when he got back? Compare that to the later and longer Yo Mama
with its interminable anguished guitar break sandwiched in between the smart-alec mocking
open and close, so obviously the song of a man
whose heart has been broken, is too proud to show
his feelings in words, and can only do it with elaborately clever instrumental bravura.
This book looks a
The cover art with fish swimming over the heads of cattle probably has special
resonance for Dutch people. This
apparently is "post-stoner" music. A sort of heavy-metal jazz, by the sound of it.
A couple of days ago watched with Olga rather depressing but very
well-made Iranian film
'A Separation'. It is
about how Persian society, at least in Teheran, seems to be filled with a
difficult mixture of hypocrisy and pious adherence to religious dogma. Clever
plotting. What looks at first like a low-key domestic drama moves
forward in surprising directions.
With a friend compare reactions to Parmigianino's
Madonna of the Long Neck. I
find the long fingers the most uncanny, she more notices the weirdly elongated
Can one Canute-like senator defy
tide?; Did governments spend it all
on pensions?; Does time ever
illustration for the physics-book site.
illustration depicting what an American academic I know says is a typical
day at the office. Take a train and a bus with Olga to see Dobogoko, the
Beating Heart Stone, which seems to be a hill, a rumour, and
some national park woodland. The woods are dotted with boulders scratched with
runic inscriptions about pagan myths.
Just discovered that Julian of Norwich was a woman, not a man. Embarrassing how
many basic gaps are still unfilled. And an
anchoress, no less, which seems to have been a woman who chose to get bricked
up for years into a cell in the wall of a church, with nothing but a grille or
a couple of windows to allow food in and a bedpan out. Rather drastic way to
remove distractions in worship, but probably effective. This King-Jamesish
English transcription is wonderfully clear and vigorous, even if the text on
this Wiki page must be a couple of centuries more recent than Julian herself.
"Here saw I a great oneing betwixt Christ and us, to mine
understanding: for when He was in pain, we were in pain."
The idea that worthwhile suffering can bring purification has gone slightly
out of fashion, but there is no mistaking the intense and sincere yearning.
"Love was without beginning, is, and shall be without ending.
For which love He said full sweetly these words: If I might suffer more, I would
suffer more." Extreme as it sounds now, she is constantly
moving, and thereby urging us also to move, from anguish into peace. She even
seems to have a name for this shift: the Overpassing.
"He willeth that we set our hearts in the Overpassing : that
is to say, from the pain that we feel into the bliss that we
trust." These saints and mystics were believed to be doing a
kind of cumulative spiritual work to advance the rest of us, and if we feel more
smug (or more confident, to be kinder) about our lives these days it might be a
sign the 1370s were well spent after all.
What made this High
Sixties song a success beyond the tune? It has (1) twisted romance,
(2) pompous politics, (3) self-righteous rudeness, but is there something else?
Perhaps a rejection of sexually assertive women? Hard to tell
with just a paper napkin's worth of lyrics to go on.
Longest day, though they all seem a bit long right now. Something very odd
about this diagram showing (I think American)
movie-poster colours since 1914. This is that the
shift from black-and-white films to colour films seems to have had no
noticeable effect on the posters, not something the person who did the analysis
mentions in his explanation.
Also, the overall bank of coloured lines looks strangely consistent, but
how different would any other data set of coloured images be? For example
advertisements for cars since 1914, or posters for stage plays. The coder who
did this break-down this has an Indian-sounding name, and promises to do
a similar analysis of Bollywood and other national cinema film-poster colours
when he gets time, but would a colour scan of canned-food adverts or
holiday travel posters look much different?
Finally got Marion's book
about Hungary in the 1980s up onto Amazon.com.
Getting Amazon.co.uk to co-operate a tougher proposition, it seems.
Interesting, slightly complicated 2-hour film about a religious heresy.
Despite its dreadful title and ridiculous introduction, this is
watching. Goes over
much of the material Dan Brown plagiarised, contradicting most of it.
A strong black coffee might help - after 5 minutes in a quite dense
explanation begins and the details come fairly thick and fast from there on.
Perhaps a tad worrying is that the central person in the documentary, a
Canadian "professional code-cracker", also helped come to the rather
unconvincing conclusion of the Lockerbie air-crash investigation.
