Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Rage Against the Machine in Reverse?!

When the disbanded far-left rock group Rage Against the Machine held protests outside the Republican National Convention in Minneapolis back in 2008, many of us in the center-left/moderate Democratic side of the political aisle, were horrified when those attending the band's protest/concert started turning over cars.

We were concerned that these radicals would cause us the same political problems that the hippie movement of the late 1960s (which occured shortly before I was born) created which all but assured the reelection of Richard Nixon in 1968.

But, that horror has subsided as it is now far right-wing extremists which are causing political qualms for the Republican Party. Centrist conservative commentator David Brooks told NPR last week that such actions could potentially doom the party's hopes of capturing seats in both houses of Congress.

This new radical raight-wing populism has a name; it's the Tea Party, which '80s action movie star Chuck Norris hailed as 'the true voice of the American people' in a recent column. But, one has to wonder if the American people are completely in sync with the Tea Partiers such as the one pictured above (who is holding a swashtika under his ObamaCare banner).

And, the group members have taken very extreme actions in both Washington, DC, and in the heartland of America. According to, the glass front door of Cong. Gabrielle Giffords' (D-Ariz.) was completely smashed out.

Similarly, a brick was thrown through the window of Cong. Louise Slaughter's (D-NY) office in Niagara Falls, NY. And, someone spray-painted the word "DORKS" in red on the front window of the Knox County Democratic headquarters in Mount Vernon, Ohio.

Closer to home, Lynchburg (Va.) Tea Party member Mike Troxel posted the home address of Bo Perriello, a Charlottesville-area resident who is the brother of Cong. Tom Perriello (D-Va) who was one of the last Democratic Congress members to vote yes for health care reform.

According to "The Roanoke Times," a threatening note was sent to Bo Perriello's home and a gas line from a propane tank was cut to his house.

Today, on its web site, The Lynchburg Tea Party hardly seems to be expressing any remorse for this incident as its lead posting states "Perriello Go Home." The LTP goes on to state that Perriello, who defeated the far-right Virgil Goode (ironically a former Democrat) in a huge 2008 political upset, should be voted out because of his votes on "ObamaCare, Cap and Trade and the other items on the Pellosi, Reid/Obama agenda that have destroyed the hopes of future generations to live in a nation that resembles the one envisioned by the founders."

(In its statement, the LTP did not spell House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's (D-Calif.) name correctly.)

But, a larger questions that looms over this radical movement is if there are Republican Party operatives supporting their cause, and the answer to that seems to be a very apparent 'yes.'

On their web site, The Roanoke (Va) Tea Party stated they were either sponsoring or co-sponsoring debates and forums involving potential opponents for both Perriello and Cong. Rick Boucher (D-Va), who actually voted against the controversial health care bill.

The RTP is also encouraging letter-writing campaigns to Virginia's recently elected Republican state officials, Gov. Bob McDonnell and Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, both of whom are evangelicals who have shown far-right leanings, especially in the areas of civil rights, abortion rights, education and health care, early into their tenure.

Nationwide, the trend seems to be on the same fringe Yosemite Sam stratosphere as the Minnesota Tea Party, based in St. Paul, said on its Twitter page that: "America is on YOU to save the Republic; please inconveience yourself so as to save the Republic."

The Jersey Tea Party, based in NJ, took threatening aims at Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Pa.), who ironically when he was a Republican senator greatly assisted the nomination process of the current far-right Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, on their Twitter page:

"Arlen Spectre swithced parties. Soon, I promise you, he's gonna be switching addresses."

This lunacy has lead the liberal journal "The Nation" to write its lead story this week on the Tea Party, which it is calling 'The Mad Tea Party' in reference to "Alice in Wonderland."

Richard Kim of "The Nation" quipped:

"Leftists like to say another world is possible, but I was never quite sure of that until I started reading tea party websites."

Michelle Cottle of the more centrist "The New Republic" said Sarah Palin, whom 72 percent of Tea Partiers approve of, should go ahead and start her own far-right third party. But, as Cottle added, the former Alaska governor would have a lot of work in 'unionizing' these dittoheads:

"Pretty much everyone gets that Tea Partiers are mad as hell, it's just increasingly hard to tell about what."

Perriello's seat is one that Palin has targeted as one of the 20 Congressional districts which her ticket won in 2008 that are held by Democrats. Former Democratic presidential candidate Wes Clark said that it was important for party activists to counter these Glenn Beck followers by contributing to the funds of those representatives Palin is aiming at.

As a Turkish-American, I am concerned that the Tea Party movement might be the early stages of a very radical evangelical movement which aims to unite church and state. And, in this sense there are direct parallels with their Muslim counterparts.

Islamic fundamentalists took similar measures in Turkey in 1993 when they allegedly murdered secular journalist Ugur Mumcu by placing a bomb in his car. Muslim extresmists also set fire to a hotel in the eastern city of Sivas where an intellectual forum was being held. The gathering, which included key note speaker Aziz Nesin, (1915-1995) Turkish writer and political activisit who escaped the fire, killed 37 people and is today known as "The Sivas Massacre." Nesin had translated Salman Rushdie's controversial novel "The Satanic Verses."

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Silly Picture to Fill Space- The Easter Bunny and W

This should be a reminder to Tea Partiers, far right evangelicals, dittoheads, Chuck Norris fans and even far left idealists (the Michael Moore crowd) that things were so MUCH worse when George W. Bush was president....weren't they?!!!!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Quote of the Week- Jack Lemmon

Today, we are featuring quotes from the late Jack Lemmon (1925-2001) and Sissy Spacek who co-starred in the highly political 1982 thriller "Missing" about the disappearance of an American journalist circa 1973 during a coup in Chile which gave power to right-wing dictator Augusto Pinochet (1915-2006). The quote from Lemmon will be on this blog, while the quote from Spacek will be on our sister blog "Politics, Culture and Other Wastes of Time."

"Missing" was shot in secret in Mexico by the left-wing Greek film director Costa-Gravas because the film indictes the American government of the time, particularly the likes of Henry Kissinger, which supported the controversial coup which remains a black mark for the former secretary of state under Richard Nixon.

The film was based on the real-life experience of Ed Horman, played by Lemmon, who joins his daughter-in-law Beth (played by Spacek) in looking for Charlie Horman, played by character actor John Shea.

I just saw the film a few years ago. Interestingly enough, "Missing" shared the top prize at the Cannes Film Festival with the late Turkish filmmaker Yilmaz Guney's "Yol" (actually directed by Serif Goren). That film was also highly controversial as it dealt with the impact of the 1980 military coup in Turkey and the film directly suggested the need for Turkish Kurds (Guney was ethnically Kurdish) to politically separate from Turkey, which remains a highly provacative issue in my late father Mehmet Gokbudak's country.

Coincidentally, my late uncle Ilhan Gokbudak was a high-ranking Turkish diplomat in Chile while Pinochet ruled the country in the 1970s. The dictator did not step down until 2000, and he died without ever being brought to justice for his many human rights abuses during his reign.

As for Lemmon, he was nominated for Best Actor seven times, including his lead role in "Missing." He won the Oscar in 1973 for his role in "Save the Tiger" over other highly-touted nominees, including Marlan Brando ("Last Tango in Paris"), Jack Nicholson ("The Last Detail"), Al Pacino ("Serpico") and Robert Redford ("The Sting.") Lemmon had earlier won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor in 1956 for "Mister Roberts."

