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October 19th; Thursday. More harsh words about film producer Mr Weinstein and his Oscar cartel here and here. Someone goes rapidly off piste with a claim that if aliens exist they must be machines and must be very old. Some researchers claim that liberal/left voters have more psychotic traits.

October 18th; Wednesday. Takimag definitely finding its voice, no longer just an expanded version of Taki's old column at the Spectator. Here, some extraordinary good sense about women, men, & feminism. Followed by more harsh but good sense about foreign migrant workers in the US: as (on the subject of 'Principle Numero Two-o: There's no genetic difference that makes a Mexican more likely to love horrible jobs than an American.') Bob says: "They're not having folk festivals in Mexican villages in which all the young mothers pray to the Aztec gods to give them jobs cleaning toilets in Akron." In separate news, we should not be shocked by research saying in organisations senior women help other women much less than senior men do men. British man runs away and lives homeless in woods for a decade to get away from nagging wife.
October 17th; Tuesday. Seems no baby Nigels in 2016. Perhaps 1.

October 16th; Monday. Over the last week, a scandal has been breaking involving a large Hollywood executive called Harvey Weinstein. In all his photos he's in a suit and has impressive stubble. Allegations rapidly mount that he has for 30 years been shouting at people, throwing chairs at glass walls, extracting sexual favours from women seeking major film roles, extracting sexual favours from women seeking minor film roles, masturbating in meetings, telling various folk "You'll never work in this town again", and otherwise being boorish. Harvey has a fine showing in a list of people who get thanked in Academy Award acceptance speeches, although Billy Wilder appears to be misplaced on that bar chart. Lots of actors, actresses, and journalists now say how appalled they are by Mr Weinstein's behaviour (including his younger brother, see Position 8 in getting-thanked chart), after they all covered up for him for decades. Don't put your daughter on the stage, Mrs Robinson! Harvey has helped make many films as a producer, including such classics as 'Bad Santa', 'Zack and Miri Make a Porno', and 'Full Frontal' ("Everybody needs a release.")
October 15th; Sunday. Finish a book kindly lent by Robin, 'A History of Civilizations' by Fernand Braudel, translated into English by Richard Mayne. Although the author is established in an introduction as the great French scholar who helped launch a new 20th-century movement for a kind of full, "all-round" history including all the other subjects, the result here is sometimes intriguing but mostly disappointing. Different continents are examined in turn. He swallows the mid-century ideas behind a European Union based on the EEC unquestioningly, he breaks into lyrical discussion of South American literature (and a little bit in the USA section, but not elsewhere) yet seems flummoxed by the grand sweep of the Latin continent. Looking at the USA section and the Latin America section back to back, Braudel seems to find the distances and poverty of the Latin 3/4 of the two continents heroic, crushing, epic yet cannot pin down what keeps the place poor, even when he is forced to replay almost the same discussion in the following section about how the United States became quickly rich and carried on getting richer. When he could have done more modest history, recounting some string of events in detail, he instead is admirably ambitious. Sad though, because the sweeping view of history he tackles shows him up as a bit limited intellectually. In a rather sloppy design choice by Penguin, the cover samples the same 1830s painting - The Course of Empire by Thomas Cole - they used for the cover of their edition of Gibbon's book on the fall of Rome.

October 14th; Saturday. In the shopping centre basement level, a relaxed girl with long brown hair casually swerves away from her boyfriend so that without breaking step she can stroke the head of the six-foot-tall plush giraffe standing guard in the toy shop doorway. She curves back in time to step on the up escalator just behind him. A few days ago I noticed a small stain the size of a large coin on the lino floor of my flat. Curiously it's a kind of deep rose colour, and roughly the shape of the pink lion in the Spanish coat of arms & flag. Represents the Kingdom of Leon apparently. A fortnight after riot militia in the streets were beating bleeding Catalans during a vote, senior EU figures remain supportive of Madrid's robust policing style.
October 13th; Friday the 13th! Austrian politics gets snippy as coalition partners accuse each other of cheating in elections.

