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October 16th; Wednesday. Seems painting zebra stripes on cows sharply reduces insect biting.
October 15th; Tuesday. Recently I've discovered a very restful cafe/bar near Esoteric Veronica's office, where I can arrive early for her lesson and sit quietly with a range of elderly men. In general three are playing cards, with bartender as fourth man, over at one end of the room. A couple of tables are decorated with vinyl records under the sheet of glass, but only a couple, as if the idea ran out of material. Their WiFi password refers to the founding of Budapest's 9th district football club in 1899. After about three visits where I consume one coffee or two coffees and a water, the bartender seems to have decided I'm not such a bad person.
October 14th; Monday. "Anti-solar cell" generates electricity "from darkness".
October 13th; Sunday. Over a coffee & a water outside the Ice Buffet place, read a short book lent to me by Robin, called 'Great Is God's Zoo' by Iris Masters Zwack. It would be unfair to give away the ending, but an extraordinary range of odd personal stories about meeting odd people is tied together in the final pages. The initial story conceit is that Zwack is practising her budding writing skills by befriending eccentric characters in her corner of New England: a weird taxi driver, a retarded girl who stacks fruit at the grocery, a New Age fitness trainer - they each get a chapter.
October 12th; Saturday. Testimony from 2017: senior Irish Republic customs officials giving evidence to the Irish Republic parliament saw no need for any physical border infrastructure on the frontier with Northern Ireland in the event of Britain leaving the EU. Rather letting the "backstop" out of the bag.
October 11th; Friday. Texan slideshow alleges removal of very hot year 1921 from US climate data to make the overall 20th-century trend upwards. Delicious BBC article on climate-change anxiety (the editorial art is specially special): a doctor writes. UCL researchers claim Britain is about to have a record cold winter.
October 10th; Thursday. Concerns continue that Britain's military were transferred to Euroblob control by Mayer the Betrayer. Even plans for an EU army were dismissed as a "Leaver lie" by 2016 pro-EU campaigners, in classic projection.
October 9th; Wednesday. Guided by Michael A.'s friend Art Dealer Tony, I have started dropping in on the refreshingly cheap, vaguely communist-era Ice Buffet bar where coffee, water, and scones are still affordable. At their outside tables along the sunniest part of Petofi Sandor street, fat aggressive pigeons gang up on any person who tries to eat and drink alone. Often their beaks are smeared with the whipped cream of an abandoned pudding. The dove-shaped slatterns hop onto a table or chair but cleverly stay just inches out of any angry patron's arm swing. I'm going to have to buy a small water pistol and fill it with sharp-scented disinfectant.
October 8th; Tuesday. The slightly sinister-sounding group Extinction Rebellion are criticised for defacing Wiltshire's White Horse monument with their runic, black-metal-occultist-style logo.
October 7th; Monday. After visiting several textile shops across Hungary in the last month or two, must admit to being slightly downcast by the sheer vileness of the fabric patterns. Anything so straightoforward as (say) white polka dots on a solid colour, or blue and white stripes is completely absent. While I've long drawn comfort from the fact these retail outlets still exist in the quantities they used to in England, that there are still Hungarian women, old and young, making their own clothes, quite disheartening to find just now naff most - no all - of it is. If it's white, it's covered in frills and fussy detailing. If it's patterned, the pattern aspires to irregularity - five different widths of stripe in one fabric, for example. If there is a repeating motif, it's twee, cluttered, and too pale or too dark. Colours are selected from a rich palette of sickly yellows, anaemic browns, blood-piss reds, and the kind of nasty blues and greens they use to give dangerous drug capsules a worrying appearance. With relentless success, every pattern hits a kind of magical sour spot of optimal ugliness.
October 6th; Sunday. A court decision in the EU makes it likely that Facebook can be ordered to retract its posts worldwide. EU censorship developments continue.
October 5th; Saturday. Wall Street Journal article yesterday: growing numbers of girls attending college discover shortage of suitable men. Male author wonderfully tactful about women's focus on marrying "up".
