Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Denzel Washington To Play Thelonious Monk On The Big Screen

Denzel Washington has played several real-life people on the big screen: South African activist Steven Biko, boxer Ruben "Hurricane" Carter, and Black Muslim orator Malcolm X, to name just three roles. AARP The Magazine (December 2014-January 2015 issue) in its "Big 5-Oh" feature on the back page, which celebrates celebrity birthday milestones, reports that Washington "hopes to star as jazz legend Thelonious Monk." This wouldn't be the first time Washington, who turned 60 this month, plays a jazz musician. He had the lead role (as a trumpet player) in Spike Lee's 1990 flick, Mo' Better Blues.

Monday, December 29, 2014

A Church Hides Behind The Word "Homo"

The illuminated message board outside the Atlah Church on Lenox Avenue and 123rd Street in Harlem had this pronouncement: "Say goodbye to black barber shops, churches and funeral homes to make way for homo gentrifier restaurants and condos." The frequent use of the word "homo" in the church's many messages over the past couple of years is code for "white people." Not wanting to be labeled racist, the church hides behind the homophobic slur because being anti-gay can be seen as following the teaching of the Bible.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

A Freelance Pay Rate Preference

During my years as a freelance writer, I've always preferred being paid a flat fee rather than by the word or the column inch. If I'm paid a flat fee, and the article has to undergo some cuts, I still get the same amount of money. But if I'm paid by the word or the column inch, and cuts have to be made, I'm losing money.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

A Lengthy Page Turner

On a table near the circulation desk at the 115th Street library in Harlem were several uncorrected advance reader's editions of recent books. The sign on the table said "Take One." Sorting through the pile, I decided on Forty Acres by Dwayne Alexander Smith (no relation), a screenwriter and author who lives in Los Angeles. Forty Acres is his first book.

According to the back jacket copy Forty Acres, published by Atria Books, an African American-oriented imprint of Simon & Schuster, is "[a] novel of rage and compassion, good and evil, trust and betrayal--and the most provocative thriller you'll read this year." When I got home, I read the first four pages. From the little that I read, the book sounded very promising. Quickly flipping through the book, which is more than 300 pages long, I noticed that the chapters were very short, no more than two or three pages.

In her back jacket blurb, novelist Terry McMillan, the author of Waiting to Exhale, stated that Forty Acres had her "on the edge of my seat." If that's the case, the book despite its length should be a real page turner and help make Dwayne Alexander Smith a household name.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Real Estate Code Words

Whenever you see a sign on a building that attaches the words "boutique" or "luxury" to a description of a condo, a co-op, or a rental apartment, it's safe to say that those are code words for expensive, unaffordable.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

An African Immigrant's Story Found On The Street

I found among two boxes of discarded books on upper Broadway near 113th Street in the Columbia University area, a paperback copy of Strength in What Remains by journalist Tracy Kidder (Random House, 2009). The book, in excellent condition, was probably discarded by one of the book vendors seen at various locations up and down the street every day. Written on one of the inside pages, in pencil, is the number "5." No doubt the price that a vendor sought.

Reading the back jacket copy, I learned that this nonfiction book is about a young man from the tiny East African country of Burundi who "lands at JFK airport with two hundred dollars, no English, and no contacts." He ends up "in the direction of Columbia University, medical school, and a life devoted to healing."

This is the kind of immigrant story that would appeal to President Barack Obama as an example of America's open-arm embrace of those seeking freedom and prosperity in a new land. I'm looking forward to settling down with this book called by one critic "a tour de force. Inspiring. Moving. Gripping."

After reading it, I will probably review it for this blog. So please stay tuned.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Urban Book Maven's 6th Anniversary

December 18 will mark this blog's 6th anniversary. I'm looking forward to six more years.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

The Misplacement Of Page Six

I'd like to know when the New York Post is going to return its gossip column, Page Six, to page 6 instead of page 10 or page 12 or some other page. What's the point of calling it Page Six? It doesn't make any sense. Maybe the publisher and the editors think the readers are too unobservant to notice.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Making History Come Alive Via Fiction

One reading goal of mine is to read all 21 books in Ellis Peters's Cadfael (pronounced Cad-file) mystery series, set in 11th-century England. So far I've read about three of the books. I own paperback copies of some of the books. (I've been meaning to read the whole series for a long time but, unfortunately, I haven't gotten around to it. Maybe I can start in the new year.)

Cadfael, for those not familiar with the series, is a Welsh-born monk/herbalist/amateur sleuth (who was also a soldier).

Peters (1913-1995) was the pseudonym of Edith Pargeter, a medieval scholar. Because of her extensive knowledge of this period and her literary skill, she made the life and customs come alive on the page in an entertaining and riveting way that most scholarly books would not.

Many of the books were adapted for television and broadcast in the United States on PBS.  The wonderful actor Derek Jacobi portrayed Cadfael.