Thursday, August 31, 2006

Book Review- "Fiasco" take unique look at flops....

For those of you who live in the Roanoke area, you may have read my book reviews which have appeared periodically in the Sunday "Roanoke Times." As I am getting ready to write another review for another book that the book page editor Mary Johnson sent me, I thought I would write a mini-review for a delightful book that my sister Lale Lovell got for me for my 36th birthday in March.


The book is entitled "Fiasco: A History of Hollywood's Iconic Flops." It is written by James Robert Parish. who has authored books about film director Gus Van Sant ("Elephant") and actor Jason Biggs, of "American Pie" fame. The book retails for $24.99 and was published by Wiley and Sons (

Parish looks at how 15 films from the Elizabeth Taylor soap opera "Cleopatra" (1963) to Warren Beatty's $90 million comedy "Town and Country" (2001), and how each of these highly touted projects went way over budget and ultimately proved to be either critical or box office calamities, or both.

The book has some films I actually like, including (always hesitate to admit it) "Showgirls" (1995), "The Chase" (1966), "The Cotton Club" (1984) and "Waterworld" (1995). I also liked Robert Altman's "Popeye" when I saw it as a kid at at the Salem Valley Cinema in the summer of 1981 (was part of a double-bill with "Airplane!"), but when I saw it as a adult, I realized that even amazing filmmakers like Altman can direct truly bad films.

Other films profiled, included "Shanghai Surprise" (1986), "Battlefield Earth...(2000), "Last Action Hero" (1993) and "Cutthroat Island" (1995). And, a film which was featured in a classic "Far Side" strip- "Ishtar" (1987). In the Gary Larson strip, customers are in a video store from hell and the only movie that is available is "Ishtar."

The book was incredibly well-researched. There was stunning revelations, including how the first camel that was to be one of the stars of "Ishtar" was eaten for dinner by locals in Morocco! It also talks about how Robin Williams wanted out of "Mork..' obligations very badly, and he thought "Popeye" was his ticket out of hell ("I thought it would be my 'Superman.'). The ever-sexy Gina Gershon apparently knew "Showgirls" was going to be quite campy and hence decided to act like she was in a "Guiding Light" episode- with lots of sex and nudity. 

 John Travolta spent 20 long years hoping to bring L. Ron Hubbard's novel "Battlefield Earth..." to the screen. But, he was to old to play the good guy, Johnny Goodboy Tyler, so he decided to play the arch-villain instead and pay himself $20 million in the process. And, lastly, Kevin Costner shelled out a fortune to have gills that appeared below his neck in "Waterworld" (he was playing a half-man, half-fish character) digitally removed!

It is also amusing to read about how Warren Beatty brought not one, but two old flames- in Diane Keaton and Goldie Hawn- together for "Town and Country." The shoot was such a mess that Keaton told the director Peter Chelson that 'you will never have it this bad on any shoot ever again!' And, how Madonna, the star of "Shanghai Surprise" insisted that one take was all she needed...........

"Fiasco..." not to be confused with the best-seller about the War in Iraq, which stands to perhaps last until the year 3000, is a great, amusing read. There is an on-going theme of the book which is that ego and ambition and lots of financiers eager to give a green light can indeed pave the way for nightmare productions that can now cost well over $100 million!  

But, it is Travolta who puts things into perspective with his thoughts on "The Battlefield Earth" calamity, which he thought would be 'as big as Star Wars.' "Earthquakes.Fires. War. These are disasters. A film losing money at the box office is not a disaster."  

Monday, August 28, 2006

Tragic Day in Turkey. Terrorists are Reponsible.

In a shocking development, there were five bombings in Turkey within a 24-hour period on Sunday. The worst one occurred in the popular Mediterranean tourist mecca of Antalya_ it killed three people and injured 87. There were three separate bombings in another tourist villa- Marmaris, just across the Mediterranean from the Greek island of Rhodes and about three hours west of Antalya. The worst of the blasts in Marmaris ripped a mini-bus apart. It injured a total of 21 people- 10 Britons and 11 Turks. The other blast of the day occurred in the Bagcilar neighborhood in Istanbul. It injured six people.

