On Books: Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic

So, as I get into a Larger Project or two– details to come– here is a review I did some time ago and posted elsewhere. It is basically everyone’s favorite review, though, so I thought I should share it.

Sad, compelling, and strange. I’m a fan of comics– graphic novels if you wish, or in this case a graphic memoir. Even though I can’t find many parallels between Bechdel’s family life and my own, I was still struck by how much I felt for her. My own father is the opposite of Bechdel’s– large, gentle, content, and masculine– but I could see shadows of Bechdel’s relationship with her father in my own more recent history. The places that self loathing can take a person are truly terrible, as are the ways a person can inflict their own self hatred onto others. Combine that with secrets and lies, and you have a truly vicious mix. All of this comes across in Fun Home.

It’s remarkable that as sad as this book is, it is also beautiful and personal and brilliant. She doesn’t forget to put the “fun” in Fun Home. The title is an ironic artifact from Bechdel’s past, but it works both as a foil for the contents of the story and as a description of the read. Some of the materials in this book seem pointed directly at me, like a gun– James Joyce’s Ulysses, Charles Addams’ drawings– and perhaps that is part of why I responded so strongly to this book. Nonetheless, it is undoubtedly an arresting and entertaining read.

Don’t assume that just because it’s a comic it’s for younger children, though. Hopefully you don’t do that, but it’s best to warn people up front.

 

On Books: Grant Morrison’s Nameless– incoherent space techno-occult horror fun

I’m always on the lookout for new Morrison books, and when it comes to clever, brain-warping horror I can’t think of a series that does it better than The Invisibles. So I was really excited by the cover of Nameless— astronauts with impenetrable occult symbols scrawled on their visors, a sense of existential dread suffusing the light the surrounds them. And while I think Nameless is a good read, it’s not the perfect read I was hoping it was.

I’ll start by talking about the artwork, which is nearly perfect. Chris Burnham’s inks and Nathan Fairbairn’s colors create a kind of dreadful beauty throughout the book. The visual storytelling is solid, and the images are weird and entertaining– I especially enjoy the hunters wearing angler fish masks, one of those inexplicable details I’ve come to expect and appreciate from a Grant Morrison script.

Ick.

However, the fact that the art is both unconfusing and engaging means that the problems with this book come from the writing.

Morrison describes the book’s thesis statement as an attempt to undermine the idea that some male “chosen one” can save the world; this is an idea I can totally get behind. He also describes the book as being replete with “dream logic,” an attempt to create the feeling of being trapped in someone else’s nightmare. I think that’s where the book get in trouble. While the details of someone else’s nightmare might be individually interesting, they generally only make sense to the dreamer, and then only while the dreamer is asleep. Dragging an incohesive narrative into the daylight isn’t always a great idea.

Supporting this thesis is the fact that Morrison fills up the final pages of the Nameless collection with an expansive list of footnotes. Some of them are interesting and helpful, but it’s a trick I’ve only ever seen Carla Speed McNeil pull off in her Finder series. Most comics with piles of footnotes end up feeling ponderous and incomplete– Alan Moore’s From Hell leaps to mind– and Nameless ends up being more the rule than the exception.

Which is not to say that I didn’t enjoy the book– 3 stars, it’s a good book. The story’s impenetrable chaos felt lazy to me, though. If Morrison had worked harder at making his story accessible, or even just at making sure the plot didn’t contradict itself regularly, then this would have been a better, scarier book.

Still, if you want to see a post-modern horror version of 2001, this is as close as you’re going to get. Just don’t expect multiple readings to yield a lot of treasures– sometimes chaos is as shallow as a puddle, and doesn’t give us much to decipher. Sometimes chaos is merely chaotic– that’s probably what Morrison and his collaborators were trying to create and I guess they succeeded. Complaining that it’s not what I would have created is probably juvenile… but it’s also true, and probably the main reason that I liked-but-not-loved this book.

On Reading 2: Grant Morrison’s Klaus

Comics weirdo writes a story about Santa Claus? Yes please! That was my first thought when I saw this book and I was not disappointed. A fantasy that almost mirrors the plot of any Hallmark Christmas movie this story takes things to satisfyingly strange places. Morrison borrows from Conan and Game of Thrones to tell the story of a town where “Yuletime” is outlawed and the barbarian toymaker whose divine mission is to bring happiness to kids– the revolution he foments is just a happy side effect.

