Saturday, December 31, 2005
Q: How did "Auld Lang Syne" come to be associated with New Year's Eve?
A: The Scottish song, written by Robert Burns in 1788, became popular in the U.S. in the '30s and '40s when Guy Lombardo ended his annual broadcasts from the Roosevelt Hotel in NY.
The web site for the Colorado Daily is
And, yes, there is a Guy Lombardo fan site on the net. It is run by some 'patriotic Canadians' who claim him as one of their own. I, for one, am a fan of Lombardo's music though I do not admit that publicly!
The Lombardo fans site is:
Wednesday, December 28, 2005
Zeki Maviyildiz, a dancer from the eastern Turkish city of Kars, recently performed in Raleigh, NC, as part of his BlueStar Dance Project at an international dance festival in the Carolina capital. Maviyildiz's group consists of child dancers, as well as adults. The children's performance told the story of an 18th century folk hero along the lines of Koroglu. Maviyildiz also performed at the November festival with adults from his troupe in a separate dance. Maviyildiz has traveled around the globe, as part of the Turkish National Folk Dance Troupe. In April, Maviyildize performed in "The Merry Window," a performance sponsored by the Opera Company of North Caolina. The folk dancer resides in North Carolina, and is a student at Wake Tech Community College. His BlueStarDance Group is also based in Raleigh, N.C.
A longer version of this story appears in the Nov. 19, 2005 edition of the Long Beach, Ca.- based USA Turkish Times. the info for it was provided by the American Turkish Association of North Carolina.
The web site for the BlueStar Dance Project is http://www.bluestardance.com
The web site for USA Turkish Times is http://www.usaturkishtimes.com
And, the web site for ATAA NC is http://www.ata-nc.org
Tuesday, December 27, 2005
Arab Film Distribution which has released such interesting films as the Palestinian film "Rana's Wedding" and the Iranian/Kurdish film "Marooned in Iraq," has released a DVD of the critically-acclaimed, but little-seen documentary "Return to the Land of Wonders." The film is the work of Maysoon Pachachi, who is the daughter of Adnan Pachaci who was Iraq's foreign minister in the pre-Sadaam Hussein 1960s. The film documents the daughter's return to Baghdad after a 35-year basence. She accompanies her father, who is also assisting in the efforts to draft Iraq's constitution. The film is said to be one of the few films which shows the nature of things from an Iraqi perspective and unveils the dynamics which are involved. It is not, from what I've read, an anti-American or anti-Western film though it is the type of narrative which one would be hard-pressed to find on Fox News or CNN.
For more info, the film's web site is:
I have confirmed that it is also available from NetFlix
Thursday, December 22, 2005
I must profess that Christmas is NOT my favorite time of the year. I think religious conservatives have overpoliticized it (especially this year), and Shopping Mall, Inc. has commercialized it to the point where reverting it back would be like to trying to find a virgin in a Parisian brothel. It is also a time of great misery for people of other faiths, which would not be so bad if more of us invited our Vietnamese neighbors to our Christmas table but it rarely seems to happen. There have also been more executions in December than any other time of the year, and that has been true for several years now. And, divorce and suicide rates tend to be higher now most other times fo the year, and this is also a time when a lot of people are laid off from their jobs. But, ironically, I must agree with conservatives that perhaps Christmas was a more charming affair many decades ago though we were stilly dealing with cultural demons like segragation and racism. Nevertheless, I think all of us wish for that Norman Rockwell Christmas painting for ourselves with Gene Autry's "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer' in the background. Though, Christmas is a time of the year which can at least momentarily bring families together. And, I suppose there are moments when all of us find that.Rockwell moment, however fleeting it may be.
With that in in mind, I will share this Christmas postcard I found. It is postmarked Dec. 22, 1926 and it was sent Miss Edith Forbes in the Southeastern part of Roanoke, Va.- my hometown. I don't have to equipment to actually download the front of the card but it contains two little girls lying in bed with Santa perched behind their bed-post. It is a rahter large bed, and the girls are dressed in white gowns which give them an angelic look. Santa has some kind of doll hovering on top of a bag of toys. The front says:
Hearty Christmas Greetings
I wish you a bright Christmas Just filled with pretty things And hope you will be happy With everything it brings
The back has a pencilled message from Lillian Hall which reads:
Wish you a Merry Xmas and Happy New Year With Love, Lillian Hall
It has a 2-cent stamp on its back
I hope everyone finds that Rockwell moment either for Christmas, or for New Year's Day. I know I am looking for it, but at the moment it seems very far away.
