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

other links : i ii iii

Can you translate the next 300 words into Hindi, or Korean?; if so, please contact me and there will be rejoicing.

2002 Q1 & Q2

July 31st; An excellent evening of chat and drink, mixed with ping pong, at Edina and Geza's.
In the morning, finished the gorgeous 1955 art book 'The Selective Eye' [the collection before
this one, in fact], Gyorgyi's father gave Robin. A wonderful mix of classic art and what was fresh and recent in the 50s. Respectful reviews of modernists now slightly forgotten like Jacques Villon, Fernand Leger, Jean Bazaine, then still living, still at the front edge and still French. One American, Mark Tobey, is referred to in terms of his first shows in Paris and Europe. People who could remember the 1890s were alive to be interviewed, including two early art dealers who helped Fauvism and Cubism get moving around 1900. An oddly breathless account of a visit to Picasso's sister in Barcelona recalls that hopeful mood back when modern was still modern.
Intercut with lovely pieces on the rest of art history: Catalan Dark-Age crucifixes, Altdorfer, manuscript art, the school of Fontainbleu, Cyril Connolly defending Rococo, and a fascinating article on Mannerism, where an eerie Parmiagianino Madonna's elongated right hand echoes another spidery long-fingered hand in a Duccio Madonna with child in Robin's 'Fra Angelico at San Marco'.
July 30th; Ryan tells me to find out more about Kate and Kobe. I've already found out about Mr Kobe's "slamming hot wife". I wouldn't mind one of those myself, actually.

July 29th; Who is this blonde Kate Faber woman, then? Ah, yes h e r e she is.
Last night, after a quiet evening alone with the hiss of the gas hob, the chirruping of the insects, and the swishing of the trees, I saw a completely silent electrical storm. On all sides of Robin's house, big flashes of lightning came from below all horizons, yet no thunder. Just crickets and the trees in the wind.
July 28th; Billy hails the Happy Eater seance.

