Sunday, July 31, 2011

Things We Learned on Google Today- All Things Belarusian

Today, we continue our look at the former Soviet republics that are now independent countries with a look at Belarus. Though known for some dubious things, such as the fact that President Alexander Lukoshenko has ruled the nation with an iron fist since 1994. This lead former secretary of state Condoleezza Rice to say that 'Belarus was the last true remaing dictatorship in Europe.' Assuredly, Hillary Clinton, in spite of political differences, would agree with that sentiment.

We asked Google what the population of the capital city of Minsk was, and the answer is 1,837,000 people. The whole country of Belarus has a population of 9.5 million.

But, one of the most famous people from Belarus, former Olympic gymnast Svetlana Bogenskaya (pictured here), born 1973, lives in Houston, Texas, with her husband and two kids. Editorial comment: Are there any gorgeous women who aren't taken? The gymnast won gold on vault at the 1988 Seoul Olympics, and she retired at a late age (for gymnasts) in 1997.

She is still active with gymnastics as she has an online retail business selling sporting equipment pertaining to gymnastics.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Playing Word Detective- Haters

The terms 'hater' or 'haters' once seemed like silly things that Laura Conrad and Heidi Montag would say on the MTV series "The Hills," but it is literally coming up all over the place, even in respectable media outlets, as of late.

The images here are of two fellow Turkish-Americans: the bald guy with the glasses is the Rev. Ergun Caner, who is four years older than me, and the other is of Cenk Uygur, a progressive talk show host who was also born in March of 1970 as I was. We will get to why you chose them for this piece, but I will say to those of you from Eskisehir, Turkey, who have never read this blog before that I definitely favor Uygur's view of the world more.

First, lets look at two instances when the term hater came up in two unexpected places this week. The first was when Fox News commentator Juan Williams, formerly of NPR, whose views of the world make him seem like Christopher Hitchens, David Brooks and Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Ct.), all of whom seem to be contrarians, gave an interview with media journalist Howard Kurtz in "Newsweek."

Williams is presumably a conservative (or perhaps a centrist), but he has reportedly criticized fellow Fox News personality Sean Hannity as being too extreme. During his interview with Kurtz, Williams identified those who felt his views should be more liberal because he is African-American as 'haters.'

This week, I also read an article/opinion piece by another contrarian Martin Peretz of "The New Republic," who identifies himself as a liberal but his staunch Zionism make his views come across as a conservative. As much as I admire Peretz and the magazine he once owned (which is the "TNR"), this article which clearly had elements of Arab-bashing made me realize why Eric Alterman of the very liberal magazine "The Nation" accused Peretz of being a racist, though I would not go that far.

Peretz used the term haters for Moslems who don't like Israel in the article, which was also very critical of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, and he went on to say that the Arab Spring will not likely bring about that many long-term major changes in places like Egypt or Syria. This sentiment, which I can in some ways sympathize with, does however sound like an argument made those on the far-left that there are no real differences between Obama and George W. Bush. Uh-huh.

And, haters is also used in religious circles as well. The Rev. Steven Furtick, a mega-church minister in Charlotte, NC, who seems to taking over the Queen City the way Godzilla took over Tokyo, has used the term haters to describe those who are criticizing him for merchandizing religion. But, with 7,000 worshippers on four, soon to be six, mega-church campuses, the assesment, even from an objective standpoint, seems fairly valid.

This brings us to the Rev. Ergun Caner, a former Liberty University dean, who has allegedly used the term hater for those disagree with him. Ironically, this includes Moslems who did not appreciate his Islam-bashing book that came out a year after September 11th, and Christians, who felt there were inconsistencies in his conversion story. Of course, it assuredly also includes us human secularists, though it is nice to see Christians and Moslems agree on something.

And, the term hater was used against Cenk Uygur by conservative blogger Jeff Dunetz who said that Uygur and others who differ with Glenn Beck were actually anti-semites. Apparently, this is the notion that if you differ with the Israeli government you are no different than a Neo-Nazi. Uh-huh. Again.

All of this leads to wonder where the term hater or haters started. I checked the Urban Dictionary, even though last week, I had a quasi nightmare that they were going to sue me for mentioning the terms they define on my blog. But, they did not provide me a clear cut answer, and neither did Google. Though I can verify there was a hit song in 2004 by teen icon Hilary Duff called "Haters."

It should be pointed that Cenk Uygur and I have one more thing in common in that we both went from right to left politically though my 'conversion' happened when I was 13 years old and basically sick of Ronald Reagan, who might ironically be considered a liberal now if the Republican continues to go to the whacko far right. (So much for Mary Eberstadt's theory that people go from left to right politically more often as was the thesis of her book "Why I Turned Right").

Uygur's chance of heart occured later in life when he realized George W. Bush was making a huge mistake by going into Iraq in 2003. But, I assume, since he was a Republican at the time, that Uygur didn't get any flack from Turkish relatives for voting for Michael Dukakis in 1988. That was not the case with me!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Quote of the Day- Marcel Marceau

Yes, we like the idea of quoting the great French mime Marcel Marceau (1923-2007) who was famous for 'never saying a word.' Here is his quote:

"Do not the most moving parts of our lives find us without words?"

