Find Xenia at the closer-by
shop to Zsolt's has the typeface Zsolt was lacking.
With her help I do a fifth design. She tactfully handles a succession of odd & lonely people
coming into her shop while I wait. Later in evening Cairo client says she doesn't like any
of the designs (I sensibly left out the vile fourth one - Gentle Reader must be assured
it would not have won the business). I ask her if she can say if this or that design is too
heavy or too complicated or has too many straight lines perhaps to give me some idea of how
to adapt the design. She helpfully ignores this and explains her logo should be sexy, feminine,
fun, fresh, and memorable. Completely unlike any other logo then.
Client likes 2nd design better. I redraw it and do two more with the help of
the space of an hour and a half. The final one is hideously ugly, but that's wholly
my fault. Losing concentration.
Amazingly, client willing to wait. I find Zsolt. He works at a rival copyshop to Copy
General (where they yesterday gave me the Hungarian answer of "No, we don't do that. No
exceptions." when I wanted to sit down next to their graphics person for an hour and pay
him to draw out my designs, though that is in fact his job, and I have done precisely this
with one of their graphics people before in the past. I was exquisitely patient & friendly.
He was sweet and co-operative. He got the job wrong.) I sit down next to the
rival firm's graphics person, Zsolt,
and he does what I need, skilfully, for an hour. I send two designs to client.
Several more attempts to obtain said graphics program or find someone who has one.
Mid-afternoon I contact client in Cairo to apologise and say I cannot help her after all.
Then back home burst into tears at coming so close.
One of the more truthful headlines.
Monday. Off to Viktor the dentist for morning filling in front tooth. Being a couple of years
since I last saw him, he's moved address. His new clinic turns out to be in a drab government
building where by paying cash I get to step in front of four or five weary-looking state
dental patients seated outside. Understandably, they seem glum. Still ....Viktor no longer
motorbiking into his own private practice any more? I hope nothing bad happened to him.
The day builds up to me spending midnight to six a.m. Tuesday at a chilly tram stop with good
WiFi reception trying, and failing, to download a copy of a large graphics program the Nigel
of Darkness is sending me. I have been trying to organise this for several days now, given
that my copy of said software only a few days ago turned out to be horribly corrupted and
Paul Coelho is giving away his writing
and commentators are saying, like retards, that this shows that writers & publishers need
not fear free digital text. Of course, what it really shows is Coelho
already has brand-name recognition + big market share. It particularly shows most
people would benefit from reading a little more economics, thereby knowing what economists
mean by the term 'dumping'.
Martina kindly translates a message into German for the
book fan page. Please forward
that link - http://on.fb.me/nmkoHR - to any German-speaking friends you know,
citizens. Thank you!
Drop in on seamstress to pick up an item she said would be ready today, and
find her with some
power tools under her work table, drilling and sawing chipboard. Her children are not
helping her. I tactlessly ask if there is no man to do that kind of work
for her, and she gloomily says no, apologising for not having resewn my jacket yet.
People have been demonstrating for about a week in New York, trying to
occupy Wall Street.
phones from London. Very helpful.
Bump into seamstress on a sunny street. Seems she isn't moving out of town after
all. Sad tale of a dodgy estate agent trying to not repay her deposit etc.
Am separately reminded today of the piece of white (or at least vanilla-coloured) magic
someone suggested the other week. In my postbox find the autumn copy of the
Review with my 3rd article in it, about privacy &
Finish the rather uninspiring book
Dummies' late at night. By Dickon Ross, Cathleen Shamieh,
and Gordon McComb, this bulky, floppy large-format paperback book does rather put
me off the Dummies series. We have three people collaborating here on writing a
book for beginners, and like every other book on electronics I've seen, it doesn't
occur to any of them to superimpose a circuit schematic (wiring diagram) onto a
picture of a breadboard (a special rectangular slab full of holes for popping in
components to try out different circuits). Instead, like every other book, we
have a schematic and a photo of a breadboard, both looking bizarrely different
from each other. The photos of breadboards with all the similar-looking blobby
components on pins shot from above could have been labelled with arrows -
wouldn't have hurt, but of course no-one thinks of that either. I ask myself why
on earth no-one makes a 555 chip with small numbers are written next to the eight
pins, or why a schematic would order the pins differently round the edge of the
chip, when it could just draw the lines from where the pins
actually are? I'm reminded of my first piano lesson aged 6 where I very sensibly
asked my piano teacher why the keys were not labelled? Especially if there was
more than one A, more than one B, and so on. A man with a bit more intelligence
would have got a pen out and marked the keys for me, there and then.
