Monday. That lost day we get added back in every four years. I honestly think there should be a proper party feast for something that only happens 2 or 3 times a decade, not just a boring day added onto the most boring month of the year. A study says the more chores a man does around the house, the more likely divorce becomes. Vividly recall one girlfriend who resented me washing up dishes after a meal rather than using her parents' beautiful machine. She thought it was progress if the man worked longer hours in an office so as to buy a shiny dishwashing machine instead, even though washing up dishes takes about 3 minutes. Automated dishwashers still strike me as unhygienic.
Sunday. From Sogo Ishii, he of the unforgettable Japanese Monkees tribute 'Crazy Family', here's a clip of his moody later film 'Electric Dragon'. Lots of lizards, high voltage, and characters in metal masks.
Over at Robin's flat in the evening, we get a call from Zsuzsi, attending a chamber recital. Two people with her had to leave in the interval, allowing us, if we want, to see the latter part free. Robin & I get ourselves over to the Music Academy and enjoy some of Milton's 'Samson', set to harpsichord, choir & strings by Handel. Restrained & measured use of brass & woodwind just towards the end.
Saturday. Finish Richard Susskind's 'Tomorrow's Lawyers', kindly lent to me by Dr D. A lot about how future legal work will involve research packaging, online collaboration, and automated research. The internet is frequently mentioned (Susskind seems to have built a career since the 1980s writing books about how computers and the internet will change life for lawyers) but not much detail. The book is best on how the pyramid structure of legal partnerships with juniors toiling over menial paperwork deserves to be and will be changed. However, almost nothing on the actual technicalities of legal-based online search, or automated mediation. Page 87 suggests free or subsidised NHS-style access to initial legal advice, an idea that crossed my mind in the 80s. No mention of Weizenbaum's famous critique of automated legal judgments, and nothing at all on the possibilities of legal markup language.
Friday. When & why to use blue lipstick.
Thursday. Mike G. urges me to alert readers to the so-called 'Manchester document', an Al Qaeda manual predicting the Arab Spring two decades in advance, seemingly.
Wednesday. I noticed on Friday that the shell of a two-storey Victorian building at the number 1 tram terminus has suddenly gone. There was me expecting them to restore it, but of course it's been razed and will be replaced by some vulgar new box. The gap is of course still there, and it's depressing to see something that survived so long simply removed overnight. Here's a quite thoughtful article about "whore goddesses".
Tuesday. Still below par, filled with phlegm/mucous/bacterial-filth. Still sleeping 10 or 11 hours most nights. Apparently our ancestors didn't just breed with Neanderthals, but other quasi-humans. I feel quite Neanderthal at the moment.
Monday. Finished first read-through of book kindly sent by Heikki, 'The 7 Spiritual Laws of Yoga' by Deepak Chopra & David Simon. Of course, now I have to do the exercises, although much of the book is theoretical, discussing what yoga is for and about.
Sunday. Women more aggressive & controlling than men?? What an idea:
Saturday. It appears that the boy-wonder intellectuals at No Such Agency are listing people to be offed by drone in the Near East using (duh) a piece of software. Perfect cowardice: it was the algorithm did it, sarge. Meanwhile, how to hack an air-gapped laptop through a wall.
Friday. Head-cold infection tedes on. Laurie Anderson used to make a clever-clogs reference to "dancing about architecture". So here is (apparently) someone writing about clothing. "The male fuccboi, at least in the sense I mean, is the hypebeast in a post-health-goth world. I'm not discussing the imagined sociological implications of the word, where a Tinder guy acts like a Tinder guy." Right, of course.
Thursday. Still ill. I loll about, slug-like, gently wheezing. In-length 2013 profile of an important Iranian commander involved with Shi'ite militias in Iraq and Syria. Also well worth a read, our man in Bucharest writes a couple of clear articles about the Syrian conflict: one & two.
Wednesday. Another stupid software/graphics idea someone did because they could: novels with all the words removed. And the spirally disc-shaped 'inspirations' for books with only punctuation left in. Far out, man.
