“Like an old school Mafia novel….”

The Associated Press tweeted the other day about a mass arrest and indictment of mafia guys in Philadelphia:

“An old school novel.” We understand what Mr. Rodriguez is alluding to there. The mob has been “immortalized” in modern literature, perhaps most (in)famously in Mario Puzo’s The Godfather.

While I know there is certainly ample material around enabling authors to produce such tales, and they may be well-written and readers may enjoy them, personally the genre is not my thing. I will never forget once seeing my (now late) novelist uncle (who’d previously been a NYC detective, and was almost killed twice working undercover), telling a television interviewer dismissively: These guys [are so inept they] couldn’t even run a newsstand without a baseball bat.

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View Of “UK Resident Of American Origin”

As you may have heard, a man with a knife slashing at people killed sixty-four-year-old American Darlene Horton and injured half a dozen others in London’s Russell Square on Wednesday evening. If learned, as of this writing his motive has not yet been made public. (“Mental health” issues have been cited by police.) As to a description of him circulating in British media, including on the BBC, ITV news’s Charlene White took issue with it on Twitter:

Via Wikipedia, one uncovers that Ms. White was born in London. That same source also states her parents were “Black Carribean.” Given her tweeted reference to Jamaica, I will assume for discussion’s sake that means they were born there and moved here to the United Kingdom.

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Chasing “Love”: From England To Odessa To Moscow

You may remember “Melvin.” He is the ex-husband of a friend of ours. Back in August, he moved to Bulgaria.

For some years before, he had been involved with a woman from Odessa, Ukraine whom he’d, well….met on the internet. We don’t know really what went on there, but he’d been to visit her numerous times. A year or two ago matters were apparently taken up a notch: a house was bought there (uh, he’d bought it for her in HER name only: I kid you not), lots of money was also sent her way, and he was planning on moving there to be nearer her….

Free Stock Photo: Windows start button on a computer screen.
Free Stock Photo: Windows start button on a computer screen.

….and then, she, well, “vanished.”

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“Spring Break” Abroad?: Don’t Get Carried Away

The State Department’s “@TravelGov” Twitter feed got into some social media trouble because of a single tweet on Wednesday. After attempts to explain it to several offended, irate tweeters, the department gave up and simply deleted it a couple of hours later. The New York Times caught it before it was removed:

Screen capture of Twitter.
Screen capture of Twitter.

Those tweeters, and the NYT above, focused on the tweet’s dopey “lookist” opener, but ignored the rest of it. What the department was merely trying to do there – albeit in a bumbling manner – was not to insult anyone. Rather it aimed to warn U.S. college students traveling abroad for Spring Break to be mindful of their personal safety when out having “a good time.”

Meaning forget that opening two sentence silliness. I suppose this is the former university teacher coming out of me here. The tweet should have been straightforward: Don’t let your guard down when clubbing with strangers who may not be pleasant new acquaintances but actually – to be blunt – con artists and thugs flattering you in looking for an easy mark to rob and/or worse. Got it?

Although that would have been too long for a single tweet, of course.

The minor uproar over its silly reference to a student’s looks – which actually could have applied equally to young men as much as to young women; either sex naturally can be preyed upon much the same way – unfortunately crowded out a closely related issue. It is one that is not discussed nearly enough in such advice. It should be.

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U.S. Expat Murdered In Italy

[UPDATED: January 18: see below.]
[UPDATED: January 13: see below.]

Struggling to outline the next novel and how I am going to attack the tale and its scope, I spent most of this morning and early afternoon reading and tapping tapping tapping preliminary notes – all while trying to take myself back to the 1790s.

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U.S. Kids Need To Be Taught About India

Beating someone up is bad enough. Beating someone up while hurling bigoted abuse at them is even uglier socially. Beating someone up for bigoted reasons and sounding like an absolute moron while doing so is simply peak stupid.

Screen capture of Twitter.
Screen capture of Twitter.

His assailant is hardly the only dimwit. Days after September 11, 2001, a Sikh was murdered in Arizona in “reaction” to the attacks. In 2012, in Wisconsin, another idiot shot up a Sikh temple, killing six, after having reportedly mistaken it for a Muslim mosque. Sikhs in the U.S. have caught all sorts of other stupid nonsense, and likely most of it never gets reported.

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U.S. Servicemen Help Prevent Murder Spree

Their bravery cannot be commended enough. They should be invited to the White House. Yesterday these men – 2 U.S. servicemen (one not pictured), a long-time friend, and a British man – sensed trouble on a high-speed Thalys train traveling from Amsterdam to Paris. In Belgium, and unarmed themselves, they reacted decisively:

Screen capture of Twitter.
Screen capture of Twitter.

Reports state one of two servicemen involved (the one not pictured, presumably because he had been sliced with a boxcutter during the melee and was under medical attention) in subduing the assailant is based at a U.S. air force base in Portugal’s Azores.

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Hunted By The Internet

Many years ago, I was lucky enough to glimpse – from a vehicle, a good distance away – a snoozing lion in South Africa’s Kruger National Park. It was a sunny mid-morning, he was partly hidden by high grass, and I recall him being utterly indifferent to all of the attention from the ever-increasing numbers of parked cars and tour vehicles desperate to see him. I also remember the guide saying it was unusual to see one so close to a road at that time of day.

The idea of shooting him? The 19th century is long gone. Frederick Selous and Theodore Roosevelt are dead nearly a hundred years now.

For some, though, a fascination with “big-game hunting” remains:

Screen capture of the BBC web site.
Screen capture of the BBC web site.

Exile was also once a common form of punishment. The ancient Athenians used it. So did ancient Rome. More recently, Britain and other European countries put “outlaws” on ships and packed them off to Australia or “the New World.”

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“There never will be anything more interesting in America than that Civil War never.”

Following the murders of nine African-American churchgoers in South Carolina, old social media photographs of the white supremacist arrested for it naturally surfaced almost immediately. In one, he’s wearing jacket patches of the apartheid South Africa flag and the white minority government Rhodesia flag. In another, he’s posing on a car displaying the Confederate States of America emblem.

His embrace of the latter has revived arguments inside the U.S. about the post-Civil War tacit understanding under which the United States became one country again:

Screen capture of Vox.
Screen capture of Vox.

That Vox piece is the sort of thing that leads one to wonder if supposedly well-educated members of the media have ever read a serious history book?

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The Cult Of The Naked Tourist

You may have heard about this band of thoughtful world travelers:

Screen capture yesterday of the BBC web site.
Screen capture yesterday of the BBC web site.

At least for once there wasn’t an American involved. Nor are they facing long prison terms. That BBC article goes on to explain:

They were jailed for three days, but their sentences were back-dated to reflect time already served.

Evidently snapping naked pics at tourist vistas has become “the thing” lately. Because there always has to be something. The respected British travel writer, the Independent’s Simon Calder, has also pointed out:

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