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Ten Films That Might Be Worth Watching on DVD

Here are twn films, most of which have been recently released on dvd, that might well be worth your time:

1) "Zazie dans le metro" (1960. France. dir-Louis Malle). I must profess that I forget if I've seen this film or not, just as I forgot Bill Clinton, the only president I forgot to name on presidents' names quiz earlier today. But, Malle was a great director, especially during the French New Wave years.

2) "Blue Valentine" (2010. dir-Derek Cianfrance). I was actually in the minority of 'haters' on this one (well, I would give the film two and a half stars). But, this dark romance with Michelle Williams and Ryan Gosling might merit a second look for those of us who saw it in cinemas, and certainly it is worth a first look for those who have yet to see the film.

3) "The Ilusionist" (2010. France. dir-Slyvain Chomet). This looks like a good animated film.

4) "Mickey One" (1965. dir-Arthur Penn. With Warren Beatty)- I saw this film several years ago at the Virginia Film Festival with Penn, who has since died, in attendance. It is noteable for being the first pairing of Penn and Beatty who would go on to work together on "Bonnie and Clyde."

5) "Cedar Rapids" (2011. dir-Miquel Arteta). This is a fairly good satire of convention life on the road; it is, of course, set in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

6) "Cul de Sac" (1966. dir-Roman Polanski). It appears that all of us cinephiles may actually get to finally see this Polanski film after all these years, perhaps!

7) "Life During Wartime" (2009. dir-Todd Solondz). I am an unabashed admirer of Todd Solondz films, even in the rare times when they don't work. This is not his very best film, but it's great dark humor that makes the Coen Brothers' "Fargo" look like "Bambi."

8) "Potiche" (2010. France. dir-Francois Ozon). Actually, I had nil interest in seeing this film until I found out it was a period piece set in the 1970s, the decade I find most interesting, perhaps because I was born in 1970.

9) "The Wiz" (1978. dir-Sidney Lumet). Why this supposedly silly movie?, you may ask. Well, the Lincoln Center in New York has been showing retro-screenings of Sidney Lumet's films since the veteran director died earlier this year. It's bound to be better than "Rubber," a new bad movie about a killer tire.

10) "Takva" (2006. Turkey. dir-Ozer Kiziltan). I have been disappointed with both the limited number of Turkish films that have been released in the United States and the artistic quality of these films. But, aside from Nuri Bilge Ceylan's work (the director of "Distant"), this film about Islamic fundamentalism in Turkey (the film was made by secularists) is perhaps the most remarkable Turkish film one can find on Netflix.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Quote of the Week- Dr. Seuss

Today, we continue with quips from famous people from New England with a quote from Dr. Seuss (1904-1991), who hailed from Springfield, Mass. The Dr. Seuss National Memorial is also located there.

Here is the quote:

"Sometimes the questions are complicated and the answers are simple."

Today, We Are All Norwegians

Friday, July 22, 2011

Random Ten Classic Novels to Read This Summer

Today, we are posting ten classic novels that might make for good summer reading. I haven't read all the books on this list, but I did get a chance to read "Lord of the Flies" while spending time on the island of Buyukada, off Istanbul,Turkey, in the summer of 2008. Stephen King said that William Golding's novel was a major influence on him.

There is another list on our other blog "The Daily Vampire" which lists ten contemporary novels which might be worth reading. We deliberately placed two books that were made into Tim Burton films. On the other list, we featured "The Big Fish" by Daniel Wallace. Here, we include "Alice in Wonderland" by Lewis Carroll. We found out why reasearching this that there is a nerological condition called Alice in Wonderland Syndrome which affects human perception.

Though we did not include a novel from science-fiction Orson Scott Card, who is perhaps the most famous living writer here in the Greensboro, NC, area, on our other list, we do feature "Treasure Island," which he mentioned as one of his favorite classic novels on the WUNC-FM talk show "The State of Things" a few months ago.

Turkish-American writer Elif Batuman got me interested in someday reading Leo Tolstoy's epic novel "War and Peace," which is over a thousand pages long. I noticed that it has not been checked out of one local community college library since 2003! I imagine the length of the novel has something to do with that.

Here is this list:

1. "Gulliver's Travels" (1726) by Jonathan Swift

2. "1984" (1948) by George Orwell

3. "War of the Worlds" by H.G. Wells (1898)

4. "Brave New World" by Aldous Huxley (1932)

5. "Treasure Island" by Robert Louis Stevenson (1883)

6. "War and Peace" by Leo Tolstoy (1869)

7. "Lord of the Flies" by William Golding (1954)

8. "Old Man and the Sea" by Ernest Hemingway (1952)

9. "Invisible Man" by Ralph Ellison (1952)

10. "Alice in Wonderland" by Lewis Carroll (1865)

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Quote of the Week- Alexandre Dumas

Our quote of the week comes from the late French novelist Alexandre Dumas (1802-1870) who is best-known for his two famous novels "The Three Musketeers" and "The Count of Monte Crisco."

