GENEVA, SWITZERLAND – Cartoonists for Peace have a terrific display of posters along the shores of Lake Geneva, stretching from the Mont Blanc bridge area up to the World Trade Organization, that runs until 3 June. The display includes posters by four Iranian cartoonists who were awarded the first International Editorial Cartoon Prize 3 May in Geneva.
Ten days ago another Iranian cartoonist was sentenced by an Iranian court to 20 lashes, the first such sentence for a cartoonist.
Two of the international award winners were condemned to jail in Iran in the past.
The award and the poster display show cartoons that are in sharp contrast to a suggestion published 25 May in Zimbabwe’s The Herald newspaper, a call for a comic book or cartoons to depict the country’s Liberation in order to offset negative stories about it outside Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe is routinely the subject of accusations of repression and perhaps not surprisingly the newspaper points out that the country has few cartoonists and little tradition of cartooning.
“The Zimbabwean story still needs to be illustrated, particularly now that there is lots of interest in whatever is happening in the country and just as much unverifiable information on the web. Comics have an advantage over data presentations because they employ both text and images and the combination is so powerful that they have the ability to capture the imagination of a reader more than anything else.”
The article in the Herald unwittingly includes a tie to Geneva, for it mentions the father of modern editorial cartooning, Rudolf Topffer of Geneva. Geneva’s role in the cartooning business has remained strong: Patrick Chappatte, a member of the jury for the international cartooning award, in April won the Thomas Nast Award 2011, given by the Overseas Press Club of America. It is the first time the award was given to a non-US cartoonist since the prize was created in 1968.
GenevaLunch has been publishing Chappatte’s cartoons since 2006.
One for each of Mandela’s years of imprisonment
GENEVA, SWITZERLAND – Eddie Izzard is coming to town next year – I recently posted an interview with this amazing British actor, comedian and political activist. His stage presence is enough to impress, but his passion for running for causes he supports is simply remarkable. Here’s what he wrote last week, as he headed out the door on a marathon of marathons. ”
“Starting on Tuesday 15 May 2012, I will attempt to run 27 marathons in 27 days, as a small tribute to Nelson Mandela and 27 years he spent in prison. The marathons will be run all over South Africa in areas that resonate with his life including: Mvezo, Qunu, Fort Hare, Johannesburg, Soweto, Pretoria, Rivonia, Cape Town and Robben Island where he was imprisoned for 18 of the 27 years.”
Tickets for the 2013 Eddie Izzard shows in Geneva and Zurich: International Comedy Club web site
The Lausanne area continues to turn up interesting young companies and ventures, one of which is Bookapp, a joint venture between Frederic Kaplan who founded Ozwé and Laurent Bolli, co-founder of Bread and Butter. People in Lausanne are forever climbing hills, which probably leads them to look for convenient shortcuts. Bookapp has developed a simple to use e-book search engine, a beta programme, which turned out to be useful in helping me find an e-book quickly. It’s called u.ki and through it I was able to get information about my own early-days print and e-book, China on the Ground.
The e-book business was still suffering growing pains on the production side in 2005, and I let the book more or less disappear because I wasn’t happy with the end product, the fault of no one in particular but rather of the state of the art at the time. The idea was to do an e-book with photos to accompany the print-on-demand paperback version since, at the time, these could not be printed with photos. The world wasn’t really ready for that. I couldn’t bear to let slide those 1985 photos, hard-earned as I dragged a Nikon with three lenses around on my bike in those pre-digital days.
As a result of ignoring the book, I was having trouble finding who has it. Now I know.
I then looked up a couple rather obscure travel writers and their book appeared promptly. Isabella Bird and her travels to Sichuan, Tibet, Hawaii and more. Peter Fleming, writerly brother of Ian, prolific fellow and good writer. Google has 40 references to him but Kindle none, tsk tsk.
A great little tool, this!
