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Saturday. Robin off in the rainy, muddy afternoon, playing squash with Letty at a club in a neighbouring town. Alone in the house I watch the long slow fade into dusk without switching on any lights inside, a rare pleasure. The Waks radio show #249 has a lighter, more lyrical feel to it - probably because a male guest DJ is there, softening her hard edges.
Friday. Esoteric Veronica is most insistent I should see a Tarot-reader she recommends in Szentendre. The office block on the corner still stands empty with black-tape crosses in most of the ground-floor windows, but for at least a month there has been a smart-looking finished office lobby in one section where a fat security guard keeps his glum lonely vigil round the clock. Rains in a dismal, half-hearted way all day. In the evening Robin arrives after dark and we drive down south in what is by now quite heavy rain.
Thursday. Nifty map plots different cultures in 2D space. Looks vaguely unfinished (though I thought this had been around a few years). The dark green zone seems to have no label, a couple of countries misspelled, but there are fascinating bits. Poland's Catholic version of the Danzig Corridor, for example, and the curious pairings, like Uruguay & Northern Ireland - or Romania & Iraq.
Wednesday. 2 security pieces: stealing fingerprints from photos & implanting false memories to create false confessions. Have an intriguing lesson with young Lorinc where he shows me round his complex of buildings he's constructed in Minecraft - I love the boxy clouds, like chunky white square jigsaw pieces hovering above. Then to Boardgame Orsolya, where next to the little paddock of fenced-in cafe tables in the middle of the floor of the shopping centre the Happy Box wrapping-paper store has vanished. At Christmas still a free-standing cuboid mini-shop out by the cafe tables, now just an empty expanse of tiled floor beside us, creating a slightly chilly mood of emptiness and isolation. As if the fake-packaging kit-assembly pseudo-shop inside the mega-mall had never been: tempora mutantur, nos et mutamur in illis.
Tuesday. They couldn't make films with titles like 'Lizard In a Woman's Skin' for much longer: everyone started to take everything literally quite soon after. Such as in the crass TV show 'V' just a decade later. Sexy Samantha recommends FKA Twigs, here impersonating Ishtar, Queen of All Heaven, several times over. Having smaller versions of yourself doing the erotic temple dances somehow very Babylonian. Oh and four more radio-on-film sets from Lady Waks, Russian drum-and-bass (or is it 'minimal techno'?) DJ:
Monday. Dark gloomy nonsense weather continues. So 2014 was the hottest year on record -
or maybe it wasn't. Striking estimate that 1/3 of the CO2 up there has been pumped out since 2000. Intriguing claim that Labour ministers knew in 2005 of global collapse danger coming in 06 or 07, but took no precautions & gave no warnings, quietly hurrying instead to get re-elected before it hit.
Sunday. Life at the moment very low-key: rest & recuperation to prepare for my next mission. Delicious burgers with Attila by night. Sad but interesting article on centuries of Crimean & Russian trading in pagan Baltic slaves.
Saturday. Someone a few weeks ago described oak as "the parmesan of woods", creating images that stay with me. A cheeseboard with curvy knife, arrayed with several differently shaped chunks of miniature timber, is one. Here's a thought-provoking history of how prewar car firms used public relations & media manipulation to manufacture the idea of jaywalking so as to criminalise & marginalise (geddit?) pedestrians. By the mid-1930s, streets no longer belonged to everyone.
Friday. The 'Blue Banana' is actually a thing. A French economic-geography thing.
Thursday. Chinese research tricks.
Wednesday. Politics x 4: Nordic Paradise nonsense; Il Papa's having us on; East Germans got Sovietised; Venezuela's doomed.
Tuesday. Still waking startled from eerily vivid dreams that seem as if they're someone else's. Some look a bit like this.
Monday. Bob from Philadelphia reappears after years, and we meet for midday coffee. He confidently predicts Democrat Hillary Clinton will win the 2016 US presidential election, and fairly easily. He explains that the things Mitt Romney had to say to be nominated Republican candidate in 2012 were the same soundbites that killed his chances of being elected president.
