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Thursday. Some historical revisionism on the "Robber Barons".
Wednesday. Facebook to use some kind of "AI" to detect videos that are fake but look plausible. Expect discomfort when the first bit of official footage fails this test. Schrodinger's Cat gets a new story line.
Tuesday. Still getting used to not being locked out any more. Seems that J. Paul Getty had a harem. I don't remember being told about that.
Monday. Up early with Tim & Erika, sitting in dressing gowns on their back patio or deck, as the Americans would say, watching the early warm sun on their garden and a wheeling group of birds in the sky. The group seems to be slowly growing from around 15 birds to 30 birds over the quarter hour we watch, perhaps assembling a team for a big migratory journey. Phone a locksmith that has been recommended by a friend of a relative of Erika, and amazingly an appointment for 3pm today is arranged. Until now locksmiths either said they couldn't do it, "might" be able to days hence, or just didn't call back. When afternoon comes, it takes the two men about 15 minutes to drill through the lock. After several smaller bits fail, in the end they resort to a massive two-handed tool about the size of a vacuum cleaner. Giant yellow sparks spray out of the lock like a firework display. They instal a nice new lock with a smooth, firm turning action. The cash I have on me is just enough. After 18 nights locked out, repeatedly washing one shirt and one pair of trousers, I'm back into Michael's flat. An odd episode, stressful but also strangely like a holiday from being me. Here's an attempt to use Occam's Razor to decide if there's a God. Not too convincing. A bit like Anselm's proof backwards.
Sunday. Anti-depressants might worsen antibiotic resistance.
Saturday. Finish a book I find at Tim's, 'Beauty', by Roger Scruton. He relies heavily on Kant to bring harmonious order, personality, and beauty together. He skips over evolutionary psychology a little quickly, considering it has a lot of information about how and why we find certain people beautiful, but Scruton is after bigger fish. He sees beauty as both a kind of fitting in and a kind of invitation to appreciate the individual in the general. Nicely presented, but the argument's readability disguises its subtlety a bit.
Friday. Tim & I try to see a film on his laptop-based film-seeing system. First 'CQ', which we cannot find, then 'Death of Stalin' which unfortunately keeps stopping, though first few minutes suggests it's good.
Thursday. Curious piece about how high-speed Chinese rail might have been a huge mistake.
Wednesday. Take the bus out to the village of Paty to see Tim & Erika. Still locked out of Michael's flat, tonight is the 14th night. They kindly welcome me to stay for a couple of nights. // Multidimensional maths might model neurons.
Tuesday. This Teacher's Pet speech might be important.
Monday. Finish a book at Robin's, 'The Will To Live: selected writings of Arthur Schopenhauer', edited by Richard Taylor. These are essays collected from several of Schopenhauer's works. The most startling thing is how up-to-date he sounds, with his thesis (that the animal will to live is more important than minds or ideas in explaining the world we experience) sounding very much like post-1970s evolutionary psychology (or 'evopsych', as some call it). Darwin is nowhere mentioned since this is the 1830s and 40s, although evolution in some sense was clearly being passionately discussed, with Lamarck being both praised and mocked by Schopenhauer. He actually suggests that Lamarck is foolish to describe a change in animal structure emerging over long periods of time (exactly the feature that we now find so convincing about Darwin), suggesting rather that the will to live is "outside time". His section on women, full of jibes such as the line that men are often professionally jealous of certain other men within their specialism, but women of all other women because "women only have one profession", is startlingly close in some of the claims (if expressed less diplomatically) in evolutionary psychology. The pre-ghost of what Nietzsche and Freud were to call the unconscious fifty years later is here in some brief sections. He describes a kind of hidden will making the individual animal serve the species at its own expense. Schopenhauer makes the shrewd claim that sexual desire is the real mainspring of most human action, even as we lie to ourselves that it is something more lofty. As Freud slowly fades from sight, Schopenhauer's simpler, clearer claims come back into focus: deeper & sharper.
Sunday. Rather like the look of this book. A probably tongue-in-cheek discussion of theology using game theory.
Saturday. Interesting account of how a peer-reviewed journal buckled to pressure to repress some unfashionable science.
Friday. Men have better sex with emotionally-unstable women? Did they correct for hot/crazy correlation though?
Thursday. Christian arrives, escorting Sophia to candlelit dinner at Robin's. Krisztian, however, fails to attend. Spicy sauce cooked by painter Julia.