I think this quote exemplifies the reasons why Donald Trump could never become a manager of a Taco Bell in Trenton, NJ, as it is he is a real germophone (according to a "Rolling Stone" interview published earlier this year) as it is.

Here is the quote:

"It is almost as difficult to keep a first class person in a fourth-class job, as it is to keep a fourth class in a first class job."

SIDEBAR: There was a commercial a few years ago for American Express where Donald Trump went into a dumpster to look for his wallet (yes, it is pick-on-Donald Trump day). As it turns out, there is an environmental activist in Los Angeles named Jeremy Seifert who is engaging in dumpster diving, which is a way to dig into dumpsters to get out potentially recyclable materials. Seifert wrote and directed a film about his experiences and his compatriots in the dumpster-diving venture for a documentary film called "Dive!" Apparently, much to his surprise, Seifert found a high amount of good, edible food in these dumpsters. The film will be screening next on Thurs., July 28, at Internationalist Books in Chapel Hill, NC.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

My Choice for the Best Films of 1971

I had no intention of having two blog entries within a few days featuring fruits, but since we had problems finding a good image of Malcolm McDowell's Alex (and there were other snafus while putting this together!), we thought we would opt for (what else?!) some oranges.

McDowell lists his personal favorite guilty pleasures in the current issue of "Film Comment" and two of the films are ones that he was in. Amazingly, he did not list "Caligula."

Generally, we don't go with popular films for our own choices for the best films of a given, but "A Clockwork Orange," my own personal favorite Stanley Kubrick film, and I say this expecting a full rebutal from my friend Bilge Ebiri who prefers "Barry Lyndon" (1975), is also my favorite film from 1971, a year when I was just one year old.

Many people have said that 1971 was amazing year in cinema, and I have to agree. For whatever reason, filmmakers around the world, made amazing films and many of the films which will not make the cut on the list, such as "Two-Lane Blacktop" and "Sunday, Bloody Sunday," could have been the best film of years with few good films, such as 1989, which only had a few memorable films like Spike Lee's "Do the Right Thing."

Here are my choices for the best films of 1971:

1) "A Clockwork Orange" (dir. Stanley Kubrick)

2) "The Last Picture Show" (dir. Peter Bogdanovich)

3) "Harold and Maude" (dir. Hal Ashby)

4)* "The French Connection" (dir. William Friedkin)

5) "Death in Venice" (Italy. dir-Luchino Visconti)

6) "Murmur of the Heart" (France. dir-Louis Malle)

7) "McCabe and Mrs. Miller" (dir. Robert Altman)

8) "Punishment Park" (dir. Peter Watkins)

9) "How Tasty My Little Frenchman" (Brazil. dir- Nelson Pereira dos Santos)

10) **"Baba/The Father"(Turkey. dir-Yilmaz Guney)

*-Oscar-winner for Best Film

**-"Baba" is only available on VHS, and in very limited supply, in the United States.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Remembering Sherwood Schwartz

We were saddened to hear of the passing of Sherwood Schwartz (1916-2011) who created two of my favorite tv shows from my childhood in "Gilligan's Island" and "The Brady Bunch." Schwartz died last week.

And, on that note, we will conclude this very short blog entry and take a day off from blogging tomorrow (yes, I can do it!).

Interestingly enough, the late Bob Denver who was Gilligan lived as a regular Joe in he small town of Princeton, WV, in his later years.

Whoops, We Forgot Belgium

Well, we are posting this simply to balance this blog with our other blog "The Daily Vampire," where we made an error sending an entry meant for this blog on that one.

But, we were thinking about taking a day off from blogging tomorrow to go wash dogs at an animal shelter in Lynchburg, Va. (that is a joke, but we understand there is a great animal shelter in that city).

Alas, an image we hoped to post of Borat at the rodeo in Salem, Va., which is my hometown, as featured in the film "Borat" fell through in our Kazakhstan entry due to technical problems or perhaps a block from that particular site. (By the way, the answer is B for the question in that entry).

And, earlier today, I was able to name 24 of the 25 cities that have hosted or will host the summer Olympics in quiz. We forgot about the 1920 Antwerp Olympics. I have even been to Antwerp, Belgium, (back in 1993) but I completely forgot that the city was an Olympic host. Our apologies to Tintin, and everyone else in Belgium.

Yvonne Tousek, a former Olympic gymnast and UCLA stand-out competed for Canada, who I get to chat with every now and then, competed in the 2000 Sydney Olympics and at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. She is curently performing with Cirque du Soleil.

I would say that I competed for Turkey (my late father's homeland) in greco-roman wrestling at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, when I would have been 22 years old, but I imagine the actual members of that team would not care for the joke.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Things We Learned on Wikipedia This Week- Capital of Kazakhstan

We are continuing our look at former republis of the Soviet Union today with Kazakhstan. The second largest former Soviet republic behind Russia was made famous/infamous by the film "Borat" (2006) starring Sacha Baron Cohen as the fake television reporter from Kazakhstan.

