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2014
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July 31st; Thursday. How motor cars imagine themselves.
July 30th; Wednesday. A lovely review by Dave Barry of the bondage-bestseller '50 Shades of Grey'.

July 29th; Tuesday. Hot sticky weather, cold baths. Interesting two-part article on US policy towards Haiti just before the First World War : part 1 / part 2. Revealing to read what Woodrow Wilson and the young Franklin D. Roosevelt were doing in the Caribbean while lecturing European imperialists over 'self-determination of peoples' and 'the century of the common man'. Especially intriguingly, this episode concerns the partial re-enslavement of the world's only country where African slaves had successfully rebelled and set up an independent government.
July 28th; Monday. Hot sticky weather, cold baths. Fine undersea cable map.

July 27th; Sunday. Hot sticky weather, cold baths. Finding paper industry blogs.
July 26th; Saturday. Hot sticky weather, cold baths. Finding paper craft blogs.

July 25th; Friday. Hot sticky weather, cold baths. Finding paper recycling blogs.
July 24th; Thursday. Thanks to a kind friend, finally get to watch 1970s movie '3 Days of the Condor'. I'd spoilt it for myself a bit by watching a few clips on Youtube over the last two years, but finally saw this Sydney Pollack paranoia film all the way through in the right order. The theme music oddly overlays restrained funk guitar with a still-eerie zither-like tune. Perhaps harking back to the cymbalom music of The Third Man in the 1940s, nasal, twangly, Balkan/Turkish instruments & musical keys from Mitteleuropa lingering on as the musical code for 'spy movie' even half a century after the vanishing of the Habsburg and Ottoman east. In terms of more recent fashions, Condor is probably the last major film where phone phreaking, rather than computer hacking, was the state of the art covert-comms thing you could do, and perhaps also the last major American film with a romantic farewell at a railway station. The tension is nicely calculated. For once the CIA non-field-agent hero on the run from his own agency is persuasively poised between being ridiculously skilful and engagingly amateurish. Robert Redford as the accidental renegade ('Condor') is also of course a good romantic lead, romance blossoming with his photographer hostage-cum-protector, played by Faye Dunaway. The oddly coy references to her "other photographs" now seem more dated than the rotary phones (though they might have been right and we might be wrong), but she acts the part of a woman falling in love with her handsome abductor convincingly. The climax is a set of four farewells: with her, with the freelance American, with the freelance European, and with the official American. Out of these the Alsace-Lorraine hit man Gilbert acted by Max von Sydow is really the most memorable character of all. Seeming utterly cold, he is nonetheless the only person who keeps his own sense of honour fully intact, and his martial chivalry towards Redford/Condor is both chilling and strangely hopeful. Representative of the alien smoothness of European politics, the hired assassin who is neither French nor German symbolises all that horrifies but fascinates a 1970s American about the old continent. All the US characters - his emergency lover, the bureau chief, his colleagues - to some extent abandon Condor or lie to him. Yet it is the most frightening character, the calm collected Continental, politely intrigued by the amateur's resourcefulness, who alone offers him a job and kindly advice for a new life. Mind you, Gilbert does this with such courtesy and quiet understatement it's not clear that the Redford character or the audience even notice. Rarely do you see an American hero's patriotic desire to stay in the USA cast into such doubt as at the end of this film: American openness harshly tested against the spook code of never trust anyone. Unusually in cinema, the spy's lonely vision of life has the last word.

July 23rd; Wednesday. A political painting.
July 22nd; Tuesday. Buying a can of caffeine energy drink in a supermarket I notice something odd has changed in the last few months. Caffeine content the same, same vitamins are still in them, but now not a single brand contains taurine. Every type used to have have exactly the same amount of taurine in, now none have any. Some health risk? Dreary rain gets kind Esoteric Veronica to lend me an Erima umbrella. She says the brand has historical links to fellow German sportswear firm Adidas.

