Geneva Diaries #45*

Alice In Tourette, The Wax Palace, Bali Hi, Cote d’Azure/Provence, Red Rackhams Treasure,The Supreme Court of The Cyberworld and The Human Condition

Purnima in Nice: See below as I become a part of the Nice Museum Installation

Purnima at The Modern Art Museum (MAMAC) in Nice – Photo by Purnima Viswanathan

On Tue, Jul 19, 2011, Roger Stevenson wrote:

Dear Purnima,

Have you landed safely on the other end of the rabbit’s hole ?  I hope your tumble through space was eventful and exciting.

Thinking about you !



Dear Roger,

It’s great to hear from you, and yes, I have landed on the other side of the rabbit hole or the other side of the long dark tunnel leading from the Wax Palace to the outside world. Do you remember my relating the story of the Wax Palace from the Indian epic poem Mahabharata (akin to the Iliad), where the five Pandavas were housed in a magnificent palace by their cousins the Kauravas who were contenders for the Throne of Hastinapur?

The Wax Palace

 This perfect palace was made up of entirely combustible materials (thus the name), as their cousins the Kauravas, who were their rivals and contenders to the throne of Hastinapur set up this trap. The Kauravas warmly invited their cousins the Pandavas to reside in this sumptuous palace, after ensuring their cousins the were comfortable enough, the Kauravas planned on finishing them off by setting the palace on fire. I remember many verses in the Mahabharata describing the beauty of this grand home, and its construction. As you may remember, our home on Boulevard des Tranchees, in Geneva,  was wrapped in construction for the most of our time there and when the construction facade was removed, it was time to go/escape. See below our home Blvd des Tranchees in Geneva:

Blvd des Tranchees, Geneva, Switzerland-Photo by Purnima Viswanathan

 I have pasted below some clips from youtube relating to this story of the Wax Palace and how many things in this perfect palace aroused the suspicion of the Pandavas (like I was forever suspicious about the “kitchen for show” where it seemed like no one had ever cooked a meal, just not practical) which made them pre-empt the plot , set fire to the palace and escape through the tunnel dug under the palace to safety. Check it out below:

Indian Epic Tale – Mahabharata- The Wax Palace

However, Roger, I will return, this I am convinced of, as I feel there is much left undone, unexplored, unwritten…

In my dreams I see Tavernier standing in his stockinged feet flashing his treasured gems in his sparkling eyes, as he holds open the door to the living room inviting me in. He moves deftly as he removes my coat and whispers in his soft voice ” you have barely entered the building, do come in, there are many voices waiting to greet you, have you met Voltaire?”

Bali Hi

But it’s both surf and turf for me, so apart from the scintillating minds, I yearn for the mountains, for adventure, for snow and ski. The magnetic Matterhorn, standing in all its isolated glory beckons me with the haunting melody of South Pacific, Bali Hi.

Do check out Bali Hi on youtube:

The Matterhorn

Bali Hi – Lyrics:

Bali Ha’i may call you,

Any night, any day,

In your heart, you’ll hear it call you:

“Come away…Come away.”

Bali Ha’i will whisper

In the wind of the sea:

“Here am I, your special island!

Come to me, come to me!”

Your own special hopes,

Your own special dreams,

Bloom on the hillside

And shine in the streams.

If you try, you’ll find me

Where the sky meets the sea.

“Here am I your special island

Come to me, Come to me.”

So, I will have to return, I will have to return to my special Island where the sky meets the sea. I will return to the Matterhorn as he beckons me through the mists and across the seas.

Rick Steves – The Matterhorn:

Cote d’Azure/Provence

Before I end this last leaf, I must share with you my adventures with the kids in Provence-Alpes-Cote d’Azure. We stayed in Tourrettes-sur-Loup an area between Vence and Grasse. Another dream filled with sun, sea, azure blue skies, charming medieval villages, quaint streets, vibrant art, museums, fab food and The Black Shark(The adventures of Purnima in the Black Shark follow).

Tintin in the Black Shark- Red Rackhams Treasure:

 See below Purnima and The Black Shark in Tourettes-Sur-Loup:

Do check me out below in touring in Tourettes sur Loup, Gazing at the fab art in St Paul de Vence, enjoying the museums in Nice, Eating out in the medieval square in Biot, submerging my Black Shark in Antibes (Marineland) and Cruising in Cannes. 

