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2012
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May 31st; Futuristic colourful diagram on the fusion-power website looking nice. At Kalman's office bump into Scott looking chipper. When I mention I am reading a second of the Flashman books (he lent me the first), Scott nostalgically recalls early boyhood erections the Flashman yarns gave him in the Christchurch public library. On his exotic escapades through the best bits of the 19th century, MacDonald Fraser's cynical rascal hero often encounters untamed dusky maidens with magnificent bouncing breasts, Scott reminisces. Perhaps it was this that gave him an early interest in travel. Later he even writes kind things about my 2nd publication, Physicist Melanie's forthcoming book.

May 30th; This book looks to be a top specimen of the weak culture it thinks it detects and corrects. Poor Philip, forever haunted by being the man whose famously nasty experiment got out of hand forty years ago. He has bills to pay too. Snide review of silly book also misses point totally, but in a different way, so that's all right. Boys, guys, porn, American suburban softies - all the good stuff.
May 29th; Don't let anybody tell you that circus is dead. Sociology student gets folded inside sofa.

May 28th; Lots of curious little films on the internet. Today? Sacred geometry.
May 27th; 1. Mars looking dry right now. / 2. Song in which girl tells an admirer to go away, though something odd happens late in the lyrics. If he can never reach her, why does she mention falling out of love with him? / 3. Someone one or two days ago photographed his daughter with lots of pinhole-effect solar eclipses all over her happy face. / 4. Tomorrow is Whitsun. Somehow the preceding descent by the Holy Spirit, at or around the Annunciation (see how the dove of peace rides down the love beam), inspires better art. Perhaps Pentecost is too full of crowds to make good paintings.

May 26th; Several days ago, before work became overwhelming, finished Jeremy's copy of 'In Defence of History' by Richard Evans. This is an overview of trends in historiography since the 1960s, with Evans trying to hold a measured middle way between enthusiasm for "postmodernist" trends in historical research, and full rejection of them. He holds this middle ground quite well. Postmodernism never struck me as the right word for these innovations, for what that's worth. Women's studies, Native American history, post-Derrida deconstructionism all looked and still look completely of a piece with modernism in my eyes but others disagree, so who am I to contradict them? Anyway, Evans goes over the Carr and Elton books we were made to read in the sixth form, and says some interesting things. His own work seems to have revolved around early-20th-century police archives in Hamburg, which apparently he analysed with the help of Marxist categories. His prose is oddly heavy-going. Lots of historians qualify each sentence, but something about his writing seems ponderous. This feels puzzling because each individual sentence is well-written. His strange viscosity comes into its own in the Afterword, which is a lengthy defence of his book against all the people who gave it hostile reviews. Stretching from page 254 to page 316 it approaches a fifth of the substance of the book. I can understand a desire to give rebuttals to reviewers who badly misrepresent a book, and my feeling is Evans accurately depicts their misrepresentations most of the time. Indeed, I have been getting the impression for several years that almost no-one actually reads books all the way through any more, and I sympathise with Evans when he complains some of his reviewers clearly skimmed the text. Skimming really is not acceptable if you are being paid to write a review. Yet something about the Afterword left me with an unpleasant aftertaste, a sense of historians en masse as a petty and quarrelsome bunch, Evans himself included. On pages 261, 262, and 263, he details how reviewers over-reacted to three of his remarks, and over-react they did. On the other hand, as he absolves himself triumphantly {1. "No hint of criticism here..." 2. "nowhere... is there any hint of disapproval..." 3. "not so much as a hint of criticism for the delay..."}, a couple of points become clear. First, he likes to bait his opponents by making sly references which can be construed as criticisms but do not voice any explicit attack. Second, he is rather unattractively pleased with his own cleverness in doing this. With the third rebuttal in particular, he is being dishonest. Read where he is quoting from his own book so as to berate someone for inferring snideness: "Similarly, on page 299 the reference to Arthur Marwick having delivered 'his inaugural lecture after decades of occupation of the Chair of History at the Open University' contains not so much as a hint of criticism for the delay, however critical the discussion of the lecture is in other respects." As the Americans would say - "Puh-lease"...
In fact a hint of criticism is exactly what that quote contains. I have no idea why this man Marwick took decades before giving his inaugural lecture and quite possibly the man was/is bone idle, disorganised, full of himself, something else. Furthermore, to pop in that detail before attacking the content of the lecture is quite amusing, and can make text more fun to read. But there was no need to mention the delay, and saying that mentioning it carried "not so much as a hint of criticism" oversteps the limit. To claim that little remark has absolutely no bearing on his attack on the content of Marwick's lecture is just a lie. Of course that snide aside amounts to a hint of criticism - suggesting something about someone without coming out and saying it openly is the very definition of hinting.
He enjoyably drops in that another critic cannot even get the name of his book right when attacking it, and it sounds like yes, this did reflect on the scholarly standards of that critic. The overall Evans point of view seems reasonable and contains interesting thoughts about how history is done and the different ways historians are finding new material and fresh understandings of the past. He explains well how the extreme cultural relativist viewpoint undermines itself. But something dense and tangled in his prose when he disagrees with people or says why A misinterprets B for me betrayed a deeper intellectual unease I cannot put my finger on.
May 25th; More work for Nationalism Bea. Two radio shows from Britain help me get through some of the evening of editing. Melvyn Bragg is obviously doing something right, because I learn new things about Marco Polo's travels and Clausewitz's theories of war from these two discussions, despite thinking I was fairly familiar with both. I wasn't, despite having read an English translation of 'On War' many years ago. Polo's biography less certain than I thought, and Clausewitz's thinking more subtle and interesting than I remembered or understood from that one read through. Better than some previous shows from the last few weeks. Not an accident that these two discussions each centred around a book, still one of the fundamental vehicles for stimulating proper thought. No wonder they so badly want us to forget how to read anything longer than one page.

