Monday, December 31, 2018

Happy New Year!

I hope you all have a happy, healthy, and prosperous 2019. Don't forget to read plenty of books in the new year. Also, please support independent bookstores.

Thursday, December 27, 2018

My 2019 Reading List

The following are a baker's dozen of books I have never got around to reading or books I have never finished reading and plan to return to. I'm putting them on my reading list for the new year.

1. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
2. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
3. Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
4. Breakfast at Tiffany's by Truman Capote
5. Paris Noir by Tyler Stovall (nonfiction about black American expatriates.)
6. Lush Life by David Hajdu (biography of composer/pianist/Duke Ellington collaborator Billy Strayhorn.)
7. Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterley (re: black female mathematicians at NASA in the 1960s; I enjoyed the movie.)
8. Baldwin's Harlem by Herb Boyd (a biography)
9. In the Heat of the Night by John Ball (the basis for the movie and subsequent TV series.)
10. Devil in a Blue Dress by Walter Mosley
11. Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie (the classic murder mystery.)
12. Tinseltown by William J. Mann (nonfiction book about the 1922 murder of film director William Desmond Taylor. This will be the third book that I will have read about this subject. It still fascinates me.)
13. Having Our Say: The Delany Sisters' First 100 Years by Sarah L. and A. Elizabeth Delany with Amy Hill Hearth (a memoir of two African American sisters who lived past the century mark;their nephew is the science fiction writer Samuel R. Delany;the memoir was made into a TV movie starring Ruby Dee and Diahann Carroll and was broadcast in 1999.)

Monday, December 24, 2018

Are You A Dogophile Or A Caninophile?

In his 2003 Time magazine essay, "Of Dogs and Men," later reprinted in Things That Matter (Crown Forum, 2013), his essay collection, the late syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer used the word "dogophilia" to describe the close relationship that humans have to their dogs.

A better, more elegant word would have been "caninophilia," the love of dogs. One website calls the word "a bastard mix of Latin and Greek," but it sounds much better than "dogophilia," a word that sounds ugly to my ears and robs such a passion for dogs of its beauty, mutuality, and elevated status. It would be like calling a person who has a deep passion for books a bookaholic or a bookophile instead of a bibliophile or, to use the name of this blog, a book maven.These latter terms are more elegant, celebratory, and respectful.

Some people might say that I'm nitpicking but to me words matter. How they are used conveys one's attitude and view of the world. To me, "dogophilia" trivializes a very important, deeply felt relationship.

As for me, although I've had many dogs in my life, I'm partial to cats. You can call me a felinophile or a cat lover, not a catophile.

Note: Merry Christmas, everyone!

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Whose Harlem Is It?

"Around 123rd Street, an enormous luxury high-rise is going up. The people of the neighborhood have scrawled, in white paint, on the walls of the construction site: Where will we live? For Harlem is an exceedingly valuable chunk of real estate and the state and the city and the real-estate interests are reclaiming the land and urban renewalizing--or gentrifying--the niggers out of it."--James Baldwin, "Whose Harlem Is This, Anyway?" (1986), published in Essence magazine (November 1996), quoted in Whose Harlem Is This, Anyway?: Community Politics and Grassroots Activism During the New Negro Era by Shannon King (New York University Press, 2015), page 1 (Introduction).

Now that gentrification has firmly taken root in Harlem, Baldwin's comments are still timely and relevant in the 21st century.

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Friday, December 7, 2018



Note: Today is Pearl Harbor Day, a day to commemorate the 1941 Japanese air attack on the Pearl Harbor naval base in Hawaii. The attack led to the United States entering the Second World War.

Thursday, December 6, 2018



Note: I'm getting ready to put together a list of books I hope to read in the new year.

Monday, December 3, 2018

Saturday, December 1, 2018

World AIDS Day, 2018

Today is World AIDS Day, a time to remember friends and family members who succumbed to this disease as well as to reflect on the progress made thus far by medical science in fighting and possibly eradicating it.

Looking back, the AIDS epidemic made the 1980s and 1990s a scary time. Especially because so many people were dropping like flies and a cure seemed a million years away.

But it was also a great time for AIDS activism and artistic expression, particularly among black gay men. So whenever I look through one of my scrapbooks or manuscript folders containing articles that I've written, I'm reminded that, as a journalist, I was privileged to have had the opportunity to witness and document what went on within the gay community during a frightening time.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Saturday, November 24, 2018



Note: I hope everyone had an enjoyable Thanksgiving. I spent part of my Thanksgiving at a friend's apartment in Brooklyn where we ate and had a good conversation with a friend of his who was also invited.

Next month marks the tenth anniversary of this blog.

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Some New York Observations

Seen on 125th Street, Harlem: A young black man wearing a T-shirt with the word "Loser" on the front and over the letter "S" is a big red "V," changing "Loser" to "Lover."
(Originally posted on Twitter and Facebook on July 28, 2018.)

While riding the New York City subway system, I sometimes feel like I'm part of a traveling circus:
panhandlers, a man covered in gold paint and glitter posing as a statue, homeless people asleep on the benches, people talking to themselves, young break dancers/gymnasts performing to rap music, musicians on the trains and platforms playing every kind of music you can imagine, et al.

One day I'll probably see on the subway a snake charmer or a magician or a palm reader. Scenes out of a Fellini movie.
(Originally posted on Facebook on September 24, 2018.)

When I see the name "Herald Square," I think of the long-gone Woolworth's even though it's the name of the area around 34th Street (formerly the home of the now-defunct New York Herald newspaper). "Herald Square" was the name Woolworth's gave to its line of stationery items (envelopes, writing pads, index cards, etc.).

Three days ago, I saw a barefoot middle-aged black man on 116th Street. He brought to mind the Barefoot Prophet, who walked the streets of Harlem in the 1920s in all kinds of weather reciting scripture.
(Originally posted on Twitter on August 30, 2018.)

