to links pages 
phone texts to Skype = mark-griffith
Friday. Petrograd DJ: show #434. Quite good one.
Thursday. Rather touching article from an Irish socialist who went together with Jeremy Corbyn to a Latin American country in the 1980s. Meanwhile, parrot solves murder case in New Zealand. Majorie Cameron, occultist, erotic artist and muse: scroll 3/4 down for her extraordinary line-drawing depiction of an almost-mantis-style coupling. Now I am on Instagram properly, citizens! So worth asking how much would Facebook be worth if it didn't own Instagram?
Wednesday. Time for a short intermission.
Tuesday. On the inside wrist of one of my language students, I spot three evenly-spaced dots of burned skin in a row, about the size of large peppercorns. They have half healed after perhaps a week. It's as if someone had plunged a hot fork an inch deep into her wrist. I ask what this is, and she cheerfully explains this is a traditional therapy called 'Kambo', involving poisonous frog slime. She says it sometimes brings on vomiting, but makes you feel fantastic for a week afterwards. The previous week was her third session, and the 6-month-old dots burned into her shoulder have almost vanished.
Monday. If I have to buy melon in hot weather I buy honeydew melon because the taste is good, and as a bonus the scent lingers in my flat. Even as the rind rots before being thrown out, the fragrance is lovely. The red-fleshed 'water melon' in contrast always seems a bit disappointing, not really tasting or smelling of very much at all.
Sunday. Short film making the case that Erdogan covertly organised the failed coup against himself a year ago.
Saturday. Yesterday had my first proper haircut in almost two years. Istvan the barber seemed happy to see me. If you don't count the light trim the make-up girls gave me for the filming last month, June.
Friday. Bastille Day! Vive la Republique! Two authors point out that 1789 was in fact the dawn of modern fascism, not freedom. First, Our Man in Bucharest. Second, a writer on 1793's revolting mass murder of 300,000 royalists in the Vendee.
Thursday. Mysterious history: an intriguing entry about the three hares as a symbol of fertility; claims that author of a 19th-century Polish puzzle text was a secret kabbalist.
Wednesday. Monkey sues and bankrupts photographer.
Tuesday. Chidren's books can have too many pictures.
Monday. Typography matters! Pakistani scandal hinges on Microsoft font.
Sunday. Man sentenced leniently for sexually assaulting motorbike.
Saturday. Geneticists encode some frames of film inside DNA.
Friday. Carefully reasoned argument by a safety inspector pins the Grenfell Tower fire on the way EU climate-change regulations conflicted with national fire-safety regulations.
Thursday. Heat here continues with the occasional rain storm. Students continue to randomly cancel. There's a vaccine for heroin now.
Wednesday. A woman marries a railway station. A researcher argues that search-engine data shows people routinely lie about sexual preferences: for example he thinks many men would secretly prefer to be with plumper, chubbier girls than their current partner --- but they bow to social pressure? A sex-blind job application process does the opposite of what was intended: more men get hired. Psychologist alleges the men women hate above all are the "harmless men".
Tuesday. Unkind Canadian article skewers US national holiday.
Monday. Why is Britain's tax take rising?
Sunday. Finish the book kindly lent me by Bullet last week: 'Where Are The Customers' Yachts?' by Fred Schwed, reprinted from the 1940s. A witty, effortless book about the impossibility of beating the stock-market odds, delivered with light humour, cartoons by Peter Arno (who died in 1968), beautifully blended with some genuinely useful finance tips.
Saturday. Research comes out that says that modern concrete still isn't as good as Roman
Recent weblog entries
Who can translate the next 300 words into
us and there will be revelry.
Languages dying out each week
- who cares?
We do - otherlanguages.org is gradually building a reference resource for over five thousand linguistic minorities and stateless languages worldwide.
Thousands of unique language communities are becoming extinct. Out of the world's five to six thousand languages, we hardly know what we're losing, what literatures, philosophies, ways of thinking, are disappearing right now.
We may soon regret the extinction of thousands of entire linguistic cultures even more than we regret the needless extinction of many animals and plants.