Wednesday, December 21, 2005
I am not a major fan of the conservative Turkish newsapaper "Zaman," but I was amused to read in its English-language web site that an American citizen is among the 20,000 applicants for political asylum in Turkey. Zaman said that the paper work for the unnamed American citizen has yet to be completed. The conservative daily added that citizens of Israel, Greece, Burundi, China, Russia, Iran, Ghana, Burma and Belgium have also requested asylum. The article did not mention the ethnic origin of the American citizen. Zaman is arguably one of the most anti-American/Western newspapers in Turkey. But, it is ironically one of the few besides the English-language "Turkish Daily News" which has an English-language web site. Turkey's most reliable newspaper "Hurriyet" has also recently started an English-language web site.
The English-language web site for Zaman is http://www.zaman.com
The web site for the Turkish Daily News is http://www.turkishdailynews.com
Monday, December 19, 2005
Fred Quigley, executive director of the American Civil Liberites Union, sent out a release stating that the ACLU is not waging an anti-Merry Christmas campaign, nor is the group trying to remove "In God, We Trust" from American currency or get our armed forces to fire military chaplains. Quigely put out the release in response to far-right groups like the Alliance Defense Fund, which has started an anti-ACLU "It's OK to say Merry Christmas" campaign. Quigley also said that the ACLU has worked on behal of many Christian clients, including a Baptist minister in Inidiana who wanted to preach his message on a city street.
The Rev. Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, has said that he and his organization have been the target of similar radical efforts. Lynn said that he has recieved death threats, and one person went so far as to say to him point blank: "I hope you die soon, Merry Christmas." Lyn said that his group is also not waging any anti-Christmas campaigns and blamed the Rev. Jerry Falwell of Lynchburg, Va., for enciting public paranoia.
Locally, there was a recent controversy here in Roanoke, Va., regarding what the local seasonial tree in downtown Roanoke should be called. It has been called a Holiday tree for years, but many Christian activists want to see it formally renamed as a Christmas tree.
The ACLU's web site is http://www.aclu.org
The Americans for the Separation of Church and State's web site is http://www.au.org
Sunday, December 18, 2005
According to the Dec. 14th edition of the Washington Post, there is a new Japanese bath and breakfast in the mountain community of Star Tannery, which is just north of Strasburg, Va. The Pembroke Springs Retreat is a bit out of my (and probably your) price range as rooms are $165/night for the weekend. But, you get to bathe in 104 -degree water, which overlooks a nearby hill. And, in the morning you can get an authentic Japanese breakfast which consists of grilled salmon, steamed rice and soup, seaweed and mixed vegetables. Walter Floyd, the co-owner, said that half the guests were either Japanese or people who had a Japanese interest of some sort. One of those guests was Washington DC resident Noriko Miyagawa who told the "Post" that was 'in heaven.' For more info, call 1-888-348-1688 or log on to http://www.pembrokesprings.com
Let us know how that salmon and vegetable brekfast was.......!
Saturday, December 17, 2005
Tuesday, December 13, 2005
According to today's BBC World Service web site, South African antropologist Katrin Hansing is planning to film a documentary about Cuban revolutionary figure Che Guevara's Congolese translator, Freddy Ilanga.
Ilanga was a rebel who in his later years became a brain-surgeon.
The film was beset with the worst production possible, Ilanga's death!
Ilanga became intrigued with Guevara because he was angry over the way white colonialsts had treated African blacks.
Ilanga later moved to Cuba, and became a brain surgeon. He had not returned to the Congo until a few years ago. Despite Ilanga's death, Hansing plans to finish the film.
An Argentianian-Brazilian feature film, entitled "Motorcycle Diaries," about Che Guevara's travels through his own native South America was an acclaimed film which was also released here in the USA last year.
Correction: Ilanga did not actually go to the Congo, but he was planning to when he died. He did, however, reestablish contact with relatives there through the Internet.
