Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Syrian Child Bride Goes Back Home

According to "Today's Zaman," an English-language edition of what has traditionally been one of Turkey's most conservative newspapers (I generally don't agree with their opinion page- to put it midly), a 12-year-old Syrian bride who was married to a 35-year-old Turkish man in the southeastern Turkish city of Urfa (known for its famous dish, Urfa kebab-pictured here) has returned home to her parents.

Bedia Amori, the child bride (she is not the one actually pictured here), has claimed that her spouse Abdullah Tapan, had abused her during their very short marriage, which was never recognized by the state though it had been sanctioned by a local mosque (Turkey's state laws, in many instances, are quite ironically more progressive/secular than 'tribal laws' in rural regions).

According to "Today's Zaman," Tapan had a criminal record in the Urfa district and the groom's family had paid their future in-laws a considerable amount of money (approximately $30,000) for Amori's hand in marriage.

Amori's father ended up traveling to Urfa, which is very close to the Syrian border, and asked to get his daughter back. Local authorities soom arrested Tapan, and Amori was set free to return to Syria.

The child bride told police that Tapan drank too much alcohol and forced her to watch pornographic films.

Amori's family had assumed they were giving their daughter to a good Muslim man.

I should point out that anti-Muslim sites like love these sorts of stories, but I disagree with their political agenda as I see both extreme evangelical Christians and radical fundamentalist Muslims to be an equal political threat to secularism universally. And, though I don't practice Islam, my late father's religion, myself I do not in any way view it as a religion of evil.

Nevertheless, I am concerned that the social aims of Islamic conservatives in Turkey and elsewhere has reached its proverbial tipping point, but there are signs, at least in Turkey, that opposition movements will soon regain traction politically.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Silly Picture to Fill Space- The Easter Bunny

This one is for the kids..........well, not that I have any! I think I had a Polaroid picture of me taken with the Easter Bunny at Crossroads Mall in Roanoke, Va., circa 1976 when I was six years old.......or was that with Cookie Monster?!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Quote of the Week- Sissy Spacek

Today, we are featuring quotes from two Academy Award winners who happened to co-star with Jack Lemmon (1925-2001, who is quoted on our other blog "The Daily Vampire") in the highly political 1982 thriller "Missing" about an American journalist who vanished in Chile during a right-wing coup which lead to the rise of dictator Augusto Pinochet (1915-2006).

Spacek currently lives on a farm outside Charlottesville, Va. She has been active in state politics as she has lobbied the General Assembly to consider the links between uranium mining and cancer as a highly controversial uranium mining project is being considered at the Coles Hill Farm in Pittsylvania County, north of Danville, Va. The subject was profiled in an excellent article by Andrew Rice in the current issue of "The New Republic."

Spacek is originally from Quitman, Tex., where she was homecoming queen at Quitman High School. After gaining prominence for her excellent performance in "Badlands"
(1973), Spacek became one of the very few actresses ever nominated for Best Actress for a performance in a horror film "Carrie" (1976).

But, the film she would Oscar for would turn out to be "Coal Miner's Daughter"
(1980). Spacek won over an impressive list of nominees including Gena Rowlands who gave a brilliant performance of her own in "Gloria" that year.

Interestingly enough, both Spacek and Rowlands have been featured guests at the Virginia Film Festival in Charlottesville over the years. The festival, which be held from Nov. 4-7, 2010, announced today that it would drop its long-standing programming policy of presenting films based on a similar theme.

Spacek has recieved a total of six nominations, including one for her outstanding role in the contemporary thriller "In the Bedroom" (2001).

Here is her quote:

"You don't forget the movies, but you forget the details of them."

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Weekend Sports Desk- College Gymnastics, Turkish Futbol and the ECHL

There is a groovy rock song by The Police which came out in the early '80s called "Too Much Information." As I was working on stories about a college gymnastics meet between Utah and Florida in Gainesville, Fla., a crucial soccer game in Turkey between league-leader BursaSpor and DenizliSpor (Turkey is my late father's country) and a seven-game winning-streak by the Charlotte Checkers minor league hockey team, it became obvious that I was a bit overwhelmed.

So, today, I will combine the key info for the state of college gymnastics, Turkish soccer and ECHL minor league hockey into one post.

We'll try to keep it (relatively) simple!:

TURKISH SOCCER: BursaSpor (pictured here) won its home game in Bursa, Turkey, over DenizliSpor last week by a 2-1 to gain further ground over Istanbul powerhouses GalataSaray, Fenerbahce and Beshiktash in the league standings. BursaSpor remains in first place this week despite being upset by Istanbul BB 2-1 this weekend.

In BursaSpor's game with DenizliSpor, the goals for the winning Green Crocs were scored by Ozan Ipek and Sercan Yildirim. The lone goal for DenizliSpor came from Darryl Roberts, a Trinidad and Tobago national player, who interestingly enough played soccer at Liberty Baptist University in Lynchburg, Va., which was founded by the late fundamentalist minister Jerry Falwell.

In addition to Ipek and Yildirim, the Green Crocs have been helped by the solid play of Bulgarian goal-keeper Dimitar Ivankov, Serbian defender Ivan Ergic and Romanian mid-fielder Giani Stelian Kirita.

But, the Turkish soccer world is perhaps most discussing Fenerbahce's 1-0 win over arch rival Galatasaray by a 1-0 margin earlier today. Besiktash also won its game with EskisehirSpor 3-2.

