I am so incredibly ticked off right now.

Not at the G20 protesters, so much. The peaceful ones were only exercising their just and justified rights… and the subhumans smashing into a Starbucks then casually grabbing a bottle of water from the counter (rampaging against the system is thirsty work, evidently) would only be energised further by my rage. Frankly I refuse to give them that satisfaction.

Also, I’m not that stupid. Go ahead, kids, have your fun; in a couple of weeks all evidence of your righteous crusade will have been removed, except that the ‘elitist pigs’ will now have a legitimate reason for their repression. Way to establish yourselves as a viable alternative, there.

No, my rage — and it is intense — is directed entirely at the *fith foul foul filth* officials who brought this on Toronto in the first place. Who thought it would be just a fabulous idea to transform one of the world’s largest, most vibrant cities into a battleground. Those *foul fith foul foul filth foulers* damn well knew this was going to happen, and they went ahead and did it to us anyway.

What the hell kind of benefit do we get from this, guys? The G20 leaders are blathering away in their cocoons about improving quality of life for Joe Random GTA Resident, while he’s left alone to deal with the soul-scarring fallout in their wake. Where’s the honour in worldwide media reports of smashed windows and burning police cruisers? What’s the point of spending 1.4 billion to protect, say, 100-odd people if you can’t keep their constituents safe?

(The efforts at spin control do provide some moments of grim humour. My favourite is CP24’s note: "Mayor David Miller says violent protesters not welcome in Toronto." Hear that, violent protesters? No complimentary pillow mints for you!)

As I write this, CP24 is now reporting that PM Harper has scored a ‘big win’ by convincing the other leaders to halve their deficits by 2013. Asked if this sort of agreement requires the leaders ‘sign on the dotted line’, the reporter chuckled and added ‘Oh, with all these cameras around I’m sure a handshake will suffice," over shots of Obama looking all urbane and first-black-President-y.

Speaking on behalf of all Torontonians, may I be the first to reply: Wheeeee. I just hope Harper enjoys his last year or so in office, ’cause this Liberal stronghold has a long memory.

In the end, the pithiest comment on the whole mess came from a random Twitter-er: "Next time, guys, can you please just use Skype?"

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Notes from the Insomnia Side

Le sigh. My body chemistry and I really need to have a little chat.

I have read somewhere — this is going to be the title of the snarky general-knowledge book I will eventually write, Things I Read Somewhere — that it is possible to reset your bioclock so that you can, say, turn yourself into a morning person. I am a bit sceptical of this in theory, because what the hell are you supposed to do with yourself in the mornings, except wait around for the day to start?

However, known human civilization continues to discriminate against those of us who’d prefer it started at 1pm, and it’s even harder to be a Proud Minority when you’re totally sleep-deprived.

We won’t even get into what it does for your rep when starting a new position, especially when it’s been made clear they’re expecting you to introduce exciting new innovations, on account of you did come from the leading division of the company after all… Luckily, first impressions suggest an, erm, fairly low ‘wow’ threshold ("You can report by commodity? Amazing!") but still, pride involved here.

So, falling blissfully asleep before midnight, perchance to dream of Marketing reform, this is my new goal. Not as fun as 2am snack-cake-fuelled Mythbusters reruns, but I’m turning 39 this year, I need to reduce the *ahem* fun quotient anyway. At the very least, I’ll be switching the snacks out from Twinkies to… whatever else comes in a handy wrapper for easy semi-somnambular consumption. I’ll need to research that. Um, in the afternoon sometime. Naturally.

In other who’s-in-charge-of-this-body-anyway news, my right foot is on the fritz. Apparently (thank you Interwebs) it is called ‘plantar fascitis’, and has a complex pathology involving various inflamed connexions between heel and instep, but basically: You know that feeling after hard exercise when you finally relax, and then try and move those muscles again? That, only with extra potential to make you look like a bad parody of a 97-year-old. The comic irony, when unthinkingly jumping up to chase those dagnabbed cats off the kitchen counter, is extreme.