Lemmon starred in seven Billy Wilder films, including "The Apartment" and "Some Like it Hot" as well as ten films with Walter Matthau, most notably "The Odd Couple."

The late actor was idolized by Kevin Spacey who has also won Oscars in the two categories, including the Best Actor Oscar he recieved for the 1999 film "American Beauty."

Throughout March, we have quoted past Best Actor and Best Actress Oscar winners.

Here is the quote from Lemmon:

"Failure seldom stops you. What stops you is the fear of failure."

Sunday, March 28, 2010

My Cousin Mike Picked Butler to Make it to Final Four!

I must profess that I laughed at my cousin Michael, who is an alumnus of Winthrop University in Rock Hill, SC, the school that beat my alma mater Radford University to win The Big South Tournament in Myrtle Beach (well, Conway, SC, is close enough) a few weeks ago, when he told me that he picked the Butler Bulldogs to make it to the Final Four.

I asked him point blank: "How would they beat Syracuse?"

He said: "I don't know. I just think they just will."

And, by a score of 73-69 Butler did just that!

My lone Final Four pick which made it to Indianapolis, where Butler is, happens to West Virginia University. I am especially happy for their Turkish basketball player Deniz Kilicli who made his debut for the Mountaineers this year (that is not him pictured here).

We are also happy for 'the local team,' The Duke University Blue Devils though I live some 90 miles away from Durham, NC, which is also home to the Durham Bulls minor league baseball team. Coach K's team downed Baylor this afternoon which had to have really ticked off a friend of mine in Wilmington, NC, because not only is he a Tarheels fan but he also had the Bears from Waco, Tex., in his Final Four!

The last team to make it is Michigan State. They beat the Tennessee Volunteers 70-69 while I was shopping at Pet-Smart. I almost adopted a kitten today, but there were a few complications. Oh well, there is a next year- well except for those players who are seniors or leaving college early to make a zillion bucks playing for a team like the Minnesota T-Wolves in the NBA.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Shakespeare Likes the Wildcats, the Wildcats, the Panthers and the Blue Devils

The American Shakespeare Center in Staunton, Va., began this cheeky campaign last year to say which team William Shakespeare would have picked to win the Final Four.

Since their pick, The University of North Carolina Tarheels, proved to be correct, they are at it again this year, but much to the probable chagrin of 'Heels coach Roy Williams they are assuming that The Bard would pick their rival team Duke to make it to the Final Four.

The stage company, which is currently producing "Twelfth Night" as one of their four on-going productions (the play ends April 3rd), also projected that the Northern Iowa Panthers, Kansas State Wildcats and Kentucky Wildcats would make it to the proverbial 'final act' (we couldn't resist!).

Among the performers in "Twelfth Night" are Sarah Fallon (Olivia), Benjamin Curns (Sir Toby) and Miriam Donald (Viola).

The Bard will pick 'his' national champion next week.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

March Marchness with Mapquest (for Thursday Games)

This could arguably be one of the craziest series of posts I've done in a while (the sister entry is on our other blog 'Politics, Culture and Other Wastes of Time.')

For this particular entry, we will focus on the distances between the towns of the college teams that advanced to the Sweet 16 for the Thursday night sessions.

The Syracuse-Butler game will take place in Salt Lake City, Utah, as will Kansas State-Xavier (Ohio) game.

The other two Thursday games will be held in Syracuse, NY, where Syracuse University will ironically not play. But, nearby Cornell University in Ithaca, NY, will face top-seeded Kentucky in Syracuse which also where West Virginia University will take on the University of Washington.

To figure out the distances, we arbitrarily found some nifty places on the web in each of the college towns. Should the University of North Carolina have qualified for the NCAA Tournament, we would have mentioned Chapel Hill Comics in Chapel Hill, NC, where my friend Andrew Neal will find you the latest issue of....well, we better not make any promises.

As one might fully expect West Virginia University located in Morgantown, WV, also home of the Sahara Bar (a hookah lounge), is 2,596 miles from the Cherry Street Coffee House in Seattle, the city which is home to the University of Washington. According to, that makes for a 39 hour, 13 minute drive. At least for Mountaineer fans, the trek to Syracuse is much closer!

As for Syracuse University, the city of Syracuse is 647 miles from Indianapolis, which is the home of their opponent Butler University. Of course, Salt Lake City where they will play the Sweet 16 game is much farther for both schools.

Syracuse is also the home of Syracuse Stage which is currently producing the acclaimed play "Almost, Maine" (alas Syracuse is also quite far from Greensboro, NC, where I live or I'd go up there to see the play!). And, Indianapolis is a city which features the Claddah Irish Pub (part of a regional chain) located at 234 South Meridian Street downtown. We should note that we believe the image here is of Syracuse player Wes Johnson.

There is no actual radio station called WKRP in Cincinnati which was where the late'70s/early '80s sitcom "WKRP in Cincinnati" took place (the show is a personal favorite of my friend Moviezzz's who has a great blog on tv and movies). But, there is a WKRQ in Cincinnati (also known as Q-102.

Cincy is also home of the Xavier Muskeeters. Though they will face the Kansas State Wildcats in Utah, Cincy is 713 miles from Manhattan, Kansas, where one can also find Kite's Grille and Bar at 615 North 12th Street.

Lastly, Ithaca- home of the Cornell Big Red is 682 miles (a virtual 11 hour drive) from Lexington, Ky. In Ithaca, one can probably find a J.D. Salinger novel at Autumn Leaves Used Books. While in Lexington, one can probably find a nice oak desk at Blue Grass Antique Market on 801 Winchester Road.

My mother incidentally sells antiques in Lexington, Va., at Duke's Antique Mall, but I'm not sure if she has a big oak desk and if she did then advertisiting it here might be a conflict of interest (not that we really care about such things!)

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Health Care Voices-The Pundits

Dr. Mehmet Oz, better known as Dr. Oz, is the most famous Turkish-American around (hopefully, one day, I will crack the top 100).

To my knowledge,like many doctors, he has not said much about the health care spat, but the same can not be said for pundits both on the right and the left.

On the far, far right, Glenn Beck, compared President Barack Obama's plan to cup-stacking, presumably suggesting that all the cups would fall down and create a mess.

Frank Livingston, a Garner, NC, resident told "The Indy Weekly" (a Raleigh,NC, alt weekly) during a Tea Party/anti-health care protest in the Tarheel State capital that the bill would somehow help Osama bin Laden take over America and convert everyone to Muslims.

The much more intelligent center-right has been cynical as well. In a June 2009 column, George F. Will said: "The president may have been too clever when he decided during an economic crisis that was sending federal expenditures soaring and revenues plummeting, to push the entire liberal agenda on the premise that every item in it is essential to combating the crisis," Will stated, adding that more federal government will escalate the problem.

Jonathan V. Last of the conservative magazine "The Weekly Standard" said Obama's positive numbers were inflated because of his popularity among African-Americans.

But, a counter argument could be made that former President George W. Bush's numbers would have been even closer to the South Pole if it was not for his evangelical base whom comedian Bill Maher said would have supported Bush if he had run over child actress Dakota Fanning on the White House lawn.

However, if the right was critical, the left, which has not always supported Obama universally, called the health care bill's delivery a defining moment for the president.

Jonathan Chait of the center-left "The New Repubic" said: "Let me offer a ludicrously premature opinion: Barack Obama has sealed his reputation as a president of great historical importance."

