Friday, June 29, 2007

Marilyn Manson is Back?!

Greetings from Charlotte.........5 o'clock traffic here is a $%#@ nightmare!!!!

Bowling for Soup is in town, but that's not where I'm at............

I picked up a copy of the local al weekly "Creative Loafing" while I was downtown today and the current issue has a blurb about Marilyn Manson's first record in four years.

"Eat Me, Drink Me" was released on June 5, and according to Loafing's Jeff Hahne, the glam, shock rocker's latest effort is better than his last record but it is apparently not quite up to par with "Dark Side of the Moon" or "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band."

Hahne goes on to say that: "Lyrics about vampires and lost/new love dominate an album that's much more mellow than previous efforts."

The rock critic adds that he misses the old Manson who freaked people out with his 1996 release "Antichrist Superstar."

Needless to say Manson is one of these people, along with over-the-top film director James Cameron Mitchell (take my advice and DON'T put "Shortbus" on your Netflix que) who brings out my inner Sam Brownback.........

While in Charlotte, I stopped at a Starbucks. I noticed that Paul McCartney's much-hyped new only-available-at-Starbucks cd was indeed available there.........I think I'd prefer to shell out $18.95 for "Eat Me, Drink Me."




Thursday, June 28, 2007

Cong. Frank Wolf (R-Va) Blasts Chinese Businessmen

It may surprise some of you to know that one of the members of the U.S. Congress that I have the highest regards for is none other than Cong. Frank Wolf (R-Va.)

I am a Democrat.

I met Wolf while working at "The Shenandoah Valley-Herald" in Woodstock, Va., in 1999. I covered many stories regarding both his visits to Shenandoah County, which is now represented by Cong. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va) as a result of redistricting, and his frequent travels to Africa to promote human rights. His most stirring efforts were trips he took to Sierra Leone and The Sudan, which is now undergoing the Darfur Genocide crisis.

Wolf's efforts have caused some friction however.

In last week's edition of "The Sleuth," a "Washington Post" political column by Mary Ann Akers, it was disclosed that Wolf let members of a Chinese-American business delegation 'have it.'

The group had scheduled a conference with Wolf in his Capitol Hill office. While there, the men were confronted by Wolf with a video of human rights abuses that had occured in China.

The video showed Chinese police officers executing prisoners, and then harvesting their organs.

Wolf sent a letter to Condoleeza Rice in April listing a number of alleged horrors in both countries. The 10th District Congressman has also been an active advocate for stopping human rights abuses in Vietnam.

According to a more recent article in "The Post," journalists and religious group members are also jailed in Vietnam. The topic lead to a milder confrontation between George W. Bush and Vietnamese President Nguyen Minh Triet when the later came to Washington, D.C., recently.

In other news, another Republican friend of mine Gary Frink, of Luray, Va., has a cameo in the new blockbuster "Evan Almighty," which is strangely being promoted by evangelist groups even though the film has a central environmental message in its theme!

Frink ran for Congress on at least two occasions while he was in Michigan. His first effort was as a Democrat, and his second as a Republican.

Frink made his feature film debut in the political comedy "The Contender" (2000) as ...........a member of Congress. Ironically, he is also playing a Congressman in "Evan Almighty" and a bird (which is really a special effect) flies over his head. "Evan," which was partially filmed in Charlottesville, Va., also marks the second time that Frink hashad a cameo in a movie with Morgan Freeman as he was also in the thriller "Along Comes a Spider" (2000).

I recalled that Frink was on a web site that was called "Politcal Graveyard." That particular web site dealt with politicians of the past and what had happened to them. I found a site (which I will provide a link for below) that was also called "The Political Graveyard," but it actually lists the burial sites of dead politicians. Frink is thankfully still alive and well.

However, I imagine my uncle Eric Robinson of Tallahassee, Fla., who actually enjoys visiting old graveyards as a hobby might take an interest in the later site.

We actually spent an entire afternoon in Georgetown, SC, watching Eric take in his hobby. I think each of us would have rather spent it at the beach, even though we visited that coastal town in mid-December.

Useful links:

There is an earlier entry on Frink in the archives edition of this blog, which detailed his travels to over 100 countries. I think I've been to 20 or so. I'm not sure of the exact number because we visited Yugoslavia when I was a kid. It was one country back then................oh well!


Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Turkan Soray, Queen of Turkish Cinema, Turns 62

A while back while browsing the IMDB, I discovered that Turkan Soray was having a birthday soon. On Thursday, she will turn 62. Soray made an impressive transition from romantic melodrama leads to substantial serious films with political themes.

My three personal favorite Soray films are "Hayatim Sana Feda/Feda, My Love" (1970), "Hazal" (1979)_ directed by famed Turkish director Ali Ozgenturk, and "On Kadin/Ten Women" (1987)_directed by another internationally recognized filmmaker Serif Goren. The last two mentioned are both feminist films!

She co-starred in many films with Cuneyt Arkin, the subject of my last entry, and Kadir Inanir, who would have made a great soap actor had he lived in New York instead of Istanbul.

Soray has appeared in close to 200 films, some of which were in all likelihood filmed simultaneously. She began acting at age 15 in 1960 with the film "Ask Ruzgari/The Wind of Love," and she was a household name in Turkey by the mid-1960s.

According to wikipedia, Soray gave very strict rules to directors and producers who wnated to work with her. The "Soray Rules" included her prior approval of the script, her refusal to film outside the city of Istanbul and her refusal to work on Sundays.

Soray appears in films less often today. Alas, none of her films have been released in the USA, though many are available through the Brooklyn-based Turkish outlet Tulumba.

I should add that Soray is still gorgeous........


Saturday, June 23, 2007

A Very Funny Story Involving a One-Dollar Bill

On Thursday, I had a job interview in Yanceyville, NC, which is about 30 miles away from here. After the interview, I was very hungry and I was pressed for time. So, I stopped at a McDonald's. This is something I rarely do. Morgan Spurlock's documentary film "Supersize Me!" made me even more aware of how dangerous fast food is to our health and as a slightly overweight person anyway, I gradually started eating less and less fast food.