The story that came to mind while I was reading this one is Walt Kelly’s retelling of the Pied Piper of Hamlin– “The Town on the Edge of the End.” An isolated place where anger and paranoia claim to protect people while conjuring demons, inner and outer. Inspired by either drugs, extra-dimensional entities, or Philip K. Dick style temporal lobe seizures [it’s the middle one], Klaus comes to save the children from the authoritarian forces that forbid laughter, dancing and toys. And when a Krampus-like demon arrives to claim the “naughty children,” it’s a Christ-like Klaus who thunders “THERE ARE NO BAD CHILDREN!”

So there’s a hero here. A good one. However, in typical Morrisonian fashion, people can’t just sit back and wait for a champion to save them. Heroism is required on all fronts– men, women, and children– to banish the darkness and create a better kingdom. Good men who have been silent find their tongues, oppressed workers rise up against their oppressors, clever children battle to survive.

Is this a political story? Absolutely, but only because all authoritarians look and talk alike. Grant Morrison wears many faces, but my favorite is the face he show as an avatar of freedom. He wears it well; his characters wear it well.

And I appreciate his clever ju-jitsu here. Who among us can be against Santa Claus? Against Christmas?

Grant Morrison’s at his best when he’s positive and conherent, pointing out the basic stupidity of evil and urging readers to partake in a better world. This sorta-kinda Christmas story is a good stand-alone example of what I consider Morrison’s finest qualities.

Rating: An “A and minus” book.

On Politics 1: Open Letter to a Landlord

Note: I have briefly interrupted my novel writing to compose a brief series of letters. I will be sending each of these letters to the politicians in question. I want to make each of them laugh and I want to be gracious.

Because it’s too easy to be bitter and angry right now, and that combination has never helped.

Dear President Elect Trump,

Those words I just wrote… they are not the best words. I hope you’ll forgive me saying this but I think it’s better that I’m forthright about my feelings. Right now my feelings are as follows:

deaconmacabre1

“Doom looms, dearly beloved, doom looms.”

I’ve followed your career in public life for 30 odd years; you’ve made me laugh, early and often, but I’m not a fan. I’ve typically thought of you as a high-end confidence man, preying on the weak; more recently I’ve seen you as a bully, busying himself with finding scapegoats for what you see as your inevitable failures.

So prove me wrong. Please. I don’t want you to be a bad president; I don’t want you to be impeached by a Republican congress and– even though a lot of words on the Internet disagree with me here– I don’t want you to die in a fire. I love my country; those things would hurt my country.

I want good things for you. I want you to be America’s greatest president. This is something we have in common– if for no other reason because this is where our self interest collides. If you do a good job, lives all over the world get better. American lives get better. I will spend less money on booze.

I’m a nobody and I know you don’t put a lot of stock in nobodies. That said, I’m a dad and I make people laugh, two of the highest callings in life. Two things that we share. Arrogant as it is, let me offer a little bit of inspiration. You can do a lot of good in the next four years and I’d honestly like to help.

First, leave your gut behind.

You’re not being chased by a bear and you don’t have to make fight or flight decisions.

Ask for facts and make decisions based on those facts. The purpose of laws has never been to prevent imaginary things or ‘what if’ scenarios. All things are possible; not many of them are likely, and most things are stupid and annoying. Laws exist to deal with real problems, and the only way to know where your problems are lies in asking questions and looking at boring-ass numbers until you get your answers. That is maybe the only way that governing is like running a business– they both need a solid foundation, they need plans that are based in reality. And if you’re fighting an imaginary fight then you’re ignoring the real one– America has some very real fights in the offing. Please don’t let this happen.

Second, stay inclusive.