I obtained info for this entry from two different sources. The online version of the Turkish newspaper Miliyet reported that the Antalya blast occurred around 4:45 pm (Turkish time). The Miliyet article also said the terrorist group the Kurdish Workers Party (PKK) founded by jailed militant Abduallah Ocalan was responsible for the blast. Miliyet reported that the bomb, believed to be located between two parked mopeds, struck the downtown area of Antalya. It broke windows and ultimately caused fires in restaurants, shops and banks. Miliyet said British ambassador Peter Westcott has issued a warning against British citizens wishing to travel in Turkey because of Sunday's events. The other source for my entry is the BBC World News. The news agency reported that authorities in Antalya were looking for two suspects in the blast. The BBC reported that a satellite group of the PKK called the Kurdistan Freedom Falcons (TAK) claimed responsibility for the Istanbul and Marmaris bombings and issued a jubilant statement on their web site saying that 'tourists should not come to Turkey.'

The BBC said London resident Rob Laughton, 41, was having dinner with his wife and friends in Marmaris when the mini-bus explosion occurred.

"We just sat there and heard this almighty explosion---we saw the bus and bodies lying on the ground. We just thought, we just don't want to be here. We just ran away," Laughton said.

On a personal note, I am sickened by these attacks. Antalya and Marmaris are very nice towns. I've had the pleasure of visiting both of them. I hope those responsible are apprehended soon. I am also concerned that such heinous acts could add to ethnic tensions between Turks and Kurds. People on both sides have worked hard to improve things without resorting to these barbaric tactics, and I hope this fails to damage that resolve. And, lastly, I hope the Turkish tourism industry rebounds from this as it has from all such deviant acts in the past.




Sunday, August 27, 2006

I gave "Little Miss Sunshine" a 10!

I have been reviewing films for the web site of the Grandin Theatre in Roanoke, Va., since December of last year. I have given many films, including "Capote," "An Inconvenient Truth," A Scanner Darkly" and "The World's Fastest Indian" high ratings. But, I have never given any of the films a perfect 10. Well, with "Little Miss Sunshine" that has all changed. I thought the film was brilliant. The screenplay and the directing are superb and the cast is stellar. Alan Arkin may have given his best screen performance since "Wait Until Dark," which came out in 1967! But, Toni Collette and the rest of the cast are remarkable as well. I was really surprised how much I liked this film, perhaps as much as "Sideways," which I consider to be the best film of the decade so far. I want to thank Jason Garnett, mgr. of the Grandin for this great opportunity to review films- something that an increasing amount of newspapers are 'importing' to save costs.

For my review, log on to:

UPDATE: For a different view, you can go to my friend Jim's movie blog. He lives around Northhampton, Mass. He apparently did not like the film. Alas, I could not locate his review of "Little Miss Sunshine" due to a glitch from my pc. But, it should be under the August archives. Regardless, Jim's blog is pretty cool. He updates it almost every other day! The latest entry concerns who should be the next Wonder Woman. His choice is Eliza Dushku ("Bring it On")- great choice! Jim's blog is located:



Friday, August 25, 2006

Many Turkish Things in Raleigh area

I must admit to being very impressed with the Turkish community in Raleigh, NC and really the whole state of North Carolina. There aren't- to my knowledge- any other Turkish people in Reidsville, but it is amazing how much is going on elsewhere. For starters, there will be a fund-raiser for the group Bridge to Turkiye on Fri., Sept. 8 at 8:30 pm at the Art and Wine Gallery in Raleigh. The special guest will be Turkish instrumentalist Fahir Atakoglu, who performed an amazing fund-raiser in November of 1999 in Washington DC to raise money for the earthquake which devastated Turkey in August of that year. My friend Ismail Arslan of Greensboro has been very involved with this organization, and from what I've gathered they are involved with building schools in rural Turkey and other noble activities. On Sept. 9th, the Divan Cultural Center in Cary, NC, which is a suburb of Raleigh will start Turkish cooking lessons for $15/month. One can get more info about the sessions by emailing the Divan Center at


Those who want more info about the fundraiser can email me at


WUVT to air Turkish music program 2:30 Sat.

DJ Onur Bilgen will be hosting a Turkish music radio show on Virginia Tech's student-run radio station 90.7 WUVT-FM from 2:30-4pm on Saturdays starting tomorrow. The show will likely have everything from pop sensation to Tarkan to traditional Turkish folk songs. WUVT also runs an excellent Greek show that was started by my late friend Kriton Hatsios. It has traditionally started at 11 a.m. I co-hosted the Turkish music show on WUVT-FM with my Bahadir Acuner in the 1990s. At last report, Bahadir was part of a Turkish delegation that visited the planet Saturn-LOL!:) This is my way of saying I have no idea what he's up to. The Turkish music program is available online at:


