Thursday, September 29, 2016

"Ozma of Oz" by L. Frank Baum

It's the chicken's time to shine, people.

The chicken saves the day.

Long live chicken!

I don't know if I can eat chicken anymore because its...sorry...she is the savior in this book. It's a lady chicken. I pictured her wearing a string of pearls around her little yellow neck during her clucking adventures. I mean, she spoke, of course, but I don't know if I'll be eating the chicken sandwich from Wendy's or McDonald's anymore.

Those cows who want me to eat more chicken, well. Poor cows.

Before we realize the chicken is the savior, we find that Dorothy is back in this novel! She was missed in the second novel "The Marvelous Land of Oz." This time, instead of a tornado, she's cast overboard while traveling to Australia with Uncle Henry. She and a chicken float in a chicken coup and wash up on the shores of a land that borders Oz.

We're not in Kansas, Australia or even Oz, anymore, Toto. We're in the Land of Ev, but Toto isn't there, either. Nope, just the chicken.

At first, we're led to believe the chicken is a boy because its name is Bill. Then it begins to speak, and it has a lady voice. Dorothy decides to call her Billina, instead. The only thing Billina does is complain, poops one egg a day -- which is a major event -- and saves the day. Otherwise, Billina is a disposable character.

Besides of my obsession over the chicken, "Ozma of Oz" starts out as a familiar tale...something I've seen in a movie...

If you were a child of the 80's, like myself, you might remember when Disney took a dark turn with it's live-action movies. There were no songs, people died, the lighting was dark, and the movie "The Black Cauldron" was made.

During Disney's Goth Period, the movie "Return to Oz" was made. Close your eyes and remember this with me: Dorothy escapes the mental ward because of her constant talk of Oz. She returns to Oz, only to find that the Yellow Brick Road is in pieces, and the land is being ruled by some witch named Mombi, the lady that can change her head, and it was terrifying. I mean, that lady took her head off, placed in a cabinet, and then went over to another cabinet and pulled out a completely different head and put it on.

I think it was the inspiration for Cher's closet in "Clueless." You know, without the heads.

Regardless of pop culture references, as I read "Ozma of Oz," I realized that's where that movie came from -- sort of. Obviously, whoever wrote the screenplay adapted and then adapted some more, and then put it in their food processor and made pesto out of it, spread it on a piece of fancy toast and fed it to a Disney executive.

It's just like the original "The Wizard of Oz" when the one-eyed witch who was after silver shoes became a green lady with two eyes that went after ruby shoes.

Oh, Hollywood, I beseech thee.

In this third installment of Oz, Dorothy meets the current ruler of the Land of Ev (the lady who can change her heads), but this ruler isn't evil, merely bored. It turns out the king sold his family into slavery to the Gnome King for everlasting prosperity, but out of regret of his terrible deed, kills himself. Which left the Head Switcher, who I think is the niece, to rule over Ev.

Anyway, because Dorothy sasses Head Switcher, she is held in contempt and placed in a cell high in one of the castle's towers.

Whatever is a girl to do?

Then, Billina poops an egg. She really does, and the chicken is all Shakespeare about it, swooning with her wing over her forehead, and then holding the egg up like Hamlet, "Whatever am I supposed to do with these eggs I pooh?"

Dorothy is all like, "Let me store you egg in my pocket, or something."

And Billina is pleased.

I hope your egg don't break, girl.

It's so weird. L. Frank Baum was probably suffering from migraines, and his doctor gave him a jar of white powder -- what we call cocaine in these modern times -- and said, "Take two spoonfuls of these and call me in the morning."

But instead of calling, Baum sat down, tripping, and wrote the first 10 books of Oz in one sitting.

And here I am gobbling them up.

Back to Dorothy: As she looks out the window, Dorothy realizes the Land of Ev borders a giant desert. Then, she see's reflections in the sand. What's coming? It turns out to be Ozma and her friends -- the Tin Woodsman, the Scarecrow, the Lion, a Tiger, and many more. They travel on a long rug that magically rolls across the desert because if anyone touches the sand, they die.

