jump to navigation

Good things: cool science, rock eyes, doodling, and cats July 29, 2016

Posted by Erin Ptah in News Roundup.
Tags: , , , , ,
add a comment

“On Sunday, May 8, Germany hit a new high in renewable energy generation. […] Power prices actually went negative for several hours, meaning commercial customers were being paid to consume electricity.

Animal eyes span an incredible variety of weirdness. Also coolness. This mollusk has eyes made of rock!

“It may be that different animals arrived at different times. A 2008 study of Movile’s only snail suggested that it has been down there for just over 2 million years. When it entered the cave, the ice age was just beginning, and the snail may have escaped the cold by going underground.” (That’s, uh, the species of snail, not a single really-old individual.)

“Psychologist Jackie Andrade of the University of Plymouth in southern England showed that doodlers actually remember more than nondoodlers when asked to retain tediously delivered information, like, say, during a boring meeting or a lecture.”

“How many other people are learning Spanish, and where do they live? Duolingo recently answered such questions by running the numbers on their 120 million users, spanning every country on the planet.”

“Coming to terms with the fact that he couldn’t outrun a volcano, Landsburg decided to make his last moments on Earth count. He documented the eruption until the last possible second, then carefully rewound his film, placed his camera in his backpack, and lay down on top of it, shielding the equipment from the encroaching shower of magma and ash with his own body.”

“Thanks to the colossal changes humans have made since the mid-20th century, Earth has now entered a distinct age from the Holocene epoch, which started 11,700 years ago as the ice age thawed.” With a gorgeous gallery of ways we’ve altered our own bedrock.

“A giant pothole, the Devil’s Kettle, swallows half of the Brule and no one has any idea where it goes. The consensus is that there must be an exit point somewhere beneath Lake Superior, but over the years, researchers and the curious have poured dye, pingpong balls, even logs into the kettle, then watched the lake for any sign of them. So far, none has ever been found.”

An animal shelter that used to have “unadoptable” cats now has a 30-day waiting list, thanks to hiring them out as mousers.

“As you can see from these pictures, Smoothie knows how to pose for the camera. Then again, it’s pretty easy for her. After all, while most of us have a best angle, EVERY angle is Smoothie’s best angle.” This is a magical elf cat, you guys.

Erin Reads: Oz with a detour for the backstory of Trot and Cap’n Bill July 25, 2016

Posted by Erin Ptah in Erin Watches.
1 comment so far

Short takeaway: The Sea Fairies is not on par with the Oz books. Its sequel Sky Island can hold its own. The Scarecrow of Oz, as the ninth Oz novel and the third with Trot, is a letdown to both series.


Both Trot books start very differently from any of Dorothy’s adventures (or Betsy’s trope-xeroxing adventure). In The Sea Fairies, Trot and Cap’n Bill are going sailing near their house when some mermaids (that’s what “sea fairies” means) show up and invite the humans to take a tour of their undersea kingdom.

So the first half of the book is just a random tour. It isn’t even as charming as most of the Oz-related settings. Especially since so much of it is spent on pseudo-scientific explanations of how mermaids work — none of which are actually any more sensible or satisfying than whatever “mystery” they’re trying to explain.

Halfway through the story a Big Bad shows up, but everything about it that might provide some tension gets undercut. He’s an evil sea monster!…who has zero power outside his own lair, to the point that he can’t even lure our heroes there or send agents to kidnap them, he literally sends them an invitation and they swim right in. He keeps humans lost in shipwrecks to use as slaves!…but they’re all unfazed by their state, figuring they were gonna be dead anyway, and this life isn’t so bad. One of the slaves is Cap’n Bill’s own long-lost brother!…who’s been gone for so long that Bill barely remembers him, didn’t feel much grief over his disappearance or much joy at their reunion, and there’s no mention of this maybe being their cue to embark on a brother-rescuing quest.

Finally a Big Good shows up to defeat the Big Bad, and our heroes go home. The end.

It’s notable that we get a lot of Trot’s real-world life and family history.


Both books are more tied to real-world concerns than the Oz books get. With Dorothy, we got bits and pieces of her Kansas backstory over the various books; with Betsy, we get nothing at all. With Trot, we get a bunch of family history right off the bat.

I appreciate Cap’n Bill. He’s practical, in a way that Baum’s books don’t often call for — in the next book he knocks together a seat in his workshop, to make a magic umbrella into a viable flying machine for three.

And his contrariness and skepticism (not “this magic thing can’t be real”, but “I don’t trust this magic thing to be safe”)…it never pans out, everything in these books is either Obviously Good or Obviously Bad, but it’s nice to see a different character type.

