Wednesday, July 18, 2007

PBS to air POV-Prison Town, USA next week

I guess this is as good a time as any to say that I just got a job teaching English to Hispanic inmates at a prison in North Carolina.

For that reason alone, I wish my local PBS station_ which I usually admire, would show the documentary series "POV" during waking hours.

As it is, next week, MOST PBS STATIONS will air "Prison Town, USA," a documentary film by Katie Galloway and Po Kutchins at 10 pm on July 24.

The doc will examine the prison-building boom which took place in rural America in the 1990s when a new prison opened in America once every 15 days.

"Prison Town, USA" will focus on Susanville, Ca., which tried revamp its local economy with the building of the prison facility. The prison brought in difficult consequences for the area.

The film will focus on the stories of an unemployed mill worker turned prison guard, and an inmate's family which got trapped in Susanville.

For more info:


Tuesday, July 17, 2007

DC Mayor Endorses Obama

Perhaps, those of you who visit this blog often would like me to spend more time talking about the presidential race. After all, Politics is the title of this blog. I think like everyone else I am a bit saturated with the topic, but..........

"The Washington Post" reported on Tuesday that Sen. Barack Obama (D-Il) was endorsed by Washington, DC's newly elected Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D), who is actually ten months younger than me (I'm 37, he's 36).

In a story by David Nakamara, it was reported that there was speculation that Fenty would wait until his close friend New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg (I) would decide if he was running.

Mayor Fenty's adviser Jim Hudson raised $600,000 for Obama at a political fund-raiser. The Illinois Senator is even ahead of Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) in fund-raising for the Democratic nomination.

Fenty joins Chicago Mayor Richard Daley (D) and Newark, NJ, Mayor Cory Booker (D), who was the subject of the excellent documentary film "Street Fight," in endorsing Obama.

Another Democratic presidential candidate, former NC Sen. John Edwards is schuled to speak in my hometown of Roanoke, Va., tomorrow night. The event was originally planned for April but was rescheduled due to the tragic Virginia Tech shootings.

In Republican news, I heard that Sen. John McCain was telling voters in Claremont, NH, that reports of his political demise (based on financial woes in the campaign) were greatly exaggerated. We'll see............






Monday, July 16, 2007

John Kerry.......a Republican?!

I found this interesting item as I was glancing through May Ann Akers' column, "The Sleuth" on the "Washington Post" web site.

Apparently, an operative of the late Richard Nixon thought Sen. John Kerry (D-Ma.) might make an excellent recruit for the GOP establishment in the 1970s.

This info comes from the release of a memo by the Nixon Library. Murray Chotier wrote the following to Nixon:

"He (Kerry) is a Yale graduate and inlined towards the establishment," Choiter said. "His background could be Republican."

In response, Kerry said he had never recieved a phone call from Nixon:

"No, and the one thing we know is that if Nixon had called me, there's a tape recording of it somewhere, right?"


Sunday, July 15, 2007

A Great Quotation II: from Katie Couric

I think I've found a new way to write quick, witty blog entries for intellectuals with low attention spans without resorting to youtube is today's quote from a cover story pertaining to Katie Couric and her struggles at CBS in the current issue of "New York" magazine, where my friend Bilge Ebiri has contributed film reviews.

It is simply:

"The biggest mistake is we tried new things," Katie Couric.


Saturday, July 14, 2007

A Great Quotation

I am visiting my mother. I am profoundly bored............and, I don't have someone to help me load a youtube video. So, here is a quote for today's entry.

It comes from Franklin P. Adams (1881-1960)

"Seeing ourselves as others see us would probably confirm our worst fears about them."


Star Polar Bear in Berlin is Getting Too Big to Perform

Welcome to my 250th entry........

I usually post political postings or entries regarding the latest happenings in cinema, theatre or music. And, many of my posts often reference events or issues involving Virginia, North Carolina or Turkey_ my late father Mehmet Gokbudak's native country.

But, today, I thought I would do something a little different and focus on Knut, the star polar bear at the Berlin Zoo in Germany.

