Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Cindy Sheehan in Greensboro and my Va. Tech column

Over the weekend, while I was back home in Salem, Va., a city that is a mere 35 miles from Virginia Tech, there was an anti-war protest by activist Cindy Sheehan. She was greeted by right wing bikers, yada yada...........According to an article by Sonja Elmquist, a talented reporter at "The (Greensboro) News-Record" who I met while working at a paper in nearby Reidsville (but who alas never speaks to me, as if it was her paper that I walked out on), there was no repeat of a certain incident in 1979 that locals know about all too well (it involved the KKK and the Communist Party and resulted in the deaths of four or five people- ugly!) and that was thanks to the Gsb PD.- who says people of my political persuasion don't like cops!

 The mood of the protesters and those of us who oppose the war was perhaps best summed up by retired Air Force Capt. Cam McQuaid, 63, of Chapel Hill (love that name!): "I dropped a bomb on Vietnam," McQuaid said. "And, I wake up crying now."

I am sure Jordan Green, who unlike Elmquist does return my emails, and other talented reporters from "Yes Weekly," a weekly paper in Greensboro, will have their own story about Sheehan on Greene Street. Their publication is also (I'm hoping!) slated to publish my column on Virginia Tech and why it is a special place to me even though I went to nearby Radford University (see entry below). The new "Yes Weekly" comes out tomorrow.

I am off to some western state known for .....well, Mormons :) My apologies to the great state of Utah- sometime ,I need to blog about the BYU Democrats who organized a protest against  (Vice) Pres. Cheney's commencement speech there.

Elmquist's article can be found (somewhere) at:


"Yes Weekly" can be found at:


And, when I have more time, I will add a link to the Greensboro Police Dept. I really mean that:)

I hope they found that crazy homeless guy who always pesters me on Elm Street......... 



Monday, April 23, 2007

Cuneyt Arkin, My 'Favorite' Turkish Actor

A part of me hates to bump an entry about Virginia Tech student Henry Lee who needlessly lost his life at all too young age for this, but for the longest time I have wanted to post an entry about Cuneyt Arkin. TheTurkish matinee idol will turn 70 in September. Arkin has starred in over 300 films, including my personal favorite Turkish melodrama "Hayatim Sana Feda" -My Life Belongs to You, Feda (1970). He also starred in the amusing nationalist Battal Gazi series of the '70s, in which basically all Byzantines (Greeks) are basically shown to be like Arabs in a Chuck Norris film. I actually wrote about 'Feda,' which also starred legendary Turkish actress Turkan Soray, in my college thesis on Turkish cinema! Arkin also starred in "Turkish Star Wars" (1982) which my friend Jason Garnett let me introduce at the Grandin Cinema in my hometown of Roanoke, Va. in 2005. We had 60 people come out for the midnight screening, and they actually paid to watch the movie! But, I must give credit to this entry to one person above anyone else_my good friend Bilge Ebiri, an independnt filmmaker in New York. He has several Youtube clips from the Arkin filmography in his commercial blog that makes my blog here look like "The Turkish Star Wars!" They were posted today. I really like the one from "Yikilmayan Adam"-The Man Who Couldn't Be Brought Down
(1977). Ebiri did not mention if he intends to cast Arkin in any of his own films, however.........wonder why?!

Links (may be blocked on public pcs, though the site is NOT an adult site):


PS_ for info on the Henry Lee Memorial Scholarship see the entry below

Dead Poets Society, Entry #4, Langston Hughes

It is hard to make another entry about something else knowing that so many who lost children, wives, husbands and parents at Virginia Tech are still grieving. People in other parts of the country and the world may forget (the media will most definitely forget), but those of us from Virginia and those of us with a Virginia Tech connection never will forget what happened a week ago today.

I am thus continuing with my fourth poetry entry. I am planning eight more, but due to what happened, I will probably be posting poems for a while.

Today's entry, which is dedicated to those who lost their lives at Virginia Tech, is the famous poem "Harlem," written in 1951, by the great African-American poet Langston Hughes (1902-1967), who has been immortalized on an American postage stamp.


What happens to a dream deferred?

Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore_
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over_
like a syrupy sweet?

Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.

Or does it explode?

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Final Tribute to the Victims

