Well said, sir.
Saturday. Read another fascinating design book - this time on architecture. 'Down to Earth' by Jean Dethier is the slightly smirksome English title of a Pompidou Centre exhibition catalogue from 1981 about the continuing and often overlooked tradition of building large structures out of packed dirt. The original French title was the more sensible 'Des Architectures de Terre' and the translation into English was by Ruth Eaton. Several photographs are lovely in their own right, and the sensuous qualities of building in mud are captured well. Some of the buildings are stronger and taller than I'd imagined was possible in unfired earth. One 19th-century building of seven storeys (an apartment block like any other, at first glance) in a town close to Frankfurt, Germany, made of nothing but packed soil was still in perfect condition at the turn of the 1980s according to this book-length catalogue. Small additions of cement, like 2 or 3%, can create a composite material that is still essentially packed earth, but much more stable. Sometimes very intricately-decorated buildings using a
as though made of masonry, cement, or fired bricks. The two methods are 'adobe' (assembly from sun-dried earth bricks or blocks) and 'pise' (use of boards under pressure to pack earth walls in situ until hard and smooth). Two French architects seem to have taken the lead in repopularising earth construction in late-18th and early-19th century Europe, just when the old traditions were falling most into contempt as primitive outmoded peasant methods. Of course it is sturdy, uses local materials, simple to do, very cheap, and easy to mend. In some areas with heavy rain an impermeable foundation layer of fired brick under the first layer of unfired earth is needed, along with perhaps projecting roof tiles, but otherwise thick walls of packed soil are particularly well adapted for tropical regions, where they keep buildings cool in the heat of the summer and warm in the cold of winter or the desert night. Vaguely aware of these surprisingly robust structures, I've been having odd visions in my head of thick-walled African palaces of smooth, dense, elaborately decorated facades of solid dirt for a few years now. So it was time to read this.
Friday. Over the last week there was the gust of breeze in the bathroom one Monday night (while I was watching a video of some fake telekinesis) that smashed a glass jar into tiny smithereens on the tiled floor I walk on in bare feet (picking all these up with great care took half an hour or so), several days of drilling in the wall or ceiling from a flat above, and separate cafe chats with Henry & Troy involving puppies, smartphones, espresso coffees, and sunshine. The drill in the wall of a nearby flat sounds sometimes like a dentist's drill inside a giant mouth, and sometimes like the noise of a wolf-sized bluebottle trapped in a wardrobe. I've started to imagine a flat somewhere in this white-walled modernist block where one wall is completely encrusted with pictures, hooks, and coathangers, cluttered & jumbled on top of each other like a voodoo shrine. Meanwhile, a design student has made a tap that sprays water in pretty patterns.
Thursday. Finish a book of Robin's called 'The Green Imperative' by Victor Papanek. Seems like a lifetime ago I read Papanek's book 'Design for the Real World' as a schoolboy: I suppose it is. Still the tantalising mix of good taste, human-scale ethics, green-catastrophist evangelism, fascinating anecdotes and examples of industrial design, and musings on economics from someone who doesn't quite get how trade works. In a way, I wish someone had sent the adult, sceptical Papanek on a good economics course with sophisticated teachers - it might have made his insights a lot sharper. There are a couple of puzzling sentences suggesting the book wasn't proofread. Rather sweetly, while in places he absolutely sees how the Bauhaus brutalised modern life, in others he seems not at all sure. Check
this picture which is apparently "unobtrusive" and not at all "a blot on the landscape": oh goodness. I suppose we must celebrate figures like Papanek for defending natural materials and even decoration sometimes back when so few with modernist status thought to.
Wednesday. I have a powerful revelation in a shopping-centre cafe, then chat more about time travel with young Lorinc in his lesson (I hope he hasn't been building anything), and then read two short books for French children by Henri, illustrated by his wife Camelia. Or perhaps they were written to complement Camelia's pictures. 'La petite etoile qui ne savait pas compter 1, 2, 3' & 'Le moulin a vent et le moulin a eau' both strike a note of serious whimsy.
