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

2011
...............................................................................................................................................................


May 31st; Green tea with Bisan in sun-dappled shade of Liszt square.
Via Robin 2, an article about Ailes, the guiding light at Fox Television News. Seems several lifetimes ago I read 'The Selling of the President' from my local public library about the then fairly recent 1968 US presidential campaign. I had no idea the same Roger Ailes who manipulated US television coverage to get Nixon elected is still alive, still active, and still doing much the same thing. Now in his early 70s, having built Fox News into a seemingly unassailable opinion shaper: '"Republicans originally thought that Fox worked for us," said David Frum, the former Bush speechwriter. "Now we’re discovering that we work for Fox."'
May 30th; Electronic devices lovelier than perfume or fresh baked bread.

May 29th; Japanese girl dressed as French maid gives toy-robot-reprogramming tutorial.
May 28th; Sometimes hard to get work done when the girls drop round.
Wonderful dinner in the evening at Zoe's. Hasso tells me about the German diplomatic service in exotic locations like Mozambique.

May 27th; Breakfast with Rob at an outdoor cafe in the shade looking at the sun on the buildings across the other side of Andrassy street. Later I go to see the Copy General photocopy and printing-shop editing fellow with plenty of time to spare, but find that editing my rough two-sided business card into shape and printing two sheets of them {48 name cards} takes two hours. He is very cheerful and precise and tidies up my prints, and he & I are too tired by the end to notice that he has erased my phone number and put my e-mail address on both sides of the card instead. Still, at two hours total, or almost three minutes a card, almost as quick as penning each one by hand in fine copperplate with a freshly-cut quill. Part-way through, the two blonde Norwegian maidens who founded Budadogs come into the photocopy place with three amiable leashed hounds of different sizes and colourings, and we briefly chat about animals, their studies, and bookselling. This compares Bush's view of US spook priorities and Obama's view of US spook priorities. A bit plodding, as American articles tend to be, but informative.
May 26th; Go with Bisan and Jamal to Bullet's exhibition opening. Find Robin & Zita and lots of others, including 3-Girlfriend Tamas, Dominic, Scott.

May 25th; Hallelujah, our book is on sale in North America. So that only took five and a bit months. My fault obviously for refusing to obediently melt the text down into a digital file Amazon can sell cheaply on their reading machine before it gets cracked and copied and given away for nothing and normal book trading dies out altogether. May the Lord make us truly thankful for what we are about to receive. Apparently yesterday President Obama absent-mindedly signed some visitors' book in London "2008" probably because, as the New Yorkers maliciously suggest, he enjoyed that year a lot and subconsciously wishes it had never ended.
May 24th; Another depressing day. Weather hot and sticky. Jungle sounds urge urgent action in place of feeble introspection.