This will mark my 10th and final blog entry about an event which all of us associated with Virginia Tech and my home state of Virginia will remember for the rest of our lives. I was initially going to make a post about the arrival of Frnaklin Graham on the Virginia Tech. He is a man I am not too found of, since he called Islam, the religion of my late father Mehmet Gokbudak a religion of 'hate and evil.' Graham never apologized for those comments. Though I am a deist/Unitarian myself, I was very outspoken when Graham came to my hometown of Salem in 2003 for a crusade. I wrote a letter to the editor to "The Roanoke Times," and I recieved a racist anynomous letter in my mailbox as a result. However, I think the best thing for me to do is to pay homage to one of the Muslim students who was murdered on Monday. I saw one blogger in Egypt complain that not enough media coverage was being devouted to Waleed Mohamed Shaalam, 32. I would like to assure those of Arab heritage that many people in southwest Virginia do care about this man who left behind a wife and a young child in Zagazig, Egypt. The Muslim Students Association of Virginia Tech had these comments from Shaalam's roomate, Fahad Pasha: "He was the simplest and nicest guy I ever knew. We would be studying for our exams and he would buy a cake and make tea for us," Pasha said.
"The Roanoke Times" reported today that a funeral service was held yesterday for Austin Cloyd, 18, a professor's daughter originally from Champaign,Il. Reporter Albert Raboteau attended the service at Blacksburg Baptist Church. Stephanie Larson, a high school friend from Illinois, said the following about Cloyd: "She always had a smile," Larson said. "She was nice, and encouraging........I'm just grateful that I got to meet her."
Cloyd would have turned 19 on Tuesday.
Particularly hit hard by Monday's events is the Lebanese-American community. They lost two students according to www.arabisto.com, including Ross Alameddine of Mass., and Reema Samaha of Centerville, Va. (see earlier entry).
Memorial t-shirts have been made out for Samaha's memory (see link and email bellow), they are available for $17.
Donations are also being accepted for Henry Lee, 20, a graudate of William Fleming HS in Roanoke (see earlier entry). The address for a memorial fund in his name is:
The Henry Lee Scholarship Fund
3649 Ferncliff Ave.
Roanoke, Va. 24017

The names of all 32 victims as well as those who were wounded on Monday can be found at "The Roanoke Times" web site (see link bellow).


Roanoke Times
Muslim Students Association of Virginia Tech (with info on donations for Shaalan):
Other link:
Link for t-shirts remembering Samaha:
An article about Samatha is also available in today's (4/22) Washington Post:

My Respective Alma Maters Remember Victims

Both my undergraduate alma mater, Radford University, a school that is only 20 miles from the Virginia Tech campus, and Hollins University in Roanoke paid homage to those who needlessly lost their lives on Monday.
Many Radford U students ventured to Blacksburg for the various ceremonies on the Virginia Tech campus.
According to the RU web site, Kathryn Fulks, a sophomore from Stuarts Draft in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, attended the vigils with two of her cousins who go to Tech. One of her cousins lives in West Ambler Johnston Hall where the first shooting that claimed two lives occured. She talked about her concerns:
"It's unreal and it's unbelievable what happened," Fulks said. "We need to keep VT in our prayers and be thankful for our family and friends."
Fulks' friend Ashley McCray from Roanoke also attended the ceremonies:
"Most people from RU know someone from Tech, and vice versa," McCray said. "We're like brother and sister campuses."
The RU Choral performed "Carmine Burina" at Preston Hall with a special hymn for the victims. All 350 people in attendance joined them in the singing of the hymn.
At Hollins, a memorial service was held at duPont Chapel on Tuesday, and the HU dance department sponsored a silent walk for the victims.
There was good news on the HU campus this week in spite of the tragedy. Natasha Trethewey, a Hollins alum who now teaches at Emory University in Atlanta, won a Pulitzer Prize for her poetry collection "Native Ward."




Politicians and Celebrities Talk About Va. Tech

There was a letter-to-the-editor in "The Roanoke Times" from a reader in Moneta who said that political candidates were strangely silent with regards to the tragic events at Tech. But, when I got an email announcing that former NC Sen. John Edwards (D) was cancelling a fundraiser with bluegrass legend Ralph Edwards on Thursday, I realized that was not the case. In his statements, Edwards, who lost his teenage to a car accident, said: "Our dearest wish is that  this day could start could start again with the promise of these young people alive. Knowing that can not be, our prayer is that for God's grace to give whatever measure of peace can be reached on this terrible day."
On her official campaign web site, Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) said: "I am shocked and saddened by this horrific tragedy at Virginia Tech." She added that as a parent she felt for the parents who lost their loved ones on Monday.
Sen. Barack Obama (D-Il) said on his campaign site: "Today, we are a grieving and shocked nation. Violence has once again taken too many young people from this world."
Though I am a partisan Democrat, I want to that aside for this quote about the killings from Sen. John McCain (R-Az), a man who I admire in spite of political differences. In his comments posted on his Seante web site, McCain said: "This inconceivable tragedy was a horriffic act of cruelty that took the lives of so many innocent young people."
But, the best quote of the day, came from Jay Leno who has made a living poking fun of presidential candidates and our president, Dick Cheney:) In the opening of his monologue on Monday, an unusually serious Leno said: "We'll do some jokes, but we don't want to forget what happened on this day."

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Vigil at BYU, Va. Tech on Minds of Columbine Parents