Tuesday. Still sleeping most of each day. Talking of being good (or not) at languages: does bilingualism confer cognitive benefits?
Monday. Yesterday met Guillaume for a coffee despite general malaise. I said this and he said that. As we part, he gives me a pack of fresh tissues for my catarrh.
Sunday. Continue to feel sorry for self and lurk round flat cocooned in duvets like giant centipede. Clever graphic showing how many people in a big dataset marry how many other people of given professions. The sort of interactive data display designers make because they can do it technically, yet you wonder --- why bother?
Saturday. Spend whole day in bed, wrapped in 3 duvets, coughing & sleeping. Curiously dreamlike building portraits along the river at Budapest, all cropped out of context so they look as if from an invented city.
Friday. Tickly cough. Just when things were getting good! Odd feelings of euphoria & openness to life (as on Wednesday) often seem to come just before an infection. 2 fab science articles: some bacteria are tiny eyeballs (new); nifty geometric "jewel" (2 years old) offers physicists a way out of the Feynmann-diagram jungle.
Thursday. In genuine Spanish practices, civil servant goes missing for six years reading philosophy: no-one notices. Venezuala discovers the miseries of price controls.
Wednesday. After long sleep woke today strangely energised. Lighter step, more intense sense of smell, absurdly empowered. Some political disagreements: US Democrats /
Bernie versus Hillary (thoughtful); US Democrats /
Paglia versus Steinem (entertaining); Lanarckshire SNP / someone versus someone else (worrying).
Tuesday. Austrian study claims vegetarians are unhealthy?
Monday. Sweet book-themed image.
Sunday. Some high-minded quarrelling: Russian kills friend in prose-versus-poesy debate, while cladists and parsimonists mass for combat in Taxonomy Skirmish.
Saturday. Read to the end of Robin & Sara's sumptuously illustrated catalogue 'William Blake, Apprentice & Master' of an art exhibition about his printing work they went to last year at Oxford's Ashmolean Museum. The catalogue richly explains how Blake trained and grew as a craftsman printer and engraver, developing new plate-cutting techniques to find a way to make images expressing his intense religious and social beliefs, the agonies and ecstasies of his distinctive Christian vision. I wasn't aware he had been for so long influenced by Swedenborg, and perhaps affected by the tragi-comic opening of Swedenborg's grave decades after his death by some devotees. The experimental techniques of Castiglioni & Segers in the 17th century, then Lepic & Degas fifty years after Blake's death make a fascinating comparison - all seem to have rediscovered and invented new ways to print and engrave without being aware they were retracing other men's innovations. More intriguingly, all these engravers testing new ways to draw onto the printing plate seem to have strained after similar visual freedoms, fluidity of line, and similarly achieved eerie mood-tinted images. The influence of Blake on several young artists who came to know him in his last years (who called themselves 'The Ancients'), such as Palmer, Richmond, and Calvert, might have been given more space. The line of succession to Morris and Gill seems clear but also hauntingly fruitful to explore.
Friday. I finish Lorinc's copy of 'Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul' by Jeff Kinney which is apparently part of a publishing sensation, a set of books narrated by the Wimpy Kid about the minutiae of his family life, accompanied by drawings, seemingly hand-written in blocky pen on the pages of a lined notebook. The core value seems to be authenticity. The prose sounds very much like the voice of a bored 11 or 12-year-old boy, coolly observing family chaos around him. The story solely concerns irritating mishaps of standard daily life. I was reminded of the battered cardboard boxes of Beano and other comics in the rooms where we all had to sit at primary school on afternoons when heavy rain cancelled outdoor sports. Those comics always seemed to me to carry the cluttered mundaneness of day-to-day events (classrooms, brick streets with corrugated metal dustbins, children hiding behind broken bits of fencing) into their crowded, scratchy drawings, as if living the greyness of urban reality wasn't enough already - we had to dream it as well?
