Friday, September 30, 2011

Quote of the Week- Aki Kaurismaki

We conclude our quotes from famous Scandanavians this month, with a quip from the great Finnish director Aki Kaurismaki. He is featured in the current issue of "Film Comment," where he discusses his latest film "Le Havre," which happens to be in French!

Aki's most acclaimed film to date in American film circles has been "The Man Without a Past" (2002).

Here is his quote:

"Cinema is dead. It died in 1962. I think it was October."

For the record, he was five years old in 1962.

Quote of the Day- Bernardo Bertolucci

This month (September), we have been quoting famous film directors. We conclude with one from the great Italian director Bernardo Bertolucci ("The Conformist," "The Last Tango in Paris"). My friend Bilge Ebiri, a New York film critic, is a huge admirer of his work and he has written about Bertolucci for the Australian web site "Senses of Cinema."

I also consider him to be a brilliant director; here is his quote:

"A monculture is not only Hollywood, but Americans trying to export democracy."

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Republican Humor- Dear Casey

The following is meant to be political satire. Just so everyone in Generation Z or those of you from Belarus get the joke, Dear Casey or The Long Distance Dedication was a segment that was "Casey's Top 40," an American fm-radio music show when I was a teenager in the 1980s.

"Dear Casey:

I know that even though you are a political liberal like myself and a fellow person of Middle-Eastern heritage, you may hesitate to play this song for a truck driver I don't know in Sioux City, Iowa, as I am making this request for poltical reasons. Casey, I am afraid that the Republicans will nominate another execution-happy evangelist governor of Texas for their presidential candidate, and should Rick Perry actually become president I would have to flee America for Costa Rica or Iceland. Even though I'm sure those countries are wonderful places, I am not fluent in either Spanish or Icelandic, and I imagine this would make life very difficult for me. So, Casey, it is for these reasons that I am dedicating Conway Twitty's 1973 smash hit "You've Never Been This Far Before" to that truck driver I don't know in Sioux City, Iowa, in the hopes that_ and I never thought I'd say this_ vote for Mitt Romney in his town straw poll."

Conway Twitty (1933-1993) is alas no longer with us. I am actually a fan of his music (believe it or not) even though I'm not usually a listener of country music. Twitty was originally from Helena, Arkansas, and he is also known for his "Hello Darlin'" which was a big hit for him in 1971. Anyone living in the Chapel Hill, NC, area (not where I reside) may find vinyl records of his albums at All Day Records in nearby Carrboro, NC.

Casey Kasem is thankfully alive and well at age 79, which means that if Twitty were still alive they would be about the same age. Kasem was born in Detroit, and is active in both politically liberal and Arab-American causes (I am actually a Turkish-American). In addition to the famous radio show he hosted, Kasem was the voice of Shaggy on the original "Scooby-Doo," which first aired in 1969.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Virtual Postcard from South Carolina

Though we left South Carolina a few days ago, I thought would send this Virtual Postcard from South of the Border in Dillon, SC, right on the North Carolina border on I-95, a place that I can objectively say is one of the South's most notorious tourist traps. Of course, we mean that in a good way.

We were actually not at South of the Border, but it is a unique place with lots of strange souvenirs. Some of which probably have rebel flags.

The man in the sombrero is called Pedro; we do not know him personally.

SIDENOTE: I want to send a special thanks to those of you in Macedonia, Ukraine and Dubai* who are visiting our blog today. I must profess that while I know I have never been to Ukraine or Dubai, I'm not sure if I have been to Macedonia or not. We went through the area when it was Yugoslavia during the 1970s when I was a child, and since the country split some 20 years ago, I have been confused as to exactly where we were ever since!

*-I always refer to the United Arab Emirates as Dubai as it makes life easier. Hopefully, those of you in the country's other large city Abu Dhabi take no offense.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Last 10 CDs I've Listened To

I must profess this was a bit tougher to put together than I anticipated as I had to double-check which dates these albums were released. I actually first got the release years for The Replacements' album "Tim" and REM's record "Document" mixed up.

This week, REM, a band that along with the B-52s shaped and defined the Athens,Ga., music scene in the 1980s decided to call it quits after 31 years.

Here are the albums:

1. Talking Heads (pictured) "Speaking in Tongues." (1983). Key Tracks: "Burning Down the House," "Girlfriend is Better," and "This Must Be the Place (Naive Melody)."