Wednesday, August 23, 2006

I had met the Blacksburg man who went on a killing spree

The shock is just now wearing off. I had met Bill Murva some years ago at Bollo's Coffee Shop in downtown Blacksburg, very close to the Virginia Tech campus for those of you unfamiliar with the area. I used to go to Blacksburg on Friday afternoons when life in Roanoke and Salem got a bit boring. One time this strange kid in his early 20s came in. He was barefoot, and smelled or looked dirty. He was out-going and sociable, but I felt uncomfortable around him. Bill seemed to be well-liked, and apparently had many friends in Blacksburg. He took to outsiders. I saw him a second time when he waved at me from across the street next to Bollo's. I was looking for my car to go back to Roanoke when he spotted me and waved at me. I rarely try to avoid people, unless I went to high school with them but even then I usually try to be nice. Nevertheless, I really did not want Bill to see me and at the time. I was walking in a darkened area far from a streetlight, and the fact that he saw he bothered me. I did eventually wave back.  I wasn't sure why I felt disturbed by him. He was barefoot, which seemed even odder then because I recall it was a cold month when this second encounter took place. But, I don't think anyone who knew or met Bill Murva could have foreseen this happening. I feel sick and disgusted by what he did, and for the families of the two men he murdered. I am sure it will be a long time before the families of the Montgomery County police officer and the hospital security guard heal from this. The only redeeming thing is that no one else was killed. I vehemently oppose capital punishment, but I never sympathize for people who engage in such heinous, awful crimes. He certainly deserves life imprisonment. Virginia Tech was also shaken up by this as the whole school was closed down on Monday for the first day of classes. Hopefully, all will be back to normal very soon.


For more info:


The Roanoke Times' web site:


Monday, August 21, 2006

PBS Wide Angle to air "Turkey's Tigers"

Tomorrow night at 9 p.m. on most PBS stations, including UNC-TV here in North Carolina, the independent documentary series "Wide Angle" will air "Turkey's Tigers," a film by directors Jon Alpert and Matthew O'Neill that will explore the complicated relationship between Islam and politics in Turkey. The program will contain interviews with many government officials, including Turkey's politically conservative prime minister, Abdullah Gul. The documentary was filmed in several locations, according to the "Wide Angle" web site, including Istanbul and Gul's native Kayseri in central Turkey. "Wide Angle" is hosted by Dalit Dhaliwal, of BBC News. The following week's "Wide Angle" will deal with kidnappings in Brazil.

For more information:


Wide Angle web site:



Friday, August 18, 2006

Political News- George Allen and Joe Lieberman....

Ooooops! I just lost my whole blog entry. Well, those of you reading this may not have had time to read the whole thing anyway. In short, based on a personal experience I had in New Market, Va. six years ago when I was a reporter in which an Allen staffer grabbed my arm with force as I was talking to a Washington Post reporter while Allen was being interviewed by a DC tv-station, I am not surprised by what he said to a Webb campaign volunteer in Breaks, Va. near the kentucky border. The term 'machacha' was clearly a racist slur. The incident made global news as it was reported in the BBC. I first heard about it in the online version of The Washington Post. An African-American columnist from The Roanoke Times said the comments also stir past controversies including Allen's support for a Confederate Heritage Month when he was governor of Virginia.


In other news, fellow Turkish-American Cenk Uygur is among those grilling Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-Ct) for saying that 'terrorists would welcome a Ned Lamont victory in November.' I was actually hoping Lieberman would win the Connecticut primary to show partisan unity at a critical juncture, even though I strongly disagree with his views supporting the War in Iraq. But, after those comments, I am sure I would vote for Lamont if I lived in Hartford. Uygur was absolutely right to say that those comments were ones we'd expect to hear from someone like Dick Cheney, not a Democratic Senator.

Useful links: (I hope that link is right)

Cenk Uygur's liberal talk show kicks Rush Limbaugh in the.......... and it can be heard live via podcast from 6-9 pm Mon.-Fri.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Hootie and the Blowfish are back! Concert in NC....

I was amazed to hear that among the summer concerts at WolfTrap, just outside of Washington DC, was Hootie and the Blowfish. I had thought they had either broken up, or were now a has-been band that would play in places like the Salem Fair. But, they are on a whirlwind tour of these united states. They are now back in their home state of South Carolina, and on Sun., Aug. 20, they will perform with opening act Better Than Ezra, another '90s group we haven't heard from in a while, at the Alltell Pavilion at Walnut Creek in Raleigh. I saw an ad for the concert in the Raleigh alt-weekly "Indy Weekly." The Hootie and the Blowfish Foundation is asking those attending to bring school supplies in support of the Wake County School System!

