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Friday. Brief 1970s TV bit: Alec Guinness recounts foreseeing James Dean's death.
Thursday. One of our contributors fears impending US/Iran war.
Wednesday. Old snatch of cartoon set to club track.
Tuesday. First green/white necks of basil seedlings nudge above the soil. After some straining and awkwardness in the kitchen (you always find out it's a two-man, four-hand job after the point of no return), I manage to get the two neon-tube cases reattached under the kitchen cabinet. Extra light radically changes mood in kitchen. Piece about naughty data-tweaking to make the global-warming case look plausible. Forbes also doubts renewables.
Monday. Wolves friendlier than dogs, boffins find. I buy two new neon tubes from a completely humourless (therefore, in the Hungarian fashion, probably reliable and professional) lightbulb man near Nyugati station.
Sunday. Flat so quiet that a wet shirt dripping onto the bath tap handle creates a pinging noise
rather like a doorbell ringing somewhere distant in the building. Memories of the banshee.
Saturday. Alternating days of warm sun, and cloudy chilly rain. The coolest Budapest May & April I've seen for a few years. I visit a fitness gym where, because all the changing-room lockers had locks replaced by digital number pads, almost none work. A cheery mechanic explains he changed all the batteries only a week ago. Together we locate the two lockers in 50 which can actually close.
More concern being expressed that 5G wireless communications technology might be different and pose subtle
risks to health.
Friday. Buy seeds and plant them in six tiny pots in Michael's flat. Sweden's noble renewable-energy targets are harming the country.
Thursday. Michael leaves for London. Wake up at Robin's flat, after being surprised to find Letty already back from her London adventure. Strange allegation by an association of Catholic doctors that mass vaccination is being used as a cover for covertly sterilising millions of young African women.
Wednesday. Mass deaths in Chinese pig population: some version of Ebola.
Tuesday. On train back into town finish Paul Sutton's curious poetry collection 'Parables For The Pouring Rain'. Bleak, offhand short verses about new housing estates in an England stripped of spiritual meaning or cultural content sit intriguingly with a several-page pastiche of a Sherlock Holmes story. Definitely unsettling. A bit like some of the writing in Trevor Holye's 1979 novel 'The Man Who Travelled On Motorways'.
Monday. Sleep 12 hours. Roger Scruton, recently denounced as 'Islamophobic' is in fact a friend of Islam, says Telegraph. Also my memory of his book 'West and the Rest'.
Sunday. Sleep 12 hours. Intriguing conversations with Bela, Zeno the Alchemist, and Andras, as he battles on his laptop to solve a computer problem with a factory gate at some remote location. Judit makes delicious crumpets.
Short article from Guy about the horrible phrase "going forward".
Saturday. Last night caught a late train into the countryside to Robin's, by a different route to Kunszentmarton. Because of this, have to change trains at the oversized white concrete 1960s station at Szolnok, with its long bleak, harshly-lit tunnel connecting all the platforms. Looking for a snack and a drink in the main building, at about 9pm I approach one sandwich counter. There I am confronted by a tall, leggy creature of perhaps 20 with ash-blonde-dyed hair tumbling down her back to brush a perfect bottom. She has a push-up bra under a tight shirt, a slim midriff with a jewelled pin in her exposed belly button, implausibly tight shiny black leggings (with large white capital letters written round the elasticated waistband) showing the shape of her alarmingly well-shaped hips & thighs. There's some sparkly dust sprinkled casually across her cheekbones. She's smiling, almost grinning broadly, lit up with happiness at her own glossy good looks. A macho male hovers at the counter, hypnotised, possibly the boyfriend gruffly guarding his glittering prize. I'm not quite tongue-tied, but am startled to find myself only just able to ask for some chocolate and a tin of Hell energy drink. An hour later, kind Gyuri picks me up in the darkness at Kunszentmarton station.
Today, get to meet Seamstress Aranka again in her Saturday hours with Belas's help, pick up a shirt and give her two more. Again, damp, cloudy weather, even in May.
Friday. Earth greener than 20 years back thanks to CO2. Meanwhile, one of our contributors runs a piece about Nick Bostrom's latest idea for a world government that would use global warming or something else as a pretext for controlling our lives completely.
Thursday. No, not now we aren't: last night slept 2 hours. Overview of Chinese/US relations.
Wednesday. Last night slept 8 hours. Are we back to equilibrium on the restometer? Around midday am at the quasi-Buddhist cafe waiting for a student. I manage to persuade a giggling waitress with tattoos and a fetching dyed-blonde bob haircut to secretly obtain the genuine cheesecake from a back store room for me to eat a slice of. Several times I've tried to explain to the staff here, as tactfully as I can, that their vegan cakes don't taste very nice (they're a bit like compacted doormat) but that the plain croissants and the genuine cheesecake (both of which run out in their first hour each day) are really delicious. I try to talk them round to the radical idea of getting in more of the food which their customers want to buy from them. Sometimes I go further and point to the cheesecake (on the rare days when some of it is actually at the counter), making yum yum noises and saying "Mmmm! Animal fats!!" - whereupon the quasi-Buddhist serving girls look at me reproachfully as if I'm trying to make them cry. Most days it's not there. Today the giggly blonde whispers to me that the good stuff is actually hidden in a back room - in case too many people buy it. "We're supposed to make people buy the vegan cakes first" she confides to me, nervously. She tells me this out of earshot of the others, brings me a slice of non-vegan cheesecake, and we furtively exchange money for the light fluffy delicacy with its creamy buttery taste before anyone notices what we're up to. Suddenly I have a flashback to Woody Allen in his standup days predicting that one day in the future tasty food would be shameful or illegal. Prostitutes would meet men down dark side streets offering to make them
hamburgers with real meat etc, and I realise we're actually there now.