As for Trot…

…okay, here’s the thing: Trot is mean.

Dorothy in her later appearances can be very definite about what’s proper and what’s not (see: insisting on renaming Bill to Billina), but with the exception of that one bizarre scene in Bunbury, she isn’t rude. Trot regularly tells people to their faces how horrid they are. Look, here’s her first meeting with the Big Bad from Sea Fairies:

“Well,” said he, “do you not find me the most hateful creature you have ever beheld?”

The queen refrained from answering, but Trot said promptly, “We do. Nothing could be more horrider or more disgustin’ than you are, it seems to me.”

“Very good, very good indeed,” declared the monster, lifting his lashes to flash his glowing eyes upon them.

And, sure, that guy’s evil (and seems to be getting off on the insults anyway), but here she is with a completely random innocent octopus:

“Well, are we not friends, then?” asked the Octopus in an airy tone of voice.

“I think not,” said the little girl. “Octopuses are horrid creatures.”

“OctoPI, if you please; octoPI,” said the monster with a laugh.

“I don’t see any pie that pleases me,” replied Trot, beginning to get angry.

“OctoPUS means one of us; two or more are called octoPI,” remarked the creature, as if correcting her speech.

“I suppose a lot of you would be a whole bakery!” she said scornfully. […]

“Let’s go,” said Trot. “I don’t like to ‘sociate with octopuses.”

“OctoPI,” said the creature, again correcting her.

“You’re jus’ as horrid whether you’re puses or pies,” she declared.

(In a joke that will fly right over the heads of any kid not born in the era, it turns out she’s seen the contemporary political cartoons where the big trusts like Standard Oil are represented as octopi.)

I control-F’d back through the Gutenberg texts of the earlier books. Betsy never uses the word “horrid.” Dorothy uses it a few times to refer to the Deadly Desert; Eureka’s behavior on meeting Billina is “horrid of you”; and she uses it twice for Princess Langwidere, prompted by the fact that Langwidere first insults her and her friends, then tries to chop off her head, then locks her in a tower until she agrees to have her head chopped off. Clearly worse than “being an octopus.”

Sometimes that kind of shameless certainty goes to good places. At the end of Sky Island, Trot shuts down the blue country’s system of capitol punishment, and holds to it even when her new regent wants to chop just a few more people in half, come on, not even just the worst one?

But yeah, in general, she distinguishes herself from Dorothy and Betsy by being distinctively unpleasant.


Baum’s writing is much-improved with book 2. It kicks off when Button-Bright drops in — he’s definitely grown, he’s speaking in complete sentences now, and knows his own name and everything! — via magic umbrella. Cap’n Bill rigs up that wooden seat, and they go for some flights, only to get stuck for a while on the eponymous Sky Island.

Apparently some kinds of magic work in the non-fairy country of America: Button-Bright’s umbrella took him to a couple of different US cities before they hit the island. He and Trot use it for a morning jaunt down to the village to pick up some sewing supplies, for crying out loud.

The fantasy settings, once we get there, have the sense of fun and creativity that I expect from the Oz books. Sky Island has a pink half and a blue half, each with its own politics, customs, magical weirdnesses, and total commitment to color scheme. I was briefly excited to hear that, in the blue country, the kings are elected — but no, when the people vote, they have to vote for whoever the king told them to. Whoops.

Meanwhile, in the pink country, the ruler is determined by…who has the lightest skin. Holy unfortunate implications, Batman.

Since this island is permanently located in the clouds, we finally get an encounter with Polychrome that doesn’t involve her getting lost on the ground. And this book is officially in the Oz continuity! I wasn’t sure about the relative timing, until Polychrome says cheerfully that she recognizes Button-Bright because they last saw each other in Oz.

Turns out Poly can be an ad-hoc fairy legal scholar. Neat.

By the end of the book, Trot is the new Queen of the pink country, and the Boss of the blue country. But she never considers staying — she likes her home life in California, and she’s been gone for like a week now, so her mom is probably panicking. She leaves both countries in the hands of responsible regents, and little party heads home.


The Scarecrow of Oz starts more like a traditional Oz book. Our heroes are sucked into a whirlpool, come out in a cave, and set off to find their way home.

The preface explains that this book is Baum’s response to getting tons of letters imploring him to send Trot and Cap’n Bill to Oz. So, as if he’s just trying to be contrary, he washes them up on the shores of Mo. And has them meet a character who chides them for not having heard of the place.

Continuity! The place still rains lemonade, snows popcorn, and has perfume-scented wind. And you can see the advancement in Baum’s skill, as he doesn’t just run through a list of junk-food-related weirdnesses, but reveals them naturally in response to a weather event happening, or Trot asking something.