Lindsay Beyerstein of the more progressive journal "The Nation" said: "This legislation will extend coverage to 32 million Americans and curb the wrost abuses of the corrupt insurance industry and attmept to contain spiraling health care costs."

The measure also got anlaysis from outside the United States as indicated by this sentiment expressed by Konrad Yakabushi of "The Toronto Globe and Mail:"

"Passage of the $940 billion overhaul of the U.S. health-care system is a milestone that will change the face and character of the country."

Health Care: A Tale of Two Congressional Reps

The historic 219-212 Yes Vote for Health Care reform proved actually not to be a Democrati versus Republican matter as much as an inner party struggle where Democratic congressional reps from either red or purple states had to decide if the controversial, yet significant legislation was worth the political risk it entailed.

Thus hardly any Blue State Democratic representatives, with the exception of Cong. Stephen Lynch (D-Mass.), voted against the bill while several red state Democrats, including Cong. Jeff Tanner (D-Tenn.) and Cong. Jim Matheson (D-Utah) voted against it.

Thus, the battle came down to swing state Democrats and nowhere was that felt more here than along the Virginia/North Carolina border.

My own congressional rep Cong. Brad Miller (D-NC) voted for the bill in spite of death threats he recieved over the summer from far right constituents who wanted to force his vote the other way.

Another Triad rep Cong. Virginia Foxx (R-NC), one of the most partisan Republicans in Congress, publicly said the health care bill was a greater threat to American national security than radical Islamic terrorists.

In the end, there were no surprises in Virginia or North Carolina except that Cong. Rick Boucher (D-Va) who represents the southwest part of the state voted against the bill, perhaps because of impending political pressure from a potential run against Virginia's House Majority Leader Morgan Griffith (R-Salem) who has indicated he may run against Boucher. The only congressional rep from Virginia with more seniority than Boucher, elected in 1984, is Cong. Frank Wolf (R-VA) who was elected in 1980.

Like all House Republicans, Wolf- who is considered to be a more moderate member of the Virginia GOP delegation- said he voted against the bill because of the alleged
$1 trillion price tag associated with it.

There were three members of North Carolina's Democratic delegation which voted against the bill. While it may seem more politically safe to make such a move, the three reps who voted against it, Cong. Heath Shuler (D-NC) (a former Washington Redskins quarterback pictured here), Cong. Larry Kissell (D-NC) and Cong. Mike McIntyre (D-NC) faced the scorn of constituents who helped elect them to The Hill.

Ed Morris of Franklin, NC, who was interviewed by NPR, lives in Shuler's district and he has been among the strongest proponents of the bill nationally, criticized the former football star in "The Ashville Citizen-Times" (Asheville, NC, newspaper):

"It may even cost him his job," Morris said. "But if he can save one life, it's a moral responsibility."

Kissell, who represents the area around Kannapolis-the late NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt's hometwon, was also criticized for his 'no' vote by area Democratic activist Michael Lawson who told "The Washington Post" in a December article that 'we sent Mr. Smith to Washington, only to realize he wasn't Mr.Smith.'

But, Tom Perriello (D-Va, pictured) did the brave political, moral thing and voted for the health care bill. Perriello, who resides in Charlottesville when not in Congress, said he had read letters of support from residents and hopspitals in Martinsville, Danville and Charlottesville.

Though he faces tough competition from a current field of seven Republican challengers, including Feda Morton a biology teacher and conservative activist with no prior political experience from rural Fluvanna County, Perriello told "The Daily Progress" (Charlottesville newspaper) that there was only one clear option:

"At the end of the day, it comes down to the dollars and cents at the kitchen table," Perriello said. "Doing nothing is the surest way to ensure that we're moving in the wrong direction."

Monday, March 22, 2010

Silly Picture to Fill Space- A Donkey

Today, I am posting images of a donkey and an elephant on our two blogs since the health care debate has finally been settled as Democrats in the House successfully passed the bill in spite of Cong. Virginia Foxx (R-NC) declaring that the bill was a greater threat to domestic security than Osama bin Laden.

The State of North Carolina, where I reside, actually has eight House members from the Democratic Party. But, surprisingly enough three of them including Cong. Mike McIntyre (D-NC) did not vote for the bill.

While researching this piece, I found out that Jews and Arabs actually agree on something!

According to Wikipedia, 39 percent of Arab-Americans and Muslim-Americans have tended to vote Democratic since the Iraq War, which is now entering its seventh year. 26 percent of the same demographic vote Republican.

Meanwhile 70% of Jewish Americans vote Democratic as well though ironically Judaism is the faith of Cong. Eric Cantor (R-Va), the arch conservative minority whip who many Democrats cite for making passage of the bill quite difficult.

David Young, a Greensboro businessman, is the current chair of North Carolina Democratic Party.

Donkeys happen to quite popular in my late father's country Turkey, which reportedly sold a donkey to the former Soviet Republic of Azerbaijan for $18,200 in 2009. But, Yashar Aliyev, the Azeri ambassador in Washington, DC, assuredly probably has too many other important things to deal with to confirm or deny this for me.

There is also a place called Donkey Island in Turkey off the coast of the resort town of Cesme in the Aegean across from the Greek island of Chios.

Cesme, Turkey, was actually sister cities with the town of Wise, Va., in the far southwestern part of my home state.

Former Virginia governor Tim Kaine is now the national head of the Democratic Party.

Quote of the Week- Jack Nicholson

Jack Nicholson (pictured here from the film) Oscared in the Best Actor category in 1975 for his depiction of mental asylum inmate Randle McMurphy in "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest."

His co-star Louise Fletcher, who played the antagonistic Nurse Ratchet also won for Best Actress in the film directed by Czech emigre Milos Forman. A quote fromher is on our sister blog Politics, Culture and Other Wastes of Time.

Forman, who later Oscared for "Amadeus," also won a Best Director Oscar for "Nest."

Before we get to Nicholson's quote, I wanted to mention that the stage version of "Nest" is currently in production at the Biloxi Little Theatre in Biloxi, Miss.

Rick Amos is playing Nicholson's part while Melissa Entrekin is playing Nurse Ratchet. For those in the Magnolia State, (I'm far from it actually), the theatre's web site is and they can be reached at (228) 432-8543.

A statue of the late Ken Kesey, who wrote the book that became the play that became the movie, can be found in Eugene, Ore.

Here is Jack's quote. We're not sure if he's refering to himself or someone like Tom Cruise, who co-starred with Nicholson in "A Few Good Men:"

"A star on a movie set is like a time bomb that has to be defused so people can approach it without fear."

The Smart Boys from Cornell Are in Sweet 16

Until yesterday, probably half the country, myself included, wasn't exactly sure what the nickname for Cornell University Athletics was. The answer is in fact: Big Red!

I knew the school in Ithaca, NY, was renown for its academians including the late astronomer Carl Sagan, but this year Cornell's men's basketball team became the first Ivy League team to advance to the Sweet 16 since the Penn Quakers in the late
'70s (a team which ended up going to the Final 4).

Cornell got their proverbial ticket punched yesterday when they defeated the fourth-seeded Wisconsin Badgers by a 87-69 margin. The Big Red won the game, which was played in Jacksonville, Fla., through the efforts of senior Louis Dale (pictured here) from Birmingham, Ala., who scored 26 points.

Senior forward Ryan Wittman added 24, and senior Jeff Foote and sophomore Chris Wroblewski scored 12 points each.