October 12th; Thursday. 1) Moody synth track needed as yet another 1970s sci-fi plot starts unfolding: Rise Of The Plastic Eaters; 2) Big straw animals in Japan; 3) One of our contributors with a well-organised, thought-provoking speech that slightly hyperventilates about social media; 4) Sex "toys" are easy to hack - but what kind of person stuffs an internet-connected device up their minge anyway? - seriously; 5) Surprise, surprise, of course private railways are hugely better than British Rail ever was, as anyone who can read numbers or has an honest memory has known for decades already.
October 11th; Wednesday. Nice self-assembling ball-bearing-circuit action on film.

October 10th; Tuesday. Recent loss of Western mojo seems to be accepted now.
October 9th; Monday. Slightly chilly weather being followed up by a couple of quite warm days. Perfect for a glass of chilled blue wine.

October 8th; Sunday. Ladies! Don't put powdered wasp-nest up yourselves!
October 7th; Saturday. One of our contributors lists odd points about last Sunday's Las Vegas mass murder by an affluent white man with a room full of weapons claimed by Da'esh to have converted to Islam six months ago. Does the rumour it was an FBI entrapment arms-sale sting gone wrong have any substance?

October 6th; Friday. a) People cry more easily watching movies at altitude; b) Saudi textbook shows Kingdom Ambassador advised by Star Wars goblin; c) This year Britain moved from 9th to 8th largest manufacturer in world - Brexit nightmare continues! d) Thoughtful and useful piece on crypto-currency drawbacks; e) Interesting and slightly eerie long article about a curious firm that changes your naughty children's behaviour; f) Suggestion that income & wealth inequality is an inevitable physics artefact - convincing yet unsatisfying at the same time.
October 5th; Thursday. Mistreatment of Burmese Muslim minority not quite what it seems: article rather shouty & repetitive, but interesting.

October 4th; Wed. Make organic plastic in your kitchen! Greens Will Eat Themselves.
October 3rd; Tuesday. Many shocked by Madrid authorities' heavyhanded efforts on Sunday to block & disrupt a Catalan independence referendum, albeit an illegal independence referendum. A retired British ambassador reacts on his blog with a strikingly stupid screed about the EU: not only is he thick enough to have positively supported the EU federal project for decades until this week, (and to confuse 'denounce' and 'renounce', until he edits it), but he seriously thinks EU natural-rights-based civil-code law secures freedom when of course it creates police states. That's right, you can serve in Britain's Foreign Office with views as dim as these. Notice his repeated use of 'right wing'. Of course, good on him for finally seeing through the EU and speaking out against Madrid's day of state-imposed fightiness, but look into his detailed reasoning and despair.

October 2nd; Monday. Teacher tells class of children not to talk to one boy whose father is a Tory MP.
October 1st; Sunday. Ongoing Catalan & Spanish liveliness flares up again when the independence referendum banned by Madrid goes ahead. Riot police acting under the instructions of the central Spanish government do a fair amount of thumping & kicking, but manage to at least avoid killing anyone. Sunday, the day of rest, is the traditional day for elections and votes on The Continent, as opposed to Thursdays in Britain, the day of Norse god Thor: probably just historical accident. In the evening of the same day, a slightly strange mass shooting in the US, where apparently a wealthy 64-year-old man with lots of guns sprays a crowd at a country-and-western concert with semi-automatic fire from a hotel bedroom, killing over 50 people, and is already dead from a shot to the head when police break down his door.

Recent weblog entries continued:

Who can translate the next 300 words into Korean or Hindi? Contact 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 language *5

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?

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

Wireless radio can be a great comfort to those unable to leave the textbooks in which they live *6
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.

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 human-rights issue?

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 banknote.

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 / contact at otherlanguages.org

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*1 image from , with thanks
*2 "Al-Araby" in written Arabic (read more)
*3 "What?" in American Sign Language; image from , with thanks
*4 "Big" in written Chinese  (read more); image from , with thanks
*5 image from , with thanks
*6 image from , with thanks
*7 image from 'B?ume', with thanks to  Bruno P. Kramer, and Franckh-Kosmos Verlag