May 24th; Proof Nationalism Bea's book, input latest edits for Melanie.
May 23rd; Tiring thirty hours. Worked all day and all night, up until today, Wednesday, lunchtime rewriting a travel documentary - the usual mess of wrongly-compiled time codes, poorly-executed filming without a tripod, and tedious starter script cribbed entirely by the talentless "film-maker"'s wife from Wikipedia. Since she copied it in chunks after the filming was done (nothing approaching a plan or a log of shots or a story-board), text only loosely matches what is on the raw footage and is deeply dull. Yet she is proud and prickly about her text which is not hers. The couple are of course indignant to the point of rage at any effort to improve their worthless films and at the same time furiously impatient for the magic of transformation without change to be worked at once.

May 22nd; Last night drank lots of tea with a Reiki healer. She has a great tale from her decade living in Persia. One of her patients was, she claims, mayor of Tehran. So at the end of a session he complains to her, as powerful people often do in private to healers, hairdressers, doctors ....that he hates his job and as mayor he often cannot help people from simple backgrounds like himself but has to do what the folk with money want. She thinks he sincerely means this. She suggests he should change his job. He says to what though? Politics is all he knows now. She says why not try to become president? So Mayor Ahmedinijad says to her all right, he will think about running for president then.
May 21st; Day of the Moon. My laptop keyboard, she now very sick.

May 20th; Reapply myself to the chores and deadlines, which seem to be growing like weeds. Perhaps the most tabloidy story I have ever seen - the Daily Mail tells us that a tree which grows in Colombia emits a perfume (and can be made into a powder) which "robs victims of free will". Victims willingly co-operate with people stealing from them, raping them, whatever. Victims even forget afterwards most of the details and who it was. Alert readers will recall that the active ingredient of the plant, scopolamine, used to crop up in Cold War spy stories as "the truth serum". In the guise of this tree it sounds like a drug so incredibly useful to criminals, I cannot see why anyone would commit any other kind of crime (or indeed do any work) if they lived in a place where it grows. Complete with a daft film, one half of which has Spanish-language interviews they forgot to subtitle (sampling the merchandise?) this is clearly a case of something too good, or too bad, to be true. You could just about get away with using "a South American tropical bloom ...with rare beguiling beauty, yet as lethal as it is lovely" as a plot device for a Conan Doyle or Allen Poe tale but now that Colombia is full of people doing factory & office jobs just like us, I am suspicious. If it is so effective, why do criminals in Colombia waste time with cocaine? They could just be escorting stunned victims of the get-you-drunk powder to the nearest cash machine. As the article says "Experts are baffled as to why Colombia is riddled with scopolamine-related crimes", except ....they meant to write the opposite of that. It wouldn't be baffling in the slightest. What is baffling is why, if this does what they say it does, there is any other kind of activity ...sorry, any other kind of crime.
May 19th; Quiet Saturday. Struggle to work, though I might have eaten and drunk too much at last night's splendid banquet/event at Jeremy's.
Refreshing interview with a Sufi teacher from Britain (looking rather good in his late 50s). Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee is particularly insistent that we have forgotten that the world belongs to God and is suffused with God.