October 4th; Friday. Still a bit giddy after finishing the tedious translation about gold investing on Wednesday. Hanging over me for weeks. Don't go in! To his web of sin!
October 3rd; Thursday. Devon farmer prepares for Brexit with Nazi-engineered giant cows. + interesting piece on craze for professional walking back in 1815.
October 2nd; Wednesday. Two pieces about the legal side of Britain's attempts to leave the Euroblob. One from Lawyers for Britain about Article 50, and another (a .pdf) from a respected jurist at Oxford, says last week's Supreme Court judgment on prorogation broke the 1688 Bill of Rights.
October 1st; Tuesday. Military bod warns EU wants to take over Britain's armed forces.
September 30th; Monday. An interesting article about how last week's Supreme Court ruling was wrong in law. Another from the same source on free speech.
September 29th; Sunday. A Nature article predicting catastrophic ocean warming gets retracted.
September 28th; Saturday. Cold continues. Gold continues.
September 27th; Friday. Go down with nasty headcold exactly when I have to do 50 pages of translation about investing in "physical gold".
September 26th; Thursday. Another introduction to Ukrainian woman leading mathematical modellers at a British university: they're trying to track periodic cycles of magnetic fields inside the sun. They predict low sunspot counts in the last 20 years suggest a Maunder-Minimum-style Little Ice Age soon. Could this save the CO2 greenhouse hypothesis?
September 25th; Wednesday. One gorgeous logical error from yesterday's Supreme Court ruling in all its majesty: 61. It is impossible for us to conclude, on the evidence which has been put before us, that there was any reason - let alone a good reason - to advise Her Majesty to prorogue Parliament for five weeks, from 9th or 12th September until 14th October. We cannot speculate, in the absence of further evidence, upon what such reasons might have been. It follows that the decision was unlawful. It doesn't follow, of course, but fascinating that many people think it does.
September 24th; Tuesday. Retired PM Blair's post-1999 euro-style Supreme Court justices in Somerset House ruled today at 10.30am. They found unanimously, all eleven of them, that PM Johnson acted illegally by proroguing Parliament for five days (they cited it as five weeks, conflating recess and prorogation). The fact that retired PM John Major prorogued for a longer period with far less justification in 1997 made it quite strange that he stuck his neck out in recent months so publicly as to even address the court in this case, demanding this prorogation be declared wrong. Until now - it can only be that Mr Major knew in advance, or was instructed in advance, how this script must be performed. That's why he was so unworried.
September 23rd; Monday. Comparing the Russian girl DJ's "radio" show, some years back: #262, versus more recently:
#547. Studio slicker now.
September 22nd; Sunday. More claims (this spring) that humans have a weak magnetic sense.
September 21st; Saturday. Also by Zero 7: Distractions. Were 'horse' & 'divorce' ever rhymed before?
September 20th; Friday. Several songs from studio duo Zero 7. Seem to be a 1990s English version of Air.
When It Falls /
Look Up /
In The Waiting Line /
Out Of Town.
September 19th; Thursday. Ay shows me a tune whose combination of cover photo and Latino wistfulness immediately suggests High Postwar Spy Movie Theme. His slight squint in the photo really adds the final touch.
September 18th; Wednesday. Background to European democracy's bad role model.
September 17th; Tuesday. Swedish researcher says that global warming is so serious we should consider eating human flesh.
September 16th; Monday. Yes! Captain Euro is still aiming pro-tariff-bloc propaganda at children. Or are these for adults?
September 15th; Sunday. It seems one of Iran's proxies has disabled roughly half of Saudi oil production with some drone strikes.
Saturday. Andras sends me a tune whose name appeals to him, not realising what memories it sets off. It used to be the theme tune to a late-night BBC film-review show (familiar bit starts at 45 seconds). I had no idea about the song itself, especially that it had such a bittersweet title as 'I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free'.
Friday. One of Facebook's founders criticises social media.
Thursday. President Honey Monster (El Trumpo) seems to be winning in the trade-rules poker game against China.
