The Thing, A Sci-Fi Lullaby

“The Thing, A Sci-fi Lullaby” by Kent Gutschke

For Henry Kuttner, Charles T. Webb, and my dog, Rusty


As the funny-shaped thing zips into view—

Zigging now zagging past Bill’s Greasy Spoon,

Earl roosts on his porch with his old, brown dog,

Sipping corn liquor, his brain in a fog.


Earl and his dog watch with nary a scare,

As the silvery thing – spinning in air,

Smashes his windmill and falters in flight,

Quietly flutters then softly alights.


Earl bolts from his perch a-howling with glee,

“Off yer butt, Rusty! Le’s grab a look-see!”

A crashed U-F-O—Earl reckons on fun,

Grabs his corn liquor and loaded shotgun.


But the funny-shaped thing murmurs and drones,

Sending a chill to the core of their bones,

When out of the ship, an alien whines,

“On your knees, Earthlings! The world is now mine!”


Then a mess of eyes and pulsating arms,

Plops out of the ship and storms through the corn.

Earl comically eyes this bigheaded “thang”,

And pities the star from which it has sprang.


“Fools!” it shrieks, ”My keen teeth you’ll not defy!

You and your mongrel make ready to die!”

A-hootin’ Earl says, “Ya hain’t foolin’ me!

Those teeth are fer cud, not chewin’ on meat!”


The bug-eyed varmint now whimpers and whines:

“Are you telling me this world isn’t mine?”

Earl ponders its trip ‘cross space and through time,

Then offers the drip a drop of moonshine.


The creep takes a slug; its mind starts to spin;

Wily Earl leans in then boasts with a grin,

“We’ve government men that circle this globe;

They’ll stick yer rear to the end of probe!”


The bug-eyed critter spits, shivers, and chokes:

“A prick from a probe? That isn’t a joke!”

So dropping the jug, it stomps through the corn,

Then Shinnies the ship by rubbery arms.


So the silvery ship takes to the sky,

Silently soaring except for a sigh,

Leaving Earl musing with wisdom homespun—

“Likker kicks harder than loaded shotguns.”


©2017 Kent Gutschke. All rights reserved.

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Haiku (August 1993)

I once bought a book on haiku and took a liking to Buson’s poetry. Buson was both painter and poet and as such, had a sharp eye. His haiku inspired me to write this on a brutal Summer day as I watch heat radiating off the highway. I think rather than using the traditional line breaks it flows better as two lines.

One never really knows if haiku written in English works or not, so if you think it does’t, keep it to yourself.


Even asphalt moves in rhythm,
With the august drone of cicadas.
 ©1993 Kent Gutschke.  All rights reserved.
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Remembering Norman Sutherland

I suppose I never really knew Norman.

Norman was a tall, lanky freckled kid. He was soft-spoken. And he had problems.

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A Frog’s Journey

One day as I banked my car along the curvature of Time and Space, I noticed a small gray object tucked near the windshield wiper.  I craned my neck and saw the object was a small gray frog. He sat braving the winds as my car traveled along the loop.

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The End of the World as We Know It

Evidently the world is going to end. And it’s going to end on September 23, 2015—that’s a Wednesday. It says so on the Internet. And they’re saying it on AM radio tonight.

Some people are already backpedaling. Rather than the end of the world, they say “something big” is going to happen. But “something big” is too vague; it doesn’t quite have the zest of saying “the end of the world.”

People love the end of the world. People hate the IRS, but they love the end of the world. I’ll admit it’s kind of exciting. It’s the period at the end of humanity’s long sentence. It’s big business too.

To survive you need something. You might not know what you need, but there’s someone somewhere who’s got what you need. You might need a little gold or silver for an economy that no longer exists. You might need some dehydrated food. Just make sure you have water to rehydrate that food. You might need a generator. With a generator you can get on the Internet super-highway. And since it’s the end of the world, you just might have the whole highway to yourself like in those crazy zombie movies.

I say ride out the end of the world in a bathtub. It works for tornados. Why not the end of the world?