Newspapers from across the nation are writing local stories in connection to the tragic shooting at Virginia Tech which claimed 32 lives.
"The Austin Statesman" is reporting that local Korean residents are coping with the after-effects of having a person of their heritage committing this heinous crime. It is unfortunate that people have already forgotten that one of the victims, Mary Karen Read, 19, of Anandale, Va., was of Korean heritage.
"The Deseret News" out of Salt Lake City is reporting that hundreds gathered for a vigil at Brigham Young University. Kaye Nelson reported that Marisa Kelly, a BYU junior from Woodbridge, Va., organized the event:
"I was devastated when I heard what happened," Kelly said. "I found out a friend of mine was killed and I felt like we weren't paying enough attention to them."
Another vigil was held at the University of Utah, according to the paper.
And, "The Rocky Mountain News" out of Denver reported that Virginia Tech was on the minds of Columbine High School survivors who held a ceremony recognizing the eighth anniversary of the tragedy that claimed 13 lives in Littleton, Co.
Charley Able reported that there was a somber mood at the ceremony. One resident summed up the connection between the two tragedies eloquently:
"Especially this year, this is very important because of what happened at Virginia Tech," said Todd Ponton of Aurora, Co. "School violence is still an important issue in this country and around the world."
"The Roanoke Times" reported that there were a surprising number of absences in the class taught by Liviu Librescu, the 76-year-old Holocaust survivor, who was killed by the campus shooter. In a class of 25, only 16 attended Monday. The weather was unusually cold in Blacksburg, which many believe contributed to the low attendance figure which helped save some lives.
I made an error in an earlier entry regarding shooting victim Reema Samaha, a Lebanese-American wtih an interest in dance who won a critic's choice award for her performance in a high school production of "Fiddler in the Roof." I said her age was 19. She was actually just 18.

Useful links:




The "OldBoy" Argument Regarding Va. Tech Murders

Whenever some awful event of a violent nature occurs, it seems like a movie is blamed. My liberal side (the more dominant side) feels like this is a tired cliche since Charles Manson was influnced by The Beatles' "White Album" and (ironically) the man who killed John Lennon read J.D. Salinger's "A Catcher in the Rye" countless times. But, police in Minnesota did find a dvd of Gus van Sant's brilliant, but very disturbing film "Elephant," a fictional recreation of Columbine, when searching the home of a teenager who effectively copied that same heinous crime in his own school.
Now, there are questions about the Korean film "OldBoy," a cutting edge film by director Park Chawook which won the Grand Prix Prize at the 2004 Cannes Film Festival.
Stephen Hunter of "The Washington Post" said in a widely publicized article that there are some striking similarities between the title character Dae Su in "OldBoy," a film which I have seen, and the campus shooter
Hunter said a narcissist with a pesecution complex would identify with the film's plot. The title character is simply snatched off the streets and he is made to endure 20 years in a cell without an explanation. When he comes out, he seeks revenge. He goes to perform great spurts of violence exerted by a hammer.
The pose that the campus killer made with a hammer in a video manisfesto, which Roanoke's NBC affiliate Channel 10 refused to air, has been used as 'exhibit A' in this argument.
But, Hunter goes on to say that the influence of the film can be disputed because "OldBoy" is not a gun picture, and it is in many ways as much of an art film as an action movie as the violence in the film, though frequent, is never glamorous.
Hunter also mentioned the possible influence of Hong Kong action films, like "The Killer" on the demented individual who claimed 32 lives.
There has been much criticism of Hunter's piece among movie bloggers. Phil Nugent, who posts entries, on my friend Bilge Ebiri's movie blog, said Hunter's article was just another effort by the media to pointlessly say that movies are to blame for America's social ills.
A blogger for "The New York Times" added similar frustrations: "Hunter is a self-professed gun nut and a Woo fan himself, so he is not ignorant," but the blogger added that the movie ciritic of the "Post" had still laid out a hollow argument.
I think one observation that I did not find on the web is the question as to why no one in South Korea, where many more people have seen the film, has done anything as awful as what the campus shooter did in Blacksburg on Monday. Similarly, many of our violent films are shown overseas, but nothing of this magnitude ever occurs in Europe, Asia or elsewhere. Still, those of us from southwest Virginia want to try to objectively figure out why this happened as virtually all of us have been profoundly affected by it. But, in a society as divided as our's that is obviously not going to be easy for any of us.


I am planning four more blog entries regarding the shootings. Among my hopes are to post stories about a vigil at BYU, the role my alma mater Radford University, the closest school to Virginia Tech, has played in comforting those in Blacksburg, and why I was not pleased to see the Rev. Franklin Graham coming to campus in the aftermath of 4/16/07. There are many other things I want to discuss, including Cindy Sheehan's visit to Greensboro today, but when an airplane lands in your backyard it is simply impossible to ignore it.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Moving Tributes to Va. Tech Shooting Victims

Though of all us who have been either directly or indirectly affected by the Virginia Tech tragedy feel very tired from the long week of endless news coverage over one of the most senseless, shocking acts of violence in American history, there are some uplifting things that none of us want to look past.

The Virginia Tech homepage has designed a memorial to all 32 shooting victims. I found a smaller tribute to Reema Samaha, a Lebanese-American who lost her life at the tender age of 19. The freshman, who ironically went to the same high school as the shooter, was a member of a modern dance club and she had just performed a belly dance at the international street fair that I have been to in years past.

Here is the link to Samaha's memorial:


The Virginia Tech web page is:


Thursday, April 19, 2007

My Friend Ilhan Tuzcu, a Va. Tech Alum, Interviewed

My good friend Ilhan Tuzcu, a professor at the University of Alabama, spoke to local media about Dr. Liviu Librescu, who was Ilhan's advisor. Librescu, a Holocaust survivor, was one of the 32 people who lost their lives as a result of the Virginia Tech slayings at Norris Hall. Ilhan also knew Kevin Granata, 45, a biochemical engineering specialist who was also killed. Tuzcu, who is originally from the city of Mus in eastern Turkey, studied and worked at Virginia Tech for seven years. He moved to Tuscaloosa in 2004.

