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Thursday, January 22, 2015


I have been seeing some posts lately about Paris being back to normal.

Sorry to say, but this is not really true.

Rue Mouffetard, normally a lively street  day and night, is empty since the January 7 attacks.
Friends in town this week have not had to wait in line at the Louvre, at the Eiffel Tower, at the Catacombs. In fact there have been no lines. Tourists have cancelled their planned travel to Paris. Parisians have cancelled their planned travel within outside of Paris. The word of the day is caution.

January sales - normally a time when shops are jam-packed with people profiting from deep discounts on all of the things we have admired but could not afford - have been a disaster. No matter how deep the discounts, Parisians are not shopping this year.

Other signs of #thingsarenotnormalinparis :

  • Just up the street a 24/7 armed guard stands at the door of what may be the residence of prominent journalists who may also be Jewish.  
  • At the post office an armed guard checks your bags upon entry and exit.
  • At Place d'Italie shopping centre an armed guard checks your bags upon entry and exit.
  • Yesterday my metro line was shut down for quite some time. I could not make out the garbled announcement, but certainly saw the 25 armed guards in the station among the hundreds of waiting commuters. Something was up.

Don't get me wrong - Paris needs to take seriously the higher level of risk recently introduced. The armed guards are doing their jobs.

But let's not pretend this is normal.
Please see vigipirate. We are currently scarlet - the highest level of alert.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Charlie and the Anti-Muslim Media Factory

This article posted on Facebook yesterday tripped the trigger for me, likely because I disagree with everything it says and it was posted by someone I like. Read the article in the link below.

Link to article that made me lose my cool

I am all for sharing all sides of a story but what a load of bs is to be found here.
  • First how can the author compare Charlie Hebdo cartoons to a Twitter hashtag titled killallmuslims? Charlie Hebdo created cartoons. Provocative, insensitive and yes offensive to some but they were caricatures, not calls to war.  Caricatures of world leaders are done every day without retaliatory attacks, hostage takings or killings.
  • Continuing on, the author refers to a discussion on whether or not to serve pork in a school within a town of 3,500 people and 180 students.  Why does a decision to serve pork in this school intrude on the rights of students who do not eat pork? And is this any different from serving meat or dairy products in schools even if some students have strong moral objections to consuming products from livestock? Seems like everyone has the choice to eat something different that day.
  • The author's comparison to the 2011 Norwegian lone-wolf attack attacks is a weak one. Although the Norwegian killer was apparently politically motivated, a single person does not create the same global ongoing threat as a radical religious and political organisation pledged to destroy basic rights and freedoms and the people who hold these ideals.
  • The author places blame for the Paris attacks directly on the failure of the intelligence and security forces to monitor and stop these extremists. I beg to differ. The blame must remain on the individuals and extremist organisations who have taken "credit" for the killings.
  • And here is the author's finale; "If we close our eyes, we can think that the Paris attacks exposed a contradiction between Islam and freedom of expression – and between Muslims and Europeans." Close our eyes - I do not think so. Never mind that the author started out by discussing a perceived injustice to European Muslims and now seems to be making a distinction between Europeans and Muslims. We can actually agree that indeed there is a basic contradiction in that many of us respect and value the rights and freedoms provided by the country in which we live. The extremists responsible for the Paris attacks not only contest those rights and freedoms, but strive to take them away from the rest of us by threatening and killing innocents. I agree - this is a contradiction, although perhaps not in the sense the author believes.
  • I do understand that it is offensive to Muslims to caricature the prophet. However if we are to avoid publishing all that is offensive to all groups I think the list of forbidden images will be long. Let's start with forbidding the publishing of women's bare faces, women in the work place, inter-racial marriages, black presidents, handicapped children in regular schools, female world leaders, pork producers, pets in the home, race horses, dairy cattle confined to barns... the list could be almost endless if we are to avoid offending anyone's moral, religious or political sensibilities.
  • In Paris last week employees of Charlie Hebdo were killed for making cartoons. Other innocents were killed for some other reason - being of Jewish faith apparently. This is what we are standing up against. We are not simply having an intellectual debate about the quality or desirability of the magazine, its contents or its contributors. People were killed in a country where freedom of speech is not only permitted, but encouraged. We do not have to like what is published. We do not have to buy what is published. We do not even have to read what is published. But it is our responsibility to allow it to be published.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

When you start on your journey to Ithaca

When you start on your journey to Ithaca,
then pray that the road is long,
full of adventure, full of knowledge.
Do not fear the Lestrygonians
and the Cyclopes and the angry Poseidon.
You will never meet such as these on your path,
if your thoughts remain lofty, if a fine
emotion touches your body and your spirit.
You will never meet the Lestrygonians,
the Cyclopes and the fierce Poseidon,
if you do not carry them within your soul,
if your soul does not raise them up before you.
-K. P. Kavafis (C. P. Cavafy), translation by Rae Dalven

My Parisienne friend and I were the recipients of this poem yesterday. The sender is a fellow ex-pat who no doubt was thinking of the pilgrimage Miss Paris took last year, and the trials and joys of that journey both physically and spiritually. 

In a perhaps unrelated event Miss Paris also recently took a leap of faith, deciding to trust the universe just a little and to assume that most things will work out reasonably well, even if she is not constantly supporting all world events with her active worrying. By the way the first time she tried it she was rewarded grandly; she did not give the possible negative outcome the energy required to manifest. She did not allow the beast to accompany her. And the result was positive.

The poem is so powerful that I immediately sent it to another friend, who just yesterday discovered within an apparently squandered day a possible new approach to his creative pursuits. Once again choosing to trust the journey brought the best possible result.

I have shared the first verse which also reminds me of my favourite Cormac McCarthy line:

"A creature cannot learn that which his heart has no shape to hold." 

It is possible that our deepest fear is not of others, but that beast we carry with us on our journey. 

In the midst of the shock waves still rippling through Paris following the terrorist attacks I am comforted by this poem, and by my belief that whatever we focus on grows more powerful. A conscious effort of peace and trust in the greater humanity may be our only real protection. 

For a special treat listen to Sean Connery read Ithaca in the link below

Friday, January 9, 2015


It has been two days since the senseless murders at the Charlie Hebdo office.

It has been one day since the murder of a Paris police officer.

Today two hostage situations are underway, at least one of which is directly related to the charlie hebdo incident.

As I walk the streets of Paris today I share with Parisiens  a mix of anger, sadness, and fear.  

I also feel a sense of pride for those who continue to fight the fight for freedom.
Like the bookstore up the street from me with their display of satirical cartoons. 

Well done.


It should never be about whether we agree with what is said. We must however support the right to say it. So yes #jesuischarlie