Take your Saturday bath that Wednesday. Sure, you’ll need to rejigger your schedule. but hell, make it a special day. Make it a bubble bath.

And if you plan to divest your mortal coil of any and all stocks, bonds, or assets, I’ll provide you with my mailing address. Consider it a love offering.  Plenty of deities smile on that kind of thing. I smile on that kind of thing. And every time I spend your dough I’ll say a little prayer for you.

Just remember, I cannot guarantee the efficacy of any prayers, but where you’re going you likely won’t need them.

Just make certain you specify your religion and/or denomination. We wouldn’t want to confuse anyone.

But you know you could just forget about the end of the world and keep all your stuff. And you could take your Saturday bath on Saturday and not that Wednesday.

If the world should end, we will likely never see it coming. The universe has a sense of humor.

The dinosaurs were sitting around a grill, barbequing our mammalian ancestors, and talking about their cholesterol levels when their world ended.

The asteroid was not asteroid at all. It was a mother ship piloted by drunken mammals—a species of inebriated space mice that flunked out of twelve-step program.

Not even the drunken space mice saw it coming.

So relax. Take a deep breath and enjoy the time you have left, because in the game of life, the universe throws spitballs and the strike zone is a bitch.

©Kent Gutschke 2015.

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Abbott and Costello Go to Mars (1953)

“So great had been the development of science on Earth by the 25th century that when we first rocketed through the voids of space and landed on that amazing planet, Venus, its inhabitants regarded us as superior beings…” —Buddy Deering
“It’s a ray gun…Flash Gordon uses one of them.”
“Yeah, what mob does he run with?” —Abbott & Costello Go To Mars


Perform a search and you will find it almost universally panned by critics and movie buffs alike.  Even a friend, who is an avid film buff and Abbott and Costello fan, admits that while he loved the movie as a child, watching it with adult eyes reveals it to be an inferior film.  So it would appear that during the production of the comedy duo’s first and only outing into the genre of science fiction, the stars had aligned against Universal’s Abbott and Costello.  But films are collaborative works and the companies that produce them employ composers, wardrobe designers, and production artists in addition to directors, editors, writers, and actors.  As a result, there are any number of ways to appreciate a film.

Abbot and Costello Goes to MarsNow I had not seen Abbott and Costello Go to Mars in years and while many people regard the film as weak, I still adore it and find myself charmed by its production and wardrobe design.  Its production values should impress—Universal lavished three-quarters of a million dollars on the feature.  To put this in perspective, George Pal spent half-a-million dollars on Destination Moon (1950).  One year after Pal’s effort, 20th Century Fox invested nearly one million dollars in their terrestrial sci-fi thriller, The Day the Earth Stood Still (1952).  Universal’s willingness to gamble such a large budget for an effects-heavy comedy is testament to the duo’s star power.

As I took in Abbott and Costello’s vision of space flight with the best effects their budget could buy, I noticed something in the wardrobe that had previously escaped me.  That thing is the belt Lou Costello wears after arriving on Venus.  The belt is reminiscent of the studded-leather belt Buster Crabbe wears first in Flash Gordon’s Trip to Mars and then in the twelve-part Buck Rogers serial.

Yes, it is possible someone from wardrobe happened upon a belt used in another production and reused it to save a buck, but the same person might have manufactured the belt or chosen a similar belt knowing audiences would connect Costello’s character with the heroes from those previous science-fiction serials.  While the writer references Flash Gordon openly, I wondered where is Buck Rogers? I might have left things there, but pressed on.

Buster Crabbe in Flash Gordon"s Trip To Mars

Buster Crabbe in Flash Gordon”s Trip To Mars

A quick search produced no one of significance – writer, director, production designer – that had any connection with both Universal’s sci-fi serials and Abbott and Costello’s sci-fi farce.  It was then I remembered Philip Nowlan and Russell Keaton’s hallucinogenic Buck Rogers strip.  Unlike the Buck Rogers daily strip, the Sunday strip focuses on Buddy Deering, who travels to Mars and meets a blonde princess named Alura. They become a couple and leave Mars to become the King and Queen of Venus.

