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The Late Movies: Celebrating Moldova's Independence

Today marks the 21st anniversary of Moldova's declaration of independence from the Soviet Union. What better way to celebrate independence than with pop music and rock 'n' roll? Here are 8 of Moldova's most popular musical acts.

1. O-Zone

"Dragostea Din Tei" (a.k.a. "the Numa Numa song")

"Dragostea Din Tei" is far and away O-Zone's most popular song, with the official music video from Ultra Records accruing more than 23 million YouTube views in 5 years. (You may know the song better from the "Numa Numa" viral video.) The group, originally a duo, formed in 1999 and hit it big with "Despre tine" in 2002. They disbanded in 2005, less than a year after "Dragostea Din Tei" made it into many countries' top 10 charts. That same year, a Japanese record company obtained Japan distribution rights for O-Zone, and the group became a Japanese sensation, with the DiscO-Zone album selling more than 1 million copies.

2. Zdob ?i Zdub (a.k.a. Zdob shi Zdub)

"So Lucky" (Performed live)

Zdob ?i Zdub, which formed in 1994, fuses traditional Romanian folk music with more modern musical genres, including punk, ska, and hip-hop. They were the first band to represent Moldova at a Eurovision contest, in 2005, placing sixth with their song "Bunika Bate Toba." They represented Moldova again at Eurovision in 2011, finishing 12th that year with "So Lucky." (The video above is a live recording used as a promotional video for Eurovision 2011, and not their actual performance from the contest.) They have released 10 albums, toured in at least 10 countries, warmed up for Rage Against the Machine, and performed at a Russian MTV-Party. There's even a YouTube video in which Zdob ?i Zdub's "DJ Vasile" is mashed-up with the Black Eyed Peas "Don't Phunk With My Heart."

3. SunStroke Project & Olia Tira

"Run Away" (Performed for Eurovision 2010)

SunStroke Project's Anton Ragoza (the violinist and composer) and Sergey Stepanov (the saxophonist) served in the Army together, during which time Sergey got the inspiration for the band's name. The group formed in 2007 and currently consists of Anton, Sergey, and Sergei Yalovitsky (vocals). They competed to represent Moldova for Eurovision 2009, but came in third in the pre-selection; they succeeded the next year, when they were chosen along with German-born, Moldova-based pop singer Olia Tira to represent Moldova. At Eurovision 2010, SunStroke Project and Olia Tira performed "Run Away," reaching 22nd place among 39 competitors. Both the band and Olia Tira are probably more well-known for their Eurovision competition than their other songs, especially after Sergey Stepanov's saxophone solo in "Run Away" became a meme known as "Epic Sax Guy." The band has capitalized on the meme, releasing an official "Epic Sax Guy" video and incorporating the phrase into their song "Superman," which they and Olia Tira used as a bid to represent Moldova for Eurovision 2012. (They weren't chosen.)

4. Pasha Parfeny

"L?utar" (Performed live)

Pasha Parfeny (also sometimes spelled Parfeni) was a member of SunStroke Project when it competed to represent Moldova at the 2009 Eurovision Song Contest; he wrote "No Crime," the song they performed for the national selection contest. In 2010, both SunStroke Project (with Olia Tira) and Parfeny were again in the running to represent Moldova for Eurovision, but that year they were competing against each other, Parfeny having entered as a solo act. Parfeny failed to earn the bid in both 2010 and 2011, but succeeded in 2012 with his song "L?utar." (The video above is the preview video for the contest, and not the performance from Eurovision.) He placed 11th in the final. Although he's been active as a singer since 2002, he has not yet released any albums (as far as we can tell).

5. Alternosfera

"Muta" (Performed live, 2011)

This alternative rock band was formed in December 1998 by two high school friends. The line-up has changed a bit over the years, with only two original members--Marcel Bostan and Marin Nicoar?--remaining; the rest of the current members are Sergiu Aladin, Eugen Berdea, and Victor "Vikosh" Co?parmac. They've released two albums--Ora?ul 511 (2005) and Visatori cu Plumb în Ochi (2007)--as well as an EP, Flori din Groapa Marianelor (2008). Ora?ul 511 was named after the garage where the band rehearsed for years.