Dorothy is saved, Head Switcher isn't mad, but admits she's tired of rulinng the Land of Ev because she's a Millennial. So its decided that Dorothy, Ozma and their Squad will go save the Land of Ev's royal family, who are all currently held prisoner under the Gnome King's rule.

As they travel, Billina poops an egg.

When they get to the Gnome King's land, underground, we find him a jolly old Santa Claus-type! Why, this man isn't mean! He's so cute and small and dirty from living inside a mountain. Then, we find out that the royal family of Ev aren't just mere prisoners, they've been transformed into objects placed around the Gnome King's palace. Because he likes trinkets.

He's a hoarder.

He has done this with the help of a magical tacky 80's belt. It's wide, glittery, and looks like plastic. Even Liberace wouldn't have been found dead in that thing.

Gross, Gnome King! Gross.

I wish "What Not to Wear" was still on.

With all the objects placed around the palace, and that tacky belt the Gnome King wore, it reminded Dorothy of Goodwill.

"What's that musty smell?" Dorothy asked, walking into the throne room.

The Gnome King tells the Oz Squad that they can save the royal family. Each person gets 10 chances. They just have to walk into Gnome King's Goodwill, touch an object, and if it's a member of the royal family, they'll change back! But after 10 tries, if the Oz Squad hasn't figured it out, then they each become a trinket to be kept.

For 20 pages, everyone is losing. People are turning into objects left and right.

No one can figure it out.

It turns out, the Gnome King has just too much stuff.

Then, one night, after Billina poops an egg, she nestles under the throne for the night, and no one knows she's there. It so happens that the Gnome King is a typical bad guy who divulges all his secrets and evil plans at some point.

Aloud. To a listening audience.

"They'll never find out that the purple items in my Goodwill are the royal family!" the Gnome King says to one of his followers.

Billina tells the remaining survivors of the Oz Squad, and it's the chicken that goes into Goodwill and saves the day. She goes and touches each object with her wings and all is happy and yay.

The third installment of Oz wasn't nearly as trippy as the first two, which made it just a tad bit boring. I suppose, if I read it aloud with a British accent, it would be more entertaining. I do hope the fourth book has some whacked-out fantastical unicorn mutation that makes me cock my head and rub my eyes, because, let's face it, that is what's making these Oz books so enjoyable.

Baum's brand of off-kiltered-fantasy-turned-Canon is a yummy alphabet soup gone spiked.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Equinoxing Toward Fall

There are times when Nigra channels her inner Audrey Hepburn. She's ready to drive through Paris in the side car of her Mommy's turquoise blue Vespa. #EquinoxingTowardFall #equinoxingtowardblog

"The City of Mirrors" by Justin Cronin

I've been holding off on this review for some time, not because I haven't wanted to write it, but I'm not really sure how to. This was the final book of a trilogy that took it's time.

And it needed to. This was not a series you wanted the author to rush. It needed to be perfect.

And by all was.

Sadly, I don't know anyone who has read it. I can't unleash my fanboy fervor and share my overwhelming joy, fear, sadness and more joy over this series.

I am sitting in the corner alone with this series. Writing a review for a final book in a trilogy no one I know has read almost feels silly.

So, if not for you, then for me.

For six years, this story has been a part of my life, and even if it's only been three books, my mind has returned to the characters and the story many times.

The first book, "The Passage" came out in 2010 and spanned 784 pages. The second book, "The Twelve" didn't come out until two years later with only 592 pages. The final installment snuck up on me this past summer (I expected its release during the fall) and lasted 624 pages.

Overall, Cronin poured his soul into 2,000 pages of a single story all because his daughter wanted a story about a girl who could save the world.

And save the world she did, with the help of so many other characters that I loved. Characters that hurt my heart. Characters I rooted for, and mourned with. Characters that were real and not real and then real again.

Oh, Cronin, I hope you write more stories like this. You found you powerhouse writing ability.

He mixed horror, suspense, and literary fiction in a way that elevated the story, making me forget where I was.

What Cronin has done in each book is devote about 200 pages to flashback. "The City of Mirrors" was no exception. This time, though, he took us to the heart of why and how this virus took place.