Wednesday. Book on Senator McCarthy looks worth a glance.
Tuesday. Pick up Michael at airport back from Greek island.
Monday. Spiegel article calls Germany 20th-century's worst debtor.
Sunday. Article about Theresa May's dangerous surrender document.
Saturday. Commons Speaker Bercow told to go home at long last.
Friday. Help Michael A.'s friend Art Dealer Tony carry a man-sized wooden pelican a few blocks through the town centre.
Thursday. Another of my pieces up on Salisbury Review: original title 'Phasing in Cash' all about the gorgeous sunlit uplands of our cashless future.
Wednesday. Interesting documentary about an American archeologist/scholar of Islam who thinks that the city Mohammad is claimed to have referred to as Mecca was in fact Petra in today's Jordan. He argues that mosques never pointed to Jerusalem (as is generally claimed), and that Islam rewrote its own history to hide the reality that it was originally a religion based in the ancient city of Petra. Today's Mecca appears to be a kind of late-8th-century or early-9th-century Milton Keynes, built on fresh ground.
Tuesday. Warm and sunny again - hooray! Constitutional excitement in Britain. Some distressed MPs with scared (or angry)
vote for a law to stop Britain leaving the EU on October 31st with no deal, although no-deal was set out in the other law they passed. This is an odd thing to do behind the back of a negotiating executive: it seems to be a demand the government submit themselves utterly to the wise, benevolent rule of their Brussels masters. Hard not to wonder if the euro-weasels have kompromat on some of these people.
Monday. And as if by magic, it gets cool & rainy. I can remember from school how sometimes there was something like a definitive end to the summer round about September 3rd or 4th. Weirdly often, literally the first day back at school or college seemed to switch the weather from summer to autumn.
Sunday. Another wild-eyed psychedelic band in their "garage": 13th Floor Elevators and
Thru the Rhythm /
You're Gonna Miss Me.
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
Saturday. A tune of Mazzy Star (Fade Into You), oddly popular among the remixers & coverists
3). There's even one where cocky old Jarvis writes himself in. Was the Mazzy Star duo a Doorsy girls' Nick Cave? For example: Mary of Silence. Sticky heat continues here in the Paris of the East. The tennis club still packed out with crowds of handicapped tennis players in wheelchairs: a bit like being surrounded by Daleks. Perhaps an international event, lots of non-Hungarians.
Friday. Splendidly squiffy gathering at the ornately-decorated apartment of Michael OS, where he cooks curry and tells us he will in a few months be made a papal knight of the Holy Sepulchre. Buttons Sylvia is there (she brings me a pack of buttons as a gift), along with a very good-natured puli dog called Coco. Translators Tom & Sue - and Tom's elegant Hungarian girlfriend allowed out of the IBM sweatshop around midnight to join us - make up the company.
Thursday. A few years ago, bless her, English student Esoteric Veronica was comparing my birth chart to those of Lenin, Hitler, and Stalin. That was unsettling enough. Now she's mellowed somewhat and started suggesting I'm Lucifer. In our lesson today we talked about arrogance (Richard Rudd says this is "an addiction to words"). Meanwhile, relistening to Water to Wine from yesterday, sung by Kali, mixed by Kaytranada, they should work together more often. On her own she doesn't quite have his polish, and on his own, he doesn't quite have her personality, soul, whatever you call it. Kali Uchis: Your Teeth in my Neck and Feel Like a Fool. Too much of the Amy Winehouse feel. Whereas Kaytranada - partly him on Girl, or rather more on You're The One - plainly needs someone else's soul or feel to work with. A bit like a demon perhaps.
Wednesday. Would you name your daughter or yourself Kali? Anyway, some overproduced tunes from Kali Uchis with the lush knob turned up full:
Pablo Escobar /
Honey Baby /
Water to Wine.
