Saturday. In search of my mended shirts, get to Aranka's in the next village kindly driven by Bela around 11am. We find neither Aranka the seamstress nor her dog Dumpling, even though we are within her Saturday opening hours. Her husband says I might find her on Monday. Seems that shark skin is actually made of teeth. Also, animals "know" which herbs to heal themselves with.
Friday. Drive out with Robin into the Great Plain after dark.
Thursday. Since 1980, the EU has steadily shrunk as a share of the world economy, even as it got more members.
Wednesday. Further Dr Moreau news from one of our contributors: human genes make monkeys brighter.
Tuesday. Claims that sexual roles are socially learned during childhood now even more dented. Brain scans show that girls' and boys' brains work differently even in the womb before birth.
Monday. Another climatologist says global warming is spin.
Sunday. Finish British historian Norman Stone's book about the last 200 years of Magyar history, 'Hungary: A Short History'. Now to write the review for the Salisbury Review. It's readable and packed with events. Stone confirmed to me last year over a beer that he had indeed, as Mehmet once told me, learned Hungarian from a cellmate. That was during a brief prison spell in the communist 1970s for trying to smuggle a girl out over the border in his car boot. In this history Stone keeps the narrative pace going. In just a couple of places he moves so fast the prose is puzzling, but in general he holds all the narrative threads together adroitly. He takes the beleagured country's story from roughly 1800 to about 2015. Though mainly a Turkish history specialist and despite being scathing with some of the nation's sillier political figures over the last 21 difficult decades, Stone clearly still has faith in the Magyars.
Saturday. As I've predicted for years, WiFi-blocking home decor is now a thing: anti-WiFi paint. Oh, and self-healing concrete.
Friday. Finish the book I bought yesterday on a whim, 'Whatever', a translation into English of Houellebecq's first novel. Entertaining, if bleak, and laughed out loud a lot more often than the other book of his I read a few years back. This, his first, is frankly autobiographical. I wondered if this version had parts cut out? That's because I remember a complaint in an article from a former colleague muttering that Houellebecq didn't even change the posters on the wall of an office of someone in the book modelled on him - and there were no posters on any walls in this copy. A slightly odd edition by a firm called "Serpent's Tail", the translator from the French, Paul Hammond, doesn't get a mention, not even in small print. The story, about an endlessly irritated 30-year-old computer technician touring small towns across France teaching Agriculture Ministry employees a new data system in around 1990, wonderfully captures the nihilism of office work. He also has an ear for the dishonest way people talk in offices, the cultish feel of information technology, the desperate sadness of some people's sex lives, and the drab flatness of European daily life. An achievement, given all that, that it's as funny as it is. If he only had one novel in him, this close-to-life story is probably it.
Thursday. I don't think I'd be thrilled to learn my music repelled insects.
Wednesday. The Republic of Ireland (which left the British Commonwealth some years back) has now joined the club of French-speaking countries.
Tuesday. More claims that vegans risk mental illness.
Monday. April Fools' Day, so here's background on one special hoax.
Sunday. A moment to reflect on treason: Whitehall agin Brexit.
Saturday. Woman's mutant gene gives her superpowers over pain.
Friday. Euroweasels delay today's planned exit from EU in move of very doubtful legality (to put it kindly). Becoming increasingly clear from Parliament that most most of Britain's MPs don't understand law, economics, history, or politics.
Meanwhile, out here in the real world, today's highlight was the lesson with Lorand. He told me how as a country boy of 5 or 6, his grandfather would take him by the hand at night on his farm and take him down to the sty the night before a pig-killing to say goodbye to the pig. He would scratch the backs of his porkers every night, but these special nights he would explain to the one doomed animal how beautiful and fat he was, how much they appreciated him, and how grateful his family were to be able to eat him on the morrow.
Thursday. Wistful echoey club tune Maybe from Kettenkarussell. Hoping love might last for ever now counts as fleeting poignant wish.
Wednesday. Got to stop saying "cyclist": another evil word. Turns out people can sense magnetic fields though, so that's nice.
Tuesday. Obviously bogus "backstop" story coming apart. Created with the help of Major & Blair to sabotage Brexit.
Monday. EU goes whole distance with ill-conceived copyright law. 15 MEPs now say they were tricked into voting for it by committee-craft jiggerypokery with the voting list.
Sunday. Sleep 10 hours. Say goodbye to the Beast In The Bath. Loaded down with attic loot, I'm driven by kind Gyuri across the plain to Lakitelek station, where I savour another pear-flavoured energy drink before the train to Budapest. Cambridge invites Canadian psychology academic Jordan P. for a term. Then its students force it to uninvite him.
Saturday. Sleep 14 hours. Already by midnight last night, the catfish had the bath to itself. Several times in the night I heard the eerie sound of the heavy catfish sploshing right out of and back into the water next door, flipping over perhaps. Truly a beast of the night, straight out of a Hughes poem, prowls around the bath even while taking up half its length. I explore the attic and retrieve several of my items. Kasper arrives and Zeno the Alchemist gives the two boys a lesson in gutting a fish (the one that floated sideways yesterday) showing them the different organs on the smaller kitchen table.