Pre-stretching a bit each time helps, and apparently it does eventually clear up entirely, so I’m not totally crippled or anything. Just for now getting odd looks around the office whenever I head to the print room. And having to put up with pawprints on the cutting board…

…And oh, did I mention that I walk to work? Having specifically moved here because it was possible, thus avoiding a long commute? Which constant pavement-pounding instead probably gave me the damn plantar-whatever in the first place?

Irony is a cruel, cruel mistress.

Because nobody actually asked for it: Baby-Sitters Club snark, part 1

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So here I am, waiting anxiously to see if Kevin makes it through to be Top Chef  (nobody spoil me!), and meawhile staring at a copy of The Baby-Sitters-Club #56: Keep Out, Claudia!, which I have contracted to recap.

In case you hadn’t noticed, my life is weird.

At any rate, welcome to the Very Special Episode in which the babysitters learn about Racism. Although… they don’t actually learn much about it, and now that I think about it they don’t do much about it either. And frankly the title sounds more like the kids won’t let Claudia join their Kewl New Klub, or something.

 

Under here, there be details. Oh yes, there are details…

Idiocracy, the documentary

I honestly don’t expect much from the free Metro subway paper. For one thing, it’s a free paper, and for another it’s designed to be read at an hour when I’m not physically capable of expecting much. That I am sometimes driven to mild irritation at the hack writing and/or shallow insight says reams about how dreadful it actually is.

Then I saw this article about ‘celebrity journalism giant’ Bonnie Fuller yesterday morning. The first few paragraphs had me mildly interested. The rest catapulted me straight past irritation and right to ‘that bout with PMS of which we no longer speak’.

So. Much. Fail.

I don’t know who to toss bricks at first. Fuller, for having real power to ‘explore the world’ via Michael Jackson, the Balloon Boy and Jon & Kate and using it to spawn cocktail chatter; or her interviewer, for not having even the tinest particle of wit required to realise what he’s currently doing with his actual journalism degree. If he has one. Maybe it’s ‘communications’. Or ‘media studies’…

"The great thing about celebrities today is that they come in all different ages, shapes, sizes and ethnic backgrounds… If your marriage is in trouble and you’re wondering if you can go through a divorce, you can look to Jon and Kate…"

Somehow, it all just sludges together into one massive wad of bleak.  On the plus side, though, I got to spend the rest of the subway ride fantasising about What Woodward & Bernstein Would Do if confronted with this situation. Too bad I got to my stop while they were still taking aim on the Pulitzer toss.

Nitpicking in Oz, part II

As was previously mentioned — and if you haven’t been reading my lit-crit masterpieces in order, why not, may I ask — at any rate, Oz was consciously designed as a very practical Fairyland. You notice, when the characters stop for supper on their nigh-endless journeys, how often milk is mentioned?

In other words: Tolkien, Baum was not. This is part of the reason I don’t buy into the idea of the first book as a political allegory; there’s just no evidence of that much conscious planning in the rest of the series. Really, the very idea of designing intricate languages and mythologies and making sure Celaborn was pronounced correctly would’ve seemed vaguely unwholesome, to a middle-aged Midwesterner at the turn of the 20th century.

Thus Oz grew into a truly American fantasy concept: sturdy and free and self-reliant and… not making a lick of sense, really. On the plus side, at least he didn’t attempt to turn the whole thing into a religious allegory.

*****************************************

He did, however, have to deal with the effects of magic — yes, even in kiddy books. This posed a special problem for Baum, since — as TVTropes explains in their splendid page on the subject — you don’t really need rules, but you do have to have internal logic. If it’s been established that the Enchanted Whatzis can get you out of a situation, it’s bad form to repeat that situation sans Whatzis.
‘Cause you just know some random critic is going to turn it intosnark fodder. Or, as in the case of Star Trek, you have to reboot an entire decades-old franchise at least partly because there was literally no way left to get the crew in trouble that couldn’t be solved by previously demonstrated tech.