Now for some raw self-promotion (the China book, that is)
In case you want to know more about my travels for 10 weeks in China in 1985, crossing the country on a bicycle with one companion, most of the time in areas closed to foreigners (no one asked for papers so we cycled on), just write me for a copy of the pocket-size paperback, now on special offer here for CHF8, including postage if you’re in Switzerland, CHF7 plus postage if you’re elsewhere. I’ll provide the Paypal link or e-banking details. It’s designed to be read on the flight to China.
Here’s the description I re-found, thanks to u.ki: “China, on the Ground is a seasoned reporter’s personal notes on China today, in seven cities in one month (July 2005), compared to the country as she saw it 19 years earlier. It is an open letter to other travellers, primarily business people, who want a deeper understanding of the country than guidebooks offer, but who don’t have the time or interest at the moment for treatises on the subject. Ellen Wallace uses a light touch to compare China’s shift to a market economy country, viewed from the ground today, to the barrage of reports in the press. Most of these take the measure of China as it flies at high speed into the future, without pausing long to observe the Chinese as they move about their daily lives…”
The funniest part, for me, is rereading this, about my China travel companion in 2004, my son: “But the China of the future belongs to a new generation. In January 2004 Liam Bates, age 16, British, American and soon-to-be Swiss citizen, decided that he wanted to study Chinese in order to better learn wushu, often known (and misunderstood) in the West under the name “kung fu.” This was despite, and not because of, his parents’ trip to the fabled Middle Kingdom during the dark era before his birth.”
Today that boy is a TV star in China. Who could have predicted that in 1985?
I burst out laughing, as you probably will, when I saw the link to this site from a friend on a health care forum. On reflection I decided it’s one of the most useful things I’ve seen on the Internet in a while. Anyone who has digestive problems, or an aging parent with them, or a small child, eventually ends up trying to describe stools.
I have some uncomfortable memories of trying to describe smells and texture, and I’m not the only one!
It turns out you don’t have to use your imagination to get it right: here’s a chart. Now I’ll stop before I can’t resist making bad jokes about this.
GENEVA, SWITZERLAND – David Cay Johnston, Reuters columnist, says he thinks the chances are only one in 84,000 that the US Congress will simplify the US tax system, but he’s nevertheless taking on the admirable job of pointing out to them the wisdom of doing so. Johnston’s blog post was sparked by a federal government action to shut down “a nationwide chain of income tax preparation shops it accuses of fraud”.
His lengthy post on why and how to do so are worth reading if the subject affects you, which means just about anyone in Switzerland or France (read: living abroad) who has to file US taxes. Since the complexity and exorbitant cost of filing US taxes for people who don’t owe tax is one of the reasons cited by many Americans abroad for their failure to file (and to thus be considered non-compliant), any suggestions to simplify the system are worth discussion.
Johnston points out that:
“Congress could easily eliminate fraud by abusive tax preparers, as is alleged in the Ogbazion case, and save taxpayers billions of dollars annually, by simply ending mandatory filing of tax returns for most taxpayers.
“About 100 million taxpayers — those whose income is entirely from wages and retirement funds, and who do not itemize deductions — should not have to file returns. The government already has the information it needs to calculate the taxes these people owe, once they supply their marital status and number of dependents. It would not take much to automate their income tax payments, as many other modern countries do.”
The remarkably simpler Swiss tax filing system, for example, requires people in this category to file, but the numbers are calculated for them and the process is quick and simple, a question of a few minutes and there is no need to pay an outside company. Bravo to Johnston for suggesting the US would be wise to move in that direction, too.
Ed. note: The next in a series of US Town Hall meetings in Switzerland will be at the University of Lausanne 18 April. There is one more in the series of five, in Zurich 9 May.
US tax filers and anyone interested in the complex issues linked to US citizenship if you live abroad should consider attending.
