Train back into town, after sharing a pizza with Robin at Lakitelek. We chug past the little chestnut-tree stations on the single-track local line between Lakitelek and Kecskemet slowly in the heat. Mysteriously, our
stopping train is again a polished ellipsoid bullet-shaped vehicle somehow kidnapped off the Austrians.
Here are trailers for 2 forthcoming films: 'Wolf of Wall Street', and
'American Hustle'. Given the common theme, here is an article about China.
Down to swim in the river Tisza again with Robin, Lisa, Bela, and Lexi the fox terrier, but this time with more swimming time spare before sunset. Young Bela again drives the car along the top of the dam and along the rutted path of dried mud in the dark woods. Two deer and later a stag stroll out to watch us drive by. The steep beach of mid-grey sand is hot and bathed in sun when we arrive, but the shadows of the trees on the far bank move up the beach past our towels at almost visible speed over the next hour or so. Wind loudly shushes the high trees on our side. Patches of sun and shadow slide up until only the thrashing tips of the tree tops glow a fierce yellow-green against the vast blue of the sky, and the sound of the trees swishing turns somehow more poignant, though of course nothing changed.
July 29th; Someone notices again that the point of cities is for people to meet each other. Jane Jacobs gets a grudging mention.
Zsuzsi expertly & carefully drives the car along the top of the earthwork dam and then down the steep bank into and through the midge-infested woods for our group dusk swim in the river. New clues show how RNA molecules could have self-assembled more easily to get early life rolling.
Saturday. Catch train back to the countryside for Zsuzsi's party. Sit opposite someone on the train and we get chatting. He tells me about his days making deals with Soviet steel companies. Party very enjoyable. Lisa tells me that during my time in town a good time was had by all. In particular a game of cricket with crab apples sounds like some idyllic memory of yesteryear rather than something that happened in the middle of a busy week.
Have been hoping someone would rebuild the 1851 Crystal Palace for years - even tried to enthuse a craftslady colleague last week about a fund to do it in Hyde Park.
Friday. Late in the evening finish another book from Robin's library, 'Experiencing Architecture' by Steen Eiler Rasmussen. Am surprised at how fine this book is, even if it fits its era (the late 1950s) by adoring modernism. Written first in Danish and then translated into English (translated/rewritten by the author himself, from what I could make out) the book attempts something modernists often did and still do, of describing architectural solutions to problems of place, purpose, structure. Rasmussen exhaustively considers every aspect of buildings - with the one gaping omission of their relationship to history and future, badges of continuity, symbolism. Everything else, including how buildings sound and reverberate or how colour works, is covered thoroughly, in keeping with the odd 20th-century mood of having arrived at the end of history, having reached an era when history was felt to have shifted from asset to liability. Rasmussen discusses much older architecture with great respect, always emphasising materials, social purposes of buildings and so on - another thing modernists sometimes do to undercut their critics: recall Richard Rogers, designer with Renzo Piano of both the
Pompidou buildings, offering a complete 15th-century-style Florentine piazza as an entry for one competition in London. But on page 11 we see a picture of a man dressed as a Renaissance Danish king riding a bicycle as evidence of the absurdity and foolishness of trying to build out of period, and on page 13 Rasmussen scornfully contrasts an "authentic" Venetian palace of its time (1509) with a Danish Victorian copy of the same building seemingly out of its time (1865). He makes some fascinating points in the book, suggesting in a thought-provoking chapter on natural lighting for rooms that Jan Vermeer was clearly a morning painter and his contemporary Pieter de Hooch equally clearly an afternoon painter. He claims that the acoustics of the larger mediaeval predecessor to Saint Peter's in Rome made music like Bach's impossible, and forced speech to be declaimed in a certain slow, stylised way to avoid words being drowned out by their own echoes. In one section he describes how metric measures make modular design harder to do than feet and inches, and describes Corbusier's redesign of his own forced modular man image, shifting from 175cm average male height to 183cm as Corbu struggled with the big problems metric measures create for any body-centred system of proportions. On the other hand, in a few pages up to 158 Rasmussen loyally defends a tragically ugly building (Baker House dormitory) at MIT (one of his alma maters) by Finn Alvar Aalto. Aalto being my favourite modern architect when I was 10 & 11, it was a bit sobering to revisit his curvy designs (based on the building "expressing" internal space division and function) and realise just how lame they are. Especially when contrasted against photographs of much more attractive and better-designed buildings out of every other century since 1200. Rasmussen, though a staunch modernist, is also not afraid to tick off some of the heroes of the International Style for this or that mistake. Likewise, he deplores how Venice's Doge's Palace with its lightweight dreamlike exterior was spoilt when the 1483 fire allowed a heavier, bulkier interior redesign in keeping with newer Baroque fashion. Rasmussen thinks clearly, shrewdly questioning on every scale except the biggest: the overall dogma for that ahistoric "rational" architecture he champions in that fresh new midcentury.