The film, which was in my top five list for the best films of 2006, will always be a special to me because the rodeo scene where Borat/Cohen tricked rodeo-goers into singing a butchered verison of "The Star Spangled Banner" was filmed at a rodeo in my hometown of Salem, Va. And, just today, I saw that the Internet Movie Database indicated one of the film's factual goofs is that it shows Salem, which neighbors the larger city of Roanoke, as being in the eastern part of Virginia as opposed to southwest Virginia.

Many of the Kazkakhstan village scenes for the movie were actually filmed in Romania. In one of the scenes, the audience is introduced to Borat's neighbor Nursultan Tuyakbey, who is a cross between the names of the current Kazak president/dictator Nursultan Nazabayev and his political opponent in the mid-2000s Zharmakan Tuyakbey.

In April, Nazabayev ran virtually unopposed and got close to 100 percent of 'the vote.'

Today's question is what is the capital of Kazakhstan? Is the answer:

A) Alma Ata

B) Astana

C) Chimkent

D) Pavlador

This is the fifth of 17 entries in this series, and the first one presented in trivia question form. The other four Soviet republics in this series were Uzbekistan, Russia, Kyrgzstan* and (the) Ukraine.

*-This has to be one of the hardest countries in the world to spell!

SIDEBAR: My friend Bruce Piephoff, a folk singer in Greensboro, NC, may not be heading out to Kazakhstan for a concert anytime soon, but he will be performing a live set for WXDU (88.7-FM, Durham), the student-run radio station of Duke University at 7:00 p.m. on Tuesday. My personal favorite song of his might very well be "I Remember Asheville," even though I've only been Asheville, NC, one time!

Quote of the Moment-John Irving

Today, we continue our quips from famous New Englanders with a quote from novelist/screenwriter John Irving (b. 1942, Exeter, NH). Since Irving is from New Hampshire, this means that we have covered five of the six New England states with quotes on our two blogs. Rhode Island is now the lone exception.

Irving is a bit luckier than most novelist because two of his three most well-known novels "The World According to Garp" (book, 1978; film, 1982), "The Hotel New Hampshire" (book 1981; film 1984) and "The Cider House Rules" (book 1985; film 1999) turned into good film adaptations. Of course, it probably helped that Irving himself either wrote or co-wrote all three screenplays. He actually won an Oscar for best adapation for "The Cider House Rules." Of the three film versions, "The Hotel New Hampshire" with Rob Lowe and Jodie Foster is considered to be the least successful.

Here is Irving's quote:

"Half of my life is an act of revision."

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Status Update_ Today Has Been a Fairly Rotten Day

There are always days which fall through the cracks for whatever reason, and for me today was one of those days.

But, while discovering this image of rotten bananas, we were able to research the banana fruit and learn some relatively interesting and potentially useful information.

Bananas are native to South and Southeast Asia. The fruit is grown in 107 countries. Bananas became cultivated in Latin America by the Portuguese.

The top five banana-producing countries are India, the Philippines, China, Ecuador, and Brazil. Costa Rica which produces many of the bananas found on American grocery store shelves ranks eighth in world production.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Things We Learned on Twitter Tonight- Principal Skinner Mentions Roanoke, Va.

Harry Shearer, who has done many things besides voicing characters on "The Simpsons," mentioned Roanoke, Va., my hometown in a tweet tonight.

The tweet was regarding the fact that my friend Jason Garnett was screening Shearer's documentary "The Big Uneasy" about the Hurricane Katrina fiasco at The Shadowbox Cinema tonight. The film, which Shearer produced and directed, also shows at the same venue tomorrow night (Saturday night) at 8:00 p.m.

Here was the tweet from Shearer:

"Big Uneasy opens tonight in Roanoke, Va., and Encinitas, Ca., I'll be skyping the
Q & A at the latter, Palorma Theatre."

The film is also screening in Savannah, Georgia, this weekend.

I saw the screening at the Shadowbox and the documentary turned out to be a fairly well-done film, which features a number of funny cameos by John Goodman, that helps balance the depressing subject matter. The film's focus on how it affected New Orleans, where Shearer is a part-time resident, is quite moving.

As for Principal Seymour Skinner, I had found out a while back through Wikipedia that he was actually an Armenian-American?! This humored me because I am a Turkish-American, and for reasons why I won't go into (we only have so much time to dedicate to blog entries) our two groups have 'some political friction.'

Skinner's real name as revealed in a 1997 episode (it is easy to forget that the show has been on since 1990 and if Bart Simpson aged in real time he would have probably retired from skateboarding) is Armin Tamzarian.

In the episode in which the name of Skinner was revealed there is a real man named Seymour Skinner who confronts him for being an impostor. According to Wikiepdia, Shearer himself said that he intensely disliked the episode which many Simpsons fans apparently consider to be the equivalent of the infamous "Spock's Brain" episode of the original "Star Trek."

