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2005
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February 28th; February has 28 alone. Stupid ditty.

February 27th; My site in Cockney. Wayne is the guvnor.
February 26th; 3 Arab newspapers: 0 ads with prices.

February 25th; Heather back from the US, tired but happy.
February 24th; The final window of Annika's advent calendar opens and I eat the last chocolate. So this is February's version of Christmas Eve. Delightful chat at Andi's gym. Later I meet Tibor, my desk twin at Asylum.

February 23rd; Odd scene on the underground today. A happy woman, blonde in a puffy white coat, is passionately kissing the man to her right while a gloomy woman to her left, brunette in a normal grey coat, rests her hand on the blonde's near shoulder. The way the blonde turns away to kiss makes this easy and appears to make her shoulder comfortably available for the brunette's whole right forearm. I watch them, trying to make out if the blonde and brunette know each other. Seemingly not. The brunette's forearm stays on the blonde's left shoulder for at least five minutes. Then the blonde & the man get off the train without acknowledging the brunette, or apparently even noticing her.
February 22nd; Meet Constantine, Istvan, Jeremy, Peter, & Robin for drinks and food near Margit Bridge.

February 21st; Yesterday on the train both ways in the dining car was quite pleasant, but not exactly a restaurant on wheels. On the trip out to Vienna I joined the express from Belgrade and a Serb waiter simply told me the omlette in the menu was impossible because it was no longer morning. Instead I got a "Serb salad" (this turned out to be an expensive coffee cup of chopped cucumber & tomato, nothing else) and a poisonously nasty Belgrade beer I couldn't finish. On the way back some Hungarian waiters cheerily told me the menu pancake item was impossible because they had "run out". Since I was one of only three "diners" in the dining car in either direction, for two staff it was not exactly strenuous. Neither pair offered to take the bold step of simply making me an omlette or a pancake there in the kitchen. Actually cooking something, as it were. The Serbs lounging around chatting loudly for 3 hours one way and the Hungarians singing along to R&B in the kitchen for 3 hours the other way were each jolly enough to listen to, but somehow, even after all these years, I'm still a bit surprised every time I meet sheer, unembarrassed idleness.
February 20th; Morning gym, then afternoon train to Vienna and back to buy more A r a b-language newspapers for the last-digit project. Two train journeys to check the SF & LA maps for Art/Shop/Eat.

February 19th; All-day meeting for Asylum employees, at Art'Otel (a hotel with domino-pattern carpets). Willy says we must find our Purple Cow. Our group's presentation comes 4th out of 4, but we still get some cake afterwards. Day ends with table football & pool.
February 18th; A long night of festivities with Lilla & Moni & friends. While Ildi tells us of her table-tapping experience aged 14, her husband Peti presses neat spirits on me until I start surreptitiously pouring my shots into everyone's red wine instead of drinking them. Around 2am we enter some raucous cellar on Raday street with mock cave paintings on the wall and a glitter ball. A singalong crowd cheered on Golden Oldies such as Where's Your Mama Now? (holiday hit when I was 7 in Spain and the popular toy was heavy, clicking pairs of coloured plastic balls). Revellers roared more approval to old Hungarian songs hatched from a dark musical wasteland where Boney M blends with Status Quo.

February 17th; Told about this political site by Robin.
February 16th; Yesterday was long, and after the evening meal & drink, today was a bit tiring. Franc drives us back across Austria, Margit sweetly meets me with Arab-language newspapers, drives us across the border, and we get the 3-hour train back from Szombathely.

February 15th; My students show me their business website. Then we see a (quite skilfully) shortened version of 'Macbeth' staged at school. The class join me at a cafe for some chat, after which kind Armin drives me to Liezen, where I e-mail some film material to NY.
February 14th; Early start at the Stainach school. I babble on about The Scottish Play.

February 13th; Long day travelling (train + car) to Stainach, Austria.
February 12th; Finally get Annika's parcel in the post to Nina. Bump into New Steve in mall. Then cranberry liqueur with Jake & Lucia, late beer with Terri.

February 11th; 2nd time weight-training at the Marriott, though this time no golden sunset over the river pouring through the wall of glass - instead grey skies and snow. In the evening in the underpass between Nyugati station and the WestEnd shopping centre, a woman writhing on the ground, screaming insults at a man trying to hold her down, with an interested audience of about twenty people standing around watching.
February 10th; Writers' Group at Dejan's mystery address in the half-finished building. Charming Duygu & Clara from IBM Human Resources were there, Dejan tells me he is an ex-prostitute, we write teenage angst poems and attempt my men's-romantic-fantasies assignment, while Victoria hints she is a spook, adding that she has been a "hardened cunt" about romance "since the age of 13", rather bringing things full circle.

