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linguistic philosophy

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mathematical linguistics

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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


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*4

August 26th; Wednesday. Pornographic political cartoons from the 1780s, attacking Marie Antoinette, the "Austrian bitch". Not quite the social-justice narrative revolutionary apologists depict.

August 25th; Tuesday. Lovely egg-shaped squeezee street map (of Budapest, indeed). But is it real? Have a dark suspicion this is one of those pretend images showing how it would look if we paid Denes to make one.
August 24th; Monday. Mr Dentist inserts 2nd new filling. An unmistakeably 1960s tune: Scott Fagan's 'In My Head'. Fascinating to look at that rumpled hair and fresh-but-lost face in the photo. It's as if every generation of young Americans find themselves cut loose, roaming round their spacious continent, not quite sure how they got there.

August 23rd; Sunday. The always-vital question of why & exactly when the chicks go wild.
August 22nd; Saturday. 5-day-old filling falls out. My split thumbnail on the other hand (accident with some scissors) seems nicely stabilised by the disc of thin metal I cut from a vitamin B6 pill sheet, superglued onto the split and sanded down smooth. And now, a mildly novel answer to where all the aliens are.

August 21st; Friday. How many drowning children should you rescue?
August 20th; Thursday. The Day of The Hand. I can still hear Nina firmly & Dutchly declaring in the crowd, gathered there to gaze on the glass-boxed right royal hand of Saint Istvan many years ago this day, that pouring hot lead into people's ears didn't sound very Christian or saintly to her. The Hand was of course Exhibit A supporting her claim that "Hungary is a cross between Twin Peaks and The Addams Family".

August 19th; Wednesday. Having had kind Mr Dentist two days ago replace my front filling which fell out on the last day of painting with Heikki, and now fully recovered from my eerie brush with hyponatremia in the heat of July, this week I have the mildly irritating condition of blocked ears, just as happened last summer. My new habit of taking 3 or 4 cold baths a day is probably to blame, doubtless encouraging my ears to become waxier, or something stylish like that. Everyone sounds muffled, and I keep having to ask people to repeat themselves. Tonight join Robin & Sara at a small Italian-run pizza shop on Nagymezo street called Pizzica. When I nibble the corner of one of Robin's slices like a large mouse I discover it has deliciously light pastry. Cuisine of a southern Italian region, apparently. 3 days ago heard 4 people on the underground train talking some strange language. I asked what they were speaking. Neapolitan! they declared in chorus.
August 18th; Tuesday. Having gone into some detail about how surly most Hungarian customer service is a few days ago, it seems only fair to mention the honourable exceptions. Out looking for a recharger a couple of weeks ago I was treated in a couple of shops to men waving a hand at some expensive all-in-one device, sneering in my direction as if they loathed me body & soul. Until I entered a mobile-phone accessories store where two amiable techies rapidly diagnosed my problem and offered me a cheap recharger, tested it, then suggesting an even cheaper option for me to also consider. They kept apologising for their new colour scheme and website being still in their early days. Hello again, Balu GSM! Meanwhile, there is that new Spanish perfume stall in the shopping centre. Those sales ladies shminked up with the strange go-faster-stripes make-up vanished almost as soon as I mentioned them. They were replaced by standard non-weird-looking girls. Perhaps there exist crack advance units of special-forces sales bitches, flown in to establish new business beach-heads early on in difficult campaigns. Ready to move on & hand over to the normals once base camp is up & running? Just a few days ago in the supermarket in the basement exactly beneath (almost to the nearest foot) that perfume stall, an extraordinary sight greeted me. I was looking around for one of the smaller red plastic baskets. A male employee had collected all of them in one place, in the middle of an aisle. He had built them all into one single stack. The stack of baskets made a tower taller than any person. The plastic edges fitted so flush under their own weight that in the first two seconds I thought I was looking at a smooth four-cornered column of solid red plastic, leaping vertically out of the floor like a time-lapse photo.

August 17th; Monday. A couple of nights ago went out for a lovely evening with Zoe & Mark, not too squiffy: Les Murray came up, alongside more scandalous topics.
- To go home and wear shorts forever
   in the enormous paddocks, in that warm climate,
adding a sweater when winter soaks the grass,
   to camp out along the river bends
for good, wearing shorts, with a pocketknife,
   a fishing line and matches ---

August 16th; Sunday. People now angry with much-praised boss who cut his own wage so as to pay staff more.