July 27th; It was a surprise to find out how old Margaret Atwood's 'The Handmaid's Tale' is. Published in 1985, it’s a novel set in the near future. It purports to be narrated by a woman in her early 30s with the cloistered, confined life of a ‘handmaid’ - a rare woman who is still fertile and might be able to have a child in a poisoned future world of mass sterility and shrinking population.
Her piece of the world looks eerily familiar yet different. A tidy American suburb full of 19th-century houses, well-kept lawns and hedges, large brick villas which once again have servants. She must dress like a nun, only with a bright red habit and an old-style headcowl which blocks her peripheral vision with white wings. Commanders own houses here, they have Wives, and Marthas [female servants], and there are the Aunts. The Eyes [secret police] are more recognisable from other 20th-century dystopias like '1984' or 'One'. But otherwise this world of colour-coded, status-based Handmaids, Wives, Marthas, Aunts moving around in kitchens and dormitories smelling of beeswax wood polish, is like a chilly blend of Norman Rockwell and Vermeer. The Handmaids have names like Ofglen and Ofstan to show who they belong to, as in “of Glen”, perhaps natural for an author named “at wood”.
Her patriarchal world is creepily convincing. The Ceremony shows how joyless sexual threesomes can be. Handmaids are there to give Commanders children, since almost everyone else is sterile. Once-a-month sex is ritualised, sanctified and the Wife is present. The earlier Handmaid at that house hung herself, it’s revealed early on.
But we spend a lot of time inside the Handmaid's head, so it seems wrong that characters don't develop much. More seriously, the whole novel rests on several biology premises which now look pretty strange. The idea that the father of a baby might stay unknown now sounds peculiar after almost two decades of DNA tracing - especially for a future society which is in some ways sophisticated, is deeply obsessed by pregnancy and fertility, and is highly heirarchical. Worse, the central premise of the book, that most women cannot become mothers, looks odder and odder once DNA can be spliced from any person to any egg or sperm - as plenty of futurists were already predicting back in the 1960s. Even if only Handmaids can get pregnant and carry a baby to term, they could easily be pregnant with babies which are wholly the genetic material of a Commander and his Wife. Why would a Wife's genes not be spliced into a Handmaid's egg, as widely predicted long before this book? Surrogate mothers who have no genetic stake in the baby in their wombs, but are being paid to go through pregnancy and birth, were being discussed in the late 1970s. The topic came up in one of the Tomorrow’s World books from the BBC series in around 1973? Of course, it is hard to get the near future right, which is why when I wrote ‘Frubacher’ back in 1983, I tried to keep it flippant and fluffy. Atwood’s book took me back to that summer in two ways. First as an early-80s novel about the near future extrapolating the present [for me satellite television and pornography, for her suburban Christian Conservatives and falling birthrates], and secondly because I wrote it in the afternoons on a giant concertina of computer printout paper while cleaning the corridor of Newnham College in the mornings. And Newnham had some of that Handmaid-ish claustrophobia: clean, white-painted Victorian woodwork, cool, grey-painted, vaguely convent-like walls with high sash windows above dense, green gardens. A mildly stuffy air of silent jealousy between women and stifled longing. That single long parquet-tiled corridor threading through several buildings came back vividly reading this.
The book’s mood stayed with me, so Atwood did something very well. I wanted to learn more of the characters and what would happen. But I can’t help baulking at how the central pregnancy-fertility ideas of the story don’t really make sense.
Somehow Atwood’s women are implausibly hovering somewhere in-between - still curiously powerful as Wives considering how powerless women in general have become. But if Wives cannot bear children, what sustains their status as Commanders’ feared companions?
And for a version of the near future choosing the near past, ‘Mandrake’ [an early 70s Britain where a sinister Ministry of Transport increasingly restricts cars and the culture regresses decade by decade] still resonates more.
July 26th; Now there’s a number of things I can do with Photoshop, I’m still amazed at how hobbled even the newest versions are. Hobbled by Adobe’s inability to hire a professional writer [an experienced newspaper hack, an ad-agency copywriter] to label the interface properly with phrases [or - praise the Lord - even sentences] instead of single words. The menus could be more usable with some discreet use of colour [it is a visual design package, remember?], but above all a few more words - if possible words put together by someone who knows how to use them. The help pages reveal just far away they are from understanding how bad their product is and how good it could be. For example, any 10-year-old child would construct the ‘replace colour’ control panel to include an option marked “replace this [1st sample window] colour with this [2nd sample window] colour?”. Allowing you to control the contents of the two sample windows. Could the idea be more obvious or natural? How dense does a programmer have to be to think up a ‘replace colour’ operation without that feature?
All that effort, when an extra one or two per cent of thought and money could make the product four or five thousand per cent easier for customers to use - as always the almost-forgotten end purpose of what they do all day at work. Are software firms not ashamed there are hundreds of independent websites devoted to explaining their products better than they do? Never mind common sense in computers, Marvin, let's start with common sense in programmers.

July 25th; An outing to Kunszentmarton to buy candles.
July 24th; Random poems evolve and breed.

July 23rd; With Gyorgyi & little ones, Robin sets off. After a few hours I notice just how quiet it is out here, even with the crickets or whatever they are. The luxury of days of reading beckon, unrolling towards the dark, thundery horizon like a red carpet across the yellow grass.
July 22nd; Into the countryside. Rain.

July 21st; Rob suggested I join these people.
July 20th; Raphael has moved back to NY?

July 19th; Chatted with Robin. It's very warm.
July 18th; 'The Handmaid's Tale'. More later.

July 17th; Rob is concerned about my teeth, and kindly invites me for a drink. He tells me Steve passed him the other day driving a car with one leg out of his car window.
Apparently, men are paying thousands of dollars to shoot paintballs at naked women {called 'Bambis'} in the Nevada desert. Hoax?
July 16th; Met Tim, Steve, Jim, but not Goran.