Ilhan was interviewed by both "The Tuscaloosa News" and a local tv-station. His television interview conducted shortly after a vigil for those who died on the University of Alabama campus, is also available for downloading on the internet.

In his comments, published in "The Tuscaloosa News," Ilhan said that he wasn't surprised to hear that Librescu gave his life helping several students survive.

"It was so typical of him," Ilhan said. "He was such a wonderful and good person--- not just a scientist----but as a person. We were like friends."

Ilhan told reporter Lydia Seabol Avant that he initially thought Librescu would not be among the casualties because he was not a morning person and his office was on the third floor, but that sadly proved not to be the case. Librescu, 76, was originally from Romania.

Ilhan also talked about Granata:

"His death is a great loss for the engineering and science community and the whole nation," Ilhan stated.

The article, published on Wednesday, is available on the web-site for "The Tuscaloosa News." Just type in Tuzcu, Ilhan in the search engine.


His tv interview can be seen at:


For more coverage on the tragedy, if you are not as burned out from it as I am, I highly suggest the local coverage from "The Roanoke Times." As a former reporter myself, I can not speak highly enough of their efforts.



Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Voices From Around the World about Va. Tech

The BBC has opened a forum for people from all over the world regarding the horrific shooting at Virginia Tech on Monday. The shattering incident has claimed 32 lives. About 17others  remain in hospitals in Christiansburg, Radford and Roanoke. According to Channel 7, the CBS affiliate in Roanoke, Gov. Tim Kaine visited several wounded students at Montgomery Regional Hospital.

It is not my intention to make this awful tragedy a political thing. I am distancing myself from even those I agree with because it seems absolutely inappropriate. Though news that one of the victims, a French teacher from Canada, was an anti-gun activist will perhaps fittingly turn public sympathy against the NRA and their radical agenda though I would personally prefer these talks to commence once other news takes the place of this story on the front page.

The comments from the BBC reflect public sentiment about the gun-rights debate.

Canadian Pamela (no last name given) said: "In the future when the kids ask the teacher why there are metal detectors on all the entrance to public buildings, she can unreservedly say it's all part of up-holding constiutional rights and representative of government."

Peter Noordijk of Portland, Or, told the BBC that: "I think the shooter's nationality is being mentioned because it violates stereotypes. All, or at least most recent mass school shootings in the US have been by caucasian American boys. If this was a girl, they'd be talking about that. We also believe that WE have a violent gun culture, so it is surprising to us that he was riased in a Korean household."

Clara from London said: "I feel awful for all those involved in and affected by this tragedy. But how many more people must die in shootings like this before there can be a real debate in the US on the issue of gun control? There will always be mentally unstable people out there. Limit their access to guns for god's sake!


Tuesday, April 17, 2007

One of the Shooting Victims was Henry Lee of Roanoke

"The Roanoke Times" has just reported that one of the victims in yesterday's shooting massacre at Virginia Tech was Henh Ly, who went by Henry Lee. The son of Vietnamese immigrants was a 20-year-old freshman. He just graduated from William Fleming High School in Roanoke, where he was salutorian, last year.

Though I am no longer a newspaper reporter, I have to commend the staff of "The Roanoke Times" and other newspapers for their dedication to this story. I know  that reporters Todd Jackson and Ralph Berrier Jr., both of whom have written consistent, outstanding stories, have done a remarkable job with this delicate story. The photographers have to be praised as well.

I got my start in journalism at "The News-Messenger," a small bi-weekly paper out of nearby Christiansburg. Virginia Tech was one of my beats. One of the people I met was Nikki Giovanni, the legendary poet who is also a professor at Tech. She was one of the speakers for the memorial service today.

The Eyes of the World on Virginia Tech

I debated about posting an entry regarding yesterday's shooting at Virginia Tech, which killed 32 people (not counting the shooter), simply because it literally hits way to close to home.

My sister is an alum of the school, and took classes at Norris Hall, where the majority of the casualties were. A close friend of mine worked in the building for several years.

I have to give a hearty kudos to Virginia Tech's student-run newspaper "The Collegiate Times." They have been exceptional, diligent and professional in their coverage. They have managed to take their emotions out of their coverage and explain in the best possible way about what happened on the Blacksburg campus. As a former journalist and someone who once worked at "The Tartan" (school newspaper at nearby Radford University), I fully appreciate their efforts at every level.

The news has as many would expect made headlines around the world. I saw that the story made headlines in Saudi Arabia, The United Arab Emirates, Greece, Taiwan, Turkey and Tunisia. The lead story in the Saudi Arabian newspaper "Al Hayat" shows the now-famous AP picture of police officers getting out of their patrol car with their guns cocked.

"The Collegiate Times" is reporting that the shooter was an English major who was taking a playwrighting class. As someone involved with a playwrighting group, I find this very disturbing. Students told the college newspaper that many of the shooter's play had violent sequences, including ones involving chainsaws and several bloody murders.

"The Roanoke Times" reported that one of the guns used for the shooting was purchased at a Roanoke gunshop called Roanoke Firearms. The shooter passed all background checks.