Upcoming concerts at Walnut Creek also include two other '90s bands Counting Crows and The Goo Goo Dolls on Wed., Aug. 23- a day when I may be in the Tri-Cities area, but yeah- I'll be otherwise engaged!

Hootie and the Blowfish continue their road trip through the fall. Among their concert dates will be:

Sept. 15 Tampa, Fl.-Ford Auditorium

Oct. 8- Superman's hometown Metropolis, Il.- Harrah's Casino

Nov. 5- Atlantic City, NJ- House of Blues


They will also be performing in cities like Colorado Springs, Co., Cheyenne, Wy., Memphis, Tn. and West Palm Beach, Fl.

Tickets for the Raleigh show can be ordered at 919-831-6400 or by logging on to

Hootie's web site is

And, Indy Weekly's site is

If anyone can remember the title of any of the Columbia, SC group's songs- I know "Time" might be one of them- please email me or enter them on this blog entry. I sold the only CD I had from them at a yard sale- or something- some years ago.


Friday, August 11, 2006

A cool letter to the editor (from the NY Times)

With the events that unfolded yesterday in the UK, I almost hesitate to type up a letter criticizing our president, but then again- NAAAAAH!


In the Sun., July 23rd edition of Ann Coulter's favorite paper, "The New York Times," Morris Roth of Fort Lee, NJ, wrote the following letter.



Perhaps the most revealing insight into George W. Bush's speech to the NAACP is contained in the president's comments to Rev. Jesse Jackson backstage after the speech. After Mr. Jackson urged him to begin a 'meaningful dialogue' with a broader range of black organizations, the president is said to have told Mr. Jackson, "Well, talk with Karl Rove."

And all along, I mistakenly thought George W. Bush was president.




Thursday, August 10, 2006

Recipe for NC Banana pudding

To once again, I show some homage to my new state- though of course I still love my home state of Virginia- even Boones Mill. Here is a recipe in the Aug. issue of "Our State" for what is actually called 'Nanas from Heaven (aka Southern Banana Pudding)


Two 3-ounce boxes vanilla pudding (not instant)

One 12-ounce box of vanilla wafers

Four to Six very ripe bananas, sliced.


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare pudding according to package directions. The key is the layering. In an oblong glass baking dish, put a layer of vanilla wafers on the bottom, then bananas, then pudding: repeat with wafers, bananas and pudding.


Then you should allow the pudding to sit for five minutes before serving.

There is more in the magazine version of the recipe, including directions for meringue and a standard recipe for banana pudding.

The above recipe was originally published in "Hungry for Homes: Stories of Food from Across the Carolinas" by Amy Rogers. John Blair, Publ. Winston-Salem, 2003,  $19.95

The web site for "Our State" is

There is also a public-tv show based on the magazine, produced by WUNC-TV. It airs here in NC at 9:30 pm on Thursdays-

 I do not know if it is shown outside the state as the magazine show for "Alaska" magazine which airs nationally is, but "Our State" has not been shown in Va. to my knowledge though the magazine is available at Barnes and Noble and Books-A-Million in Roanoke.

On last week's "Our State," they profiled the Biltmore Estate in Asheville as well as the town of Hot Springs (NC), due north of Asheville on the Tenn. border. It is known for its river rapids (apparently). 

I wonder how it compares with the Hot Springs I know, in Bath County, Va.- it is located in the lower Shenandoah Valley near the W. Va. border. The Jodie Foster-Richard Gere Civil War saga "Sommersby" was filmed there. I was last in Bath County, Va., while en route to Highland County with the Roanoke Valley Birdwatchers group. I must profess great admiration for the group as I could never keep up with those birds!  


Saturday, August 5, 2006

Baseball teams from Salem, and the Triad win on Fri.

The Salem Avalanche from my hometown of Salem, Va., are on an amazing run as they won their 17th of 21 games last night by defeating the Myrtle Beach Pelicans 5-0 in a game that was played in SC. Avalanche CF Ervin Alcantra hit a solo homer in the third which put the Avs up for good,paving the way for their big win in the Carolina League.

Meanwhile, the Greensboro Grasshoppers hosted the Savannah Sand Gnats in South Atlantic League action. And, the Hoppers came away with a 4-1 win thanks to the combined pitching efforts of Aaran Thompson, Jason Iehl and Brad Stone. According to the Hoppers web site, manager Brandon Hyde is pleased with the team's defensive play this season.

