Thursday. One of the better radio shows from the Saint Petersburg lass, previously overlooked. Waks #290.
Wednesday. Nice pair of cut-and-paste images from Yura Minzyanov: on
the tram, and on
the metro. Would love to hear from him.
Tuesday. Two odd things I note as I husband my growing band of Twitter followers. One is that I find regularly I am following someone I have no memory of ever seeing before. Might there be software that hacks into accounts, triggering follows we never agreed to? The other curious point is that the accounts that follow me, whereupon I follow them, whereupon they sneakily unfollow me days later, are always the smart-arses with personal statements like "bacon expert", or "without the struggle it wouldn't be achievement".
Monday. Beautifully sunny spring day, trees pale green with new leaf. After a lovely late Italian lunch with Robin & friends just near the old secret-police headquarters, I drop by another outdoor cafe an hour or so later, bumping into a group from the evening before last. Two of the Russian girls from Saturday night pout & giggle as they insist on teaching me how to properly pronounce the sentence "Let's fuck now" in the language of Pushkin. The menfolk chuckle indulgently.
Sunday. Intriguing esoteric challenges continue. After sleeping through much of the day, I prepare some pasta with garlic, pesto sauce, butter, combined with my last 2 eggs in my quiet flat in the evening. Burning the ends of the dry pasta rods on the hotplate before boiling them as I now always do, I fill my main room with that appetising smoky aroma which isn't quite burnt toast and isn't quite baked cake.
Saturday. Delicious dinner & party afterwards with an old friend of Robin's briefly in town, involving a giant warehouse-style night club on the Buda side of the river, where I learn I am a VIP! Some relentlessly sleek lasses up in our little roped-off balcony area ripple their suppleness to da beat as major bass rhythm pulsates up off the dance floor below. Our enigmatic host offhandedly mentions "party girls" (one of those in-the-know phrases like "balancing item" or "placebo effect" which seem to both explain a lot and explain very little at the same time). The party girls are chatty. We all dance and there is much merriment. Apart from the Belgian prince/duke/whoever at the end of the restaurant table who didn't really want to talk to me and vanished soon after, our group at the disco is essentially the same set of people as it was earlier in the evening at the steak house. Things mellow slightly around 4am when the main lights come on, most punters leave and we change into a more relaxed key for the after-party or lock-in: a group of 20 to 25 people clustered round the DJ desk downstairs. The house music gets deeper and the porn starlets in our group feel able to let their hair down a bit.
Friday. Interesting story from some researchers who reckon they've found the tomb of Jesus - and his son.
Thursday. Finish a copy of 'The Secret Race' by Tyler Hamilton and Daniel Coyle, that a student kindly lent me. This is an account by American racing bicyclist Tyler Hamilton of what it was like to be in a team led by Lance Armstrong, what it feels like to endure gruelling events like the Tour de France, and what it feels like to compete while doped in an already extreme sport where drug-enhanced athletes set the pace other cyclists have to equal. Full of interesting revelations, such as that Armstrong's original cancer that he became a hero for recovering from might well itself have been brought on by heavy use of illegal sports drugs in the early 1990s. Armstrong comes over as a repulsive personality: a self-pitying, self-centred, bullying, swaggering, thuggish liar. Hamilton claims (sincerely, it seems) to have liked and admired him for a while, which makes the effect even worse. Hard to tell if this depiction is unfair on Armstrong, but the constant doubling up on the defiant lies, the sneering at other people with more honesty, and the sheer aggression unleashed on anyone who challenges Armstrong's version of events hangs together in an unpleasantly convincing way. Daniel Coyle, who is generously acknowledged by Hamilton as the not-so-ghostly writer, has done an excellent job of building a compelling narrative out of interviews with Hamilton and others. We learn about a cast of colourful racers, coaches, and doping doctors involved in the years of endemic drug use in top-end cycle-racing between the late 1990s and the second decade of this century. Good readable piece of journalism.
Wednesday. Bursts of warm sun coming quite regularly now. Paul in Bucharest makes the comparison with Buchan's 'Greenmantle' and the current geopolitics of Islam.
Tuesday. Quite sweet build-up for a novel or film option: a time traveller trapped here & now trying to complete his mission, poor love.
Monday. 11 rich colours rarely mentioned.
Sunday. Curious ideas, new moods, odd dreams, mildly surprising coincidences have been popping up over the last ten days. This Hungarian political game (charming graphics in tasteful hues) is perhaps something similar to the ideological boardgame that became Monopoly after several changes.
Saturday. Zoe's thoughtful weblog, today about Bladerunner & robots.
Friday. Entertaining article about the Garden of Eden, flying saucers, and the wide-ranging speculations of French astronomer Jacques Vallee.
Thursday. An experimental Chicago chef hanged himself earlier this week. Strange obituary mentions this man was "homeless between age 6 and age 9" with no more explanation. Might mean his parents were moving between homeless shelters, or might be a misprint for "age 16 and age 19"? (Rather than the child being nursed by a she-wolf while eating magical berries in the woods) Isn't this something, especially if writing the obituary of a suicide, a normal journalist checks and clarifies?
Wednesday. A couple more nights until new moon.
Tuesday. Akos in our lesson mentions this television show popular here. Notice how tense and strained the show's hostess is behind her cheerful front. To a lesser extent the female contestants also, although they seem to settle in quickly enough. It's as if she feels desperately exposed, compromised - or maybe just old. Perhaps a good place to also post an article dismantling some last-ditch denials that common fears & desires could possibly be shaped by evolution. Amazes me - all this was surely obvious from Dawkins' 'Selfish Gene' in the 1970s (if not already from Darwin in the 1850s)? However well it fits what we see, 3 decades (or a century and a half) later some people still can't handle it.
