Tuesday, December 26, 2006

My 'Unofficial' Top 10 Films of the Year

This will be my last entry before heading to Mexico...........just for a few days.....:)

My unofficial top 10 (because by no means have I seen enough wrothy films yet) are:

1. Borat
2. Little Miss Sunshine
3. The Prestige
4. Crossing the Bridge: Istanbul (documentary about Turkish musicians by Turkish-German director Fatih Akin)
5. Three Times (Taiwan)
6. United 93
7. Half Nelson
8. Science of Sleep
9. The Devil and Daniel Johnson (doc)
10. The Queen

Turkish dancer in Md. is making waves

I came across an interview from the fall of 2005 with Turkish dancer Nejla Y. Yatkin. It was with the Fairfax, Va. cable access program "Turkish American Hour" (see link below). Yatkin, who speacializes in modern dance, is based in Maryland. Yatkin will be performing in Germantown, Md. on March 24. Her web site contains many pictures of her performing. Yatkin told the interviewer that by growing up in Berlin she was exposed to many cultures, and she said that her many influences can be seen in her dances.

Yatkin's site

Turkish American Hour

Were you dreaming of a WHITE Christmas?*

I think all us have at one time or another been seduced by Bing Crosby's rendering of a "White Christmas," even if we are Zen Buddhists. The reality is alas much different than the fantasy. Perhaps, there is no better evidence of this than digital photos taken by my sister Lale and her husband Matt. With their permission, I am posting a link to these photos.
Be careful what you wish for!


Monday, December 25, 2006

The Fonz is Captian Hook?!

I was looking at the BBC News web site, and I cam across this interesting tid bit. Apparently, both Henry Winkler, of "Happy Days" fame, and Patrick Duffy from "Dallas" are performing pantomime at two different theatres in London. Winkler will be starring as Captian Hook in a panto version of "Peter Pan" at the New Wimbledon Theatre. And, Duffy will be performing in "Cinderella" (He'll be playing Baron Hardup, as opposed to Cinderella) at the New Victoria Theatre. Pantomime is unique because well it is acting without using words! Winkler replaced David Hasslehoff! TV's Fonz told the BBC that: "They're still explaining it (pantomime) to me," Winkler said. "I've had a week of rehearsal, my brain is numb."

I imagine that it is!

The BBC's web site is:

Click on "Americas" and the story should be easy to locate, depending on how many days it remains posted.

Offbeat Christmas entry- Klezner, anyone?

On the evening of Saturday, Dec. 9, I stopped by the Green Bean coffehouse in downtown Greensboro. As I was there, I saw this band set up and noticed they had a mandolin and a clarinet. The band was Sinai Mountain Ramblers, the only Klezner..traidtional Jewish music... band in the area. I stopped by later that night and watched them perform. I must admit it was my frist glimpse of Klezner music since I saw the late John Candy and Eugene Levy make fun of the music in a "SCTV' comedy skit when I was about 12 or 13 years old. But, this music is really enjoyable. Much like polka, it is the kind of music which seems very unhip during one's Depeche Mode/Billy Idol teen angst years but one appreciates it as they realize just how awful Def Leopard proves to be once the angst has subsided. The band's web site said that the Sinai Mountain Ramblers started in 1997. Three friends who happened to share a love for playing string instruments and a common interest in traditional Jewish folk music got together on Sundays. They added a clarinet player in 1999. Sinai Mountain Ramblers play Klezner tunes from Eastern Europe and contemporary Jewish folk. The group studied Klezner music further in Montreal in 2001.
The band consists of:
Gary Silverstein- mandolin
Kurt Lavenstein- cello
Rich Lerner-guitar and percussion
Paul Fribush-clarinet and tsimbol
Other Klezner artists include: Michael Alpert (New York), Sam Glacer (LA) and Jack Gabriel (Denver).

In other Greensboro music news, my friend Bruce Piephoff, a folk singer/poet, is scheduled to release a new recording in February. The premiere party is scheduled at the Two Chicks Art Gallery in downtown Greensboro. Here are some useful links:

Sinai Mountain Ramblers

Bruce Piephoff

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Prophetic writing from Walt Whitman

Ever since I strated working with semi-literate students at Virginia Western Community College in Roanoke, I have started taking classic writers much more seriously. Currently, I am reading the Library of America collection devouted to poet Walt Whitman (1819-1892). Many well-read people are probably familiar with the fact that Whitman visited veteran hospitals right after the Civil War. I found the following journal entry by Whitman, which was written in March of 1865. The short piece is entitled "Wounds and Disease" and it appears in his prose collection titled "Specimen Days." It seems exceptionally moving considering what many who are returning from Iraq and Afghanistan are going through now.