Meanwhile in Britain, a banned Iranian TV crew somehow films inside a Labour constituency meeting where a "pro-Israel" Labour MP is losing a vote of confidence.
Wednesday. Machine to
type one-handed. Is it nifty?
Evening drinks outdoors over the river in Buda with Robin, Ernst and his gorgeous chocolate brown vizsla dog, dishy Russian/Greek/Romanian art gallerist Sophia, along with artist Julia and film-maker Erika.
Tuesday. Parrots' economic decisions better than socialists'.
Monday. Interesting article about director of 1st three James Bond films, and his links to
'Agent Zigzag'. Still staying at Robin's on Csengery waiting for money to come through for locksmith to open Michael's door across town.
Sunday. Finish a copy of 'The Moon and Sixpence' by Somerset Maugham, a book I remember seeing lying around among Mother's books, and have been vaguely meaning to read for decades. Maugham's first writing success was in the 1890s, and although this followed twenty years later in 1919, it made me realise how much he remained an 1890s writer. Vaguely modelled on several painters - a bit of Cezanne, a bit of Matisse - the life path of the central character Strickland partly follows Gaugin, in that he leaves finance and goes to Tahiti. A staid, conventional stockbroker until the age of 40, he suddenly abandons his wife and two children in middle-class London, escaping to Paris to begin living alone and painting, facing a new condition of poverty with steely will and lofty indifference. The book is very much about three women who love him, and Maugham stresses the perverse intensity of women's love, their desire to be mastered in particular, in a way almost impossible to openly write in print already by 1930. From another angle an eerie foreglimpse of the libertarian, romantically individualistic 1960s spirit. Right to the end unsure why "moon and sixpence". Perhaps I didn't read closely enough.
Saturday. London busstop ads attack Israel.
Friday. In more racist news, turns out
haggises are English.
Thursday. At 8 in the morning, Zeno the Alchemist insists I must replace the door even though the paint is still soft, so we mount it on the hinges back inside the house, smearing and scraping the once mirror finish. Then I return to Budapest with morning train, teach twice, and find I cannot get into Michael's flat. The increasingly awkward
upper lock finally (after some weeks of getting stiffer and stiffer) refuses to co-operate. I spend an hour and a half trying to get in, then walk over to welcoming Robin a mile off, happy to see me even in extremis.
Wednesday. Interior wooden door at Robin's farm still not drying as it should, balanced on two stools outside the studio. Zeno shows me that fresh figs are ripening right now on a bush seven or eight feet to the right of the studio door, there years without me noticing.
Tuesday. Paint both sides of door. Visit seamstress in next village with shirts to be mended. By a ridiculous piece of bad luck, miss meeting Edina in Kunszentmarton. My pocket watch is one hour behind, and Robin's kitchen clock oddly also one hour behind: I go to meet her exactly 1 hour too late.
Monday. Buy paint and brush in Kunszentmarton with Zeno.
Sunday. Travel down to countryside to paint door.
Saturday. Italian Interior Minister describes EU as "filth".
Friday. Chinese banking crisis still threatens.
Thursday. 10 female dancers from an old TV show. Check Pat Davis.
Wednesday. Quasi-Dennettish article about consciousness.
Tuesday. Farsighted RAF man warned of EEC/EC/EU danger.
+ good summary of just how odd the investigation of President Honey Monster is.
Monday. AI calls for a religion, as if it wasn't one already.
For the first time in a flat where (by leaning out of a window a bit) I could see some of the city-centre evening fireworks that traditionally celebrate today's holiday of Hungary's first Christian king. He's the one whose embalmed right hand in a glass box at the cathedral is the obvious inspiration for The Hand in the old Addams Family TV series, as Nina tartly pointed out when she described Hungary to a friend as "a cross between the Addams Family and 'Twin Peaks'". She's right.
Sunday. It seems contraceptive pills masculinise women.
More stuff about time travel. And they don't mean reversing ageing.
Saturday. Wonderful image for that horrid thing: the headache.
Friday. China embraces robot policing.
Poignant piece about coders who regret helping to build Uber and similar firms. Touching, but you'd think they'd have thought of this some decades ago?
Thursday. More magical thinking about strong AI.
