Saturday, May 30, 2015

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Violence In America

The following letter-to-the-editor was sent via e-mail to the Metro New York newspaper on May 28, 2015:

Dear Editor:

In retired police sergeant Sal Giarratani's letter (Metro, May 27), he expressed the belief that "a culture of violence...permeates communities of color." This view is one-sided. It also ignores American history as well as the '60s saying that "Violence is as American as apple pie."

The history books are full of examples of American violence: the Hamilton-Burr duel, gunfights in the American West, gangland slayings, the massacre of Native Americans, witch-hunts, Ku Klux Klan lynchings, police violence against labor organizers, presidential assassinations, to name a few.

And if you add to that the glorification of firearms in the movies and on television and the subsequent bloodlust and carnage on screen, you will see that communities of color are not and have never been the only segment of society plagued by violence.

Sincerely yours,
Charles Michael Smith

Note: This letter was published in the Metro New York newspaper on May 29, 2015.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Monday, May 18, 2015

Invitees To A Literary Dinner Party

Here's a fun question. Historian Joseph J. Ellis (The Quartet: Orchestrating the Second American Revolution, 1783-1789) was asked in the New York Times Book Review's "By the Book" feature (May 17, 2015) which three writers he would invite if he were hosting a literary dinner party. His choices: "For sheer intellectual fireworks, Joseph Brodsky, Susan Sontag and Gore Vidal." He would also invite Mark Twain who would "show up for dessert to assure we all ended up laughing at ourselves."

That got me to thinking who I would invite to a literary dinner party. My choices would be James Baldwin, Chester Himes, and Zora Neale Hurston.  All three were highly opinionated firebrands. I would sit back and enjoy hearing what they had to say about race, world travel, book publishing, and any other subject they cared to discuss.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Queen Latifah As Bessie Smith In A Made-For-TV Biopic

The multi-talented Queen Latifah stars as blues singer Bessie Smith in the biopic Bessie. It premieres tonight  on HBO. (Mo'Nique co-stars as Smith's fellow blues singer Ma Rainey.) I learned of the film several weeks ago when I saw an ad for it on the side of a city bus.

Bessie Smith, who was called "The Empress of the Blues," died in a car accident in 1937 at the age of  43.

Unfortunately I won't be able to watch the film because I don't subscribe to cable TV. But I look forward to seeing it when it comes out on DVD.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

A Hollywood Romance Story

On the table in front of the Harlem Children's Zone's Baby College on Seventh Avenue were several books, all offered for free. A sign in the window cautioned passersby to limit themselves to one book.
I chose Audrey and Bill: A Romantic Biography of Audrey Hepburn and William Holden by Edward Z. Epstein, a celebrity biographer. To my surprise it was an "Advance Uncorrected Proof" for a book published last month (April). I seldom come upon free books published that recently.

Hepburn and Holden's short-lived romance, which began when they co-starred in Billy Wilder's Sabrina, should be fascinating reading.

Saturday, May 9, 2015



Happy Mother's Day!

Monday, May 4, 2015

A History Lesson

This unpublished letter-to-the-editor was sent to the New York Daily News "Voice of the People" via e-mail on May 1, 2015.

Dear Editor:

I don't excuse or condone the actions of the rioters and looters in Baltimore. And Voicer Andrew Keats is correct when he stated that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. "didn't sit at home waiting for an excuse to steal, destroy and riot." However, Keats paints a rose-colored depiction of the civil rights movement and Dr. King's peaceful and nonviolent marches. He overlooks the fact that despite Dr. King's nonviolent protests against social injustice, he was still thought to be a lawbreaker, an agitator, and a Communist dupe, if not an outright Communist, by Southern segregationists, conservative religious leaders, and J. Edgar Hoover of the FBI.

Sincerely yours,
Charles Michael Smith

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Friday, May 1, 2015