Detail from Russell Keaton's Buck Rogers Sunday no. 90 from 1932.

Detail from Russell Keaton’s Buck Rogers Sunday no. 90 from 1932.

Likewise Abbott and Costello rocket to New Orleans during Mardi Gras, a place they understandably mistake for Mars, before traveling to Venus where they meet a beautiful, blonde queen named Allura.

Allura falls for Costello’s charms and makes him King of Venus.  Afterwards he sports both a crown like Buddy, and a studded belt like Buck.  A magnificent coincidence?  Perhaps.

It is important to remember that the syndicate responsible for the Buck Rogers strip – the Scott F. Dille Company – created pop culture’s first great merchandising machine.

The stunning Mari Blanchard as Allura. Notice how wardrobe fixed her hair to resemble vacuum tubes.

The stunning Mari Blanchard as Allura. Notice how wardrobe fixed her hair to resemble vacuum tubes.

That syndicate, in conjunction with Daisy, produced a line of ray guns that include the iconic XZ-31 Rocket Gun and the XZ-38 Disintegratior Pistol.  They even marketed Buck’s headgear and holster to compliment the guns along with lead figures, paper play sets, board games, watches, tin-toy spaceships, trading cards, and bicycles sporting 25th century design.

My Buck Rogers XZ-31 Rocket Pistol by Daisy (1934).

My Buck Rogers XZ-31 Rocket Pistol by Daisy (1934).

Not only did Buck Rogers own the years of 2419 and beyond, he owned his native 20th century too.  The full extent of Buck Rogers’ influence on American popular culture is unknowable, but his influence is profound.  And it is not a stretch of the imagination to believe Buck Rogers and the strange world he inhabits reached back through five centuries and whispered into the ears of a screenwriter and a wardrobe designer as they prepared to send Abbott and Costello into their first and only adventure across the vastness of space.

©2014 Kent Gutschke.  All rights reserved.

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My Zombie Fantasy

I have a zombie fantasy where instead of eating brains, the authors, filmmakers, and fans of the zombie genre all eat shit and die.

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D-Day at Seventy (An Oral History of the Landing at Omaha Beach)

What follows is an oral history of the amphibious landings on Omaha Beach by Private George C. Gutschke of the 29th Infantry Division.  He was a member of the Western Task Force: Assault Force B and embarked for Omaha Beach – Dog Green Sector – from the USS LST 337.  This sequence of events stems from the conversations he and I had throughout his life with contributions from my mother, brother, niece, aunts, and uncles.  Whenever you see quotes, those are the actual words from my father’s recollections.  I have also consulted the 29th Infantry’s daily reports to fill gaps and confirm locations.  Many details are missing because of my father’s reluctance to talk of these events.  He died on March 18th, 2014.


Headline for the San Antonio Light for June 6, 1944.

Headline for the San Antonio Light for June 6, 1944.

“They dropped us in water over our heads.  My rifle pulled me under and I was scared I would drown.  Now this’ll sound crazy and you’ll think I’m lyin’, but when I didn’t drown, I wasn’t scared anymore.  I feared drowning more than being shot.” —Private George Gutschke on landing at Omaha Beach, June 6, 1944

On June 6th 1944, my father was a private in the Western Task Force of the Allied Invasion.  He was not always a private.  While in New York in 1943, he earned the rank of corporal, but was busted to private for permitting soldiers on guard to warm themselves by a fire while he watched their post.  He accepted his punishment gracefully, even removing his corporal stripes before being demoted by his commanding officer.  He looked upon it as a blessing, telling his guilt-ridden friends, “I got no desire to lead men in combat.”

Now a private in the 29th Infantry Division, he waited on a LST off the French coast.  Allied commanders assigned some elements of the 175th Infantry Regiment to the Western Task Force’s Assault Force B and planned for them to land and mop up German resistance after the initial assault waves secured Omaha Beach.  These same commanders planned that Allied bombers and naval bombardment would decimate the lone battalion of inexperienced German troops manning shore defenses.

