the astonishing odyssey of giant puppet Amal

Meet Little Amal – the not-so-little puppet of a 9-year-old Syrian girl who is walking 5,000 miles from Turkey to the UK.

The journey represents the stories of the millions of young refugees who are forced to leave their homes and often travel alone without their parents.

Designed as part of a project aimed at raising awareness of the difficulties faced by child refugees, the nearly 12-foot-tall puppet will cross the border of eight countries.

Amal means “hope” in Arabic.

She’ll be moving from Turkey to Greece, then Italy, France, Switzerland, Germany, Belgium and finally the UK where Little Amal’s journey will end in Manchester on 3 November.

Look, here she is in my most favorite spot in Paris: the gardens of the Palais-Royal. Had I known she’d be there, I would have gone to see her and take photos.

The giant puppet was made by the same people who worked on the horse puppet for the theatre production of War Horse.

Called The Handspring Puppet Company, it takes a total of four puppeteers to animate Little Amal: one for each arm, one for her back, and one actor inside her body, walking on stilts and also operating a contraption called “the harp,” a complex system of strings that control the puppet’s facial expressions.

The Handspring Puppet Company’s founders, Basil Jones and Adrian Kohler even came out of retirement to create it.

“The refugee story is the big issue of our time,” said Kohler.

(text taken from the BBC website)

The Guardian has beautifully documented (with photos) the overland voyage of Amal from her starting point in Turkey to …. well, I’m not quite sure where she is right now, somewhere in England heading north up to Manchester. Here’s the link here. Take a look –

https://www.theguardian.com/world/gallery/2021/oct/20/amals-journey-the-puppet-that-crossed-europe-in-pictures#img-1

why can we not criticize religion?

Remember Monty Python’s satirical film, Life of Brian, in which they poked fun at Christianity? It was hilarious. The year was 1979. Fast forward to 2013 and Monty Python actor, Michael Palin: “Religious sensitivities have increased so much since my comedy days that it would now be impossible to make Life of Brian in which we satirized the life of Jesus.”

In 1979 they poked fun at everyone from the Establishment to Christianity. But thanks to the threat of “heavily armed fanatics”, Palin admits there is one comedy taboo he is too scared to break: Islam.

“We all saw what happened to Salman Rushdie and none of us want to get into that. There are people out there without a sense of humour and they’re heavily armed. You can’t parody Islam.” In 1989, Mr Rushdie was forced into hiding after the Supreme Leader of Iran, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, issued a fatwa calling for him to be killed in revenge for his novel, The Satanic Verses.

The right to blasphemy and the Mila affair

“God does not exist.” In France, this sentence can be said without running the risk of death or imprisonment. An individual can even go further and disrespect religion in general or one in particular. The offense of blasphemy, which existed until the Revolution, was abolished throughout the country in 1881 (except for the Alsace and Moselle regions, I have no idea why.)

The Mila affair is a French media and judicial case, relating to freedom of speech, Islam and cyberbullying.

In January 2020, “Mila”, a 16-year-old female singer in Eastern France made a live-stream with followers and talked with them about their love life and other topics. A man hit on her inappropriately and she rejected him. The man responded with a series of misogynistic and homophobic insults in the name of “Allah”, including “dirty whore”, “dirty lesbian” and “dirty racist”. Mila later made a story (available for 24 hours) on social media stating that “there’s nothing but hate in the Quran. Islam is shit.” The video was copied and widely shared on social media.

After her video clip went viral, she received over 100,000 hate messages, including death and rape threats, edited videos of her being hurt in various ways; the haters also published the address of her school. She and her family were consequently forced to live under 24-hour police protection as per the decision of France’s interior minister.

This sparked a nationwide debate on the freedom of expression and the right to blaspheme (definition: to say something offensive, specifically towards a religion.) Blasphemy is not criminalized in France, and the initial police investigation against the girl’s online comments was found to be without merit.

A month later, President Emmanuel Macron had to wade into the brouhaha and defend the 16 year old girl’s right of freedom of speech.

“In our country, freedom of expression is protected. In this country, and there are few in the world, the freedom to blasphemy is protected, as is the freedom to criticize, and that is a treasure.”