Thursday, November 15, 2018



Note: Here in the Northeast, winter has made an early appearance. We are experiencing a heavy snowstorm. But we will get through it.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Bill Whitaker, Newsman And Voter

This past Tuesday, November 6, I was a poll worker at one of the poll sites in my neighborhood. This was the seventh election that I worked. While sitting at my assigned table, Bill Whitaker of CBS's 60 Minutes newsmagazine show came to the table to sign the Voter Registration List. When I asked if he was Bill Whitaker the newsman, he quickly nodded and continued signing his name. One website noted that Whitaker "never stops to flaunt his media talent." That statement is very true.

I hope he plans to write a memoir of his world travels as a journalist. It would be compelling reading. Meanwhile, I'm following him on Twitter.

Monday, November 5, 2018



Note: Tomorrow is Election Day. Don't forget to vote.

Saturday, November 3, 2018



Note: Today is National Sandwich Day.

Friday, November 2, 2018



Note: Don't forget to turn your clocks back one hour this coming Sunday.

Wednesday, October 31, 2018



Note: Happy Halloween, everyone!

Monday, October 29, 2018

Trump, A Crazy Rich Caucasian?

Someone (Michael Moore? Spike Lee?) will probably make a documentary about Trump and call it Crazy Rich Caucasian.

Note: Today is National Cat Day. According to Wikipedia, it "was founded as a way to bring awareness to the number of homeless cats."

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Alt-Right Fake News Regarding Alec Baldwin?

Bill Tate, a white, 67-year-old, very conservative pro-Trump co-worker at a national opinion research firm here in New York, sent me the following text message (sent @8:38 pm, 10/15/2018):

"Secret service agents took alec Baldwin [sic] into custody @3pm today; he publically [sic] advocated the overthrow of U.S.A.=SEDITION!"

This sounds like alt-right fake news and wishful thinking. And if true, is a Gestapo reaction of the Secret Service.

Here's what Alec Baldwin actually said per The, a political website, and

"The way we implement change in America is through elections.We change governments here at home in an orderly and formal way. In that orderly and formal way and lawful way, we need to overthrow the government of the United States under Donald Trump."

Baldwin did not advocate a violent overthrow of the government. He was talking about the use of the ballot box to change the government.

Monday, October 15, 2018



Note: In less than three weeks, we go back to Standard Time. That means we turn back the clock one hour and gain an extra hour of sleep! Hooray!

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Saturday, October 6, 2018

A Challenging But Fun Crossword Puzzle

One of my favorite crossword puzzles is "The Mini Crossword" that appears weekdays on page A-3 of The New York Times. It can be challenging but most of the time is fun with its clever, brain-teasing clues.

Note: Have a happy Columbus Day weekend!

Monday, October 1, 2018



Dress Codes Are Not Fashion Fascism

The following is an unpublished letter-to-the-editor that was sent via e-mail to the New York Daily News as well as amNew York, a free daily newspaper.

Voice of the People
New York Daily News
450 West 33rd Street
New York, NY 10001

October 21, 2005

To the Editor:

Re: NBA dress code. To call Commissioner Stern's decision racist or, as [sportswriter] Filip Bondy termed it, an act of "fashion fascism," is utterly ridiculous. What's wrong with looking your best? How can that be interpreted as "attacking cultures," as one of the athletes described it? What is cultured about wearing pants so low that one's underwear shows?

If Joe Louis, Martin Luther King, Nat "King" Cole, Paul Robeson, Malcolm X, Duke Ellington, and other African-American luminaries had dressed as slovenly and thuggish as some of today's millionaire athletes, no one would have taken them seriously. In fact, the black community would have been ashamed of them for looking like someone's unmade bed.

Sincerely yours,
Charles Michael Smith

Saturday, September 29, 2018

National Coffee Day

Today is National Coffee Day. Celebrate with a cup or two at Starbucks, a donut shop, a coffee shop, or at home, preferably with a good book in hand.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Farewell To Dance Theatre Of Harlem's Arthur Mitchell (1934-2018)

I just learned of the death of Arthur Mitchell, at age 84, the co-founder of the Dance Theatre of Harlem, the first black male principal dancer with the New York City Ballet under George Balanchine, and the recipient of the MacArthur "genius grant" in 1994. R.I.P., Mr. Mitchell.

Monday, September 24, 2018



Note: Let's make America greater!

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Friday, September 21, 2018

Thinking About The Doo-Rag

Recently I saw a young black man with a gray doo-rag standing at the corner of 116th Street and Lenox Avenue in Harlem. That got me to thinking about the origin of the doo-rag  (or du-rag, as it is spelled sometimes).

I haven't bothered to look it up on Wikipedia or the Urban Dictionary (yet). After giving it much thought, I concluded that the often-seen urban headwear called the doo-rag is short for "hairdo"and that in the days when many black men wore processed, that is, chemically straightened hair, they wore this skullcap-like headwear to keep the hair in place and to absorb hair grease and sweat. And the "rag" part of the term refers to it being made from some kind of cloth.

I do remember seeing men wear on their head what looked like a woman's nylon stocking rolled up to fit the head. Today's doo-rag more than likely is a more masculine-looking variation. Not everyone is enamored of it, however. I have seen signs posted on the doors and windows of nightlife establishments in Harlem prohibiting patrons from entering the premises wearing hoodies and doo-rags. I think they associate these forms of headwear with street gang attire.

Note: Tomorrow is the first day of Autumn. So long, Summer, it was great knowing you. See you again next year, God willing!

Monday, September 17, 2018

A Singer Who Can "Sang"

In Curtis Davenport's review of a debut album called Home by jazz singer Shirley Crabbe (Jazz Inside magazine, May 2012), he stated enthusiastically that "the lady can sang!"

He went on to explain the qualities of such a singer. "Those who can 'sang,' cause a smile to come to your face and occasional goosebumps when they vocalize."