Tuesday. A long-running court case against Michael Mann got more interesting a few days ago. His global temperature charts, long challenged as being based on bogus data analysis, made a Canadian court decide to award heavy legal costs against him. Mann has long refused to share the algorithms he used to create the "hockey-stick graph" that started the whole global-warming bandwagon off in the first place in the 1990s. His continuing refusal - very odd from a working scientist - to share his algorithms even when ordered to do so by a court, reduces the chances the initial greenhouse case had any good science in it.
Monday. Pro-EU Britons get indignant about Johnson proroguing Parliament for a few days in September, although both John Major and Clement Attlee did this during previous postwar governments. These are people who are such 'friends of democracy' they were planning to set up a parallel Parliament or somehow seize control of the current one. In the name of defying what a majority of British voters explicitly asked for twice - in voters' own "best interests" presumably.
Sunday. Well overdue I saw Last Year in Marienbad, shamelessly ransacked by film-school graduates since. This interview with its director is charming. Some false modesty mixed with real modesty, no? I like the way he stands to be interviewed, in a nice plain suit.
Saturday. Alain de Botton being witty & kind on important topics (in this case romantic love). He's found a good niche, but he adds value.
Friday. Michael A. texts me in the afternoon that he's reached Athens airport, partway through the trek to his island.
Thursday. I wake up in the soothing darkness of a room near Blaha with blackout curtains. The media is full of stories about the Amazon burning. The media headline stories seem oblivious to these Amazon summer fires not being in the rainforest, being below average for the last 15 years, being dwarfed by much bigger fires in real rainforest in the Congo, and so on.
Wednesday. During our lesson, Tamas gives spoiler-free account of the 2-hour-45-minute new Tarantino film about Sharon Tate. He's unimpressed.
Tuesday. Vegan man restarts on meat and can again ejaculate. Gets hate mail from other vegans.
Monday. Get summoned to Robin's in the evening to do a Tarot reading for a 22-year-old girl Krisztian is hanging around with recently. She refuses to give me any hint of the topic, so I tell her what the cards say. Rather shocking to see so many wands & swords, with the death card and only one feminine card (ace of cups), shunted off centre stage into the recent past. Obviously some violence, lots of masculinity, something like chaos or menaces. She starts laughing and decides to be more open before her second spread. Aged 15, she was the girlfriend of a Chinese gangster, got shot at by him during a quarrel, and he did a prison sentence. The second spread puts the ace of cups in the same location again, and this time pairs the Devil (weakness of the will) with the pack's only two cards specifically about strength of will (Temperance, and Strength). She wants to know (2nd question) whether to go back with him (because it was a lot of fun) and the cards are clearly saying she doesn't have to if she decides not to. I ask if she has a tattoo specifically showing he owns her, and she sheepishly shows me a Chinese ideogram on the nape of her neck, supposedly saying 'dragon', making her, I suppose, the girl with the dragon tattoo.
Already a week now again using my (cardboard-reinforced) blue sports bag. Left Robin's wickerwork hamper back at his farm last Monday after about 3 months of carrying it around every day while Aranka sewed and stitched the blue bag back into health. Reactions were mixed, but there were a lot of reactions. British people seeing me with the basketwork case all immediately asked if I was off to a picnic with Ratty & Moley (or sometimes Tigger & Piglet). Hungarians mostly looked at it suspiciously and nervously made jokes about well-connected diplomats and the elegant-scruffy look of the British Gentleman Abroad. Two of those Magyars literally called it a "diplomatic case". During one long July evening at the 'gravel pit', an outdoor bar near Michael A.'s flat, Michael unembarrassedly dozed off on his side of the cafe table while Robin's picnic hamper sat between us watchfully. Michael woke explaining he'd been in a dream about a Zulu Inkatha event in South Africa, and Robin's wicker briefcase set him off on this dream path. This was because he used to go to meetings back when he was the Zulus' constitutional-law adviser in the 1990s with a not-dissimilar-but-larger basketwork hamper filled with food, champagne etc. This store of tuck would help him get through the long boring hours sitting in marquee tents listening to people talk rubbish about politics. The wicker container was affectionately known by ANC delegates & other black politicians in the constitutional-conference days as "Comrade Mike's Politics Basket". A few weeks ago when his shipped belongings finally arrived from South Africa, he opened one packing case to show me the original Politics Basket, still in good shape.
