Archive for January, 2009

Ellis Island hospital documentary

Thursday, January 29th, 2009


Highly recommended!

At 10 pm Monday, Feb. 2, PBS will air Forgotten Ellis Island, a documentary narrated by Elliott Gould about the Ellis Island hospital. All steerage passengers who wished to enter the United States through Ellis Island had to undergo a brief health inspection. Those who failed got a further inspection. Immigrants who couldn’t pass the followup were almost all checked into the Ellis Island hospital (about 1% were deported), where their stays might be brief or might go on for several weeks.

Some sick patients died; some babies were born; and many families were frightened by a separation they didn’t understand. Their stories are fascinating, and you can hear about them and see their faces in this documentary by Lorie Conway. The film also looks at those who were diagnosed as “feebleminded,” which sometimes seems to have amounted to not much more than disagreeable.

Happy Year of the Ox

Monday, January 26th, 2009

The Lunar New Year starts today, but festivities continue through the week. The Queens Library in Flushing will host a free day of events on Saturday, Jan. 31.

From 10:30 am to 12:30 pm: Learn how to prepare Japche, a delicious noodle dish from Korea, or miniature spring rolls from China; learn how to make Chinese red envelope lanterns (first-come, first-served basis, supplies limited!). (I’m not sure whether these events will be conducted in Korean, Chinese, English, or a mixture.)

At 1 pm,there will be traditional Korean drum and dance with Vongku Pak; at 2:30 pm, a ribbon dance and song from China; and at 3:30 pm, the Chinese Lion Dance.

The library is located at 41-17 Main St, Flushing. The event is funded by The National Endowment for the Humanities.

Changes in the ethnic press

Friday, January 23rd, 2009

As a former newspaper copy editor, I lament the alarming decline of print journalism. Still, change is inevitable, and some news publications will adapt well—or they already have. Kirk Semple in The New York Times* today reports on plans to shut down the Ming Pao Daily News. This is not quite as terrible as it sounds, because Ming Pao produces a free almost-daily newspaper that is expected to continue, and there are three other Chinese-language dailies in New York.

It seems to me that Semple is pushing a bit of a skeptical attitude toward  Ming Pao’s prospects. It may be warranted; barely a day goes by that I don’t refer to the world going to hell in a handcart. But for people who care about disappearing newspapers, the most important thing is to think creatively about the future. Fighting change is futile; trying to influence it is the way to go.

In 2001, according to the Gotham Gazette, the New York ethnic press comprised nearly 200 magazines and newspapers in 36 languages—the largest number in the city’s history. I’m sure that has declined substantially; I’ll try to find out. You can link to some of them through New America Media; that’s a handy resource that wasn’t available in 2001.

*Now, if the New York Times were to go online only—a possibility I refuse to take seriously—it would drastically alter my life. But I can see a bright side to that.

Queens International

Tuesday, January 20th, 2009
Outside the QMA

Outside the QMA

A new exhibit opens Saturday, Jan. 24, at the Queens Museum of Art in Flushing Meadows–Corona Park. The QMA says, “Queens International 4, the fourth installment of this biennial, is a survey of new and on-going projects by 42 emerging and established artists, artist collaborations and artist collectives from 18 countries that now live and/or work within Queens.”

The opening reception, which includes music, will be from 6 pm to midnight on Jan. 24, and the exhibit runs through April 26.

Adult admission to the museum is $5; seniors & children $2.50.

Family history help

Saturday, January 17th, 2009


A theoretical reader of this blog—perhaps the only kind there is—stands a good chance of being interested in family history. If that’s you, and you’re unaware of the resource provided by the local family history center at the Church of Latter-Day Saints (Mormons), you should check it out.

You may have political views that color your feelings about Mormons. Perhaps I share those views, but not as strongly as I believe in treating with decency people of all creeds & nations, etc.

In any case, like it or not, the LDS church has collected a vast amount of genealogical records, and you can walk right into their center on Court Street in Brooklyn and do research there, including requesting microfilm. One close ally of Moving Sidewalk just viewed the Mexican parish records of his great-great-grandparents’ marriage. But if they don’t get enough research interest, they’ll close the center. So if you’ve been thinking about doing some genealogical exploration, take advantage of this resource before it’s too late.

To find records, you can bring a name and as much information as you have, and the volunteer staff will show you how to search. Or you can do prep work online at, and bring the numbers of the microfilm files you’d like to order. There is a $5.50 charge to order a microfilm, and they take about a month to arrive in the local office. Then you will have a month or two to visit the center and examine it.

The family history center is located at the corner of Court and Union streets in Cobble Hill (as pictured above), and they’re open Tuesdays and Thursdays from 1 to 5 pm; Fridays from 10 am to 6 pm; and Saturdays from noon to 6 pm.

Gearing up for Chinese New Year

Wednesday, January 14th, 2009

The Museum of Chinese in America will give a walking tour, with shopping and tasting, from 1  to 2:30 pm Saturday, Jan. 17, to show Chinatown’s preparations for the Year of the Ox, which begins January 26. Tickets are $15 ($12 for seniors and students), and the tour meets on the second floor of the museum at 70 Mulberry St. If you can’t make it, they’ll also have walking tours on Jan. 24 and 31.

Farther south, on Sunday, Jan. 18, the Staten Island Zoo gears up for the holiday with “unique crafts and special feeding and presentations showcasing the zoo’s Chinese horoscope animals.” That’s a cool idea, and it’s a nice little zoo with a great batch of rattlesnakes. Activities run from 1:30 to 3:30 pm, and admission is $7 for adults, $4 for children. The zoo is at 614 Broadway on Staten Island. You can get there on the S53 bus from Bay Ridge or by taking the S48 bus at the ferry terminal; see their website for directions.

Dance your way through winter

Monday, January 12th, 2009

It’s freezing, and it will be a lot colder on Thursday—which makes it the perfect time for Norwegian folk dancing. Folk Feet on Fifth‘s Norwegian Nights and Levantine Layali begins on Thursday, Jan. 15, with a folk dance class with Paul Busse, the Norwegian Folkdancers Society, and live accordion. Free. The class will be from 7 to 8:30 pm at Salaam Arabic Lutheran Church, 345 Ovington Ave, Brooklyn (R train to Bay Ridge Ave).

The program continues on Jan. 22, with a Lebanese and Palestinian Debke dance class with Ramzi Ed-libi, Jad Lebbos, Sheren Attal and live Arabic percussion, and concludes on Saturday, Jan. 24, with a Norwegian and Levantine Dance Party/Hafla.

Folk Feet on Fifth is part of the Brooklyn Arts Council’s Folk Arts project, and Norwegian Nights and Levantine Layali is presented in partnership with Young Dancers in Repertory.

To register, or for more information, call (347) 702-7155.

Más reyes

Thursday, January 8th, 2009

If you’re bummed out about missing the Three Kings Day Parade Tuesday in Manhattan, you have another chance.  There will be a kids’ parade in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, on Sunday, Jan. 11, with Puerto Rican reggaetón star Daddy Yankee. It begins at 2 pm at Meeker Avenue and Graham, which is also known as Avenida Puerto Rico, and heads down to Broadway.