Dale told Ann Ju of the Cornell University student newspaper "The Chronicle" that the win was a team effort:

"We have so many unselfish guys on this team," Dale said. "Nobody really cares how it gets done and we come out and make big plays."

Cornell will play top-seeded Kentucky which destroyed our local team Wake Forest by a 90-60 margin on Saturday night.

Here are my picks for the Sweet 16 games, but keep in mind, I picked Georgetown to win it all, and apparently do did political commentator David Brooks of "The New York Times."

No. Iowa over Michigan St.

Tenn. over Ohio St.

Syracuse over Butler

Kentucky over Cornell

Duke over Purdue

WVU over Washington

St.Mary's over Baylor

Kansas St. over Xavier (Ohio)

Friday, March 19, 2010

Ohio University Messes Up My Brackets

A few days ago, I disclosed publicly on this blog that I was picking the third-seeded Georgetown Hoyas to meet Villanova in a rematch of the 1985 NCAA final which has been deemed a classic though former Hoyas center Patrick Ewing who played in the the game that the Wildcats won (in a major upset) says he refuses to watch the game when it's on ESPN Classics.

Well, there will be no 2010 Georgetown-Villanova final after all as The Ohio University Bobcats from Athens, Ohio, knocked off the Hoyas 97-83 in the opening round of the NCAA tournament in Providence, RI, last night. Villanova barely escaped an upset themselves as they narrowly beat Robert Morris University from Pittsburgh in overtime.

The Bobcats were lead by Armon Bassett (we believe he is pictured here) who scored 32points and D.J. Cooper who added 27 points.

It is the school's first NCAA win since 1983. The will next face Tennessee who advanced by beating San Diego State. The Ohio-Tennessee game will take place on Saturday.

Hopefully, President Barack Obama who picked Kansas to win it all (see earlier entry) will have better luck with his brackets though assuredly he is more concerned about on-the-fence Democrats such as Cong. Tom Perriello (D-Va) supporting the current edition of the health care bill.

It's Apparently Not a Good Idea to Be Gay in Malawi

According to a "New York Times" article by Barry Bearak which ironically ran on Feb. 14, gay lovers Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga were both charged with indecency and unnatural acts after they became engaged after a traditional ceremony.

In the landlocked southeastern African nation of Malawi, homosexual acts can lead to a a prison sentence of up to five to fourteen years. Other African countires, such as Uganda and Gambia, are either proposing or have death sentences for anyone engaging in 'homosexual acts.' We thought this was only possible in places like Boones Mill, Va.

In all seriousness, Malawi is also one of the poorest countries in the world and it has a high population density. It is a popular destination for missionaires, such as Wes and Lorrie Jonat who are working ACOP Missionaires, based in Calgary, Canada.

There is also a web site promoting tourism in Malawi, which does an impressive job of touting the country's natural scenery and wildlife viewing area, including Lake Malawi, the Ntchisi Forest Reserve and Mount Mulanje.

But, negative news stories, such as these, are likely to prevent growth in the tourism sector which is unfortunate for the struggling Malawi population.

In Bereak's article, Leckford Thoto, Malawi's minister of information and civic affairs blamed outside influences: "These immoral acts are not in our culture; they are coming from outside." And, the article quoted Rev. Zacc Kawala, a local minister, as saying that westerners think that if Malawi does not accept their 'gay agenda' the country will be demeaned. He added: "But, we're not as wicked as the West."

According to "The New York Times," the trial is on-going.

Malawi has some 14 million people. The country's capital is Lilongwe and its largst city is Blantyre. Malawi's president is Binju wa Mutharika.

Amnesty International has condemned the incident, and is working with other organizations on providing a legal defense fund for the couple.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Virginia's New Republican Governor To Oversee His First Execution

In what may be the first of an alarming trend, Virginia's newly elected, arch-conservative Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) will in all likelihood be overseeing the first of what those of us opposed to capital punishment expect to be many executions during his tenure.

The crime in question is a particularly brutal one, and the guilt of the condemned in this given case is not an issue. But, as attorney John W. Whitehead said in an editorial that ran on Feb. 16 in "The Huffington Post," 139 people from 26 states, including Virginia, have been proven innocent of their crimes while on death row in recent years.

According to Virginians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty (, the clemency statement for Paul Powell, whose execution time is around 9 p.m. tonight, the defendant has admitted to the murder of Stacie Reed, 16, on Jan. 29, 1999, near Manassas, Va. In addition, Powell admits to his bizarre, obnoxious behavior which lead Prince William County Commonwealth's Attorney Paul Ebert, one of the leading proponents of capital punishment in Virginia, to seek the death penalty for his crimes.

The clemency statement adds that Ebert's office presented false evidence that Powell was convicted of two, perhaps three capital murders and that the prosecution also certified false evidence in court.

The VADP cited a similar case involving the 2005 death sentence of Robin Lovitt, which then Gov. Mark Warner (D), now a member of the U.S. Senate, commutted to a life sentence. The VADP's web site states that McDonnell now faces a similar breach of public trust with regards to the Powell case.

Last week, according to, McDonnell steadfastly refused to grant Powell clemency due to the brutality of the crime and the defendant's actions in writing a profanity-laced letter to Ebert which revealed that he had in fact murdered Reed.

The VADP's site also states that then state attorney general McDonnell prevented a review of false evidence for the Virginia state supreme court in Richmond. McDonnell's predecessor Tim Kaine (D) was actually opposed to capital punishment which McDonnell criticized upon Kaine's election.

McDonnell also told various media outlets at the time that Kaine's reasoning for his personal opposition, which did not actually prevent him from approving of executions while governor though he stopped some of the more controversial cases from going through, should not be attributed to Kaine's religious convictions. McDonnell said this because like Kaine, he is also of the Catholic faith and he came to different opinions regarding the death penalty.

Ironically, one of the vigils against Powell's execution in the gas station town of Jarratt, Va., about 60 miles south of Richmond, will be held at the Star of the Sea Parish, a Catholic church, in McDonnell's native Virginia Beach. The current governor is also an alumnus of Pat Robertson's Regent University.

According to the pro-death penalty web site appropriately called, Powell stabbed Reed after attempting to rape her before attacking Reed's sister Kristie whom he also tried to murder.

While one can not dispute the savage nature of Powell's actions, the site offers no background of who is sponsoring their site, where they obtain their information or contact information. Much of the material is also dated.

Other pro-death penalty web sites and blogs, including one called People You'll See in Hell, are using the Powell case to promote more executions in spite of expensive court costs, no significant data that shows capital punishment is a deterent and documented inconsistencies in the capital punishment trials around the country.

Whitehead cited many of these reasons in his column as he pointed out that the average cost of a capital punishment trial is $1.9 million, which has ironically made some conservatives start to oppose the death penalty and murder rates in states without death penalty statutes like Vermont have 40 percent lower homicide rates that pro-death penalty states. The prominent attorney also said death penalty trials were open to prosecutorial misuse and various state and court trends.

Whitehead opened his piece by stating: "Capital punishment studies have shown, whethr or not you are sentenced to death often has little to do with the crime committed and everything to do with your race, where you live and who prosecutes your case."

Race is actually not a factor in the Powell case, as the 31-year-old is a white male though many famous exonerated death row inmates in Virginia and North Carolina have tended to be African-American.

