A great and powerful world close to home

The beautiful thing about this column is that I never know what I'm going to write about until I actually sit down in front of the computer and see a blank screen. Then my mind is automatically kick-started into reviewing all the things I read, heard and saw over the past week, like your life passing before your eyes _ or what I can remember of it, at least.

Hopefully one or two of those things will stand out above the rest, providing fodder for my weekly ramblings. Sometimes those things might be totally unremarkable to others, but might touch a certain string in my heart, or irritate a certain sore point, or tickle a funny bone.

This time, my eyes were drawn to the phrase "parallel universe" which the actor James Franco used to describe The Land of Oz which his character is transported to in his new film Oz The Great And Powerful.

I've always wondered about the existence of a parallel universe, in whatever shape, form or concept. Movies like The Lovely Bones show how the dead and the living exist in what could be considered as a parallel universe, a place so close and yet so far.

Harry Potter's world of wizards coexists with the human world, and if you are able to run through the brick wall at the train station without knocking yourself out, then you enter the realm of magic quite easily.

Alice falls through a rabbit hole and finds herself in Wonderland where queens play croquet and scream "Off with their heads!" and cats can disappear at will, though that's nothing new if my cat is anything to go by.

Neverland might be another of those parallel worlds where people never grow old, and pirates will keep running away from crocodiles, and naughty fairies play tricks on pretty little girls, and an androgynous boy rules. To get there, it's the second star to the right, and straight on till morning.

Getting to Oz is not quite as straightforward. Like Dorothy Gale in The Wizard Of Oz, Oscar Diggs the magician is transported into The Land of Oz by a freak tornado.

My own knowledge of Oz is limited to Judy Garland's classic film of 1939, and the musical The Wiz, which starred Diana Ross as Dorothy, Michael Jackson as the Scarecrow and Richard Pryor as The Wiz. (Does anyone remember that film?)

The idea of a parallel universe made me look up The Land of Oz, and here are some of the things I discovered about this fantasy realm.

Oz is rectangular in shape, and is divided diagonally into four countries, each with its own colour code which is reflected in the clothes and man-made objects. Munchkin Country (Munchkinland) in the east is blue, Winkie Country in the west is yellow, Gillikin Country in the north is purple, and Quadling Country in the south is red.

In the centre is the green capital, Emerald City, where Princess Ozma, the monarch of Oz lives.

Although the people are mostly contented, there are pockets that do not accept Princess Ozma as queen. Each of the four countries is ruled by a witch, but Princess Ozma has prohibited the use of magic except by herself and one other.

The Land of Oz is inhabited by several races of people including the Flatheads, a race of (as you might expect) flat-headed humans who carry their brains in cans, the Flutterbudgets, who entertain foolish fears and spend time worrying over nothing, the Rigmaroles, who make long, deliberate speeches with many words.

The "Wizard of Oz" was actually a circus balloonist whom people mistook for a great wizard since he was discovered "floating", when in fact his parachute had become entangled. Now empowered, he made them build a new city which appeared to be made of emeralds, but in fact it only looked green because of the tinted glasses they were all ordered to wear.

Parallel universe perhaps, yet too close for comfort.

I have a feeling we won't need a tornado to be transported to The Land of Oz.

Usnisa Sukhsvasti is the Features Editor of the Bangkok Post.

About the author

Writer: Usnisa Sukhsvasti
Position: Features Editor