According to the BBC, Knut (born on Dec. 5, 2006), has grown too big to perform with zookeeper Thomas Doerflein.

The adorable 110-pound cub was performing twice a day with Doerflein. Knut has also become the star attraction at the zoo, but not without some controversy.

The German media reported that animal rights acitvist Frank Albrecht had said that Knut should have been killed, instead of being handled by humans. After the publicity, Albrecht said that he has been misquoted.

Knut was born to a 20-year-old East German performing bear. Alas, the polar bear's twin brother died due after being exposed to freezing conditions at another zoo in Germany. Knut also recieved death threats in April, which lead the Berlin Zoo to beef up security though no intruders ever threatened to harm Knut.

The cub was performing twice daily with Doerflein. He will still be residing at the zoo, and Doerflein, who complained about getting burned out from the performances, said he will still be close to his beloved pal, Knut::

"I am always there for him. Knut is still a child," Doerflein told the BBC. "He needs me."

To read more about and see amazing pictures of this polar bear cub, you can check out the following links:

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

The Jedi Kinght Prevails at County School Board Meeting

Breaking news from Christopher Knight's blog.

The Rockingham County (NC) School Board voted not to implement a mandatory dress code.

The July 9 school board meeting recieved more attention than normal because Knight came to the meeting dressed as a Jedi Knight. There were segments about the meeting on at least two local tv stations in the Greensboro tv market.

On his blog, Knight (not to be confused with the former child actor from "The Brady Bunch" who has the same name) said the following:

"I just got home. I am feeling quite rank after wearing a full Jedi Knight costume since 4 this afternoon."

The school board voted to rescind the motion for mandatory uniforms by a 7-3 margin.

Knight is known in the region for his own campaign to be on the school board. He made several eccentric campaign commercials which each featured "Star Wars" references. Three other school candidates, each of whom alas lost, also made similar over-the-top tv commercials, which featured a scene from a B-Western as well as Pink Floyd's anthem "Another Brick in the Wall."

All of Knight's ads can found on youtube, and "The New York Times" wrote what might be their first story ever from Rockingham County about the school board campaign.

Knight is also heavily promoting "The Transformers" movies. I haven't seen it.

For more info:


Sunday, July 8, 2007

Political Celebrities Visit the Palmetto State

I spent my Fourth of July in South Carolina, aka the Palmetto State, and as luck would have it two people I greatly admire were also in the state, but alas not in the town I was visiting!

New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson (D), a candidate for president, was in a Rock Hill, SC, a place I am quite familiar with, to talk to 75 people at a campaign breakfast at York County Democratic headquarters.

Further down the state, and also on Saturday, political comedian and Comedy Central personality Stephen Colbert was in Charleston to throw out a 'first pitch' during a minor league baseball game at Riley Park between the Charleston River Dogs and the Savannah Sea Gnats. There are two ironies to this story. The first is that instead of throwing a baseball, Colbert threw out a pint of Ben and Jerry's Ice Cream. The second is that the game was rained out. But, the first inning was played, so Colbert got to make his 'pitch' and fans could still come back to another River Dogs game.

According to Kathryn Thier of "The Charlotte Observer," Richardson told the Rock Hill gathering that he was aware of the fact that he is 'not a rock star.' But, he added that it is something that he's trying to improve upon.

Richardson said that he is moving up in both the polls and in fund-raising efforts. He joked that: 'Of course, I started below the margin of error.'

The New Mexico governor also talked about foreign policy, Iraq, education, health care and the economy. Richardson added that he also wants to restore America's standing in the world.

According to the Observer, Barbara Kutz, the secretary of the York County Democrats, was impressed with Richardson. She stated that America needs a leader who can work with other nations without being a 'schoolyard bully.'

The current front-runners in the Democratic race are (as you probably well-know) Sens. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.

In Charleston, Colbert was in town to take in baseball and raise funds for the families of the nine firefighters who were recently killed in Charleston. The tv-host was also promoting his new product, Stephen Colbert's Americone Dream_ an new Ben and Jerry's ice flavor_ which is also intended to raise funds for the firefighters' families. Colbert is a native of Charleston.