Second correction: The music I was listening at the time of this entry was by Ali Farka Toure. He is from Mali, which is actually not close to Senegal!
Monday, December 12, 2005
With Ahnuld deciding to go through with a controversial execution (I fimrly oppose the death penalty), the continuing fiasco in Iraq and the never-ending head scarf controversy at Istanbul University in my father's country, I am simply too overwhelmed to write a political commentary piece for my newest blog entry. But, apparently, I am not the only one overwhelmed with nonsense these days. Village Voice columnist Anya Kamenetz, who I had emailed earlier this year has informed me that she has a new book entitled "Generation Debt: Why Now is a Terrible Time to be Young." It is due out in February. At 35, I may not no longer be considered 'young,' but surely the problems Anya examines are universal ones. Her book will deal with student loans, credit cards, low wages, no benefits, bad jobs, no jobs (yes, I know how that is!0, and tax cuts for very wealthy white men. The book will examine the plight of 12 people who are confronted with such problems as a result of this national epidemic. One can find out more about the book at gedebthebook.com and if you like you check out Anya's blog at AnyaKamenetz.blogspot.com
She is also available for campus tours this spring
Sunday, December 11, 2005
Saturday, December 10, 2005
The Grandin Theatre in Roanoke, VA (http://www.gradingtheatre.com) will be showing the early 80s sci fi masterpiece "Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan," a film that I clearly feel is far and away the best of the series. And, I also think it is better than a good 80% of the original Star Trek series' episodes. The 1982 film is based on the 1967 Star Trek episode "Space Seed," and it features a then unkonw (and, alas a now has been) Kristie Alley. The film was directed by Nicolas Myer. It will be screened at midnight on Sat., Dec. 17
Updated Dec. 18: Alas, it was a low turnout last night. I expect the weather and the bulk of area colleges closing for the semester were the culprits. But, it was a very impressive print. The Grandin Theatre is hoping to show several more midnight movies next year. I will keep everyone posted.
Friday, December 9, 2005
After listening to La Theatre Works CD of a performance of Noel Coward's "Design by Living." I was surprised to find out that this legendary playwright of the '20s and '30s has a huge Internet following. I must admit that I knew (and, perhaps still know) little about Coward and his work, though assuredly he seems remarkably different than my own personal favorite playwright, David Mamet. But, for those who are interested in learning more about Coward join me in visiting the web site of the Noel Coward Society, which is based in London, at:
Tuesday, December 6, 2005
Daniel Clowes is an artistic genius, and his new graphic novel "Ice Haven" from Pantheon Books is as chillingly good as his best known works "David Boring" and "Ghost World," the later of which was made into an award-winning independent film. Clowes captures the isolation and hypocricy of suburban America as well as Rick Moody and Breat Easton Ellis in novels and Gus Van Sant and Ricahrd Linklater in films. The plot revolves around a missing boy who becomes the focus of the fictional Ice Haven, a place which resemble suburban cities like Evanston, Illinois and Springfield, Virginia. The story takes us into the lives of those in the city who are seemingly most affected by this breaking story/tragedy. At times, Clowes takes tangents by having a fictional graphic novel critic overanalyze his work perhaps as I am right now. The unique characters include a detective of questionable moral character, a TV-bunnyman who has a horrifying off-screen persona, a repressed 20-something girl who loves a man who doesn't seem to care about her, an overweight amateur writer who finds time in his week to watch "Temptation Island" (haven't we all done something equally insepid)- then complains about how he can't find time to write (and about how time keeps slipping away), little boys who want to falsely take credit for the missing boy when adults aren't supervising them in their backyards. This is not "Peanuts,' but Clowes can be seen as a subversive Charles Schultz who shows quite clearly that in a country with so much opportunity, there are indeed children who aimlessly bang tennis balls against a concrete wall and then deviantly look for ways to make life more exciting. It should alaram us all, but we haven't been paying attention (perhaps, for a very long time). Thankfully, Clowes has!
My rating: three and half stars (out of 4)
Tuesday, November 29, 2005
My friend Bilge Ebiri's independent film "New Guy" was released by VanGuard Distribution on DVD. It also available at http://www.netflix.com
The film has been shown theatrically in New York, and it was screened at film festivals in Syracuse, San Jose, and Istanbul among various other places. If you liked "Office Space," you'll definitely like this film about the dark side of 9 to 5.
