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euskara {basque}
magyar {hungarian}
nederlands/vlaams {dutch}

other links : i ii

January 31st; Mother's birthday today. I should be there.
With Ryan went to a new cafe for a cherry milkshake. Perhaps the biggest collection of ugly art I've seen in Budapest for a while, which is really saying something. Ryan mentioned his Hungarian teacher jokingly calling Magyar's lack of a verb for "to have" a handicap. A little giggly from being in one room with so much hideous junk, I made a verb for them. Since they use the "nekem van / there is for me ; neked van / there is for you..." form, I hit on "nekezni". We came up with 2 conjugations. The stony- faced Hungarian waiter-owner managed of course to leave large glass-sharp splinters of broken cherry stone in my milkshake. Since I know about local catering by now, I deftly detected & removed the shards without swallowing any. In a typical Hungarian effort at a pun, the cafe has the proud name of "Bog' art Cafe". Yes, the art is Bog.

January 30th; 2 articles finished. i/ Blair ii/ marriage.
January 29th; Finished the school's copy of the 'Gilgamesh Epic' - not that finishing it was so Herculean. It's short. The friendship of Gilgamesh and Enkidu is interesting, often said to be a love "like that for a woman", even after Enkidu the wild man has been tamed by the harlot "teaching him her woman's art". Also Enkidu, oddly, seems the more complex character, oscillating between fear and courage. It's a bit unclear why the citizens of Uruk found Gilgamesh and his boistrous town-planning activities so irritating that they welcomed the chance to find him a playmate in Enkidu. Interesting stuff.

January 28th; My right shoulder still hurts for no particular reason. If I'm to believe this news story this is because I'm not married?
January 27th; Links to three new web diaries, all from the Gulf. Iraq's Salam Pax in English, via samizdata, and Hasanpix & Ehsan in lushly-presented Farsi, via Sargasso.

January 26th; More alcohol with Alex, Gordon, Justin and Peter, and something bad happens so dotdifficult lose my index page. Pat points to visible language and other zippy Terence McKenna links. I particularly like the sound of 'Holographic Brian' theory.
January 25th; Alcohol with a spirited Tim, and later the Bank disco was quite fun.

January 24th; Last night went with Rob and Ryan to see the truly dreadful 'Szerelemtol sujtva' [Lovestruck], a film written and shot by Tamas Sas, with a long, difficult solo performance by Patricia Kovacs. Unfortunately it's not only boring, hammy, and pretentious, but full of irritating noises, probably to stop anyone in the audience from nodding off. Always seen in her flat, the cod-sensitive Eva is sometimes phoned (annoying bell) and sometimes talks to a neighbour through a frosted-glass door (annoying bell) - once or twice a guest turns up and we see the back of his shoulders. This gimmick is supposed to impress us, so you should already grasp the level of story-telling here. Chockablock with symbols [yes, Eva chomps an apple while temptation is being discussed] and irritating accordian music [which turns out to come from a neighbouring flat, goodness!] cut across by pompous chords at Significant Moments, this is a very weak film indeed. Voices from the mind echo in the she's-going-mad scenes to help depict the corniest screen character since the {best avoided} Az Alkemista es a Szuz. Like an early-teens' creative-writing class, madness and suicide are the only endings left for someone this bad at imagining convincing characters. Kovacs shows some signs of being able to act if she was given something worthwhile to be in.
January 23rd; This morning I wake out of a pretty obvious success dream. I could not play basketball well, then suddenly I got good. Soaring up effortlessly the third time to put the ball in the metal ring thing, I woke at exactly 8am. Rather odd, considering I've never played it, nor seen more than a minute or two on television. Am I becoming American? Will I meet Jay today?

