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.

a new art exhibition at the J-A museum in Paris

When I saw the advertisement on the side of a city bus, I went online and purchased my ticket straight away. I’m going next week. Where? To the Jacquemart-André museum to see the new BOTTICELLI show.

In December 2003 I went to Florence over Christmas (on a night train from Paris). The weather was gorgeous – cold and sunny – and there were very few tourists. I felt like I had the whole beautiful city to myself. Well, me and the Italians, or rather, the Florentines. One day I went to the famous Uffizi Gallery and climbed a massive stone staircase to the Botticelli Room. To my surprise, I found myself entirely alone in that room. Imagine standing three feet away from this masterpiece. I was transfixed. It was a magical moment.

Florentine artist Sandro Botticelli is credited for his contributions to the Italian Renaissance. Widely considered to be one of the most prolific painters of the 15th century, he’s known for his large-scale paintings of mythological subject matter, including Primavera, an allegorical celebration of spring.

This piece is one of the most important Early Renaissance works. Housed in Florence’s famed Uffizi Gallery, it continues to attract viewers with its classical symbolism, elaborate composition, and delicate attention to detail.

Botticelli painted Primavera around 1480 (1480!! That’s 523 years before I stood gazing at it in 2003!) after returning to Florence from Rome, where he was hired to create frescoes in the Sistine Chapel. During this time, he began to turn his attention away Roman Catholic iconography and towards scenes from Greek and Roman mythology.

I then moved on to his next masterpiece: The Birth of Venus.

Created in the late 15th century, this monumental painting has been admired and analyzed for centuries. Today, along with famous pieces like Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa and Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel ceiling, it is regarded as a key work of the Italian Renaissance.

The Birth of Venus shows the recently-born Venus, the Roman goddess associated with love and beauty. Standing nude in an enlarged scallop shell, she is flanked by three figures from Classical mythology: Zephyr, the god of wind; Chloris, Zephyr’s wife and a nymph associated with flowers; and Flora, the Greek goddess of spring. Together, Zephyr and Chloris push Venus toward the shore with their breath, while Flora waits to cover her with a cloak.

I remember feeling so moved by the sheer greatness of the artwork that surrounded me in that empty room, that I wept, so overcome with emotion I was.

I must return to Florence, I haven’t been back since 2003.

My friend, Lori, who lives in California sent me a comment saying I had experienced “Stendhal syndrome”. Huh? What’s that? I googled it.

Stendhal syndrome or Florence syndrome is a psychosomatic condition involving rapid heartbeat, fainting and confusion, allegedly occurring when individuals become exposed to objects, artworks, or phenomena of great beauty and antiquity.

Yup. That’s what happened to me.

Read this article below in The Guardian about a man who suffered a heart attack after looking at Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus!

la rentrée – return to school, work, routine

In France, the beginning of September is called “la rentrée” which means “return, re-entry”. It officially signifies the end of summer vacation and return to work and school. New clothes, new books and school supplies, new haircuts, new art exhibitions (more on that in my next blog post which I’m excited about.) I went to a new hairdresser the day before I returned to work and am pleased with the result.

Already, the presidential election campaign is gearing up (next year is election year.) For the first time, now that I have French citizenship, I’m able to vote! Three days ago, President Macron made a trip down to Marseilles declaring that he wasn’t there to make false promises, but rather a commitment to “project the country into the future” and invest 1.5 billion euros to the city for security, education and hospitals.

Gosh, that’s a lot of money. How come he completely ignored the problems in Marseilles up until now? Oh, right. Because next year is election year.

Let’s see, what else is happening. I’m still slogging away on my memoir (yes, slogging … writing is hard!) The good news is that I’ve reached the Epilogue. I’m an excruciatingly slow writer and I work only on weekends because I have a full-time job. When I told my 17 year old goddaughter last week that I’m still working on my book project, she puffed in protest. “Tata! Are you still working on that darn book? It’s been years! When will it be finished?!” Before the end of the year, I told her. This year.

Some authors are able to write very fast and this baffles me. During the Covid lockdown last year when the world stopped for three months, some of them wrote a book from start to finish during that time period. How is this possible? My problem is that I’m a slow thinker. I need to ponder and process a lot of ideas and info before coming to a just conclusion.

Speaking of authors, I totally respect and agree with Hilary Mantel, the double Booker prize winner, who said in an interview that she feels “ashamed” to be living in the nation that elected the current Conservative government, and that Boris Johnson “should not be in public life”. She opposed BREXIT and hopes to become an Irish citizen to “become European again”. She also questions the relevance of the Royal family. Article below in today’s The Guardian.

