Read a book by Rupert Sheldrake.
sense of being stared at' is
and daringly bizarre by turns. Once-orthodox biologist
has, in the years since
called his first weird book about morphic resonance "a
book for burning",
been doing experiments with animal telepathy. He has
idea of, when people claim their dog "knows" when
their owner is
coming home, or even has formed the intention of
coming home, methodically testing
their claims. This book contains much of his material
on this, but rather more.
He makes the
startling proposal that when children, primitives, and
the ancients, think that vision
is something coming out of the eyes, not just
in, that they might be right and
modern biology [for whom the eye is only a receiver of
light] wrong. Next to that one,
another suggestion - that waking a couple of minutes
before your alarm clock goes off
or your alarm call comes through [as I always do] is
not a form of internal clock but
an everyday form of seeing into the future - sounds
positively tame. Clearly I
underestimated Sheldrake when Andrew took me to see
him in Kensington in the 80s.
No shortage of boldness, whatever else.
Visit very helpful
e-cafe in Halifax. Grey, rainy
John finds me in a Chinatown
cafe. Chilly night.
Read the book I gave mother for Christmas.
by Design' by Phil Baines,
though a handsome picture book
of 70 years of smart and clever Penguin covers, was
oddly reminiscent of 'Stet'. Much the same period,
1935 to 2005, is covered, and there is the same story
of decline. Idealistic young
designers, editors and publishers slowly slide over
the postwar decades towards ever more confused-looking
books. Both accounts show modernism failing, as what
looked sharp & new in one decade becomes old-fashioned
in the next. For the first 15 or 20 years
Lane and his young designers were brightly
confident that modernism and good taste were
compatible - or even synonymous. It slowly
emerges that they are neither: the same wistful
history as modernism in architecture.
What worked for both was a kind of classicism that
insisted on undercutting itself.
A gorgeous book visually, packed with sharp,
attractive cover designs. Refreshing to
read accounts of people who really cared about
typefaces: the early use of
shows Penguin's real roots in
Bodley Head and the
passion of the 1890s.
But by the 1990s,
when Penguin dropped the Pelican imprint under
pressure from American partners for
clashing with a US book series and for being "too
highbrow", a similar failure to that
in Athill's narrative becomes clear. A quick sum based
on shop assistants'
wages and cigarette prices in 1935 and 2005 suggests
Penguin paperbacks have
tripled in real price. Lose the founding mission to
smart, affordable, accessible paperbacks on serious
and what's left of Penguin?
In small hours finish mother's copy of Diana Athill's
book about her life as an editor.
despite being written in an upbeat, brisk tone, is
rather a sad story.
From the 1940s to the 1990s, Athill worked for Andre
Deutsch, as a partner and book
editor. Apart from enjoying offices at quite
attractive London addresses, it seems
neither Athill nor Deutsch felt they had much to show
for five decades helping
get their first books published.
She was charmed and inspired by him, but depicts
Deutsch as nastily critical of
colleagues he liked to their faces,
slyly nasty about employees he didn't like behind
their backs [until they left of
their own accord], and deeply forgiving of himself.
Andre Deutsch was a Hungarian.
As being an independent book publisher in the 1980s
grew ever bleaker,
his phrase "It's not fun any more" sums up the firm's
failure to outgrow its energetic but flawed founder.
As authors join them and then
leave them for bigger publishers, until Deutsch sells
off the backlist to no avail,
Athill's crisp, cheerful prose has an ever more
depressing effect. A poignant moment
at the end when she revisits an editorial office after
her retirement and marvels
happily that "It's still there" ["It" standing for
"being young", she explains]
makes me wonder if she was in love with Deutsch for
decades as she
toiled for him like a junior rather than a partner.
Two tiny photographs
on the book's cover show Athill, in one at
what looks like an elegant yet lively fancy-dress
party in the late 1940s. Beautifully
written, not least because of her fair-mindedness.
Yet imagining her polishing the prose of
novelists for fifty years seems a dreadful waste for
all her protestations of
having found it a lot of fun.
Ryan phones from Michigan. Mentions
Carlson's copy of the
Robert Greene book,
Art of Seduction'. This
ever-so-slightly-sinister tome is a
typographically lush guide to seducing people, using
lots of examples from both
literature and history. By "lush" I mean playful use
of shaped paragraphs at each
chapter start and finish (text in ovals, triangles,
shapes reflecting the personality
type of that chapter), plus use of lilac italic margin
notes quoting sources like
Homer's Odyssey, Casanova's diaries, Stendhal on love
and so forth. This part - the
handsome design of the book - is presumably down to
Elffers, designer/editor/'producer'. (Elffers'
on birthdays is probably the one used at the party
mentioned.) The design of Greene's book very
successful - just a smidgeon of
disappointment at finding typos on both page 107 and
108 in such an otherwise
sumptuous, carefully-presented text. Am fairly sure it
was Greene's other book (on
of power) that I found on Andrei's bookshelves a
couple of years back. Another
set of lessons drawn from history and literature. In
'Art of Seduction'
Greene distinguishes 18 types of victim for seduction,
and ten types of seducer.