The planet is increasingly dominated by a handful of major-language monocultures like Mandarin
Chinese, Hindi, Arabic, Indonesian, Urdu, Spanish, Portuguese,
English, Swahili, Russian, Cantonese Chinese, Japanese, Bengali - all
beautiful and fascinating languages.
But so are the 5,000 others.
These are groups of people?
Linguistic minorities are communities of ordinary people whose native tongue is not their country's main official language. Swedish speakers in Finland, French speakers in Canada, Hungarian speakers in Slovakia - and hundreds more - are linguistic minorities.
And totally stateless languages are the native languages of some of the world's most intriguing, little-known, cultures. Like the Lapps inside the Arctic Circle, the Sards in Sardinia, Ainus in Japan. Cherokee in the US, Scots
Gaelic in Britain, Friesian in the Netherlands, Zulu in South Africa.
There are only a couple of hundred recognised sovereign states and territories, so 5,000 languages - more depending on how you count - are the native tongues of linguistically stateless people.
How could I help?
You don't need to learn an endangered
language - any more than go to live in the rainforest to help slow its destruction.
A good start is to just tell friends
about websites like this.
Broader public interest makes it easier
for linguists to raise funds and organise people to learn these languages while there's time.
That's right. There are people who love languages and are happy to learn them on behalf of the rest of us, but they need support, just like zoologists, botanists, or historians.
Fewer languages still sounds good to me
Depends what you think languages are for. They're not just a tool for business. We never said you should learn three or four thousand rare languages - or even one. And which ones we make children learn in school, or whether we should force children to learn languages at all, is another question.
Typical scene in a European city;
Chances are, folk here speak some sort of foreign
A century ago - before we understood
ecology, and when we cared less about wilderness, most educated
people would have laughed at the idea of worrying about plants or
animals going extinct. Now we understand how important species diversity
is for our own futures, we are more humble, and more worried.
In the same way, linguistic triumphalism by English-speakers who hated studying foreign grammar at school is dangerously ignorant as well as arrogant. Few of us know what we are losing, week by week.
How many people realise these languages have scientific value?
You can think of these languages across the planet as beautiful cathedrals or
precious archeological sites we are watching being destroyed. That
should be motive enough.
But these five thousand languages may
also hold clues to the structure of the human mind. Subtle
differences and similarities
between languages are helping
archeologists and anthropologists to
understand what happened in the hundreds
of centuries of human
history before written history. And
that is one of our best chances of understanding how human brains developed over the thousands of centuries leading up to that.
Wireless radio can be a great comfort to those unable
to leave the
textbooks in which they live *6
Study of the mind and study of language go hand in hand these days. The world's most marginal languages are actually precious jigsaw pieces from an overall picture of who we are and how our species thinks and evolves. Every tiny language adds another brightly-coloured clue to this academic detective story.
Yet researchers have hardly started sifting through this
tantalising evidence, and language extinction is washing it away right in
front of us.
And worst of all, most people have no idea that there is this
fantastic profusion of cultures across our world, let alone that
they are in danger of extinction. Even just more people learning that
there are still five thousand living languages in the world today (most
of us would answer five hundred or fifty) is already a huge help.
We English-speakers hardly notice English - it's like air for us.
But every other language is also an atmosphere for an entire cultural world,
and each of these worlds has people whose home it is. Each language encapsulates a unique way of talking and thinking about life. Just try some time in a foreign prison, being forced to cope in another language, and you'll realise how much your own language is your identity. That's true for everyone.
Minority languages are a
One of the most basic.
Dozens of millions of people worldwide suffer persecution from national governments for speaking their mother tongue - in their own motherland.
Many 'ethnic' feuds puzzling to
outsiders had as their basis an attempt to destroy a linguistic community.
Would the Northern Ireland dispute be quite so bitter if we
English had not so nearly stamped out the Irish Gaelic language, for
example? Almost nowhere in the world does a language community as
small as the few thousand Rheto-Romanic speakers - the fourth
official language of Switzerland - get the protection of a national
government. Next time you see some Swiss Francs, check both sides of the
But outside exceptional countries like
Switzerland or the Netherlands, speakers of non-official
languages have a much less protected experience.