Still, on its own merits, this story sounds plausible and raises some intriguing
questions, not least to do with the peculiar building in Manhattan and the
involvement of the strange prewar Russian
Roerich. I try to persuade Olga that
a more outgoing & consciously political version of the
Over a week now since the newer seamstress told me a simple mend cannot be done,
droning on with her "expert" opinion, not even realising she is interrupting me
as I try to politely explain there are two
things I want her to do to a pair of cord
trousers I took her. I never got to tell her the second thing (finishing off
something she could have done more thoroughly the first time) because I just get
fed up with her interrupting and leave,
taking my business away for ever. How many centuries
is it going to take Hungarians to grasp that this is why they are poor? I didn't
go there to be lectured on what she thinks can be done. I went there to give
her some work and to pay her to do the best she can with a mend on a
cheap pair of trousers so as to save
my valuable time and energy. Now of course I will have to do the sewing myself,
and it will obviously be a much better mend than a Hungarian seamstress would do,
but her obstinacy has succeeded in wasting some of my time, again, time I badly
need to use for other things. What is remarkable about countries like this is the
way people think they are in a
position to negotiate what work they decide to do and yet at the same time
complain bitterly about not having enough work and not getting enough money for
it. It's a kind of autism where understanding how the customer whose money they
want feels about that work is just completely beyond them. Meanwhile, despite the
kind patience of Xenia at the copy shop, I am still reeling from the sheer
slowness (a total of two man days standing over her spread across almost two
weeks) and the fact that the last half-day -
when I left her to work alone for a couple of hours - I came back to find all the
rulers misprinted, so useless. After a fortnight of polite patience, I found
tears welling up despite myself. Of course I was courteous, paid, went home and
started again with the wearying task of redoing the last 3/4 of the work myself
- ie. properly. Never mind that the inch scale she commissioned out to someone
called Zsolti within the shop was in tenths not sixteenths (no-one thought to ask
me if I wanted that), both inches and centimetres had the 7 digits all
the wrong size, and two different
sizes of 1 digit (barely discernible to the naked eye, in their defence, though
people who work at printers are supposed to see things customers do not). Forget
that the millimetre markings were irregular, and were
laid out by Xenia for hours of work before she realised the edges would not print
so we had to lose half a day of work and change the layout -
despite all this, I go back one more time
to work with the amiable lad taking her place during her ten days off. He does it
badly of course, cutting out a set of postcards so poorly they are effectively
unusable. So I have to go back to the rival copy shop that also got a job wrong
for me in the past. Now, after about twelve hours of work myself over several
days I should be doing other things, and despite my lack
of experience with Photoshop, the work already looks better. I have done what
I have to do every time. Do as much of the job
I can so as to cut the amount of intelligent or willing effort required from any
worker (Hungarian or even English these days, judging from the extraordinarily
shoddy work and consistently insolent attitude I got from
the British section of
this firm) to the absolute minimum.
Amusing self-pity song by a duo, at least one of them Hungarian.
Despite the moaning about
how sad it is to be vain & self-centred - you can see and hear that the singer
really is vain & self-centred. Perfect case of someone pretending to
criticise themselves but actually demanding more of everything.
Some kind of football event is on. At bars in the sticky heat of the evenings
that unsettling muffled roar or moan of football crowds comes out of television
sets set up for outdoor tables. By night meet
Franc for a quick beer at a bar.
To make the whole experience odder we are being sprayed by cold-water mist as
we sit hunched, heads low, at the only empty table - one right below the
big screen showing a match. Portugal versus some country, perhaps Holland.
Finish one of the Flashman novels Jeremy kindly lent me.
'Flashman at the
Charge' is entertainingly narrated by the dastardly and
rogueish coward Flashman. This adult character lives out the adventures in adult
life that his 20th-century recreator, George MacDonald Fraser, imagines for a
character well-known from a 19th-century book - but there only as an adolescent
boy. Flashman was the evil swaggering bully of the famous
'Tom Brown's School Days', a tale of sadistic violence
at a famous English public school in the 1830s which shocked readers in the 1850s.
Fraser's novels centre round invented later exploits of Hughes' vicious brute,
Flashman, ignoring the earnestly Christian boy heroes of the original novel.
(For anyone who saw Michael Palin's 1970s television comedies 'Ripping Yarns', in
the story called 'Tomkinson's School Days' the character simply named School
Bully is Palin's version of the original Flashman.) In the 1973 novel Flashman
accidentally gets sent to the Crimean War, despite his best efforts to avoid
any fighting, and finds himself caught up in the
doomed Charge of the Light Brigade against Russian artillery. Characteristically,
the cowardly antihero emerges totally unscratched, wrongly celebrated as
dashingly and inspiringly heroic.
I finish a book I got for Christmas from Robin and family
E' by Judy Parkinson. This is a cheerfully
old-fashioned set of little rhymes and mnemonics to help people remember things,
....Gave Battle In Vain
....Green Blue Indigo
Violet) to recall the order of the spectrum colours. Some interesting little
ditties and poems, a refreshing return to a recognition that memorising is
important too, not just comprehension - the mantra of the 1950s and 60s, and
a mildly amusing cover (at least on my copy) deliberately mimicking the look
of a battered pre-war Penguin paperback.
