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Richard Pak


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US of A, 2003-2009.

A project created over a six year period, Pursuit is the disenchanted chronicle of an idealized America. Being a keen admirer of American literature, cinema and painting, I created my own fancied-America, a not-so-imaginary place filled with fictional heroes. The purpose of this work is to juxtapose a mental construction to the reality of the American everyday life and to picture the “American experience” as a metaphor for a bigger experience. In my photographs I mean to suggest rather than describe, translate life’s small dramas into something timeless and universal.

The title Pursuit echoes the United States Declaration of Independence stating every American’s right to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”. This work is a visual journal of a chimerical quest:  happiness, granted as a constitutional right.


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Richard Pak


Editor’s Note: Please only one comment per person under this essay.. Further discussions should take place under Dialogue..

Many thanks… david alan harvey

34 thoughts on “richard pak – pursuit”

  1. there’s some really strong and poignant images in this set, but i couldn’t really grasp what the photographer was trying to achieve with some of the sequencing.

    i’ve been looking at Zoe Strauss’ book “America” recently – she seems to have been working on similar lines to Richard, but with her work it all just seems to make a bit more sense….

  2. I feel this is one of the strongest essays that has appeared on Burn. I think what I really love are the subtle symbols that pop up in many of the photos. Many of the photos give the viewer some information at the outset, but then you have to dig/think deeper to get the full meaning. I also feel that the photographer has successfully mixed various styles, each one done in a strong way. For example, 3 is a nice documentary, national-geographic-ish photo. You immediately see the strong connection between mother and daughter, although from the expression on the mother’s face something seems to bothering her. I love how the American wind sock is blowing in the opposite direction of the swing, and finally the big black SUV is just barely showing in the background. The plastic bottle and junk in the bottom left adds another bit of information which can be interpreted in different ways…consumption, disorder…

    5 reminds me of rafting trips down the Rivanna River during college. Just a very idyllic shot, that can again be interpreted in many ways…timelessness, tranquility…

    6 is awesome..My eyes went right to the couple hugging in the middle back but then started wondering around..the little girl drinking on the left and not seeming to care what is going on. The mixture of sodas and alcohol lying around…beer, wine, and soda :-) the little doll in the stroller bottom right..and what the heck is going on??…prayer? before dinner?

    10 makes you wonder what this women is doing..just the glowing red/orange gives the shot an eery feeling. Is that tobasco sauce and medicine inside the fridge??

    Is 11 a symbol of the problems with health care and/or the social system in the U.S.??

    13 with the family name engraved on the stone…looks almost like a gravestone, for an owl? Another detail the above ground swimming pool in the rear.

    The portraits are very strong.

    I would like to know more about 22. Very suggestive to say the least…

    Not sure how the intimate photos fit with the rest, but they are strong.

    Love how all these photos stand alone…very cool project

  3. Art and fiction. Isn’t reality interesting enough with enough real heroes? I just don’t understand the point of this project. I assume it’s intended as Fine Art, but just doesn’t work for me in that context, either. The technique is fine, the content is vacuous.

  4. I’m starting to enjoy the stupid game of guessing how badly Jim will trash each essay, and why. I didn’t expect his “real heroes” gem and am now hard at work trying to imagine “unreal heroes.” As for the essay, it speaks to me, strongly. But I agree with Ben about the sequencing. If this were my work, I’d start with the tight, direct portraits and move to the wider images, not the other way around.

  5. i love a good demise story. Something about demise served up in colour always rips and grips, hard and deep in my organs. Of course everyone in america has been steeped in the american dream: heck, ask any american if they think Everyone one would be American ‘if they had the chance’ and they would say, ‘heck yeah’ It’s the Effing land of opportunity’ Maybe that’s why i like to see what a façade it is at times. footnote: i spent the first twenty four years of my life in the states.

