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Monday. Women's mag shrewdly notes some news manipulation.
Sunday. Woman with medical condition cannot hear men's voices. Unprecedented! Probably no link to a claim that Cuban embassy sonic attacks might be crickets.
Saturday. Physical book sales recovering, as I predicted in print 8 years ago.
Friday. Could these two stories be connected? Euro is "dysfunctional", for those who didn't know that already. Oh, and Germany slides into recession.
Thursday. Actual snow today. The view today from the office up on Crypto Hill of frost-encrusted trees clustered on snowy slopes spectacular. Scots archeologists "find" a new rare stone circle.
Wednesday. German politician attacked. Of course the AfD is referred to as "far right".
Tuesday. Weather gets cold again. A short rant about English grammar.
Monday. A couple of sciency things: biologists debate the evolutionary function of beauty, and another article about the "insect apocalypse". For most of us, that means more of them. Plus some kind of shrimp has world's best eyes.
Feast of the Epiphany. Paul calls it Feast of the Three Kings.
Saturday. Jimi Tenor, the Joe 90 of Finnish funk, plays 'Moonfolks'. On the topic of musical and mathematical notation, here's a charming short talk by an American maths teacher.
Friday. The 9/11-hacking story still on - showing potential.
Thursday. Tiresome illness continues. I perform the ritual of chopping ginger, lemon, and garlic into a pot of honey.
Wednesday. Hearing a high-pitched hum in the morning from the neighbouring apartment, I briefly imagine the Arab lads vacuuming the flat, dismiss this as obviously laughable, so pop out into the corridor and knock on next door. Sure enough, a harassed-looking Hungarian cleaning girl answers. I check if the Arabs have gone and she wearily says yes, muttering something about never having seen a flat this dirty before. I sleep during much of the day. Though still feeling quite ill, make it to Mexican place late afternoon to meet Davor and Anton. Anton alerts me to a curious Forbes story from this afternoon about an apparent 9/11-related blackmail effort aimed at some insurance companies.
New Year's Day. At around 8am, once silence has fallen on the street outside for several hours, a single kazoo honks plaintively a few times, like a bird left behind the day after a big migration. I seem to be properly ill, at least with a serious headcold. Much of day in bed, taking vitamins. Always a good time to revisit the hot/crazy matrix and its bluffly businesslike presenter: "These are your redheads, your strippers, anyone named Tiffany." Luckily, it seems that feminists find sexist men sexier. Of course.
New Year's Eve. As well as playing the same 3 or 4 songs again and again, the gormless Arabs next door seem unable to talk to each other normally. They're either silent, or suddenly shout at each other, across a normal room, oscillating between periods of frenzy and boredom. They're a bit like the noteless kazoos being blown on the street but much louder. During one of these nights, one of them locks the others out. Seems to sleep through them hammering on the door on and off for around four hours. Apparently trees talk to each other too, but quietly.
Sunday. As darkness falls, a few stray kazoos honk outside on Vaci street, trying to get the party going. Plausible case that pro-Remain campaigners are driven by snobbery. Mrs Merkel says countries must surrender sovereignty. Peter Hitchens, brother of the late Christopher, gives his account of far-left infiltration.
Saturday. Mystery neighbours move in, some dopey Arab lads from Dubai. They will suddenly start playing some sentimental Arab pop music at huge volume right against the partition wall, sing along to it in a tone-deaf howling-dog sort of way, and then go quiet for an hour or so before striking up again. I ask them to let me sleep at 3.30am, they promise to, but of course they don't. I get to sleep around 5. Here's an interesting account of meditation-induced lunacy.
Friday. Seems someone exploded 5 postboxes in Chichester on Boxing Day. Vaguely reminiscent of 'X v. Rex'.
Thursday. Delicious seasonal lunch at Textile-designer Edina's stylish flat, along with a lesson and a couple of Tarot readings.
Boxing Day. I find Davor in a Mexican restaurant - we watch some rapid chess games he's following live on his phone, both of us making guesses on the obvious next moves.
Christmas Day. Davor, whose flat is just round the corner, plays me some snatches of old Tom Leykis radio shows.
Christmas Eve. Tonight, I rather like this nativity.