We have a big country and it’s deeply divided. Right now, if I could make this country better through the power of kickpunching or yelling on the Internet then I’d do it. It’d feel good. Maybe my main job in life isn’t to feel good, though, and maybe picking fights and whining aren’t good long term strategies for me to pursue. Instead, let me urge you: please reach out to the communities you’ve used as rungs in your ladder to the White House and let them know you’ll listen. If you’re really interested in stopping Islamic Terrorism in the U.S. then reach out to the countless patriotic American Muslims and ask for their help, ask them to look for signs of trouble in their communities. Give them every reason to trust their government, to trust your judgement, and they will respond.

To this end, focus on hate crimes as an early target. I don’t know why violent White Nationalists don’t get labeled as terrorists in the media– terror is their obvious goal– but they don’t. If you start calling the Alt Right “terror babies” then you will gain millions of supporters. I know you’re not afraid to offend people and this is a great place to put that skill to use. You’re welcome.

Third, take responsibility.

Noted conspiracy Mormon Glen Beck has identified you as a historic threat to the United States. He’s also called our first black president a possible anti-Christ, so, you know, grain of salt. He gave a remarkable interview with NPR’s “On the Media” recently and I urge you to seek it out. I think you’ll enjoy listening to him squirm. He comes off as a bad guy, even though he’s saying a lot of things that I want to hear, and it’s because he won’t take responsibility for more than a decade of conspiracy theories, made up facts and borderline hate speech. He blames himself for your rise to power… but all he wants is his interviewer’s praise for agreeing with him about something. “I’m going against my tribe!” he insists, but no part of me respects a half-brave man.

If you end up being the best American president– hell, the best person!– things are still going to go wrong. Lots of things. Huge things. The best things. When that happens, don’t look around for a bus to throw someone under and don’t start building the bus. After the sixth or seventh time, people will sense a pattern and– as distractible as we are– they’ll see the coward in their midst. Not that you are a coward, just that we are what we do. Republicans will eat their own, Mister President Elect, and some of the most powerful people in your party are ready to see you fail. If you start trying to sacrifice your potential enemies– we’re all potential enemies– then they will see you as a threat and unite against you. When people are watching, scapegoats are a trap. Think of the great scapegoaters of the 20th Century and the bunkers they ended up huddled in. Billions of people are watching you, and millions of them aren’t going to blink.

In summary, I know I’m going to continue to disagree with you about a lot of things. Barack Obama is the president I voted for, twice, and there are a ton of things he and I don’t see eye to eye on. Drone strikes, for example, and Spider-Man comics– which I like, but I haven’t really read any since Busiek’s Untold Tales of Spider-Man and of course Bendis’ early Ultimate Spider-Man books. These are deep-seated divisions, y’know? A big reason I’m going to disagree with you, though, is that I don’t know best. I’m a mistake-maker; I make the best mistakes.

I’m a fact-based guy, though, and I believe in results more than rhetoric. Be a president I can be proud of and you’ll win me over. We are what we do, Mister President Elect. You can do great things.

Sincerely,

M.Z. Wood

MA, MLS, Philosophe Stupide

On Entertainment 1: Regretflix

Immediately after the anniversary of our nation’s birth, we’re now basking in the afterglow of horrible events. Police manslaughters or murders in two different states; a war veteran sniper murdering police officers at a peaceful protest in a third. Hopefully we’re taking a moment to look at our lives, look at our choices.

A light distraction is in order.

What are Regretflix? Well, now that I’ve written this article I see that they are both an entry in Urban Dictionary and a Twitter hashtag so GOOD LUCK CHANGING THE ACCEPTED DEFINITION, ME! (With confidence) Regretflix are the movies and series you regret not watching, the films that came and went in your Netflix queue, movies you wanted to watch but never quite pushed the button on. So they vanished, unannounced and unviewed. Alas.

They could as easily be films and shows that you regret watching, but I’m making up the word here, I make up the rules. It’s always more interesting to think about the ones that got away.

Here’s a list of my greatest “shoulda, woulda, coulda” movies that silently vanished from my queue.

Top 10 missed Netflix regrets:

10) For All Mankind (2013)

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This documentary about pro wrestler Mick Foley, the sensitive souled writer who portrayed Mankind–a frighteningly deranged schizophrenic in leather mask– in the ring. Foley is an eloquent crusader for children’s charities and for victims of sexual abuse and should cause even dumbasses like Scott Adams to reconsider what it means to be a Social Justice Warrior.

