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2012
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March 31st; Terence McK burbles intriguingly but also a bit suspiciously about "novelty theory", which apparently he invented soon after messing around with the I Ching in 1971. However, contrast the faux innocence with which he deprecates himself in the first three minutes as "an Irishman" just fooling about, amazingly stumbling on a timescale which ends on the very same month and very same day as the Mayan calendar he knew nothing about ...with the section on this page which claims McKenna found his first timescale ended in November 2012 but later on he retrofitted it to coincide with 21st December 2012. Not the impression we get in the little video talk. Naughty Terence.
March 30th; Alarming photograph: how moments of imminent doom feel to nervous types like me. Zdravko alerts me to a nasty dispute between angry acolytes of Chomsky and some unfortunate linguist who thinks he has found a language with no subordinate clauses. Finish a book I bought and started a decade ago: 'Magikus Talizmanok' ('Talisman Magic') by Richard Webster, translated to Hungarian by Balazs Kecskes. This is a working guide, well explained in steps, to creating magic squares both as mathematical amusements and for purposes of divination or protection. Though he covers some other systems, he mainly draws on Indian tradition, where the magic square (rows, columns, and diagonals adding to the same number for a given array) is called a yantra, a specific kind of mandala. Much fun to be had, needing only pencil & paper and a little time.

March 29th; Wake in glorious sunshine on Carolyn's sofa, warm under a couple of blankets. Carolyn's flat is where Jessica is staying while in town.
Mr McKenna, his nasal lilt here fed through a ghastly talking mask of the High Seventies psychedelic album-cover variety, sums up in just nine minutes why he thinks DMT trips are such a special type of drug experience, different from any other. Meanwhile, the clear tones of Alan Watts, Buddhism explainer, (I've never heard his voice before) calmly sets out the old idea, vaguely parallel to but unlike McKenna's drug-based viewpoint, that the self is an illusion.
March 28th; Meet Jessica again to discuss common projects.

March 27th; A shop in London with ideas above its station. Meet Tim by evening on business. If you were photographing Kate Moss at the Ritz in Paris, you probably would make her stand on the mantelpiece at some point.
March 26th; Finish Sound-Studio Zita's Michael Wood book 'The Domesday Quest' about, intriguingly, what William the Bastard's detailed Domesday survey of the assets of England in 1086 can tell us about preceding patterns of taxation and land cultivation in Saxon, Viking, and Romano-Celtic areas of England through the six or seven centuries leading up to the Norman conquest. Only after finishing the book did Wood's name come back to me as that of a then-young historian presenter of a BBC TV series on Dark Ages England I saw in the 1980s. He does a good job of showing how actual history is done: by trying to compare different scraps of textual evidence such as land bequests, tax documents, notes surviving from court statements; seeing where they overlap; and trying to trace persisting patterns through successive centuries revealed by this mosaic of evidence, however thin. A couple of quiet mentions about the by-today clearly wasteful county-border changes and decimalisation of English money in the early 1970s show he feels, as any historian must, sad regret. Completely unnecessary vandalism to what was a living fabric of continuity between past & future.
In the evening, find some interesting 10-minute talks by a rather serious man who has written about narcissists, the psychiatric type de jour. This one is about "inverted narcissists", people seeking the reflected glory of a narcissist they "serve".

March 25th; Tea & cakes with Jessica, back in town after 8 years. She is now not only a film-maker, but a trader of houses. She has useful ideas about selling my house.
Listen to one of Terence McKenna's early-1990s talks again. He was a good raconteur. At one hour forty minutes he slides from being an open-minded reader of hermetic history to John Dee's Enochian alphabet, to 1950s CIA interviews, on to a very funny & interesting after-dinner anecdote about one of his DMT trips. A terrific set of semi-humorous speculations about how octopuses think & communicate at two hours forty one minutes is very stimulating. This emerges from a slightly dodgy theory of his about spoken languages requiring "a congruence of internal dictionaries", and he insists on mistakenly calling them "octopi" with false erudition. On the other hand, his enthusiasm and curiosity are wonderfully infectious. A sadder close to the whole recording has him ranting at around three hours fifty minutes about the vital urgency of population limitation. Despite being a clever & open-minded man, he is convinced people haven't thought through the virtues of depopulation and the nature of capitalism, whereas in fact he is the one who hasn't thought through demography or economics. The twenty years after this talk turned out to have fewer wars than all century with fewer people starving, fewer shortages, and more of the global poor rising to health and material self-improvement than ever in history. "Let's go to one [child] and save the earth," he says, self-assuredly, unaware that right as he spoke sharply rising populations all over the world were becoming more affluent, more civilised, and more peaceful. Not something the DMT elves explained to him it seems. "It would be a very interesting world where populations were dropping" he says, having just failed to even guess at the growing welfare burden of caring for an ageing population this entails. Strongly assertive blind spots like these arouse second thoughts about his reliability on the topics he seems more informed and thoughtful about. It also undermines his claim that the psychedelic experience brings humility.
March 24th; Couple of beers with Mr Saracco, whose hand is now healing after a freak accident at a ten-pin-bowling alley.

