Saturday, February 24, 2007

The Whirling Dervishes in Alabama?

Last night, I had the opportunity to take in a performance by The Whirling Dervishes. For those who are not familiar with the dervishes, it should be pointed that I am NOT refering to the alternative rock band Dervish, though I must profess that it would be interesting to see these dervishes and the rock band Phish in a double-bill! The Whirling Dervishes were at Duke University, which as everyone who follows lacrosse and basketball knows is in Durham, NC.

The event was organized by my friends at the Divan Cultural Center (see link below) in the Raleigh suburb of Cary, NC.

I looked at the Dervishes' 'road tour' and apparently they were in Montgomery, Al., on Thursday, Durham last night and tonight_ amazingly enough, they will be in Mobile, Al. They have somehow managed to go all over Alabama (they also performed in Huntsville earlier) without stopping in Tuscaloosa_ where my good friend Ilhan Tuzcu works as a college professor at the University of Alabama. He is now speaking Turkish with an awful Southern accent (shaka ediyorum, tabiiki!- that means of course, I'm kidding in Yiddish).

According to the web site for the Dervishes (see link below), Mevlana Jalaladdeen Rumi, (or Rumi/Mevlana for short), a Persian man who primarily resided in the Turkish city of Konya in the 13th century, is one of the great spiritual masters and poetic suggestions of mankind. He has been made famous by the likes of scholar Coleman Barks and Madonna, whoever she is. Rumi also founded the Mevlevi Sufi Order.

Rumi is unique because he is admired by both conservative Moslems and liberal new age practicers in the West! In his lifetime, Mevlana emphasized peace and understanding and resolving conflict without violence. Perhaps, 'our president' Dick Cheney should read some of his poetry. 

The Divan Center offers Turkish cooking classes every Saturday afternoon at 12:30 p.m. They also offer Turkish language lessons, for those of you whose Turkish is 'as good' as my French (I have basically taken courses for francais five times over the course of high school and college, and pretty much all I can say is 'Je ne parle pas francais_ zut alors!'). Ama, Turkceyi biraz daha rahat konusabilirim. (which means 'I can speak Turkish considerably better'_ although I may perhaps actually have a dreaded Southern accent when speaking it!)

The Center also has occasionally Turkish kahvaltis (kahvalti means breakfast-clarification, in Turkish, you don't add the letter 's' to make a word plural_ but for those of us who like to mix up the languages interchangably.....)

Turkish/Egyptian musician Orhan Faruk Tekbilek, who was living in Rochester, NY, a few years back, has recorded the classic style of music which usually accompanies Whirling Dervish performances.

At any rate, here are useful links for one to learn about all things Rumi.........



Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Fellini in Danville?!

I must profess that neither the town where I live (Reidsville, NC) or the town where I work (Danville, Va)_ a city that is only 25 miles away, are centers of cultural activity. Though, there are times when I have been surprised. A few weeks ago, poet Nikki Giovanni spoke at Averret University in Danville. And, last night, the historic North Theatre showed "Satyricon," the third in a series of Frederico Fellini films! I am still in a state of shock over this. It was an experience very much like all of Fellini's film, a surreal dream which doesn't seem to be really happening. Jerry Meadors, an indy film producer, manages the North Theatre, which has been fully restored in recent years. Next week, Jean Renoir's 1952 classic "The Golden Coach" will be screened at the cinema at 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. on Feb. 27. According to "Leonard Maltin's Movie Guide," the film was a flop upon its first release. And, now it will be showing in Danville! Amazing!

If anyone wants more info on the screenings_ there will be a total of six more, feel free to Google the North Theatre in Danville, Va. There will also be a stage rendition of "the Best Little Whorehouse in Texas" at the North Theatre in March. Assuredly, the production will be better than the 1982 Burt Reynolds- Dolly Parton film which Maltin gave a mere two stars. Having seen the film when I was a teenager, I concur that it is indeed a film which merits a "thumbs down."

Monday, February 19, 2007

My Favorite Insomniac Rants.......from a notebook..

I was just looking at my blog which should soon hopefully surpass the 1,000 hits mark, and I was thinking that the one thing it lacked- well, aside from striking visuals, was original thought.

Most of my entries pertain to newspaper stories or articles I found from somewhere else.

But, tonight, I thought I would post some rants that I kept in a notebook while suffering from insomnia for several consecutive nights at some juncture last year.


Here are some of my favorites:

1) I feel sick. Alone. Disturbed. Angry. Bitter. Hostile. Tired. Wrestless. Irritated. Yet, I am sober.