COLLEGE GYMNASTICS: In Salt Lake City, Utah, in front of a record crowd of 15,030 spectators the currently eleventh-ranked U The University of Utah Utes (pictured here), one of the strongest women's gymnastics programs in the NCAA, defeated their rivals The Brigham Young Cougars by a 147.4-146.65 margin. The scores were the highest for the Cougars this year.

It was senior night at the Huntsman Center, and Utes' gymnasts Daria Bijak, a film major from Germany who was escorted by her boyfriend and mom, Annie DiLuzio, who would go on to score a 9.9975 on floor, Jamie Deetscreek, who also performed well on floor with a 9.95 and Beth Rizzo, who returned to the lineup from injuries to perform a 9.8 on floor. Bijak won bars with a 9.925.

BYU senior Megan Donehue said the high turnout was not a distraction for the Cougars as she told the school's sports information office that it actually added to the excitement of the meet. Donehue tied teammate Natalie Eyre for the Cougars' best score on bars with a 9.875. Another outstanding performance came from Cougar Danielle Goldman who scored a 9.825 on vault.

For those watching the meet in SLC or on the internet, one of the highlights had to be the techo-pop floor routine from Cougar gymnast Madeline Johnson, who scored a 9.8 on the balance beam.

Prior to the home meet, the Utes traveled to Gainesville, Fla., on March 19 to face the then fifth-ranked Florida Gators, who were holding their own Senior Night to recognize the likes of fan-favorite Amanda Castillo who won bars with a 9.995 during her final home meet. The Gators won the meet by a 197.55-196.50 margin. Though the Utes did not win the meet, Bijak had an outstanding night as she scored a 39.225 on the all-around, tying her second best career score.

Salt Lake City is home of the host venues for the NCAA regional meets. The pairings will be announced on Monday.

I am hoping to post more entries about a VERY busy weekend in NCAA gymnastics later this week.

ECHL Hockey- Another Salt Lake City team looking towards the post-season are the Utah Grizzlies, with star player Ryan Kinasewich, who are trying to catch up with the Western Division-leading Idaho Steelheads (from Boise) who have the ECHL's best goal-tender in Richard Bachman.

But, here in the southeast, the focus has been on the streaking Charlotte Checkers, a team that had won seven consecutive games before falling on home ice to the Florida Everblades 4-3 on Friday night. But, the Checkers turned things around on Saturday with a 4-2 home win over the Reading Royals (from Reading, Pa.).

Checkers' star player Andrew Carroll scored the game-winning goal in front of 12,044 fans, which was the largest crowd of the season for the team.

The Checkers (pictured here) have also been helped by goalie Ryan Muncie, who had won six straight home games and newly-acquired rookie forward Brock Bradford, who was a star player at Boston College.

The team's next home is against the Gwinnett Gladiators from Georgia at 7:30 p.m. on March 30. As of last week, the Checkers were chasing the South Carolina Stingrays from Charleston for the lead in the southern division of the ECHL.

FINAL NOTE_ Well, that's a wrap! I think I covered everything except NASCAR (an entry about the Final Four is on our sister blog "The Daily Vampire"), a sport I don't really follow which is ironic because I live 35 miles away from a major speedway. But, my cousin Erroll Gokbudak can't enough of the sport, and he lives in Chicago?!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Chicago Teenager Has Perfect NCAA Brackets!

Alex Hermann, 17, has made national headlines by somehow managing to pick every NCAA Tournament game correctly so far. (As we write this, Butler is beating Syracuse 5-0, so one more team from my Final Four could be gone. Georgetown and Villanova have biten the proverbial dust so far!).

Hermann, who is autistic and lives in the Chicago area, picked Northern Iowa to upset Kansas, Ohio to beat Georgetown and Cornell to whack Wisconsin.

The odds of such success is one in 13,460,000! Hermann has said that he was shocked by his success, but as he told various media outlets: "I am very good with math."

My other Final Four team West Virginia is in the Sweet 16, but one of the their star players was injured in practice this week.

We are picturing the Kansas State Wildcats cheerleaders in this entry because that team is set to face Xavier (Ohio) in the Sweet 16, and we think one of them should actually date a smart guy like Hermann.....but, we all know Archie always gets the girl over Jughead!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

March Madness with Mapquest (for Friday Games)

As I indicated on our sister blog "The Daily Vampire," this may be one of the craziest things I've done in a long while as I used to figure out the distances between the teams facing each other in the Sweet 16 NCAA Men's Basketball tournament.

The move is perhaps more zany because all of the teams are playing on neutral sites though Baylor University located in Waco, Tex., is playing the St. Mary's Gaels, located in Moraga, Calif., in Houston which is in Baylor's home state.

For this entry, we are focusing on the Friday night games. The other games and teams were mentioned in the 'Vampire' entry (see links).

The other game that will be played in Houston will feature the Duke Blue Devils (pictured here) against Purdue University from West Laffayette, Ind.

Meanwhile in St.Louis, the cinderella Northern Iowa Panthers will face the Michigan State Spartans from the Big Ten. The other game in Arch City will between Ohio State and Tennessee.

Before this tourney, I was actually not certain which town Northern Iowa University was in. As it turns out, they are located in Cedar Falls, Iowa, which is also the home of Pepper's Grill and Sports Pub. The bar is about 515 miles (an 8 hour, 20 minute drive) from the Michigan State Student Bookstore in East Lansing, Mich.

Since I'm a Turkish-American, I couldn't resist seeing how far Cafe Istanbul, located at 3983 Worth Ave in Columbus, Ohio, which is the home of Ohio State, was from Niro's Gyros, a Greek restaurant located at 711 17th Street SW, in Knoxville, Tenn. It turns out the two restaurants from rival ethnic groups are 369 miles apart, which makes for about a six hour drive. Much to my surprise, I found out that these are the two schools which are closest to each other in mileage in the Sweet 16!

As for the games in Houston, Temple Rodef Sholom in Waco, Tex., which is home to Baylor University, is 1,789 miles (26 hours, 45 minutes by car) from Ristore Amoroma, an Italian Restaurant in Moraga, Calif., where St. Mary's is located. I initially searched for mega-churches in Waco, but I found so many listed on the web I thought it would be easier to try a synagogue instead.

Much to my surprise, there are actually two of them besides Temple Rodef Sholom is the Southern Baptist-stronghold of Waco, which is also where the infamous incident with the David Koresh cult took place in the 1990s.

Lastly, Durham, NC, where Duke University and the Carolina Theatre are located (not to be confused with the other Carolina Theatre in Greensboro) is 723 miles or 11.5 hours away from the Purdue University Bookstore in West Laffayette, Ind. The Carolina Theatre, which screens films on a regular basis, is now showing the delightful French animated film "A Town Called Panic," which caught by chance last week at another theatre in the Raleigh area.

Well, it is lunch time here in Floyd, Va. (not where I'm actually at, but it is a town just as small and isolated), so it's time to get me a gyro........oh, I forgot.....the zip code I'm presently at doesn't have either a Turkish or a Greek restaurant. I envy those of you in Columbus or Knoxville!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Heath Care Voices- Members of Congress

I conclude my health care megablogathon, which includes two entries on "The Daily Vampire" as well with six quotes from six different congressional reps.

Though there were exceptions like Cong. Heath Shuler (D-NC) and Cong. Patrick Lynch (D-Mass), Democratic congressional reps tended to vote for the bill while all Republicans, even some moderates who were first in favor until political pressures mounted from the right, voted against it.

"The bill will undeniably and ultimately lead to the rationing of health care in America," Cong. Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.)

"Today marks a victory that has been a long time coming," Cong. Patrick Kennedy (D-RI).

"I am opposed to a government takeover of our health care system and I will continue to be a strong advocate for putting patients first," Cong. Lee Terry (R-Neb.)

"I believe Congress can do better than the over 2,400 page nearly $1 trillion bill," Cong. Frank Wolf (R-Va.)

"For nearly a year now I have listened to my constituents about the need for health care reform, and heard from seniors, students, and small business owners in my district- all of whom are struggling to fund quality and affordable health care," Cong. Jared Polis (D-Colo.)

"This plan is good for America....for too long, health care has been a privilege, not a right in America," Cong. Corrine Brown (D-Fla.)

Everytweet You Wanted to Know About Health Care...

Ironically I am using the images of Cong. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) and Cong. Virginia Foxx (R-NC) because of these tweets are from progressives and those on the center left politically (such as myself).

But, not all these tweets are in favor of health care reform, and following these tweets, most of which were posted on Saturday and Monday afternoon was at times very confusing. One reason for that is Twitter groups like "NC4HealthReform," based in Winston-Salem, NC, were actually AGAINST Obama's proposals.

There were also some who sent mixed messages, which might well be the most accurate reflection of the American mind-set regarding the Health Care that narrowly passed by a 219-212 margin late in Congress late Sunday night.

These tweets are not neccesarily in chronological order, but they do tell a story with collective voices besides my own. They came from people as far away as North Myrtle Beach, SC, and Scottsdale, Ariz:

OToole Fan: Tea Party is mainly racism cloaked as fiscal concer and selfishness masquerading as patriotism.

Virginia Foxx: Federal govt runs up $1.5 trillion deficit this year- 11 times the 10-yr "savings" Democrats claim are in the Senate bill.

ezraklein ("Washington Post" reporter): Asked WH (White House) for text on Prez's speech. They said it wasn't pre-written. It's like there's a teleprmpter IN HIS BRAIN.

LeftJabs: I am nowhere near a TV but thanks to y'all I feel the moment. I pray tomorrow is a day of celebration.

RollCall (Washington DC political newspaper): Sign up in John Boehner's window: 'Vote No Scrap the Bill.' Protesters gathering outside chanting 'Kill the Bill.'

ezraklein: The task now: convincing six or seven insured, wealthy congressmen to give 32 million uninsured people health-care coverage.

JasonChaffetz: If passed an estimated 16,500-plus IRS agents will need to make sure you have 'acceptable health insurance.'

TomPerriello (D-Va): Read letters of support for bill from Martinsville, Danville and Charlottesville hospitals.

Brad Miller (not the Dem. NC Congressman): I think Health Care reform is needed, but it needs to be done correctly. Pass a good bill, not just one to say you passed reform.

annamariecox: Should turn off Foc @ this point but then I'd miss them saying something like: "The WH took pain to say the president high-fived Emanuel."

Zippythepinhead (alternative comic book character): "I've read seven million books."

Monday, March 22, 2010

Silly Picture to Fill Space- Kandula the Elephant

Since we posted an image of a Turkish donkey in representation of the Democratic Party, we thought we'd post an image of the Republican Party's symbol, the elephant even though I vote for Republicans as often as I ride an elephant (I actually rode on at the San Diego Zoo in 1984 when I was 14).

While researching this piece, I found out that 75 percent of all evangelicals vote Republican, and that our very own Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) is the ninth most conservative member of the Senate. Who are the other eight?!