Nevertheless, I visited this McD's in Yanceyville and had a grilled chicken caesar salad. It had been a while since I was given a one-dollar with a 'Where's George" stamp on it. I first became aware of these bills while working at the Grandin Theatre in Roanoke a few years ago.

I come across them so rarely that I think I may have even spent one that I may have recieved at The Bosphorous Turkish Restaurant in Cary, NC, without entering it in the web site.

The last time I found one that I entered was at a Starbuck's while vacationing in Maui- of all places!

Well, the irony about this McD's one-dollar bill is that upon entering it today, I found out that the bill had originated in Roanoke_my very own hometown!

Apparently, the person who entered it originally spent it at an Exxon station in Covington, Va., a small town some 60 miles north of Roanoke. It somehow made the rounds and ended up just south of the Virginia border.

I am thinking the Acme Comic Book Shop in Greensboro might be a good place to spend it..............maybe!


Exodus from Iraq

An interesting article from Stephen Glain in the June 11 issue of "The Nation" detailed a harrowing on-going problem in Iraq, which the Bush administration has seemingly overlooked: the exodus of Iraqi refugees who have fled in the hundreds of thousands to Jordan, Syria and even Iran.

One of the most disturbing cases that Glain profiled was the plight of Ahlam Al Jaburi, 41, a woman who worked as an English translator for the U.S. government to help American military officers investigate the claims of war victims in Khadimiya, Iraq.

In July 2005, she was kipnapped by insurgents who threaten to kill her for 'spying.' Her only request was that her body not be thrown in the Tigris River. Al Jaburi, a Sunni, was freed on a $50,000 ransom.

She later feld to Syria. But, her request for political asylum in this country was denied by the American embassy in Syria. She returned to her Damascus apartment in tears.

Glain's article also says that Jordan is fearful of becoming flooded with refugees. Jordan saw a similar influx of Palestinians from the Gaza Strip and West Bank in the 1970s and '80s. The article said that Amman is now turning down most requests from males between 18-36.

The article in the liberal publication also talked about how Khulood Alzavidi, 27, who was honored by Bush in a White House ceremony, shortly after arriving in the United States was denied permanent residency here even though she would face certain death for her cooperation with American forces if she were to return to Iraq.

Glain's article entitled "The Flight of Millions from Iraq Threatens the Entire Region" should be available in archive editions of "The Nation."

Even if one disagrees with the political vantage point of "The Nation," this should be a cause of certain and we should encourage our government to take more ardent protective measures to protect individuals, such as A Jaburi and Alzavidi.


Tuesday, June 19, 2007

"The Big Lebowski" Screening at Roanoke's Grandin Theatre

The Coen Brothers 1998 classic which features Jeff Bridges as "The Dude" is coming back to the Grandin Theatre in Roanoke, Va., where I first saw it for two midnight screenings.

"The Big Lebowski" will shown at midnight on June 29th and 30th respectively. I would say (as a joke) that actor John Turturro who plays (if I recall correctly) the film's chief antagonist* will be present for the screenings, but my friend Jason Garnett, who manages the Grandin, would probably hit me over the head with a bowling pin for that.

For those of you who've seen "Lebowski," you know it involves the sport of bowling as does the Bill Murray film "Kingpin," which features the Meems Bottom Covered Bridge in Mount Jackson, Va., but "Lebowski" is clearly the better of those two films. The bowling scenes were filmed at the Hollywood Bowl in Santa Monica, Ca., for those who really care about such things.

There are some folks who actually take this film very seriously. 

Those true Lebowski fanatics will be gathering in Lousiville, Ky, for the 6th annual Lebowski Fest, which will undoubtedly feature lots of beer and bowling.

I even found one internet link which ascribes a Tao of the Dude......I hope they aren't being serious.........!

In Berkeley, Ca., ultra-independent filmmaker Rob Nilsson, who appeared at the Granding several years ago, will be presenting the John Cassavettes film "Faces" at the Edwin Johnson Theatre on June 20. Nilsson befriended Cassavettes, and he considers him to be a major influence on his work. Nilsson is currently working on his "9 at 9" project, which consists of nine feature films which all start at exactly 9:00 p.m.

Sorry, no youtube videos on this one. But, then again, some of you are probably relieved to hear that!


*- Upon further digging, I found that the name of Tuturro's character in the film is Jesse Quintana.

More Youtube Videos- A Chainsaw Juggler

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Sad News from Hawaii-a Historic Cinema Closes

While browsing through the web site, I found out that The Varsity Twins Theatre in Honolulu, Hawaii closed its doors as of today.

When I saw the headline, I was a bit jolted because there is a Varsity Theatre down the road in Chapel Hill, NC. That cinema is (snicker here) best known for a 'cameo' in an episode of "Dawson's Creek."

But, while the theatre in Chapel Hill remains open it is indeed sad to hear about the fate of another Varsity Theatre.

The Honolulu cinema opened in 1939. It was known for its art modure/art deco design. In recent years, the theatre was showing primarily art films. As of its closing, it was showing Sarah Polley's new film "Away from Her" and the French film "The Valet."

According to an article in "The Honolulu Advertiser," by Mike Gordon, art-house films will now be shown at two other Consolidated Theatre locations, the Ward and the Kahala.

The 15 employees of the Varsity were told that they could transfer, but many chose to quit or retire.

Ann Bradman, a film curator for the Honolulu Academy of the Arts, expressed disappointment to "The Advertiser:"

"I even liked their popcorn. It had a mom-and-pop store feeling, and we are losing that."

Henry Demello, 52, added that he felt a sense of remorse since he met his wife Jane there for the couple's first date 20 years ago.

The newspaper featured a photo of the cinema's outside when lines were circling the theatre for a screening of "E.T." in 1982. In recent years, attendance had dwindled to the point where pool hall customers went in to the theatre mere to take in the venue's air-conditioning.