And it's a love story.

Why wouldn't one of mankind's most complicated affliction be the sole reason for 2,000 pages of story?

The protagonist's story is one of Harvard. He meets a young couple that includes him into their unit, and they become inseparable. The only problem is, he falls in love with the girl, and the guy is his best friend. The girl has cancer, and so her husband is always looking for the ultimate cure. The protagonist and the girl also fall in love years later, and when they are finally about to meet up and start their love story, she has passed away on a train on her way to him.

What happens next is the culprit of this entire world Cronin has created -- something so simple, an ugly complex reality is born from it.

The rest of the story takes place 20 years later -- so our main characters are in their 50s, and it's time to set off and face off against the final surviving "viral." And Cronin is not kind to the surviving characters. Blow after blow, they get back up and continue fighting or figuring out what it is they need to do to ensure the survival of the human race against the virus and its effects.

I will keep these books, and maybe some day I'll be able to reread all 2,000 pages again, and when I do, I will not be free from the heartbreak the books caused me, even if I know their comings. The books will catch my breath with the suspense, and I will plow through the all the pages again because these three books really are a fast read.

Well-written books often are.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

It's Coming...

This school year has been greedy, and it gets jealous even when I think about doing something else. There's no excuse. I should slap the school year in the face like a scene from a telenovela. Other people's writing to look at, other's people designs to work with, grades to deal with and grumble over, especially those from the students that don't turn things in.

It's my fault though. I let it take over.

Soon, it'll be time for something else to take over.

Something just a little off center. With teeth.

Sharp teeth.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Photo Post the Summer Fantastic

"There are more things likely to frighten us, than to crush us. We suffer more often in imagination than in reality." #endofthesummerfantastic

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Photo Post the Summer Fantastic

Anytime the Girls go potty, they get an ice cube when they come back in. Enter Maeve. She acts like she has to go out. She moans. She pushes me with her snout. She impatiently licks me. Then, when I take her out, she does nothing. This little thing has figured out the system, except when she doesn't go potty, she doesn't get an ice cube. Eventually she'll realize I've figured out her system. #endofthesummerfantastic

Photo Post the Summer Fantastic

No eyes were hurt in the making of this Instagram post. Also, this isn't my eye, which you would know since that's not my eye color. Wait. Do you even know what color my eyes are? You don't, do you... #endofthesummerfantastic

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Photo Post the Summer Fantastic

On My Bucket of Parts LIVE, I don't shy away from the topics people really want to talk about, which is why, for my first guest, I want to introduce the ever famous Port-A-Potty. It wants to tell you that it hates the way you've been treating it. #endofthesummerfantastic

Photo Post the Summer Fantastic

Please pardon this interruption as I point out a child's sippy cup that was floating next to the bridge in the Chicago Botanical Gardens. A few feet later there was a Doritos bag. People, this is why there's a floating island of plastic in the Pacific. #endofthesummerfantastic

Photo Post the Summer Fantastic

I was trying film some scenes for my new talk show, My Bucket of Parts LIVE, but geese came flying out of nowhere and attacked. It was all very "The Birds" by Alfred Hitchcock. They stopped attacking long enough for a few autographs, however, and I was obliged. #endofthesummerfantastic

Thursday, September 08, 2016

Photo Post the Summer Fantastic

I'm starting a new talk show! Meet my new co-host. She doesn't have a name yet, but we'll talk about all things Beyoncé and the Illuminati, as well as the week that was -- how planning for 90-minute class periods for a substitute teacher is not easy. Today, one of my students said that it "sucks" for the classes that don't have me for the day. I thought that was a nice thing to say--in eight-grade-ese. Then he said if a class can't have me, he hopes it's the Indian sub who likes to have dance parties. "We dance the whole time." What? I don't necessarily believe that they dance the WHOLE time. Or do they? All this and more with my new talk show, My Bucket of Parts LIVE! #thesummerfantastic

Tuesday, September 06, 2016

Photo Post the Summer Fantastic

Goodnight day & goodnight moon, goodnight soft sung summer croon. Goodnight night comfort, goodnight brain, goodnight onslaught of neck pain. #thesummerfantastic