The basic idea is: choose a compatible person whose
weaknesses and illusions
you understand, and use the seduction method that best
suits your own personality.
Though he claims that everyone wants to be seduced (he
quotes one wit who claims that
virtue is just an appeal to be more stylishly
seduced), chapter headings like
'Mix pain and pleasure' or 'Master the art of
insinuation' are vaguely alarming,
nonetheless. Very readable and interesting. A queasy
hint of the
overdoing-the-box-of-chocolates feeling afterwards.
Christmas Day. Chicken,
Christmas Eve. Find mother's old copy of
Seidensticker's English translation of Murasaki
Tale of Genji' on a top shelf. Bit bulky for
I finish the Peter
of Spain logic book borrowed on Mariann's ticket,
drop it off at the
on the way to the airport, and fly to Manchester. Two
separate men, one at the airport,
one at Victoria railway station, are so drunk that
they cannot get off the floor. This
'Petrus Hispanus Mester
Logikajabol' by Gennadiosz
Szkholariosz, was a translation into Greek of the main
mediaeval logic textbook by Peter
of Spain from the 1200s. Western students used this
text to study Aristotle and logic even
up to Thomas More's time. The odd journey Aristotelian
logic went on was translation from
Greek to Arabic, Arabic to Latin in Spain, and - in
this case - translation back into
Greek just in time for Byzantium to fall to the Turks.
The translator into Greek,
Gennadios, actually saw the fall of Constantinople in
1453 and served as Orthodox
Patriarch after the Turkish conquest. This
dual-translation edition by the
/ Hianypotlo [Good text / Filling a gap] publisher
had his Greek on the left [by the 1400s the
Greek-speaking East was an intellectual backwater, and
even a 200-year-old Latin text was cutting edge] and
the Hungarian version of Maria Szabo on the right.
Nice and short. Peter elaborates his own taxonomy of
types around the Aristotelian syllogism, and lays out
differences between categories of Aristotelian
inference clearly. Extraordinary to read something by
the mysterious Peter of Spain at last. Budapest's
central lending library has no fewer than four copies
of this apparently vital text on its shelves.
More merriment with
this time with his friends the mellow Jack and the
I duck out of the party later.
Cheery dinner with
Carlson joins us at the
Evening office party at
utterly charming friend Isabel. I find I like Pina
Caladas a lot, and the way Isabel pronounces it
suggests there is a little squiggly
tilde on top of the n.
move some boxes to Vera's. Vera gives me the rest of
the almond scent she is burning because I like it so
At evening's end I get to the end of
a densely written book from the office about Internet
How do I start to describe this? One of Geoff Huston's
"A sad reflection of the conflict
objectives and longer term considerations is that the
evident short-term motivations of ready and equitable
access to the IPv4 address [which were the
motivational factors in determining the current
Internet address allocation policies] run the
consequent risk of monopoly-based restrictive trade
and barrier-based pricing as a longer term outcome of
unallocated address space exhaustion."
"Exhaustion" is right: the book is
long and poorly written. Most sentences could have
cut in half or removed. Huston's networks never have
shapes or grids or plans
- they have topologies, architectures, environments
scenarios. Nothing less than four syllables will do.
He is fond of words like
'germane' and 'antonym', and likes 'carriage' (the
noun for carrying data) so
much that he uses it eight times in one paragraph. At
least 100 terms
are missing from the glossary, and to make space for
an extra ten pages of glossary this six-hundred-page
block of a book could have
dropped around two hundred pages of the kind of
sentence quoted above. Some
interesting technical topics are discussed - a chapter
on payment models for data
packets finds problems with all the best guesses of
how best ISPs can charge each
other for passing on Internet traffic. Some intriguing
terms are introduced: I
sequence spaces" and
horizon with poison reverse",
but some are introduced without any explanation at
all, while others are only
explained badly. One thing he does a lot of is explain
a term 50 or 100 pages after
he starts using it. Many of the diagrams are
unhelpful, though some are very good.
Things he understands well, such as network protocols,
explained too tersely, though embedded in long-winded
sentences anyway. Things he
understands less well, such as economics and business,
are laboured at huge length.