The Varsity was located at 1106 University Avenue in close proximity to the University of Hawaii's Manoa campus. The web site featured credible speculation from a blogger that the cinema would be turned into a dormitory for the university. features a comprehensive list of both open and closed movie theatres of interest around the country. I noticed that several of my favorite movie theatres and drive-ins, including the Grandin Theatre in Roanoke, Va., The North Theatre in Danville, Va., as well as the Graham Cinema in Graham, NC, and my friend Gary Doss' Rockingham Theatre in Reidsville, NC, are on that list along with the aforementioned Varsity Theatre in Chapel Hill.

Fortunately, all those cinemas are among the lucky ones because thereare each in active, though the North, which has only recently reopened, does not show films on a regular basis. Though one has to credit the owner for bringing David Lynch's "Inland Empire" there a few weekends ago.

When I was a reporter for "The Salem Times-Register" in Salem, Va., back in 1998, I wrote a historical retrospective on the closed Salem Theatre. Before it closed its doors, the cinema went through the indignity of becoming an adult film theatre in the 1970s. During its heyday, Leo the Lion from MGM Studios made a promotion stop in Salem during the 1930s.

Whenever an old cinema loses, the community loses a valuable, historic landmark which can never be replaced.

Other favorite historic cinemas of mine, include the Tower Theatre in Salt Lake City, the Byrd Theatre in Richmond, Va., the Lyric Theatre in Blacksburg, Va., the Opera House in Shepherdstown, WV (which really is a movie theatre!)  and the Carolina Theatre in Greensboro.

Though the Grandin remains open, it went through several years where it was closed. And, the Roanoke area lost its only other 'historic' movie theatre, the Terrace, just a few years ago. It opened in 1967, a mere three years before I was born. My fondest memory of that theatre was seeing Terry Gilliam's "Brazil" there in 1985. I did want to see the Bill Murray film "Stripes" at the Terrace in 1981, but it was an R-rated film and I was just 11 years old then.

I am also told that the Fox Theatre in Atlanta, which also serves as a concert venue, is quite the place to see a film. They were schduled to show "Saturday Night Fever" there some time this summer.



Saturday, June 16, 2007

Turkish Folk Dancers in Far Southwest Virginia!

Last year, I had the opportunity to cover Melungeon Heritage Association's annual gathering in Kingsport, Tenn. for "The Appalachian Voices" at the request of my old Radford University professor Dr. Bill Kovarik.

It was an informative, educational gathering which helped me learn more about the Melungeon people_ a distinct group of individuals who live in Appalachia who may have ancestoral origins in Turkey as well as North Africa and Portugal. Melungeon populations are found primarily in parts of Virginia, Kentucky and Tennessee.

This year, I am happy to report that Raleigh-based folk dancer Zeki Maviyildiz and his Blue Star (Mavi Yildiz means Blue Star in Turkish) Dance Troupe will perform at this year's Melungoen reunion in Big Stone Gap, Va., on June 30.

Maviyildiz will bring both traditional and modern Turkish dance to the Southwest Virginia Museum in Big Stone Gap.

The focus of the conference will be 'Before 1607_ Melungeons in the New World.'

Dr. Brent Kennedy, a Melungeon civic leader and historian, has brought much of the focus of the ancestorial links between Melungeons and Anatolia into the limelight. Unfortunately, Kennedy suffered a major stroke some two years ago, though he is on the road to recovery. Kennedy recently traveled to New York to speak with alumni of Istanbul University who now live in America.

This year's gathering will also feature a documentary film entitled "Melungeon Voices," by Julie Williams.

Maviyildiz has performed at various functions throughout the country, and especially in the Raleigh-Durham area. I have met him personally, but alas I have yet to see him perform. Maviyildiz hails from the city of Kars in northwest Turkey.

The reunion will also feature speakers Lisa Alter, Jack Goins, Wayne Winkler and Terry Mullins. Their story is quite a fascinating one as they are believed to be the descandents of sailors who landed with Sir Walter Raleigh's ships around Roanoke Island, NC.

I have preliminary plans to go to Charlotte that weekend, but I hope this entry can help spread interest in this event in both the Turkish-American and Melungeon communities.

Big Stone Gap is about 150 miles west of Roanoke, Va.- my hometown. The closest metro area to Big Stone Gap would be the Bristol-Kingsport area which is divided between Virginia and Tennessee.

For more useful info:



Dead Poets Society, Final Entry, Nazim Hikmet

As anyone who watched at least one episode of "Six Feet Under" (or the recently departed "The Sopranos") knows all things must come to an end.

My Dead Poets Society entries were started as a way to bring awareness to National Poetry Month, which is in April. I thought these entries would have concluded long before now, but I decided 12 was the appropriate, magic number.

So, I conclude with own personal favorite poet. He is Turkey's most renown poet, the highly political Nazim Hikmet (1902-1963). I actually posted one of his poems, "About My Poetry," on this blog on Dec. 21, 2006_ before my Dead Poets Society entries began.

Here is "The Walnut Tree," which takes place at the famed Gulhane Park near Topkapi Saray (Palace) as translated by Gun Gecer:

My head forming clouds,

see inside me and out

I am a walnut tree in Gulhane Park

an old walnut, knot by knot, shred by shred

Neither you are aware of this, nor the police

I am a walnut tree in Gulhane Park

My leaves are nimble, numble like fish in the water

My leaves are sheer, sheer like a silk handkerchief

pick, wipe, my rose, the tear from your eyes

My leaves are hands, I have about 1,000

I touch with you a thousand hands,

I touch Istanbul

My leaves are my eyes, I look in amazement

I watch with you are 100 1000 eyes, I watch Istanbul

Like 100 1000 hearts, but, beat my leaves,

I am a walnut tree in Gulhane Park

Neither you are aware of this, nor the police  


Thursday, June 14, 2007

Big River at Mill Mountain Theatre in Roanoke

The musical "Big River," the 1985 Broadway adaptation of Mark Twain's 1885 classic "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" is now gracing the Trinkle Main Stage at Mill Mountain Theatre in Roanoke, Va.