July 21st; Monday. Solero the horse is very social, and - when roaming free in Robin's garden most of the day - often strolls over to see what the humans are doing. Or at least if we might give him a biscuit or an apple. Outside Lacko & Joli's kitchen yesterday I came on a complete tableau of animals seemingly grouped together for a portrait: the horse, the two shaggy white komondor sheepdogs (mother & daughter), the fox terrier Lexi, Poppy the cat and a new pale grey kitten of Poppy's. They all seem to find Joli's kitchen door a good meeting place. Today Bela & I watch the glossy chestnut Solero rolling on his back in the dust, presumably against flies, and Bela points out two small grey patches halfway up the insides of the horse's front legs. We guess these must be the location of residual digits (perhaps corresponding to our thumbs) on the front feet. More people realise the heavenly bodies influence us after all, and more comment on the sudden dearth of sunspots. By night I come back to Budapest on the train, in a carriage with all empty compartments, and with only the corridor lights on to my left and the window full down on the right, the almost-cool night air after a day of heat barrels in and out of my shadowy compartment every second. There's an intense sense of the train hurtling down the track towards the capital city, plunging through dark areas, rippling past tiny areas of lights, racing & rattling through black woods & copses along the track, the moon hidden. Looking at brown & reddish leather upholstery in the darkness, passing lamps flickering over it, feel strongly this compartment is a living fossil of the horse-drawn stagecoach, since early trains were small numbers of stagecoaches on steel wheels joined end to end. For another hundred (150?) years many trains had compartments seating 8 or 10 people only with doors straight out onto platforms on either side, and no corridor. This mostly unlit one with compartments and a side corridor is the final version before the open carriage of one room the length of the vehicle. As we speed towards the outskirts of town, distant clumps of orange lights moving away more slowly near the horizon signal the dark land slowly filling up with people as we hammer on down the rails, rushing through stranded suburbs, more patches of farmland, villages hemmed in closer to town, more and more squat industrial buildings flit by. I sit without turning the light on, without chatting or reading, without walking up or down the train, relishing the massive breeze and the pure experience of travelling fast across open country by night. Strange to see how right Pascal was though: many people would rather experience electric shocks than sit and think - or just be.
July 20th; Sunday. Do a couple of English lessons with Szende, who shares the slightly grand-sounding darker Transylvanian vowels of Lacko (her godfather) and Joli. Meanwhile, one researcher thinks he understands what triggers earthquakes (the moon), and has named likely dates for future tremors.

July 19th; Saturday. Take train into the countryside. Robin, Bela, & Constantine pick me up at Lakitelek, still a sad, bleak-looking station after they chopped that old tree down. Here's a snatch of old television, with Oscar Peterson genially explaining some jazz-piano techniques.
July 18th; Friday. Finally, after many delays, our #crowdfunding launch goes live & multilingual. Spread the word, citizens!

July 17th; Thursday. The first day in almost 3 years when our sun showed not a single sunspot, announces the spaceweather website. Finish Robin's sons' copy of the oddly topical 'Looking At Pictures With Rolf Harris' (A Children's Introduction to Famous Paintings). This is surprisingly well-written with a good choice of paintings from many eras - at least the book is "oddly topical" if you think his recent conviction for child-sex offences was safe. Paintings by Georges de la Tour, Paolo Uccello, and Van Eyck sit alongside 1960s Pop Art, Picasso, and David Hockney's portrait of Ozzy Clark or a Bridget Riley Op Art piece. Harris keeps the text readable, brief, but not patronising. On each page he mentions 2 or 3 crucial details or questions that will make readers look more closely at each picture - the main point of the book after all.
Whoever needs to shift out of depressed & glum into anxious & irritable, music-producer duo Plaid is here to help you: Unbank / New Family / and of course - with the infamous 'PowerPoint' video - Itsu.
July 16th; Wednesday. A whole LP of 1960s West Coast garage from the sometimes neglected 13th Floor Elevators: note their use of a curious cooing-pigeon sound effect on several tracks. Then Finnish funkster Jimi Tenor's eerie take on the romantic ballad: The uplifting but strangely abstract Higher Planes, the ecstatically mellow yet definitely odd My Mind, and the blissed-out, self-parodic Barcelona Sunrise {"If I was not your friend, I would hesitate to tell you 'Girl, you've got stars stuck in your teeth'"}. The secret is, I think, that unlike the official code that creativity should serve the higher good of romantic love, our Jimi's romantic love seems to selfishly serve his creativity. He doesn't make music to court women, he courts women (or people) as a way to feed his music. Narcissistic perhaps, but gives his tunes their uncannily weightless, free sound.

