Geneva Diaries #32*

Dinner, Gods and Demons, Paris, Property, Cyberlaw, Assange and Tom Dispatch


Dear Roger,

It was my pleasure to have you and the family join me at home for dinner! I do hope we can plan a repeat upon their return from their around the world adventures.

The dinner provided me with endless ammunition for the Great Inquisitor (my French teacher), I had much to relate, many new French words to learn and it was fun. I described the evening in detail (in my fragmented French), the dinner, the food and the table, the handicraft animals placed in front of each diner posing as their napkin holder and virtual persona. See the handicraft bronze animals using the ancient Dokra metal cast lost wax technique a method still practiced across the tribal belt in India in the link below:

The table was distinctly divided into two with 3 personas on each end, on one end was the elephant signifying grandeur and royalty (N), on her right was the Barasingha (A), a magnificent deer (cerf) found in India’s great sanctuaries which stands tall and powerful, with twelve horns(dooze cornes), one of the most coveted trophies of the land (lucky lucky Roger), across the Barasingha is the delicate and beautifully decorated little pony (C).

Chk out the Barasingha below:


Barasingha –Red List – Population decreasing

Remnants of The Raj-Barasingha-Viswanathan House-Photo by Purnima Viswanathan

And across the table from the Gods, sat the demons, with me at the head! There was my animal, that appeared to be a horse with a odd bump, upon which I imposed my idea of the Unicorn(Licorne). I was the fantasy animal that roams in your dreams and night-mares, il est pas vraie. To my right sat my dear friend, you were another ambiguous creature that appeared to be a combination of several (elements de beaucoup d’animaux), a Chimera (Chimere)! Such a creature, at least in Greek mythology is often linked to the dark side…and then across you was charming V, a wild boar (Sanglier), a fierce looking creature that can kill if you happen to fall in its path/charge. A delightful animal, a delicious one, il est bien pour le chasser et pour le viand!

So, the Unicorn morphs into Ravana, the demon king, who in the great Indian epic Mahabharata, abducts the wife of Rama and wisks her away to his kingdom Lanka (I have my own fairy frog that i intend to abduct from a city not too far). Ravana, through great penance, meditation and learning acquired the weapons of the Gods, he then used them to tyrannize the three worlds convinced that he was invincible (check me out laughing with all my ten heads below).


But Roger, I’m now going to turn the tables on the charming ladies across, as the demons turn back into Gods. In Indian mythology, there is a famous story about Hiranyashipu a demon who like Ravana acquired much power and was granted the boon/grant from the Gods that he would not be defeated by man, animal or beast, indoors or outdoors, on the earth or in the sky, and neither during day or night. Well, as usual this power translated into arrogance and tyranny and lord Vishnu (one of the Hindu trinity) was invoked to vanquish him. Vishnu came in the form of a Chimera  (Narasimha) yes, neither man, animal nor beast, he placed the demon on his thigh so he was suspended resting neither on Earth nor in the sky, it was in the veranda which was neither indoors nor outdoors and it was during twilight which was neither day nor night, and Lord Vishnu in the form of the Chimera tore the demons entrails out killing him on the spot. 

The story of Hiranyakshipu and Narasimha:

 Video clip:

Narasimha Asian Art Museum SF: 

Narasimha Asian Art Museum SF – Photo by Purnima Viswanathan

The other story, relating to my diner companion on the left, is about Hiranyasha, the demon brother of Hiranyakshipu who also acquired great power and submerged the Earth into the Oceans. Here Vishnu takes the form of a wild boar (yes Sanglier), grows to an enormous size and rescues the Earth retrieving it from the ocean with his horns and snout. The wild boar is much worshipped across India as a Vishnu avatar. So, here we are, the demons turned Gods ready for dinner ( for even Ravana is worshipped in some parts of India as a great learned (demi) God, with a story told from his side).