The North Carolina Republican Party is now headed by former Raleigh mayor Tom Fetzer.

This image is of Kandula, who was born at the National Zoo in Washington, DC, in
2001. The zoo is currently hard to bred female elephants, including Shanthi. At the moment, from what I gathered, visitors can not view elephants at the National Zoo because they are working on an Elephant Trails project.

But, if one wants to see a female elephant in Washington, DC, they go to Capitol Hill and say hi to one of the Tarheel State's most vocal members, Cong. Virginia Foxx (R-NC).

Quote of the Week- Louise Fletcher

Since we quoted her "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" co-star Jack Nicholson, who also Oscared for his performance in the same film, we thought we'd quote Louise Fletcher who left quite a cinematic impression with her haunting portrayal of Nurse Ratchet.

Showtimers Theatre in my hometown of Roanoke, Va., which perform a stage version of "Nest" a few years ago will be performing another outstanding play "The Miracle Worker" from April 14-25 (

Here is the quote from Fletcher:

"If I fell down and hurt myself, I never cried. There was no one to hear me."

The Oklahoma City Miracle

Ali Farokhmanesh may have the hardest name to spell of any basketball player in the country (but, hey my name is Tilly Gokbudak and I am not a girl- see earlier entry), but the University of Northern Iowa's star player hit a game-winning three-point shots with :35 remaining over top-seeded Kansas in Oklahoma City on Saturday afternoon.

The Panthers beat the Jayhawks, who many including President Barack Obama, ESPN basketball analyst Dick Vitale and my cousin Michael from Rock Hill, SC, thought would win the NCAA championship (my choice of Georgetown lost in the very first round!), 69-67.

"The Des-Moines Regsiter" reported that the Panthers landed at the airport in Waterloo, Iowa, which is relatively close to the UNI campus in Cedar Falls at about 2:30 a.m. But, there were around 50 fans to greet them there.

"We thought it might be a little too late or a little too cold," said Ali F., a senior from Iowa City who turns 22 on Apr. 16, "This is awesome."

The same newspaper quoted Panthers player Jordan Egleseder who said he was pleased with the turnout for the team.

"Yeah, it's crazy," Eglesder said. "I wasn't expecting at all. Our fans have been great all year."

"The Kansan," the student newspaper for the University of Kansas had a different headline about the game: "Stellar season ends in heartbreak."

The Jayhawks' coach Bill Self has reportedly said that he will never watch any taped footage of the game.

SIDEBAR: Alas, the Brigham Young Cougars will not be advancing to the Sweet 16 either. The team from Provo, Utah, was impresive in their first-round win over Florida, but they fell to Kansas State in the second round. But, the Cougars' star player Jimmer Fredette left an impression on Oklahoma City Thunder's star player Kevin Durant, who had the following tweet before BYU's game on Saturday: "How many points is Jimmer Fredette gonna score tonight? He is a monster....

Friday, March 19, 2010

Wake Forest Advances in NCAA Tournament

It has not been a particularly good year for North Carolina schools in men's college basketball, with the exceptions of Duke and Wake Forest. None of the other NCAA Division One schools in the Triad, which includes The University of North Carolina-Greensboro, North Carolina A & T, Elon University and High Point University won their respective conference tournaments.

But, one team did.

And, last night, The Wake Forest Demon Deacons of Winston-Salem, NC, beat the University of Texas in New Orleans by an 81-80 score in overtime.

Wake Forest player Ishmael Smith scored the winning jumper. He described his emotions to the school's sports information office:

"I knew I wasn't going to get all the way to the lane," Smith said. "I knew I had to pull up, and thank God I made the shot."

The Demon Deacs next face top-seeded Kentucky on Saturday.

UPDATE: Alas, the game was a blow-out as the Wildcats won 90-60, but at least Ashley Judd is happy!

Boy Scouts Help 'Keep Out the Vultures'

According to a brief in the Feb. 24 edition of "USA Today," the hamlet of Ridgeway, Va., just outside the race-track town of Martinsville had an interesting incident as local resident Nancy Cox was dealing with an influx of vultures in her yard.

The vultures had gathered and nested on a dead tree where the birds also enjoyed munching on bamboo.

But, after dealing with the problem for seven months, local Boy Scout Troop 168 cut down the tree for Cox. Three days later, the vultures were gone.

Perhaps, the lads treated themselves to milk shakes at a local drive-in restaurant. I would mention the name of the place which I have driven by, but a friend of mine who lives in Henry County said their food, particularly the cheeseburgers, was a bit too greasy. Of course, since I've never eaten there, I can't confirm that. But, one has to salute an independent business which has stayed around all these years regardless of how good or awful their food might be!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

I Got a Letter from the Republican National Committee?!

I was very amused yesterday to get a letter from Michael Steele, head of the Republican National Committee, asking 'for my support.'

The letter was made more dubious (I am a fairly partisan Democrat) by the fact that it was addressed to Ms. Tilly Gokbudak. (yes, this is the reason we are featuring a photo of Frances Marie Burke who was Miss America in 1940). But, the last time I checked I had a prostate, so I am actually Mr. Tilly Gokbudak and I have been since I was born 40 years ago on March 4, 1970.

Let me post the opening part of this letter from Steele, a man I actually used to have a great deal of respect for since he is one of the few Republicans who is opposed to the death penalty and actually questioned some parts of George W. Bush's futile Iraq War policy:

"Dear Ms. Gokbudak,

After our Party's historic victory in the Massachussetts Senate race, I've had many Sustaining Members ask me when are Republicans going to take the fight to Obama and the Democrats in my community. THE TIME IS NOW!"

