Monday, July 27, 2015

Divedapper, A New Poetry Website

While browsing through this past Sunday's New York Times Book Review (July 26), I came upon a quote from an interview with poet Frank Bidart*(born 1939) that was published by Divedapper, a website I had never heard of. My curiosity caused me to immediately go to the site on my mobile phone. I learned that Divedapper is "a new project devoted exclusively to featuring interviews with major voices in contemporary poetry."

Kaveh Akbar, the site's founder and editor, has promised readers that "[a]ll site content will be free forever to anyone with an internet connection."

Divedapper's name is from "a type of grebe (a duckish water bird)" that was referred to in a Shakespeare poem.

*On another website, new poems by Frank Bidart are described as "powerful" ones that "wrestle with the poet's sexuality." That phrase signaled to me that the poet is a gay man.

Divedapper is at

Saturday, July 25, 2015

English Speakers Need Not Apply

I have seen Help Wanted signs posted on the windows of several restaurants in New York advertising openings for a delivery man or a dishwasher but in Spanish only. Such signs give an English-speaking job seeker the idea that they need not bother to apply. To me this is discrimination. If it is against the law to discriminate on the basis of race, sex, color, national origin, etc., then why are these signs permitted?

Monday, July 20, 2015

More Books Rescued

True book lover that I am, I rescued two more books a few days ago. I found them among several books discarded by a curbside book vendor near Union Square Park in Manhattan. The books I found were The Sisterhood:The True Story of the Women Who Changed the World by Marcia Cohen (Simon & Schuster, 1988), a group biography of feminists Betty Friedan, Gloria Steinem, Germaine Greer, and Kate Millett and Our Crowd: The Great Jewish Families of New York by Stephen Birmingham (Harper & Row, 1967). Later that evening,near Columbia University, I rescued another book that was lying on top of a city trash receptacle. It too was among other discarded books. The book I rescued was Webster's Concise World Atlas (Barnes and Noble, 1995), a very useful little book.

Friday, July 17, 2015

The Four-Eyed Felon

Crime Does Not Pay was a series of true-crime stories told in comic-book form. Dark Horse Publishing has reissued Issues 50-53 in one volume. These stories were originally published in 1947 and come complete with ads for such items as boomerangs and filmstrip projectors.

In Issue 50, one of the criminals profiled was Danny Iamascia (1902-1931), who was the bodyguard for gangsters Ciro Terranova and Dutch Schultz. This particular profile was very amusing.

Iamascia, called in the story the "four-eyed felon," was extremely near-sighted and was "blind as a bat," to quote one of his colleagues, when he was without his glasses which frequently fell off his face. I can identify with that situation since that has happened to me on more than one occasion. Whenever Iamascia's glasses would fall off, he became the gangster who couldn't shoot straight making him a danger even to his cohorts.

Iamascia became the brunt of jokes by other gangsters and his eyeglasses mishaps are emphasized as a source of humor by the comic-book writer. You would think that he would be more of a liability to his employers than an asset and that he would follow another line of work that didn't involve life and death.

I have the feeling that the comic-book writer either exaggerated or made up the eyeglasses problem to poke fun at Iamascia. Looking up his bio on the Internet, I could find no mention of his eyesight or his eyeglasses frequently falling off.

 After he was killed by two New York City detectives in 1931, his funeral had a massive turnout, a fact the comic-book writer failed to mention probably because  such adulation would have undermined the "crime does not pay" theme of the series.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Don't Insult The Alligator's Mouth

The following unpublished letter-to-the-editor was submitted to the New York Daily News's "Voice of the People" via e-mail on July 6, 2015:

Dear Editor:

Re: the young man in Texas who jumped into a body of water containing an alligator despite pleas by onlookers not to ("Man Teased Gator Before Fatal Attack," July 5).

This tragic event brought to mind an African proverb that the young man if he had heard of it should have heeded: "Until you have crossed the river, don't insult the alligator's mouth." In other words, when in the presence of danger, proceed with caution until you are out of harm's way.

Sincerely yours,
Charles Michael Smith

Note: I remember seeing this proverb in a paperback anthology of Negro literature edited by Langston Hughes.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Movies Alfresco Are Not For Me

This summer all around New York there will be movie screenings in the city's parks and on rooftops. Many of these events will be free (including the popcorn).

But I doubt that I will be an attendee. They would remind me too much of the drive-in theatres I went to when I was a child in Southern California. Watching a movie on a big screen under the stars never appealed to me. I've always preferred going to what Variety, the entertainment trade publication, has called hardtop theatres, with their plush seats, air conditioning, movie posters, and the smell of hot buttered popcorn and hot dogs.

Don't get me wrong, I enjoy the smell of grass, the chirping of birds, and the occasional gust of wind. But not while I'm trying to enjoy a movie.They would only serve as distractions.