Monday. A spot of retro (pseudo-70s-80s) electronica: Controlpop by Com Truise. And now 8 minutes of music O vis aeternitas (slightly more retro) by Christian mystic Hildegard von Bingen, with haunting devotional images from the book Liber Scivias. The illustrations were probably commissioned, not painted, by her: but no-one seems sure.
Sunday. Nice piece on how Fermi's 1950 lunchtime remark "Where is everybody?" got someone else's claim there's no intelligent extraterrestial life named after him. Otherwise they'd already have dropped by and eaten us. Or something. And here's a Saudi princess who takes shopping therapy to the next level.
Saturday. This is going to be one of the quietest weekends ever, people. True story of a German carpenter who, entirely alone, conceived & carried out a plan to detonate a bomb in a building in November 1939 where Hitler, normally regular as clockwork, gave a speech each year. This involved him hiding himself in the building after hours for 30 nights and doing his drilling & sawing in time with the automatic toilet flushing every ten minutes to cover the noise. At the event, Hitler left 13 minutes early, so was not there when the bomb went off.
Friday. Striking statue in striking location. Austere sharp-edged modernism looks so much better when it can reflect something from a curvier more sensuous period of art. Poor blank-faced angle-mirrored nude gazes up yearningly into an aristocratic heaven of times gone by.
Thursday. Finish Robin's copy of 'The Stars' by
Edgar Morin, and translated into English by Richard Howard. During the book my opinion of Morin and his thoroughness went up. It seems he was a sociologist who worked with Roland Barthes and wrote books in lots of different subject areas. The style is smooth and readable, and the book is (appropriately given that it's about movie actors) liberally filled with monochrome photographs. Makes me want to read more by Morin. He goes into the links between moviegoer & movie star, between stage actor & movie star, between consumer products & movie star. The book is nicely dated since pop music has not yet appeared (published 1960) as the next major force, so it's an undistracted look at the era when cinema was the undisputed chief producer of images. Most interesting is how he traces the mime-like grandeur of silent films through the ice queens of the prewar talkies into the chattier, more human-seeming heroes & heroines of postwar cinema. The book is filled with interesting citations from other writers: "the stage actor generally plays in a major key, the movie actor generally plays in the minor key" (Roger Manvell); "he [the movie star] must subtract rather than multiply" (Rene Simon), explaining the blank-faced minimalistic acting that big-screen close-ups encouraged. Towards the end, Morin says "'Be natural', the actors are told. Being natural becomes, somehow, the only technique in which they are actually given instruction. Hollywood starlets learn how to talk, walk, run, sit, descend stairs. J. Arther Rank's Company of Youth ... gives lessons in dancing, walking, fencing, i.e., lessons in grace, animal suppleness, life itself." Inside the book I found a small monochrome photo of the young Bridget Bardot, presumably used as a bookmark, also she on the front and back covers with her animal suppleness, her impersonation of "life itself". Reading this book, so swiftly rendered seemingly out of date by accelerating events of "the sixties", is an eerie glimpse into the first half of the 20th century, into trends and mass emotions already set in motion decades before hippies, decades before personal computers & the internet, decades before dozens of small changes to clothing, personal behaviour, speech, interior decor which now make even 1980 seem long ago. Yet the giant, beautiful heroes of the big screen clearly had deeper effects on the dreams of the crowds than today we find it easy to remember.
Wednesday. In the evening, while Tavener's 'Lament of the Mother of God' plays on the laptop I slide myself, I must admit shuddering, into a cold bath. Not quite icy, but certainly bracing.
Tuesday. Catch train back up north from the Great Plain in early afternoon. I sit in a non-compartment carriage from Kecskemet (it always seems to be carriage 21) with bursts of sun washing through, followed by English-looking shadow as we trundle under acres of churning cloud. We all sit there down the length of the carriage, our psychic envelopes swollen and squashed against each other like buds of sweetcorn almost cuboid from growing up against the others to fill the space. I start to viscerally sense the cosmic importance of flippancy.
Easter Monday. 3rd day teaching Jutka. Noticeable improvement yesterday + even better today. She's more confident: no longer seems convinced she'll never speak English. An extremely perky grey kitten (for some reason called Bruce) smashes the red tumbler while climbing on me during the lesson.
Easter Sunday. Christ is risen.
Saturday. Down at Robin's in the countryside. I spend a little time in the afternoon getting Joli's shy daughter Jutka to speak English. Joli & Lacko have made an Easter table decoration for everyone: a disc of turf with real soil and grass he cut out of the ground somewhere outside fitted neatly into a shallow round dish with real eggs from the chickens nestling in the long grass. The eggs are painted a dark purple brown using paint made from onions. Later Robin's wonderfully feminine & cheerful Italian girlfriend Sara creates a party atmosphere at both lunch & dinner with all four of the children bustling together with her in the kitchen. We didn't think of baking or eating these - in any case the hole is in the wrong place - but might they become a new Easter fashion?
Good Friday. Entertaining coffee with Steven. We agree that
"ice cream is for closers."
Thursday. Lorinc received yesterday's circuit-design introduction quite well. Tamas gives more responses to the concept I was pushing 2 weeks ago of using #encrypted channel choice on a multi-channel open broadcast as better than encrypted content with an #end-to-end audit trail of
Wednesday. Since 2001 every day is April 1st, one might say.
Being a polymath seen here as a natural state, not a deviation or exception. Quite right too.
Mark Griffith, site administrator /
markgriffith at yahoo.com