March 23rd; In the afternoon at a shopping arcade (This one is helpfully called 'Arcade' / 'Arkad') meet IT Attila. He challenges me to a game of Nine Men's Morris, which apparently Hungarians call 'Mill' ('Malom'). He draws the board out on a page of his exercise book, and we play with coins for counters. He tells me he wrote a script in QT to solve the problem of fitting the most queens on an empty chessboard so none can take each other. Later, scrambled eggs across town with Nationalism Bea.
March 22nd; In the evening at Sound Studio Zita's, she recommends this website about languages. Rest of day do sound recording, from 9am to 7pm at a studio. All afternoon I wear a chemical-protection mask. This is so as to sound as muffled as a virtual-reality character in a sci-fi film set inside a quantum machine should sound.

March 21st; Another old Zappa song - what Scruton would call a melody with (almost) no melody. Contrary to the extreme American assimilation credo that anyone can become anything, equally extreme Zappa says no, on the contrary, you are fated to remain what you are. Contemptuously expressed as ever. Not so far from some radio shows by the Goons, also clear from this tunelet how much of Zappa is vaudeville or music hall.
March 20th; A sweet image for what books do.

March 19th; The web seems to be crammed with long sound files of Terence McKenna talks in days of yore. This one here is over seven hours of the great sage, chortling away in one of his monologues about psychedelic mushrooms in the history of the human species. While undoubtably a broadly-read man, Terence is unfortunately not deeply-read enough for the majesty of his historical claims, and the first sign of his unacknowledged Rousseauist faith in or yearning for noble savages pops up at 11 minutes in. Very much a public thinker for post-1960s hippies, he is entertaining and his speculations are stimulating. A bit of an Alistair Cooke for a later generation, instead of musing away about peculiarities of a large industrial country across the Atlantic, he updates his listeners about the quirks of primeval forest people from humanity's deep past. McKenna describes the Garden of Eden incident as "history's first drug bust", arguing persuasively that The Fruit of The Tree of The Knowledge of Good and Evil sounds very much like a hallucinogenic plant or fungus such as the psilocybin mushroom which gives its takers experiential insight, a new perspective on life, and in some sense (as a worried Jehova remarks in Genesis) makes humans who take it like unto gods. Yet already with his second big idea - that primeval mushroom supplies started to thin out, and less & less frequent festivals entailed storing dwindling supplies of dried psilocybin fungus in jars of honey, causing over a thousand years a mushroom religion to gradually become a fermented-honey alcohol religion - McKenna emerges as a man who doesn't let lack of evidence stop him from unfurling bold, thrilling guesses. His whiny, nasal voice has a hypnotic insistence which pulls the listener in. A sing-song lilt helps him to stroll down long, multi-clause sentences, and there is artful combination of long clever-sounding words and slang. He describes Descartes' experience as a young man fighting in the Thirty Years' War at Ulm as him being sent "to kick some ass" in Eastern Europe, relates Descartes' dream revelation that he was instructed to work on the superstructure of materialistic science by angels, and casually drops in that Ulm was later the birthplace of Einstein. The sly effect of mixing words like 'prestidigitation', 'mycological', 'polymorphic', 'perturbation', 'heterodox' with newer hip-to-the-scene terms like 'kick ass', 'drug bust', 'shot its wad' and also cosily old-fashioned slang of previous decades like 'malarcky', or 'whole kit and caboodle' is to intellectually flatter his audience & emotionally snuggle up to them at the same time. This old story-telling technique of mingling archaic, high-falutin' words with rowdy street humour is a way of bamboozling listeners much favoured by Irish writers and speakers, and McKenna brings his Irish American identity into the story. He describes the spirits of the psychedelic plants as akin to Gaelic elves, he mocks his own provincial US "Catholic choir-boy" upbringing, and he opposes Celtic earthiness with English coldness, to the approval of his audience. For example, Celts & Czechs are peoples (he says) comfortable with mushrooms, they pass the mycological test. Whereas the fungus-hating English are apparently more likely to say "Put it down, you don't know where it's been." The overall effect is charming and quite intoxicating - which he might think of as a good thing (at least under the guidance of the right toxins). However it involves huge amounts of what mathematicians dismiss as 'handwaving', which translates as breezily asserting you've proved something when you haven't. Nonetheless, his speculations are fun, and his reminiscences of the effects of various drugs on him interesting. There is a fascinating section about how one forest people's intoxicant gives the taker not just any old synaesthesia, but the vivid impression of seeing sentences of language he or someone is speaking as three-dimensional structures, like intricate little machines with jewelled movements. This other tape of his is four and a half hours. He has read Frances Yates on hermeticism in the Renaissance, and seems able to stay off the topic of psychedelic stimulants for longer stretches of this shorter set of talks. Here he takes aim at European Christianity's concern with guilt, the Fall of Man, and Original Sin, contrasting it with the liberating expansiveness of hermetic magic in the mediaeval and early Renaissance periods. He has the bold suggestion that dating by 17th-century scholars revealing Hermes Trismegistus to be centuries newer than previously assumed damaged the magical tradition so decisively that this was what allowed science to take centre stage philosophically from the 1650s to the present.
March 18th; A long thin cardboard box of four neon light tubes is still leaning upright against the wall outside exactly halfway between my front door and Neighbour Nikola's front door a few feet down the landing. It's been there six or seven days now.
Curious tale of how programmers regard their own. The strange disappearance of a Ruby advocate known as _why.