Baum seemed to have an especially unfortunate gift for granting omniscience. In Oz, after the third book, there is the Magic Belt, worn by Ozma, which functions as a shameless deus et accessory. Ozma also has a Magic Picture (noticing a trend here?) which shows her anything she wants to see the instant she asks.
There is also Glinda the ‘powerful Sorceress’, who possesses the Great Book, on which everything that occurs everywhere in the world is instantly recorded. There is the Wizard, on his return, who becomes her apprentice. There is even a frelling Powder of Life that can grant sentience to whatever it touches. All this, without even mentioning the winged monkeys.

So basically the remaining Oz stories should all be about two pages long. Instead, the characters go on quests like the one in Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz, in which the title characters get trapped in the centre of the Earth and held captive by vegetable people, who declare their intention of ‘planting’ the visitors.
After several days of fobbing them off, Dorothy and party escape via a steep cave path up towards the surface. It’s a long, hard climb. Along the way they get attacked by bloodthirsty invisible bears and captured by wooden Gargoyles, wander unaware into a dragon’s den and get annoyed the hell out of by a crazy man half-way up who won’t let them leave without a box of his High-Grade Artificial Flutters and Rustles.

All of which is splendid fun; nobody ever accused Baum of a dearth of imagination. The kicker comes when they find themselves trapped in a cavern juuuuuust too far below the surface to reach. Even the Wizard starts lamenting their fate, until…
…Dorothy calmly announces that they’ll be OK, because she’s made a deal with Ozma: At four o’clock every day, Ozma will look for her in the Magic Picture, and if Dorothy is making a ‘special signal’, she’ll use the Magic Belt to transport her and her companions out immediately. So she does, and she does, and they do.

Right. Let me just remind the reader, this is several days later. It’s explicitly mentioned in the text.

Apparently Ozma has ethical qualms, or something, about using the thing indiscriminately; at one point in Road to Oz she tells Dorothy that she was on the verge of rescuing her, but Dorothy et al got out OK by themselves. That can-do frontier spirit in action again, I guess. But it still leaves everybody else wondering why Dorothy’s companions didn’t raise even the eensiest little question about why the @!$@#%#$ she DIDN’T MENTION THIS BEFORE THE GIANT INVISIBLE KILLER BEARS. Or, for that matter, have some choice words for Ozma’s ethics.

Nitpicking in Oz, part I

So OK, I realise that The Wizard of Oz was originally a one-off deal. The first sequel was intended as a cash-in once the original became a  hit stage play, and the others were written pretty much as a favour to the fans (partly because, frankly, Baum needed the money too much to refuse them).

All that said… you do sometimes wonder, coming back to the original, if Baum ever bothered to reread it himself before embarking on the embellishment. Oz in the first book is — in keeping with the preface — a determinedly mundane fairyland, designed deliberately as an antidote to the vivid and grotesque European classics. (We will skip lightly over the fact that Wizard nevertheless has a body count in the dozens, largely of animals who get their heads chopped off by the Tin Woodman. It’s entirely possible that in Grimm, he would’ve carefully kept the severed heads to put in the Wicked Witch’s bed later, where they would recite doggerel predicting her gruesome demise. So it works out.)

In Oz the original, then, there is death. There is aging. They use money. The Tin Woodman’s retro-hilarious backstory involves him staying with his mother after his father’s death, until she too dies and he decides to get married on his inheritance.
There is suspicion, fear and stinginess. The Emerald City — in a bit that always struck us as goofily random, even at ten — is one gigantic fake, involving green glasses perma-locked to everyone’s head. (Couldn’t have called it, say, the Rose Quartz City and been halfway-clever with the glasses, noooooooo, it has to be green.)
There is no mention of a ruling dynasty of Oz. While trolling Wikipedia we were surprised and amused to note that the bit in the second book, that has the Wizard overthrowing same and sneaking the true heir away to be hidden by a Witch, is a direct offshoot of the decision in the original play to drop the Wicked Witch and go with the Wizard as the villain. The play also has a dancing cow named Imogene replacing Toto, so you can guess which version stuck in the popular imagination. In that version, of course, the Wizard is genial and loveable and please, Mr. Baum, can’t you bring him back to Oz again?
Thus Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz, and the famous ‘What did the Wizard know, and when did he know it?’ conudrum was born. So was Ozma of Oz. We have already made it pretty clear what we think of that decision.

