No. 480: "Up a Laser River"

Testing your knowledge of what happened this week
Sept. 21 2000 3:00 AM

No. 480: "Up a Laser River"

The United States hopes to stop Russia from exporting certain lasers. Boris Yatsenko of the D.V. Efremov Institute of St. Petersburg says they'll be used only for "scientific, industrial and medical purposes," but the United States isn't convinced. Who do they fear will use the lasers to do what? 


Send your answer by 6 p.m. ET Thursday to

Monday's Question (No. 479)—"Talking Turkey":

When they got their first one 125 years ago, some Turks feared it on religious grounds. No more. Fill in the blank as Osman Canturk enjoys the grand opening of a new one in Istanbul on Saturday: "If you are a person with faith, you are not afraid. So I'll be happy to go on this _____________."

"Bathroom scale."—Dan Dickinson

"Quiz show."—Ellis Weiner

"French prostitute."—Mark Wade

"Russian-built nuclear submarine."—Bonnie Resnick and Mark Romoser

"Pork-fueled locomotive."—Tim Carvell

Click for more answers.

Randy's Wrap-Up

Perhaps the movie that best invokes Istanbul is the 1957 Istanbul. Errol Flynn plays diamond-smuggler James Brennan, Cornell Borchers has the dual role of Stephanie Bauer/Karen Fielding (although it's not really a dual role because they turn out to be the same person—as do so many of us), Nat King Cole is Danny Rice (he sings "When I Fall in Love," as do too many of us who can't really carry a tune), Jan Arvan is Kazim, Nico Minardos is Ali, Leonard Maltin is unimpressed. He called it a "dull drama of flyer Flynn returning to Istanbul, discovering his ladylove (whom he believed had perished in a fire) to be alive and an amnesiac." I suppose Maltin would prefer her to be dead and an amnesiac. And quite right, too. A scary dead amnesiac. Or maybe, judging by the credits—as I said, I've not actually seen this thing—she's two dead amnesiacs, Stephanie and Karen. I'll bet—and I'm just guessing here—she's a good zombie amnesiac and a bad zombie amnesiac. In a very short skirt. Or two. Isn't Cornell a man's name? Or a university's?

What really bugs Maltin is that Istanbul is a remake of Singapore, a 1947 movie with Fred MacMurray as Matt Gordon, Ava Gardner as Linda Gordon Van Leyden, nobody singing nothing, and Curt Conway as Pepe. Maltin calls it an "alluring drama of trader/pearl smuggler MacMurray returning to Singapore after a five-year absence, recalling his previous romantic relationship with Gardner. He thinks she was killed during a Japanese bombing attack, but she really was a victim of amnesia." Well, you see the problem: The Japanese never bombed Istanbul. Bastards! And yet, there is something impressive in the translation process of the remake. Pearls are transformed into diamonds (no doubt from one of the nearby Turkish diamond mines); that's got to be an improvement. Fred MacMurray becomes Errol Flynn; break even, I'd say. Ava Gardner becomes Cornell Borchers; that's a big, big loss. (Cornell Borchers?) But Nat King Cole is added, a definite gain. Pepe becomes either Ali or Kazim: Who knows? And we've still got the amnesia business and, for all I know, sexpot zombies in very short skirts.

If I were a savvy movie producer, I'd remake it yet again as Bangkok or Bombay and change the diamonds into computer chips or some damn thing and have maybe 50 zombie amnesiacs in bikinis. And if I were a really savvy movie producer, I'd call up that Julia Roberts and ask her out on a date. She's very attractive.

Subterranean Answer

"I'll be happy to go on this subway."

Mr. Canturk, 40, just a regular guy enjoying a subway opening with thousands of his fellow Istanbul citizens, is eager to ride the new line, perhaps the world's most modern. Hopes are high that it will help relieve traffic congestion in this city of 12 million.

Istanbul's first subway used horse-drawn wagons to haul people 600 yards up a hill from the Golden Horn to the Beyoglu district. It has long since been electrified, and those first horses are dead—come on; it was 125 years ago—and it still carries about 4 million passengers a year. When it opened, some devout Muslims refused to use it because of religious strictures on going underground before death.

Work has already begun on a subway link to Ataturk airport on the city's outskirts. New Yorkers hope that within 125 years, they too will have a subway connection to their international airport.

Steve Hellerman's Khartoum Follow-Up

Hey, you forgot to mention that they made a movie circa 1966 called Khartoum in which Gordon was played by Charlton Heston (without a British accent, but how believable would that be anyway?). In the end he gets a big spear in his gut, proving that guns don't kill people, etc.

An Olympic Moment Extra

"In 2000, the riveting beauty of this former penal colony holds the world a willing prisoner."—some jackass anchorman on MSNBC welcomes the world to Australia or Devil's Island, Sept. 19, 2000

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