August 15th; Saturday. KGB spies saw Tony Benn as a fantasist.
August 14th; Friday. More evidence that torture doesn't get good info.

August 13th; Thursday. You think there are no new colours to see?
August 12th; Wednesday. A new type of irregular pentagon that tiles the 2D plane has been discovered, although it isn't aperiodic, which would have been more fun.

August 11th; Tuesday. Someone suggests that fears AI might kill us all reveals our self-hate. While this observation is psychologically spot on, it isn't actually evidence AI won't kill us all, something the wise & witty sceptic appears to have overlooked. Of course, the danger is more likely to be large software systems no-one understands than genuinely intelligent software systems, which I'm increasingly unconvinced can be built. On the hand, machine intelligence gets people going, and danger is danger, whether it's intelligently dangerous danger or not. So if this is how an important topic at least gets discussed, it might not matter.
August 10th; Monday. Weather continues to be hot & stifling. Essentially it's like being inside the airless closet containing the boiler and some shelves in the house I grew up in which was called the "airing cupboard", although it was really the warming & drying cupboard. A wet towel placed in there would be hot to touch and bone dry within minutes. Being outside on Budapest's streets at the moment feels like being inside that cupboard all day. The cheap fitness gym a few streets back into the poorer bulk of the district plays these days what sounds like one or at most two techno/club/house/rap mix tapes or radio channels as we labour away on the black metal machines. These soundtracks have helped me to recall just how much I always disliked Eminem: his special blend of whining and ranting angrily expresses self-righteous self-pity. The black signs for 'Brutal Nutrition' (as in nutrients that will make you into a brute) painted at a jaunty 30-degree tilt on the yellow brick walls in a packing-crate-stencil font have gone (one remains in a back corridor). A fresh layer of yellow paint has simplified the look a bit. This yellow is distinctly yolkier than before, throwing the tired custard-powder yellow of the fake-leather cushions on the exercise machines into a sharper contrast now. The gym is in the ground floor of a ten-storey apartment of council flats (the Hungarian expression 'panel building' captures the shoddy kit-assembly feel of 1960s and 70s architecture better than English) and most people in these streets live in one. What's interesting is that many of these buildings (and mine, albeit a newer, smarter four-storey 1990s structure) appear to be sheathed in polystyrene in turn coated with something like sandpaper. In one or two places low down around child shoulder height on the street the outer rough-textured render (often that bricky mid-orange popular as a sandpaper colouring) has been punctured and ripped off to reveal a kind of small pit eight or ten inches across. These little caves go down into a two or three inch deep layer of - yes it really seems to be white polystyrene - gouged out by some curious infant. One or two of these pits on other buildings are a bit larger, and show that below the packing foam layer is a normal brick or concrete wall. Considering how poor and bored most people in this district are, it's remarkable how little of this damage there is, and how the existing gouged holes don't grow larger over months or years. Irritated British children in low-income families surrounded by a material like that would have acres of it stripped off within days. People round here seem to lack the energy or initiative to do proper vandalism.

August 9th; Sunday. Have almost given up on the well-stocked greengrocer's just past Corvin metro partway to the river that offers a big range of fresh & tasty fruit & vegetables, though not cheap, because their staff are so consistently rude, sighing heavily and glaring at shoppers whenever anyone asks them to do anything. Even in a country with customer-service standards as low as Hungary, people know them. When I neutrally mention the shop's location to Hungarians, they will say in their flat, calm voices "Oh you mean the greengrocer's with very rude staff?" putting only the slightest weight on the 'very' along with a fractional flicker of the eyebrows before a brief bored glance into space. Once Hungarians confirm they know the shop, the subject is closed, no further comment being judged useful. Simply another rude retailer, another wearying detail in their low-key lives. Meanwhile, the office block on the corner built a couple of years ago, still has big crosses of black tape in ground-floor sheet glass windows on either side of the entrance lobby, with men sitting around looking at bags of cement and boxes of rubbish. Upper storeys look a bit smarter (or it's harder to see if they are still unrented). However, there are clearly some firms in there renting some space, because small groups of 4 or 5 office workers now gather on the pavement at certain times during the day for their cigarette breaks. A smartly-decorated lobby with a internally-lit red reception desk made out of glass adds a touch of professionalism mid-block between the two unfinished street-level spaces with the black-crossed glass walls. I sometimes walk past the lobby at night and see a sad fat man watching television by himself lit only by the screen and the glowing red reception counter.
August 8th; Saturday. A television documentary about 15th-century painter Hieronymus Bosch.

