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*1

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linguistic philosophy

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non-language links

to links pages [1] [2] [3] [4] /
phone texts to 00 36 30 301 0712 & 00 44 794 792 6614

@ / links / languages? / pins / archive / book


*2


*3

*4

October 18th; Saturday. Intriguing-looking book about Celtic Europe.

October 17th; Friday. Catching a crowded bus through Buda between two lessons, I ask a woman politely if I can move past her towards the back. "Are you serious?" she sneers bitterly, resentment welling up as disbelief that I could make such a request. Yes I'm serious, I reply, there's more room down there. Over several stops I inch my way towards the back where a new wave of angry standing women passengers are packing themselves around an empty seat. Strictly speaking this is a curious one-and-a-half-width seat which takes up almost the same width as two single seats but with no divide. Perhaps designed for one monstrously fat person. One thin weary man smelling of drink is sitting there, leaning against the window, leaving plenty of room to his right. I ask the angry women if they would like to sit in the vacant "half-seat" area, wider than anyone's buttocks. "That's not a seat", says one of the women at me, seething. It's obviously a seat, I say calmly. Any of us could clearly fit in it, and there would be more room for the standing people. Ambient hatred of me among the standing women edges up a notch. I squeeze past the standers and sit down, able to suddenly enjoy the spaciousness of the non-seat without even touching the thin weary man smelling of drink. See? I remark to the angry women. Plenty of room. There is space to my left, and I am not overlapping the seat edge on my right. "That's not a seat", repeats the cross woman in the way some women have of never ever admitting they're wrong. Probably they loathed having no choice but to sit next to a man with an alcohol aroma, and in the heat of their indignation felt that no-one else must sit there either. After a while, my asking which stop to get off at accidentally wakes the weary man up. He and a pretty girl with dark hair are the only passengers who know and can explain clearly exactly which stop I need. The man knows which direction I should go in from there. He is friendly. He explains I must go through a set of underpass tunnels. I get off the bus and descend into the underworld. The tunnels are painted in that shrill-but-tired 1970s orange-cum-pink that anywhere in Europe signals urban decay, left-wing council politics, and industrial unemployment. Large, clear signs are placed at corners for stairs to different bus and tram routes, although none of them mention the number 1 tram, the most important one. I quickly get out of the warren of tunnels at the right place, however, by following the thin weary man's instructions.
October 16th; Thursday. Confirmation that Nixon (and Kissinger) sabotaged Vietnam peace talks in 1968 to win the presidency. My Apple laptop is sick. Again.

October 15th; Wednesday. More news (from the journal that bites the hand that feeds IT) about ice sheets not quite being time bombs after all: one / two / three.
October 14th; Tuesday. As we get into the car with our bags ready to drive to Vac in intermittent cloud & sun, the chestnut horse Solero is munching grass a few yards away. I step towards it to wish it goodbye. The horse, sensing an opportunity, comes right up to me and buries his whole head in my chest and armpit. He rubs his face against my shirt vigorously to get rid of some flies. That might count as a farewell gesture, I suppose. During the drive across country, I talk - at perhaps a bit too much length - about what I take to be the Romantic mistake in seeking the forgotten spiritual at the interface between the mind and the body, somewhere in the dark, visceral labyrinth of the Gothic Novel. Tasty lunch in the country town of Vac, a little up the Danube north of Budapest, at a restaurant with outdoor tables softly playing what a previous generation might have called testcard music. Later we enter a bathroom-fittings showroom in Obuda with background music slightly jazzier & more ...Latin? The showroom has lots and lots of bath taps & wall tiles.