"[T]hose who can 'sang,'" he continued, "aren't necessarily those who employ the type of amateurish vocal histrionics often heard on 'American Idol' or 'The Voice,' instead they are those who have a good voice, an understanding of the meaning of their lyric and an ability to interpret that lyric in a way that makes you feel the song they are singing."

This explains why I am such a big fan of the late singer Carmen McRae (1922-1994) and why I hope to obtain every album she ever recorded. She also could "sang."

After reading Curtis Davenport's review, I am now interested in hearing Ms. Crabbe's vocal skills.

And although the review was published six years ago, the comments are still relevant and timeless.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Is Trump's Space Force Proposal A Farce?

I don't know if any newspapers or magazines plan to publish comments from a dozen or so science-fiction writers like Samuel Delany on President Trump's proposed Space Force, but if they haven't, it would be something worth doing.

By offering their perspectives, pro and con, on establishing this new branch of the military, the general public would be informed in a thought-provoking and non-technical way on the government's national space security policies or the lack of same.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018



Note: Tomorrow, September 13, is Primary Day in New York State. Don't forget to vote!! The polls are open from 6 am until 9 pm. Again, don't forget to vote!!

Saturday, September 8, 2018

Barack Obama Quotes Ernest Hemingway At John McCain's Memorial Service

I love the following quote:

"Today is only one day in all the days that will ever be. But what will happen in all the other days that ever come can depend on what you do today."--Ernest Hemingway, For Whom the Bell Tolls.

Former U.S. president Barack Obama quoted the above passage in the eloquent eulogy he delivered at U.S. senator John McCain's memorial service at the Washington National Cathedral, Saturday, September 1, 2018.

Can you imagine Donald Trump, a man who doesn't read, quoting Hemingway or any other writer, American or otherwise?

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Farewell To The Village Voice (1955-2018)

Sad news. I learned yesterday via NPR's "All Things Considered" that the Village Voice, where I worked as a proofreader in the early 1980s, has ceased publication permanently, as of Friday, August 31. It is a publication that I will miss. More on this later.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Saturday, August 25, 2018

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Saturday, August 18, 2018

The Return of "Native Son" (On Screen)

Another screen version of Richard Wright's 1940 best seller, Native Son, is scheduled for release, per Entertainment Weekly ( Fall Movie Preview, Special Double Issue, August 17/24, 2018). It stars newcomer KiKi Layne, who presumably plays Bigger Thomas's girlfriend Bessie and Ashton Sanders (Moonlight), who presumably plays Bigger. No other information about the production was provided.

Previous versions came out in 1986 and 1950. The latter version starred Richard Wright himself as Bigger Thomas. (Clips from that film appeared in a public television documentary about Wright.)

Of the 1986 version, Leonard Maltin's 2006 Movie Guide called it "an OK melodrama" and criticized its "deliberate alterations and softening of some of the novel's key plot points and themes." (Oprah Winfrey appears as Bigger's mother.)

The new film will probably be more graphic in its depiction of Bigger's accidental killing of Mary Dalton, the daughter of his white employer and the subsequent disposal of her body in the basement furnace.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Saturday, August 11, 2018

James Baldwin's "Beale Street" Novel Slated For The Big Screen

At the 56th New York Film Festival (September 28-October 14), to be held at the Film Society of Lincoln Center, there will be a screening of If Beale Street Could Talk, director Barry Jenkins's film adaptation of James Baldwin's novel of the same name. (Jenkins's last film was Moonlight, which won the Best Picture Oscar in 2017.)

The film, reported amNew York (August 8, 2018), is about "a young African-American man in 1970s Harlem who is arrested and convicted for a crime he didn't commit." (Could this be another Oscar contender in the fall?)

I've never read the book and may have a copy of it. If I do, it's probably buried among the hundreds of books I own. I may just buy a copy and read it before the film is released nationwide. It's slated for release on November 30.

Monday, August 6, 2018

Dumb Donald And King James

There is an old saying, people who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones. Well, Donald Trump, our 45th president, decided to throw stones at basketball star LeBron James (called King James by his fans) via Twitter.

James, a staunch critic of Trump and his policies, said, in an interview with CNN's Don Lemon, "We are in a position in America where this race thing has taken over. ...I believe our president is trying to divide us."

The Tweeter-in-Chief responded by saying that "Lebron [sic] James was just interviewed by the dumbest man on television, Don Lemon. He made Lebron look smart, which isn't easy to do."

Trump has received much criticism in the media for again attacking the intelligence of African-Americans.

However, according to journalist Michael Wolff's Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House, there have been several  people inside the Trump Administration who've questioned Trump's intelligence.

"There was now a fair amount of back-of-the-classroom giggling about who had called Trump what," reported Wolff. "For [Treasury secretary] Steve Mnuchin and [former Chief of Staff] Reince Priebus, he was an 'idiot.' For [Chief Economics Advisor] Gary Cohn, he was 'dumb as shit.' For [National Security Advisor] H. R. McMaster, he was a 'dope.' The list went on." (See page 304.)

Those attitudes among people in the Trump White House should make LeBron James smile and say to himself, "Look who's calling me and others dumb."

Saturday, August 4, 2018

James Weldon Johnson On The Future Of Harlem

"Will Harlem become merely a famous ghetto, or will it be a center of intellectual, cultural and economic forces exerting an influence throughout the world, especially upon Negro peoples?"--James Weldon Johnson (1871-1938;Harlem Renaissance writer), "The Making of Harlem," Survey Graphic, March 1925, quoted in One Righteous Man: Samuel Battle and the Shattering of the Color Line in New York by Arthur Browne (Beacon Press, 2015), page 193.

"Have you ever stopped to think what the future of Harlem will be? It will be a city within a city. It will be the greatest Negro city in the world within the greatest city in the world."--James Weldon Johnson, "The Future Harlem," New York Age, January 10, 1920, ibid., page 153.

