Friday. An American photographer, who is very modest about his hobby, but has a slick website with some lovely images of planets, the moon, and the sun.
Thursday. Interesting article suggests that healthcare reform is impossible in the US. The writer says the unspeakable truth is that there is a kind of state-supported socialism for better-earning white folk.
Wednesday. Campaign adviser to The Donald before Kellyanne Conway, a Mr Manafort, seems to have sent a very interesting set of messages to his daughter's phone.
Tuesday. A 2014 item: physicist Mersini-Houghton suggests that Hawking radiation defuses nascent black holes before they can holeify. So there aren't any, in her view.
Monday. 3rd afternoon helping Jessica assemble flatpack furniture. A Hungarian friend of hers mocks our slowness by text message. Luckily we finish today though, with only 8 screws and 8 little white plastic screw-plugs left unused.
Sunday. 2nd afternoon helping Jessica assemble flatpack furniture. Specially for Paul McC, an interesting .pdf about carbon-dioxide levels in earth's atmosphere. Aside from restating how weak claims are that human-emitted CO2 decisively raised global temperatures, this Greenpeace co-founder's paper intriguingly suggests that added anthropogenic CO2 rescued the world from dangerously low levels of the nutritionally vital gas.
Saturday. 1st afternoon helping Jessica assemble flatpack furniture.
Friday. Crossing the river over a bridge, a low sharply-bright setting sun glares into the inside of the warm tram. This brings back a kind of generic memory of school I think we all have. It's a sunny day, we're stuck in a classroom, dustmotes are floating through sunbeams, and for some reason curtains or blinds are unavailable to get the sun off your neck. Something a bit sad about being stuck indoors unable to hide from bright sun shining through glass.
Here's an interesting debunking of a common legend about the Rothschilds.
Thursday. Get to the end of book from kind Amanda giving more detail about how the Siege of Malta proved the high-water mark for Not-So-Magnificent Suleyman's attempt to retake Sicily, close off the Mediterranean to Christian shipping, and renew Islamic invasions of the half of Christendom they hadn't conquered already. 'The Great Siege: Malta 1565' by Ernle Bradford goes day by day through the siege in which the Maltese islanders and a mere 9,000 Knights of St. John Hospitallers, only recently forced to leave Rhodes by a Muslim military campaign, resisted 40,000 of the Turkish Sultan's best soldiers and a huge naval armada. They fought almost to the last man. Two things emerge: the loyalty and grit of the local Maltese islanders throughout the ordeal, and the unbreakable determination of the 70-year-old head of the order, La Valette, again and again stiffening the resolve of his knights when others were wavering. He himself plunged into the thick of the fighting in full armour at several points during the merciless heat of the long, thirsty summer of 1565. The author at one point describes the sheer toughness of some old men in that era - almost unimaginable now. This blow-by-blow account helps us to imagine it. Paving the way for another thankful defeat of Islam at Lepanto six years later, the Siege of Malta was one of the most important military events of the last 500 years. Bradford wrote this history when a second huge siege of the island, in the 1940s by Nazi Germany, was a recent memory.
Wednesday. Martin McGuinness, gangster warlord, torturer, murderer, liar and - once he came under personal attack from targeted attempts to kill him and his family - coward (aka "peacemaker"), dies in his bed aged 66. The sectarian conflicts in Ireland, which he did so much to poison and intensify, and so little to genuinely heal, remain. Gerry Adams, no less self-centred, looks anxious.
Tuesday. Run into Jay on street walking two handsome black labradors. He tells me a ghost-writer friend of his decades ago in New York was behind the 'French Connection' book & film.
Monday. Sun without sunspots every day for a fortnight - the longest period in almost a decade. More cool weather likely.
Sunday. Oddly cheerful article about the "Byzantine" trick images that show how easily "AI" visual "recognition" can be fooled. Anyone cosy with the concept of self-driving cars should read this.
