Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween...

Happy Halloween to everyone!

Many people are surprised to know there is a Turkish film version of the Dracula story called "Drakula Istanbul'da" (Dracula in Istanbul). The 1953 film is actually based on a novel called "Vlad the Impaler" by the Turkish novelist Ali Riza Seyfi

Atif Kaptan (1908-1977) played the Bela Lugosi role, and according to a book I read by cult film authority Pete Tombs, smoke scenes were devised when the film's director Mehmet Muhtar (1925-1995) told crew members to smoke lots and lots of cigarettes!

In his later years, Kaptan appeared in several action movies with the Turkish cinematic icon Cuneyt Arkin.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Special Quote of the Week- Gilda Radner

Today, we feature a quote from the late comedian/actress Gilda Radner (1946-1989) who succumbed to cancer at a young age in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Radner was best known for her variety of "Saturday Night Live" characters, including Roseanne Rossannadanna (pictured here), during the original years of the show in the mid and late 1970s.

Here is Radner's quote:

"I wanted a perfect ending. Now, I've learned, the hard way, that some poems don't rhyme, and some stories don't have a clear beginning, middle, or ending."

Quote of the Week- Constantin Stanislavski

We wrap up a month-long series of quotes from famous Russians with a quip from the father of method acting Constantin Stanislavski (1863-1938); the stage director and actor was a contemporary of the playwright Anton Chekhov, a playwright whose name we always to spell incorrectly! Stanislavski directed the original stage version of the famous Chekhov play "The Seagull" in 1901.

The great stage persona also came up with what was later called 'The Stanislavski system' in which an actor actually becomes the character that he or she is portraying.

Actors who have been known to use this method include Dustin Hoffman, Robert DeNiro and Sean Penn, each of whom has won Academy Awards.

The Stanislavski system is also associated with the Actor's Studio in New York.

Here is the quote from Stanislavski:

"Love the art yourself, not yourself in the art."

SIDEBAR: We have an occasional segment on this blog dedicated to people with long, difficult names. As it turns out, The Studio Theatre in Washington, DC, is now performing the American debut of the German play "The Golden Dragon" starting on Nov. 2. The production, directed by Serge Seiden, is from the play which is written by a man with a very, long difficult name_ Richard Schimmelpfennig; we're glad no one called while we were trying to post this!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Quote of the Day- Tarkan

We conclude our month-long series on quotes from famous Turkish people past and present with a quip from Tarkan, the pop mega-star, who has sold millions of records not only in Turkey, but also in Argentina, Germany, France, Greece and just about every place else except the United States. He is best-known for songs like "Simarik," "Dudu" and "Kuzu Kuzu."

The fact that he usually sings in Turkish has a lot to do with this, though on the advice of the late, great Turkish-American record producer Ahmet Ertegun, Tarkan did try to sing some songs in English. And, alas, it did sound like William Shatner's ("Star Trek"'s original Captain Kirk, for those of you born after Bush 41 was president) version of Queen's "Bohemian Rhadsopy," which is in record stores now (we are actually not making that up!).

Here is Tarkan's quote:

"Dancing and singing are always like games to me. I sang constantly."

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Sports Desk_ High School Football in Va and NC

For those hoping to see scores from games in Richmond, Va., or Charlotte, NC, I should point out that these scores are for games in the Roanoke, Va. region, and the Greensboro, NC region. Hmmmm....I sense we lost some sponsors in Mecklenburg County (where Charlotte is located), oh well!

For starters, it was not a good Friday night for the two high schools in my hometown of Salem, Va. My alma mater Glenvar High School lost on the road at Radford High School by a 21-14 score. The visiting Highlanders were up 14-0, but according to "The Roanoke Times," the home Bobcats were helped by when the team's quarterback Hunter Marshall put the 'Cats ahead for the remainder of the fourth quarter with a three-yard touchdown dive.

But, it was also a bad night for the Salem High School Spartans (pictured) as they faced the emerging powerhouse Christiansburg High School Blue Demons, a team that is now 8-0 on the season, on the road. The Demons pulled off a close 42-36 victory with two touchdown runs and TD passes from quarterback Brenden Motley. Though Marty Bishop of Salem rushed for 244 yards and five touchdowns despite the loss.

In other Roanoke action, the Northside High School Vikings edged out the William Byrd High School Terriers 21-20 thanks to outstnading play from Tyler Fisher. And, the Partick Henry Patriots won its homecoming game over the Halifax Count Comets, a team that had to put up with a two hour-plus bus ride back to South Boston, by a 41-0score.