Finish watching 'Limitless' on
my laptop. Something of a Michael J. Fox film misrepresented by a Dr Faustus
trailer. A struggling writer gets given a wonder drug which makes his thinking
much much cleverer. Neat in parts, comical too. What is funniest is what
Hollywood film-makers or audiences (hard to say which) think "clever" means.
After his first dose, our hero suddenly finds he can rewrite his landlord's
wife's law-course essay, though the nonsense he is saying is wisely talked over
by his narrator's voice. At
another moment he spouts ridiculous medical guff. There's a sentence
("I developed cultural appetites.") spoken over a wonderful 3/4 of a second
shot of him at a gallery in front of a Van Gogh
(Art, right?) cocking his head on one side like a thoughtful labrador. Of course we
quickly get back to what being very clever is really about for Americans:
large amounts of money. Intriguingly, though, none of that makes any sense
either. You'd imagine for a thriller about a man suddenly able to bluff his
way into high finance, the only thing viewers are expected to genuinely
respect here, they might have at least got the finance talk right. Nope. Not
a single afternoon with a real share trader in evidence there.
Most of the plot is suspiciously silly. If you're suddenly clever and
can produce a great book in a couple of days to get your money from your lit
agent, why bother with a hundred thousand from the nasty Balkan moneylender? And
if you are on a high-IQ drug that makes you "see everything clearly" you clearly
wouldn't just forget to repay the frightening gangster - or buy an
expensive armoured apartment with only one exit. I say silly because it wouldn't
have been hard to make a much more interesting story out of this
premise. What this might be is a disguised film about cocaine, the fuel of
the film industry. You feel clever, you can sometimes talk your way
through some situation just by brimming with manic conviction, you
are a bit more alert, you become horribly egotistical & fixated. You
do get hooked, you do meet repulsive people, it does all rapidly unravel.
Perhaps "NZT" is really cocaine and NY is really LA? The film seems to have more
than a few nods to 'The Player', a 1990s film that Hollywood insiders are said to
love, about how it's really agents at their lunch meetings who get films up and
running. Both films stress that writers are loathsome guttersnipe low-life,
the bottom of the movie-making food chain. As befits a business that laughs
that a novelist hasn't developed any "cultural appetites" until he's tried
The Substance, our hero's Road to Damascus moment has him transcend and abandon
writing altogether. He sees that the money & finance side (of film-making?) is the
"truly creative" area to be in. He learns to get a good haircut and
some snappy backchat for any conceivable social gathering. He learns how
to deserve and win back the groomed, soignee girlfriend who originally hinted
that it might be time for him to "let the writing go". If this really is full
of laboured in-jokes about film-making, this might explain why he inexplicably
borrows 100,000 dollars off a Mephistophelean thug who sounds like a Serb - this
is the accepted price a Hollywood film producer pays for a good first
screenplay. Whether these refernces are deliberate or not, there are some very
nice visual effects. Just as the physical cash is the
real hero of the 70s subway-hijack film 'Taking of Pelham 123', more of a
player than its cast of automatons, so in this film the drug is the central
character. There is some imaginative camera work to suggest what having
an altered state of mind is like, and it's fresher than Drug Camera
Effects usually are. During an unhinged long weekend he has sex with an
anonymous blonde who seems both compellingly sexual and coldly reptilian
and during the act she breaks up into a floating set of overlay photographs
of bits of herself. He runs out of a building to vomit and the camera flips
over so we watch his spew falling up to hit the pavement above him. Long shots
seamlessly piercing car windows block after block the whole length of Manhattan
avenues exhilaratingly suggest being endless, being able to think through any
barrier, go any distance. The drug multiplies you. Several of him tidy his flat
(as I did at that stage, part of the real point of me watching this), and each
person taking it finds they are standing outside themselves looking calmly in
and around at the situation. These are the most convincing bits, where
the drug helps someone coolly think their way out of danger. At one point his
girlfriend is trapped in a park hiding from a thug with a knife, paralysed
with fear. When he is begging her over the phone to take one of the pills out
of her pocket (she has never tried it before) and
swallow it because it will "tell her what to do", we believe him and are
urging her to take one too. The degradations of drug addiction are well
pictured - he puts his girlfriend's life on the line, he knifes someone,
he stabs a man in the eye with a hypodermic needle, and perhaps lowest of
the low, he drinks a dying man's blood. Moreover, it is very much the drug
"telling him" to do these things.