St Paul de Vence below:

Purnima in Provence/ Tintin in Tourettes: See below images of my trip with my pre-teens across the Alpes-Maritime region of south eastern France discovering the wonderful medieval villages of Eze, Gourdon and Menton below:

Medieval Villages, Southern France-Photo by Purnima Viswanathan

This galley housed in one of the ancient habitations of the medieval villages of south eastern France presented itself as the original home of the artifact that was to become the much beloved Chia Pet, see images below:

See below a commercial for the much beloved American toy – The Chia Pet. Of course I wanted the Chia pet when I saw this commercial on TV, but when I looked into Mirko’s eyes, I saw a quizzical look…Why he said…it was then that I realized that I was the Chia Pet!

See Purnima as The Chia Pet below:

Purnima in Gourdon, France-Photo by Purnima Viswanathan

See below Adventures with my American Pre-teens in Europe At MAMAC – The Museum of Contemporary Art in Nice: We merge with the artwork titled San Francisco-Nice-India…

Purnima and The Kids at The Modern Art Museum (MAMAC) in Nice with the Exhibit Titled: San Francisco-Nice-India(na)-Photo by Purnima Viswanathan

Purnima in Nice: See below as I become a part of the Nice Museum Installation

Purnima at The Modern Art Museum (MAMAC) in Nice -Photo by Purnima Viswanathan

The Modern Art Museum (MAMAC) in Nice below:

Red Rackhams Treasure:

Red Rackham’s Treasure as we discovered after all our dives and explorations was the experience of spending a summer in Cote d’Azure.

However, this page cannot be turned without sharing with you the story of embarking on an adventure in the belly of The Black Shark. As I was preparing for this adventure, doing everything by myself for the first time, the place, the hotels, the car, the sightseeing, the restaurants, I found a reasonable car rental online, one similar to our VW golf  and confirmed the booking. Upon arriving in Nice (after detouring back via Zurich-my bookings!) I found that they did not have my VW Golf but instead offered to upgrade us to a sports BMW. Wow, I thought, life looks goood. Now, backtracking a bit, I have been driving from the age of 14, and a car is almost a natural extension of me. However, all my cars have been large, powerful machines bulldozing those that dared swerve into their path. They have all started with a deep growl as I have felt them first pulsate then thunder under my fingers as I’ve turned they key. A sense of supreme control, power over a magnificently powerful machine. Well here I was in a strange land with two sulky brats and a sleek swish machine shinning black and glossy in the sunshine with it’s fin perky and erect behind it…ready to go. I got in and of course fumbled for the keys, I pushed the plastic square I was given into what I thought was the keyhole (all the while being observed by my pre-teens) and struggled to turn it. After the third attempt, still stationed in the parking lot, I requested the parking attendant to assist. He pressed a button that said “start“(how bizarre I thought but did not question him further so that the sneaky pre-teens did not get a whiff of their antiquated mom). Once the car had started all I needed to do was follow the gps, my maps and make my way to the Bed and Breakfast over the hills. Simple. Oh no, not so simple! After I found myself taking a third round of the roundabout being completely confused by the GPS, I decided to stop and peer at the maps. After confirming the directions to myself and an exasperated audience in the backseat, I tried to re-start the car by pressing the “start button” of course. Well, life is not so simple and the start would not start even after half and hour of trying. I then called the tow service for assistance but was unable to give them our street name.I did think of sprinting back to the parking lot because even after an hour of leaving it we were not too far from the departure point having circled the roundabout a couple of times. Then a kindly soul in a large machine (like the ones I was used to) came by jumped into my car and with a large smirk pressed the start button (with the brake!) the Black Shark opened its jaws and it yawned. “Hurray” yelled the back row, “hurray he found the start button, Mom you have to press S-T-A-R-T, the start button!”. I growled under my breath and zipped into the now inky darkness of the depths of Cote d’Azure as the kids yelled “merci beaucoup monsieur, merci beaucoup!” And thus started our adventures in Provence.