2. Okay Temiz (Turkish instrumentalist) "Magnet Dance" (1994).

3. Peter Bjorn and John "Gimme Some" (2011) Key Tracks: "Tomorrow Has to Wait" and "Down Like Me."

4. Ali Farka Toure (late Mali guitar great) "Niafunke" (1999).

5. The Replacements "Tim" (1987) Key Tracks: "Kiss Me on the Bus," "Bastards of Young," and "Left of the Dial."

6. Gogol Bordello (pictured) "Super Taranta!" (2007). Key Tracks: "Wonderlust King" and "American Wedding."

7. The Go-Gos (pictured) "Beauty and the Beat" (1981) Key Tracks: "We Got the Beat" and "Our Lips Are Sealed."

8. Mates of State "Bring It Back" (2006) Key Track: "For the Actor"

9. R.E.M "Document" (1987) Key Tracks: "Finest Work Song," "It's the End of the World (As We Know It)," and "The One I Love."

10. Billy Joel "Piano Man" (1973) Key Tracks: "Piano Man," "The Ballad of Billy the Kid," and "Captain Jack."

Thursday, September 22, 2011

PSA- I Need a Job

About six weeks ago, my mom got me "The Complete Works of William Shakespeare," which she found at a very resonable price at a yard sale. The book does indeed contain all 35 of William Shakespeare's plays. And, since I have alas lost my teaching job because of funding cuts, I actually might have time to read "The Merchant of Venice" and "Taming of the Shrew."

But, of course, I am hoping to find employment and put off reading Shakespeare, the great artist that he is, for some other time.

So, I am asking anyone who comes across this entry irregardless if they are in Los Angeles, Cleveland or perhaps even Dubai, if they know of employment opportunities in education, journalism or translation work (I am 90 percent fluent in Turkish).

The three states where I would prefer to work are North Carolina, Virginia or Maryland, but if the job of my dreams is in a far-away place like Logan, Utah, I will have to simply 'jump on the bus,' or perhaps even become a bus driver!

For those of you with jobs and within traveling distance of Staunton, Va., which is halfway between Washington, DC, and Roanoke, I highly recommend going to the American Shakespeare Center.

The troupe is currently performing "Henry V," "The Tempest" and "Hamlet." All productions are 'curtain up' until late November.

SIDEBAR: Alas, my beloved BursaSpor in Bursa, Turkey, lost a home game to traditional Istanbul powerhouse Besiktas (pronounced Beshiktash in English) by a 2-1 score. But, we wish the crocodiles well this season. Yes, that is actually BursaSpor's nickname even though there are no crocodiles that we know of in Turkey, though there could be some at the Ankara Zoo.

Finally, I thought soccer rivalries were pretty intense in Turkey, where in one game just a few days ago involving another Istanbul powerhouse Fenerbahce was played 'in front of women and children spectators only.' That game with Manisaspor ended in a
1-1 tie.

But, perhaps the ugliest soccer rivalry in Europe is in Glasgow, Scotland, where Rangers and Celtic fans go at each other's throats, literally! The two teams, which are divided along ethnic and religious lines (Rangers fans are Protestants, Celtic fans are Catholic), played each other in the first of five meetings (?!) over the weekend.

According to the BBC, there were some nasty clashes after the game that Rangers won by a 4-2 score on two goals from Steven John Naismith, Nikica Jealvic and Kyle Rafferty. Perhaps, their next game should be played 'in front of women and children spectators only.'

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Top Ten Countries Where We Are Most Popular

We used to jokingly brag that we were the most popular American blog in Bergen, Norway, and Samarkand, Uzbekistan, but it appears that our blog hits are not coming from those countries. However, they are thankfully coming from lots of other places.

For this entry, we chose to go with an image of Syd, Ollie and Millie, the mascots of the 2000 Sydney Olympics, where one of my all-time favorite collegiate gymnasts Yvonne Tousek of UCLA competed for Canada; the reason for this is that Australia is in our top ten for this blog as well as 'the other blog,' which is "The Daily Vampire."

Here is the list of the countries that really, really like us:

1. USA 66,460

2. Canada 6,543

3. UK 5,222

4. Germany 4,918

5. India 1,774

6. Brazil 1,567

7. France 1,313

8. Australia 1,269

9. Netherlands 1,040

10. Indonesia 613

SIDEBAR: Our friends at Triad Stage in Greensboro, NC, are set to open a new play in their UpStage Cabaret space when "The Mystery of Irma Vep" debuts on Sept. 29. The stage production will run through Oct. 15. If you are reading this at a cofffehouse in Hamburg, Germany, you should go ahead and take the 12-hour flight to North Carolina just to see this play!

Has It Really Been Six Years?

The short answer is 'yes.' It has been six years since I've started blogging, and apparently, there is a real Channel 6 in Omaha, Neb., but we have no idea if we are popular in that marketplace or not!