March 17th; Quite a long time since I heard this song. Now I listen to it again, it almost sounds like a kind of country & western music for maths students.
Saturday streets basking almost baking in hot sun. Actually too hot for my thin pullover when I go out. I pop into a corner shop I don't usually use, finding myself at the till behind a slim yet curvy girl, perhaps half-Gypsy, with blonde highlights. She is trailing a relatively unbratty, well-behaved four or five-year-old boy. I say hello to the girl. She turns round cheerfully and looks me right in the eye, declaring she knows me from somewhere. I tell her that either yesterday or the day before yesterday she & I were in another shop when... She remembers before I finish. It was at the Ulloi street shop about three streets away from here and two nights ago. She had brassily asked "Whose idea was it to put this chewing gum stand here at the till?" (A 24" x 18" grid of white-wire shelves holding lots of flavours of chewing gum that blocks most of that shop's till area.) The son of the Egyptian owner sitting on a stool in one corner had sleepily owned up it was his idea. The perky little blonde had then told him how obviously daft it was to block the till area like that. Back at the sun-filled shop today, Saturday morning, she looks me in the eye again, nods and says firmly "Day before yesterday." She then relates this story of two nights ago to the easy-going Hungarian man, perhaps late 20s, at this shop's counter. Chat turns to the general chore of minding a 24-hour shop like this. "I've even heard of armed robberies at night round here," she continues chirpily, talking both to me and the shop manager. "Oh here too," he replies with a weary smile. "No!" she chuckles. "Oh yes, a couple of times," he goes on with a mild half-shrug, "I just tell them to sod off and they do." She clucks sceptically, yet clearly delighted at the story. "No, really," the man at the till nods, looking extremely laid back. "I've got one of them on film." "How?!" she squeaks. "Oh, I took it off the security cameras here," he murmurs, pointing at the ceiling while fishing out a mobile phone from a pocket. The Gypsy-looking blonde & I hunch together to peer at the little screen of his iPhone or Android phone. Swiping two fingers, he casually pulls up a snatch of CCTV footage and we see him there, alone in this shop at night, mopping an empty aisle. Screen right, a bulky male appears in the doorway, pointing a handgun at him. We see our shop manager, back to the camera, leaning on his mop conversing with the man with the gun. A couple of times he turns his back on the robber and starts mopping again, and we can see - though his face is just off the image edge - the bulky man with the hand gun carries on talking from the way his body & the gun keep moving slightly.
After about forty or fifty seconds, the man with the gun goes away.
March 16th; Ten or eleven days since I took this photograph of Tarot cards laid out in a mandala shape on the floor, following instructions in Jodorowsky's book.

