Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Franklin Graham misusing Katrina to convert victims

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.

Scorsese's doc on Dylan, in a word- masterpiece!

I just saw Martin Scorsese's PBS documentary "Bob Dylan: No Direction Home." It is an amzing and brilliant documentary. Every minute of its three and a half hour running time is amazing, as is the story of Dylan's quick rise at a tender age during a turbulent age in America. The film shows Dyaln's influences, which included folk singers like the late Woddy Guthrie. There are also interviews with Joan Baez, the late Allen Ginsberg, Pete Seeger- who resides here in Virginia now, and there is fottage shot by the likes of documentary filmmaker D.A. Pennebaker and Andy Warhol. It sould be available at Blockbusters and public libraries soon. It is one of the few films which actually manages to live up to its hype!

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Armenian Conference in Istanbul draws protests....

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 is Turkey's best friend?

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 %

USA 11.7%

EU 11.5%

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.

Unusual Police Officer shooting in NC

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!

The Pope has been invtied to Turkey

The Sept. 15th edition of the BBC Online reported that Turkish President Ahmet Sezer has formally invited Pope Benedict to Turkey in the hopes that it will further dialogue between Islam and Catholism. Turkey is currently hoping to become member of the European Union and the issue has sparked debates which have become doemstic campaign issues in the Pope's native country of Germany.

Former NC Senator honored in DC

According to today's Washington Post, Sen. Helms was honored last night. Only a handful of Senators came to the affair, and unlike a similar gathering for the late Sen. Strom Thurmond (R-SC) in which Sen. Trent Lott (R-Ms) came controversial statements about segregation, no fireworks occured. However, a curious statement was made by Lynchburg's most famous resident the Rev. Jerry Falwell who said that Helms along with Pres. Ronald Reagan were his two favorite politicians and had the most influence on religious conservatism. Wayne La Pierre, the president of the Natl. Rilfe Association was also in attendance, and he gave Helms a firearm as a gesture of thanks. 

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Sad news about female folk singer

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.

New DVDs......

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. 


Welcome to my blog

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....!