Category Archives: Entertainment

To Antep (In Spirit)

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This weekend I was supposed to go down to Gaziantep, and Urfa, for the weekend. Unfortunately between the exchange of Syrian and Turkish shelling over the past two days and a terrible, sudden, stomach upset I’m instead spending the weekend relaxing in Malatya.

In spirit, though, I’m further down south in Brave Antep and Glorious Urfa.

Machine Men

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Instead of music today, this Friday Refrain is instead a refrain from all the talks of war – with Iran, Syria, Russia, etc – and religious based politics that seemed to define the RNC. It seems cosmically ironic that Charlie Chaplin made one of the greatest political speeches I’ve ever heard. Just remember, don’t follow the machine men with their machine hearts.

The Vibrations of Music

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I was watching a movie in a seminar about Rumi last Fall semester, struggling to stay awake as always when in a three hour long class at night with the lights off, when something caught my ear. The film was a documentary about the role of music in Sufi practice and a particular Turkish sheikh – whose name I unfortunately forgot – was being interviewed about the vibrations of music. Although I can’t remember exactly what he said, the general impression was something like:

[quote style=”1″]All things in this world vibrate. Drums vibrate when you beat on them just as your voice box vibrates as you sing. Even atoms vibrate and spin, creating inaudible music as they take part in creation.[/quote]

The general idea of this message really caught me off guard. It suddenly made all the music I loved seem like much more than music; instead they became gateways to my soul. I don’t think I’m alone when I say that sometimes, in the exact right conditions, certain songs have extreme power over us. For instance, when I saw mewithoutyou last Friday the opening band – Buried Beds – closed their set with every member of the band playing a simple beat on a drum. The rhythm became so strong it simple washed over me and I felt very open, in some way, as if the music was freeing me. Continue reading The Vibrations of Music

Wolf Am I! (And Shadow)

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Tonight I’m finally seeing one of my favorite bands, mewithoutyou, live in NYC. So, to honor that, here is one of my favorite songs by them – Wolf Am I! (And Shadow).

mewithoutyou never ceases to amaze me with their amazingly complex lyrics. Generally blending a mixture of Biblical themes and stories, Sufi philosophy, and a sense of isolation, the songs strike me more as poetry set to music than simply lyrics – which makes sense, given how the band lists Rumi as a major influence upon themselves.

The Ten Best Literary Series

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Encouraged by how much fun I had making a list of the most entertaining film trilogies, here is a humble list of the ten best literary series I can think of. Did I miss any? Let me know!

10) Discworld, by Terry Pratchett

The Discworld Series is massive – seriously massive. There must be over 25 books taking place in the Discworld universe by this point, and although I haven’t read all of them, I know they are all entertaining. Set on a planet in the shape of the disk riding through space on the back of four elephants standing on top of a giant turtle, each book is generally a satire ranging from jingoistic foreign policy (Jingo!) to a critique of the banking system (Making Money). Wonderfully, the books never sacrifice characters for message; and trust me, there is a plethora of characters ranging from caricatures of German Barons in Uberwald to the all knowing Patrician of Ankh-Morpork to the Death of Mice (who only ever says SQUEAK.). Really, with so many books in this series, it would be extremely difficult to find a book you didn’t enjoy.

9) Abhorsen, by Garth Nix

Ten Best Literary Series

This series take place in an amazing parallel universe which is divided in half by an ancient wall. On one side of the wall is a universe completely akin to our own, while across the wall is a savage world of magic, necromancy, and old forgotten gods. The series, although not fabulously written and intended for a younger audience, is amazingly innovative. The general story arc follows the Abhorsens, a family of benevolent necromancers dedicated to ensuring that the dead do not rise again. Although the plot does not seem original, the overall style – necromancers using bells to command the dead, the image of death being a river that has a stronger and stronger current the further in you progress, etc – is riveting and unique. For anyone interested in fantasy, this is a must read.

8) Narnia, by CS Lewis

Ten Best Literary Series

Out of the seven Narnia books that CS Lewis wrote, I only truly enjoyed three of them – The Magician’s Nephew, The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, and The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. These three books, though, are epic in scope and truly capture the imagination: who doesn’t want to believe, at least at some point, that a wardrobe or a painting can act as a passage to another world, to adventure. The Magician’s Nephew is particularly impressive both in terms of chronology – it was the last book written, yet was a prequel explaining everything – and the vastness of the worlds explored, from dead and forgotten Charn to turn of the 20th century England, to the origins of Narnia. Some may be put off by the sometimes heavy handed Christian themes in the books, but that is really no reason to not enjoy an otherwise great series.

Continue reading The Ten Best Literary Series

The Ten Most Entertaining Trilogies

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With the recent release of Christopher Nolan’s third installment in the Batman Trilogy, all I see online or hear from friends are discussions about what film trilogies are best. There are obviously multiple ways to judge ‘what’s best’ ranging from artistic talent and writing to pure entertainment value. Although I know these top ten lists have been done to death, I hope no one will mind my two cents. So, without further ado, my list of the ten most entertaining trilogies (presented in no particular order).
1. The Vengeance Trilogy

Most entertaining trilogies
No other series of movies has had as profound effect upon me as The Vengeance Trilogy by Chan-Wook Park. The most famous movie in this series is the second installment, Oldboy, which I have already written about here. Unlike most trilogies that are sequentially related, these films are instead only linked by the theme of revenge and its consequences. All three of these films – Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, Oldboy, and Lady Vengeance – are works of pure art. Although some might find them a little slow moving, and they can be confusing on first watch – imagine an artful Korean version of Quentin Tarantino at his prime – I have never had movies draw so much out of me: laughter, tears, hope, camaraderie with those I’m watching, cringing, and then ultimately despair; because, at the end, all you will end up feeling after watching these films is soul crushing sadness and the relief that none of the characters in any of the movies was you.