.languages of the world
.Internet free speech
.weights & measures
.5000 English words
.2000+ Chinese char.s
.persian/english dictionary
.currency rates 1 2 3 4 5
.country domain names
.language-learning 1 2
.find old websites
.fine HTML tutorial
.minimalist websites

reviews: ................. books {...or films here}

1 metrologie historique
2 postmodernism & the other
3 disaster (news on sunday)
4 money unmade (russian barter in the 1990s)
5 the sleepwalkers
6 e
7 the kruschev era
8 the end of science
9 don't you want me?
10 the carpet wars
11 zelator
12 life of thomas more
13 faber book of science
14 gilgamesh
15 out of it
16 guns, germs & steel
17 words & rules
18 figure in the landscape
19 life without genes
20 bede's history of the english
21 the nothing that is
22 zoology
23 journey by moonlight
24 heavenly serbia
25 ratkay endre
26 the handmaid's tale
27 the selective eye
28 a megismerese epitokovei
29 intention
30 thirty nine steps
31 princess
32 the pyramids
33 the etruscans
34 moonchild
35 paradise news
36 culture of time & space 1880 to 1918
37 szimmetria
38 babel orokeben
39 astro-archeology
40 a history of islamic spain
41 high gothic
42 among the believers
43 the renaissance
44 augustine
45 mcvicar
46 atomised
47 tangled wing
48 da vinci code
49 nature via nurture
50 termeszet szamai
51 decline & fall of roman empire
52 practical cheesemaking
53 the sufis
54 fra angelico at san marco
55 the cryptographer
56 they have a word for it
57 szamok valosan innen & tul
58 artistic theory in italy 1450 to 1600
59 darwin's black box
60 indiai ejszaka
61 cleopatra: histories, dreams & distortions
63 what mad pursuit
64 language, the learner & the school
65 writing the romantic comedy
66 the blank slate
67 dougal & the blue cat
68 diego velasquez
69 horse nonsense
70 a certain chemistry
71 deterring democracy
72 textiles
73 thief of time
74 bloodsucking fiends
75 right ho, jeeves
76 generativ grammatika
77 1st time i got paid for it
78 galapagos
79 othello
80 understanding media
81 mysticism
82 short history of french literature
83 best on the market
84 art of seeing
85 culture & imperialism
86 food of the gods
87 arabic-islamic cities
88 the alchemist
89 verbal learning & memory
90 building a successful software business
91 don't make me think!
92 memory
93 the u.s. & the arab world
94 hard times
95 spells for teenage witches
97 the pig that wants to be eaten
98 encyclopaedia of stupidity
99 seventy eight degrees of wisdom: part i
100 beach watching
101 the ancient greeks
102 brainstorms
103 seventy eight degrees of wisdom: part ii
104 utopia
105 technical writing for engineers & scientists
106 alphabet versus goddess
107 writing on drugs
108 news from somewhere
109 isp survival guide
110 petrus hispanus mester logikajabol
111 art of seduction
112 stet
113 penguin by design
114 the sense of being stared at
115 the golden ratio
116 dinamikus emlekezet
117 margins of reality
118 hopjoy was here
119 bump in the night
120 box of delights
121 color atlas of immunology
122 fashionistas
123 pi in the sky
124 a new kind of fool
125 one man's meat
126 greek fire
127 the buddha in daily life
128 beginner's dutch
129 private life of the brain
130 solar ethics
131 pedant in the kitchen
132 knots
133 the planets within
134 encyclopaedia of ancient & mediaeval history
135 consilience
136 the age of scandal
137 fashion: the 20th century
138 the tipping point
139 design literacy
140 the silent partner
141 hamlet
142 1421
143 the 1890s
144 godel's proof
145 rosencrantz & guildenstern are dead
146 beyond reason
147 little book of music theory
148 q-basic
149 alone of all her sex
150 social studies
151 eternal darkness
152 drawn from memory
154 a guide to elegance
155 medea & other plays
156 the future of money
157 cheese
158 grammars of creation
159 aquarian conspiracy
160 the climate crisis
161 true fiction
162 the making of memory
163 why most things fail
164 genetikai abece
165 finding fulfilment
166 genome
167 the broken estate
168 inigo jones
169 flashman & the dragon
170 from bauhaus to our house
171 100 great paintings
172 kis spanyol nyelvtan
173 the historian
174 tomorrow's gold
175 charting made easy
176 life after life
177 spanyol igei vonzatok
178 the eclipse of art
179 fire in the mind
180 the human body
181 out of control
182 possession
183 simplified chinese characters
184 the generation of 1914
185 intellectuals
186 world of late antiquity
187 riddle & knight
188 informacio kultusza
189 napoleon of notting hill
190 secrets: palm-reading
191 meet yourself as you really are
192 cat's abc
193 intro to spanish poetry
194 rise of christian europe
195 philip's guide to electric living
196 sins for father knox
197 celtic twilight
198 myths of love
199 snobbery with violence
200 just like tomorrow
201 7 basic plots
