Wednesday. Robin drives me, Lacko & Joli to Kecskemet where we buy flowers and meet Zsuzanna coming out of the church behind a procession of men in priestly robes,
the church where she and fellow classmates have just celebrated their school-leaving ritual.
Tuesday. Apparently "Earth Day" was one week ago
on April 22nd,
and started off in 1970 with
some very odd predictions.
It's an annual event first hosted at an open-air meeting that spring by an eccentric campaigner
called Ira Einhorn.
Monday. Lacko finds a snake behind the chicken coop with a yellow blob-shaped marking behind each eye and skilfully wraps it around a stick and pops it into a big glass jar without letting it close enough to bite anyone. Later we find it's non-venomous. Either today or yesterday, Robin & I go for a walk, and his fox terrier engages combat with a pheasant in the long grass of one of his fields. The bird flies off, and we take eleven of the small green eggs, leaving nine of them behind for the mother bird to return to. I tie a knot in each sleeve of my pullover to store the still-warm eggs down each sleeve tube, and later Lacko puts the eggs under the hens waiting to see which ones the hens reject. He tells us the roosting fowl taps on each egg to see if the foetus inside does a return greeting, tapping its reply to mother on the inner surface of the egg shell. In the evening, Robin says driving back from Budapest into the Great Plain increasingly feels like re-entering
a Marc Chagall painting.
Sunday. Most of afternoon helping out with a human resources essay. Sun warm on the Great Plain by day. Steady trill of crickety-type insects now the background sound. As the sun goes down we find the Transylvanians out in the garden boiling some bones in a cauldron, and we sit around the flames as dusk falls drinking black coffee, Lacko talking about the climate and winters gone by.
Saturday. In the quiet of the Hungarian countryside, I get to the end of one of Robin's paperbacks. 'Leibniz: Philosophical Writings', edited by G.H.R. Parkinson, is a short collection of essays and letters I found in his library a couple of weeks ago. Although there was not as much as I hoped about the mysterious monads (seemingly owing something to Bruno as well as the Greeks), there are the tantalising parts where Leibniz seems to anticipate something of 20th-century relativistic physics. He denies Newton's absolute time and space. For example, if the whole universe was moved an inch to the left, since there is nothing but the universe itself to refer such a change to, nothing would have changed. Therefore space is not an absolute thing, independent of the objects, or "sets of situations", "in" it. He regards gravity as somewhat occult, defending the Cartesian idea of particles bumping against each other to transmit forces, and his attempt to solve the problem of evil is obviously one of the targets of Voltaire's Panglossian sneer a few decades after Leibniz died in 1716. It seems there are still unpublished writings of his today being put into print for the first time at regular intervals.
Friday. Teach Boardgame Orsolya in the afternoon. A week ago she surprised me with an
interpretation of the mysterious and cruel
Parable of the Talents in Matthew 25 that I don't remember hearing before. Orsolya suggested that the unlucky servant who is given only one talent and berated
for not generating profit with it (simply burying it instead) is being punished
for scarcity thinking. That is, his fears and doubts stopped him
from investing and ensured he did worst. Still doesn't quite add up for me as a story.
After packing hastily, catch the train to Kecskemet - a strange optimistic journey in a brightly-lit carriage through sixty, seventy miles of early-evening Hungarian countryside.
Zsuzsanna picks me up at the station and we drive deeper into the darkness of the Great Plain.
Talking of Plains, here are some Stonehenge pictures that might upset modern romantics - apparently most of the stones were moved, put back up, some even fixed in concrete during major 20th-century rebuilding.
Thursday. Seems yesterday, April 23rd, was all three of
1/ Saint George's Day,
2/ The day in 1616 when William Shakespeare died in London, and
3/ The much-celebrated Administrative
Meanwhile two days back, April 22nd, was the day in 1616 that
4/ Miguel de Cervantes died in Madrid.
Some sources say he died on the 22nd, others on the 23rd, same day as Shakespeare, so presumably Cervantes logged out late at night enough to confuse the dates.
Wednesday. Seems eating more chocolate
causes Nobel Prizes.