The play's musical director is my friend Chris Tilley, who has been a member of the Greensboro Playwriters Forum.

The production runs until July 1.The music and lyrics for "Big River" are by Roger Miller and the book is by William Hauptman. The play won the Tony for Best Musical, and was performed at Ford's Theatre in Washington D.C., aka the place where Lincoln got shot, in 2005.

Mill Mountain's web site describes the musical as a 'tale of adventure and self-discovery which begins on a raft in the Mississippi River in the 1840s where Huck meets Jim.'

If you want to know more, go to your local library and consult a Cliff Notes edition of "Huck Finn!"

The musical features several bluegrass and country numbers, and there have been over 1,000 performances of the show so far.

For those wanting to see what the show looks like, I am providing a photo link of "Big River" from a performance that was given at Theatre Cedar Rapids in ..of course... Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

Useful links:







Wednesday, June 13, 2007

News Flash_ I'm Actually Promoting "Prarie Home.."

In a review for the Grandin Theatre web site last year in reference to the film version of "A Prarie Home Companion," I called Garrison Keillor's NPR show 'The Blue State equivalent of Hee Haw.'

A few friends of mine who are fans of the show took a slight exception to my remark.

But, now I can make it up to them, by promoting the June 23 "PRC" show which takes place in Kansas City because it features the Durham bluegrass band Carolina Chocolate Drops, which is one of only two African-American string bands in the country....

In a world with Turkish heavy metal bands (more on in a later entry) and the Russian swing band Red Elvises (see earlier entries), I suppose nothing is too surprising. But, when I watched the CCD perform at the Charlie Poole Bluegrass Festival in Eden, NC, last weekend and saw musician Dom Flemmons dressed like an actor from "The Beverly Hillbilies," I was genuinely shocked.

But, the CCD is much more than a mere novelty band. They are excellent musicians who perform amazing music at every level.

Flemmons is incredibly gifted at what he does as he can play four-string banjo, guitar, jug, kazoo and harmonica. He is joined by Justin Robinson of Gastonia, NC, who can play fiddle and five-string banjo. Lead singer Rhiannon Gidden is a brilliant vocalist from Greensboro who also plays five-string banjo and fiddle.

In addition to their NPR performance, the CCD will be performing in Charlotte and Durham later this month. For my friends in the Roanoke-Blacksburg area of Virginia, the CCD will be playing Floyd Fest between July 27-29.

And, in Canada, the band has concert gigs in Winnipeg and Vancouver.

The CCD will be rereleasing their album 'Dona Got a Ramblin' Mind" on June 25.

They cite bluegrass musicians Joe and Odell Thompson as being one of their influences.

For more info:


Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Profile of a Virginia War Fatality in Iraq

This will mark the first of some 8-10 journal entries (not consecutive) that I will be devouting to the War in Iraq. I fully think it is time for those of us who are opposed to the war to speak out even more vocally than we have before.

At the outset of the war in 2003, I wrote a letter-to-the-editor of "The Roanoke Times" stating that there was no way an outside force could unite major ethnic divisions between the Shiia, Sunni and Kurdish sectors of Iraq. I also pointed out there were many geopolitical problems in pre-Saddam Iraq.

The instance I used was an incident my late uncle Ilhan Gokbudak, who served as a Turkish diplomat in Iraq circa 1968. He witnessed a mass hanging of individuals who were accused of spying for the American government. The hangings took place somewhere in the middle of Baghdad, and they were a public event meant to deter anyone from undertaking such activities.

I strongly feel that virtually all of my concerns have come true in some form or another. The only exception is the Kurdish province which has remained relatively stable, but I also feel that is subject to change. And, when it does, Kirkuk could become the next Sarajevo.

Additionally, Turkey is becoming concerned over the increase in Kurdish separatist PKK militias in southeast Turkey. These incidents have made Ankara chose the controversial course of sending in troops over the Iraqi border.

In the hamlet of Brookneal, Va.,some 30 miles south of Lynchburg, the family of Christopher Edward Murphy, 21, buried their son recently. Murphy died in Iraq on May 12. He was one of four U.S. soldiers who were killed when their convoy came under fire in an area south of Baghdad.

Murphy's funeral was held at William Campbell High School, and it was covered by the area's local weekly newspaper "The AltaVista Journal." In his article about the funeral, Martin Fisher wrote that Murphy graduated from WCHS in 2004 and he played on the school's state champion football team.

His mother Rosemary Balium told the paper that Murphy freely chose army life:

"He was very proud to serve in the U.S. Armed Forces and he chose a military career."

Murphy was buried in his #75 football jersey.

His sister, Shawnee Murphy, told the Journal about how her brother liked to play with Star Trek action figures as a child, especially his Enterprise spaceship.

Murphy was on his second tour of duty in Iraq.

He was buried at Arlington National Cemetary.

While assuredly Murphy's family feels differently about the war than I do, I respect the pain they are going through and his service in the military.

But, there will likely be even higher number of U.S. casualties in the coming months, and the hollow Fox News commentary that this war is somehow protecting us from terrorism is going to grow increasingly tiresome as the days, months and years go by.



Monday, June 11, 2007

Duran Duran Concert in NY This Weekend....

Personally, I am hoping to see the Red Elvises in Winston-Salem, NC, this weekend but that is because that show is more georgraphically feasible for me since I live in the Greensboro area.

But, for those of you who live closer to the Big Apple and can't get "The Reflex" out of your head (actually now that I mention it, I can't either), Duran Duran will be at The Hammerstein Ballroom on June 17. According the the Duran Duran fan site, there are still balcony and floor seats available.

I must say growing up in the '80s, I came to both like and despise Duran Duran many, many times over. Today, I think one has to give them credit for capitalizing on the MTV music video trend regardless of what one thinks of their music, which to be honest with everyone I like more now than I did in 1985! The band's videos were eye-catching and hip, and helped bring  the '45s on our turn tables to life long before any of us heard of virtual reality.