The letter goes on to boast about a new RNC AIRWAVE BLITZ (they used all caps) to set the 'record straight' about Obama's 'socialist schemes' to grow big government.

A few paragraphs down, the letter states:

"We are committed to using EVERY AVENUE POSSIBLE to reach those Americans who are concerned about the leftward direction that the Obama Democrats are dragging our country.

Ms. Gokbudak, our party must win the battle for America's future--- and I'm counting on GOP grassroots leaders like you in Mount Airy* to help us win the fight."

(*-I don't actually live Mount Airy, NC, but it is the town I use when stating my residency on this blog)

The timing of this over-the-top letter which has Glenn Beck's fingerprints all over it comes just as I had finished reading an excellent article by the ever-brilliant Jonathan Chait in the Feb. 4 issue of "The New Republic," my favorite political magazine since it reflects my nuanced center left political views (though I have now and then disagreed with them).

In his column stated "Steele Cage," Chait asserted that the GOP had found their inner Al Sharpton with Steele because the former Maryland lt. gov. was an embodiment of 'Republican racialism' which the analyst describes as 'an attempt to mimic Democratic racialism without first having any grasp of the original thing, like a person who decides to convert to Judaism by studying Madonna."

And, with that reference to the '80s pop music icon who I had the misfortune of growing up with (Oh great! "Vogue" and "La Isla Bonita" are now ringing in my skull, but that in itself won't make me switch to Rich Lowry and the arch conservative journal "The National Review"), we will conclude this entry so we can see if Old Dominion has in fact knocked off Notre Dame in the NCAA Tournament though the Irish were up 10-6 when I last checked.

UPDATE: ODU has just won the game 51-50! Now, I guess I will have a mad Republican Fighting Irish fan to deal with........

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Know Your Mayors (21 of 21)- Jerry Abramson of Louisville, Ky.

Those who follow college basketball religiously may think that University of Louisville men's basketball coach Rick Pitino (pictured here) is the mayor of Derby Town, but that distinction actually belongs to Mayor Jerry Abramson (also pictured here).

The Democratic-mayor is the longest serving mayor in Louisville, Ky.'s 252-year history according to the mayor's web site.

Abramson initially served as mayor from 1986-1999, but he came back to office in 2003, and he has been an incumbent ever since.

Among his major accomplishments is unifying city and county government, overseeing a dramatic transformation of the community in the sectors of public safety, and expanding the city's airport, waterfront and downtown area (according to the mayor's web site).

In 2003, Abrahamson was named local public official of the year by "Governing" magazine.

He has been nicknamed "Mayor for Life."

Abrahamson will be running for lt. gov. along with incumbent Democratic Governor Steve Beshear, who is seeking reelection in 2011.

As for the Louisville Cardinals, they face the University of California in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Ironically, that school is the alma mater of our last entry in this series Kevin Johnson of Sacramento, Calif., who played for the Phoenix Suns in the NBA.

Happy St.Patrick's Day!

It is indeed St. Patrick's Day, and Notre Dame fans are assuredly delighted their team is in the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament though I think they will get whacked by Old Dominion in the first round!

In other sports matters, we reported last week that the University of North Carolina had a home women's gymnastics meet against West Virginia. The visiting Mountaineers narrowly won the meet in Chapel Hill, NC, thanks to an outstanding performance from Amy Bieski, who was just named EAGL Conference Gymnast of the Week. Bieski also won the all-around competition.

But, several Tarheel gymnasts had solid performances, including Christine Nguyen who was in a four-way tie with Bieski and two other gymnasts for first place on vault. Nguyen also won the uneven bars. Her Tarheel teammate Kara Wright was tied for Nguyen for first place in the floor competition.

If one is in Chapel Hill today, they may want to stop by the W.B. Yeats Irish Pub which will presumably have a green beer on tap for you.

On Friday night, my friends at Tallula's, a Turkish restaurant on Franklin Street, will have a Mediterranean Night starting at 10:30 p.m.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Virginia Tech Gets Snubbed from NCAAs

Virginia Tech men's basketball coach Seth Greenberg must be steamed that his Hokies were not invited to the Big Dance, but he has played it cool publicly. Though his star player Malcolm Delaney tweeted that he was so depressed that he would in fact not watch a single game of the NCAA tourney!

But, the Hokies are a top seed in the NIT and they will Quinnipiac University from Hamden, Conn., tonight in Blacksburg, Va.

Other NIT games of interest include UNC vs. William and Mary, which will be on ESPN tonight, Memphis vs. St. John's, South Florida vs. North Carolina State and UAB vs. Coastal Carolina.

Silly Picture to Fill Space- Please Vote for Me!

This is actually depicting an election in Canada, but it has come to my attention that the BBC is having a contest in which listeners are asked to tell the broadcasters about cool, hip blogs they are uniquely aware of.

The problem is I missed who to contact, or else I'd mention my pals' blogs and (of course-LOL!) my own.........why not?!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Quote of the Week- Burt Lancaster

All month long, we are quoting Oscar-winners.

Today's entry is from Burt Lancaster (1913-1994).

On our other blog "The Daily Vampire," we quoted his "Atlantic City" (1981) co-star Susan Sarandon.

Lancaster was active in politics at a time when such activities were considered subversive, especially for those who held liberal views like the actor who Oscared for "Elmer Gantry" in 1960:

"Can anything be more Un-American than the Un-American committee?"