Speakers of minority languages are often seen as a threat by both the governments and the other residents of the countries where they were born, grew up, and try to live ordinary lives.
They experience discrimination in the job and education markets of their homelands, often having no choice but to pursue education in the major language of the host state: a deliberate government policy usually aimed at gradually absorbing them into the majority culture of that country.
Mighty oaks from tiny acorns grow, of course *7
Most governments are privately gleeful each time another small
separate culture within their borders is snuffed out by a dwindling
population or a deliberately centralising education system.
The United Nations is no help. It is an association of a couple of hundred sovereign states based on exclusive control of territory, almost all of them anxious to smother any distinct group or tradition that in any way might blur or smudge the hard-won borders around those pieces of territory.
The usual approach by sovereign states is to deny their linguistic minorities even exist.
Mark Griffith, site administrator /
*1 image from , with thanks
back up to top of page
*2 "Al-Araby" in written
*3 "What?" in American Sign
Language; image from , with thanks
*4 "Big" in written
(read more); image from , with
*5 image from , with
*6 image from , with
*7 image from
'B?ume', with thanks to
Bruno P. Kramer,
and Franckh-Kosmos Verlag
Friday. Intriguing just how irritating other people's taste in music can be. Both the nearby cafes with WiFi suffer powerfully from the waitresses' liking for limp, moany ballads - played loud. Is there a cosmic law that people who get to decide the music played in any workplace are nearly always aesthetically handicapped? Odd, given how much music there is now out there to choose from. Perhaps relevant is that a talented physicist, just a short distance outside his field, is just another overconfident buffoon. Are there no all-rounders?
Thursday. So - was Lenin really a German agent through and through? Not just (if I understand this case aright) a Russian revolutionary who took the opportunity granted by also being a German agent? Some AI success in recognising human faces. Some recognition for the artistic qualities in Samurai Jack that jumped out for me too.
Wednesday. Over in end-of-the-world news, some people are suggesting a big volcano in Yellowstone Park might destroy most of North America soon. When they say "soon" they seem to mean "at some point next week".
Tuesday. In creepy retail customer-manipulation news, constantly changing pricing to be part of the supermarket experience. If only it meant the return of haggling.
Monday. The art reintegration I've been forecasting since sixth form. Modernism properly notices the tradition again: Nathan Coley. Kindly pointed out to me by Ewan.
Sunday. Would you have sex with a perfect stranger? The evidence reviewed.
Saturday. Hong Kong is being choked into irrelevance by Beijing's restrictions - cities get jealous too!
Friday. The curious late-20th-century rise of the female cinema action hero/ine - the woman who kicks, shoots, and stabs the baddies (often while clad in lycra, leather, or rubber) probably dates back to John Steed's lady companions in the original Avengers series. Even as late as Luc Besson's 'Nikita', there was still some attempt to play on feminine vulnerability versus steely toughness. The 1990s German film I never watched, with 'Lola rennt', a girl called Lola running across three plot lines to save her boyfriend, was perhaps another pivotal moment. Male helplessness played up in trailer. If there's any truth in this, a German girlfriend might be quite an asset, mind you. Intriguing therefore to see someone attempt a really grand argument: has the state itself actually come between men & women?
Thursday. The CIA cared about Marxism, and this man cares about haircuts. A short, gentle film largely resting on the sheer charm of the barber.
Wednesday. Longest day. Filming in a palatial set of decayed apartments in the centre of town on the Colette production again. I drink several black coffees in the stifling heat, so that makes me a psychopath. A rather fun couple of scenes involving a young actress being brought into a dining hall on a litter by four semi-naked strong men with Edwardian moustaches, and then later a man jumping up onto a tabletop to be joined by dancing girls. Some actors seem close to fainting, but after having my jacket taken on and off 20 times I opt to just stay hot, worrying one costume assistant a bit.
Tuesday. Businessmen in the early-70s porn industry killing each other.
Monday. Woman sensibly suggests that women authors of historical fiction exaggerate how 'empowered' women in the past were.