Here too the Wimpy Kid illustrations look like a boy might have drawn them - unfortunately it achieves this by making the doodle-sketches scruffy and ugly. Since they are on every page, this is tiring. The boy - like a lot of the devoted child readers doubtless - is deeply immersed in the detail of everyday life (mobile phones, television, dishwashers, amusement parks). This book (about a long, tiresome road trip where everything goes wrong for a family squashed into a van) showcases the comic observation of daily trivia that I expect fills every book in this highly successful series. This child is recognisably Tom Sawyer updated by almost two centuries but with no wilderness nearby, no big unknown outdoors. Like Tom, he is a smart-alec quick kid making wry remarks about the adult failings he sees around him, but now in a world that's signposted, crowded, and built-up. There are some echoes of Just William, positioned about halfway in time and halfway in urbanness between Tom Sawyer and The Wimpy Kid, but the comparison over time is disheartening: William's independent social life - his child gang and its strange dream-like games - has vanished. Modern life has closed in by claustrophobic stages on the scruffy boy heroes, squashing Sawyer into William into the Wimpy Kid physically as well as conceptually in the back of the cluttered road-trip van. We see less and less opening for imagination or initiative, more and more cynical judgement of daily events, less and less homemade fantasy. The Wimpy Kid wearily explains how his mother wants to make everything a learning experience and he patiently narrates how his parents and siblings mess up the trip at each stage. The whole story is confined to the surface of official life today: motels, motorways, swimming pools, snack foods. Although many children will enjoy the slapstick humour about stinky socks, lost keys, chewing gum jamming sunroofs, the overall effect is dispiriting. A long haul.
Thursday. Finish a book borrowed from Marion & Paul called 'The Secular Mind' by Robert Coles, which discusses secularism from the point of view of a thoughtfully religious American psychiatrist. Interestingly, he is keen to stress that secular, anti-religious thought is very old, has been inside the Church for centuries, and is not just a product of post-17th-century scientific materialism. He relies on long conversations with and long quotes from a small number of writers and activists, for example conversations with Anna Freud, daughter of Sigmund. If I have any single criticism, it is that Coles takes Freud seriously and seems unaware that the unconscious was really discovered by Schopenhauer, almost a century before Freud, and likewise that Freud's additions to the existing idea of the unconscious were almost all incorrect. Rather, the writer allows himself to be charmed by the Id/Ego/Superego Trinity, even though he discusses it with sophisticated sympathy, not gullible enthusiasm. However, it never usurps his central view that humility in the face of spiritual experience, even spiritual doubt, is the route to a fuller kind of living. This comfortableness with doubt, defeat, and materialistic inadequacy compared to the spiritual in a strange way insulates him from the consequences of taking Freud too literally, or taking any other secular theory too literally. The bulk of the book, in fact, is a series of sensitive bits of literary criticism, where sections of George Eliot, Thomas Hardy, William Carlos Williams are read in the light of religious faith versus secularism. The core of these arguments is his discussion of the novel 'The Egoist' by George Meredith, where secularism emerges as a kind of self-isolating smugness, a sort of hermetic seal between the soul and all outside influences that sustain and justify that soul. His sentences are oddly dense and sinuous, yet readable, driven by a kind of lucid logic of emotion: "---the secular mind as ever wondering, probing, as ever intent on mastery." Here he tries to say what worries him about that secular mind, whether scientific secularism, religious secularism, or post-religious secularism: "One prays at the very least on behalf of one's kind, though unsure, in a secular sense, to whom or what such prayer is directed, other than, needless to say, one's own secular mind, ever needy of an 'otherness' to address through words become acts of appeal, of worried alarm, of lively and grateful expectation: please, oh please, let things go this way, and not in that direction - the secular mind given introspective, moral pause, its very own kind of sanctity."
Wednesday. Supposedly this odd film short is intended to deter people from taking drugs.
Tuesday. Strangely warm, springlike weather. Gabor tells me how members of his Sistema Sibirski club visited the dojo of an MMA/Krav-Maga/Thai-boxing master in Budapest for a sort of friendly fisticuffs session. Woman artist makes cardboard forests.
Monday. A couple of weeks ago in conversation with an online friend, had to find an image of Mesmer at work. Notice overwhelmed young lady being carried out far right.
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