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Tuesday. Brilliant, even warm, morning sunshine pours exactly down Petofi Sandor street turning it into a slot of liquid gold compared to still cold shadowy side roads. This rod of sun just misses the golden hoop floating over the head of Mother Mary atop her 18th-century stone pillar. Later, walking across the beautifully sun-glittered Szell Kalman square to catch my bus up to Crypto Hill, I see a bus with a symbol on its electronic forehead I haven't seen before. For about a decade the electronic number board on the front of the tourist bus that tours the Castle District has had a little lit-up castle-shaped silhouette, and the bus that goes to the airport has shown a generic aeroplane. Now a third one. Picked out in the orange dot-matrix display above the windscreen of the parked vehicle, are the Hungarian words for "Waiting for mechanic", next to an adorable little spanner pictured at a jaunty angle. We can rebuild him!
Meanwhile, the EU goes
Monday. Mild weather very much with a feel of spring. A quick reminder of how wonderfully odd Japan is.
Sunday. Two useful cryptocurrency articles: first
Saturday. Rather sad confirmation from Finland: free money means people don't work. Just as the dismal science predicts.
Friday. A strange day of being given books. Marion at lunch lends me a copy of Simon's second book to read: Sweets From Strangers. Then in the mid-afternoon I pick up a whole box of books from kind Bianka, including Stamboul Train from Greene, and then in the evening over to Robin's, where a review copy of Parables for the Pouring Rain by Paul Sutton has arrived for me.
Thursday. German woman's love affair with aeroplane.
Wednesday. Should creator of the early global-warming data be prosecuted for fraud?
Tuesday. A few days ago the cute little lift in the office on Crypto Hill was restored to operation. It broke down a fortnight before Christmas. Now once again, papered inside with cocktail-cabinet cigar-box veneer, it can connect the four floors. It chugs up and down, through the barely noticeable central column of the seemingly endless spiral stairs of cappuccino-coloured marble slabs, like a covert coffin. It claims to fit four people. Two adults can just about share this lift without becoming sexually intimate. Two more adults would have to be circus acrobats pinned across the ceiling. A notice in magical-kingdom English on the ground floor sternly enjoins users not to "jiggle or make smoke", and to take care with the "fixenings", among other poetic prohibitions.
Monday. Here is a handy list (thanks, Diane!) of some candidates so far seeking the Democratic nomination for the US presidential campaign in 2020.
Sunday. Rather lovely snow phenomenon seen in Wiltshire.
Saturday. Cheese reduces chances of death, claim boffins.
Friday. Find myself trudging around the 14th district trying to find an audition, mistakenly going to two of Katalin's old offices before finding the newest one. Walking along Rona street under cloudy skies (a street one building's porter insists has a bus route along it, but doesn't) was strangely interesting. I kept being reminded of slightly bleak bits of suburban Manchester such as Princess Parkway when rain seemed imminent. New gates, low buildings, random strips of grass all had this odd suggestion of some alternative reality humming, shimmering just beneath the surface of things. Banal surroundings peculiarly infused with transcendent freshness. I get to the audition, Katalin is very kind about my lateness. We read through it but I can sense not a role I'll get.
Thursday. Here endeth the extraordinary first month of the office restaurant. It was just nearing completion before Christmas when miserable and sad I was leaving alone one night, passing its glass doors. The three proud men in charge of it called me in and insisted on plying me with food before I could go home. They could see my unhappiness through the glass and wanted to cheer me up. Bizarrely the cafe/restaurant extends downward in a series of small platforms into what was clearly a swimming pool (obviously a vital accessory for any embassy). Still with its blue tiles and steel ladder this bottom zone now hosts a sofa and some deep squishy armchairs. Am still not quite used to getting into a workplace and having to go straight away for a scrumptious cooked breakfast, followed not long after by an often-delicious lunch.
Wednesday. Gloriously, headcold begins going away. Happy day! I get illusory feeling that uplifting songs by specific singer have over last 3 days driven vile bacillus from my sinuses. Tim Buckley must have been in my sisters' record collections. Some are articulate: Sweet Surrender; some remind of Scott Walker:
Pleasant Street; some have a wonderful energy cutting across bittersweet lyrics:
I Never Asked to be Your Mountain;
precious, dreamlike: Song of the Magician;
raucous, exultant: Honey Man. All of them seem rich with texture and unusual shifts:
Gypsy Woman /
Blue Melody /
Down by the Borderline. Couple of nights pondering all the loves I've lost, and hey presto, foul pox gone: health & energy restored.
Tuesday. 1969 gets advance warning of Early-70s Folk Apocalypse.
Monday. Guardian warns of cyber-threat, still calls it 'capitalism'.
Sunday. Month-old headcold worsens again. Fabulous. Feeble of me to complain though when Bukovsky is doggedly alive, still releasing vital material.
Saturday. Increased concern that Chinese hardware builder Huawei might be spying for Chinese state.
Friday. Further climate shockers: Global warming doesn't cause hurricanes. Imagine our surprise. Meanwhile, masturbating man in Oregon restaurant resists arrest by 12+ police officers. The mighty power of rough drugs.
Thursday. Irish writer shows tin ear judging English Brexit voters.
Wednesday. Two men claiming to be God continue to resist eviction from interfaith arts centre in Tennessee.
Tuesday. "People's Vote" campaign attempting to rerun 2016 EU referendum to get a Brussels-pleasing vote 2nd time descends into infighting.
Monday. Turns out that recently discovered Neolithic stone circle in Scotland in fact dates from the distant 1990s.
Sunday. Background inside Labour to this month's fascinating constitutional shenanigans. Here too.
Saturday. Almost a surprise - am roused from headcold lethargy by news of a late-post-Hogmanay party at Robin's flat. Perhaps this is Eastern Orthodox Hogmanay. Mellow guests and odd exchanges. Odd in a good way, obviously.
Friday. There are mysterious blue people in Kentucky?
Thursday. Wonderful article from two years ago. 'Progressive' journalist describes uncanny encounter with possible Trump voter.
Wednesday. Nice essay about the Victorian reimagining of the vampire. Seems that Dracula is Byron.
Tuesday. China's computer creepiness continues: a new app will tell you if you walk near someone the state wants debt-shamed.
Monday. Women's mag shrewdly notes some news manipulation.
Sunday. Woman with medical condition cannot hear men's voices. Unprecedented! Probably no link to claim Cuban embassy sonic attacks are crickets.
Saturday. Physical book sales revive, as I predicted 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 specacular: frost-encrusted trees clustered on snowy slopes. 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.
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
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.
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