Jean-Luc Mélenchon, another politician on the left, stated that “In this country, we don’t threaten to kill people because they have an opinion we don’t like.”

However Abdallah Z., an executive officer of the French Council of the Muslim Faith, said “You reap what you sow” and that Mila had to “Bear the consequences of what she said.”

Of course we can criticize religion, but not the religion of Islam. Soooo…how tolerant does that make it?

According to Islamic law, mocking, disparaging or criticizing the Prophet and/or the Quran is an intolerable crime. The punishment for blasphemy in Muslim-majority countries is death by hanging or beheading, imprisonment, flogging, stoning or, if you’re lucky, a fine.

Apostasy (renouncing or leaving one’s religion) is also a crime.

Why am I blogging this?

The beheading of Samuel Paty

Two days ago, on Friday October 15, most schools throughout France observed a minute of silence in remembrance of Samuel Paty, a teacher whose attempt to illustrate free speech to his students led to his beheading a year ago by an Islamist fanatic, an 18-year-old Chechen named Abdouallakh Anzorov.

A salient point that stands out for me is that France granted asylum to the Anzorov family. Persecuted in their native Chechnya, they sought refuge in France (and received it.)

Social media and Facebook also played a role in Paty’s death.

It was revealed that a girl who was allegedly in Paty’s class told her father a false version of what had taken place in the class and prompted the online frenzy that led to Paty’s grisly murder. She later admitted to not being in the class at all. But the girl’s father, with the help of a radical imam, filed a legal complaint against the teacher anyway and began a social media hate campaign based on his daughter’s false account. He identified Paty and the school in Conflans-Sainte-Honorine, west of Paris.

The false story became a cause celèbre on radical Islamic sites on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter and school parents received as many as 10 messages day, some from Algeria and other Islamic countries, calling Mr Paty a “criminal”, a “thug” and a “paedophile” and demanding that he should be sacked.

Abdouallakh Anzorov, the young Chechen — who was in communication with a jihadist in Syria — caught wind of this and decided to get his hands on a cleaver and murder Paty. He decapitated him in the street near the school.

Emmanuel Macron paid homage to Paty saying that the teacher had been slain for representing the secular, democratic values of the French Republic.

“Islamists want to take our future,” Macron said. “They will never have it.”

proud to be French, proud to be European

I was invited to a reception given in honor of those who obtained French nationality in 2020 and 2021. I was honored to be there.


The Prez didn’t show up, but he was there in spirit.

For those new to this blog, there’s a backstory to this tale (there always is with stories concerning citizenship.)

Here’s the link below which explains why today I’m the holder of three passports. A friend recently said to me – “Are you sure you’re not a secret agent? Don’t you sometimes get your nationalities and passports mixed up?” I wrote this post in January 2021, it’s titled “I’m French!”

I’m French!

a fabulous new French perfume

I was in a cosmetic store the other day and after paying for my purchases the saleswoman asked if she could perfume me. This is a delightful French custom. 

Puis-je vous parfumer?” they say just as you’re about to leave. (May I perfume you?)

Avec plaisir.” I replied. You open your coat and they literally spray you from your neck down to your waist.

“Any particular scent, or would you like to try something new?”

I opted for something new, and I’m glad I did because I’ve now discovered a brand new scent that I love. And guess what? It’s vegan!

It’s called CHLOE EAU DE PARFUM NATURELLE

Discover the new Chloé Eau de Parfum Naturelle: a 100% natural origin fragrance with a fresh floral and woody signature that expresses the strength of the Chloé woman.

I recommend this, it’s totally original. People at work have been commenting on it, asking what that interesting fragrance is as I walk by. Here’s the video in black and white.

I am Chloé. Je suis Chloé.

it was the victim’s fault

It was the victim’s fault because she should never have “submitted” to arrest, and because she didn’t know about the legalities of arrest.

“Perhaps women need to consider in terms of the legal process, to just learn a bit about that legal process.”

Philip Allott, who oversees the North Yorkshire police, was accused of victim-blaming after saying women should “just learn a bit about that legal process” in case they are falsely arrested. He retracted his comments amid indignant calls for his resignation. Meanwhile, Scotland Yard suggested that a woman could try “waving down a bus” to escape a person they believe is pretending to be police. Waving down a bus? Pretending to be police? If I understood correctly, the man who murdered Sarah Everard was the police.

