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

August 31st; Pop in on Zsolt's office. Hot, sticky weather.

August 30th; Rather enjoyable evening with EszterB - we hadn't met for a couple of years. She kindly agrees to ask around about Villanyi & Sardi, and shows me a magazine she is helping to launch. Her other main project is helping an interesting-sounding Austrian musician.
August 29th; Last night Robin & I saw Basil Rathbone on television act a telephone-era, 1940s Sherlock Holmes in a black-and-white film called 'The Woman in Green'. She drugs and hypnotises him in a special effect where her face fuses with a revolving gramophone record.

August 28th; Breakfast to a Doors record on a record-player Robin found left on a Budapest street. Meanwhile, devotees of the great goddess have not been idle.
August 27th; Last week came across the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster via mijnkopthee, and, via arts and letters, an interesting piece about scale models confusing toddlers.
Robin, Edina, Geza, Letty & I manage to escape from the children for an hour to have some coffee and cakes in Kunszentmarton. The demented Lupi still seems to alarm people, even now that he is chained to a sort of guidewire alongside the path, fated to trundle shaggily up and down his fifty-foot stretch like a dog-shaped tram. Meanwhile, Robin's recent paintings keep getting larger and bolder. Last night, in the Lakitelek pool hall, Robin played one extraordinary fluke shot. Two balls converged and jammed exactly in the mouth of a corner pocket, neither in nor out. Took twenty minutes of the game before they were dislodged. 'Tis true, I swear.

August 26th; Wake up at Franc's. His plump cat Lenke & I seem to have reached a mutual understanding. Over breakfast of toast & marmalade + tea, Franc a bit sceptical that monasteries ever helped found science.
On the afternoon train to Robin's on the Great Plain, I am sitting with my papers spread out over a large table in the dining car when a rather attractive but oddly tense blonde girl storms in and sits down at my table muttering to the guard about train tickets being confusingly printed. She gets out a book, makes a show of reading it irritably, and is a little mollified when I give her some attention and start talking to her. Perhaps her first question to me is, curiously, "Is this first class, then?", as people on neighbouring tables do dining-car things like eat meals and drink drinks. She then tells me, apropos of nothing, that she is an English teacher and thinks it ridiculous that her 32-year-old friend in Szeged is going to a Cure concert at his age. She seems distracted because 5 minutes after I tell her I am English she peers at my sheets of paper and asks where I learnt English. The girl/woman [26?] gulps one espresso coffee, and mostly avoids my eyes while talking to me. She seems glad we are talking, but also seems proudly annoyed in case I think she is glad we are talking. A middle-aged woman comes and sits down next to me and the blonde seizes her chance to leave importantly.
August 25th; More HR training. End day with fine dinner at Franc's, grouping sketches with his Photoshop. He tells me about ice-climbing once with someone mental called Tim, and his years studying classical guitar.

August 24th; Grab time in the day to pop over for a coffee with Yugoslav DJ brothers Sasha & Zlatko at the Goethe Institut cafe.
August 23rd; At perhaps 3am, I wake up in the dark in Julia & George's spare room and go in search of drinking water. Seeing a small red dot on the television set glowing in the blackness, I press it to switch it off. The TV comes on instead, playing a song by a group of comely maids robustly calling themselves the Pussycat Dolls. The song asks Don't cha wish your girlfriend was hot like me? I watch the video to the end, then switch off the TV and get my glass of water in the dark. "I know she loves you (I know she loves you) So I understand (I understand) I'dprobablybejustascrazyaboutyou If You Were My Own Man" The Other Woman states her case.
Longish day overall. All day at the office learning time-management and problem-solving from a human-resources training company. Quite jolly. Slightly hungover today from all the spirits Heather & Mark poured down me last night before I set off to new room clutching the rather large inflateable KLM aeroplane Nina gave me. After work straight over to move my last things from Heather's (she flies to the US on Friday morning) to Julia's. Only five round trips by trolleybus 76, interspliced with yet more alcohol, and I am done. Last trip to take the old Apple iMac to Istvan's before bed.