Monday, September 05, 2016

Photo Post the Summer Fantastic

While petting Nigra, she did the unexpected: collapsed into the bed Maeve was in and just laid there. #SecretSisters #thesummerfantastic

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Photo Post the Summer Fantastic

I went to #inlightin this weekend on the canal. The exhibits were lit up statements of nighttime surrender. #thesummerfantastic

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Photo Post the Summer Fantastic

Went downtown for the In Lights exhibition on the canal. #thesummerfantastic #sohumid #toomanypeople

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Fables Vol. 21 and 22

A graphic novel legacy has ended for me. The very first comic series that I have ever read has laid to rest all of its characters, leaving me slightly empty.


The rest of me knows this series has come to an end, because, let's face it, when a group of creators have squeezed every last bit out of its stories, it's time to go.

"Nothing gold can stay."

And sadly, this gold was starting to tarnish. I would've kept reading the series, and like anything, it probably would've had a rebirth at some point, ushering in a second-wind of creativity, storytelling, and all the feelings.

But, after so many years, it was obvious that wasn't going to happen for a little while.

We find the titular characters, the ever-famous Snow White and, the oft forgotten, Rose Red, about to duke it out because of a literary accident.

"Whoops, we're going to finally show you why they're about to fight. Sorry, readers!"

It seems the writers wanted to throw a curve ball our way, but instead, they left us with a, "You're telling us this now why?"

It seems, through Snow White and Rose Red's lineage, there is a curse that only one sister shall remain. All others will kill or be killed. Rose Red, trying on the idea of Camelot for size, was going to be the good knight. All decked out in armor, mind you, Snow White, who has no ideas where the armor came from (and, alas, neither do we), decides that she'll go ahead and fill the role of the other knight.

Like, what?

So, you two are going to fight?

Not pulling-hair fight, but with swords?

Or that's what, we readers, are supposed to think. Lines are drawn in the sands. People are choosing sides. All the fairy tale characters go to their bookies and place their bets.

Since, I already paid for this ride 22 volumes ago, I sat down, cranked the leg bar as close as it could get to my thighs, and rode this kiddie roller coaster until it came to a complete stop.

Luckily, by the the time I flipped through the pages of the final volume, Rose Red decides that she has the power to end this generations-long curse, doesn't fight Snow White, and banishes herself.

And everyone lives happily ever after.

Regardless of the lukewarm attempt to wrap up the almost unwrap-up-able, there were no major deaths (those all happen within the meat of the series...where they belong), there were no major heartbreaks, and the reader was left with a bittersweet end.

All the characters, pretty much, end up going their separate ways.

It's all very "Friends."

Let's hope the writers don't try to create a "Joey" situation with Cinderella.

Although the series lost a little of its magic toward the end, this series is, overall, a magnificent re-envisioning of the fairy tale world and all the back stories that go with it. Good guys have sketchy side jobs (Cinderella is a spy?) and the most prosaic side character is the ultimate villain (I'm not giving that one away).

This was the most satisfying graphic novel series I could've stepped foot in, having never read "comics" before. It made me a believer. I have, since, started reading more.

Some day, much like "Harry Potter," I hope to return to these pages to lose myself in a familiar land.

Until then, this new believer in graphic novels is off to a new series.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Photo Post the Summer Fantastic

While trying to figure out a car issue, our neighbors came out, put their dog on the leash and kept staring up at the sky. I don't believe they really cared about this beautiful cloud formation. I think they were simply being super-nosy, using the post-scary weather sky as an excuse to eavesdrop. #thesummerfantastic

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Photo Post the Summer Fantastic

"Here at Black Dot Coffee, we allow for our cold brew to seep for 12 hours. This allows the coffee and water to marry, creating a less-acidic brew that is much richer than a regular cup of coffee. Patrons often ask what kind of chocolate we use, and we always tell them that the sweet cream we use brings out a natural chocolatiness. They are baffled that we just used freshly ground coffee, filtered water, and cold. #thesummerfantastic