None of the above will happen if the gentrifiers and real estate developers of the 21st century have their way.

Wednesday, August 1, 2018



Note: Sadly, summer is winding down. So let's enjoy it while we can.

Monday, July 30, 2018

History And Ideas

"History is shaped by its battle of ideas, and I wanted to be in the arena, not because I want to fight, but because some things need to be said. And some things need to be defended."--Charles Krauthammer (1950-2018), conservative public intellectual/syndicated columnist, quoted in "Charles Krauthammer, Pulitzer Prize-Winning Columnist and Intellectual Provacateur, Dies at 68" by Adam Bernstein, The Washington Post, June 21, 2018, republished in the Los Angeles Times.

Saturday, July 28, 2018



Note: Today is National Dance Day and the National Day of the American Cowboy. Both are celebrated each year on the fourth Saturday of July.

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Harlem Week Celebrates 44 Women Achievers

This year marks the 44th anniversary of Harlem Week, which is now actually a month-long event (July 29-August 31). Its goal is to celebrate "the gravitas, history and brilliance of all that is Harlem," to quote the Calendar of Events brochure.

Harlem Week 2018's theme this year is "Women Transforming Our World: Past, Present and Future." And since Harlem Week is 44 years old, 44 women of achievement will be honored at various sites in and around Harlem. Among the honorees are opera singer Marian Anderson; actress Ruby Dee; choreographer, dancer Judith Jamison; U.S. Supreme Court justice Sonia Sotomayor; New York Amsterdam News publisher Elinor Tatum; activist Rosa Parks; tennis champs Venus Williams and Serena Williams; future activist Yolanda Renee King, Martin Luther King, Jr.'s 9-year-old granddaughter; and television journalist and talk-show host Rachel Maddow.

Included in the Calendar of Events is acknowledgment of Harlem's LGBTQ members, "our community within the community." "The LGBTQ community has played a significant role," stated the brochure, "in developing Harlem's music, art, theater and literature scenes, and has been responsible for producing some of the greatest artists, thinkers, philosophers and poets over the past century."

With that in mind, I hope that next year's Harlem Week will do a month-long tribute to the LGBTQ community. The headline the brochure used for the acknowledgment of the LGBTQ community--"Harlem's LGBTQ Roots Run Deep"--would be an appropriate slogan for such a tribute.

Friday, July 20, 2018

How Hot Is It In Hell?

During past heat waves, I remember hearing religious zealots say when people complained about the heat, "Hell is hotter than this." I don't know how they knew that unless they'd been to Hell and back, an unlikely occurrence.

Plus, I've heard that there are microorganisms on Earth that can survive in extreme temperatures. If such a place as Hell exists, would these microorganisms survive and thrive in such a hostile, uncomfortable environment?

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Stepin Fetchit, In Real Life, Was Not Dimwitted

The following is an unpublished letter-to-the editor.

Voice of the People
New York Daily News
450 West 33rd Street
New York, NY 10001

October 20, 2005

To the Editor:

Re: Stepin Fetchit retrospective at MoMa [Museum of Modern Art] ("Now Entertainment," 10/18/05). As an African-American, I am not proud of the racist stereotypes he perpetuated on the screen. However, I don't think he should be singled out for special vilification. In the 1930s and '40s, black performers were extremely limited in the types of roles they were offered. Clearly Fetchit [1902-1985] was aware of this situation himself when he made the following statement: "A Negro couldn't do anything straight, only comedy." (The quote is from Donald Bogle's book on Black Hollywood, Bright Boulevards, Bold Dreams.)

Plus, Fetchit went broke financing a production company in an unsuccessful attempt to make a movie about [boxer] Jack Johnson and [baseball player] Satchel Paige, two African-American sports heroes who were the antithesis of Fetchit's screen persona. That should be proof enough that Fetchit (born Lincoln Perry), a third-year college dropout, was not the dimwitted, shiftless character he portrayed on screen.

Sincerely yours,
Charles Michael Smith

Friday, July 13, 2018

Saturday, July 7, 2018



Note: I hope everyone is enjoying the summer even though the last few days have been extremely hot. But better heat than snow.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Monday, July 2, 2018



Note: It's close to 100 degrees outside. Is it hot enough for you?
I hope everyone has a happy, safe, and sane Fourth of July!

Friday, June 29, 2018

Monday, June 25, 2018



Note: I enjoyed the Gay Pride parade yesterday in the Chelsea section of Manhattan despite the parade route change that had the parade going uptown instead of downtown as in previous years.

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Monday, June 18, 2018

Two Unbuilt Projects In The American West

There were two West Coast real estate projects that never saw the light of day.

In the mid-1980s, a gay interracial couple planned to establish a gay resort in a Nevada ghost town called Rhyolite. I was asked by a friend to interview them for a publication he was involved with. For whatever reason, the interview never happened.

The second project was announced in the New York Times in a two-page spread (no doubt costing a small fortune). It was to be called Beverly Springs and was going to be a city in California built exclusively for the rich and the super-rich. The person behind the project was a young black man who had been a professional football player.

After all these years, I'm still wondering why these two projects never materialized. Did they have trouble finding investors? Were they poorly conceived ideas? Was too much government red tape involved?

One day I hope to find the answer to those questions.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Happy Pride Month 2018

I hope everyone has a happy pride month.

I'm looking forward to Stonewall 50 next year when we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall uprising in Greenwich Village.

Monday, June 11, 2018

Anthony Bourdain, A Man Worth Knowing

R.I.P. Anthony Bourdain (1956-2018), chef, author, journalist, TV host.

After reading articles about Anthony Bourdain online and in print, I regretted not having the opportunity to meet him. Or interviewing him about the restaurant business for a newspaper or magazine article. It would have been a thought-provoking, possibly life-altering, experience.

