to links pages 
phone texts to Skype = mark-griffith
Saturday. Interesting rumour says that the 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 October 1st.
Friday. A rather defeatist elegy for what he fears is dying, 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 bravely 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), 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.
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. Slightly cross tirade from a boat person saying two sailors rescued after (supposedly) months lost at sea are lying.
Monday. A cheerful wife says "slutty behaviour" helped her find the right man; Someone not-too-convincingly claims feminism was a malign force even in the 19th century; A woman with 65 previous offences, several violent, gets only 5 years for killing someone on the street in Manchester; A writer soberly appeals for feminists to embrace evolutionary theory.
Sunday. Fascinating article about a single strand of wire enclosing part of Manhattan to allay religious/doctrinal concerns of some Orthodox Jews.
Saturday. Description of the sinister Orwell-+-Huxley-style social network in China they've been building for a few years.
Friday. As Madrid & the Catalans continue bickering, Sinn Fein's support for Barcelona described as a political blunder.
Thursday. Clever 3D pedestrian crossing in Iceland. Similar road markings in 1980s Britain (tromp d'oeil painted arrows that seemed to stand up out of the tarmac) got vetoed by the desk weasels.
Wednesday. Doctors baffled (and worried, I hope) by woman sweating blood. Top marks to the journal for calling itself 'Stuff'.
Tuesday. Researcher tries to explain brainwaves.
Monday. Apparently a few left-wingers will scream at the sky to mark one year since President Honey Monster won the election. Woman who married herself admits to cheating on herself. Harvard Mag, a decade and a half ago, explains why white people should be abolished. Article says the gods love socialist governments who die young, comparing Jim Morrison to Che Guevara. Is Facebook bending over backwards for Islamism?
Sunday. People feel liberal if they're superhuman?
Saturday. Do men lust after clever girls and if not why not?
Friday. Go with Robin to do some Tarot-reading at a friend's house. Svelte Julia lies on the sofa wrapped in a blanket grumbling about not sleeping the previous night. Krisztian pours digestif bitters for me and expresses indignation about a Hungarian sexual harassment case in the news. Some very interesting spreads come up.
Thursday. More harsh words about film producer Mr Weinstein and his Oscar cartel here and here. Someone goes rapidly off piste with a claim that if aliens exist they must be machines and must be very old. Some researchers claim that liberal/left voters have more psychotic traits.
Wednesday. Takimag definitely finding its voice, no longer just an expanded version of Taki's old column at the Spectator. Here, some extraordinary good sense about women, men, & feminism. Followed by more harsh but good sense about foreign migrant workers in the US: as (on the subject of 'Principle Numero Two-o: There's no genetic difference that makes a Mexican more likely to love horrible jobs than an American.') Bob says: "They're not having folk festivals in Mexican villages in which all the young mothers pray to the Aztec gods to give them jobs cleaning toilets in Akron." In separate news, we should not be shocked by research saying in organisations senior women help other women much less than senior men do men. British man runs away and lives homeless in woods for a decade to get away from nagging wife.
Tuesday. Seems no baby Nigels in 2016. Perhaps 1.
Monday. Over the last week, a scandal has been breaking involving a large Hollywood executive called Harvey Weinstein. In all his photos he's in a suit and has impressive stubble. Allegations rapidly mount that he has for 30 years been shouting at people, throwing chairs at glass walls, extracting sexual favours from women seeking major film roles, extracting sexual favours from women seeking minor film roles, masturbating in meetings, telling various folk "You'll never work in this town again", and otherwise being boorish. Harvey has a fine showing in a list of people who get thanked in Academy Award acceptance speeches, although Billy Wilder appears to be misplaced on that bar chart. Lots of actors, actresses, and journalists now say how appalled they are by Mr Weinstein's behaviour (including his younger brother, see Position 8 in getting-thanked chart), after they all covered up for him for decades. Don't put your daughter on the stage, Mrs Robinson! Harvey has helped make many films as a producer, including such classics as 'Bad Santa', 'Zack and Miri Make a Porno', and 'Full Frontal' ("Everybody needs a release.")