October 13th; Monday. I finish Laura's copy of 'Divergent', a novel by Veronica Roth (that link contains plot spoilers if you read too much). Like the Hunger Games books another of my students lent me last year, this is a dystopian story aimed at young adults set in a post-apocalyptic version of the USA. In this case it's a crumbling metropolis (roughly based on Chicago) seemingly half a century or so into the future. Or perhaps an alternative version of the present. Society in the future is divided into five big tribes or "factions" with clearly-defined lifestyles & missions, and all 16-year-olds must decide whether to stay in the faction their family brought them up in, or whether to change faction and be almost completely cut off from their family. A parable of growing up, complete with the familiar US teenage horrors of fitting into cliques, being popular etc, combined with the never-ending American adult ache for identity, roots, a lineage, a code to live by. Although in parts it had the slightly stripped-down feel of a video game, the page-turning effect works. Moralistic and surprising without being too cloying. Of course words like Erudite or Abnegation or Amity (names of factions) count as exotic language for most of the target readers, so they function here a bit like Burgess's Russian-based street slang phrases in Clockwork Orange. Apparently this novel was written on a creative-writing course, which is interesting to know.
October 12th; Sunday. Robin sits at an outdoor table sipping warm milky coffee nearby while I try out the trampoline, chatting with him about meditation. My chunky glass of cold black coffee is between us on the wooden bench. Solero the horse wanders up, bends his head over the back of the wooden bench, and starts trying to fit his nose and mouth into my tumbler of cold coffee, not knocking it over, but sliding it around on the wooden bench. He is clearly very interested by the scent of the coffee. Robin tells him several times to stop it and finally the horse reluctantly agrees to leave my drink alone.

October 11th; Saturday. I take a train to Kuszentmarton after dark, and since part of the track is up, we are decanted off the train and onto a bus for a 15-minute ride, and then back onto the train. Hungarians handle this sort of thing rather well in general, with big clear notices, lots of people in uniforms standing around directing passengers, and surprising amounts of common sense.
October 10th; Friday. Kirigami, or paper cut-out doilies, as clothing.

October 9th; Thursday. More of the interesting rumours swirling around since Hockney's interesting book again suggesting that Renaissance painters used either early photography or quasi-photographic tools, hundreds of years before Niepce finally fixed light-sensitive chemicals in the 1830s. Recalling young Lorinc's striking dream from a fortnight back that he and a tiger playmate in a jungle discovered a hanging rope, went up it and found themselves in a higher desert where Lorinc had to play the piano for an audience.
October 8th; Wednesday. Occasional tantalising flashbacks of warm sunny weather. Expensive engagement rings predict divorce - is that good news or bad?

October 7th; Tuesday. More of this trend where you're guilty until you prove yourself innocent.
October 6th; Monday. Read an old exhibition catalogue, beautifully illustrated, in Robin's library, for a 1985 Tate Gallery retrospective of the paintings of 'Francis Bacon'. The essays inside about Bacon's working method, his influences, and his artistic obsessions are well-expressed without getting entirely to the core of Bacon's ghastly on-canvas chamber of horrors. Not quite expressionist, not quite portraitist, Bacon's sitters hover somewhere between abstraction and the figurative, surrounded by flat blocks of house paint, smeared or scratched oils, and cloud trails of aerosol spray-on colour. Inspired (as the critics mention in this catalogue) by an awful line from the Greek playwright Aeschylus about a "smile that reeked of blood", Bacon's figures almost decompose into suffering blobs with open wounds instead of faces. He is fascinated by the glistening shine of spittle. For me they always seemed a mixture of the slightly puerile shock/horror side to British avant-garde you see in film-makers like Peter Greenaway or the 1960s playwrights set loose by the removal of the Lord Chancellor's right to censor stage plays, and something else more important. Bacon is struggling to cut a path between the abstract & the figure, and the difficulty he has doing so is testament to how dehumanising the background effect of abstract painting had already become, how removed from most viewers' sympathy and respect was the painted person by the 1940s. Bacon tries to steer clear of the main currents of 20th-century art, tries to do something alone, entirely his own, with post-Cubist, post-Expressionist, post-Surreal depiction, and what he finds left in this bleached-out artistic space is pretty desolate.

October 5th; Quiet Sunday. Tunelet.
October 4th; Saturday. Under white, cloudy skies take train to Kecskemet. Zsuzsi & Letty pick me up from the station. Later Robin photographs the front page of the magazine carrying my latest article.

October 3rd; Friday. A 2-hour conversation lesson spans universal consciousness and bullion, which I chirpily suggest is made of moonbeams & sunbeams held hostage in dungeons.
October 2nd; Thursday. Start groundwork for the #purewater project.

October 1st; Wednesday. Spend whole day sleeping on sofa, dreaming strange bacterial dreams: feverishly vivid, yet oddly mundane in content. Speaking of the inner world of bodies, hormones, and overwhelming moods, here's a guide to women's cycles based on peer-reviewed studies, but with nicely laid-out visuals.


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.

So?