Friday, October 28, 2005
Wednesday, October 12, 2005
Well, these things are always subject to change. As it is, my top 10 list that I submitted to Film Comment last year for a contest which I won (and, I never win anything!) has seen a complete overhaul. Here it is:
1. Sideways (US. dir: Alexander Payne)
2. Distant (Turkey, dir. Nuri Bilge Ceylan)
3. The Return (Russia, dir. Andrei Zyanginstev)
4. Since Otar Left (France/Georgia, dir. Julie Bertucelli)
5. The Aviator (US, dir. Martin Scorsese)
6. Million Dollar Baby (US, dir. Clint Eastwood)
7. Spring, Summer, Fall....(So. Korea, dir. Kim Ki-duk)
8. Before Sunset (US, dir. Richard Linklater)
9. Fahrenheit 9-11 (doc, US, dir. Michael Moore)
10. The Incredibles (ani. US, dir. Brad Bird)
11. Vera Drake (UK, dir. Mike Leigh)
12. Bright Leaves (doc., US, dir. Ross McElwee)
'Til I change my mind, which could well be tommorow. There were many other great films from last year, including House of Flying Daggers,Motorcycle Diaries, Finding Neverland, and Downfall among many, many others......!
It has been a long and awful day, but I did do well on a -surprise, surprise BBC news quiz about Turkey. It is my father's country and I speak Turkish, so this should hardly be a shocker. I got 10 out of 12, right. I thought it would be interesting to mention the two I missed.
1. Turkey first tried to enter the EU in which decade:
a. the 50s
b. the 70s
c. the 90s
As it turns out, and I think after I missed it I realized I had heard this somewhere before, Turkey first tried to enter in 1959. I chose the '70s.
Which word is used to mean "mountain' in Turkish
Well, I've always heard the word Dag used for mountain so this one threw me. I chose Alp, but the answer is Balkan.
The trickiest question was one I got right though. Which city was once a part of the Ottoman Empire?
I chose Budapest, which is correct. I hope the locals can forgive us! Iw ent to Budapest as a child in the 70s, and it was awesome and I hear that it's even better now...!
During the Oct. 9 Virginia state gubernatorial debate, between lt. gov. Tim Kaine and Attorney General Jerry Kilgore (state senator Russ Potts, a moderate REpublican from Winchester was left out much to his dismay), the issue of capital punishment came up frequently. Moderator Larry Sabato asked Kaine, who has said he would uphold the state's capital punishment measure which I absolutely oppose, if he still felt opposed to the death penalty in the wake of a brutal slaying of a VCU student. Kaine responded by saying that he would not call for a moratorium as governor in spite of his personal objections. But, if there is one thing that Kilgore will never, ever disclose in either his ads or a debate, it is that there have been people exonerated from death row in Virginia, including Earl Washington of Culpepper. This is not a dismissive matter because it is very difficult to get the state to clear someone once they have been sentenced to death. Keith Coleman, of Grundy a far southwestern coal-minning community, was sent to his death despite world pleas. The case has still been brought forth and the state of Virginia refuses to test his DNA, even ten years after his infamous execution. In fact, the former pope actually asked then Gov. George Allen not to execute an inmate whose case had recieved world wide attention and Allen, who has since become Senator, refused! With his current campaign, Kilogore is not only insulting Kaine but he is spitting in the face of all of us who either oppose capital punishment outright or who have major concerns about how it is applied in Virginia. By frequently bringing up the matter, Kilgore thus seems more interested in being the state's 'prime executioneer' than taking care of other needs, including transportation, education, and ironically funding for local law enforcement needs.
Thursday, October 6, 2005
Tuesday, September 27, 2005
According to the activist group Americans United for the Separation of Church and state, http://www.au.org
the likes of arch conservative evangelist the Rev. Franklin Graham are wrongfully using Hurricane Katrina to convert victims of the disaster to Christianity. Among the things that the likes of the Rev. Graham are doing, according to AU's release, is passing out teddy bears which say "Jesus Loves You" on them. AU also accused FEMA of having no accountability with regards to Christian charity groups helping with the disaster, thereby allowing freedom to protylitize as they wish. AU says the Rev. Pat Robertson and other fundamentalists are also taking advantage of the situation.