And, lastly, in Frederick, Md., the Winston-Salem Warthogs (20-20) defeated the host Frederick Keys in another pivotal Carolina League game by a score of 3-1. The Hogs were helped by starting pitcher Kyle McCulloch, who was the 2006 first-round pick of the Chicago White Sox. The Hogs jumped ahead thanks to a two-out RBI single by Chris Kelly to score Victor Mercedes in the first inning. Mercedes would finish the game by going 4 for 4. Hogs reliever Oneli Perez gave up a run in the eighth inning, but closer Fernando Hernandez was able to secure the win, and get his 12th save of the season.


The Avalanche are Class-A team of the Houston Astros. The Winston-Salem Warthogs are an affiliate of the White Sox. The other four teams in the Carolina League are the Potomac Nationals, Lynchburg Hillcats, Kinston Indians and Wilmington (De) BlueRocks.

The Greensboro Grasshoppers are the lower Class-A team of the Florida Marlins.


These are the home sites for the teams, all of whom broadcast their games live on the Internet.

The Avs host the Lynchburg Hillcats on Monday.

Earlier in the week, the Avalanche played the Warthogs in Winston-Salem as a day game in which temperatures passed the 100 degree mark. The Warthogs won the game, and no one was reported to have suffered a heat stroke.


Salem Avalanche:

Winston-Salem Warthogs

Greensboro Grasshoppers


Friday, August 4, 2006

"Scanner Darkly" opens at Grandin Theatre-Roanoke

The new animated film "A Scanner Darkly" from director Richard Linklater ("Slacker," "suburbia") opens at the Grandin Theatre in Roanoke, Va. today. The film is based on a work by the late psychedelic sceince fiction writer Philip K. Dick, whose previous works have been the basis for films such as "The Blade Runner" and "Minority Report." It has recieved rave reviews. Linklater also directed the film version of "Fast Food Nation," which screened at the Cannes Film Festival, and will be released this fall. "A Scanner Darkly" stars Keanu Reeves, Robert Downey Jr. and Winona Ryder. I find it interesting that Linklater chose to cast two troubled stars (Downey and Ryder) for this film.

It leads to a trivia question, which I myself am congering up:

Downey and Ryder starred together in a 1988 film entitled "1969" with Keifer Sutherland. The film marked the directorial debut for playwright Ernest Thompson, who is best known for this play which later became a film which won an Oscar for its star.

Is the play:

A) "Tender Mercies"

B) "Driving Miss Daisy"

C) "On Golden Pond"

or D) "A Trip to Bountiful"


Theatre buffs will know that A and D were written by Horton Foote. "Driving Miss Daisy" is an Alfred Uhry play, so the answer is "C." The movie won Henry Fonda an Oscar for Best Actor shortly before he exitted stage left:(


"A Scanner Darkly" is also showing at the Caneo Arthouse Theatre in Fayetville, NC, for those of you looking at my blog here in NC. And, if you live in the Denver area, as a certain member of my family does, the film is showing at Landmark Crossroads in Boulder, Co.


The film was recently profiled by "Film Comment" magazine. And, when it was playing here in the Greensboro area, it was reviewed by Glen Baity for "Yes Weekly!" Ironically, I became the replacement for Baity at a local newspaper, but the experience for me was straight out of a Dick novel hence the reason why the paper is not being named here!

Here are some useful links regarding this blog entry:

Film Comment

Yes Weekly!

-Click on 'front cover' then 'flicks' and you will find Baity's reviews, including a very humorous one for "Clerks II" in which he recalls his experiences working as a video store clerk in Lexington, NC.





Update on Aug. 10: I enjoyed "A Scanner Darkly" tremendously. I gave it an 8 out of 10. I have not had a chance to check the Grandin Theatre web site yet, but it might very be available at the theatre's web site:



Thursday, August 3, 2006

Journalists make less than George Washington did?

I get political news from "The Washington Post," and they also send political trivial questions. I usually miss them, though I was on a winning streak. The following question ended my streak, but I think it is interesting enough to post here.


Q: How much was George Washington's salary as president?


Was it:


A) $12,500

B) $20,000

C) $25,000 or

D) $30,000


If you guessed C, you are right! I would offer you a free trip to Alaska, but well maybe when I win the NC Lottery (which I never play!)

Update Aug. 10: Many people may not realize this, but the "Washington Post" is available free on the web without registration, unlike "The New York Times." They had a great preview of the Democratic primary in Connecticut in Sunday's paper. Their web site is: