“You fascist!”

….No, no, no, the post title doesn’t mean I’m calling *you* (friendly reader/ visitor) a “fascist.” Please don’t misunderstand. I used it because that (somewhat tongue-in-cheek) accusation is hurled in Passports during a morning, uh, “friendly exchange of views,” between Isabelle and Uncle Bill at Bill’s Rhode Island coastal cottage:

Next Bill called to the dining room. “Isabelle, toast and eggs?” Unexpectedly, he expanded the menu choices. “Want anything else? If you were being polite last night, don’t be. This is a continental house. Feel free to smoke.”

Despite being unsure if she had again misunderstood Bill’s English, Isabelle nonetheless dived in.

“White coffee and toast please, Uncle Bill. That will be lovely. Thank you.” Both feet on the floor now, she crossed her legs and pushed aside hairs hanging down on her forehead. “And so you know,” she added, “I don’t smoke. You think all the French are the same? We all smoke?”

“Well, all the French I know seem to smoke like chimneys,” Bill maintained as he advanced to the table and chose the seat across from her. Next he changed conversational topic mid-paragraph as he often did. “So what about that Mitterrand? He’s done over there soon, isn’t he? Who’ll be the next president?”

James sat on a longer side of the slightly rectangular table, between them, as if positioned inadvertently to referee. Taking some toast, he joked, “Uncle, you been watching the news on public television again?”

Isabelle responded from across the table without hesitation, “Balladur or Chirac, of course.”

Pouring orange juice, Bill questioned, “Who?” He moved the toast plate closer to Isabelle. “Please, have some more. You know, I sensed it last night. You’re a Gaullist. You fascist! Gaullists hate Americans!”

“No, they don’t,” she answered softly. “They love France. It is the Socialists who hate Americans. Mitterrand has been a disaster for France.”

Bill smiled broadly and looked over at James sitting to the side. “Nephew, you sure can pick ’em.”

“Okay,” Isabelle began to question Bill mockingly, and a bit flirtatiously, “who should be President of France, as you sit here, great American writer, judging the world from, ooh, what little state is this again? Uh, Delaware? I forget.”

Bill lobbed a calculated grenade at Isabelle. “Whoever the Socialist is. We need socialism in the U.S.”

“Bah!” she dismissed that out of hand. “You have not lived under socialists. I know communists, yes, but I do not want them to rule France. You have been with Spanish writers and Cubans. They do hate America. I bet they are communists. We thanked God that Mitterrand had to spend so many years sharing power with Chirac.”

Ignoring her charges, Bill went another route. “God? I thought young Europeans today were a lot smarter than our Bible-thumping Americans?”

Isabelle was at a loss. “Aren’t you Catholic like James and your family?”

Taking a breath, he explained, “Right. You know, Isabelle, I think of myself as a Unitarian.” Seeing her appear to go blank at the word, Bill appended, “We believe in sort of everything.”

Isabelle was underwhelmed. She knew what a Unitarian was. “But do not Unitarians believe in God?” she grilled him pointedly while grasping her coffee mug. “And to say one believes in everything is to hold nothing sacred.”

Bill pronounced, “Nephew, she is definitely French!”

James complained, “Uncle, I didn’t think I was in this breakfast debate?”

Had enough? As James has? What? You mean that back and forth didn’t cause you as a conservative to turn socialist, or vice-versa?

I follow many of you who are also authors – or musicians, or actors, or you travel blog, or you’re interested in cultural issues, or you’re just sharing thoughts with us. It should go without saying I’m flattered if you follow me. In organizing my followings here deliberately along mostly “apolitical” lines, WordPress has become for me a welcome island of friendliness, learning and calm compared to much else out there in major media.

As we know, nothing exists in isolation. In recent days I’ve been surprised by several generally “non-political follows” who’ve suddenly taken to mounting Everest-height soapboxes. They’ve filled posts with barrages of heavy-handed political invective. (That’s being “charitable” in describing the content. I could use stronger language.)

If you wish to read diatribes from those who support your “worldview” (whatever it is), it is usually easy enough to find out there. Follow a few of the crazies on Twitter. Or just click over to commenter cesspools that are found on sites like CNN’s.

In a friendly Twitter exchange I had had with a CNN.com producer about so many of the incredibly nasty online comments, he noted that he simply tells op-ed contributors not to read the comments below their pieces. Can you imagine? Yet it’s easy to understand why: the bigotry and viciousness some spew via keyboard is appalling – and, one has to believe, mostly also from those who would likely never be so rude to someone’s face.

Free Stock Photo: The White House in Washington, DC.

Free Stock Photo: The White House in Washington, DC.

I know I have on occasion blogged here on somewhat contentious issues. Amanda Knox, Devyani Khobragade, and immigration, immediately come to mind. But when I do, I try to do so with moderation, within the framework of my own knowledge and experience, and while remembering my self-imposed guidelines for this blog. (See the top banner.)

Civility and respect: where have you gone? If you want to scribble vitriol online, of course you are free to do so; but I did not follow YOU to read that. I firmly believe that chest-thumping, name-calling, and jumping up and down usually wins no friends who don’t already agree with you, and rarely changes minds.

A U.S. World Cup To Remember

You may know by now that the U.S.A. went out of the World Cup Tuesday in a thriller, losing to Belgium 1-2 in extra time.

Had a late corner kick while the game was 0-0 landed in front of world-class striker Clint Dempsey (instead of someone else who proceeded to make a meal of the best goal scoring chance the U.S. had had all game), it would almost surely have ended up in the back of the net – and the U.S. would have been improbable 1-0 winners. For through 90 minutes goalkeeper Tim Howard had kept the U.S. in the game. If he had not made the saves he had been forced to make by a lackluster (and at times simply outplayed) defense, the U.S. might have lost by a lot more than one goal.

Throughout the tournament, playing every game hard until the last whistle, the U.S. team had kept American fans in their seats. The country clearly appreciated the effort and entertainment. The U.S. Embassy in London even tweeted this today:

U.S. Embassy London says "Thanks."

U.S. Embassy London says “Thanks.”

The growing U.S. interest in soccer is not being lost on marketers and companies. They see it; that’s their job. For instance, if you had looked yesterday to a book a flight on Emirates, this was the U.S. homepage that greeted you:

Emirates.com in the U.S. on Tuesday.

Emirates.com in the U.S. on Tuesday.

That’s not something you see every day. One suspects quite a few other advertisers might also like to see the next U.S. men’s World Cup broadcast on free-to-air U.S. network TV, rather than niche sports ESPN. Uh, and by “network TV” I mean not just in Spanish. ;-)

Favorite News Sources

I saw this asked on Twitter yesterday:

What are some of your favorite sources for trusted news?

I had never really considered that systematically before. I read lots of sites, so I had to think on it carefully; and I tweeted back several. Here is a fuller list of my “go to” regularly sites:

CNN
BBC
France 24
CBS News
VOA
RFE/RL
LBCI
The Christian Science Monitor
ANSA
SABC
The Times of India

Looking at those again now I’ve just realized that only one – the Times of India – appears to be an outright “newspaper.”

Free Stock Photo: Illustration of a man reading a newspaper on a bench.

Free Stock Photo: Illustration of a man reading a newspaper on a bench.

Taking matters to another level, how about this? “Favorite” correspondents? Mine are:

1) “International”:

Hala Gorani (CNN), Vivienne Walt (Time, etc.), and Anne-Elisabeth Moutet (The Telegraph, France 24, etc. – and who follows me on Twitter!).

2) “U.S. national”:

Mark Knoller (CBS), and Brooke Baldwin (CNN…. who also follows me on Twitter!).

3) Extremely “U.S. local” (meaning the Catskills, in upstate NY):

Watershed Post (and which also follows me on Twitter, and is in my sidebar here).

I could go on and add some others – media outlets and individuals – but I’m sure you get the gist. Everyone has their preferences of course, and likely you have yours. Oh, and being followed on Twitter does not necessarily impact my preferences! ;-)

Road Trip!

Good Morning! (5:45 ET USA.) Me, on Twitter, last night:

Leaving early Wednesday morning to drive from Pennsylvania to the #FloridaKeys. After 3 overnights, we get there Saturday. Yes, we are nuts.

Just getting ready to head off. Will be on the net intermittently over the next few days while on the road…

Oh, and the sequel is downloaded to the iPad, via an app that does Word, so the tap tap tapping will continue. While writing a novel, you do not really get “holidays.” I’d never planned to put it down over these weeks; and ideas can spring up at anytime as well, so it is worth being prepared.

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And holidays also give you the opportunity, perhaps, to stock up on some new “story material.” ;-)

Do You Fancy Them Maybe A Little Bit?

Twitter wants to know why do you follow those you follow?:

Twitter knows whom you follow. But Twitter does not know why you follow them. So the company [is] doing something fairly straightforward—and, for a tech company with reams of data bout its users, unlikely: It’s asking. Politely.

The same question could be explored here on WordPress. So let’s.

For starters, I’d like to follow more than I do. But I don’t follow for following sake; I like to read what writers/bloggers actually write. So I have to control myself in following or I’d find myself overwhelmed with reading.

Generally, I follow those who strike me as interesting and honest and real. I usually read lots of a blog – including the “About Me” – before following. (Do you do the same?) There’s so much junk and spam out there, some judiciousness is required.

Overall, do you follow in hopes those you follow will follow you back? Or is it because you really like what he/she blogs and don’t care about a follow back? Or is it, uh…. because maybe you’ve developed, urr, an “online crush”?

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On that last one there, behave yourselves. No passing notes under the desks. Yeh, you know who you are. They’ll be detention… ;-)

Hope you’re having a good weekend. :-)

Some Literary Profundity….

….courtesy of Twitter:

@AdviceToWriters: Writing fiction is the act of weaving a series of lies to arrive at a greater truth.

KHALED HOSSEINI

Hmm. Is it? Do “lies” ever actually reveal “truth”?

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I see it rather more this way: If your fiction is the act of weaving a series of untruths, it’s ultimately a lie.

But that’s just my personal take, of course. ;-)

Time Zones

The world is more than ever a 24 hour place. Yet it is not entirely so 24 hour that you too may not have noticed a similar phenomenon. My Twitter goes relatively quiet during the U.S. overnight; but around 9am ET, as the country starts to get to work, my timeline becomes far busier.

Not that you are ever tweeting from work, of course! ;-) As an aside, if you use Twitter and you’d like to, follow me, and I’ll follow you back. (I happened to joke yesterday on Cas Blomberg‘s blog about how I view Twitter.)

To our WordPress. I know many of you receive an email when a post appears here (thank you!), and, if you want to, you return and read that post when it’s most convenient based on where you are time-wise in your day. But I know lots of people use the WordPress reader. (Thank you again!) As with Twitter, that so many do causes me to wonder when are the better times to post on here?

I’ve seen more American and Canadian visitors turn up if I post around 9am ET – which is 2pm in London and 3pm CET. But if I do that, I get fewer European visitors. However, the reverse also seems the case: if I post 9am UK time, which is 4am ET US (1am in California), I get fewer North American visitors.

I have simultaneously also spotted some of you popping in from to the east of Europe – in southwest Asia, India, Singapore and Australia, etc. Naturally, a 9am ET US/ 2pm UK posting time means if you are in Asia and Australia, you see a post even later – the farther to the east, the later it is in your day….

….Or it can also be extremely early the following day! Sometimes, I wonder if some people ever sleep!? I always find it hilarious on here, or on Twitter, when I notice friends posting at about 3am where they are!

Let’s have some fun. On our “big blue marble,” where are you geographically? If you’d like to, let me (and the rest of us) know in a comment. I’ll start: currently I’m in Enfield, London, United Kingdom….

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….Oh, geez, did I just write “big blue marble?” I’ve just dated myself…. again! ;-)

Happy Thursday! Or Friday…. depending on your location!

“I Love New York”

I tweeted a Catskills post and photo the other day. I Love New York’s official Twitter account found it, “favorited” it, and tweeted @ me:

I Love New York on Twitter.

I Love New York on Twitter.

Hilarious. Always remember, you never 100% know who’s going to stumble on what you have uploaded to the web. ;-)

Thanks For Sharing

I just wanted to “share” that I’ve noticed that the number of my posts “shared” to other social media – Twitter, Facebook, Digg, etc. – has “exploded” in recent days. My little literary site here has existed since December. Yet I have had upwards of half of my total shares since just last Friday.

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Since I’m not getting assailed by “sp@m” and “trolls,” it appears then that most of that recent uptick in “shares” indicate many of you are indeed “normal” human beings and actually do “like” what you see. ;-)

I extra-appreciate that because, as I’ve also explained recently (and in case you didn’t see that post), I can’t share my writing myself on most social media.

If you are new here, by way of introduction much of what I post is serious. It may be about my experiences in having written the first book, and now as I work on the sequel. Related issues come up as well. It may also be on life overseas, on study abroad, and on frequent fliers’ worst nightmare. I have also written about painful loss.

But it isn’t all “heavy” stuff. We do have to smile too. I’ve composed posts on many of the novel’s characters…. and a post on a certain person’s reaction to some of them. There have also been pieces on subjects such as travel, “pen pals,” and my novel unexpectedly stirring up memories of an office affair. The intimidating wildlife and glorious weather often found in the Catskills have also inspired posts.

I like to mix it up. I believe we shouldn’t tie ourselves only to the oh, so, serious side of things. (Assuming “tie” is, uh, the right word there?) There is no final exam at the end of the semester. Heck, there isn’t even a semester.

So I just want to say “thank you” for your shares, and also for your follows, and your continuing visits. :-)

They Say I’m A Public Figure Now

Our minds work in the oddest of ways, don’t they? I stood emptying the dishwasher earlier, and as it began to get lighter outside I noticed the couple of inches of snow already on the ground. A fraction of a second after, I thought of the 15 inches (UPDATE: maybe 18?) due overnight tonight here in the Catskills…. and I abruptly thought of sunny Florida (we are planning a trip there in the summer)…. and my thoughts jumped to the size of the house we might all need (there could be at least ten of us)…. and that she might want to drop in at the last minute, so we might need an extra bedroom….

Suddenly it hit me: there will be no more trips. No more get togethers at all. Not ever again.

I felt a chill. We were all supposed to grow old together? How arrogant we all are in assuming anything like that, aren’t we?

I shook my head and carried on emptying the machine.

It’s no surprise, of course, that the ingrained habits of nearly two decades of close friendship are hard to lose in 2 days. After Kam’s death at only 45 on Sunday in London (I can barely think of her without tears coming to my eyes), I’m trying now to push my mind back towards normal mode (whatever that is).

You may have noticed the Goodreads logo I added to the blog recently. They came back to me a couple of weeks ago. Seems I passed “the author test.” So it’s “official.”

Now, I’ve finally created a Goodreads author page:

Passports: Atlantic Lives, 1994-1995

I do Twitter (I have to admit, I love Twitter; I’m “addicted” to it) and (as you can see) this blog. I just have to figure out now how to use the Goodreads page best? If you are on Goodreads in any capacity, your suggestions would be welcomed. :-)