January 22nd; What else yesterday? Jessica re-reappeared, looking contrite again. I found out from a Martin Gardner book why three's a crowd. Today? David kindly recommends this site full of visionary types, and suggests I hold Party 4699 on Feb 1st. Rob points me to recent memory research: I can still recall the weary condescension of my pompous medical-student friends in the mid-1980s when I asked them how I could borrow bio-feedback equipment with which to monitor and alter my own cognitive states. Oh dear. Poor Mark.
January 21st; 1. Yesterday my halfwit student sends me an SMS {4 hours late} saying "I broke my neck". How? I message him back. He replies "I was sleeping in a wrong position". 2. Later, the sultry Judit introduces me to two bubbly friends Vali & Renata. 3. I was unfair to An Nahar. They've paid me! 4. So did the surprise weekend media-pack work for these magazines. 5. Next-door neighbour still sulking because I won't set my heating as high as hers. Obviously no local concept of "That's none of my business". 6. Gordon seemed a bit poorly today, but told me a good dream he had last night about Dr Who and a market-town stage magician. 7. Later I post on the coy disturbing search requests site.

January 20th; Apparently Germany's Chancellor thinks his German court order forbidding mention of the TV girl he is trysting should gag newspapers across the EU, including Britain. Perhaps the idea that if Germans have to be paid in French money then the British must obey German laws. Via samizdata and the Mail on Sunday.
January 19th; A new site full of resources for Far-Eastern languages + language-learning and translation software.

January 18th; Read this interview with a 20-year-old mathematics lecturer at MIT who got his Phd in his mid-teens and grew up on the road, travelling round the US selling handicrafts. Far from precocious brat, he sounds rather wise and happy, an advert for getting a real education away from school. His maths specialism: folding-paper geometry. His father sounds even more remarkable.
January 17th; Out revelling with Gordon, Alex, Zoli, & the gorgeous Kati and Petra return.

January 16th; A remarkable site shows front pages from newspapers around the world, via samizdata. Zoom in to read. They also link to stand.org.uk, which is organising opposition to yet another attempt to sneak identity cards back into British life.
January 15th; Finished the school's copy of the Faber Book of Science. This is a collection of short pieces of writing assembled by an Oxford literature don who feels that scientists' and others' writing about scientific discoveries is often fine writing in its own right. Lots of lovely things from different sources, including classics like Huxley's 'On a piece of chalk' and J.B.S. Haldane's unforgettably crisp example of how size of an animal decides how fast it falls since air resistance varies with surface but weight varies with volume {"Drop a mouse down a thousand-foot mineshaft and it gets up and walks away. A rat dies, a man breaks, a horse splashes."}. For me the best new excerpts were the interview with Dorothy Hodgkin the crystallographer and P.W. Atkins explaining [yes] even better than Feynmann that particles going in straight lines isn't at odds with waviness but naturally emerges from the wavelike nature of forces. In Atkins' clear prose, even a pig becomes a kind of particle, found where it is because of a compromise between overlapping waveforms. [And while I was idly wondering about 3D ways to arrange the periodic table - here's one someone called Alexander did already.]

January 14th; This afternoon went to see Elysia, and while we listened to Snoop Dogg, she did three Tarot readings for me. All three times I drew the Death card, and all three times I drew the Temperance card. She claims this means sudden change handled well through moderation and restraint. Actually she made it sound better than that. Perhaps El should get a career in sales?
Last night went with Alex, Steve, Elysia and many others to see 'Talk to her'. Visually gorgeous without being lush, what is on the face of it a bizarre love story about two women in a coma looks completely classical, balanced, smooth in the hands of Spanish director Almodovar. The effortless storytelling is unruffled by section headings appearing on the screen in rich, clean colours and a well-measured font - a trick which would have looked gimmicky from most directors. The story covers femininity, masculinity, erotic love, and friendship, yet something quite complicated and odd is artfully made to seem simple and natural. As with most Romance-language cultures, the right of beauty to take centre stage is completely accepted, not distrusted as in many English and Nordic films, but plenty of other interesting surprises are sprung on the viewer. Not the kind of film I usually like [the first I've seen by him], but so craftily done I can hardly complain.
January 13th; Even for my taste, today's outdoor freshness is a bit on the alarming side. But Heather's radical audio-only site is up and working! And seems that Madonna {now that she is a Madonna with child} was spiritually inspired to learn Sanskrit. Embarrassing reminder of my brief attempt on that language. New Scientist interviews a doctor who sees stories as part of healing and edits a literary magazine in a New York hospital.