Tuesday. Last night read a small 60-page booklet from Robin's library, called
'The Acropolis of Athens'
by George Dontas. Undated,
but looking postwar, this is a guide to the hilltop in Athens itself
by the director of the museum, written with a kind of brisk, sharp-edged
optimism that itself feels Greek in mood. Mostly this is a functional introduction
to the different monuments and their histories, without a word wasted, supplemented
by monochrome plates at the end. The map of the site seems to be missing the number 1
and the 9 almost disappears, but overall it does the job. His English is good, with
the very faint traces of foreignness adding charm: "Behind us the
Hymettos changes rapidly from purple into deep violet. The monuments take on a last
golden red beauty before getting tenderly cloaked by the dark mantle of night. It is
the moment when Athenian owls, nestling in the caves and holes of the old rock, take
hurriedly their first flight, while a cool breeze is passing through the air on the
wing of night..."
Also finished the giant picture tome that my student Zizi lent me,
'A Divat' ('Fashion'), a 2003 Taschen book about the collection of the Kyoto Costume Institute from the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries. The text was written in successive short chunks - between the acres of lush photography - by
Akiko Fukai, Tamami Suoh, Miki Iwagami, Reiko Koga, and Rie Nii, all at the institute, and
translated into Hungarian by Erika Gabos. The focus is very much on haute couture and the stately progression through three centuries is evenly paced, with fabrics, cuts, and historical events accompanying the richly illustrated dresses. There is some male fashion, but 9/10ths is European women's gowns and coats, with occasional forays into shoe, glove, and hat territory. There is an odd narrative effect because the influence on Europe of Oriental fabrics and prints is mentioned in one or two places - always appropriately - in the 18th and 19th centuries, and then from the 1970s on the Eurocentric emphasis gently dissolves as contemporary Japanese designers like Yohji Yamamoto, Issey Miyake, and Rei Kawakubo become as much part of Western clothing as Paris, Milan, London, or New York designers like Chanel, Yves Saint Laurent, or Azzedine Alaia. In the grand overview, narrower, plainer, more tubular women's silhouettes mark out periods of social crisis and upheaval like the 1960s, 1910 to 1925, and 1795 to 1815. This book shows clearly that Art Deco and flatter-looking women started before the First World War, not as a reaction to it, and reassertions of hourglass dressing, whether in the 1820s and 30s, or in the 1950s with Dior and Balenciaga, mark returns to social normality, periods of recovery. The Japanese designers in the closing pages, with their odd mixtures of soft & hard materials within ambiguous, cloudlike outlines, suggest the 1980s and 1990s was another time of healing, albeit wrapped in newer, stranger fabrics.
Easter Monday. Coming out of the studio this morning there is the odd illusion of more bees
and bigger bees. Not quite the size of plums, but huge bumble bees the size of flying
black grapes toil over the spongy fragrant cones of wisteria blossom.
Here's an interesting interview with Cody Wilson, the person who led the team to make that gun that can be printed off the internet on a 3D resin printer. "They carry your water", as he keeps saying.
Easter Sunday. Christ is risen! Why
there will be a robot uprising,
// a lost Shakespeare play
has turned up supposedly, and why someone thinks
mainstream Russia is even gayer than Mr Putin.
Saturday. Coming out of Robin's studio in the sunny morning I'm hit by the strong perfume of the wisterias growing over the trelliswork by the door, now suddenly heavy with pale-lilac blooms. The scent is almost but not quite at the headache-inducing level of those lilies someone once gave Ed. The lilies he begged me take away from his flat back when mother was alive. The wisterias are being attended to by 8 or 9 bumble bees, their joint buzzy sounds meshing into a low mumbling. Later in the evening, Julia & I chat late about
replicode and the
Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
Good Friday. Just as dark starts to fall, Robin turns up with his knitting-art friend
and we drive down to the countryside, chatting of this and that. As I climb onto the sofa upstairs in his studio in the dark, I notice that the large dolls' house that used to sit
over the staircase has gone. Just as its presence was eerie, its absence is now oddly unsettling.
Thursday. Psychology Eszter and I try having our lesson in a different part of
the cafe, differently decorated with different seating & tables. Radical shift in mood, and we discuss femininity, materialism, and
the nature of love.
Wednesday. The hit list of brave & principled people whose deaths helped consolidate Vladimir Putin's grip on power, here conveniently set out in one place. Plus Edward Snowden explaining his TV
interview question to Putin about Russian mass-surveillance practices.
Tuesday. Article from the much-vilified Bjorn Lomborg about the costs of
global warming to continue versus the costs of stopping global warming from happening.
