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2012
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April 30th; Sunshine today could officially be described as "hot". In recognition that tomorrow is May 1st, everything is shut today. One of those parsimonious tunes built out of an ultra-deep bass line, high breathy vocals, and a black-and-white photograph: Sweeter Than Sweet by Lulu Rouge. English friends recommend this green business portal, which looks rather natty and comprehensive on the content side. I really should be able to build that kind of site by now. Must learn to code. So lazy. Delicious dinner at Marion & Paul's. I manage to fling one of my cufflinks across the room while re-enacting being stung by a wasp in Robin's car. Marion says two of the boys she teaches at school have as parents an Italian porn actor who married a Hungarian porn actress. She adds that the mother seems, in the decade+ since this picture of husband and wife, to have become even prettier, almost Hepburn-like. Apparently both lads are very sweet & utterly charming at all times.
April 29th; Meet Salih for green tea. With Tatiana's help, fusion-book page loads quicker, and now has space-age line-drawing instead of colour photo. A few days ago, all-afternoon Diplomacy game at Jeremy's (I am Turkey, Austria-Hungary, & Germany). He describes one Christmas years back on duty at his police station, all the boys in blue playing Escalado and Pit, adding it got loud enough the fire station across the road asked them to keep the noise down.

April 28th; Lily finds some truly fascinating research: people think more rationally in a 2nd language.
April 27th; For anyone who didn't know already, Women Prefer Arrogant Men: someone checked. Still reading Robin's fine book about the French Revolution. Here's a print of the extraordinary moment called the Tennis Court Oath. Due to a misunderstanding, the indignant deputies of the Third Estate have crowded into an indoor tennis court (now 'Real Tennis', then 'Royal Tennis') on the Versailles complex. They drag in a couple of tables and, agitated, open debate. It's morning on the 20th of June, 1789. Believing (incorrectly) that Louis XVI just an hour earlier snubbed them and might even be about to dissolve the session, in high dudgeon they open what was to be a meeting with the king, but in his absence. They improvise and make history there and then. Passionate deputies' arms outstretch in what for us strikingly resemble stiff-armed fascist salutes as they swear jointly, from their hearts, that they shall be in session wherever they might meet together from then on. They will assemble wherever they can until a new constitution for France has been created. However dark the consequences proved to be not long after, hard not to feel the thrill - just from the picture - of that hour when 576 Frenchmen (out of 577, one man abstained) reinvented England's Long Parliament. Meanwhile a link from Lily in Oxford, a chatbot with remarkably lifelike facial movements and an endearing squint, called Evie. The AI element still as dire as ever though. Evie, despite looking like a pleasant young desk clerk from anywhere in Britain, is all over the place in terms of rational discussion. Several of my questions she/it completely mismatched ("misunderstood" would be giving her creators far too much credit, there's nothing approaching understanding going on in there). All that has changed since the days of Eliza in the 1960s is that her coders have put in some more aggressive tricks for Evie to change the subject when the bot cannot handle the incoming text strings. I type "What does this mean? markgriffith@yahoo.com" and Evie types & speaks back "Marry me." Cheeky little hussy.

April 26th; Moody Sapphic musings from Chinawoman, a sort of torch singer: I'll Be Your Woman / A Woman's Touch / Party Girl.
Surveillance State update:
"The NSA Is Lying" says former NSA official / New US Law CISPA / hotly followed by CISPA Strengthened & Voted Through Ahead of Timetable / How To Delete Yourself From The Internet / Flying Zappy Things.
April 25th; Haircut, sunshine, chores in town. Good radio chat on Neoplatonists.

April 24th; Skippy little tune from a man letting a woman go: 'Man Of My Word'. Apparently you need to spell out for a girl that you have standards. Their famed intuition doesn't detect this, I've noticed.
April 23rd; Update webpage for physics book.

April 22nd; Diverting ten-minute film claims that a smallish but still big dinosaur (a sort of scaled-down brontosaurus) still thrives in the jungles of Cameroon, central Africa. Naughtily, the film-makers paste animations of the creature ("mokele imbembe") into re-enactment footage without writing 're-enactment' on the screen, so if you don't pay attention you might think the creatures have been filmed. They haven't. Charming idea some might still be around. Professor Challenger lives on.
April 21st; Green tea with Nationalism Bea, back from San Diego.