SIDEBAR: For my friends and followers back in my adopted city of Greensboro, NC, I also want to highly recommend "Talking Pictures," a new musical comedy by Tommy Trull and Chris Tilley who are (full disclosure) friends of mine. The two-act play is a farscial look at the early days of Hollywood when Harold LLoyd was the king of comedy. "Talking Pictures" is being staged at the historic Broach Theatre in downtown Greensboro. There will be a production tommorow night at 8:00 p.m.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Special Quote of the Day- Voltaire

Since today is Bastille Day in France, the country that brought us Tintin (just kidding, Belgium!), we thought we'd quote from the famous philosopher and plawright Francois-Marie Arouet Voltaire (1694-1778) whom everyone simply knows as Voltaire. And, here is the quote:

"Work saves us from three great evils: boredom, vice, and need."

Of course, he said all this a few centuries before the advent of Facebook and Twitter.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Ten Films to Look for on DVD

I have combed through the last two issues of "Film Comment" and there is some great stuff that is coming out. Alas, Netflix made a highly unpopular decision yesterday to arbitrarily raise prices considerably. 72 percent of those surveyed said they disagreed with the company's move in an AOL survey. An exceptional article by Jonathan A. Knee in the current issue of "The Atlantic" illustrated how the company has grown massively, thanks largely to online streaming. According to Knee, the company now has 23 million subsribers, up from nine million in 2008, and Netflix is projected to make $3 billion this year.

Among the films I've chosen here are teh ultra-violent cult film "Hobo with a Shotgun" and the very depressing film "Another Year." I went with the image of anti-depressants for Mike Leigh films because I had technical problems with an image of a very big tree in Bursa, Turkey, that I was intending to use for the film (the poster for "Another Year" featured a big tree).

We also recommend the disturbing, but brilliant documentary "Cul de Sac: A Suburban War Story" that I saw on the Sundance Channel a few years ago; a tank features prominently in the film.

And, since Morgan Spurloc's new film "The Greatest Movie Ever Sold" is a documentary that examines product-placements in films, we just had to post an image of a Mars bar.

1. "Marwencol" (2010. doc. dir- Jeff Malmberg)

2. "Another Year" (2010. dir- Mike Leigh)

3. "Somewhere" (2010. dir- Sofia Coppola)

4. "Hobo with a Shotgun" (2010. dir-Jason Eisener)

5. "Cul de Sac: A Suburban War Story" (2002. doc. dir-Garrett Scott).

6. "How I Ended the Summer" (2010. Russia. dir-Alexie Popogrebsky)- Sarah Mankoff highly recommended this film in the May/June issue of "Film Comment."

7. "David Holzman's Diary" (1967. dir- Jim McBride)_ This is a brilliant experimental art film, which is perhaps in my top 100.

8. "Police Adjective" (2009. Romania. dir-Corneilu Porumbaiu). Romania has been making some surprsingly exceptional films, including this one, lately.

9. "Damnation Alley" (1977. dir-Jack Smight).

10. "The Greatest Movie Ever Sold" (2011. doc. dir-Morgan Spurlock).

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Status Update_ I Wish I Could Go to NYC Just to See a Movie

The Film Forum in New York is currently screening the original 1968 gem "Planet of the Apes" with a rare print, but they are only showing the film until Thursday!

I am a huge fan of the original film, and even like some of the kinky seuqels. And, I must give Tim Burton credit as the 2001 remake was better than I expected. Still, nothing compares to the original.

Closer to home (I live on the Virginia-North Carolina border), Joe Scott will be screening the 1987 film "The Lost Boys," a teenage vampire saga, at the Carolina Theatre in Greensboro, NC, on Thursday night.

And, my good friend Jason Garnett will be presenting "Jaws" at The Shadowbox Cinema in Roanoke, Va., on July 23rd.

SIDEBAR: I was wondering just how many Republicans were trying to run for president. As it turns out, the official number, which does not include possible candidates like Sarah Palin, is 17. The most established candidates at this juncture appear to be Mitt Romney, Jon Huntsman, Newt Gingrich and Tim Pawlenty.

But, there are plenty of secon-tier candidates, including the radical, far-right Michele Bachmann who has supposedly promised to ban pornography and 'cure homosexuality.' This batch also includes former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum, who is also known for making over-the-top statements regarding gays. Then, there is the Godfather's Pizza baron Herman Cain, one of two African-Americans in the running.

This brings us to the no-name candidates, which includes the other African-American Jimmy McMillan, a Vietnam vet who established an activist group called The Rent is Too Damn High. There is also Tom Miller, a career flight attendant with no political experience (we're not making this up!) and the radical lunatic activist Anyd Martin who tried to sue the state of Hawaii in regards to President Barack Obama's birth certificate.

Finally, there is a gay rights activist (?!) named Fred Karger who may very well have eggs thrown at him, given the extreme nature of today's Republican Party. But, we wish him well.