Sunday. Robin & I enjoy drinks and lunch with Agnes & Piers in the lovely grand apartment with high ceilings packed with paintings that the Colette crew filmed in on Thursday. Piers is the 3/4 English grandson of the Hungarian society painter who moved to London early last century but also built this imposing structure for himself in Budapest - Piers paints too. He was at the easel with palette in the corner of the big crowded room even during Thursday's shoot. That's while I, equipped with a beautiful but fiddly antique pre-WW1 camera, was struggling to act a society photographer somewhere in Paris in 1907. After that Robin & I meet a graphic designer and then go to a garden party where Bullet in good spirits accuses me of wanting to become DentaMan!, some kind of dentistry-themed Batman villain. In the same garden as night falls, Neil shares early memories of world snooker champions in Sheffield, and confesses his interest in trying Russian Pyramids, a game whose larger versions of snooker balls only fractionally fit into each pocket, making the whole thing rather harder.
Saturday. UK factory orders at 30-year high: Brexit horror continues!
Friday. A couple of days ago a student described the Notting Hill carnival in London as disappointing, with crappy amateurish costumes. Refreshing Hungarian candour. Today finish a book kindly lent to me by Paul: 'The Rise of Christian Europe' by Hugh Trevor-Roper. An excellent overview, both scholarly and crisp, of how Europe changed between about 500 AD to 1450 AD. He opens with the end of Late Antiquity and closes with the Portuguese expeditions of marine exploration planned by Henry the Navigator. He's careful to include the lulls and setbacks in the way Europe responds to challenges. The ways trends within Christianity interacted with social pressures and attacks by other forces are sketched out in clear prose without simplifying some subtle processes. Allows himself one Oxford man's tease at the expense of Cambridge. Especially interesting on the important changes between 1200 and 1300.
Thursday. Act small role on film shoot with all sorts of glamorous folk. My costume is comfy, but the pre-Great-War explosive flashpan I keep having to set off (being a photographer within the story) is a bit alarming. Filmed inside a lovely old house in the 14th district full of paintings.
Wednesday. Britain's economy seems to be doing rather better than disasterist journalists claim. While drinking coffee with Tamas, we discuss eyesight. We move from contact lenses to that laser eye operation. From there onto the ancient Chinese method of using tiny silk pillows packed with rice powder worn during sleep to gently squash ovoid eyeballs back into spherical shape by miniscule degrees over hundreds of nights. Then the Bates Method. Then I ask aloud, surely there's something else? - and I suddenly imagine a varnish made out of the patient's own stem cells. It would form a safe, permanent build-up on the cornea, like a natural contact lens but fusing with the original cornea. Made out of the substance of the patient's own eyes - sounds a feasible research project to me.
Tuesday. Finish a book Anita lent me: 'A Street Cat Named Bob'. A true story in early-21st-century London. A charismatic stray, a ginger tom, is rescued by the author, just barely off the streets himself in sheltered housing, and then in turn helps to turn the methadone-addicted author's life round. Bit depressing, despite the underlying message of hope, since it took me back to squatting and why I never liked London. Also reminded me how claustrophobic street poverty is - every meal, every medicine bill, every different shopkeeper on a street, how many yards you stand away from a Tube exit, all can change a whole day or week. Slightly plodding, but candid & healthily free of the squirm-making saccharine or pumped self-belief you find in most turnaround tales. The author bluntly and convincingly explains how he became who he was and how he changed into someone else. Bob, the cat, takes well-deserved centre place in the tale.
Monday. Readable in very faint grey, the perils of the ever-growing 'administrative state'. In related news, the result of Comey testifying before Congress is we learn he wasn't actually investigating President Honey Monster after all.