While researching this entry, I found that Duran Duran was actually classified as a member of the New Romantic subgenre of pop music, which also include Spandau Ballet. Duran Duran was also one of the earliest bands ever to remix their own albums. And, astonisingly enough, they have never officially broken up though original guitar player Andy Taylor is no longer with the band.

DuranDuran was named for the villain in the 1968 Roger Vadim sci film "Barbarella, "which starred a very sexy young Jane Fonda. 

From 1982 to 1986, Duran Duran's massive string of hits included "Girls on Film," "Rio," "Hungry Like the Wolf," "Save a Prayer," "Union of the Snake," and my personal favorite "New Moon on Monday."

Duran Duran was created by keyboardist Nick Taylor. The lead vocals were provided by Simon Le Bon. The band's drummer was Roger Taylor while John Taylor provided bass. None of the Taylors are related.

The band was the personal favorite of the late Princess Diana, and Duran Duran performed at a memorial concert in her honor shortly after her untimely death in 1998.

After performing in New York, Duran Duran will play in Cork, Ireland on June 29_ if you really need an excuse to go to Europe.

Duran Duran is also politically active. Their web site features considerable info on climate control, and they will perform at a Live Earth concert in London on July 7.

For more info:


James Bond fans: Yes, I suppose I did overlook "A View to a Kill."

Sunday, June 10, 2007

"Grease 2" is 25....and a Friend of Mine is Celebrating

For starters, I want to say that this entry is for the sole purpose of endorsing my friend Jim's blogathon on "Grease 2," which was theatrically released on June 11, 1982, not the movie itself!

Jim, who lives in Springfield, Mass., has been running a very succesful blog which unlike this one only focues on movies. And, his blog has recieved the endorsement of the official "Grease 2" fans site!

Today, Jim is indeed blogging continously throughout the day about this sequel which starred Michelle Pfeiffer in her screen debut (oooops! It has happened again! According to a Leonard Maltin guide that distinction belongs to a 1980 film called "Falling in Love Again" with Elliott Gould. I made this same exact mistake in Sat.'s entry regarding Janet Leigh's film debut, which was not "The Naked Spur"....oh well).

The sequel which Maltin calls clumsy and pedestrian also starred Maxwell Caulfield, Adrian Zmed and Tab Hunter.

"Grease 2" was directed by Tony Award-winning Broadway choreographer Patricia Birch, who choreographed the original film with John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John.

Jim pointed out that June 11, 1982 was a busy time for moviegoers. I was 12 at the time, and later that summer our family would travel to Turkey where I saw my first European topless woman on a beach (correction, that was the summer of '85). Along with "Grease 2," screens were also showing (and this is all according to Jim!): "E.T.," "Firefox," "Blade Runner," "Road Warrior" "Rocky III," "Diner" and "Porky's," which lost out to "Gandhi" in the Oscar race for Best Picture:)

I recall that "Grease 2" was showing at the Salem Valley Cinema. According to Jim, "Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan" also opened that very same weekend, and it did much better at the box office. 

"Khan" showed at the Towers Theatre across town in Roanoke. It is a theatre which was sadly replaced by a shoe store. I went to Towers to see that film in the summer of '82.

My friend Jason Garnett brought "Khan" to the Grandin Theatre in Roanoke for a midnight screening in 2005 (there is an early blog entry about that). 

To my knowledge, he has never made such efforts for "Grease 2." And, hopefully, the Grandin will NEVER be replaced by a shoe store.

I waited to see "Grease 2" on cable. I saw it once and that was enough for me. But, Jim says that he watched it countless times.

Even though the film has a 3.3 rating on the Internet Movies Database, apparently Jim is not alone. The "Grease 2" fan site (link below) has a staggering 294, 523 hits! The film is apparently shown on VH-1 fairly often. There was no "Grease 3!"

Useful links:

Jim's moviezzz blog:

Grease 2 fan site:

Grandin Theatre site:






Death Penalty Opponents Schedule Protests in VA

The State of Virginia is scheduled to execute Danville resident Christopher Scott Emett on Wed., June 13 for the Apr. 27, 2001 murder of John Fenton Langley. The murder occured at a hotel in Danville. Virginians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty (VADP) has scheduled protests in both Richmond and the community of Jarratt, where the state killing will take place, on June 13.

As many of you know, I am highly opposed to capital punishment as I think it serves no community purpose for crime protection/prevention whatsoever and that it's only real purpose is to elect individuals who continously refuse to perform the leg work needed in theis country to combat violent crime.

I also think it is a heinous sin to take another person's life, especially if they have not committed the act they are accused of_ something which has occured so many times in this country that even death penalty proponents acknowledge this as fact. However, I have some differing opinions with those who share my views, mainly on the grounds that communication with death row inmates should be limited to clergy and legal counsel.

Emmett is unfortunately not one of those individuals who stands falsely accused. He indeed committed a terrible, bloody murder while he was under the influence of crack cocaine. I think he should serve the rest of his life in prison to pay for the completely senseless taking of Langley's life. But, the death penalty crosses a clear, ethical line which our government continues to blatantly cross despite growing public opposition to the death penalty in the wake of many botched executions nationwide.

The VADP, the Charlottesville-based group headed by Jack Payden-Travers, is taking issue with the fact that Emmett was represented by very bad counsel during his murder trial. The public defender in the case failed to perform the standard procedure of requesting both mental health and social service records.

The organization is asking Virginia residents to contact Gov. Tim Kaine's office at (804) 786-2211 to prevent this injustice from occuring. Kaine (D)  himself opposes the death penalty, and has been grilled by the likes of Del. Todd Gilbert (R-Woodstock)_ ironically a friend of mine, for his views. Gilbert was a solid assistant Commonwealth's Attorney in Shenandoah County, and I respect him for that. But, on this issue he is both morally and intellectually on the wrong side of the fence as I firmlybelieve all capital punishment propoents are. Unfortunately, due to political and legal constraints, Kaine in spite of his infiinite wisdom and moral clarity has chosen to prevent only one execution from going through.