In reality cloud cover had obscured the beach and the bombers had dropped their bombs miles off target.  Rockets fired from landing craft in the early-morning fog fell short of their targets, killing fish but failing to dent Rommel’s Atlantic Wall.  The naval bombardment only succeeded in igniting grass fires that obscured landing markers for the incoming landing craft.  And instead of one battalion of inexperienced troops, the Allied assault teams faced three battalions of the battle-hardened 352nd Wehrmatch.

Early reports from the beach were not good.  The first assault teams on Omaha faced fierce resistance from a concealed enemy holding high ground.  Many of the Allied assault teams suffered heavy causalities with nine of every ten men killed in action before firing a shot.  Some were dropped in deep water and pulled to their deaths by their packs and rifles.  German snipers targeted officers or anyone taking charge in the chaos.  Amphibious tanks sank in rough seas and those making it ashore were heavily shelled.

The bluffs of Omaha Beach.

Omaha Beach Dog Red Sector.

At one point, General Omar Bradley considered evacuating Omaha and routing men and machines to beaches that were already under Allied control; there was, however, objectives that needed to be taken on a strict timetable.  And there was a German armored division lurking somewhere in Normandy.  So he decided to reinforce Omaha and hope those reinforcements, their training and their resourcefulness could turn the tide of battle.  So Assault Force B would be pressed into service not to mop, but to help bring order to the chaos on the beach.

By the time the order came to enter the LCVP, my father was seasick and reeling.  The roiling tides rocked the tiny Higgins craft.  He was so sick he jokingly said that he welcomed the bullet that would put him out of his misery.  And as he tried to steady himself, he leaned his head back and looked over the side of the landing craft.  What he saw was other troops from another LST entering their LCVPs and this made him chuckle.

“Will you look at that?”

Someone asked, “What?”

“Look who’s making the landing!”

While receiving amphibious assault training, their trainers and tormented the trainees, telling them they felt pity for all the poor sons of bitches making this landing.  And while the 29th was getting their ass shot off in Normandy, they would be back in England drinking, eating, and making merry with the local women.  Now these same trainers and tormentors were entering their LCVPs and making their preparations to assault the beach.

After getting the attention of their tormentors, the heckling began.  Someone from my father’s LCVP shouted, “I don’t know if y’all know, but these boats ain’t going to England!”  The insults shot back and forth until one soldier told the 29ers that he would “see you greenhorns on the beach!”

An LCVP or Higgins boat makes it way toward Omaha Beach.

A loaded LCVP makes it way toward Omaha Beach.

The tiny Higgins boat pulled away from its LST and began maneuvering towards the rally point.  My father kept hearing a splash.  Someone had seen fit to saddle the smallest man in the boat with Bangalore torpedos; every so often he would pitch part of the bangers over the side.  When he made eye contact with my father, he said, “I’m not carrying all this shit on that beach,” then continued pitching the equipment.  No one said a word.  Seasick soldiers were not bothering to use the bags high command had provided in the boats—they simply threw up on the deck.  Sea spray mixed with the vomit, making the deck slick.  The cold water soaked uniforms and haversacks.  If being sick, scared, and cold were not enough, their equipment had just become heavier.

As their LCVP moved toward the landing target, my father’s sergeant, a man in his forties and a combat veteran of WWI, ordered every man to undo the chin strap on his helmet: “You don’t want a shell ripping your helmet off with your head inside.”  He then ordered every man to undo the webbing on his haversack and pitch both his pack and gas mask.

“All you need is your helmet and your rifle.  Drop the rest of the stuff—it will only drown you.”

“But Sarge,” asked my father, “they’re takin’ us up to the beach.”

“No,” he said, “they’re droppin’ us in the water.”

Standing behind my father in the LCVP, his sergeant said, “George, that ramp is a murder hole and if we go through it we’re going to be slaughtered.  When I tap you on the shoulder, you go with me over the side.” He gave them the men in the boat their orders; their first order was to survive so they could fulfill their second order, which was to fight.