February 9th; At lunch yesterday Rohit (who speaks Konkani and Hindi) told me he's setting up a south-Indian-cuisine takeaway service in Budapest.
Noam Chomsky is both inspiring and tiring, so finishing (at the weekend) his weighty and indignant 'Deterring Democracy', a book I found lurking under Heather's sitting-room coffee table, was a bit of a chore. However, I feel quite churlish complaining about this book, since it is an appalling litany of foreign-policy horrors and cynical lies told by (mainly) American and British politicians. Overtaken by the second Gulf War, it finishes just after the end of the first Gulf War in the early 1990s, and portrays the US as among the most greedy, hypocritical and nasty regimes the world has ever seen - or at least since the British Empire, which gets an honourable mention from Noam as runner-up for international horridness.
Chomsky takes care to mention that the Soviets were nasty too, but suggests (quite convincingly) that Moscow was never as much the peace-disrupting aggressor Washington claimed it was, while Washington was. His portrayal of US leaders as self-pityingly self-righteous throughout American history rings a bell, to be sure, and the deadening mass of evidence he marshalls looks hard to explain away. Unfortunately, however sympathetic one is, prose dripping with furious sarcasm is quite wearing on Gentle Reader. Instead of a satirist's wit we get a mix of tight-lipped indictments and bitter jibes. The wooden title is a good representative of the clunkier writing, though some of the barbed sentences and inversions (references to "the non-people of the world") would have been very effective if they'd been deployed more sparingly. I don't know if he sees wit as fluff, but anyone who thinks a good prose style isn't worth working for should read this book. Chomsky wants to convey a desperately-important message, yet his own writing style loses him thousands of potential readers. Giving a sub-section, in all seriousness, the cliche-perfect comic title 'Nefarious Aggression' probably undoes, in just two words, at least a quarter of the work Chomsky put into writing this tome. Also you get the uncomfortable feeling that Chomsky and people like him are so very very cross they would be killing and torturing people themselves if they could.
Still, I shan't forget in a hurry the description (carefully footnoted, like all his citations) he quotes of one Central-American peasant family found seated round the dinner table all holding their own severed heads after a visit by US-trained and sponsored vigilante forces. A debate with informed critics of Chomsky would be nice, but I suspect he's right that Washington's media strategy is simply to ignore, smear and sideline unfavourable news, so that most Americans never even hear of other views. If his adverseries are half as sly and arrogant as he claims Chomsky might be justified in boiling with righteous rage, tedious as it is to read. He's no Dean Swift, but we have to take whatever principled dissidents - or at least privileged dissemblers - we get.

February 8th; Pick up chimney report from the sweeps' office during its remarkable opening hours (on Tuesdays 7am to 9am). Evening hot chocolate with Mariann.
February 7th; Lunch with Liia. Apparently, Brian Eno has his own 'sideways' approach to stimulating creativity, and you can try it out here.

February 6th; Lunch at Jake, beer with Franc, then Terri.
February 5th; I thought the ibogaine website man was a bit like Sir-Stewart-Wallace-as-Himself in the old Beastie Boys 'Sabotage' video, but it's just the pale moustache.

February 4th; I retrieve and open Annika's package, weeks in the post office due to lack of woman behind small window to ask about large parcels. Annika had sent me an Advent calendar with little chocolates behind the doors (unspoiled) and the Swedish book for Nina. So February will be an advent-calendar month. I opened doors 1 to 4 happily. For some years, I've been thinking advent calendars for other parts of the year would be fun, and that the Internet itself with its links is a lot like opening the little doors on an advent calendar. People usually look at me oddly when I say that.
In a related development, a pretty girl in a bar asks to borrow my pen. Called Kati, I suppose, because when I ask her name she says it is Kacsa (Duck): my first time with that nickname. Cordial greetings going out to Duck.
February 3rd; In a Thai restaurant with Terri (nervous about her Polish interpreting test). We both overhear a confident English office chap saying loudly "It was an immersive reality situation". What does this mean?

February 2nd; Beer with brave girl with bit too much faith in psychiatrists. 2nd beer with Terri: though unwell, she attempts to snap me for new column in Mini.
February 1st; Natter with Edina, copyleft with Judit.

Mark Griffith, site administrator / markgriffith at yahoo.com

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