They also bump into Button-Bright again. He’s a lot more talky than in his first Oz appearance, but it feels like he’s regressed from Sky Island. He’s back to asking “what’s x?” questions about random things that come up — in Road To Oz, that was most of his vocabulary — and saying rude and cranky things in general.


The Ozsolation has gone from “super dramatic” to “totally ineffectual.” Our heroes bumble into Oz exactly the same way so many other outsiders have: by flying over the place and needing to land.

Technically they bumble into Jinxland, which is in an isolated and cut-off bit of Quadling Country. I completely believe the theory that Baum didn’t write it to be part of Oz at all, and only retconned it in after-the-fact.

The writing in general feels like a throwback. None of the sharp wit from the last couple of books. Stock plot about an evil king trying to marry his princess niece off to an also-evil vizier, even though she loves a humble servant, who is conveniently also a prince. Lots of unsubtle punny names. The evil king is named King Krewel, fercryinoutloud.

The drama relies on the throne needing a successor, but nobody in Oz is supposed to die, so Baum has to come up with multiple awkward excuses to get rid of previous kings for good. Oh, and there are a bunch of active witches! With the excuse that they’re so cut-off and so distant from the Emerald City that they can get away with it, even though they’re right in Glinda’s back yard, and her Magic Book means she knows exactly what they’re up to.

We’re in chapter 13 of 24 before the Scarecrow finally shows up.

With a bit of help from deus ex Glinda, they overthrow the evil vizier, undo some wicked witchcraft, and install the princess niece on the throne. The Scarecrow is briefly King of Jinxland before surrendering the throne to the rightful heir after a bit of relevant magic is lifted. Seems to be a talent of his.


Meanwhile: Dorothy, Betsy, and Ozma have been watching this whole adventure in the Magic Picture. It’s like their very own privacy-invading reality TV.

Describes Betsy as a “shy little thing” who still isn’t used to the splendor of Oz (in contrast to Dorothy, who’s perfectly at home with it). She didn’t seem all that shy in the last book. Nervous in strange places sometimes, but she strikes up conversations pretty easily, and rode Hank straight into the Nome King’s palace without any self-consciousness. (Retroactive attempt to make them more distinct? I can dig it.)

Anyway: they decide to have Trot and Cap’n Bill stay in Oz forever.

Remember the whole cautious discussion Ozma had about whether it would be too much to extend that same invite to Betsy and Shaggy’s brother, even knowing those two had no place to go? Yeah, that’s no longer a thing. They don’t even check whether Trot and Cap’n Bill want to live here before deciding to make the offer.

There’s also a reference to Dorothy being the one who introduced Ozma to the Hungry Tiger, so, wow, Baum is just forgetting continuity right and left here.


It’s such a shambles, you guys.

My impression of Trot from back when I had only read this book was “another generic not-Dorothy,” and no wonder! All her distinctive characterization is limited to the first two books. She’s way more generic in this one.

She’s not noticeably mean. Just a little callous. (When the princess is lamenting that she’ll never be able to marry the humble servant, Trot’s idea of comfort is “Well, never mind; Pon isn’t any great shakes, anyhow, seems to me. There are lots of other people you can love.”)

She suddenly has a “grave and serious little face.” That’s never been a Trot thing! You know what it is? A classic Dorothy thing.

Dorothy assumes Trot will be intimidated by the glamour of the Emerald City. Trot, honored guest of the Queen of the Mermaids, herself the Queen of Sky Island! But sure enough — in this book, she is. Intimidated by Glinda, too. The girl who had no problem insulting a murderous sea monster to its face, and now she literally needs to be handheld through meeting the sorceress.

You’d think she would’ve pulled rank as Queen when she and Cap’n Bill were the ones trying to intimidate King Krewel, but no.

There’s the obligatory scene with the new arrivals having dinner with a bunch of Oz standbys. Trot and Cap’n Bill are astonished by the talking animals. As if they just dropped straight into Oz from America, and hadn’t extensively toured two other realms with talking animals beforehand!

In the other books, these meetings are always the setup for some charming character interactions — like Jim the Cab-Horse’s huffy rivalry with the Sawhorse, or Aunt Em trying to hairy-eyeball the Cowardly Lion into submission. Here, it’s just a boilerplate list of characters, and the authorial announcement that suddenly Trot feels like she’s Friends With Them All.

…and then they decide to stay. On top of all the Oz-related reasons why this is weird, how does it make sense on Trot’s side? She has loving parents! Who are also Cap’n Bill’s dear friends. There’s no struggle over how to handle that, not even a sidenote about them tragically dying offscreen. They’re just…forgotten.