In Greensboro, NC, the Page High School Pirates (yes, they are the reason why we posted an image of the Captain Crunch cereal) decked cross-town rivals Dudley HS 21-0 thanks to two touchdowns from Drew Rogers, according to "The News-Record."

And, the Western Guilford Hornets made the playoffs by upsetting the Southeast Guilford Falcons 20-10 while the East Forsyth Eagles topped the Northwest Guilford Vikings in a surprisingly easy 35-6 victory (given that both teams had similar records).

Here is the scoreboard:


Radford 21 Glenvar 14
Christiansburg 42 Salem 36
Northside 21 William Byrd 20
Patrick Henry 41 Halifax County 0
Hidden Valley 13 Pulaski County 10
Franklin County 34 George Washington (Danville) 20
Martinsville 46 Bassett 34
Tunstall 21 Patrick County 13
James River 14 Parry McCluer 13

North Carolina

Page 21 Dudley 0
Western Guilford 20 Southeast Guilford 10
Northern Guilford 49 Morehead 8
East Forsyth 35 Northwest Guilford 6
Ragsdale 21 Glenn 0
Northeast Guilford 36 North Forsyth 26
Western Alamance 32 McMichael 21
Reidsville 42 Providence Gap 7
Eastern Alamance 16 Rockingham County 12

SIDEBAR: Yes, it can be quite challenging to know if the satire newspaper/news organization "The Onion," which now has weekly 'newscasts' on IFC here in the United States is actually being serious or taking things a bit too far.

Today, "The Onion" actually had the following headline: "Al Qaeda Also Fed Up with Ground Zero Construction Delays." Anyway, we are just relaying the news, or in this case, the fake news, not actually reporting it.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Special Coverage- Horrific Earthquake in Turkey

Yet another devastating earthquake has hit Turkey, my late father's country. The BBC reported 138 confirmed dead a half hour ago as of 9:00 p.m., New York time (12:30 a.m. London time, 4:30 a.m. Istanbul time). The 7.2 earthquake struck the province of Van, near the Iranian border. Turkish newspapers are reporting that up to 1,000 could very well be dead when the final numbers are reported, which could take weeks to resolve.

A similar earthquake struck the province of Van in 1976, and that disaster killed over 5,000 people. An earthquake in the city of Erzincan, due north of Van, in 1963 has one of the ten worst casualties total on record (internationally).

The Turkish newspaper "Hurriyet" is reporting that up to 3,000 to 4,000 buildings in the area collapsed. The same publication quoted Bekir Kaya, the mayor of Van (the city), as saying that it was hard to get in touch with anyone to assist with the devastation due to the devastation of the city's telecomnunications infastructure.

The earthquake occured at 1:41 p.m. in the afternoon, local time (Turkey has one time zone). Ercis, a city that is 55 miles away from Van, reportedly has the highest casualty totals.

As evening fell on Van and Ercis, rescue workers were using campfires to work whatever light they could to potentially pull victims out of the massive rubble.

The Turkish Red Crescent, ( the country's equivalent of the Red Cross, is also working with the relief effort.

NOTE: Deprem is the Turkish word for earthquake.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

60 Words or Less- The Freaks and Geeks Fiasco

We have been trying to figure out ways to make blogging 'more productive' and less time-consuming, so we have come up with our '60 Words or Less' series.

Today, I am going to mention my Netflix nightmare which I am dubbing 'The Freaks and Geeks Fiasco.' A few weeks ago, I got a dvd with the first three episodes of the cult tv show "Freaks and Geeks" which only last for less than a season on NBC. The 1999 show, which depicts life at a suburban Detroit high school in the early 1980s, featured several actors who have been succesful 'in life after high school,' including James Franco, Seth Rogen and Martin Starr.

Well, the first dvd didn't work. So, I ordered a second dvd. It didn't work either. Hence, I ordered a third dvd which I put in my dvd player last night, and AAAUUUGHHH, it didn't work either!

I have been able to see dics 2, 3 and 4, and hopefully one day, I will somehow see the first three episodes of the series.

Hmmm... that was well over 60 words. I guess like Leo Tolstoy brevity is not one of my strengths.