July 15th; Tuesday. Back to Budapest with Robin & Kasper. A third striking Tarot spread, this time with reversed four of wands. Some French-flavoured studio loop music from Guts: Come Closer / Laissez Lucie Faire. Separately, a careful attack on all the guilty verdicts for Rolf Harris. Well worth reading.
July 14th; Monday. Thunder clouds over Robin's house as men come to move a telegraph pole. Join Robin for a brief drive to a neighbouring village for motor oil. At one point we are headed down a straight road right into the arc of a large symmetrical rainbow, both ends landing in the flatness of the Great Plain against the lead-grey sky of dusk. Robin is reminded of autumn in Wales, the year before last, when one end of a rainbow appeared to land right by him, literally in a field next door. This is an hour after finishing Esoteric Veronica's copy of 'Sex, Ecology, Spirituality' by American thinker Ken Wilber in the dark of a storm-ready late afternoon. Although this is an admirable grand sweep across most of the major philosophers of the last 25 centuries (Wilber admires Habermas but is by no means limited to him, reserving special praise for Plotinus and Augustine), something goes wrong on page 160. This is where Wilber describes Habermas locating the birth of fatherhood as a primeval event joining male hunting groups to female foraging and mothering groups for the first time: a faint but worryingly unreformed echo of the Hobbes/Rousseau mistake of imagining early humans as solitary, coming together at some prehistoric moment to make the original social contract forming the first society. We now know this to be a complete mistake, since humans, and primates before us, have always lived in small clans or large family groups. The seemingly milder Habermas caveman "moment" of change is another way to overlook or sidestep the very persuasive arguments of evolutionary psychology for how men & women negotiated and still negotiate their roles on the basis of genetic & material interests, not on the basis of some symbolic historic settlement. From here on in, Wilber's cunning use of a quadrant diagram of 'holons' (roughly translating as levels) to reintegrate the visions of an objective 'It' (the rational domain of natural science) a socially mediated 'We' (the domain of ethics) and the subjective 'I' (the 'inner' world of subjective experience) constantly looks promising but never quite delivers. Wilber lays out with beautiful clarity how many others devise lists giving layers of experience but confuse themselves (such as assuming that life is subsumed under thought instead of thought subsumed under life, etc). He addresses ecological and feminist thinkers on both sides of what he calls the 'Eco versus Ego' divide with wonderful clear-mindedness. Yet ultimately Wilber's scheme (to reintegrate the 'Ascending' and 'Descending' visions of cosmic harmony) looks like just another conjuring trick designed to reunite what has been so firmly cut apart - the Descending aspect of the categories is missing. Despite respectful mentions for Sheldrake and other usually marginal figures, he seems to have no conception that a subset could reach out and influence the set that contains it - that the higher could reconfigure the lower. His very reasonable heirarchies all plan their joyous reunion, but still at separate tables.