Now I intend to read his books as well as look on YouTube for episodes of his television programs. (I love watching food shows.)

I do recall hearing Bourdain being interviewed by talk show host Leonard Lopate on New York's WNYC-AM when his restaurant tell-all book, Kitchen Confidential, came out in 2000. Maybe that interview, and others, are also on YouTube. I hope so.

Sarah J. Jackson, a professor at Northeastern University in Boston, in an article she wrote for the Sunday New York Times (June 10, 2018) stated that Bourdain "was not just curious about food and the world. He was aware that injustice and inequality are systemic issues, and he never shied away from pointing that out."

Another writer, Jonathan Gold, a restaurant critic for the Los Angeles Times, reported in that paper (June 8, 2018), that "Bourdain was most interested in the intersection of food and culture, and a shot of a fish on a plate would usually be preceded by an exploration of the people who had cooked it, sold it in the market or landed it on their boat."

Such a man was worth knowing and being given our full attentions.

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Saturday, June 2, 2018

JFK The Reader And Donald Trump The Non-Reader

Examining the reading habits of the president of the United States, the most powerful man in the free world, gives us some insight into the quality of his thinking, his comfort level with complex ideas, and the depth of his curiosity about the world around him.

"Send me a man who reads," was the slogan for a print ad for the company International Paper in the 1960s that I remember seeing in Reader's Digest, underscoring the need for literate, thoughtful, and broad-minded individuals in the business world as well as in politics and the arts.

Reading about the reading habits of John F. Kennedy and Donald Trump in two recently published books, I became aware of the sharp contrast between the two men.

In Schlesinger: The Imperial Historian by Richard Aldous (Norton, 2017), JFK is described by Aldous as a man who "maintained a keen interest in history throughout his life." His wife, Jacqueline Kennedy, is quoted as saying that Kennedy"would read walking, he'd read at the table, at meals, he read after dinner, he'd read in the bathtub."

"Jacqueline," writes Aldous," [recalled] how Kennedy each Sunday would circle the new books in the New York Times Sunday Book Review that he wanted to read."

Contrast that image of Kennedy with that of Trump, who, writes Michael Wolff in his book,Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House (Holt, 2018),  "didn't read. He didn't really even skim. If it was print, it might as well not exist...Some thought him dyslexic;certainly his comprehension was limited. Others concluded that he didn't read because he just didn't have to, and that in fact this was one of his key attributes as a populist. He was postliterate--total television."

His lack of interest in reading may explain the numerous spelling and grammar errors found in a letter he sent to a former South Carolina English teacher, Yvonne Mason, who posted it on Facebook, which went viral, and sent it back to the White House with corrections in purple ink. "If it had been written in middle school," said Ms. Mason, in a news report (Metro New York, May 30, 2018), "I'd give it a C or C-plus. If it had been written in high school, I'd give it a D."

In summation, a tale of two presidents: one who immersed himself in books and one who doesn't.

Friday, June 1, 2018

Wednesday, May 30, 2018



Note: Summer, my favorite season, is almost here!

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Friday, May 25, 2018



Note: Enjoy your Memorial Day weekend, everyone!

Monday, May 21, 2018

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Learning A New Word--"Shambolic"

While reading journalist Michael Wolff's Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House (Henry Holt, 2018), I came across this sentence in the chapter about Donald Trump's former Chief Strategist Steve Bannon: "By default, everybody had to look to the voluble, aphoristic, shambolic, witty, off-the-cuff figure who was both ever present on the premises and who had, in an unlikely attribute, read a book or two." (See page 60.) [Italics mine.]

The word that caught my attention was "shambolic." I'd never seen it before. Being someone who enjoys learning new words, I consulted two of my American dictionaries and I could not find this word. I then went online and learned that "shambolic" is British slang for chaotic, disorganized, or mismanaged.

Looking further, I consulted the Canadian Oxford Dictionary, 2nd edition, a book I found, I think, on a street corner almost two years ago. It defines the word as "chaotic, unorganized." Now I have a new word to add to my vocabulary.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Saturday, May 12, 2018

A Street-Corner Escort Ad In Harlem

In Harlem, I've seen handbills attached to lampposts, mail boxes, storefront windows, and even on trees for a variety of reasons--to announce a death, to offer a reward for the return of a lost pet or wallet, steering people to employment opportunities or apartments for rent, etc. But I have never seen a handbill soliciting clients for an escort/massage service. This particular handbill was pasted to a lamppost at the corner of Lenox Avenue and 121st Street. The advertiser was a handsome young man named Jayson, age 19, of black/Puerto Rican heritage. At the bottom of the page was his phone number, in the 914 area code (presumably he was from Westchester County). His photo was at the top.

A few days after I saw Jayson's ad, someone--a homophobe, no doubt--came along and scratched out the phone number with a key or something sharp. This was in 2012. I recently checked that location. There is no trace of the handbill.

The closest  thing to this ad that I've seen was when I worked at the Mount Morris Baths in Harlem.
Some of the customers would write their name and phone number on the back of the door of the room they occupied.

Now that Harlem has become more gentrified and many more gays (and lesbians) are moving in (to the disapproval of the homophobic Atlah Church, down the street from where I saw the handbill), I expect to see more such advertising on lampposts, bus shelters, and on the side of buildings.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Saturday, May 5, 2018

Scotty Bowers, Pimp To The Stars

I first learned of Scotty Bowers and his memoir, Full Service: My Adventures in Hollywood and the Secret Sex Lives of the Stars (Grove Press, 2012) while browsing the Summer Movie Preview double issue of Entertainment Weekly (April 27/May 4, 2018) and found out that a documentary based on the book will be released in late July. The film is called Scotty and the Secret History of Hollywood.

I immediately obtained a copy of this fascinating tell-all book and I hope to see the documentary version when it is screened in theatres this summer.