Of course, it will be up to a car mechanic in Sioux City, Iowa, and a janitor in Manchester, New Hampshire, to determine who gets the party nomination.

Even though I'm a Democrat, I have no doubt that it will 'get interesting.'

Monday, July 11, 2011

Quote of the Week- Chester Arthur

It is quite ironic that Vermont, which is perhaps the most liberal state in America, was the birth state of Republican President Chester Arthur (1829-1886). Arthur, who was the 21st president, got his promotion to the oval office rather quickly as his predecessor James Garfield was assasinated by Charles J. Guiteau, who was later hanged in Washington, DC, in spite of considerable evidence that Guiteau was mentally ill.

Garfield was shot in Long Brnach, New Jersey, on July 2, 1881, but the 20th president remained alive until Sept. 19.

Arthur would only serve out the remainder of Garfield's term, and his own would end abruptly as he died on Nov. 17, 1886, at age 57, a mere 103 days after leaving office on March 4th of that year.

This quote illustrates that some of the men who were president in the 19th century may have problems coping with the modern presidency:

"I may be president of the United States, but my private life is nobody's damned business."

This month, we hope to quote famous New Englanders around Monday of each week. Last week, we quoted poet E.E. Cummings.

SIDEBAR: Though I missed the film's screenings in North Carolina, I am very interested in a new documentary film by Trenton, NJ, filmmaker Kevin J. Williams called "Fear of a Black Republican" even though I'm neither African-American or a Republican. As one might expect, the very conservative Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas is featured in the film.

The documentary will be screening in Wilmington, Del., on July 28 at 7:00 p.m.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Road Trip- Paris to Moscow

Today, we are not actually you to guess the distance between Paris, France, and Moscow, Russia, but rather the distance between Paris, Texas, and Moscow, Idaho, neither of which are world capitals.

For our points of destination, we randomly chose two family restaurants in both zip codes from Google; we have no idea if either place has been featured in a "Zippy the Pinhead" comic strip, but perhaps its creator Bill Griffith has stumbled upon our blog?!

We start with the Roadhouse Restaurant in Paris, Texas, a town made famous by the brilliant 1984 art film "Paris Texas," directed by the great German filmmaker Wim Wenders. As it is, the town, like Las Vegas, has a replica Eiffel Tower but this one has a cowboy hat on top of it.

Our other destination is Dad's Diner, which is actually located just outside Moscow, in Potlatch, Idaho; the other Moscow is known as a collegetown and the base of operation for the popular singer Josh Ritter.

So, just how far apart are these two places?

Is the answer:

A) 29 hours even

B) 30 hours even

C) 31 hours even

D) 32 hours even

Happy Trails to you, until we meet again, which reminds me there is a Gene Autry marathon on TCM tonight.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

People with Long Names List, Part 2

The last time we featured a People with Long Names List on this blog was April 25 and the names were women's. Today, we go with the men (a women's list is on "The Daily Vampire"). Of course, since my name is (mr) Tilly Gokbudak, I could be on this list as much as these guys.

Here it is, and hopefully everyone's name is spelled correctly!:

1. Novak Djokovic- This 24-year-old Serbian tennis star is the current Wimbledon champion. His countrymen Srdjan Spasojevic, who directed the 2010 shock horror film called "A Serbian Film" (yes, that is the actually name of the film) is longer and harder, but more people are familiar with Novak---yeah, we skipped his last name on purpose!

2. Florian Henckel von Donnersmack- The German director who first gained acclaim with the Oscar-winning film "The Lives of Other" went mainstream last year with the American box office hit "The Tourist" with Angelina Jolie and Johnny Depp. Even PBS talk show host Charlie Rose had trouble pronouncing his arduous last name.

3. Kemal Kilicdaroglu- This Turkish politician who leads the country's center-left People's Republic Party is trying to regain political power from Prime Minister Recep Tayypid Erdogan's conservative AK Party.

4. Nofis Sfakianakis- Of course, whenever you include the name of a Turk, you have to include the name of a Greek, especially if you are a Turk! This pop singer is among the most popular singers ever in Greece.

5. Banjong Pisanthanakun- This horror film director from Thailand has a surname which is quite scary!

6. Gary Shteyngart- The Russian-American author of the great novel "Absurdistan" was going to be on our initial list, but we somehow forgot all about him!

7. Sorunas Marciulionis- A retired Lithunian basketball who was an NBA star must have caused problems for the people putting his name on the jerseys.

8. Alexei Popogrebsky- This Russian filmmaker's 2010 film "How I Ended This Summer" which was acclaimed in art cinema circles is now out on dvd in the United States. (Whoops! We initially spelled his name Poporgrebsky!).

9. Parahamsa Nithyananda- This man is a spiritual guru in India; we initially didn't get his name right either!

10. Alejandro Yemenidjian- This Argentinian-Armenian is the current head of MGM studios. I suppose if he ever goes to a Beverly Hills restaurant with Mark Zuckerberg, he lets the kid pick up the tab!

Quote of the Day- Agnes Varda

Today, our quote of the day comes from the great French film director Agnes Varda, who turned 83 earlier this year.

