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2013
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October 31st; Thursday. Two quasi-Hallowe'en tales, one fictional, one supposedly true. Here is a very short story, set in the recent past and rather well written. A German doctor bears witness at the bedside of a deranged girl and listens to her speak. Then a computer security article, set in the present. A lone Romanian malware expert claims his devices are infected with a strange new software virus - a virus like no other seen before.
October 30th; Wednesday. Estonian musicians with furry faces give their all. Circus lives on.

October 29th; Tuesday. Confusingly marked as 'predictions about Pakistan' {"?" we reply, our eyebrows raised like apostrophes}, this is a short snatch of a fascinatingly dated film about Nostradamus and his supposed visions of the future. A magnificently large Orson Welles potters about a Hollywood-Victorian study with ticking clock and giant faux-antique globe, explaining out of sync how the French seer of the 1550s foresaw World War III. This would-start / was-to-have-started some time between 1994 and 1999, involving an aerial attack on New York in 1999 plotted from the Near Eastern lands of Islam. Intercut with curious little scenes - the AntiChrist's electronic war room is quite natty. Intriguing to see how the ambiguous quatrains of Nostradamus can only be imagined in 1981 in terms of nuclear warfare: the whole 27-year onslaught against Christendom is led by a devilishly handsome fellow in a blue turban. Heavy use of the phrase "Experts agree this can only mean [insert modern person or place]" but an interesting watch nonetheless. Welles recites vaguely authentic-sounding English translations of the quatrains. Trying to remember the title of that rather good book which said the original texts were a deliberately ambiguous melange of Latin and 16th-century French, and that Nostradamus had a cyclical astrological theory, trying to match far-in-the-future events to similar heavenly alignments in the past.
October 28th; Monday. Britain prepares to reintroduce laws controlling the press, continuing the Blair & Brown anti-civil-liberty trend even after their passing.

October 27th; Sunday. Shadows getting longer and the sunlight getting sharper as winter slowly looms near. At least there is sun, as opposed to Britain's thickly grey-white Sky Duvet. Article suggests automation might be infantilising us already.
October 26th; Saturday. New Hungarian airline crashes before even taking off, in business terms at least. Naming it after the one bird of prey (falcon) that might have enamoured it to its skittish almost-but-not-quite Arab investors yet would be pronounced wrongly every single day by every non-Hungarian air traveller in the world ('solyom' is correctly said as "shoyom") was probably only a small part of what went so sadly wrong.

October 25th; Friday. Painstaking intro to the latest crypto, via Cracker Jacques.
October 24th; Thursday. Minus the usual third item of the confused black dog, the vigorous auntie-type lady who runs this building steams past with her perky little 5 or 6-year-old grand-daughter (as I have now discovered she is). I greet them in Hungarian, and the auntie-type lady firmly prompts the cheery little girl to respond to me properly. The child thinks for a full second and then pipes out "Good afternoon!" loudly in English, beaming with pride.

October 23rd; Wednesday. While Vladimir Putin legislates against homosexuality, reaction in Russia includes, yes, gay neo-Nazis. They have an emblem.
October 22nd; Tuesday. Sometimes warmish sunshine, sometimes cloudy & chilly: it's just like a British summer. Map of commonest US girls' names, state by state, year by year. Eg. in the 1970s, 6-year US domination by Jennifer. Strangely hypnotic.

October 21st; Monday. An article on an oil company apparently defrauded by a bogus environmental-damage lawsuit. And word of the unpublicised scientific consensus that to date global warming has done more good than harm.
October 20th; Sunday. Weather glum, cloudy. Seems heritability of IQ varies with 'cultural-loadedness', not against it.

October 19th; Saturday. Predictable, controllable financial markets? Hope springs eternal.
October 18th; Friday. Operatic Zita says remarkable things are happening in the heavens. The coming New Moon coincides with Pluto and Saturn doing something together, not to mention Venus and perhaps Mercury? Major activity. Here is a rather disappointing article where someone is warned "Do Not Eat The Cake Of Light!" - and then doesn't. The dark-eyed East European priestess sounded promising too. Onto other foods of light. It seems eating popcorn in cinemas stops the adverts from hypnotising you. Plus some people are raising money for a nutritional experiment to make their eyes see more colours. And a kind review for a book which is not about bondage but also about colours: grey is apparently "the colour of truth".

October 17th; Thursday horror. Night of The Jellyfish & China's seaside "facekinis" by day.
October 16th; Wednesday. Nice article about how people in management all think they are creative.

October 15th; Tuesday. Every child's dream toy: remote-controlled cockroaches.
October 14th; Monday. Where to sit at dinner? Not so simple! Yesterday, saw Operatic Zita (as the Empress) singing in 'Hary Janos', a comic yet patriotic story of Magyar derring-do and tall-tale-telling written by Zoltan Kodaly in the early 20th century, set in the early 19th century. Fascinating to see families in the audience. Little boys looked awkward & subdued in Sunday-best smart-casual attire. Whereas serious little girls, proudly turned out in pigtails and dark velvet frocks, visibly relished their taste of proper grown-up life: out at the opera!

October 13th; Sunday. Political physicist says global warming debate is overheated. A study finds that scientists are bad judges of other scientists: not wildly surprising. Some demographic statistics suggest that only populations in just the right age range can successfully overthrow police states. And then this research makes one ask how women think once their video-game avatar wears a burqa or niqab or whatever the Muslim black-bag outfit's called.
October 12th; Saturday. Fetching futuristic French cartoon Marie Mathematique.

October 11th; Friday. Go round Margit Island, as it continues to steam north up the middle of the Danube. Suprisingly warm sunshine and gorgeously mid-autumn trees: some green, some yellow, some orange, and some a kind of green that wants to be yellow soon. The squidgy brick-red rubber track laid down for runners is comfy to pound too. In the early evening, sign in at the cheap & laddish fitness gym in the ground floor of a block of flats a hundred yards or so behind my street. The heavy-metal soundtrack that drew me in for a quick chat with the reception wench last week doesn't disappoint. The walls are painted an intense yellow somewhere slightly north-east of custard, and 5 or 6 mega-blokes work out on the black machines, during breaks strolling around majestically like big game. A couple of motivational posters display startlingly curvy naked girls under stern get-fitter messages, aiming to encourage us to work harder at moving weights (actually, the effect is quite encouraging). Odd that every gym I've ever attended has one short male regular in dark-framed glasses with a haircut short up the sides and a box-shaped torso. As dusk melts into night outside, the music moves on from rockism to techno to a house track. Mixed into the Ibiza beats 70 seconds into the sample comes a strangely familiar Indian man's voice. His courteous thoughtful words echo round the gym most of a century after he said them. The chosen heir of sceptic-turned-theosophist-spiritualist Annie Besant, none other than Jiddu Krishnamurti, plaintively trapped inside his voice loop for all eternity, asks us in the muscle room why we give such importance to pleasure?
October 10th; Thursday. Yesterday saw two new possible students for two separate green teas, with Balint sandwiched (timewise) between them. Oh yes, and here's a cardboard magnet.

October 9th; Wednesday. Forthright stuff, citizens, but those bleeding-edge furniture-design gurus can take it. A handy website called fuckyournoguchicoffeetable. Meanwhile, here is a quiz to help you distinguish between items of Swedish furniture and death-metal musical combos. Yet more from the radical design frontier: classic Antwerp headdresses with paper towels. In the loo. On aeroplanes.
October 8th; Tuesday. Yesterday, the two-day trade-college fair being over, a new set of exhibits fill the shopping arcade. This time they are large board posters about planets, comets, asteroids, and space probes. Over the central atrium shaft hang several balloons, convincingly made up to look like planets - with one stupid flaw. Mars, Earth, Jupiter, Venus, Neptune are all the same size. Surely one of the most basic points about the gas giants is how much huger they are than the solid planets? Spoils the whole exhibition really. Oh and the model Saturn is either missing or has no rings. Ridiculous.

October 7th; Monday. Finish a book of Robin's called 'Merleau-Ponty's Phenomenology of Perception : A Guide and Commentary' by Monika Langer, after years of gentle occasional encouragement from Robin to have a look at Merleau-Ponty. For once I followed my own advice, and read an introduction first, and this is an excellent introduction. This edition (or this copy of this edition) is rather marred by the fact that pages 142 & 143 are completely missing (the pages are simply blank); likewise pp 146 & 147, 150 & 151, and 154 & 155. I can't bothered to work out if that means one or two missing plates, but it does suggest the proofreader didn't read to the end. In any case, with the proviso that eight missing pages make the argument near and at the conclusion difficult to follow, the book overall is excellent. Langer positions Merleau-Ponty (working out of the phenomenology of Husserl) as a critic of Descartes and a developer of Sartres with less pessimistic conclusions than Jean-Paul: an unlonely post-existentialist. Merleau-Ponty's attack is on what he sees as a false dichotomy between 'intellectualism' or 'psychologism' (the view that we are embodied minds only able to make deductions about other persons and the "outside" world) and 'physiologism' (the mechanistic attempt to explain mind as purely an outgrowth {or "ingrowth" perhaps} of body). He - as related by Langer - spends time getting the reader used to a set of phrases like 'project' with which to talk about a kind of presensed condition of self somehow discovered by the awakening child to be already in common with others and the world. Within this 'ground', 'mind' and 'body' are artificially carved out categories which obscure how mind and body come to visibility as already engaged together with the world and other persons. There is therefore no 'world in itself' and no Cartesian problem of how to wire together what Ryle called the ghost of mind with the machine of body. This unified view gets taken a little too far with the I-know-what-I-mean-only-when-I-say-it view of language on pages 59, 60, but the overall view promises a good fit with experienced reality, which is saying a lot for a philosophy of mind. As Langer mentions in the Preface, Guerriere writes of the Merleau-Ponty book this short guide untangles, "the reader of the work needs all the help he can get." Not encouraging for anyone who wants to start grappling with Merleau-Ponty, but Langer does a first-rate job of providing the help.
October 6th; Sunday. Fascinating theory: Jesus of Nazareth was a complete PR fabrication by Rome to defuse radical Judaism.

