Saturday, November 23, 2013

Kayaking with Trot and Cap'n Bill

As most Oz fans know, L. Frank Baum had a close connection to San Diego from 1903 until his death in 1919. He vacationed at the lovely Hotel Del Coronado for many years, he boated in the area, and he used the greater San Diego area in some of his best children's books—ever more wonderfully than when he made La Jolla the home of Trot and Cap'n Bill.

They live on a bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean and it is in one of the La Jolla sea caves that Trot and Cap'n Bill encounter the mermaids in The Sea Fairies (1911) and off the La Jolla coast that the twosome start their journey to Oz in The Scarecrow of Oz (1915).

La Jolla Sea Caves as Baum would have seen them circa 1905.

So what could be more fun than to relive Trot and Cap'n Bill's experiences and take a kayak tour of the very sea caves they explored a hundred years ago?

Now - I'm guessing that most of your reactions are kinda like mine was when my partner Eric Shanower suggested that we do this very thing about a year ago. I thought "Cool! Neato!" followed by "Uhm ... me? In a kayak? On the ocean? Eric, I think I might be allergic to kayaks."

But it looked like fun, and I didn't want to seem too wimpy, so I did it. I'm forever glad I did, too, and I've now gone back and done it a second time. It was so easy and so much fun that I decided to offer it as an "optional" activity at the 50th annual Winkie Con in August 2014.

So I want to show you all the fun you can have and to alleviate any fears or concerns. First off, most anyone can do it. I've seen kids on the tour as well as elderly and somewhat chubby grandmas. So let's take a virtual kayak trip! Come on, it's gonna be great!

Me - Ready to go!
After you check in at La Jolla Kayak you can change into clothes you won't mind getting wet - shorts and a lightweight shirt. Also take the time to put on a good sun screen. There are lockers to stow your clothes, valuables, and shoes. You'll choose a life vest and safety helmet, and then it's a three-minute walk to the beach with the helpful tour guide.

Most people choose to row in a double, so there are two people in each kayak. The kayaks are hollow, molded plastic. I don't think you could make one sink if you wanted to! Once at the beach you'll get a quick and easy lesson in how to maneuver your kayak.

One of the ever-so-helpful Tour Guides!
And we're off! Eric brought along some sunglasses. If you wear glasses you should bring along a cord so there's no danger of them falling off. You can also bring along a water-proof camera!

Eric and David head out! If they can do it, so can you!

In general the water is incredibly smooth. Often it's really clear, too, enabling you to see a lot of incredible wildlife, including this large orange fish. Queen Aquareine and the mermaids generally try to stay out of sight. But on really clear summer days you can sometimes catch a glimpse!

There are also many birds: brown pelicans, seagulls, and cormorants, though I have yet to spot any Orks on this tour. But there are always a lot of sea lions! Seeing them in the wild sure beats seeing them at the zoo!

A nice selection of Sea Lions napping on the rocks.

There are seven main sea caves. One of them, the Sunny Jim Cave, was (according to local legend) named by L. Frank Baum! I'll post another blog soon on all that!

Almost always you'll be able to row into one of the sea caves and really see where Trot and Cap'n Bill found their way to Oz! No sign of a gateway to Oz, but the cave does smell a bit like Ork!

Watch our for Orks when you go inside the cave!

And then it's time to row back to the shore! The whole tour takes about ninety minutes to two hours. It's lots of fun - and despite my initial worries about kayaking, it was fun and easy - and most importantly we had an Ozsome time!

So come on and sign up for the kayak tour! It's loads of Ozzy fun!
and to buy a ticket for Trot and Cap'n Bill's Sea Cave Tour!

The kayak tour will be led by La Jolla Kayak, but tickets must be purchased through the Winkie Con either online or by post. The tour will take place on Friday morning (probably around 9:00AM) and will run about ninety minutes. We will probably carpool to get to LaJolla from the convention hotel. Specifics will be sent to the attendees as we get closer to the convention.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Munchkins by Marriage

What do you think the chances are that David Maxine and Eric Shanower are both related to a Munchkin actor from the 1939 MGM Wizard of Oz? If you answered 100%, then you're right. Click here to read the full story of this surprising and heretofore unknown relationship:

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Robin Brown - the Original "Brony"

I must admit that I had heard of "Bronys," the male fans of My Little Pony. But, that said, I must now admit that I had no real conception of the expanse of Bronydom. Before we proceed further, and I somehow tie this into Oz, here's a look at the trailer for a new documentary called Bronies: The Extremely Unexpected Adult Fans of My Little Pony.