2:30 pm on a warm and breezy Saturday afternoon and I’m going to walk to my local library. Afterwards, I’ll do a spot of food shopping. A new butcher has opened up in my neighborhood and everyone is flocking. The quality of the meat is better than the other butchers, I noticed it straight away (and I’m not a big meat eater.) Tonight: Asian meatballs with a salad. I have a bottle of rosé chilling in the fridge. Stay tuned for my next blog post announcing a thrilling new art exhibition in Paris.

lunch in Paris’s Little Tokyo

My 9 year-old godson’s favorite food is sushi, so off we went to Japantown on a cool and sunny Thursday afternoon.

After eating at a sidewalk table at Sushi Gan, 41 rue des Petits Champs, we walked over to AKI, a popular Japanese bakery at number 16 rue St. Anne for dessert. Lining both sides of the rue St. Anne in the 1st and 2nd arrondissements, you’ll find sushi and ramen restaurants, bakeries, bubble tea shops, Japanese supermarkets and a Korean butcher.

Unbeknownst to us, and as we sat at a small table enjoying our mochi and my double espresso, my godson’s 17 year-old sister was on the other side of town hurtling down the boulevards of Paris on an electric scooter with three girlfriends who had come down from Lille for the day. They were four: two standing on each scooter, the one behind holding onto the one in front who steered. No helmets and scant knowledge of the city. I was horrified when she told me later in the day. They had rendezvoused on the Champs-Elysées before scooting (scootering?) over to the Eiffel Tower and back. I mentally plotted what route they might have taken: avenue George V to the river, across one of the bridges, and then along the Quai Branly? Rue Pierre Charron to Trocadero and then across the Pont d’Iéna? It’s quite a hike. She didn’t know how she got there, she said; it was their Smartphone that guided them.

After dessert, my companion and I ambled down the narrow street of the rue des Petits Champs, popping into shops along the way, towards the Place des Victoires which used to be a great shopping area. Sadly, most of the boutiques are shuttered permanently due to Covid.

Here’s the Bistrot Vivienne below which sits at the entrance of one of my favorite passages in Paris: the beautiful Galerie Vivienne. A must-visit for tourists and residents alike; at Christmas it’s all lit up with fairy lights. We went inside and popped in and out of the boutiques. La Marelle: a designer second-hand clothing shop I’ve been buying from (and selling to) for two decades. Legrand Filles et Fils: a pristine wine shop and restaurant in which I purchased a nice bottle of Chinon, my favorite wine from the Loire Valley. They also sell old-fashioned candies which my godson didn’t want because they looked ‘bizarre‘.

From there we backtracked and headed to another must-visit place: the Jardin du Palais Royal. At its far end you can catch the metro on the rue de Rivoli directly across from the Louvre museum. I’ll never tire of these beautiful arcades and the hidden garden within. Never ever. The Jardin du Palais Royal is my most favorite spot in all of Paris.

Earlier in the week we went twice (with his sister) to my local swimming pool, ate Five Guys burgers late at night on the Champs-Elysées, went twice to the funfair and did a bunch of other things. A good time was had by all. I put them on the train Friday and their father picked them up at the other end in Lille. Today is Saturday afternoon and I’m in relaxation mode. Now, where’s that nice bottle of Chinon?

funfair with the kids

During the summer holidays, a traditional funfair is set up in the Tuileries Gardens. Children and adults, tourists and Parisians all enjoy the 60 or so attractions: bumper cars, ghost trains, shooting gallery, hall of mirrors, 1900s wooden horses merry-go-round. 

I didn’t see any wooden horses, but there’s the big ferris wheel, called La Grande Roue, and lots of other rides. We go at night because it’s all lit up, more fun, and I like to take night photos.

Late at night the rue de Rivoli becomes a route for cyclists, scooters and skateboards.

25 Afghan refugees arrive in Lille, France

They’re in charge now. Is this how you govern a country? By wielding AK-47 assault rifles?

The Socialist mayor, Madame Aubry, welcomed 25 Afghans to this northern city where I’m currently on vacation. France will accept thousands more, as will many other countries following President Biden’s blunderous withdrawal from that country.

My friend who lives in Lille is an interpreter who works with the French government. He will meet with the Afghan families. He speaks French, English, Arabic, Kurdish and Farsi. Farsi is similar to one of the Afghan languages which is Dari.

The good citizens of Lille are invited to donate clothes, toys, blankets, linens and basic necessity products, etc. to the Afghan families.


The Guardian article below is entitled “The abandonment of Afghanistan is shameful”. As usual, women and girls will be most affected by the takeover of the country by the barbaric Islamist Taliban. It makes me shudder just to think about it. These are the savages who, in 2012, shot Malala Yousafzai in the head. She was 15 years old. Her crime? Her vocal opinion on the right of girls to be educated. Her father was a schoolteacher who ran a chain of schools, for both boys and girls, in the Swat Valley, Northwest Pakistan.