May 23rd; Morning green tea with Henri. Sleep off what feels like heat stroke. Around midnight finish Robert Temple's curious tome 'The Sirius Mystery', a re-edition he did at the end of the 1990s adding more findings on a topic he began looking at in the 1970s. The book ends splendidly with a short polite afterword about his family long being of note in USA Freemasonry, including a German-British forebear called John Leonard who was apparently tall and strong, formed part of George Washington's personal bodyguard, and grew a third set of teeth in middle age a few years after the American War of Independence. The book's quite startling thesis is partly summed up on page 258. "The Dogon tribe are really the last of the Argonauts, from whom they are quite literally descended - being Minyans in the middle of West Africa." However, there is more. The Argonauts, according to Temple, had a quite extraordinary secret in common with some of the Near Eastern mystery cults, and the Mali tribe studied by two French anthropologists since the 1930s retain in the purest form yet found these early mysterious beliefs elsewhere garbled and corrupted beyond understanding. This secret apparently was and is no less than that human civilisation was seeded or at least advised and helped in detail by amphibious aliens of supposedly repulsive appearance from the neighbourhood of the Sirius star system, ten light years distant, when they visited the Near Eastern region around 5,000 years ago. These aliens imparted all sorts of handy tips like writing, architecture, geometry, large-scale organisation. By-the-by they left behind detailed accounts of how the stars Sirius B and Sirius A orbit each other. These details are still recorded faithfully in the inner-sanctum advanced mysteries preserved in a remote corner of Africa. Mysteries which the Dogon tribe allowed anthropologists Griaule and Dieterlen, accepted after a couple of decades as tribe elders, to be instructed in. This becomes more intriguing to the sceptical eye once it emerges that Sirius B is not only invisible to the naked eye {being a small and dense dwarf star}, but is spoken of in Dogon myth as being dark, very heavy, inconceivably dense, hidden etc, and was only seen by telescopes in the mid-20th century after Griaule and Dieterlen's first accounts appeared in print. Seemingly, it gets better. So imagine this Dogon tribe in West Africa are the unlikely but possible descendents of a fundamentalist ancient Greek sect that fled persecution inland over a couple of centuries from Libya and eventually intermarried with native Africans in the upper Niger valley, a remote part of what is now Mali. Temple says they told their French anthropologist friends about a third star. Sirius C, also normally invisible, was another part of the Sirius system according to Dogon sacred stories. The discovery by modern astronomers of just such a Sirius C in between the first edition of Temple's book in the 1970s and this later edition in the late 1990s rather raises the stakes therefore. Temple reproduces some notes from the two anthropologists in English at the back of the book, showing intriguing Dogon diagrams. The Dogon seem to know of the periodicity of the Sirius B orbit {just under 50 years, around 49 and a half years}. Not taking away from the breath-taking main idea, there is also a lot of inadvertently poetic language of enormous power : 'The pattern of the master of the star of the Shoemaker' is one Dogon diagram ; A neighbouring tribe called the Bozo refer to Sirius as 'Sitting Trouser star' ; an ancient Egyptian phrase of 'ancestor gods of the circle of the sky'. Most of the book in fact has Temple searching back from the present-day Dogon, purists in exile who preserved and passed on the original story in more faithfully semi-literal detail, to more jumbled traces in Greek, Egyptian, Persian, Chinese, and Babylonian records. He gives references to Babylonian accounts {and images} of amphibian visitors who slept underwater at night, bringing humanity useful and clever ideas despite their hideous appearance {Dogon myth explicitly says they came to earth from Sirius, in a sky ship} ; he points out haunting similarities to the legendary accounts of Fuxi and his fellow amphibians, mythical founders of Chinese civilisation - probably a story that travelled from the Near East. He hunts through Greek, Jewish, and Egyptian myth in search of references to Sirius, the number fifty, "dark and light" aspects to Sirius, amphibious pioneers, early geomancy, the curious positioning of several oracular sites at exact one-degree intervals, and so on. In one appendix, he convincingly suggests that the late Hellenic writer Proclus knew a lot of material direct from a mystery cult he had been initiated into, and hinted as much as he could in text without breaking his oaths of secrecy, including much speculation on the supposedly sacred fraction 256/243. This approximates to the decimal ratio 1.053 which is apparently the ratio of the mass of Sirius B to the mass of our sun, and Proclus' context discussing planetary orbits and masses makes it seem not entirely arbitrary to draw the conclusion that he might have known of and intended to refer to this particular ratio with that particular number. Much of the book is quite heavy going as Temple ploughs through references and sub-topics, though he has the humour to realise he is testing the reader's patience in places. None the less, the mounting cumulative effect of all these different scraps of possible reference is powerful. Even details like the dragon's teeth of Greek myth start to make more sense in this new frame. Infected by his connect-everything zeal, I started to wonder why a certain tweed fabric is named hounds'-tooth {dogs, teeth, and dragons are integrally linked in Temple's interpretative mesh}.
Temple is an American who moved to Britain and settled there in his 20s, in the 1960s, and the book lists a startling set of affiliations. Opposing my expectation that this book would be fringe-like is Temple's claimed membership of the Royal Astronomical Society, the Royal Historical Society, the Egypt Exploration Society, the British School of Archeology at Athens, and several other impressive-sounding bodies. He then jars this initial write-up from his publisher by mentioning how the original publication of 'The Sirius Mystery' in the 1970s brought him a certain amount of harassment from several countries' intelligence agencies, such as the CIA. Naturally this makes him sound like a crank again. However, as he spends just a calm couple of pages naming two or three CIA agents who made scores of phone calls to friends and employers of Temple's urging them to cut off contact with him, insists he still has no idea why he should have aroused such hostility, and never again returns to the topic, his subjective credibility starts to recover. The fact, left quite late in the book, that he became a close friend of pioneering China scholar Joseph Needham and his Chinese wife and was allowed by them to pull together a huge body of Needham's unused notes into a book celebrating Chinese accomplishments in science again reinforces Temple and makes him sound like a serious academic. Which leaves the very reasonable question of why a career re-examining world myth in search of references to visitors from Sirius should cause spooks like those of Langley, Virginia irritation. In several places, Temple's view has the refreshing ring of common sense. He asks why everyone thinks the Sphinx is a lion with a human face when it doesn't look at all like the body of a lion, and suggests it is much more likely to be a giant sculpture of a dog, namely the jackal god Anubis, with the head of some vain pharoah later superimposed on it. Now he mentions it, I have to agree the Sphinx never looked particularly lion-like and this is something that I, like everyone else, just accepted because that's what we were told.
May 22nd; My internet connection having run out, I get to the showroom to find its billing software disabled by a burst pipe. Oddly the WiFi also does not work on my laptop, although it seems to work for everyone else.