The Supreme Court of The Cyberworld:

Before I say goodnight, I am posting the piece I mentioned during our last lunch that I wrote while lazing by the pool in our place in Tourrette-sur-Loup as I scanned through issues relating to free speech, in the Real World and in the Virtual World. Issues relating to public space, dissent, public arena in the virtual world for pamphleteering. As I scanned through Lessig’s Code I realized the limitations on these gatherings in the cyberworld/ chat room limits which spurred me to frenzied activity as I realized that the Anti-Code needed to be drafted. The framework, the basis which would be acceptable in the cyberworld as the laws of the Real World could not be so arbitrarily imposed. The norms would need to be generated from within this space, by the netizens of this space, by the contributors and creators of this space thus bestowing upon them the rights regardless of race color, sex, creed or even age (do remember the Net is in the hands of a 15 year old with a backpack). The only rules that will be accepted are the ones that come about through a “consensus among the Pirates“(sound familiar?), as the Pirates rule these waves! I would love your feedback, here are my ramblings:

*the predominant issue as I see it: verification of authentic dissenters v programs /viruses /spam. 

The pivotal question to be discerned/ identified in the cyber world (especially when there are free speech issues and pamphleteering on the Net, you want to persuade/be persuaded by a human not by an auto generated barrage tailored to tempt you/spam)is whether we are interacting with a real persona or a programme that is smart enough to mimic one, for its only then that we can include that entity into the list of valid voices/ dissenters on the Net. 

In fact, as I see it, the Supreme Court of the Cyberworld will be predominantly engaged in identifying “human error”, which once identified would then provide the “Entity” with requisite status and all the rights expected of a Netizen. 

So effectively, the Supreme Court of the Cyberworld would turn the idea of the Supreme Court of the real world on it’s head ( upside down), as it would seek to identify human error, the one core element that makes us human, which once identified would give the Entity all the rights of a Netizen. 

In a world of perfect beings, programs that mimic the ideal persona, inclusive of personality with wit and vanity encased in the choice of the  structure/ form of your phantasies, memory, computational skills, speed, reflexes incorporating the ideas and decisions made by personas through time and being able to in a flicker scan the wealth of human data and respond with “The appropriate response”, the patently correct and time-tested reaction topping it all off with superhuman restraint and self sacrifice.

Do we really want to be governed by such perfect programs,

do we wish to be subjected to their standards and be measured against them,

do we choose perfect design/response or do we choose humanity with all it’s errors and flaws? 

Do we not wish to refer to this corpus of human knowledge take what we need but be in a position to improve/ change/challenge it when it does not reflect our time and space? 

Do we not wish to forget our path through the woods and reinvent/rediscover an alternate path?

Do we not wish to remain human with all our desires and all our errors and construct a world that fits Man (mankind)? 

The first step in that direction would be in identifying Man from the endless barrage of identities impersonating all the traits of man claiming a voice for their ethereal selves. Thus the Supreme Court of the Cyberworld would have the pivotal and difficult task of doing precisely the opposite of what it’s expected to do in the real world ( prosecute the errors), identify the entities that express human error and liberate them.

See below a charming sundial from Tourrettes-sur-Loup that seems to completely embody my message: Ce nest pas aux cadrans humains qui sonne l’heure de la Justice, which I translate as – it is not the human dials that sound the hour of justice, effectively stating that even as man in his pursuit for perfection attempts to capture the sun and tell the time, these sundials crafted by the hands man can only be limited to serve that particular purpose, of reading the light and shadows (ie telling the time) in a particular place and time. Unlike the soul and the spirit, these manifestations of man however precise are not eternal and cannot tell eternal time – the final hour, L’heure de la Justice. We have to acknowledge our humanity with all it’s errors and accept that our devices cannot be immaculate, immutable and perfect as they are an expression of ourselves. The error occurs when we look upon our own devices (algos) as an expression of the eternal and bind ourselves to them. There must be a distinctions between the Laws of Man by which we accept to govern ourselves, ones we mould, tweak, revise, update reflecting us and our changing times and the Eternal Laws which we may kneel to but that exist outside the realm of man.