The protests will take place in front of Gov. Kaine's main office in Richmond at 4 p.m. The VADP will also gather in the field of the Greensville Correctional Center in Jarratt at 8:30 p.m. The remote, isolated hamlet of Jarrett is approximately 90 miles south of Richmond.

For more info:

Update: Gov. Kaine made the courageous decision to delay the execution until the U.S. Supreme Court has fully reviewed it. He has been grilled by the local conservative-slanted media, but he made the right choice and he has my full support.


Saturday, June 9, 2007

With the Tonys in Mind...."Facing East" in San Fran

While I was in Salt Lake City a few weeks ago, I had a chance to see a unique, startling play from Carol Lynn Pearson entitled "Facing East," a story about a middle-age Mormon couple coming to terms with the suicide of their gay son.

The play, which I saw at the Plan B Theatre in Utah, is wrapping up an off-Broadway run on June 17, but for those of you who might be in California, "Facing East" will premiere at the Theatre Rhinoceros in San Francisco with a run from Aug. 10-26, phone (415) 861-5079.

According to Wikipedia, the Theatre Rhinoceros was founded in 1977 and it is a theatre which produces plays with gay and lesbian themes.

The play takes a dramatic turn when the couple is confronted with a surprise encounter from their son's lover Marcus, played by Jay Perry.

I was really struck with the performances from Charles Lynn Frost who plays the father character Alex with dynamic intensity. Frost was named Best Actor by "Salt Lake City Weekly" in 2001 for his performance in "The Laramie Project."

Jayne Luke, who appeared in the independent film "Brigham City," was equally compelling as the cold mother character Ruth, who has an even harder time coming to grips with the reality in front of her than her husband.

"Facing East" was directed by Jerry Rapier.

I was hoping to meet Jerry after the performance I saw in SLC in late April, but alas I was absolutely starving when the play ended.....I ended driving all over town to eat at a Chinese restaurant called The Golden Phoenix. I sure hope I didn't order moo goo gaipan....

Hopefully, this blog entry can make up for that social faux pas.

Though I am not gay or Mormon myself, I really connected with the cultural tension in the play. As someone who is half-Turkish and from Roanoke, Va., I fully understand how such confrontations can occur in proverbial awkward moments even amongst family and friends.

One such moment happened to me when I attended a Muslim funeral for a family member (long story) in Salem, Va., in January of 2000 and a teenage boy with a NASCAR t-shirt peaked in as the imam was reciting passages from the Koran to see what the heck was going on. I almost burst into laughter even though it was the somberest of occasions. I suppose, looking back at the moment, I could have just as easily have cried. We would later pass a fundamentalist Southern Baptist sign as we carried the family member's coffin down Peters Creek Road in Roanoke.

There are certainly such awkward moments in "Facing East." One of the most poignant comes when Marcus reveals that he met their son as he 'knocked on his door.'

In other theatre news: Mill Mountain Theatre in Roanoke is currently performing "Big River," a musical take on Huck Finn's journey. My friend Chris Tilley from the Greensboro (NC) Playwrighters Forum is the musicl director of the show. Another Virginia theatre, Live Arts in Charlottesville is performing the Harold Pinter play "Old Times." And, lastly, here in this area, Triad Stage of Greensboro is producing a play called _appropriately enough_ "Tobbaco Road."

If anyone knows of any other plays between here and Juneau, Alaska, please let me know. I'll be happy to post a future entry about them.

Of course, by the time many of you read this, the Tony Awards will have been given out. I gather from what I read in "The New York Times" that the best dramatic actor category is being touted as the closest competition since Jason Robards Jr. acted on Broadway some 30-35 years ago.

Useful links:


More Movies-Anthony Mann's Western "The Naked Spur"

Whew! It sure is hot as %$&# here on the NC side of the NC-Va. border. There are literally 35 things I want to blog about but since I'm baking faster than a lobster in a pot, I'll stick with my favorite subject_ the cinema.

In the summer of 2002, I began to take film studies classes at Hollins University in my hometown of Roanoke, Va. One of the classes I was in was a Study of the Western Genre. It was taught by renown westerns expert Ed Buscombe from the UK, who has worked with the British Film Institute and has recently published a new book about 'the greatest westerns of all time.'

Anthony Mann is one of Buscombe's favorite film directors. Mann was a man of many genres, but he is most regarded as being a director of westerns. His credits include the classic films, "Winchester '73," "Bend of the River" and "The Man from Laramie."

But, my personal favorite Mann western is  the 1953 film "The Naked Spur," which also stars Janet Leigh**. The film also features Robert Ryan as a bounty-hunter.It was released on dvd last year.

In the July/August 2006 issue of "Film Comment," Kent Jones cited "The Naked Spur" as his 'vintage pick' choice. The film was yet another collaboration between Mann and Jimmy Stewart, who showcased his dark side in many of Mann's film (Stewart was also working on his Hitchcock collaborations_ "Rear Window" and "Vertigo" in the mid-50s)

Jones said the following about Stewart's performance: "Stewart's hair-raising struggle to contain his own lust for vengance is directly keyed to a perilious trek up, down, and around the rocky terrain- every twist and turn adds to another knot to his character's already taut and frayed psyche."

Jones goes on to call "The Naked Spur" an amazing film experience in which the California and Colorado landscape adds to the emotional terrain that each character faces in this magnificent gem.

"The Naked Spur" also appears on TCM from time-to-time. There was also a more recent profile of Mann in the current issue of "Film Comment." Mann's last film was the epic "El Cid" (1961) with Charlton Heston and Sophia Loren.

** Upon entering this entry earlier, I stated that "The Naked Spur" was Janet Leigh's debut. But, that distinction belongs to "The Romance of Rosy Ridge" (1947). Fortunately, I looked Leigh's filmography up in Epharim Katz's "Film Encyclopedia" before any of my loyal readers caught it.........!