6. Natalia Barbu

"Do That Thing"

Natalia Barbu hit it big when her single, "Îngerul meu," spent 11 weeks in the #1 slot on the Romanian Top 100 chart and received frequent play on MTV Romania. In 2007, she was selected to represent Moldova at the Eurovision Song Contest, beating out Zdob ?i Zdub. She finished 10th out of 24 finalists. She has released three albums: Între ieri ?i azi (2001), Zbor De Dor (2003), Sunt fata de maritat (2009), and Fight (2009).

7. Familia Stratan

"Numar Pan La Unu" by Cleopatra Stratan

Familia Stratan patriarch Pavel graduated from the Academy of Music, Theatre and Plastic Arts in Moldova. He released his first album, Amintiri din copil?rie (Memories of Childhood), in 2002, followed by volumes 2, 3, and 4 in 2004, 2008, and 2011, respectively. Cleopatra Stratan, Pavel's daughter with his wife, engineer Rodica, released her own album in 2006, at the tender age of 3. With La vârsta de trei ani, Cleopatra reportedly became the youngest artist to achieve commercial success; she also was the youngest artist to perform live for two hours in front of a large audience, the highest paid young artist, the youngest artist to receive an MTV award, and the youngest artist to score a #1 hit (which she did in Romania with "Ghi??"). La vârsta de trei ani went double platinum in 2006 in Romania, where the family now lives. Cleopatra has released three more albums: La vârsta de 5 ani (2008), Cr?ciun Magic (2009), and Melodii Pentru Copii (2012). The youngest Stratan, Cezar, was born in 2008; he now joins Pavel and Cleopatra in many of their YouTube videos.

8. Nelly Ciobanu

"Hora Din Moldova" (Dance of Moldova)

Nelly Ciobanu has been performing since age 19 (in 1993), when she won first prize at the "Morning Star" competition. She has continued to do well in competitions throughout the Eurasian region; the fact that she sings in 11 languages, including Romanian, Russian, and English, surely doesn't hurt. In 2009, she represented Moldova at Eurovision, where she came in 14th with "Hora Din Moldova." (The video above is the promotional video, not her Eurovision performance.) For the last five years, she has been hosting a music TV program called "Vedete la bis," or Stars Encore, in Moldova.

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5 Things We Know About Stranger Things Season 2
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Stranger Things seemed to come out of nowhere to become one of television's standout new series in 2016. Netflix's sometimes scary, sometimes funny, and always exciting homage to '80s pop culture was a binge-worthy phenomenon when it debuted in July 2016. Of course, the streaming giant wasn't going to wait long to bring more Stranger Things to audiences, and a second season was announced a little over a month after its debut—and Netflix just announced that we'll be getting it a few days earlier than expected. Here are five key things we know about the show's sophomore season, which kicks off on October 27.

1. WE'LL BE GETTING EVEN MORE EPISODES.

The first season of Stranger Things consisted of eight hour-long episodes, which proved to be a solid length for the story Matt and Ross Duffer wanted to tell. While season two won't increase in length dramatically, we will be getting at least one extra hour when the show returns in 2017 with nine episodes. Not much is known about any of these episodes, but we do know the titles:

"Madmax"
"The Boy Who Came Back To Life"
"The Pumpkin Patch"
"The Palace"
"The Storm"
"The Pollywog"
"The Secret Cabin"
"The Brain"
"The Lost Brother"

There's a lot of speculation about what each title means and, as usual with Stranger Things, there's probably a reason for each one.

