otherlanguages.org
. . . Main links

Basque / Dutch / English / Hungarian / Japanese / Swedish

link to i-mode page

#

#

non-alphabetic scripts

#

other links

#

endangered languages

#

sign languages

#

maps

#

songs and music

#

dead languages


*1

#

linguistic philosophy

#

artificial languages

#

AI, speech recognition

#

encryption, steganography

#

language history

#

calligraphy

#

cognitive psychology

#

mathematical linguistics

#

animal communication

#

language list

#

non-language links

2005
...............................................................................................................................................................


July 31st; Another warm day. I sleep a lot. Thank goodness I'm not at the Formula One thing.
July 30th; Wake up with little insect lumps all over me. Mid-afternoon I carry my boxes up into Robin's surprisingly hot attic with help from Bela. Now that I officially live nowhere, perhaps not a bad time to restart life. It's very hot here. Around midnight Robin & Georgina drive to a mid-point somewhere like Dunafoldvar to pick up Zsuzsa from another family, a bit like a secret package.

July 29th; Wake up in time to dump rubbish, sort final boxes, wash and wax floor, and shower myself before Robin drives up on an alarmingly hot sunny morning. Heather sees us off with coffees, and we set off for countryside, his old Benz packed with my remaining boxes, in need of further winnowing down. Each boxload I threw away increased my sense of freedom. Unusually warm journey on motorway, while Robin drives and relates slightly hard-to-follow stories about Farnad the Persian Persian-carpet dealer from London and I tie wet bedspread across right-side car windows as sunshield. Arrive at Robin's house around 5pm - complex plan to go to lake to swim with Edina & Geza and children involves Robin & I setting off on motorbike with sidecar across dusty fields, only to get stopped by a friendly policeman in next village for driving without correct papers or helmets and being sent back home. On dirt track on way home, gears jam and back wheel stops moving. While Robin goes off to bring back Benz and tow rope I stay with the crippled bike, lying down on the ground to chew blade of grass as tangerine sun slips towards horizon. Half hour later he drives up, suggests we swim anyway, and we abandon bike. On the road there we drive past a cheering crowd standing in village holding a blow-up sex doll, with legs parted. At lake, we swim with children, where, continuing inflateable theme, Edina & Geza have brought a giant blow-up crocodile I ride around on in lake briefly in last glimmer of sunshine as well as swimming. Robin splashes around with Vicky the dog. Weather still hot even as night arrives and midges begin biting. Back in field, I get on bike, and hold handlebars fast right to keep it out of ditches while Robin tows it slowly with Benz. Locked back wheel skids the whole way through soft powder of dirt tracks. Midges sting my ankles and forearms with evident glee as I strain to stop handlebars snapping left, and focus eyes on twin rearlights of car in dark and dust ahead for a fairly long-seeming twenty minutes back. Tow rope snaps. Robin reties. Fully night by the time we reach home, still sweating.
July 28th; Entire day packing. Heather gets swollen eyelid from some allergic reaction, so I refer her to Bill, an American homeopath in Budapest my old homeopath in Saffron Walden told me about by e-mail recently. She sets off. I pack more and pop out to an Internet cafe to do some online work for Asylum. Cheering messages from folk on a talkboard thread devoted to cakes coated in marzipan encourage me as I continue search for new home. I get back mid-afternoon to a remarkable tale from a rather stunned Heather. She arrived at the good doctor's surgery to be shown by a lacky into a giant blue-walled hall with a large hot tub filled with rock formations, and a chair covered in electrical fittings. The lacky washed her swollen eyelid. Somewhat bemused, Heather, while demanding to know where the doctor was, then allowed herself to be strapped into the chair while a headset of electrodes were fitted to her head, and she was sat facing a video screen full of repetitive, hypnotic images. About a quarter of an hour later, feeling queasy, she unstrapped herself, went upstairs and found a waiting room. The doctor appeared, and turned out to be a middle-aged man dressed as a woman [Heather recalls painted toenails, deep male voice, and a frock] who was very rude to her, suggesting that he had kindly fitted her in [She also recalls him saying "I have the biggest computer program in the world"], but if she was going to give him/her lip then she should "zip it". Meaning, "go away, now". She did this. I meet her on street with Marcelo & Olivia as we all return to her flat, where once again, soothing live guitar music begins while I enter final phase of packing among them. Strange, liberating optimism washes over me as completion nears, and Bossa Nova music strengthens mood of wistful, light-hearted hope that hangs around the tall, lanky Marcelo anyway. Olivia & Marcelo both suggest I go to Rio, at once, to begin afresh. I now see how thoroughly Heather's life in Oakland was changed by her parents' house burning down (along with the rest of her suburb) when she was a teenager: hence her focus on people, not things. And on life's big lesson, that I keep having to learn again and again: be kind.

July 27th; More packing. Several evenings recently I have come back to find Heather singing Bossa Nova songs to guitar music by Marcelo from Brazil, while Macedonian police interpreter Olivia (Zdravko's colleague) smoulders langorously on the sofa.
July 26th; See several flats. Ice cream with Rob & Eti.

