Monthly Archives: February 2010

We’re Not in Kansas Anymore

 

Original Wizard of Oz book.

Actually, I am in Kansas right now, but I couldn’t resist that statement, and I’m not alone.  It’s a very popular phrase to explain wonderment when entering a fantastic new environment.  Recently I saw a version of the phrase in the New York Times Coming-of-Age Filmgoers: You’re Not in Kansas Anymore, which had nothing to do with the movie or the book.

(Judy Garland’s line as Dorothy Gale in the film The Wizard of Oz was “Toto, I have the feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.”)

Growing up in Kansas, I was always fascinated by The Wizard of Oz movie, even though it didn’t show our state in a very favorable light.  However, as black and white, dusty and tornado-prone as Kansas was shown in the movie,  Dorothy couldn’t wait to get home!  L. Frank Baum, the author, never visited Kansas but fashioned the Kansas in his book, published in 1900, after the drought years  he experienced when he lived in Aberdeen, South Dakota.

I didn’t interpret the movie (I hadn’t read the book) as anything more than a fantasy, until I got to college.  There, I learned that like most fairy tales, there is a deeper interpretation, usually something sinister or despotic.

L. Frank Baum, 1901.

In these times of great economic uncertainty, I thought it might be helpful to take you back to the good old days of the 1890s, depicted as allegory in “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.”   The “Gay Nineties” period was really a time of widespread economic depression in the United States, set off by the Panic of 1893.  The depression lasted until 1896, when the Republican Party took control of the White House. Full prosperity didn’t return until 1899, which didn’t last, of course.  Boom and bust times continue, most notably The Great Depression.

Henry M. Littlefield wrote an essay in 1964 called “The Wizard of Oz: Parable on Populism,” which showed that the people and events in the book were metaphors for actual people and events in the 1890s. 

Dorothy meets the Cowardly Lion in an illustration from the first edition.

Dorothy represents Everyman.  How wonderful that Everyman is a woman!  Here’s  an excerpt from the wikipedia version:

 “Many of the events and characters of the book resemble the actual political personalities, events and ideas of the 1890s.  The 1902 stage adaptation mentioned, by name, President Theodore Roosevelt, oil magnate John D. Rockefeller, and other political celebrities. (No real people are mentioned by name in the book.) Even the title has been interpreted as alluding to a political reality: “oz.” is an abbreviation for ounce, a unit familiar to those who fought for a 16 to 1 ounce ratio of silver to gold in the name of bimetallism In the play and in later books Baum mentions contemporary figures by name and takes blatantly political stances without the benefit of allegory including a condemnation in no uncertain terms of Standard Oil. The book opens not in an imaginary place but in real life Kansas, which, in the 1890s as well as today, was well known for the hardships of rural life, and for destructive tornadoes.  

The Panic of 1893 caused widespread distress in the rural United States. Dorothy is swept away to a colorful land of unlimited resources that nevertheless has serious political problems. This utopia is ruled in part by wicked witches. Dorothy and her house are swept up by the tornado and upon landing in Oz, thehouse falls on the Wicked Witch of the East, destroying the tyrant and freeing the ordinary people—little people or Munchkins. The Witch had previously controlled the all-powerful silver slippers (which were changed to ruby in the 1939 film to take advantage of the new technicolor film). The slippers will in the end liberate Dorothy but first she must walk in them down the golden yellow brick road, i.e. she must take silver down the path of gold, the path of free coinage (free silver). Following the road of gold leads eventually only to the Emerald City, which may symbolize the fraudulent world of greenback paper money that only pretends to have value, or may symbolize the greenback value that is placed on gold (and for silver, possibly).  Henry Littleton’s Essay about “The Wizard of Oz.”

Political Interpretations of “The Wizard of Oz.”   About L. Frank Baum, author of “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.”    About the “Gay Nineties.”

About “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.” 

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

 

1903 poster of Dave Montgomery as the Tin Man in Hamlin's musical stage version.