Saturday, September 24, 2005
from both sides! The conferecne was originally scheduled to be at Bogazici (Boshporous Univeristy) but was called off due to a court order. But, in a surprising development, the conference was moved to Bilgi University, also in Istanbul. I have looked at three sources, the BBC, the arch conservative Turkish Daily ZAMAN (OUR TIME)
and The Turkish Daily News, which leans conservative. To my knowledge, the main liberal newspaper in Turkey Cumhuriyet does not have an English-language web site. From what I gathered, there were both protests against the forums and protests against the court order. But, none of the protests have turned violent. The forum is the most public discussion of the controversial Armenian Daispora/Genocide matter in Turkey. The issue is also being discussed in Congressional forums domestically. It can be hard to know what is going on in Turkey because western media (both conservative and liberal) generally have an anti-Turkish bias, but most Turkish newspapers have a conservative, sometimes radical pro-Turkish agenda. One of the readers of this blog posted a negative message to suggest that this controversy shows that Turkey is some kind of fascist country. I think every country has their share of controversies, and I think when you take issues as diverse as the death penalty, the war in Iraq, and how to historically interpret Hiroshima, slavery, and the treatment of Native Americans, it seems apparent that we have our own issues as well and I think this is true of virtually every country in the world today. I personally have mixed views regarding many controversies in Turkey. I often differ with Turkish nationalists and ethnic partisans on many matters. I think more work still needs to be done in Turkey with regards to women's rights, minority rights, and educating the poor. But, I also strongly abhore arbitrary bigotry and hostility which is based on the belief that somehow Turkey is a barbaric culture and a backwards country. Turkey has made tremendous progress in recent years, especially in terms of the country's economy and there has also been reasonable progress with regards to human rights. There will always be controversy in Turkey due to its complicated geopolitical situation. But, I am very encouraged by the progress that Turkey has made since I lived there as a child in the late seventies. I think one can safely that those days of open political street violence are thankfully in the past, and whatever else happens in Turkey is simply a casualty of the painful journey towards progress.
Thursday, September 22, 2005
Turkey's main English-language daily http://www.turkishdailynews.com
has a survey on its web site and the results so far are rather interesting.
According to the survey of some 800 respondents, Turks see themselves as their own best friends! The USA came in third in the survey behind the UK, but only 11.7% respondents chose America as Turkey's best friend. One of the surprises of the survey is that it shows that only 6.1 % of respondents chose the Islamic world as Turkey's best friend. Here are the results as of Sept. 22
No one but Turks 31.1%
UK 18.9 %
Islamic World 6.1%
The Sept. 22 online edition of the TDN also had a report about Congressional legislation which has been endorsed by the Armenian lobby in Washington DC. The main Turkish-American organization ATAA http://www.ataa.org
is concerned that such legislation will do more harm to relations between Washington DC and Ankara, but Congressional supporters of the bills maintain that this will not happen.
Media General News Services reported on Sept. 16th that Concord (NC) police officer Quinn Whitherspoon, 34, was fatally shot by his wife. According to the story, Whiterspoon's wife told a Charlotte, NC tv station that she accidentally dropped a rifle as she was bringing it to her husband and as a result a bullet struck him. The couple had three children. An autopsy was scheduled to be performed at Wake Forest University.
UPDATE: Today's Charlotte Observer (I don't live in Charlotte, but get the newspaper online) reported that the Concord police officer's wife has been charged with the killing! I think this could be one of these stories that doesn't get picked nationally, but in my view, it should!
Wednesday, September 21, 2005
Alas I heard that Julie Murphy Wells, the lead singer of one of my favorite bands Eddie From Ohio, has been diagnosed with breast cancer. The band's web site is http://www.eddiefromohio.com
Julie can not be more than a few years older than me. the band had to cancel their scheduled Sept. 16 show in Lexington, Va. and they have scapped the rest of their tour.
I certainly wish her the best recovery.
As listed in the back pages of "Film Comment," here is a sampling of new films and tv shows now available on DVD....