UNIVERSITY OF LAUSANNE
INTERNEF BUILDING – ROOM 126
PARKING LOT: DORIGNY
METRO: M1 – UNIL-DORIGNY STATION
RIGHT OFF THE AUTOROUTE TO LAUSANNE SUD
For details contact one of the following partnering organizations:
US Embassy in Bern: Seth Kolb (KolbSS@state.gov) Tel: +41 31 357 7011
American Citizens Abroad: Marylouise Serrato (email@example.com)
Democrats Abroad: Maya Samara (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Republicans Abroad: Edward Karr (email@example.com)
GENEVA, SWITZERLAND – YouTube has helped us all fall in love with videos and it’s made it easy and cheap to make them and add them to web sites. One result is that there is a lot of rubbish out there, and a lot of people in small businesses in particular wondering how they can use video and have a quality product. I’m very pleased to see that two local companies, 23 and So Money, are offering a free morning workshop on how to use video for your organization, and that they’ve invited one of the owners of Geneva-Servette Hockey Club, Hugh Quennec, and GSHC’s communications person, Olivier Riethauser, to talk about how the club does this.
I can’t speak for 23 except for its reputation, but I worked briefly with So Money when I “starred” in one of their videos, made for the British Swiss Chamber of Commerce (BSCC). They were assigned the job of filming all 15 candidates for five business awards and the video clips give you a nice picture of some of the companies in the international community. I had a great time working with them and like to think that the short film we made was partly responsible for me winning the Unsung Hero category award.
Check out the awards ceremony video made for BSCC by So Money
GENEVA, SWITZERLAND – My mother would have been 100 today and although she isn’t with us (she lived to a fine age of 95), my three sisters and I are sharing old family photos that Jeanne, the oldest, had scanned and sent to us all on CDs.
They live in three states and I live in Switzerland, which in her youth would have amazed my mother.
We’re chuckling over so many good memories and cringing at a few others, usually where we weren’t at our best for Florence Lonergan, who married our dad Bob Wallace.
My sister Mary recalls her great sense of humour, which stayed with her until the end; she could have the nursing home laughing to the point of tears over her sharp remarks about politicians.
She would have loved to have been around for another US election, and I’m sorry she missed Barack Obama’s win four years ago, but as it was, she lived through interesting times.
The Titanic sank when she was three months old and the Great War started when she was a toddler, although in her Irish-American household in Reinbeck, Iowa the greater excitement was over the Irish-Anglo Treaty that was signed just as she was turning 10 and which ended British rule in Ireland.
She graduated from high school as the world was tottering financially, in the summer of 1929, and dreams of college were pushed off for a bit while everyone counted his money, or what he didn’t have.
The Crash, the Depression, love and war and babies
She fell in love with a handsome and very nice guy in the heart of the Great Depression, and just as it was ending she spent three months watching her first child slowly die of a heart problem that it’s now commonplace to repair. Two small girls came along, but so did another war, and in 1942 her husband headed off to fight in the Pacific for more than two years, out of pride and principle rather than because he had to.
Tough enough for the 50s, 60s, and 4 more decades
Two more girls came after the war and then Florence the mother had her hands full for several years with ABC and rock ‘n roll parties at the same time. To my enormous admiration today she never lost her sense of self, the sharp edge that made her impatient with any kind of phoniness or people with airs, just as she kept her wonderful trim figure and grand and unswerving moral sense that there’s only one way to live and that is honestly, decently, fairly.
And modestly, which didn’t go down well with me in the freewheeling late 1960s when I bought a forbidden bikini and sneaked off to the beach with my friends; I discovered to my horror that she had sewn a lace ruffle along the top during the night.
And intelligently, which meant that she was forever correcting our grammar and pointing out mind-enriching articles. For years after I left home she clipped every newspaper column on grammar or how to make the world a better place and mailed them to me, with her comments in the margins.
And frugally, so that even when my parents had enough money to travel abroad, long after we kids left home, she still melted scraps of soap to make new bars. I hated our bathroom soap and wondered why we couldn’t have perfumed brand name ones, but she loved saving pennies thanks to Hints from Heloise.
She didn’t believe in leaving margins blank, so her letters were filled on both sides of the paper, then she carried on writing in her untidy scrawl, often with different ink or pencil in all directions in all the margins. And she loved abbreviating words.