Sunday. Shutters in Michael's main room at night let in differently-sized strips or lozenges of light that hover on different parts of the plaster-moulded ceiling. Sometimes their colours slowly change and I try to guess without getting out of bed what is causing them on the street. Most nights the illuminated names of two shops opposite, the serifed L'Occitane and the sanserif Foot Locker tint two oblongs. However, sometimes another ceiling rectangle trembles visibly because a video screen is playing in a shop window across the pedestrian street down below.
Saturday. Cold weather lightens: much milder. Sleep a lot to recover from all that film-set action (or at least film-set sitting around). Here's an old article from Tom Wolfe, ahead of his time, as so often.
Friday. Surprise return to film set, first warning this morning. After I finish lessons by about 3, get driven out and then wait. Two very cute girls, apparently both certified bodyguards, swap chat about firearms as we hang around in the draughty canteen shed into the evening, ready to work. The close-up shots of my neck being stabbed (again) are done surprisingly quickly at around 9 at night.
Thursday. Quiet day at office on Crypto Hill eating no food, waiting to be paid, and feeling frail. Apparently cold today: the air seems to actually attack the skin. A big NYT article with some nifty moving graphs explains the rise of China, yet seems to me to miss the point a bit. It dwells rather on the 'American Dream' label used whenever some large chunk of the world does catch-up development in a number of decades.
Wednesday. Meet Renata for a lesson at the 24-hour restaurant she likes, Pizza Paradicsom. I eat some pasta and feel strangely exhausted by about 9 that night. I wake up realising I have food poisoning. Through the night wake several times to heave my guts up miserably into a bedside bucket. The staff know and like her, but of course the thought that might explain me being given bad food is much too paranoid, ho ho! The Godhead doubtless raises a sceptical cosmic eyebrow at only being prayed to at certain special moments, painful vomiting being one of those. The sense of being mixed, mingled with something bad, is tangible. And with each session of spewing, the self is more pure, it's more me each time crawling to the bucket, head hanging over the edge while I get back breath. The moment it's complete and my body seems my own again is extraordinary. On my knees in the dark, abdomen muscles hurting in a good way, having done their job when called on, finally free of poison: almost the original image of gratitude.
Tuesday. After a day on Normafa, am driven to film set straight from the frosty hilltop. Sent to sit in a room with walls made of weirdly large bricks at a small yellow-wooden desk. After a couple of hours emerges that no filming is possible, so am driven home again.
Monday. See on Lorand's coffee table a Playboy Hungary magazine he was interviewed in. He remarks the pretty girl partly in the giant champagne glass on the cover isn't Magyar because Playboy Central took away the Hungarian franchise's budget for doing its own photo shoots. They were overspending on the girls. Sounds believable.
Sunday. Since it's the day of the sun, here's a short talk for anyone not exposed to enough in the way of wild theories. Rupert Sheldrake with wonderful calm courtesy proposes that the sun might be conscious.
Saturday. Another disruptive theory, as we call them now. A short film about fringe (or marginalised) researchers suggesting water has memory.
Friday. Someone found a termite 'network' "the size of Britain". Slightly unclear whether the 'network' is a unified supercolony, or just lots of separate colonies.
Thursday. Back at the film set, being repeatedly dragged through pools of fake blood. A 14-hour day from 6.15 to 8.15, with some worrying online messages in the afternoon only accessible if I join the girls in the make-up caravan to use their WiFi. I manage to persuade a kind production person to send a driver off the set to use about ten pounds cash I have to recharge my phone so I can send a phone text to someone in Britain to phone someone else in another part of the world. All very complex, but succeeds.
Wednesday. A short talk which gets down to business. Perkily titled Artificial Intelligence: It Will Kill Us, this speaker laudably avoids the singularity mirage. It's about being outgunned rather than outclevered.
Tuesday. Two articles about ice. NASA 3 years ago says Antarctic ice is thickening, and NSIDC 3 days ago says North American November snowfall biggest since 1966.
Monday. Back on film set for surprisingly long day as a dead ticket inspector lying down on the floor again and again of the disabled loo I was murdered in yesterday. Whole day in ticket-inspector uniform, sticky with fake blood.
Sunday. In film production where I have quite a long day being repeatedly stabbed in the neck (about 70 to 80 times) in a disabled loo on a mock-up train inside a mock-up Channel Tunnel by two different rather dishy girls: an Australian film actress playing a slinky terrorist, and her slightly sportier Hungarian stunt double. There is a rubber knife, a rather alarming-looking real knife (heavy with polished blade), and an intriguing knife handle with a short stub of luminous green where the image of the blade can be reinserted into the footage using computer trickery in the post-production studio. Everyone is very sweet and careful not to injure me.