SIDEBAR: According to a short article I read in the current issue of "Film Comment," the sappy film "The Champ" (1979. Dir- Franco Zeffirelli), which starred Jon Voight, Faye Dunaway and a young Rick Schroder (he is the same age as I am) is the most depressing film ever made. Researchers at Cal-Berkeley verified this in a scientific study conducted over many years. But, my vote would go to Ingmar Bergman's downer "Fanny and Alexander" or the Louis Malle tear-jerker "Au Revoir Les Enfants."

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Quote of the Day- Edvard Munch

I suppose even if one flunked an art appreciation class in college (I made a "B" actually, but I did have a hard time with softball), they know that the painter who painted this work "The Scream" is the Norwegian cultural icon Edvard Munch, but I suppose it bears repeating here.

And, with that, here is our quote from Munch:

"A person himself believes that all the other portraits are of good likeness, except the one of himself."

Quote of the Week- Wim Wenders

Today's quote of the day is from the great German film director Wim Wenders, who like his contemporary Werner Herzog has directed both features and documentaries. Wenders, who is known for his film like "American Friend" (1977) with the late Dennis Hopper (pictured here), "Paris, Texas" (1984) and "Wings of Desire" (1987), currently has a 3-D documentary on modern dance called "Pina" showing in various parts of the world.

Here is his quote: "Film is a very, very powerful medium. It can either confirm the idea that things are wonderful the way they are, or it can reinforce the conception that things can be changed."

Monday, September 19, 2011

Sports Desk- Vikings and Spartans Victorious in Virginia

Yes, a Spartan mask from a museum was not our initial choice for an image for this blog, but all the marching band photos were either too big or unavailable for legal reasons.

As it is, my alma mater Glenvar High School from Salem, Va., was not in action, but 'the big school' Salem High School was. And, the Salem Spartans defeated the William Byrd Terriers 27-13 in a home game.

Up the road, the visiting Northside Vikings beat the Hidden Valley Titans 21-17. Hidden Valley High School is one of two Roanoke-area high schools, including Eastern Montgomery High School, which did not exist in the 1980s, when I was a star quarterback for the Glenvar Highlanders (that is a joke, our real quarterback was a guy named Barry).

Here is a rundown of other high school scores from the Roanoke/Lynchburg/Blacksburg region:

Cave Spring 34 Lord Botetourt 18
Christiansburg 47 Bassett 0
Galax 43 Radford 0
Magna Vista 28 Franklin County 26
E.C. Glass 21 William Fleming 20
Martinsville 44 Liberty 34
George Wythe 31 Floyd County 19

SIDEBAR: We learned recently that an alum of Glenvar High School named Liz Trinchere plays volleyball for Virginia Tech. The Hokies were victorious over their arch rivals the University of Virginia Cavaliers by a 3 sets to 1 score in Blacksburg. Cara Baarendsey, a junior from Mason, Ohio, scored 13 kills and 16 digs for the Hokies in the home victory.

It was a mixed bag for the UNC Tarheels in women's volleyball this weekend. The team hosted the Tarheels Classic, and they scored wins over St. Louis and Miami (Ohio), but the 'Heels feel to Tulsa 3-1. Kaylie Gibson of Apex, NC, and Aleksandra Georgieva of Bulgaria combined for 13 kills despite the loss.

Conversely, my alma mater Radford University fell in a road game to UNC-Greensboro in the Spartan Spiketacular in straight sets on Saturday in front of 311 spectators. Radford Highlanders senior Carly Fleming of Manassas, Va., did become the school's all-time solo blocks leader (50) in spite of the defeat.

Karrian Chambers, from College Station, Tex., helped guide the Spartans to their victory and she recieved all-conference honors as well.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Things We Learned on Google Today- Latvia's Second Largest City is the Same Size as Roanoke, Va.

On Google today, we learned that the former Soviet republic of Latvia's second largest city, after the capital Riga, is Daugavplis. With a population of between 102,000-111,000, it indeed has the same population as my hometown of Roanoke, Va.

Daugavplis, Lativa, is located on the Daugav River, which is where the city got its name. The city is also surrounded by lakes and nature parks, according to Wikipedia (I have never been to Latvia myself).

As for the country of Latvia, they are known for beer and folk dancing as well as bob sledding, including Mihalis Arhipovs, 26, who competed at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.

It should be pointed out that we had problems getting an image of Latvian bobsledders, so we settled for an image of the Jamaican bobsledding team instead!

This is the tenth entry in our series of former Soviet republics which are now independent countries; the last one we profiled was Tajikistan, which is, assuredly, a long way from Latvia.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Bonus Road Trip (2 of 10)- From Conway, Ark, to Twitty, Tex.

