Saturday, September 30, 2006

Wit and Wisdom

In Shanghai the Animal Olympics are in full swing complete with a man vs. kangaroo, and the OMI is reminded of Charles Barkley's opinion on animals: "Animals are only good for two things: eating them and testing on them to make my life better!" Barkley is an utter genius but perhaps he will revise his statement to include kangaroo boxing. Looking for the exact wording of Barkley's quote, the Invasion stumbled upon a page that had a long list of the wit and wisdom of Sir Charles. Here are a few examples:

At the '92 Olympics, Charles elbowed an Angolan national team member in the chest. When asked about it, he responded: "I shouldn't have done that. He probably hasn't eaten in weeks."

"Every time I think about changing a diaper, I run a little bit harder and a little bit faster to make sure I can afford a nanny until my daughter's old enough to take care of that herself."

"I can be bought. If they paid me enough, I'd work for the Klan."

Friday, September 29, 2006

Hon, Hon, Hon (say it with a French accent)

This week in Bucharest the summit of Francophone coutries beings. Apparently, unbeknownst to the entire world, Romania is a Francophone country. Although the OMI was not invited to the meeting of the frogs (invitation must've been lost in the mail), nous avons quel'que chose de parler. French comes up a sorry third and prolly fourth in languages spoken in Romania (after Romanian, English and Hungarian) and why the summit is being held in Bucharest is beyond comprehension. The Invasion bets on the fact that 136 million euros that come with hosting the event had something to do with it. The best part is that about 80% of the cash comes from the French government. We're sure that xenophoic French citizens are more than pleased with the splurging of cash on Romania, especially since the French economy and society are doing so well. Vive la Romania!

Thursday, September 28, 2006

...Go Together Like a Horse and Carriage

While television here does leave a lot to be desired, the programming here predictably scores off the charts on the oddness scale. Spanish-language soaps, American Chopper, and about a dozen Romanian talk shows all hold down daily timeslots. Romanian produced shows abound and are, also predictably, bad and derivative. The American shows that make it to the airwaves are what you'd expect (Friends, Sex and the City, Seinfeld) and other garbage (Fastlane, The Young and the Restless, Good Morning Miami) that has found a new life here with people who don't know any better. The one Romanian favorite that just boggles the mind is Married...With Children. When flicking through the channels, it never fails to surprise the Invasion to stumble upon Al Bundy on the couch, hand in pants after a day of selling shoes. The show certainly has struck a chord with Romanians, especially the owner of a shoe store in Satu Mare.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Steaua Bucuresti Manea

This is a manele song performed by Sorinel Copilul de Aur (Sorinel the Golden Child). The song is for Steaua Bucuresti, the Romanian Champions for the past couple of years and prolly the most popular club in the country. Manele is pretty stupid but it's really funny at the same time. I guess this video was made with footage from the party after the team clinched the championship or something. This is a slice of Romania that most educated Romanians would hate to see shown to outsiders. It'd be like a video of Toby Keith singing a song about how great the Dallas Cowboys are.

Short Book Reviews

To be frank, television here is awful. There is a channel dedicated to Spanish language soaps, dubbed Cartoon Network, some generally crappy programming on a dozen or so other channels, two different folk music channels, and two almost decent sports channels. By generally crappy programming we mean Friends reruns, a soapish type show about Aussie firefighters and Romanian variety shows. The saving grace is the Discovery Channel which is in English, but after 15 months here, the OMI has seen their entire programming library. Without quality television, the Invasion has taken a step back in time and embraced the printed word.
With time that you wish you had, the OMI devours books and magazines, so after this probably unnecessarily long introduction, here are the reviews:
Lord Jim, Nostromo, both Joseph Conrad - Typically solid Conrad stuff. Settings and narrative technique similar to other work (Heart of Darkness, Secret Agent). Hard to find more precision with word choice. Read HOD first then these.

The Count of Monte Cristo, Alexandre Dumas (pere) - The great revenge story. Adventure, action, exotic settings and the Count simply rules. Highly recommended.

Choke, Chuck Palahniuk - Protagonist rejects rules of modern society and begins a fall toward resulting in some kind of revelation. Short but Palahniuk's style isn't for everyone. More appropriate for angst-ridden teens that are convinced the world is all bullshit. Don't bother especially if you've read Fight Club and/or stopped listening to Nirvana

The Historian, Elizabeth Kostova - Da Vinci Code-esque but not as entertaining. Mentions of Romania aren't frequent enough and basically disappointed. Not worth it.

Wicked, Gregory Maguire - A new, interesting perspective on the world of Oz. Fantasy combined with political and societal satire/criticism. Not bad at all but the book just tries too hard in the end. Don't buy it but steal it from a friend if you see it.

The Know-It-All, AJ Jacobs - Editor for Esquire reads the Brittanica from cover to cover and he learns a lot of stuff, about himself and about life too. Humorous most of the time, but not laugh out loud funny. An easy read and it's a likeable book. It won't absorb your life but it will keep you entertained.

Absurdistan, Gary Shteyngart - A satire about our present world (over consumption, corporations rule, oil makes the world turn, etc) that tries way too hard. The author goes for a Catch-22 and ends up annoying. I wanted to choke the author with about 50 odd pages left. Maybe in fifty years or something critics will look back and say this book was a great satire of our society, but don't touch it until then.