Sunday. Attend film audition for Casting Kata out past Eastern Railway Station, dusk clouds scudding across a luminous mid-grey sky. Walk round the shopping arcade there on way back. Inside pass one shop whose giant lettering labels it as "Women' Secret", and in another daring use of the grocer's apostrophe a store called "Marc O'Polo" transforms the great Italian traveller into a French Irishman. Mall full of vaguely bored couples wandering around together. Looking in on slightly androgynous Saint Petersburg drum-and-bass DJ Lady Waks again and her sets seem a little tighter than 2 or 3 years ago - perhaps I'm imagining it. There's still usually a ten-minute truck-tyre-machine-shop section at one part. Perhaps those bleaker, more grinding rhythm stretches might have a similar function to the minor-key movement in a symphony: something to move into and then away from to achieve a mood of return & resolution by the end. Still odd to see a radio show on a still camera: literally radio with pictures. Four sets:
Saturday. 1) Perhaps talent is genetic after all? 2) How
non-voters decide elections; 3) In the wake of Friday's killing of some cartoonists in Paris, more on that Muslim ban on images; 4) And finally a proper news story - astronomers are looking for giant lifeforms which eat entire stars.
Friday. Funny that really stylish tattoos are so rare. Or perhaps no stranger than most drawings being dull drawings.
Thursday. Genuinely good news: a fresh class of antibiotics. And for those who don't understand that diseases show evolution in action, the Mutating Mice of Madeira.
Wednesday. Adorable innovation at KLM, apparently flying again.
Tuesday. Budapest is chilly. Review of an odd-sounding fantasy novel.
Monday. Gyuri gives me a lift to the railway station in a nearby town. During the drive we chat about tree-pruning & forest-management; he has strong views on excessive pollarding. Quite right too. Last night with Robin & Bela watched 'Pulp Fiction' again after roughly two decades. Interesting to see how much it's dated, from looking so sharp when it was new. 80s film already looks strangely grainy and the lighting seems wrong, but this film, while being crisper & cleaner than 1980s film scenes, struck me as oddly slow & fake. The rooms looked "set-like", and the smart-arse dialogue has aged especially badly in parts. The plot twists are clever still but they play knowingly with conventions that weren't massively interesting in the first place. That might be what Tarantino shrugs off by defensively calling it 'Pulp Fiction'. Although two tough yet honourable characters are changed for the better by the end, their development still seems forced: the aftertaste's nihilistic.
Sunday. Blokes dress as tarts to serenade blokeness. Skater-bro stoner dudes make good woeful lack of buzz in bass. Gio from Rio & I walk outside, the frost-stiffened ripples in the lawn like hardened rubber underfoot. We cross the long shadows of sharp low winter sun to the spirits-and-jam hut. He & I join Robin & Lexi the foxhound, all of us watching Lacko demonstrating the still in action. Apricot schnapps was the first batch, and the second batch of mixed fruit is stewing. Quince might be next. Blue toxic methanol already run off, we all sample the mild first run of the second batch, tasting like pleasantly smooth fortified wine rather than spirits. We refuse the two large shaggy white Komondor bitches (widow & daughter of the genial but unhinged late Lupi) access to the hut, so they stay outside to cheerfully bully Lexi by the stack of yet-to-be-used roof tiles. Presumably, Sisi the daughter is bored with ripping chunks of cream-coloured fur out of her mother Domor's buttocks.
Saturday. Tasteful traditional fireplace on the Continent. Useful correction to the Islam-rescued-Western-civilisation fantasy. Houellebecq meanwhile, after being taken to court for "insulting Islam", tries a slightly different tack: thoughtful - even clever - interview.
Friday. New Year engages gears. Rather defeatist, if interesting: a senior doctor urges researchers to stop trying to cure cancer, because it offers "the best death". Also interesting is this article via tech-writer
cracker-Jacques - on which frame-refresh speeds look more or less natural to the human eye and why.
Thursday. In Robin's rural cell of good living we continue to eat our way through delicacies prepared by the Transylvanians or by Zsuzsi. We drink port, wine, & the local moonshine that Hungarians misdescribe as "fruit brandy", in fact more like fruit vodka - or schnapps. These types of grappa or slivovitz-type firewater range from plum and pear, through walnut or raspberry or cherry, to the fig schnapps Lacko is particularly proud of obtaining. Once the combined jam boiler and home still he built out of local unfired-clay bricks over the last few weeks is up and working, Robin's multilingual household will be consuming its own schnapps. On top of its own eggs, mutton, chicken, duck, veg & fruit, as it already is. Creative collaborations continue, with Gio from Rio & Robin out on frosty muddy walks doing landscape photography most days, while - back indoors - Robin & Zsuzsi discuss the refurbishing town-flat floor tiles and wall colours in painstaking detail.