Gosh! Who knew? Now clearly we kid's book collectors, Judy fans, and Friends of Dorothy, are in no position to make fun of the boys in the next corral. So perhaps we should look for some common ground? The best way I can think is to for us Oz folk to embrace our inner-pony and let young Robin Brown, from Merry Go Round in Oz, come out as the one of the very first Bronys.

In celebration of this Brony/Oz connection I'm happy to announce that Merry Go Round herself will be making a special guest appearance to the Winkie Con this summer! Why not canter out west and join us for the Ozziest weekend of the year - June 21-23, 2013 at the Asilomar Conference Grounds in Pacific Grove, California.

If by chance you think the Robin Brown/Brony connection is a stretch you can at least be grateful I decided against tying it all into Equus.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Another Hungry Tiger in Oz

Oz and Beyond by Michael O. Riley, 1997.
How are Oz and The Prince of Tides connected? No, this isn't another game of Oz Connection--I'm going to tell you the answer. Although, if you read this online article about Carol Conroy, sister of The Prince of Tides author, you might be able to figure it out.

If you zeroed in on the names Pamami Press and Mike Riley in that article, you're on the right track. Of course, in Oz circles Michael O. Riley is known primarily for two things--as the author of Oz and Beyond, a seminal study of Baum's fantasies, and as the face of specialty publisher Pamami Press, which issues high-quality art editions of short works by L. Frank Baum.

In addition to works by Baum, Pamami Press also published the first book collection of Carol Conroy's poetry, The Jewish Furrier. Carol's brother Pat Conroy, the novelist, based the character of Savannah Wingo in his 1986 best-selling novel The Prince of Tides on Carol. Pat planned to include Carol's poem "The Jewish Furrier" in the book, but Carol objected, so Pat wrote a new version for The Prince of Tides.

Michael O. Riley of Pamami Press.
Meanwhile, Pamami Press is still producing new publications for Oz and Baum fans everywhere. The most recent book publication was L. Frank Baum's essay Fairy Tales on the Stage. And in its series of exclusive keepsakes for Winkie Con attendees, Pamami Press issued a booklet of Baum's "The Rainbow's Daughter" at the 2012 Winkie Con

Here's another article about Michael Riley and Pamami Press, which goes into detail about the painstaking process each publication takes. And if you ever wondered how to pronounce Pamami, it's like your parents--"Pa" and "Mommy." Put 'em together and you've got it!

Friday, February 8, 2013

Drink Your Juice!

Happy February! We have an especially attractive TIGER TALE this month over on the main website - it's  Duffy's Apple Juice Imp, by W. W. Denslow - a rollicking poem with a half dozen fine drawings by Denslow in color! Come check it out!

I also wanted to share the news that the incredible and extremely over-sized edition of Eric Shanower's Forgotten Forest of Oz is now out of print. We shared the news on our Facebook page last week and every copy we had left sold in a couple hours.  We do still have copies of the two Little Adventures in Oz Volumes though - and Forgotten Forest is available in Volume two. Click here to order a copy

Lastly, I know a good many of you are still planning on coming to this summer's Winkie Convention and I urge you to get your registrations in as soon as possible - especially if you want to stay on-grounds at Asilomar. We have a lot of new people coming this year and we have a limited opportunity to request more rooms for Winkies. You can learn more about this year's con from our WINKIE page and you can download info and registrations forms via the link below.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Homes of the Royal Historians

Eric and I were in the Pacific Northwest a few weeks ago and we spent a day or so of that time in Portland, Oregon. One thing I wanted to do was drive by the former home of Royal Historian, Eloise Jarvis McGraw (author of Merry Go Round in Oz, The Forbidden Fountain of Oz, and The Rundelstone of Oz.).

I had stayed in that house for several days when I visited Eloise back in the mid-1980s. You can read the blog about that visit, including several photos of the interior of the house, by clicking here. And even though Eloise is now gone I wanted to see the house again.