May 21st; Go to a curious poetry reading where Allison is, and it turns out so are Bisan & her cheery younger brother Jamal also, along with Nick the chess player who admires Capablanca above all others.
May 20th; Depression continues. Breakfast with Allison The Linguist, where we bump into Kalman's friend Attila. Afternoon Arabic lesson attended by Bisan's brother Jamal, who gives Eva a small set of cartoon angel stickers.

May 19th; Depression returns. Have a look at the standard argument against free will, and Strawson's restatement of it. It seems to be not much more than a bald pincer attack between determinacy and indeterminacy.
May 18th; 2nd and 3rd chair vaguely underway. Now a standard frame to hold them in place.

May 17th; Woman in white rolls eyes in rapture while dutiful hound keeps the straight gaze of dignity.
May 16th; Wake up in Budapest after 12 hours sleep. How feeble I am. Interesting web-design lesson with Monika & her baby. I'm slowly starting to get the feel of Joomla. Afterwards two quick Tarot spreads for her.

May 15th; Unpleasant night of being short of breath with totally blocked nose, meaning I sleep from about 3am to 5am the rest of the time struggling for air. At about 8am I stumble over to Robin's studio to doze a couple of hours on his sofa there in air wholly free of cat fluff but instead soothingly scented with linseed oil. This is because I had that strong Turkish coffee yesterday for Ernesto to read my fortune from: I can almost hear Roger the Wizard's sad tut-tutting noises. Meanwhile Zsuzsi has somehow pulled a muscle in her shoulder. In the afternoon, Robin & I untangle some fishing line sitting on the grass under grey, vaguely thundery skies, then eating lots of Marcsi neni's extremely good strudels.
Although the design of this rather adorable paper cut-out is nostalgic, I assume it needed a laser cutter.
May 14th; At Robin's. I goad Robin into action and together we mend the latch on the sitting-room door before lunch. At lunchtime charismatic half-Hungarian, half-Chilean interior designer Ernesto and his fetching all-Hungarian wife Eva arrive to look round Robin's studio and choose artworks. After lunch we have cups of strong black coffee with lots of sugar so that Ernesto can do the coffee-grounds fortune-telling trick he learned in the Balkans from Greeks and Serbs. I pay with intensified cat allergy later for breaking my coffee fast, but the two readings are interesting. Ernesto sees in Robin's grounds a dog, a kneeling woman, and two scorpions. In my coffee-cup grounds he sees a V for victory {very soon, apparently}, three people helping me, of whom a woman with a big lucky snake on her back is seemingly the most important.

May 13th; Excellent Arabic lesson with the bubbly Bisan, mild-mannered Kristof turning up one hour twenty five minutes late, and Eva getting really good. Quite inspired by this cheese advert in Arabic to press on with the language. As night falls, Robin appears at my flat ready for our trip to the Great Plain. We drive out into the dusk, batting ideas back and forth as the countryside gets flatter, lonelier, and darker.
May 12th; Some striking, attractive Tarot card designs by an Argentinian artist, via Mark With The Dog. Fool / Chariot / Death.

May 11th; Those Walloons. Music to dance naked to while splattered in vomit. No collection complete without, etc. Sunny day. Rob takes me out to lunch and goes home with the first chair, texting me later with kind tales of how when he picked up his daughter, little Mali's playmates' mothers at the nursery all cooed over my first ever carpentry.
May 10th; Tea Party for starting work on the Second Chair. Terri & Bisan come in the warm afternoon, and Ilan, Kalman, & Attila turn up after dark and take it in turns to sit on the First Chair on the balcony while we eat biscuits and drink tea.