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
New Year's Eve. My head cold escalated in recent days and I moved from the studio indoors to the warm library vacated by Lisa when she left on Monday. As I get iller Lacko & Joli begin (thank goodness) to ply me with super-strength antibiotics they obtained from folk in Transylvania. Tonight, after lots of daytime sleep, I am well enough to set out with Robin & Gio from Rio to the 11pm bonfire just between the garage and the recently-built hut for the schnapps still & jam boiler. This is where the New Year is to be welcomed in with the many friends and relatives of Lacko & Joli currently staying with them. We group round a pile of burning lintels drinking mulled wine and slowly noticing that even three feet away from the fire it's colder than we expected. As midnight passes and we move onto schnapps it goes gradually from minus 10 to minus 15 and some fireworks appear on the horizon from the neighbouring village over the rooftop of the chicken coop. The party's two 15-year-old girls take turns getting young Bela to escort them off into the chilly dark to survey the various bits of the farm. Around 2am, Gio's bravely restrained protests about the temperature begin to be taken seriously, and I help him into the warmth of the Transylvanians' kitchen. Outside meanwhile the stalwart trio of Laci, Levente, and Lacko (only freshly recovered from his own chest infection) stay in the bleak cold with Robin fanning the embers with a sheet of cardboard. They rake over the still-hot embers and starting to grill slices of the pig Zsuzsi had killed last week. They lay out the slices of meat on a heat-exchanger frame from the back of a cannibalised fridge, just the right size and shape to go on top of the glowing shards of yellow-hot wood between two bricks. Back within the packed warmth of their kitchen there is lentil soup, freshly-grilled pork, cake, and more squiffiness-inducing schnapps. The warm kitchen is also crowded with 4 or 5 women tending the groaning board, pouring drinks and warming soup for their men.
Here's a rather interesting article about the formal logic behind early Buddhism. An Asian tradition of logic very different from the Greek beginnings we know from Aristotle. No excluding the middle.
Tuesday. Finish Robin's or his friend Mike's copy of 'The Old Straight Track', the 1920s book by Alfred Watkins which first started researchers off on the search for ancient leylines across Britain & elsewhere. Written in earnest detail, specifying directions, walks to go on, and giving distances, Watkins makes a good case that a very old system of dead straight lines criss-crossed the British Isles linking sighting points, notches in ridges, artificial mounds, and pre-Christian shrines. He suggests it was largely an early form of direction-sighting, orienting travellers and traders. It was later writers like Michell who introduced more esoteric speculation about lines of energy or force, but Watkins, a late Victorian, had a much more down-to-earth view on the ancient landscape-surveying points & routes he helped rediscover.
Monday. A bold, confident excerpt from a book by a lesbian about turning straight women. Probably meant to sound sensuous & masterful rather than snippy & tiresome. In contrast, a long article about
a Dutch psychology researcher who faked his results. One of those meticulous, carefully researched pieces by an American magazine writer and in the end you wonder a little bit why. + several scientists & philosophers asked
which scientific idea deserves to die? Fine question. Feeble responses.
Sunday. Head cold continues. Chilly here in Hungarian rustic hideaway. Furniture designer extols use of sticky tape. Not drinking at all harms health? The free-will chestnut roasts on. Some compatibilist dodging around mulberry bush by Dennett.
Saturday. Do a little work checking Laura's homework solutions. Some chill Tokyo club tracks from Antennasia. Production a tad lush, as the music journalists used to say:
Mamma Mamma /
Qus-cus - The Cat in the Mirror.
Boxing Day. In the gloom and long shadows of mid-winter interlocking shapes slowly drift together. Lisa solves the nine-piece jigsaw puzzle that defeated me last winter. She does this from first principles with her own reasoning, disdaining shortcut cheats like consulting the internet for photographs of the solution pattern. Robin, Lisa, & I watch 'Kind Hearts & Coronets' starring Alec Guinness as almost everybody. Set perhaps 4 or 5 decades before it was made in the 1950s, judging from the women's fashions. What's interesting is that at least two people in the past related in detail to me an incident from this film which isn't there. In this incident (presumably from some other Ealing comedy) an army general sees a toy tank trundle into his study, bends down to inspect it, and gets shot dead by it. This moment was so clearly related to me and knitted so well into this film's plot I can almost see it in my mind's eye - yet surprisingly it isn't in Kind Hearts & Coronets. Nonetheless, the story is excellent, smoothly told by a voiceover, with a good script. The black-and-white shots of an almost-lost comic England of precise manners, handsome buildings, and people who speak in full sentences, are beautifully judged. The psychological realism of the tale gently blurs into an unrealistic but neat dramatic tableau at the close.