“If a person still does not feel safe, they should consider “shouting out to a passerby, running into a house, knocking on a door, waving a bus down or, if you are in the position to do so, calling 999.” 

If this is the best response the Metropolitan police in England can come up with in the wake of this appalling tragedy, then GHUA (God Help Us All) – and I don’t even live there. It’s clear as glass: we’re not in this together, we’re in it alone. It’s every woman for herself.

Another thing is clear: they’re not taking male violence against women seriously. Not like Spain, for example, a traditionally macho culture that did a complete turnaround recently and now recognizes male violence against women not only as an urgent public health priority, but a human rights violation. In contrast, what does the highest policing authority in England advise? Flag down a bus.

Why is the onus always on women to stay safe?

Society regularly reinforces the message that it is women’s responsibility to keep themselves safe, not men’s responsibility not to harass or assault them. 

“Violence against women—it’s a men’s issue.” Jackson Katz 

“Men have essentially been erased from so much of the conversation in a subject that is centrally about men.” Jackson Katz in his excellent TED Talk.

A Twitter user said – “Women are set up to be victim-blamed along the lines of “Why was she out so late?” Why don’t you focus on the need to vet police candidates better, weed out the bad ones and the ones who turn a blind eye, change the culture within the force?”

Not a single word or admission of culpability in the vetting of Wayne Couzens and missing (or choosing to ignore) warning signs that could have stopped him from killing. No, blame Sarah Everard, it was all her fault. Moreover, she’s dead, so she can’t speak for herself. My heart bleeds for her parents and sister.

At least three accusations of indecent exposure had been made against Couzens. It was also known amongst “the lads” (his fellow male colleagues) that he enjoyed watching violent porn. Urgent answers are required as to how he was allowed to remain in service.

The commissioner of the Metropolitan police, Cressida Dick (what? she hasn’t had the decency to resign?), actually said this when referring to the killer – “Sadly, some of them were abused at home, for example, and sadly on occasion, I have a bad ’un.”

A bad ’un? Is that some regional vernacular or is she being flippant? And what’s the relevance of mentioning that Wayne Couzens was abused at home? What’s your point, Ms. Dick? Or rather, Dame Dick.

In September 2019, she was promoted Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire in Theresa May’s resignation honours. In 2013, she was named one of the 100 most powerful women in the United Kingdom by Woman’s Hour on BBC Radio.

Surely a Commander of the British Empire has some pull. Use that power, Dame Dick, and that astronomically high salary of yours to implement radical change and reform within your police force.

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2021/oct/01/sarah-everard-murder-police-powers-stephen-lawrence-judicial-inquiry

https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2021/oct/01/sarah-everard-murder-police-commissioner-apologises-for-saying-women-should-be-more-streetwise

these men should die.

When I was a young idealist, I believed that human beings were essentially good. Today, skeptical and hardened by life, I don’t believe that anymore. At all. 

Sarah Everard – and every other woman raped, tortured and left for dead in a field, on a garbage dump or wherever – could be us. We are all Sarah Everard, Sabina Nessa, Gabby Petito and hundreds of thousands more. The list of names is too long. All victims of femicide. Learn this word. It means “the intentional killing of women or girls (by a man) because they are female”. It’s in fact terrorism, and governments (other than Spain) are doing nothing about it.

33 year old Sarah Everard – dead. A new marketing job. A loving family and boyfriend. The remains of her burned body were found in a garbage bag in a field. Killed by a man because she was a woman. Femicide.

28 year old Sabina Nessa – dead. That university teaching degree your family was so proud of will be of no use to you. Killed by a man because she was a woman. Femicide.

22 year old Gabby Petito – dead. You had your whole life ahead of you. Her remains were discovered in Teton County, Wyoming. Killed by a man because she was a woman. Femicide.

 

As of September, France counts its 80th femicide death of 2021. By the end of the year, that number will be higher. Last year it was 102 women.

In Canada, 160 females were violently killed in 2020.

Every woman who learns about yet another femicide should take it personally. We all walk around city streets at 8:30 or 9 p.m. (and much later) believing we are safe. We’re not.