Saturday. Our man in Bucharest writes about how teachers aim to identify and root out children with unacceptable political views.
Friday. On de Quincey's 1849 farewell to express mail coaches.
Thursday. The Guardian, bless its cotton socks, hosts a Cambridge politics don suggesting 6-year-olds get the vote. I remember the SPS students.
Wednesday. UK pre-crime software. What could possibly go wrong?
Tuesday. First she was warned the EU would use the Ulster border trick. Now the Commons is onto May's deception (blocked by Safari?).
Monday. Non-stick frying-pans can shorten your stick
Sunday. Some days chilly, some days quite mild. People in high-viz jackets (blocked by Safari?) seem to be rioting in Paris. Much of it seems to be
Teacher's (blocked by Safari?)
But he shall rule like a Roman God!
Saturday. Times article (reg wall) says PM May was warned by attorney general about Irish-border EU trick.
Recent weblog entries
Who can translate the next 300 words into
us and there will be revelry.
Languages dying out each week
- who cares?
We do - otherlanguages.org is gradually building a reference resource for over five thousand linguistic minorities and stateless languages worldwide.
Thousands of unique language communities are becoming extinct. Out of the world's five to six thousand languages, we hardly know what we're losing, what literatures, philosophies, ways of thinking, are disappearing right now.
We may soon regret the extinction of thousands of entire linguistic cultures even more than we regret the needless extinction of many animals and plants.
The planet is increasingly dominated by a handful of major-language monocultures like Mandarin
Chinese, Hindi, Arabic, Indonesian, Urdu, Spanish, Portuguese,
English, Swahili, Russian, Cantonese Chinese, Japanese, Bengali - all
beautiful and fascinating languages.
But so are the 5,000 others.
These are groups of people?
Linguistic minorities are communities of ordinary people whose native tongue is not their country's main official language. Swedish speakers in Finland, French speakers in Canada, Hungarian speakers in Slovakia - and hundreds more - are linguistic minorities.
And totally stateless languages are the native languages of some of the world's most intriguing, little-known, cultures. Like the Lapps inside the Arctic Circle, the Sards in Sardinia, Ainus in Japan. Cherokee in the US, Scots
Gaelic in Britain, Friesian in the Netherlands, Zulu in South Africa.
There are only a couple of hundred recognised sovereign states and territories, so 5,000 languages - more depending on how you count - are the native tongues of linguistically stateless people.
How could I help?
You don't need to learn an endangered
language - any more than go to live in the rainforest to help slow its destruction.
A good start is to just tell friends
about websites like this.
Broader public interest makes it easier
for linguists to raise funds and organise people to learn these languages while there's time.
That's right. There are people who love languages and are happy to learn them on behalf of the rest of us, but they need support, just like zoologists, botanists, or historians.
Fewer languages still sounds good to me
Depends what you think languages are for. They're not just a tool for business. We never said you should learn three or four thousand rare languages - or even one. And which ones we make children learn in school, or whether we should force children to learn languages at all, is another question.
Typical scene in a European city;
Chances are, folk here speak some sort of foreign
A century ago - before we understood
ecology, and when we cared less about wilderness, most educated
people would have laughed at the idea of worrying about plants or
animals going extinct. Now we understand how important species diversity
is for our own futures, we are more humble, and more worried.
In the same way, linguistic triumphalism by English-speakers who hated studying foreign grammar at school is dangerously ignorant as well as arrogant. Few of us know what we are losing, week by week.
How many people realise these languages have scientific value?
You can think of these languages across the planet as beautiful cathedrals or
precious archeological sites we are watching being destroyed. That
should be motive enough.
But these five thousand languages may
also hold clues to the structure of the human mind. Subtle
differences and similarities
between languages are helping
archeologists and anthropologists to
understand what happened in the hundreds
of centuries of human
history before written history. And
that is one of our best chances of understanding how human brains developed over the thousands of centuries leading up to that.
Wireless radio can be a great comfort to those unable
to leave the
textbooks in which they live *6
Study of the mind and study of language go hand in hand these days. The world's most marginal languages are actually precious jigsaw pieces from an overall picture of who we are and how our species thinks and evolves. Every tiny language adds another brightly-coloured clue to this academic detective story.
Yet researchers have hardly started sifting through this
tantalising evidence, and language extinction is washing it away right in
front of us.