April 20th; More management-training work with Jeremy. Finally check the RAF airmen sketches I've heard about ("Not like Gracie Fields, she mings bad.") Intriguing effect - not always clear which bits are different from how people talked off the record in the 1940s, when 'chap' rang closer to today's 'geezer' or 'dude'. Subtly show that slang changes mostly matter where they reveal changed attitudes. A few of them do. Also raises the question of whether British humour is coming full circle from the first RAF pilots comedy scene. That celebrated moment where Jonathan Miller & Alan Bennett on stage at the Edinburgh Festival in the late 1950s, and again on television in 1960, mocked reverence for British wartime bravery just 14 or 15 years before.
April 19th; Jerry Ganey does Righteous Brothers song with filmish horn section.

April 18th; Bogus graph claims reading of books has doubled since the 1940s. Based on lumping together several separate poorly-designed self-assessment studies of course, with an unremarked 33-year gap in the middle. Classic misleading chart.
April 17th; Quite tight animation sync to 'Once I Was The King Of Spain'.

April 16th; Slightly stressful drive back into Budapest for Robin & Bela to catch a cross-Continental bus to England. A traffic jam a couple of miles outside Pest has Georgina jumping out and persuading a lorrydriver to back up about five feet to let Robin squeeze the car through the gap and off onto a slip road. At the coach station which we reach with two minutes to spare we park in the central loop where traffic is banned. Georgina runs in one direction to sweet-talk the cashier, Robin & Bela set off in another direction with luggage, and I stay behind with the car to chat to the irate official who turns up to berate me for being parked there. When I tell him it's not my car and I have no driving licence, he looks frustrated. Georgina strolls back, gets in, sits behind the steering wheel, and seems to genuinely not even notice the speechless official standing by the car glaring in at us.
Here's a beguiling but ultimately unsuccessful idea - represent philosophies as simple graphics. I tried this a couple of decades ago: it's hard. Click on the page to get the full set of twenty-odd images.
April 15th; Gloomy cloudy weather continues as I answer Bela's questions about physics. Find two curious books hiding in corners of Robin's house.

April 14th; A friendlier introduction to app-writing. Take three connecting trains out to Robin's village in the Great Plain. Dull overcast day, until deep in the countryside a feeble sunset appears on one side of the train, and on the opposite side of the train a deep cornflower-blue sky appears behind trees & farmhouses, hanging down just out of reach like a mid-to-dark-blue curtain. While looking out of both sides of the carriage, on the 2nd & 3rd train get strangely vivid images in my head for a peculiar low-budget film - a very Tarkovskyish film set in England for 3 male actors.
April 13th; More about Amazon megalomania.

April 12th; Amusingly, four days ago on Easter Monday I accidentally, that is to say completely unintentionally, dyed some eggs. Not easy for Gentle Reader to imagine perhaps, but I decided to hard-boil my last couple of eggs in the same boiling water that was softening some pasta. For a few years now I have been gently singeing the dry spaghetti sticks on the hot-plate before putting them in the water, creating blue puffs of smoke, and filling my flat with a curiously pleasant scent halfway between the smell of burning toast and the aroma of baking bread, but not really either. Slightly overdid this, and the boiling water became brown-grey. My eggs emerged gently tinted darker, as if seen through the 70s-style brown-tinted sunglasses of the tea expert Rob once described meeting in Gyor. By night a delicious dinner at Terri & Alvi's. Alison & Stephen Zeigfinger join us, and I see videos for Alvi's alarm-clock smart-phone app.
Sometimes ethereal, quite dreamlike, some music by 'Burial'. Seems they take themselves desperately seriously, from the to strenuously grim record covers, not to mention Nouvel Gloom song titles like 'Fostercare', 'Wounder', 'Homeless', 'Untrue', 'Stolen Dog', 'Ashtray Wasp', 'Etched Headplate', it just goes on. Here is their almost upbeat 'Loner', 'Near Dark', and the positively perky 'Shell of Light'.
April 11th; Forthright author declares "Let's not make deadly supergerms that could wipe out humanity!" Hard to disagree, really, for anyone who remembers this film. Watch for depixelating one-eyed man part-way through opening credits.
Lovely dinner with Writers' Group at Esther's, where we watch a curious DVD of 'Showgirls', with a voiced over commentary by David Schmader. Schmader is a self-appointed expert on the film who lives in Seattle. He explains why he thinks this is the ultimate film-so-bad-it's-good, and his observations on the dire plotting, wooden acting, & atrocious writing of Verhoeven's Vegas-set dance extravaganza are surprisingly funny & sharp. In the interview section of the DVD I get to see the face of highly-paid Hungarian-born Hollywood screenwriter Joe Eszterhas. Am oddly shocked to realise he really is a Mitteleuropan oik. Resembles the overweight but cunning truck driver who works out how to rob the warehouse.