Sundial from Tourrettes-sur-Loup, France – Photo by Purnima Viswanathan

See link to the fabulous sundials in the Alpes-Maritimes (Southern France)- Cadrans Solaires des Alpes-Maritimes


See below some images from the SFMOMA exhibit on the Belgian surrealist artist Rene Magritte where he explores The Human Condition:

The Human Condition:

The Human Condition and trompe-l’oeil:

The Errors upon Which we Rest our World: http://Errors in Perception:

See below another example of “What We See and What We Know”, the fallibility of human perception upon which we rest our world:

With these final words I must say goodnight and hope to hear from you soon, very soon, perhaps by daylight?

Goodnight and Thank you once again for a lovely evening and dinner. Love to the family.


Dear Purnima,

Although you have escaped your scaffold enshrouded castle and are now thousands of miles away, in some ways it seems that nothing has really changed, and getting a long, marvelously crafted email from you with a myriad of tantalizing thoughts and questions really (continues to ) makes my day.  It’s as though cyberspace allows a kind of warp that brings the thoughts of distant persons ever closer.  There are no physical barriers or borders to get in the way of communication.

Your description of your start button experience in the shinny black BMW (I must admit that I have never driven a “beamer”) was hilarious.  It reminds me of the time in Hawaii when we had rented a car for a few days on the big island of Hawaii, and when we stopped to fill up with gas, I couldn’t get the gear shift (it was an automatic transmission !) to move out of the PARK position.  I tried everything and nothing worked.  In exasperation, I finally called the car rental company and told them of my problem, and they told me that I had to put my foot on the brake before the transmission could be shifted out of PARK.  Needless to say, I was both relieved and slightly embarrassed.   I, too, have driven since I was 14 (I used to sneak out in the night and drive my mother’s car), and nearly all the cars I ever drove were manual transmissions.   But, bravo for having dealt with the situation.

It’s interesting that you chose Bali Hi as your mantra for returning to the Swiss Alps.  I love that song, and that South Pacific version of the song in the first YouTube clip you attached brought back memories of seeing that film and being haunted by the idea of some enchanting island that beckons with its mysterious aura.  There aren’t many musicals that I really like, but I did enjoy South Pacific and that short, stout beetle-chewing islander singing Bali Hi to the young American pilot is one of the things I loved most about the film.  Let’s hope the song does indeed bring you back to the Matterhorn. Do I sense a bit of nostalgia for Switzerland and the Swiss Alps in all of this ???  I think the only other musical film that I really liked was Damn Yankees – a modern version of the Faustian myth.

We’ve been looking at all the pictures the family took during their travels.  V loads them onto a USB memory stick (une clé USB), and we can see them on our wide-screen TV.  I thought their pictures from Mumbai were really great.  And then I just recently began reading the novel Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts, and his description of the slums in “Bombay” is so vivid and explicit AND fascinating (Two different people have recently recommended the book to my as one of the best books they have every read).  After dealing with the chaos, the poverty, the beggars, the noise, the confusion, the contrasts between old and new, rich and poor, beautiful and ugly, he finally writes:

Above all else, Bombay was free — exhilaratingly free.  I saw that liberated, unconstrained spirit wherever I looked, and I found myself responding to it with the whole of my heart.  Even the flare of shame I’d felt when I first saw the slums and the street beggars dissolved in the understanding that they were free, those men and women.  No-one drove the beggars from the streets.  No-one banished the slum-dwellers.  Painful as their lives were, they were free to live them in the same gardens and avenues as the rich and powerful.  They were free.  The city was free.  I loved it.”

If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend it.

Speaking of books, A has received advance copies of the first two tomes of the latest Murakami trilogy, IQ84.  The English translation won’t be out until October, but she is thrilled to be able to read it in French and said that it grips you from the very first pages.  Maybe I’ll have finished Shantaram by October.  It’s over 900 pages long.

The usually pleasant summer in our area has been uncharacteristically cold and rainy for the past week.  I actually lit a fire in the fireplace one evening last week just to take the chill off the house a bit.

Thanks for sending along your piece about the supreme court of cyberspace.  I’ll have to mull it over a bit before responding.

And thanks to you for the delightful coffee/lunch at the museum.  It was a bitter-sweet final chat before you were whisked off to your beloved India.

Lots of hugs,


Tara et Moi (le Chat):

Tara et Moi, Gourdon, France-Photo by Purnima Viswanathan


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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