What the film lacks is, well - a lot. As in the mind of an addict,
The Drug and The User dwarf everything and everyone else. There is no moral
dimension - the film gives you the slightly frightening sense that its makers
actually think intelligence is a spiritual quality. His ambitions are
utterly pedestrian in the transatlantic way - learn languages so as
to show off in restaurants (no more "cultural appetites"
after that half-second with Van G's Sunflowers), make lots of money,
perhaps go into politics. There is certainly no suggestion as with Faustus
that knowledge even for its own sake can be morally dangerous - the only
question here is whether he will defeat the nasty men and get the
goodies to himself.
Wake out of another of those unpleasant dreams where mother is still alive. In the early
evening, find I hadn't fried any components at all. Reflecting on Nigel of Darkness's
latest remarks I suddenly stop the other thing I'm doing and on the breadboard
rethink where each component's two legs hit the buried rails: takes
less than a minute. What a surprise.
works beautifully, the little red and
yellow LED lights blinking merrily at a nice countable frequency, exactly as they
should. Silly me: I suppose I get there in the end.
Quiet Sunday grappling with diagrams of
Morning to the Ecseri junk market with Marguerite and her friends Gusty & Michael.
Marguerite accuses me of being an anti-Hungarian Hungarian as she sees me bantering with
some locals who have a rather fetching pair of weighing scales. The traders start laughing
as I explain that it is because I have a small business now that I have no money at all.
They know exactly what I mean, of course. We wander about. I compliment the baby at
the centre of a quite striking trio of Gypsy lasses and realise that in between saying
hello to me in Hungarian, they are speaking one of the Gypsy languages in their group.
Gusty buys a small porcelain crocodile (or alligator - how do you distinguish them at
the table-top ornament scale?). Michael gets a couple of sports medals in East-Bloc
pewter he thinks his nephew might like. In line with Marguerite's extreme taxi habit,
we eschew public transport on the way back into town too.
By night out for a drink with Anders, who is on the main deck of the night-club/bar A38
boat with a group of fellow Swedes who are management consultants. I sit down with these
thoughtful-looking Swedish men and, slightly to my surprise, after 20 minutes' chat
three rather leggy, dishy Swedish girls turn up. They are also consultants.
We go down into the hold to feel the bass from a
then stroll back over the river to another bar. As we cross the bridge, talking about
his work with start-up firms, Anders says something interesting about success in life.
He claims it is neither due to internal factors (genius, talent), nor due to external
factors (luck, connections), but is almost all due to trial and error. Those willing
to keep learning from their mistakes and keep trying again almost always pull away from
the mass favoured by either internal or external advantages at the start. Deceptively
simple thought. Shall need to think about that one. At the bar, the three girls start
a vigorous discussion about what counts as self-esteem. As this rages on until
almost 3am, they slip in and out of Swedish, which has a surprisingly soothing effect.
Since I have no option but to log out of the conversation each time this happens, it
gives me a chance to pause and digest things every few minutes.
Friday. Out to a
club with Marguerite, who introduces me to her friends Gusty & Michael over from the
US, visiting. This is apparently the jazz club, and all three are a bit surprised
I had never been. Marguerite has even booked us a table close to the stage - all the
tables are within ten feet of the performers. The three musicians are very good - the
Szacski Lakatos Bela Trio.
They improvise fairly much non-stop, with solo bits for the pianist, the double-bassist,
and the drummer at rotated intervals. The drummer is apparently well-known by people who
know who jazz musicians are, and he has something of a Tourette's Syndrome manner,
making little moans and twisting his head over to one side away from the drums most of
the time. My first impression on entering the club is a sad one, though. Everyone there
is at least 50 or older, and they are revisiting a type of music, from the mid-1950s to
mid-1960s, that still seemed wild & sophisticated when they were in their 20s. Even so,
the three men on stage, two with grey hair, the bassist looking a little younger, seem
to be having enormous fun doing what they do. They do one encore out of courtesy, but I
get the impression they genuinely enjoy experimenting and extemporising on stage:
they are not there primarily for money or for audience adulation. Orderly little 2D
grids of lines unroll and rotate in my head as the three of them rip up and reassemble
their melody lines in every permutation they can make.
In the warm weather, when out on the balcony around 2am, I can hear someone with
breathing problems across the street. I assume they are sleeping or trying to sleep
with their window open. The hard gasping sound, a kind of cross between an asthmatic
wheeze and a laboured snore, is a bit worrying. It's quite loud. By the second night
I no longer wonder if someone is dying, but they certainly are not in good shape.
Still not really in the mood to reward
djuice for their institutional
dishonesty, so am still using only free WiFi, from whence it may.