See below images of tribal depictions of The Indian Elephant, Horse/Pony and Varaha (Vishnu in the Boar Avatar) at The Craft Museum in New Delhi, India and Asian Art Museum, San Francisco:

See below a majestic elephant from The Kabini Nature Reserve in Karnataka, India:

Kabini, Karnataka, India-Photo by Purnima Viswanathan

It’s fun to play bad, do check me out in this clip of Bad to the Bone by George Thorogood:

George Thorogood – Bad to the Bone:

And its me again, this time as The Governor, chk it out:

Terminator 2 – Bad To The Bone (Arnold Schwartzeneggar):

So, after much excitement, the dinner ended and you all went home.

See below a very unglam setting in the same room and at the same (albeit reduced) table of groggy adults at breakfast with the kids (and yes fruit loops journey with us across the globe), our real monsters, the monsters we love:

The Dining Room-Geneva-Photo by Purnima Viswanathan

I was left sad and lonely in cold, damp grey Geneva. 8 Below is not an exaggeration (even though its celsius). To compound my woes, Froggie left me. Yes, froggie completely, totally ditched me telling me to find someone else as he had done. Of course I threatened my opponent to a duel, of course I threatened to abduct him and of course i warned him of my ten heads and invincibility. But somehow, it seemed to make him clearer in his mind to hop far far away, all the way to India! But before he left, he reminded me that this is what happens when you neglect your possessions, you no longer have claim! The reason I took that train urgently to Paris was because I sensed a finality in his words…””Obviously you neglect your property”! this sent my mind and body in a tizz, I could not have been more quickly jolted out of my slumber, my property, my possession, my possession! I tried to reclaim, reassert, renew… but to no avail. 

Property… what exactly did froggie mean? I would need to embark on a journey into the froggie brain (is that one wild ride!) to better understand my predicament. Property as i understand it is something owned by a person (or entity), real (like land) and personal(like a computer). Personal property is both both tangible and intangible. Tangible personal property being something that can be physically possessed and is referred to as “Chose in Possession”, and intangible personal property being something that cannot be physically possessed but one that you can claim  through law, have enforced through action, this is called “Chose in Action”. Now, I’ve read and used the word “chose” innumerable times, understanding it to be a thing and more but never quite grasping the real essence of this word. The legal dictionary does not help as it does not define chose. that’s because (yes the light bulb flashed above my head in disco lights) its a French word! I have used the word “chose” in French but never connected it to the property term “chose”. Eureka, now it all fits!

With a lot of help from my French teacher, I finally covered half the references she so painstakingly had listed out for me describing the word chose. Chose: Designe un object, une idee, un concept ou une abstraction sans avoir a l’identifier ou a le nom. An object, idea, concept or abstraction without an identity or name, basically the significance of the word chose depends upon the context of the phrase. For example:

(Object) C’est quoi cette chose? (une table) What is that thing? a table

(An idea) Il a tres bien pris la chose/ He has taken it very well.

((Concept) La chose que je deteste le plus au monde c’est l’hypocrisie/ The thing I detest the most in the world is hypocrisy.

(Expression) Appeler les choses par leur nom/ call a thing by its name (call a spade a spade)

Then I came across the fatal “Soigner ses choses”, to take care of ones things. Here the “thing” could be books, pets or relationship signifying possession, property, ownership (Ring, Ring!!). In many cases the owner loses property(premises) when he looses possession by ceding it to another who occupies it for a specified time thus acquiring a claim by adverse possession. Do you remember Baron Tavernier from our first few email exchanges, well one story is that the famous Kohinoor diamond was cleaved from The Great Mughal diamond (the size of half a pigeons egg) and this French jeweler was the last to have seen the Great Mughal diamond shown to him personally by the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan. There has never been a mention of The Great Mughal diamond since. In my story, the one written in ink fed by the waters of lake Geneva, Tavernier never really relinquished possession, I guess the Kohinoor always remains his to enjoy encased in its glass case posing as a copy (for the museum and the world) at the Museum of Natural History in Geneva!