Bowers, now 94 years old, was in the Marine Corps during World War II and later became a matchmaker and trick to many famous names in Hollywood in the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Monday, April 30, 2018

Truman Capote And The Secrets Of The Affluent

One book that should be optioned for a motion picture, if it hasn't already, is The Swans of Fifth Avenue by Melanie Benjamin (Delacorte Press, 2016). This page-turner, which gives the reader a fly-on-the-wall view of events, is a fictionalized account of Truman Capote's befriending and betrayal of five wealthy Upper East Side women-- he called them his swans-- including Barbara "Babe" Paley, the wife of William Paley, the founder of the CBS broadcast network, and the swan with whom Capote had the closest relationship.

Capote wrote  a short story called " La Cote Basque, 1965" that was published in 1975 in Esquire magazine. The story revealed the secrets of the aforementioned women. These secrets were told to him with the belief that he would keep them confidential. When he didn't, they felt hurt and betrayed and as a result they shut him out of their lives. Capote never recovered from this ostracism.

It's too bad the late Philip Seymour Hoffman isn't around to reprise his portrayal of Capote in a possible film adaptation of The Swans of Fifth Avenue.

Note: The New York Times ran a story by Joseph Berger with the headline, "Cote Basque, A Society Temple, Is Closing" (September 18, 2003) that described the restaurant as "the high-society temple of classic French cuisine [located in Manhattan] that became the setting of a catty and thinly veiled excerpt from an unfinished novel by Truman Capote...."

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Saving New York From Rising Sea Water

Donald Trump, our 45th president, is more concerned about building a wall along the southern border than he is building a sea wall in New York harbor to keep rising sea water from flooding lower Manhattan and other low-lying areas of the city. The wrath of Hurricane Sandy in 2012 should have been a wake-up call.

Note: I posted the above comment on Facebook on April 7, 2018.

Tomorrow is Earth Day.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

One Hundred Women Hidden From History

I recently started reading She Caused a Riot: 100 Unknown Women Who Built Cities, Sparked Revolution, & Massively Crushed It by Hannah Jewell, a Washington, D.C.-based writer (Sourcebooks,2018).*

The book is intriguing although the author's use of profanities, anachronistic comments, and levity got under my skin a bit. I'm old-fashioned when it comes to books of biography and history. I prefer a serious, scholarly approach. I suppose in order to grab and hold the attention of millennials (the intended audience, I suspect), you have to be as entertaining and irreverent as possible.

The thing that drew me to the book, other than the provocative and attention-getting title, was the subject matter. This was the opportunity to learn the names and the life stories of women heretofore unknown. (I should point out that a few of these women are not as unknown as the book's subtitle would have us believe, such as actress/inventor Hedy Lamarr and journalist Ida B. Wells-Barnett.)

The book spans continents, time periods, races, and ethnic groups. Unfortunately, the black female mathematicians featured in the hit movie Hidden Figures are missing from the table of contents. Despite that oversight She Caused a Riot is a useful introduction to the accomplishments and concerns of one hundred women hidden from history. They are potential role models for young women and maybe young men as well.

*The book was published in 2017, in the United Kingdom, with the title 100 Nasty Women of History. Obviously a reference to Donald Trump's characterization of Hillary Clinton at one of the 2016 presidential debates.

Friday, April 13, 2018

Saturday, April 7, 2018

A Smoker's Island

As a non-smoker, I applaud the bill introduced by New York city councilman Peter Koo (D-Queens) to ban smoking while walking down the street. (See New York Daily News, March 20, 2018.)

I can recall numerous times being subjected to second-hand smoke by someone walking in front of me. I have often thought of carrying one of those hand-held paper fans you see women in churches using as a way to disperse the smoke.

Perhaps the City Council should designate one of the abandoned islands in the East River as a haven for smokers, providing them with free ferry service to and fro.

Environmentalists would probably protest vehemently such an idea, but it's worth considering--smokers with an island of their own.

Friday, April 6, 2018

Two Prose Poems Set In Greece

The following poems were written by Velma Jean Robinson Reeb.

"For the Shepherd at Amorgos"

He wears part of one of his sheep upon his back, a skin for a water bottle and a gray sheep calls him from the rocks above but he does not heed now for he speaks with the monk, a singular word or phrase, just momentarily before picking up again his staff and turning eastward to the road where it meets all the landscape on the way to the village. But he is not village-bound. His is the life of mountains to climb, bells ringing from the necks of his sheep, the sheep with whom he lives the life he loves, his own life, one he inherited, he does not disturb the landscape of water, mountain, sea, and air. I remember my surprise at his youth and handsomeness, his figure only slightly bent. He is so different, this real shepherd, from the ones in books.

"For a Greek Woman Watching the Sunset"

She sits, her dark head turned towards the light that fades in the West, fading gently, slowly, but never failing, only ebbing its way toward its destination, this light, this colored light and the woman waiting patiently, looking, lost in the world of that light, not hearing the shriek of Western music jarring the sunset as the ferry boat plows through the little waves, a little ferry boat in a timeless sea; no horizon and no destiny. There is only the sunset.

Velma Jean Robinson Reeb, a former Upper Manhattan resident, now resides in Portland, Oregon. She briefly lived in Greece with her son.

Monday, April 2, 2018





Note: April is National Poetry Month.

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Classic TV Shows On YouTube

One advantage to watching YouTube is the opportunity to see, in whole or in part, old 1950s and 1960s  television shows, like the police dramas The Naked City and NYPD, Johnny Staccato, a half-hour drama starring John Cassavetes, and the one-hour social-issues drama East Side/West Side*, starring George C. Scott and a young, Afro-coiffed Cicely Tyson. (Some of the shows included commercials for cigarettes and other products.)

I was also able to see several opening and closing credit sequences (along with the theme music) from Perry Mason, Route 66, 77 Sunset Strip, The Naked City, and The Twilight Zone.