Saturday. Some miscellaneous Bassett's Allsorts of data & discussion: (1) a chess problem Dr Penrose believes is vulnerable to human, not computer, intelligence; (2) A US Democrat bemoans thinking inside the Democratic party; (3) A Republican with an odd-sounding thesis about a
continued Obama role in US politics; (4) Scientists ponder how brains seem to
keep thinking 10 minutes after death; (5) 10 real Lysistrata-style
sex strikes that happened; (6) Perhaps interesting statistics on consumption of pornography in Muslim countries.
Friday. Must see a barber. My rapidly-growing mullet is moving dangerously into Teddy-Boy/North-Korean-dictator coiff-fusion territory. Speaking of police states: more good data from one of our contributors.
Thursday. Read a copy of 'The Real Right Returns' by Daniel Friberg. I don't really agree the term "right wing" is the one to use, but he argues trenchantly in clear short sentences for a non-violent, unembarrassed return to traditional values in Europe, a sort of moderate nationalism/Eurocentrism. Insofar as he suggests in one or two paragraphs we have lost something by exiling aristocrats from power, this could even qualify as real right-side Legitimist stuff. Rather charming be-a-man-about-it and we-must-protect-the-womenfolk themes embedded in the Proud Christendom manifesto.
Wednesday. Toothache returns, annoyingly on the day every single shop shuts to honour Hungary's opportunistic me-too uprising on March 15th 1848. This was a couple of days after Vienna rose up on the 12th & 13th, just for some unkind context. For this I have to spend an hour searching for a pharmacy that will sullenly serve me antiseptic against the pain through a small cubby-window at a higher price.
Tuesday. Sankt-Peterburg DJ chooses a surprisingly gentle, soft-centred set of tunes for show #420, while dancing around mainly for the benefit of someone on her phone. Could this be lurv?
Monday. Train back to Budapest. Lovely Indian dinner with Zoe & Mark, who tell me some gossip both useful and entertaining while insisting, despite my doubts, that Brussels is another dimension of boring. In separate developments, gentrification is apparently an evil plot.
Sunday. Some heave-ho at Robin's in the countryside as Gyorgy, Istvan, Robin, and I use shoulder bands to lug a big metal stove into the studio. Zeno the Alchemist directs operations. Apparently when I fall asleep in a corner of the studio later, I snore like Domor the larger Komondor dog, serenely undisturbed by sounds of sawing and hammering.
Saturday. Read a copy of 'What Am I Doing Here' I find in Robin's library, a miscellaneous set of essays, some very good in parts, by travel writer Bruce Chatwin. In an offhand remark at the start, Chatwin confesses to once lacking confidence in his writing. This might concentrate some readers' attention. Indeed his essays rather depend on closely observed situations with unusual people in exotic locales. Yet the actual writing, as he candidly half admits, is not so good. The final essay has a curious penultimate sentence where someone advises him not to let anything artistic get in his way. The essay closes cutely with the one-line paragraph, "I have always acted on this advice." The essay before (about a fly) ends with the one-line paragraph, "'It must have come in with you.'" An essay about three before that one ends with the smug one-line paragraph, "I too am mystified by this story." On top of which, like O. Henry's citizen of the world who betrays himself in a remark on his home town, Chatwin's composure suddenly slips when he meets two British soldiers who were in the Falklands War, unable to hold his parochial anti-patriotism in. In one rambling essay about Indira Gandhi, a string of recollections and vignettes, some good, are jumbled together, and in parts it's confusing to follow what's happening. The article about Chinese emperors and rare horse breeds has some fascinating reflections on the pastoralist, the settled farmer, and the hunter. His piece about Afghanistan and several others have small moments of anti-western snobbery. The exotic foreigners are loveable and admirable while Englishmen abroad less discerning than himself are crude and narrow, almost as if he was getting Kipling upside-down. The metal of that subdued sneer against his own civilisation glitters into view in a couple of places. At the same time, Chatwin is so wonderfully travelled and has met such a rich range of interesting characters it's very easy to overlook how much enjoying his writing derives from them, and to not notice his lack of skill as a storyteller. An uncharacteristically readable piece about someone he met in old age, nihilistic German officer and diarist Ernst Ju:nger, forms an odd mirror to his own writing. It seems the German was skilled at writing coldly grand accounts of heroic violence balanced by eerie, refined botanical scholarship. Chatwin would like to have been an equally dazzling (perhaps more peaceful) English version of Ju:nger, I sensed.