2. THE KIDS ARE RETURNING (INCLUDING ELEVEN).

Stranger Things fans should gear up for plenty of new developments in season two, but that doesn't mean your favorite characters aren't returning. A November 4 photo sent out by the show's Twitter account revealed most of the kids from the first season will be back in 2017, including the enigmatic Eleven, played by Millie Bobby Brown (the #elevenisback hashtag used by series regular Finn Wolfhard should really drive the point home):

3. THE SHOW'S 1984 SETTING WILL LEAD TO A DARKER TONE.

A year will have passed between the first and second seasons of the show, allowing the Duffer brothers to catch up with a familiar cast of characters that has matured since we last saw them. With the story taking place in 1984, the brothers are looking at the pop culture zeitgeist at the time for inspiration—most notably the darker tone of blockbusters like Gremlins and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.

"I actually really love Temple of Doom, I love that it gets a little darker and weirder from Raiders, I like that it feels very different than Raiders did," Matt Duffer told IGN. "Even though it was probably slammed at the time—obviously now people look back on it fondly, but it messed up a lot of kids, and I love that about that film—that it really traumatized some children. Not saying that we want to traumatize children, just that we want to get a little darker and weirder."

4. IT'S NOT SO MUCH A CONTINUATION AS IT IS A SEQUEL.

When you watch something like The Americans season two, it's almost impossible to catch on unless you've seen the previous episodes. Stranger Things season two will differ from the modern TV approach by being more of a sequel than a continuation of the first year. That means a more self-contained plot that doesn't leave viewers hanging at the end of nine episodes.

"There are lingering questions, but the idea with Season 2 is there's a new tension and the goal is can the characters resolve that tension by the end," Ross Duffer told IGN. "So it's going to be its own sort of complete little movie, very much in the way that Season 1 is."

Don't worry about the two seasons of Stranger Things being too similar or too different from the original, though, because when speaking with Entertainment Weekly about the influences on the show, Matt Duffer said, "I guess a lot of this is James Cameron. But he’s brilliant. And I think one of the reasons his sequels are as successful as they are is he makes them feel very different without losing what we loved about the original. So I think we kinda looked to him and what he does and tried to capture a little bit of the magic of his work.”

5. THE PREMIERE WILL TRAVEL OUTSIDE OF HAWKINS.

Everything about the new Stranger Things episodes will be kept secret until they finally debut later this year, but we do know one thing about the premiere: It won't take place entirely in the familiar town of Hawkins, Indiana. “We will venture a little bit outside of Hawkins,” Matt Duffer told Entertainment Weekly. “I will say the opening scene [of the premiere] does not take place in Hawkins.”

So, should we take "a little bit outside" as literally as it sounds? You certainly can, but in that same interview, the brothers also said they're both eager to explore the Upside Down, the alternate dimension from the first season. Whether the season kicks off just a few miles away, or a few worlds away, you'll get your answer when Stranger Things's second season debuts next month.

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Food
The Gooey History of the Fluffernutter Sandwich

Open any pantry in New England and chances are you’ll find at least one jar of Marshmallow Fluff. Not just any old marshmallow crème, but Fluff; the one manufactured by Durkee-Mower of Lynn, Massachusetts since 1920, and the preferred brand of the northeast. With its familiar red lid and classic blue label, it's long been a favorite guilty pleasure and a kitchen staple beloved throughout the region.

This gooey, spreadable, marshmallow-infused confection is used in countless recipes and found in a variety of baked goods—from whoopie pies and Rice Krispies Treats to chocolate fudge and beyond. And in the beyond lies perhaps the most treasured concoction of all: the Fluffernutter sandwich—a classic New England treat made with white bread, peanut butter, and, you guessed it, Fluff. No jelly required. Or wanted.

There are several claims to the origin of the sandwich. The first begins with Revolutionary War hero Paul Revere—or, not Paul exactly, but his great-great-great-grandchildren Emma and Amory Curtis of Melrose, Massachusetts. Both siblings were highly intelligent and forward-thinkers, and Amory was even accepted into MIT. But when the family couldn’t afford to send him, he founded a Boston-based company in the 1890s that specialized in soda fountain equipment.

