DCBigPappa's Blog

Politics & Pop Culture from a homocon.

Category Archives: Books & Literature

NPH Inks Book Deal

NPH — or Neil Patrick Harris to the common man — has inked a deal with Crown Archetype to write a memoir.  Now he can add “Author” to his many, many monikers.



Bourne Tops, but It Ain’t Pretty

All of my friends know that I’m a Bourne fan.  A fanatic, really.  I own all three original Bourne movies on DVD and have watched each one a dozen times or more.  I have eight of the ten Bourne books on my Kindle Fire — three by the originally author, the amazing Robert Ludlum, and five from Eric Van Lustbader.

The Bourne Legacy, the fourth installment of the masterful Bourne series brought in a cool $40.3 million during its opening weekend.  Me and my good buddy Jake were among the masses of those who couldn’t wait to see how Hollywood would branch out the series that Matt Damon brought to the big screen.

Hoping to see this Jeremy Renner-led pic at the Uptown Theater, our first wave of disappointment came when we found out the Uptown would still be showing The Dark Knight Rises for a third week.  So we opted for Regal Cinema’s Gallery Place/Chinatown location.

We started the early evening off with cigars at Shelly’s Backroom with some other friends.  After enjoying a pair of Dominican Partagas Fabulosos, we then walked the six blocks to the Verizon Center complex.

Arriving just before show time to a packed house, we had to take seats near the front of the auditorium.

Because it had to retell a familiar story from a different angle, the beginning dragged a little.  It then delved into a subplot of Renner’s Aaron Cross character being a super charged junkie in need of a fix; travelling half of the globe to get it.

Tony Gilroy, the new director, tried to do too much in this film.  While Paul Greengrass (director of Supremacy and Ultimatum) was focus, albeit with no steady-cam, Gilroy jumps all over the place.  Literally.  From the Alaska wilderness scenes, to the murder-suicide in the government lab, to Manila shanties of the Philippines, it’s not focused.

Towards the end, there is the obligatory yet masterful chase scene.  This is one of the highlights of the film.  It is also something that the series is known for.  But then the movie abruptly ends, setting it up for an obvious sequal.  There’s no closure, no cliffhanger, nothing.

And what a travesty to hold Joan Allen’s Pamela Landy to very last minutes of the film before bringing her out?  Of course, I now expect her to have a vital and pivotal role in the next installment, with her trial for treason.

Two and half hours later, we left somewhat disappointed.

To be fair, I did enjoy some of it.  But I found it lacking.  Yet I will likely see it again to try to pick up things I missed the first time around.

1776, a Book Review

Over lunch today, I finished 1776 by renowned historian David McCullough.  It’s the fourth book I’ve read on my Kindle Fire.

While this was definitely an enjoyable and educational experience, I found it a little lacking.  Perhaps it was due my assumption that the subject matter was going to encompass all aspects of that era.  But it had one singular focus — telling the story of the War of 1776.

It is quite obvious that Mr. McCullough did extensive research in preparation for this tome.  I highly recommend it, especially for anyone who’s a history buff, or has a great love of war stories.

Not always a page turner, you will be highly enlightened and hear many new details of the battles won and lost during the American Revolution.

Black History Month: Alex Haley

Alexander Murray Palmer Haley (August 11, 1921 – February 10, 1992)[1] was an African-American writer.  He is best known as the author of Roots: The Saga of an American Family and the coauthor of The Autobiography of Malcolm X.

Haley was born in Ithaca, New York, on August 11, 1921, and was the oldest of three brothers and a sister. Haley lived with his family in Henning, Tennessee, before he returned to Ithaca with his family when he was five years old. Haley’s father was a professor of agriculture at Alabama A&M University.

On May 24, 1939, Haley began a twenty-year enlistment with the Coast Guard.  He enlisted as a mess attendant and then became a Petty Officer Third Class in the rate of Steward, one of the few rates open to African Americans at that time.  His Coast Guard service number was 212-548.  It was during his service in the Pacific theater of operations that Haley taught himself the craft of writing stories.  It is said that during his enlistment he was often paid by other sailors to write love letters to their girlfriends.  He talked of how the greatest enemy he and his crew faced during their long sea voyages wasn’t the Japanese but boredom.

After World War II, Haley was able to petition the Coast Guard to allow him to transfer into the field of journalism, and by 1949 he had become a Petty Officer First Class in the rating of Journalist.  He later advanced to Chief Petty Officer and held this grade until his retirement from the Coast Guard in 1959. He was the first Chief Journalist in the Coast Guard, the rating having been expressly created for him in recognition of his literary ability.

Haley’s awards and decorations from the Coast Guard include the American Defense Service Medal (with “Sea” clasp), American Campaign Medal, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal, European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal, World War II Victory Medal, Coast Guard Good Conduct Medal (with 1 silver and 1 bronze service star), Korean Service Medal, National Defense Service Medal, United Nations Service Medal, and the Coast Guard Expert Marksmanship Medal.

