to links pages 
phone texts to 00 36 30 610 1271 & 00 44 794 792 6614
Sunday. Chomsky on Newton.
Saturday. 2003 child-murder
claims. Forgiveably shouty.
Friday. Show Lorinc my goose drawing. Elsewhere, schoolboy
finds lost city.
Thursday. Catalans dicing with AIDS? Bit News-of-the-Worldy.
Wednesday. Trees have soul:
Tuesday. Last week's Petrograd radio mix quite good:
Saturday. Sugar icings in Urals: stronger, more gloss than puny cake of Western weakness!
Friday. Lorinc challenges me to draw a goose. Closer up than this friend's photo, though.
Alex & I chat about
Russian car-crash videos. After dark Akos breaks the back off my
chair 2 by accident after laughing at my chisel work on
chairs 3 & 4
not being so good. He's right, it isn't really.
Wednesday. Weather continues to be wet, dry, warm & cold in unpredictable succession. The trees love it though. Street trees are suddenly big & bulky with thick pale-green leaf. A claim that Britain's economy is doing well.
Tuesday. Drop over to Deborah & David's flat for lunch. + Britain's traditional blue letter boxes.
Monday. Cruel but fair pastiche of Alain de Botton writing about love.
Sunday. Canadian adolescents discover their parents are Russian spies. Deep undercover. While cross-dressing retired British spy helps woman "hide with hippies in the woods".
Saturday. Peter encourages me to look at HTML5 with a fresh screen.
Friday. Bernardo Kastrup podcast interview: his attack on philosophical materialism + transcript with dodgy spelling. Meanwhile, has your password & account been compromised? Check here.
Thursday. Small hours this morning finished a book borrowed from Robin: 'New Art from London' by Chris Townsend. A bit dispiriting as a read, this 2006 book aims to describe what a later wave of artists based there were doing 15 years after artists around Damien Hirst & the Chapman Brothers were making waves in the early 1990s. The socialist viewpoint is so reflexive and taken for granted that every 3rd or 4th page carries a glib reference to "neoliberalism", "the priorities of entrepreneurs", or "global capital", assumed to be the obvious reference for any artistic activity today. After approvingly quoting Habermas on page 180, attacking how "the materialistic West" encounters other cultures, Townsend writes "The catastrophes that afflict the West now (9/11; the Madrid train bombings; suicide bombers in London and whatever else may follow), as well as those massacres that happen daily in Iraq, are largely a sign of the way that this version of modernity works, seeking to subsume other cultures in its materialism, rather than extending a hospitality towards them, a hospitality that, rationally, could acknowledge differences." This quote's clunky style ("a sign of the way that this version of modernity works"), simultaneously evasive and pompous, shows hardened habits of mind. The possibility terrorism might be largely driven by civilisations or forces outside the West never crosses his mind, because any cause outside western 'capitalism' would undermine Marxism's pretensions to explain everything. The idea that the West has in fact been hospitable to other cultures, precisely acknowledging differences, and the idea that this, the West's tolerance for differences and relaxed reluctance to assimilate incomers, might be the real enabler of terrorism - these two thoughts are likewise unthinkable for him. Viewed through his distorting lens, anything would seem drab, but I suspect that Townsend's mental filter is actually quite suited to the leaden irony of the artworks in this book.
vaguely glum-yet-elegaic paintings (from photos) of the West Midlands and some of
photographs of skies are the only works with any visual merit. The art & artists he gives most praise and attention to (the unsatisfying installations of
the anti-corporate filmed performances of
some multi-media work of
Jo Broughton's deliberately bleak, banal photos of Canvey Island;
miniature landscapes of supermarket packaging; the cartoonish debris of
paintings of "marginal" spaces;
fake miniature landscapes; the rocky chunks of
almost all seem "richly informed by" (that's to say, shallowly deluded by) dislike of Britain and business. I don't think this is Townsend misrepresenting their work - he's probably describing their aesthetic ideology quite fairly. Even art of the kind the NY-based American-photographer duo The Hilton Brothers do (example) could in his eyes veer dangerously close to the frivolous or decorative, I assume. To earn the approval of Mr Townsend, London-based artists must strive to be dourly unenjoyable, austerely theoretical, & politically didactic. Should take their pleasures sadly, in fact.
Part of the trick with this kind of writing about hyper-ironic retro-beyond-unmodernist post-whatever art is to use indirect phrases which suggest all sorts of clever stuff going on beneath the surface. Tensions are embodied, boundary situations are worked through, "language just isn't that innocent", performances of the self are "recapitulated". Words like 'sedulous', 'haptic', 'inhere' drop in occasionally to add casual authority to the prose. A typical sentence reads "Looking at her cramped, provisional studio space, one can't help seeing the work as an oblique commentary on 'modernity', fashion, and art's role as a catalyst in that process." One just can't help it. Considering the number of remarks Townsend makes about artists gentrifying unfashionable bits of London to the benefit of property developers, a brief mention of Sharon Zukin's detailed 1989 book-length study of just "that process" ('Loft Living') might have raised the bar a little.
