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Oak grove

A few weeks ago I went to the woods and dug up young oaks before transfering them into pots. Many died but ten are still alive, and one of them’s even got fresh new leaves! I don’t have a clue what I’m hoping to do with them though it would be cool to have a potted oak in town when I finally find a place of my own. My attempts at planting things have never been fully convincing but I’m determined to get better at it. So now that mum has started to remember watering them when I’m away from home, there’s a chance for me to become an expert gardener in local varieties and, who knows, I might inspire others to desecrate forests in order to replace the exotic with the local.

Camels gone wild

Admittedly, this picture was easy for me. Just another excuse to use polka-dot-patterned adhesive tape, really. The ad shows how countercultural elements are appropriated by companies in order to sell products. And the problem is that I really like it – these things never fail to work for me. I remember many of Camel’s ads from years past – so influential were they – even though I never became a regular smoker. Spray cans represent customers’ power to participate in the brand’s image by designing packaging, thus supposedly making it more DIY and empowering. There is something fishy about the idea of selling freedom in the form of addiction that still does not hinder it from being appealing. I believe the illusion is achieved here by a call for liberatory creativity which, unfortunately, happens to serve the purpose of glorifying a brand that solely has its own interests in mind. And yet, as health is increasingly invested with ideology, I wonder whether smoking cigarettes isn’t becoming an act of resistance again.

ZINEage years

I’m not sure whether Geneva’s calvinist seriousness and reverence for the demands of business are starting to get on my nerves or if it’s only about these amazing adhesive tapes with lots of different patterns I found in a hip little shop in Berne, but lately I have been listening to female punk bands from the 80s and 90s, learning everything there is to know about zine culture, and feeling like the teenager I never truly was. I’m probably recovering from the shock of finally being registered as a PhD student – having to study as a doctoral student whenever I can and teach French to diplomats the rest of the time is too much pressure. When the day is over, I re-imagine myself as some sort of creative activist whose life is all about counterculture. Tinged as they are with schizophrenia, these slightly traumatic transitions from one state to the other (meet Anne: scholar and anarchist) are seldom convincing.

After being unemployed for four months, during which I worked quietly for myself at my own rythm, the recent change of pace came as a bit of a shock. Suddenly my PhD proposal deadline arrived, I started having job interviews, and after the Berlitz school of languages selected me for their initial training I only had a few days to find a new place to live. This means that after six weeks here in Prêles, I’m leaving again and will (temporarily?) take a room in a posh village named Coppet, by the lake near Geneva. Even though it all seems sorted now – I am a PhD student at the university of Geneva, I teach French at Berlitz, I live in Coppet during the week – I have yet to become comfortable with my new situation before I can feel settled. After all, in one year, I have lived in Canterbury, Yverdon, Bienne, Prêles, and Coppet. No wonder it’s a little distabilizing.

Spring economy

Shoes are always a problem for me until I find one pair and wear them until death do us part which, if I’m lucky, happens 2 to 3 years later, and not to me. My old Converse are expiring and, given that my dad has recently started wearing the brand, I needed an alternative. An ethical alternative, as it turned out. My new shoes, I am eco-happy to announce, are made of recycled or organic material, with either BLC or ISO 14001 (whatever that stands for) certified suede. I was about to jump around the shop in glee when I saw the dreaded label, “Made in China”. I hope that the workers who made the “shoes for a happy planet” don’t feel left out, but I really can’t guarantee that they don’t.

Yin Yang poetry

By clicking on the tags from my latest post, some of you may have noticed that there are regrettably few blog posts about the hermit lifestyle. I am proud to have found my niche, and will try my best to live up to it. Thanks to having moved back to my parents’ house in a charming village, I know I will have much to contribute to the trend I intend to set. For those who choose to follow me, here is step one: walk in the fresh night air with a Moleskine sketchbook and a pencil until you find a beautiful tree. Then draw it as well as you can, though of course you won’t be able to see the lines on the page. And then, ask yourself, isn’t this what life is like? Hopefully, there will some coherence to your drawing in the end.

Light in the dark

What can I write about when I live on my own, go days without seeing or talking to anyone, and spend much of my time agonizing over the same PhD proposal I was already working on a year ago? As a precocious hermit, all I can do is talk about the candles I like to light at night in the depths of my cave. It’s not that I cannot afford the electricity bill anymore – though of course every little helps – rather, I am a little ashamed to admit that as I’ve got used to going to bed very early (I refuse to say how early), I tend to wake up during the night, usually at 1 or 2 am. At first I tried to force myself back to sleep by beating myself up over it, which strangely enough didn’t work very well. Then I tried candles, and nights became more enjoyable. And yes, I will be careful not to burn down the house…