May 18th; Tarot evening and pop-up restaurant at Jeremy's flat. While he & Csilla toil in the kitchen creating delicious courses of a Greek-style feast, I regale the 14 guests with a short introduction to the Devil's pack and its history, plus a few Tarot readings.
May 17th; Word is that a new craze in the Ukraine is girls modifying themselves to look like life-size Barbie dolls (though sad to say they neglect the giant buttonholes and overchunky zips that would add the finishing touch). From a website called "interesting engineering". Articles like this or this more typical of the site.

May 16th; 1. Some odd cat photographs. / 2. Growing murmurs suggest that paid advertisements on Facebook often bring in no new sales. / 3. Song where a woman sings that she wants to have a daughter, but if her man cannot manage that, then a son will have to do. Ah, such radical stuff.
May 15th; Well nigh time I moved April to the right side of this page and put March into the archives in the bottom right-hand corner. The pressure, the pressure. Buttons Sylvia popped over for a cup of tea a few days ago. Kindly complimenting my home-made wooden chair, she mentions a chair-maker she knows in London. With impressive dedication, he worked out how to make strong, lightweight chairs out of human-hair clippings harvested from barber-shop floors. Clever short film about this admirable man, who has essentially created a superior fibreglass.

May 14th; Balint mentions his camera hire business.
May 13th; A nifty graph about American government spending, via Zdravko. Seemingly military spending has proportionately halved over 40 years - in other words, all the other spending has gone up even more quickly than it has. Such a clever infographic stops short of being really good - why not scale each bar to also show the absolute size of government spending in those three years?

May 12th; Eerie image of our sun looking like a large bacterium. Finish Marion and Paul's copy of 'A Very Short Introduction - Ancient Philosophy' by Julia Annas. She dives into an ancient (Greek) philosophical debate about moral conflict as a way of avoiding the usual timeline narrative. A chapter on how Plato's 'Republic' got reread in the 19th century as a book about an ideal state, despite that being a small part of the text, is interesting. Annas in the middle mounts a good defence of Aristotle as much more open-minded than later Aristotelians made him seem. Her closing summary mentions a lampoon by second-century AD satirist Julian, he of the 'True Story' adventure about travelling to the moon. In 'The Runaways' Julian compares Greek philosophy to other Oriental traditions as a wild goose chase by the gods - not particularly favouring Greek ideas.
May 11th; The mysterious Josh in England tells me that this Australian poster was not real. It mocked another Australian poster with the same meek cartoon Jim, this time not putting his feet on the seats. Perhaps a bit too good to be true.

May 10th; Finish Robin's copy of Dion Fortune's 'The Mystical Qabalah'. A clear walk through the Tree of Life diagram so central to this Jewish tradition. Ideas are explained in crisp, precise prewar prose, so much less apologetic or anxious to please than English writing since the 1940s. Fortune sorts out some of the muddling differences in terminology between Crowley and Waite. Less bewildering than the last time I looked at this.
May 9th; This advisory advert from an Australian railway network seems authentic. Especially enjoy the meek way Jim is sitting.
Solomun: see how in the photo the blissed-out producer dude with the name of the wise king gazes inward, grooving with the ineffable. Presumably, he transcends through the beat. Or something.