It was obvious that many of these episodes were taped off the TV and posted to YouTube. The logos of the cable channels appeared in the lower right hand corner of the computer screen.

*According to The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network TV Shows,1946-Present (Ballantine Books, 1979), the critically acclaimed East Side/West Side's "downbeat subjects proved deadly with viewers and it was dropped after a single season."

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Sarah Jessica Parker, An Actress And A Public Library Fan

Actress Sarah Jessica Parker is a fan of public libraries. (She has also started a book imprint, SJP for Hogarth.) In an interview in the March 30, 2018 issue of Entertainment Weekly, she had this to say about visiting public libraries: "[In] libraries, people have their heads down. Nobody is interested in me. It's such a wonderful place for people to disappear. There's almost no place I can think of, with the exception of a church or a temple or a mosque, that demands that kind of quiet and respect for others." I would like to know where these public library branches she has visited are located. My experience has been the opposite. I have often gotten into arguments with fellow patrons who are conversing with other patrons while I'm reading or writing on one of the library computers.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Saturday, March 17, 2018



Note: Happy St. Patrick's Day!!

Thursday, March 15, 2018



Note: According to one of my wall calendars, this is Senior Citizens's Week.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Movies Are More Important Than Upscale Amenities

Especially since the advent of television, movie theatres have tried all kinds of gimmicks to attract audiences--3-D, CinemaScope, Surround sound, Sensurround, etc. In today's super-saturated media culture, theatres are even more determined to draw audiences away from all of these distractions.

Stephen Field's column in the March 2018 issue of W42ST magazine underscores that fact. "I haven't been in a movie theater in NYC for quite a while," he admits,"and had never been to an upscale cinema before" until he discovered The Landmark at 57 West theatre in Manhattan.

Field describes the concession fare as being "a fair amount of the expected junk," but then points out the more upscale fare available such as "Two Boots pizza slices, Eisenberg Gourmet Beef Franks, and Bronx Pretzels."

He concludes the item by saying how comfortable the leather reclining seats were and that "I can't see myself ever going back to a typical movie theater again after being spoiled like this."

A true cinema buff doesn't go to the movies to be spoiled by any amenities offered by a theatre. It's what's on the big screen that matters. (It's very revealing that nowhere in the item does he mention what movie he saw.)

I've never been to The Landmark at 57 West. It is on my list of theatres to visit one day. But when I do decide to go, it won't be because of the amenities. My main concerns are that the theatre be comfortable but within reason and that it uses the best audio-visual equipment available when films are screened.

 And no amount of luxuries will dissuade me from going to "a typical movie theater." I love movies too much to ever let that happen.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Friday, March 2, 2018

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Labeling And Segregating LGBTQ Books In Iowa

According to an article published on the Los Angeles Times's website (February 26, 2018), there are people in Orange City, Iowa (population 5,582, per Michelin Road Atlas, 2012 edition), near the Iowa-Nebraska border, who want to label and segregate LGBTQ books in the public library. These are probably the same people who want to ban classic literature like The Color Purple because they believe these books contain characters, scenes, and passages that are objectionable therefore unfit for young eyes.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

The "Black Panther" Movie Is Awesome!

Last night, I saw the movie Black Panther--twice! I attended the 8 o'clock show and hung around to see the 11 o'clock show. (When I left the theatre, it was a quarter to two in the morning.) I wanted to see what all the adulation was about. It's an awesome movie! I hope to discuss it soon on the blog. It's worthy of a long, thoughtful essay.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Monday, February 12, 2018

Monday, February 5, 2018

A Misused Word In A Book About Poet Gwendolyn Brooks

A few days ago I started reading A Surprised Queenhood in the New Black Sun: The Life & Legacy of Gwendolyn Brooks by Angela Jackson (Beacon Press, 2017). It's an absorbing read. The prose style seems geared toward a young adult audience but it's a good place to introduce oneself to the life and work of Gwendolyn Brooks.

Having been a proofreader and a copy editor, I spotted a misused word on page 36. Ms. Jackson, a Chicago-based poet, playwright, and novelist, states that "The publication of A Street in Bronzeville would indicate that Gwendolyn had served a solid and extended apprenticeship in the pages of the Chicago Defender and other publications, but she had proven her meddle [italics mine] in the strenuous and continuous Inez Cunningham Stark workshop, the group of Visionaries. The workshop had edged her into an increased sophistication of intellect and technique, providing an environment of frank,constructive criticism and bold, new ideas."

The correct word should have been "mettle," not "meddle"---"...she had proven her mettle...." My Random House College Dictionary defines "meddle" as "to interest oneself in what is not one's concern: interfere without right or propriety." "Mettle" is defined as "staying  quality: STAMINA."

Somehow the copy editors and proofreaders at Beacon Press overlooked this error.

Saturday, February 3, 2018

More Movie Theatres Are Needed In Upper Manhattan

Sad to say, I never got the chance to see any movies at the Lincoln Plaza Cinemas on the Upper West Side of Manhattan or the Sunshine Cinema farther downtown. Both theatres closed permanently about ten days apart in January of this year.

Since there is a dearth of movie theatres, especially on the Upper West Side and Harlem, maybe someone will decide to re-open the Metro Cinema on Broadway at 99th Street and the Victoria 5 Theatre on 125th Street. Both of those theatres have stood vacant for several years.

In fact, there are more film crews shooting on the streets of the Upper West Side and Harlem than there are theatres in which to show those movies. With the exception of the AMC Magic Johnson Theatres in Harlem, this part of town,unfortunately, has largely become a movie theatre desert.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Get Ready For Stonewall 50!!

June 2019 will mark the fiftieth anniversary of the Stonewall riots in New York. Like the rainbow flag, the riots have a symbolic meaning within the LGBT community.

No doubt every cultural institution in the city will be doing their part to celebrate that momentous event considered by many to be the beginning of the modern gay rights movement. And no doubt the Gay Pride Parade will be super, super long in commemorating Stonewall.