Varda is best known for her films "Cleo from 5 to 7" (1962) and "Vagabond" (1985). She also directed the documentary "The Beaches of Agnes," which was made in 2008.

Here is her quote:

"Hands are the tool of the painter, the artist."

And, we are happy to report that we have finally passed the 100,000 hits mark! Even though, my other blog "The Daily Vampire" ( is seven or eight times as popular, this blog, which will become six years old on Sept. 21st is still my proverbial pride and joy.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Best Ten Films of 1951

Last year, I listed my favorite films from 1950, 1960, 1970, 1980, 1990 and 2000, on my two blogs. So, this year, I figured I would list my ten favorite films from 1951 until 2001.

We begin with the ten films that I percieve to be the best, or my personal favorites, from 1951, a year in which Marlan Brando yelled Sttttttttttteeeeeeeeeeellllllllllllllllllaaaaaaaaaaa in "A Streetcar Named Desire," which made the cut.

Here is the list:

1. "The Day the Earth Stood Still" (dir. Robert Wise)

2. "Strangers on a Train" (dir. Alfred Hitchcock)

3. "The Diary of a County Priest" (France. dir: Robert Bresson)

4. "Early Summer" (Japan. dir: Yasujiro Ozu)

5. "A Streetcar Named Desire" (dir. Elia Kazan)

6. "The Steel Helmet" (dir. Samuel Fuller)

7. "The African Queen" (dir. John Huston)

8. "A Place in the Sun" (dir. George Stevens)

9. "The Thing" (dir. Christian Nyby and Howard Hawks)

10. "An American in Paris"* (dir. Vincente Minelli)

*-Oscar winner for Best Film

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Special Quote of the Week- Magic Johnson

Since we quoted Larry Bird, we may as well quote his former rival and current friend Magic Johnson. The Los Angeles Lakers great shocked the world 20 years ago when he publicly disclosed that he was HIV-positive.

"The Washingtonian" has an excellent article in its current edition about how the HIV/AIDS epidemic affected the DC-Metro area in the '80s and '90s and how the recently deceased actress Elizabeth Taylor played a major role in getting then-president Ronald Reagan to publicly talk about the impending major problem at the time.

Here is the quote from Johnson:

"I tell you, it's funny because the only time I think about HIV is when I have to take the medication twice a day."

Special Quote of the Week- Larry Bird

Gazooks! Originally, we were supposed to quote the late, great Italian filmmaker Frederico Fellini here, but we dongied up, so we are including a quote from the Boston Celtics great Larry Bird, who is also the pride of Terre Hautte, Indiana.

This sounds like something that the late Rev. Jerry Falwell who resided just down the road in Lynchburg, Va., might have said as well:

"I really don't like talking about money. All I can say is that the Good Lord must have wanted me to have it."

Monday, July 4, 2011

Roanoke vs. Greensboro- Drive-In or Bowling? (Entry 2 of 6)

Today, in our Roanoke vs. Grensboro series, we go a little bit outside both city limits, as look at the Lee-Hi Lanes bowling alley in Salem, Va., and the Eden Drive-In in Eden, NC, which is actually 40 miles north of Greensboro.

Lee-Hi Lanes, which are actually just over the line that divides Roanoke and Salem, was once the Lee-Hi Drive-In, an establishment that was in operation from 1948-1982.
The bowling alley features the Strikers Cafe, 40 lanes with automatic scoring, league bowling and moonlight bowling, which is pretty cool.

A movie theatre, which is now the Salem Valley-8, opened next to the Lee-Hi Drive-in in 1976, and caused problems. I remember seeing a James Bond movie "The Man with the Golden Gun" (1974) as a child at the old Lee-Hi. Of course, it would have been even more cool to see "Werewolves on Wheels," a combination biker/horror film, but I was a bit too young for it (I was born in 1970). And, I can not verify that it ever showed at the Lee-Hi Drive-In.

The Eden Drive-In is still operating and apparently doing quite well. This week, the drive-in was showing a double-header with "Cars 2" and "The Green Lantern." The rates for seeing movies at the drive-in are quite inexpensive as adults are five dollars, children between ages six and eleven are two dollars and kids under five get in for free.

Though I am a movie person, my inner Zippy the Pinhead (Bill Griffith's counterculture comic strip character) would have to go for Lee-Hi Lanes. Drive-Ins are great except when it rains, and then both you and your car have to deal with lots and lots of mud. And, the money one saves by seeing movies at the drive-ins will go to a local car wash. I haven't read "Freakanomics," but I would gather this fits in with the 'one thing leads to another' realm of thought.

Incidentally, a poster of Nixon bowling was featured in the legendary Coen Brothers film "The Big Lebowski."

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Quote of the Day- E.E. Cummings

Today, we start our series with quotes from famous Americans in honor of the Fourth of July. This month, we will focus on eight quotes from people associated with the six New England states.

Since the late poet e.e. cummings (he actually preferred having his name in lower-cased letters) was born in Cambridge, Mass., and he died at his estate in North Conway, New Hampshire, we are going to quote him.

