Friday. Intriguing just how irritating other people's taste in music can be. Both the nearby cafes with WiFi suffer powerfully from the waitresses' liking for limp, moany ballads - played loud. Is there a cosmic law that people who get to decide the music played in any workplace are nearly always aesthetically handicapped? Odd, given how much music there is now out there to choose from. Perhaps relevant is that a talented physicist, just a short distance outside his field, is just another overconfident buffoon. Are there no all-rounders?
Thursday. So - was Lenin really a German agent through and through? Not just (if I understand this case aright) a Russian revolutionary who took the opportunity granted by also being a German agent? Some AI success in recognising human faces. Some recognition for the artistic qualities in Samurai Jack that jumped out for me too.
Wednesday. Over in end-of-the-world news, some people are suggesting a big volcano in Yellowstone Park might destroy most of North America soon. When they say "soon" they seem to mean "at some point next week".
Tuesday. In creepy retail customer-manipulation news, constantly changing pricing to be part of the supermarket experience. If only it meant the return of haggling.
Monday. The art reintegration I've been forecasting since sixth form. Modernism properly notices the tradition again: Nathan Coley. Kindly pointed out to me by Ewan.
Sunday. Would you have sex with a perfect stranger? The evidence reviewed.
Saturday. Hong Kong is being choked into irrelevance by Beijing's restrictions - cities get jealous too!
Friday. The curious late-20th-century rise of the female cinema action hero/ine - the woman who kicks, shoots, and stabs the baddies (often while clad in lycra, leather, or rubber) probably dates back to John Steed's lady companions in the original Avengers series. Even as late as Luc Besson's 'Nikita', there was still some attempt to play on feminine vulnerability versus steely toughness. The 1990s German film I never watched, with 'Lola rennt', a girl called Lola running across three plot lines to save her boyfriend, was perhaps another pivotal moment. Male helplessness played up in trailer. If there's any truth in this, a German girlfriend might be quite an asset, mind you. Intriguing therefore to see someone attempt a really grand argument: has the state itself actually come between men & women?
Thursday. The CIA cared about Marxism, and this man cares about haircuts. A short, gentle film largely resting on the sheer charm of the barber.
Wednesday. Longest day. Filming in a palatial set of decayed apartments in the centre of town on the Colette production again. I drink several black coffees in the stifling heat, so that makes me a psychopath. A rather fun couple of scenes involving a young actress being brought into a dining hall on a litter by four semi-naked strong men with Edwardian moustaches, and then later a man jumping up onto a tabletop to be joined by dancing girls. Some actors seem close to fainting, but after having my jacket taken on and off 20 times I opt to just stay hot, worrying one costume assistant a bit.
Tuesday. Businessmen in the early-70s porn industry killing each other.
Monday. Woman sensibly suggests that women authors of historical fiction exaggerate how 'empowered' women in the past were.
Sunday. Robin & I enjoy drinks and lunch with Agnes & Piers in the lovely grand apartment with high ceilings packed with paintings that the Colette crew filmed in on Thursday. Piers is the 3/4 English grandson of the Hungarian society painter who moved to London early last century but also built this imposing structure for himself in Budapest - Piers paints too. He was at the easel with palette in the corner of the big crowded room even during Thursday's shoot. That's while I, equipped with a beautiful but fiddly antique pre-WW1 camera, was struggling to act a society photographer somewhere in Paris in 1907. After that Robin & I meet a graphic designer and then go to a garden party where Bullet in good spirits accuses me of wanting to become DentaMan !, some kind of dentistry-themed Batman villain. In the same garden as night falls, Neil shares early memories of world snooker champions in Sheffield, and confesses his interest in trying Russian Pyramids, a game whose larger versions of snooker balls only fractionally fit into each pocket, making the whole thing rather harder.
Saturday. UK factory orders at 30-year high: Brexit horror continues!
Friday. A couple of days ago a student described the Notting Hill carnival in London as disappointing, with crappy amateurish costumes. Refreshing Hungarian candour. Today finish a book kindly lent to me by Paul: 'The Rise of Christian Europe' by Hugh Trevor-Roper. An excellent overview, both scholarly and crisp, of how Europe changed between about 500 AD to 1450 AD. He opens with the end of Late Antiquity and closes with the Portuguese expeditions of marine exploration planned by Henry the Navigator. He's careful to include the lulls and setbacks in the way Europe responds to challenges. The ways trends within Christianity interacted with social pressures and attacks by other forces are sketched out in clear prose without simplifying some subtle processes. Allows himself one Oxford man's tease at the expense of Cambridge. Especially interesting on the important changes between 1200 and 1300.
Thursday. Act small role on film shoot with all sorts of glamorous folk. My costume is comfy, but the pre-Great-War explosive flashpan I keep having to set off (being a photographer within the story) is a bit alarming. Filmed inside a lovely old house in the 14th district full of paintings.
Wednesday. Britain's economy seems to be doing rather better than disasterist journalists claim. While drinking coffee with Tamas, we discuss eyesight. We move from contact lenses to that laser eye operation. From there onto the ancient Chinese method of using tiny silk pillows packed with rice powder worn during sleep to gently squash ovoid eyeballs back into spherical shape by miniscule degrees over hundreds of nights. Then the Bates Method. Then I ask aloud, surely there's something else? - and I suddenly imagine a varnish made out of the patient's own stem cells. It would form a safe, permanent build-up on the cornea, like a natural contact lens but fusing with the original cornea. Made out of the substance of the patient's own eyes - sounds a feasible research project to me.
Tuesday. Finish a book Anita lent me: 'A Street Cat Named Bob'. A true story in early-21st-century London. A charismatic stray, a ginger tom, is rescued by the author, just barely off the streets himself in sheltered housing, and then in turn helps to turn the methadone-addicted author's life round. Bit depressing, despite the underlying message of hope, since it took me back to squatting and why I never liked London. Also reminded me how claustrophobic street poverty is - every meal, every medicine bill, every different shopkeeper on a street, how many yards you stand away from a Tube exit, all can change a whole day or week. Slightly plodding, but candid & healthily free of the squirm-making saccharine or pumped self-belief you find in most turnaround tales. The author bluntly and convincingly explains how he became who he was and how he changed into someone else. Bob, the cat, takes well-deserved centre place in the tale.
Monday. Readable in very faint grey, the perils of the ever-growing 'administrative state'. In related news, the result of Comey testifying before Congress is we learn he wasn't actually investigating President Honey Monster after all.
Sunday. Yesterday I finished a book borrowed from Robin, 'The Last Home of Mystery' written in 1929 by E. Alexander Powell, about a trip across India and back as far as Turkey. There are black & white photographs with funny headlines such as 'His Dirtiness Sits For His Picture' (about a senior Buddhist lama in Nepal who the author unembarrassedly notes, in the picture caption and page text, stank of filth). This is a chatty travelogue from an American clearly used to moving around the British Empire. It hits an interesting balance between admiration for exotic Oriental cultures, disgust at certain aspects of exotic Oriental cultures, and an upbeat hope for the power of Western civilisation to free, advance, and liberate Asian civilisation from its backwardness and at the same time from colonial servitude. An interesting glimpse back into hopeful interwar progressivism. These hopes don't seem to be his alone - him being from the US and not British seems to be what gets him allowed entry into the mountainous Shangri-la occupying the middle third of the book. The journey starts in Ceylon, goes into the then-almost-secret kingdom of Nepal, and then - after some general chapters about meeting with a variety of Indian princes - passes out across Mesopotamia and across Turkey, finishing as he re-enters the relative normality of the Balkans. Some of his descriptive powers rise to the challenge of Eastern gorgeousness and he is cheerfully interested (and takes part) in Western imperial pastimes such as polo and hunting. His open nausea when describing Hindu shrines is refreshingly frank by comparison with the cringing self-hate of postwar Westerners. We never feel though that this is a grand statement or a polished assessment of a foreign continent: the mood is more like a personal, easy-going article in a monthly magazine. There is plenty about bad service, being overcharged, not enjoying flies or dust, as well as two pretty American girls he and his travelling companion keep running into in different parts of the subcontinent. Not only would it now be compulsory to express no criticism of the non-Western religions, but a recent writer would have to justify the book itself somehow. Perhaps in some unspoken way give some reasons why it's not a TV series or a video game - apologise for it simply being a book.
Saturday. Last night Boardgame Orsolya told me how useless she found The Winged Headhunter, a rather odd recruitment page on Facebook it turns out I have already "liked". Still, a note of gritty realism in half-naked angel packing heat: this is indeed how human-resources staff in Hungary typically dress for work.
Friday. Tory government loses its overall majority, and can only stay in power with 10 Northern Ireland DUP MPs. Apparently the DUP are scriptural literalists and don't like homosexuals, which seems to be just fine when we're welcoming our Muslim brothers, but not with a bunch of boring Irish Protestants. Theresa May hugely miscalculated in holding yesterday's election. Especially stupid to have a 7-week campaign allowing The Geography Teacher to find his stride and get the young-and-dumb vote out in strength. More weeping & wailing over the ring-of-stars flags soon. Andrea Leadsom would have been much the better of the final two candidates to push through Brexit, just as I thought at the time.
Thursday. Britain holds a general election.
Wednesday. The joy of dirt.
Tuesday. Get back into town on a delayed train and just make it to see Zita at IKEA. Even after thick heat outside, chilly air-conditioning in her office is not so comfy either. After that Petra & I practise rhyming words.
Are robots going to steal our jobs? No surprises here. Once again it's only economists who don't fall headlong into another crock of nonsense.
Monday. Robin & I get joint insight a bit like speaking tongues in the same language. We almost have flames or lightbulbs over our heads.
I intend to wake at 12 noon at Robin's in the countryside. It is exactly 12:12 when a quite reasonable wasp (considering his colleague's recent fate) hovers and loops over my head and pillow in the studio, clearly urging me in a not-unfriendly way to pick up my sleepy head and engage with the day.
Saturday. A surprise invitation from Robin has him whisking me down to Tiszainoka after dark. We chat on the road about life, men, women, and the feeling of passing time. Stopping off in Kecskemet for a pizza, we find a curious 24-hour restaurant which is stiflingly hot and sticky indoors, but has removed all the cafe tables and chairs from the terrace outside so no-one can sit where it's cool. Desultory flirtation with sleek German-speaking bar girl in a cloud of flies oddly attracted to the overhead bar lights and nowhere else. Zeno (Latin translator, estate manager, and alchemist) is already snoozing in the library when we reach the farm.
Friday. At the low-fi local gym, shortly after I start fighting with the machines, a sylph-like brunette skips out of the dim, cool doorway into bright high morning light, swinging her large sports bag from one hand. A long mane of dark hair tumbles down her slim, lithe back as she trots off into the hot, sunlit distance. Three muscle-packed mastodons inside awkwardly swagger or stroll into the frame of the doorway to wistfully watch her go.
Slightly odd late-afternoon trip on the tram 17, hot sun and blue skies visible through all windows. Next to me is a shapely mid-20s Hungarian girl in a sober navy-blue top and striped skirt. She has on a leash an unruly quasi-puppy of mixed breed. The doglet is cheerful, affectionate and strikingly ugly. Very sweet when I stroke him. A sad man with a bouncy little 3-year-old girl gets on, they join us, and the tot asks the dog's name. "Lemmy," says the guardian of the hound. Startled that she might mean the late singer for the British metal group Motorhead, I vaguely say there's a certain resemblance. (There is.) "Yes, he's named after him!" explains the demurely-dressed navy-blue-and-white girl, happily. When she gets off with the dog, the toddler excitedly cries "Bye bye doggy! Bye bye you two!" out of the tram window as they go. For the remaining stops, my mind wrestles with the image of an elegant Continental young-mother type with coffee-coloured skin even being aware of a white-fleshed, walrus-moustached rockist from Britain's industrial hinterland.
Thursday. Thanks to Shaun, news of a wonderful proposed experiment with a well-tested quantum anomaly to look at human consciousness. Separately, an intriguing use of thermodynamics to study brains.
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