2. Star Wars

Most entertaining trilogies
This entry is almost a throwaway. I love Star Wars. I grew up watching it – and, I admit, reading fan fiction novels – and in terms of pure time spent, I do not think I have ever loved something as long as I have loved these movies. Although the acting is not the best, and the effects pale now compared to the likes of Avatar, there is something about Star Wars that cannot be beaten: maybe it is the dynamic scenes – think Mos Eisley Cantina – where the characters, even though they are obviously the focus, are still just part of a living, breathing, radiant environment; maybe it is how all the effects in the movies, made in a time before computer effects, seem almost more realistic and possible because of this; maybe it is because of Han Solo and Boba Fett; or, maybe, even though I don’t know a single person who likes Luke Skywalker, it is the plot that makes Star Wars so epic. Joseph Campbell  once referred to Star Wars as the modern equivalent of Greek myths due to its mixture of grandeur and minutiae – on the one hand the galactic clash between the forces of darkness and the forces of light; on the other hand, the protagonist’s search for justice for his murdered father. Epic.

3. Lord of the Rings

Most entertaining trilogies
The Lord of the Rings is perhaps the single greatest film adaptation ever produced. Some complain of the films’ length and extreme detail – especially in the extended edition. For fans, there might never be enough LoTR. After all, this series, based on Tolkien’s work, covers one of the greatest mythic journeys in human literature – really, a modern odyssey. The films keep the epic scope of the books, while not losing any of the pure emotion and fellowship that occurs amongst the characters in the non-action scenes. Every character is also perfectly cast, and this trilogy – for better or worse – started the trend of making blockbusters over two hours long.

4. Evil Dead

Most entertaining trilogies
So there’s this guy, Ash ( played by Bruce Campbell), who just can’t get any luck. In the first film of the franchise, The Evil Dead, Ash and four friends travel to a remote cabin which is then attacked by demons. The second film in the franchise, Evil Dead II, is essentially a remake of the film, whereas the third film, Army of Darkness, is a horror-comedy focusing on Ash being hurled back into Medieval England where he must fend off… an army of darkness. All three films were directed by Sam Rami, and inspired a radical cult following, for good reason. They are horrific, hysterical, and all together masterful.

Continue reading The Ten Most Entertaining Trilogies

Organ Donor

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I was originally just going to post “Organ Donor” by Jeremy Messersmith as my Friday Refrain. I love everything about this song – it’s simple light sound, beautiful music video, and dark subject matter. Although, whenever I think of the phrase ‘organ donor,’ I always also end up thinking of the DJ Shadow song by the same name.

So, I obviously have to share both of these great songs with you. You’re so luck! A Friday Refrain double hitter. Enjoy!

Christmas in July

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I’ll admit, I’m a little late for a Christmas in July themed post… just like how this post is a little late to be included in the Friday Refrain.

Well, here it is anyway! Continuing the theme of stranger music you might not have necessarily heard otherwsie, I hope you love this gritty reboot of Santa Claus.

The 100 Plus Bucket List

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[quote style=”3″]“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” – Mark Twain[/quote]

There is only so much time we all have in this world. Depending upon your mindset, the human capability to know our own death is either the cruelest joke ever played or the greatest blessing. Being an optimist, and a procrastinator, I instead view our final deadline as an incentive to take all we want from life. So, without further ado, is a list of 100+ things everyone should try to complete.

If you think I missed anything important, please don’t hesitate to leave it in the comments below!

1. Visit Mount Nemrut, Turkey

Mount Nemrut
The Hills Have Eyes III – Prehistoric

Mount Nemrut is an amazing series of burial tombs located in South East Turkey, from the 1st century BC. The tombs are best known for the giant stone heads littering the mountainside that once belonged to statues flanking the tombs.

2. Become Published
Being published is becoming easier and easier, thanks to a surge in self publishing and electronic publishing options, such as through Amazon. For the slightly less ambitious, there are multitudes of newspapers and websites looking for contributors. Time’s a wastin, let loose the writer within!

3. Live in Another Country
Embrace a challenge and move to a country you have always dreamed of going to. The experience of living somewhere radically different will both open your horizons, as well as helping you to appreciate the small things about your home country you may not have originally realized. Who knows, you may not ever want to leave your adopted home.

4. See the Aurora Borealis

Aurora Borealis Bucket List

The Aurora Borealis is a natural light show that takes place at far northern latitudes, caused by the collision of charged particles in the atmosphere – far out, dude! Depending upon how far north or south you go, the Aurora takes on different hues – greens and yellows further north, pinks and purples further south.

5. Camp Out at a Music Festival

Bonnaroo Lessons
This past June, I attended my first music festival at Bonnaroo. The experience was amazing! Never had I been around so many people, all expressing themselves so differently, yet so welcoming and friendly. Festivals actively encourage bringing out the best in everyone, and it shows! Besides, how could you not have a good time while seeing so much amazing music and art?

6. Take a Ferry Ride around the Bosphorous


The Bosphorous is the body of water that divides Istanbul – the only city on the planet to be located on two continents – in half. By riding the ferry, you can easily take in the beauty of an amazing skyline that has been developing for over two thousand years. Not to mention, the water itself is a constant beautiful turquoise.

7. Climb the Great Wall of China

Great Wall Bucket List
The Great Wall is known as being great for a reason – all branches included, it is over 13,000 miles long! How’s that for a feat of human engineering? The best segments of the wall for climbing are located around Beijing, and they meander along beautiful mountain views.

Continue reading The 100 Plus Bucket List