202 experiment with time
203 vile bodies
204 icons & images: 60s
205 fisher king
206 new jerusalem
207 born on a blue day
208 surveillir & punir
209 trial of socrates
210 how to catch fairies
211 conversations on consciousness
212 mind performance hacks
213 conscience of the eye
214 beau brummell
215 evolution
216 the outsider
217 raja yoga
218 rise of political lying
219 occidentalism
220 colossus
221 secret teachings of jesus
222 blue murder
223 nostrodamus the next 50 years
224 homage to catalonia
225 charity ends at home
226 palace of dreams
227 discovering book collecting
228 beyond the outsider
229 the last barrier
230 that hideous strength
231 indian sculpture
232 small world
233 evolution & healing
234 in search of memory
235 campo santo
236 llewellyn's 2007 tarot reader
237 dream of rome
238 why buildings fall down
239 the empty space
240 england made me
241 greek science in antiquity
242 science, a l'usage des non-scientifiques
243 utmutato tarot
243 hunt for zero point
244 william wilberforce
245 viktor schauberger
246 untouchable
247 the vitamin murders
248 straw dogs
249 elizabeth's spymaster
250 the hard life
251 the god delusion
252 the intellectual
253 undercover economist
254 quirkology
255 chasing mammon
256 early mesopotamia & iran
257 the strange death of david kelly
258 the pilgrimage
259 origin of wealth
260 maxims
261 the finishing school
262 the shepherd's calendar
263 islamic patterns
264 lost world of the kalahari
265 german short stories 1
266 electricity
267 liber null & psychonaut
268 born to rebel
269 wittgenstein's poker
270 will the boat sink the water?
271 romeo & juliet
272 why beautiful people have more daughters
273 the crossing place
274 the turkish diplomat's daughter
275 missionary position
276 lust in translation
277 teaching as a subversive activity
278 how german is it
279 empires of the word
280 warped passages
281 the power of now
282 ponder on this
283 sword of no-sword
284 narcissism
285 blink
286 shock of the old
287 basque history of the world
288 truth: a guide
289 who shot jfk?
290 newtonian casino
291 power & greed
292 the world without us
293 5-minute nlp
294 concise guide to alchemy
295 evidence in camera
296 4-hour work week
297 the rosicrucian enlightenment
298 de-architecture
299 how to lie with maps
300 a book of english essays
301 a time of gifts
302 the occult philosophy in the elizabethan age
303 le pelerinage des bateleurs
304 alchemy & alchemists
305 greenmantle
306 the hero with 1000 faces
307 goethe's parable
308 rhedeyek es fraterek
309 letter to a christian nation
310 the tryst
311 7 experiments that could change the world
312 mill on the floss
313 metastases of enjoyment
314 the isles
315 between the woods and the water
316 secrets of the great pyramid
317 life in the french country house
318 the china study
319 tarot: theory & practice
320 the roger scruton reader
321 alchemy & mysticism
322 picasso's mask
323 the rule of four
324 triumph of the political class
325 arts of darkness
326 neuroscience & philosophy
327 the art of memory
328 mind wide open
329 mud, blood, & poppycock
330 society of the spectacle
331 lila
332 de imaginibus
333 electronics
334 giordano bruno & the embassy affair
335 temporary autonomous zone
336 the human touch
337 the fascination of evil
338 the king of oil
339 dowsing
340 the book of j
341 the west and the rest
342 story of my life
343 plain tales from the hills
344 under the influence
345 modern culture
346 50 mots clefs d'esoterisme
347 giordano bruno & the hermetic tradition
348 development, geography & economic theory
349 das kapital: a biography
350 strange days indeed
351 hegel: a very short introduction
352 reflections on the revolution in france
353 history of sexuality: an introduction
354 why we buy
355 origins of virtue
356 the holographic universe
357 a dead man in deptford
358 obsolete
359 137
360 in your face
361 7 spies who changed the world
362 the noetic universe
363 why beauty is truth
364 imagery in healing
365 the craftsman's handbook
366 futurism
367 in the cards
368 dmso
369 les hommes et leurs genes
370 the franchise affair
371 the decision book
372 les harmonies de la nature a l'epreuve de la biologie
373 kibernetika
374 zuleika dobson
375 l'empire de nombres
376 circus philosophicus
377 some girls
378 number
379 island
380 how to get your ideas adopted
381 drive
382 emergence
383 rfid : la police totale
384 the tempest
385 aspects of wagner
386 view over atlantis
387 world atlas of mysteries
388 art of the dogon
389 genesis machines
390 the sirius mystery
391 the cult of the fact
392 anastasia
393 ringing cedars of russia
394 a whiff of death
395 spirit level delusion
396 wavewatcher's companion
397 the kybalion
398 elegance
399 death in a scarlet coat
400 architecture without architects