I didn’t know any of this until my wife told me about Foley. I put it in my queue so the two of us could watch it together, where the 2 hour 14 minute film languished and then disappeared into the wilderness of *shudder* Amazon Prime. Actually, we could probably watch it on my in-laws’ Amazon account.

Huh.

 

9) A Town Called Panic (Panique au Village) (2009)

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When I was living alone I actually watched about 20 minutes of this surreal French stop-motion adventure about plastic toys Cowboy, Indian, and Horse attempting and failing to live fairly ordinary lives in their picturesque village. I’d gotten into the bad practice of trying to read the internet while I watched movies, and that made the subtitles too difficult for me. Then I was working on my Master’s thesis. I blinked and it was gone.

 

 

 

 

 

8) Kill, Baby… Kill (1966)

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The creepy image of a doll’s face staring through a window on Netflix previews arrested my attention. Speaking as a horror fan, though, good horror films are so hard to find. I was afraid to take a chance. It turns out that Kill Baby… Kill, the story of a murderous little girl ghost apparently embedding silver coins in her victims’ hearts, is one of the most influential films in the history of horror. Even Fellini cites it as a major influence, as do Scorsese and Lynch. A surreal occult murder mystery that is almost always in the top 100 list of the greatest horror films ever made.

Oops.

 

 

 

7) Man on a Wire (2008)

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In 1974 high-wire walker and artist Phillipe Petit somehow strung a tightrope between the World Trade Center’s Twin Towers and illegally performed– suspended in space– for nearly an hour. He was arrested and released; all charges were forgiven after he did a free show for children in Central Park. And guess what? Petit and his cohorts filmed the preparation, the smuggling, the performance, the aftermath. Complete with recreations, this is a valiant attempt to recreate the complete experience of what it was like to be Petit that day, or at least what it was like to be there when he committed his great guerilla art crime.

Guess I shoulda watched it.

 

 

6) The Station Agent (2003)

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We all know him as brilliant drunk Tyrion Lannister, but The Station Agent is the film that launches Peter Dinklage’s film career. A comedy-drama about a little person who tries to isolate himself to grieve after he loses his only friend only to find that his overly friendly neighbors make isolation impossible.

I think I saw a trailer for The Station Agent when I went to an arthouse showing of Lost in Translation (2003– that long?). I recognized Dinklage from Living in Oblivion (1995) and was interested to see what he could do in a starring role. The film entered theaters, left theaters, made it to Netflix, exited Netflix.

We now all know what Dinklage does in a starring role– he owns it! This is another one that’s meandered over to Amazon Prime if you’re interested.

 

5) Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988)

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Of course I’ve seen Who Framed Roger Rabbit, both on video and in the theater. Of course I have. I loved it and love it still. The classic Toontown Noir about washed up private dick Eddie Valiant uncovering a Chinatown-like plot to displace and destroy the minority Toons by destroying L.A.’s streetcar system and profiteering off the creation of the suddenly “necessary” highways that now plague L.A. with traffic jams.

You know, a genuinely funny comedy where a cartoon rabbit being framed for murder is small potatoes next to the crime that… actually happened in real life.

I’ve seen the movie, I know the movie and– again– I love the movie. I haven’t seen it in over a decade. Somehow it sat in my queue for 2 years, often considered but never viewed. Just knowing it was there made me smile. How much more would I have enjoyed actually watching it?

 

4) Wild Style (1983)

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For the past year or so I have enjoyed the Ed Piskor’s mesmerizing multi-volume comic book history of hip-hop, Hip Hop Family Tree. Incredibly well researched but also somehow built entirely out of anecdotes, the series repeatedly references Wild Style as one of the great break out moments in hip-hop culture. Breakdancing, graffiti, and– yes!– Grandmaster Flash on the Wheels o’ Steel. The story in this film doesn’t matter to me– this was my chance to see Lee Quinones with a spraypaint can, to see the Cold Crush Brothers in their prime, to see the Rocksteady Crew rock steady!

I noticed it on Netflix in early June, didn’t watch it right away. It vanished and I can’t even find it on the “Leaving Netflix” lists now. Like a ghost, man. Like tears in the rain.

