Unusual accommodation for a special birthday

le-vuarne_mountain-pasture-building

[All names and meta data intentionally removed except for the very last picture.]

‘Far from the maddening crowd’, so goes the title of a famous novel written by Thomas Hardy. This is also how one of my best friends chose to celebrate his fiftieth birthday a week ago. The venue he opted for was an old farm building in the Jura mountains, approximately an hour’s walk from the nearest town, a favourite with the Genevese in winter when there is enough snow for people to be out enjoying the cold, but generally immaculate, fluffy and deep white which it is also so nice to listen to one’s feet plod through.

sink-stove[Notice the container for carrying milk with the strap hanging loose]

My wife was still recovering from the flu, so she decided not to join us. Anyhow I am not sure that she would have enjoyed it as much as I did, as there was no running water, and therefore probably not even a toilet in the building itself. In addition, we had to sleep in a cold room, just under the roof, because it had not been heated for many days, as the building is uninhabited in winter.

dscn3839[‘La nuit, tous les chats sont gris.’; French saying.]

As one of the participants’ walking ability is slightly impaired and in fact I was not in my best shape either (my right knee has been troubling me since my first run in the snow mid-January), it took us more than three hours to reach our lodgings for the night. What is more, before that, we had to plough through the snow in the dark – even if the other members of the party all seemed to have far more powerful headlamps than the one I was wearing…

water-from-the-well[Morning chore: drawing water from the well in front of the farm]

One of the first things we did once we had reached this high pasture farm (cows graze in the area in summer) was to haul some water out of the well with a bucket (we needed it for the cooking, the tea and the dish-washing) and then get the stove to spread some heat into the kitchen/dining-room as well as into the adjacent bedroom (fortunately, there was also an electrical heater in the bedroom), both located at the far-end of the building, just under the roof (shaped a bit like a Mayan pyramid).

birthday-boy-in-full-gearIn keeping with the rustic quality of our lodgings for the night (and also because the food had to be carried by back, mainly by the ‘master of ceremonies’), the birthday meal was very simple: potatoes and raclette cheese, in addition to some organic champagne produced in Geneva and some white wine from the Valais and Geneva’s countryside. Fortunately, the ‘birthday boy’ did not have to carry the machine for melting the cheese as there was one there – as you would expect from any self-respecting kitchen belonging to a building where cows are milked in summer.

birthday-boy-bottle-champagneThese places are also called cartnotzet; they tend to be associated with bottles…

So although it was certainly not the largest gathering of people I had seen for a birthday held by this long-time friend of mine, it was certainly the most intimate. It was also the birthday party during which I saw him work the most, poor him. This was also because he had been lent the key to this high pasture farm as his father knew the person in charge of the mountain association to which the farm belongs. This is why the ‘birthday boy’ made sure the following morning that we would leave the place in exactly the same state as we had found it – not, of course, that we would have not done so had he not known the person who had lent him the key to the place.

bedroom-showing-my-rucksack[The bedroom]

Unfortunately, the ‘birthday boy’ had to be back in Geneva by 1:30 pm the following day, so it was a bit of a rush to get back to the car park the next morning. However, I shall certainly look back on this short mountain excursion, overnight stay and birthday party with fond memories: the sense of camaraderie and the cheerful mood shared by all of the participants plus the cosy feeling the farm lodgings seemed to exude all made for a highly memorable experience.

dscn3862

***

In summer, most high pasture farms (‘chalets d’alpage’ in French) will sell refreshments or snacks (at a place called ‘buvette’ in French); some even provide (affordable) accommodation, for example at this chalet d’alpage in the Alpes vaudoises (and with pictures showing plenty of snow, courtesy of the Internet Archive, so the page might take a minute or two to download).

Here is a website for locating chalets d’alpage in Vaud, Valais and in other cantons with a buvette: http://www.buvette-alpage.ch.

***

columbia-boot-external-layer-coming-off

For my next pair of snow boots, I shall make sure that I purchase a brand that manufactures them in Europe (not in some country which never sees any snow)… Strangely, one of the participants had experienced the same problem with exactly the same brand.