As the landing craft had reached its target in Dog Green Sector, it hit a sandbar hundreds of yards from the beachhead.  As whistle blew and and the ramp dropped, the sergeant hit my father on the shoulder then both men scrambled over the side of the landing craft.  The water was deep and my father’s Browning Automatic began to pull him under.  He panicked thinking he was drowning.  He let the BAR go to the bottom of the channel.  Finally, he emerged, gasping for air with no pack, no helmet, and no weapon.

But he was alive.

As he floated in the bloody surf, he tried to get his bearings.  He could see through the smoke the enemy moving along the bluff and the muzzle flashes from their machine gun nests.  The vehicles that had not foundered in the channel were burning on the beach.  Equipment was strewn everywhere.  Men huddled behind beach obstacles for cover.  Some men cried.  The wounded cried for medics and their mothers.  Bodies floated everywhere.  He said it was as if you had chopped up a thousand men and threw their parts in the sea—a boot with a leg, a wrist with a watch, a torso without a head, all manner of slaughter.

As he swam towards the beach, machine gun fire ripped the water.  When he could finally touch bottom, he staggered for cover behind a beach obstacle.  From behind the obstacle, it seemed as if the whole damned invasion was off the beam.  Failing to find anyone from his squad or his company and having escaped death by drowning, he was determined to methodically move forward.  Still without a gun or a helmet, he moved to an obstacle where several men were seeking cover.  A radioman was in contact with someone on a ship wanting a progress report.

“They’re fuckin’ butchering us—sir!”  A pause.  “Very little movement forward, sir!”  This time there was a longer pause.

“What’d they say?” my father asked.

“They say there are two ways off this beach!  We move forward or we go off in body bags!”

“Then let’s go.  Let me find a rifle.”

As the radioman moved, machine gun fire ripped through him, killing him.  Another soldier yelled at my father, “You’re in charge now!”

I cannot imagine my father’s disbelief.  He was without a helmet, a compass, a map, and most importantly a weapon.

He sarcastically shot back, “No thanks! I’m doing well to take care of myself at the moment. You can pass that responsibility on to someone else.”

Omaha Beach, Easy Read Sector. Photo by Robert Capa.

Omaha Beach, Easy Read Sector. Photo by Robert Capa.

He again picked his way methodically from beach obstacle to beach obstacle.  As he came closer to the shore, the machine gun fire increased.  He took cover behind an obstacle in reach of a Browning Automatic Rifle.  Each time he reached for the rifle, bullets ripped the surf near him and clanked against the metal obstacle.  As the bloody surf washed in and out, it pushed and pulled the head of a soldier that had been severed from its body.  And as my father hid behind the obstacle, the head bobbed in the surf next to him.  There he waited.  And waited.  And waited.  Then as more landing craft brought reinforcements, they drew the enemy’s fire.  He grabbed the BAR then ran across agonizing yards of open beach and threw himself down by other troops hiding behind the shingle.

One time my aunt asked him, “George, how did you survive on that beach?”

He answered succinctly, “I was running like Hell.”

The shingle afforded cover from machine gun fire, but the German’s had zeroed every inch of that beach and their artillery was murdering the troops hiding there.  All the officers were dead.  No squads were complete much less any companies.

Finally a young lieutenant organized everyone into a makeshift unit.

He told the men, “Alright, let’s get the Hell outta here!”  He called for the Bangalore torpedoes.  The problem was that in order to blow up the rows of concertina wire behind the shingle, someone had to assemble and fuse the bangers without cover.  Several men tried and several men died.  Finally the lieutenant, frustrated with having lost too many men, removed his pack and crawled across the sand to assemble and fuse the banger.  Under constant machine gun fire, the lieutenant assembled the Bangalore and fused it.  He was killed as he tried to reach cover, but he had opened a path through the wire.

Beyond that breach in the wire lay more beach.  And beyond that stretch of beach lay a minefield, which the Nazis had thoughtfully marked with a sign reading, “Achtung Minen.”  And beyond that lay the base of the bluffs and an exit off the beach.

Now it was time to run like Hell once again.

