Saturday. Hallowe'en, not as important here in Hungary as their less cartoonish holiday tomorrow, the more solemn Day of the Dead. Striking a suitably eerie, strange-noises-in-the-night note of foreboding, however, here's a detailed article on net neutrality. Surprise, surprise, the telecoms who have to maintain and pay for all the wires & switches the free internet runs on want compensation. Economists are harsh about what they call 'rent seeking' but you can see the telecoms' point. Well, some of us can. I've been telling people the solution for years, but no-one wants to hear it of course. Netflix pays digital ransom to carrier Comcast.
Friday. Now it's darker even earlier in the evenings. Super. Interesting article points out how suffragette violence got airbrushed out of history, suggesting that the firebombings & phosphorous attacks make it comparable to other terrorist movements. Meanwhile, Russian submarines seem to be loitering near bits of crucial undersea cable in a calculated bid to rattle the Americans.
Thursday. Rheumatology Kata on good form. One of several articles recently noting how the Digital Book Take Over is floundering, as I said 5 years ago it would. Continuing the po-mo theme, two history-tipsy music videos run into one.
Wednesday. Clips of video from that Burning Man festival (a Wicker Man reference?)
like an updated Butlins or Pontins except with more desert: slightly shy white people having fun being a bit silly.
Tuesday. I pass the closed-down cafe in the morning, and whereas yesterday it was empty, today it's full of stacked furniture & boxes. By the early evening it has become a sort of ice-cream bar, with everything in place, seemingly open for business. American comedian explains why he hates bats & the countryside & "dark mystery". My dreams are still intense in a new way, as if I'm eavesdropping or going elsewhere.
Monday. Art curators home in on the occult.
Sunday. Clocks move back, so here is a movie trailer about it. In other time-travel news, fab lecture on how the great Lucretius poem survived into modern times.
Saturday. Pop over to see Robin & Sara near Oktogon for a lovely dinner. Wired on black coffee, I burble about the impatient tempo of fidgety Hawaiian cha-cha rhythms in 60s & 70s
theme tunes (as opposed to more operatic Bond movie music), along with other thrilling
topics. Meanwhile, there is really no introducing this next bit, so here is click-o-tron.
Friday. Donald Trump is being hailed as a visionary prophet for "foreseeing the 2001 attacks" and Ilan sends me some video of cattle auctioneers who speak quickly.
Thursday. Apparently in Switzerland foil caps from disposable restaurant cream thingies featuring famous folk such as Hitler or Mussolini are collectors' items.
Wednesday. At some point last week, a huge geyser of cold water was jetting up out of the pavement on the corner for a couple of hours. Blasting at least 20 feet up past the ceilings of the first floor (ground floors in older buildings here often have grand high ceilings with upper floors also moderately high) it had created a 2-inch-deep river surging west through the crossroads. Presumably a burst water main, but striking to see how much pressure there was behind it. My memory of Britain is that burst water mains there gurgle up about three inches at most. Another illiberal law aims to control the press in Britain, and here, I suppose, is the sort of thing they might want to restrict. Fake ads mock Kellogs.
Tuesday. The week before last the cafe on the corner suddenly closed down. I went in on a Tuesday, I think a fortnight ago today, and was told by the two Afghan brunettes that it was the cafe's last day. Some sudden strangeness meant the owner and landlord (seemingly) had a disagreement on the Friday 3 days earlier, and that was that. The very next day, Wednesday, the premises were stripped of furniture and had men in overalls in there standing around looking at ladders. Notice periods don't seem to count much in Hungary.
Monday. Cashiers continue to show astonished delight at my 3-week-old paper wallet. A bit more elaborate than Ilan's elegantly simple single-A4-sheet paper wallet that he remakes every week with fresh paper like a Shinto temple, mine is probably good to hold together for another week I suppose.
Sunday. 4 or 5 days ago there was a small drama at the nearby weights gym. A quite cute nymph-like girl in a cutaway black gym top was there toiling away on various machines, beaming with confident smiles to all & sundry, and showing she was with the mild-mannered muscular lad (one of the two owners I think, perhaps brothers) by oh-so-casually wandering behind the reception counter to mix herself nutrient milk shakes. Two days later I was there again and so was she and so was the possible brother/owner but somehow the mood had changed. Far less of the happy smiling. Finally she was changed into street clothes with her bag and was hovering inside the doorway for a full five minutes, about to leave. She clearly wanted him to go and see her off, say goodbye etc. He snubbed the hint and vaguely waved her away, refusing to move from one machine where he was advising a male lifter on technique. The girl quietly left by herself, visibly crestfallen.
Saturday. Lovely breakfast with Annika, over from Sweden. We talk about dreams, films, and islands in the Baltic.
Friday. Yesterday Mr Dentist repaired my cracked root-canal cap from only two years ago, finding caries inside, which he kindly ground out before resealing. Meanwhile, something clever for fans of Conway's beautiful 2D universe, The Game of Life, one of the cellular automata that got me all excited just before college. Here's a nifty 90-second film showing how 'Life' can be simulated within 'Life', so to speak.
Thursday. Fascinating new theory about Plato.
Wednesday. Click here for your Corporate Meeting buzz phrase.
Tuesday. US Navy reintroduces sextants.
Monday. Group Selection Redux: an evolutionary theorist writes.
Sunday. More rain. Our man in Bucharest looks over the scholarship on Mohammad's life.
Saturday. Some sage words of caution about wunderkind de jour Elon Musk. Are the man & his miracles overbought?
Friday. Very interesting radio interview about people who score well at predicting the future: superforecasters.