Tuesday. Charming article explains how Google image-recognition software seems to have weird dreams that we can see. They aren't really dreams or thoughts of course, but they do have a dreamlike quality to them. If that gives you eyestrain, here are some yoga eye exercises.
Monday. Back in Abruzzo, Giorgia, who's an architect, kindly introduces me online to her multi-faceted English-speaking friend Marco. Marco has worked on high-speed trading software. He & I agree on a surprising range of things, including flows of cash on financial exchanges. He urges me to read Polish sociologist Zygmunt Bauman, especially his book on 'liquid modernity'.
Sunday. Quiet day with Letty, Zsuzsi, and Kasper after the Italians (already homesick for their region last night!) race off back up to Budapest to catch their flight. 6 or so hours later Letty & I also catch a densely packed train back up to the Big Pogacsa, so crowded we have to stand the whole way. I'm wedged up against a crisp-looking girl with a beautifully groomed guinea pig in a travelling box, occasionally snuffling around but mainly quiet, and a brown-eyed lass on the cusp between dishy & decadent who for some reason has her frock half-unzipped at the back so it's right off one shoulder and almost slipping off the other. She's reading the same Spanish course book Eva & Ernesto lent me. // Latest reasonable radio show from the St. Petersburg DJ: #335.
Saturday. On Thursday night, joined Robin & Sara for a lovely evening meal in the Budapest flat with Sara's friends Elena & Giorgia. All three Italian signorinas are school friends. We chatted & looked up birth charts. Today I journey by train to Lakitelek for a fine late lunch at Robin's where Giorgia & Elena (codename: Topolina) have been joined by their chum Walid. All four are from what looks like a paradise-like region of central eastern Italy called Abruzzo. Some photos suggest it's almost a miniature Tibet, splendidly isolated and tucked away "in plain sight" as some people say these days. They're all wonderfully cheerful, optimistic, and interested in life. We stay up very late: 2 of their 3 Tarot spreads look remarkable.
Friday. Strangely hypnotic, this really belongs on a nightclub ceiling, slowed down about 50%. Yes, all 6 Stars Wars films at once.
Thursday. Not only are French girls now (apparently) dyeing their armpit hair, they've started attaching tassels & hair-extensions to them. Do we like?
Wednesday. On the subject of anachronistic cartoons (yesterday), here are Tom & Jerry involved in some Hollywood Illuminati nonsense. Genuine or redone? Hard to tell.
Tuesday. Back in the Big Pogacsa, the heat has moderated a little. Here's how Scooby Doo's strange bunch of teenage friends would have dressed in (almost) each decade of the 20th century. Always oddly nostalgic, the blended-1950s/60s/70s krypto-Enid-Blyton Californian surfer-dude/beatnik/quasi-hippies here try out costumes from six of the other seven decades. Nice bit of magazine art, though 1900-to-1910 is mysteriously missing.
Monday. Drive with Robin & Sara & some furniture back to Budapest. Online Elaine explains the mysteries of London's postcodes.
Sunday. Here's a nice little 15-minute chat about whether left-wing people do more or less denying of science than other groups: the thoughtful Jonathan Haidt again. In the countryside, after finding the studio last night buzzing with so many insects that they combined into a kind of wavering shrill chorus fit for a horror movie, I took across a half-bottle of alcohol-and-sugar-laced warm water with the surface tension broken by washing-up liquid. This concoction indeed tempted about a score of them to their doom but the multitudes of others made me decide to relocate to sleep in the library over in the main house. When it's very warm at night, falling asleep is different somehow. More like succumbing to some kind of drug than just dozing off. This evening one of those odd almost silent electrical storms happened. So far away on the Great Plain that there is no sound of thunder, yet wheeling round all the corners of the horizon, without rain, as if Robin's land is a kind of magical zone that storms steer clear of. And though far away enough to be mostly silent, close enough to cut off the internet, make the lights in the house dip & dim, and to create an odd kind of charged alerted thrill just under the skin.