And worst of all, most people have no idea that there is this
fantastic profusion of cultures across our world, let alone that
they are in danger of extinction. Even just more people learning that
there are still five thousand living languages in the world today (most
of us would answer five hundred or fifty) is already a huge help.
We English-speakers hardly notice English - it's like air for us.
But every other language is also an atmosphere for an entire cultural world,
and each of these worlds has people whose home it is. Each language encapsulates a unique way of talking and thinking about life. Just try some time in a foreign prison, being forced to cope in another language, and you'll realise how much your own language is your identity. That's true for everyone.
Minority languages are a
One of the most basic.
Dozens of millions of people worldwide suffer persecution from national governments for speaking their mother tongue - in their own motherland.
Many 'ethnic' feuds puzzling to
outsiders had as their basis an attempt to destroy a linguistic community.
Would the Northern Ireland dispute be quite so bitter if we
English had not so nearly stamped out the Irish Gaelic language, for
example? Almost nowhere in the world does a language community as
small as the few thousand Rheto-Romanic speakers - the fourth
official language of Switzerland - get the protection of a national
government. Next time you see some Swiss Francs, check both sides of the
But outside exceptional countries like
Switzerland or the Netherlands, speakers of non-official
languages have a much less protected experience.
Speakers of minority languages are often seen as a threat by both the governments and the other residents of the countries where they were born, grew up, and try to live ordinary lives.
They experience discrimination in the job and education markets of their homelands, often having no choice but to pursue education in the major language of the host state: a deliberate government policy usually aimed at gradually absorbing them into the majority culture of that country.
Mighty oaks from tiny acorns grow, of course *7
Most governments are privately gleeful each time another small
separate culture within their borders is snuffed out by a dwindling
population or a deliberately centralising education system.
The United Nations is no help. It is an association of a couple of hundred sovereign states based on exclusive control of territory, almost all of them anxious to smother any distinct group or tradition that in any way might blur or smudge the hard-won borders around those pieces of territory.
The usual approach by sovereign states is to deny their linguistic minorities even exist.
Mark Griffith, site administrator /
*1 image from , with thanks
back up to top of page
*2 "Al-Araby" in written
*3 "What?" in American Sign
Language; image from , with thanks
*4 "Big" in written
(read more); image from , with
*5 image from , with
*6 image from , with
*7 image from
'B?ume', with thanks to
Bruno P. Kramer,
and Franckh-Kosmos Verlag
Friday. Tasteful 'My New Vagina' confessional. Autonomous vehicles will lead to more sex in cars, say sex-in-cars boffins. Parasitologists claim cat owners more likely to be subs.
Thursday. Apparently, Himmler's daughter was a secretary for West German spies.
Wednesday. Science deniers: who hates evolution now?
Tuesday. US military seeks funds for EMF zap thing.
Monday. Pro-EU sedition & hysteria continue.
Sunday. A coffee with Folklore Edina as Robin & I drive out to Szeleveny towards dusk. Soothing emptiness in the one cafe, a single long dark room of tables and chairs. Three farmworkers drink quietly at the bar right at the other end. Light slowly drains out of a cloudy sky outside.
Saturday. After we drive out, a fascinating evening in Robin's countryside kitchen, hearing goatherd Laszlo explaining his Bela-Hamvas-influenced worldview of ancient tradition, Christianity, the Great Chain of Being, and the transcendent. Only science disturbs his serene perspective.
Friday. How the USSR stoked the Arab/Israeli conflict. Good to see Pavel still writing.
Thursday. Frizzy-blonde-haired Hungarian masseuse Icu again in a room upstairs at the firm on Crypto Hill, easing back pain for whoever asks. I interpret for her when petite high-profile investment-marketer Barbara from Switzerland, speaking only English & German, wants strained muscles in one arm eased. Icu needs some cream: lacking anything else I bring margarine from the fridge. Barbara cheerfully says it's absolutely fine - she'll wash it off later. I remark that everyone in the company is anxious to butter Barbara up but in the end it's Icu who actually does it. Barbara laughs heartily, and Icu, not following the joke, smiles earnestly.
Wednesday. Again, that blue-tinted bit of feedback-smothered moany melancholic electronica. Do the band's Sad-Rabbit costumes redeem the tune?
Tuesday. Electricity back on in Michael's flat. About a fortnight ago he played me this interesting snatch of German Parliament with English subtitles.