1 k-pax
2 very annie mary
3 wasabi
4 gosford park
5 arany varos
6 minority report
7 amelie
8 bridget jones' diary
9 arccal a fo:ldnek
10 monsters' ball
11 cube
12 man with no past
13 talk to her
14 szerelemtol sujtva
15 bowling for columbine
16 matrix3
17 zoolander
18 anything else
19 farenheit 9/11
20 8 & 1/2 women
21 madagascar
22 kill bill 1
23 dude, where's my car?
24 the woman in green
25 the hunger
24 nightwatch
25 de battre son coeur s'est arrete
26 wicker man
27 v for vendetta
28 courage the cowardly dog
29 casino royale
30 power of nightmares
31 charlie's angels
32 full throttle
33 foxy brown
34 paths of glory
35 airplane
36 between iraq & a hard place
37 mutiny on the bounty
38 flashmob the opera
39 octopussy
40 bakkerman
41 kiterunner

September 30th; Saturday. Another Russian Trump story collapses. Paglia talks sense about Playboy founder Hefner's death. Meinong restored! New theory invokes possible-but-not-actual things in aid of quantum neatness. This poem can return:
  Yesterday, upon the stair,
    I met a man who wasn't there
  He wasn't there again today
    I wish, I wish he'd go away.

September 29th; Friday. The always-unlikely-sounding simulation argument cooked up by Bostrom and swallowed by Musk receives a welcome blow to its credibility: a paper claims to rule it out even in principle. Sounds to me like this argument if correct also kills "uploading consciousness", teleportation of living things, plus strong or general artificial intelligence into the bargain.

September 28th; Thursday. "Weston Price looked for vegans, but found only cannibals."
September 27th; Wednesday. A song by the She-Devils: I Wanna Touch You. Oddly sweet & old-fashioned-sounding. Perhaps a cue for a book review of Cordelia Fine's (and the Royal Society's) attempt to plug the dikey dam and hold back the breaking waters of evolutionary psychology, in the shape of her fabulously-titled social-feminist rearguard defence 'Testosterone Rex'.

September 26th; Tuesday. Have often thought of the short story and the radio monologue as almost dead literary forms but listen to this wonderfully simple slide show. Nothing but a background sound of wind, a couple of slides, and a well-chosen surprisingly against-cliche narrator's voice. Storytelling at its most traditional. Oh, and this 26th day of month 9 was 2017's 269th day?
September 25th; Monday. In conversation this morning with Dr D.'s gamine receptionist Fanni, and learn of her heartfelt love for London, full English breakfasts, milky tea, and all the wonderful shops there. Later in day, the autumnal darkening and draughty breezes bring back the chilling close to Larkin's 'Toads Revisited':
   No, give me my in-tray,
     My loaf-haired secretary,
  My shall-I-keep-the-call-in-Sir;
     What else can I answer
  When the lights come on at four
     At the end of another year?
  Give me your arm, old toad;
     Help me down Cemetery Road.