Home of Eloise Jarvis McGraw

The house, located at 1970 Indian Trail in Lake Oswego (a suburb of Portland) was much like I remembered it - though there did seem to be a few more neighbors. As I recall, Eloise and her husband William Corbin had designed and built the house in the late 1960s.

My return to Lake Oswego.

It was really nice seeing it again but it also made me a bit melancholy, remembering that wonderful visit, sad that Eloise is no longer with us.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Finishing the Hat

It's always nice when something new gets to be hung on the walls of the Tiger Den - and this lovely drawing by John R. Neill is the newest arrival to the aforesaid walls.

Click to enlarge

In actuality Eric and I have owned the piece for several years but only recently got around to having it framed. It measures about 12" x 15". John R. Neill drew the illustration for a short story in the February 1926 issue of Pictorial Review called "An Actor's Love Story" by Richard Connell. Soon after we got the original drawing I tracked down a copy of the magazine in which it was printed.

In the magazine the illustration is reproduced less than 6" across - a little over a third the size of the original. It's kind of amazing how large Neill worked, given the size of reproduction. As you can see, there is another Neill illustration on this page, the one at lower left, similar in technique to the one we own. The little square vignette at the top is signed "W" and seems not to be Neill's work.

There is another lovely Neill drawing reproduced on the first page of the story (see below).

Click to enlarge.

I really like it and would love to have it as a companion piece to the one we have. Alas, I've no certain knowledge the original survives. John R. Neill sure does draw handsome young men really well, doesn't he? That's it for today!

Friday, January 18, 2013

Some Little Known Thompson

Since we launched the Hungry Tiger Press website in 2001 we have featured a free monthly Tiger Tale. For our one hundred and forty-third entry I am pleased to share a previously unknown bit of adult fiction written by Ruth Plumly Thompson.

My partner, Eric, discovered "Gray Youth" in the March 9, 1924, edition of  the Springfield [Massachusetts] Republican. But it also ran in several other newspapers, including the Greensboro [North Carolina] Daily News the same day and the Omaha World Herald on May 4, 1924. The piece is copyrighted by the Chicago Tribune - so that was in all likelihood the source of the syndication, but we have not found the story in that paper thus far.

I'm surprised that since she was writing/selling for syndication the story isn't better. It's hardly more than a fragment, and alas, it's rather sexist. Perhaps she sold a longer story and this is all that got published? In any case it remains interesting as a rare bit of Thompson writing for adults. 

To flesh out this blog post I am also sharing a photo of Ruth Plumly Thompson about the time she wrote this story. The photo seems to date from 1925 given that she is holding a copy of The Lost King of Oz. The dog's name was Taffy.

If you like Ruth Plumly Thompson's work you might want to check out her earliest novel for children. The Wish Express  is available from our on-line store. Click here to order

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Cosette in Oz

You may be wondering why I'm critiquing a movie musical on my Oz blog - the answer is three-fold: I have had the idea for the little visual pun (seen above) for quite a while; I found this a good time to share the little-known John R. Neill illustrated edition of Hugo's novel; and finally I'm still a bit peeved at the film and this is as good a place as any to to pitch some furniture into the street.

For me, the film of Les Mis fails on several fronts. The most problematic aspect of the film is the mostly mediocre singing and the often unintelligible lyrics. Director Tom Hooper's desire to film all the singing live instead of prerecording it is understandable, but it just doesn't work. And frankly it is a solution looking for a problem. No one has really ever had a problem with prerecorded singing in films - it's just the way movie musicals are usually made. Did anyone ever watch The Wizard of Oz and say, "Yuck, Judy Garland is so emotionless - she's just lip-synching!" Or turn up their nose on Julie Andrews spinning in the alps for the same reason? Of course not - people don't even notice - many people probably don't even know that's how musicals are usually created.