Film Comment Readers Pick Films of the Year

Here is a list of the Best Films of 2009, according to readers of "Film Comment," which includes myself.

The current issue with Matt Damon on the cover has a brilliant profile of controversial French director Catherine Breillat by one of the cinema writers of our time Amy Taubin.

My overall pick for Film of the Year was "Up in the Air," which finished eighth in the poll. Amazingly enough, "The Hurt Locker" was not only the top choice in both the critics and readers poll, it also won the Best Picture Oscar!:

1. "The Hurt Locker" (dir. Kathryn Bigelow)

2. "Inglourious Basterds" (dir. Quentin Tarantino, pictured)

3. "A Serious Man" (dir. Coen Bros)

4. "Fantastic Mr. Fox" (dir. Wes Anderson)

5. "Summer Hours" (dir. Olivier Assayas, France)

6. "The White Ribbon" (dir. Michael Haneke, Germany)

7. "Up" (dir. Peter Docter and Bob Peterson)

8. "Up in the Air" (dir. Jason Reitman)

9. "The Headless Woman" (dir. Lucrecia Martel, Argentina)

10. "Where the Wild Things Are" (dir. Spike Jonze)

"The White Ribbon," which I am extremely eager to see now that it has finally opened in our market here in North Carolina, is the only film I haven't seen from this list.

Bill Clinton Spotted at the Big East Tournament

Former American president Bill Clinton was spotted at the Big East Tournament on Friday night during part of a two-game double-header. The first game was between Notre Dame (their star player Luke Harangody is pcitured here) and Pitt. Notre Dame won that game, but lost in the semi-finals. The second game was between the eventual conference champs West Virginia and the Cincy Bearcats.

"The Star-Ledger" newspaper in Newark, NJ, said Clinton was noticed sitting besides his long-time friend Terry McAuliffe, who unsuccessfully ran for governor of Virginia, in the waining minutes of Notre Dame's 50-45 win over Pitt. McAuliffe was drinking a Diet Coke.

Clinton told ESPN that he thinks Syracuse, who was announced as one of the four number one seeds on Sunday, will be the eventual NCAA men's basketball champs. Clinton added that he also likes another top seed Knsas' chances.

The former president added that since he is now a New York resident that he roots for Syracuse except when they play his alma mater Georgetown, which happened to knock off the Orange 91-84 earlier that afternoon.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

More ACC Mascots

We thought we'd get all the ACC mascots in (the rest are on my other blog "The Daily Vampire").

In my rush to get the first entries up, I forgot to mention that the University of North Carolina's women's gymnastics team, which is actually having a better year than the UNC men's basketball team (I wonder if UNC gymnastics coach Derek Galvin has brought this up the last time he ran into Roy Williams ........yeah, probably not) will be hosting West Virginia University in Chapel Hill. The meet starts at 1 p.m. on Saturday afternoon.

Despite losing to the highly-ranked University of Florida team in Gainesville last week, the 'Heels gymnastics team scored impressively well.

Kara Wright, a senior from Virginia Beach, was named EAGL gymnast of the week for her 39.2 score during the meet with the Gators.

Her teammate Christine Nguyen, a senior from Plano, Tex., has also won that honor several times.

As far as men's basketball is concerned, I would love to see the Virginia Tech Hokies or the North Carolina State Wolfpack win it all, but yeah....of course, Duke will win it all, but top-seeded Syracuse fell to Georgetown today at the Big East Tournament in Madison Square Garden.

But, Coach K is not known for choking......well except for that time they fell to VCU in the opening round of the NCAA tourney, but I don't expect that to happen in Greensboro.

ACC Tourney Underway in Greensboro, NC

To honor the ACC Tournamnet underway just down the road in Greensboro, NC, we thought we'd dedicate an entry to the mascots, especially since I have to teach a class here in Martinsville, Va. (not really where I'm at) here in a few minutes.

I expect Duke (pictured) to win the ACC tourney with Maryland (pictured) being the runners-up.

Here are the worst mascots (in my view) in the ACC:

1. Florida State Seminoles
2. Virginia Cavaliers
3. Boston College Golden Eagles
4. Miami (Fla) Hurricanes
5. Clemson Tigers
6. Georgia Tech Yellowjackets (pictured)

It should be an exciting weekend, especially for those of us who will veg out and watch the games on tv!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Know Your Mayors (20 of 21) Kevin Johnson of Sacramento, Calif.

We continue our long-running series with one of two big city mayors who once played pro hoops in the NBA. Kevin Johnson, the mayor of Sacramento, Calif., played for the Phoenix Suns in the late '80s and '90s. The Suns were one of several teams who won the Western Conference only to lose to Michael Jordan's Chicago Bulls in the NBA finals. Dave Bing, a former Detroit Pistons star and current Detroit mayor, is the other former NBA player in charge of city government.

Johnson, who turned 44 on March 4 (I turned 40 on the same day), has become a high profile mayor because Sacramento is California's capital and because he was a star player in the NBA. He has appeared on Fox, CNN and MSNBC as well as "The Colbert Report" on Comedy Central.

The Sacramento mayor, a Democrat who was sworn into office in 2008, regularly consults with his counterparts, including Mayor Michael Bloomberg (New York), Adrien Fenty (Washington, DC) and Cory Booker (Newark, NJ). Both Fenty and Booker were profiled earlier in this series.

Johnson has also met with President Barack Obama three times since becoming mayor to disccuss regional issues.