The Autobiography of Malcolm X, published in 1965, was Haley’s first book.[6] It describes the trajectory of Malcolm X’s life from street criminal to national spokesman for the Nation of Islam to his conversion to Sunni Islam. It also outlines Malcolm X’s philosophy of black pride, black nationalism, and pan-Africanism. Haley wrote an epilogue to the book summarizing the end of Malcolm X’s life, including his assassination in New York’s Audubon Ballroom.

In 1976, Haley published Roots: The Saga of an American Family, a novel based on his family’s history, starting with the story of Kunta Kinte, kidnapped in The Gambia in 1767 and transported to the Province of Maryland to be sold as a slave.  Haley claimed to be a seventh-generation descendant of Kunta Kinte, and Haley’s work on the novel involved ten years of research, intercontinental travel and writing.  He went to the village of Juffure, where Kunta Kinte grew up and which is still in existence, and listened to a tribal historian tell the story of Kinte’s capture.  Haley also traced the records of the ship, The Lord Ligonier, which he said carried his ancestor to America.

Haley has stated that the most emotional moment of his life occurred on September 29, 1967, when he stood at the site in Annapolis, Maryland where his ancestor had arrived from Africa in chains exactly 200 years before.  A memorial depicting Haley reading a story to young children gathered at his feet has since been erected in the center of Annapolis.

Roots was eventually published in 37 languages, and Haley won a Special Award for the work in 1977 from the Pulitzer Board.  Roots was also adapted into a popular television miniseries that year.  The serial reached a record-breaking 130 million viewers.  Roots emphasized that African Americans have a long history and that not all of that history is necessarily lost, as many believed. Its popularity sparked an increased public interest in genealogy, as well.

In 1979, ABC aired the sequel miniseries Roots: The Next Generations, which continued the story of Kunta Kinte’s descendants, concluding with Haley’s arrival in Juffure.  Haley was portrayed (at various ages) by future soap opera actor Kristoff St. John, The Jeffersons actor Damon Evans, and Tony Award winner James Earl Jones.

September 20th… to be the Best Day Ever!

Next Tuesday is September 20th.  It is gearing up to be the best day ever!  The number one reason is that it is my birffday!  I love celebrating birthdays, mine especially.  It also happens to be the day of the Log Cabin Republicans National Dinner and Celebration.

Additionally, it is also the day that the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell is officially certified!

And finally, it is the night of the premiere of the new season of GLEE!!!  Can’t wait!

For the record, I like vodka, cigars, and books.

The Help, A Review

Set in and around Jackson, Mississippi during the 1960s, at the start of the civil rights movement, The Help offers up a powerful statement of selflessness, tenacity, and strength among southern black women who work in the homes of southern white women.  They cook, clean, take care of the little white babies, and just about everything else around the house.  I couldn’t help but initially wonder if this was going to be a black version of Steel Magnolias.  It was not!

The stellar cast of Emma Stone, Octavia Spencer, and Viola Davis, along with smaller but great performances from Cicely Tyson, Allison Janney, Sissy Spacek, and True Blood’s Nelsan Ellis all add to the excellent writing of Tate Taylor (screenplay) and Kathryn Stockett (novel).

While the movie definitely shows the ugliness of the day, it instead focuses on the optimism of those who are considered the help.

The New Orleans Times-Picayune said it best, “But as filled with contradictions as it is — genteel but prejudiced, mannered but mean, home to the most civilized brand of cruelty you ever did see — it’s built on tradition.”

It is human story that will make you laugh out loud and break your heart.  But it’s a story that is brought from a different perspective.  It touches on domestic violence, racism (“There are real racists in this town!”), social status, the failed desires to start a family, and ‘an imaginative sympathy that gets beneath the skin of its characters and into their hearts,’ to paraphrase the Philadelphia Inquirer.

I definitely recommend going to see this film.  I will undoubtedly see nominations for the cast of this film, as well as the director.  And I am sure a Best Picture nod will be in there as well.

I’m gonna go out and buy the book.  You need to go see the movie, or else I will call you “Two Slice Hilly!”

Book Review: And This Too Shall Pass

And This Too Shall Pass, by E. Lynn Harris

Earlier this week, I finished my third book of the year, “And This Too Shall Pass”, by E. Lynn Harris.  As many of you know, I set a goal of reading one book every two weeks for the year.  That puts me exactly two weeks – one entire book behind.  But it’s still early in the year.

This is the second book from Harris that I’ve read in the last year.  Last summer, I read “If This World Were Mine.”  I stumbled across several of his books on the shelves of Lambda Rising a little over a year ago.  I so wish I had discovered his works before he passed.

Just under 350 pages, this book is filled with emotions, and often hits a little too close to home.  It is captivating, and teaches you a lot about love, relationships, and finding yourself.  At the very beginning of the book, Harris writes,

“Zurich had dreams.  Tamela had secrets.  Sean had questions.  Mia had demons.  And MamaCee had answers.  Dreams of passion he had never known.  Secrets she had never shared.  Questions about love and God.  Demons, deep and dark.  And MamaCee had answers.”