September 24th; Sunday. Read the book I got from Zoe, her late brother's account of his own life in journalism and their father's career in espionage 'Light & Shadow: Memoirs of a Spy's Son'. The crucial sentence in the whole book, pointed out to me by Zoe, was when her brother Mark asks their elderly father (when after decades it's finally become clear to the two children his whole career was in SIS) if he ever had any doubts about the morality of what he was doing for his country. His reply "Never. Not once. Not for a single minute." says a lot about what his generation had, something we seem to have lost since (and that certainly includes John Le Carre, 21 in 1952). By necessity, since the father quite rightly told his family almost nothing, the book is about 9/10ths son and 1/10th father. I got the uncomfortable feeling that the son never quite felt he matched up to him (even when he had no idea what his father did for a living). For example, his adventures as a young reporter for a pioneering Sydney-based radio station "aimed at young listeners" called 'double J' sound fun but also poignant by comparison, along with the details of what dismantling a fixed-line phone to attach it to a tape recorder with alligator clips was like, or the horrible knowledge that some Kurd died trying to smuggle cans of news film out of Iran he helped record. Some of what pop music meant to him as a schoolboy at Westminster School in London, the idea of "a generation having a voice", the battle for Top Ten places between records bought by oldies & youngsters in around 1961 - those things sound curiously old-fashioned now. If he wrote this book in the years leading up to publication in 2016, it feels as if it was almost exactly when Dylan and the Beatles and the Stones and Pink Floyd and the Ramones and the Sex Pistols suddenly stopped seeming to matter. Just about the moment when the whole half-century obsession with clothing, music and the young folk of the 1950s, 60s, & 70s began to slide off the radar screen. Colvin deals with his lifelong recurrent and worsening health problems with dignity, and the slightly puzzling features of growing up in a range of countries as Father's postings changed is dealt with well. Overall, the book feels sad, mysterious, dotted with sharply outlined vignettes of innocence and innocence lost.
September 23rd; Saturday. Weather getting proper autumnal now. Crisp shadows, bright sun, but chilly wind. A couple of what people call 'indie' songs. I quite like them, but there is a weediness, a sort of plaintive whimsy about them that sounds defeated & dreamy. Here are performers called White Poppy singing 'Small Town Mind'. Then comes the slightly zippier 'Kaleidescope' by the Departmentstore Santas (30 years old, though), after which we have the earnestly hopeful 'Be brothers' by some perky songsters known as Bamboo. At last the forceful but weary 'Black Chalk' from a duo called Earring. The overall effect is a sect of quite good musicians awaiting Rapture faithfully in the wilderness. Perhaps the saddest example of low-energy Byronic bards trapped in a basement studio somewhere is 'Lunar' by the mournfully named Public Memory. If that isn't a cry for help, I don't know what is.

September 22nd; Friday. Perhaps my favourite sentence of last week: "I am a village girl," a bright student self-deprecatingly shrugs off her respect for religion. Allegations in court are being made that Saudi Embassy staff actually carried out US-aircraft hijack dry runs before 2001 Sept 11th. Oh dear, oh dear. A profile of Noam Chomsky gets his politics right but is trapped in the genius-in-his-field-but-naive-in-his-politics trope. Actually I think his linguistics is also wrong, and shows how simple-minded he is. Nice clear explanation of why other countries can't copy Silicon Valley. A study shows women know better what other women are thinking than men do women or other men.
September 21st; Thursday. At 3am (so Friday morning really) outside in light drizzle I pass a cheerful Hungarian couple in their 20s wheeling a clingfilm-wrapped washing machine along on an old-fashioned trolley of the kind the porters let you borrow at college. Giggling on their nest-building high, they chose a good moment to move the white goods - streets completely empty. Things seem to be getting boisterous in Spain. Madrid has stepped in to stop the Catalan provincial government from holding an independence referendum. This early August broadcast of the Russian girl-DJ radio show rather better than usual: #441. Perhaps something to do with her male colleague pogo-ing around in the foreground. Cheery bouncy Slavs!