SIDEBAR: I was hoping to name all the 43 men who have been president of the United States in a "Mental Floss" magazine. Of course, this is a bit confusing because Barack Obama is the 44th president of the USA. This is because Grover Cleveland, one of the four presidents whose name I forgot, had two non-consecutive terms way back when. And, I did indeed forget three other presidents: James K. Polk, Franklin Pierce and Calvin Coolidge. But, somehow I don't think acing the quiz would have landed me a date with Anne Hathaway!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Status Update_ I Want to Work on 'The Novel' Again

Yes, I want to work on 'the novel' project, which I actually somehow completed in first draft form earlier this year. Of course, when a writer who hasn't had a single piece of fiction published, one may scoff: "So, you are trying to be Ernest Hemingway?" I've decided to respond to these people by saying: "No, I want to be the next William Burroughs." They then say something like: "Who the heck is that?" I say: "The guy who wrote 'Naked Lunch.'" I then see a puzzled look on their face, which abruptly ends the annoying conversation. So, there you go!

Tweet of the Moment_ Herman Cain

We were checking out Twitter last night which is actually banned here at the Pyongyang Public Library (that is a joke; of course, I'm not in North Korea) where a stereotypical librarian went all shhhhhhhhhhhhhh on a person. It was very amusing.

But, it was this tweet from the liberal blog "The Daily Kos," which we certainly agree with more than "The Drudge Report" (read my mini-bio for more details), that really left an impression on us:

"Herman Cain encourages Al Qaeda to kidnap U.S. troops"

We went to "The Daily Kos" web site and they stated that during an interview with Wolf Blitzer on CNN (from what we gathered) that the former Godfather's Pizza ceo essentially said he would negotiate with the highly infamous terrorist group if that was needed. Hmmm....we can only imagine what would happen if a Democrat suggested this.

To be fair to Cain, I did not see the CNN interview, but he has made many lavish, over-the-top comments in recent weeks. Another tweet from CNN itself said that Cain's 9-9-9 plan would actually raise taxes for 84 percent of all Americans.

We first learned about Cain and his intention to run for president despite having no political experience in an excellent piece by Joshua Green in "The Atlantic."

Godfather's Pizza, based in Omaha, Nebraska, has six locations in North Carolina and five in Virginia. The last one I dined was the one in Mount Jackson, Va., in Virginia's Shenandoah Valley.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Bonus Road Trip (4 of 10)_ The Prarie States

Today, we continue our Bonus Road Trips series as we look at the distances between Cheyenne, Wyoming, and Sioux Falls, South Dakota. These are the two largest cities in their respective states. Cheyenne is also Wyoming's state capital and home to the Cheyenne Frontier Days rodeo that will next take place between July 20-29, 2012.

Pierre is actually the state capital of South Dakota, and with a small population of 13,646 people, it is second smallest state capital behind Montpelier, Vermont.

For this series, we are looking at the distances between Latitude 44 in Sioux Falls and the Outlaw Saloon in Cheyenne.

So, the answer is:

A) 9 hours, 15 minutes
B) 9 hours, 30 minutes
C) 9 hours, 45 minutes
D) 10 hours, 15 minutes

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Things We Learned on Google Today- Ajax Amsterdam Has Won It All

Today, we continue our look at soccer teams around the world (most entries have been for European teams), which has been on both of my blogs. And, we move to the Netherlands/Holland, where we asked the might Google: How many domestic titles has Ajaz Amsterdam won?

The answer is an astonishing 30 Dutch Premiere League titles dating back to the 1917-18 season (the team was founded in 1900). The latest title was won by last year's team.

This seaon Ajax Amsterdam is participating in the UEFA Champions League where they are currently in third place in Group D, behind Real Madrid (Spain) and Lyon (France), but they are ahead of last place Dynamo Zagreb (Croatia).

Over the weekend, in domestic play, Ajax Amsterdam tied AZ Alkmaar 2-2. Their next Dutch game will against rival Feyenoord Rotterdam in a game that will be played on Oct. 23 at 6:30 a.m., New York time (yikes!).

The team captain for Ajax Amsterdam is Belgian defender Jan Vertonghen, 24, (pictured) and the co-captain is Dutch mid-fielder Theo Janssen, 30. The team also consists of many star players, including Uruguayan Nicolas Lodeiro.