Today, we are looking at the distances between the two cities that were the basis for the stage name of country-music legend Conway Twitty (1933-1993), who alas died during or shortly a performance in Branson, Missouri.

Twitty's real name was Harold Lloyd Jenkins, and his biggest was perhaps "Hello Darlin," which was number one for four weeks on the country charts in 1970, the year I was born. Recently, I found a vinyl copy of "Conway Twitty Greatest Hits, Volume One" at All Day Records in Carrboro (Chapel Hill Hill), NC.

Conway, Ark., is a college town that is home to Central Arkansas University and where the great Southern literary magazine "Oxford American" is based. It is also where one can find Mike's Place on Front Street, which offers (according to its web sites) lots of good steaks.

While there were plenty of places to choose from for Conway, Ark., the same could not be said for Twitty, Tex., as it has a population of 60 people! But, it does have its own zip code which is 79079.

So, we were able to figure out how far apart these two towns that made Conway Twitty's name are.

Is the answer:

A) 6 hours, 30 minutes

B) 6 hours, 50 minutes

C) 7 hours, 10 minutes

D) 7 hours, 30 minutes

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Greensboro vs. Roanoke_ Thespian Showdown (Entry 5 of 6)

For starters: There are two conflicts of interest here as I have performed for No Shame Theatre in Roanoke, Va., though my last stage appearance was when George W. Bush was president, and I am a Facebook of Triad Stage in Greensboro, NC.

The two cities are separated by a vast stretch of Route 220, also known as the Moonshine Highway, for the vast number of moonshine stills in Franklin County, Va., which one passes through on the journey between the two zip codes.

Mill Mountain Theatre was the main stage company in Roanoke, but it abruptly shut down some five years ago though reportedly it will back within the next two years. So, I can not directly compare one stage company in one town with another's.

But, I can compare No Shame Theatre, in Roanoke, which is actually a group of either stage amateurs, master thespians, stand up comics or jugglers, who grace the stage each and every Friday night at 11:00 p.m. with their talent (or lack of talent!, oh did I just say that!).

No Shame Theatre started with a performance in the back of a pickup truck in Iowa City, Iowa, which included No Shame Theatre Roanoke's founder Todd Ristau, on Oct. 3,

There are also No Shame troupes in other parts of America, including Minot, North Dakota- of all places. I was surprised to see there was a No Shame in Athens, Ga., when I visited there last year. And, while there is a No Shame in Asheville, NC, there is no such entity in Greensboro.

But, there is Triad Stage, which is currently performing the Frederick Knott thriller "Dial M for Murder" that was the basis for an Alfred Hitchcok movie of the same name. According to the Triad Stage web site, Lenise Willis of "Yes Weekly," an alt weekly in Greensboro, said the production 'submerges the audience into a sinister world of perplexities and suspense.' Many performances of the production are selling out.

Triad Stage was co-founded by Richard Whittington and Preston Lane, who is also directing "Dial M for Murder." The stage company opened in 2002 at the old Montgomery Ward Building downtown (where they are still located) with a production of the Tennessee Williams play "Suddenly, Last Summer."

The Greensboro stage company was also named 'one of the ten most promising theatres in the country,' and with the excellent production of the William Inge play "Picnic" I saw at Triad Stage in 2009, I would have to agree.

But, now is the time for the hard part of the entry, where I make a statement of personal preference. I certainly admire the fact that Triad Stage keeps their prices considerably lower than theatre venues in Washington, DC, or Atlanta, Ga., as the tickets range from $22-44. But, we are living in a recession. And, No Shame Theatre has maintaned its five dollar fee since it first started in Roanoke in 2003. So, I will have to slightly, by the thinnest of margines, go with them.

However, for those who have the opportunity to see "Dial M for Murder," I highly suggest going to see it. Though I have not seen this particular show, I know that anything directed by Preston Lane is guaranteed to be quite well-done. There will be wine-tasting after tomorrow's night show, which begins at 8:00 p.m.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Quote of the Day_ Stieg Larsson

Today's quote of the day comes from the late Stieg Larsson, a Swedish novelist/journalist who is known for the Millenium triology, including this book picture above "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo."

The ailing English contrarian Christopher Hitchens, who everyone has either agreed with or disagreed apparently has a negative essay about Larsson in a recent compilation that he has released. But, those opinions certainly don't reflect our's at all.

Here is the quote from Larsson:

"Crime stories are, as you know, one of the most popular forms of entertainment that exist. If you then try to have something to say...that I have, of course."

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Quote of the Week- Martin Scorsese

Wow! I just saw the stats for this blog, and assuredly if we were a cable reality tv show, we would have been cancelled three years ago. But, we do live in a world where more people watch "The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills" on Bravo than "Frontline" on PBS!