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Filed under Authors, Entertainment, History, Kansas, Life, Movies, Novels, Politics, Writing

One Woman’s Garbage…

Eating a banana peel

I toss banana peels in my flower beds because the peels are good for the soil. I rake mulch over them when the weather is better. Here an opossum quickly gobbles up a peel within minutes after I tossed it. The flowers won't get the potassium. I'm fine with that. It will be recycled through the opossum.

 

“Waste not, want not” is my motto. It’s almost a sickness, so I have to make an effort not to be one of those hoarders who pile up junk.  I try to find a good home for everything, rather than hang onto it, but you might not think so if you saw my closet. 

I even hate to throw away garbage.  We have a compost pile in a natural area of our yard.  Sometimes I toss banana peels into the shrub beds when it’s too cold to walk to the compost pile, which I admit is most of the time in the winter. The peels shrivel and then I eventually rake them into the mulch.  I tossed four banana peels and a few pear cores into a shrub bed Thursday afternoon.  Soon a Virginia opossum (Didelphis virginiana) ambled across the lawn.  I ran for my camera and fumbled to change lenses.  I wanted to send photos of North America’s only marsupial to our friends in Australia, whose interest in our local wildlife when they visited us made me appreciate squirrels more than I had.  (Cockatoos are the Aussie equivalent of a ubiquitous neighborhood mildly pest-like animal.) 

Opossum eating banana peels in my yard.

 

There are about 334 species of marsupials.  More than 200 of these species are native to Australia and nearby islands to the north. There are also species in South America.  The Virginia Opossum, pictured here,  is the only marsupial native to North America. 

The best known marsupials are the kangaroos, koalas and wombats of Australia. 

 

I was sure the opossum would be gone by the time I could screw in my telephoto lens, but I found him in the shrub bed gulping the peels.   

We live near woods, so there are always wild animals visiting. I probably shouldn’t attract them, but I am living in their territory.  I never dreamed any animal would find a banana peel appealing… It’s been a colder than normal winter with more snow covering food sources, so any plant-based food I toss into the compost heap will be gobbled up. (Don’t put animal products into the compost heap.) 

Links about the opossum below. 

From National Geographic:  There are more than 60 different species of opossum, which are often called possums. The most notable is the Virginia opossum or common opossum—the only marsupial (pouched mammal) found in the United States and Canada. 

A female opossum gives birth to helpless young as tiny as honeybees. Babies immediately crawl into the mother’s pouch, where they continue to develop. As they get larger, they will go in and out of the pouch and sometimes ride on the mother’s back as she hunts for food. Opossums may give birth to as many as 20 babies in a litter, but fewer than half of them survive. Some never even make it as far as the pouch. 

Opossums are scavengers, and they often visit human homes or settlements to raid garbage cans, dumpsters, and other containers. They are attracted to carrion and can often be spotted near roadkill. Opossums also eat grass, nuts, and fruit. They will hunt mice, birds, insects, worms, snakes, and even chickens. 

Opossum eating banana peel.

These animals are most famous for “playing possum.” When threatened by dogs, foxes, or bobcats, opossums sometimes flop onto their sides and lie on the ground with their eyes closed or staring fixedly into space. They extend their tongues and generally appear to be dead. This ploy may put a predator off its guard and allow the opossum an opportunity to make its escape.

 

Opossums are excellent tree climbers and spend much of their time aloft. They are aided in this by sharp claws, which dig into bark, and by a long prehensile (gripping) tail that can be used as an extra limb. Opossums nest in tree holes or in dens made by other animals. 

Learn about the Virginia Opossum on Wikipedia. 

The National Opossum Society. 

Learn about the Virginia Opossum on National Geographic. 

Banana peels make a fine meal.

 

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Filed under Animals, Australia, Biology, Environment, Humor, Life, Natural History, Nature, Photography, Science

Skin Cancer

National Cancer Institute Chart. Check yourself and your loved ones for signs of cancer.