 

 

3) All-Star Superman (2011)

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Forget the big screen portrayals of the Man of Steel– literally. Obliterate them from your mind. Earth’s future may depend on YOUR HEROES, the heroes you personally hold to and believe in, the heroes we will become. That’s what comics writer Grant Morrison wants us to know about superheroes.

His portrayal of Superman in the mini-series All-Star Superman is one of Morrison’s great achievements. A pastiche of Superman’s Silver Age tropes– Jimmy Olsen trying on identities and superpowers like new suits, Lois Lane loving Superman while trying to unmask his deceptions, Lex Luthor consumed with arrogance and brilliant murder plots, Bizarro Superman leading an entire Bizarro World– combined with an image of Superman as a nearly perfect, loving god. It’s not one for the history books, it’s one for the mythology books.

The direct-to-video animated film– like many of the DC animated films– is so much better than any version of Superman to grace the big screen. I watched this movie, once. Along with the lesser light Superman vs The Elite I wanted to watch it again and again, to share it with my wife and friends. Nothing lasts forever, but with a script torn directly from Morrison’s comic pages, I still want this film to last forever.

It makes me want humanity to last forever. I’m a born misanthrope, so think about that for a while.

 

2) Mad Hot Ballroom (2005)

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My wife loves So You Think You Can Dance. We watched a season together and, as almost always happens when she shares something with me, I was an easy convert. A documentary about elementary school kids training for and competing in a frantic ballroom dance contest seemed like a perfect follow-up. However, we watch TV together less than either one of us would like– a side effect of having a toddler– and when we do watch something we usually don’t have the energy to go through any kind of decision making process. It’s usually a sit-com, something we’ve watched together before. And I like New Girl, I like Parks and Rec.

I just think we should have shaken things up and watched this is all.

 

 

1) Batman: The Brave and the Bold (2008-2011)

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Some are born to the manor; my little girl is born to the nerdhouse (which is metaphorical, not a real thing). She hasn’t really seen any Batman or read any Batman because she’s not quite 3 years old. She’s finally at the point where I think she could really enjoy this Batman series– the funny, lighthearted animated series where Batman may be serious-faced all the time, but almost everyone’s funny. Here Batman is as comfortable patrolling near space in a Batrocket or secret Nepalese temples as he is prowling the mean streets of Gotham. When it’s good, it’s the funniest Bat-Thing since the Adam West series, it’s a great gateway to comics geekery for an inquisitive kiddo. It features Neal Patrick Harris hisownself as a musical villain in a light opera episode for Crikey’s sake! I want her to love superheroes, not to take them seriously.

She’s watching old Powerpuff Girls now, lighthearted cartoon violence and funny superheroes. She want to be Blossom when she grows up. She’s finally ready. Now I can share this with… where? Where’d it go?

NOOOOO!!!

On Memory/Nostalgia 1: Is There Life in Oz?

This post is time-sensitive, so I’m putting it up before the site is really ready. So forgive my very basic website. As always, the perfect is the enemy of the ‘good enough’ as well as the good.

You may have heard the news. Oz has returned… for a limited time.

The Land of Oz was a theme park in the mountains of North Carolina, open from 1970 to 1980. Time and vandalism have taken their toll on the eerie recreations of the Judy Garland film, but its basic structure persists. The buildings, rides, sets are still there, strange and alone more than 90% of the year. It has been opened up to tourists since its closure– in the 1990s the cabins could be rented; tours have been available for special Beech Mountain events. Since 2012– maybe? It’s really hard to tell when this started, but it was following a 1970 park cast reunion in 2011– the park has hosted “Autumn in Oz” and was open for a weekend. Similar events have been scheduled since– in 2015 it was sold out, but also canceled due to a statewide state of emergency– hurricanes don’t really reach the mountains of NC, but I guess they were playing it safe… following the law… that kind of thing. Sadly, I only started looking into this when I was getting ready to leave the state of North Carolina for… an extended time, if not necessarily forever.