Movies I have NOT seen, but I've heard good things about:
1) An Angel at my Table- Jane Campion, New Zealand, 1990, Criterion
2) Billion $ Brain, Ken Russell, UK, 1966, MGM
3) Boudu Saved From Drowning, Jean Renoir, France, 1932, Criterion
4) Coward Bends the Knee, Guy Maddin, Canada, 2003
5) Head-On, Fatih Akin, Germany (in German and Turkish), 2004-highly recommended
6) Major Dundee (new version), Sam Peckinpah, 1964 -I have seen the original, uncut version- hope this is better!
7) The Miracle of Morgan's Creek, Preston Sturges, 1944
8)Nobody Knows, Kore-da, Japan, 2004
9) Turtles Can Fly, Ghobadi, Iran (in Kurdish), 2004
10) Whirlpool, Otto Preminger, 1949
Movies I have seen (but not on DVD) with my five-star rating:
1. Masculin/Feminin- JL Godard, France, 1966-*****
2. Naked-Mike Leigh, 1993 ***
3. Cop (with James Woods), 1988 ****
4. Cat People, Val Newton, 1942 ****
5. Queen Chritina (with Great Garbo) dir. Mamoulian 1933 *****
6. The Man Who Fell to the Earth (with David Bowie), N. Roeg ****
7. Demon Seed 1977 ***
8. Funny Ha Ha, 2003 ****
9. Landscape in the Mist Greece 1990 ****
10. Places in the Heart, R. Benton, 1984 ****
11. To Kill a Mockingbird ****
12. Touki Bouki, Senegal (yes, I've seen it!) ***
I must also highly recommend my good friend Les Blank's film "Burden of Dreams," a classic documentary about filmmaking, "Distant," which I consider to be the best Turkish film ever made, and Robert Altman's political satire of Nixon "secret Honor." All these films have been out on DVD as of this year.
I have wanted to do this for a while, but as it is with all things technological, it took me a while to finally get around and figuring out a way to do this. I am sure since I am obsessed with politics and films that a very high percentage of my entries will be along those lines. To me, the two are very much paralell. I think if you watch even a simpleton film like the current remake of "Bad News Bears," you will find distinct political elements to it. I must profess that the things a given film can say about your country or culture can be very disturbing. I was made aware of this while in Turkey, where my late father Mehmet Gokbudak hailed from, in 2003. I watched "Final Destination 2" at an outdoor cinema simply because I was on the island of Buyukada, off Istanbul, and this was the only film showing. I was very unsettled by how much the mostly teenage audience loved the film and how they openly cheered its' heinous violence. I was amazed by how both my conservative side and my liberal side were simultaneously outraged. My father who was born in 1921 and was almost 50 when I was born in 1970 had a very positive image of America because of films from the likes of the Marx Brothers and Laureal and Hardy. One of his favorite films the original 1933 version of "King Kong" happens to also be one of my favorite films even though politically and culturally we would have very little in common if he were alive today. Though I ardently support artists of all types, including filmmakers, I have to wonder if we need to reexamine our priorities and consider the impact of our cultural imports around the world. But, our world is motivated by greed and the need for profit and not ethics and the film industry is no different. I can not blame the current generation of young adults for watching films like "Final Destination 2." When I was their age, I watched films like "Child's Play" (the first Chuckie doll movie). I suppose there is a part of me which thinks my generation's slasher/horror nonsense is not as bad as this generation's nonsense, but of course that is mere hypocricy. Many cultural conservatives and even fervent liberals frequently state their reasons in wondering why other parts of the world feel a degree of hostility towards our beloved country and their reasoning seems dramatically off-base- "They hate our freedoms" or "They see us as the evil empire" both seem like equally ridicilious sentiments.In reality, many countries regardless of geography feel overhwelmed by the impact of our culture on their own. And, with films like "Final Destination 2" showing up more and more frequently, often as they are now seen here, the image of our country at a time of socio-political upheveal around the world is a stark contrat to the films my dad saw in Istanbul during the 1930s. A few months before I was in Turkey the Turkish Communist Party (the TKK), which is a relatively small socialist organization, protested the opening of the newest James Bond movie in Turkey, because they felt it was a promotion of war and global imperialism. The irony is that one of the most famous Bond films "From Russia With Love" was filmed in Istanbul and showed Turkey in a rare positive light. Alas, the times have changed and I wonder when we can ever turn the clock back.
I promise my future entries will be considerably shorter....!