September 20th; Wednesday. Finish a book kindly lent me by Lorinc's father Mihaly. 'A Murder of Quality' from 1961 is interesting because apparently it was John Le Carre's one departure into the standard detective-story genre from writing spy novels. Seeing George Smiley solve a murder at a public school somewhere like Dorset I was struck by how much in all the books he's simply another Poirot, Marple, Sherlock, Father Brown, just shifted sideways into espionage. All the descriptions of him as ordinary yet shrewd, self-effacing yet sharp, good listener quietly judging others and so on suddenly fall into the classic Amateur Detective mould. I had read about 20 pages during previous days' tram journeys when suddenly all lights go out in the whole building. The staircase and balconies show two people wandering around by the light of their smartphones. Going outside into the rain I find that even the shopping centre is on emergency lighting, with the giant underground supermarket and much of the street in complete darkness. Back in my flat I light three half-burned candles still lodged in the hollows of an egg box from the last time I used them, and settle down to finish the Le Carre book by candlelight. Rain outside grows heavier, and I'm carried back to that odd caravan holiday in Anglesey when I was 8, rain drummed on the roof all day every day for two weeks, and Mother & I read lots of detective novels, her explaining which were well written and which were badly written during our (or at least her) coffee-making breaks. Although the caravan brings back the smell of bottled gas and a match lighting the hob each morning, power cuts and candles back in Manchester during the oil crisis overlap in my memory from the same time. I feel secure, cut off from the internet, in a dark room with three candle flames gently swaying on a chair nearby and the shushing sound of a heavy downpour outside. Le Carre's puzzle grows more enjoyable once Smiley is at the centre of the narrative - although there aren't really any characters as such. He and Brim are the nearest the author gets to proper characters, but they are at least recognisable presences.
What's striking about this end-of-the-1950s book is how obsessed it is with snobbery. Part of this is definitely true to the time, but there is more. Le Carre thinks he's against snobs, but actually he reveals himself through the gentle unprepossessing Smiley as an utter snob. His bland, courteous hero is filled with disguised loathing of other people's social positions and pretensions, whether high or low. The two ex-military men can't even wear a wristwatch to his satisfaction, poor men. The retired-Major dog breeder, Smiley notes with superior amusement, has that mysterious military habit of wearing his watch inside his wrist (actually not mysterious at all) while the Chief Constable almost physically disgusts Smiley with his exaggerated army-style gesture of snapping out his elbow when checking his watch on the outside of his wrist. The whole novel, like many of the time, is fixated on class to a suspicious degree. It's almost as if most of those detective stories were secretly about Britain trying to murder some unbearably embarrassing old relative from its family past.
Despite the way the characters somehow strike a false note, Le Carre's ear for dialogue is quite good: Smiley's quizzing by the sly, sinister Shane woman is nicely done. It goes without saying that the public school is High Anglican, with reintroduced fake Latinisms, and the town is Chapel, with a sternly simple Baptist congregation. The police officer Smiley liaises with is Chapel and so, of course, a good & clever man. The author is good enough at storytelling of course to set us up for surprises with these assumptions to activate plenty of well-handled bait-and-switch plot-twisting towards the end. A curiously bitter Afterword helps locate Le Carre (and many other authors of the time) as a disappointed young moderniser. He was 14 in 1945 but still identifying with utopian breeziness of his parents' generation in the 1920s and 30s. Much is made of the dreadfulness of the war and the dark secrets Smiley must live with, but I started to suspect that this is really something else. For example a kind of mourning for the utilitarian, spick-and-span, dismissive spirit from the 20s, 30s, 40s. A conflicted wish the war had proved the awful shabbiness of tradition and history, where in fact, annoyingly, it proved the opposite, the murderous ruthlessness of the modernisers. This contradiction, this secret desire to still see utopian 1930s ideas as refreshing rather than repressive, perhaps explains why characters like Smiley in books like Le Carre's pivot from politely masked war-weariness into a very well hidden hatred of Britain. His country's crime is not just to still be there, but to have actually been proved right in the war of ideas during their youth. Hence the way tradition and the love of the old seems to faintly nauseate Le Carre heroes. 'Victorian' is several times used as a term of abuse, 'mediaeval' in a positive way (but as long as it refers to something suitably modest and authentic). Smiley and Brim are moved by and gently protective of the silly traditions of the lower-class Nonconformists and their bizarre rituals but are revolted by the silly traditions of the upper-class school Anglicans and their bizarre rituals.
There are moments when characters like Fielding are made to speak lines (about the futility of teaching, the dreadfulness of boarding schools) straight from the narrator. Then notice on the final page of the 2010 Afterword how Le Carre describes what he thinks is wicked about the major public schools yet casually mentions sending his own sons there. "Did I send my own sons to public school? Yes of course I did, so I'm a traitor too, to my principles if not to my class." How charmingly he brushes aside this gaping inconsistency in his world view with fake frankness. Completely without any grasp of how hugely the state-commandeered school system of the 1940s has failed the country and the students whose lives it stunted, he wishes all non-state schools had been taken over by the state in one cleansing sweep of collectivism. He writes he would have tossed his hat in the air with joy at that victory against history and heirarchy. Just a page earlier the despairing anti-Labour speech of his headmaster in 1945 (now proved horribly right) is quoted sarcastically, evoking barbarians at the gates. It still makes him angry. Le Carre seems to have no sense that, using good intelligence fieldcraft Smiley would have been proud of, the barbarians have long been well inside the gates, and he is one of them.
September 19th; Tuesday. Women's brains full of male lovers' DNA. Study claims drop in testosterone sparked beginnings of civilisation. Book review harks back to Darwin's work on evolution of sexiness. Meanwhile China bans BitCoin exchange and coin-mining executives from leaving the country - is Peking scared?