August 22nd; At 5.30am I bother poor Georgina out of bed to drive me to the Tiszaug railway signalman's building. Must stop doing this. Thunder breaks out just after she leaves and as I board train it buckets down. The entire summer has been most British, with successive days of rain and chilly winds tricking you into finally wearing heavy waterproofs just in time to sweat like a pig on one bakingly hot afternoon. A lot like the Lake District.
Lunch with Liia. She notices that the vaguely Matisse-ish mobiles high above the atrium of the East-West Business Center are not mobiles at all, but are coloured cut-outs stuck to a huge, very clean, sheet of glass roofing the entire courtyard at perhaps the fifth floor.
August 21st; Kasper's 8th birthday. Cloudy weather. Edina comes over with Kadicsa, Peter the film-maker brings girlfriend Anna, and Kopany brings his adorable 7-year-old twin girls. We open a bottle of Spanish wine. Oddly enough, under its foil, is a cork from the same Hungarian winery as the naked-girl foresty reds.

August 20th; Hot & sunny. The village fair. In one of the tents, winemaker Laszlo Talos treats us to several of his tasty reds. Then he finds a four-leaf clover in the grass, and gives it to me.
August 19th; I wake up refreshed in the spare room at Julia & George's near the lovely ice-cream place in the 13th district. Finally, after her call yesterday, a permanent base. Now to actually move my last things from Heather's when Gordon returns. By night, Robin meets me off the train with his three younger children. We all play pool in Lakitelek, then we go back. Robin & I talk until late.

August 18th; While choosing only my 2nd ever Subway sandwich, a girl comes up behind me and puts her hands over my eyes, challenging me to guess who she is. I say Kati, but Zsoka, from day before yesterday, seems unoffended, and tells me of her course teaching office gymnastics for slumping clerical workers hunched in front of computers all day. While eating my 2nd ever Subway sandwich, a man in braces rolls by slowly on one of those Segway things that were going to be "bigger than the Internet". First one I've seen.
August 17th; Still nowhere permanent to live. This could become vexing, citizens. Franc returns from rock-climbing in the Dolomites tomorrow, so this is my last night on the Wekerle estate in his large yet cosy flat full of photographic equipment.

August 16th; At dusk I stumble around in a forest for almost an hour looking for the bohemians who live on the hill in Buda. Finally I find Robin's friend Zsoka with, of all people, Emma's ex-beau Kacsi tending a bonfire in their fabulously lush garden. We sit and talk while puppies run around, Kacsi burns an old sheepskin in sections, soft rain falls gently enough to never quite put out the smoky fire. We drink home-made schnapps as darkness falls.
August 15th; Georgina drives me to the train at 6, so Robin can sleep in. She & I finalise birthday-cake plans for next weekend. 2pm coffee with Gyorgyi of the film journal. She is writing a dissertation on Dracula films and has a book about Herzog with her. I ask if she has mentioned Tarantino's vampire flick.

August 14th; Do line drawing of Georgina's ironing board. Edina & Geza pop over for tea, bringing me 2 bottles of a red wine I helped Edina write the English puff for (the nutty aroma of smoke-filled autumn forests etc). Each bottle has a charcoal sketch of a long-limbed naked girl down the side of the label.
August 13th; Do line drawing of Georgina's washing machine. The 3 younger children (Zsuzsa, Caspar, & Bela, in descending order of age) appear to have created, without any adult involvement, their own microcurrency. They spend hours in the garden, ringing up the till at an imaginary buffet, trading imaginary meals priced in real sycamore leaves from the other end of the property - so a mildly scarce resource in terms of the game.

August 12th; On stopping train at dusk to Robin's, I count pine forests by the track for a Nazi death-camp film Zita needs locations for. A local woman I quiz about the woods along the route asks if I'm from Budapest. She gets enthusiastic when I reveal I am English. She tells me her admiration for Queen Elizabeth II.
August 11th; Strangely good, though tiring, day. They're decoding those Incan string thingies finally.
I buy and read 'The Alchemist' by Paulo Coelho, a Brazilian. Though a little slim for the price, a sharp piece of storytelling. The deliberately simple, fable-like tone makes it easy to read, and its didactic side is very lightly done. A boy goes on a journey to find if his dreams will come true. The exotic locations, combined with the lack of any details to pin down a period too exactly, all add to the mythical feel. I try not to be put off just because Madonna endorses the book. The story's surface simplicity is meant to be deceptive. Though the author (in an extraordinary foreword) claims to have buried symbols in the text, the book strikes me as being about as obvious as it claims to be. Perhaps I miss the point. I'd better watch for the omens. Vaguely reminds me of Marcelo, but probably only because I know they're both Brazilians. Light, luminous, hopeful.