August 7th; Friday. Aeon magazine on several topics: (1) Hume, Einstein, & Ritz on cause and effect; (2) Most violent people feel morally driven to commit the violence (of course): the final paragraph is laughable, but it's good to see social scientists get to the obvious eventually, even if it takes them a century; (3) The restlessly busy David Deutsch has a nifty idea about how life emerges.
August 6th; Thursday. It became a routine so quickly in just one week am now already missing (as aching arms recover) the chatty breakfasts with Heikki, and our days of ceiling-rollering the cream paint. Catch-phrases included "Why did you leave the organisation?" & "These monks were narrow."

August 5th; Wednesday. That very warm weather is creeping back, or perhaps building up momentum again is a better way of putting it. No longer summery yet cool like last week. Lots of rest. Could Saudi Arabia's day in the sun be finally ending? To coin a phrase?
August 4th; Tuesday. Final day painting his flat with Heikki. Magdolna sends over some spaghetti & tomato sauce for our lunch from across the landing. One interesting discovery when working with cream wall paint close to the colour of the underlying off-white: it matters where the sun is. At certain times of day (like evening, especially up near the ceiling where there are shadows) it's impossible to see where you have painted. At other times (like in the cooler {bluer?} light of morning up until lunchtime), the gaps show up clearly. Part of it is angle of course, which windows the light is coming in through - still, I wonder if anyone has ever developed a lamp (perhaps with filters) painters can use to show up easily where there are different subtle shades of a colour? In our rolling six-day seminar we haven't so much set the world to rights as roughly agreed very hazy outlines on where to start.

August 3rd; Monday. Back to old camera angle for Russian-girl-DJ's radio show: number 340.
August 2nd; Sunday. More wall & ceiling painting with Heikki. As well as our decorating singsongs, we chat about all manner of other topics, from Finnish/Swedish evangelical cults to clan politics. Multilingual Heikki has a fantastic memory: I mention the Portuguese Nobel Prize winner and he names him at once, even though he hasn't read the man's sci-fi novel about Iberia floating away like a big raft. (Neither have I, of course.) He can quote appropriate lines from English, Finnish, Swedish & French writers as we range through our multi-room-painting talkathon: tape skirting boards, paper floors, paint non-woodwork, strip tape & paper off.

August 1st; Saturday. Dr V. planned a parallel Greek banking system. Not so odd.


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


...............................................................................................................................................................

July 31st; Friday. Here's a short account of governments mandating themselves back-door access to electronic communication.

July 30th; Thursday. More wall & ceiling decorating at Heikki's flat. Today we tackle the biggest room, while breaking into chorus for Johnny Cash tunes.
July 29th; Wednesday. Report at Heikki's flat for work, and Magdolna appears from her flat across the landing with a plate of apricots. Heikki & I get going on the ladders. Before long, like real middle-aged decorators, we're singing old Burt Bacharach songs out of key as we roller on the cream-coloured wall & ceiling paint.

July 28th; Tuesday. Summery coolness continues. Delicious dinner with Terri & Alvi: they show me a short scene of Nordic monks decoding the codex.
July 27th; Monday. Lunch with Heikki. We natter.

July 26th; Sunday. Yesterday late afternoon the hot spell finally broke. Was inside the corner cafe when a rainstorm started that had a seriously tropical mood to it. Got going with rain so intense it was like the square outside was being power-hosed. The awning outside the cafe started to break after some minutes, not because of the weight of water ballooning in the cloth (waitresses were frantically emptying the water load by poking the awning from below at different points) but because of the sheer force the rain was spraying down with. After about ten minutes of this, the rain shifted into hailstones the size of buttons and this lasted another five minutes or so. After this, straightforward heavy rain continued for an hour. Suddenly coolness came. Today, Sunday, there are refreshing breezes. The streets feel totally different from the last 4 or 5 weeks now that the sun isn't glaring down on us like a mad colonel every minute of the day.
July 25th; Saturday. We labour on through the heat, like B. De Mille Israelites toiling in the Valley of the Kings. Here's a fascinating three-minute film of a crow solving a tricky puzzle several humans I personally know would struggle to work out. A Wired video describes how easy cars are to remotely hijack/hack, possibly relevant to how investigative journalist Michael Hastings came to his sticky end just 2 years ago. Now as good a time as ever to hear some songs by L. Ron Hubbard's grooviest disciple: Deadweight / Paper Tiger / Think I'm In Love / Cellphone's Dead / The New Pollution.