Sunday. Finish a book kindly lent by Robin, 'A History of Civilizations' by Fernand Braudel, translated into English by Richard Mayne. Although the author is established in an introduction as the great French scholar who helped launch a new 20th-century movement for a kind of full, "all-round" history including all the other subjects, the result here is sometimes intriguing but mostly disappointing. Different continents are examined in turn. He swallows the mid-century ideas behind a European Union based on the EEC unquestioningly, he breaks into lyrical discussion of South American literature (and a little bit in the USA section, but not elsewhere) yet seems flummoxed by the grand sweep of the Latin continent. Looking at the USA section and the Latin America section back to back, Braudel seems to find the distances and poverty of the Latin 3/4 of the two continents heroic, crushing, epic yet cannot pin down what keeps the place poor, even when he is forced to replay almost the same discussion in the following section about how the United States became quickly rich and carried on getting richer. When he could have done more modest history, recounting some string of events in detail, he instead is admirably ambitious. Sad though, because the sweeping view of history he tackles shows him up as a bit limited intellectually. In a rather sloppy design choice by Penguin, the cover samples the same 1830s painting -
The Course of Empire by Thomas Cole - they used for the cover of their edition of Gibbon's book on the fall of Rome.
Saturday. In the shopping centre basement level, a relaxed girl with long brown hair casually swerves away from her boyfriend so that without breaking step she can stroke the head of the six-foot-tall plush giraffe standing guard in the toy shop doorway. She curves back in time to step on the up escalator just behind him. A few days ago I noticed a small stain the size of a large coin on the lino floor of my flat. Curiously it's a kind of deep rose colour, and roughly the shape of the pink lion in the Spanish coat of arms & flag. Represents the Kingdom of Leon apparently. A fortnight after riot militia in the streets were beating bleeding Catalans during a vote, senior EU figures remain supportive of Madrid's robust policing style.
Friday the 13th! Austrian politics gets snippy as coalition partners accuse each other of cheating in elections.
Thursday. 1) Moody synth track needed as yet another 1970s sci-fi plot starts unfolding: Rise Of The Plastic Eaters; 2) Big straw animals in Japan; 3) One of our contributors with a well-organised, thought-provoking speech that slightly hyperventilates about social media; 4) Sex "toys" are easy to hack - but what kind of person stuffs an internet-connected device up their minge anyway? - seriously; 5) Surprise, surprise, of course private railways are hugely better than British Rail ever was, as anyone who can read numbers or has an honest memory has known for decades already.
Wednesday. Nice self-assembling ball-bearing-circuit action on film.
Tuesday. Recent loss of Western mojo seems to be accepted now.
Monday. Slightly chilly weather being followed up by a couple of quite warm days. Perfect for a glass of chilled blue wine.
Sunday. Ladies! Don't put powdered wasp-nest up yourselves!
Saturday. One of our contributors lists odd points about last Sunday's Las Vegas mass murder by an affluent white man with a room full of weapons claimed by Da'esh to have converted to Islam six months ago. Does the rumour it was an FBI entrapment arms-sale sting gone wrong have any substance?
Friday. a) People cry more easily watching movies at altitude; b) Saudi textbook shows Kingdom Ambassador advised by Star Wars goblin; c) This year Britain moved from 9th to 8th largest manufacturer in world - Brexit nightmare continues! d) Thoughtful and useful piece on crypto-currency drawbacks; e) Interesting and slightly eerie long article about a curious firm that changes your naughty children's behaviour; f) Suggestion that income & wealth inequality is an inevitable physics artefact - convincing yet unsatisfying at the same time.
Thursday. Mistreatment of Burmese Muslim minority not quite what it seems: article rather shouty & repetitive, but interesting.
Wed. Make organic plastic in your kitchen! Greens Will Eat Themselves.
Tuesday. Many shocked by Madrid authorities' heavyhanded efforts on Sunday to block & disrupt a Catalan independence referendum, albeit an illegal independence referendum. A retired British ambassador reacts on his blog with a strikingly stupid screed about the EU: not only is he thick enough to have positively supported the EU federal project for decades until this week, (and to confuse 'denounce' and 'renounce', until he edits it), but he seriously thinks EU natural-rights-based civil-code law secures freedom when of course it creates police states. That's right, you can serve in Britain's Foreign Office with views as dim as these. Notice his repeated use of 'right wing'. Of course, good on him for finally seeing through the EU and speaking out against Madrid's day of state-imposed fightiness, but look into his detailed reasoning and despair.
Monday. Teacher tells class of children not to talk to one boy whose father is a Tory MP.
Sunday. Ongoing Catalan & Spanish liveliness flares up again when the independence referendum banned by Madrid goes ahead. Riot police acting under the instructions of the central Spanish government do a fair amount of thumping & kicking, but manage to at least avoid killing anyone. Sunday, the day of rest, is the traditional day for elections and votes on The Continent, as opposed to Thursdays in Britain, the day of Norse god Thor: probably just historical accident. In the evening of the same day, a slightly strange mass shooting in the US, where apparently a wealthy 64-year-old man with lots of guns sprays a crowd at a country-and-western concert with semi-automatic fire from a hotel bedroom, killing over 50 people, and is already dead from a shot to the head when police break down his door.
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