May 8th; I'm not sure why, but during last week's day-into-night-back-into-day picture-editing session on the book it was helpful to play this track again and again - indeed for much of the night. More of a mantra than a tune. Somehow doesn't sound so bad when you haven't slept and aren't thinking normally. This morning finished Robin's copy of 'Nemesis' by Peter Evans. This is a book by a dogged journalist from England who seems good at getting people to talk to him (perhaps he seems so dull & harmless his interview subjects underestimate him). He wrote a biography of Aristotle Onassis in 1986, but afterwards got told by some of the family & men close to the rogueish shipowner that he had "missed the real story". So he went back and did it again in 2004. The real story turns out to be that Onassis loathed Bobby Kennedy with a passion and paid to have him assassinated. I've never read a book about the colourful plutocrat before and was always mystified that with the pick of the world's women any healthy man would want to marry the unappetising Kennedy widow, but this book at least explains that. Onassis hoped for political & commercial leverage in the US and also just couldn't resist the showiness of marrying the world's most famous woman. She in turn liked his money very much indeed, wanted to leave America for a few years in case she got assassinated as well, and for all his rather serious faults Aristotle Socrates Onassis does emerge as having been quite a lot of fun to be around. Still, the assassination claim is the book's crown jewel. The problem with it is that the second Kennedy's killing so much has the fingerprints of an intelligence agency on it that all we really learn is that Onassis and his Greek colleagues were naive enough to think he had had Bobby offed for money. The sly PLO terrorist Hamshari who took his cash to "organise" the killing seems to have read Onassis like an open book. Either the Arab heard Bobby didn't have long to live, or just had the neck to touch Ari for money the same way he "called off" a threatened bombing of Onassis's Olympic Airways that was probably never meant to happen either. The fact that the PLO themselves finally passed a death sentence on their man Hamshari for misappropriating funds, as Evans dutifully reports, itself rather suggests the wily extorter didn't have the reach to get the second Kennedy taken out.
Overall reads like Onassis, devious to the point of gullibility, repeatedly pushed his gambler's luck. He sounds constantly full of himself, buffoonishly out of his depth with his grand plans for taking over Monaco or Haiti, yet almost touchingly sure that he was the sneakiest hoodlum on the block. It's clear that compared to the Kennedys or the CIA he was a bumbling amateur. Sweetly, most Americans thought Jackie was marrying down to pair up with the dwarfish billionaire who fled Pontic Smyrna aged 14 in the 1920s. This book unwittingly makes clear that, for all Onassis's vices, he was the one scraping the bottom of the barrel to be marrying her. Indeed, for such a famed seducer of stylish women, Onassis obviously had something of a tin ear for what women actually want. He repeatedly misjudged the point when he'd pushed a girl too far. His first couple of women sound like decent people and if he had to move on he should probably have stopped with Maria Callas, who seems to have been both exciting and genuinely devoted to him right to the end. Likewise, though he piled up cash from lots of very big deals, he repeatedly came to grief on a handful of even bigger deals. Bobby Kennedy doesn't emerge well from the story of how Marilyn Monroe died. No clear link between the Palestinian Hamshari and either Sirhan Sirhan, the hypnotised Palestinian shooter of RFK, nor one of the hypnotists who might have programmed Sirhan Sirhan, is shown. (Mind you, Evans hints so cleverly you think he's proved his case unless you read closely.) I'd have liked some diagrams showing who married and divorced whom & when. Like many good researchers, Evans writes slightly confusing prose. He knows all these names so well he keeps forgetting to remind the reader. Many pages of complicated sequences like her-lover-met-her-cousin-before-she-married-that-other-man... whose-uncle-who-had-earlier-married-the-younger-sister-of... could have been edited into a more readable state with only a little work.
Poignant to think of Onassis & his cronies racked with guilt and anxiety in the shipowner's final years over their big scary secret: a crime they all thought he'd commited - but almost certainly hadn't.
May 7th; Work much of day in Robin's studio doing a pen & paper translation of the prosthetic-hip article. Jellyfish seem to be fashionable, but are the ones in this short film being shown upside down?