July 24th; Friday. A good example of how the heat's been affecting me (& others?) is that I've had the impression today is July 24th or 25th for about six days now. France passes a wonderfully shameless internet surveillance-&-snooping law. Why go through the pretence of using warrants or permits? Watch l'etat grant itself all the power! However, I think 'Le Big Brother' might be a major mistake that closes France and similarly Britain out of next-stage software development. We'll see soon enough. On the subject of police states, here are some songs from a psychedelic group that formed under Brazil's military dictatorship, starting appropriately enough with : Panis et Circenses / Ando meio Desligado / Tudo Foi Feito pelo Sol / A minha menina.
July 23rd; Thursday. Anywhere outside in this heat is effectively like being inside a giant armpit during the good periods or like standing right by an open oven door during the not-so-good periods. I take a tram trip to Tatra utca to try to find the elusive Huntowel firm. On a street corner in baking sun, I run into Heikki. We chat for ten minutes, and he says he thinks heat exhaustion is a lot to do with electrolytes and salts. I had no idea he was even in town. Since the cafe round the corner is a kind of massive heat collector, using the internet in there is not especially easy. Hours after bumping into him, finding a public-access place that is cool inside, I do some online reading on heat exhaustion and vertigo following Heikki's hint. What I read says it's all about the salt balance. Salty bacon pizza desire is my body craving more electrolyte thingies. For the first time in my life I buy some of that weird blue drink the bull-men swill in the weights gym. I now know the difference between hypertonic, isotonic, and hypotonic. Knowledge is power, citizens.

July 22nd; Wednesday. Up at 6am, walk down to river to say hello to Mr Danube and then sign into gym for an hour of gentle aerobic exercise, in case I'm not getting enough oxygen to my brain or something unpleasant like that. By 11 or so am all packed and ready at the railway terminus for train journey down to the border with Serbia. Though wanting 2 slices of bacon pizza at the station might sound odd in cloying heat, I yield to the urge and feel much better for it. On the train I'm seated across the aisle from two people in their late 20s or perhaps early 30s, not sure, dressed like North Americans but both speaking good Hungarian into their mobile phones. From the girl comes Hungarian spoken in what sounds like a Toronto accent, all her sounds neat & square and ready to be popped into small rectangular boxes. Once off the phone they talk to each other the whole journey in English, he perhaps a MidWestern US person. ("Not a good feeling", she keeps rattling off.) As true North American immigrants they seem to regard their European languages as software tools for handling elderly relatives, not as actual means of thought or communication. I slip in and out of consciousness as they talk, trying to rest my head on my arms on my little table. One seat down from them are two Indochinese or perhaps Filipina ladies who seem to be having a cheerful conversation, although of course I understand nothing. They say things to each other like "Dugo-num." "Lolum? Choba!" "Chirong kuma?" Both quite proper in a charming way, it's as if they are constantly expressing polite surprise at the brightly-coloured pebbles they're showing each other. However, the two North Americans meanwhile have started to talk about Freud. "Freud was incredibly rigorous." she clips out in her tight chunky syllables. He chuckles agreement. She warms to her theme: "He changed concepts, he rethought them, sharpened them. You notice that in his writing." Oh yes indeed. As she says this the dark memory of reading Freud's actual writing swirls again before my eyes as I bury my head back in my arms: the long garbled sentences, his woolly rambling arguments and bizarre non-evidence, the vivid resemblance to text by someone who is drunk or brain-damaged, manic with self-belief despite the prose barely making sense. I swallow the urge to tell them it was Schopenhauer who discovered the unconscious half a century earlier and Freud was a Johnny-come-lately crank. "That's what I tell my students," adds the girl (she's allowed to teach something?) "It doesn't really matter if it's right or wrong. That isn't the most interesting question you can ask." She tells her companion work is a way to sublimate other drives, and he remarks on the shift between gaseous & liquid phases in matter, and they are both obviously excited by how multi-disciplinary their intellectual explorations have become. She brings up an article she read on Hiroshima as a sort of cultural theme in American writing or thinking or something ("It's a pretty complex piece of writing."), and expands on the beyond-right-and-wrong bit. A quietly bourgeoise lady opposite me in floral/tie-die compromise frock with chunky pearl bracelet has been subdued but now starts twitching oddly. The two Hungarian North Americans are talking about how funny it is when their contemporaries cannot pronounce Hungarian phrases properly (She: You speak Turkish? He: I used to). The suburban lady might lose it in a moment and start spewing molten lava. The plump girl next to me carefully avoids catching my eye. We both slide our glances across each other in the way you do sometimes so as not to lock gazes and commit to a glance agreeing mutual loathing of someone nearby. I've had enough, and don't want to witness the scene if my two neighbours lose their patience with the two across the aisle, so I move further down the train, finding the seat my ticket told me to sit in originally is empty and out of earshot.
Down at the border is hot and sleepy, prosperous villages where everyone has new cars, freshly-tiled roofs, and there are not enough trees to shelter my head from the sun. I meet some slightly clownish cigarette smugglers.
For the train journey returning to Budapest I draw several pairs of curtains closed against the sun down my side of the carriage, and scrunch myself up into a range of shapes in order to pass out for 5 or 10 minutes at a time. I've remarked on this before, but railways have been around almost 200 years now, stage-coach transport several centuries before that, and neither they nor the people who build aeroplanes or buses or cars or anything seem to realise they make seats we cannot sit in comfortably. It's almost magical how headrests are perfectly designed to not rest your head. No-one seems to have noticed, over several centuries of design and passenger feedback, that humans have a gap at the back which goes in from the shoulders to the neck and comes back out for the head. As a result, I doze in different twisted postures like a rolled-up beach towel. I awaken at various bleary moments to find my slob-like slouching form is surrounded by three separate elegant long-haired brunettes - two across the aisle, one facing me - all with long tanned legs, simple white shirts, and quizzical dark eyes that could be full of flirtatious humour if they weren't so cross about something. They're all staring into different regions of space looking vaguely offended. Back in Budapest I eat 2 more slices of bacon pizza, again feeling this was a good thing to do, despite the heat on the street being like someone firmly thrusting a hot pillow into your face.
July 21st; Tuesday. Feeling much better, but revolting dizzy spells continue, despite drinking lots of water. I'll be in a cold bath when the whole bathroom tips over at 45 degrees and I have to hold on. The pharmacist suggests I stop caffeine. I do this.