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

back up to top of page

*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

useful:

.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

other web diaries:

.a political refugee from the global village
.enigmatic mermaid
.languagehat
.billy
.francis
.samizdata
.patrick
.rainy day
.varangy
.diaries abroad
.hereinside
.samuel pepys
.hasanpix
.ehsan
.cora
.mychronicles
.openbrackets
.whump
.sargasso

also useful:

.country domain names
.language-learning 1 2
.find old websites
.fine HTML tutorial
.webhost
.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 numbers
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


films

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; Tuesday. Waiting for Akos tonight I get a bottle of mineral water and decide to wait outside on the street so as to grab him and do our lesson in the cafe again. Only tonight when searching for the two benches that used to be outside the building do I realise they have gone, and have been missing for months. What kind of observer am I? Half asleep, that's what kind. The building and the one next to us is stepped back from the road, leaving room for flower plots and some ugly 1980s-modernist-style angled six-or-seven-foot-long pathlets with cobblestones coloured differently from the main pavement. If you're a designer and you totally lack imagination or taste, do something two-tone. These pathlets stab in all at the same slant from the kerb between shin-high-walled greenery plots in a way that's annoying for about 70% of any possible routes you might want to walk from the front door to get across the road. Straight ahead or angled right are both frustrated by the way they're laid. The benches were bolted into two of these strips and cobbles have been replaced so even looking closely now I cannot tell exactly where the benches were, which angled Cobble Zones they were in, only try to remember. Akos forgets to come for his lesson, but forced to sit on the front steps of my building with my mineral water in the almost-warm evening light, I feel strangely blissful about things overall. Attila's antibiotics are starting to bite at last.
Excerpt from a fascinating-sounding book about Late Antiquity; "This book is about some of those real differences and the development of the ideologies that crafted them. In this case, the competing worldviews of 'Christian' and 'Hellenic' (i.e., Greek) philosophers. It argues that one can identify when and where these worldviews split for good: in the 260s CE, in Rome, in the reading group of the great Neoplatonic philosopher Plotinus."

September 29th; Monday. Review of a neo-Hobbesian history book that argues war is what ensures peace.
September 28th; Sunday. Never heard 1970s singer Laura Nyro before. Her thumping tune 'Eli's Coming' leaves quite an impression of Eli, Laura, and women in general.

September 27th; Saturday. Attila drops by and gives me some antibiotics. Just as well: my persistent 9-day-old infection starts by night to turn into a cough. It's digging in its heels.
Thought-provoking article about materialist worldviews & taboos.
September 26th; Friday. Interesting research suggests that wherever in the US people owned slaves poverty still blights black and white people, a century and a half on.

September 25th; Thursday. Finish book borrowed from Laura 'The Magic of Reality', a rather lovely picture book written by Richard Dawkins and illustrated by Dave McKean. There are only a couple of mistakes (the old canard that glass is a very viscous liquid slowly "flowing" down old windows on page 81, and the slit drawn wrongly in the diagram for Newton's light-spectrum experiment). On the other hand, the explanation of weight not being mass, and how gravity imposes elliptical orbits is exemplary. Dawkins is spot on about the strange particularity of old creation myths (such as why precisely forty days?) and he has fun gently mocking how legends tried to explain the world before science got going. A good book for children, though somehow I sense the kind of child who enjoys it will have read all this stuff before. Some nice illustrations.
September 24th; Wednesday. In the midst of my illness, slipping in and out of mild fever, the texture of my dreams has completely changed. I suppose I am very slightly delirious the whole time, the back of my neck constantly sticky and wet, but the dreams do not feel like they are mine at all. I fall asleep and at once am in coherent detailed stories that seem to be broadcast on some internal television channel from God knows where. I wake out of them refreshed, still engrossed in matter-of-fact stories of vividness and everyday otherness I cannot remember since childhood. Talking of dreams & stories, here's a thoughtful criticism of the Harry Potter creator's adult novels. I remember having the same problem with the Harry Potter books themselves, stopping reading the first half halfway through. I was impressed by her storytelling craft but something quietly bitter, something hidden & false, made me not care to re-enter the story. Also recall my wizard, as I called him, remarking he had seen Rowling's face in an interview and sensed strongly that she had tried the occult herself for real, with consequent damage to her character.