Sacramento is the seventh largest city in California. It is also home to Sacramento State University and the NBA's Sacremento Kings.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Silly Picture to Fill Space- Minor League Hockey Fight

We initially thought this hockey fight, presumably from the minor league East Coast Hockey League (which surprisingly now has teams in Salt Lake City, Boise, Las Vegas and Anchorage!), involved a player from the Wheeling Nailers based in Wheeling, W.Va., but upon furhter review we are not so sure.

The fight actually seems to be involving a player from the Trenton Thunder, a team that is now called the Trenton Devils. We can concur that both teams are/were based in Trenton, NJ.

We do know that the ECHL's South Carolina Stingrays of Chareston, SC, are celebrating Saint Patrick's Day a bit early this year during their March 12th home game versus the Florida Everblades, which is also Military Night.

The Stingrays' goalie Shane Connelly, who like most hockey players did not actually grow up in the Palmetto State (he is from Pennsylvania) will be celebrating his 23rd birthday on March 16.

Other ECHL standouts include the scoring duo of Aaron Clarke and T.J. Fox for the Nailers and current Player of the Week Stefano Giallati of the Reading Royals (in Reading, Pa.).

Let the fights....oh, we mean let the games begin!

Monday, March 8, 2010

Quote of the Week-Jon Voight

Today, we are quoting both Jon Voight and his fellow Oscar-winning co-star Jane Fonda on our respective blogs.

Both won Oscars for their work in the 1978 political drama "Coming Home," which lost the Best Picture Oscar to "The Deer Hunter," a film that also focused on the plight of Vietnam War veterans.

Ironically while Fonda has mostly maintained her liberal political views, Voight has evolved to a very vocal right-winger. Many have speculated that his erractic relationship with his movie-star daughter Angelina Jolie may have caused the dramatic shift but there seem to be few public explanations as to why Voight's views changed, presumably during the War in Iraq which he supported.

Voight has appeared frequently on Fox News programs with the likes of Bill O'Reilly, Glenn Beck and Mike Huckabee. He has also been a key-note speaker at Tea Party rallies.

The actor who gained fame with "Midnight Cowboy" (1969) and "Deliverance" (1972) also virtually disowned "Coming Home" in a "Vanity Fair" retrospective piece about Vietnam War-era films. Voight has also criticized Fonda for 'aiding and abetting those who wish to destroy Israel.'

Yet, surprisingly enough, Voight did appear with co-star Dustin Hoffman at a 40th anniversary screening of "Midnight Cowboy," which won an Oscar for Best Picture, in Los Angeles last year.

Here is his quote of the week. We actually couldn't find one that had anything to do with politics!:

"Angelina adopted a Cambodian baby. I'm a grandfather today."

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Top 10 Right-Wing Films of All Time

I must profess to getting a high adrenaline rush while posting a blog entry just minutes before a major tv event (in this the Oscars).

While I have publicly professed my disdain for Dick Cheney, Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck, I do like some right-wing films or at least I find them to be guilty pleasures.

According to an Internet rumor which is probably not too accurate, Eli Roth, the director of one film on this list ("Hostel") and Quentin Tarantino might be gay lovers or just pretending to be to get attention.

Here is our list (my friends are worried that I'm going to boycott this year's Oscars due to my hatred for "Avatar"....but, I do want to see what is the Best Short Animated Feature----go "Logorama!"):

1. Triumph of the Will
2. The Birth of a Nation
3. Saw (pictured)
4. The Passion of the Christ (pictured)
5. Red Dawn (pictured)
6. Invasion USA (memo: Chuck Norris turns 70 next week!)
7. An American Carol
8. Dirty Harry
9. Hostel
10. The Turkish Star Wars/Team America: World Police (tie)

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Our Oscar Forecasts- Part Two

The first of this two-part entry is at our other blog "The Daily Vampire."

Here are our projections for the other Oscars that will be given out on Sunday night:

Animated Feature Film:

Who Should Win: "The Fantastic Mr. Fox"
Who Will Win/Our Pick: "Up"

Art Direction:

Who Should Win: anyone but "Avatar"
Who Will Win: "Avatar"


Who Should Win: "The Hurt Locker"
Who Will Win: "The Hurt Locker"

Costume Design:

Who Should Win: Honestly, we don't know!
Who Will Win: "Young Victoria" (pictured-Oscar seems to always choose Victorian films in this category so........)

Documentary (feature):

The Nominees: "Burma VJ," "The Cove," "Food, Inc.," "The Most Dangerous Man in America......," and "Which Way Home"
Who Should Win: "Burma VJ," "The Cove" or "Food, Inc." (the only film I've seen in this category)
Who Will Win: "The Cove"---it seems to be the most popular film.

Documentary (short):
Who Will Win: "Rabbit a la Berlin" (has the highest rating on the IMDB)

Film Editing:
Who Should Win: "Inglorious Basterds" (for all the film's faults, this was well-done)
Who Will Win" "The Hurt Locker" or "Avatar"
Our Pick: "Avatar" (though I hope we're wrong!).

Foreign-Language Film:

We were actually going to a whole entry on this topic. Oh well!

The Nominees: "Ajami" (Israel), "The White Ribbon" (Germany), "A Prophet" (France), "The Milk of Sorrow" (Peru) and "The Secret in Their Eyes." (Argentina)
Who Should Win: Critics Amy Taubin ("Film Comment") and Peter Travers ("Roling Stone") love "A Prophet." Michael Haneke's "The White Ribbon" is also highly-regarded. "Ajami," which involved real-life Palestinians has a great human interest story. This disqualifies each one of them as well as the movie from Peru, just because it's from Peru.
Who Will Win/Our Pick: "The Secret in Their Eyes," which is hopefully much better than previous year's winners in this category.