    First off, applause Richard, i like the gentle meandering way you take us down the path of demise to suggest the fallacy of the American dream, it’s just yummy. i love how it all starts tender and flowing and easy and full of blooming possibilities, i like how you later re-invented life as ‘domesticated’ life as not better or worse, just a bit different with maturity, again Trent has knocked this topic right out of the Park, but again no one is talking about it enough, anyway… i like how you’ve represented time with the mortal aspect of something as simple as skin. It’s all there unfolding for us to cringe at, even hints possibly of breast cancer, as we all know someone that experienced that ‘without-hair’ look at one time or another and it gives us a feeling of time.

    if someone had pointed a gun at my head, and said, Now, Tell Me Why! what’s this kind of Essay worth?, what’s it good for? and who’s it food for? In a single word, it’s “Cathartic”. So it’s universal, it’s for everyone that’s open-minded enough to let it work on them.

    that being said Richard, my own personal feeling is that you could pull off the whole cathartic experience much better without some of the ‘instructive’ images. My gut response to images like ‘shooting-up’ is ‘Say It, Don’t Spray it’ You’ve provided loads of suggestive by-products of a self-defeating lifestyle without collapsing the illusion with images like these. Personally, i’d rethink your edit with the nudes and the approach to carnality with this view in mind. If you want to have a larger body of work then have more subject scope, not less space between the dots, hope that makes sense.

    Generally speaking, trust the intellect of your audience (well not all of them, Jim’s a hopeless cause, no amount of guidance notes will help) If you trust your audience by restraining the urge to show instructive images they will connect the dots with the lines they invent and those lines will be much more exciting and much more fantastic than the lines you cement with images that simply admit the obvious.

    Lastly, Bravo! It’s so great to see someone with a deliberate mind go out and cement their messages with still-photography as the medium. It’s so rare, we seem to be stuck in a time where going out and collecting pretty pictures and assembling them later seems to be the rage, you’ve had a vision and implemented that vision and it works, i really hope the approach is infectious and i hope you produce more.

    Best Wishes,


  6. I really like these..
    there is
    a mood,
    in a frame…
    lots of narrative
    with each image…
    soft color…
    the great
    US of A

  7. There is nothing wrong with what Richard is expressing or his technique but I have to question why the use of “mockumentary?” All of what is being staged for these images is readily available in the “real” world so what’s the advantage of creating it? I have to imagine that for one thing, it’s easier to photograph a “pretend” junkie than find a real one? I am jumping to conclusions here but I assume that’s what is going on.

    It reminds me of the experience I had when attending an Opening for Tom Chambers (whose work has been featured on burn) a couple years ago. I had to laugh (at myself) because while Tom had created amazing fantasy worlds in photoshop with packs of wolves chasing people and so forth, I am walking around with my camera looking for similar experiences in the REAL world!!! I mentioned that to Tom and he said he didn’t have time to find the real thing, he had a day job.

    So is this what drives photographers to create their own realities? I have to repeat what I posted Sunday, as Jim mentioned above…for me real life is interesting enough. Maybe more difficult to capture but IMHO certainly more rewarding if it can be pulled it off.

  8. I’m with Jim here. I was going to add my thoughts but Cathy has said it all. Reality in documentary please. Sorry Richard, time to hit the streets and find the real thing.

    Best wishes,


  9. I dont like being told things.
    l guess i dont really understand this world[ the photographers], or really want to.
    This may well be my loss, but I know I can live with it.
    I dislike the use of words[ ironic on an internet forum i kinow].
    I will probably never be a fan of the style.
    I will almost certainly never shoot this way.
    if joes mysterious gunslinger had his 45 at my head..i would be dead.
    I will without doubt choose to defend this photographers right to freedom of expression.
    I am glad we are all different.
    vive la difference



  10. I like the work, though I wish it were broader. The photos are all of white people of roughly the same socio-economic class. Of course, any treatment of America is bound to have gaps, but it is central to the idea of the “pursuit of happiness” that immigrants will share in the American experience.

  11. Cathy, I have no problem with staged photographs, though I suspect that much of this essay was not really so much staged as it was just using opportunities that presented themselves to illustrate the vision Richard had.

    Getting back to what is “truth” and what is not, staged images can illustrate truth more powerfully than “real world” images. I don’t really care if an image is staged, constructed, or otherwise, as long as it tells me the story.

    I believe this essay is absolutely brilliant. I know I will look at it again and again. Every photograph seems personally familiar to me. Every photograph triggers memories and take me somewhere…asks me questions, makes a statement.