Thursday. Rainy weather returns. Realised recently some people have never heard of French 1950s and 60s comedian Jacques Tati. Here he is in a short piece of film where he just waits in real time in a waiting room. Of course he is mocking the spare, rectilinear minimalism of the modernist room, about as unwelcoming to people as a space can be. Yet his own mime humour is also quite austere and spartan, so accurately and painstakingly observed that it's no longer really comedy. For comparison, some newer English comedy also so clever as to not actually be funny. But Tati's super-realistic physical wit, somehow both highbrow and lowbrow at the same time, sometimes made people laugh: here, Tati shows TV interviewer Parkinson in 1971 how English policemen direct traffic differently from French policemen.
Wednesday. Something slightly eerie on the trams this week. The weather has chilled, and hordes of sleek girls are suddenly everywhere in surprisingly good mood. Hungarians usually sulk when autumn puts an end to their long warm summer, but today it is as if the showing-off section of the fairer sex welcomes the opportunity to change into their winter-weather wardrobe. Or something. Another article about weather & climate - this from a Western Australian researcher who has a plausible explanation for why other models have failed to fit the decade-and-a-half pause in global warming we've seen this century.
Tuesday. Britain now has a Dutch-Elm-Disease-proof strain of elm.
Monday. Interesting article about Churchill's prewar career in terms of his close friendship with F.E. Smith. A nice overview of several competing weather-prediction models. A disappointing, unimpressive set of illustrations from 1900 of what life would be like in 2000, very much projecting their world forward, with clothing styles virtually unchanged. The idea the future would have small flying machines and helicopters everywhere was common back then: everyone knew they were coming. Mechanised agriculture another obvious thing to expect. Eccentric final images of people dancing with underwater creatures show the artist got bored with the task and couldn't even come up with the agreed number of images.
Sunday. With almost all shops closed every Sunday since early this year, I've started wondering if this was some kind of apology from Hungary's Peronist government to the small corner shops so damaged by the creation of the tobacco retail monopoly in mid-2013. One of the scruffy but useful 24-hour shops near me had to close within six months of losing the right to sell cigarettes, one of their main staples. Other of the shops which used to be on every block open day and night selling tea, coffee, sugar, cigarettes, alcohol, a few other basics, seem to have disappeared too since the official tobacco outlets arrived. Closing the major supermarkets but not the small stores each Sunday might be an attempt to make up for that. A simple change like losing the all-night corner shops can tip the balance of pros and cons a city offers.
Saturday. Must be about 3 or 4 years now that the Hungarian personal pronouns have been painted in giant crisp-edged sanserif letters on both sides of each leg of the ugly concrete flyover bridge at Nyugati. Each letter is in different pastel colours, and it is quite odd riding the tram under the flyover looking at the huge words for You, We, They, I passing by in ten-foot-high letters. Some artist must have been paid to do it: it's far too slick and symmetrical for graffiti. Further out on the same tram ride, over the river, I now struggle to remember when an ugly 1960s 8-or-9-storey office block, wider than high, was pulled down. At least 2 years ago now I think. It was one of the ministries. The demolition created a huge empty space on one side of the main road, dotted with parked cars but mainly empty yellow gravel & sand going back a deep block to a ragged row of cypress trees hiding some 19th-century buildings. Through the space, that used to be blocked by that dull boxy government office, golden sun pours across that tramline. The effect in the afternoons is wonderful. It completely changes the mood of that district. It makes me wonder what the feeling will be like when most of the jerry-built 20th-century structures in major cities across the world are wiped off the street map to open up similar sunlit spaces. When their puritanical, angry, utilitarian plainness finally gets taken out of the way of surviving older buildings. When someone clears the room to rebuild some of the foolishly removed pre-20th-century houses and boulevards, and allows the creation of newer classical/traditional/vernacular structures. When unembarrassedly decorative, historically literate architecture returns. It's going to be strange, liberating, lyrical when it comes.
I don't think much of this list of names for emotions we don't have names for in English, but one or two strike a chord. No. 2, for example, 'Opia', is one I've been experiencing more of recently out and about in Budapest. Accidentally meeting eyes with someone, looking into the other's soul fleetingly, can be an extraordinary moment. That 'satori' that mother described having once on Deansgate in Manchester was this kind. The predominant emotion on both sides in that quick second of locking glances seems to be a kind of astonished sense of unity: Are we together?
Friday. Three days ago got a haircut and felt a bit bad merely asking for a mere trim when all hands were on deck tending to the more complex haircare needs of two rather glamorous Russian molls. One striking thing about Hungarian versus Slav girls is the different sense of colour. Even when they get it wrong, Slavs like a bright shade or two. One of the Russians was all in body-tight black showing her curves except for a curious cardigan/robe/shawl-thing in the most gorgeous powder blue. I'm not sure it really suited but it was dramatic and it stood out. Her Russian friend was in a frilly body-hugging cream/beige skirt/frock-thing that showed off her curves with no other touch of colour except for suede boots in an almost alarming apple green. Both Russians had some idea of taste, had chosen just one intense thing to stand out, and weren't afraid of colour. Whereas Hungarian girls with those figures tend to wear a low-key mix of browns, greys, white, black, creams - almost as if afraid any bright shade will take attention away from their legginess or slim waists, almost as if colour blind and dressing deliberately to hide it. More likely, the two cultures have different definitions of taste. In the same way that the one time I visited Athens absolutely everyone was wearing either a white shirt with black trousers or black skirt, or a black shirt with black trousers or skirt. That austere monochrome was their idea of good taste. Meanwhile, one writer thinks US politics is changing, while another suggests that people are too dim to make democracy work.
Thursday. An intriguing map of Europe in 1500. Apart from France, England, Spain, elsewhere things look rather different to today's continent. A huge Lithuania, a patchwork of small Irish clan kingdoms, a mighty Denmark, and two puzzling territories: 'Hungary Bohemia' versus 'Bohemia Hungary'?
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