He sold the business in 1901 and used the proceeds to buy the entire east side of Crystal Street in Melrose. Soon after he built a house and, in his basement, he created a marshmallow spread known as Snowflake Marshmallow Crème (later called SMAC), which actually predated Fluff. By the early 1910s, the Curtis Marshmallow Factory was established and Snowflake became the first commercially successful shelf-stable marshmallow crème.

Although other companies were manufacturing similar products, it was Emma who set the Curtis brand apart from the rest. She had a knack for marketing and thought up many different ways to popularize their marshmallow crème, including the creation of one-of-a-kind recipes, like sandwiches that featured nuts and marshmallow crème. She shared her culinary gems in a weekly newspaper column and radio show. By 1915, Snowflake was selling nationwide.

During World War I, when Americans were urged to sacrifice meat one day a week, Emma published a recipe for a peanut butter and marshmallow crème sandwich. She named her creation the "Liberty Sandwich," as a person could still obtain his or her daily nutrients while simultaneously supporting the wartime cause. Some have pointed to Emma’s 1918 published recipe as the earliest known example of a Fluffernutter, but the earliest recipe mental_floss can find comes from three years prior. In 1915, the confectioners trade journal Candy and Ice Cream published a list of lunch offerings that candy shops could advertise beyond hot soup. One of them was the "Mallonut Sandwich," which involved peanut butter and "marshmallow whip or mallo topping," spread on lightly toasted whole wheat bread.

Another origin story comes from Somerville, Massachusetts, home to entrepreneur Archibald Query. Query began making his own version of marshmallow crème and selling it door-to-door in 1917. Due to sugar shortages during World War I, his business began to fail. Query quickly sold the rights to his recipe to candy makers H. Allen Durkee and Fred Mower in 1920. The cost? A modest $500 for what would go on to become the Marshmallow Fluff empire.

Although the business partners promoted the sandwich treat early in the company’s history, the delicious snack wasn’t officially called the Fluffernutter until the 1960s, when Durkee-Mower hired a PR firm to help them market the sandwich, which resulted in a particularly catchy jingle explaining the recipe.

So who owns the bragging rights? While some anonymous candy shop owner was likely the first to actually put the two together, Emma Curtis created the early precursors and brought the concept to a national audience, and Durkee-Mower added the now-ubiquitous crème and catchy name. And the Fluffernutter has never lost its popularity.

In 2006, the Massachusetts state legislature spent a full week deliberating over whether or not the Fluffernutter should be named the official state sandwich. On one side, some argued that marshmallow crème and peanut butter added to the epidemic of childhood obesity. The history-bound fanatics that stood against them contended that the Fluffernutter was a proud culinary legacy. One state representative even proclaimed, "I’m going to fight to the death for Fluff." True dedication, but the bill has been stalled for more than a decade despite several revivals and subsequent petitions from loyal fans.

But Fluff lovers needn’t despair. There’s a National Fluffernutter Day (October 8) for hardcore fans, and the town of Somerville, Massachusetts still celebrates its Fluff pride with an annual What the Fluff? festival.

"Everyone feels like Fluff is part of their childhood," said self-proclaimed Fluff expert and the festival's executive director, Mimi Graney, in an interview with Boston Magazine. "Whether born in the 1940s or '50s, or '60s, or later—everyone feels nostalgic for Fluff. I think New Englanders in general have a particular fondness for it."

Today, the Fluffernutter sandwich is as much of a part of New England cuisine as baked beans or blueberry pie. While some people live and die by the traditional combination, the sandwich now comes in all shapes and sizes, with the addition of salty and savory toppings as a favorite twist. Wheat bread is as popular as white, and many like to grill their sandwiches for a touch of bistro flair. But don't ask a New Englander to swap out their favorite brand of marshmallow crème. That’s just asking too Fluffing much.

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