     And this summer the park is reopening for a short while. There will be tours of the park every Friday in June. Tickets go on sale the previous Monday; the park is accessible only by ski lift, so there is a $10 lift fee on top of the $12.50 park entrance fee. It’s still cheap. You should go. I can only urge you to go. I just moved to the state of Washington, so the odds are diminishingly small that I will make it this year. East Coasters can visit, though, and if you do please tell me about it. I have dim memories of my own trip to Oz, a child’s memories. In spite of the fact that the park is an obvious location for a low-budget horror film, I’ve always wanted to return. If you get the chance, then make the journey. You won’t forget the experience.

     I’m not sure how old I was when I traveled to the fairy country beyond the Deadly Desert– yes, I am a book nerd, so if you feel like you’re missing a reference, just assume that a book did it. I was old enough to form long-term memories, but I don’t remember my baby brother being carried around with us, so maybe four? My father’s first guess was 1982, when I would have been 10, but the park had already closed by then. His next guess was 1979. My brother, born in 1976, has no memory of the place, so… sounds right? I can’t know and my mother had no guess at all. The fact is this was an event both hybridized and set apart. I don’t have any mental landmarks to attach to the trip. I have multiple readings of (some of) the Oz books and multiple viewings of the 1939 film to help confuse my memories, though. Some confusions are worth embracing.

     After my family left the park, I begged to return. We never did.  At some point my parents told me the park had closed down, and I wasn’t able to comprehend what they were saying. Narnia can’t be closed for repairs; Heaven never has a fire sale. The Land of Oz wasn’t a place in the real world to me. If I concentrated I could remember the park’s flaws and frustrations, but I assumed I was the problem– my ears were too weak, my eyes too small to really understand the depth of the drama unfolding between Dorothy and the Witch. I like magic is what I’m saying and The Land of Oz felt like magic to me.

     I remember entering the park through Dorothy’s farmhouse, a tornado raging behind every window. It was just a movie, of course, and even at my young age I found it more clever than convincing. However, the next step was perfect– walking out of the farmhouse into Munchkinland, the colors suddenly more vibrant and alive than anything in the real world. Plastic flowers and lollipops, pastel-framed houses, and of course– starting in a spiral of yellow and red at the center of the tiny town– the Yellow Brick Road. I could hear eerily high-pitched voices singing and laughing, sounding very far away, and I remember becoming aware of a woman with a wand and a shimmering princess costume speaking to our tour group– Glinda! The Good Witch! Where was her bubble? Had I missed it? Why didn’t she float away when we left? Oh crap, was that the Wicked Witch? Why wasn’t I closer to the action? Why couldn’t I hear what they were saying, on the other side of the YBR? I had so many questions.

     I remember my parents pointing back to Dorothy’s cottage as we walked out and seeing stripe-stockinged feet sticking out– not rolling up but twitching and kicking forever in animatronic glory. I remember wanting to follow the Red Brick Road, because I knew where the yellow bricks led and I wanted to go someplace new. I remember following Dorothy towards the Scarecrow’s crossroads. The Scarecrow was different than the one in the film. Instead of Ray Bolger’s makeup, this Scarecrow’s face was invisible underneath a shaggy giant of a straw head. I think the head was supposed to look friendly, but it was mostly featureless. Jarred, I was still fascinated when he joined the party, dancing and singing alongside Dorothy. Things still felt right for me.

     Soon we were striding up to vocal but immobile Fighting Trees– my parents had to point out their faces to me– and across the way was the Tin Man. I don’t think he had an actual funnel on his head, to my disappointment– children have zero tolerance for variation– but he was a closer match to the film version and he held still until the ritual of the oil can freed him; I felt like things were going the way they should. More dancing followed, suddenly interrupted by the Witch’s laughter! At this point, perfection reigned. The Witch of the West was standing on the roof of a small, overgrown house near the path. She harangued us, projecting beautifully even though she was outdoors– they may have had some sort of amplifier in the house– threatened the Scarecrow with fire, and flash pots exploded near the performers. I was less than 10 years old and I was in awe.

     THIS. WAS. AMAZING.

     When the Witch disappeared in a cloud of colored smoke– she must have fallen through a trapdoor into the house– I was convinced. This was magic, scary magic. I wanted to live in Oz.