April 10th; Easter Tuesday. Intriguing, very bold two-hour film about an American mythologist, or folklorist, as they'd call him round here: David Talbott. I read a couple of Velikovsky books from the public library as a small boy and found them fun but not backed up by anything else I'd heard, but it seems some people never gave up on the renegade Russian scholar. Dr V thought that the catastrophes of many/all ancient civilisation's legends were literal accounts of close approaches by our local planets that today seem to sedately trundle along calm orbits. Talbott has a worked-out theory that surprisingly recently, perhaps even just 7,000 or 8,000 years ago, the planets had different positions. A hauntingly beautiful suggestion is that the golden age remembered in ancient myths of every culture was a literal reference to a time when Saturn appeared huge in the sky and hung there 24 hours a day. He claims that Saturn's older name was the name of the 'sun god' in many languages (for example 'helios' in Greek originally meant 'Saturn' not 'sun') and that other evidence from myths suggest it was very large in the sky, revolving at the pole-star position. Perhaps at latitudes like the Fertile Crescent and the Mediterranean a big disc could reflect enough sunlight or even warmth at night, like today's moon times ten, to ensure a kind of mild summer all year round. Some of the texts call the Jupiter era, if that's what it was, a time when each year had many harvests and the northern hemisphere was warm & pleasant. Talbott has found a couple of astronomers who say the gravitational dynamics are possible. Certainly a refreshingly clear yet unorthodox theory, and a very enjoyable couple of hours. For anyone interested by this, there are other films where Talbott asks plasma physicists about glowing signs in the sky the ancients reported which might be electromagnetic effects of large bodies passing close to earth.
April 9th; Easter Monday. This pseudo-spring is toying with us. An hour of warm sunshine here and there, but also chilly winds, and strange dark afternoons. Almost as bad as England. The neon light tubes got a note attached to them addressed in a handsome feminine script to 'Dear Somebody' asking them to be removed, and about four days later they vanished, leaving only a plaintive hand-sized scrap of wrapping plastic on the walkway, like a feather after a bird fight. More irritating news on the civil-liberties front: President Barry appears quite chuffed with the new American remotely-kill-anyone-anywhere approach. Balint comes over and we chat about strange collective nouns in English, like a 'parliament of owls'. Could that phrase have started out as a mis-remembering of Chaucer's 'Parliament of Fowls', almost certainly a loose English adaptation of Attar's 'Conference of the Birds'?

April 8th; Lunch with Jessica at the Alfoldi restaurant, so she can enjoy (apparently) the best fish soup in town before leaving for Brussels tomorrow. I finish Jeremy W's copy of 'Enter Psmith' by P.G. Wodehouse, the 2nd of his books I've read. Very readable, and plotted with artful simplicity. Striking how knowledge of cricket is simply assumed of readers before the Great War. Also interesting to see how Wodehouse started off with a straightforward leading character called 'Mike', but the cameo role of Psmith (the P being silent of course) comes to later demand whole books to himself. Since Jeremy explains Psmith to me as a blend of Wooster & Jeeves, the obvious thought is that Wodehouse first brought Psmith into the foreground as a character, and later had another idea. That he could create more narrative tension and natural plotting by then splitting Psmith into two separate people, a likeably foolish toff and an unflappable high-IQ butler.
April 7th; Instal & try QT Creator. African film from a couple of years ago: described as a sci-fi satire set in Cameroon in 2025. Pic by photographer from down the road again, Xenia. The girl in this picture holds a tiny picture of a girl ...which I think is a cigarette lighter.