Bill Henley of "The (Charleston) Post and Courier" wrote an article about the event for a baseball game which was over soon after the national anthem:

"It was a great night for a towel giveaway and celebrity sightings, but an unfortunate night for baseball."

The game was made up today. According to the River Dogs' web site, the home team own both games of the double-header. In the first game, one of the team's star players Seth Fortenberry clubbed two homeruns to help the River Dogs beat the Sand Gnats 8-2. They won the second game by a 2-1 margin.

It would be great if I had a youtube clip of Bill Richardson on "The Stephen Colbert Report," presuming he has been on that show. But, assuredly, many people running for president will appear on the Colbert show. Alas, I don't get Comedy Central........., so you will have to keep me informed!

Gov. Richardson is my personal favorite choice for the Democratic nomination, though I thought that the last Democratic debate at Howard University in Washington, D.C., was a shinning moment for Sen. Clinton.

 Useful links:

For Colbert:

For Richardson: or




Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Five Books I May Not Get to This Summer

On this hot-as-$%&*ing-he*l summer night, I thought I'd add an entry about five books from my shelf which I somehow doubt that I will get to this summer.

I am writing this entry as I am set to travel to Myrtle Beach for the 4th and I usually end up reading there more than going to the plaj! 

For starters, I always seem to read books from the public library before I read my own. Case in point, I just finished the novel "Little Children." For those of you who know me best, I did indeed see the movie first!

But, here are five books from my own shelf, which I might have to donate to the Rockingham County Jail...................unless I read them soon!

1) "Mrs. Dalloway" by Virginia Woolf. I brought a used copy of this paperback at a shop in Hilsborough, NC, which is just outside Chapel Hill. I decided to get it as a means to impress my friend Anne back in Roanoke. I haven't read the book yet. I even took it on an airplane flight to Mexico last much for impressing your friends!

2) "At Long Last to Kiss Amanda" by Frank Norris. I found an original version of this 1961 novel at an estate sale in Roanoke. When I found it, I had a huge crush on this young lady named Amanda who was a student at Hollins University, where I went to grad school (the school actually let us guys in!). I never got to kiss Amanda, and I've never read the book, but I love the novel's opening sentence:

"My friend Lamar Howell, one of my very oldest friends, shot and killed himself on my place at Echota."

I gather this book is actually supposed to be funny?!

3) "Middlesex" by Jeffrey Eugenides. I was estatic that my mother got me this novel, a Pulitzer Prize Winner, for Christmas. I love Eugenides' earlier novel "The Virgin Suicides," which was made into a movie by Sofia Coppolla. But, much to my shock and horror this epic about three generations of the Greek-American Stephanides family in suburban Detroit has an anti-Turkish tone. Hmmmm......let's go on to book number four.

4) "Mary: A Novel" by Janis Cooke Newman. For a brief while, I was one of many Roanoke Valley residents who reviewed books for "The Roanoke Times." We never got to choose our own books, though I read quite a few that I adored. This was one of two books which was sent to me that I never got around to reading. This 2006 novel about Mary Todd Lincoln is a staggering 680 pages! I will be eligible for retirement in the year 2035. Perhaps, I will have time to read it then...............and, this is coming from a slacker who suffers from insomnia!

5) "Stonewall Jackson: The Man, The Soldier, The Legend" by James L. Robertson, Jr.

The last book I mention dealt with history, but it is a novel. This 762-page book about a famous Civil War general by Virginia Tech professor and historian Robertson is a biography, and those who've actually read it claim it is very good. I met Robertson while I was a town reporter for Blacksburg in 1996. This book was the talk of the town. I picked it up at the Antietam Battlefield outside Frederick, Md., a few years after writing a story about the book. The book has a quote from Dennis E. Frye of "The Civil War Times Illustrated" which states that this work will 'stand alone for the next forty years and prhaps into eternity.............'

Alas, at this point in time, I can't verify that! But, I can say that Dr. Robertson lives in a very nice house.