Earlier in day a cola with Ilan: same place I met Marion a week ago. Entrepreneurship master class resumes. Ilan reproaches me, very tactfully, of being too "value-driven" and says you have to become "really jaded" to do business well.
Thursday. Relax in Budapest - or so I hoped - with a slim hardback book of cartoons by Ronald Searle 'Back to the Slaughterhouse' printed in 1951 (the title is a quote Max Beerbohm attributes to Samuel Johnson). Taken a bit by surprise at how hard-edged and angry Searle's humour is at that date. One cartoon shows the large bottom of Father Christmas struggling down a chimney into a fireplace as a smirking woman in a dressing gown waits with a rounders bat to knock him out. Children remove heads, summon demons, and prepare poisons. I recalled Searle's trademark Saint Trinian's schoolgirls were nasty, but not this nasty. The horrors of World War II still fresh in everyone's minds, doubtless.
Wednesday. Zszuzi kindly drives me to catch my train back to town as part of taking her two younger brothers into Kecskemet for their haircuts. Lesson with Akos, former colleague of Balint. He explains what the server side of an upgradable smart-phone app would look like. Remember some intriguing thoughts and conversations from the long weekend: the way the large dolls' house lurks slightly ominously at the head of the wooden staircase up to the gallery in the studio where I was sleeping; Lisa saying that men should be in charge of women; the quasi-super moon looming over the farm buildings at night; the story from Marika that a few weeks ago she accidentally left a door open in the main house and found the 8 or 9 sheep were standing round in a group in the sitting room watching television.
Tuesday. Woken in Robin's studio today or Wednesday by Marika and two very polite police officers (one, a girl, has a startling mass of auburn hair tumbling down her back) looking for a local lad sleeping in one of the outhouse attics. They find him. We all go swimming in the river again, this time at a section with sand on the bank. Leading us back along the rutted mud track through the mosquito-packed forest at dusk, barefoot Robin wraps up in so many towels with hat and sunglasses that he becomes The Beekeeper, leading us through clouds of midges.
Monday. Wash my clothes and hang them on the line in the hot garden. Nip up rickety outdoor step-ladder to eat 2 or 3 last ripe apricots in one tree, and sun-softened fruit drop past as the ladder shakes the trunk. A couple hit lower branches and burst open in splashes of yellowish-orange pulp, splattering me. Some light reading. Late afternoon, Robin brings Lisa from the airport. He, Lisa, and Bela go swimming in the river at sunset again. After dark, sharp-eyed Robin brings back my black stone. I said he needn't bother, but Robin was sure he'd find it. A night & day later, it was still exactly where he saw it fall into the black mud yesterday. After dark I finish a very short book from Robin's shelves, called appropriately enough 'Kant: A Very Short Introduction'. This one is written by Roger Scruton. He carefully explains how Kant aimed to steer a middle path between Locke's sensualising of concepts and Leibniz's intellectualising of appearances and tried to show that even if we cannot really see the world as it is, this does not stop us being sure the world objectively is such a thing that our perception of it has to be compatible with it.
Sunday. An interesting piece about those transatlantic halfwit managers who think Ayn Rand counts as a thinker. Another echoey ethereal tune from the dolphins-will-help-us school of electronica. Swim in the river Tisza at dusk with Robin & Bela. I find later a small piece of volcanic glass hanging round my neck must have fallen into the oozing silt at the edge of the river after I got out. It survived the river but it's no longer on its string, and Robin says he glimpsed something stone-sized bouncing into the mud as I sat drying off. I feel oddly free of it.
Saturday. Doze at Robin's, read part of a short introduction to Kant, and battle in the heat of the studio with paper-folding and cutting. After he returns late from his cricket match across country, we chat in the darkened kitchen. He briefly mentions his artistic collaborator Barry's ghastly girlfriend in Berlin, apparently like "a yeti wearing glasses".
Friday. Lovely relaxing natter and drink at the fake Californian coffee house with Marion while we plan our joint assault on social media. On train to Kecskemet, when the ticket collector asks me to interpret, I meet a couple on their way to be part of Canada's national dragon boat team at an international championship in Szeged. I learn that 'rowing' is called 'paddling' when you face forwards. Robin & Letty pick me up from Lakitelek as dusk begins to fall. Letty tells us of a Hungarian girl in this week's news who spent weeks methodically sharpening her teeth until she could kill her Belgian husband by biting his neck - presumably the jugular. After a tasty dinner Robin & I drive out again around midnight to a nearby market town to pick someone up from police custody.