July 20th; Monday. Shortly before midnight last night and through the small & not-so-small hours this morning, sickening vertigo and convulsive vomiting gets my attention. I repeatedly throw up the water I'm drinking to stay hydrated. I think "projectile vomiting" was the phrase those London lawyers used when boasting of their bouts of heavy drunkenness. Now I finally understand what Dean Martin meant when he said you're not really drunk if you can lie on the floor without holding on. About midday I make it to the pharmacist who gives me vitamin B6 to suppress the vomiting. This works.
July 19th; Sunday. Read a short pamphlety book lent to me by Troy & Zsandi: 'Body Talk Access', a cheery introductory manual to a kind of energy healing system devised by an Australian man called John Veltheim. Strangely hard to find a review of that text or any mention of it as a text. Everyone links me to a video instead.

July 18th; Saturday. Last night, Friday, I set off rather late for a party in Buda. Troy had instructed me to get the bus 102 from the Southern Rail Terminus, and I'd found the bus route in my decade-plus-old spiral-bound street atlas. But it is old, so I checked with the two ticket inspectors at the top of the escalator at the metro station. Oh no, they both said very firmly, nowhere near here. Seemingly sincere, they insist the 102 bus route was right the other side of town, over the river. I show them the old 102 route on my street map where I want to go. Ah well if it's Swabian Hill I want then I need the 39. I placidly explain it isn't Swabian Hill I want to go to though (the other end of the page), and we repair to the giant wall map at the escalator exit. We are way past winding-up-passenger territory when one man reverts to telling me how to get to Swabian Hill and I start to wonder if he's had a bang on the head. As we stand together at the giant wall map I say again I'm hoping the 102 bus is this side of town after all. I look at the blown-up inset map of just streets around the railway station while he peers at the other map lower down where the street names are much smaller. Finding the 102 bus stop clearly marked in the inset map, I go for the tactful option. I already can visualise where the bus stop is, but just to check I ask if the street named in the inset map is where I think it is? Oh yes, they both cheerfully answer with slightly blank faces, really not like two men making fun of someone. We part on good terms. The bus stop is there about 100 yards away from them, and a 102 bus arrives 3 minutes after I get there. The bus charges up into the Buda hills, thick leafy trees so heavy with foliage that on some streets they join together over the top and block out the night sky. People on the bus itself are helpful. A man with a bald patch, steel-grey hair bound in a ponytail, and an abstract-patterned short-sleeved shirt (differently-sized scratchy blue-grey lozenges jumbled together: the sort of design that used to cover seats in National Express coaches & British airport departure lounges) is very thoughtful and makes sure when we get off together that I know where the right street is. Troy and his girlfriend Zsandi are out walking their bouncy puppy Romeo and looking for me. They kindly ply me with tasty food at their house: we watch a couple of intriguing videos on a laptop, including this one from as-yet-undiscovered Bond villain actor Thomas Myers, here explaining the human body is held together in a flexible robust way with a mix of tensile and compressive parts. On the night tram home I meet a group of revellers who have just finished a term at a French business school in town I hadn't heard of. I keep telling them it's woefully out of date, but two of the girls seem almost hypnotised by a short 2nd-hand reference book of mine: 'Coopers & Lybrand Guide to Financial Instruments' from the mid-1990s by Donald Brooks and Robert Hertz. It details and risk-rates the early forms of some of those mortgage debt instruments before they went wrong in 2008. I finish this rather dry text today, Saturday, and there is an innocent pleasure to reading about such exotically-named objects as heaven-and-hell certificates, circuses, kitchen-sink bonds, or bunny bonds. I'd forgotten Asian options averaged the strike price. The two girls on the tram last night celebrating finishing some business course gave the impression of never having touched something not a college textbook, but I might be wrong.
July 17th; Friday. Everyday heat continues. English garden maze.

July 16th; Thursday. Two of William Blake's angels.
July 15th; Wednesday. Is this what it looks like if you dress in smoke?

