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February 12th; Wednesday. Striking short animation for a song called The Ghost of Stephen Foster.
February 11th; Tuesday. Here's a 'Witch House' (dark ambient Goth techno Satan something something) version, I slowly realised, of a Lionel Richie song. Cover photo shows a standard-issue Hungarian party girl dressed as if "of the night", complete with bored, sneering expression ('O', from the nattily named Blvck Ceiling). Pretty much the same sort of thing from 1958 by Kip Tyler - 'She's My Witch'. With a friend to Indochinese restaurant. Friend persuades me to try a strange sweet course starring "black rice". Something of a Goth dessert, a veritable Pudding Of Darkness, I tentatively suggest, as we churn in the coconut milk it comes with. During conversation, it emerges he used to work with a titled German accountant in London whose real name was Count Frankenstein, a French notary in Geneva whose real name was Jesus Christ ("I had to stop using him, people complained about documents notarised with that name on"), and knows a girl in Ukraine whose common-law husband was phonetically called Gary Satan (although the spelling is different, something like "Seyton").
February 10th; Monday. Discover some filmed radio film reviews, if that isn't complicated enough, featuring a man called Mark Kermode. Some of his reviews are interesting, although the earnest way he reviews the risible Black Panther, and reverential mentions of various Italian schlock horror film directors give him away as a BBC leftist wally. But some films competently reviewed nonetheless. Here he is on A Field in England / The Navigator / Inception / Grand Budapest Hotel.
February 9th; Sunday. Full moon. Something very strange in Simon's kitchen. I distinctly recall last weekend there were two neon lights under one leg each of the the L-shaped array of head-height cupboards. One along the stretch almost to the fridge, and the other under the cupboards over the sink at right angles to the fridge stretch. In fact, at one point last weekend I switched the fridge set off leaving only the other strip on. Now not only is there no neon strip under the cupboards above the fridge, there is nowhere it could have been (cue eerie music). The wires, plugs, and sockets are in the same place, but no light strip or even place for one. Just an air extractor grille taking up the whole underside of that cupboard stretch. Slightly panicky, I feel like one of those mad people utterly convinced some children's cartoon had a different spelling 20 years ago therefore they "must" have slipped sideways into a very similar parallel universe with one or two absurdly trivial details changed. Shall ask Si. Editing transcripts of documentaries last week and this week about suicidal, infertile, criminal, insane people might have got me imagining things. Pretty unlikely Simon's electric kitchen is actively trying to gaslight me.
February 8th; Saturday. Increasing rumours from several sources are claiming that the coronavirus pneumonia-like disease currently killing people in China was an engineered weapon designed in a government lab that escaped into the city of Wuhan. The extra claim is it was a weapon intended for Hong Kong.
February 7th; Friday. Three tunes from Little Ann, plus one where she sings backing for the wonderfully labelled Tarheel Slim.
Going Down A One Way Street /
Sweep It Out In The Shed /
Who Are You Trying To Fool /
Can't Stay Away.
February 6th; Thursday. The London Metal Exchange decides for now to keep open outcry as its auction method. London's last commodity market, apparently, to still have a trading ring or pit with lads shouting at each other to settle prices.
February 5th; Wednesday. Final chat with British journalist briefly in town. We discuss lots of stuff, including religious art, the difference between Dracula and Nosferatu: #, books by Hilaire Belloc, and G. K. Chesterton's
February 4th; Tuesday. A few helpful remarks from publishers currently looking for fiction. Metaphorosis Books is issuing "a reprint anthology for Vegan science fiction and fantasy stories published in the previous year -- They want stories that happen to be vegan - no meat, no hunting, no horse-riding, no leather." The Were-Traveler wants "weird fiction where the setting is a carnival, theme park, circus or fair/festival. 'Clowns can be part of the story, but they don't have to be.'" Hybrid's 'Genderful' is a "furry fiction anthology in two parts which aims to explore how furry and gender interact. They want submissions that explore the implications of non-cisgender life within the context of furry."
February 3rd; Monday. Looks as if some remains found at Pompeii really are Pliny the Elder. One of our book's contributors sets out the four different epidemics affecting Asia at the moment. Interesting wartime deduction using wargaming of how German U-boats were attacking Allied food convoys in the Atlantic.
February 2nd; Sunday. Do a bit of firewood sawing next to the garage, watched critically through their wire fence by Robin's geese. Here's an intelligent dog vaguely like the white-coloured Siegfried.
February 1st; Saturday. Kindly invited out to countryside by Bela, by mid-afternoon train. On the local stopping train across the Great Plain, a drawn-out sunset shimmers at the sky's edge, like a burning city just out of sight below the horizon. Was it yesterday I recommended Bubu watch this and this film?