I can’t imagine this being satisfying for all those eager letter-writing Trot fans.

Would’ve been a lot more satisfying as an Oz book, too, if Trot’s interactions with Oz had been informed by her own unique history of fairy-country exploration. Instead, it just becomes yet another rehash of what we got in the last book with Betsy — and this time, it isn’t fresh or witty, just cheap and tired.

Stories about people who clashed with police and survived (somehow, never with the police’s help) July 24, 2016

Posted by Erin Ptah in News Roundup.
Tags: , ,
add a comment

People killed by police, 2016. 648 and counting.

The list of young people burdened by these tumultuous times includes Tamir Rice’s teenage sister, who lost 50 pounds after watching the police shoot him in 2014; the daughter of Oscar Grant III, killed by a transit officer while lying down on a California train platform in 2009, who as a 5-year-old would ask playmates to duck when she saw the police; and the 9-year-old nephew of Sandra Bland, who began sleeping in his mother’s room after Ms. Bland’s death last year in a jail cell.”

“He smiles and says that a few citizens in Janeville called the police because of a suspicious black man in a white car was parked at the Wharf for a couple hours. My response, ‘Really? I was just reading a book.’

“After two previous mistrials, a federal judge has acquitted former police officer Eric Parker, who was charged with violating a Indian citizen’s civil rights after throwing him to the ground and partially paralyzing him during a sidewalk stop last year.” Sureshbhai Patel was a 57-year-old grandfather who spoke almost no English, and had just moved in to help care for his new grandchild.

“When [Danny] Sanchez saw the incident, and the SWAT team converge, he began recording from his garage. He assumed there wouldn’t be any problem, since he was so far away from the incident, on his own property and even out on the edge of the garage.”

After firing 107 bullets at the innocent women, the LAPD cops ordered them out of the vehicle and immediately realized their mistake. Instead of a 33-year-old black man, two Hispanic women exited the pickup truck and demanded to know, ‘Why did you shoot at us?'” Margie Carranza and Emma Hernandez.

“He was crying. He kept saying, ‘Mom! Mom!,’ trying to tell me what happened. ‘Shoot, shoot. Police, police. Blood.’” Arnaldo Eliud Rios Soto, the autistic man whose caregiver Charles Kinsey was shot while lying on his back with his hands up.

“In fact, in reviewing nearly every publicly available video of a police shooting over the past year or so, it is close to impossible to find footage of an officer aiding the person who has been shot.

Monday Works Roundup, 7/18/16 July 18, 2016

Posted by Erin Ptah in Leif & Thorn, Works Roundup.
Tags: , , , , , , ,
add a comment

Leif & Thorn
Patriotism is Sexy (art | Leif | NSFW ish)
Drawing Water (art | Ivy | worksafe)
Rainbow modern AU (art | Rowan, Juniper, Birch, Annie | worksafe)
Canoodling at work (art | Leif/Thorn | worksafe)
Spring fashion Leif (art | Leif | worksafe)

Fake News
Jon Stewart, you know, the farmer (sketch | Jon | worksafe)

My Little Pony
Dragonet love (art | Spike/Rarity | worksafe)
Gawdyna Grimfeathers (commissioned art | MLP OC | worksafe)

Oz books
Woozy and Sawhorse (art | Woozy, Sawhorse | worksafe)

Sailor Moon(/Steven Universe)
Red Beryl’s Court (art | Beryl, Shitennou, Morga, Tethys | worksafe)

Steven Universe
The Garnedot Two-Step (art | Garnet/Peridot | worksafe)
My liege Pearl (art | Pearl/Dewey | worksafe)

This Week in But I’m A Cat Person:
Jany tries to figure out some kind of strategy, as her deadline arrives to “pick a target.” 

This Week in Leif & Thorn:
Thorn frets a little too much about getting ready for his not-a-date with Leif.

Most popular politician in the US circa 2013 #ImWithHer July 17, 2016

Posted by Erin Ptah in News Roundup.
Tags: ,
add a comment

From February 2013, right after Hillary left as SecState: “Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is the most popular U.S. politician, surpassing fellow Democrats President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden as well as leading Republicans, a national poll found.

This whole article on Clinton’s leadership style is worth reading, but here’s one of my favorite parts:

Laurie Rubiner, who served as Clinton’s legislative director from 2005 to 2008, recalls being asked to block out two hours on the calendar for “card-table time.” Rubiner had just started in Clinton’s office six weeks before, and she had no idea what card-table time was, but when the boss wants something put on the calendar, you do it.

When the appointed day arrived, Clinton had laid out two card tables alongside two huge suitcases. She opened the suitcases, and they were stuffed with newspaper clippings, position papers, random scraps of paper. Seeing the befuddled look on Rubiner’s face, Clinton asked, “Did anyone tell you what we’re doing here?”