May 6th; Several of us sit much of the afternoon on wooden chairs in the long grass in the garden with beers chatting about this & that. I suggest Constantine, as an aid to his trading, try to psychically tune into a commodity with some ancient resonance, such as silver or wheat. Having already kindly given me a fern in a pot, Georgina also has found a rather lovely old copy of a magazine for me from 1975 called 'Elet es Tudomany' ('Life and Science', in the broader Continental sense of "science" being any body of organised knowledge, from engineering to history, even literary scholarship ....to my slight surprise the journal seems to be still going). Rich in line drawings and black & white photographs, this exercise-book-sized publication has a remarkable range of content. There is an article about identical twins, an article about Ethiopia, a comprehensive profile of the small Hungarian town of Abony, an article on passive heating & thermal design of school buildings, a piece suggesting cancer is a disease of the immune system (If I'm not mistaken quite up-to-date for 1975?), a piece on the physics of weights suspended in glasses of water, and a long lead about some 19th-century radical called Oszkar Jaszi. The back pages have shorter articles, including a sample of written Carthaginian script, a crossword, a small column about an English Nobel Laureate for chemistry noticing his wife's diabetes caused gold jewellery touching her skin to make it go dark, and lots lots more.
May 5th; Letty's school-leaving ceremony goes well at church and school hall afterwards. Constantine & Edit are there. So are Robin, Georgina, & two of the other children. In the big hall we have to stand again because, as with the church, we are too slow to grab seats. Interestingly, most chairs face the long side of the school hall, but Letty's classmates having the leaving ceremony are seated at right angles to the main audience in a narrow strip along that wall. The 18-year-old school leavers, all girls, are in perhaps twenty rows - each row maybe 4 chairs wide - ten rows facing one way, ten rows the other, a lectern in the middle, halfway down that wall. The effect is as if just the seating from two buses or aeroplanes nose to nose with the lectern in between has been extracted and set down in the hall. The proud parents in the main body of the hall therefore can see their very pretty daughters in profile, all dressed in dark short skirts, 3"-heels, and matching jackets, creating a strong air-hostess effect. There are many flowers. We all get some bouquets to give Letty at the end, who has too many to carry really. Then we return in several cars to the house, where Marika and Georgina have prepared a huge buffet spread of sliced meat, salads: a groaning board of provisions.

May 4th; Having worked all night on fusion book, am in slightly strange state of mind by late morning. Sleep one hour around lunchtime, meet Nationalism Bea, buy train ticket, print out prosthetic-hip text, get on train. During half-hour change of trains at Kecskemet, look high up on the walls of the station's ticket hall. It has 1950s/60s tiling with multicoloured panels, each of which is made up of hundreds of half-inch-square pseudo-tiles of red or white or yellow or blue or green or black etc. Instead of the exciting Mondrianesque mood this was supposed to evoke close up, the overall effect is strangely drab. A number of Hungarian railway stations got these subtiled tiles (for example, the tiny waiting room at Lakitelek) and the effect is that of public lavatories or urine-scented underpass tunnels on British housing estates built by socialist local councils. Somehow, modernist municipal use of Krazee Kolor just adds insult to injury. It removes even the remnants of dignity from attempts to give clean usable buildings to the less well off. If you have to live around decor like this, you're subconsciously having it rubbed in that it is provincial plonkers who are patronising you: the people who rule your life don't even have taste. Nonetheless, in Kecskemet station hall, if you squint a bit, the tiny randomly-arranged squares of primary colour almost disappear and merge into a sort of shimmering beige. Looking up I see that most of the height of the hall is taken up by three tall windows at front and back, just blank walls at the sides. In one corner near the ceiling the sunlight of early evening makes three much smaller yellow lit-up versions of the front windows writhe on the blank (though tiny-tiled) walls. These golden projected window shapes fidget and move gently, as if in the wind, because there is a park filled with trees outside. You can almost hear trees moving while looking at the light effect, though there are really just station noises inside the building. Blurred blobs of light inside the window lozenges stir slowly back and forth on the inside wall as leaves & branches in the park move about softly. I go outside. The light rays of sun stretch across grass, only getting in among the trees in a few places. I cannot immediately see how it is that the sun makes smaller windows of light on the back wall inside the ticket hall. Perhaps it is that not the sun, but a patch of sunlit grass, is what is shining light so oddly through the big windows. But something, maybe chance placement of trees and the setting sun, would have to accidentally shape a sort of reversed cone of sunshine pointing inward. How else could big windows cast smaller, higher silhouettes of light? Strange effect.
May 3rd; I think yesterday woke from extraordinary vivid dream about stripy aeroplane. Work rest of day on fusion-energy book.

May 2nd; Ugly image hopes to make fingerprint-based biometric security seem safe & cosy. Of course in reality it's deeply unsafe and utterly creepy. Like having your bank cash card PIN tattooed on your forehead, only not as sensible. Notice how the clever-clever picture unwittingly admits that biometric authentification makes your home cramped & deformed, condemning you to squirm through claustrophobic darkness like a cockroach in a wall cavity. Actually quite an accurate metaphor for homo database: forever trapped inside the maze of your own whorls & ridges.
May 1st; Everything is very shut. Sun shines. Intriguing story from a US May the 1st in the 1970s.


Mark Griffith, site administrator / markgriffith at yahoo.com