Now what many people DO object to in film musicals is dubbing - where the performer singing the role is different than the performer we see acting on screen. This "dubbing" very often does lead to a distancing and lack of authenticity in a film musical. One of my favorite movie musicals, My Fair Lady, is marred by the studio not allowing Audrey Hepburn to provide her own vocals. I just can't suspend my disbelief when I hear Marni Nixon's voice coming out of Aubrey Hepburn's mouth. As long as we're on My Fair Lady, I do want to take a moment to point out that Rex Harrison performed all of his songs in the film "live," just like they now do in Les Mis - contrary to the Les Mis PR, it's not a new technique. Thus I'm not wholly against the idea of live singing in film - I'm not even wholly against dubbing. For some reason I'm more than willing to accept Marni Nixon supplying the singing voice for Natalie Wood in West Side Story.

OK, back to why I think the live singing in Les Mis fails so miserably. For me, musicals are about enhancing dramatic structure, revealing character, story-telling.  If you can't for the most part understand the words being sung, the film is in big trouble. I suspect anyone who has not either read the novel or spent a long time with the stage musical could not tell you what's going on in the film. That is a big problem! This does not mean a fan of the musical can't enjoy this film - if you bring your preexisting knowledge of the characters, the story,  the lyrics, you may get a lot of pleasure from this plotless and unintelligible ramble of a film - it might even be a new favorite! But just because one likes something does not make it objectively good. Many folks - especially critics - seem to have lost track of this idea. For instance I love the 1970 film Pufnstuf. It means a huge amount to me and if I was going to be stranded on the figurative desert island I would take it along as one of the ten films I chose to be marooned with. The film makes me happy, nostalgic, joyous. But that is a subjective reaction. Objectively, the film is a piece of crap: it's a badly filmed, low-budget, cheesy Saturday matinee film starring a boy who can't pronounce the letter "r."  The vast majority of criticism of the Les Mis film amounts to saying "I like it," "I love it," "It's the best!" or worse, spouting off a few mindless sentences from the Les Mis press-kit explaining why gurgled heavings are the new singing and choppy editing is better than trying to tell a story in a visual medium. What a world . . . what a world . . . throw water on me now!

I heard an interview with Les Mis director Tom Hooper on the radio and I admired his ideas. I just think he failed to pull them off. I am curious why Hooper didn't take a different approach to the live singing. If his desire was to be able to give the actors the freedom to act, breath, and voice their parts on the fly while he filmed them, fine. But why not send everyone into the studio to re-record their voices for the final film - at least editing out the grunts, replacing failed notes, and making sure the words could be understood?

But there is a more basic reason I think Hooper's technique fails, and that is related to Les Mis itself - it isn't really a musical. Now before you start throwing tomatoes or old Oz books at me, hear me out. By musical I mean a story that is enhanced by music to advance the plot, reveal character, a drama where all of the parts must be present to make the whole. My Fair Lady, Carousel, Porgy and Bess, Cabaret, Into the Woods, etc. are stories that are told with music. Les Mis is music that tells a story. This is a HUGE difference. In effect Les Mis is an oratorio - and that's one reason I think the show has been done so often in concert form, in minimal stagings, and in recording after recording.  The music, the vocal aspects of Les Mis, are the core of the piece. When the vocal splendor of Les Mis was sacrificed for the huffing, puffing, and grunting in the film, it pointed up all of the show's inherent weaknesses as a musical. Les Mis without voices is like Sweet Charity without dancing. The point and joy in Les Mis is in the singing and everything should have been subordinate to that. But things being what they are, this will probably just inspire Mel Gibson to film Handel's Messiah with live singing and all the appropriate out-of-breath grunting, retching, and bleeding. Hallelujah! 

Enough of that! Let's take a look at a genuine Les Mis/Oz collector crossover item - the very rare edition of Les Misérables illustrated by John R. Neill.

This edition of Les Misérables was published in 1925 by Ginn and Co. as an easy-to-read text for students of French. Hugo's sprawling novel is abridged to just over a hundred pages with another hundred pages of glossary. Like the full length novel this edition is in five sections, each one featuring a very handsome pen-and-ink illustration by Neill.

Below you will see three examples: Jean Valjean with the priest just before stealing the silver, Cosette looking hungrily into a toy store window,  and the rescue of Marius by Valjean having just emerged from the sewers.

The book is quite handsome, but, alas, it is also quite rare. Below you can see the title page of Neill's own personal copy where has has scribbled his own credit line. He is not credited in the actual book, although his signature appears in each of the five illustrations.

A plus tard, mes amies!