Sunday. Finish a curious book lent me by Esoteric Veronica on the train to the countryside. 'The Gene Keys Golden Path' by Richard Rudd is a kind of short guidebook to another longer book about a system of divination and personal insight called the 'Gene Keys'. Crudely, it's a kind of combination of astrology and the hexagrams of the Chinese Book of Changes, with some quasi-Jungian elements added. Later, at Robin's house, we all get involved as Aniko's mother flies her drone over the property shooting video in hot sun. Siegfried the younger dog is disconcerted. Aniko is now six months pregnant by Robin. Aniko's mother also does scuba-diving, underwater filming, parachuting, circuit design, and is currently on a course studying glandular nutrition, in case you wondered.
Saturday. Piece about Walter Gropius building something non-ugly in his early days as an architect.
Friday. The dead moth is gone from the outside ledge in one window of the lift. It was there in March this year and gone by April 2019. Tragically, I failed to spot the exact date it was finally cleaned away - or just fell off.
Thursday. A 1970s conference suggested a cashless society would be the perfect surveillance state.
Wednesday. A video from the (mostly) new Brasilia of Kazakhstan, Astana, showing off its Sinbad-inspired fascistic modernism, vaguely humanised by a dancing girl. Rumour is the new capital has an almost unbearable climate, with one or two references to an annual season of blood-sucking midges the size of bluebottles. I also heard Kazakhs eat boiled or fried puppies, but mustn't be churlish. Nice video. But is that vogueing?
Tuesday. Voice of a by-then-elderly Florence Nightingale in 1905.
Monday. Travel back into Budapest on what Gyuri promises, as he drives me to Kunszentmarton train station, is going to be a kanikula/caniculae day, over 100 degrees Farenheit. In Kunszentmarton, I meet Aranka's contact Editke in the fabric shop and we look at various pieces of cloth together. The train journey itself is hot enough to change sides of the carriage every time the shady side shifts. At Szolnok station, leaving myself ample time for the transfer, I walk down the long white cement tunnel going under all the tracks to get to platform 16. These are of course, in order away from the 60s modernist station, 1, 2, 3, 4, 7, 8, 10, 11, 12, 13, 15, 16. Obviously. If this was a 19th-century British station Guardian readers would blame this kind of illogicality on tradition. On Britain missing out on a proper bourgeois revolution, of which Hungary is unlucky enough to have suffered at least four. Once I am relaxed and waiting at the last platform I see there is a view across at least another ten tracks. New grass vigorously grows between them, but the shine on the rails shows they are all in use. Then a line of parked empty carriages hiding the horizon. Above this only some sort of white-painted gas/silo fractionation-type tower rises sci-fi-style into a blue sky. Almost like looking out to sea. A Hungarian man politely asks if this is the right platform for the Budapest train. I say yes and - whoops! - he is able to smoothly move in with the next question, about "how I see" the next 3 or 4 years unfolding. He is angling for some kind of catastrophist view of current events, and I say yes another bourse crash but no matter, and no, no climate apocalypse. Doggedly the poor man, obviously a Jehovah's Witness by now, soldiers on and asks me about the book of Daniel and the kingdom of God. I say I favour Augustine's view that the city of saints is outside time and space. A very tiny twitch of irritation here gives him away, but he maintains his calm wheedling sales patter, and we finally compromise on a leaflet and part in peace. Later in the afternoon, having handed a basket of 24 eggs over to Robin at one of Budapest's grand railway termini, I meet a new student who is going abroad soon to study ceramics.
Sunday. It seems that yesterday Jeffrey Epstein, he of the private island, private jumbo jet, and parties full of very young girls for celebrity guests, killed himself yesterday in his cell in a maximum-security prison. It appears he was taken off suicide watch (despite an apparent earlier attempt a week ago), his cellmate was removed, and the CCTV cameras were switched off. As one wag on the internet jested "If you were surprised that Jeffrey Epstein killed himself yesterday, just imagine how surprised he must have been!" Hur hur.