On an interesting note, while researching this piece, we saw that Aras Ozbilis, 20, was on the team's roster. We don't know all the details of his personal history. But, Ozbilis is a person of Armenian heritage who was born in the Bakirkoy suburbs of Istanbul, not far from where my late Turkish aunt resided. He apparently moved to the Netherlands with his family. And, earlier in the week, he was rewarded with Armenian citizenship which will make him eligible to play for the Armenian national team.

On a personal note, I want to wish the Turkish soccer team Trabzonspor from Trabzon, Turkey, a city in the eastern Black Sea region, well. The team is currently on top of Group B in UEFA play. Domestically, Trabzonspor beat Ankara Gucu 3-2 over the weekend. Goalie and team captain Tolga Zengin has been helping his team in their early successes so far.

We also learned that my two favorite teams BursaSpor and GalataSaray met this weekend, with GalataSaray prevailing 2-1. On Youtube, there is apparently a video of Kobe Bryant trying to kick a penalty kick against GalataSary goalie Ufik Ceylan while on a visit to Istanbul.

SIDEBAR: We forgot to mention in our last entry that Barry Manilow is playing a regular gig at the Paris Hotel in Las Vegas from now until at least the end of the time.

SPORTS SIDEBAR: Since we mention the University of North Carolina Tarheels' succesful week of play in women's volleyball, we thought it was only fair to give equal time no not to the Duke BlueDevils, but the 'other UNC.' That would be the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley, Colo. Ironically, I saw a bumper sticker for that school during a visit to Chapel Hill a few years ago.

The UNC in Greeley, Colo., call themselves the Bears and their volleyball won a home match in straight sets thanks 15 kills from Amanda Arterburn.

My alma mater Radford University in Radford, Va., also had a solid week in women's volleyball action as they won home games over both Charleston Southern (in straight sets) and Coastal Carolina (a five-set nail-bitter).

Carly Fleming lead the Highlanders with 15 kills against Coastal Carolina for the major Big Conference win.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Last Ten lps I've Listened to: Lots of Disco and Kitsch

Hmmm...yes, I'm not sure if I should go public and mention some of these old vinyl records that I actually listened, mostly last weekend. For various reasons, I was in a bit of an anti-social mood, and I ended listening to about 24 records over a two-three day period, including four double lps! (Two of which will be mentioned here).

And, yes, there is some kitsch here though the late John Denver's "Take Me Home Country Roads" (pictured here with the Muppets) is always a fun song to listen to. When I was working as a newspaper reporter in the area of Woodstock, Va., in the heart of the Shenandoah Valley, I heard that the song was written in Mount Jackson, Va., where one can see a covered bridge and an open skyline which does indeed parallel the Shenandoah River. A few months ago, I heard a reggae version of the song at a Starbucks. I have no idea who sings it!

Two of the records were actually comedy records, which were popular in the '70s. And, top-selling artists included the likes of the late George Carlin, the late Richard Pryor and Steve Martin.

I found the 1971 Partridge Family record which was done in conjunction with the tv sitcom "The Partridge Family" at Happy's Flea Market in my hometown of Roanoke, Va. Happy's Flea Market is a local landmark, though it has alas lost of its appeal in more recent years. I think i only spent a dollar on the record, which was also the case for the Barry Manilow album (Manilow is picture with the pooch).

Here is the freakin' list!:

1. The Partridge Family. "Up to Date." 1971. Key Track: "Doesn't Somebody Want to Be Wanted" (I think this was actually a smash hit!).

2. John Denver. "Poems, Prayers and Promises" 1971. Key Tracks: "Take Me Home Country Roads" and "Sunshine on My Shoulders."

3. Barry Manilow. "Barry Manilow II." 1974. Key Track: "Mandy."

4. Fleetwood Mac. "Runors." 1977. Key Tracks: Pretty much the whole album! Siganture songs from this epic record include "Don't Stop," "Go Your Own Way" and "You Make Loving Fun."

5. Richard Pryor. "Holy Smoke." 1976. Spoken word/comedy.

6. Steve Martin. "Let's Get Small." 1977. Spoken word/comedy

7. "Saturday Night Fever Soundtrack." 1977 (a double album). Featuring music from The Bee Gees, Kool and the Gang, and KC and the Sunshine Band. Key tracks from The Bee Geees include "Staying Alive," "How Deep is Your Love," "Jive Talkin," "Night Fever" and "More Than a Woman."