July 15th; A 2nd afternoon working in Erd.
July 14th; Read a short booklet by Tamas Nador about Endre Ratkay, eccentric Hungarian painter, in the 'mmm' (mai magyar muveszet) series. Perhaps Nador didn't like Ratkay's paintings, or just had trouble knowing what to make of them, but he does little more than write lists of what is in the paintings. And that's what Ratkay's paintings are like, lists. This is all very Hungarian and semi-autistic of course, but the paintings are fun. I could not find a website with pictures of them - I wish I could. Ratkay is/was (he may have died in the 90s, I don't know) a kind of Hungarian Richard Dadd or Heironymus Bosch. Like them, most of his canvases are made up of tiny, detailed scenes only vaguely connected to other scenes nearby. In Ratkay's case, the paintings are divided into rectangular grids of cells, each with a small mythological scene - often portrayed jokily with 20th-century characters in episodes from Classical or Biblical myth, surrealistic juxtapositions and visual non sequiturs. He probably shared whatever brain disorder, though arguably in a milder form, Dadd and Bosch had. All three painters were manic detailists, devoid of any but the sketchiest overview pulling together the whole canvas into one vision. The clinical aspect of Dadd's art is the clearest, since he painted two kinds of picture - the Canalettoesque realistic long views with tiny figures on desert skylines when he was out of the asylum, and the cluttered portraits of crowds of absurd fairy characters, canvas packed to the edge with detail, when he was in the asylum. Despite his obvious mental oddness, the obsessive yet illogical categorisation, the manic pseudo-symobolism, Ratkay's paintings have a wonderful, intensely private notebook quality about them, even with their largeness. They share the overcomplex bogus interconnections that make conspiracy theorists such fun, and resemble rather attractive versions of the those 17th-century German cabinets of curiosities (Wunderkammern). Ratkay's classics-oriented grammar school, and his belief that modern art had taken a wrong turn, provided the overall world-view in place of any pictorial logic. In its list-based pedantry, its strikingly unvisual (even aphasic) approach to visual art, and its archaism - his paintings are very Hungarian. More like heiroglyphs, or curious marginalia to some incomprehensible, lost encyclopaedia from another age, his grids of images charm and compel though. With all their 2D and 3D weaknesses (lack of sense of space, liking for visual clutter, preference for 1D crafts like maths, music, poetry) Hungarians seem to have some kind of intriguing (genetic?) handicap in visual processing, and Ratkay's attempt to produce things like painted literary texts is typically and fascinatingly Magyar.
Like a lot of English painter-eccentrics (Cecil Collins, Kit Williams, Stanley Spencer, Lowry, Hockney) Hungarian artists like Geza Samu or Endre Ratkay are interesting because they stray from the art mainstream - almost courting isolation (though Hockney managed to stay very fashionable even while swimming against the current and going back to figurative art). Or at least isolation in terms of the century of surrealism, abstraction and minimalism these painters all saw as an anomoly.

July 13th; First time in a month the crickets/cicadas outside the kitchen go quiet. Slight chill in the night air.
July 12th; Intense chat again.

July 11th; Today, at Ferenciek tere (Square of the Franciscans) I passed a girl wearing a red shirt with the number 21 on in large white digits, holding hands with a young man in a blue shirt with the number 25 in slightly smaller white digits.
July 10th; More weird Caledonian tales.

July 9th; Met new student Sara at school.
July 8th; First draft of piece for Irish Times.

July 7th; Back in the hall of mirrors. Flatteringly thinking I might have something interesting to say about Anscombe's 'Intention', Ryan photocopied it for Rob and I to read. I'm about 30 pages in and already getting cross.
July 6th; Quick coffee with Catherine. I return her Elvis brownies recipe.

July 5th; James passes on the remarkable gossip that folk living round Nairn claim the late Willie Whitelaw, cuddly grey eminence behind the rise of Margaret Thatcher, was a practising Satanist. Crikey.
July 4th; Cartoon Geza and Eszter's mother.

July 3rd; Mr Castell, Justin, Tim, & Alberto.
July 2nd; An odd, shapeless day. A wasted day.

July 1st; Ryan phones up about Anscombe.

Mark Griffith, site administrator / contact at otherlanguages.org

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