"The Korean Times," an English-language newspaper out of South Korea, placed an emphasis on the fact that the shooter was from their country. The BBC has featured several eye-witness accounts on their site. "The Washington Post" reported that one of the victims, a freshman from Rappahannock County (one of the few rural parts of northern Virginia) did not know the shooter, who was an English major, at all. The newspaper also said the shooter graduated from a high school in Fairfax.

I personally emailed "Zaman" newspaper in Turkey, and "The Gulf Times" in Dubai, UAE, regarding my feelings on the tragedy. I was just in Blacksburg six weeks ago to watch the film "Pan's Labyrinth" at the Lyric Theatre. It is quite possible that I saw the shooter and/or the victims either there or at Bollo's Coffee shop downtown.

The international community at Virginia Tech had just held a Street Fair, which was moved indoors due to inclement weather, the day before. I have received several emails from the Turkish Student Association at Virginia Tech. As of yet, no Turkish students appear to be among the casualties, but there are many Turkish students at Virginia Tech who are engineering majors.

One of the known victims is from Roanoke, my hometown

Useful links:







Monday, April 16, 2007

Dead Poets Society. Entry 3. Rumi.........

With the somber news out of my sister's alma mater Virginia Tech today, it seems appropriate to go back to the 13th century for today's 'dead poets' entry. Rumi, who is known as Mevlana in my late father's native Turkey (Rumi lived in what is now modern day Konya, Turkey), is adored by an unlikely alliance of Islamic fundamentalists and new agers. The poem "Silkworms" which will be discussed here was translated by Coleman Barks.


The hurt you embrace becomes joy.

Call it to your arms where it can

change. A silkworm eating leaves

makes a cocoon. Each of us weaves

a chamber of leaves and sticks.

Silkworms begin to truly exist

as they disappear inside that room.

Without legs, we fly. When I stop

speaking, this poem will close,

and open its silent wings............



Thursday, April 12, 2007

Mvie Brfs 2- RiverRunFest, Henry Rollins, & Jim Jones doc

North Carolina hosts another interesting film festival next weekend as the River Run Intl. Film Festival gets underway in Winston-Salem, a town I seldom seem to visit perhaps because Greensboro is 12 miles closer and with the price of gas these days......

Greensboro will actually be a host venue for River Run for the first time this year as the documentary "Greensboro: Closer to the Truth," which also screens at the Full Frame fest, will be shown on Apr. 19 at 7 p.m. at the Carolina Theatre in downtown Greensboro. The film, from documentarian Adam Zucker, profiles the infamous Nov. 3, 1979 incident in which five members of the Communist Workers Party were captured on camera as they were gunned down by members of the KKK during an anti-Klan rally in Greensboro. In his film, Zucker profiles the efforts of local citizens to get to the heart of what happened on that fateful day.

There are a number of interesting films which will be screened at the main venues in Winston-Salem. These include the Bulgarian film "Mila from Mars" about a young woman who ends up in a Bulgarian village to escape from her abusive boyfriend only to land in the company of eccentric old folks who indulge in marijuana!

Another Eastern European film of interest at River Run will be "Ode to Joy" about the new 'Polish diaspora.' The fictional film chronicles the lives of Polish ex-pats who live in European cities like London and find that paradise is an utopian entity regardless of where one is. The film brings to mind the brilliant Swedish film "Lilya Forever" which chronicled a Russian woman who turns to prostitution in Stockholm.

And, for those with very little time (well, I suppose that is most of us) the festival offers the latest film from master cult animator Bill Plympton, "Guide Dog," which clocks in at six minutes.

For those who missed it, PBS aired an exceptional documentary about the late Rev. Jim Jones, a maniac who became a mass-murderer. In the liberal magazine "Mother Jones," a publication I might slightly differ if Dick Cheney wasn't our 'president,' critic Elizabeht Gettelman calls Stanley Nelson's film a monumental achievement. Gettelman compliments the film for being able to capture the little things about Jones, including his 24-hour loudspeaker intercom system which could be heard throughout the jungles of Guyana. One really feels for the 909 people who died in Jonestown, and the accounts of the survivors are both startling and heart-breaking. In today's America, where evangelcials are gaining more political traction and power, the events of 1978 seem more relevant than ever.

Lastly, the second season of "The Henry Rollins Show," which is perhaps the first movie show hosted by a punk rocker, airs at 11 p.m. tonight on IFC. Rollins is also known for being a part-time actor and filmmaker. Alas, I'm not a big fan of his music!

Useful links:







Movie Briefs 1- Full Frame, "Climates" and "The Hoax"

North Carolina will be hosting the largest documentary film festivals over the weekend as the FullFrame Film Festival starts today. Granted, more docs are available to mainstream audiences than ever thanks to NetFlix, IFC and The Sundance Channel, but there should be some films there which will not be widely available at a later juncture. Though I don't plan to go the fest in Durham, I thought I would mention a few of the films that will screen there. They include "Banished" from director Marco Williams. The doc, which was the subject of today's "State of Things" (North Carolina public radio program), is about how racism in the American South never seems to fully disappear. Another film "The Dentist from New Jersey" profiles an average Joe who took over 1,000 photographs of the World Trade Center. And, "For the Bible Tells Me So," which my friend Judy Ayyildiz saw at this year's Sundance Film Festival will be shown in Durham. The doc profiles the reasons for the polarizing views regarding homosexuality in the Christian religion. Among those interview was (yikes!) the Rev. James Dobson. Full Frame will also pay homage to North Carolina filmmaker Ross McElwee whose film "Bright Leaf," along with the fiction film "Junebug" capture the zany interacies of the Tar Heel State.