September 18th; Monday. Man beheads woman, but then refuses to stop eating her flesh, so police shoot him. South Africa keeping it real.
September 17th; Sunday. New security hack: Israeli researchers use infrared signals to take control of CCTV cameras.

September 16th; Saturday. More about strange sonic weapons being used in Cuba.
September 15th; Friday. Library scan yields fresh ancient languages.

September 14th; Thursday. Female scholar on Viking warrior women.
September 13th; Wednesday. Chinese village grows QR-code garden.

September 12th; Tuesday. There's hope! Study says cute women prefer ugly men.
September 11th; Monday. Perhaps a reason not to ink.

September 10th; Sunday. I remember two days ago standing in the sun outside my apartment building in my Friday jacket and tie holding up a shoelace. I must have looked like some tedious Beckett character. I was silently pondering if I could spare a moment to go to the shoelace shop (yes there's a "shoe accessory" store three streets away). One of the older, more dignified, ladies in the building (I say hello to her sometimes in the lift) chanced by. She asked me where I was headed, and I told her, deciding against the shop as we talk. Ten minutes later back inside she suddenly rings the doorbell of my flat and gives me a handful of neatly tied shoelaces, muttering something about her husband not needing them any more. Meanwhile, after another interesting morning lesson with Boardgame Orsolya where we touch on help from God, in the late afternoon have a coffee & fruit juice with The Yellow Dress Girl. She tells me I must learn how to wish.
September 9th; Saturday. A couple of days ago I was in the bakery-cafe where the Croatian pirates sometimes take their children. A pigeon flew in and began strutting around under some tables confusedly looking for the way out again. I unsuccessfully try to shoo it out, and one of the waitresses (Flora) casually says "Oh, look it's Feri." She carefully corners Feri (Frank), firmly but gently gathers him into both her hands and helps him out of the doorway. For a second I'm puzzled at her having given him a name, but then I look outside at the square again. In place of several dark-grey pigeon-shaped blobs scanning under tables for pastry crumbs a second before, I suddenly see a range of shades from almost white birds with grey bars and markings to almost-black birds with different tones of mid and dark grey feathers standing out on back and wings.

September 8th; Friday. I finish a book sent to me by kind Amanda, 'The Middle Sea' by John Julius Norwich. He warns us from the outset that his heart sank when he got the commission, but the simple ambition of relating all the most important things that happened in the Mediterranean over the centuries, gives the book a pleasantly modest feel. Interesting breakdown on the unification of Italy, and some fascinating might-have-beens from late mediaeval Sicily. Then in the evening a sudden crushing sense of defeat and exhaustion. Aware that the biggest solar flare in a decade, shot out by an X9-class storm on the 6th, hit Earth's atmosphere today, I wonder if this can affect mood (and if so, why not everybody?)
September 7th; Thursday. Two more classes have students who get sent to different rooms. But the ones who reach me are very jolly & likeable.

September 6th; Wednesday. Early teaching start. Would be interesting to study this. Meanwhile Britain's yeomanry keep up standards: urinating man's loyal girlfriend punches other man for criticising him.
September 5th; Tuesday. First night class at the Technical University. I'm in the designated room on the 8th floor at 6.30pm, no-one else is. Turns out my students got sent to a room on the 6th floor. Once a kind colleague brings us together, introductory lesson quite a success.

September 4th; Monday. Why are women more religious? Every answer here but one.
September 3rd; Sunday. Years after we gave warning, more pessimism about China.

September 2nd; Saturday. Cubans using covert sound weapons?
September 1st; Friday. Japanese newly-weds vacuum-sealed. 'Breathtaking', hur hur.

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