We're not quite in Allen's more distant future though, where deep fat and cigarettes have turned out to be healthy after all. But give it time.
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
Tuesday. Last night slept 9 hours. Fairly old tune from Bristol's Tricky.
Monday. Last night slept 11 hours. Interesting claim that much vaunted Green Future of renewables and improved batteries is a wasteful fantasy. Summarising article, and much more detailed original .pdf version.
Sunday. Last night slept 14 hours. Robin & I meet Sergey for coffee. Starting to recover optimism. Robin and I try to find how to watch this intriguing-looking film Corridor of Mirrors. Simon does his best to help us.
Saturday. Last night slept 14 hours. Much better. Sensuous memories of swimming in dark dreams of hidden doorways and intricate windowless rooms. French farmers sue their government over wireless death-ray mystery.
Friday. Last night slept about 4 hours. Here's some foaming at the mouth from Suzanne Moore. Thank goodness we're bigots if we reciprocate!
Thursday. Sounds like Tesla was a bit confused.
Wednesday. Patrick Caulfield working his nihilistic charms.
Easter Tuesday, we might call it. Neither a video nor a tune: You Man and Birdcage. Fidgety visuals the more interesting part. Alert readers might notice Jurassic 5's break-dancing Beasts in a couple of snatches.
Easter Monday. Read a strange little 1943 hardback book I found at Robin's, called 'The Intimate Papers of Colonel Bogus' by Michael Barsley. This is wartime humour, bitter in part. A lot of rather heavy-handed puns ('Sable-Bodied Women', 'Ritzkrieg', 'Colonel Bogus' [a sort of play on 'Colonel Blimp'], 'Ruralitarian') - this is probably a collection of magazine pieces, with drawings by the writer. It being a book produced under World War 2 paper rationing, there isn't much info front or back. Some of the drawings are very good: verbal humour not so much. Thinly-disguised pro-socialist/central-planning sentiment throughout, a sort of arch "social justice" sarcasm.
Easter Sunday. Get to the end of Simon Corrigan's eerily depressing second novel 'Sweets From Strangers' kindly lent me by Marion. Although Corrigan liked clustered sentences and slightly precious choices of wording, the overall creepiness of mood is well established. The book comes alive (as it should, given who he is in the story) with the sudden disruptive arrival in the boring bourgeois Home Counties of the arrogant-yet-irresistible Luc and his sinister Continental glamour.
A lovely evening with travellers Brad and Gregg on many topics, including combat with bears and how "Wokiest of the Woke" Kamala got started in California politics.
At some ungodly hour like 2am, Michael and I are talking about hats. He cannot remember the ska revival's failed attempt to also revive trilbies etc in the early 1980s. I suggest the real switch happened somewhere between Sean Connery & Roger Moore as Bond around the mid-1960s. Triumphantly, I manage to locate a snatch of 'Russia With Love' where James Bond is, yes, wearing a soft hat. We both realise neither of us know the difference between a trilby and a fedora. Thinner rim, apparently. I point out how by the 'Streets of San Francisco', insistence on still wearing his anachronistic (probably) fedora in the early 1970s marks out the older detective as the reliable old duffer, voice of experience, yada yada.
Saturday. Impressive poll support for new turquoise-themed Brexit Party.
Good Friday. 29-year-old man declares his love for toy robot. Oh, and you can buy minges made of fudge flavoured with creme egg. Nice.
Thursday. Botanist David Bellamy describes (6 years back) being frozen out at the BBC for saying global warming was nonsense, and a former Australian government adviser describes (4 years back) the global-warming scam as a cover story for introducing a UN-controlled world government.
Wednesday. South Africa is judged to have declined by more this last decade than almost any country not at war.
Tuesday. Interesting piece on claims by EU critics that its own auditors haven't signed off on its accounts, versus EU claims that oh yes they have.
Monday. Finally in the morning I meet Seamstress Aranka - first time for half a year. She has restitched 2 of 3 shirts and the dodgy Berlin bondage-club leather trousers I was given by a film director. All is amicable. Driving back after dark into town with Robin at the wheel, sleepy farmworker Istvan in the back (ill and in need of an early night), about fifty pounds of fresh meat and eggs, the gears stop engaging on the motorway about thirty miles outside Budapest. We drift to a halt with a worrying burning smell and no power from the engine. Robin is gloomy and slightly tense. I walk off to a nearby roadside phone and speak to emergency services. After 40 minutes or so, a trailer appears and puts his car on the back. It seems Robin just paid over a thousand pounds to have the car made good as new about four days ago. As we travel in the cab with the trailer driver (who tells us that the law prevents him from driving into the centre of town) Robin and I are negotiating by phone text with different friends of his about where to leave the meat and eggs on the outskirts. Then one friend of his, still up in her flat at 11pm, Judit, does her own research on the bylaws and traffic regulations and finds that after midnight, legal weight restrictions mean a lorry of a certain size can go right into the middle of the city. She phones up our trailer driver and explains at length as we all trundle down the deserted motorway. Persuaded, he takes us into central Budapest. We arrive shortly after midnight, meeting Judit outside her block of flats in person, transferring trays of eggs to some of Robin's customers under the streetlamps at 1am.
Sunday. Following the EU lead, Britain's quisling government prepares a bill to control & censor content in online social media.
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.
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