It’s Valentine’s Day as I write this. What better time to check your loved one for skin cancer? One in five Americans will get some form of skin cancer in their lifetime, and this is probably true for many other countries, as well.  Even more Australians will get skin cancer than in the U.S.  Although lighter-skinned people are more at risk, people with dark skin also get skin cancer and should also take precautions and check themselves and others.

In recent years, several of my family members have gotten skin cancer, including basal cell, squamous cell and melanoma.

Although there is a genetic component, overexposure to the sun and repeated sunburns greatly add to the risk.  Even in winter, avoid overexposure to the sun and wear sunblock. Stay away from tanning beds.

From Wikipedia:  There are a variety of different skin cancer symptoms. These include changes in the skin that do not heal, ulcering in the skin, discolored skin, and changes in existing moles, such as jagged edges to the mole and enlargement of the mole.

  • Basal cell carcinoma usually looks like a raised, smooth, pearly bump on the sun-exposed skin of the head, neck or shoulders. Sometimes small blood vessels can be seen within the tumor. Crusting and bleeding in the center of the tumor frequently develops. It is often mistaken for a sore that does not heal. This form of skin cancer is the least deadly and with proper treatment can be completely eliminated, often without scarring.
  • Squamous cell carcinoma is commonly a red, scaling, thickened patch on sun-exposed skin. Ulceration and bleeding may occur. When SCC is not treated, it may develop into a large mass. Squamous cell is the second most common skin cancer. It is dangerous, but not nearly as dangerous as a melanoma.
  • Most melanomas are brown to black looking lesions. Warning signs that might indicate a malignant melanoma include change in size, shape, color or elevation of a mole. Other signs are the appearance of a new mole during adulthood or new pain, itching, ulceration or bleeding.
  • Merkel cell carcinomas are most often rapidly growing, non-tender red, purple or skin colored bumps that are not painful or itchy. They may be mistaken for a cyst or other type of cancer.  About skin cancer.

A related post I wrote after I was diagnosed with basal cell cancer.   Vitamin D — The Sunshine Vitamin.

Two important websites:

National Cancer Institute Information on Skin Cancer.

The Skin Cancer Foundation.

Here’s a blog post by my friend Jan describing our spring break trip in college to Padre Island, where we got horribly sunburned within hours of our arrival!  Done With The Sun.

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Filed under Health, Life, Medicine

Sunshine in a Glass

Freshly squeezed key limes in limeade dispel the wintry gloom.

It’s always cold every winter in Kansas, but we usually get a lot of sunshine, which is cheerful even when you’re freezing.  This year it’s been cloudy almost every day.  I was hoping for a break from gloom when I went to southern California in mid-January, but it rained there, too.  I did get some sunny days, too, so I’ll stop whining.  While there, my daughter and I visited long-time friends Jan and Richard.   Their yard is a small orchard of citrus trees — Meyer lemon, key lime and blood orange.  Some years their harvest is so huge they don’t know what to do with it all, partly because everyone with tree is experiencing a boon year, too.

 I was happy to take a few pounds of their key limes off their hands, which I hauled home to snow-covered Kansas. 

Key limes ready for squeezing.

When I visited them in January, we squeezed a lot of key limes to make this refreshing limeade.   They use a sugar syrup to sweeten it.  The recipe for that syrup is in the link below to Richard’s sangria.  They have a handy citrus squeezer, which made the job go quickly.   I bought one when I got home, although I don’t know when I’ll use it again.  Click for the sugar syrup recipe, as well as a tasty  Sangria Recipe.

Key limes.

This key lime tree is loaded with fruit.

All photographs are of Jan and Richard’s key limes.

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Filed under Drink, Life

Spay Day 2010 Online Pet Photo Contest

Malcolm never saw a pile of laundry he didn't want to sleep on. In his last year, he couldn't make the jump onto the bed.

Vote for Malcolm!  A $5 donation would really help the Humane Society cause.  To find out more about this contest click on the link below.  To vote for Malcolm click on the link in the upper right column. 

You can enter your own pet, too. 

via Spay Day 2010 Online Pet Photo Contest.

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Filed under Animals, Cats, Pets