I find that the word chose seems to be so expansive, cover such a vast cross section, everything from thing, ideas, action that it might be the ideal word, terminology to incorporate and to use to define Intellectual property and its relationship (lack of) to the internet/cyberspace. Perhaps there is a need to explore the concept of cyberspace in another dimension, alternate language that might have tools built within to assist us. Another justification for me to learn French before I leave Geneva!

As I mull over the question of “Who owns the Internet” for the thousandth time, and surf endlessly, a wonderful window opens up and I find myself at Fordham University attending a lecture on Intellectual property, who owns the Internet, by Markus Muller (yes, this one is not the one with the eye patch that chased me from Brussels to the Bay Area) where he addresses all the pertinent issues and educating the audience on the basics of the internet at the same time (a very good article in the Fordham law journal by Markus Muller on Intellectual property – find link below):

This is what I gleaned from my sinuous surf:

The Internet is an American “thing” built and funded by the Americans. The use of the word “thing” is very interesting, is it a place , is it an idea, an expression or a concept? Would we be more accurate if we re-coined it to Cyber-chose? Don’t you agree that language sometimes restricts us, by compelling us to define an idea by a limited restricted set of words which might not possess the ability to express the ideas of tomorrow, of changing technology. Then one stumbles across a word like “chose”, one that encompasses both the tangible and the intangible, both space and place (choses corporelles et choses incorporelles) and seems to fit this realm we are so attempting to define. Of course as I read Muller, I see that this “thing” property, real, personal, intellectual cannot be possessed by a single nation, no one nation can assert absolute sovereignty over something that might infringe anothers (the rest of the worlds) sovereignty.

According to Muller, there is an argument that the root server, the heart of the beast, is located in the US, that the top level domains  like “.com” and “.org”  as well as the country code domains like “.ch” (Switzerland) and “.eg” (Egypt) are controlled by the US and through this the US controls the Net. What if you fell into the US “do not like list” as an individual or a state and your domain was sold to your rival who erased you from the Net causing you to cease to exist, your virtual identity and all those that you carried with you under your domain .ch, would this not be a conflicting sovereign issue? What about the instance where two competing governments belonging to the same state request for the domain to be issued to their authority, would the “best friend of…” win the day?

The United States of America – I guess It’s Good To Be The King (chk out out below on youtube):

Apart from the domain names, you have the IP (internet protocol) addresses, represented in a numeric value and as I understand it, are like the pulses under the #8 key of your telephone that send a message through the network that #8 has been dialed. In this instance your telephone number being your domain name and the underlying mechanism/pulses that get you dialed through the network being the IP. From our last communication, we know that Assange’s site Wikileaks was bumped off the domain “.org” but he continued to retain his IP address, a numeric translation through which his website can still be accessed. Finally, we should have a secure space, a decentralized structure that no authority can turn on and off at whim. This space belongs to no one and everyone, or does it?

Now conversely, every country has the power to control the ISP based on their soil, and block physical access to the internet. Websites can also be subject to regulation if a server is based on the ground (back to Wikileaks) arm twisting the website owners to comply who might have assets on the ground or interest in future relationships. However, there have been instances when the countries have influenced the websites compelling them to remove materials from their home sites and certainly from the country’s site, in some instances specifically blocking access to certain goods being sold to their citizens (subject of a prior email where Patricia from Paris can never access E-Bay for her (eg)Prada bag for a bargain), essentially blacking out the pathways for free access for their citizens. The question of course is, whose rights are being compromised and when did the citizens relinquish these property rights to the state?

The challenges faced by intellectual property law is that it is often inadequate when attempting to cover cyberspace. Thus US ownership of the internet is based on a number factors, apart from the fact that the core funding to develop the internet was sourced from the US (apparently some core research can be attributed to CERN here in Geneva according to Muller) the fact that the root servers are US based, ICANN which controls the world wide network through a series of contracts is California based, and controls the registries at the top end. However, Muller reminds us that the root file is a set of algorithms which cannot be copyrightable as they are an idea and not an expression and similarly the internet protocols are not patentable as they were not filed within the one year statutory period. Thus even though the property claims seem to fall by the wayside by taking Mullers argument into account, I guess it does boils down to “who took care of his property”  did not relinquish possession, and continues to retain control of the same even though we are unable to identify exactly what property category the internet falls under. 