It turned out that Clinton, in her travels, stuffed notes from her conversations and her reading into suitcases, and every few months she dumped the stray paper on the floor of her Senate office and picked through it with her staff. The card tables were for categorization: scraps of paper related to the environment went here, crumpled clippings related to military families there. These notes, Rubiner recalls, really did lead to legislation. Clinton took seriously the things she was told, the things she read, the things she saw. She made her team follow up.

“The claim that Hillary is innately dishonest is simply accepted as a given. […] And yet here’s the thing: it’s not actually true. Politifact, the Pulitzer prize-winning fact-checking project, determined for example that Hillary was actually the most truthful candidate (of either Party) in the 2016 election season. And in general Politifact has determined that Hillary is more honest than most (but not all) politicians they have tracked over the years.”

“How can we reconcile the “unlikable” Democratic presidential candidate of today with the adored politician of recent history? It’s simple: Public opinion of Clinton has followed a fixed pattern throughout her career. Her public approval plummets whenever she applies for a new position. Then it soars when she gets the job.”

So let’s get her this job.

“Good guys with guns”, part 901487034 July 10, 2016

Posted by Erin Ptah in News Roundup.
Tags: ,
add a comment

People killed by police, 2016. 613 and counting.

Alton Sterling is the 114th black man on the list who died, and the 596th person shot overall.

Police violence works with tasers, too. “He then tases Bryce for 23 seconds, handcuffs him, drags the boy’s body behind the car, and deliberately drops him face first onto the asphalt road. Runnels may not have known it at the time, but Bryce was going into cardiac arrest. When the loud thud of the drop boomed throughout the courtroom, gasps echoed out.” (Pay particular attention to the thought processes of the victim’s father — also a cop.)

“If a shooter’s permit status doesn’t get mentioned in media reports, we usually don’t know it. But at any rate, it’s clear that since 2007, among cases we can document, concealed carry permit holders have been responsible for 29 mass shootings.

“The step-daughter of a high-ranking Florida police official was fatally shot [in January] after the woman’s mother mistook her for an intruder at the family’s St. Cloud home.” Gosh, they sure are lucky there was a “good guy with a gun” around to…oh wait.

“William Brumby, 64, was shooting a handgun Sunday afternoon at the High Noon Gun Range in Sarasota when […] Brumby inadvertently pointed the gun behind him and accidentally fired, striking his 14-year-old son, Stephen Brumby.” GET A NEW HOBBY. Maybe if you’d gotten one last year or last month or last week, your child would still be alive.

When people tell you “no, really, black people can be as respectful and law-abiding as humanly possible and still be in danger of getting killed by the police,” believe them. Maryland cop Jacai Coulson was deliberately shot by a fellow officer, who mistook him for a suspect.

“After years of tiptoeing around the topic of gun control, AMA leaders voted to officially call gun violence a public health issue — and respond accordingly. That means flexing the organization’s powerful political muscle on Capitol Hill to refocus federal funds toward studying gun violence.” Oh please, oh please, let’s fund some research on this.

It’s Oz Conquering O’Clock again here in reread land July 6, 2016

Posted by Erin Ptah in Erin Watches.
Tags: ,

There’s a Baum-penned book of Oz short stories that came out between books 7 and 8. I’m not sure whether Little Wizard Stories of Oz is objectively better than the stories of Mo, or just feels more grounded because it uses characters we already know…either way, it’s a cute roundup of character moments and worldbuilding details that might not have fit into any of the larger adventures.

And it shows that Baum hates coming up with titles as much as the rest of us.

The Cowardly Lion and the Hungry Tiger: in which we learn that Oz has an afternoon siesta! The Lion and the Tiger resolve to finally act on their natural “tearing a person apart” and “eating a fat baby” instincts, but when they head out into the street, everybody’s napping.

Also: when Ozma is holding court, Dorothy habitually sits at her feet. Um. That setup doesn’t say “auxiliary princess” so much as “lounging courtesan.” (I like it.)

Little Dorothy and Toto: probably the backstory of how Dorothy got cured of her getting-lost habit between books 6 and 7. The Wizard keeps telling her that he’s worried she’ll get in real trouble, and when that doesn’t sink in, he stages an object lesson: disguising himself as a shape-changing imp who captures her and forces her to wash dishes.

He kinda learns a lesson himself, when he has to cut the charade short because Toto nearly eats him.

At one point Toto looks at a warning sign “so seriously that Dorothy almost believed he could read it.” One of several bits of serious foreshadowing that he’s secretly just as language-enabled as all the other mundane animals who have visited Oz.