About a year ago, I decided to visit the Stonewall Inn for the first time. I knew that the interior of the bar wouldn't resemble what it looked like in 1969 but that didn't matter.What was important was the fact that I was standing in an historic place that had brought about historic consequences. To me, being there was very satisfying and gave me the opportunity to pay tribute to those who stood up against police mistreatment of LGBT people.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Books By Authors From Countries Disparaged By Trump

As a response to President Trump's recent labeling of Haiti and African nations  as "shithole countries," Book Culture, a book store on 112th Street near Broadway in Manhattan, created a window display featuring twenty-eight books from some of the countries disparaged by Trump.

On one of the windows was posted a message, printed in all capital letters, that said:

Some of the books and authors in the window display included In the House of the Interpreter: A Memoir by Ngugi wa Thiong'o, The Art of Death: Writing the Final Story by Edwidge Danticat, Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah, Homecoming: A Novel by Yaa Gyasi, Dear Ijeawele, or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie,  Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue, Madame President: The Extraordinary Journey of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf by Helene Cooper, and A Moonless, Starless Sky: Ordinary Women and Men Fighting Extremism in Africa by Alexis Okeowo.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Donald J. Trump, The Terminator-in-Chief

Donald Trump is one of about 28 successful people interviewed for Harvey Mackay's We Got Fired!...And It's the Best Thing That Ever Happened to Us (Ballantine Books, 2004).

Others interviewed for the book include boxing legend Muhammad Ali, talk show host Larry King, entrepreneur Michael Bloomberg, and tennis star Billie Jean King. Trump's is the lead interview.

At the time the book was published, Mackay was, and probably still is, a syndicated columnist and motivational speaker.

"In the early 1990s," Mackay remarked as a preface to the Q&A interview, "Trump was in the red. Not millions. But billions." Among the setbacks were his failing Atlantic City casinos.

"Although [Trump]was never in his life actually fired from any job," acknowledged Mackay, "Donald Trump experienced far worse. The financial community and the press pulverized him." This happened at a time when he was having a lot of financial woes and was an easy target for his enemies.

Mackay, in total awe of Trump's financial wizardry, referenced Trump's book, Trump: The Art of the Comeback, in which "he chronicled perhaps the greatest personal rebound in financial history." That led to his hit NBC-TV reality show, The Apprentice, which premiered in 2004 and ran for ten years with him as the host.

According to Joshua Green, the author of Devil's Bargain: Steve Bannon, Donald Trump, and the Storming of the Presidency (Penguin Press, 2017), "Mark Burnett, the show's creator, had originally sold the concept to NBC as one where Trump would host The Apprentice for only the first season, after which he would give way to a succession of iconic business moguls, such as Richard Branson, Mark Cuban, or Martha Stewart." Following the airing of episode one, NBC decided, said a network executive, that "we want more Trump." And the rest, as the saying goes, is history.

Mackay, in a brief phone interview, asked Trump how he went about firing people. Trump told him that "I've fired people slowly, letting them down gently over a period of months and even years. And I've fired people on the spot. Whenever you terminate someone," he continued, "the end result is always the same. They always hate you. There are certain people whom I've not only eased out over a period of months, I even got them new jobs. [Italics mine.] Then I found out that they still hate me."

Did Trump try to find new jobs for former FBI director James Comey and former U.S. attorney Preet Bharara after he fired them shortly after being inaugurated as the 45th president of the United States? I'm certain that he didn't.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Monday, January 8, 2018

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Penelope Cruz Is Not A Non-White Actress

Wendy McClellan Anderson, of Altadena, California, is a self-described "Angeleno, white woman and film fan.

In her letter that was published online by the Los Angeles Times (December 29, 2017), Ms. Anderson complained that she "was deeply upset to see only white women grace the cover of your latest issue and be interviewed as leading actresses of Hollywood."

She goes on to name non-white women who were snubbed by the paper such as Mary J. Blige, Tessa Thompson, and "[t]he entire cast of 'Girls Trip,' the biggest comedy of the year."

Included in the list was Penelope Cruz. Obviously Ms. Anderson thinks anyone with a Spanish surname is automatically non-white and probably from Latin America.

In fact, Penelope Cruz is a white woman, from Madrid, Spain, a European city and country.

James Baldwin's "Giovanni's Room" Had An All-White Cast

In Rosalind Rosenberg's otherwise fascinating biography of black writer, lawyer, and women's rights activist Pauli Murray*, Jane Crow (Oxford University Press, 2017), there is one bit of information I disagree with. Ms. Rosenberg describes James Baldwin's Giovanni's Room as "an explicitly bi-sexual, bi-racial novel." The bisexual aspect is correct since David, the novel's protagonist, had a romantic relationship with a female and Giovanni,who was, if I recall correctly, a bartender in Paris. But the book is not biracial because all the characters in it are white, the only such book that Baldwin wrote.

Christopher Bram, in his equally fascinating book, Eminent Outlaws: The Gay Writers Who Changed  America (Twelve, 2012), writes that "Baldwin had several reasons for writing a novel with all-white characters. He wanted to escape the label of 'Negro novelist,' which was not only artistically limiting, it was commercially restrictive."  "Changing the race," continues Bram, "also enabled Baldwin to put distance between himself and his story: he wasn't writing about his life, he was writing about other lives. It gave his imagination more breathing room. In addition, there must have been bitter pleasure in putting himself inside a privileged white skin."

*Pauli Murray (1910-1985) believed herself to be a man trapped inside a female body, a belief others thought was a sign of some form of mental illness.

"Jane Crow" was the term Murray coined for gender discrimination. She saw it as a partner to "Jim Crow," the label for race discrimination. Black women were the victims of both forms of discrimination.

Note: Once again, Happy New Year, everyone! Let's hope 2018 will be a healthy, happy, productive, and prosperous year for all of us!