Frank Green, a "Richmond Times-Dispatch" reporter who has arguably overseen more executions than anyone in Virginia (he was covering death penalty cases when I was a reporter for a weekly newspaper in Woodstock, Va., from 1999-2001) reported on March 17 that Powell first encountered problems with the law when he was charged with destruction of property at the age of 12.

Green's article stated that Lorraine Reed Whoberry, Stacie Reed's mother who will be attending tonight's execution, had recieved a message from Powell indicated his remorse for the murder. Whoberry wanted to see Powell on death row to see if his sentiment was genuine, but authorities prevented her from meeting with him.

The Richmond newspaper also stated that Reed was stabbed to death in the heart with a survival knife.

Though the crime is quite heinous in nature, there were plenty of signs that Powell was mentally unstable according to Green's article. The condemned man showed signs of serious depression, isolation and self-hatred according to mental health records of him as a youth.

Powell has asked to be executed by the electric chair. Ebert said he would attend the execution. Protesters will gather outside the execution site in Jarratt starting at 8:30 p.m. Other vigils be held in Arlington, Charlottesville, Fairfax, Harrisonburg, Lynchburg, Norfolk, Richmond, Roanoke and Winchester.

Our condolences certainly go to Reed's family, but the fact remains that capital punishment, especially given the inconsistences in this case, is inappropriate. And, this execution will likely open the proverbial flood gates for more controversial cases to go through. Given McDonnell's far right politics, I am also concerned that he will not take the appropriate precautions that other governors, whether Democrat or Republican or for the death penalty or not, have done in the past in future death penalty cases.

To give McDonnell credit, he ran a brilliant campaign for governor in which he somehow convinced people in evangelical, rural hamlets like Stuart, Edinburg and Boones Mill that his Democratic opponent Creigh Deeds from Hot Springs, who is still a state senator, was a liberal extremist in spite of the fact that Deeds had maintaned an "A" from the National Rifle Association for his voting record in the General Assembly.

Those wishing to stop Powell's execution call Gov. McDonnell's office in Richmond at 804.786.2211 and ask that the condemned man's sentence be changed to life without parole.

I have volunteered for the VADP in the past. The organization is based in Charlottesville, and is headed by Beth Panilatis.

When I was a reporter, I had to cover death penalty cases. In fact, I met Ebert on one such occasion. I took my objectivity very seriously, but now as a blogger, even given the controversial nature of this issue, I feel it is pertinent to express my own views against capital punishment. It was one of the few issues which my late Republican grandmother Waynie Sturgis of Rock Hill, SC, and I actually agreed on.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

President Barack Obama Makes His Final 4 Picks

President Barack Obama has once again filled out his brackets and chosen his Final Four. Even though I voted for him, we only chose one team in common-the Villanova Wildcats.

Interestingly enough, three of the four teams Obama selected are nicknamed Wildcats, including Villanova, Kentucky and Kansas State.

The lone exception is the team he is picking to win it all: The Kansas Jayhawks (mascot pictured here) though even if they win, I would expect that since Kansas is a very red state (though they actually have a Democratic governor) they will go for Sarah Palin in 2012. (I will not!)

Obama picks the Jayhawks to beat Ashley Judd's beloved Kentucky Wildcats in the final. Former President Bill Clinton told ESPN that he also likes the Jayhawks' chances, but his pick to win it all is Syracuse- a top-seeded team which Obama did not put in his Final Four.

Last year, when Obama picked the University of North Carolina to win it all, he was criticized by right-wing talk show host Bill O'Reilly for going public with his picks. Of course, if Obama had not chosen to disclose his brackets, O'Reilly would have found another reason to bicker.

In order to preserve a remote sense of journalistic objectivity, I checked Newt Gingrich's Twitter page to see if he made any picks in the NCAA Tournament, but he is more concerned about federal dollars potentially going to women who want/need to have an abortion.

Happy Birthday, Lale!!!

I want to wish a happy 36th birthday to my sister Lale. To show her my love and affection towards her, I am going to surprise Lale by sending her an Abyssinian cat (pictured here) from a breeder in Philadelphia. It's going to cost me $800* plus shipping, but I know it's well worth it!

I also know my sister, my brother-in-law, and their two adult cats will be pleased to have a new kitten jumping on the couch in their living room. In fact, he may cost even more than the priceless vase he might knock over on their mantle piece.

*-Actual cost for an Abyssinian cat. Perhaps, some Abyssinians retail lower than this at pet stores in your areas, but they are show cats!

PS-In all actuality, though I am not destitute, I can not affford an $800 cat but perhaps one day if I win the North Carolina Lottery I will surprise Lale with this gift. But, there are also lots of cats that cost significantly less than a used car which need a home.

Since this is St. Patrick's Day, we thought we'd mention The Pulaski County Animal Shelter in Dublin, Va., which is currently offering the following three cats: Beans, a female calico kitten, Jewel, an adult orange tabby cat and Shenanigans, a male tuxedo kitten.

The shelter's web site is

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

MY NCAA Final Four Predictions

This will come as a shocker to all college basketball insiders like ESPN's Dick Vitale, Bobby Knight and Jay Bilas, but I am going to go out on the proverbial limb and predict an all Big East Final Four, which is scandalous considering that as North Carolina residents we should all be pulling for Duke University (the notable exception are those who live in Chapel Hill), which is one of the four number one seeds.

But, I see a rematch of the 1985 NCAA final classic between Georgetown University, the Big East tournament's runner-ups, and Villanova University, but this time I think the Hoyas will prevail and pull off a shocking national championship run!

My other two Final Four teams are West Virginia University and Syracuse University, whom Bill Clinton has picked to win it all.

Of course, Georgetown will need to defeat 14-seeded University of Ohio in Providence, RI, first, while West Virginia will face a tough Morgan State team out of Baltimore, which deserved better than a 15th-seed.

Syracuse will face Vermont in Buffalo, NY- a team that upset them once in another NCAA tournament and Villanova will face Robert Morris University in Providence.

As for Duke, they will face the winner of the Winthrop University-Arkansas Pine Bluff game. I would love to see them face the Winthrop Eagles from Rock Hill, SC, since that is my cousin Mike's alma mater and they beat my alma mater The Radford Highlanders in the Big South Tournament!

Silly Picture to Fill Space- Vote for Me!

This image was apparently taken somewhere here in North Carolina, but I don't see any signs here for my friend Chris Knight of Reidsville, NC, who ran for a local school board vacancy. Though he lost the election, Knight ran an over-the-top Star Wars-themed ad which made it to Vh-1, E! and the now-defunct "The Jay Leno Show."

I would like to nominate Knight's blog ( as well as my friend Moviezzz's blog ( to a BBC contest in which listeners suggest unique blogs that are actually worth a person's time, but alas I can not find the link to the contest anywhere on the freaking web!

Of course, having said that, we'd like to promote our blogs as well (The other one is 'Politics, Culture and Other Wastes of Time').

I could not think of a better way to promote myself than to have a silly photo with campaign signs (I have no idea if any of these people won, but presumably some did!).

This reminds me of a low-budget documentary I saw on The Sundance Channel entitled "FrontRunners," which I actually saw for sale at a Target store in Danville, Va.!