October 5th; Saturday. More news from the buzzy-flying-thing department. (1) A good overview on the reasoning behind different countries' positions on whether some pesticides are killing off bee colonies. (2) If you're even a tiny bit squeamish, best not to open this link - seriously: giant hornets attacking people in China. Warned you.
October 4th; Friday. Remembering some recent news, I recall Robin saying that Zeno's wife is a theologian who won't give him access to his child, and that an old friend Zeno bumped into while helping to organise tomorrow's exhibition also had a theologian wife. This second woman theologian apparently vanished overnight, disappearing without trace two years ago and taking that man's child with her. And now, a video with young soldiers acting out the moves of girls in bikinis in a pop video ('Call Me Maybe'), their video intercut with that video. The jagged audio effect is hard to take, but pompous media-theory slogans in screen centre create a unique comic effect that's worth tasting. In other news, someone has finally found a measurable benefit to reading. And it has to be literary fiction, please note.

October 3rd; Thursday. As I step into the shopping arcade, a stream of secondary-school-age people file past me in pairs, on their way out into the small square. First about 8 or 9 pairs of women dressed in blue button-up jackets, twirling little batons in their right hands - those girls who often march in front of brass bands. Then about 15 pairs, each one a boy and a girl, in traditional Hungarian folk costume, then a pair of girls in modern dress, with extremely long legs and extremely short skirts. The crocodile of 17-year-olds finishes with four lanky boys looking rather awkward, possibly because they are dressed as American footballers complete with shoulder pads and helmets. Once they have all traipsed off to a large tent outside, seems safe to enter the mall itself. It's hosting a sort of vocational education fair with stalls representing different sixth-form colleges specialising in different trades. In the evening, one of my arithmetic students, who though still 12 has gained a new sense of confidence and defiance over this summer just past, wearily said by way of apology "Yeah, I'm sorry I turned into a snarky teenager." We open a problem on her laptop about a set of fictive quiz-competing teams with flattering names like The Geniuses. "Not with those scores, people," mutters my student, jabbing in quiet irritation at her keyboard.
October 2nd; Wednesday. Drive into town with Robin & Zeno. In the evening workmen are preparing the local shopping arcade for some kind of trade fair, setting up little prefab stalls all down the centre of the hall. A thought-provoking, intelligent article about beautiful women in novels. An intriguing Wiki page about how the ratio between 2nd finger (finger 1 is the thumb) and 4th finger lengths seems to predict well for many psychological traits.

October 1st; Tuesday. Different countries' average women's faces, which is oddly boring, and a set of photo trios, showing young soldiers' faces before, during, and after seeing combat in Afghanistan. The soldiers' faces were a big surprise to me. Though the moral lesson we are meant to draw is that after the living hell of war we can see how haunted and destroyed the young combatants' faces have become, they struck me rather differently. What I see is (a) how during war they look alert, focused, somehow fully alive, while (b) after and before war they lack purpose and seem dazed or confused. The photographer has muddled things a bit since the choice of lighting actually makes most of the after-war portraits look younger than they did before war (possibly extra lighting was used, hoping to make their faces look harshly lined with fatigue and horror and this backfired somehow). In fact most of the pictures, once you ignore the lighting, show an improvement with the post-war soldier collapsing some distance back into apathy and aimlessness, but not sinking quite as deep as their gormless, pasty-faced before-war state. Matthew Hodgson, Jo Yavala, Adam Petzsch, Struan Cunningham all look actually rejuvenated by war, while Fraiser Pairman, Martyn Rankin, and David McLean look not just younger but also better, kinder people for the experience. This manipulative sentence in particular is wrong: "Snow captures the innocent expressions of these men transformed into gaunt, sullen faces in less than a year." This prejudged story doesn't really fit any face except perhaps Private Ben Frater. On the contrary, some of the "innocent" pre-combat faces are the more sullen (check the "before" images for Fraiser Pairman, David McLean, Sean Patterson, and Alexander McBroom). With several of the picture triptychs it is hard to resist the Victorian feeling that warfare has firmed their characters and formed thoughtful men out of shallow, shifty-eyed boys.

Mark Griffith, site administrator / markgriffith at yahoo.com