The End of Faith, Sam Harris - There is no God and religion is complete nonsense. Harris' book crushes religious idiots (meaning anyone who is religious at all) and predicts that religion will be the cause of our downfall. Great book, all should read this.

Whiteout Ken Follett - Typical Follett. Page turning suspense with a strong female protagonist. Not bad, but read Eye of the Needle or On Wings of Eagles first.

The Best American Short Stories, 2005, ed. Michael Chabon - Some great, some good, a few crappy. If you like short stories then pick this up, it's the best we have to offer. It says so on the cover.

The Kite Runner, Khaled Hosseini - Powerful story set mostly in Afghanistan. Great stuff and while not exactly an uplifting book, an unforgettable one nonetheless. Definitely check it out.

A Million Little Pieces, James Frey - What's all the fuss about? Just another memoir about a dude who overcomes lots of problems. Why this soared to the top of the charts is beyond me. Not really worth reading unless you're a druggie that needs to be convinced that you can kick the habit.

The Bonfire of the Vanities, Tom Wolfe - Rather boring and really, really dated. Unless you were an adult in the 80s, don't touch this because it will probably mean nothing to you. The New York that Wolfe describes no longer exists and the scandals of today (OJ, Clinton/Lewinsky, etc) destroy the scandals in this. Ugh.

Come Together, Fall Apart, Cristina Henriquez - Collection of stories from Delaware-born writer. Stories center on Panama, something different and something no one ever thinks about unless you're a ship captain. It's proper literature and all so read it. Definitely recommended.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, JK Rowling - Awesome.

AA Gill is Away, AA Gill - Travel writing from a Brit. Really good stuff and the odd locales really make this worth reading. Witty British humor and all that of course. Another good book for the road, actually pick this up before the AJ Jacobs book.

Three Nights in August, Buzz Bissinger - Book covers a three game series between the St. Louis Cardinals and the Chicago Cubs. Bissinger is afforded full access by Tony Larussa and Larussa gives tons of insight. Great breakdown of all the strategy and all other baseball stuff. Book has received a reputation as a kind of anti-Moneyball. Interesting book if you're a baseball fan.

Red Horizons, Lt. Gen. Ion Pacepa - Romania defector lets the West know exactly how bad Nicolae Ceausescu and his wife are/were. Pacepa's defection crushed the Romanian intelligent services at the time and in no small way ushered in the end of Ceausescu. Great stuff if you're interested in Romania.

The Hero's Journey: The Teachings of Joseph Campbell, Campbell/Phil Cousineau - Interviews between the two authors that allow Campbell to talk about his philosophy and ideas regarding comparative mythologies/shared human experience. Spiritual stuff that'll make you think, even enlighten you. Quality stuff.

Naked, David Sedaris - Collection of typically hilarious Sedaris stories. If you like him on NPR or if you want to laugh, pick this up. Writing that will actually make you laugh, a real rarity. Recommended.

Never Let Me Go, Kazuo Ishiguro - Perhaps the most well paced book ever. The mystery of the book is slowly revealed just as it was to the main characters and it seems like you knew all along but were never fully told. A little dull but just brilliantly crafted, a real gem.

The Secret History, Donna Tartt - A novel that makes you feel smarter when you read it. I wish I knew more about Roman/Greek civilization there is more in this book than I have noticed. A bit long but good. Check it out if you have time.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

In Like Flynn

The European Union Commission has decided to let Romania and Bulgaria into their cool kids' club on January 1st. Speculation had been mounting that the accession process would be delayed by a year due to various reasons, but the EU Commission reported, "Bulgaria and Romania have made further progress to complete their preparations for membership, demonstrating their capacity to apply EU principles and legislation from Jan. 1, 2007." Although the two nations still await approval from EU leaders in October, all looks well for the Invasion's current home.
While the Commission put on the red green light, Romania must meet several conditions before receiving full membership and the millions of euros that come along with it. The government must proceed with establishing its 'integrity agency' that will 'verify the assets of senior state officials' (check up on crooked politicians). Also the EU is considering keeping its restrictions on milk from the countries and its ban on pork produced as well b/c of their laxity in fighting swine fever. After almost choking on its bacon sandwich dipped in milk, the One Man Invasion wishes to congratulate Romania on its progress and pray that swine fever isn't life threatening.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Dancing with the Romos

With the deadline for EU compliance only a few months away, Romanians are busy getting things done. For the residents of Slatina, thinking about Europe was just too small time, so last January they organized the world's largest hora. The hora is a Romanian folk dance where people dance in a circle. Not only did 13,828 people participate but the temperature was -15 degrees Celsius. The Invasion has been dragged into happily participated in several horas and, well, we'll just leave it at that. World record kingmakers Guinness officially recognized the 'achievement' and it made it into the book. To top it off, Slatina took the title from Sofia, the capitol of Bulgaria and Romania's rival. Take that you dirty Bulgars.

Since We've Been Gone...

Well the One Man Invasion is back and you can breathe for the first time (since I left that is). After a summer hiatus of hijinks and heroics, the OMI is prepared to blow your mind.

the people of Satu Mare love the 76ers green away jersey