Perhaps, one can see such films at this year's Full Frame Film Festival in Durham, NC, which opens April 8. The opening night film is "Kings of Pastry" by veteran filmmakers D.A. Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

I have no idea if I'm going to this year's fest or not, but I did attend the Full Frame Festival in 2005. If I had the talent and equipment, I would make a short doc about our local maniac street preacher who rants and raves for five or six hours at a time. The irony is that I'm agnostic, but that would make me perfect for the project, right?!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Quote of the Week- Susan Sarandon

Since Virginia's new far-right leader Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) has said he will go through with the first execution under his administration (we presume there will be many more, jaywalkers beware!) this week, it seems appropriate to quote one of the nation's leading anti-death penalty advocates Susan Sarandon.

Though I am considerably more to the political center than Sarandon, one has to admire her for taking a stance and sticking to it. She has recently been in the news for her personal life as her relationship with actor Tim Robbins is apparently over.

Robbins directed Sarandon, arguably the sexiest 64-year-old around, in her 1995 Oscar-winning performance as Sister Helen Prejean of Louisiana.

Sarandon also debuted in the 1970 film "Joe," which starred the late Peter Boyle of "Young Frankenstein" fame, which we put on our recent list of the Best Left-Wing Films of all time.

I decided not to put "Dead Man Walking" on the list because it is a superlative film which has a relevant message which goes beyond its politics.

Ironically, Prejean who is more admired by liberals than conservatives, is also pro-life.

Here is the quote of the week from Sarandon, who grew up in Edison, NJ:

"I try to live every day in the present, and try not to turn a blind eye to injustice and need."

Film Comment Readers Pick Films of the Decade

The readers of the esteemed cinephile journal "Film Comment" (which includes me) voted on the best films of the decade and the magazine published the final results.

The current issue has a great cover article about the new Paul Greengrass film "The Green Zone," which stars Matt Damon by the magazine's editor Gavin Smith.

My Film of the Decade "Cache," a 2005 French film by Austrian director Michael Haneke came in 13th.

Here are the Top Ten:

1. "Mullholland Drive" (2001, dir. David Lynch-pictured)

2. "In the Mood for Love" (2000, dir. Wong Kar Wai/Hong Kong)

3. "There Will Be Blood" (2007, dir. PT Anderson)

4. "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" (2004, dir. Michel Gondry)

5. "Talk to Her" (2002, dir. Pedro Almodovar, Spain)

6. "The Royal Tenenbaums" (2001, dir. Wes Anderson)

7. "A History of Violence" (2005, dir. David Cronenberg)

8. "The New World" (2005, dir. Terence Malick)

9. "Zodiac" (2007, dir. David Fincher)

10. Yi Yi (2000, dir. Edward Wang, Japan).

"Yi Yi" is the only film on the list that I have not seen!

"Tarkan Versus the Vikings" Revisited

Last week, the Swedish Parliament in Stockholm passed a resolution recognizing the ever-controversial Armenian Genocide (or as I call it The Rashomon Nightmare) by a 131 to 130 vote.

A similar measure was passed by the House Committee on Foreign Affairs on Capitol Hill the week before by a 23-22 count. Among those who voted for the measure were comittee chair Cong. Howard Bermon (D-Calif.) over the objections of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

The current Turkish-Swedish spat has reminded me of a right-wing comic book film (actually based on the comic book "Tarkan" by the late Sezgin Burak) "Tarkan Versus the Vikings" (1971) which starred action film icon Kartal Tibet as (who else?!) Tarkan.

"Tarkan vs. the Vikings" is actually available on Netflix, and it is quite an amusing film, which even non-Turkish cinema cinephiles (yes, we are the oxy-morons of oxy-morons) will undoubtedly love. I personally think the fake octopus (we should have posted an image of it here- maybe, next time) is one of the greatest bad special effects in world cinema history.

David Austin of called "Tarkan Versus the Vikings" (one of several Tarkan films): "Turkey's answer to the Italian sword and sandal films and it is more fun than a proverbial barrel of monkeys."

Austin added that the film was like "Conan the Barbarian done on $10,000 and amphetamines."

The plot of the film is a relatively simply one. Tibet/Tarkan has to resuce the Princess Yonca (played by Swedish actress Eva Burden) from the evil Viking Toro who happens to worship an octopus-god monster. Well, maybe it's not as simple as I recall (I must profess to only seeing the film in its entirety once).

But, the film does reflect the Turkish distrust of the outside world, and it perhaps explains why Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan went as far as to remove Turkey's ambassador to Sweden Zergun Koruturk and cancel a pre-arranged trip to Stockholm.

I must profess that I agree with Mehmet Kaplan, a Turkish member of the Swedish Parliament who represents the liberal Environment Party, who told Turkey's conservative newspaper "Zaman" (the FoxNews of Turkey, and I don't tend to agree with them much) that the political timing was bad since Ankara and Yerevan were working on peace negotations. But, (and I know some of my fellow Turkish-Americans will not like me for saying this) I also think Erdogan, who in my opinion has been a bad leader at an important juncture, overeacted as the measure was passed by only one vote and Swedish Foreign Minster Carl Bildth opposed it.

The Swedish measure was praised by the leading Armenian-American lobbyist Aram Hamparian who heads ANCA, the leading Armenian political group in Washington, DC, and Suzanne Khordalian who heads a similar organziation in Sweden. She told various Armenian news outlets that the meetings lasted five hours.

One of my concerns about such political spats is that it will assist ultra-right Turkish nationalists in their political efforts. In an unrelated manner, Yurdagul Simsek of the English-language edition of Turkey's leading newspaper "Hurriyet" reported that far-right politicians like Devlet Bahceli (The Turkish Newt Gingrich) were upset that Turkish performers at a European song contest were going to sing a song in English.

Hey, Abba sang songs in English and look what it did for them.....and Sweden!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

More ACC Mascots

Well, we didn't want to snub anybody even though both Boston College and Wake Forest (pictured here) are already out of the ACC Tournament in Greensboro, NC.

With the exception of Duke, this has actually been a down year for North Carolina's men college basketball teams. Western Carolina, North Carolina A & T and High Point University got to the semi-finals of their respective conferences, but alas all three teams fell short.

Appalachian State in Boone, NC, made it to the Southern Conference finals but they lost to Wooford University, which is located in Spartanburg, SC, at the conference tourney in Charlotte.

My friend Olaf Jacobsson (psedonymn) from Wilmington, NC, is an uber-Tarheel fan, but even he thinks that the very best they can do is beat Georgia Tech tonight (tipoff at 7:00 pm).

ACC Tourney Underway in Greensboro

The ACC Men's Basketball Tournament is going on here in Greensboro, NC. I should have cancelled my class to watch the games, but alas we will be meeting in (yikes!) 13 minutes.

UVA beat Boston College earlier today, and I am expecting Duke to win the tourney in a close title game against likely opponent Maryland.

Here are my choices for the six best mascots in the ACC:

1. Maryland Terps
2. Virginia Tech Hokies (pictured)
3. UNC Tarheels (pictured)
4. NC St Wolfpack
5. Duke BlueDevils
6. Wake Forest Demon Deacs....

for the worst, go to my other blog, Politics, Culture and Other Wastes of Time

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Dead or Alive- Kemal Sunal (12 of 12)

We close out our long-running and perhaps slightly off-putting series with a profile of Turkish comic actor Kemal Sunal, considered by many to be 'The Turkish Charlie Chaplin.' In fact, one of his films bears a close resemblance in plot to Chaplin's "City Lights."

Sunal was born in the eastern Turkish city of Malatya in 1944. Like many Turkish comic actors including the duo of Zeki Alasya and Metin Akpinar, Sunal transfered from the theatrical stage to cinema. His first play was entitled "The Unwilling Doctor."