Cummings (1894-1962) was considered to be an avant garde poet when he wrote his most famous poems, such as "Buffalo Bill's," which helped immortalize the Wild West legend from Cody, Wyoming, in the 1920s. But, today, his work is considered to be standard fare in English literature classes.

Here is his quote which makes one think of another New Englander, the late children's author Dr. Seuss:

"It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are."

Things We Learned on Google Today- Kharkiv is Ukraine's Secnd Largest City

Hmm....Google is not always correct about everything. When I asked Google who was the Ukraine's most famous athlete. It/They responded with Anna Kournikova, the retired RUSSIAN tennis starlett who is more known for her off-the-court life as she was in a relationship with some pop star (yaaaaawn!).

Of course, another hot Russian female tennis player has been making more headlines lately and that is Maria Sharapova who lost yesterday in the Wimbledon women's tennis championship to Petra Kvitova from the Czech Republic. Sharapova is also engaged to some Serbian NBA player (yaaaaaaaawn again!).

But, Google did tell us that Kharkiv, not Odessa (which is actually the fourth largest Ukrainian city) is the country's second largest city. It ranks behind Kiev, but ahead of the industrial city of Dnipropetrovsk, which may have the longest name for any major city in Europe.

Kharkiv has 1.46 million people, and it is known for its metro system and Freedom Square. It is also sister cities with Cincinnati, Ohio, which is best known for its baseball team (ironically called the Reds, forgive the Cold War humor) and for being the setting of a 1970s sitcom set in a radio station which Ukrainians are probably not too familiar with.

The city also has The Annuciation Cathedral, which is one of the largest Orthodox cathedrals in the world. Kharkiv also has many Bronze artificats, and it is the hometown of weightlifter Igor Rybak.

Since the city was occupied by Nazi forces in World War II, there is some dark history in Kharkiv as 300,000 of the city's Jewish resident were killed during the Holocaust.

The city is in the northern part of the Ukraine. I wonder if there chicken is as good as the chicken in Kiev....well, we couldn't resist!

This is actually the fourth in our series on profiles of former Soviet Republics. The other three were Uzbekistan, Russia and Kygystan, which is arguably the hardest country in the world to spell!

Saturday, July 2, 2011

The Next Ten Films in My Netflix Que

Just in case you were wondering, Humpty Dumpty is for Eliot Spitzer; the Norwegian fiag pin is for the Norwegian horror film "Hidden." We wanted something more flamboyant for the Norwegian film, but oh well!

Here is the list; I have yet to see any of these films yet:

1. "No One Killed Jessica." (2011. Dir-Raj Kumar Gupta. India)

2. "Angel's Fall." (2005. Dir- Semih Kaplangul. Turkey).

3. "Hidden." (2009. Dir- Pal Oie. Norway)

4. "Irreversible" (2002. Dir- Gaspar Noe. France)

5. "A Tale of Springtime." (1990. Dir- Eric Rohmer. France)

6. "Les Bonnes Femmes" (1960. Dir- Claude Chabrol. France).

7. "The Baader Meinhof Complex." (2008. Dir- Uli Edel. Germany.)

8. "Marwencol" (2010. doc. Dir- Jeff Malmberg).

9. "Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer." (2010. doc. Dir- Alex Gibney).

10. "Dogtooth." (2009. Dir- Giorgis Lanthios. Greece).

Friday, July 1, 2011

Things We Learned from Twitter Today- Wrestler's True Cause of Death

In a tweet from this evening, we learned that former pro wrestler Randy "Macho Man" Savage, 58, who was a rival of Hulk Hogan's in the 1980s, actually died from a heart attack as opposed to a car accident.

It was widely reported and logically assumed that a car accident claimed Savage's life in May as the car he was driving hit a tree in Seminole, Fla. (near Tampa). But, an autopsy report released today has proven that a heart attack actually claimed the former wrestling superstar's life.

In other tweets, though I do politically differ with my libertarian friend Chris Knight of Reidsville, NC, since I am a centrist to liberal Democrat who only wishes Barack Obama could have as many terms as FDR, I did love this biting proclamation by him which everyone can assuredly sympathize with:

"Said it before and will say it again: American politics is two identical cages of howler monkeys throwing handfuls of dung at each other."

Since the Turkish newspaper "Hurriyet" reported this week that that there were similar bickerings between conservatives and liberal parliament members in Ankara, Turkey, (I am a Turkish-American), it appears that Knight's viewpoint is one usually felt around the globe.

SIDEBAR: For those who like to stay up even later than me on Friday nights, TCM will air the 1958 Boris Karloff film "Frankenstein 1970," which should not be confused with Andy Warhol's version (or the Mel Brooks film "Young Frankenstein" for that matter) at 2:45 a.m., immediately following a marathon on B-westerns starring Roy Rogers and his beloved horse Trigger. The screening is part of the late-night series TCM Underground, which was once hosted by Rob Zombie- of all people!