Today's quote of the day comes from Martin Scorsese. I guess one could argue about what is his best film: "Taxi Driver," "Raging Bull," "Goodfellas" or "Kundun," but we only get into politics when it involves Greeks, Armenians or Republicans (forgive the ethnic humor; I happen to be the only person of Turkish heritage here in Welch, West Virginia*).

Here is our quote from Scorsese:

"Cinema is a matter of what's in frame and what's out."

SIDEBAR: Well, we learned from their web site that The Great American Beer Festival in Denver, Colo., which is going to be held from Sept. 29th to Oct. 1st is alas sold out!

But, should one be able to attend, there will be vendors from all parts of les etats unis**, including Boulder Beer from (of course!) Boulder, Colo., Fat Head's Brewery from Cleveland, and Cigar City Brewing from Tampa.

Closer to home, there is the third annual Brew Do, which is a beer festival in Blacksburg, Va., on Sept. 24. Hopefully, there will not be a home football game for Virginia Tech for those attending!

*- Not actually where I live, but it is a place that seems fairly similar to that.

**- The French word for The United States

Monday, September 12, 2011

News Desk- Moving Far, Far to the Right

There was considerable in the ensuing years after September 11th about 'September
11th Neocons,' these were people who went from being liberals to conservatives seemingly overnight as a result of the terrorist attacks.

Among those who have been most cited for this radical change of art are celebrites like Jon Voight, who won an Oscar for playing a paraplyegic Vietnam War vet in "Coming Home" (1978) (pictured here). Voight has gone from being an early global warming advocate to a Tea Partier. His "Coming Home" co-star Jane Fonda has become more politically moderate in recent years, but she has made it clear that she is still very much a progressive.

Other actors who have experienced this sea change include the since-deceased Ron Silver, Dennis Miller and James Woods as well as playwright/film director David Mamet.

But, in Europe, there are at least two people who have even more radical, draconian shifts than that.

Both of these examples are quite mind-boggling in scope. And, somehow, I imagine neocon pundit Bill Kristol would fully agree with me on this.

For starters, there is Hans Mahler, 75, who was a founding member of the militant far-left terrorist group RAF in the 1970s in then-West Germany. Today, the man who was involved with shameless plots to spread his Marxist ideals is now a far, far right Holocaust denier.

In fact, Mahler is now serving a 12-year jail sentence for inciting popular hatred and he maintains that 'he has not changed' because 'the enemy is still the same.'

Then, there is the more surreal case of Louise Frevert, 58, a lesbian who was an adult film star in Denmark during the 1970s when Scandanavia had a thriving pornographic film industry. Frevert is now a spokesperson for the far-right group Dans Foleparti.

Truth is indeed, as the old cliche goes, stranger than fiction. But, most liberals, including myself, have maintained their political views in the ten years since 9-11, and our efforts, which lead to the election of President Barack Obama, have ertainly in my view been well worth-while.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Ten Years Later- The Australian Tourist (Part 2 of 2)

"In the shadows of the Twin Towers, she just got swallowed up," was what Amanda Rigg's sister Jodie told "The Sydney Morning Herald."

Amanda Rigg was killed on Sept.10, 2001, by a suicide bomber in Istanbul, Turkey, named Uugur Bumbul who was with a radical left-wing militant, very much similar to Dev Sol, a '70s Turkish terrorist organization, which is amazingly still in existence today.

I was on the same street that Rigg , who was 22, was some 15-20 minutes prior to the attack that also killed two Istanbul police officers.

When I heard about how all air travel in the United States had bee grounded because of the stikes on the Twin Towers and The Pentagon, I realized if I had been hurt by the blast, my mother would have been unable to visit me in the hospital. Many people were also injured by the blast, which was seemingly meant to kill significantly more than it did. When I heard the noise from the blast, I noticed that the windows in my aunt's aprtment were actully vibrating.

The "SMH" story published on Aug. 4, 2007, also revealed some unsetlling information, which I had never known.

The "SMH" story said that the Australian government gave financial support to its citizens who were victimes of the bombings in Bali and London, but Rigg's family received no such funds. The explanation given by the Australian government, according to the "SMH," was that Rigg had not died in 'a mass casualty incident.'
The total cost of bringing her body back to Australia was $16,000.

In all four corners of the globe, even in Turkey, the incident was dwarfed by
9-11. Much of the TRT (Turkish Radio and Television) coverage focused on the Turkish citizens who had lost their lives on 9-11, including Zuhtu Ibis, a 25-year-old man who working on the 103rd floor on the World Trade Center.