2) The bank. The car. The church. The state. Maybe Marx was right_ if only his theory had worked!

3) Who is the better poet_ Homer or Robert Frost? I am ignorant of such things, but perhaps they were too once.

4) Poet. Priest. Politician. You don't need to be Alex Trebeck to know who among them has the best pay.

5) Will anything I saw tonight make remote sense tomorrow?

6) I understand maniacs all too well. Should that be a concern or a virtue?

7) A person can only talk to a terrorist the day before or after the bomb. A person can only talk to the president if he/she has million dollars. I suppose neither one is worth the time or money.

8)I heard a piece on NPR about Mussolini (check spelling). I immediately thought of Bush. And, I don't hate him as much today as I did yesterday.

9) I wonder how Shakesperare reacted if he indeed ever got rejected. Did he cry or laugh?

10) Dostoveysky. Melville. Chaucer. Anyone who is sent to prison or gets elected should be forced to read all three of them.

Perhaps, there will be more rants at a later time! Like Charles Bukowski's poetry, much of which is just now being published years after his death, there is more where this came from!


Sunday, February 18, 2007

Mehmet Okur of the Utah Jazz,1st Turkish NBA all-star

I hope for the sake of the other Turkish player in the NBA, Hidayet Turkoglu of the Orlando Magic, that I am right about this. But, having lost track of most pro sports over the years, I believe Mehmet Okur, who won an NBA title with the Detroit Pistons, is the first Turkish player to play in an NBA All-Star game. Alas, this year's game was on TNT, which folks with only basic cable, such as myself, will have to miss out on.

Nevertheless, Okur was named as a replacement player for the game by commisioner David Stern. The game was played earlier tonight in Las Vegas.

According to Tim Buckley of the Salt Lake City newspaper "Deseret Morning News," Okur has found speaking English to be the hardest part of adjusting to life in America: "I wasn't speak any words, so it was tough."

Okur said that he has taken a liking to juicy steaks, and he has felt comfortable being a Muslim in a predominantly Mormon state.

Okur also had the problem of gained weight in the off-season when he came to the Jazz from the Pistons. He wound up playing only in 25 out of 82 games in a season when the Jazz were a dismal 26-56 in the 2004/05 season.

But, Okur soon got back into shape and he has now played in a staggering 232 straight consecutive NBA games. He has hence earned the respect of his teammates and his coach Jerry Sloan.

The Utah Jazz made headlines a few weeks ago when it was revealed that one of their former players, John Armietti (check spelling) was gay. I suppose he could have given Okur good tips about how to adjust to life in conservative Utah. Though, admitedly when I went to SLC in 2002, I was amazed how hip the place was. But, something tells me that is not the case in Provo!

Lastly, I believe I owe the Jazz beat reporter Buckley an apology. I corrected a story he wrote about Okur last year. In the story, he mistakenly refered to Okur's hometown of Istanbul (actually, I've heard he is from Yalova, a small city near Istanbul) as the 'Turkish capital.' Of course, it is Ankara. But, amazingly enough, I heard the exact same mistake on NPR's "All Things Considered" this week!

If anyone knows who has won the NBA All-Star game, feel free to tell me!

Useful links:



"Lawerence of Arabia" on-stage!?

Most everyone is assuredly familiar with "Lawerence of Arabia," the 1962 epic film which starred Peter O'Toole as T.E. Lawerence, an eccentric, adventorous homosexual who became an unlikely crusader for the Arab cause before dying at a young age from a motorcylce accident. When I was in the Raleigh area last week, I was surprised to hear that there is a stage version of Lawerence's life and it is now being performed in the North Carolina state capital.

According to the Feb. 11th edition of "The News-Observer" (Raleigh's main daily newspaper), the play "The Man in the Desert" is a colloboration between stage director Michael Lilly and Ira David Wood III. The article by Orla Swift stated that Wood is perhaps the best known stage actor in the Raleigh-Durham area because of many iconic roles, including several performances as Scrooge in "A Christmas Carol." Wood, who has also played roles as diverse as Hamlet and Count Dracula, is actually performing the one-man play on a stage that bears his name!

"The Man in the Desert" is actually different than "Lawerence of Arabia" in many regards. The play by playwright/screenwriter Peter Colley is apparently more directly political in nature. And, according to the article, Colley's play illustrates both the positive and negative aspects of the Lawerence legend. In one sense, he was courageous warrior who fought the 'dasterdly' Ottoman Turks (the word dasterdly here is obviously meant to be a joke. For those of you who don't know, I am half-Turkish), but Lawerence was also a man who was a hyprocrite who pretended to care about the Arab people while working to protect British interests.