Our Pick: "The Young Victoria"

Musical Score:

Our Pick: "Avatar"

Short Film Animated:

Who Should Win: The anti-corporate "Logorama" about a police chase through downtown LA looks the most interesting (haven't seen any of the films myself).
Who Will Win: "A Matter of Loaf and Death," simply because it's a Wallace and Grommit film.

Short Film Live Action:

Our Pick: "The New Tenants."

Sound Editing:

Our Pick: "The Hurt Locker."

Sound Mixing:

Our Pick: "The Hurt Locker"

Visual Effects:

Our Pick: "Avatar"

Screenplay (Adapted)

The Nominees: "District 9," "An Education," "Up in the Air," "Precious" and "In the Loop."

Who Should Win: "Up in the Air," "An Education" or "In the Loop" (long-shot).
Who Will Win/Our Pick: "Up in the Air"

Screenplay (original):

The Nominees: "The Hurt Locker, "Inglorious Basterds," "Up," "A Serious Man," and "The Messenger."

Who Should Win: "A Serious Man" (it has next to no chance in hell of winning)
Who Will Win: "The Hurt Locker"

That's it, hopefully I will do as well as Channel 7 (Roanoke, Va.) weather-person Robin Reed or my film critic friend Bilge Ebiri. If not, we'll try again next year.....

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Congrats to Winthrop

Alas, my alma mater Radford Univresity (Radford, Va) fell to the Winthrop University (Rock Hill, SC) tonight by a 61-46 margin at the Big South Tournament held at Coastal Carolina University in Conway, SC.

Winthrop is the alma mater of my mom and my cousin Mike.

But, I still wanted RU to win!

I want to also congratulate RU on another good year on the court. We will certainly star center Art Parakhouski from Belarus, but I hope the senior gets selected high in the NBA draft.

UPDATE (SATURDAY): Amazingly enough, Winthrop won the Big South Tournament todya by upsetting the host Coastal Carolina.........!

Today is My 40th Birthday, and I am NOT Turning Into a Republican

While I was listening to NPR's "Talk of the Nation" yesterday during my one-hour commute to work, I was thinking to myself: "Hmmm...tomorrow is my 40th birthday. They say you get more conservative as you get older is there any chance....," and then I heard the show's guest former presidential candidate Mitt Romney (R-Mass.) speak and I realized: "Nope....!"

Of course, some Republicans like Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) are moderate, sane, rational people,who are not right-wing extremists, and if I lived in Portland (Maine) I might be inclinded to vote for her.

But here in the South, they are pretty much the characters you see in an old Hopalong Cassidy western or (even worse) folks who would actually give $$$$ to the likes of the Rev. Robert Tilton (pictured here)..........hmm, someone might actually shoot me for saying that:)

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Know Your Mayors (19 of 21)- Stephanie Rawlings-Blake of Baltimore

Today, I am profiling Baltimore's newest mayor, Stephanie Rawlings-Blake who is the same age as me as we are both 39 (alas, I turn 40 tomorrow). The mayor herself turns 40 on St. Patrick's Day.

Rawlings-Blake became the the 49th mayor of Baltimore on Feb. 4, replacing Sheila Dixon who was forced to resign due to embezzlement allegations.

According to "The Washington Post," the new mayor emphasized the need for a disciplined budget as the city faces a $120 million deficit during her first address to the citizens of Baltimore. She also said it was time for the community to act together:

"Our city is in a time of healing," Mayor Rawlings-Blake said. "Now more than ever we are challenged to come together, rededicate ourselves to a common cause and make needed reforms."

Rawlings-Blake also recognized city firefighters who came through during the recent the snow storms which affected both Baltimore and Washington DC and put local constraints on both cities' municipal budgets.

The new mayor's father was Maryland House of Delegates member Howard "Pete" Rawlings. She is a 1988 graduate of Western High School in Baltimore.

Dixon's predecessor, former Baltimore mayor Martin O'Malley is now the governor of Maryland.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Silly Picture to Fill Space- Little Green Men

Since two science-fiction films have been nominated for Best Picture Oscar this year ("Avatar," and "District 9") and much to the seeming dismay of my science-fiction connosieur friend Chris Knight, I hated them both with equal disdain, I thought I would post an entry dedicated to little green men. In this case, they are actually protesters in the United Kingdom.

While researching this piece (and yes we actually did that for this!), we found out that Cedar City, Utah, is apparently a hotbed for UFOs.

And, there will be a UFO Congress meeting at the Ramada Inn in Bordentown, NJ, on May 8-9 this year. I guess like the tea-bagger convention which was held in Nashville, Tenn., a few weeks ago, it might be interesting to see what's going on, but (since I don't believe in little green men) I'd feel out of place. Of course, I would have also felt the same way at the Southern Baptist convention, which was held here in Greensboro, NC, a few years ago (when Bush Two was El Presidente no less).

Apparently, Wytheville, Va., a truck-stop town some 60 miles west of my hometown of Roanoke, Va., reported many UFO sightings circa 1987 and there is a UFO rest stop in Stephensville, Tex.

For those of you visiting this blog from Bergen, Norway, who may think us Americans are alone in this whackiness, there is also a UFO Musuem in Istanbul, Turkey. I have actually been there. I gather Marvin the Martian likes the ruins to Ephesus, and drinking beer while watching topless German women in the resort town of Bodrum.