July 7th, 2009


Night at the Casino 2

Since bethje has an uncle who gambles a lot, he was able to get us a room at the Taj Mahal in Atlantic City last night. We stayed in the Chairman Tower, which is the newer, ritzier one of the two towers. I guess some people feel that a name reminiscent of the Chinese Communist Party sounds like a cool place to stay. Actually, the high-rollers at the Taj Mahal are referred to as "Chairman" and "Executive" levels, which kind of seems to destroy the fun image that most casinos like to have. I mean, is there anything LESS fun than high-ranking businessmen? Anyway, the room was pretty swanky, and it was on the seventy-third floor, which gave us a nice view. I did notice, however, that there was a fee to use the wireless Internet there, while there wasn't at the Super 8 where we stayed last month. Not that it really matters, since neither of us have laptops, but I found it interesting. We had dinner at a place called Plate (which was actually right next to another restaurant called Burger; I guess that Trump likes simple names), where the service wasn't very good, but I did like the little pepperoni pizza that I had there. EDIT: Also, we went to a go-go bar for the first time.

One thing I have to wonder is why I always see Indian people gambling at the Taj Mahal. Wouldn't they consider it an insult to their culture, and not want to go there? Oh, well. Maybe if I ever visit India, I can stay in the Greater Philadelphia Metropolitan Area Hotel.

So, anyway, we're back now, and I believe my next post will be another one about Oz characters. Hey, what would you expect from me?

The Working Mutants of Oz

I can be a sucker for a good origin story, and the Oz series contains quite a few of them. In this post, I'm going to focus on two initially ordinary Ozites who underwent magical mutations that gave them unusual powers, and then became vigilante crime-fighters. No, that's what might have happened in the comic book world, but in Oz they pretty much just kept doing their jobs, although they DID get each get a chance to participate in an adventure with Ozian celebrities.

First up is Carter Green, the Vegetable Man of Oz, who first appears in The Hungry Tiger of Oz. He was a Winkie who pedaled fruits and vegetables throughout Oz, but eating too many of his own goods turned him into a vegetable himself. He is described as having a beet-like face with whiskers like roots, celery leaf hair, a turnip nose, corn ears, and a potato-ish body. In this form, he has no need to eat or sleep, but his feet will take root if he stays in one place for too long. His adventure occurred when Betsy Bobbin bought some strawberries from him, and the two of them were caught on one of those magical roads that were all over Ruth Plumly Thompson's Oz. They ended up in the country of Rash, where the Hungry Tiger had just arrived the previous night, and the three of them helped the rightful ruler of Rash, Prince Evered, to take back his throne from his evil uncle. While Carter is mentioned in some later books, he isn't really described as doing much of anything. March Laumer did write a book called The Vegetable Man of Oz, but the title character actually spends a lot of the story in an immobile form. I kind of have to wonder how Carter managed to stay alive, since Ozian plants don't share the near-immortality of the country's animals. He does replace his ears when they pop, so maybe he's gotten into the habit of growing replacement body parts for himself, as Jack Pumpkinhead does with his heads.

Following up the vegetable man with a medicine man, we come to Herby, a sort of Gillikin country doctor. Due to the general lack of sickness in Oz, many of Herby's medicines are designed to cure ailments such as bad tempers and yawning during speeches. Really, they're essentially mind- or behavior-altering drugs, which I know bothers some modern Oz fans, but maybe magic can overcome the harmful side effects that such drugs often have in the Great Outside World. Anyway, when Mombi became mad at Herby's using the best herbs in the area, she threw him into a cauldron of cough medicine and poured the resulting mess into a bottle. This bottle remained on a shelf until it was broken by Prince Philador of the Ozure Isles, which resulted in Herby's showing up again, just as good as new. Well, except he's shorter, has cough drops for eyes, and has a handy medicine chest inside his own chest. At the end of the story, Ozma appoints him as her Court Physician. As with Carter, he doesn't appear in any more major roles during the Famous Forty, but he's mentioned more often than the Vegetable Man. The late Mark Haas wrote a book with Herby as the star (called, sensibly enough, The Medicine Man of Oz), but it was pulled from publication due to copyright restrictions.