Advertisements

Visit your local library

Tags

,

I simply love books*. Not only do I own hundreds of them, but I continue to buy books at a rate which is not really sustainable… As we are fortunate to live in a city which is ‘book friendly’ (in terms of the number of bookshops, libraries, publishing houses, etc.), in an attempt to keep my passion for buying books somewhat in check, I try to borrow as many as possible from the university (and public) library (whose city centre branch is only some 30 minutes away from home on foot, at place de la Riponne) or from the municipal libraries. As for the latter, I tend to go for the main branch, whose location is also pretty central, being adjacent to place Chauderon – one of Lausanne’s main open space areas in the older part of the city.

emoto-masaru_water_healing-powerBorrowed in 2006, 2007 or 2008; purchased in March 2015; look up Masaru Emoto.

From the main municipal library, I tend to borrow books on computing, nature, politics or societal topics, history, archaeology, sports, the arts, travel guides or books loosely classified under the umbrella label of the esoteric (with holdings as heteroclite to comprise a biography of one of the ‘fathers’ of ‘free energy’, Viktor Schauberger). I came to the latter category as I was trying to find information as wide ranging as possible on water a number of years ago, even though I had borrowed or purchased books belonging to the esoteric category probably some twenty years ago.

pesky-piece-of-malware-from-asia

A particularly pesky piece of malware from Asia, not Russia, for once. 😉

On 2nd January as I was trying to locate the PDF version of a book still protected by copyright laws (reminder: a book falls into the public domain normally 70 years after the death of its author) from the computer of my parents (I had wanted to make a point more forcefully by providing evidence from printed material, i.e. in book format as opposed to web pages), I got my parents’ computer infested with various malware applications which were extremely hard to remove (because they would download again whenever the computer would connect to the Internet).

dscn3880Books borrowed on esoteric subjects

Having failed to remove the malware (even though I had used the trial versions of three malware ‘killers’), I had to go back to my parents to sort out this problem after they had called me to inform me that they were getting prompts for fake IT technical support. Fearing that I would have to tinker with the registry of Windows (which I am not too familiar with), I decided to borrow a book on the subject from the municipal library at Chauderon. I also decided to borrow a study of a medieval church in the Jura chain of mountains I would like to visit in the format of an A4 novel with some very interesting illustrations (click here for the book’s website, in French). Housed in the section ‘sacred architecture’, I stumbled across a book I had never seen, entitled The energy grid of sacred places (in French).

Even though I am still a little suspicious of unorthodox science, I fully share the intuition of the English novelist David Herbert Lawrence, who wrote that:

Every continent has its own great spirit of place. Every people is polarised in some particular locality, which is home, the homeland. Different places on the face of the earth have different vital effluence, different vibration, different chemical exhalation, different polarity with different stars: call it what you like, but the spirit of place is a great reality.

D. H. Lawrence, Studies in Classic American Literature, volume 2, page 17

geniedulieu-ch_94-lieux-sacres-et-particuliers-de-suisse-et-france-voisineScreenshot from 94-lieux-sacres-et-particuliers-de-suisse-et-france-voisine

I also know that the region of Switzerland where we live is replete with such places. The above screenshot, taken from the page devoted to high energy places in Suisse romande and neighbouring France, posted on the website of an author of some beautiful books (I am tempted to use the epithet ‘unique’) on sacred places and buildings, their energy, their architecture from an esoteric perspective, should certainly put the point through – as far as such claims are concerned, that is, because, of course, everybody is entitled to remain sceptical and have their opinion on the matter; it is more a question of having had or of not having had the opportunity to experience D.H. Lawrence’s ‘vital effluence’ for themselves.

dscn6780Stéphane Cardinaux’s books on sacred geometries; borrowed many times; purchased  in January 2015

***

Should you think that esoteric books (with beautiful illustrations) emerged only with the manufactured, ‘subversive’ (CIA-backed) hippie, counter- and Christian-shunning cultures of the sixties, seventies, eighties, etc., think again because there were plenty of such books as far back as the Middle Ages (technically these were not books, but codices – plural of the Latin word codex). One particular example is the so-called Voynich Manuscript (now part of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library):