Sunday. Yesterday I finished a book borrowed from Robin, 'The Last Home of Mystery' written in 1929 by E. Alexander Powell, about a trip across India and back as far as Turkey. There are black & white photographs with funny headlines such as 'His Dirtiness Sits For His Picture' (about a senior Buddhist lama in Nepal who the author unembarrassedly notes, in the picture caption and page text, stank of filth). This is a chatty travelogue from an American clearly used to moving around the British Empire. It hits an interesting balance between admiration for exotic Oriental cultures, disgust at certain aspects of exotic Oriental cultures, and an upbeat hope for the power of Western civilisation to free, advance, and liberate Asian civilisation from its backwardness and at the same time from colonial servitude. An interesting glimpse back into hopeful interwar progressivism. These hopes don't seem to be his alone - him being from the US and not British seems to be what gets him allowed entry into the mountainous Shangri-la occupying the middle third of the book. The journey starts in Ceylon, goes into the then-almost-secret kingdom of Nepal, and then - after some general chapters about meeting with a variety of Indian princes - passes out across Mesopotamia and across Turkey, finishing as he re-enters the relative normality of the Balkans. Some of his descriptive powers rise to the challenge of Eastern gorgeousness and he is cheerfully interested (and takes part) in Western imperial pastimes such as polo and hunting. His open nausea when describing Hindu shrines is refreshingly frank by comparison with the cringing self-hate of postwar Westerners. We never feel though that this is a grand statement or a polished assessment of a foreign continent: the mood is more like a personal, easy-going article in a monthly magazine. There is plenty about bad service, being overcharged, not enjoying flies or dust, as well as two pretty American girls he and his travelling companion keep running into in different parts of the subcontinent. Not only would it now be compulsory to express no criticism of the non-Western religions, but a recent writer would have to justify the book itself somehow. Perhaps in some unspoken way give some reasons why it's not a TV series or a video game - apologise for it simply being a book.
Saturday. Last night Boardgame Orsolya told me how useless she found The Winged Headhunter, a rather odd recruitment page on Facebook it turns out I have already "liked". Still, a note of gritty realism in half-naked angel packing heat: this is indeed how human-resources staff in Hungary typically dress for work.
Friday. Tory government loses its overall majority, and can only stay in power with 10 Northern Ireland DUP MPs. Apparently the DUP are scriptural literalists and don't like homosexuals, which seems to be just fine when we're welcoming our Muslim brothers, but not with a bunch of boring Irish Protestants. Theresa May hugely miscalculated in holding yesterday's election. Especially stupid to have a 7-week campaign allowing The Geography Teacher to find his stride and get the young-and-dumb vote out in strength. More weeping & wailing over the ring-of-stars flags soon. Andrea Leadsom would have been much the better of the final two candidates to push through Brexit, just as I thought at the time.
Thursday. Britain holds a general election.
Wednesday. The joy of dirt.
Tuesday. Get back into town on a delayed train and just make it to see Zita at IKEA. Even after thick heat outside, chilly air-conditioning in her office is not so comfy either. After that Petra & I practise rhyming words.
Are robots going to steal our jobs? No surprises here. Once again it's only economists who don't fall headlong into another crock of nonsense.
Monday. Robin & I get joint insight a bit like speaking tongues in the same language. We almost have flames or lightbulbs over our heads.
I intend to wake at 12 noon at Robin's in the countryside. It is exactly 12:12 when a quite reasonable wasp (considering his colleague's recent fate) hovers and loops over my head and pillow in the studio, clearly urging me in a not-unfriendly way to pick up my sleepy head and engage with the day.
Saturday. A surprise invitation from Robin has him whisking me down to Tiszainoka after dark. We chat on the road about life, men, women, and the feeling of passing time. Stopping off in Kecskemet for a pizza, we find a curious 24-hour restaurant which is stiflingly hot and sticky indoors, but has removed all the cafe tables and chairs from the terrace outside so no-one can sit where it's cool. Desultory flirtation with sleek German-speaking bar girl in a cloud of flies oddly attracted to the overhead bar lights and nowhere else. Zeno (Latin translator, estate manager, and alchemist) is already snoozing in the library when we reach the farm.
Friday. At the low-fi local gym, shortly after I start fighting with the machines, a sylph-like brunette skips out of the dim, cool doorway into bright high morning light, swinging her large sports bag from one hand. A long mane of dark hair tumbles down her slim, lithe back as she trots off into the hot, sunlit distance. Three muscle-packed mastodons inside awkwardly swagger or stroll into the frame of the doorway to wistfully watch her go.