It’s late, almost time to rise but I have really enjoyed, reading learning surfing educating myself about area I’m very interested in but have much to learn but most of all writing to you during these dark silent hours. I hope you enjoy reading it as much!

Good night!


Julien Assange Update:


Dear Purnima,

What a delight to find your two emails waiting for me when we returned from our skiing adventure.  I am always blown away by your captivating and imaginative prose, filled with myriads of historical, mythological and just plain wonderful references and symbols. Yes, I thoroughly enjoyed reading it!  I always do, my dear.   I am very serious when I say that you should really write “the great Twenty-First-Century novel “.

The skiing at L’Alpe d’Huez was minimal, but we had a great time anyway.  We rented a cosy, little chalet in a quaint little village down the road a bit from the resort.  The building was 200 years old, but had been remodelled with open beam ceilings and comfortable furnishings.  We really enjoyed having meals together and playing Saboteur together after dinner.

L’ Alpe d’Huez:

The snow was very hard because it had rained the week before.  The best skiing was on the lower slopes where they had snow making equipment, but the runs were very mild and at times a bit crowded.  All the upper runs were so icy that after one exploratory run to check them out, I decided that I would stay on the man-made snow and enjoy it a bit more.  I was just glad my new skis had excellent and sharp edges.  It also got progressively colder while we were there, which made spending too much time on the slopes a bit painful because of cold fingers.

I was shocked to read that your Froggie had moved on and left you behind, but curious about his statement that you “neglect your possessions”, as though he indeed were a possession or une chose.  Vraiment curieux de s’identifier avec un objet, une chose, qui par définition est immatériel et inanimé, but maybe that was simply his way of saying that he didn’t care for long-distance relationships and that even Geneva was too far away to allow you not to neglect him.  Has he found someone closer, someone who can be whisked off to India with him ?  It seems that he, not you, was lacking in his ability to truly love you and to endure any and every hardship necessary to hold on to you.

What will you do now ?  It doesn’t make much sense to pursue one of those cute, muscle-bound (or are they) instructors at the gym since your time in Geneva is relatively short.

Are you taking the kids skiing or are you staying in Geneva for Christmas ?  My son and his wife, are arriving on the 25th.  I wish you could meet them, but their time here is rather limited.  They are leaving already on the 28th for Spain and not coming back until the 10th, just two days before they fly home again.  They are very much Bay Area hippies, complete with tattoos, solid black dress and a hint of Satanism in their attire.  You could have some great discussions about who owns the internet with them.

Thanks for the article from Common Dreams on the Wikileaks charade.  I read Tom Dispatch, the original source of the article, all the time.  It now appears that the internet may have played a capital role in undermining the case against Assange by the two Swedish women who have accused him: their own comments on Twitter that were originally erased by them, but have been found and circulated anyway by interested hackers.  Speaking of hackers, why don’t we become cyber-hackers and delve into that murky world of undercover sleuthing, the world of Lisbeth Salander of Millennium fame?

And talking about Les Choses, I love this sketch by George Carlin about “Stuff”  His take on religion is wonderful too.

Lots of hugs and bisous,



Dear Purnima,

Thanks again for the absolutely “awesome” meal last night.  You were delicious to feast my eyes on and the food was equally tantalizing.  I thought you were in fine form last night, and I don’t think I have enjoyed conversation around the table so much in a long time.  I think the kids enjoyed playing together, as well.  We’ll have to try and do it again when the vagabonds return from their travels.

I kept looking for the little zipper on your neck (I didn’t want to appear too obvious), but you must have disguised it well, but I can just imagine you slipping through the Assange mirror into the lower depths of Helvetia and causing quite a stir. 