    Joe, your comments about “saying, not spraying” have some validity here, though I like the directness of the image making and story-telling here. I’m generally from the school that says if you want to show me something, just show it to me without too much artsy intervention. I don’t have to work hard to see what is going on here. The layers are cerebral, not visual.

    Congratulations Richard.

  12. There are some good images here – some that challenge my (European) perception of Americana. On the one hand life seems so ordinary but then it becomes sinister, debased. I wish I could understand more; the narrative leaves me confused and I end up feeling that I really don’t know what this is about. I’m glad that the work so clearly speaks to many of you – but, unfortunately, that is not my experience.

  13. Pete Marovich

    “staged images can illustrate truth more powerfully than “real world” images. I don’t really care if an image is staged, constructed, or otherwise, as long as it tells me the story.”

    Maybe so, but whose truth? There is a difference between truth and reality.

    I personally do care if images are staged, constructed or otherwise. Are we more interested in reality or the “truth” that the photographer is trying to convey? His his “story” reality, or a work of fiction created from his viewpoint and perspective on the subject?

    This is interpretive art. And I am not saying that there is anything wrong with it. But it is the photographer’s vision of his “truth” and as a result I am not sure it will be a universal “metaphor for a bigger experience.”

    I understand what he is going, it just does not resonate with me personally.

    For a project that has taken six years to get to this point, I have to agree with Cathy in that this would be much more powerful and probably have a broader audience if it was shot as a straight documentary piece.

  14. Richard Pak appears to be a good photographer, congrats on being published in Burn. But this essay I found disjointed. It also felt very Jerry Springer-ish. Yes, the American Dream is often just a nightmare for many. There are poor people, drug addicts, prostitutes, punks and thugs. True all over the world. And I feel I’ve seen a lot of it in these pages.

  15. brian shumway

    this is EXACTLY what i’ve been waiting to see here on burn!! probably the STRONGEST essay i’ve seen yet on here. amazing. would like to see a little tighter edit and a few of this pics of women seem a little redundant, but easily fixed and would make it seem less disjointed. this is a TRULY original essay. Bravo. why weren’t you in the emerging photog grant?

    Truth is not always factual, or cerebral.

  16. I really like the intention of this essay to show the “American reality.” It’s so true that so many remain complacent and let their dreams become more of an idea than a reality. I think that the success stories we hear are so built up and glamorized that the image of the “American Dream” is one that has become synonymous with extravagance, indulgence, status, and symbol. Lots of these people who have financial and material success have not realized happiness. I feel like this essay is about all of these ideas. The pursuit of happiness can be achieved anywhere at anytime; it’s within our own power and mindset to choose the pursue it. Thank you, Richard Pak, for your view on this topic.

  17. This is the most powerful essay I’ve seen on Burn and one I think will stick with me for a while now after viewing it.

    I can agree with the criticisms posted about a lot of the other essays, but the ones posted about this essay seem unwarranted. I suggest anyone who doesn’t “get” this essay work their way through it again. Envision a story for yourself, the photos truly do lend themselves to a very clear story, and it’s quite powerful.

  18. Happy to see this long term and coherent project on Burn, I don’t know if you remember that I’ve pointed this project to you David when you’ve started the American families last year ?

  19. There are some images in this essay that I find simply incredibly outrageous! Image 24 and 25 and 32 are among my absolute favourites.
    At first I had no idea what to make of this essay. I looked for a story, so I thought it is about couples, drugs, family life, death, illnesses, childhood, love??? But no, it is about all of these things.
    Great stuff! Some images are very poetic, some have a silence, some have the blues. I liked looking at the essay and I bet these images will look even greater when printed in an exhibition!
    This essay reminds me of the film “The Great Gatsby” with Robert Redford and Mia Farrow which I have watched recently. The movie is based on a novel by Francis Scott Fitzgerald and it is about the American Dream, the rise and fall of hopes and dreams in the 1920ies.
    I couldn’t help but looking at Richard’s web page and there is a different edit of the essay, which contains some other images and I like the edit on Richard’s web page a bit better. But I guess this is personal taste.
    Certainly outstanding work! Dare to think different!
    Merci beaucoup!