July 14th; Tuesday. The day France commemorates a street mob in 1789 killing several people to storm a near-empty fortress to free 7 prisoners, none of whom were political dissidents. I stay up late to finish the book Julia gave me last Wednesday. By Dave Eggers, 'The Circle' is a vaguely dystopian novel set in the present. Like all good dystopias, it shows how horror (such as the French Revolution) emerges from utopianism. It's about a girl called Mae (perhaps some kind of play on "me" and "may") who moves to California and gets a job in a huge cultish internet firm called The Circle. This creepy organisation is clearly meant to blend Google, Facebook, perhaps Twitter (but mainly Google) with its vast ambitions and maniacal zeal to "set information free." A quiet Scientology joke buried in the back third of the story adds to the creepiness. While the characters are a bit thin, and one or two plot twists are predictable, others aren't, the yarn is compelling, and the warning is vivid. It's meant as a parable: it captures the self-righteous US belief in salvation by technology with disturbing accuracy. During a conversation with student Akos earlier today he defended the idea of self-steering aeroplanes and cars, even if no-one understands in detail how they work, as long as the statistics turn out safer. I offered in return Weizenbaum's argument from the 1970s that some things ought to be done by humans as a matter of principle, even if it entails more mistakes. The book later that night echoes our chat. Eggers in 'The Circle' stumbles a little because he both wants to write about right now, and yet also about a dark near-future outcome. This means that some things are overstated for the sake of the moral, making the fit with today a bit unrealistic. The idea that the internet might be (as it is) moderately stocked with people arguing against invasion of privacy and against the idolatry of data is not given proper space. So the book fails to explain fully how those stick-in-the-mud fogey types get outmanoeuvred. Still chilling though. A convincing portrayal of priggish techno-utopians who tolerate no dissent. Because anyone who doesn't buy their creed "just doesn't get it."
July 13th; Monday. Down to Szeged to do some data-gathering. Cloudy British weather the whole way. While there half-hearted big drops of summer rain keep spitting down for a few minutes and then tailing off for half an hour, as if the weather is too apathetic to decide what to do. The streets are half-empty and the mood so grey that I buy a specially-reduced paperback translation of Scruton's 'Uses of Pessimism' with a bleak-looking grey cover to round off the grey mood of making things hard for myself. On train back I finish 'How Buildings Learn' by Stewart Brand, a large hardback gorgeously illustrated in line drawings and monochrome photos, all about how buildings get refitted, adapted to new uses, refurbished - how they develop over time. In many places, Brand defends decoration, defends vernacular building, attacks the impracticality and arrogance of modernism, but still cannot quite bring himself to see the Bauhaus or the International Style as mistakes. He makes a functionalist argument against self-conscious functionalism again and again, against the perils of "magazine architecture", the harm caused by seeing the architect as an artist, the costs of new untried materials. Stories are told of how impractical Buckminster Fuller's geodesic domes were and how bitter residents of Lloyd Wright's Falling Water House nicknamed it "Rising Damp". How Richard Rogers' explicitly adaptable Lloyds Building and (with Renzo Piano) Pompidou Centre in fact aren't adaptable at all. (The 1980s Spitting Image TV show puppet of Rogers with all his internal organs on the outside of his body comes to mind.) The book is a strange blend of 90% US examples and about 10% British examples, and random quotes from the Duchess of Devonshire pop up in 4 or 5 chapters as if hers was the only large country house he had the energy to consider (perhaps an artefact of the British television series the book got connected with). After she mentions that on a comfy evening in her sitting room she enjoys sitting with her dogs - some with thick coats near the door, others near the fire - he makes the slightly stiff announcement "The distribution of the dogs, and her perception of them, signal a room thoroughly grown into.", the kind of ponderous sentence he brings out in a couple of places. But the overall mass of examples, interesting histories of adaptation, contrasting "Low Road" and "High Road" building categories, fascinating details about property development and facilities management, the sheer good sense emanating out of the many tales of different buildings, make this a wonderful book. Shame he comes so close to - yet still stops short of - identifying architectural modernism as a damaging assault on knowledgable organic tradition, and one of the biggest cultural catastrophes of the last hundred years.