     The follow-up encounter with the Cowardly Lion was similarly arresting. The Lion was more of a dude in a straight lion costume, less the jovial human-hybrid thing from the move. The result was, when we heard a growl from the woods, what came out looked enough like a giant cat that it freaked me out. Now I wasn’t disappointed with the differences between the park and the film– I was learning to fear them. Yes, the Lion was still easily cowed by Dorothy and Toto, but I wasn’t convinced. I made it my job to keep an eye on the giant feline, just in case it turned on our group. It didn’t, but I can’t be certain that isn’t just because I didn’t afford it the opportunity.

     Oddly, I don’t remember the rest of the trip very well. I’m certain we made it to the Emerald City and rang the bell, only to have a weirdo with amazing facial hair poke his head out and tell us to knock because the bell was broken. I’m equally certain that I was a little mad that the Emerald City wasn’t made of emeralds, just wood and green paint. That said, the Emerald City exhibit actually burned down in 1975, so it’s possible these memories are real… but I don’t have any other memories as a 3 year old, so I doubt it.

    If they are real, I have no idea why I don’t remember the Wizard. I should remember meeting Oz, the Great and Powerful. Instead, I just remember a lame play in the 6th grade, where the Wizard was represented as a ball of fire– and by “ball of fire” I mean piece of cardboard with red and yellow marker scribbled on it. No booming voice– maybe there was a shimmering throne room? Open flames? These things should have left an impression if a melon-headed dancing straw man did. But now, nothing. I’m not even certain if the Witch’s castle existed. In contemporary photos it looks like a structure meant to be viewed from afar, but I’ve seen references to it in articles claiming that you used to be able to tour it. I know I wanted to visit it, asked to visit it, but I merely have a vague impression of viewing the castle from afar, waiting for a cloud of monkeys to spiral out of its tower with a growing sense of dread.

 

     I suppose that this confirms that the park was creepy. Yes, the park was creepy… and whimsical and fun. That’s a perfect description of what anything based on The Wizard of Oz should be. I know the park wasn’t perfect but… it was perfect. L. Frank Baum wrote 14 Oz books during his lifetime; I devoured the 3 in my parents’ library when I was a child. I’ve since read another 4, with mixed results– Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz features the dream team of Dorothy, Professor Marvel, and Princess Ozma but still stinks of a book written because the author needed to get paid and isn’t worth readers’ time. I’ve only read one non-Baum novel, Edward Einhorn’s Paradox in Oz, which was a hilarious and worthy successor; the graphic novel series Oz-Wonderland War is flawed but enjoyable, and features Captain Carrot and his Amazing Zoo Crew at its center– always a winning trait, at least if you ask pre-adolescent me.

     Also, it implies that the Flash villain Grodd the Super Gorilla was somehow allied with Ozma’s adversary Roquat the Red, king of the Nomes. What can I say? Sometimes we just need stupid things to make ourselves happy. Nerds know this better than most, I think. It’s just wrong to deny ourselves our stupid, stupid things.

     I enjoyed the novel Wicked but I have yet to familiarize myself with the musical. Which is weird, because I like musicals. Ah well. Digression.

     All that to say: my love for and interest in Oz has never diminished. I credit the half-remembered adventure of the lost theme park for a goodly portion of my love for Oz.

     Maybe that’s how kids feel when they visit Hogwart’s in present-day Orlando; maybe that’s how my daughter felt when I took her to a comics convention and she met Spider-Man and Rainbow Dash. Maybe “Mister Toad’s Wild Ride” inspires a lifelong love of The Wind in the Willows for some. I can’t know. I’m a nerdy adult, but an adult; the magic is muted but never gone. The Land of Oz is one of the places that taught me about magic; encouraged me to seek it out, not wait for it to come to me. Yes, that magic only existed inside books’ pages– also a great lesson, since just because something is fictional doesn’t mean it isn’t also real. Oz only had a sort of a short half-life, but it mattered more than some random tourist attraction should. Which is to say, it mattered to me.

     So, if you can, go to Oz this summer. Go there and take a lot of pictures– I have none. Take a lot of pictures, take a lot of notes, and then when you’re done… send them to me.

#memory #earlynerdlife #landofoz