We’re off to L’Alpe d’Huez around noon.  I’m looking forward to getting back to the mountains.  More when we get back,

Gros bisous,



Dear Purnima,

Here’s the latest article from Tom Dispatch, and the introduction is revealing in that the US government has blocked access to the site from government computers.  Really quite shameful !  If I disappear down an Alice-like hole, you’ll know that I’ve joined the ranks of the new version of deep ecology and become a cyber pirate fighting for openness and transparency in all government dealings.

It would indeed be fun for you to meet my son, and for him, as well.  I’ll have to see what their schedule will allow.  They aren’t spending very much time here at all before they go to Barcelona.  I’ll keep you posted.

December 21, 2010
Tomgram: Rebecca Solnit, A Shadow Government of Kindness

[Note for TomDispatch Readers: As this year ends with a remarkable spate of contributions and show of  support for this website, I offer one last deep bow of appreciation to all of you around the country and the world who have offered a helping hand and so assured us of a good 2011.  As of the 24th of December, the offer of signed books from Andrew Bacevich and Adam Hochschild will end (and only my book, The American Way of Warwill still be available in return for a contribution of $75 or more).  And speaking of helping hands, the TomDispatch crew — Joe Duax, Nick Turse, Andy Kroll, Timothy MacBain, and intern Jennifer O’Mahony — get a special bow from me.  I couldn’t begin to do it without you!  Finally, I want to offer thanks to Christopher Holmes, volunteer extraordinaire and eagle-eyed copyeditor, who helps keep TD remarkably error free.  He’s a superb example of the phenomenon that Rebecca Solnit discusses in her piece today.  Thank you, Chris!  See all of you again in January and here’s wishing you a fine holiday season.

I have a friend who sends a note every year in December, pleading with me to pen one upbeat, hopeful piece before the next year rolls around.  Mind you, I consider myself an upbeat guy in a downbeat world and, for me, when it comes to pure upbeatness, you couldn’t have beaten this week if you tried.  This was when my Oscar came in — or the equivalent on the political Internet anyway.  On December 7th, the State Department announced its brave decision to host UNESCO’s World Press Freedom Day in 2011. (“[W]e are concerned about the determination of some governments to censor and silence individuals, and to restrict the free flow of information…”)  Less than two weeks later, I learned that if you try to go to from a State Department computer, you can’t get there.  The following message appears instead: 

“Access Denied for Security Risk (policy_wikileaks) 

“Your requested URL has been blocked to prevent classified information from being downloaded to OpenNet.” 

OpenNet is what the State Department calls its unclassified Web system.  Maybe it should now consider changing that name as it prepares for World Press Freedom Day. (Small tip to State Department officials: remember that TomDispatch is just as good a read at home as at work!)  I’m sure this is all part of the Obama administration’s fabulous sunshine policy, that “new standard of openness” the president embraced on his first day in the Oval Office.  It’s certainly part of the U.S. government’s ridiculous attempt to bar its officials, contractors, and anyone else it can reach from the once-secret State Department documents that WikiLeaks is slowly releasing and that everyone else on Earth has access to. 

As for me in this holiday season, I couldn’t be happier.  Among those sites banned by the State Department, I’m sure in good company and, of course, you’re not likely to be banned if no one’s reading you in the first place.  And here’s the holiday miracle: somehow TomDispatch made it onto The List without revealing a single secret document or even hosting one at the site, evidently on the basis of having commented in passing on the WikiLeaks affair

So that’s the news here at TD when it comes to upbeat.  As for hope, hey, I’ve learned from the Bush years.  As they privatized war, I’ve privatized hope, farming it out to Rebecca Solnit, who from her first appearance at TomDispatch has filled the endowed Hope Chairbrilliantly.  It’s now nothing short of a tradition at this site that she have the last word of the year. 

So, as the eighth year of ends, it’s up the chimney with me.  Enjoy the Solnitsian present I’ve left under the tree — and to all a goodnight (until January 4th when TomDispatch returns).  Tom

Have a wonderful evening,




Disclaimer : P

All persons, places, events are fictitious; all imputed relationships purely aspirational. There were no men harmed during the penning of the Feminist Manifesto.

Published by Purrnima

Travel Writer - Art Blogger - CyberSmurf

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