Take stopping train out to the Balaton to meet Peter D. in his rural summer retreat, a lakeside resort filled with sporty things, and a gorgeous view out across the water. A prow of big hills juts out into the lake, coloured dusty blue by distance, headed by Badacsony the wine hill. The outline of the four hills is very like a tinted wash from the Turner sketchbook. We play three-a-side volleyball in late-afternoon sun (at one point the six people on our court include three different girls all called Panni), then swim in the lake as the sun begins to go down. An extremely generous apricot schnapps pressed on us by the beachside barman before my train back to town leaves the journey back around the big lake vaguely blurred. But I glance up from my train carriage table halfway along the south coast of the lake as darkness falls and almost gasp aloud. Across the carriage is an extraordinary filmic vision of lilac hills against an ink-blue late-evening sky, for perhaps a minute looking like nowhere I'd ever imagined on earth.
Wednesday. Or would that count as time travel?
Heat still intense and thick. Wherever the sun is shining, it's like when your mother opens the oven door to get the cakes out. I don't know if the desert with the Nazca lines is a hot place or not, but apparently they're exactly opposite to Angkor Wat in Cambodia.
Tuesday. Perhaps reversing ageing will help the Pussy Church?
A curious memory from the other week down in the countryside at Robin's where I was outside the house near the entrance. Am suddenly hit by a rich pulse of mint aroma. Half a second later, a red, orange, brown and black cockerel charges angrily into a thick patch of mint plants. When some white hens burst clumsily out of the same thickets of herb one second later it's clear the cockerel is chasing them. Amusing for me, but looked pretty serious for them.
Turns out that the actress who started the media feeding frenzy against that fat film producer with stubble actually paid off a sex-offence alleger of her own.
Monday. 'Pussy church' of witches against transsexuals forms in US. Meanwhile, a researcher suggests we all have a psychopath default setting deep in our lizard brains (nice editorial art).
Sunday. Physically weak men more often left wing.
Saturday. Orban's government has decided to shut down 'Gender Studies' at all Hungarian universities. Another cunning ruse to distress some and cause others merry mirth.
Friday. Summer heat still quite formidable, after dark too. Air thick like suet. Go to supermarket about 9pm. Three girls making flutey noises in French come in after me dressed in black shorts and black tops, the un peu sportif, un peu sexy look. I glance them over in what's probably a very ungallant stare, turn round and try again to understand the corner cabinet's strange array of lactose-free cheeses. Suddenly there's a slight extra warmth all down one side. I become aware that the prettiest of the three is precisely next to me, as in less than half an inch from touching, glancing over the same shelves in a vaguely aloof, scientific way. To do this she's somehow crossed about twenty feet of empty shopfloor in a second - it's almost occult, as if I suffered a time slip or black out. I spend the standard two-second window of opportunity pushing lactose and cheese out of my thoughts and pulling up my in-head French-language-remark menu display, by which time she glides off past the cucumbers, radiating cool, disinterested curiosity about other food items. Shaking this odd moment out of my heat-addled mind, I choose some purchases, passing a different lass, boyfriend in tow, leggy with lustrous mid-brown hair cascading down her back like a waterfall. I get into the massive double queue this shop has stretching down two aisles every night from about 7pm to closing at 10pm, a double tube of customers feeding six tills, three along each side wall, resembling a great intestine. After only a few minutes, get to a till, and as I pay for my items literally feel the leggy lass, nowhere to be seen seconds ago, manifesting next to me. The small golden hairs of her bare arm are brushing my bare arm. She's chosen the next till in such a way to squeeze her whole length into a desk gap just a millimetre away from my body, and her boyfriend is the far side of her talking to the cashier. Pesky aftershave.
Thursday. Years since I thought of this book cover.
Wednesday. A chance to hear some ancient Greek music.
Tuesday. Interesting bar chart of how religious denominations voted on Brexit. Muslims & atheists like the EU, Anglicans & Jews not so much: article.
Monday. For the first time since the last century I buy and drink a can of Vimto. Remember the pop group I saw performing at college and one of their songs went "He's the man turning water into Vimto", thought they were good, went up to the bass guitarist afterwards to tell him, and he said that just that afternoon before their gig they'd decided to split up. Is that Vimto for me? Surprisingly pleasant taste.
Sunday. China's creepy future police state project continues.
Saturday. Man in Texas steals baby shark in pram.
Friday. At a Las Vegas hackers' conference, participants break into supposedly-secure voting machines in two hours.
Thursday. Apparently earth's longest maintained set of temperature records, the 'Central England Temperature' dataset goes back to the late 1650s.