8. "Fast Times at Ridgemont High Soundtrack." 1982. (a double album). Featuring music Jackson Browne, Don Henley, Jimmy Buffett, The Go-Go's and Stevie Nicks. Key Tracks: "Somebody's Baby" by Browne; "Love Rules" by Henley; and "Speeding" by The Go-Gos.

9. Queen. "News of the World." 1977. Key Tracks: "We Will Rock You," "We Are the Champions," "Sheer Heart Attack" and "Get Down Make Love."

10. Pink Floyd. "A Momentary Lapse of Reason." 1987. Key Tracks: "Learning to Fly," "On the Turning Away" and "Sorrow."

SIDEBAR: The answer to last week's quiz is indeed B) Iran as the Polish cartoon was the only children's animated show that was allowed to air on Iranian tv after the fall of the Shah in 1979.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Highlights from My 40 Things To Do List

Those of you who are jumping from our sister blog "The Daily Vampire" are perhaps more keenly aware than the rest of you about what I am doing here. Yes, I am simply posting things from an actual 40 Things To Do List that I made yesterday. Hopefully, at least six of the things will get completed!

Hopefully, you can also match the item posted with the proper image. The clothes line is from a couple (I presume they are Americans) who decided to get away from it all and go to Mexico. Hmmmm....yes, I hope they don't get held hostage by armed drug gangs either!

Here are highlights from the mega-list; the number in parantheses is where the item actually was on the real list:

1. Copy resumes (#10)

2. Go to Sweded Film Festival at the Shadowbox Cinema (#19)

3. Oil Change (#20)

4. Laundry (#21)

5. See the Henrik Ibsen play at Triad Stage (#25)

6. Write a piece of flash fiction, whatever that means (#27)

7. Try to get more organized (#37)

8. Find missing headphones (#35)

9. Take a very long walk (#39)

10. Listen to BBC (#40)

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Quote of the Week- Fyodor Dostovesky

Today's quote of the day comes from another Russian (well, the Olympic gymnast Olga Korbut whom we quoted last week is actually from Belarus) as we continue to quote famous Russians this month as the famous October revolution happened in that country 'a few years back.'

And, today, we go with a quip from Fyodor Dostovesky (1821-1881) who penned "Crime and Punishment," "The Idiot" and "The Brothers Karamazov."

Here is his quote:

"Beauty is mysterious and as well as terrible. God and devil are fighting there, and the battlefield is the heart of man."

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Quote of the Day- Elif Shafak

We are quoting famous Turkish people this month since October 29th is Turkish Republic's Day. I happen to be a Turkish-American, and unlike novelist Elif Shafak, whom I am quoting today, I actually try to avoid ethnic politics. But, as it is, a Facebook called "Armenians for Jesus" put me in their group without asking me first! The central conflict is not only my ethnicity, but also the fact that I am a human secularist!

While researching this piece, I was surprised to learn that Shafak, who turns 40 on Oct. 25, is actually a year younger than I am. She is not to be confused with Elif Batuman, a Turkish-American writer who published an excellent personal narrative called "Possesed..." about Russian writers last year.

Shafak has written essays, but she is primarily known as a novelist. She has arguably been the most controversial arts figure in Turkey since the late filmmaker/novelist Yilmaz Guney whose works in the 1970s and early 80s (he died in his late forties in France at a relatively young age) usually had very overt pro-Kurdish secterian views.

For her part, Shafak has encountered legal problems in Turkey for her her highly controversial 2006 novel "The Bastard of Istanbul," which unlike her contemporary Orhan Pamuk's works, was originally written in English.

Shafak decided to tackle the Turkish-Armenian controversy directly and she politically expressed her desires to see Turkey recognize those disputed events as a genocide.

Since I have had my own quicksand moments, such as the Armenians for Jesus Fiasco, I will refrain from my views on the matter here, which is certainly not inherent in my nature!

But, we will quote Shafak with a line from her latest novel "The Forty Rules of Love," which is ironically a best-seller in Turkey:

"Every true love and friendship is a story of unexpected transformation. If we were the same person before and after we loved, that means we haven't loved enough."

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Happy National College Radio Day

Happy National College Radio Day. I co-hosted a Turkish music show on WUVT-FM (90.7-FM) in 1994, so I fully respect the hard work and dedication that all college radio djs put in. Today's Turkish music show on WUVT-FM is called "Turkish Music Hour" and it airs from 1:00-2:30 p.m. (yes, it is an ironic title since the show lasts an hour and a half). I still listen to the show, and I think it's quite well-done. The hosts have in fact thought me about the Turkish female pop singer Nil Karaibrahimgil who is apparently very popular now.