This seems to see itself as nostalgic,
gentlemanly porn. Note
naughty proximity of lit cigarette to aircraft fuel tanks.
Why didn't I design my bookcase
like this instead of
I did? One of those shockingly simple ideas that show true talent.
Although Olga cooked something delicious and healthy on Monday night, the cakes
I baked an hour or two afterwards seem to give me some
kind of nasty food poisoning. I slip in and out of consciousness on
her sofa throughout the lost Tuesday, watched over by her round-eyed,
mildly-concerned, non-allergenic cat Katja (never allowed out, therefore no
parasites or ticks, therefore stimulating no allergic reaction). Vague memories
from about thirty hours of sickness waking up now and then seeing Olga's eerie
electronic cigarette, a strange green glowing tip. This little green light dims
and brightens in the darkness as she puffs away at it, sitting at her computer
steering a virtual-reality puppet through a set of snowy mountain passes in
some bleak-looking imaginary world. Here is one of those occasional
long articles that seriously justify the New Yorker: Brainstorming Doesn't
Yesterday only 5 hours, from 7.30am to half past midday, getting kind
Xenia at the copy shop to finish the fusion-book publicity ruler. Still much
to do, but at least gives me more to post to
Melanie in England.
For kitty-lovers, 2 jolly images:
Still a bit weary after spending midday to 9pm without break on
Friday with the wondrously patient Xenia at the local copy shop. I pay her for
design work as she pulls together images for promotional materials for the
book, and all through the day, people walk in off the street, just come up
to the counter next to me, ignore my presence completely, and issue
her with their demands. Since I am also standing on the customer
side of the counter, this is interesting to notice. Not a single Hungarian thinks
of asking if I will be long, or if I am doing something, or how long they will
have to wait while I finish - the way most customers would in Britain on entering
a shop and seeing someone already at the counter who might be a customer
perhaps in front of them in order of being served. Not one person. At the
end of all this, I take the publicity materials Xenia has helped me print
to the 24-hour post office inside the big Tesco
supermarket at Pillango utca. Trying to be friendly, I say
"Good evening" to the girl at the
counter, since it is 11pm by that point. "Good
day," she replies rather pointedly, giving me an
icy glance, as if it is somehow my fault she is working a night shift.
Now for some male lunacy. In this interesting little slide show we see someone try - and then
give up - making a huge pyramid of carefully stacked loose coins. One of the
unexpected successes of this 9 and a half minute presentation is that it shows
us how close to madness a project like this can push someone.
magazines see themselves as they really are.
is a man who claps faster than anyone else®
One of the odd things about this part of Europe is the moment when a man and a
woman (sometimes two men or two women, but this seems to work differently)
kiss cheeks. At least in Hungary, the girl appears to be the one - if she
can - who decides when this will happen, although I think I have seen men
imposing it. Most of the time, just like British people, two people part
at a slight angle to each other (about fifteen degrees from facing straight on),
say goodbye and just move apart. Sometimes a girl suddenly jabs
out her hand to give a firm handshake with almost exaggerated decisiveness,
using this to hold the man at a distance. Either he looks likely to kiss her
uninvited, or she is tempted to move closer but unwilling to give him the
satisfaction of seeing that she is tempted. More interesting is the
cancelled or withdrawn kiss-on-the-cheek. The girl smiles and
seeming to ripple her spine. This is because she has moved forward slightly
to kiss, then realised a third of a second later the man is not doing the same.
Then she cancels the kiss, while trying to conceal that she was ever moving
forward to do that in the first place. The fact many do this suggests
it is a very important moment for women. Of course, even
when the kiss goes ahead, much is still ambiguous. You can sometimes feel the
woman's lips are saying "I want you,""Now
I know you want me. You do want me, don't you?" This is
probably how it normally works everywhere - ambiguous for as long as the woman
keeps it that way, if she can.
Here is a very
odd half-hour film. Julian Assange, still stuck in
somebody's house in England
appealing extradition to the United States where he will without doubt get a very
unfair trial, interviews two Muslim activists one of whom was detained for several
years in the US-run Gitmo Bay camp without charge or access to a lawyer (the
camp, I have the growing impression, that Barry O. was handpicked some time
before his nomination to keep open). It is clear that this uncharged inmate
was treated very badly by the Americans, so proud of the British legal
tradition they have convinced themselves they invented.