Let’s face it, Ozma’s kind of an idiot.

Really, she is. I know this, because I have lately been on a course of Oz sequels (in eBook form) and I have been experiencing that prickly sort of irritation that twigs only in the presence of a Purity Sue. It’s been building for a couple rereads now, but this time this Author on Board-sense is just off the charts. Also, this time I have a journal in which to rant about stuff like this.

Disclaimer: I love the Oz books. I really do. It is the one fairyland in which you are absolutely confident that anything can happen, and can never tell what might be around the corner – for the very good reason that the author couldn’t either. There is a sort of naiive charm about that. Having not hung himself up in a web of Rules for his World, Baum’s imagination was free to roam in a way that even Tolkien himself might… well, nod thoughtfully at.
It’s just that every time the Ruler of Oz shows up – and a smart few times when she’s offscreen – all this amused tolerance comes bang! to a screeching halt. You can’t get away from Ozma, not least because you’re implied to be a terrible person if you try. Baum goes on and on and on about how beautiful and sweet and dainty and beloved she is, to the point where it basically amounts to older man in love with ideal young creation.

Think I’m being unkind to a classic of kidlit? There’s an entire book, The Road to Oz, that’s actually built around all the Ozites and every single character from Baum’s other books attending Ozma’s super-spectacular birthday party, the like of which the world has never seen. Dorothy is clearly too deep in the throes of a girlish crush to notice, but one might expect the Shaggy Man to be a trifle more bemused:

"You got me totally lost, saddled me with a couple of kids, which half the time one’s a damn fox – yeah, let’s give the dumb one the sharp teeth, that’s not a problem, noooooo. Plus one rainbow sprite – you ever tried collecting the perfect dewdrops at six am? And if it’s not perfect, she starts up that damn dancing again, and it’s like Oh, God, my stomach’s gonna add a brand-new colour to the spectrum right here. So here we are, completely lost…Oh, and the Scoodlers, did I mention them? ‘We love you in soup’, yeah yeah, most hilarious thing ever. Until they give me the donkey head. By then I thought that was a nice touch, actually.

"And so I have to swim in the Truth Pond – yeah, love that magical moss or whatever it was, bring it on – because I still have to keep the kids from picking up every random whatsis they find by the side of the road and we FINALLY get here and I’m staring at a little kid …and it’s her frelling birthday… hey, everybody, welcome to a Very Special Episode in Oz! Firearms are bad! Ha ha ha hahahahah…"

That said, this is not the nadir. It is close – especially the ending, where after spending a couple days in All Hail Ozma the Super-Specially Sparkly mode all the potentially interesting people just sort of float home in super-strong soap bubbles – but not yet.

No, the nadir is The Emerald City of Oz. In which Dorothy finally decides to bring her family to fairyland for good, at the same time as Evil finally decides that those ‘disgustingly goody-good’ Ozites need a thorough conquering. As a child, this is frankly terrifying. As an adult, especially a snarky-minded one, it’s… a bit less so. During the recent reread, I started mentally compiling a list of Ways This Kiddie Fantasy Novel Has Been Bugging the Crap Out of Me For Years Now, and since as noted I do have a journal this time…

…you might want to look out for the next entry. In the ‘Ooh, lovely!’ sense or the Wile-E-Coyote-with-tiny-little-umbrella sense, works fine either way.

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