Thursday. Warm weather and cold baths continue. One bath a few days ago was obviously sorely needed, because when I immersed in the cold water, the ceiling began revolving. Or rather, it started making hand-on-corkscrew turns, about 120 degrees, over and over again without ever doing one proper spin. After this stopped, the bathroom cabinet began creeping across the tiled wall at about an inch a second. Fascinating how stubborn this illusion is, since you can see the cabinet isn't getting any closer to the far corner, yet you feel sure it is sliding across the wall as you watch. Although it looks like some kind of heat map with all those oranges and yellows, this is a chart via Zdravko of which countries in Europe people like most - excepting their own. Very surprising, especially Britain coming in 2nd, with Holland, Sweden, and France being close enough to effectively share 3rd place. Italy's ranking very puzzling. Probably says more about the (I suspect) anglocentric and germanocentric reddit community "/r/Europe".
Wednesday. Slightly disappointing story turns out in reality to be "man in town proposes law to shoot down drones". Still, amusing.
Tuesday. And since the French Revolution gave us Napoleon, a tale from the general's admirers is interesting. The teenage Bonaparte gets his hand read by a Gypsy girl (presumably in 1780s Autun or Brienne-le-Chateau), she says his success line is too short, whereupon (so the story goes) our ambitious, history-bestriding Cromwell-to-be gets out a knife to lengthen his success line there and then. A nice myth blending rational hostility to superstition with irrational ubermenschlich pretensions to glory. Anyway, Japanese plastic surgeons say they face huge demand for this same operation. Redo your palm lines, remake your destiny.
Monday. Talking of 18th-century liberalism, materialism, and nihilism, here's some retro-1980s-style synth music by Com Truise. Someone has fittingly set Truise's electronica tune to out-takes from a forgotten 1981 sci-fi movie 'Looker', directed and written by novelist Michael Crichton (he of 'Andromeda Strain' and 'Jurassic Park'). This looks like it was creepily visionary, even if now heavily dated in style: about 3D avatars synthesised to replace human fashion mannequins. Reviewers agree it had inspired parts but was marred by crass plot flaws and poor acting. Anyone who's worked in movies knows how easily a first-rate script ends up a third-rate film though. Good title.
Sunday. Bastille Day! The day all France commemorates each year when a massive repressive fortress prison full of anti-royal dissidents was ripped apart stone by stone by an enraged mob (killing several people in the process) only to find it contained just seven inmates (7), five ordinary criminals and two lunatics, none of them political prisoners. The man who would have been the eighth inmate to be set free (had he not been transferred elsewhere the previous week), torturer and paedophile Marquis de Sade actually lit the fuse of two weeks of riots outside the Bastille in the first place. He did this by shouting (untruthfully, of course) from his cell window "They are killing the prisoners here!" on July 2nd, 1789. He deserves to be better remembered for inciting the mob violence and deaths that followed.
Saturday. Weekends are noticeably quieter now than the week because much has been happening on the corner building site. First a red machine came to help the yellow machine, and the base was dug down below street level until a lorry could disappear down there. A fortnight ago, a concrete platform had risen back to street level. Now girders are visible for what will be the base of the first floor. Probably right at the end of the 150-year office-block era, another office block.
Friday. Oh yes. The pressing question of funding sources for robot-insect spy/assassin research & development. Almost forgot.
Thursday. With an adorably sweet note, the US hackers' conference tells government spies they feel hurt. Not so kissy now.
Wednesday. Atmospheric little tune with the funny double brand.
Tuesday. Start reading old Vance Packard book on the tram and metro.
Monday. 2nd lesson with new student out in Obuda.
Sunday. How to handle lions and cheetahs if you're very outdoorsy.
Saturday. A form of WiFi, cunningly renamed WiVi, is going to be used to watch people through walls. What fun they have in store for us.
Sunshine, a few brief storms. German railways will speak inside your head.
Six of the eight small pots now have three to thirteen little green shoots in each. The big flower pot is a riot of small green dots. Religious fundamentalism could soon be treated as a mental illness? Unsettling article in several ways. Meanwhile a lovely late lunch with Marion & Paul, where I babble on about
story, new to me as of yesterday.
About a week ago another Hungarian ex-girlfriend pops back onto the radar screen, indirectly contacting me online through some network because she wants to be chums again. Funny how pretty girls never say sorry - at least not in this country. It's either that they think getting back in touch is the apology, or more likely they have no sense they did anything impolite or wrong in the first place. Sweet in a way.
Meanwhile, Star Wars rewritten in iambic pentameter. " - True it is / That these are not the droids for which thou search'st." Doesn't get much more pomo than this.
Tuesday. Back at the Red Cross centre interpreting for Rosemary. I am incredibly nervous for R, but the first-aid exam is quick and R passes. Afterwards we have an afternoon of sandwiches, caffeine, cakes, and drunken merriment.
Monday. Balint admires my coffee-ice-cream-coloured chair. Demonstrations in Turkey have slipped out of the world news limelight.
Mark Griffith, site administrator /
markgriffith at yahoo.com