Where is Malala today? After completing a high school education in Birmingham, England, she won a place at Oxford University and studied three years for a BA degree in Philosophy, Politics and Economics. She graduated in 2020. Starting now in Afghanistan, all girls are forced to cover themselves with Islamic garb. Their only roles will be … well, you know what their roles will be. The word “regression” is an understatement; more like extinguishment and enslavement. And this in the year 2021.

Like rats, the Taliban came out of their caves (literally) in Pakistan and elsewhere. They are the victors in the end thanks to yet another precipitous and seemingly unplanned American “strategy”. Do we need to be reminded of previous strategic disasters? The abandonment, again and again, of the Iraqi Kurds? Colin Powell holding a fake vial of anthrax while giving a pro-war presentation to the UN Security Council in 2003? (there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq). The Bush Administration’s decision to disband the Iraqi army shortly after the fall of Saddam in 2003 which subsequently led to the making of ISIS? The Libyan intervention in 2011 which resulted in the murder of Gaddafi and hundreds of thousands of migrants coming up from all over Africa to pass through the henceforth unprotected Libya to make their way to Europe in tiny, overcrowded boats? You can thank Sarkozy, Hillary Clinton, Obama and David Cameron for that.

Just like all the other interventions and hasty pull-outs committed by the U.S. in the past, there will be dire consequences from this Afghanistan action. Why? Because the Taliban is a fanatical Islamist ideology. To leave the country and its citizens in the hands of these zealots is sheer folly. It could have been done differently.

The best readers’ comment that I came across in The New York Times on the fall of Kabul is this – “Among the most indelible images from Afghanistan this week was young girls headed to school in the early morning, defiant and determined. It must be terrifying to the Taliban, who thrive on ignorance, to imagine facing a populace that is educated and in which females’ equal worth is recognized.”

Knock, knock, knockin’ on heaven’s door

For a month now, one of France’s radio stations – France Inter – has been airing a tribute to this celebrated singer-songwriter on Sunday mornings. Going way back to his origins and early work, I and every other listener, have been rediscovering the genius of Bob Dylan.

I admit to feeling baffled when he won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2016. But now that I’ve become better acquainted with his early songs from the 1960s and re-listened to the whole vocal range and span of his repertoire, I agree with the award citation –  “For having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition.”

This morning, while standing at my kitchen table pouring almond milk into my large mug of coffee, this song came on (link way down below.) I turned up the volume and listened with rapt attention. And then, to my utter utter surprise, I began to weep. A flood of memories overwhelmed me and I had to sit down. (Proof that songs really can trigger an emotional response in the listener.) I felt intensely sad. I felt an acute sense of loss: of a past era, a time and place, great great musicians that defined my rebellious teen years and left a huge mark on the artistic landscape. Far away, never to return (except on YouTube). We’ve moved so far from the world I inhabited as a teenager; in some ways a better world, in other ways worse. Much worse.

And to be replaced by what? By who? Who are our role models and heroes today? I can’t think of a single person. (If someone can offer up a name, please share.)

The funny thing is that I was never a Bob Dylan fan. A mere child in the 1960s, I was busy listening to Sparky’s Magic Piano on the record player. Oh, how I loved Sparky. In the early 1970s I was into Cat Stevens, Simon & Garfunkel and The Beatles, of course.

Through my window I could see passers-by on the street glancing up to my apartment; startled, I guess, to hear this artist’s signature nasal strains floating out on a quiet Sunday morning.

Dylan’s songs encapsulated not only an era, but his humanity. Listen to the song below, nearly 8 million hits. Turn it up loud and read the lyrics. I initially thought that the lyrics were in reference to the Vietnam war, but not so apparently. In any case, they’re still eerily relevant today.

“It’s gettin’ dark, too dark to see,”  In 2021, this is what I feel for our future. Now 80 years old, I wonder what the great man himself thinks about all this.

From WikiBob Dylan (born Robert Allen Zimmerman; May 24, 1941) is an American singer-songwriter, author and visual artist. Often regarded as one of the greatest songwriters of all time, Dylan has been a major figure in popular culture during a career spanning nearly 60 years. Much of his most celebrated work dates from the 1960s, when songs such as “Blowin’ in the Wind” (1963) and “The Times They Are a-Changin” (1964) became anthems for the civil rights and anti-war movements. His lyrics during this period incorporated a range of political, social, philosophical, and literary influences, defying pop music conventions and appealing to the burgeoning counterculture.