[…] Many call the fifteenth-century codex, commonly known as the “Voynich Manuscript,” the world’s most mysterious book. Written in an unknown script by an unknown author, the manuscript has no clearer purpose now than when it was rediscovered in 1912 by rare books dealer Wilfrid Voynich […]

http://yalebooks.com/book/9780300217230/voynich-manuscript

yandex_voynich-manuscriptPicture search for the Voynich Manuscript on Yandex

To put an end to an entry which might become a little long winded otherwise, I thought I would conclude with something in this vein:

Visit your local library as you are bound to find a book that will expand your knowledge, or even your consciousness, this being without the mediation of an electronic device such as a television set, the screen of some computer or even the narrow display of your so-called smartphone…

* I am also married to an ex library manager…

no more newspaper headlines near home

Tags

The still ongoing consolidation of the press in this canton will make at least one person happy: me!

dscn3876 Newspaper boxes, Lausanne, Sunday 29th Jan 2017

In what I believe to be a totally misguided attempt at forcing readers to switch to the electronic versions of the two most-read newspapers in the Swiss canton where I live (Vaud) with a view to saving money, Ringier, the Swiss-German group that owns 24 Heures and Le Matin (issued respectively Monday to Friday and on a daily basis), has decided to stop making these newspapers available from coin-operated boxes. Except for the Sunday edition of Le Matin, readers now have to buy either of the two main Lausanne-based newspapers from their newsagent or ‘go digital’ (i.e. subscribe to the online version). This means that newspaper boxes and the headline sheets placed just under them (or inside the box) are likely to disappear from the streets of Lausanne in the near future.

dscn3878The choice is yours!

Leaving aside my firm belief that this will diminish the respective readerships further* and my suspicion that this also has to do with the present war on cash, I hereby wish to extend my sympathy for those whose job has been or will be axed (for instance, the early birds who would stack the many newspaper boxes scattered around Lausanne and at many, many other locations in the canton on weekdays and collect the coins) and the journalists likely to be let go of, as with a further erosion of newspaper sales, it will only be a matter of time before another round of job cuts is made. The more so as on the 23rd of last month, the same Swiss-German group announced that today (i.e. on 2nd February) it would be pulling the plug on the only current affair magazine published in French-speaking Switzerland, L’Hebdo, which was founded in Lausanne in 1981.

The migration of news and information from paper to electronic formats (available from television sets, various computing devices, telephones) has certainly taken its toll on the printed press here in Switzerland and in particular in the French-speaking regions. Worse, the future looks very bleak for the press in this part of the country given that it seems to be trapped in a vicious circle of continuously dwindling readership numbers, ever-lower advertising revenues and, as a result, ever-poorer journalistic quality.

newspaper-coin-operated-boxes-sallaz_14th-1-2017

The robots and Matt Damon are coming! (14th Jan 2017)

For my part, even though I reiterate that I feel deeply sorry for those affected by the redundancies, I must admit that I shall certainly not miss the boxes’ sensationalistic, sometimes even crass, headlines printed onto a A6 or B5-sized sheet hanging loose under each box and penned to grab the attention of the passer-by with the hope of getting them to purchase a copy of either newspaper belonging to the same group.

le-matin-12th-3-2016Existential question: cat meows (miaows with an American accent), 12th March 2016

This is because far too often, I would find the subject matter plastered across the placard either to be trivial, irrelevant to my life/concerns or that the headline was titillating the reader in the wrong direction, for instance, by pandering to the reader’s baser instincts (e.g. the voyeuristic streak in humans). In addition, I came across several posters most likely designed to add to the current climate of tension between the (post-)Christian and Islamic worlds. In particular, I found the following headline poster especially objectionable:

lausanne-newspaper-boxes-11-03-2016Jihadists at the gate? Haute-Savoie is the region of France on Geneva’s southern border, 11th March 2016

To cut a long story short, this recent, additional cost-cutting measure by a media group based miles and miles from home means one source of mental pollution removed from my life…

*The unstated objective is probably to have at most two Lausanne-based newspapers in the group’s portfolio, either of the two quasi-tabloids 24 Heures and Le Matin plus Le Temps, a slightly higher quality title owned jointly by the same Swiss-German group and a well-known German media conglomerate.