Slightly odd late-afternoon trip on the tram 17, hot sun and blue skies visible through all windows. Next to me is a shapely mid-20s Hungarian girl in a sober navy-blue top and striped skirt. She has on a leash an unruly quasi-puppy of mixed breed. The doglet is cheerful, affectionate and strikingly ugly. Very sweet when I stroke him. A sad man with a bouncy little 3-year-old girl gets on, they join us, and the tot asks the dog's name. "Lemmy," says the guardian of the hound. Startled that she might mean the late singer for the British metal group Motorhead, I vaguely say there's a certain resemblance. (There is.) "Yes, he's named after him!" explains the demurely-dressed navy-blue-and-white girl, happily. When she gets off with the dog, the toddler excitedly cries "Bye bye doggy! Bye bye you two!" out of the tram window as they go. For the remaining stops, my mind wrestles with the image of an elegant Continental young-mother type with coffee-coloured skin even being aware of a white-fleshed, walrus-moustached rockist from Britain's industrial hinterland.
Thursday. Thanks to Shaun, news of a wonderful proposed experiment with a well-tested quantum anomaly to look at human consciousness. Separately, an intriguing use of thermodynamics to study brains.
diary entries by month
June 2017 /
May 2017 /
April 2017 /
March 2017 /
February 2017 /
January 2017 /
December 2016 /
November 2016 /
October 2016 /
September 2016 /
August 2016 /
July 2016 /
June 2016 /
May 2016 /
April 2016 /
March 2016 /
February 2016 /
January 2016 /
December 2015 /
November 2015 /
October 2015 /
September 2015 /
August 2015 /
July 2015 /
June 2015 /
May 2015 /
April 2015 /
March 2015 /
February 2015 /
January 2015 /
December 2014 /
November 2014 /
October 2014 /
September 2014 /
August 2014 /
July 2014 /
June 2014 /
May 2014 /
April 2014 /
March 2014 /
February 2014 /
January 2014 /
December 2013 /
November 2013 /
October 2013 /
September 2013 /
August 2013 /
July 2013 /
June 2013 /
May 2013 /
April 2013 /
March 2013 /
February 2013 /
January 2013 /
December 2012 /
November 2012 /
October 2012 /
September 2012 /
August 2012 /
July 2012 /
June 2012 /
May 2012 /
April 2012 /
March 2012 /
February 2012 /
January 2012 /
December 2011 /
November 2011 /
October 2011 /
September 2011 /
August 2011 /
July 2011 /
June 2011 /
May 2011 /
April 2011 /
March 2011 /
February 2011 /
January 2011 /
December 2010 /
November 2010 /
October 2010 /
September 2010 /
August 2010 /
July 2010 /
June 2010 /
May 2010 /
April 2010 /
March 2010 /
February 2010 /
January 2010 /
December 2009 /
November 2009 /
October 2009 /
September 2009 /
August 2009 /
July 2009 /
June 2009 /
May 2009 /
April 2009 /
March 2009 /
February 2009 /
January 2009 /
December 2008 /
November 2008 /
October 2008 /
September 2008 /
August 2008 /
July 2008 /
June 2008 /
May 2008 /
April 2008 /
March 2008 /
February 2008 /
January 2008 /
December 2007 /
November 2007 /
October 2007 /
September 2007 /
August 2007 /
July 2007 /
June 2007 /
May 2007 /
April 2007 /
March 2007 /
February 2007 /
January 2007 /
December 2006 /
November 2006 /
October 2006 /
September 2006 /
August 2006 /
July 2006 /
June 2006 /
May 2006 /
April 2006 /
March 2006 /
February 2006 /
January 2006 /
December 2005 /
November 2005 /
October 2005 /
September 2005 /
August 2005 /
July 2005 /
June 2005 /
May 2005 /
April 2005 /
March 2005 /
February 2005 /
January 2005 /
December 2004 /
November 2004 /
October 2004 /
September 2004 /
August 2004 /
July 2004 /
June 2004 /
May 2004 /
April 2004 /
March 2004 /
February 2004 /
January 2004 /
December 2003 /
November 2003 /
October 2003 /
September 2003 /
August 2003 /
July 2003 /
June 2003 /
May 2003 /
April 2003 /
March 2003 /
February 2003 /
January 2003 /
December 2002 /
November 2002 /
October 2002 /
September 2002 /
August 2002 /
July 2002 /