to links pages 
phone texts to Skype = mark-griffith
Thursday. Poignant image of heroic prewar futurism: the rooftop testing race track Fiat's Agnelli put at the top of a helical production line spiralling up inside the factory building in Turin.
Wednesday. At the gym, the slender girl with the blood-sugar catheter pointedly looks straight past me on every occasion as if I'm not there, while her friend the small lithe redhead behind the counter glares at me from under an angry brow. Suppose I should be flattered (*rolls eyes*).
Here's an interesting piece about the academic background to feminism.
Tuesday. Some 2018 financial predictions, cleverly disowned as "outrageous".
Monday. During long multi-topic chat over coffee & tea, cheerful Jessica shows me her copy of a how-to-control-men book, jauntily titled 'The Power of The Pussy'.
Sunday. Meet Zoe & Mark at a restaurant for seasonal good cheer & groaning board. A quick reminder of France's secret 1950s request for political union with Britain. This was before the Treaty of Rome in 1957, whose cover story was preventing another war - although in fact intended to create a currency much stronger than sterling was at Suez in 1956, so as to facilitate new wars.
Saturday Science! Interesting botany piece about complex ancient trees. Sensible American neatly skewers metric measures. Someone argues that work on quantum artificial life is already underway, albeit without tackling The Fishtank Problem. And a brand-new optical illusion.
Friday. Two interesting articles about the attempted impeachment putsch in progress for a year now in the US against President Honey Monster. Glenn Greenwald points out the media's failings. Someone else praises Greenwald.
Thursday. Hallowe'en offer still open of demonic Kentish gin. Haunted apples cursed by a friendly local witch.
Wednesday. Wait for a student inside the 'Economics University', standing outside the new library, looking into a brightly-lit classroom through a slanting wall of glass. In the room a slim bearded man in a lilac button-up shirt is lecturing to 3 students. He's giving a slide show. For ten minutes as I wait, the slide on the screen has English headline 'Word Processors vs Document Preparation Systems (2)'. Just before my student arrives, the slide switches (back?) to 'Word Processors vs Document Preparation Systems (1)'. A wave of compassion for those 3 students washes over me.
Tuesday. Wake, very cheerful, out of a detailed dream in which I was happily wandering around in some large park in England in sunshine, encountering a large yellow-wood set of doors, cathedral size, not fixed properly to the doorway they're in. I move them bodily aside and lean them against the doorframe. Then a jovial English woman explains to me that wood from the "burling" tree was used a lot for doors and gates between 1590 and 1980, but was now considered not optimal in buildings. To my surprise, I later find after waking up that it's a real wood word, though not a type of tree.
Monday. Spirited rendition of 'I Don't Need No Doctor' by the Chocolate Watchband. Somehow better with that tinny-sounding cheap-studio echo.
Sunday. On the subway escalator I glide past a poster for a show, some kind of operetta or musical, now on at the Erkel Opera House, bearing the name Englebert Humperdinck. As it flashes past, I struggle to imagine the 1960s and 70s crooner alive now and singing on stage in the same borough I live in. This name I recall from listening to my new transistor radio in my bedroom aged 7 several decades ago. Somehow I decided at that date - probably based on his stage name and his singing which (even when I was in single figures) sounded tiresomely old-fashioned - that he must have been around 50 and therefore almost dead. I briefly grapple with the image of him still alive before grasping he might have been only 30ish then. Eastern Europe does appear to be where old pop stars go to die. Then another vague memory stirs of a 19th-century German composer whose name the singer took. He is of course the man referred to on the Christmas operetta poster. Then yet another recollection stirs in the back of my head where I, aged 7, mention Englebert the Leicester-born schlager singer - a sort of rival of Tom Jones - to my mother over breakfast. Whereupon she rolls her eyes at the ceiling, does a tinkly laugh, and tells me the real Englebert Humperdinck was a Victorian Wagnerian composer while of course 'Tom Jones' was an 18th-century novel. Still inside this freshly unearthed memory, I re-engage thoughtfully with my breakfast cereal, munching and mulling over these intriguing revelations of borrowed names spanning centuries. Back in the present, find that - though more likely to be doing Vegas than Budapest's second opera house - the already dated-sounding Englebert I once heard on the radio is remarkably still alive. He seems even to have been singing in public quite recently while approaching eighty. A man born just 15 years after that German composer died.
Saturday. Perhaps the most important article seen in months: simulated-society research has ethnocentrics dominating again and again.
Friday. Sad article about being a single woman.
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
Thursday. Follow-up news about Cuba's weird sonic weapon affair.
Wednesday. Survey of socialist Reddit people reveals some predictable stuff.