Wednesday. Early in morning finished one of those short introductory paperbacks rendered in mashed-up historical illustrations with speech balloons.
The aims are ambitious, to amiably introduce a whole range of topics in the subject (probability, differentiation, logarithms, trigonometry) both in cultural context and without boring readers who are almost certainly not keen on maths (yet). A variety of small scenes cut out of 19th-century novels and prewar schoolboy cartoons are pasted together in a zany manner. In some cases this genuinely makes a concept clearer, but mostly the effect is a manic determination not to be boring. Alongside this, the concern to dethrone European claims to mathematical supremacy and emphasise the algebraic contributions of 10th, 11th, and 12th century Muslims, + some Indian and Chinese thinkers, is probably the strongest undercurrent in the book. Of course to mention that Galois was a republican "in a reactionary era" or that Turing was a gay man who suffered from old-fashioned moral prejudices are good ways to involve readers not immediately interested in the maths. At the same time, hard not to feel the cultural politics are priority 1; enthusing people about the subject and explaining parts of it taking a fairly distant second place.
Meet Jessica off train in Budapest. She pulls a very interesting spread of cards in the cheerfully unspooky environs of the shopping-centre food court.
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
Tuesday. Read to the end of 'Turner on the Loire' from Robin's library, a careful reconstruction of what the contents of his sketchbooks tells us about Turner's route up the Loire in 1826. The effect of gazing on painted sketch after painted sketch, with some wonderfully minimal pencil skylines in between, is not only sensuous but also a kind of time travel. The kind of rural France that was already vanishing by the time photography became a mass craft twenty years later is here noted, taken for granted, and seen as normal if interesting. The idea that ten years before the first motorised railway lines in Britain women in different provinces of France quite close to each other wore different headgear (combination hats, caps, whatever you call what nuns and nurses still sometimes wear) is startling really. Yet no odder than supporters of different football clubs today marking themselves apart with insignia, colours, flags etc. Why wouldn't milkmaids or woolworkers or stable girls proudly show allegiance to their valley or district? The catalogue/book says a section of Turner's notebooks were given up to these head-dresses - shame not more given in the illustrations. Many
are haunting, and show someone in love with the effects of light yet who doesn't see this as part of a political movement the way some in and around French impressionism forty years later did. The writer makes sure not to spare readers knowledge of Turner's argumentative nature, and his habit of always pushing for the highest possible price for his works.
Monday. Intriguing back-to-front Indian mirror.
Sunday. An unhappy daughter not nagged enough? Headline quote (Steve Jobs told her "You smell like a toilet") not quite as it sounds. Still a sobering read.
Saturday. So if you want your daughters to succeed you should nag them?
Friday. In the newish lift (1980s or 1990s) in Michael's rather older building I notice what seems to be a dead moth lying on the inch-wide ledge against the glass on the outside of one of the lift windows. Boring, dead, dusty triangle with edges about an inch and a half in length, I first see it travelling down in the morning, then again in the afternoon. By the end of the day dawns on me it might have been there weeks or months. After all, once the lift reaches ground-floor level it's not easy to reach the outside to clean it. On all sides it's hedged in with black-painted metal grillework designed to prevent people falling into the shaft and being crushed. No way to open those windows except by completely unscrewing the frames. Balancing on the bannisters to clean it while at another floor would hardly be safety-conscious. That moth corpse might have been riding up and down dozens of times a day and night with that lift for a decade - perhaps more.
Thursday. Today, the largest single-day drop in price of any single share, on any US bourse, ever. The hitherto mighty Facebook/Instagram loses 119 billion US dollars of value in a single trading session. Interesting to note that internet/computing companies suffered the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th largest one-day drops ever to date as well. Are there really larger falls from some other market?
Wednesday. Murderer of girl hitch-hikers electrocutes own genitals.
Tuesday. Wealthy lady prosecuted over slavegirl cult.
Monday. Rich Kuwaiti woman bemoans servants with passports.
Sunday. Travel back from countryside to Budapest. In the evening, Film-maker Jessica tells me slightly lurid details about the man who created the Wonder Woman comic strip in 1941. Meanwhile, more JFK-assassination documents released by Trump show two separate cases of junior US intelligence officers (one in Scotland, one in France) coming across chatter between spooks in classified cables about the killing of John Kennedy, in both cases a couple of weeks in advance of the event.
