Our Varied Heritages

Ancestry.com is after me again. This below is from an email I received this morning:

Screen capture of Ancestry email.
Screen capture of Ancestry email.

A few years ago through Ancestry, I found one of the ship manifests that included my maternal great-grandmother as a young adult sailing to America. She had traveled with about a dozen other people of varying ages, all from the same village in Sicily. My great-grandfather was in America already, awaiting her arrival.

She was born near Syracuse (as was he). She departed Messina, stopped in Naples, stopped next in Marseille, and from there journeyed to New York’s Ellis Island. It was typical for the time and their nationality.

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As Nationalist Walls Go Up Still Higher

This is quite a serious post. There is no levity in it. Based on what I’ve seen – we’ve all seen – in the last week and a half, I simply want to say this.

United Kingdom voters, as you probably know, voted on the 23rd of June by 52 percent to 48 percent to leave the European Union.

That EU referendum, we all also know, has bitterly divided politics here in Britain.

It’s decidedly one thing flinging insults at total strangers you disagree with – “insane,” “idiots,” “racists,” “Hitler,” “old white trash” – on social media. But this? We’ve discovered friends of ours – she, a non-British EU national and staunch “Remainer,” married to him, a British national and vocal Brexit “Leave” supporter – are practically on the verge of divorce over the referendum’s outcome.

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“Remain” Vs. “Leave”: All The Arguing

We don’t see this sort of thing happen in our lives too often. These next few weeks? Remember them:

Screen capture of Twitter.
Screen capture of Twitter.

For American readers, “luvvies” is British derogatory slang for….

a person who is involved in the acting profession or the theatre, esp one with a tendency to affectation

As you may know, on June 23 British voters will be asked to answer this referendum question, Yes or No: Should the United Kingdom remain a part of the European Union?

The arguments for remaining vs. leaving are now all over the airwaves, filling newspapers and the net. British voters are being deluged with opinions. As with those entertainers Sky presenter Kay Burley tweets about, it seems most every figure is voicing a view.

Taking no public position either way myself (I’m not British, so I don’t feel it’s appropriate), I will say I’ve noticed two major tendencies that broadly underpin both sides’ arguments:

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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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Those Italian Sweets

Of my 8 great-grandparents, 5 were Italians, including several Sicilians. My wife likes to joke when we’ve been in Italy that Italians don’t seem to know what to make of me. “You look like you belong,” she says, “and they talk to you like you do.”

I’ve run into something similar here in Tenerife. Some Spaniards seem to think I fit in, too. Until I open my mouth, at least.😉

There is also something of an Italian community here. The other night, we wandered into an Italian ice cream and sweets shop. The twenties-something Italian guy behind the counter looked at me initially and wasn’t sure which language to try on me first; he opened with a mishmash of Spanish and Italian until I made it plain I was neither Spanish or Italian.

His English was not great. But the ice creams were excellent. We also noticed the place sold….

What's in the wrapping? [Photo by me, 2016.]
What’s in the wrapping? [Photo by me, 2016.]
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Striving For “Diverse” Characters (And The Pitfalls)

We’ve all seen the Oscars’ debate about “diversity” in film. That led me over the last few days to thinking about books, including my own. Although not nearly as media-prominent, literature is seeing much the same discussion as film – especially children’s books:

Screen capture of the PBS web site.
Screen capture of the PBS web site.

It is argued not unreasonably that children seeing characters “like themselves” is good for them. Beyond that:

….Dhonielle Clayton, vice president of We Need Diverse Books, stressed that good storytelling on a range of topics benefits all children and young adults, not just ones who belong to the communities they portray. “By having kids read cross-culturally, it really helps them have a common language of accepting and understanding,” Clayton said.

Writing for children is not my genre, of course. So I’ll leave children’s literature to children’s authors. Yet the matter is relevant in its own way for us in “grown up” literature, too.

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And Where The Heck Is That Accent From Exactly?

At Swiss border control at Geneva Airport yesterday, I ended up within earshot of a “middle aged” American woman as I heard her explaining herself to the border agent. Apparently he had questioned her as to why she was in Switzerland. She stumbled a bit over words as she replied that she was here for a week’s vacation and lived in London.

Before she even said “London,” I’d had a feeling that was her “home.” For years I’ve heard her “accent” on most Americans long-resident here. The exception seems to be if they hail from the Deep South: that American accent seems to take a little longer to “Anglicize.”

Corner of my UK driving licence. [Photo by me, 2016.]
Corner of my UK driving licence. [Photo by me, 2016.]

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Geography Questions (With No Incorrect Answers)

Good morning! A group participation post. Don’t you just hate those?

Don’t groan, I won’t be going around “the room” looking to each of you individually, putting you on the spot. No need to avert your eyes or slide down in your chair; there are no wrong answers to these two simple questions. You may share your replies in the comments if you wish – which would seem obvious, I suppose, given naturally I can’t compel you to answer, of course.😉

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How “Powerful” Is Your Passport?

This is an interesting web site, and it got me thinking. It’s called the “Passport Index.” It ranks the world’s passports by “power”:

Screen Capture of Passport Index.
Screen Capture of Passport Index.

The “most powerful” are not too surprising. That ranking is due to how many countries you can visit as a tourist on that passport without needing to obtain a visa. In the case of the U.K. and the U.S., their passport holders (as of today) may enter 147 countries without needing to apply for a visa.

The “least powerful?” South Sudan’s. A South Sudanese passport will get you entry into only 28 countries (again, as of today) without a visa.

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