He got his first big cinematic break with the smash comedy hit "Hababam Sinifi" (The Outrageous Class), released in 1975 the film has a huge cult following both in Turkey and among the Turkish diaspora living in Europe. It was followed by many sequels. In the orginal film, Sunal pulls several hilarious antics including building a tunnel to escape from the school grounds and secretly smoking in the school's attic.

Sunal usually played poor/working class stiffs and the films he appeared in addressed the social issues of the 1970s and 1980s, a turbulent time in Turkish history in which the country's far-right and far-left took up violence to spread their political aims.

The unique aspect of Sunal's comedy was that it was highly political, yet also mainstream. The films, for the most part, were liberal enough to examine the plight of the working class in Turkey yet centrist enough not to offend authorities who were jailing more radical cinematic figures like the controversial actor/director Yilmaz Guney,best known for his Cannes award-winning film "Yol" (1982) who was frequently in prison during the '70s.

Turkish cinema during this period reflected by right and left sentiments as the action star Cuneyt Arkin, aka "The Turkish Chuck Norris," appeared in over-the-top films like "Once Vatan/My Country First" (1974) in which his character, a Turkish agent, goes to Cyprus to basically kick Greek ass (the film was made while Turkey was in a brief war with Greece over Cyprus and issues from 1974 are still mostly unreolved regarding the matter).

I profiled Sunal's 1980 comedy "Gol Krali/The Golden Boot" for a thesis I wrote on Turkish cinema while a graudate student at Hollins University in Roanoke, Va., in 2005. The film which revolves around an average, everyday man who finds that he has superlative soccer skills and he is thus able to somehow play for Istanbul powerhouse GalataSaray in their game against rival Istanbul team Fenerbahce. SPOILERR ALERT: Well, this is a fairly predictable one as Sunal is able to score several goals and lead the team to victory.

Some of Sunal's other significant films include the cult classic "Tosun Pasha"
(1975), "Kapicilar Krali/King of the Doormen" (1976) and "Devlet Kushu" (The State Bird) (1980).

My friend Bilge Ebiri wrote an excellent article about Turkish cinema which appears in the web site

Though the article focuses on current Turkish cinema and does not mention Sunal's works, Ebiri does touch upon on how the social upheveal of Turkey during the '70s was reflected in the cinema of the time, and the trend continues though Turkish films have become slightly less political in recent years as has American cinema.

SIDEBAR: We were saddened to learn that '80s teenage star Corey Haim died of an apparent drug overdose in Los Angeles. He will likely be best remembered for his role in "The Lost Boys" (1987).

SIDEBAR TWO: Today is the 70th birthday of our own right-wing action movie star Chuck Norris. I actually watched Norris' mid-80s film "Invasion USA" and Michael Moore's left-wing comedy "Canadian Bacon," which came out a few years later (Moore's only feature film as director to date) on dvd in the same weekend. It was very amusing.

SIDEBAR THREE: We should mention that the subject of our last entry in this series Topol is indeed alive and well though he does not act in films very often these days.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Silly Picture to Fill Space-Minor League Hockey Fight

Since we used an image of the Charlotte Checkers' mascot (a polar bear) for an entry in this series on our other blog, we thought we'd show the violent side of minor league hockey with this fight featuring a player from ECHL's Idaho Steelheads.

One of the Boys from Boise's next home game will be against the Boys from Salt Lake City (the Utah Grizzlies) when the two teams meet on the Steelheads' home ice on March 16.

The Steelheads have had an outstanding season from goalie Richard Bachman as has recent ECHL Player of the Week James Sixsmith of the Grizzlies.

In SLC, the Grizzlies will host the Stockton Thunder (from Stockton, Calif.) for three consecutive games starting on Friday. The other games will be on Saturday and Sunday.

The Grizzlies' actually have a Happy Hour, which seems startling considering that the team is in one of the reddest states in America. But, when one reads further they find out that in fact the Happy Hour means five-dollar concession meals from 6:00-7:00 p.m. only.

I could not deduce from the Grizzlies' web site if the team serves Bud Lite or any other alcohol products, not could I find out if Donnie Osmond has ever sung the National Anthem for them.

But, we wish the Grizzlies well against the Thunder. If I didn't live in Greensboro, NC, (which ironically no longer has a hockey team even though the city briefly served as home ice for the NHL's Carolina Hurricanes before the tea permanently moved to Raleigh and won a Stanley Cup), I would be there to cheer on the Boys from Salt Lake City.

Besides, I don't care much for Bud Lite anyway.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Quote of the Week- Jane Fonda

Today, in honor of the Oscars which were held last night, we are quoting the two previous Oscar-winners for Best Actress and Best Actor from the 1978 film "Coming Home," Jane Fonda (here) and Jon Voight (on our other blog: Politics, Culture and Other Wastes of Time).

"Coming Home," directed by the late Hal Ashby, was considered to be an excellent film about the plight of returning Vietnam veterans. The film lost out to another Vietnam War veteran film "The Deer Hunter," directed by Michael Cimino, in the 1978 Oscars.

But, "Coming Home" landed acting Oscars for its two stars and some film critics maintain it is a better film than "The Deer Hunter." Though Ashby is one of my favorite directors, I actually haven't seen "Coming Home" since it aired on network television when I was a teenager (I no longer consider seeing a film on network tv with commercials as seeing the actual movie!)

Interestingly enough, both Fonda and Voight who were vocal liberal activists in the
'60s and '70s have become devout Christians, but Fonda has mostly maintained her politics while Voight has done an about-shift and evolved into perhaps the most radical right-winger in Hollywood (not counting Chuck Norris).

Fonda also won a Best Actress Oscar for "Klute" in 1971. And, she appeared in a wide range of films at the height of her career, including Jean-Luc Godard's brilliant French film "Tout Va Bien!" (1972), which I saw very recently.

Last night, Fonda tweeted her disappointment that the late Farrah Fawcett was not included in the list of film industry people who died last year. Though Fawcett was best known for the '70s tv series "Charlie's Angels," she had appeared in a number of films including "The Apostle."

Here is the quote from Fonda who once declared that she had retired from acting though she has appeared in a few films and performed on Broadway in recent years:

"A good many dramatic situations begin with screaming," Fonda said.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Top 10 Left-Wing Films of All Time

We are running an accompanying entry on our sister blog "Politics, Culture and Other Wastes of Time" entitled the Top 10 Right-Wing Films of all time.

This list is basically totally random, though not entirely pointless.

My friend Jason Garnett, who is NOT a right-wing extremist, professing his admiration of the ultra-conservative film "Red Dawn," which makes our other list.

He is opening a new venture entitled The Shadowbox Cinema in Roanoke, Va., with a screening of "The Big Lebowski" on March 27. To my knowledge that film does not have a political bias, but the John Goodman character is reportedly based on the director of "Red Dawn" whose name escapes me (where is the IMDB when you need it???).

I did see two films on this list, the Brazilian film "Motorcycle Diaries" and the Michael Moore doc "Fahrenheit 911" at Jason's former house of worship the Grandin Theatre, also in Roanoke, which was kind enough to screen "Gremlins" for my 40th birthday last night. Perhaps, it's just me, but I sensed the 1984 adventure film had some Cold War overtones........yeah, I guess I do read too much into things. The Grandin is currently showing films like "Crazy Heart," "Shutter Island" and "Valentine's Day," none of which are subversive but you can never too sure about romantic comedies.