In other news, the Galaxy Cinema in Cary, NC (Raleigh) starts Nuri Bilge Ceylan's Turkish film "Climates" on Friday. I actually requested the film when I was there several months ago. The Galaxy Cinema is also unique for its offerings of Bollywood musicals.

And, the Grandin Theatre in Roanoke will add "The Hoax" to its great lineup. The film about Clifford Irving, a man who pretended to know Howard Hughes stars Richard Gere and is helmed by Lasse Hallstorm of "The Cider House Rules" fame.






Wednesday, April 11, 2007

"The Namesake" is a Must-See Film

While I was back home in Roanoke, Va., over the weekend, I had the chance to see the latest film from Mira Nair, a director who has made solid films both here ("Mississippi Masala") and in India ("Saalam Bombay"). She has also directed "Monsoon Wedding." Many of us devout cinephiles are in the opinion that "The Namesake" may be her best film yet.

It is a moving, well-acted film which spans decades and nations. Every character plays and every scene and even every image plays a key role in developing the multi-layered story. Nair also manages to balance a films with two povs........

She dedicated the film to India's master filmmaker, the late Satjayit Ray ("The World of Apu"). There is no doubt in my mind that if he were alive today, he would be proud of Nair and this remarkable film.

As a Turkish-American, I could definitely identify with the film's central statement about finding balance between where you physically live and where your heritage lies. But, it is a film that everyone can identify with.

Ironically, I saw the film as a second choice since the start time of another film at the Grandin, the Oscar-winning "The Lives of Others" did not coincide with my schedule. I understand that film is excellent as well, but "The Namesake" is certainly destined to be regarded as one of the best films of 2007.

It is also showing at another one of my favorite movie theatres, the Galaxy Cinema in Cary, NC (Raleigh).







Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Tony Soprano in Mayberry..........on Youtube

Well, my place of residency Reidsville, NC, was not actually the basis for "The Andy Griffith Show." That distinction belongs to Griffith's hometown of Mount Airy, NC, due north of Winston-Salem near the Virginia border. But, there is a Mayberry's Cafe in Reidsville. Over the Easter weekend, they had a sign that said: "The tomb is empty." Welcome to North Carolina.

But, the town is ironically the setting of a pretty funny satire of the famous opening sequence to the hit HBO series (pardon the pun) "The Sopranos." The video is actually the opening for a rather silly local talk show called "Political Soup," which airs on a small tv-station called Star-TV.

In the video, Richard Moore the host of "Political Soup" doubles for James Gandolfini (Tony Soprano)and he  is seen chomping a cigar as he drives by various local landmarks, including the Confederate Monument in downtown Reidsville, the Short Sugar's Drive-In and Hayne's Barber Shop, which is never open. The juxtaposition is similar to the ones of the New Jersey Turnpike on "The Sopranos."

The footage was directed by Christopher Knight who somehow got national attention for his ads which parodied "Star Wars" as he was running for a seat on the Rockingham County School Board. Amazingly enough, so did Moore. Both lost. But, one of the winners is actually more extreme than either of them!

I love the fact that lifted the actual title song from "The Sopranos," which could get him in a lawsuit if someone from HBO decdided to take this matter seriously (and, yes things like that have actually happened!- just ask a nursing home which showed some Tom Hanks movie without Paramont's approval).

To see this surreal footage, go to:


and type "Reidsville, NC, Sopranos" in the search engine.

Though the footage is lackluster in terms of production value, it is a 'hoot.'

Monday, April 9, 2007

New Children's Book from Sam Riddleberger?

I was expecting that a new children's book would be coming out from one Tom Angleberger of Christiansburg, Va. But, in all actuality that book "The Qwikpick Adventure Society" is being penned by Sam Riddleberger? As it turns out, Riddlebereger is Angleberger. Hopefully, the book will be less confusing for the kids!

Tom/Sam is a good friend of mine. He also writes a weekly column for "The Roanoke Times" which appears in both print and online form on Fridays. Tom's wife Cece Bell has written many "Sock Monkey" children's book under her actual name.

I suppose if/when I become a writer I could write under a pen name too. I have several which come to mind. Agop Haznovarian would have to my top choice. And, my second choice would have to be Zorba Mitsotakis..........of course, those of you who know I am half-Turkish might actually get that joke!

There will be a book signing at Ram's Head Bookstore in Roanoke on May 12.

I was asking myself who I could get this book for since I don't have kids myself. My mother suggested by cousin Mike Dawkins' son Nicholas. I hope to be there for Tom, but I am wondering which name he'll use for his autograph!

For more info on Tom/Sam's book:


For more info on Cece Bell:


Tom's column can be found on Fridays at:





Sunday, April 8, 2007

Dead Poets Society Entry #2- e.e. cummings

One of my favorite dead poets is e.e. cummings (1894-1962) who wrote poems for both adults and children. I actually used this one in a class of mine at Danville Community College at the start of the semester. It is entitled "Buffalo Bill's," and was written in 1923.