Tik-Tok and the Nome King: in which it turns out that non-Oz fairy countries have currencies: after the king smashes Tik-Tok and Kaliko fixes him, Kaliko’s wages are raised by “one specto a year.”

This is really hard to place in the timeline. The fact that Tik-Tok leaves Oz doesn’t mean it’s pre-Ozsolation; by book 8 some major exceptions have been carved out. The King is intimidated by Ozma and scared of the consequences of breaking one of her things, which doesn’t jive with his angry, revenge-seeking mindset between books 3 and 6…so I guess it’s sometime during the timeskip, while he’s still reconstructing the events he can’t remember, and figuring out that Ozma scares him.

Ozma and the Little Wizard: in which we learn that Ozma doesn’t just hang out on the throne, but tours the country to do problem-solving in person.

Jack Pumpkinhead and the Sawhorse: more Ozma problem-solving, this time through sending agents. Jack engages in diplomacy with the King of the Squirrels, only to get his head smashed with a branch. It’s like a mashup of that scene with Kronk intoning “Squeak squeakerson squeak squeak,” and the head-exploding scene from Scanners.

The Scarecrow and the Tin Woodman: in which these two queer characters take a romantic boat ride together, and get so wrapped up in each other that they crash into a rock because they’re not paying attention. I’m not even kidding, that’s it, that’s the plot.


On to book 8! Tik-Tok of Oz is titled in the fine tradition of “pick one random character who appears in the story, and name the book after them.” It starts in one of Oz’s mini-countries: Oogaboo, a tiny mountain kingdom in Winkie Country. And by “tiny” I mean: “18 men, 27 women and 44 children.”

Baum’s writing is on-point in this book. Strong multi-level plot, snappy humor. Oogaboo “had a royal family of their own. Not especially to rule over them; just as a matter of pride” — and their Queen Ann Soforth (who I always imagined as effectively college-age, immortality aside) gets so frustrated that she decides to head out and conquer the world.

She ropes 17 of the nation’s 18 adult males into her Army — that’s 16 officers and 1 private soldier. Much less capable than General Jinjur’s Army of Revolt, to say nothing of General Guph’s collection of horrors…but, admittedly, a match for the Royal Army of Oz, at least since Ozma promoted their private.

Thing is, the Emerald City is so over being conquered. Glinda sees the Army of Oogaboo coming, and teleports them out of Oz long before they have any idea what they’re doing.

Meanwhile, Shaggy is looking for his brother. The Shaggy Man really is Baum’s favorite, isn’t he? I remembered him being introduced in book 5, and his quest to save his brother here, but had forgotten how Baum stuck him in the party in both of the novels in between, too. He’s like wallpaper. Shaggy wallpaper.

This plot thread racks up a party with remarkable efficiency. Oklahoma girl Betsy Bobbin gets shipwrecked with Hank the donkey, and runs into the Shaggy Man. A detour into the eerily misogynistic Rose Kingdom has them walk out with a Rose Princess (as in book 4, our heroes pick the ripe ruler; but these flowers want to be ruled by a king, so they kick her out). They meet up with Polychrome, lost from the rainbow again — weirdly, she and Shaggy both act like they’ve never met before. Then they yank Tik-Tok out of a well!

I was going to say “maybe this is Tik-Tok on the way back from being fixed by Kaliko,” but no, he was sent by Ozma to help on the quest. One wonders why Ozma didn’t teleport him directly to Shaggy’s side. Or, even better, why she doesn’t teleport them all into the same room as Shaggy’s brother…but I digress.

Asked how to get to the Nome Kingdom: “The best way is to walk,” said Tik-Tok. “We might crawl, or jump, or roll o-ver and o-ver until we get there; but the best way is to walk.” I told you this one was funny.


Some thoughts on Betsy. Let’s face it, she’s awfully hard to distinguish from Dorothy at times — plucky young girl from the US who gets shipwrecked in a fairy country with a stalwart animal companion. Ozma even lampshades it toward the end, telling Dorothy that Betsy got shipwrecked “in much the same way you did.”

Some differences: She throws herself into adventure for its own sake, with no wistful thoughts of returning to home or family — in the end she says she has no home to go back to. (We never get that backstory.) It probably helps her adjustment that she’s read some of the Oz books. Not enough to know the Shaggy Man on sight, but she’s all impressed that he’s friends with Dorothy and Ozma.

Dorothy takes weird things in stride, befitting someone whose first fairy adventure happened when she was really little. She’s used to assuming that whatever’s going on is normal. Betsy asks a lot of questions — even about things that are normal by mundane-world standards, like “why are all tubes hollow?”