There is a Greek music show before the Turkish show, as was the case when my friend Bahadir and I co-hosted the show. And, it is also quite good.

Since I now live in North Carolina, I also want to mention four exceptional college radio stations between Greensboro and Raleigh. They include WKNC (North Carolina State), which has a great heavy metal show on Friday nights, WXDU (Duke University, pictured) which has a great folk/local music show hosted by Washboard Dave.

In addition, there is WXYC (UNC) and WUAG (UNC-Greensboro).

SIDEBAR: This was a good weekend for many ACC sports team in Virginia and North Carolina. In college football, Wake Forest pulled off a huge upset of Florida State by a 35-30 score. Similarly, the Virginia Tech Hokies were able to defend their home turf in an exciting 38-35 win over Miami (Fla).

Not that this is pick on the Miami Hurricanes Day, but the UNC Tarheels won a home volleyball in five sets over the Hurricanes yesterday. Emily McGee of the Tarheels was named ACC Volleyball Player of the Week. On Thursday, the Tarheels, which also have a Turkish player named Ece Taner, host the Virginia Tech Hokies, a team that features junior Liz Trinchere, who is an alumnus of my high school, Glenvar High School in Salem, Va.

Bonus Silly Photo to Fill Space- It's Oktoberfest Time

Hmm....yes, I'm afraid this photo image might get blog banned in both Qom, Iran, (we've actually had hits from Iran!) and Provo, Utah. In addition, it's possible that Michele Bachmann might use this entry to exemplify her views of a decline in morals in our culture. Of course, truth be told, I'd be honored to be on her enemies' list as the late Paul Newman said when he found out he was near the top of President Richard Nixon's enemies list, which had some 249 other names.

One of the major Oktoberfests going on this weekend will be in Leavenworth, Wash. The event will start at noon on Saturday. It will consist of four venues full of beer, bands and brats (their words, not mine).

Minors will be allowed until 9:00 p.m., and No Dogs Allowed inside the Oktoberfest compound.

SIDEBAR: Believe it or not, I am in the process of finishing up listening to two artists known for kischy music. The first was Barry Manilow II, a record I found for one dollar at All Day Records in Carrboro, NC (near Chapel Hill). And, the second is "Poems, Prayers and Promises" from the late John Denver, which I got at a yard sale some 25 years ago.

Both records contain 'signature songs' from the artists as the first one has "Mandy" and the second one has "Take Me Home Country Roads," which was supposedly written on a farm in Mount Jackson, Va., in the Shenandoah Valley. The answer to the question why am I doing this to myself is indeed a very valid one.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

The Rabbit Ears Quiz (1 of 12)_ Lolek and Bolek

Today we start our The Rabbit Ears Quiz series on both of our blogs. We begin with "Lolek and Bolek," a very popular cartoon in its native Poland, but it is very obscure here in the United States. Though I was delighted to find out that Netflix actually offered collections of the Polish cartoons, which originally aired from

I actually came across "Lolek and Bolek" in 1975 when our family lived in then-communist Poland as my late father Mehmet Gokbudak, a Turkish immigrant to the United States, worked for a Polish factory for six months as part of a program with General Electric, his employer.

While researching a piece about "Lolek and Bolek" a few months ago, I was stunned to learn that one of the cartoon's main novelties is the fact that it was the only cartoon shown on television in one of the following Muslim countries. Is the answer:

A) Saudi Arabia
B) Iran
C) Iraq
D) Syria
E) Egypt

There were 150 episodes of "Lolek and Bolek," which were usually about eight and a half minutes in length. One can now watch entire episodes on Youtube.

The two boys frequently traveled to other parts of the globe, including one curious to the American West! A monument to the characters was unveiled this year in Poland. The show still ranks as the most popular cartoon in Polish television history.

SIDEBAR: In case you were wondering, the answer to our last Road Trip question is "B."

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Casualties of Modern Technology (1 of 12)- Swiss Cuckoo Clocks

Well, the Swiss cuckoo clock may not quite be an endangered species as one can find one on a retail site like e-bay for $200 or in a neighborhood antique store for a slightly higher or lower price.

But, in today's world, even the more modern and conventional wristwatch is becoming obsolete as every personal computer, laptop and cellphone tells each of us what time it is, irregardless if one is in Lagos, Nigeria, or Louisville, Ky.