    P.S. I never knew that there are grave stones in the yard???

  20. I enjoyed this essay a lot. The portraits worked well for me in the middle, though there were maybe one or two too many for me.

    Tagging on to Joe’s remarks, I wonder exactly how much of this was shot with an exact story in mind and how much was pieced together later. It would be nice if Richard could jump in on this. We all have our general disposition towards life with us when we shoot, I find it entirely probable that the theme he was shooting was always present in his mind but h eput together the story later.

    I also wonder how much of this was staged — “you sit here and look this way” staged. It doesn’t have that feel for me.

  21. First, thanks for the very nice comments I have read about this work of mine, I greatly appreciate it.

    Since I was asked, I feel I have to drop a few lines, not to justify such or such choice, but merely to try and explain what I was after.

    I have done it over a six years period, through 6 trips all over the USA, adding up to 8 months in total. At first I didn’t have a very precise idea on what it would turn out to be, but the more and the longer I worked on it the more I knew what I was looking for and what was missing. I only just finished it, the “picture taking” part of it at least, returning from the latest and last trip in May 09. The whole body of work is approximately 80 pictures, give or take 10, and the final edit and structure is not set in stone just yet. This is gonna take me a little while, I still need to take some distance from it to put it all up together.

    The edit on Burn is ONE (temporary) proposition, not THE proposition.

    I want to stress out that it is intended to be seen as a work of fiction. Fiction, be it in American literature (Raymond Carver, John Fante, Capote…) or cinema (the 70s “New Hollywood”), is what fills my imagination, it is what made me “go there”. I wanted to create (or at least evoke) a fiction, somewhere between what I had in mind before going and what I actually found.

    At the same time, I didn’t want it to be a just “passing by”, like the foreigner I am, snapping a picture and then leave, but on the contrary I felt I had to go past the doorstep where people live, and (pretend to) be the fly-on-the-wall to give it more depth. In order to do so I spent some time with some of the people I photographed, living in their homes for a few days and sharing their everyday life.

    Yes, some are “staged”. Lots are not. When the reality I’m confronted to fits what I’m looking for I grab it, if it doesn’t I fix it. I’m not gonna say which is which, it is irrelevant to me. Rather than taking photographs I am interested in making pictures, images that take us back to a movie we have watched, a book we have read, or a scene we have lived. Only the result matters, not the process. If it has to be branded a “mockumentary “, then so be it.

    I hope this makes any sense, please excuse my French.

    Again, thanx for the kind and encouraging words. I understand the not so enthusiastic ones, it’s part of the game and I for one would rather be sorry than safe anyway.


  22. wendy – you write so poetically. simple and very enjoyable. I love your posts – almost as worthwhile as the essays themselves.

    richard – it certainly is an interesting visual. i viewed it first and found myself wanting to skip to the next image constantly through my viewing but compelled not to. hmnnn…. a bit of confused emotion there. I then read the text but feel it’s not of my culture and i’m having difficulty understanding its meaning. This may be simply me. The comment however is whether the appeal is universal or not – maybe it wasn’t intended. The portraits are obviously stark and challenge the viewer to ignore the subject matter.

    being honest i’d have to say it isn’t one of my favourites published on burn, I do think in fairness it demonstrates something compelling about your style and you have the capacity to become a great emerging talent. that talent needs to be nurtured for the moment but hey everyones a critic and in reality what would i know ;)

    Best wishes for the future.

  23. this was really captivating. its was rather on the long side, but the images were strong enough to keep my attention the whole time. i liked the tone and desaturated look of the images and the subject matter was provoking.
    great work!

  24. At first, I thought that “I created my own fancied-America” meant that the essay was “created” by editing images from real moments. After reading responses that the piece might be staged, I felt disappointment. Disappointment because when I first went through the images, I thought “Ah-hah! This hasn’t been done on Burn! This is what I come to this site over and over to look for.” But I still love the majority of the images. Most stand up on their own. And I still love the message, one that’s been a tradition in documentary and fine art photography for at least a half-century. Look at Eggleston’s “Guide Book”. “Pursuit” even seems to have brought the mixed responses that Eggleston’s 1976 show at MOMA might have received. My own ideals as a photographer tell me to capture real life, to not stage anything. But this is art… and it’s been done well. Now I’m feeling a bit of confusion. Either way, very nice images.

  25. This is great. I was wondering about some of the sequencing, it doesn’t seem the best way of presenting the work (it’s almost like if two different essays had been intermixed, instead of fused). To no surprise the thread starts with Ben stating “there’s some really strong and poignant images in this set, but i couldn’t really grasp what the photographer was trying to achieve with some of the sequencing.” It probably is hard to sequence the close scenes together with the portraits, I wonder how much it would gain in the form of a small book or diary. Beautiful stuff, though.

  26. First of all, I want to say congratulations Richard on having the essay published here. You are a talented, keen, observant, playfully intelligent and thoughtfully aware and engaged photographer. I really enjoyed looking at your essays and thought your essays on England were particularly poignant and powerful. In a sense they accomplished for me what I imagined the heart of your ‘pursuit’ was meant to achieve…a dialog with a ‘place’ that intersects both your literary/cinematic imagination and the versimilitude of a nation…for some reason, it seemed to ‘work’ better in those essays than in this one, for me. But at the outset, I want to say how strong your work is, including the diversity of style and technique (that collision did not trouble me in the least) and your mix of visual genres: it all worked to frame for me a totality of vision: a photographer trying hard to understand and carve up a place that haunts/inspires/confuses him….

    from de Tocqueville to Baudrillard (i assume you’ve read both their work on their own exploration of ‘America’), from Kerouac to Frank to Winogrand to Shore, from Altman to Burnett, artists for 200 years have tried to ‘make sense’ of what it is, this place, this nation, both the real and the mythic…it’s a hugely ‘ambitious’ project and I am not sure that any project that set’s its sights on that behemouth cannot possibly ‘measure up’…but i applaud you for your ambition…:)))…the ‘problem’ with the narrative as i see it, as both a photographer and as an american, is that it is indeed a very very ‘thin’ depcition of America…America is a grandly heterogenous nation, a nation comprised of many nations and identities and ethnicities and philosophies and topographies and demarkcations. In many ways, this essay doesnt remind me of America at all, but it’s not nearly as inclusive and wild and contrdictory as the nation itself…there is a lack of consideration of Black or Hispanic America, the Asian (Eastern, S.E.Asian and Middle Eastern) element is not depicted, the clash between the urban and the rural, i didn’t get a sense of the immigrant experience at all, which lay at the heart of the nation, or the conflict between the eastern seaboard and the southern life, and that garganuatan influence, california….is this a failure??…well, not of your photographic skills or your engagement…but it’s just a notion for you to re-think…what is this essay really concerned with…is it America or is it your personal relationship with a cerstain perception of America, a certain orientation, a certain cinematic depiction…for i definitely see film here: Sales and Cassavettes (my hero) Mallack and Copola and Scorcese and Lucas etc…and everything in between….

    the essay works for me as a person ‘dream scape’ of your ‘road trip’…not the RoadTrip of America, not even close (it is far far to white, far far too constructed) but your personal negotiation….in a sense, the same way Kerouc’s road trip wasn’t “America’ either but his own dharma bus blues….and for that i loved your story: congratulations…

    as for the comments about ‘this is the best’ (which seems to come up with every essay), i wish to god that we would rid ourselves of that….it’s not only silly way to view and understand work, but in reality lessens the work itself….it’s like saying Jane Y is the greatest women or bill W is the most intelligent…it, oddly, vitiates all the great work that has been shown at Burn or will continue…empty fodder, only…

    anyway, congratulations Richard….let person investigation bloom…and just know that personal investigation need not be writ large nor need be compared on large (to the scale, for example of a nation), only that in it;s luminous telling will speak as large or as smallas it need…

    all the best

  27. panos skoulidas

    Awesome essay..
    people try not to forget:
    everything in this ( photo ) world is “staged”…

  28. And then there’s my own fancied Oz…

    In other news, which seems an odd way to start since I haven’t given you any news to start with, there is, as you might have heard, a surfeit of homes on the market. The bloom has gone off the boom, as it were, as thousands of people who invested their life savings in residential real estate in the hope of making a killing have found, to their absolute financial shock and chagrin, that while there’s lots of residential real estate to go around, the one thing that’s in fairly short supply these days are actual residents.

    The problem extends far beyond the city limits of our happy little burg, even beyond the shores of this our Great Republic, all the way to the halls of power of Munchkinland, where the long decades of debate about what do to with the house of the good witch Dorothy are finally coming to a conclusion. The debate has lasted for so long for any number of reasons, the most important being that the great and powerful Wizard of Oz, to whom the Munchkins usually referred such weighty macroeconomic decisions, has busted a move, hit the highway, taken a powder, flown the coop, and has otherwise made himself unavailable for immediate consultation. Without the Wizard to guide them, the Munchkins did what the Munchkins do best in times of political turmoil: bicker endlessly after sucking on the helium hose down at the Lullaby League national headquarters. As you might imagine, not much gets down in Munchkinland when the body politic goes after each other with squeaky voices. A Munchkin high on helium is not one of nature’s prettier sights, not by a long shot.

    After a few decades of this, the mayor of Munchkinland, a sensible sort of chap named Herbert Hempflannel, figured that things couldn’t keep going on this way, and so he decided to ask Glinda, the Good Witch of the North, for her opinion of the matter. The trouble was no one in Munchkinland had seen much of Glinda since Dorothy left Oz; in fact, a good many people wondered whatever became of Glinda. The mayor and the chief of police went looking for her, no easy task as witches are not easy to locate unless she finds out you’re dating her best friend behind her back. Eventually, they found Glinda living in a rundown trailer park out along the yellow brick road about twenty miles outside the Emerald City, near where the yellow brick road intersects with Interstate 10, telling fortunes for ten dollars a pop and downing a quart of vodka a day, still bitter about how Louis B. Mayer shafted her all those years ago.

    MGM, it seems, was going to make two movies about Oz, one about Dorothy and the other about Glinda, or so she told the mayor, and she was going to star in the movie as well, not at all like the first flick, where they had to bring in some kid named Judy to play Dorothy because Dorothy, who, just between you and me, Mister Mayor, was not the smartest kid who ever lived—dropping that house on the Wicked Witch of the East was just her dumb luck, which, to be fair, the kid always had a lot of—and she couldn’t act her way out of a soaking wet brown paper bag. They tried to make her a star, you know, but the kid just didn’t have the chops, she froze like a deer in the headlights during her screen test; the only thing they could get her to say was she wanted to go home. Maybe she was ahead of her times, who knows? She could have played E.T. with that go home shtick. She couldn’t sing, either; that’s why they had to bring the Judy kid in.

    Mayor Hempflannel tried to bring the subject around to the question of what to do about the house, but it was half past ten in the morning and Glinda was already half in the bag, so he had to keep listening to this boozy rant, which he found embarrassing at first and then a little disquieting, as Glinda apparently began to think he was Louis B. Mayer. This was an easy mistake to make, for the mogul and the Munchkin looked a good deal alike, although the Munchkin was considerably shorter than the man, as Munchkins tend to be. MGM never made the second movie—something about the special effects costing a fortune—and then the war came, which threw everyone in Hollywood for a production loop. Movies about good witches were out and heroics and patriotism were in, and so she had to spend the war years making an occasional USO tour doing card tricks for the boys and laying by a poolside in Beverley Hills knocking back whiskey sours and Manhattans with Bill Faulkner and Bob Benchley. The story about the special effects costing a fortune was a damn lie, Glinda said—she would have done them for nothing just to get the film made and to hell with the unions—and to prove her point she turned the chief of police into a three-legged frog and fed him to Wilbur, her pet piranha. After that Glinda started crying and cracked open a bottle of beer with her teeth, and then began singing ‘Over the Rainbow’ in a voice you couldn’t call off-key, as that term suggests some vague proximity to a key, and that wasn’t really true in this case. The mayor chose this point to beat a hasty retreat from the Good Witch of the North and followed the yellow brick road back to Munchkinland, a sadder and no wiser public servant, wondering the whole long way how he was going to explain the chief of police’s sudden disappearance to his wife and family.