And she’s nervous about being sent off to sleep alone in a strange place. Dorothy — well, she usually has Toto at her side, but she took it pretty easily in book 3 when Langwidere took away Billina and Tik-Tok before locking her in a tower. Betsy is a welcomed guest when the party lands in Tititi-Hoochoo’s country, and she’s still anxious about being alone for the night, enough that they end up sending Polychrome with her.


Okay, backing up: The two quests crash together; Shaggy suggests that Ann can conquer the Nomes while he’s rescuing his brother. Their destinies are further entwined when Private Files quits — he refuses Ann’s orders to take the girls captive — and Tik-Tok obligingl lets himself get recruited to be the new Army of Oogaboo.

Ruggedo may no longer have the Magic Belt, but he still knows a lot of spells and controls a lot of useful equipment. When he spots the would-be invaders, he arranges to drop them down a hole to a fairy country on the far side of the earth. (It’s even pseudo-Chinese. Their formal wear is cheongsams with embroidered dragons!)

All this is very illegal. Kaliko, hearing the plan, sneaks off to his room and starts writing letters of recommendation for himself.

(“I hate mortals more than I hate catnip tea!” You take a lot of that, Ruggedo…?)

Paralleling the army that’s all officers except for one private, this country is all Kings and Queens with one Private Citizen: Tititi-Hoochoo (I didn’t say it was good pseudo-Chinese), who runs the place. A counterpoint to the last book’s legal ideas: “It is wise to ignore laws when they conflict with justice.” Our heroes have broken the law, but it was the Nome King’s fault, so they get sent back to deliver justice.

Along with a dragon!

Serious horror when Kaliko explains how he learned to fear dragons. Another Nome had been torn to pieces by a dragon, you see, and since in fairy countries nobody dies…Kaliko found a chunk of head. That could talk.

I wonder how these dragons relate to the ones whose cavern Dorothy and company snuck through in book 4. For that matter, how do all those underground countries compare with the Nome Kingdom? I’m inclined to believe they’re even deeper — they have no contact with the surface, and the Nomes don’t show any sign of knowing about civilizations like the Valley of Vo. (Not to be confused with the Valley of Mo.)


Ruggedo gets insta-smitten with Polychrome, Hades-Persephone style. It’s actually kinda cute. Imploring her to stay: “You shall be my daughter or my wife or my aunt or grandmother—whichever you like.” (Poly: “Are you sure he hasn’t seen the Love Magnet?”)

The dragon came prepared. By the time the dust has settled, Ruggedo has been depowered and dethroned (Kaliko gets his place!); Shaggy has found his brother; and the Army of Oogaboo is sick and tired of conquering and just wants to go home.

Honestly, there’s something shady about Shaggy’s quest. He claims not to remember what his brother looks like. Okay, he left home several decades ago, when the brother was much younger…but when asked the guy’s name, he hesitates. And indeed, only ever addresses the man as “Brother” (while introducing himself as “Shaggy”).

And of course we’ll never see the guy again (the brother; I do expect plenty more Shaggy) in any future books. What was really up with these two? We’ll never know.

In an interesting complication, the characters’ haste in de-powering Ruggedo comes back to bite them. Sure, he deserved the punishment, but he’d put a curse on Shaggy’s brother, and no longer has the power to undo it. Instead the characters have to figure it out through trial and error. Can’t remember any other children’s fantasy fiction that pulls something quite like it.


Poly confirmed to be thousands of years old!

The Magic Picture is in a radium frame. Oh geez.

The Wizard invented the cell phone! But didn’t include a mechanism for calling anyone. You just have to hope that you and the other person manage to pick up your handhelds at the same time.

The dragon goes home, the Nome Kingdom adjusts, and the rest of the characters get teleported back to Oz in batches. There’s no legal immigration process since the Ozsolation, and Betsy, Hank, and Shaggy’s brother never got their visas, but obviously in the end they get royal approval to stay.

In the latest edition of I Swear I Am Not Making This Gay Up:

“Well,” said Dorothy, “as far as Betsy and Hank are concerned, I’d like to have them here in Oz. It would be such fun to have a girl playmate of my own age, you see. And Hank is such a dear little mule!”

Ozma laughed at the wistful expression in the girl’s eyes, and then she drew Dorothy to her and kissed her.“Am I not your friend and playmate?” she asked.

Dorothy flushed.

“You know how dearly I love you, Ozma!” she cried. “But you’re so busy ruling all this Land of Oz that we can’t always be together.”


Dorothy thinks of Betsy as “her own age,” though Betsy is about 12 and Dorothy has been in Oz at least a couple decades by now. Betsy and Dorothy are about the same height; Ozma is about half a head taller.