Friday. After a fascinating morning lesson with Lorand at the agency, I drift out on the train to Robin's in the countryside, the 'Alfold' plain. Changing trains at a sunsoaked Kecskemet railway station, I discover an exciting new flavour of Hell energy drink: pear! Meanwhile in London, a march of pro-EU people who want to overturn the exit decision of the 2016 referendum boasts it attracted "over a million" people. In a discussion I guess this in fact means 300,000 to 400,000 people. A specialist crowd-counter agrees with me. Psychic powers, people.
Out in rural Hungary, Bela shows me the bath in the bathroom just off the kitchen. Two large fish are in the cold water. One, about 18 inches long and high, looks extremely unwell if not actually dead, floating sideways in the water like a plate. The other, a a dark grey three-foot catfish boasting handsome 8-inch-long whiskers, is very much alive.
Thursday. Some women are going on "birth strike" because they believe in global-warming armageddon.
Wednesday. Mad Love
(Amour Fou), by Gavinco, more hypnotic & dreamy than wild or passionate, but that's probably the point.
Tuesday. Another of those on-and-on-and-on tunes: "Ltj" and Hot Groovy 014. 14th in a series of 999, presumably.
Monday. Women start
turning into their mothers aged 33, says boffin.
Sunday. US army says robot tanks really
nothing to worry about.
Saturday. A few evenings recently, walking through the shopping plaza that got built in the years I lived nearby, my nostrils detect an odour clearly being piped into the air-conditioning. Something to do with vanilla and burnt caramel, it's so strong at both ends (absent bakeries or food outlets) that it's clearly being put into the air to make people feel appetised and happy to purchase. Or at least ready for some major cake action.
Friday. Finish a book kindly lent to me by Paul: 'Fifty Key Medieval Thinkers'. Well-organised, brisk, and with an excellent introductory essay, this handy guide takes the reader through a thousand-year range of thinkers, largely theologians in the Western Church. What is perhaps lost is a little subtlety in explaining their ideas. If the book had given an extra half page on 12 to 15 of the figures, people like Abelard, Duns Scotus, Nicolas de Cusa, it could have been really good. But someone always has a complaint about a compendium like this - never possible to do both breadth and depth.
Thursday. At work on Crypto Hill, find a giant inflated number 8 inside the lift. Think last night's birthday party for a partner's daughter was for an 8-year-old until I see the silvery helium-filled 1 lurking in the restaurant later. Here's the IMF on why phasing out cash suits them.
Wednesday. US government accidentally sends journalist weird mind-control documents. Meanwhile, interesting lecture from someone who claims he investigated the curious killing of Jo Cox that so nearly swung the 2016 Brexit vote the other way. In other news, crystal meth now social drug of choice in North Korea.
Tuesday. Russian ships have vomit-inducing ray-guns? Want one, now.
Monday. How French Revolution got the modern death-camp era started.
Sunday. New Statesman says that May's supposedly amended 'Withdrawal Agreement' is in fact the earlier document reformatted but with identical text, down to the very last comma. Top humour from the EUnuchs! Estonians now regretting cryptocurrency hub idea.
Saturday. Perky sounds of the swinging Orient: Yali Yali by 70s singer Nese Karabocek remixed, and Turkey's dancer Didem, looking sweet in 2011. Note vital quorum of Moustachioed Men in Suits.
Friday. Moscow scientists reverse flow of time. Finally.
Thursday. Surveyor says Welsh border in wrong place since 1880s.
Wednesday. 2 intriguing synaesthesia poem/films from Dex.
Tuesday. The EU's finest hacks hunt down hidden crimes: Europe's Glass Eel Mafia and its "subtle emergence". "Open get-away cars"!
March 4th; Monday. From beguilingly named early-70s French hippie-commune movie 'Le Mariage Collectif', the wonderfully Moogish 'Sexopolis', pleasantly giddy with mid-60s jazziness.
March 3rd; Sunday. Japanese firm makes headpieces to help terrify your pet. Flynn Effect now reversing, claim IQ-ologists. Research shows women ignored in films.
March 2nd; Saturday. Willie Hutch is an interesting case: lush funk tracks for early-70s blaxploitation films about crime & sleaze bring the best out of him, then he collapses into a career of sentimental slushy ballads once he gets a following. The early photos show a suspicious bitter young man, later on as he grew older a face filled with happiness & gentleness: a real suggestion of the redeeming power of love. Yet the music loses all edge and drama once he doesn't need to write about ghetto violence, money, sex any more.
Theme of The Mack /
Mack Man /
You Sure Know How to Love Your Man /
Mellow Mellow /
Friday. The Register worries about El Trumpo & Huawei.
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