    So, the debate about what to do with the house raged on. For a while, the Munchkinland Housing Authority planned to turn Dorothy’s house into a low-income housing project, but the local homeowners did not want any socioeconomically deprived riff-raff in the neighborhood depressing their property values, so that idea didn’t really go anywhere. Rehabilitating the house would have cost a fortune as well, as no one ever bothered to fix the damage the police and the army caused forcing the Dorotheans out of the place.

    The local authorities dislike talking about this episode—few governments enjoy talking about their mistakes and many Munchkins find the whole matter a bit distasteful, to put it mildly. The Dorothites, or Dorotheans, as they preferred to call themselves, were, in essence, a cult for very short people who, one fine day, marched into the broken down old house and told the authorities that they were not leaving; they needed the house for their worship services. The major tenet of their belief was that the good witch Dorothy (N.B.: Munchkins, even non-Dorotheans, did not then and do not now believe Dorothy’s protestations that she was not a witch; nobody just dumps a house on top of one wicked witch and melts another one like Cheez-Wiz over an open flame without some powerful mojo of her own) would return someday for the good Munchkins who had faith in Her and bring them back with Her to the mystical land of Kansas, where there would be a hundred slightly over the hill virgins named Tricksy Trixie LaBelle for all the believers, as well as hair for the bald, booze for the bibulous, and free checking on all accounts over a hundred dollars. In addition to all of this, once in Kansas, Dorothy would raise all true believing Munchkins to the staggering and hitherto unimaginable height of five foot five and seven-sixteenths of an inch without the use of platform shoes. The believers could have all of this and more if only they held true to the Faith, especially the parts where they dressed up as Dorothy and sang all the hymns on the Live from the London Palladium album until they fell unconscious to the floor in a state of religious ecstasy.

    Clearly, no one wanted to persecute a religious minority for their beliefs; Munchkins are a fairly broad-minded lot, all told; but there are only so many renditions of ‘When the saints go marching in’ anyone can listen to on any given night before it starts getting on your nerves. The complaints from the neighbors, which the authorities had ignored up to that point because they like collecting their boodle without having to do too much for it, and the actions of the Dorotheans themselves finally forced a confrontation with the government. A theological dispute between those who held that Dorothy was one in substance with Toto and those who held that Toto was a lesser, dependent entity turned violent, with rioters in the street smashing windows and bludgeoning each other into unconsciousness with oversized lollipops. The rioting lasted for the better part of a week and the government finally had to call in the army to quell the disturbance and clear the cultists out of Dorothy’s house. The cult still survives in the more rural areas of Munchkinland, where the landscape is dotted with shrines to the good witch where the locals can come to pray and sacrifice their old shoes and Fats Waller records in hopes of gaining Dorothy’s favor and a good harvest.

    At this point, the government despaired, as governments are wont to do when confronted with a problem that raising taxes cannot solve. Just when things seemed darkest, however, Mayor Hempflannel’s son-in-law, Mortimer Twiddlefist, found a solution acceptable to almost everyone. Consequently, next week the government of Munchkinland will cease operation under its current name and will reconstitute itself as the tribal government of the Munchkin Reservation. The lawyers and the diplomats are still working out the details of the jurisdictional transfer of sovereignty from the Emerald City to the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and in the meantime scriveners from one end of Munchkinland to the other, an admittedly short distance for most non-Munchkins, are busy writing gaming licenses as fast their small fingers and their quill pens can stand the strain. Plans for the Good Witch Dorothy Historic Site and Casino are already in the works and last week Mayor Hempflannel reported at a meeting of the Munchkin Board of Aldermen that at least three other companies expressed an interest in the possibilities of Munchkin gaming. Things in Munchkinland, for the first time in many a year, are finally looking up.

    Not everyone is thrilled with these changes, however. Many older Munchkins point out that Munchkins are neither Indians nor Americans, but citizens of Oz, and the Dorotheans regard the United States as a sinkhole of vice, depravity, and sin; after all, no matter what the American government may tell you, the true believer cannot reach the perfect spiritual state of Kansas by catching the 9:27 a.m. flight from Chicago to Topeka. The idea is too metaphysically absurd to even bother thinking about.

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