January 31st; Friday. Would have been Mother's birthday. Fascinating chat with a new contact this week. A couple of studio-ish late-night-type tunes: It's You by White Lamp || Never Gonna Reach Me by Crazy P.
January 30th; Thursday. Man from Kansas formally requests Iowan divorce court allow him to settle the divorce case against his wife with trial by combat, involving swords. Gallantly, he offers that his wife's attorney can swordfight on her behalf.
January 29th; Wednesday. Fine, lucid talk: Why Face Surveillance Must Be Banned.
January 28th; Tuesday. Two memorable bits of 1970s Parliament-Funkadelic stage-show excess: Red Hot Mama / Mothership Landing. Takes me back to uneasily watching two predatory Militant Tendency friends at college sizing up a newly arrived lad who they thought they could convert to their gritty, cultish, monastic brand of Leninism because they reckoned he was "working class" and needed his consciousness raised. A big relief when after a month or two this seemingly isolated fresher followed his own healthier interests and launched a set of dance/social events themed around Dr Funkenstein and the music of Philadelphia in that era.
January 27th; Monday. In the evening, sleep in pullover and trousers scrunched up on Robin's chaise longue still with my green tie on, under a single blanket. Somehow I think whenever Jack Lemmon characters slept in their clothes on some sofa, each of them was more careful and took his tie off first. Strangely deep sleep though.
January 26th; Sunday. Two days ago, Friday afternoon, I arranged to meet Simon in the Italian restaurant on his street. I get there as it opens at four, and the head waitress girl from Milan meets me at the door and straightaway apologises that the pizza maker has not yet arrived: there will be a delay of 3/4 of an hour unfortunately. I drink a lemon juice and a small coffee and 40 minutes later, a man in his late thirties arrives and takes his coat off as he walks straight into the kitchen. She and another waitress turn to me, indicating him, and the Milanese girl proudly says in English "We Have The Man." Now pizza is possible. She's one of those petite, alert, straight-backed brunettes the Italians do rather well.
January 25th; Saturday. Rather sweet guide to the Labour leadership contest. Meanwhile, some other small furry bots.
January 24th; Friday.
A bit of looped sixtiesism from Brian Jonestown Massacre :
Some Kali Uchis tunes (yes, citizens, Bootsy Collins still lives) ::
After The Storm /
Water to Wine /
Ending with a dash of heartless buzz-bass from the Butthole Surfers :::
Dust Devil /
22 going on 23.
January 23rd; Thursday. Stop trying to be healthy! The NHS comes first.
January 22nd; Wednesday. One month since the record sunspot low.
January 21st; Tuesday. On way back into Budapest, again changing at Szolnok, I go into a different shop in the station to buy some calories, not the one with the leggy lasses. With about four minutes until my train leaves, diving through their rubbery see-through strips hanging in the doorway, I ask the assistant how much a Mars bar costs. A customer in front of me in the otherwise empty shop seems to be packing her bag. The shop assistant looks at me with frank dislike and says "If you can just wait while I deal with the customer in front of you," and we wait half a minute, all pretending the customer in front is doing something other than leaving. Then I select a Mars bar, hand the assistant the money and say with my sweetest smile "I'm so sorry to have rushed you, but this is a railway station." I get a satisfying black glare in return. Non-deferential Customer Must Die! I get down the white tunnel and catch my connecting train with one minute to spare. Spiked book review about Marxism.
January 20th; Monday. Last night slept 11 hours. More frost and picturesque fog on the Great Plain. Quick overview of the Saint George question.
January 19th; Sunday. Last night slept 14 hours. A quiet day at Robin's farm. So much frost it looks at first glance like snow. By the cloudy, slightly less chilly gloom of early afternoon, each tree has a disc of powdery white fallen frost around its trunk, like the exact opposite of snow. Out fetching firewood from the freshly-swan pile near the squawking geese, ducks, and hens in their wired enclosure, the oddly labador-like Siegfried sees my task is carrying branch-sized logs, so picks one up in his mouth. He follows me to the house and as I think, poor hound, can't let him in the house he instantly drops his log and looks at me reproachfully. Last time I was here a fortnight back there was a moment when I stood outside the front door frustratedly asking myself where I could find some kindling to start the fire indoors with, whereupon Siegfried immediately grabbed one end of a log, ripped a long strip of bark off with his mouth, and then came over to put the end of the kindling strip into my hand. Coincidence, I guess.
January 18th; Saturday. Train via Szolnok out into a Great Plain cold & foggy enough to make the branches heavy with ropes of frost. Every tree looms out of night-time mist remade as a crystal-coasted weeping willow. Under the new timetable I have to spend more than an hour at the white concrete Szolnok station. I buy snacks from the two cute leggy girls at the late-night sandwich stand - they seem to have replaced the earlier leggy girl who worked there. As I sit waiting for my connection (and later on the hour-long local train ride to Kunszentmarton), I read an Economist magazine of 2020 predictions obviously put together in around November 2019, kindly given me by Iris. I know the Economist has been slipping in quality for a couple of decades, but this was a shock.