The recent murder of teacher Sabina Nessa triggered a huge outpouring of grief as outrage reignites over the safety of women on Britain’s streets just six months after the death of Sarah Everard.

Sabina Nessa is believed to have been killed while on a five-minute walk to meet a friend at a pub at around 8.30 pm last Friday. Her body was found near a community centre hidden under a pile of leaves. UPDATE: she was “randomly” killed by an Albanian man who used a 2ft-long weapon to strike her repeatedly before carrying her away unconscious. Called a “predatory” stranger attack, there was no suggestion that he knew his victim.

§§§

Years ago, I was barrelling up Manhattan’s Riverside Drive in the backseat of a taxi.

“Is it safe around here?” I shouted to the driver through the plexiglass partition that separated us.

“Lady!” he yelled back over his shoulder, “Nowhere’s safe!”

I never forgot that.

Anytime, anywhere (just like the terrorist attacks here in Paris and elsewhere in the world.) I no longer go down to my basement storage locker which is two floors below the ground floor in my apartment building. I saw a man down there once who was wandering around and looked very suspicious. Frightened, I hightailed it back upstairs as fast as I could. Because of a scary incident involving a strange man, I only go down to the basement of my building now accompanied by other people.

These men who intentionally murder women? They should die too. That’s my personal opinion. They don’t deserve to breathe a single breath, because they took the breath of innocent women. (Furthermore, they feel no contrition for what they did.) Why should taxpayers finance their incarceration?

Read how Couzens went into a shop to buy himself a drink and a Bakewell tart after he had finished raping and killing Sarah.

https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2021/sep/29/wayne-couzens-used-police-id-to-kidnap-sarah-everard-court-told

Sarah Everard’s family ‘haunted by the horror’ of her murder

Mother of woman killed by police officer says the ‘brutality and terror’ of her last hours are unbearable

https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2021/sep/29/sarah-everard-family-haunted-by-the-horror-of-daughters-murder

cherry blintzes with sparkling wine

After purchasing a bag of frozen cherries at Picard, I then went to my local Marks & Spencer (soon to close because of Brexit) and bought some cottage cheese. Of course I’m furious. Marks & Spencer is a part of my childhood and the rest of my growing up years. Talk about comfort food.

Marks & Spencer is closing 11 of its French stores because of problems supplying them with fresh and chilled foods since Brexit. “Supply chain complexities following the UK’s exit from the European Union now make it near impossible for us to serve fresh and chilled products to customers to the high standards they expect, resulting in an ongoing impact to the performance of our business.”

The less said about Brexit here the better.

So in honor of a visiting friend yesterday, I purchased a bottle of crémant (sparkling wine) and made cherry blintzes.

I had the idea of putting the cherry juice into the wine. You could also use kirsch. Many blintz recipes call for cream or ricotta cheese, but I like cottage cheese.

A dollop of sour cream, yogurt or crème fraîche would’ve been nice, but I didn’t have any.

it’s a wrap! the Arc de Triomphe receives the Christo treatment

Last Saturday was too beautiful to stay indoors, so I grabbed my camera and headed to the Champs-Elysées to check out the wrapped Arc de Triomphe that everyone’s talking about. It is indeed a triumph.

There was quite a crowd. As I walked around the monument it changed color with the light and angle.

Heading towards a metro station an hour later, I saw this poster below and gave a little shriek. Hooray! Vivian Maier, the famous but completely unknown photographer (until she died), is having an exhibition in Paris. The last time there was an exhibition in her name, it was in the south of France somewhere.

I’m excited. Her work is exciting. Plus, it’s in a museum in the Luxembourg Gardens that I’ve never visited before. (I’ve visited the Gardens, of course, but not the museum.) I’ll make a day of it. It’s not often that I find myself in that part of Paris …

Here’s the link to the museum with a brief description of Maier –

https://museeduluxembourg.fr/en/agenda/evenement/vivian-maier

the little newspaper that could – Dad’s paper

Not quite sixty years ago, my father created a small newspaper in the basement of our house. It was a trade paper, and it served the graphic arts and printing industry in Canada. He named it PrintAction. Although Dad died suddenly of a heart attack in the early 1990s, the name and the newspaper stuck. No longer in print version, it’s now digital and owned by a business media company.