Monday. Weather a bit confusing. I totally forget to visit a student who moved
her lesson to today - Rheumatology Kata. Silly me. Someone revisits the Patti Hearst story of some years ago: brainwashing in practice. The author claims something similar is now happening on a mass scale. Not quite as poorly-argued as the way I just made it sound.
idea of the perfect woman's body. And men's. And men's bodies.
Saturday. Illness receding. Apparently the language of the future is French. Oh.
Friday. Some lovely 1960s magazine art about
communist space stations in the
future. Quaint, but exactly like the same art in the west.
Nothing especially Soviet about
Thursday. They're putting the finishing touches to the ugly office block on the
corner now. About six weeks ago the workmen were noisier than usual (Most
days it's as quiet as the grave there), making heave-ho
noises and shouting stuff like "Over here, Jack! I've got hold of this end of it!"
Then I realised that supervisors must be on site,
so the men needed to look and sound busy. And indeed, lots of men with clipboards were
standing around. Now something quite interesting for a change. Those near-death
experiences with the funny white light
down the tunnel: an attempt to look into the more colourful claims.
Wednesday. Signs of hope with my mini-pots of basil seedlings. My 5th or 6th rosemary
plant is dying a mere week after purchase, but who cares about rosemary? So, supposedly
1/ Star Trek actress in new
documentary says she got tricked into it;
2/ Someone both kind & shrewd suggests George Bush's folksy amateur paintings
convey the man's
inscrutability quite well;
3/ Entertaining 1930 feasibility plan outlined a possible
US attack on Britain - of
course every country's military studies what-if scenarios, but still interesting;
4/ Another voice added to Matthews says
Putin miscalculated hugely;
5/ Man in prison for life for lending his
friend his car.
Sex Cult' article about Turkey which perhaps doesn't quite deliver
on the sex part. Amusing nonetheless.
Monday. Last night watched a moving, nicely-judged story about a family in a remote
Kurdish village, where 5 of the 19 children
walk on all
fours into adulthood. Anthropologists, geneticists, and evolutionary theorists
battle it out to explain whether these quadrupeds might be evolutionary throwbacks -
and whether these five people can be helped to walk upright again.
Sunday. Headcold continues. Yesterday, I clicked on a strange book title
'Structural Saliency: The Detection of Globally Salient Structures Using a Locally
Connected Network', in the vague hope of learning roughly what such a book could be
about. Instead I found a review-free Amazon page, with three purchase suggestions.
Amazon's sales bot thought I should buy either chunks of
pure gallium, a handheld multi-meter-type electrical device for detecting ghosts, or a
book by Hakim Bey: 'Immediatism'.
Which one should I get first, citizens?
Saturday. Headcold annoying. E-commerce sites now opening print titles.
Back in 2010 excitable folk were telling us paper books and magazines would soon
die out like mammoths.
Friday. A real period curiosity: an early-1980s feature film depicting a
feminist uprising ten years after a socialist government has taken power in
the US. The
the first ten minutes of the film itself,
both worth checking. Fascinating.
At the flower shop I buy a sealed bag of soil. The white-haired flower-shop lady strokes
my sealed plastic mini-sack of dirt on her counter as if it was a pillow or a sleeping
puppy. "Hungarian earth!" she murmurs fondly.
Thursday. Dark predictions that soon all diseases will be
superbug 1 /
Wednesday. Finish a book borrowed from Paul.
Religion Is Natural And Science Is Not' is a cognitive-science
account by Robert McCauley of why he says that scientific thinking is culturally
fragile compared to the cognitive naturalness of magical or religious thinking. He
believes humans are predisposed to see agency where it isn't, and has an interesting
section about how even people trained in physics still invoke fallacious folk-physics
concepts when asked to throw or drop objects. Slightly marred by
reproduced diagram on page 35. That's where the triple Poggendorf illusion is in fact
no longer an illusion because the supposedly disjoint rod sections really do
line up along a straight edge, instead of just seeming to. The general argument is
sound but misses an opportunity to go into the topic more fully.
Tuesday. Film about the birth of public relations & news manipulation from a
fairly vanilla class-conflict angle:
Interesting detail on the Wobblies before World War One. While on this topic, an
article & book about indentured servitude for black Americans
lasting until the 1940s.
Mark Griffith, site administrator /
markgriffith at yahoo.com