May 9th; With the crucial offstage help of Mystery Friend 1, I've now heard several other of the Melvyn Bragg discussions that were eluding my laptop, such as the Spartan and Francis Bacon ones. Clear the In Our Time webpage hasn't been properly maintained for years though: old shows still in Real Media, lots of 2009 iPlayer files not playing, the timer slider not working if you interrupt a playback for too long, and so on. During Joomla lesson with Monika, see some rather unsettling Tarot card art by a friend of hers.
May 8th; Grey rainy morning. Brunch with Fraser, over from London. We chat about cosmonauts and the Scots typographical tapeworm book.

May 7th; A couple of days ago, during a sunny afternoon, am in the sports shop being served by the blonde who clearly does a lot of weight-training. From one visit weeks ago, she remembers to ask me how the publishing is going, which is kind. She's the one with the beautifully outlined breasts, the slightly too well-defined dense upper biceps, the thick blonde rope of multiply-rubber-banded ponytail swinging down her back as far as her slim waist ...and the deep male voice.
May 6th; One of the more atmospheric 70s blaxploitation movie tunes. 'Out There' by Willie Hutch from Foxy Brown, which I saw in Desiree/Bill's night club Bitch round the corner. This the film that has for its McGuffin a severed penis in a jam jar.

May 5th; Warm, sunny, yet oddly depressing Friday. Wake with back ache. Miss my Arabic lesson. Surprise evening curry with Terri & Alvi at the Taj Mahal up Szondi street, bigger and better-furnished than I remember. On the tram home at the end of the evening, finish a book called 'Genesis Machines' by Martyn Amos. Apparently, Amos got the world's first Phd for DNA computing in the 1990s, and now teaches at what used to be Manchester Polytechnic. This is the place where, alongside all the engineering labs and industry-based courses, our art teachers rented a studio for a week three times over sixth form for the practice of drawing nude girls. Amos describes how researchers in both biology and computer science realised already 20 years ago that lab vessels of DNA, cooked and filtered in the right ways, could in principle be used for massively parallel assaults on NP-hard calculations like the travelling salesman problem. Amos tells the story of how the new field grew up, and how the emphasis subtly shifted away from biological computing as such towards areas like synthetic biology. It ends in 2006, five years ago, with Craig Venter's scientists still working on stripping the insides of a bacterium out, and stocking it all over again only with working "parts" (such as enzymes) that they thoroughly understand. This is the spirit of the "Registry of Standard Biological Parts", which styles itself as a catalogue of basic biochemical tools & components needed to make cells work. At last, four years after the book went to press, Venter's team finished building the world's first man-made lifeform last year. Lively, but more diagrams would have been nice.
May 4th; Not sure how comfortable these would be - benches made of tennis balls. Small impromptu tea party to celebrate Completion of the Chair goes well, with Jeremy popping over and Rob bringing his very sweet and well-behaved 5-year-old Mali, who seems pleased when I show her my fluffy crocodile and inflated aeroplane. Everyone seems to like the fact that I haven't repainted the thing yet, and so have inadvertently given it a distressed, antiquey, characterful battered-item-on-a-boat look. They protest when I say I want to paint over the sanded surface with a nice new coat of gloss. Rob says the height & narrowness of the chair would be perfect for his violin practice. He asks me to build a second wooden chair for him.

May 3rd; A couple of days ago US soldiers supposedly found Osama bin Laden in a secure-looking compound in Pakistan close to the capital, killed him, checked his DNA against a DNA spec of Mr bin Laden they somehow had on file, and then dumped his body into the Indian Ocean hours later. Lunch outdoors with Rob in chilly shade which becomes hot sunshine as the shadow of the edge of the building retreats across our table over an hour.
May 2nd; Translations into English of Rumi's blissed-out verse about love & ecstasy. Fine minimal website, give or take the odd typo. The first poem is called either 'Like This' or 'If Anyone Asks You'.

May 1st; Spring creeps up, but not the unbroken seven months' sunshine belting down from April until October of previous years. Warm half-days turn suddenly chilly, gusty, mysterious, northern, dark.


Mark Griffith, site administrator / markgriffith at yahoo.com