Saturday. Finished the Julian Jaynes book 'The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind'. Both careful and audacious, this has to be one of the most thought-provoking books I've ever read. Jaynes, writing in the 1970s, claims that what we call consciousness appeared among humans around the year 1000 BC, spread over several centuries. Before that date, he suggests, people directly heard insights and gestalts in their right hemispheres as the voices of gods speaking inside their heads. After that date, man is increasingly conscious and self-conscious, he has a moral sense independent of gods and god-kings, he no longer hears the voices or no longer feels comfortable acknowledging them, and he is haunted by a deep nostalgia for that older and more unified timeless time when the gods still spoke and moved among men. Jaynes writes at length about the medical literature on schizophrenia and also quotes from Mesopotamian, Greek, and Hebrew myth to illustrate his point. Moses is one of the borderline figures between the bicameral minds and the modern minds, and he sometimes cannot resolve his Lord's voice into anything clearer than a pillar of fire. Moses closes a period of history by putting laws down in writing on pieces of stone, excoriating his people for constructing in his absence a traditional dummy god from gold intended to speak inside their heads in the familiar old hallucinatory style. Jaynes sides with the classicists who put the two great epics attributed to Homer several centuries apart, written down by different hands, and actually claims that the Illiad, even with redactions and additions since, is one our last glimpses of the bicameral mind in its raw, preconscious strangeness, while the Odyssey is an early example of the modern mind, just about on our side of the great divide. Some of the old preconscious hallucinators were mass-murdered on the orders of kings, creating an evolutionary pressure for modern consciousness. Jaynes cites specific purges of the old prophets, the hearers of voices, at dates given in the Old Testament.
Jaynes suggests that the strangely effortless Spanish conquests of the Incans and the Aztecs (two and a half millennia after that split between the two Homers) should be understood as confrontations between modern conscious men and entire archaic civilisations of people still thinking with bicameral minds intact, still hallucinating the reality of their gods' voices into their daily reality. The nostalgia of so many, from Hegel back to the author of the episode with the Serpent in the Garden, for some half-forgotten, more ancient paradisical state of innocent completeness, gains immense nuance from Jaynes' extraordinary hypothesis. If he's right, it changes everything. Even depictions of angels with wings and the rise of games of chance are pulled into this vast theory. With implications for a range of controversial topics from hypnosis to theology or archeology, he writes sometimes coolly, sometimes lyrically. "They have called it the Dorian invasions. And classicists will tell you that indeed they could have called it anything or everything, so groping our knowledge, and so dark these particular profundities of past time. But continuities in pottery designs from one archaeological site to another do fetch a few candles into this vast and silent darkness, and they reveal, albeit in flickering fashion, the huge jagged outlines of complex successions of migrations and displacements that lasted from 1200 to 1000 B.C. That much is fact." starts one chapter. Very much recommended.
Amazing thunderstorm keeps me awake much of night in Robin's studio, cloud-reflected lightning rippling through the skies, casting weird shadows inside the high ceiling of the studio itself. Filled with a sense of being close to the heavens, infused with the power of the elements.
Friday. It seems horses remember people who smile at them.
Thursday. The French sex cult from outer space.
Wednesday. Three weeks and one day with no sunspots. Longest break since 2009. Today finished a borrowed book about Einstein's opus magnus called 'The Perfect Theory' by Pedro Ferreira. Nicely readable, this speeds through a century of general relativity going in and out of fashion - eclipsed for a decade or so by quantum physics, then re-emerging with new surprising predictions such as black holes, then again passing out of favour, and so on. Sad stories like Jocelyn Bell being left out of the Nobel for discovering pulsars or Joe Weber getting ensnared in his own calibration errors, convincing himself he had discovered experimental proof of gravitational waves and destroying his reputation, flesh out the human narrative. As much about fifty or sixty great physicists over the century, as the physics.
Tuesday. Turns out gene-editing tool CRISPR might create cancer dangers of its own.
Monday. Excitement builds in the US impeachment putsch, as 18-month-old claims force an indictment of some Russians. US prosecutors accuse 12. For more, here's a short interview with Mr Nunes, a piece by one of our contributors, zerohedge, alleges Hillary Clinton committed serious treason, and a short interview with veteran investigative reporter Seymour Hersh on why not to be too trusting of The New York Times.