July 25th; Train back from Robin's, warm sun. Indonesian restaurant dinner with Istvan, Vali, Andrea & Boo Boo.
July 24th; On the train to the Plain yesterday, I finished Heather's copy of Edward Said's 'Culture and Imperialism'. After the disappointment of 'Orientalism' and another of his (discouragingly titled 'Representations of the Intellectual') a few years back, I was by now not annoyed that Said is a literature academic who writes poorly. This book said some true things, and a few interesting things, and was redeemed by the last ten pages, which is perhaps where he should have started. He wants to point out, reasonably enough, that lots of literary criticism writes as if great books are isolated objects devoid of context. He feels that political circumstances of the time are relevant to literary works - even if, or especially if, not mentioned in those books, like the dog that didn't bark in the night. Also, that European imperialism goes strikingly unmentioned or uncriticised in works as diverse as Austen's 'Mansfield Park', Verdi's 'Aida', Kipling's 'Kim', or Camus's ' Outsider'. Their pro-imperialist background is both a result of imperialism, and has, Said says, perpetuated imperialist views among the audiences of these artworks. This seems thoroughly true. The difficulty is what you say further about this once you have pointed it out. Like those books which say, plausibly, that something like Protestantism is a major theme, spoken or unspoken, in Jacobean drama, you can correct the oversight, point out people should not use the prestige of Classic Literature to defend the politics of that time against newer ideas, and then? Then it seems you have to continue by making a kind of new science of it, using terms like 'mode of discourse', 'cultural space', 'victimology'. So we get sentences like "A full contrapuntal appreciation of Aida reveals a structure of reference and attitude, a web of affiliations, connections, decisions, and collaborations, which can be read as leaving a set of ghostly notations in the opera's visual and musical text." Since writing is clearly not his strong point, it's hard not to ask what literature critic Said is good at. Spotting hidden themes and biases might be it, though others spotted them before him. This book warns us that all cultures misrepresent other cultures, and dominant cultures tend to be contemptuous of other cultures they are dominating at that moment. He also explains that a work of literature is not diminished by such analysis, and he is careful to be very respectful towards the artistic merit of works like 'Kim' even while discussing their deep pro-imperialist bias. He warns us that writers like Austen and Camus can seem to be discussing universal issues of mankind because they have made the others, the servants, the colonised, into invisible people. Others have said this about the speculations of Athenian thinkers given free time to discuss universal themes because slaves did the boring daily chores for them. This is about it for Said's argument. He defends the multifaceted subtlety of Asia and particularly Islam against the crudity of Western 'Orientalist' images of what they are like. Given his criticism of simplistic depictions of other cultures, and given that he lived in the US for some decades, his simplistic blurring of American and British imperialism almost into one cultural force is rather striking. He refers to several Arab thinkers and critics I would like to have seen quoted in more detail - they might have been a bit more lucid than Said. As the book closes, Said rises to call on us all to transcend nationalism. He quotes Hugo of St. Victor: "The person who finds his homeland sweet is still a tender beginner; he to whom every soil is as his native one is already strong; but he is perfect to whom the entire world is as a foreign place." Good close.

July 23rd; Raining. Shall take the polystyrene blocks Tim cut for me down to the Great Plain while I move house.
July 22nd; One of this site's newest readers.

July 21st; Off work early, pop in on Erik to compare notes. Afterwards I wander across the street, bump into Sandor in affable mood, and two blocks on find Katalin, Istvan, Robin and Andrea sitting outside a cafe surrounded by grass. We walk several streets north to Istvan's through late-afternoon sunshine, the baroness purring enticingly on the way about "gorging on language fruit full-mouthed" from the tree of knowledge (not the knowledge tree of course). Later to supermarket to get turkey breast and cherries for dinner over at Jeff & [different] Andrea's. Jeff cooks a wonderful curry while group splits into two teams to make a silent 90-second film on a camcorder (team 1) and then dub it with interesting dialogue (team 2). Victoria brings poppadoms and Adam ("We Democrats need more heartless military babykillers"), who, once it is late, eyes my pineapple juice, asking if this is how I "come down from altitude"? Also there is David Hill's friend Sylvia, who tells us she is famous for owning a million buttons ("I brought a hundred boxes of buttons to Hungary, because I know they'll always look after me.") and mentions she has seen the afterlife one night in a dream, and it is like a very enjoyable party. Even with very fluffy allergy-inducing cats there, I am able to stay for the gorgeous fudge brownies (Much better than the ones I teach my classes to make in Austria) Jeff knocks up around midnight. Esther looks rather Pre-Raphaelite as Kalman, she & Sylvia put together a rather good chunk of dialogue. Meanwhile I chill cherries in Jeff & Andrea's fridge and sit around their flat feeling dazed.
July 20th; As bus waits, engine running, before leaving for Erd, a male, college-student age, gets on, sits down opposite me, opens a book and begins reading. Slowly, I realise that his tall blonde girlfriend is standing inches away the other side of the glass window looking in, gazing at him wistfully and a little worried. She's worried because a whole 5 minutes pass without him noticing she is still there, outside the bus. Finally, she has to tap on the glass, he looks up, they exchange an affectionate glance, and he returns straight to his reading. She gives him one last sad look without him seeing her, and then she leaves. Harry Potter still effective, apparently.

