Saturday, October 29, 2011

Cambodia #4

And so I return to Cambodia for the fourth time in three years.

This visit is not just a vacation; I'm doing work for my foundation ( and checking on a lot of projects.  We're trying to open up a new student center and I want to check on the progress of the medical clinic.  November is a great time to go.  The floods have receded--at least where I'm going--and the weather is tolerable.  I'm really looking forward to the visit.  There are a lot of things I hope to accomplish and it will be so exciting to see all the people that I haven't seen for a year.  

I leave next Sunday.  The flight is tough and there is a long layover in Seoul.  The following Wednesday, if all goes well, I'll wake up to the chaos and confusion of Siem Reap, located in the northern part of Cambodia.  I'll be staying at the Seven Candles Guesthouse which is a home away from home.    

As I get ready for my trip, I'm reading a fascinating book about the modern history of Cambodia.  It's called Cambodia's Curse and is written by Joel Brinkley. If you have even the slightest curiosity about this exotic country, you need to read this book.  It tells of the the problems that this country faces, mostly caused by a corrupt government and the horrific stories will definitely make you appreciate the values of democracy.  It's tragic how much the Cambodian people have suffered and will continue to suffer.  With this in mind, I feel that if I can make a few of their lives a little better through the work that I do, then I can feel better about the relative luxuries that surround me each day.

In the introduction of this book, there is a quote by Joseph Mussomeli, the past ambassador to Cambodia.  "Be careful because Cambodia is the most dangerous place you will ever visit.  You will fall in love with it, and eventually it will break your heart."

True words?  I've yet to find out ...

But for now, I'm still in the honeymoon stage.

If you would like to like to donate towards our projects, please see our razoo page.  We appreciate any donation that we receive and it is work like ours that truly helps the Cambodian people at a grassroots level.


Thursday, October 13, 2011

The Cult of Islam?

I think I have an open mind.     
I’ve travelled through Asia, Europe and North America.  I’ve met people from a variety of different cultures.  I ENJOY learning about the differences that separate us and the similarities that make us human.  And even though I was raised in a Presbyterian family, I feel that if you believe in a different God or Entity, then you have every right to do so.    

But lately, there has been something that has been bothering me.   Despite my boasts about having a worldly point of view, I just can’t seem to wrap my mind around a certain subject.  And that subject is Islam. 

I just don’t get it. 

Let me give you a current example.  If you read or pay attention to Human Rights Watch, you may have heard the story about the Christian Pastor, Yousef Nadarkhani, who has been sentenced to hang for the crime of Apostasy.   If you’re not familiar with Apostasy, it is basically giving up Islam for another religion and in this case, it is Christianity.  If this is the type of punishment that Muslims give to each other for leaving their faith behind, then it pretty much guarantees that there won’t be a lot of defectors to a more benevolent religion.  And if Islam is using this type of psychological control to keep the herd in control, then how can this be described as a religion?  Sounds to me like more of a cult. 

I realize that these are inflammatory statements and I would GLADLY like to be proven ignorant by someone who knows a lot more about religions that what I do.  But don’t tell me that these punishments are handed down by extremists unless you are going to tell me that the whole nation of Iran is extreme.  And don’t tell me that nobody dies from Apostasy anymore because even the threat of it is ridiculous to me.  And if you tell me that Yousef knew what was going to happen and deserves his punishment, then we have nothing more to say to each other. 

Why isn’t the whole country of Iran up in arms about this sentence?  Why would they let this guy be condemned to death for his beliefs?  Geez, in the United States we debate about whether we should execute criminals who go on a human shooting spree in a mall and take out twenty lives.  I suppose it boils down to a degree of tolerance and it doesn’t seem like there is any with Islam. 

Islam has been getting a lot of bad press lately and maybe outsiders shouldn’t even try to understand it.  Maybe we should just accept that we can’t understand it and let it go.  Or maybe (here’s a suggestion), the leaders of Islam in this country should do a much better job about educating Westerners about their beliefs.  Right now, I bet if you ask a lot of Americans the difference between Muslims and terrorists, you’re going to get a lot of blank stares.  And whose fault is that?  The Muslim community, plain and simple.  The outcry over the Islamic Center near the previous site of the twin towers reinforces how little Americans know about this religion.  Americans fear what we don’t know and as a country, we sometimes know very little. 

I hope the international community doesn’t forget about Yousef Nadarkhani.  I realize that in every religion, there can be extremes of interpretation, but no one deserves to die for something as peaceful as a belief in a different God.  

And on that issue, I definitely have a closed mind.      

Wednesday, October 5, 2011


Just in time for Halloween!


There seems to be some debate over what is the WORST MOVIE of all time.  Of course, I’m not talking about those awful low budget student productions which are so bad, they’re just bad.  I’m talking about the movies which are soooooo bad, they’re really really good.   And we have two contenders.

In one corner, we have The Room (2003).  This is Tommy Wiseau’s masterpiece which deals with the passion and the pain of a modern romance that ends in tragedy.  With scenes that go nowhere, transitions that leave you scratching your head, actors who don’t understand the concept of subtlety and some very icky sex scenes, NOT TO MENTION a lead actor who looks like a long-haired Quasimodo, The Room has all the right ingredients to make something so wrong. 

But equally fierce, I would like to present you with Troll 2 (1990) which has a cast of vegetarian goblins who make unsuspecting visitors eat green food so that they turn into plants.  In this movie, we learn that a kick in the groin can make you into a “homo” and coffee is the “devil’s drink”.  The most frightening aspect of this movie is that the director found money and people to make this disaster. 