The AfD woman is lucid, reasonable, not remotely 'extreme'. "Instead of humbly acknowledging the result of a democratic referendum in a partner country and asking if you were to blame, Brussels was at once united. An example must be made. Britain must be punished. That is your policy."
Monday and morning light comes through cracks in the wooden shutters on the window of Robin's spare room. Four nights of good sleep have energised me. When you wake out of the dream journey, it should be like this - like easing to a halt in an expensive vehicle, slipping through the gears as it purrs to stop. Rested, crisp, alert, ready to rise from the bed.
Sunday. I sleep another night on Film-Maker Jessica's sofa and we chat of this and that. World's largest skyscraper (more accurately a 'groundscraper' as someone points out) will dangle upside-down from an asteroid? Nifty!
Saturday. Over at Jessica's I finally persuade her into us both watching the 1940s original version of 'The Cat People'. Though the plot is flawed in some places, and some of the dialogue is not quite believable, it's a powerful fantasy (about an East European woman), wonderfully evoked with suggestion and shadow. A couple of moments are perfectly judged: our dashing atheistic modern man of science, a handsomely tweedy engineer trapped in a night-time drafting room, picks up a set square to defend himself from the supernatural beast. Doing this accidentally casts the shadow on the wall of the holy cross in the light from an underlit work surface. The subtext about sex & animality is a proper subtext. The black-and-white film's sharp visual definition and the characters' stilted courtesy they think is hip & fresh captures an old-fashioned fragility about modernity.
Friday. Wake up in Robin's flat's spare room ready for a high-octane Friday. Typical word lengths in several languages: a handy chart.
Thursday. A big conference on Crypto Hill with investment and marketing people. A masseuse called Icu (Itsoo) is there in a room upstairs for anyone with back pain. She kindly works on my painful shoulders, declaring I have not ripped any tendons or shoulder-cuff stuff. No, only two dense knots of muscle, she declares, forcing them out partly with her knuckles, recommending I must follow up with more sessions. I get back into town to find flat dark and a note on door from Michael saying the power has been cut off and the electricity meter removed.
Wednesday. Resource for taking on large organisations.
Tuesday. Troubled day. The worst year was AD 536? Dinner with jolly Zoe & Mark in the evening relieves the pressure a little.
Monday. A week or two ago, I was walking through some woods, wet leaf mould aroma in the air and piles of vivid yellow or orange leaves sitting in mist under the frosty trees, when a car pulled past, the driver waving at me. It was a rather dishy business contact, and as she parked I walked round to her car door. I looked down into the car as we chatted. She was sitting in the driving seat batting long eyelashes, putting high-heeled shoes on for her office. This act forced her to squirm in her seat, her frock riding up her thighs to show lacy stocking tops for a few seconds before she casually brushed her skirt back down. A charming moment, strangely Victorian.
Fascinating piece about how the Mesmer scandal originated double-blind studies.
Sunday. Armstice Day. 5 things Marx wanted to abolish.
Saturday. Daily Mirror announces the End Times.
Friday. Two months since Robin got the news that Piera in a fit of despair a day or two earlier threw herself off her Italian balcony on her birthday and died. That was the weekend he decided to drive out through Slovenia to attend her funeral just on the Italian side of the Slovene border, picking up Gio from Rio at Ljubljana airport.
Thursday. A poetically horrible article: a woman explains why I no longer phone my mother. The New Left! Via Diane & Anthony.
Wednesday. Brewery trying to make money to brew beer using a specific Czech girl's vaginal yeast. Yummy! Scroll down for the promotional video's wonderfully just-off English.
Tuesday. More panpsychism: perhaps consciousness is a frequency effect?
Monday. A UN statistical body reports that Britain was the world's second highest destination for foreign investment, second only to China, first half of 2018: Brexit still "complete disaster" for business confidence then. The Guy Fawkes celebration of traitors foiled more topical than ever.
Sunday. Based on observed acceleration, some astronomers suggest an alien light sail just passed through the solar system.
Saturday. Apparently lots of Islamic computer hackers are "obsessed with gay porn" and sending each other pictures of their todgers.
Friday. Portugal, our oldest ally, breaking ranks with euroweasels?
Thursday. In the end, don't take Michael down to the cemetery by night to see this year's candlelit Day of the Dead. Instead we stay in, nattering. Meanwhile, here's a lawyer discussing Trump's wish to abolish birthright citizenship.
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