According to Wikipedia, the cuckoo clock is pendulum-regulated, so that a mechanical cuckoo comes out at the top of each designated hour.

The cuckoo clock was first developed in the Black Forest region of Germany in 1629 by Philipp Hainhofer. The chalet/Swiss-style cuckoo clock emerged in the late 1800s. Cuckoo clocks also figure prominently in pop culture. Two examples in film include the classic thriller "The Third Man" (1949) with Orson Welles and the sci-fi cult classic "Blade Runner" (1982) with Harrison Ford. There is also a Cuckoo Clock Museum in Cheshire, England.

Cuckoo clocks, as well as other antique clocks, such as the grandfather clock, frequently comes up for discussion in the PBS show "Antiques Roadshow," which airs in most markets at 8:00 p.m. on Mondays. The episode for this coming week's show was recorded in Raleigh, NC, which is (almost) here in our backyard.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Silly Photo to Fill Space- Jack O'Lanterns

Halloween is still 24 days away, but not in America we start celebrating in late August. There is a web site called which actually offers partisan jack o'lanterns for both parties. But, since Sarah Palin has decided to not run for president, I am not sure how much fun that could be!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

The Last Ten Films I've Seen- Lots of Dark Stuff

We need to put this relatively quickly, so it can get to our loyal readers in Pyonyang, North Korea. Of course, that is a joke. But, for those of you who haven't seen David Fincher's 1999 cinematic adaptation of the Chuck Palahniuk novel "Fight Club," soap figures prominently in the film.

Here is the list:

1. "Contagion" 2011. dir- Steven Soderbergh. With Matt Damon and Kate Winslet

2. "Puppet Master III: Toulon's Revenge" 1991. dir- David DeCateau...yes, it is awful!

3. "Cold Weather" 2010. dir-Aaron Katz

4. "Ball of Fire" 1941. dir- Howard Hawks. With Barbara Stanwyck and Gary Cooper

5. "Seven Men from Now." 1956. dir- Budd Boetticher. With Randolph Scott and Lee Marvin.

6. "Straw Dogs" 2011. dir-Rod Lurie. With Kate Bosworth. (the 1971 original directed by Sam Peckinpah is much better)

7. "Voices in Wartime." doc. 2005. dir-Rick King

8. "Sarah's Key." 2010. dir- Gilles Paquet-Brenner. With Kristin Scott Thomas.

9. "Fight Club." 1999. dir- David Fincher. With Ed Norton and Brad Pitt.

10. "Guys and Dolls" 1955. dir-Joseph L. Makiewicz. With Marlon Brando and Frank Sinatra.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Quote of the Week- Olga Korbut

Today's quote of the week comes from Olga Korbut, (whoops! I just realized she is from Belarus, not Russia) as we quote famous "Russians." Korbut (b. 1955) was a famed Olympic gymnast who won gold at the 1972 Munich Olympics.

Here is her quote:

"It's better to have a rich soul than to be rich."

Quote of the Day- Mustafa Kemal Ataturk

Today's quote of the day comes from the founder of the Republic of Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk (1881-1938) who was ironically born in what is now Greece, which has been Turkey's long-standing rival for many centuries. In fact, there has even been a brewhaha over Cyprus in recent weeks.

Here is Ataturk's quote:

"Unless a nation faces peril, war is murder."

Monday, October 3, 2011

Bonus Road Trip-NOLA to Branson

Last year, at some juncture on one of our two blogs, we said that essentially the differences between political liberals and right-wingers here in the USA was a rather simple one. Liberal Democrats are more likely to listen to Gogol Bordello, a Russian-emigre punk band (well, at least those who are younger than 45), and conservative Republicans were more likely to find humor in the dated Cold War humor of Russian-emigre comedian Yakov Smirnoff.

As many folks may already know (well, we mentioned this before), Smirnoff regularly performs shows in Branson, Missouri, which has become a mecca for country music fans, perhaps even ones from as far away as Kiev, Ukraine.

As it turns out, Smirnoff will actually be performing on the road as well in Tulsa, Oklahoma, on Oct. 15th.

On that same night, the historic Preservation Hall Jazz Band will be performing at Aurora University in Aurora, Illinois. But, normally the band plays in their hometown of New Orleans, La., otherwise known as NOLA.