External link

As print journalism declines, fate of sidewalk newspaper boxes is unclear’,  Max Kutner,  Newsweek, 20 Dec. 2015

Frankenstein exhibition: yes or no?

Tags

frankenstein-monster-statue-genevaStatue of Dr Frankenstein’s monster, Plainpalais (Geneva, 31st May 2015)

Almost as if to make up for the fact that until very recently there was no local official recognition of the Genevese background to the Frankenstein story (see photo above), on the occasion of the two-hundredth anniversary of the novel’s ‘birth’ in a mansion in the Genevese countryside during a stormy night in June 1816 a major exhibition on the cultural context of Mary Shelley’s work at Geneva’s ‘Book Temple’ (the Fondation Bodmer), a cycle of conferences exploring the story’s relevance to contemporary bioethics organised by a foundation concerned with the impact of medicine on man and society (the Fondation Brocher), a forthcoming colloquium at the University of Geneva’s Faculty of Letters (‘Frankenstein, le Démiurge des Lumières’ – ‘Frankenstein, demiurge of the Enlightenment’) were commissioned and either are still being held (until 9th October for the former) or are scheduled to take place later this year (early December for the academic colloquium). What is more, the small city of Vevey, located near the other end of Lake Léman, also organised an event in connection with the summer of 1816 to celebrate Lord Byron’s literary association with the most visited monument in French-speaking Switzerland, the castle of Chillon:

dscn1585Strangely for somebody who started to build a collection of books relating to Mary Shelley’s story as a university student (the novel was compulsory reading for first-year English literature students at my alma mater) and who many, many years ago even contemplated setting up a website* in honour of this novel which has held such a powerful a grip on the collective imagination since it was published nearly two hundred years ago (in 1818 and there were two other editions during Mary Shelley’s lifetime), so far I have not attended any of these Frankenstein-related events. In part because of a lack of time; in part because I have become a little wary of the ‘interpretational grid’ the exhibition at the Bodmeriana seems to be espousing – for instance, notice the allusions to very contemporary concerns here in Europe that have found their way in the issues allegedly raised by Frankenstein (climate change, the refugee crisis, etc.):

frankenstein-creation-of-darknessTo be straightforward, I also fear that the Bodmer exhibition may have dismissed non-traditional or overlooked source material for the genesis of Frankenstein, e.g. the Kabbalistic story of the Golem, ‘conspiracist’ views of the French Revolution (Mary Shelley’s husband had read Barruel’s Memoirs illustrating the history of Jacobinism after his expulsion from the University of Oxford**), the Frankist Movement*** as the most likely source for the ‘free love philosophy’ Lord Byron, the Shelleys and others in their entourage were either advocating or putting into practice, etc.

genevese-backgroundThe Genevese/Lake Léman background: a magnet for the Romantic writers

Of course, only a visit to ‘Frankenstein: Creation of Darkness’ will confirm or disprove my apprehension that this major exhibition will have failed to institutionalise ‘darker’ interpretations of Mary Shelley’s Gothic tale. However, I had better make up my mind fast about when to do so because I only have a few days left before the exhibition closes its doors and the manuscripts, first editions, paintings, et cætera are sent back to England or to other countries…

dscn1434Links

Footnotes

*I abandoned both the Frankensteinia book-collecting and the website project in 2001; as regards the latter, I had started with a bibliography of works on Frankenstein, available here (please note that the page might take a minute or two to download on to your computer as it is a version that was saved by the Internet Archive).