Across the open stretch they ran avoiding the minefield.  At the base of the bluffs, this makeshift unit found a path that would get them up bluffs and into the network of trenches the Germans had built behind their pillboxes.  The fighting was claustrophobic compared to the beach with the enemy sometimes popping out of a trench not 10 yards away.  The fighting was fierce and brutal—it was time for the men that endured the horror of the beach to inflict pain on their enemy.  And they did.

Later my father would reunite with members of 175th, those who made the D-Day landing and survived and those that that were lucky enough to come ashore on June 7th.  My father would not eat or sleep for the next three days.  The adrenaline that saved him on the beach sustained him for days.  In the battle for Normandy, Company K would draw some the toughest assignments and fight with distinction, capturing Isigny and Hait and a bridge over the Vire River that allowed elements of the Invasion to link up.  My father’s participation in WWII ended when a German mortar shattered both his legs on a bridge somewhere between Isigny and Hait on June 9th, 1944.

The telegram letting my father's mother know he was seriously wounded in action.

The telegram letting my father’s mother know he was seriously wounded in action.

Field doctors fought desperately to save both his legs and when doctors wanted to amputate one leg at a military hospital, he begged them to wait and to see if his legs would heal.  He spent two years rehabbing in that military hospital, but one leg never properly healed.  After being discharged from the Army, he would go jitterbugging all night and his leg would split open and bleed.  He took no painkillers and simply wrapped it in gauze until he went dancing the next week.

He was the toughest, most remarkable man I have ever known.

New Yorker cartoonist Al Ross drew my father while in the hospital.

New Yorker cartoonist Al Ross drew my father while in the hospital.

Basic training 1943: My father, Eller, and my father's best friend, G.W. Hall.

Basic training 1943: My father, Eller, and my father’s best friend, G.W. Hall.


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The Conquerors of Time

When the treadmill goes forward, positive radiation is released—and that sends me into the future! —The Flash from “The Conquerors of Time” no 125, December 1961

Somewhere there exists a strange pair of glasses.  The glasses neither protect the eyes nor correct the vision; they do undo the workings of your mind that is until eventually, your mind undoes the mischief of the glasses.

See the image that your eyes project on your optic nerves is upside down—more precisely upside down and flipped sideways.  Your brain takes this image and flips it so you see the world right side up.  In that way, you can go about your day running into tables and turning over drinks without an image of an upside down world getting in your way.

Now when a person wears this strange pair of glasses, they see the world the way the eyes project it on the optic nerve—that is upside down and flipped sideways; but after wearing the glasses for a time, the mind will once again flip the image of the world right side up.  It’s a pretty neat trick and a necessary one if we are to get along.

So a few nights ago, I can’t sleep and I lay on my back in bed staring at a darkened ceiling.  And instead of counting sheep, I think about these strange glasses and the end of our universe.  See there are some people who think that someday, our universe will stop expanding and begin collapsing on itself.  For a moment, I imagine our universe running backwards through both Space and Time and wonder at the possibilities.

Will my mind flip the sensation of time like it flips the image from my optic nerves so I see backwards time as forwards time?  Would my mind even have the freedom to flip the sensation of time?  And if not what does this imply about the freedom of my mind in this, our expanding universe?  And if past, present, and future all exist simultaneously, have I any freedom at all?  Am I a conqueror of time or am I only along for the ride?

Then my mind stills for there are far more questions than there are answers.  And as I lay staring at a darkened ceiling I can’t hope to see, I wonder.


©2005 Kent Gutschke.  All rights reserved.
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Dreams by the Dead Seas of Mars

“Monsters, John!  Monsters from the Id!” —Lt.  ‘Doc’ Ostrow, Forbidden Planet


My dreams are dreams of an unbearable heat, forged in the arid and attenuated atmosphere of Mars and tempered in the deep recesses of Olympos Mons—a place where old minds give birth to old patterns of an alien logic—where strange thoughts rise from red dust and move with the deliberate grace of a Martian tripod—where Fear and Terror and the heat ray, coolly wielded by ironclad minds, stalk the dead of night.


Originally composed 2005.  ©Kent Gutschke.  All rights reserved.