Writing about Ryan Gander's project to present a fictional indie music band with mocked-up photos, packaging etc, Townsend adds in brackets "The history of bohemia is in part one where each generation apes the anti-bourgeois posturing of its forebears. In a mass cultural age where bohemia has no spatial or temporal identity, but has itself developed into a brand, it has become a tradition continued in the largely spurious opposition manifested by bourgeois children playing music to annoy their parents." That knowing little explanation, so sure of itself, unwittingly sums up the art & criticism presented in this book.
Wednesday. Lovely day out to Vienna with Paul, Deborah, & David. Refreshing! Gorgeous visuals in the Mozart museum.
Tuesday. More from the Dilbert creator who's been predicting for over a year now that The Honey Monster will succeed.
Monday. For anyone who rates biometrics, see how the FBI makes fake biometric science up out of whole cloth. Entire fake subjects in fact.
Sunday. A couple of new (to me) approaches to uniting the pesky quantum things. 1) You can entangle particles over time. 2) Space & time might be made of quantum entanglement.
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
Saturday. Robin & I repair to the snazzily-named Dzzs bar. Almost certainly this address was previously Sixtus, but now thankfully minus the suffocating cigarette smoke. We meet Daniel, maker of this film documentary about Moroccan Beat exile Paul Bowles (catching him part way into a lingering death, by the look of the trailer).
Friday. Colouring books will release demons, it has emerged.
Thursday. Been curious for a few years (no, really) why chain-mail underwear isn't more mainstream. I assume it's uncomfortable, but that's never stopped them. Should have guessed Russian girls might pick up that metallic gauntlet.
Dutch philosopher Bernardo Kastrup uses baking foil to explain how he thinks universal consciousness splits itself into individual minds. All 6 short talks are good, but poor outdoor sound recording makes his voice too quiet on 2 & 4. Mildly annoying plinky music with visual Matrix trope, but not too intrusive.
Wednesday. After our lesson today, Dr D. shows me a small exhibition of editorial art downstairs by a one-time labour-camp inmate and New York Times illustrator.
An electronic-accessories critic makes slightly heavy weather out of finding the Apple smartwatch a bit irritating. Meanwhile the BBC delicately repositions itself on the climate debate. After the headline that extra CO2 is helping greenery, dutifully balanced against lip-service that rising sea levels are still a terrible & inevitable danger, note how at the end of the article some quiet hedging creeps in as the weakening of the global-warming case continues to sink in.
Tuesday. Zsuzsi utters a wondrous oath of emnity against members of her own fair sex she sees as
"negative freak maddo bitches".
Via Anti-Market-Garden Mark, a rather touching whinge by a "historian". Someone whose book on the superbly-named James Jesus Angleton's career blunders has been foiled by the CIA's Keepers Of Embarrassing Secrets.
Monday. Petrograd DJ in her radio show #368 and better-dressed but not quite such good music in show #369.
Sunday. 5 times Madonna sucked the life force out of a young musician. So Maxim magazine has words in it too, not just comely maids snapped in their undergarments. Not bad writing.
Saturday. 6 reasons men are avoiding marriage, narrated in airport toilet symbols.
Friday. Young Lorinc, taking a break from "hardcore parkour", makes the fascinating remark that "everything's boring except television." He sketches out a future paradise where people are paid to watch television. Sounds rather like how my utopian friends envisage Basic Income working.
Thursday. A bit clever-clogsy as a case, but a nice clear restatement of the evolutionary argument against realism.
Wednesday. Why are so many girls cutting themselves? I saw this start and can confirm some of what the slightly repetitive article says.
Tuesday. The ragged building across the road is finally having its rendering redone. This started about 2 weeks ago with a funny image. Scaffolding walkways project about 3 feet out from the front which is itself about 3 feet out from the building on the left. Right at that end each level has a short 6-foot-long walkway facing down the street instead of across it. There on each of seven levels one workmen stood on the first day, each directly above the other, slouching, posing, being cool in different positions. Seemingly waiting for something, they made a vertical column of construction lads. A lot like a band of skiffle musicians on a 1961 record sleeve.
Here's how mediaeval adolescents got treated.
Monday. A list of 100 strenuously odd books. Seems offering a bizarre plot premise can sell a project. (Title misleads slightly: it's 99 or 98 deviant novels + 1 or 2 collections of strange short stories.) A story about bees, a tale told by a drug, lift operators in a parallel universe, the usual.