One could almost create a composite of Zurich, Tamela, Sean, and Mia and have that describe them self.  MamaCee is another story.  Anyone who has a ‘MamaCee’ in their lives should consider themselves truly blessed and highly favored.  In reading her character, I often thought of my own grandmother, who is a strong black woman who is quick with a story, quick to offer forgiveness, and quick to remind you to keep your faith in God.

With the exception of about ten or so pages, it was hard to keep away from this book.  For some reason, the situation between Zurich and Mia touched a nerve.  But once passed that, it was indeed a delightful read.

Now that I am finished with this one, I have twelve more of his books to read.  Believe me when I say that I know it will be a joy to be introduced to each of his characters and learn how they navigate through life.

I will close this review with a quote from MamaCee – “Tell the truth & shame the devil.”

Decision Points, a Book Review

Yesterday, I finished Decision Points by President George W. Bush.  For those of you who are keeping track, it’s the second book I’ve read this year.  One of my New Year’s Resolutions was to read a book every two week – 26 books for the calendar year.  Quite a daunting goal for someone who barely read ten books last year.

The excuse I’m going to give for being late with this book is that it was 481 pages long.  But whatever.  I’m behind.  Over the next month, I need to get back on schedule.  This is actually a goal I can have fun with.

The book Decision Points came to me by way of a Christmas present.  It wasn’t a book I had planned to read anytime soon.  Over the course of his last few years in office, I had become disappointed and disillusioned by the former President.

But now that I have finished the book, I am glad that I read it.  It is the first book on the Presidency of our 43rd President that I have read.  It won’t be the last.  I am interested in reading in more details some of the things he touched on in the book, and some he did not mention at all.

I enjoyed how President Bush structured his book.  Not necessarily in chronological order, but based on an account of major consequential decisions that came across his desk in the Oval Office.  It was a fairly easy read.

Late last week while reading, the moments in the book seemed very prescience.  I was on the chapter titled “Freedom Agenda.”  The Freedom Agenda is one of the pillars of the Bush Doctrine – ‘advancing liberty and hope as an alternative to the enemy’s ideology of repression and fear.’

In this chapter, he talks specifically of bringing democracy to the Middle East, specifically to Egypt.  So while watching the demonstrations on TV, I was reading a semi-crash course in the history of bringing democracy to that region.  Quite amazing.

The book also gave me ideas of other books to read, such as The Case for Democracy by Natan Sharansky, a dissident who spent nine years in the Soviet gulags, Rising Tide by John Barry, about the Great Mississippi flood of 1927, as well as a few other book ideas.

I do recommend reading this book, whether you were a fan of his Administration or not.  It does give you a glimpse inside his thought process.

One last thing.  I love how as I was finishing up this book, his daughter, Barbara Bush, breaks with him over gay marriage. In a video statement she says, “I am Barbara Bush, and I am a New Yorker for marriage equality.  New York is about fairness and equality.  And everyone should have the right to marry the person that they love.”

On Reading

That old grammar school adage is true – reading IS fundamental!

A few years ago, a very good friend of mine encouraged me to start reading more.  He said that I should read one book per month.  At the time, I was reading maybe two or three books a year.  So I took his challenge, rounding downward, and decided to attempt ten books in a year.

The first couple of years, I failed at my goal.  I read seven books the first year, and eight the next.  But the last couple of years I have met those goals!

So now I am setting a new one.  It’s ambitious, to say the least.  But I think I am up to the challenge.

This morning in my Twitter feed, I saw a post from @julien that said how to read a book a week in 2011.  I read his attached blog post, and thought there’s no way in hell I would do that.  I just don’t have that much free time to dedicate to such a project.  But then a few minutes later, @julien posted a link to another blog that offered up the idea of reading 26 books in a year – one every two weeks.

That is more in line to what I can think I can accomplish.  So in 2011, I am going to read 26 books.  And I am going to chronicle them here on my blog.  I will mix it up with some fiction, history, political, and biography, among others.

That way, if I start to fall behind, you can harass me and make fun of me until I catch up.

And the timing is perfect.  Two days ago I just finished Dead Until Dawn by Charlene Harris.  It’s the first of the Southern Vampire Mystery series, better known as the Sookie Stackhouse novels.  It’s the bases of the hit HBO show True Blood.

So I am going to put on a pot of coffee, sit on my couch and begin reading Living Dead in Dallas.  And watch some football.

Happy Juneteenth!

Today, we celebrate the 145th Anniversary of Juneteenth.  Juneteenth is the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States.

While President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation some two and a half years prior, word did not travel down to the port of Galveston, Texas, until June 19, 1865.  On that date, Union soldiers led by General Gordon Granger, brought word to this last group of slaves proclaiming that they were, in fact, free men and women.

Today, it is generally celebrated by families and friends coming together.  Often times, everyone goes down to the park and barbeque.  There’s always plenty of food to share with those who are less fortuned.  It is also a time to reflect and marvel at the achievements of black people, be it historical, such as George Washington Carver, Shirley Chisholm, and Frederick Douglass, or contemporary such as President Barack Obama.

Today, I am celebrating Juneteenth by reading Narrative of Sojourner Truth, who was once enslaved, freed, then went about the country talking to all who would listen about the injustices of slavery.

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