Christmas Day. Soreness in tree-jabbed right eye eases during day. Joli & Lacko prepare more tasty food after yesterday's feast. We (Robin, Lisa, Gio, Bela & I) watch 'Withnail & I' while both girls & Kasper visit a scene of Dionysian revelry in nearby village.
Christmas Eve. Learning how to learn. Giotto depicts Francis, creator of the first model manger. Letty drives Lisa & me to an evening service at a Catholic chapel in the next village, Tiszakurt. Sermon on the theme of possibility. Service packed so we have to stand in the corridor. A lad in glasses tells us that the previous priest was murdered by some Gypsies about a year ago, so this priest is new. On the way out as we leave, a dark low-hanging tree branch jabs me in the eye.
Last night, crossing the grass the Plough and Pole Star seemed absurdly large and close over my head, bigger in the sky than I'd ever seen them. Tonight, they're far more normal in size, and a puzzle piece clicks into place.
Tuesday. Quiet day on Hungary's Alfold or Great Plain with Gio from Rio, Lisa from London, & Robin's children from right here. Paris Match interviews French airline executive who thinks that the first of the two recent ill-starred Malaysian flights might have been shot down for approaching a military airbase on Diego Garcia.
Monday. Christmassy angelic hosts flank apartment hearth goddess. During busy scrambling around town in the day a wonderfully restful early-afternoon interlude of hot Thai soup with long-lost Rob. We talk about shysters in general and one extraordinary Hungarian adventurer in particular. This man, early in the 20th century, became a Buddhist monk, a Liberal MP, a spy, and escaped from prison on the Isle of Wight.
Robin arrives after dark with Letty, Zsuzsi, & Lisa for the drive down to the Great Plain.
Sunday. Strangely hectic day. Bracing bittersweet winter sun pours down my street in the morning. A swaggering polka-dot mini-skirted future as imagined in about 1965. A slightly bleaker, emptier, quieter future
as imagined now.
Saturday. More time with Paul from Romania having leisurely coffees before his flight, discussing ambition, destiny, love & the value of history. On the subject of Portuguese dictator Salazar, he says "He personally intervened to make sure Coca Cola would not be allowed to sell their disgusting drink in Portugal. He truly was the father of his people." In between anecdotes about men on trial for having close friendships with their dogs, he wisely avers that "Assassination is the sincerest form of flattery."
Friday. Meet Paul from Romania, though somehow we miss each other off the night train. He tells me some excellent stories about life in Bucharest. In the early evening, Boardgame Orsolya explains that conventional fatalism and free will are not the opposites they seem. Her view: personhood is a mistake, and thinking either that a) you have to be a person to act responsibly, or that b) not being a person allows you to act irresponsibly, creates a false dichotomy. Working with what she calls the free play of universal consciousness is, it appears, not something like either orthodox free will or orthodox determinism. Perhaps like swimming with and against various currents, a view I had decades ago but couldn't articulate well.
Thursday. For everyone out there called something like Chelonis or Spektre or Remo. People with normal names aren't allowed to make tunes like this.
Wednesday. Along with oil prices (since the semi-secret US/Saudi oil-production-increase deal) the ruble is collapsing this week. Has Putin been foiled, as they used to say? One friend says this week that ISIS/Daesh is a better arch-enemy wheeze than bin Laden because "he was just one dude, now they've got a whole legion of dudes".
Tuesday. Markets mock investors. Statisticians
Monday. Junior RBS employee writes open letter to Russell Brand. Amateur humourist better at humour than amateur economist is at economics.
Sunday. Naughty cheat where someone sings a supposedly authentic ancient Babylonian song despite having only lyrics yet no pitch notation, so the tune is made up. Quite pleasant - again a bit Dead Can Dance in feel - but I'm sure if the same reconstruction had been tried in the 1950s, the tune would have been guessed at totally differently. Meanwhile, here is the little-seen earlier version of Mona Lisa / Giaconda by da Vinci. She looks perhaps a decade younger, sweeter, and the background landscape's better too. Somehow cleaner, sharper.
Saturday. Are swingers in open relationships happier than other folk? Seems unlikely, but these researchers think so.
Friday. Fresh from viewing Esoteric Veronica's riverfront office some distance south in the 22nd district, glittering in strangely bracing, uplifting winter sun, I pick up the 2nd batch of prints from the printer and then find Harry outside his stylish fitness gym at 4.30pm, the streets by then completely dark.
December 11th; Thursday. Photo of Apollo space project software engineer + code.
December 10th; Wednesday. According to The Register, the US has the world's 2nd biggest welfare system, meaning biggest per person. North Korea, however, has the planet's largest submarine fleet.