Buffalo Bill's

Buffalo Bill's
          who used to
          ride a watersmooth- silver
and break onetwothreefourfive pigeonsjustlikethat
he was a handsome man
                                      and what i want to know is
how do you like your blueeyed boy
Mister Death

Saturday, April 7, 2007

Unique Plays at Hollins U and in Greensboro, NC

Since my blog has been bogged down with some dated entries, such as the one about my cousin Miks Dawkins' alma mater Winthrop University advancing in the NCAA tourney, I thought I would add three new entries tonight.

I will conclude with the following info about two theatrical productions in Roanoke, Va, my hometown and Greensboro, NC, where I seem to be spending a lot of time these days.

At Hollins University in Roanoke, ironically one of my three alma maters (it is an all-girls school at the undergrad level for those of you outside the RV area), there will be a production of Stephen Sondheim and James Lepine's Tony-Award winning musical "Into the Woods." The production will be directed by Ernest Zulia, who has put together some solid productions at the school. The story is a a compilation of stories from fractured fairy tale characters, Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, and Rapunzel. The show runs from April 11-13 at 7:30 p.m. and from Apr. 14-15 at 2 p.m. The ticket is free for members of the Hollins community and $7 for the public. More info: 540-362-6517

The community theatre group Livestock Players in Greensboro, NC, is performing William Shakespeare's "Taming of the Shrew," which many theatre-goers know is also the basis for the musical "Kiss Me, Kate," will be performed at  the City  Studio Arts Studio  on  Davies  Street in downtown Greensboro. The show  is performed  from Apr. 20-21 and Apr. 26-29 at 8 pm, with Sunday shows being at 2 pm. I can not confirm this but I think Stephen Hyers, who I know from the GSO Playwrighting Group, might very well be directing the show. Hyers last directed the musical "A Secret Garden" for the LiveStock Players last year. More info at 336-335-6426

Istanbul Film Festival is underway

I just had a chance to listen to an excellent broadcast of the BBC radio series "On Screen," which looks at the world of international cinema. The broadcast had a well-produced segment on the Istanbul Film Festival, which also examined the increased attention to Turkish cinema both in Turkey and internationally. The segment featured an interview with Turkish film director/producer Mustafa Altioklar, best known for his film "Istanbul Beneath My Wings." The report by Dorian Jones also focused on "Takva," the latest Turkish film to win worldwide acclaim. "Takva," directed by Ozer Kiziltan, deals with a Muslim who questions his relationship with god. The film stars three of Turkey's most accomplished actors, Erkan Can ("Vizontele"), Guven Kiric (Fatih Akin's "Head-On") and Feridun Koc, who also appears in Nuri Bilge Ceylan's "Climates," another Turkish film that has captured critical acclaim overseas. There are 31 Turkish films at the festival. The opening film of the festival was the latest offering from Turkey's first openly gay film director Ferzan Ozpetek, who has-perhaps for obvious reasons- chosen to work mostly out of Italy. I once dubbed Ozpetek to be the "Turkish Pedro Almodovar," and anyone who has seen his startling films would probably understand why. Jones' report also talked how the Turkish film industry was making a domestic comeback. During the 1970s, when stars like Cuneyt Arkin (The Turkish Chuck Norris) and beloved comic actor Kemal Sunal, who died unexpectedly several years ago, reigned over the Turkish box office the inudustry saw to the production of some 300-plus films of the year. The era also saw the emergence of Turkey's most regarded filmmaker Yilmaz Guney, who remains a politically controversial 23 years after his rather early death. Guney ironically got his start in the same bravado action films which made Arkin, also one of Turkey's most politically conservative actors, a star. In fact, in at least one instance, they appeared in the same film together!

To hear the latest episode of "On Screen," which also includes a remarkable interview with Indian director Mira Nair, who discussed her latest film "The Namesake," you can go to the following link:


Turkish Food Celebration in NC

I am pleased to announce that the Divan Cultural Center in Cary, NC (Raleigh), will be hosting the second annual Turkish food Festival at their facility on 1393 Maynard Road
Cary, NC, 27511. The feast takes place between 1-5 pm on Sun., April 15.
The event which will assuredly be partially organinzed by my friends Volkan Ozdemir and Onur Kabul who volunteer with Divan will include gyros, kabobs, pitas, dolmas, borek and baklava. There will also be Turkish music and folk dances in addition to acitivies for the cocuklar (children).

For more info:
email: info@divannc.org
phone: 919-386-3464

Friday, April 6, 2007

Anti-Death Penalty Letter of Interest

I saw a great letter to the editor in the Greensboro alternative weekly "Yes Weekly!"

The letter was written by local resident Chuck Mann, and it appeared in the March 14 issue.
I found it refreshing because it comes from a religious person. Though I am not one myself, I find that this sensitive issue, which was hotly debated in the Virginia General Assmebly just this week, does unite those of us who may come at the same moral truth from different perspectives.

