Read Hebden library book
Alphabet versus the Goddess' by Leonard Shlain. An odd book. In case you wonder what
laparoscopic surgeons do in their time off, this might help. Shlain, a surgeon, argues that literacy, particularly literacy based on alphabets (more than scripts like Chinese or Ancient Egyptian) overdevelops the left hemispheres of both men and women, and has led to bouts of male-style intolerance and violence throughout history. He relies heavily on McLuhan, but Shlain rather stresses the linear nature of text and the thinking it encourages. He contrasts this with earlier, more archaic, holistic, visual cultures - who he claims were more likely to worship goddesses and less likely to start religious wars, burn witches or smash religious pictures. His extensive use of historical evidence is a little spoiled by calling James VI of Scotland James II of Scotland, getting a major Muslim date an entire century out, and a half-century slip on when steam engines were invented one might hope a scientist would have checked. Yet despite the breath-taking boldness of the central idea, the book is surprisingly persuasive. Shlain's timing of various historical outbreaks of bigotry is suggestive.
Hebden is still there.
WiFi not working on
train up north.
Fly to London. See
Roger, join Nigel at
Long, complicated day. As I give
his disc over a coffee
Judit suddenly pops in and charms us into joining her later at a cafe for the launch of a
book by a retired
police officer. There she introduces us to Sebestyen, a
studies. Around 10pm Istvan cooks pasta for Robin and me,
telling us about his new job at
Sitting next to Andrej, confiscating a couple of his shark-shaped fruit gums for each
word he hadn't looked up for homework, I recall Sari's Wednesday lesson in
which Steve P bitterly berated the Swiss meaninglessness of his
Beers at Constantine's. We watch a good
4 documentary on his computer about 20th-century
Islam. Then down to
Franc's on the
estate. Find his chest of bedding, and squash three pillows into a powerfully stripy
blue & white pillowcase.
Chilly. Robin & Jeremy get idea of building kennel for large dog
Lupi with mud
bricks outside in cold while I skulk indoors staying warm. Letty teaches me a card game somewhere between
Jeremy & Georgina cook wild hare + chicken legs for lunch. Meal so rich with red wine I pass out in library afterwards. After dark back to Budapest with J & Z.
Jeremy & Zita
arrive at Robin's on the Great Plain. I sit next to
hearth fire slitting open chestnut shells, and realise I can toast some myself there and then. Not so easy at first, but I get hang of it.
Only just make it to train to
having failed to find a dry cleaner in Budapest that doesn't want customers to go away and die. Partly unwind on journey.
As Wells' lunar creatures showed in
Men in the Moon', communication
starts with imitation.
night again. I'm getting good at this.
Schoolfriend Paul's birthday: one of the few I ever remembered. Breakfast & dinner with
& Piera & Bobo. Weight-training & sauna in between.
Afternoon coffee at the
who has too much work on his
hands. Esther chances by. Later with
& photographer Piera to a house in Buda up near the top of the
railway line. There a lovely dinner
and film-maker friends and his
striking aircraft-pilot wife. Jaap has a column in
Italy beats Netherlands 3 to 1 at football during the meal. Later on,
table football & Tarot reading.
Day. Early night. 13 hours' sleep.
Someone has used an aerosol to spray-paint a stencilled logo for
in white 3 times onto the top steps of the Ferenciek tere metro exit, so I see it
every morning on the way to the office. Supposedly a documentary. From the website
it looks like it might be interesting: amusing idea of taking any corporation's legal
status as a person to the extreme. What is the psychiatric personality type of a
typical corporation? Sounds clever as a synopsis at least.
Blair defeated on
Nice to meet Reka from
on the bus to Kolosy square yesterday. In evening Mariann takes me to
Ervin Central Library and lets me borrow three books on her tickets.
Cinnamon tea afterwards.
Drop in on
& Steve, finding they share an office now with Tony from Ireland.
I get food poisoning a couple of hours after eating in
After a Saturday in the office, Liia kindly takes me to a party of CEU business students
hosted by the jovial Daniel/Kaali. Everything is very demure until
one of the Persian girls, Sogal, puts on some Arab music. A cue for another
Persian girl, Sharareh, to wrap a cloth round her waist with lots of jingly metal
things sewn into it and do a rather impressive solo dance. Then we catch the last
bus down Daniel's hill. Giorgi reveals he is a
speaker. Once back in Pest
we repair to the indoor winter version of the nightclub
Beach. This turns out to be very orange. Backlit concentric orange
ovals along the walls, glowing orange drums for tables, and underlit orange discs
to dance on all work at a retro high early-70s mood. Wants to recall vintage
magazine. However, resolutely 80s dance music (the DJ
well keen on Michael Jackson's 'Thriller' record) undermines the style statement slightly.
Liia & I go to lunch in the
canteen, where we eat with a friend of hers spelled
Lia. Lia is from
like Viola & Mihaela. Last night I
again met Istvan
from the Vista days, now running the Puskin
Cafe. Puskin is a
hotspot, so I could finish my book proposal for
Pluto at last.
That was after reading two Tarot spreads for Kerstin. Later she took me to a jolly Nordic social event called the
Club. We found them, appropriately enough, revelling in a bar called Valhalla.
I always imagined a Valhalla of spilt beer and lusty food fights. This however was a smart, well-behaved gathering hosted by the cheerful
Jan. So smart that at the bottom of the stairs I had to walk across a plate of glass with tropical fish under it. I suppose
Bond movies are a kind of warriors' heaven too.
Yesterday finished the office copy of
into Technical Writing
for Engineers and Scientists'. Rather a let-down.
Parts of it are very good, but
the impressed reviews for it on the web are a
much. Author Barry Rosenberg has taught at MIT, so he must know
what his engineering audience like, but for a book about writing and presenting
documents there are quite a few mistakes. He says a
graph on page 88 clearly shows which days had above-average temperatures.
I found the graph confusing, and it misspelled
'temperature' twice. A clever passage where
nasty statements about editors are each crossed out and followed
by praise for editors ("because we always get the last word,
Rosenberg") spoils the joke with a typo in the middle of the page.
The one page most of us would triple-check in a
how-to-write book would be the page where we make fun of editors. There is
lots of good, straightforward advice, however. Keep sentences short. Make verbs
active. Use lots of white space. Give examples. More examples would
have been good, come to think of it.
He covers a lot of ground. Probably the best thing about this book is how
many topics he discusses: writing an internal proposal, giving a slide
show, doing a business plan, not annoying people with curt
or cryptic e-mails, how to make a good index, a few words on fonts.
The white space trick made a short book unnecessarily heavy, but each page was
laid out nicely. Rosenberg's style is breezy and light, and this
helps. Yet some of his writing jars. In one example,
he tidies up an awkward sentence. This goes through
several steps. Yet all the edits leave
the worst thing in the sentence unchanged. Something pompously "transitions to" something
else. Not "changes into" or "becomes"? If a writer teaching
clarity thinks transitioning belongs in a writing lesson, it's hard to
keep faith. Edward Tufte is still streets ahead on
presenting information clearly in charts
and graphs. Tufte writes quite well, too.
Buy book explaining
Rider Waite cards
in parallel with
I do some
readings for Piera, Edina & Geza, and they all turn out rather
darkly negative. Edina & Geza drive me to Lakitelek and we drink cappuccinos
while waiting for my train back to Budapest.
Mark Griffith, site administrator /
markgriffith at yahoo.com
up to top of page