I was walking the streets of Buyukada, an island off the coast of Turkey, on September 11th, and I was trying to read the article in the Turkish newspaper "Hurriyet" about the blast. I was completely oblivious to what had just happened back home in America.

There were still some uncertainities about what had happened in Istanbul in the media that next day. It had also been a very busy day for us, as we waited patiently for hours trying to resolve family business that was blocked by bureaucracy. By the time everything was resolved, it was around 4:00 p.m. in Turkey, which is typically seven hours ahead of America.

I was hoping as I walked up the hill to the house in Buyukada where I was staying that I would finally find piece of mind. It had only been three days since we had arived in Turkey. I was hearing televisions from the open windows in the old houses that grace the streets of Buyukada.

Something terrible was happening somewhere. Ordinarily, I would have perhaps poked my head in one of those windows and asked what was happening. Such behavior might seem rude in many places, but not on the friendly island, where many residents from Istanbul come to get away the hustle and bustle of one of the world's largest cities.
In fact, when a major soccer game is going on, those who walk the street- even at night, will ask people watching the game in their homes what the score is.

At the time, I could not have imagined that wthe sounds I was hearing were from those traumatic events of 9-11. It would take three hours to call my mom because of the phone line blockage in America, and inform her of the fact that we missed a serious blast in Istanbul as he was watching CNN, and trying to figure out 9-11 as the whole world was. And, it would be a long time before I found that piece of mind, yet alone fully understood the impact of those very long 48 hours.

PERSONAL NOTE: The first part of this series is on my sister blog "The Daily Vampire" (; it is also where the second part of my series on the victims of September 11th will be.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Ten Years Later- Remembering September 11th (One of Two)

Her mother Marion Kminek told "The Washington Post" that Mari-Rae Sopper 'lived, breathes, and ate gymnastics.'

Sopper, 35, who had just accepted a job as the women's gymnastics coach for The University of California Santa Barbara (UCSB) was in the process of leaving her job as DC-Metro area lawyer for the dream job she always wanted when the plane she was on, Flight 77, crashed into The Pentagon, killing all aboard on September 11th.

Mike Sharpless, her coach at Iowa State where Sopper was a stand-out gymnast said the following words which are on her memorial site ( a few days after that tragic day: "Mari-Rae is an unrelenting force, hungry for excellence. I heard last Tuesday she entered heaven and she went with full force."

Sopper, who had been a resident of Maryland, took the Gauchos coaching post knowing that it would be the last year for the program. But, Sopper had hopes that she could change the outcome of UCSB's decision.

The Gauchos did in fact end up losing the gymnastics program at the end of their last season in 2002.

But, Sopper's memorial web site indicated that a fund in the former Cyclones gymnast's name had raised over $91,000.

PERSONAL NOTE: I chose Sopper's story because I follow college gymnastics very closely, and her story is one I still find compelling to this day.

Tomorrow, I will conclude what was originally intended to be a three-part series with a glance at three of the other people who needlessly lost their life on that day.

The photo used for this entry is of the Tear of Grief Memorial that was a gift from Russia. The piece by Zurab Tsereti is in Bayonne, New Jersey, and is meant to remember those who have lost their lives to terrorism. It was dedicated on Sept. 11, 2006.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Things We Learned on Google Today- When in Tajikistan...

When in Tajikistan, the latest country we are looking at in our series on former Soviet republics that are now independent countries, one should speak Tajik. It is the official language of Tajikistan, and according to Google and Wikipedia, the Persian-type language is also spoken widely in neighboring Uzbekistan.

Here are some other facts about the landlocked nation:

1) The capital and largest city of Tajikistan is Dushande.

2) Tajikistan was part of the Samandi Empire (existed from circa 800-1000 A.D) which also included parts of Afghanistan, Iran and Russia.

3) The Russians Are Coming was perhaps first uttered in 1864 when the Ruskies invaded Tajikistan, which later lead to it becoming a Soviet republic.

4) Sadly, Tajikistan is the poorest country in central Asia, and the country suffered a major famine in 2001.

5) Amazingly enough, there is a small Jewish population in Tajikistan; they call themselves the Bukhara Jews.

6) Tajikistan is a land-locked country that borders Afghanistan, China, Uzbekistan and Krgyzstan.

SIDEBAR: Tomorrow, we will start a special three-part series on the 10th anniversary of September 11th. Among the entries we hope to post is one Marie-Rae Sopper, who was slated to become the new women's gymnastics coach at the University of California-Santa Barbara. She was killed on her way to California aboard Flight 77 which crashed into the Pentagon. Sopper, who was a collegiate stand-out at Iowa State, was 35 years old.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Happy Birthday, Cuneyt Arkin

Today, we celebrate the 74th birthday of '70s Turkish action movie icon Cuneyt Arkin who turned 74 on September 7th. Arkin was born on this date in 1934 in Eskisehir, Turkey.

