Wonderful Wizard of Oz ends with a reunion of Aunt Em and Dorothy, but I've always felt that the character of Uncle Henry is hurt by not being mentioned at all, and being almost snubbed by the story. If you search for "Uncle Henry" in the first book on The Ozmatron, he turns up 13 times, while "Aunt Em" yields 24 results. It's as if his character doesn't get the closure it needs, but Baum saved that for Ozma of Oz, which closes with Uncle Henry saying, "I'm better already, my darling," because Dorothy has returned safely from seemingly being lost at sea.

So, that is how I view Dorothy's aunt and uncle, two people with lives and stories behind them. You just got to look into it.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

The Trifold Land of Oz

The Marvelous Land of Oz was quite a popular novel, and an odd sequel for The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. To be sure, we had our old favorites the Scarecrow and the Tin Woodman, as well as appearances by Glinda, the Queen of the Field Mice, and the people who work in the Emerald City. But the main character, Dorothy, was notably absent, as well as the Cowardly Lion. No one expected the first book's titular character back.

The book was written with a musical adaptation in mind. The lead character Tip, was obviously going to be a trouser role (a woman playing a male), the Woggle-Bug and Jack Pumpkinhead ready to offer comedy relief, and General Jinjur's army would translate well as chorus girls.

Baum did adapt the book as the musical, The Woggle-Bug. However, his previous musical success in The Wizard of Oz worked against him. The leading characters, the Scarecrow and the Tin Woodman, could not be used for legal purposes, so they were written out, and replaced with the Regent. (Nathan DeHoff believes the character was named "Richard Spud".) The Emerald City became the City of Jewels. The story felt similar to the musical adaptation of The Wizard of Oz, even with a field of sunflowers being destroyed by a flood, a touch too much like the death of the poppies by snow in The Wizard. (Yes, it was in the play, and later imported into the MGM movie.) As a a result, The Woggle-Bug was never a success.

However, since the book has passed into public domain, many adaptations have been made. It was suggested sometime back that I compare some of them, so I will do three: The Land of Oz from the Shirley Temple Show in 1960, The Wonderful Land of Oz from 1969, and The Marvelous Land of Oz, a video taping of a stage musical in 1981.

Right off...
Overall Story Adaptation, Faithfulness To The Book:
1960 - It doesn't adhere to the book, but the major plot points are present. General Jinjur is replaced with the cruel Lord Nikidik, who wants to conquer Oz, so he enlist's Mombi's help. Ozma's transformation by Mombi and subesequent restoration are intact. So is Jack Pumpkinhead's origin and the flight from Mombi's house, and the finding of the Sawhorse. Even the "interpretation" scene with Jellia Jamb is retained. The Tin Woodman comes to the rescue, being called by the Scarecrow, instead of him going to the Winkie Country. The Woggle-Bug is dropped. Glinda saves the heroes from being pulled into a volcano by Mombi, and her army is a little boy who brings his toy soldiers to life (and makes them life size) by calling the word "Oz!" Instead of Mombi transforming herself to escape, she turns herself over to Glinda, then transports herself and Tip to the Emerald City, where she tries to shrink Tip into oblivion. Glinda arrives in time to undo all of Mombi's magic, thus saving the day.
1969 - Actually, this is a very faithful adaptation. The Sawhorse has been removed, so when Tip and Jack are separated, Jack has just wandered off to find the Emerald City himself. The biggest change is that Glinda isn't hard on Mombi, who has just stayed home and doesn't really try to oppose Glinda at all. She reveals the secret of Tip, and is not punished at all. And Ozma makes many of her old companions peace ambassadors... Whatever. Oh, and Tip becomes an oversoul, which once inspired a video I released for last Halloween.
1981 - By far the closest adaptation to date. It doesn't alter the story very much, just concessions for a stage adaptation, except instead of Mombi transforming herself, she possesses Jellia Jamb, trying to make her murder Tip. Dr. Nikidik appears on stage, dealing with Mombi in two scenes. Jellia is given an expanded role, where she accompanies the Scarecrow to the Country of the Winkies. Tip is given an Emerald Ring that tips off Glinda to his true identity.

1960 - The script is nicely done for an hour-long (with commercials) production, and it's held up well, even with it's humor.
1969 - Flat, the slightest bit of humor is killed by the poor acting. The script feels almost unnecessary as most of the story is told adequately through the visuals. A few songs brighten the viewing experience, though not all are performed well.
1981 - Very good indeed! Manages to be humorous, and it's held up well. It doesn't overwhelm the production with dialogue, but it's still an integral part of the production.

Production Design
1960 - Since this was made for TV, it does look like an elaborate stage play. However, the design is reminiscent of the MGM movie. The Scarecrow, Tin Woodman, and Glinda look almost exactly like their MGM counterparts.
1969 - Honestly, once again, it looks like a stage play, but not very elaborate. In fact, the whole movie looks like a community theatre adaptation. (More on this when I get to acting.) Some of the costumes are good.
1981 - Well, this time around, it is a play. At least it's well-done for one.

1960 - The cast is very talented. There's not really a weak actor or actress in the whole production.
1969 - OH, GOSH!!! You'd think there'd be at least one talented actor or actress... Okay, the actress playing Jellia Jamb is okay, but she gets next to no screen time, and no one seems to know who she is. But everyone else is horrid. None of them can really sing (too bad it's a musical), or act. I mean, the lead, Chan Mahon as Tip, must have realized that he could never show his face on screen again after appearing in this, so he never got into acting again. (Now he's a producer, behind camera.)
1981 - Well, they did get good actors here. You have to remember that this is a videotaped stage play, and not a movie, so the cast projects their voices, which is normal for a stage production. So, good stage acting, not good movie acting, but then, this is a stage play.

So, really, when we get down to it, the best of these is probably a toss-up between Shirley Temple's version and the 1981 Stage Adaptation. One is a TV production, one is a stage production, while the only version that made it to the big screen is the worst. And I mean worst!


I'm having trouble coming up with an Oz blog for this week. I have noticed though I've made over 300 posts here now. And people read this blog, too. I'm very honored by the comments, suggestions, and other feedback I get from people, even if I get something wrong. I really can't say this is my blog, save for the fact that I write it, as much as it's a gift for all of you, "our" blog, if you prefer.

Ooh, wait, idea for Oz blog...