As far as I know, both movies were meant to be serious movies.  The Room was meant to be a drama and Troll 2 was apparently meant to be terrifying.  But that’s what makes them great WORST MOVIES.  If the directors had tried to make them as bad as they turned out to be, they never would have been as good.  Or as bad.  Which is good. 

I think. 

But only one movie can be the WORST MOVIE so I took a very analytical approach to come up with a winner.  I’ve compared these two movies with regards to the common goods we look for in our so-bad-they’re-good movies.

Here are the results:   

Gratuitous sex and nudity:  The Room gets off to a banging start with a scene that looks and sounds like a 70s porno.  There is soft music, a red rose, weird moans and entangled limbs all shot through the gauzy filter of the bed’s canopy.  And did I mention there is butt clenching?  Yes, my friends, there is MALE BUTT CLENCHING that just doesn’t stop.  At least, it didn’t seem to stop.  This scene is repeated a couple of times throughout the movie and it doesn’t get any more tolerable by the third time.

I don’t recall if there is any nudity in Troll 2 but they probably would have had to pay the actors more if there had been a nipple shot so they probably avoided it.  They do, however, have a sex scene which is just about the weirdest sex scene I have ever seen in my life.  It involves corn and popcorn and well, you just have to see it because I’m not sure if I could describe it.  I have no idea what the popcorn had to do with anything except perhaps to remind audiences that they should buy more concessions or take a bathroom break. 

The Room gets the edge.  Did I mention the butt clenching?  Ugggghhhhhh ….

Catchy One –Liners:  The Room has got so many great one-liners that you can purchase a bobble-headed doll of Tommy Wiseau that spouts them out.  My co-worker has one and this is how I was first acquainted with the movie.  Here are some of my favorites …

“I’m fed up with this world!”

“Don’t touch me mothafucka!” 

“You’re tearing me apart, Lisa!” 

“The candles, the music, the sexy dress. I mean, what's going on here?”

By themselves, these quotes may not sound like much but you have to hear them with the main character’s voice which is a cross, in my humble opinion, between a Jersey accent and an Eastern European trash accent.  Yep, it’s as bad as you might imagine.  Who sounds like this?  Okay, you’re right.  I guess Tommy Wiseau does and who the hell knows where he grew up. 

Troll 2 also has its fair share of great one-liners. 

“I’m the victim of a nocturnal rapture.  I have to release my lowest instincts with a woman.” 

“Grandpa!  Are you really in hell?” 

“And you can’t piss on hospitality!  I WON’T ALLOW IT!” 

“Joshua is not a little shit; he’s just very sensitive.” 

I’m gonna go with Troll 2.  Although The Room has some great lines and there are bonus points for the obnoxious accent with which they are delivered, there seems to be more variety and bite with Troll 2. 

Awful Acting:  You can’t have the one-liners if you don’t have the atrocious delivery.  Tommy Wiseau is just plain dreadful as the lead character in The Room.  When I was watching him, I got the feeling that a dog turd would have more emotional range.  When he actually tries to emote, it comes off as hysterically funny such as when he has a breakdown at the end of the movie.  He lets out these loud groans which sound like he has a bad hairball caught in his throat and then he trashes his apartment like an enraged Frankenstein.  He is supported by an equally awful cast.  The actress who played Lisa should get an annual razzie for her portrayal of the cheating girlfriend and her mother who “definitely has breast cancer” spits out her monologues as if she is reading off a teleprompter.  I pity the guy who played Mark (Greg Sestero) who probably regrets ever being credited in this disaster. 

Troll 2 has a uniformly horrible cast.  From the overzealous dad who takes his family to a town inhabited by Goblins to the grandpa who has the creepiest pedophile grin I’ve ever seen in a movie, there is not one redeeming actor in the bunch.  All the lines are delivered in an inappropriate way and a special mention should go to the wicked witchy lady who has never met a piece of dialogue that she didn’t want to punctuate with crazy eyes and weird smiles.  Thankfully, most of these actors realized that they shouldn’t give up their day jobs.  At the screening of Troll 2, George Hardy (who played the dad) was there and he is now a dentist in Alabama.  Good choice, George. 

I’m gonna give the nod to Troll 2.  Tommy Wiseau is in a league all of his own but as an ensemble, Troll 2 should get the award.
Outrageous Plot: The Room is really a very simple movie and without the bad acting, the unrealistic dialogue, the heaving body parts, it is quite boring.  It’s about a girl who doesn’t love her boyfriend anymore so she decides to sleep with his best friend.  The boyfriend finds out about her cheatin’ ways and he *SPOILER ALERT* blows his head off in slow motion.  Everyone is sad and that’s the end.

Troll 2 is just completely f*#@ng nuts.  It’s about a family who goes on a vacation to Nilbog which is a town that is full of goblins.  Not trolls but goblins.   (The reality is that there aren’t any Trolls in Troll 2).  *SPOILER ALERT*  These goblins are vegetarian so they turn people into plants and then eat them.  How great is that?!  I’ll give them points for such a gruesome storyline because after all, I would not want to be turned into foliage and then have my extremities munched on by a bunch of ripened dwarfs.  That is a little terrifying when you think about it.  But then it gets better.  How do you kill these things?  You use a Bologna sandwich which has CHOLESTEROL and TOXINS! 

There is no way that The Room can compete with the madness in Troll 2.  And that Bologna sandwich is a huge plot twist that I didn’t see coming AT ALL.  Kudos to the monsters. 

It’s pretty close.  Both The Room and Troll 2 raise bad moviemaking to a fine art form and I congratulate both of them for their twisted endeavors.  But, like in all those award shows, a winner must be chosen and so, for the WORST MOVIE, I choose ….

Troll 2.  It does everything right … er, I mean wrong.

 And for that, I am thankful.