July 19th; Happy futurists. Happy presentists.
July 18th; A weblog that posts nifty poems in English.

July 17th; A Hungarian Sunday-market trader tries to sell Brian a second-hand harmonica for 500 dollars.
July 16th; Over to Jeff & Andrea's to edit nightclub footage with Dejan. Kalman joins us. After we tinker with the software for an hour or so, Dejan decides the original night-time footage is too bad, that he will shoot some day-time to replace it, and then generously buys us lunch. Out for a grapefruit-flavoured ice cream later with Brian.

July 15th; Readable yet important article, via a&ld.
July 14th; Tea with Franc, Tamas & Sari2.

July 13th; Gorgeous site about a periodic-table table.
July 12th; Meet Hussam's little brother. Am soaked in downpour.

July 11th; Back in Erd helping Sari read magazine article about actress she likes.
July 10th; Dejan & Almir see us off at station. Dejan has to stay behind to clear up visa difficulties. On the train back to Budapest we meet two charming Bostonians worried about who will succeed Sandra Day O'Connor on the Supreme Court bench. One suggests I read this.

July 9th; In an exciting thunderstorm last night, Dejan drove us (Victoria, Kalman, Wayne & me) out of town and over the Serbian border. By midnight at a club in Subotica, we meet lots of Dejan's friends, including Almir a.k.a. Johnny ("You are in Yugoslavia. You like? You take!"), and begin filming. Dejan buys us a remarkable drink tasting a bit like air-freshener. Wonderful smoked-meat hamburger later.
This morning, Dejan's deeply hospitable mother plies us with a filling breakfast, and Dejan drives us into town around lunchtime to get our weekend 'permits' from the police, most of whom are quietly playing cards in their inner office. Trips to cafes and then a walk beside a lake. Dinner with Dejan's parents involves barbecued meat and lots of multilingual natter with jolly neighbours on the patio. In the early evening, I nip inside their summer house and see 'Dude, where's my car?' on a Serbian TV channel, a rather nice slapstick rework of the old innocents-abroad formula. Two idiotic friends meet a cult, a French ostrich farmer, some aliens - and since the whole film is spun out of a night-before so wild they remember nothing, pretty much anything can be thrown into the mix. Quite sweet, though not really in the sense of the slogan "Sweet" one of them finds tattooed to his back. Later we drive back into Subotica, Dejan playing the soundtrack to the film about the town we are shooting. Back at The Club on The Street, an improbable number of sharply-dressed, leggy Serbian girls keep pouring into the dancing-and-drinking courtyard throughout the night. Almir ("I am ready, my friend. Are you ready?") reappears to resume his master class on flirtation in Serbia. Meeting girls in Montenegro, is, Dejan & Almir agree, a special case in several ways. At my tentative suggestion, we skip the after-dance 4-a.m. meal this time, to get a bit more sleep before our midday train tomorrow.
July 8th; Second half of 2-part euro/gold article up.

July 7th; Palestinian chap at Internet cafe sweetly asks if anyone I knew was hurt in today's explosions in London. Beer & chat with Charlie near Moszkva square. Victoria serves drinks as night falls outside her hillside villa.
July 6th; Sunny and cool, windy spells take turns through the day. Ice-cream break with Keri. Cloud-shaped shadows slide diagonally across streets at bicycle speed.

July 5th; Bump into one-time Vista Cafe manager Istvan, now running the cinema cafe just by the office.
July 4th; Finish Aldous Huxley's 'Art of Seeing', his first-person account of finding that the Bates Method of eyesight-training helped improve his vision. Clear and persuasive writing. Now to practise the techniques. Some lovely phrases, like 'greedy end-gainers', describing how most of us hurry impatiently towards a goal. Also striking how intuitive his discussions of illumination are, measuring brightness in graphic, easy-to-visualise foot-candles instead of those pretty-sounding but utterly opaque SI units of brightness, the lux and the lumen.
Erik finds a delightful site of sound files of children from around the world making animal and vehicle noises. Very nifty & tasteful visually, bzzzpeek is not really about onomatopoeia, but is full of darling little silhouette icons.

July 3rd; On their way to swim in the lake, Robin & family see me off at Tiszaug station. Six stations later, an elderly man gets onto the slow train at one village carrying a plastic shopping bag depicting a large chess position on each side, in black & white pieces and red & white squares. One side of the bag shows either the start position, or a couple of moves into an opening. I glimpse the other side for a second. It is later in a game: perhaps a checkmate?
On the fast train from Kecskemet, meet two charming Goths. We regroup later in the evening in Budapest for karaoke & beer.
July 2nd; Rains all day. With Edina, Geza, Robin for cakes & cappuccinos to a cafe in Kunszentmarton. We chance on a packed church hearing a soul-piercing Magnificat.

July 1st; Out into nowhere to meet Robin. Get lots of work done on the train. Georgina & the two boys present me with a hat filled with mulberries as we meet at station.

Mark Griffith, site administrator / markgriffith at yahoo.com

back up to top of page