Here it is in its entirety, with some minor edits:

Now is a good time for our state to abolish the death penalty.
I would like your newspaper to endorse this idea. Unfortunately many Christians, for some reason, support executions. I wish they would practice what Jesus preached.
Jesus believed in peace, love and forgiveness. Who would Jesus execute?
Would He support shooting, hanging, electrocuting or injecting someone with poison? Of course not.
Hitler on the right and Stalin on the left supported torture and executions. I don't. If you are on my side, then let's try to eliminate the death penalty in our state (NC).

Chuck Mann



For more information on various state (NC and Va) and national organizations which oppose capital punishment email me at

I strongly differ with some activists in that I don't think those of us who oppose this backwards, Orwellian practice which does absolutely nothing to prevent homicides should contact inmates on death row except for members of the clergy, like Sister Helen Prejean. It is simply politically awkward, and it is not condusive towards showing sympathy with family members of homicide victims.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Bush Doesn't "Have Time" for Baseball

It appears the 'acting president' of our country, George W. Bush (the real el presidente is of course Dick Cheney) decided not to throw out the first pitch for the Washington Nationals' home opener against the Florida Marlins earlier this week. The former CEO of the Texas Rangers ( in hind sight, one has to wonder what would have happened if they had won the A.L. pennant, but Bush in his infinite wisdom traded Sammy Sosa to the Chicago Cubs) was apparently to busy preparing a speech about how mad he is at the Democrats for wanting to get this country out of the mess in Iraq. He was also preparing to dump on Cong. Nancy Pelosi for visiting Damascus, Syria, which three Republican Congressmen including my good friend (and, I mean that in all seriousness) Cong. Frank Wolf visited just three days earlier.

Bush spokesperson Emily Lawrimore told the "Washington Post" that Bush couldn't throw out the first pitch because: "It's not possible with his schedule."

When asked by the Post, if the real reason why Bush couldn't be at the Nationals' game was actually because he feared that he would be bamboozled with boos, Lawrimore said: "No, certainly not."

The real president, Mr. Cheney, was in Alabama at a fundrasier where he blasted Congressional Democrats for wanting to back out of the war effort. I guess there is always a one in a zillion chance that our troops will be greeted with Kit Kat bars in Kirkuk.

As for the Nationals, there were stomped by the Marlins. The finals score of the game was 7-2.  Only two presidents have skipped the traditional Opening Day pitch. They were Woodrow Wilson and my all-time favorite GOP president, Richard M. Nixon.




Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Dead Poet's Society_ Entry 1

I have decided since April is rumored to be poetry month that I would devout at least a few entries to great poets who are no longer with us. There are many great poets who are still with us, of course, including Nikki Giovanni (who also teaches at Va. Tech), Ted Kooser, and Charles Bukowski (that's a joke- he died circa 1995, though many of his 'new poems' keep propping up). I actually have several friends who are poets, including Mike Allen of Roanoke, Kamal Ayyildiz of New York and his mother Judy of Roanoke, and Bruce Piephoff, of Greensboro, who is also a folk singer (see earlier entries). And, one of my students at Danville Community College in Va. (I live across the border in Reidsville, N.C.), Connie McNear is going to be in a local publication there. I have attempted poetry several times, but hmmmm.....I'm slightly better at plays..........at least I hope so, or else I'm wasting my time. I would gladly put up a poem by one of friends or Charles Bukowski, but there is always a slim chance that they could sue me.

The poetry of the late, great Edgar Allan Poe is in the public domain though.

A few years ago, I picked up a $2 book of Poe's poetry at the Poe Museum in Richmond. I am going to choose his poem, simply entitled "To_" because it is very, very short.

Here it is:


I heed not that my eartly lot

Hath little of Earth in it,

That years of love have been forgot

In the hatred of a minute:

I mourn not the desolate

Are happier, sweet, than I,

But that you sorrow for my fate

Who am a passer-by


I believe, correct me if I'm wrong, that the Poe Museum can be found on the web at:


There is also a Poe Museum in Baltimore!

Monday, April 2, 2007

NC Actor R. Keith Harris is Making a Name for Himself.

The current edition of "Go Triad," a weekly supplement to "The News-Record" has published an article about North Carolina actor R. Keith Harris, who still lives in the state despite the lure of Hollywood. Harris is originally from Reidsville, NC, where I now reside. Harris, at least, realized more things were going on in nearby Greensboro and he did head south down Rte. 29. He has appeared in "Big Fish" and the critically acclaimed independent film "Junebug," which was filmed around Winston-Salem, NC. He has also appeared in the films, "Fall Down Dead," with a Turkish actor I've actually never heard of (Mehmet Gunsur). It was also filmed in 'camel city.' And, speaking of 'camel city' (W-Salem), Harris also starred in a low-budget comedy called "Chicks 101" which was filmed there. "Chicks 101" was written and directed by fellow Hollins slum Lovinder Gill. The film is coming out on DVD later this year. Harris co-produced the film as well. In the article, Harris said a lot was going on in NC as far as film is concerned: "North Carolina is more than a back lot for Hollywood," Harris said. "The infrastructure for doing major motion pictures is here. The incentives have definitely helped, but what we lack most of all is investors." I can assure him that my friend Bilge Ebiri, who wrote and directed the independent film "New Guy" would probably agree with that sentiment!

The article about Harris was written by Winston-Salem film enthuiast Mark Burger.

I will update this blog when "Chicks 101" is released on DVD. It is listed in the IMDB.