July 12th; Sunday. Waitresses in the cafe playing this oldie. What white pony? Pop lyrics can be puzzling.
July 11th; Saturday. This might change your personality too: tweets sent out by a CEO who thought he was doing Google searches. Do we believe this one?

July 10th; Friday. Here are 6 experiences which can change your personality. Very interesting they lead with organ donation.
July 9th; Thursday. St Petersburg girl DJ's radio show returns to form with number 337, even if not sure about the new fixed-camera angle. Traditional stressful stretch in the truck-tyre retread shop starts at about 15 minutes 30 secs. Got to admire one song's rhyme for "champagne supernova" though.

July 8th; Wednesday. After yesterday's haircut, the sticky warmth continues. Today meet Julia and Ben - home from boarding school - for a coffee at Mammut shopping centre. Back near my flat in the evening, the girls in the cafe try to be pleasant but with electric fans fighting a losing battle against blood-temperature heat everyone's smile is a little bleak. A small squarky dog that seems to belong to the Persian cafe owner has a particularly piercing bark.
July 7th; Tuesday. 1 or 2 commentators in the 1970s predicted automation & more computing would lead back to an economy where most people worked as servants: this article says something similar if less well-thought-through. Conversation lesson with Engineering Gabor, who a fortnight ago told me how a couple of years ago he began studying (alongside his many years of aikido) Systema Sibirski, a Russian martial art for Spetznatz commandos. At first sounded like a type of Soviet Krav Maga, but after listening to Gabor a bit more and watching 1 or 2 videos, it starts to look more esoteric, like a kind of Siberian Tai Chi.

July 6th; Monday. Greece's Dr V speaks.
July 5th; Sunday. A vote today in Greece on whether they get lent more money, or refuse to pay back the previous loans. Win/win!

July 4th; Saturday. The girls in the cafe are tuned to a radio station which has spoken Dutch and plays lots of reggae. More buzzing in the sky. A lovely map shows north and south Americans what country is directly the other side of the sea. So for example, New York is round about the latitude of Portugal, and Virginia is already at the height of Morocco.
July 3rd; Friday. Wake up to buzzing sounds in the sky. Little biplanes, probably painted in the colours of the Austrian caffeine drink Red Bull, practising I assume for the weekend air race over a stretch of the Danube that drinks brand usually sponsors. Irish online journalist acquaintance Ruth writes an article claiming Sinn Fein are getting scared as the implications of their support for the political party swiftly bankrupting Greece start to sink in. Late at night I finish reading and lingering over a short biography, beautifully illustrated, of 'Michelangelo' (concentrating on his drawings in red & black) by Hugo Chapman. Student Lorinc kindly lent it me. Mother would have loved to see this book.

July 2nd; Thursday. Very warm & sticky. My Wifi playing up again. How to cleanse the soil in your vegetable patch of heavy metals.
July 1st; Wednesday. Now that no-one in Britain says "it's all gone Pete Tong" any more, time to play It's All Gone Pete Tong.

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