Saturday. An intriguingly odd discussion of human/machine merging from the eccentric perspective of Rudolf Steiner followers.
Friday. I go from Robin's farmhouse to see Seamstress Aranka in the next village Tiszakurt, unfortunately accompanied by Siegfried, the grandson of the komondor sheepdog Lupus or Lupi, appropriately enough, since he was a bit loopy. Siegfried's mother Sissi died just a couple of months ago, leaving the grandmother Domor, Lupi's widow, as the senior hound. The current fox terrier also died some weeks back this spring, so the doggy social milieu at Robin's is a little altered. It's a hot, airless day, and I go to the next village on foot, equipped with large straw hat and sun-blocking cream. Parts of the garden wall collapsed some months now, replaced with not-so-effective wire netting. Knowing the ways through, Siegfried suddenly pops up next to me on the walk once I'm about ten minutes into the journey, refusing to go home. He has no collar or leash. He looks and acts like a pale labrador that's had a bang on the head. None of the aggression of his grandfather, just a good-natured streak of daft curiosity and stubbornness. We get onto the main road and it's clear he has never seen large vans or lorries before. He actually hides from each one in the ditch as it passes, clearly seeing them as more menacing than the cars. He goes up to each barking dog in each garden to say hello, but never barks back at them. We reach Aranka's and she has finally mended my stuff. She and her family are a bit nonplussed that I'm with a dog that has no leash, and their cuddly mongrel Dumpling, tied to his post, is upset about this too. Business finished, Siegfried and I wander into Tiszakurt, looking for shade. Wilting somewhat in the heat we hide in a bus shelter, and magically a minute later one of the only 2 or 3 buses a day arrives to save us, 3 minutes behind schedule. I talk the driver into letting us board the packed vehicle, and I crouch on the steps holding the hound while passengers discuss the whole conundrum of a dog without a collar in the company of a funny foreigner in straw hat etc. We get to Tiszainoka, and a villager fishes a long ribbon in the German colours out of his parked car, and expertly fashions a collar with slipknot and loop for me to hold at the other end. We pop this on the astonished Siegfried (the man teasingly mentioning he gave me a lift a year ago, and I'd forgotten him) and the small group of locals agree that order has been restored. I walk the final 15 minutes with the hound, confused and unhappy at being tethered to a person, a whole new experience for him. Siegfried has reluctantly got used to the leash by the time he & I return to the farmhouse, triumphantly bearing my blue bag that Aranka has magnificently repaired at a very modest price, albeit taking about
four months. I can leave Robin's basketwork hamper case at the house now.
Thursday. Going straight from my lesson with Esoteric Veronica, I catch a train down to Robin's place on the flat, sun-baked Great Plain by the Tisza river. Two (deliberately surely) Bond-themeish Goldfrapp tunes: Pilots and Lovely Head.
Wednesday. Surprisingly interesting and even-handed BBC web article about hysterical Malaysian schoolgirls. Though this is from a heavily Islamic region, comparisons with other religions suggests that strict moralistic governing of adolescent girls might be a factor in mass crazes of screaming, fainting, heeby-jeebies etc. Perhaps the Beeb should become a long-format paper/web magazine like the Atlantic, and give up on the broadcasting.
Tuesday. On my way back to Budapest for a lesson with Esoteric Veronica, I finish Michael O'Sullivan's book about the 1934 adventures of Patrick Leigh Fermor: Noble Encounters Between Budapest and Transylvania, an English traveller across Europe. With an elegaic tone, O'Sullivan traces Leigh Fermor's journey on foot from chateau to chateau across the Hungarian-speaking parts of Eastern Europe with evident pleasure. At the same time his regret at how so many of those grand families were later brought low under communism is just as sincere. Small black-and-white photographs like those in Sebald novels add to the other-worldly mood, romantically recalling the grace & taste of vanished aristocracy.