The play runs through Feb. 24. It is apparently an outdoor (brrr...!) show.

Useful links:



Thursday, February 8, 2007

Will "Venus" mean Oscar for Peter O'Toole?

The latest film to star screen legend Peter O'Toole is being tauted as the film which possibly give 'Lawerence' his first Oscar. He has been nominated 45 times:)

When I was in Atlanta a few weeks ago, I saw an article by "Atlanta Journal-Constitution" film critic Eleanor Ringel Gillespie which said: "You must see Peter O'Toole." You just must. No excuses."

Gillespie added in her review of the film, which is directed by veteran Roger Michell ("Notting Hill," "Enduring Love"), that: "The ruined beauty of O'Toole permeates every frame of 'Venus,' a movie that exists for almost no other reason than to allow us to worship at the altar of this incomparable actor."

O'Toole has often given great performances in year's where many actors gave standout performances. In 1962, the year he was nominated for "Lawerence of Arabia," the then 28-year-old O'Toole lost to Gregory Peck, who won an Oscar for "To Kill a Mockingbird."

In 1983, O'Toole's delirious, brilliant performance in "My Favorite Year" was overshadowed not only by that year's Oscar winner Ben Kingsley ("Gandhi"), but also by Paul Newman ("The Verdict") and Dustin Hoffman ("Tootsie"). Newman did not win his first Oscar until "The Color of Money" in 1987.

All of this begs the question, should Oscar be more about rewarding someone who has been giving great performances for a long, long time, or should it be more about giving the award for a terrific performance regardless?

This year, O'Toole's main challenger is Forest Whitaker who played the late Ugandan dictator Idi Amin in "The Last King of Scotland."

Perhaps, a tie would be most fitting but that has not happened in quite a long time.

"Venus" is playing in most markets now.

It will begin its run at the Grandin Theatre in Roanoke tomorrow.

Additional sites:



When Being Superstitious (might) Pay Off

I saw this in Sunday's "Washington Post Magazine." It definitely caught my interest!


Yosefin M. Wiyono of Alexandria, Va., wrote that when she was a young school teacher on the Indonesian island of Java in the 1950s, she had arrived at her school bright and early every morning.

But, one day, she found a scorpion beneath her feet! Her mother told Yosefin that such a dangerous animal signaled that something bad would happen to her if she left the house. So, she decided not to teach that day.

Later in the day, a police officer informed Yosefin that the bus she normally rode to school was hit by a large truck. The accident killed 12 people, most of whom were in the front part- where Yosefin always sat!




Tuesday, February 6, 2007

I Publicly Criticized NC State Bill About Film Shooting

Though much of my life revolves around Virginia, I am a resident of North Carolina. My letter-to-the-editor concerning a proposed revision to the Tarheel State's incentives program for filmmakers was published in the Feb. 4 edition of "The News-Record," Greensboro's daily newspaper. In my letter, I openly took issue with 'my own' state sentator Phil Berger (R).

In a Jan. 28 "News-Record" article, Berger said that the current rules need to be tightened because of the uproar over the independent film "Hounddogs," a movie that was filmed along the Carolina coast.

"Hounddogs" has recieved considerable coverage as there is a scene simulating the rape of a 12-year-old girl played by Dakota Fanning ("War of the Worlds"). The film, which was screened at this year's Sundance Film Festival in Utah, has been the subject of many news articles and blog entries, including one posted by friend Bilge Ebiri, a New York film critic/filmmaker.

In the Jan. 28 "News-Record" article, reporter Taft Wireback said critics feel that Bereger's proposal could have a 'chilling effect' on the statewide film industry. It would go so far as to require a government official (bureaucrat) would have to actually preview scripts for every film project seeking to reap 15 % of in-state production costs.

The Tarheel State has made an estimated $7 billion from more than 800 movie productions, as well as 14 network and cable series, such as "Dawson's Creek."

In my letter-to-the-editor, I made the following comment:

"I think Berger, who represents my jurisdiction, and people who support his measure have casually overlooked the economic impact of films like "Junebug," "Bull Durham," and "Nell," all of which were shot here. There's no need to take extreme measures over one scene in one film ("Hounddogs").

Berger's son, Phil Berger Jr., was recently elected as Rockingham County's district attorney.

I plan to further voice my stern opposition to Berger's measures. The conservative state senator has also been trying to remove doctors from the state's execution chamber at Central Prison in Raleigh. So, it seems there will be other things that I strongly differ with regarding his legislative agenda.

Berger is the minority leader in the state senate.

Needless to say, I did NOT vote for him this past November.