Saturday. In Robin's studio transcribing an interview off tape. After some nostalgic Joy Division songs, Sara plays this tune. Interesting reversal. Uplifting.
Friday. Mild heat stroke, I think. Three cold baths in one day, but still struggle a bit to pack and get on train to Kunszentmarton. For the first time I change in a small town called Szajol, which has a surprisingly large and new-looking railway station that has no shop or bar where anyone could buy a drink or a sandwich. The train carriage is bathed in sun. Worried about getting off at the right place I ask a large box-shaped passenger how we could be where we seem to be. He replies we are running about 25 minutes late and this is normal. But I reply that when I travel on the other line trains are on time. Yes, he answers with placid friendliness, that line is good. On this line, 25 minutes behind schedule is absolutely standard. Some Hungarians rather enjoy calmly noting the inefficiency around them like this. Robin & Sara meet me at Kunszentmarton. I'm pathetically limp from the warmth of the day.
Thursday. More interesting caveats about the global warming consensus we all heard was so rock-certain. Martin, who is passing through town, kindly invites me out to see some contemporary dance. Certainly seems that the less narrative dance gets the more the choreographer becomes vital, as a kind of editor-in-chief.
Wednesday. Turns out the well-known fact that more infant boys die than girls is wrong.
Tuesday. Yesterday's app chat went well. Hot weather is cranking up. We seem to be in the 100-degrees-Farenheit-by-the-afternoon phase a bit sooner than usual: about 5 or 6 weeks ahead of the traditional Dog Days. Over 80 Farenheit inside my flat, in the shade, at night.
Monday. One thing about staying up all night is that you get to hear the dawn chorus. What I never noticed in earlier years was how clearly defined it is. It seems to last about 20 minutes, on and off, like a whole lot of songbirds clocking in for an early shift, or announcing their presence to teacher during morning registration. Before I always felt strangely moved, mildly panicked but also excited to be up that early or that late. The emotional power of the occasion and my sense of being inside my own emotions stopped me from actually taking note of how long it lasts or when it starts: it seemed then to be something I was intermingled with.
Sunday. Although I'm grateful for the snail-on-speed watch Lorinc gave me, it has one odd feature that makes it hard to read. The LED number display is recessed behind a oblong slot cut in the image of Mr Snail. This means that shadow around the inner edge of this little shallow box makes the 1 hard to distinguish from the 7, the 6 hard to distinguish from the 8, and so on. Not the biggest problem I've ever had, must be said.
Saturday. Strange dreams continue. Well, not exactly strange so much as intense, detailed, not quite mine. Somehow they feel like I've tuned into unfamiliar radio stations. Even when they contain details of my life or memories noticeably mine, it's like they are remakes or cover versions. Pieces of my mind incorporated into someone else's novel.
Friday. Over at Robin's new flat enjoy coffee & wine & schnapps with him, his Italian girlfriend Sara, and thoughtful musician Albert, who also wants to visit Portugal. Blast from the past: Here Dalrymple/Daniels is articulate in 1999 on jealousy, violence, & sexual habits.
Thursday. Coriander seedlings rise out of their two tiny pots. Neighbouring four mini-pots of basil also getting busy. Boardgame Orsolya mentions a new collaborator in Singapore. Exchange quizzical amused glances with an ex-girlfriend I pass just outside the nearby cinema perhaps yesterday? / More internet-stuff-into-real-stuff news. Meet both Troy (with his puppy Romeo) & Tamas for coffee outdoors in late-afternoon sunshine.
Wednesday. Lovely dinner over at
Interesting info about Android in China.
Tuesday. Full moon. The chocolate-science study was a hoax (tee hee)!
Monday. Time for more networking, citizens.
Pinker here being very diplomatic about Chomsky's political (& linguistic) beliefs.
Mark Griffith, site administrator /
markgriffith at yahoo.com