September 23rd; Tuesday. Since my flat is rank with disease and bacteria, I take Akos to the corner cafe for our lesson. In the midst of an interesting chat with smart-phone calculator apps to hand, he tells me one 1970s fighter jet had 8,000 metres of copper wiring in each aeroplane: five miles. Was it the F15?
September 22nd; Monday. Liking the pale-green wristwatch I bought a fortnight back from the toy shop right next to the middle-of-mall cafe tables where I meet Boardgame Orsolya twice a week. It's performing well so far. It channels my inner 9-year-old with its chunky translucent day-glow-coloured plastic scuba-diving-style nonsense and its excellent price of slightly above one pound sterling. However it has one mysterious quality which is irritating, and clearly deliberate. It runs slow - about four minutes a day. Enough to cause serious lateness if you go 4 or 5 days without resetting it. Since it has a digital display and no moving parts, it's hard to escape the conclusion that the delay was designed in (about as much work, if not more, as building it to just be accurate) to make its little customers upgrade to another, more expensive timepiece sooner rather than later. The brightly coloured one-pound plastic wristwatches I used to buy - one a year - in the 1980s from sweet shops all ran on time. But of course the business cockroaches have learned since then - think we adults are allowed to get a cheap reliable chronometer even for a year just by buying one marketed to children? Ho no no, consumer filth, think again.
In other developments, you wear a blindfold for 4 days, you start to see things.

September 21st; Sunday. Not sure I have beaten that cold I wanted to go to bed at 8pm on Friday to head off after all. It hovers worryingly in the background, marshalling its forces. Here's a depressing article about how life fell apart for the reporter who first broke a detailed investigation of routine CIA involvement in Latin American cocaine trading. "And then I wrote some stories that made me realize how sadly misplaced my bliss had been. The reason I'd enjoyed such smooth sailing for so long hadn't been, as I'd assumed, because I was careful and diligent and good at my job," Webb wrote. "The truth was that, in all those years, I hadn't written anything important enough to suppress."
September 20th; Saturday. Breakfast with Robin in the concrete pseudo-square behind the shopping centre. Slightly chilly, with cloudy skies. A couple of interesting stories: one populist newspaper claims the sex-scandal rumours we've heard about Leon Brittan's behaviour in the 1980s were actually started by spooks in British intelligence in a private vendetta against him; and meanwhile an intriguing article says the phrase 'conspiracy theorist' was created by a CIA propaganda unit to smear (as mentally unstable) anyone puzzled by the hardly-credible official accounts of the two Kennedy murders.

September 19th; Friday. Garden football with young Lorinc. Robin appears in evening.
September 18th; Thursday. Teach new students. Scots vote today on independence. Things quite emotional on both sides of the debate.

September 17th; Wednesday. Budapest as only a few of us know it. Here, worried by an epidemic of suicides in the 1930s, and as a result setting up eerie-looking 'smile academy' courses to get Hungarians back into their usual cheery mood.
September 16th; Tuesday. Farewell to Balint, whom I've been teaching for a couple of years. Off on his great adventure to New Zealand in just a few days. Confirming what we secretly knew all along about the Arab Spring: democracy never had much chance there.

September 15th; Monday. Harsh but useful truths on searching for erotic love.
September 14th; Sunday. More rain. Sometimes it's loud, hundreds of high-pressure hoses roaring down into the street, a semi-tropical downpour. Since you're all on camera now, time to become Leo.

September 13th; Saturday. Tedious amounts of rain. This has been the rainiest summer I can remember in this country. A transparent tub of coconut fat has been sitting on my table for months, and it functions like a simple thermometer. If it is a clear yellowy liquid then it is very warm. If it is clear but cloudy, then warm. If verging on waxy gel then mild, and if a solid block of white wax then it's cold. Meanwhile, do aircraft evolve like animals? An interesting new view on why that Anglo-French state-funded hi-tech white elephant failed.
September 12th; Friday. A strange day. One of my English conversation students tells me in her office that I should liberate my dark side, and be unafraid to use the left-hand path in certain cases. The other conversation student tells me in the cafe of a shopping centre that she has found out how to empty herself of self and has discovered that we are all one soul in many bodies. I have the odd feeling that these two pieces of advice might be compatible. Meanwhile, here's a handy explanation of how payments in book publishing work.