Tuesday. Hitherto neglected (by me) bit of 1960s garage music, set to a clip from some daringly louche film of the time: The Name of the Game. Proper period piece, complete with slurred lyrics and nasal guitars.
Monday. Apparently, Britain's Prince Harry is going to marry an American actress. She's his 15th cousin, explains a newspaper.
Sunday. Among the fitness-club machines, the slim lithe girl with the pink sticking plaster on her upper arm (covering a catheter into her skin that moniters her type 1 diabetes blood sugar, she told me a few weeks ago) is studiously carrying out the exercises written into her notebook. I ask how often the needle gets changed. Once a fortnight, she says.
Saturday. A return to form from the St Petersburg radio DJ with the static camera. Show #456.
Friday. Civil servant confirms that Labour's 1997-to-2010 governments pumped up immigration to push down wages. Oh, and another document emerges confirming that pro-EEC/EC/EU operators deliberately lied to Britain's public.
Thursday. Over at the gym, the "hardener" with the kung-fu physique looks pretty cross as she unsmilingly logs in to coach a woman client through a basic fitness routine. I decide not to flirtatiously ask her for tips about overhead kettle-bell technique.
Wednesday. Man who created anti-virus software now carries weapons at all times. Very politely, the writer plays down the thought that Mr McAfee marrying a prostitute, and getting back together with her after she was paid to poison him, might show lack of judgment.
Tuesday. The case against Palestine as a nation clearly set out.
Monday. Interesting piece to coincide with his death in prison in recent days about 1960s leftwingers praising Charles Manson.
Sunday. Mysteriously, it seems that straight women like men who are good-looking, muscular, rich. Cue anguish from gender morons.
Saturday. Interesting rumour says that the October 1st Las Vegas mass shooting was distraction cover for an attempted assassination of the Saudi king who was in Vegas that night. Suggestive, given that several floors of the hotel the shooting came from (several windows of) were owned by Al Waleed bin Talal, now under arrest in the quiet coup sprung inside the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia since the Vegas mass killing. Curious how quiet that story has gone, and how quickly.
Friday. A rather defeatist elegy by Our Man in Bucharest.
Thursday. Slightly precious article about some flower from some person vaguely connected to Patrick Leigh Fermor.
Wednesday. Julie Burchill on wannabee-Arab Prince Charles. "Away with the djinns" is nice.
Tuesday. 'Male feminist', like some I knew at college, boasts of how proudly he'd humble himself, how mightily he'd grovel.
Monday. What did 17th-century food taste like?
Sunday. A law lecturer tries to free his students' minds.
Saturday. By night find myself at a lovely dinner party. In the middle of the curds-&-semolina dumplings-with-cream stage, a phone pings and the company demands to know of that male guest who has messaged him. An "older woman" he casually replies in Hungarian, later adding with a smile of mystery that she is "an Italian". Our gazelle-like feminine hostess, though not his girlfriend, switches into English and gently but firmly remarks "I'm not gonna cook for you any more. You go to your Mediterranean woman, perhaps she has a more liquidable pussy." General laughter breaks out at the novel English grammar, and an animated discussion starts about the right word (liquify? liquidate? liquidise?), digressing onto the topic of sex robots. Whereupon, just back from his surfing holiday, my table neighbour, not quite catching the thread of the conversation but looking very wise & jaded, says to me "Ah, most ertem. Egy nedvesitheto mupina," with the worldly nod of understanding Hungarians give to such statements.
Friday. For a week now, instead of my Serb/Hungarian neighbour, the adjacent flat has been occupied by a French couple, both perhaps about 30 or late 20s. They are there temporarily. They nodded last week when I asked if they were "Air BnB people". Late in the evening, I re-enter the building, come up in the lift, and notice their oblong bathroom window is lit up and open. Too high up to give a view in of course, I can hear echoey speaking. The male seems to be narrating something in a quiet & calm voice, with an occasional watery splosh or agreeing noise from the female. I get the impression she is in the bath, languidly listening to him either reading aloud from a book or recounting some anecdote to her. I cannot quite make out the words, but am reminded of the French Country House history noting that - unlike England - once bathrooms appeared in chateaux, the French immediately saw them as a cosy space to meet friends, socialise, chat about things. Rather than as the chilly, tiled, utilitarian hygiene zone of Dutch and English country homes.
Thursday. A comic strip imagines news reporting done by cats.
Wednesday. Still thinking about Wim Hof, the Dutch man who, in grief after his wife's death, began to explore the healing possibilities of intense cold. I've been quoting his line "for me, colt ish a noble forsh." from this film to friends for weeks now. Perhaps I overdid his Dutch accent.