August 10th; After dark I meet Erik with Mr Carlson playing backgammon at an open-air bar on Margit Island that is so fashionable it takes me half an hour of stumbling around in the woods to find it. Charming Bulgarians and Macedonians are there, but I rudely rush off with Jana realising how little time I have to catch the last metro south to Franc's flat on the Wekerle housing estate. Best part, though, is finding Orsi from the already-distant-seeming Vista days keeping bar.
Back on the walk from Hatar ut metro station through the leafy streets of Franc's estate, it gets so quiet that I can pick out three different types of cricket noise. One high, comes in surges of 1 to 2 seconds, another is about three beats a second and sounds thinner, and the third is a low throbbing buzz a bit like the sound some power lines make, only it's definitely an insect song.
August 9th; Apparently a London prostitute's weblog. A bit intermittent, but keeps a nice, breezy tone.

August 8th; Overcast day. Another crack of dawn start with Robin driving me to catch the 6.12am from Tiszaug. Breakfast on the Napfeny (Daylight) Express from Kecskemet is quite civilised. Straight into office in Pest.
As I get on the 4pm bus to Erd to teach Sari, the driver gives off powerful waves of that smell of old mattresses some people have in Hungary. As I walk to the back I am puzzled that the driver's stench fills the whole bus until I realise that several other people, carefully spaced down the length of the vehicle, also smell like the driver, so keeping the field strength fairly constant. Returning to town late in a gorgeous dusk of crisp autumn chill scented with woodsmoke, I manage to meet kind Csilla, on her mission of mercy from Franc. Walking after dark from Hatar ut metro through Franc's Hungarian Arts-and-Crafts housing estate, thick with large, mature trees and mellowed brick, I feel gratitude & hope welling up inside. I wander further in, steering by the occasional tree-smothered streetlight. I get to the innermost of the concentric squares of roads that resemble leafier streets in south Manchester. There, an absurdly large neo-Romanesque church, with more than a whiff of Lutyens in its massive white walls, looms over a small park.
August 7th; Another day or mixed sun & rain at Robin's. The curious affair of the dog in the long grass. Finished another book Robin's long-lost Berlin friend Mike left him. 'Arabic-Islamic Cities' by Besim Selim Hakim is a peculiar book, part religious history, part town architecture (have a look at that price on the website, by the way). Hakim focusses on cities of the Maghreb, particularly on an old district of Tunis. Much of the book details a set of principles in Islamic law that deeply influence the vernacular architecture of Muslim cities across North Africa and the Near East. Details to the extent of creating tree diagrams for various views on each topic (for example the issue of supporting walls). Different schools of Muslim jurists writing in the 700s and 800s are given their voice on questions such as making sure all rooms built to bridge a narrow street are nonetheless high enough to admit a camel with load and rider with some extra headroom, or how much rainwater overflow a homeowner can retain for his own use or pass on to a lower terrace owned by a neighbour.
The book has a curious plotlessness: it is really a set of lists. I have had this experience before with prose written in English by an Arabic academic, and it is hard to explain what the problem is. There seems to be no conclusion. Neither a how-to guide, nor a claim or thesis (though it looks a lot like an academic thesis). A section lists Arabic words in Arabic script with translations in English of important building and city words - with quite a few careless typos. I would hazard a guess that the mistakes are still there even in newer, 150-quid, versions of the book. There are two sections in the back with quotes from the prophet Mohammed (one section for quotes from the Koran, one section for quotes from the hadith), some of which have relevance to neighbours and buildings. A particularly repulsive one stipulates that someone who looks uninvited in through a neighbour's window and gets his eye "punctured" as a result cannot claim for compensation or legal redress. The whole thing has this dizzying textual flatness, as if the writing could go on the same in any direction, like geometrically patterned tiles, without reaching any end or conclusion. A sort of timeless, directionless telephone directory of various lists of related knowledge. What redeems this magnificently dull book are the beautiful hand-drawn maps & scale plans of houses and streets in Tunis. They are lovely and there are a lot of them. It's clear that Hakim loves vernacular Arabic architecture, his affectionate pride shines through attractively - but for God's sake don't pay for this book new.

August 6th; Slept a lot again. A few days ago at Ilan's, finished a copy of Terence McKenna's 'Food of the Gods' someone left me. This book claims that the origin of the myth of the fruit of the tree of knowledge is hallucinogenic plants or mushrooms that early humans ate, stimulating humanity's rapid rise in intelligence. McKenna believes psychedelic drugs were a natural part of all human social life and religion until about six or seven thousand years ago. That the practice kept going for an extra millennium or two in the relatively cut-off Minoan civilisation on Crete while it died out in the mainland Near East. That perhaps use of fresh hallucinogenic mushrooms gave way to the use of dried mushrooms preserved in honey, giving way to worshipping while intoxicated on naturally fermented honey - simple mead: an imperceptible shift from mushroom to alcohol occurring over centuries. He claims that the Eleusinian mystery cults and early Dionysianism were drug-based religion's last decadent afterglow lasting into recorded Western history: the mystery cults finally ended in the fourth century after Christ. The book describes modern anthropology in the last hundred years encountering isolated tribal nations, in the Amazonian forest and elsewhere, who still use psychedelic herbs for shamanic magic and worship. McKenna frets that we persistently misuse and misunderstand the plant knowledge of these last few hunter-gatherer animists.
'Food of the Gods' is a bit excitable in places. Sentences like "Asia is a place where the shattered shells of castoff religious ontologies litter the dusty landscapes like the carapaces of sand-scoured scarabs." sound worryingly like it's the psilocybin talking, rather than Terence. He has a fondness for dropping in big words ['ethnomycology', 'epigenetic'] to flatter readers. The overall argument is that the fall from a dimly remembered, nostalgically longed-for golden age in the distant past was something real. He says it was a decline from sophisticated, natural herbal drugs like psilocybin mushrooms, coca or ibogaine, to crude and harmful refined drugs like alcoholic spirits, coffee, heroin, sugar, crack cocaine: a kind of gradual profaning of the sacred high. Further, that the experience of the divine while using a psychoactive herb is not an illusion, but a genuine dissolving of the self, an actual experience of fusing with nature. He argues for a return to the moderate, socialised use of psychedelics to dissolve individualism back into group thinking, reverse what he calls dominator patriarchy, and return to respect for the mystical feminine he claims was once universal across early human religions. Overall it is lucid and entertaining, with some big jumps, but a lot of quite convincing joining-up of historical dots. The book could have been shorter. Removing some of the more florid writing might also have made a less disturbing advertisement for magic-mushroom-enlarged intelligence. Some odd sentences slip through. At one point towards the end, explaining the beauties experienced while dosed on a herbal intoxicant called DMT, he starts a new paragraph: "The Aeon, as Heraclitus presciently observed, is a child at play with colored balls. Many diminutive beings are present there - the tykes, the self-transforming machine elves of hyperspace." Rereading the whole page before and after this point several times still left me with no idea what this means. Perhaps evil refined drugs are not the only ones that need to be sampled with care.
August 5th; Last night in pouring rain made it back to Heather's to pick up raincoat and umbrella. She and her visitor Mark were cooking happily and insisted on pouring warming spirits down me before I managed to get to Franc's for late tea & toast, and a chat about the wonders of German women and the mysteries of the Soviet space programme.
Up with Franc this morning as he leaves to climb in the Dolomites. Still raining. A quick fruit juice with Kati the animator at 1pm, and then met Georgina, Letty & Caspar at Pottyos utca metro station for the drive out to the puszta.

August 4th; Out again last night with Axel & Janosch & Mariann. We visit Tuzraktar ['fire warehouse'], latest ubertrendy venue at defunct fire-engine-supplies warehouse. Downstairs about twenty people in a barren hall hear rather good bebop jazz from a live band, with birth-of-cool glockenspiel player. Axel tells me the saxophonist is the Hungarian dubbing voice of Bart Simpson. The film organisers' tired but startlingly pretty muse, Kata, simmers quietly with graceful intensity. Midnightish, we drive back to Mariann & Phil's in touring festival bus, playing goodly measures of Beck as rain continues to drench streets of central Pest.
August 3rd; Kind Szilvia sees me off to the office with cherry cake & coffee while Ilan rests. I meet multilingual Anna in their kitchen. Last night briefly drank with Mariann, Phil & a host of cheery German film-festival organisers, including Janosch and Axel.

August 2nd; This morning, I wake up on a top bunk between a fluffy gorilla and a poster of Avril L, after a deeply refreshing sleep. This might be because, at Ilan's urging, he & I visited the Szechenyi Baths' evening session last night, enjoying lots of different temperatures of mineral water.
August 1st; Evening with hospitable Ilan & Szilvia.

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

Mark Griffith, site administrator / markgriffith at yahoo.com

back up to top of page