Sunday. Slight pause for thought in the late evening when I realise that Robin, buoyant as usual, intends to drive back to Budapest with a chest of drawers strapped to the car roof. Earlier in afternoon, finish a book about brainwave research into moments of insight when people solve puzzles or have sudden fresh ideas. 'The Eureka Factor' by John Kounios and Mark Beeman does a nice job of spelling out the psychological experiments in their essential simplicity, and balancing this with the overall implications for how creative thinking and problem-solving happens. One interesting discovery is the split-second burst of alpha waves in the brain just before a new solution emerges, as if clearing clutter off a desk, or shutting out distraction for that vital moment like a "blink".
Saturday. Drive with Robin down to The Great Plain after a warm afternoon in town, partly to retrieve my cards, and also to fish out of his attic my copy of Jodorowsky's book about restoring the Marseille pack.
Friday. My Salisbury Review article: blimp babies battle above London.
Thursday. Researcher says facial-recognition systems see gayness.
Wednesday. Creepy con woman probably based in Indonesia swindles film industry people out of their savings.
Tuesday. Finished off a book kindly lent to me by Robin, dauntingly called 'Eco-Aesthetics' by author Malcolm Miles. Helpfully subtitled 'Art, Literature, and Architecture in a Period of Climate Change' this consists of a review of various art projects, community architecture schemes, and novels that seem to have something to do with alleged man-made warming of the earth's atmosphere since the 1980s. Various anaemic bits of art and more or less pompous episodes are looked at, where "tensions are inscribed" or themes "intervene polemically" or "modes are transposed" in the usual jargon. The book comes to a sudden stop at the end of the community house-building chapter. On page 119 it comes out that he thinks melting Antarctic shelf ice raises sea levels: "Five hundred million tonnes of ice" (Larsen B) "break into icebergs and eventually melts into the southern oceans, where it contributes to rising sea levels" Apparently he has no memory from school of why ice floats in the first place. Overall, dispiriting, vaguely drab. As with the Stallabrass book, nice to get some overview of who is doing what, but depressing to see the miserable and ignorant left-wing paradigm they do those things within.
Monday. Is it possible she could do it again?
Sunday. An EU-funded wall that is quietly approved.
Saturday. Vatican banker has eerie message.
Friday. Something for seekers after knowledge.
Thursday. Much of day with Robin, helping as best I can with internet problems and paperwork. A brief afternoon break in leafy park in front of his building as we coffee with Bianka and learn of her half-year in the South Sea islands. Then Robin & I natter until late: cabbages & kings, the Gothic novel, luck.
Wednesday. Starting around lunch time, Izabella and I help Film-maker Jessica get her flat ready for the Independence Day party. It's duly in shape by time festivities begin in the evening, with lots of alcohol, water, sausages, and potato salad. I meet several lovely people in the mingle. After this ends go with Robin, Krisztian, Zsofi, Tamas to do a couple of Tarot readings outside a cafe in the warm night air facing the big synagogue. Oxana arrives, we decide she should consult the cards also, and she & I end up carousing in a dance-only location several streets away. She leaves her half-bottle of Martini hidden in a potted shrub outside and it's still there when we leave 3/4 of an hour later. A brief discussion about paradise and menthol cigarettes with a man on a bicycle called Gabor, and then at about 3am I'm alone crossing the small korut at Deak where two pretty girls from North Wales accost me, asking directions. I share my cheese with one, and get the other to speak a sentence of Welsh for me.
Tuesday. So there is this standard pack of sliced cheese which formerly cost 379 forints in the supermarket near Michael's flat for 1/4 lb, that is slightly over 1 pound sterling for 4 oz, so around GBP 4.50 to five quid per lb. I bought it sometimes, and then it went up to 489 forints, one day to the next, so I stopped. It brought back memories of people laughing in the early 1970s when critics of the EEC said joining would raise prices of meat in Britain to over one pound per pound (which of course it did). This was sneered at back then as doomsaying hysterical nonsense, and no-one even dared speculate cheese would go above a pound a pound. That was simply regarded as beyond satire. After a while at the nearby supermarket (recall that this is a low-income country which has enough agriculture to feed itself) at 489 the price suddenly went back down to 379 forints once more. Once or twice I bought this 1/4 lb pack of sliced smoked cheese again. 2 or 3 days ago it returned to 489 again, so I stopped again. Some kind of marketing mind-game technique?
Monday. Facebook hiding inaudible messages in TV ads? Nice.
Sunday. AI article discusses running artificial online culture histories at increased speeds to develop computer IQ more swiftly. Confident!
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