December 9th; Tuesday. How could we forget the Daddy of the MacDaddy so quickly? After a flyby ale with the glamorous Kirsten, a wonderful surprise outing with Franc & Viki where, emboldened by a cherry-themed Belgian beer and a divine dinner, I ramble on about chivalric diplomats, lost civilisations, lesbians: the usual.
December 8th; Monday. Meet a charming illustrator for a drink and finish a text from Robin's library called 'The City of Florence' by R.W.B. Lewis. This is a curious combination of Florentine history, architecture, and anecdotes by a US writer who recounts how he first saw Florence as an army officer during World War Two, and came back again and again as an academic during the postwar years. There are episodes from the last 700 years. The book is rich in descriptions of the more recent centuries, visits late in the 19th century by American writers, and finishes strangely with write-ups of various much-loved shopkeepers and restauranteurs in several districts of the city. In places an awkward mix, there are nonetheless fascinating moments which other histories of Florence (once seeing itself as the new Rome) tend to leave out. The floods, the public debates about the placement of famous statues, the philistine dynamiting of the mediaeval city walls in the 1860s, its brief spell as the capital of the newly unified Italy, some family gossip of remarkable citizens who begat other remarkable citizens. Doesn't quite work as a book, but some fine bits.
Sunday. Met up again with Esoteric Veronica, her friend Ili, and Slovak Magyar Tarot reader Eva for some interesting discussion about the full moon and various turning points. Here an American conservative defender of public transit points out that cars and roads grew at the expense of bus and rail early in the last century due to massive government subsidies to road-building, combined with taxation of rail-based tram networks.
Saturday. Today joined Esoteric Veronica for a very enjoyable rock/classical spectacular thing she invited me and her friend Ili to at the large indoor stadium. Big music, big songs, big emotions: an audience of perhaps 12,000 was thoroughly entertained. The pianist at the centre of it clearly has the sure instincts of a proper showman. Light shows, dancers, video on a big screen all accompanied a programme of rousing orchestral numbers, ethnic song drum & dance pieces, intercut with a couple of quiet piano items for variation. A video back screen showed starry nights, orange clouds of fiery explosions, and slow-motion splashes of primary-coloured paint during one number where a woman singer seemed to be chant/singing (I might be wrong) "I'd-die-for-rock-and-roll-I'd-die-for-rock-and-roll-I'd-die-for-rock-and-roll---" at full belt. There was some Liszt and probably lots of other famous melodies, it all being too well blended and me being too ignorant of the classical canon for me to be sure, all put together with quick, well-rehearsed precision. The crowd applauded with sincere enthusiasm at every break. The overall effect was of
Hollywood thriller climax tunes crossed with the
Last Night of the Proms,
plus a smidgeon of
Dead Can Dance sprinkled over the top. A swelling, Proms-like ending had backscreen video speeding over valleys of sunflowers while black and white balloons descended on the audience.
Not so different, on the subject of emotional film scores, last night watched 'District 9', the imaginative 2009 alien-sci-fi film set in the Johannesburg slums. Some wonderfully convincing details, such as the way the South Africans refer to the ghetto aliens as 'The Prawn'. Hilarious and horrifying by turns, the bureaucratic back story is especially well sketched. If there is a flaw it was in placing the story 20 years into the future. 6 years, or 11, would have been fine for the tale to work. But, most unusually for sci-fi, a character persuasively undergoes real emotional change.
Friday. Yesterday was complex. Today more teaching. 2 articles about Putin & Russia:
Thursday. Remains of a big Norman palace have been found under Old Sarum, an odd hillock I've had my eye on for some time.
Wednesday. More dreary weather. I'm told plusher suburbs of the city had trees so iced up with freezing rain that heavier branches broke off and downed some power lines in the last day or two. Three different musical groups from sunnier climes or times that called themselves Something Continentals, evidently once a choice name that seemed to promise fame & fortune.
The Continental Cousins;
The Fabulous Continentals.
Tuesday. On train back to Budapest am able to get power socket in my carriage to work. Exult in the small victories, citizens. American radio broadcaster Ira Glass talks engagingly about
The Arabian Nights, about two ways in which his post-radio television appearances
changed his life, and about how he
became an atheist endearingly sympathetic to Christians' beliefs. Here Glass gives excellent advice on making good radio or television documentaries.
Monday. Tedious grey skies and drippy rain continue while I snuffle with a cold. Spend yesterday afternoon and all of today toiling over some 15-page business-plan document for a friend. Zsuzsi makes a nice piquant sauce with what's left of the
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