April 6th; Tea with Jessica. Hear about a new US film distributor. Magazine illustration from half a century ago. Looks quite fresh & sharp compared to now.
April 5th; More role-playing for Jeremy W's management students. Another week of sunshine, though still a slight chill in the air. Mermaids ahoy. Funny how just two colours, that dusty blue & orange, date a printed illustration.

April 4th; Fat cat with steely will defies snowscape.
April 3rd; Got teeth descaled at the dentist few days ago. Next chore: haircut.

April 2nd; Quick coffee with Jeremy W who is in good spirits. On an unrelated topic, no-one who uses "private number" to hide their phone number has any right to expect that people will answer their calls, and they don't deserve to be picked up. I answer only calls from numbers that identify themselves to me. Semi-detailed article bravely tries to get to bottom of McKenna's timewave-ish novelty-theory thing. Yet I still see no proper algorithm showing how one spiky line turned into a whole set of jagged sawteeth apparently soaring across billions of years, and yet still somehow fractally working when you zoom in on one century or one year. As the arithmetic teachers say, show us the working.
April 1st; In this little musical film, Lykke Li hunts down a man over open country until the poor wretch collapses from sheer exhaustion, suggesting Nordic girls are formidable and to be treated warily.
I finish Jessica's copy of a book by Pat Buchanan, who is apparently a well-known politico in the United States. This is his very recent 'Suicide of a Superpower' and reprises themes of the demographic shrinkage of the white European Christian core nation making up almost all of the US as recently as 1950. It is replete with those four-or-five-word sentences American editors and speechwriters like so much. One sentence dongs through the text - "We were a people then" is repeated at intervals through the book at weighty moments, perhaps five times altogether. His case is simple and not unreasonable: 1) other nations believe in ethnic nationalism, and it's no shame for the USA to embrace it too, 2) the rapid diversification of America's ethnic mix came from immigration encouraged since the mid-1960s by the political party which stood to gain from reducing the previous homogeneity of the country (namely the Democrats at the moment when Nixon's Southern Strategy was upending the old link between the Democrat party and white segregationists in the Dixieland states), 3) the US is overextended internationally and should cut military spending, 4) economic protectionism is no shame for the USA and was how the US and every other other country got rich originally (he sees the outsourcing of American manufacturing jobs to the Far East as also damaging the core nation of thrifty, white, English-speaking Christians who previously gave the country its main identity), 5) all of this can (still... just about...) be reversed & repaired because the Democratic party's strategy is more fragile than it looks at first, especially during a recession, when government vote-buying largesse has to be cut back. There are a few signs the book was written in a bit of a hurry. "Ours is the world's oldest constitutional republic, the model for all that followed." (No, actually the Swiss Confederation is much older, and earlier republics like the Netherlands or the one-and-a-half-thousand-year-old Republic of Venice were in fact the models followed by recent republics like the US and France.) He quotes Goethe saying something "well over a century ago", which is lucky since the German poet turned 63 years old two centuries ago in 1812. A typo turns an ethnologist into an ethologist. The bit where he reveals himself as a loyal Catholic at the same time as apparently regretting the passing of a 99% Protestant USA is curious. Given how he dates the whole downfall to Lyndon Johnson, one can imagine a Protestant WASPish version of Buchanan setting the start of the decline two or three decades earlier and saying it was the Catholics who had been the thin end of the wedge. Nevertheless the whole thesis makes sense on its own terms. It's a coherent argument for economic & ethnic nationalism. Probably only embarrassment stops most Americans from agreeing with him.


Mark Griffith, site administrator / markgriffith at yahoo.com