                               "Wounds and Disease"
    "The war is over, but the hospitals are fuller than ever, from former and current cases. A large majority of the wounds are in the arms and legs. But there is every kind of wound, in every part of the body. I should say of the sick, from my observation, that the prevailing maladies are typhoid fever and the camp fevers generally, diarrhea, catarhal affections and bronchitis, rheumatism and pneumonia. These forms of sickness lead; all the rest follow. There are twice as many sick as there are wounded. The deaths range from seven to ten percent of those under treatment."

I highly recomment the Library of America series. They've been a real learning experince for me.


Thursday, December 21, 2006

Cong. Virgil Goode (R-VA) doesn't speak for me...

I almost decided to let this go. But, as this story is making national news and since I work in Cong. Goode's 5th District, I have decided not to let this go. I am not spiritually a Muslim myself, but as the son of a Turkish immigrant, I am outraged that Goode said he would do his best (paraphrase, but essentially what he said)  "to keep Muslims from entering this country, and holding public office." The disclosure of this controversial letter came because Goode inadvertently sent it to a local Sierra Club chapter president in Charlottesville, Va. Goode comes from Rocky Mount, Va.- one of the most conservative towns in his right-leaning district, but he also represents Charlottesville which is the most liberal city in Virginia. There are two pro-life billboards in Goode's home jurisdiction of Franklin County which proclaim that 'abortion is the worst form of child abuse.' My ears perked when Goode made a similar striking anti-Muslim comment on WVTF (public radio station in Roanoke, Va) during his debate with Democrat opponent Al Weed in October. I don't recall the exact comment, but it was not far off from this one which has recieved just deserved national attention. Kudos to the alternative newspaper "C'ville Weekly" for breaking this story. Goode was formally a Democrat, but he has always been arch-conservative. His racist comments come in the same year that former Sen. George Allen (R-VA) made his infamous macaca comments near the Kentucky border during a campaign rally. I must also commend newly elected Cong. Keith Ellison (D-MN), who was the initial target of Goode's letter, for handling this matter gracefully. Ellison was born in Michigan, and is not an immigrant to this country. Goode's comments are insulting to all of us who are the offspring of hard-working Muslim immigrants who have contributed in medicine, education, and all walks of American life. As a proud Virginian, I am also insulted that he makes all of us look bad on national level. Hopefully, and if there is indeed a just God, he will meet the same political fate as Allen when his term expires. Goode won his election over Weed with 60 % of the vote. One expects that Weed, a vineyard owner, will take on Goode for a third time in 2008.

For more info:



Great movie blog from my friend Bilge Ebiri

My sister may be the one with literally four feet of snow on her doorstep, but I sort of feel that way too. Since, I was supposed to be south of the border today- and, I don't mean NC, I thought work on my blog which has been neglected in recent months.

My latest entry... my (wow!) fourth of the day concerns a movie blog from Bilge Ebiri. He is an independent filmmaker in New York and has written extensively about filmmakers like Bernardo Bertolucci and the late Yilmaz Guney. His film "New Guy" is available from netflix.com

But, Mr. Ebiri has another venture. I should warn folks in places like Boones Mill, Va., that the following does contain SOME ADULT CONTENT and should not be viewed in public library or on your work pc. It includes talks about people's worst film-going experiences, a trailer for the new Harry Potter film due out this spring, and some interesting photos of Marilyn Monroe.

The Screen Grab is available at:


Ebiri is also in post-production on his short film "The Purse Snatcher."

A Poem by Nazim Hikmet..Turkey's most famous poet

On a day in which I was supposed to be in Mexico, but due to my sister and brother-in-law (who were supposed to join us) being trapped by an awful snowstorm in Longmont, Co., where they live, I have been here at my mother's home in Salem, Va. most of the day.

I have wanted to put up an entry with the poety of Nazim Hikmet (1902-1963) for quite some time. Hikmet was controversial because of his socialist views, and had been residing in Moscow for a number of years at the time of his death.

I was reading a book of Walt Whitman poetry earlier today, and I think Hikmet's style captured Turkey's difficulties in facing transition in much the way that Whitman's work captured what America was going through during his lifetime.

I found this poem "About My Poetry," which was translated by Mutlu Konuk and Randy Blasing on the Internet.

About My Poetry

I have no silver-saddled horse to ride,
no inheritance to live on,
neither riches no real estate_
a pot of honey is all I own
red as fire!