January 12th; Played with Photoshop, and saw the Finnish film 'Mult-nelkuli ember' {'Man with no past'} with Judit. "Tart" humour is how the Budapest reviewers put it, and as so often, a film-maker's sharp irony can be a way of camouflaging slightly limp sentimentality. It was good, uplifting stuff, though, with some lovely moments & well-paced storytelling. A Finnish man arrives in Helsinki to be brutally mugged, suffering complete loss of memory from his head injuries. So his life starts again. The story is careful not to make this new beginning too easy. The central actor is convincing, though lots of other characters are equally deadpan. Easy to imagine Finns being cousins of Hungarians - the faces looked very familiar, along with the gruff acts of kindness and the longwindedly petty bureaucrats. Nothing too pat about how it unfolds, some fine vignettes, and the bouncy legal adviser with the speech impediment is up there with the bitter, T-shirted lawyer in wheelchair from 'The Player' for me as a memorable cameo jurist.
January 11th; Looking at university websites in Britain with Alex in the afternoon transmutes into an evening where lots of pretty girls hover round Alex's ever-ready friend Zoli. Of course the sylphs vanished in a puff of tobacco smoke at midnight, but listening to Petra, Kati and Bori was a very pleasant couple of hours. I've read about this social trend, but it was striking that Alex and myself [and I think Zoli] smoked nothing, while the six or seven lasses seemed to go through at least ten cigarettes each.

January 10th; I do some gloomy limping around and grumbling. A cappuccino with chic young Judit at the Goethe Institut cafe lightens things a little.
January 9th; My slacker student skips his lesson. I hurt my Achilles tendon trudging through snow. Stacked pieces of broken bookcase still litter my place. A dull real-estate lawyer takes up 31/2 hours of my life but seems to see no need to pay for my time. Jessica reappears so she can show me to her wise and charming Californian friend Ara. Generously, Alex and Feri buy us drinks.

January 8th; Still waiting for my money from An Nahar. Mind you, since it took me 4 phone calls and 3 visits before "workers" at this bank HVB told me they've had a cheque waiting for me since November, perhaps Hungary lags behind the Arab world.
January 7th; Snows heavily. Pat cites Language Hub.

January 6th; Seems the old machine-translation tale that some computer rendered "the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak" as "there's plenty of booze but the meat's gone rotten" is just that - a tale. Both it and the tall story that "out of sight, out of mind" became "invisible idiot" on a computer were originally criticisms of human translators - or so says an article listed by robotwisdom.
January 5th; An uneventful train journey back into town from a tranquil fortnight in the rustic cell of good living {Come to think of it, Robin grew up in Chelsea, near More's house... though when More bought almost 30 acres of Chelsea for 20 pounds it was countryside, of course}.
Miklos's party sounds like it was well tempting, but the quiet out there was wonderful too - and even I haven't mastered bilocation yet.
There was a cosy hour at dusk in the signalmen's office at Tiszaug with Krisztian and Liza and a fat ginger cat called Sebastian. The office had 1970s pale-wood school desks and chairs, a small bed with a brown furry covering, a 1980s bright orange plastic desk telephone, a handsome dark-green-painted 1952 signal box with proper zinc-trimmed indicator dials and a wooden handle to generate current {we're only just starting to realise again how practical electromechanical stuff is}, a pre-First-World-War stove with chopped firewood next to it, circuit diagrams pinned on the noticeboard, a splendid wooden paddle with a big green disc on one side and red on the other, two rather unhealthy-looking rubber plants and of course the 1990s mobile phones of the two railway workers. Krisztian explained he was taking a course to be a {Lutheran} religious studies teacher, and was enthusiastic about Britain. I mentioned Bradford, and he lit up, citing it as the hometown of John Bunyan {Ed says it's Bedford, though}. Liza chuckled a lot and brushed out her long hair as they took turns to pop out into the snow to check signals and the track.
Once back and unpacked, I snuggled up with something delightfully dull to read. Then at 10pm, a quite odd thing happened. The 3 self-assembly bookcases I bought and built three years ago [and had not touched since getting back in] sagged to the left and totally collapsed in front of my eyes. One second complete silence. The next cracking and crashing. There was nothing touching them, no sudden sound or move to set it off. The tall side planks of chipboard take most of my strength to lift. The three planks that came down on the bed plus chipboard shelves would have crushed my skull if I had been sleeping in bed. As it happens I sleep on the floor the other way round, so just got a slithering heap of files and books all over my feet. {So sleeping on the floor is healthy, see?} Not IKEA actually, but a competitor. Like many things sold by East Europeans, the furniture here is shoddy yet expensive.
Should I be grateful not to be dead? That's the snag with omens: they rarely come with clear explanations. I was just reading a sentence about Maxwell finding divine purpose in molecules, and, yes, I smirked inwardly. That was the exact second my bookcases came down.
Back to stacking books on the floor, I suppose.