Tuesday. As the wave of sex-assault allegations (some recent, some old) continues, claims surface that a teacher of Islamic Studies at Oxford has been Weinsteining women for several years, mostly in France. His closeness to the Muslim Brotherhood seemingly helps to silence his female critics. Unlike the case of the Hollywood producer, Ramadan's accusers cannot be said to be getting well-paid roles in films from him. Showing perhaps more boldness than Professor Ramadan, a Syrian man is caught "mounting" a pony in a German children's zoo in front of surprised visitors. No word on whether he is one of Merkel's guests. An American comedian issues an apology confessing that he asked a number of women if they would like to see his todger. A Russian man called 'Mick' apparently has a hobby business making tiny sex-dungeon toys and outfits for Barbie dolls. It seems there's a major wave of rape and violence against women in Sweden.
Monday. Saudi Arabia, to go with the recent 'reshuffle' of some rich princes into house arrest (or luxury hotel arrest) and the also very recent move to allow women to drive cars (sometimes), announces more excitingly funky news. A "female" robot has been granted Saudi citizenship. This might be a bold bit of PR about the desert kingdom vigorously modernising under the crown prince, or it might suggest that the view of women as chattels is so ingrained that giving a passport to a robot labelled as a woman seems perfectly natural for them. The artwork for this bit of music suggests a similar idea, with two hands fusing into one under a hive-like Artificial Person graphic.
Sunday. Remember, remember, the Fifth of November, gunpowder, treason, & plot. Yesterday while crossing Pest, I happen to be sharing an empty bench along the inside of an underground railway carriage with a spry old lady of uncertain age whose head was enclosed by a kind of hood or cowl of white material. Peeping out of it, she looked like a minor character featured early in a horror movie to establish an uneasy mood. She was about three feet away along the bench but she had that eerie smile and the bright light in the eyes that speaks of genuine madness. She was gazing out of the window at the dark tunnel walls, occasionally darting small blissed-out glances of glee at me before looking back out into the darkness. I felt a countdown to an event about to happen. Like starting a conversation, using a pretext (We're both looking at the same thing which isn't there!) that insane people and lonely normal people sometimes use. Or something like a sudden lunge for my crotch. I moved down the carriage. I'm at my destination station 5 minutes later, standing still on the crowded escalator taking people up to street level. On the moving staircase, I'm squashed right behind a white-skinned ginger-haired male with a thick mass of dreadlocks spilling down over a dull green jacket or raincoat. Down below his shoulder blades almost to his mid-back, these resemble a large dense mop made from carpet-underlay offcuts. To complete the effect of heroic ugliness, one shaggy ginger worm of matted felt had been threaded through a hole drilled in a white gambling die, then extending another 18 inches below. It was perhaps at the centre of the back of his neck. The cheapest kind, white plastic with black painted spots, it showed a four-dot face and next to that a five-dot face with the paint of the centre dot scratched away down to the white, so that at first glance there were two adjacent faces both showing fours. He was probably Hungarian, but in a town of sulky sneering beauties, a moment of touchingly English naffness.
Saturday. Rather sudden wave of allegations of sexual impropriety involving some Labour MPs expands. Now includes a 'dossier' of misbehaving Tory MPs ("I responded excessively to a hug") in what looks like a co-ordinated psyop by some agency to bring down May's government. Perhaps intended to derail Brexit. An ex-Tory aide close to Tony Blair seems to have helped the material 'surface', though he has now faded from news reports. Normal non-spook investigative journalism or dirt released by individuals doesn't usually come packaged in spreadsheets or folders of material on 36 (or was it 44?) people at once. This might be the reason Mrs May is reported to have given in to EU demands that Britain pay over 50 billion euros for permission to leave the association. This is the night people in Britain, when November 5th falls on a weekend, usually celebrate foiling Continental powers' 1605 attempt to sabotage British policy not to their liking.
One of our book contributors reports Saudi kingdom arrests 11 senior princes, including the once-handsome billionaire Al Waleed bin Talal. It was he who memorably said "If I see something priced at 1 billion I think is worth 5 billion, I buy it." Now his steely greying hair & tinted glasses make him look proper dodgy.
Friday. Lawyer on Egyptian television calls it a "national duty" to rape girls wearing ripped jeans. Apparently he's a regular on the TV discussion show, sometimes starting fisticuffs in the studio with other Egyptian luminaries.
Thursday. Confirmation appears that Clinton took control of the DNC apparatus a year before she was nominated as 2016 presidential candidate.
Wednesday. Day of the Dead. This evening didn't visit the nearby cemetery as in some previous years.
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