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The Big Bang Theory Is a Big Dud (Raiders of the Lost Ark)

 “All I want is the girl.” —Indiana Jones, Raiders of the Lost Ark


A couple of weeks ago, I receive a call from my friend, Graham, who asks me if I caught the latest episode of the The Big Bang Theory.  I have watched the show maybe a dozen times—I am not a fan and I had not seen the latest episode.  He tells me that Amy, Sheldon’s girlfriend, leveled a devastating criticism at Raiders of the Lost Ark and goes on to repeat her point almost verbatim:

Indiana Jones plays no role in the outcome of the story. If he weren’t in the film, it would turn out exactly the same.

It is an interesting criticism at face value, but an exceptionally flawed one.

To demonstrate how flawed this criticism is, ask yourself: “Do Marion and Indy have the same relationship at the beginning of the film as they do at the end of the film?”

The answer is “No.”  And I would argue that like the statue in The Maltese Falcon, The Ark is a MacGuffin and as such, not the real goal of Indiana Jones.  What the hell is a MacGuffin?   It is the object or goal the hero pursues—simply put, it is a device the author uses to set the plot in motion.  Now the MacGuffin is important to the story, but it does not necessarily mean that the MacGuffin is at the crux in the plot.

In The Maltese Falcon for instance, whether The Falcon is fake or not is inconsequential to the crux of the plot.  It is inconsequential because Sam Spade is really searching for the murderer of his partner, Miles Archer.  The problem for Spade is that the killer is Miss O’Shaughnessy, a woman he has fallen for in his pursuit of both the murderer and The Falcon.  It is Spade’s agonizing decision between the woman he loves and his loyalty to his dead partner that is at the heart of The Maltese Falcon.  And Bogart, being an astute actor, plays this scene as if it is the hardest decision he has ever had to make, covering up his vulnerability with cynicism and gallows humor.  Without the Spade’s conflict, The Maltese Falcon is a flimsy detective story about a counterfeit statue.

Similarly the conflict between Marion and Indy and the hero’s search for redemption is the crux of Raiders of the Lost Ark.  If Indy is to find The Ark, he must find Abner Ravenwood first.  And with the mention of Abner, Marion enters the picture.  Consider the blocking in the scene when Marion and Indy meet in her bar.  Indy flanks Marion on one side and his shadow flanks her on the other.  And Indy’s shadow looms over them both.  In that one shot, the cinematographer shows everything we need to know about their present relationship and their troubled past.  And while we may not be totally convinced by Indy’s apology – he does leave Marion tied up in the tent to pursue The Ark after all – by the conclusion of the film we have little doubt she has forgiven him.  When Indy tries parlaying for safe passage of the island, he tells the Nazis, “All I want is the girl.”  And he surrenders only because he knows chances of escaping are slim to none.

In any case, Indy does redeem himself for how he has treated Marion.  So Indiana Jones does play a role in outcome of the film.  If I am correct and if Indiana Jones wants redemption and Marion’s forgiveness more than he wants The Ark, then he succeeds as a hero.

It is fitting that fictional characters having a low, collective emotional I.Q. like the characters in The Big Bang Theory would miss the importance of the relationship at the center of Raiders of the Lost Ark.  What I find disconcerting is that so many real people would overlook the obvious.



Indy also saves Marion from torture at the hands of Major Toht.  And it takes very little imagination to think Toht would have killed Marion to cover the trail of the headpiece.  Of course in the film, Toht follows Indy to Marion, but I doubt the Nazis needed to follow Indy to find the Ravenwoods.  It is absurd to think the Nazis know they need the headpiece and know Ravenwood has the headpiece, but the lack the resources to find him.

Raiders of the Lost Ark is riddled with consistency and plot problems.

Why does Indy need two guides, two donkeys, and a map to find the temple that houses the golden idol, but when the native population gives chase he is in running distance of a airplane?  And naturally he knows exactly where the airplane is in relation to the temple.

How is it that he switches between a Colt 1911 and an English revolver in the middle of a gunfight inside a bar?  Easy—they didn’t have enough coverage because the film was shot so quickly.