While he has over 300 films to his credit, we only have time to mention four here.

The first one is "Hayatim Sana Feda/My Life is For You, Feda" (1970),a romantic comedy, melodrama which was likely influenced by 1950s Hollywood melodramas, which were often directed by Douglas Sirk and starred Rock Hudson.

In this film, a Romeo who has burned his bridges has a chance to reclaim his Juliet, a female Turkish lounge singer played by Turkan Soray, the queen of Turkish cinema who often starred with Arkin, after she goes blind.

In 1973, Arkin starred in the first of what would be several films based on the popular "Kara Murat" comics, including "Kara Murat Versus the Black Knight" (pictured here). The basic plot is that Kara Murat, an ancient warrior in the days of the huns, goes after the bad guys and kicks some major ass in the process.

Turkey and Greece went to far over Cyprus in July of 1974, which lead to the production of many action films with nationalist themes. This would include "Once Vatan/My Country First" (1974) in which Arkin plays a Turkish agent who goes to Cyprus and goes kung fu on the Greek villians. Such films were, to my knowledge, also made in Greece around this era, with the roles reversed. And, yes to answer your question, "Once Vatan" is basically a Turkish Chuck Norris movie.

Lastly, Arkin will always be best known for "Dunayi Kurtaran Adami/The Man Who Saved the World" (1982), which is also known as "The Turkish Star Wars." The film borrows music and actual sequences from the George Lucas classic, but the similarities end there. The plot is a very strange one to summarize, but the film has aliens in muppet-fleece who decide that central Turkey is for unexplained reasons the best place to invade. But, they are no match for Arkin's gymnastics tumbling and kickboxing abilies.

Quote of the Day- Lars von Trier

Today, we begin our series of quotes from famous Scandanavians with a quip from the provoacative, innovative and highly controversial Danish film director Lars von Trier, who has directed plenty of subersive films, usually with over political themes, including "Dogville" with Nicole Kidman and more recently "Anti-Christ."

The later film about a married couple with a fairly messed up, kinky relationship (to put it mildly) starred Willem Dafoe and the great Anglo-French actress/singer Charlotte Gainsbourg.

We are highly jealous of her long-time romantic partner actor/director Yvan Attal, whom she apparenly has never officially married. The couple had their second child on July 16, just five days before Gainsbourg turned 40.

Here is the quote from von Trier, which seems ironic, since one would never accuse him of modesty:

"I grew up in a culturally radical home, where strong emotions were forbidden."

SIDEBAR: As the six people who regularly read this blog know, we have a series that deals with countries that were once republics of the Soviet Union. Tomorrow, we are hoping to profile yet another one of these countries, perhaps Tajikistan, unless we've covered them before.

But, we learned today from the public radio show "The World" (we were alas not able to listen to the broadcast) that the Chu River Valley, which borders Kazakhstan and Krgyzstan, two former Soviet republics with mostly Muslim population that we have featured so far in the series, happens to ironically be a vast haven for marijuana growth!

Saturday, September 3, 2011

The Backpackers Are Beside BestBuy (entry 5 of 6)

Note: This is the fifth entry in this six part series. The even-numbered entries are located on our sister blog "The Daily Vampire" (; here is today's entry. This series discusses how I took photographs of all seen public art displays in Roanoke, Va., which is part of the city's "Art in Roanoke" campaign.

I had just finished taking a photograph of "In Flux" at Vic Thomas Park. I went inside the neighboring Black Dog Salvage, which featured antiques and novelty items as well as the black dog, which is the store's mascot.

It was Monday, Austs 15th. And, there were now just two public art displays I had not found. They were "Glory Pipes" (featured here) by two Arizona artists and "Happy Wanderers" by local artist Charlie Brouwer (well, he lives in Floyd County which is near Roanoke).

Of the two, "Glory Pipes" seemed like both the easiest one to find and the most accessible one from Black Dog Salvage, which is located on Memorial Avenue just past the Grandin Village area of the city.

So, I headed to find "Glory Pipes," which is located in downtown Roanoke on Franklin Road at the SunTrust Plaza. This makes it sound easy to find, but that proved not to be the case.

I drove by striking Verizon workers, and waved at them. I heard a few days later on NPR that a woman in Arlington, Va., was mad at the strikers because they were delaying her Internet installation. She said something to the effect of how 'these people should just be grateful to have a job.' It never ceases to amaze me how many Americans, some of whom are actually independents or even Democrats, distrust the government, but have no problem trusting big corporations and mega-churches with ministers who look like '70s teen idols from "The Partridge Family."