Lastly, I want to thank Moviezzz of Srpingfield, Mass., and Christopher Knight of Reidsville, NC, for mentioning me on their blogs.

It hasn't helped me get any hits, but neither did the youtube videos. Though, you really should check out that Cuneyt Arkin clip...they don't make movies like that any more, not even in Turkey!



Monday, July 2, 2007

Eight Fun Facts About Moi

My noble friend Moviezzz of Springfield, Mass., 'tagged' me as a participant in this interesting game in which bloggers challenge each other to reveal eight unique things about themselves in their respective blogs. Each of us is supposed to then 'tag' eight other bloggers we know as if we are vampires or Southern Baptists.

One of my other good friends Bilge Ebiri of New York actually editted a highly engaging commercial blog, but I gather that he recently left that post. But, in all likelihood, I would not have tagged him because I would hate to spend the night inside the Port Authority if/when I ever go back to the Big Apple.

But, I will reveal 8 unique things about me. One of the challenges with this is that a number of things are already listed here in the far-right column of my blog, including the fact that my favorite restaurant in my immediate local area is The Acropolis in Greensboro. Why is this an unusual thing about me? Well, The Acropolis is a Greek restaurant and I'm a Turkish-American.

Here are 8 other 'fun facts' about me:

1. I consider "The Day the Whole F*&%ing World Blew Up" to be the worst film ever made. And, the director is a friend of mine! One has to give Charles Cullen, of Roanoke, Va., credit for pursuing his dreams. But, this film is still quite terrible. It is, and will always be, the only Cullen film I will ever see. I have other friends who've made films, including Bilge Ebiri, Jake Mahaffy and Les Blank. I can recommend their works, though Mahaffy's film "War," which made it to a Sundance Film Festival, is quite hard-to-find. In fact. I've never seen it!  If I can say one positive thing about Cullen, who is known as "The Chicken Man," it is that (I am told) he is much more accomplished as a musician. I happened to see this film at the Grandin Theatre, where I have seen many, many great films over the years...........but, not this one!

2. I once saw Toto in concert. I must profess that this confession is a take on Moviezzz's admission that he once saw The Spice Girls in concert. I saw Toto in my hometown of Roanoke in 1984 when I was 14. I still enjoy hearing "The Rains Down in Africa" on the radio, but admittedly, I don't have any Toto cds. In fact, I'm not sure any record stores do either.

3. I once voted for a Republican. Cong. Frank Wolf (R-Va), who is the subject of another recent entry, was essentially running unopposed when I lived in Edinburg, Va., in his district (at the time) and he is a friend of mine. I otherwise NEVER vote for Republicans, and assuredly, they would never vote for me either.

4. I once entered a men's bikini contest. I blame my cousin Michael Dawkins for this. It was Myrtle Beach. I was in college. Enough said. Alas, I did not win. The huge embarrassment actually came several weeks later when my now-deceased gradmother Waynie Sturgis watched a 'smuggled' video of the contest at her home in Rock Hill, SC, with other members of the family. Mike allegedly does not where the videotape is. I don't believe him!

5. I have seen the new Fantastic Four movie. I read a very disparaging review in the online version of "The Washington Post." Nevertheless, my friend Blake Lipscomb of Roanoke convinced me that I should frequent the nearby Eden Drive-In in Eden, NC, more often. The movie really sucks. I once thought I could pay money to see anything with Jessica Alba. I stand corrected. But, if there is any place to see an awful summer movie it is at a drive-in near you. The Eden Drive-in actually has a 'no cursing' sign. And, as you might expect, no one pays any attention to it.

6. I have seen Greensboro folk singer Bruce Piephoff perform at least six times in just under a year. I met Bruce during a screening of the documentary film "The Devil and Daniel Johnston" at the Carolina Theatre in Greensboro last August. There was a time in my youth (the a-ha/Spandau Ballet/Duran Duran years....everyone under 40 and over 25 should get this joke) when I could have never imagined loving folk music. But, the times have-a-changed (apologies to Bob Dylan). I love Bruce's sense of humor which comes across in many of this songs, like "I Remember Asheville," which takes great jabs at corporate America as Bruce reminisces about his youth in western North Carolina. I saw Bruce perform at the Blanwood Mansion in downtown Greensboro yesterday. It was yet another memorable performance. I'm not sure I can say that about the '84 Toto concert.