Sunday. 6 or 7 days ago performed a chore, defrosting the fridge, perfectly timing the on/off phases. So I could on the 3rd day cleanly lever out smooth thick slabs of ice with my fingers from the froster, leaving clean cold metal behind. Not one drop of water on the kitchen floor. An academic who defends methods distinct to the humanities.
Saturday. What seemed like a medium-sized scandal about an unmarried member of Britain's government having an affair for several months with a prostitute takes an unexpected direction.
Friday. Jewish Chronicle suggests a Muslim mayor of London might be a good thing.
Thursday. Garrulous American modern architect & socialite Philip Johnson seems to have had a forgotten pro-Nazi period far more intense than that of the proud & private Mies. I underestimated Johnson's chameleon charm.
Wednesday. Depressing (and not so informative) article saying human sacrifice helped create civilisation. Talking of civilisation, Ancient Rome builds.
Tuesday. Weather is warm & sunny again. Harsh profile of former Guardian editor.
Monday. One person I know ought to read this article: how to stop hash making you paranoid.
Meanwhile, famed cannabis smuggler Howard Marks is remembered by Philosophy Magazine because he almost pursued a career in academic philosophy.
Sunday. Book review: state involvement in the Victorian economy.
Saturday. Two afternoons ago, Thursday, just before meeting Akos, an amusing sight at the H&M store while I walked through the Corvin Plaza arcade. (When I mentioned it to Akos half an hour later, he chuckled and called the security men 'amateurs', explaining that in most shops they carry a remote control for the purpose.) In the second I was walking past the H&M exit I glanced to my right into the store to see a really gorgeous blonde walking towards me out through the theft-detection gates with several bags. Just behind her a security man waved an item looking like a clipboard against the gate and the alarm signal went off. The innocent blonde saw & realised nothing of what happened behind her back. She stopped because of the alarm and the other guard came over and went through each of her bags. She didn't just look lovely, but was perfectly turned out as well. The other guard as he shyly examined all her purchases was obviously smitten by her beauty. Two minutes' delay and she was on her way. A friendly favour from one security-guard lad to another, as Akos agreed when I related the story.
Around half past eleven at night find Robin at the nearby Trafo performance space as he comes out of some more experimental music with space-time sculptress Villo and curator-gallerist diva Eszter. We have quite a long natter with the two art maidens about intoxicants and Faustian creativity.
Friday. Events gather momentum.
New Moon. Thursday. Akos moves our afternoon lesson to the sun-warmed children's playground of Grund where we feast on cold beer and hot spicy hamburger. Minutes later it goes dark and Robin & Simon turn up outside my flat in a taxi, taking me back to the building-site area behind Grund to attend an experimental-music event by a friend of his at a stylishly shabby little bar called Golya (Stork). I wax lyrical on the lost sensuality of Victorian femininity, praising several Felix Vallotton prints showing tightly-framed moments of bourgeois tenderness: such as this one and this other one, not to mention
this, and this. Talking of experimental music and femininity, some songs by Canada's favourite sent-down neurology student - Grimes:
Wednesday. A brewery in Dundee has created two confusing new products: a marmalade-flavoured beer, plus a beer thick & sticky enough to spread on toast like marmalade. Boardgame Orsolya explains today when we meet slightly more clearly what she means about allowing the cosmic will to overrule our conscious minds.
Tuesday. One of our book's contributors reports on how demand for oil is now so low that lots of ocean-going tankers are parked at sea or chugging around looking & waiting for better prices before unloading their black liquid sticky stuff.
Monday. This hacked database of offshore accounts (the 'Panama Papers') is going to dominate headlines for a week or two, so here are several links. How Icelandic anti-bank-fraud activists engaged in bank fraud; how someone wrote it up for the Guardian; and, via Mary, how the Americans are taking this grand stash of tax naughtiness dirt. In case all that's just too depressing, here for musical relief is Funki Porcini and 'Zombie' (obviously this has to be the Crippled Dick Hot Wax selection of Jerry van Rooyen remixes - I'm sure you all knew that already), followed by Funki Porcini's Dubble'.
Sunday. More work on proposal. Positively
sinister trend in US prisons.
Saturday. Busy working on book proposal, either side of a brief coffee with the charming Kerrie & John. Meanwhile:
(1) Minimum wages increase unemployment;
(2) Smoke too much cannabis and be increasingly unemployed;
(3) Criticise EU institutions and lose your employment rights (Especially if your book accurately predicts how the euro will fail). Surely not!
Friday. Authoritarian former Home Secretary Charles Clarke might get his wish at last: no phone-buying without ID. April Fools R Us.
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