I parked my car at a place which turned out to be fairly distant from "Glory Pipes." As I walked towards a bicycle shop, I asked a fellow pedestrian where the SunTrust Plaza was. She pointed directly across the street. I felt like a bit of a dork, but then again, I may have walked for 20 minutes on my own before figuring that out.

Once I got to the SunTrust Plaza, which is fairly close to Arzu Restaurant, a Turkish and international fine dinning establishment managed by friend Halil, I still had difficulty finding the sculpture.

I walked around the lawn, and then there it was.

According to the Art in Roanoke web site, "Glory Pipes" is made from LEDS, electornics, aluminum pipes and a steel plate. At night, apparently, the inner portions of sculpture glow. The artists say that the piece is meant to create dynamic tension and motion.

It happens to be a tricky sculpture to photograph, and one has to take adequate time to find the right angles.

But, I was able to snap a fair number of shots, and from there I went to the Mill Moutain CoffeeShop downtown and realized though it was mid-afternoon that "The Happy Wanderers" would have to wait for another day.

SIDEBAR_ The answer to our question last week about the distance between Abingdon, Va., the town near the Tennessee border where the Barter Theatre is and the Ford's Theatre in Washington, DC, was d) 5 hours, 45 minutes.

Friday, September 2, 2011

The Bakpackers Are Beside BestBuy- Entry 3 of 6 (on both blogs)

It had been a very, very long time since I ventured to the Crystal Springs section of Roanoke, which is close to Roanoke Memorial Hospital (where I was born in 1970).

But, I noticed that one of the outdoor public sculptures for the Art in Roanoke project was in this part of town, which is perhaps best known for being the home of Fork in the Alley, a trendy urban spoon.

The piece is "Jelly Bean" by Brookly, NY, artist John Clement, which was also publicly displayed near The Castle in Grand Rapids, Mich. (pictured here).

According to the Art in Roanoke web site, Clement likes to focus on surface and color as much as form in structure.

I took about 10-12 photographs of "Jelly Bean," which is a bit hard to capture on camera because of the way it is designed.

But, it is quite an exceptional piece which really goes well with the tranquil environs of Crystal Spring Park, where it is located. In fact, I can imagine, even in the technology-zombie culture we live in, that one may well take an afternoon to read either "Catcher in the Rye" or "The Great Gatsby" while gazing at the piece.

SIDEBAR: Are into heavy metal bands like Slipknot, GWAR or Iron Maiden, which are just not being played on mainstream radio to your suiting. Well then, there is always "Chainsaw Rock," which airs at midnight on Friday nights/Saturday morning on WKNC, the student-run college radio station at North Carolina State University.

In fact, if one tunes in tonight, they can request some act like Buckethead. The heavy metal/folk singer (yes, we were confused too) who actually wears a KFC bucket on his head will be performing at the Awful Arthur's (Towers) in my hometown of Roanoke, Va., on Sept. 8, circa 8:00 p.m.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

The Backpackers Are Beside BestBuy- Entry One

I started my odyseey to take photographs of all seven public art displays that are part of the Art in Roanoke campaign rather arbitrarily.

My friend Stevlana (pse) and I were walking around the Grandin Court area near the Grandin Theatre when we stumbled upon "Trojan Dog" (not to be confused with the Trojan Horse in Troy, Turkey; we could not find a suitable image of the piece for this entry). The "Trojan Dog" is the creation of Roanoke's Ann Glover, who reportedly was inspired by Japanes carving pieces. It should be noted that the "Trojan Dog" is a white dog, rather than a dalmation.

On Sunday, the next day, I came back to the No. 7 Fire Station on Memorial Avenue to snap several shots of "The Trojan Dog." I didn't realize very few of the other six art pieces would be that easy to locate.

Much to my shock and horror, the original postcards that I found at a local coffeehouse with the locations of the seven pieces were no longer available. Thus, I would have to find the other six without a map!

The next one I came across was "Connect," (which is pictured) in downtown Roanoke near the offices for "The Roanoke Times." The piece has also been displayed in Lexington, Ken., where the artist Ericka Strecker is from. Strecker says that she likes to look for objects which have a connection to each other.

I snapped several shops of "Connect" as a jogger passed me by, without even sparing a glance to see what I was doing.

'This series continues on our other blog, "Politics Culture and Other Wastes of Time" (see links below). Entry #3 is scheduled to be posted here tomorrow morning."

SIDEBAR: I had the chance to see the band Poverty Level perform at a great coffeehouse near Greensboro, NC, which is sadly no longer around. But, one can see the Patrick County, Virginia, almost literally perform in their own backyard when they play The Front Porch Festival this weekend in Stuart, Va.