Monday. Zsuzsa's mount strides around us looking glossy & elegant while Zeno the Alchemist, Bela, Gyuri and I take items from the car in the late-afternoon sun. It's parked round by the seed & grain store area next to the chicken coops. The big chestnut-coloured horse Solero seems to genuinely want to help us unload groceries out of the small car, but has not much idea what to do in practice so strolls around a bit, getting in the way. Later in the kitchen, I find Bela, supervised by Zeno, injecting dozens of doses of strong schnapps into a melon using a 5-millilitre syringe.
Sunday. More rain outside all day. Read a 1983 picture book I found in a bedroom at Robin's house on the Great Plain, 'Kozep-Azsiai Muveszete Avicenna Koraban' (Central Asian Art in the time of Avicenna) by Lutfija Ajni, E. Guljamova, Karolyn Gombos, G. Verhovskij, and translated into Hungarian by Ilona Kovanecz from what I assume is Russian. That's judging from the original title, written as 'Iszkussztvo szrednyej Azii epohi Avicennu Izdatyeltszvo "Irfon"'. The text is thorough, explaining what was going on politically & culturally in parts of Central Asia around the year 1000 AD. During the brilliant poet, medical physician, and philosopher Ibn Sina's life - Latinised to Avicenna - much was occurring in what by the 1980s (when this book was produced) were still Muslim republics of the Soviet Union. Pictures a little disappointing, though some are beautiful. Or at least show an object which might be beautiful even if its picture isn't. Some photos of the fragments of arch from vanished mausoleums or collapsed mosques have a look-upon-the-works-of-Ozymandias feeling. A few bits of thousand-year-old tile or brick work are still striking. The overall impression from the history text in the book is of a region, era, and religious system so violent and despotic that it was no surprise the period's handful of bright individuals like Avicenna left little long-term trace on the culture they were unlucky enough to be born into. Avicenna himself moved home several times and spent time in prison for political reasons. In the early evening Artist Robin arrives from the big city, and we bounce ideas around until late as usual.
Saturday. Last night slept 15 hours. Outside dark and rains all day. Today read a picture book from Robin's library, 'Sufi: Expressions of the Mystic Quest' by Laleh Bakhtiar. The illustrations are wonderful, and some consist of large, clear, whole-page pieces of black-and-white calligraphy, perhaps the single most impressive craft in Islamic culture. While pictorially wonderful, some of the text is confusing, often providing a minimalistic, laconic reference to some intriguing giant diagram of Sufi concepts which diagram is mysterious, pretty, but leaves rather a lot still unexplained. For example, there is a fabulous wheel taking up page 62 representing stations of the moon, along with signs of the zodiac, each of the Arabic letters, and handy categories like 'The 4th Heaven, The Sun, Abode of Hermes' or on another spoke, more simply 'The Hidden'. No clue what's going on there. Fifty pages later a similarly baffling section has some rather lovely magic squares doing arithmetic with the names of Allah (eg, if Allah is 66, that name can therefore = 21 + 26 + 19, or 20 + 22 + 24, or 25 + 18 + 23 : and so on). More methodical commentary in more detail would hugely improve this visually lush book. Solero strides around in the garden Biblically, chewing horse-chestnut branches within reach. Apparently he is in his new paradise because he's killed no fewer than three lambs out in the meadow by charging the flock and taking out his frustration or boredom on straggling youngsters. Hence he now potters about outside the house, sniffing the fruit trees as if in a picture of Adam naming the beasts.
Friday. Interesting article comparing the search for partners by men & women to two separate economies, with very different degrees of inequality. Catch train. Uneventful trip out into the Great Plain of rural Hungary. The leggy serving lass at Szolnok station looks tired, snappy, blank-faced of late. After dark find Zeno the Alchemist & Peter K., his & Robin's artist friend, smoking quietly at a small table on the verandah, sheltered by foliage, rain pouring down 3 or 4 feet away.
Thursday. Seems I got quoted in a Breitbart piece.
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