March 15th; Clear landlady's desk and bring it back into action over by big window. 2nd chair now painted a sort of tzatziki green (Slightly eerily, Margaret Thatcher smuggles herself into the photo, picture right). Give or take a final sand-down and one or two last licks of paint, Chair 2 complete.
March 14th; Signor Peruggi will see you now.

March 13th; Get more things done. Cloud looms over houses. Very like those corporate ads that wish to imply some Godlike insurance firm or biochemical concern will dominate you benignly.
March 12th; One of the very few pictures on this multi-artist illustration & photography website where a girl is allowed to be a bit pretty & feminine. Elsewhere on the site, a host of gaunt, leggy, English-looking mannequins with very short haircuts do ridiculous or vaguely nasty things like bathe in custard or eat an ice lolly shaped like a kitten. If she has long hair, then she'll be a drawing, not a photo, and there will be some blood, snakes, or other macabre element in the picture. Do all these art students prefer the grotesque so as to stand out in a crowded marketplace, or does it reveal a fear, even hatred, of beauty? Perhaps just a dislike of girls.
Regina & I do more work on book cover.

March 11th; Not sure if these are trees, but they're peculiar.
March 10th; Women with hollow faces? Owls wearing boots? Here you are.

March 9th; Adorable: Dutch artist makes indoor clouds.
March 8th; Stress mounting.

March 7th; Lovely warm sunshine. Talk to Regina about book cover. Finish attaching back to chair.
March 6th; Yesterday, or the morning before, I wake out of a dream so vivid it is actually boring, in which I am one of several analysts in a conference call about the silver market. More like 2 weeks ago one of the landlady's chunky tall glass tumblers finally exploded inside the kettle, ending an epoch where I boiled eggs inside her tumbler inside my kettle. After months of heat-stressing, it broke neatly into three pieces without the slightest trace of an extra splinter, though I did wash the kettle out carefully to be sure.
Today, meet Buttons Sylvia & Gabriella for tea again, discussing possible joint work and learning that a year or so ago elegant Gabriella made a bag for herself, got offered cash for it, and so drifted into designing and selling women's bags alongside her film job. There's me thinking those stories were never really true. She & I go a distance by trolleybus together, discussing detail moulds & craft materials.

March 5th; Bizarre Forbes list of jobs they seem to relish being phased out. No. 18: Florists?
March 4th; Over at Franc's for dinner & natter.

March 3rd; Meet Buttons Sylvia at Italian Institute for tea, bumping into Gabriella.
March 2nd; Friday. Get paid. Scrambled eggs with Nationalism Bea, green tea with Sound-Studio Zita. How to get people to vote you in for a second presidential term if you are a Kremlin apparachik? Perhaps target voters too young to remember your Soviet-era secret-police career.

March 1st; By night finish a Tarot book of mother's, 'Reading The Tarot' by Leo Louis Martello. This is a curious book because it presents itself as something very ordinary & humdrum. He briskly tours through the 78-card pack, with a page (and a cringe-making little rhyme) for each card, and seems to say that all swords are bad, and all cups, wands, and pentacles are good. The book comes with no author photo, and he styles himself the kind of Tarot writer who tells you that if you see the Chariot card upside down, you might need to take your car to get repaired at the garage. These very facile, daytime-TV-style readings (the Queen of Pentacles is a flashy showgirl type, probably more into luxury than love) seem to fit a man who is not just content to be a witch and write about witchcraft, but is even a flamboyant American witch, the type who founds a public lobby in the 1970s called the Witches' Anti-Defamation League and gets Wicca established as a mainstream denomination. It all sounds quite glib, though him spending a year in Morocco in the early 1960s researching the Tarot only half suits this image. He mentions his grandmother & great-grandmother being witches in Sicily in the introduction. One or two remarks - such as the High Priestess being the highest card in the pack in the view of "adepts in the Old Religion" jar with the parlour-game flavour of most of it. Might be one of those odd texts where an insider feels obliged to hide lots of meanings according to the occult principle that harmless superficial knowledge can be disseminated freely, but that important stuff needs to phrased opaquely so that only wiser folk will spot it and look more deeply. However, if that means the book is in some clever code, then I failed to decipher it.


Mark Griffith, site administrator / markgriffith at yahoo.com