September 11th; Thursday. A chirpy Hungarian song-rap by a male duo. The accompanying video gives a good idea of how Hungarian men view the Hungarian girls they go out with. The gist is the old male complaint that if you don't tell us what the problem is, we can't address it can we?
September 10th; Wednesday. Intriguing short radio broadcast about the prowess of a certain tribe that gives Kenya some of its best athletes.

September 9th; Tuesday. Got through my 2nd-hand copy of what seems to be the standard Hungarian middle-school 'Tortenelmi Atlasz / Historical Atlas', which has quite a lot of content for the little ones to absorb. Some wonderful maps with rich colours, and lots of actual detail. Not as Magyarcentric as I expected. Some excellent stuff in there: page 18 has a map of the Italian peninsula 7th to 4th century BC confidently dividing it up into coloured zones for Etruscans, Sabines, Greek colonies, Carthaginian colonies, and the small enclave of Latins just south of Rome; page 20 ventures to give an economic breakdown of the whole Roman Empire in the 2nd century AD with tasteful little icons of cows, horses, bunches of grapes, symbols for lead, silver, tin, iron dotted all across Spain, England, France, the Balkans. In a book packed with so much info there are inevitably going to be some mistakes: on page 55 two small maps of the countryside surrounding Budapest in the 15th and 18th century are clearly the wrong way round. But the sheer coverage is impressive: Turkey in the First World War (page 91); China's economy in the 17th, 18th, and 19th century (page 75); late-19th-century development in New York (page 71); Aztec territory, Holy Roman Empire, Christian states in the Crusades - no complaints about the ambitious scope of the whole thing. The little ones then face a set of pages at the back with lists of names to memorise, such as Greek mathematicians (Archimedes gets classed as a natural scientist, not a mathematician) or Spanish philosophers. Seven composers make it into 20th-century musical culture, and Stravinsky, Schoenberg, and Ravel sit slightly oddly with Andrew Lloyd Webber and Ennio Morricone. Still, I know how those books get written, for what kind of pay, and I'm grateful that wasn't one of my deadlines.
September 8th; Monday. IKEA explain their new product, Apple-style. The bookbook.

September 7th; Sunday. Some interesting talks about quantum anomalies. A brisk 25-minute outline by a French-sounding researcher who asks Are there quantum effects coming from outside space-time? This is followed by a 'quantum information' talk at Google, by someone who says the many-universe model can be replaced by a zero-universe model (tragically he distracts himself at the end and forgets to answer the one questioner who politely asks him to say "a little more about what a zero-universe model might entail", a question several of us would love to have heard the answer to). Very clear in parts, quite technical in others. Finally a wonderfully lucid talk by Julian Barbour, the Oxford physicist who asks Does Time Exist? He goes nicely through the history of views of how time fits in with the physical universe and keeps his own theory as accessible as it can reasonably be.
September 6th; Saturday. Read a 2nd-hand paperback detective novel (haven't read one of those for years), reprinted in Penguin in 2005, the green of the old two-tone prewar covers now confined to a fill inside the penguin-mascot's half-inch logo ellipse. Translated into English from the Italian by Stephen Sartarelli, 'The Smell of the Night' by Andrea Camilleri was a good piece of escapist reading with convincing human observation by the detective hero, Sicilian gourmand/glutton Inspector Montalbano. Found this in the used-book store in the ugly disc-shaped sunken pedestrian area beside the 1960s concrete Southern Railway Station over in Buda where I got a couple of other bits of light reading not long back. I keep forgetting that Andrea is a man's name in Italian, but the picture of the fiercely bespectacled author, bald, check-shirted, and with cigarette, unmistakably shows a man. The translation felt slightly odd, with perfect English, but some of the prose very mildly stilted or stiff in places. Still, readable, and clever enough to be an entertaining mystery, yet believable as an authentic criminal case.

September 5th; Friday. Intriguing pic. If the illustrator sees this, I'd love to hear.
September 4th; Thursday. Anthony Daniels = Theodore Dalrymple on how vital it is to be "judgmental".

September 3rd; Wednesday. New office block on corner, finished four months ago, still has black crosses of tape in all the ground-floor windows.
September 2nd; Tuesday. Last week, popped in on Xenia at the new photocopy shop, next door to the old one. She showed me the curious translucent paperweights her father makes, and here they are.

September 1st; Monday. Important article about Keynes' famous (and the writer argues, dangerously overrated) essay criticising the Versailles peace terms against Germany after World War One.

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