Ironically, one film listed here the original 1968 version of "Planet of the Apes" is considered a liberal film for its environmental message even though it stars the late ultra-conservative actor Charlton Heston.

Here is a list of our favorite films which are definitely to the left of Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Ct.):

1. Medium Cool
2. Salt of the Earth
3. Battle of Algiers
4. Easy Rider
5. Motorcycle Diaries
6. Joe (pictured)
7. Tout Va Bien!
8. Harlan County USA (pictured)
9. Hearts and Minds
10. Planet of the Apes (1968-pictured)/Fahrenheit 9-11

Amazingly enough the socialist propaganda film "I Am Cuba" did not make the final cut!

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Oscar Forecast- The Major Awards

Since we are screening "Gremlins" at midnight for my 40th birthday (which was actually Thursday) at the Grandin Theatre in Roanoke, Va., things are a bit hectic around here, but we did excuse ourselves from the dinner table long enough to post our projected victors for tomorrow night's Oscars.

For this entry, we focus on major categories (including Best Song, which one could argue should not be a major category).

Let's start with Best Picture:

The Nominees: "Avatar," "The Blind Side," "Precious," "A Serious Man," "Up in the Air," "The Hurt Locker" (pictured), "Up," "Inglorious Basterds," "District 9" and "An Education."

WHO SHOULD WIN: "Up in the Air" or "The Hurt Locker"
WHO WILL NOT WIN: "District 9," "A Serious Man" or "An Education"
WHO WILL WIN: "Avatar" or "The Hurt Locker"
OUR PICK: "The Hurt Locker" (because I still live in a world where the good guy wins except during the 2000 American presidential election)


The Nominees: Sandra Bullock (The Blind Side), Meryl Streep (Julie and Julia), Helen Mirren (The Last Station), Carey Mulligan (An Education) and Gabourey Sidibe (Precious).

Who Should Win: Mulligan
Who Will Win: Bullock (It's the Oscars, after all----eyes rolling) or (maybe) Streep
Our Pick: Bullock (It's the Oscars after all---------eyes rolling)


The Nominees: Jeff Bridges ("Crazy Heart"), Morgan Freeman ("Invictus"), George Clooney ("Up in the Air"), Clin Firth ("A Single Man") or Jeremy Renner (pictured-"The Hurt Locker)

Who Should Win: Clooney or Bridges
Who Will Win: Bridges.......he won the Independent Spirit Award last night; this seems like his year.
Our Pick: Bridges


The Nominees: Penelope Cruz (Nine), Vera Farmiga (Up in the Air), Maggie Gyllenthal (Crazy Heart), Anna Kedrick (Up in the Air), Mo'Nique (Precious)

Who Should Win: Farmiga or Kedrick
Who Will Win: Cruz (stranger things have happened) or Mo'Nique
Our Pick: Mo'Nique..........when two actresses are nominated from the same film- that's a problem (though Shirley Maclaine beat out co-star and fellow Best Actress nominee Debra Winger in "Terms of Endearment back in 1984)


The Nominees: Matt Damon "Invictus," Woody Harrelson "The Messenger," Stanley Tucci "The Lovely Bones," Christopher Plummer "The Last Station" or Christoph Waltz "Inglorious Basterds"

Who Should Win: Damon, Tucci or Waltz
Who Will Win: Damon or Waltz
Our Pick: Waltz


The Nominees: James Cameron ("Avatar"), Katrhyn Bigelow ("The Hurt Locker"), Quentin Tarantino ("Inglorious Basterds)," Jason Reitman ("Up in the Air") or Lee Daniels ("Precious)

Who Should Win: Bigelow or Reitman
Who Would Give Best Acceptance Speech: Tarantino (we all know that)
Who Will Win: Bigelow or Cameron
Our Pick: Cameron (because sometimes the basterds win!).


Who Should Win: "The Weary Kind" from "Crazy Heart"
Who Will Win/Our Pick: "Take it All" from "Nine" (pictured)

NOTE: GO TO OUR OTHER BLOG "Politics, Culture and Other Wastes of Time" for our remaining picks!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

The Short Answer from Doctor Oz

If you google any search engine right now, you will probably find a load of info about the Turkish-Armenian political squabble going on in Congressional halls in Washington, DC. And, if you want to find out about the matter, which I personally consider a 'Rashomon nightmare,' I suggest you go to right now.

But, we thought it would be more interesting to focus on the world's most famous Turkish-American since Joe Camel*, Dr. Mehmet Oz, (I am a Turkish-American too, but I don't have a syndicated talk show.)

In a response to a follower on Twitter, Dr. Oz answered the following two-part question:

"Are you from Turkey? How much turkey should i eat a day?" (the tweet had a lower-case i)"

Dr. Oz responded by saying: "Yes, and the less meat the better"

*-Dr. Oz has publicly said he will not treat any patient who smokes. I completely agree with him on that matter, though assuredly he would find a hard time developing a clinic if he worked in a place like Danville, Va. (where some 65 % of the population still smokes). And, smoking remains a major societal problem in Turkey as well though less of the population there smokes than they did when I lived there as a child 30 years ago.

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

I do have good friends who are Republicans, many of whom went to high school with me in the Roanoke, Va., area, so I will say that not all of them are gun nuts, religious whackos or extreme anti-government lunatics, but then again quite a few of them are-LOL!

In all seriousness, I want to thank everyone who wished me a Happy Birthday on Facebook whatever their politics might be.

Alas, since today is a work day, I will not be able to go UFO-watching in Logan, Utah, but perhaps this time next year I can just that (of course, we are not being enitrely serious here).

Ironically, today is also the 60th birthday of Gov. Rick Perry (R-Tex., pictured here along with Yosemite Sam and the Rev. John Hagee) who used to be a Democrat, or at least that's what Karl Rove said on "The Charlie Rose Show" last year, but I will not be joining the GOP anytime soon, or at least until Sarah Palin is kidnapped by those very aliens who are hanging out in Utah.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Dead or Alive? (11 of 12)- Topol

Since we don't think Grace Jones was nominated for a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her performance in "Conan the Barbarian," we presume that Topol (pictured here) who was nominated for Best Actor for his lead performance in "Fiddler on the Roof"
(1971) is the most obscure person ever nominated for an Oscar.

Topol, an Israeli actor, was born on Sept. 9, 1935, in Tel Aviv.

He is the father of Anat Topol, an actress who played the role of Chava alongside her dad in a 1995 stage rendition of "Roof."

Topol wasan actually an active member of the Israeli Army when he was nominated, but he was granted a leave of absence to be at the Oscars. He toured the USA in a revival of "Roof" in the 1980s. And, Topol has the distinction of being nominated for a Tony for the exact same role which earned him an Oscar nomination 20 years apart (got Tony nomination in 1991).

The first Israeli actor ever nominated for an Oscar also played Dr. Hans Zarkov in the science-fiction cult clasic "Flash Gordon" (1980) and he appeared in the James Bond film "For Your Eyes Only" (1981).

Before the film version of "Roof," he was in the Kirk Douglas film "Cast a Long Shadow" (1966) and the David Niven film "Before Winter Comes" (1969).

Now, it is up to guess if he is indeed dead or alive....'course, you can find out ahead of time by going to the Internet Movie Database.......?!

The subject of our last entry Jerry Lee Lewis is alive, or at least he was at last report.