I never log on to their website, there’s no reason for me to. But something compelled me to do so the other day. And there I found a tribute to PrintAction and its beginnings. It’s well written, but for some unknown reason the name of the founder and visionary isn’t mentioned. I left them a comment at the bottom of the article.

In my memoir I’ve written a lot about my parents. Why? Because they are the spine, the heartbeat and the scaffolding of my life story.

I was tied to my mother and father at a level deeper than that of a mere filial bond.  I loved and honored them. Urbane, witty and literary, they had drawn on their ingenuity and creative talents to build a successful life for themselves in their adopted country. From their hearts flowed goodness and love, and it was in the regenerative rays of that love that I basked and flourished.

 

Here’s a small excerpt from my memoir about my father:

Dad found his calling in Canada. The word ‘action’ characterized him aptly, and it was no accident that his newspaper — Canada’s leading authority on the printing and graphic arts industry — would be titled PrintAction.

Mornings, after he cooked our breakfast, packed our lunchboxes and got us off to school, he’d clatter down the stairs to the basement where his workspace — low-ceilinged, brightly-lit and neat as a pin — served as the offices and production area of his trade paper. Dominating the open space at the foot of the stairs was a large drafting table. Beside it stood a filing cabinet and further along a metal shelving unit. All sorts of paraphernalia sat on those shelves: brushes and pots of rubbery glue; T-squares, triangles and colored markers; Gaebel steel rulers and Rapidograph pens; ink bottles, pens, and Letraset sheets; a small magnifier called a printers’ loupe and a marble roller used to smooth glued columns of text onto stiff white paper called layout boards or dummies: they were tools of the trade for Dad, after-school playthings for me.

When he wasn’t on the telephone or typing copy, he was attending trade fairs and industry events, interviewing people, taking photographs, selling advertising space and visiting the plant where Linotype machines clacked loudly and an offset printing press churned out his publication.

Self-taught and self-directed, Dad loved the freedom of being his own boss and charting his own destiny. He was a principled, forward-thinking man; a creative visionary of sorts. There was something about his face that earned respect from his peers; wholly without artifice it was an honest face with candid eyes and a quiet determination.

John Alexander Young. Born in Northumberland County, England; died in Toronto.

 

I miss you, Dad.

Here’s the PrintAction article with my comment at the bottom:

60 years of print

the dinner was underwhelming

Well, that’s my opinion. I don’t know if my dining partner felt the same way. Last night we met up at Place de la Bastille and strolled leisurely up the rue des Tournelles to a restaurant we’d never been to before: Soon Grill. It’s Korean, and they purportedly specialize in barbecued meat. It was a gorgeous evening, weather-wise, and the rue des Tournelles, indeed the whole of the 3rd arrondissement, is a treasure trove of new discoveries and old finds, constantly renewing itself.

We got there at 7 pm – very early for dinner in France, but the place filled up pretty fast. Never having eaten Korean before, I didn’t really know what to expect. Bigger portions? Better quality meat? More food? I had difficulty eating with the chopsticks, not because they were chopsticks but because they were metal – brass, I think – and unwieldly. I ended up eating with my fingers.

I thought it was a bit theatrical (gimmicky), the grilling of the steak on a small electric grill built right into the table. A server came to cut up the meat and throw some mushrooms and onions onto the grill. Then she left. Was she coming back? Did we have to tend to the grilling of the meat ourselves? And why was there so much lettuce? Tiny brass bowls filled with unidentified foods and spices were scattered here and there. We had to ask what they were.

This couple came with their dog. I would have gladly given it the bits of my meat that were very tough. At least the wine was good. We drank a bourgueil from the Loire Valley.

At meal’s end I was starved. All I had eaten were a few tiny raviolis, some shrimp, some grisly meat and a whole lot of lettuce leaves. I ordered dessert and an espresso.

Et voilà. This is what we paid for the privilege.

We walked back to the party-like atmosphere of the Place de la Bastille, sat on the terrace of a bar and I ordered a G&T (gin and tonic). I would’ve gladly eaten a ham and cheese baguette sandwich had one been on offer.