Paris Calgary friends Google Hangout the day after Paris Attacks

Peace for Paris posted by jean jullien - 20151113

Peace for Paris posted by jean jullien – 20151113

Heart Broken in Paris

My heart broke Friday (Nov 13th, 2015) as I saw the tragedies of Paris attacks unfolded in live (minute by minute) news reports via Guardian. Since then, I’ve been reading/watching news/analysis (ref 1ref 1bref 2ref 4ref 8ref 9), a simple symbol of peace, and also realized other cities had being attacked in recent days (ref 3ref 3b).

On Saturday morning out of the blue, Paris called! More precisely, my super cool Paris friend Laurent (now cool *and* magical, more on this later) pinged me online and we ended up having a wonderful Google Hangout and video chatted for a few lovely minutes. He in Paris, France. Me in Calgary, Canada. The day after horror in Paris.

Paris Calgary Friendship in the age of Google Hangout

To set things up a little. How did a guy from Paris, France and someone from Calgary, Canada become friends? Well, Laurent and I first met in 2011 and then we became good friends over the years thanks to the magic of Google Hangout. (Laurent: fourth icon at the bottom counting from the right in this 2011 screen capture, me: the 6th icon counting from the right).

Over the years, Laurent and I love to talk about good food (Ferran Adrià, elBulli, street food), fashion, and even Christian Louboutin shoes (the designer is his family friend and has promised introduction one day)! So on Saturday morning, in the dark hours of Paris, less than 24 hours after the Paris Attacks, we defiantly talked about food. Yes, we “defiantly” talked about food, good Paris food! Our little #beepyou to the terrorist gunmen. Lives are short and we were determined to live our lives to the fullest without being changed by those #beepers. (note: I am not naive, it is a given that world governments need to come up with effective strategies and appropriate actions needed to be taken carefully in the coming days, weeks, and months without being reactive and doing exactly the things the terrorists expect us to do in fear. Those discussions are for another day.)

Tres Tres Bon on Paris Premiere

But on this Saturday morning, we talked our shared love of Paris food, defiantly! Laurent told me about the Tres Tres Bon” TV show on the “Paris Premiere” TV channel is a French food site (with video), where I can find many less touristy places to hunt for good food in Paris when I visit. (And we talked more than just food since then, see bottom note with links.)

Paris Premiere - French food site

Paris Premiere – French food site

After browsing around Tres Tres Bon, I found a fascinating video about yam’Tcha that put a smile on this native Cantonese speaker’s face immediately as I saw the Chinese connection/inspiration (you see yam’Tcha sounds like Cantonese words for going for Chinese Dim Sum)! Of course, I expected and confirmed from the video that yam’Tcha‘s food come with some French creative twist!

yam'Tcha - screen capture via Paris Premiere

yam’Tcha – screen capture via Paris Premiere

Mending Broken Hearts metaphorically and literally

Yes, my heart is still broken as I watched families of a victim spoke (ref 5 – video)? And I know my heart will keep on breaking as more stories of lives cut short started to be reported in the coming days and weeks. But try we must, to live our lives to the fullest, without fear, and with kindness that we had before this tragedy. If we allow the terrorists to rob our kindness towards Syrian refugees and others refugees in need from around the world, or take away our respect and love of our fellow peaceful Muslim Canadians (or citizens of your countries), then the terrorists would have truly won in creating a hate filled world where we are all closed off, with locked up borders, spying on each others with total mistrust, and unfounded fear of each others. Is this the kind of world we want to leave to our future generations?

Finally, my talk of mending broken hearts is both metaphorical and literal. My friend Laurent actually had a major heart incident in June 2014 and had to be implanted with a total artificial heart (TAH info from US 17 months ago. So Laurent is literally being kept alive by the magic of a cutting-edge TAH as he awaits a new heart. I am not a medical doctor/researcher but here is a medical and technical post about his TAH that we hope may help other people who are waiting for heart transplant.

One of the machines that keeps my friend Laurent alive in Paris. The other machine is a total artificial heart (TAH) implanted inside him. Photo credit: Laurent

Let me quote a Facebook friend’s status from this morning as she concluded with “Paris is alive and well, despite everything.

Walking around Paris is very, very therapeutic for me today and I wish you could be here to experience it as well. It would make you feel better. Kids are playing. The sun is shining. Cafes are full of people having coffee. There’s a million Chinese tourists with selfie sticks. Yes, when you catch the eye of someone, there’s a silent and solemn communication. But being here is SO SO SO much better than what you are seeing on the news. Paris is alive and well, despite everything.

Our broken hearts may seem impossible to heal but try we must. Hard to imagine? Yes, but even in our dark hours, we must try hard and work hard to imagine, imagine, and imagine as one man did beautifully in his own small way! The deceased victims of Paris (and other) Attacks had no more chances to even try and it is up to us now.

Quoting one of my favourite movies Strictly Ballroom, “A Life Lived In Fear is a Life Half Lived” (clip). Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has often been quoted in saying, “in Canada … better is always possible!” Live well, be kind, and “leave this world a little better than we found it“!

Not Afraid - Photot credit Google+ user Djordje Majetic

Not Afraid – Photo credit: Google+ user Djordje Majetic


ref 1: CBC News, “ANALYSIS – Paris attacks confirm France’s worst fears: Don Murray

Attackers adjust tactics

It is a grim and terrible irony that, despite the military show of force day after day in the streets around the January attack, much of Friday night’s carnage took place just steps away. The Bataclan concert hall is less than 200 metres from the Charlie Hebdo offices, where most of its journalists were slain.

The attackers clearly adjusted their tactics. Rather than targeting specific people — Jews, journalists — they targeted anyone at all. The goal was indiscriminate killing, mass bloodshed.

It could have been much worse: The three suicide bombers at the soccer stadium managed to kill only themselves and one other person. But the men wielding submachine guns and killing people in cafés and at the Bataclan were horrendously effective.

There was a slightly unreal calm in the streets just south of the killing zone on Saturday. People lined up at the butcher’s. Cafés were far from empty.

Televisions blared the news that everyone knew. Few commented on the attacks unless asked. And then, a shrug and talk of carrying on, of the bitter taste of the aftermath, of a feeling akin to a hangover.

For these people, wars used to be faraway events brought closer by television reports in two-minute slices. I myself used to go to war zones to work and then leave, shedding the experience like the skin of another life.

It’s quite a different and unnerving sensation to hear the sirens in the night, to see the wounded being carried away on stretchers in the next street and to realize that the war zone is now on your doorstep.

ref 1b: CBC News, “ANALYSIS – Trudeau and ISIS: Is the bombing still a bad idea? After Paris, prime minister ponders his pledge to end the air war on Islamic State – Terry Milewski

1,700 sorties, and still flying

Canada’s six warplanes, with an airborne Polaris tanker and two Aurora surveillance planes, arrived at a base in Kuwait just over a year ago, on Oct. 30, 2014. Since then, their contribution to the coalition has been modest but certainly not insignificant.

As of Wednesday — Remembrance Day — Canadian planes had flown 1,731 sorties, according to the Department of National Defence. Of those, 1,109 were combat missions by CF-18 fighters, although they take a cautious approach to releasing their bombs and return without dropping them about two-thirds of the time.

In addition, the C-150 Polaris tanker flew 302 sorties, pouring nearly 8,160 tonnes of jet fuel into coalition aircraft. The two Auroras conducted a further 320 reconnaissance missions, gathering intelligence on ISIS movements.

So they’ve been busy. Their mission was laid out by the Conservative government in a resolution authorizing it in October 2014. “Unless confronted with strong and direct force, the threat ISIL poses to international peace and security, including to Canadian communities, will continue to grow,” it said, using an alternate acronym for ISIS.

Since then, has the threat diminished? The bloodbath in Paris says no.

ref 2: UK Independent, “We must destroy Isis but not play into their hands – the wrong response would create countless new recruits – Hollande says our response to Isis must be “merciless” – and I agree – but it must also be strategic so we don’t fall into their trap

And Isis want to see western countries become closed, authoritarian societies where we live in fear of them and their capabilities. They hate what we stand for and they want to provoke us into changing that.

The temptation to react to Isis in the way they want will be strong in the aftermath of Paris. Francois Hollande says our response to Isis must be “merciless” – and I agree – but it must also be strategic so we don’t fall into their trap.

We must stand for our values: liberalism, secularism, openness, free speech and equality: those are the values we swear by and those are the values we must now strain every sinew to live by.

ref 3: 2015, Nov 13, Al Jazeera, “Day of mourning in Lebanon after deadly Beirut bombings – Twin explosions in the capital kill at least 43 people with ISIL claiming responsibility.

Beirut, Lebanon – A national day of mourning was held Friday after two suicide bombers on motorcycles killed at least 43 people and wounded more than 200 others in a predominantly Shia area of southern Beirut.

The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) claimed responsibility for one of the worst attacks in years in Lebanon.

“They targeted this place because they don’t have any other way to fight us,” Fouad Khaddam, a witness at the scene, told Al Jazeera. “They have run out of options … They targeted this area because we are Shia. But let me be clear: We won’t be fazed.”

ref 3b: 2015, Nov 15, UK Mirror, “Paris attack: Viral Instagram post calls on people to ‘pray for the world not just Paris’

As the world reels from the aftermath of the Paris terrorist attacks, social media users have been reminding others that this was not the only devastating loss of life this week.

129 people were killed and dozens injured when seven terrorists carried out shootings and suicide bombings in the French capital on Friday night.

Just 24 hours before, two suicide bombers on motorcycles killed at least 43 people and wounded more than 200 others in a predominantly Shia area of southern Beirut.

And early on Friday, an Isis militant blew himself up at the funeral of a pro-government Shia fighter in Baghdad, killing at least 18 people and wounding 41.

But social media users have been commenting that while the victims of the Paris tragedy has received extensive attention, the dead in Lebanon and Iraq have gone unnoticed.

ref 4: 2015, Nov 14: Guardian, “Interactive: how the attacks unfolded

ref 5 – video: 2015, Nov 15: Guardian (video), “Parents of Paris attack victim: ‘she had big dreams’ – video

ref 6: 2015, Nov 15: WSJ, “Behind François Hollande’s Snap Decision at Stade de France and the Unfolding Terror in Paris – French president judged it too dangerous to send soccer crowds out where militants might be waiting

ref 7: 2015, Nov 15: Guardian, “Paris attacks: pianist ‘drove 400 miles through the night’ to pay tribute – Davide Martello played John Lennon’s Imagine on a grand piano outside Bataclan theatre, scene of one of deadly attacks

ref 8: 2015 Nov 16, CBC News, “ANALYSIS – In Paris, the ‘us’ vs. ‘them’ that divides a stricken city won’t heal it: Keith Boag – France coming together only in the sense that it might be uniting against its Muslim population

In any case, the isolation of one group from a larger community can spell trouble ahead, and that seems even more likely since Friday.

This is how the ground becomes more fertile for ISIS recruiters. It’s what they want: a powerful western European community, enflamed by atrocities committed against it, surrounding a weaker Muslim community that feels increasingly besieged.

ref 9: 2015 Nov 15, Al Jazeera, “Go ahead, blame Islam – Let’s be honest about how much all of our most cherished ideals have contributed to the death and destruction around us.

So by all means, let us blame Islam for the carnage done in its name. But let’s be honest about how much all of our most cherished ideals, identities and ideologies have contributed to the death and destruction piling up around us.

And then, let’s figure out how to recapture the sense of justice, mercy and compassion that have always existed – too often in the shadows – at the core of Islam, Judaism, Christianity and many of the world’s other great belief systems, before there’s nothing left to fight over.

NOTE: And since our Saturday hangout, Laurent, like in the good old days, has sent me lots of cool information like luxury experiences in HK, Ritz-Carlton Hong Kong sweeps double Michelin (Chinese restaurant Tin Lung Heen with two Michelin stars and Italian restaurant Tosca with one Michelin star), Mandarin Oriental Shanghai’s Yong Yi Ting featuring modern Jiang Nan cuisine.

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