At the end of a quite charming couple of pages near the end about a fine-art customer called The Bey, who Chatwin seems to have been very fond of, he strains to say something bittersweet about the man. We get an arch mixture of admiration and condescension: "I write about the Bey because people of his kind will never come again. His life, I suspect, was a bit of a sham. The Eye [his aesthetic taste] was always young and pure." Why on earth should "people of his kind -- never come again"? And given Chatwin's distaste for any imperial vision that makes people like the Bey possible, why should it in any case matter if people of his kind never come again? This collection left me wondering if Chatwin's life was a bit of a sham.
Friday. Robin picks me up and we drive by night out of town into the countryside. We stop at a garage out on the puszta. While I finish my coffee inside he goes out for a cigarette, being careful to stay away from the pumps. Two Romanian men are struggling to change a tyre (with no tyre-iron) on their van - oddly enough a van filled to the roof with tyres. Robin astonishes them by handing them the keys to his new car over by the petrol pumps and telling them to get the right tool out of the back while he continues his cigarette at a safe distance. Once we are out in the Great Plain, he shows me a giant bar of soap two inches thick and about a foot square. He obtained the bulbous cuboid pumpkin-coloured bar, positively craggy with craters and deep cracks, from an antique dealer. It has a date from 1960 scored into it with a knife. He tells me he bought a second one, even bigger, for the flat in Budapest.
Thursday. In the last 2 or 3 weeks there are renewed signs of flirtation from Lady Luck, though like all women, she wants me to show my cards first. I'm not saying Fortuna is "fast", but she certainly seems to reserve her come-hither looks for the bold. It really is as if there's a certain perfect blend of self-critical realism and cheeky chutzpah that it takes to turn nothing into something. Or turn a pumpkin into a taxi cab to glamour.
Wednesday. Long-term study of vegans finds a vulnerability to mental illness. Cheery cartoon pig on my block of lard seems to agree. Meanwhile, a very interesting piece of research concludes that banks are just as unhelpful as Bob Hope said, and poor people are rational to avoid them.
March 7th; Tuesday. About 10 days ago, one of the male cashiers (oddly they, but not the women, are made to wear black shirts) at the supermarket in the shopping-mall basement asked me with a twinkle in his eye if I didn't "usually go to Shatzi's till?" (I assume that's a Germanic name meaning something like Little Treasure.) The idea I always go to whichever queue is shortest seemed not to have occurred to him - though I try to have a jolly micro-chat with whichever cashier scans my bar-coded purchases so perhaps I don't seem like a man in a hurry. I asked him which one Shatzi is, thereby probably answering his real question. The little red-haired one, he said, puzzling me a bit, since there are two such. This evening, I'm surprised to see a new person sitting alongside a male cashier, learning by watching. The small slinky brown-skinned girl, perhaps Gypsy, I've seen for a few months strutting around on shelf-related errands deep in the store now doing her one-or-two-day apprenticeship to become a cashier. She seems perky, restless, looking forward to the extra pace of things to do.
March 6th; Monday. President Honey Monster's Trial By Rumour just gets more and more interesting. Added to this.
March 5th; Sunday. Feminist lady says what she wants.
March 4th; Saturday. "Queering outer space."
March 3rd; Friday. An engine with no cams. Moving pictures!
March 2nd; Thursday. 3 days ago finished first of the package of books posted by kind Amanda. '1565: The Great Siege of Malta' by Joseph Elull is a useful short introduction setting out the main events of Suleyman the Magnificent's attempt to conquer Malta that year, and thereby subjugate the Mediterranean and resume earlier Islamic invasions of Europe.
March 1st; Ash Wednesday. To mark the day, woman MP & Christian sports a cross smeared in ash on her forehead to a parliamentary committee meeting. Good for her.
Mark Griffith, site administrator /
markgriffith at yahoo.com