** Mary Shelley’s (at the time future) husband had read about Abbé Barruel’s claims regarding the French Revolution (page 63 of James Rieger’s The Mutiny Within: the Heresies of Percy Bysshe Shelley, New York, 1967):james-rieger-mutiny-within_p63*** Frankism and ‘Women’s lib’ [table of contents of ‘Women and the Messianic heresy of Sabbatai Zevi, 1666-1816’]

female-emancipation_frankism

Funny metalwork high up in the (Swiss) mountains

I caught sight of these funny pieces of metalwork on two (out of three) trips to the mountains this summer, so I thought that I could use WordPress as a repository for such pictures. The beauty of publishing material on the Internet is that additions are ever so simple to make.  Hopefully, many more pictures of funny metalwork will be published on this page based on future mountain trips…

SAM_7165

Three monkeys near Belalp (region of Aletsch, Valais/Wallis)

lion-on-the-mountain-wall_chameleon

Chameleon on mountain wall, Pas de chèvres (region of Arolla, Valais/Wallis)

My encounter with literary ponerology

bernard-werber_autographHighly ironic autograph because this book indeed allowed me to ‘evolve’, but probably not as the author had intended.

On the first Saturday of September last year, I attended a lecture given at a literary festival in a small town near home (Morges) which literally changed my Weltanschauung (view of the world). Little was I expecting that a French science fiction writer whom I had become interested in after having stumbled across a bibliography he had posted on the Internet under a pseudonym on a subject I was researching (group think, strategies of manipulation in the media) would allow me to experience an ‘apocalyptic’ moment – to use a metaphor, it was as if the blinkers that had covered my eyes all my life were removed by some benevolent hand.

savoury_shorter-oed

In a way, it was the culmination of several years of trying to make sense of the events presented in the media since the Islamic Revolution of 1979 in Iran and especially of the mental conditioning we are being subjected to here in the ‘West’ with regard to the Islamic world, but it was also for me the realisation that under the veneer of media-manufactured literary respectability and the trendiness of ‘New Age’ topics are to be found elements of a less savoury nature. As such, it was my very first encounter with ponerology masquerading as literature (ponēros means evil in ancient Greek) and it marked the start of my emancipation from this conditioning – looking back, there was definitely a ‘before and after’ 4th-6th September 2015 ‘Books on the quay, Morges’, which is why I abstained from being exposed to more of the same fiendishly malignant brainwashing this year:

www.lelivresurlesquais.ch_un-autre-demain-est-possible.jpgAnother tomorrow is possible.’

Notes

  • The origin of the word ‘apocalypse’ is surprising to say the least: it is derived from old French and modern French from Ecclesiastical Latin apocalypsis from Greek apokalupsis, from apokaluptein uncover, from apo- + kaluptein cover – according to the OED, shorter version.

  • New Age: 2 A broad movement characterised by alternative approaches to (or rejection of) traditional Western culture and interest in spirituality, mysticism, holism and environmentalism; the culture or philosophy of this movement. [same source]

bernard-werber_la-voix-de-la-terreI have yet to expand the book review I wrote roughly a year ago on this highly disturbing piece of eschatological propaganda I had bought at ‘Books on the quay, Morges’ and read during this literary festival; however, this would entail a second reading of ‘The voice of the earth’, for which I still lack any enthusiasm (to use an understatement)…

 

Lots and lots of rain this spring

We have had so much rain this year that it makes me wonder whether there might not be some truth to the claim made by some that the weather is deliberately being tinkered with… Somehow this brings up to my mind a passage from a science-fiction novel I had read about in an academic book published in 2003 and which is bent on discrediting (no, casting opprobrium on) some of the conspiracies that were circulating in the USA around the time it was written; the quote is as follows:

I can see it now … frozen in an energy crisis, saddened by the Watergates of the world, dying from environmental
pollution, starving from food shortages, frightened of a global nuclear war, sick of the moral decay, afraid of the daily news, bankrupted by global monetary fluctuations, unemployed from economic depressions, crowded by the ever present birth rate, frightened by the suspicion that a global weather catastrophe was about to happen … mankind … would have been ready for ‘Alternative Three.’

Stan Deyo, The Cosmic Conspiracy, rev. ed. (Kempton, Ill.: Adventures Unlimited, 1994), quoted in Michael Barkun, A culture of conspiracy (page 59), University of California Press, Berkeley, 2003.