And then there’s a brewing fight in the stables (over “who is the sweetest and dearest girl in the world,” with Hank on Betsy’s side, the Sawhorse championing Ozma, and the Lion and Tiger adamant that it’s Dorothy) — which the three heroines interrupt, Ozma standing in the doorway with a mortal girl on each arm. Like a boss.

Finally: this is the book where it comes out that Toto can talk! He just doesn’t want to, okay. Stop invalidating Toto’s life choices with your anthropocentric communication demands. (I kid, I kid. It’s good he told Dorothy, even if he never says another word since.)


Programming note: the next Oz book has also been called “the third Trot and Cap’n Bill book”, so I’m listening to the first two of those (The Sea Fairies and Sky Island) first. In case anyone has been reading along, join me on my detour.

Monday Works Roundup, 7/4/16 July 4, 2016

Posted by Erin Ptah in But I'm A Cat Person, Leif & Thorn, Works Roundup.
Tags: , , , , , ,
add a comment

But I’m A Cat Person
Species Swap I (art | Kara Lynn, Jany, Cybele, Bennett, Patrick, Bianca | worksafe)

Leif & Thorn
Fancy Thorn & Fancy Tiernan (art | Thorn, Tiernan | worksafe)
‘Studying’ (sketch | Holly/Violet | borderline NSFW)
Fancy Ivy (art | Ivy | worksafe)
Ceannic Magical Gem Girls (art | Ivy, Holly | worksafe)
Fish Story (sketches | various | worksafe)

Fake News/Politics
My Little Party: Equestria Candidates (art | Trump, Hillary, Bernie | worksafe)
That time Sam got Jon a pony (art | Sam, Jon | worksafe)

100% Muscle (sketch | Horuss/Equius | worksafe)

Oz books
Love Your Rainbow Self (art | Scraps, Ojo | worksafe)
The Wonderful Kitties of Oz

Sailor Moon/Steven Universe
Black Moon, White Diamond (art | gem!Demande, Emeraude, Rubeus, Saphir, Kooan, Berthier, Calaveras, Petz | worksafe)

Virgil and Banish (reward chibis, worksafe)

This Week in But I’m A Cat Person:
Ilsa doesn’t exactly look like Jany was expecting.

This Week in Leif & Thorn:
The professionals finally show up…just as Ivy’s curbstomp battle is ending.

Trump’s impressive bankruptcies, Cruz’s femdom Hillary fanvids July 2, 2016

Posted by Erin Ptah in News Roundup.
Tags: , , ,
add a comment

“What’s especially impressive about this is that despite not bothering with typical business expenses like “paying people who do work for you,” [Trump] still managed to go bankrupt running a business that involves customers giving you their money in exchange for nothing.

“Remember 2008, when the markets went from thinking housing debt was low-risk to thinking it was high-risk, and a global financial crisis was the result? [Trump’s economic plan] would be like that, but much worse — US government debt is the very foundation of low-risk investments.”

(On the very low chance that the mangled apricot hellbeast wins, the good news is, Cape Breton wants people.)

“This may not be surprising to anyone, but there is not a single county in the United States in which a minimum wage earner can support a family. Not one.”

The US nuclear weapons force still uses a 1970s-era computer system and 8-inch floppy disks, a government report has revealed.”

A Ted Cruz ad featuring a formidable Hillary Clinton silencing male advisors with a single disapproving flick of her eyebrows while Huma Abedin stalks the room like a tigress. I have confidence in this team.

Here’s the thing about that #NoBuyNoFly proposal. June 23, 2016

Posted by Erin Ptah in News Roundup.
Tags: ,
add a comment

A lot of liberals are getting twitchy about not letting people on the terrorist watchlist buy guns. The ACLU is against it. People get put on the list because they’re innocent but under investigation; they get on there because they have similar names to someone who’s under investigation; the system has flagged toddlers, for crying out loud.

No doubt: there needs to be a reliable, transparent process for getting off the No-Fly List if you don’t belong there.

And this is not a new problem! This has been a problem for 15+ years! Sure, there have been complaints and protests all along — but nobody has cared enough, or managed to summon enough power, to put any muscle behind those protests.

So consider this: who in Washington has the most power, the most muscle, the most success at getting the government to bow to their causes?

Make the No-Fly List apply to gun sales. Actual terrorists will have a harder time getting their hands on AK-47s. And people who are trying to get their mistaken entries off the list? No longer will they be stuck with the old strategies and processes that have done such a lackluster job of defending them so far. All of a sudden they’ll be able to call the friggin’ NRA into their corner.

This is a win-win situation.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 247 other followers