The two Muslims, from a group called Cage Prisoners, make the very reasonable
point that while Bush was having people locked up extra-judicially, Obama really
did make a change, just as he promised, and with the use of drones is now having
people killed extra-judicially. Yet, remarkably, by the end of the film, these
two men are starting to sound quietly fanatical and dangerous, perhaps worse than
the loudly fanatical and dangerous Americans. The stuff the two Islamic
campaigners intone about due legal process and a proper justice system is just a
thin veneer for their real beliefs based, literally, on primitive nonsense taken
word-for-word from the Quran (or perhaps from the hadith as well, as if that
would make a difference). For example, when Assange questions
them closely on the Sharia death penalty for a woman convicted of adultery, one
keeps repeating that there are so many procedural safeguards in the Quranic
stipulation for conviction of adultery, that the evidential bar is set so high
(several eyewitnesses must be present during the adulterous sex act), that if
a woman is indeed condemned to death (by stoning), then the trial has not been
conducted properly. Of course, as any half-educated real lawyer could appreciate
at once, this argument completely fails. If proper conviction is in fact
impossible then there could be no objection to simply removing that penalty. Whereas,
if there is some small chance of conviction, however tiny, (as there must be,
otherwise why have the law?) then you must be ready to defend the penalty (death
by stoning) on its own merits. It is no defence of a penalty to say it will
never be used in practice.
The fact they can't even imagine the idea of changing their desert-blood-feud
legal code in the smallest detail suggests the idea of having a conversation
with them is in fact a waste of time. Whether shouty or politely soft-spoken
obviously makes no difference. What they seem to have in mind is total,
unswerving adherence to every syllable, every letter, of their unaltered
tribal text as an actual legal system. Even for a traditionalist like me
generally happy to leave old laws in place, this interview is very worrying indeed.
An upwardly mobile sort of day.
1. Cats jump higher
than you think. /
2. A tribe in Papua New Guinea points uphill
they discuss the future. /
Mr Saracco draws my attention to this handy guide - 3. How to open a bottle
of beer with a chainsaw. /
4. Ants that supposedly jump a lot, filmed to
suitably eerie music.
Nothing happens for the first 30 seconds of footage.
A few days ago finished reading in manuscript form
Movements and Ethnic Conflict', by Beata Huszka. Despite
being a specialist book this book manages two things. It presents what is at least
to me a new analysis, and this analysis tackles a very important question: why
some movements agitating for a region to secede from a larger country succeed,
or fail, peacefully, and why some succeed, or fail, only after a nasty civil
war. Her thesis is that if a region with an independence movement has an
ethnic minority politically linked to the centre the region is trying
to break away from (for example the Krajina Serbs inside Croatia during the
Croatian drive for independence from Yugoslavia) ethnic violence and war is
still not inevitable if the secessionist movement, that is to say the seceding
nation, avoids defining itself ethnically. Following three examples in detail
(Slovenia, Croatia, Montenegro) and comparing them with four others (Catalonia
and the Basque country versus Spain, plus Aceh and East Timor versus Indonesia),
she comes up with some surprising details. The Basque terrorist movement, ETA,
for self-interested reasons abandons an ethnic definition of Basqueness,
makes Basque separatism into a movement anyone can join, and inadvertently
defuses potential for an ethnic war. Serbian nationalists inside
Montenegro abandon Serbian brotherhood as the motive for keeping Yugoslavia
together but find they cannot change how non-Serbian voters see them. Aceh and
East Timor independence movements both end up killing Javanese immigrants, but
with opposite effects. By changing sides early on, Slovenian communists keep
their independence movement non-ethnic and peaceful, while Croatian communists
stay loyal to Yugoslav unity long enough to bring about exactly what they wanted
to avoid ....unintentionally making their independence movement
aggressively ethnic, leading to vicious civil war. Although unavoidably
dry in parts, hard to dispute the importance of the topic.
The sort of buildings that enter
dreams during fever.
A rather difficult fortnight just passed. Am starting to regularly find myself
slumped on my sofa having simply passed out for random periods of a couple
of hours even though in theory I am up to date with body-rest requirements.
film looks it might be fun pictorially, being another fantasy from
Terry Gilliam, whose visual imagination was presciently pomo already in the 1960s.
Although obvious it was lovingly made, even the trailer seems to show why it
vanished without trace: Hollywood's desperate urge to explain, simplify, and
remove all risk simply kills any story form apart from the epic.
Stay up long past my bedtime trying to bake cakes with the help of Olga
and her cat. We watch two episodes of a television series new to me,
The IT Crowd, which turn out to be much
funnier than I expected. I was hoping Britain could move on from comedy,
but this really was very good. Olga
(whose cooking is a lot better than mine to date)
explains a slightly confusing Chinese
system of divination, which she has an iPhone app to calculate.
Mark Griffith, site administrator /
markgriffith at yahoo.com