We also checked to see where Gogol Bordello was performing on that night, but their next concert date is not until Nov. 3rd when they will hit the proverbial stage in Burlington, Vt.

Alas, Branson, Missouri, is also where the late country-singing legend Conway Twitty gave his very last performance. But, a tribute band called Twitty Fever Band will be performing at the Oley Fire Company Apple Festival in Oley, Pa., on Oct. 8 from 3:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.

So, we are looking at the distances between New Orleans, which is a haven for jazz fans, and Branson, Missouri, and the answer is:

A) 9 hours even

B) 10 hours even

C) 11 hours even

D) 12 hours even

We've got a Neil Diamond's Greatest Hits eight-track tape for the winner (that's a joke, folks!).

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Things We Learned on Google Today- IFK Goteborg Lost to Another Swedish Soccer Team

NOTE: Normally, in this slot, we have our series dedicated to the 15 former republics of the Soviet Union. But, we thought it would be keen and neat to switch the entries around today with our other blog "The Daily Vampire"..........ok, we did sort of mess up and hence Javier the Intern has once again been fired.

Steven Levy, a writer for "Wired" magazine, has a new book called "In the Plex" which is about how Google shapes our minds and the ways we think. All of which has made me think that perhaps we should change the name of this series to "Things We Learned on Bing Today."

At any rate, we had high hopes that our feature soccer team of the week, IFK Goteborg, a Swedish powerhouse which has won 18 national championship titles, five national cup titles and two UEFA cups, would come through for us as they face Mjallby AIF, a Swedish soccer team in the southern Swedish fishing town of Mjallo, but alas they choked. Hence, the final result was Mjallby AIF 1 IFK Goteborg 0. The winning goal was scored by David Lofquist, 25, for Mjallby.

But, there are supposedly some good players for IFK Goeborg, including Stefan Sleakovic, 34, a Swedish national player who has been a star for the team, and IFK's captain Adam Johansson, 28, a fellow Swede.

Goteborg or Gothenburg is Sweden's second largest city as it ranks between Stockholm and Malmo.

SIDEBAR: In the "Gosh, We Didn't Get To It" department, we were hoping to rib Cong. Morgan Griffith (R-Va.) as he is ironically a good friend to me personally, though I'm not sure if he shares that opinion of my blog. He is from my hometown of Salem, Va., and he represents the ninth district of Virginia from western Salem to Bristol, Va.

Apparently, Griffith, who should not be confused with an attractive young woman from Georgia on Twitter who shares his name (yes, this is actually true), addressed the need for deregulation so southwest Virginia could get more jobs in response to President Barack Obama's speech, yesterday.

We were going to say these minimum-wage jobs might well pollute the air and water, and they would be probably be shipped out to El Slavador or China so some Cuban cigar-chomping mine boss could cut living wages, but out of respect for Griffith and our time contraints, we are going to avoid making such a satiric claim which could easily be misinterpreted.

And, to actually be fair and balanced, we should add that we have yet to read what Cong. Griffith actually had to say as of 5:00 p.m., New Haven, Conn., time.

PS: The country we are featuring today in our series which will be on "The Daily Vampire" wil be Lithuania. If it wasn't obvious, Javier the Intern does not really exist!

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Greensboro vs Roanoke- Battle of the Fleas

We wrap our series of entries on which city is 'better,' my hometown of Roanoke, Va., or my adopted city of Greensboro, NC, two cities which are divided by a 100-mile stretch of Route 220 (aka the Moonshine Highway) up with a look at flea markets.

In Roanoke, there is Happy's Flea Market, a landmark, cultural icon on Williamson Road, where one can find very unique items ranging from Partridge Family records on vinyl (yes, I actually purchased some of these for like $1.50 as a gag gift) to up-scale kitsch like velvet paintings of a Native American.

In Greensboro, there is the Big Flea Market, which is not open every single day like Happy's (well, they maybe closed for Christmas), but rather it comes up some eight to ten times a year. The event will be held next weekend at the Greensboro Coliseum.

Since both places are flea markets, they sell many similar items, but Greensboro might be the better place to find an antique clock or a red state weapon of choice (forgive the political humor). I suppose an antique clock could be a weapon too, actually.

So, which one would I choose? As the late left-wing philosopher Howard Zinn, who was actually more liberal than I am, once said: "No one can stay neutral in the path of a runaway train."

With that in mind, I will choose Big Flea as I have a thing for antique clocks even though I personally can't afford them!