My honey is my everything,
I guard
my riches and my real estate
-my honey pot, I mean-
from pests of every species,
Brother, just wait...
As long as I've got
honey in my pot,
bees will come to it
from Timbuktu....

I've also wanted to mention that a friend of mine, K. Kamal Ayyildiz, who is also originally from Roanoke, Va., has a published book of poetry enttitled "The Cistern."
Originally published in 2004, "The Cistern" is available from http://www.amazon.com

Hikmet's poems, as well as the works of many other legendary poets can be found at:

Need a last minute gift?

I found out the other day that my friend Tom Angleberger, a columnist for "The Roanoke Times," is married to children's author Cece Bell. She is the author and illustrator of the popular sock monkey children's books. Tom has his own children's book which is due out soon. The last children's book I read was "Naked Lunch," which isn't nearly as demented as "Green Eggs and Ham"

For more info:


Test.........this is only a test........

I just want to see if I can actually post this entry. I had troubles entering a blog entry the other day. Incidentally, I was supposed to be in Mexico today. Long story. Short entry.
Felix Navidad............:)

Monday, December 18, 2006

Grandin Theatre to screen "A Christmas Story"

Though I may live in NC, I am still in the Roanoke area quite often. In fact, I am here now! I will be out of the country on Dec. 23, but I thought I would mention that the Grandin Theatre will be screening "A Christmas Story" that night at midnight......"The Good Shepard," a new political thriller starring Matt Damon, is slated to be among the regular films showing there Christmas weekend. The Stephen Frears biopic "The Queen" will be in its 83rd week of release there as well.............:)

For those in NC, my 'new state," the Carolina Theatre in Greensboro is showing "Dr. Zhivago," at 7:30 pm on Tues., Jan. 9, 2007. The running time of the film is 14 hours and 27 minutes- just kidding! And, "The Queen" hasn't been around for 83 weeks quite yet, but it may!

Hope everyone has a great holiday.........

Vietnamese New Year is just around the corner!

For more info on the Grandin, go to:


Sunday, December 17, 2006

Tribute to Ahmet Ertegun

Alas, my blog is now looking like the obits section of a local paper. I have already mentioned the recent deaths of William Styron and Robert Altman.

But, it would be hard for me to overlook Ahmet Ertegun. The prominent Turkish-American was the founder of Atlantic Records and help bring acts like Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, Led Zeppelin and The Rolling Stones into our pop culture. He died at age 83 this week. Another Turkish-American record producer Arif Mardin died earlier this year.

There is a tribute page to his memory at the Atlantic Records web site.


Unique new show from preacher's son

There is a new show_ a six-part documentary_ about Jay Bakker. The tattooed rebellious figure is a liberal Christian minister who happens to be the son of Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker. The first episode reairs Monday night at 9 p.m. and new episodes will air on the Sundance Channel every Wednesday at 9 p.m. I saw the first episode, and I found Bakker to be a very interesting person. It turns out that Heritage USA in Fort Mill, SC-the theme park founded by the Bakkers- is now pretty much an empty lot. Jay is alas more or less estranged from his father, though he maintains a close relationship with his mom, who is sadly in a major battle for her life with breat cancer. The series is from the filmmakers who brought Tammy Faye's life to the screen some five years ago.

Thursday, December 7, 2006

Remembering Robert Altman

I was very saddened to hear of the passing of one of my favorite film directors last month. Robert Altman, who died at age 81, was an absolute genius. He made many great films which are familiar like "The Player," "MASH," and "Nashville;" but he also made many memorable unfamiliar films like "Three Women" and "The Wedding." He will be missed.

Well, Thank God I was wrong.....!

It has been a crazy time hence the long delay between entries. Nevertheless, I am delighted that I was dead wrong in my election predictions. I did not think that Claire Mackaskill would defeat Sen. Jim Talent (R-Mo) or that ultra-corrupt Montana Republican Senator Conrad Burns would lose his seat as well. It is also delightful to see James Webb replacing George Allen. I must however profess reluctant ambivilance about how well Congressional Democrats can lead. I fear that Cong. Nancy Pelosi (D-Ca) may be too much of a lightning rod to be an effective Speaker of the House. I'm also concerned that Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) is too much of a lock, and thus the right-wing pit bulls, ie. Rush Limbaugh and Jerry Falwell, will vote in a political centerist like John McCain and Rudy Guiliani to counter her. But, at least, the likelihood of a fervent, militant ultra-conservative like President Dubya coming into the White House in 2008 now appears minimal at best. Of course, a lot can happen between now and then!