Friday, June 8, 2007

Back to Movies- Albert Brooks' "Modern Romance"

Wow, it appears that my ratings are actually lower than the last CMT broadcast of the Miss America Pageant! Perhaps, I will get more hits by coming back to film_ which is my suppose topic of expertise.

I saw the new film "Knocked Up" yesterday, and I found it a tad bit disappointing.

All of this reminded me of a nobler film about modern romance, and that film is "Modern Romance," Albert Brooks' vintage 1981 comedy about a neurotic b-movie editor who tries to maintain an off-again, on-again relationship with his beloved Mary (Kathryn Harrold).

The film was released by Sony on dvd last year, and it was the May/June 2006 "Film Comment" recommendation by the magazine's editor Gavin Smith.

In his comments, Smith said: "It's hard to imagine a more quietly terrifying comedy about relationships, or a less romantic one- no wonder (Stanley) Kubrick was such an ardent fan."

I saw this film a few years ago on cable, and I think it is perhaps the funniest film that Brooks wrote and directed with "Lost in America" (1985) being a close second.

Alas, Brooks' most recent effort is the flat, boring film "Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World" which does for some odd reason have a few admirers.

Nevertheless, one can see Brooks at his best here. He also stars in the film.

Well, worth a look..............Judd Apatow, the director of "Knocked Up" may want to take note.....

Film Comment's web site:



Thursday, June 7, 2007

"How To Be Happy"????!

This week I have heard from my friend Regan Kennedy, who resides in Altoona, Pa.

She and I are both big fans of alternative comic strips. Her favorite is "Red Meat," while my favorite is "Too Much Coffee Man."

"TMCM" is a strip that revolves a man whose head is shaped like a coffee cup, and he can not function unless he has his fill. As a lifelong insomniac, I identify with the strip and its worldview all too well!

Alas, (mr) Shanon Wheeler, the author of "TMCM" has seemingly stopped drawing that strip, which also appeared in comic book form. Wheeler, who now lives in Portland, Or., though he was initially in Austin, Tx., did make a magazine out of "TMCM," which featured actual letters from prison inmates and off-beat poetry as well as other alternative strips. But, I am not sure if the magazine, which I once found at Ram's Head Book Store in Roanoke, is still in publication.

But, Wheeler does continue the "TMCM" web site, and he is drawing a new strip entitled "How to Be Happy." Wheeler actually emailed me back a few years ago. I may be his lone Turkish-American fan.

Here is the dialogue of his latest installment of the ironically titled "How to be Happy:"

The strip takes place aboard a spaceship.

Panel 1_Girl: "This isn't working."

Panel 2_ Girl: "It's not your fault. We've grown in different directions."

Panel 3_Girl: "My feelings for you have faded."

Panel 4_ Girl: "I don't love you any more."

Panel 5_ Girl: "I think we should try spending more time apart. I want you to move out."

Panel 6_ Boy (in outer space looking at the spaceship): CRAP!



Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Montana: Is the Big Sky State Turning Blue?

It seems like the political race is heating up, or at least it has in the last 15 minutes.

Former Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean, who now heads the Democratic National Committee, rightfully said that while the rest of us see the Iraq War as Bush's Vietnam, the White House is touting it as Bush's Korea! And, last night during the Republican presidential debate in Manchester, NH, renegade candidate Cong. Ron Paul (R-Tx) courageously and correctly stated the following sentiment about the Iraq War:

"It was a mistake to go there; it's a mistake to stay."

One has to admire this stand considering that his fellow nominees, like Rudy Guiliani, are accusing the Democrats of being chicken %&*ts even though May was one of the deadliest months ever for American forces in Mesopotamia.

With all this, one wonders if some traditional Republican states, like NC, might go blue.

This is a point that Bob Nichol of Bozeman, Mont., made in a letter to "The Nation" (June 11th issue).

While us moderate progressives, often differ with some points made in "The Nation," a partisan liberal publication, there are some valid points that the weekly magazine makes. And, certainly, like most magazines and newspapers, the readers are frequently as or even more insightful than the editors!

Nichol wrote the following in response to an article in an earlier edition of "The Nation" which labeled Montana as a red state (the version of the letter here is abridged for content):

"Montana has two Democrats in the U.S. Senate. Our governor and four or five statewide elected officials are Democrats. Our state senate is (26 to 24) Democratic. Montana's secretary of state, state house of representatives (50 to 49) and U.S. Home Member are Republicans. Color us purple (deep purple) if you wish. Red, we ain't."

Nichol makes a very valid point here, and similar sentiments could be expressed about both Virginia and North Carolina.

 The Tarheel state in fact now has a majority Democrat in the U.S. House thanks to the November election of former Washington Redskins quarterback Heath Shuler (D-NC) who is a conservative, pro-life Democrat. Shuler represents the Asheville region of western Carolina. NC also has a Democratic governor, Mike Easley, and majority in both state houses. However, the two U.S Senators from NC are both Republican.

Cong. Brad Miller (D-NC), who represents the Greensboro area (see earlier entry about Darfur) told a local tv station that he is considering running against Sen. Elizabeth Dole (R-NC) when her term ends in 2007.

Virginia also has seen shifts in terms of politics with the election of Sen. James Webb (D-Va) over former Sen. George "Maccawitz" Allen last November. Virginia's Democratic Governor Tim Kaine has also been a strong leader in recent months in the excellent leadership skills he displayed in handling the Virginia Tech shooting tragedy.

But, if any of this makes any difference in November of 2008 remains to be seen. However, aside from Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) who would have to overcome a negative image in the South, it seems that many of the leading Democratic presidential candidates have the potential to carry some traditional red states. Rudy, beware!



Tuesday, June 5, 2007

My Own Poem?! "Honeymoon with Mama"

I am taking a break from the Dead Poets Society entries to post a poem from me. To my knowledge, I am still breathing. But, if the weather around here gets any hotter- well, I suppose there is always a potential for heat stroke!