Rather than being stuck with this negative memory, I think that I am more likely to remember the feeling that I was enjoying a moment of quasi transcendental beauty when I was contemplating these queens of the meadows in Préalpes vaudoises as the sun was about to set on the last Saturday of May.

pure-bliss

Believe me, to paraphrase quite freely a wise Christian theologian from the Middle Ages, Bernard of Clairvaux, there is more truth in nature than in books [aliquid amplius invenies in silvis quam in libris; ligna et lapides docebunt te quod a magistris audire non possis]…

This despite the fact that I like to plan my next set of excursions (should the weather become sunnier) with the help of books:

DSCN8848

Daffodils mostly wilted, but…

In this part of the world, spring is often associated with cleaning one’s place after the long winter months. First and foremost, spring is however associated with nature’s revival: the weather is usually warmer, buds and flowers can be seen everywhere and these joyous little creatures with wings can be heard chirping in the trees. In other words, one can enjoy a true feast of colours and sounds.

DSCN1076Yesterday we decided to celebrate this particularly beautiful time of the year with a visit to a wood which is usually the home of daffodils from late March until mid-April. Unfortunately, we were a little late and these yellow flowers (narcissus pseudonarcissus is their Latin name) were past their prime – most were wilted – and therefore there were no beautiful carpets of intense yellow to be seen anywhere.

DSCN1068DSCN1085Nevertheless, the trip was totally worthwhile in that the weather was so nice that it was a real pleasure to walk through this wood. We also got to do a little foraging (dandelions whose ‘heads’ I ate fried with some flour and whose leaves I ate as garnish added to the fried rice my wife kindly prepared for us) and I was able to enjoy a kind of quasi immemorial ‘presence’, that of the people who inhabited the area centuries and centuries ago…

DSCN1078[more on this subject in a future post, hopefully.]

Lausanne, un samedi soir d’hiver

superbe-le-ciel-lausannois-l-hiverLausanne, un samedi soir d’hiver (5 mars 2016, 20h36)

Le blanc naturel (quelques centimètres de neige) et un blanc qui semble moins naturel (Tridel – à droite – l’Usine de Pierre de Plan – à gauche); la photo a été prise un peu plus haut que Sauvabelin.

« Honni soit qui mal y pense »  ou  « Tout va bien, Madame la Marquise »  ?

 

Mind your colloquium

Houellebecq-UNIL[Is he really being gagged??!!]

I was horrified yesterday when I saw a leaflet in Lausanne’s head municipal library at Chauderon on one of the small tables upon which leaflets announcing forthcoming cultural events are displayed. It was not the type of event which this leaflet (both sides of which are shown above) was there to give notice of – a colloquium organised first and foremost by the French department of the Faculty of Letters of the University of Lausanne – which had unsettled me so much (and I refuse to delve on the picture because in no way could anybody claim that Mr Houellebecq is being gagged), as such events are simply gatherings for university researchers and the general public where they can discuss topics pertaining to fields of academic enquiry. Rather it was that this academic conference (held yesterday and today) would be focusing on the work of a French author whom I now find totally objectionable because of the abject ideology he seems to have become a mouthpiece for in contemporary French literature: Islamophobia.

Judging from the topics discussed during this colloquium (based on the programme which you can access here should you care to find out what was discussed), this issue does not seem to have figured prominently, to say the least. As such, I sincerely regret that taxpayer’s money (including mine because I pay taxes to the city of Lausanne) will have gone to organising an academic conference on an author whose most recent novel seems to me to have been designed uniquely to stir up religious and racial tensions in France and probably elsewhere in Europe, too – a novel thus part of a long list of works of so-called ‘artistic expression’ against what is the religion of more than a billion people.

As I see it, Mr Houellebecq has become a full member of what Nathan Lean has aptly described as the ‘Islamophobia industry’. By having organised a colloquium on such an author which seems to have refused to deal with this issue (based on the programme and on statements made by one of its organisers in the local press – pp 3 and 4 – because I would not have attended this conference even if I had been paid to do so given that it had to do with this author whose views I think are designed to exacerbate tensions between the religious communities), one could argue that the University of Lausanne, even if it may not be described as condoning the views which Mr Houellebecq upholds, has at least given some legitimacy to them – in other words, almost made them a little more ‘respectable’.

Links