Her letters were a challenge to read.
My sister Tara just sent me something she found among her own papers, a Mother’s Day card that I gave to Florence in May 1961.
We didn’t call her Florence, I hasten to add, until she was well into her nineties, and never to her face. The grandchildren knew her as Grandma Flo.
“I love you very much and will try to please you. I’ll do everything you asked me to do today. I would like to finish my Memory book for Camp Fire though. I can’t find my bathing suit so I can’t tell if it fits me. Anyway the straps are broken and then my suit always falls off. It was kinda of small last summer. It probably doesn’t fit me. You owe me $2.10.”
Tara says the front of the card has “you owe me $2.10 with the amount written several times. Mom wrote in red crayon “Pd.”
Our debt to her will never be repaid, I’m afraid.
I’ll bake a pie in her memory this weekend, since she loved pies almost as much as she loved donuts. And tonight we’re eating a Florence special from the 1950s, hardly changed and still a hugely popular family meal: tuna casserole (critics abstain – it’s great!). It’s a frugal, intelligently tasty, modest dish which any honest person can decently enjoy.
Here’s to you, Mother!
BERN, SWITZERLAND – A lot of travelers’ blogs run past me during any given week, but few reflect the sheer joie de vivre of Marie-Michele Gagnon‘s pause in Bern, shared on her blog. The 22-year-old ski racer from Quebec is photographing and filming her world travels and she has just done a fine job in Bern where, of course, the famous bears were nowhere to be seen. Chances are that a skier will only be passing through when the bears hibernate but here is hoping their schedules match at some point.
BERN, SWITZERLAND – Shortly before the holidays the good news made it into the UK press that Jack Widdowson, the 19-year-old British dancer with Bern Ballett, is recovering far better than expected in the hours after a mugging appeared likely to leave him paralyzed for life.
Widdowson was attacked in Cardiff, Wales, apparently for the theft of an iPhone, in early December, and it was feared the dancer might never walk again, much less dance. He was visiting his family for the weekend after making his first solo performance with the Bern troupe. He and a brother were out for the evening and he was walking home when the attack occurred near the docks area.
By Christmas, the family was able to celebrate that Jack could take a few steps unaided.
GENEVA, SWITZERLAND – Only 10 minutes left to tell you that a) this is International Day of Persons with Disabilities (nice way of getting around labeling them handicapped or disabled – writing lesson here!), as the Swiss government reminded me, and b) Scientific American has a good article, “The hidden potential of autistic kids”.
Nothing spectacularly new in the article, and no, it isn’t about savants, those amazingly remarkable autistic people who make up only a tiny fraction of all people with autism.
It’s about the rest of us, who are seeing things from the other side of the fence, remaining open: “At the other, ‘low functioning’ side are people who cannot operate on their own. Many of them are diagnosed with mental retardation and have to be kept under constant care. But these diagnoses focus on what autistic people cannot do. Now a growing number of scientists are turning that around to look at what autistic people are good at.”
Let me give you a concrete example I shared with an online discussion group, meta-mito-autism on Yahoo, that I belong to, where I was talking about my 19-year-old daughter Tara: “the article caught my eye because we had an interesting experience a week ago. I picked Tara up at the place where she lives during the week, to spend the afternoon with her. I wanted to take a walk before we drove off, but she loves the car so I hid it in a parking lot a 10-minute walk away, where I’ve never gone with her. She does take a lot of walks there, so apparently knows the grounds (big), even though she’s been there just a year. I said I didn’t have the car, but she ignored me and set off in a direction we don’t usually take, then she proceeded to systematically check out each of the parking areas in the place, clearly looking for our car, ignoring cars that looked a bit like it. After 15 minutes she found it and looked at me triumphantly. That took logic, memory, recognition, in brief, orderly thinking. She could do it because it interested her ).”
Good night, another five minutes left to tip your hat at those whose lives are a bit different from yours and mine.