January 4th; More work on the ruler. Yes, Miklos raised a polite eyebrow at that moment too. Finished Ackroyd's 'Life of Thomas More'. Well, no complaints there. A thorough yet compelling account of a very smooth late-15th, early 16th-century lawyer driven by a sense of conscience to oppose Henry VIII's changes to the Church in England. A real flavour of his writing [both in English and Latin] is given, and a dramatic narrative inexorably propels him towards the final conflict, however hard he tries to blend his inflexible sense of right and his diplomatic ability to dissimulate and serve. Gets me quite enthusiastic to read 'Utopia'. Makes me think afresh about the early 1500s, the Reformation, and Luther. And at least to an outsider, Peter Ackroyd's research looks thorough and balanced.
January 3rd; Excellent walk in winter woods with Robin & Bela. Progress on multicultural measurements. Sargasso reveal whereabouts of Samuel Pepys, as I approach end of Peter Ackroyd's 'Life of Thomas More' ...well, nextdoor century anyway.

January 2nd; Follo, Valentina, Taifa & Muamba leave midday, off to Tokaj wine country.
Francis's Swedish website has a fascinating late-December entry about estate agents in Britain being instructed to let flats only to male gay couples, to the point where two heterosexual men trying to rent a flat together had to pretend to be homosexual to have any chance. Also interesting for the only sighting of the word 'homosexualist' I have had outside articles by Richard Ingrams.
January 1st; One grating thing about 'Zelator' is the way Mark Hedsel refers to himself in the royal plural throughout his book {"She touched our arm, motioning for us to look up at the inscription"}. Anyway all 1 of us finished the book, lent to us by Robin, and we found the many Mark Hedsels' explorations of hidden mystical knowledge they spent their life discovering both intriguing and muddling. There is the Way of the Fool, the Left-Hand Path, the Right-Hand Path - it goes on and on. 'Zelator' alternates between chatty travel sections where all the Mr Hedsels go to some shrine of heresy, alchemy, or mystery, bump into cool chicks and almost bed them, and intervening explanations of how certain symbols show the influence of [say] Nephthys, dark twin of Isis, or various carvings are meant to be deciphered in various riddling ways. Sometimes 'arcane', 'esoteric' and 'hermetic' are all in the same sentence. The little drawings are pretty, though, and if Kurt Godel in his final anorexic mania thought that Gottlieb Leibniz might have found a mathematical result granting such power that only the very spiritually advanced should know it, then who am I to dismiss the Gnostic belief that real knowledge should be hidden? Perhaps the world is a lot more the way Kit Williams imagines it than I thought it was.
Anyway, on the terms of works like 'Zelator' my teacher has not yet come, because I am not yet ready. Oh well. I'll have to be patient.

December 31st; By midnight, believing we are sober, we are sawing open shotgun cartridges to melt spoonfuls of gunshot over a gas ring and splash the molten lead into cold water for divination purposes. Later, Valentina teaches us a card game.


Mark Griffith, site administrator / contact@otherlanguages.org

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