July 13th; Sunday. Another day of struggles with intractable software. Finally, computer victory! I join Robin in Lacko & Joli's kitchen for a couple of glasses of their homemade sour-cherry-based sherry, and then back in the main house for some pink wine, becoming disgracefully squiffy in time to snooze through the World Cup football final. Yesterday found Zsuzsi's horse Solero inspecting the locked main gates from the inside in hot sunshine, brown forehead resting against the bars of the gate. Sometimes he gazed with longing out into the distance and occasionally snuffled with interest around the vertical rod latch that keeps the gates closed. Hard to tell if he was missing Zsuzsanna (currently at a music festival at Lake Balaton) or wishing he could socialise with the two grey-white horses almost at the main road, both grazing in the shade of the uncompleted red-roofed barn, half-built for the last 12 years. Every couple of minutes or so a mild stamp of the front right hoof showed a sort of vague boredom.
July 12th; Saturday. Alone in house on Great Plain with young Bela Grant. Rather frustrating battle the whole day with irritating bits of software. It seems US courts think airborne drones are not intruding if they don't physically touch you or your property. Definitely some physical touching of property by these people.

July 11th; Friday. Pack my bags and get the train for the countryside. Another railway journey where another one or two pieces seem to fall into place in the mind. Robin meets me at Lakitelek just before dark falls. Good article on the told-you-so responders as self-styled state of ISIS expands inside Iraq.
July 10th; Thursday. Do 2 Tarot readings for Esoteric Veronica. In her 1st spread she picks this card as final outcome, and then in the 2nd spread picks this card as basis of the affair. Goodness.

July 9th; Wednesday. Provocative: the cost of children.
July 8th; Tuesday. Continuing the 1970s by other means.

July 7th; Monday. Preparations continue at feverish pace. Hilarious selection of books that a manly man should let a young lady find on his shelves.
July 6th; Sunday. Day off with Operatic Zita at the Csillaghegyi outdoor pool complex, bustling with swimmers, sunbathers, & cement cherubs standing guard at intervals in the bushes. Around 99 degrees F at noon. After a lunch of battered fish and pink wine + soda I fall asleep in the shade for an hour or two next to one pool, watching huge citadels of white cloud cruise past tree foliage overhead. The whole day I wear the baths' magnetic-gate-operating blue & green plastic bracelet. It's like a fake wristwatch with a blank blue disc instead of a dial, a timepiece that says time no longer moves. Not even exercise can save us. Finally realise spiritual life purpose as we chat during car drive back into town.

July 5th; Saturday. Gina's friend Aniko talks about mistreatment of Gypsies in the provinces. Gina says families of wild boar sometimes wander through the Budapest suburb where we're drinking wine after dark. Some groovy East Bloc hepcat sounds, care of Syd Dale & his orchestra.
July 4th; Friday. The military love Facebook.

July 3rd; Thursday. 1 in 200 men are The Spawn Of Genghis.
July 2nd; Wednesday. Lessons with Gabor and Boardgame Orsolya in Budapest. Interpreting political geography broadly we have an article about how fracking has done us good / Rod Liddle's cheerful thoughts on the new Islamist entity ISIS / how to bring down a country financially / how to create a balloon-style city floating over the baking-hot plains of Venus / a semi-map of all the solid planet surfaces in our solar system / and some surprising maps of IQ scores across Europe.

July 1st; Tuesday. A bright sunny morning with Robin and Zsuzsi in a nearby village reviewing big piles of sand. Robin is transfixed by a large empty warehouse/barn completely dark inside its giant open doors but for one spinning ventilator port piercing the far wall high up. 50 yards away, a bull and I eye each other warily by a stack of hay bales next to a gravel-pit lake, a lone Victorian-looking brick-kiln chimney rising above thick trees. Meanwhile not far off to our left Zsuzsi inspects an array of ten-foot-high mounds of different kinds of sand. Back to Budapest again ending up in a train compartment with The Muchly Adorned Lass from a year ago, as before tinkling with trinkets, showing off her legs, this time pretty head clamped inside luminous green headphones. Quick clip of snatches from an early-1970s movie I remember watching as a schoolboy on our black-and-white television: 'The Outside Man'. No connection to the outside man of the Jimmy Bee song. More work on website.

Mark Griffith, site administrator / markgriffith at yahoo.com