7. I am a fan of women's college gymnastics. This one has surprised many people. I actually took in the NCAA Women's College Gymnastics Championships in Salt Lake City back in late-April. I was rooting for the University of Florida (they came in third), but it was Georgia which came away with their third consecutive title. I actually had a crush on a college gymnast when I went to Radford University in Virginia (1993-96). Nothingever came of it, and she is now married and living in New York state. But, that got me interested in women's college gymnastics. I occasionally talk to former UCLA gymnast Yvonne Tousek who is now on tour with Cirque de Soleil's "Corteo" show, which I saw in Atltanta back in January. It is expected to come to Denver soon. Check it out, if it comes near you. My favorite current gymnast is Ashley Postell from the University of Utah. I gather that she's dating some professional soccer player, but she's too younf for me any way!

8. I can actually speak fluent Turkish. It is not always easy for an ethnic kid to maintain the language of their father's (my mother is American). There were several complications which could have prevented me from speaking Turkish. For starters, I only lived there for two years as a child (I was not born there) in the town of Zonguldak Eregli on the Black Sea, some four hours west of Istanbul, from 1977-79. Secondly, I grew up in Roanoke, Va. There were not many Turkish people around town, though I am good friends with Dr. Vedii Ayyildiz, who is a retired, respected surgeon who lives in the Star City. Nevertheless, my domestic connections with Turkish people were not really established until I went to college. Lastly, my father Mehmet Gokbudak died when I was 13. Of all the reasons why I am proud to be speaks Turkish, none mean more to me than this. Every Father's Day, I think of the short time we had together and all the sacrifices he made for his family. 

I left out some other interesting things, including my strange admiration for fact, I'm wondering just when 98.7 Simon-FM here is going to play anothher one of their songs. I heard them play "Faithfully" last night!  

But, there are only 8 things we can admit........................those are after all 'the rules.'

Useful links to go along with this blog: (may need confirmation) (Site for "The Roanoke Times," my hometown) (Site for Dr. Vedii Ayyildiz's wife Judy Light Ayyildiz. She is a published poet,author)



The Top Ten Films of 2006 Revisited

It usually takes a while to actually see 'all the best films of the year,' but needless to say everyone posts these things up in December_ as I did as well. Here is my updated list as to what truly are the best films of 2006. All of them are now available on dvd, and perhaps even a neighborhood video store near you.

1. "Little Children" (d. Todd Field, U.S.)

2. ""Woman is the Future of Man" (Hong Sang-soo, Korea)

3. "Borat" (d. Larry Charles, US)

4. "The Departed" (d. Martin Scorsese, US)

5. "Climates" (d. Nuri Bilge Ceylan, Turkey)

6. "Army of Shadows" (d. Jean-Pierre Melville, France)...originally made 1969

7. "Little Miss Sunshine" (d. Jonathan Dayton/Valerie Faris, US)

8. "Three Times" (Hou Hsia-hsien,Taiwan)

9. "Tristan Shandy_ a Cock and Bull Story" (d. Michael Winterbottom, UK)

10. "Old Joy" (d. Kelly Reichardt, US)

(tie) "Crossing Bridges: Istanbul" (d. Fatih Akin, Germany-Turkey)

12. "Half Nelson" (Ryan Fleck, US) 

13. "United 93" (Paul Greengrass, US)

14. "Our Daily Bread" (Nikolaus Geyrhalter, Germany/Austria)

15. "The Science of Sleep" (Michel Gondry, France/US)

There are a good 10-15 films which could just have easily made this list. "Iraq in Fragments" is the next film I would have listed. I posted a message on the IMDB that every school in America should show James Longley's excellent documentary even if it might give children and Republicans nightmares, and yet it still doesn't make my list of the top 15 films of 2006. There were some genuine cinematic gems  in 2006, and I think most film connosieurs would agree with me on that.