Oddly, ever since I bought my first coconut about ten days ago, none have broken away
from their shell as cleanly as the first. I wrap each one in the tea towel of the map
of cheeses of Italy Robin & Georgina brought back from holiday for me, and swing it at
the tiled part of the floor. There is a satisfying "Bokk" sound and I unwrap it from
the tea towel. The very first time big hairy shards of shell snapped away from a clean
brown egg about the size of a baby's head. This is the white pith coated by a paper-thin
layer of brown skin. Yet every time since that first time I either hit the nut too
hard or not hard enough, and the shell and some of the inner pith break together. Am on
my fifth coconut now since Indro at that party on
the 3rd told me how healthy he thinks they are.
Do a four-page translation for Allison, who is now in Hamburg, agreeing to finish what
she started at the rate she originally agreed with a property developer called
Pick up my 3-month-old sewing (one item done, one item left not done) from the
seamstress who is in the middle of a sudden house move - slightly mysterious - to
a town in the
countryside. I pay her cackling mother.
Watch the first half of a copy of a film called
'Limitless' with the Faustian
theme of a penniless writer taking a drug that makes him very clever, at least
for a while. Watching this gives me the urge after about 3/4 of an hour to pause
the film and clean up a messy corner of my flat.
Lunch with Esther.
We exchange wicked gossip after lunch. She lends me a
second book by Perez-Reverte, about a Mexican drug dealer.
Presses of the 'Like' button on the book's Facebook page
Out late with Kalman, and his friends Adam & Natasha.
Kalman mentions an
interesting incident in 2001, when senior members of the Argentinian government
apparently fled the country with the nation's gold reserves. This is after a slightly
odd afternoon when Bubu sends a colleague to record my voice, the university building
with the sound studio in it won't let me enter the building without my passport, and
we end up recording my voice at Kalman's office instead.
Meet Alvi, Terri & Paula by night in Ferenc Liszt Square to return Terri's e-reader
thing, Kindle. Paula tells of a
school in Godollo.
Finish the book that Terri lent me her Kindle e-book-reading device to read -
Are No Electrons' -
a cheerful introduction to electronics by Kenn Amdahl.
Lots of jolly stories (opposite charges are for example
not really made of electrons and atoms lacking electrons but of little green
men and women who want to meet up and party with each other) and a host of metaphors
explaining capacitors and resistors in terms of wide and narrow roads etc. However,
nothing really that helps me see where I am going wrong with the wiring schematics in
other books. A few very basic diagrams are introduced, but on the Kindle they are
bizarrely small and illegible. Oddly, the Kindle has at least one typo on every page too
- though they aren't pages, since being able to repeatedly resize the print means one has
to abandon page numbering. Instead there are percentages, and you are 51% of the way
through a book for 3 or 4 screens. For some other reason, the strangely tiny schematics
and other sketches are all in the wrong position on each page or screen,
but that can probably be sorted out soon. There's a rather enjoyable romp at the end
involving time machines and nasty men from the future. Still no wiser as to why the
circuits I assemble don't seem to work though. This book feels like it has helped me
(and it does do some good repetition, cementing certain ideas like valves and
transistor metaphors a little more firmly into place), but I have
often read these books designed to cure phobics of a subject such as maths, and it is
always on the beginners-2 level, just one step up, that I feel abandoned. I many times
as a teenager got this feeling that there were plenty of books to help people stuck on
square one, but nothing out there to help people stuck on squares two or three.
Lunch with Bubu. He tells me about
By night over to Marguerite's for a game of
Hungarian. Her fluffy dog Emma in good spirits.
Go with Terri to Adam LeBor's birthday party, meeting Mr Carlson, Mr Saracco, a quiet
Javanese fellow called Indro, and Terri's friend Paula. Later on, finish the book Esther
lent me, 'The Dumas Club' by
Arturo Perez-Reverte. This is the book made into a reasonably faithful film she
& I saw called 'The
Ninth Gate' a couple of years ago, with Johnny Depp as a wearily cynical bookdealer
pursuing copies of a 17th-century Satanic grimoire that got its original printer
burned at the stake. The book is better, and it is interesting to see which subplots
got telescoped together to simplify it for film. The mysterious character who turns
out to be Lucifer is a great deal more interesting in the book than the film, and
the book's subtly sympathetic portrayal of the Devil is in stark contrast to the
film's more flashy, melodramatic revelation of who that character is.
Friday. Meet Alex for tea, a customer who buys a copy of
What those computer people think of
Mark Griffith, site administrator /
markgriffith at yahoo.com