To be fair to Huston, he may not have expected many
to read it all the way through, and there were perhaps
not many people qualified to
write this book in 1998. On the other hand, that's
what editors and ghost writers
are for. Problem is, you need modesty to even think of
help, and wading through
the closing hundred pages of his pompous
non-predictions about Internet "futures"
and "policy" should leave no reader in any doubt as to
modest this writer is. One section has him archly
for using a word as "misused and meaningless" as
'multimedia'. This is after
hundreds of pages of writing 'impacting' instead of
'affecting' or 'influencing' or
'changing' - and repeatedly using 'issues' instead
of 'problems', or 'drawbacks' or 'flaws'... Why use
one word for both 'topic' or 'theme'
('issues') and for things
('issues' again), so blurring what you want to
surprise several sad, exhausted readers on the
Internet are trying to sell this 30-dollar book
for two dollars sixty. As Mark Twain said of the
of Mormon: "chloroform in
To get some better lightbulbs with more
candlepower, I pop over to
centre. While I have my shoe
trying to undo a stubborn shoelace knot, I find
over me. I undo knot, we buy electrical goods, we
drink milkshakes, we sight Scott.
On the top floor of the mall, Erik points out to me
Palmers lingerie shop is exactly
between a clothes shop called
Envy and another clothes shop called Amnesia.
After work and after a decade, I give
his maths books back. We shelter from the sleet in a
Lunch, catch up with
After work, over a beer, I try to help sort out
Thoughtful piece via
losers", in journal with silly pun title.
As we leave the house on the Great Plain at 7am,
5-year-old Bela throws a fit about which coat to wear.
Georgina drives Bela to the nursery, and then Letty
to Kecskemet. I reach the railway station just missing
a train I'd like to have caught,
and am told that the timetable has changed. This would
be why the
muppets took the
down yesterday, exactly the day their passengers would
need it most? Presumably they
don't know how to update a website offline. This
mysterious timetable change
makes me wait an hour and a half in Kecskemet to get
on the 9.30am slow
train to Budapest. After a long day, I relax over
Chilly day with lemon-sharp sun streaming across the
Plain. I take photos of Robin's
toy outdoors in the wind.
Later we go for a walk: his over-enthusiastic dogs
Vicky & Lupi run
after the scent of some deer and need restraining &
Indoors I teach Kasper rules for
mini-chess, like those reduced versions
Polgar is promoting. After
& I drive to inspect the Tiszakurt Internet cafe, past
a few farm cottages with strings of
flashing Xmas lights draped over them.
Tiskainoka's parish church has a five-foot-high
pentacle made of
fairy lights proudly mounted halfway up the belltower.
Tiszakurt's only bar we meet two excited girls
dancing beside a jukebox.
Give talk at office about
Discussion afterwards quite good. On
I sit next to a large, quiet man in a suit & tie. We
each other good appetite as we start eating our
and then wish each other good health as we sip glasses
beer. One European House!
Waiting for my underground train to meet Politics
lingerie poster on the platform. A Hungarian
man & woman are casually examining the clinging
negligee in the poster, talking about whether the
mannequin's nipples have been digitally erased. I join
discussion. The man & I wonder if there is also
about the area around her mouth.
Politics Judit is in full flow inside a cafe called
to the cathedral, where she introduces me to Isabel
Madrid [Judit keeps calling her "Spain"] and Robert
Hamburg. Tarot readings and good cheer.
A lozenge of bright sunshine creeps across my wall as
I wake up. As I get
up and get dressed it crosses the board-mounted
photograph of the
Kovacs ceramic sculpture [of a mother & two
above my bed. I could place a mirror or two to act as
a silent alarm
clock by directing a sunbeam onto my face at a precise
morning [adjusting the mirrors a bit each week for the
Like the silent doorbell in
Wake this morning out of vivid dream about being drawn
into a vegetarian sex cult
made up mainly of petite, dark-haired girls dressed as
giant peanuts. Am still
coughing up chunks of phlegm. On crowded underground
train to work, I blow
my nose badly, so splatter dignified woman in glasses
sitting next to me.
Without comment, she carefully wipes my snot off her
face while staring gloomily into
the middle distance, as is the Hungarian way. At
we get a talk at the
office from a
speaker who has no arms. After work I meet
of Sciences for a fruit tea, before getting to
Buda to find that
Andrej has done not one, but two,
as homework. Perhaps eating all his
fruit gums last time effective.
2nd half of interesting
show about how to do presentations for managers.
In the dining car from
back to town, a sad effort to be Xmassy
has draped tinsel over some windows. One cord of
blinking orange lights snakes
the length of two tables at
end of the carriage.
Edina & Geza drop by at
We are all ill. Edina answers my questions about her
thesis on witches, dragons & magic horses. Robin &
Geza get involved in doing things with black ink on
hundreds of old business cards. I discover Robin's
Interesting meeting at work about
business models. Bump into
Afterwards I rush to catch the last train to Robin's
on the Great Plain.
to Budapest. I've found English flight crews always
say "Use of mobile phones during
the flight is forbidden because they can interfere
with navigational equipment."
Hungarian flight crews always say "Use of mobile phones during the flight
is forbidden." Straight from
airport to school to see Rachel,
a charming history applicant. Afterwards, I see
Franc's vast photo task for myself, laid out in rows
and rows across his floor.
Mark Griffith, site administrator /
markgriffith at yahoo.com
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