And then there’s the ridiculous problem of how he remains on the U-boat.

None of these problems really hurt the film, because the substance of the film is the character development between Marion and Indy.  Without that conflict and resolution, Raiders of the Lost Ark would have been yet another hollow adventure film.

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Revenge of the Fallen (A Political Tale)

We’ve all been there—you’re in the market for a reliable car or truck or F-22 and after bringing it home, it transforms into a malevolent robot with aspirations for world domination. This happens is politics—you’re in the market for a representative that lives up to those many campaign promises. Unfortunately when many of these elected officials take office, they transform; they’re Decepticons. Let’s do the role call.


Revenge of the Fallen

The Players

Democrat John Kerry as point man…………….Megadeath

Democrat Barack Obama………………………….Swindle (formerly Sideways)

Republican John Boehner………………………….Dead End (formerly Barricade)

Republican John McCain………………………….Mindwipe (formerly Blackout)

Democrat Nancy Pelosi……………………………..Crankcase

Republican Eric Cantor……………………………..Needle Nose (formerly Crowbar)

Democrat Dianne Feinstein……………………….Mud Flap

Republican Lindsey Graham……………………..Long Haul

Democrat Harry Reid………………………………..Stranglehold

Republican Peter King………………………………Trigger Happy

Democrat Joe Biden………………………………….Blowpipe

And Hillary Clinton………………………………….Bonecrusher


The Lackeys

Secretary of War, Chuck Hagel…………………….Dirt Boss

Joint Chiefs of Staff, Martin Dempsey………….Kickback

NSA, James Clapper……………………………………Ransack


The Prime Mover

The Military Industrial Complex…………………The Fallen


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Teleprompterville (A Protest Song)

Today I heard Jimmy Buffett’s “Margaritaville” on the radio and his ennui over a blown out flip-flop reminded me of my ennui over a possible intervention in Syria.  As I listened to his song, I began singing my own song.  Instead of flip-flops and frozen concoctions I substituted snafus and Assad.  So here is my song – a parody, a satire, and a protest to the world’s insanity.



Threw out a red line;

Showin’ I got spine;

All of those despots soon will be gone.


With facelift and tan

Kerry’s my point man—

Massage the intel; make Congress my pawn.


Wastin’ away again in Teleprompterville,

Searching for my lost shaker of salt.

Some people claim that 43’s there to blame,

But I know it’s nobody’s fault.


With boots on the ground,

Assad we will hound,

Nothin’ to show but this first-rate snafu.


But it’s a real beauty.

McCain wants a sortie.

How we got here I haven’t a clue.


Wastin’ away again in Teleprompterville,

Searchin’ for my lost shaker of salt.

Some people claim that ole 43’s there to blame

Now I think,

“Hell, it could be my fault.”


They caught us spyin’,

Then caught us lyin’.

Lost my cred had to cruise on Assad.


But distractions will hinder

And soon they will render

The majority that helps me hang on.


Wastin’ away again in Teleprompterville,

Searchin’ for my lost shaker of salt.

Some people claim ole 43’s there to blame,

But I know it’s my own damn fault.


Yes some people claim ole 43’s there to blame,

But I know it’s my own damn fault.


*Available as a karaoke track with lyrics on a teleprompter.

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Man versus Lawn

In his quest for perfection, my dad has entered into unholy alliances with every conceivable model of electric shears and self-propelled lawnmower known to man; he’s of an older generation that takes pride in a beautiful lawn.  One day as I sat in a lawn chair reading a book, his shadow fell over me.  He stood there, holding the electric shears and showing no regard for safety goggles.  He asked me what the book was about.

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A Tale to Astonish

I composed most of this amazing story about our friendly neighborhood web-slinger and Charlie Brown during my R.E.M. cycles. Told in the Mighty Marvel Way (i.e. without restraint or good taste)!

The Players in order of appearance:

Myself, Charlie Brown, Peter Parker, Sue Storm Mary Jane Watson, and the Silver Surfer.

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