I wrote this poem on Sun. night. My friend Julie Campbell who organizing a local writing group said that a former member of the group is getting married and has requested poems. I am not sure that this is what Julie had in mind, but I thought this might be interesting. I got the idea while thinking of a Mario Bava* movie, but that is neither here or there........

Here is "Honeymoon with Mama:"

"Honeymoon with Mama"

Wanted to get out of Hickory

Ended up with a gal from Nebraska

No, we're heading towards matriomny

Wanted to go to Montego Bay

(alone with Robin)

but, mama's coming with us now

She says she's lonely since Harry died

Told her to go the county animal shelter

or get a subscription to "Our State"

Should've read more books by Kipling Joyce Aristotle

Or, listened to more songs by Heart Rush Bjork or Radiohead

I suppose I'll know soon

if I'm heading towards heaven or hell

.......................just as soon as I know

which way the sun sets in Jamaica.


* Bava was an over-the-top Italian horror film director. His best known film is "Black Sunday," though I really like his 1977 film "Lisa and the Devil" with Telly Savalas.

Monday, June 4, 2007

Outer Banks Clam Chowder Recipe

The current issue of North Carolina's "Our State" magazine, a perfect coffee-table journal, features a profile of Reidsville cookbook author Ellen Powell, Kill Devil Hills crabber Murray Bridges, and an excellent nightt-time photograph of a Raleigh Kripsy Kreme doughnut shop (off all things) by photographer Bryan Rinnert.

And, from that very same issue, I found this recipe for 'Mrs. Edna Evans Bell's Outer Banks-Style Clam Chowder.' Note: I don't cook.........

Here it is:

1 dozen large clams

1/2 lb. fat bacon

2 medium onions

3 medium white potatoes

Salt and pepper

Cut fat meat in very small pieces and brown in bottom of kettle. Add 6 cups of water. Cube potatoes and onions and add to water. Let simmer about 20 minutes. Chop clams very fine and add to other ingredients. Let simmer about 10 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste. Add more water if too thick.

(Thicken soup with 2 tablespoons of cornmeal. Dilute cornmeal with cold water before adding to pot.)

Bryan Rinnert's photography web site is:

I don't know Mr. Rinnert, but I do know another photographer from the Raleigh area,  Jonathan Friedan. He and I worked together at "The Salem Times-Register," and we covered a rodeo there that was later made famous/infamous by none other than 'Borat.'




Sunday, June 3, 2007

Jake Fades: New Novel from NC Author

Summertime is traditionally a great time for reading. Well, perhaps that is because it is also a great time of the year for insomnia....

With that in mind, there is a new novel from Durham resident David Guy called "Jake Fades: A Novel of Impermanence" (Trumpeter Books, 210 pgs). I came across an article about the author while in the Cary, NC, area a few weeks ago. It was published in the May 16th edition of "Indy Weekly" and was written by Adam Sobsey.

The novel actually takes place in Cambridge, Ma., and it has components of Zen Buddhism and sex......perhaps, the two go hand in hand.

The title character, Hank, who also narrates the novel speaks in a relaxed voice as he reflects on his 56 years of life. He tends to be a hero-worshipper with a tendency to daydream.....hey, that applies to many of us, doesn't it?!

The story unfolds as Hanks heads up to Maine for a meditation retreat where he meets a 78-year-old man named Jake, who is a meditation guru. They have breakfast at a dive run by a Chinese man who makes legendary doughnuts. And, apparently there are lots of "New Dimensions" moments along the way. 

The novel is the first from Guy in 16 years since his 1991 novel "The Autobiography of My Body." His other novels include "Second Guy" and "The Man Who Loved Dirty Books."

According to Sobsey, Guy's past works have featured home intense, erotic love scenes. He also said the author has themese which revolve around 'guilt-loaded, hypersensitive masculinity' in the tradition of Robert Bly.

Sobsey adds that ultimately "Jake Fades" is a work which states that while the struggles of masculinity never end, the challenges one faces do not have to oppress them.


Interesting note, while trying to find more info on the web about David Guy (an effort which was not succesful), I did discover an Israeli techno-musician who also happens to be an artist and photographer. His name is Guy David.



Saturday, June 2, 2007

Dead Poets Society, Entry 11, Edip Cansever

Today's entry comes from the late Turkish poet Edip Cansever (1928-1986). It is called "The Rooster and the Stairs." Cansever's early career was spent selling antiques at the Covered Baazar in Istanbul. Apparently, he discovered he was better at poems. Though he is not as recognized as Nazim Hikmet, Cansever is highly regarded in the Turkish literate community for his body of work.


"The Rooster and the Stairs"

Upstairs is upstairs and

down is donstairs a bit

The rooster and the stairs are

right in the middle

Dazzling rooster! He gathers colors on the stairs,

A kid is more of a kid on the red of a white

A ten-fathom thread calls out my mother

I stick my head right into the bucket

As much fish as I think can fish


This poem was translated by Talat Sait Halman and Brian Swann



Friday, June 1, 2007

Dead Poets Society Entry #10, Paruyr Sevak

My tenth entry is the on-going 'Dead Poets Society' series is "Succession of Generation" by the late Armenian poet Pauyr Sevak (1924-1971). It may come as a surprise to some of you that a Turkish-American is posting a poem by an Armenian, but I do have some Armenian friends.

I would mention who they are, but that might cost them some Armenian friends!

There are many active writers of Armenian heritage out there, including Canadian novelist Ara Baliozian and author/playwright/actor Eric Bogosian, whose play "Talk Radio" is currently being revived on Broadway.

Here is today's poem:

"Succession of Generation"

Every generation

first of all thinks in silence

and then as soon as talking begins

angers the elders

angers then but without intended malice

for the young do not understand

and the elders always understand

Elder God,

is it true that he who understands and

he who doubts

are synonomous

and every generation

dies by doubting?


For more info on Ara Baliozian, who was mentioned earlier in this entry: