Harmonizing Nazi Cannibals

For some reason, I always thought the Von Trapps were part of the Donner Party. I’d never watched The Sound of Music, so I had no idea those children were the Von Trapps. I also, inexplicably, thought the musical was about a German family during WWII.

Rest assured, my family is never going to stop laughing over this one.

It would be easier if I could claim this as a one-time mistake, but I have a growing track record of mistakes like this. I’m actually very well-versed in pop culture — I do very well in trivia games — but if I mishear something once or misinterpret it, it takes an excruciatingly long time to reprogram my brain with the correct information.

Take the Counting Crows song, “Rain King.”  The actual lyrics (as I discovered to my chagrin) are:

In the belly of a black Raymond Burr

When I think of heaven …
I think of dying
Lay me down in a field of flame and heather
Render up my body into the burning heart of God
In the belly of a black-winged bird
That song came out in 1995, which makes exactly a decade that I was singing, “… in the belly of a black Raymond Burr.”

I have no idea why I thought a photo-negative of Raymond Burr fit into that song. I suppose it makes as much sense as the band’s fixation with crows. Part of me thought it was commentary on Perry Mason vs. the deeply racist South. The lyrics displayed on Pandora once and I stared at it and said, “Oh, well, crap.”

I have a long history of similar fails. I used to confuse the Dirty Dozen with the Magnificent Seven, which I in turn mixed up with the Fantastic Four.

Add in Ocean’s Eleven and you’d have one epic Gangster/Superhero/Cowboy/Con Man movie!


it’s genetic, as my offspring have the same tendency toward juxtaposing names, resulting in a few classic mix-ups:

  • Confusing Richard Simmons and Gene Simmons … and isn’t it about time for KISS to release their songs for “Sweating to the Oldies”?
  • Thinking Morris Day co-starred with Rock Hudson instead of Doris Day. (For anyone not in my generation, let me explain – Morris Day and the Time were Prince’s opening act in Purple Rain.)

And the world’s sweetest Pop Culture fail:
My daughter thought the singer of “Crazy Train” was one of Marie Osmond’s many brothers. Ozzy Osmond, right?

The slight tremor you just felt was the entire state of Utah shuddering.

She’s a little bit country. He’s flat-out creepy.

Defending Leia

princessleiaheadwithgunGrowing up in the women’s lib 70s, my female teachers constantly would ask us kids whether we thought there were any girls in TV or movies that were positive role models. I never had a good answer for that. It took me a long time to realize that’s because I never thought of Princess Leia as a girl.

Perhaps the question was phrased poorly.

Or maybe it was that we were all so obsessed with the other characters of that movie — how cool Han and Luke were, how high-tech the droids, what Vader looked like beyond the mask — to focus very much on normal-looking people in those movies.

It’s also easy to write Leia off as a typical damsel in distress, since Luke and Obi-Wan do start their grand quest by rescuing the princess. However, the moment she grabs a blaster and engineers their escape, that claim is negated.

If you stop to look at the depth of her character, though, you realize Leia may be the most complex character in any movie, not just an action series. At various times, Leia Organa is:


  • A seasoned diplomat, the senator of her planet
  • An agent of espionage, withstanding torture
  • A mechanic
  • A starpilot
  • A beautiful princess, daughter of legendary Bail Organa
  • A biker chick (on Endor)
  • A mother figure (to the Ewoks)
  • A foot soldier in Han’s elite task force
  • A tender nursemaid
  • The only witness to the genocide of her home planet
  • A slave who murders her master
  • One of the leaders of the resistance
  • A shy girl falling in love



I didn’t realize how much I cared about Leia until I got to college. We had a guest lecturer in our Media Criticism class. This is just before the original trilogy was re-released in the theaters and he was enjoying some minor fame for a paper he’d had published on the subject, so they invited him to come read the paper to us.

His theme was Sexual Discrimination in the Star Wars Universe.

I was on-guard from the beginning, I guess. But to start with a claim that women are not allowed any positions of power in Star Wars is to completely discount Mon Mothma, the leader of the Rebellion who then became President of the New Republic. If you’ve only seen the movies once or twice, you’re forgiven for not picking up on her character; however, before you give a lecture on the subject you ought to have researched the main players of that galaxy.

leia-princess-leia-organa-solo-skywalker-33523080-1024-768But the lecturer went on, claiming that women in these action movies were always of a lesser status. I was so irritated I was squirming in my seat. Then he started in on Leia.

Building to his climax, he claimed, “At one point, Leia even says to Luke, ‘You have a power I don’t understand and could never have.‘ ”

At this point, I shouted back, “Yes, but Luke’s very next line is, ‘You’re wrong, Leia. You have that power, too. And in time, you’ll learn to use it as I have.‘ ”

Picture, if you will, a hall full of bored college kids, half asleep toward the end of a lecture, suddenly jerking to life. Their faces kept pivoting between me and the lecturer like we’d started a tennis match. He and the professor, meanwhile, were open-mouthed and aghast.

All this happened in the time it took my brain to kick in and whisper to me: I am such a geek that I just shouted a random line of movie dialogue in the middle of a college lecture to defend the honor of a fictional character.

But after a heartbeat’s introspection, one other fact was also clear to me: I was right.

The lecturer knew it, too. I stared him down as he fumbled his way through the end of his speech and fled from the stage. The entire room filed out without anyone accidentally making eye contact with me.

Strong role model, indeed. They’re lucky I didn’t have a blaster.

Marty McFly’s Second Chance

BTTFdateIn one week, Marty McFly is going to visit from 1985. Hill Valley, wherever it is, will get a quick touch-down from him and the Doc. They’ll snag a sports almanac, and — whoosh — they’ll be off again. The last chapter (chronologically) in the trilogy will be finished.

That’s a rather melancholy thought until I realized … Wait!   It’s not over. Actually …

Marty’s life is about to get magical.

BTTFcarA quick recap for those of you who haven’t seen the movies dozens of times (I’ve been told such people exist): Doc grabbed Marty from 1985 and they spent an afternoon in 2015 before heading back to 1955, 1885, and finally 1985 again. Each time the time machine touched down, they made changes that would affect the future, and by the end of the series, Marty had gone through enough personal changes that the future Doc was helping him save (his life a pitiful mess, his kids’ lives worse) is no longer going to unfold that way. But they wiBTTFtrainll come to 2015 anyway. They will because they did; it’s part of Marty’s past.

After much mucking about in time, Marty and Doc parted in 1985. Marty watched the DeLorean get pulverized, then Doc and his family took off in the pimped-out steam engine to parts unknown. The end.

But if Marty was listening closely (He often wasn’t, but I’m guessing this bit stuck with him), he’d have picked up on one sentence that is about to change everything. BTTFdocExplainsWhen Doc brings him to 2015 and explains what is going to happen to Marty’s son, Doc tells him that he has traced all the events of Marty’s family’s tragedies back to this one event. We already know that Doc was time-hopping quite extensively before he went back for Marty, but this tells us that most of his travels post-2015 involved checking in with Marty.

And since they fixed the one event that was causing all the trouble, the world Doc comes to will be quite different. But that won’t change the fact that Doc will come to visit throughout Marty’s life because that’s already part of Doc’s past.

Do you see yet what’s so great?

From the moment young Marty leaves us in 2015, middle-aged Marty (heck, probably Martin now) is about to live the dream. Every day of his life will be full of promise.

To start with, he’s about to see his high school best friend again. They haven’t lost touch or grown apart; the Doc who’s about to show up at his house is exactly the same guy he was hanging around with thirty years ago, and who will be just as thrilled to see Marty.

He gets to have adventures again. They don’t have to be save-the-world or make-your-pop-undead missions this time. All they have to be is something new, a secret vacation from his regular life.

BTTFImagine middle-aged Martin now. He’s chilling in his house in the suburbs, living a modest life. Married, two kids*. Boring job. Probably lying awake at night driving himself crazy with the scenarios that plague us all … Should he quit his job? Would it be smart to downsize to a smaller house? Should he have tried harder to copyright that crazy idea about flying cars?

* And with any luck they'll no longer look like him, because that was just creepy.
* And with any luck they’ll no longer look like him, because that was just creepy.

But, unlike the rest of us, he’s going to get answers to those what-ifs. Heck, he can even try out a few alternate endings, pick the life he enjoys best.

And if that’s not enough, he can commandeer that DeLorean, crank up Jim Croce’s “Time in a Bottle,” and go back to spend more time with all the people he loves most.

Marty, you are one lucky son of a geek.


Evil Tim Curry

Tim Curry has the perfect voice for evil. The other day, someone in my family posed the question of whether he ever plays anything except the villain. It seemed like a joke at first, but when I looked him up on IMDB, I was aghast at his resume.

If you’re not familiar with IMDB.com, it’s the database of all movies, tv shows, actors, writers, etc., etc. It’s amazing. I keep an app on my phone to settle arguments.

Everyone knows Tim Curry best as Frank Furter from Rocky Horror Picture Show, the funnest cross-dressing villain ever. And in Clue, his butler Wadsworth kills Mr. Body. (True, it’s only in one of the endings, but it’s the one that counts.)

Now check out the rest of this bizarre filmography:

  • Rooster Hannigan in Annie – the guy kidnapped an orphan, for Pete’s Sake!
  • Hexxus in Fern Gully, the cloud monster who teaches us about the evils of pollution … and who single-handedly kept my daughter from sleeping in her own bed for an entire summer!
  • Pennywise, the evil clown in IT
  • In Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, he played … wait for it … Satan. Yup, of all the bad guys there he had to out-evil them all.
  • Cardinal Richlieu in The Three Musketeers
  • Captain Hook in Peter Pan (TV series)
  • Long John Silver in Muppet Treasure Island (part of his evil pirate phase)
  • Chancellor Palpatine in the Clone Wars series
  • Gomez Adams in Adams Family Reunion. I include this as a villain only because nobody but Raul Julia should ever play Gomez.
  • Scrooge in A Christmas Carol (animated version)
  • Forte, the possessed grand piano in the straight-to-video Beauty and the Beast II. Did I mention the summer my kid stopped sleeping in her own bed? Yeah, well this is what scared the crap out of her the very month she finally went back to her room. Tim Curry owes me a full 6 months of sleep!
  • George Herbert Walker “King” Chicken in the Duckman TV show. I don’t even know what to do with that.
  • Count Nefarious in a video game called Toonstruck. It’s hardly worth mentioning since nobody has ever heard of that game, but come on – Count Nefarious? How great of an evil name is that?
  • Another truly amazing evil name: Slagar the Cruel in A Tale of Redwall
  • Neville Baddington in Saving Santa
  • Then they get lazy. In Gary & Mike, his character was just called Killer. Kind of gives it away, huh?
  • In Once Upon a Christmas Village, he was Sir Evil. This one merits a forehead slap.
  • Reverend Whoopsie in What About Dick? Now, having never seen this, I cannot definitively say that this is a villain, but I think we can all agree that there’s nothing good coming from a character named Rev. Whoopsie.
  • Rounding this all out are a series of Scooby-Doo villains from The Goblin King to Mastermind.

In the entire 50-year span of his career, I could only find one character who was truly good and wholesome. Nigel from the old Nickelodeon cartoon, The Wild Thornberries. That’s a pretty darn good one, though. It almost redeems him for all the others.

Well, except for Forte. That one should have never existed. (shudder)