No longer anonymously written, as used to be their tradition, each article gives the writer's name, along with a jaunty (but flattering) little pen-drawn headshot. Like those scraperboard portraits the Wall Street Journal used to do, except those were useful & tasteful.
Some of this mag's writing appeared to be straight-up advertorial: heads of businesses giving lame forecasts while mentioning their firms or political bodies over and over again. Throughout the whole issue man-made global warming is uncritically treated as established fact, mentions of Brexit piously reiterate the terrible risk of displeasing Brussels, snide carping remarks reinforce that El Trumpo is still the class enemy - not the surprisingly successful survivor of the most co-ordinated press bias in a century. The editor's introduction states that this annual will in future be edited by Tom Standage, "A master at spotting trends and putting them in context". On page 91, this same Tom Standage makes five very conventional predictions about what will horrify our grandchildren, four of which are self-evidently wrong (they will blame us for not doing more to stop "climate change", eating meat will seem outrageous in retrospect, opposition to unrestricted immigration will be seen as wicked, and attitudes towards "gender" will make us look old-fashioned). Only the fifth, about overuse of antibiotics, has any tenuous link to fact. The other four are obviously silly trends (at least obviously to anyone who regularly guesses about the future) which have already run their course, now clearly going into reverse.
A handful of good articles (one on indoor rack-mounted plant-growing, one on house-price inflation) give a glimpse of what the magazine used to be. But against these are a host of pieces showing real lack of thought. An article on South Africa and Cyril Ramaphosa completely leaves out the miners in the wrong union he had shot dead during the 2014 platinum-mine strike. A short article on cricket gloats that the Olde Worlde sport is being "updated". Several articles on the forthcoming 2020 US presidential contest take an anti-Donald angle for granted, as if removing him is self-evidently vital for the US and the Global Something. "Divided, damaged, and diminished" runs a headline on Britain after/during Brexit, even though the country is blatantly more energetic & optimistic than it's been in over three decades. The overall tone has now become actually childish, not just breezily glib as it was for years. This annual reminded me of film reviews I wrote for the school sixth-form magazine, though not quite as good.
An "arts" piece closes with rumours of a forthcoming black female James Bond (a group of us at school at the end of the 1970s predicted this), making the embarrassingly outdated sideswipe at Brexit that "Britain may once again be yearning to return to a mythical, glorious past - but James Bond, it seems, is coming to terms with the modern world." From a magazine that was founded soon after the debate on the Corn Laws to agitate for tariff-free trade, (whereas reliance on tariffs and overregulation is written into the EU's DNA), this kind of cupboard love for trade blocs positively cringe-making.
January 17th; Friday. A few Fridays ago, when Mark kindly took me to a classical concert at Hungary's Palace of Arts (and bizarrely we got separated by some officials so I got lost, coming back to a different balcony) I found myself watching a Serious Music Rebel two seats along from me. He had a stripy Cod-Frenchman shirt, jeans, boots, and spectacles with red frames. Looking like an ad agency art director in other words. He sat intent through one of the pieces, moving into a kind of attentive doze as he focused on listening rather than looking. Meanwhile: a new consensus building that vegetarians are "unhealthy and mentally disturbed".
January 16th; Thursday. A quick word or two from "Britain's pub landlord" about Scots independence and British regional accents.
January 15th; Wednesday. Marking the recent death of Roger Scruton with a Dalrymple article about the corruption of language.
January 14th; Tuesday. Suggestions to spray stuff in the sky to dim the sun, and evidence the sun is dimming anyway. Not forgetting those recent volcanoes might also be doing the job.
January 13th; Monday. An AI technique works on real brains, and it seems that downloading skills into brains is a real thing now.
January 12th; Sunday. Apparently fisherman are part of China's underwater drone detection system.
January 11th; Saturday. In the morning visit the men at the hardware store to ask how I instal the new spring case for the shutter blinds. Later on, am on a bus under blue skies going along suburban streets approaching a hospital in southern Pest. With a leafless wood on one side of the road, sunlit cottages on the other, I glance up at the dot-matrix digital clock. The bus says it is 01:11:11:00, then as I watch clicking to 01:11:11:01. I've been getting lots of spam letters recently about noticing such numbers in plain view. When I look back up it's moved to 01:11:11:11. Down this road lies madness.
January 10th; Friday. Apparently those tiny water-bear things can freeze into some kind of glass. / Light sometimes comes out of people's eyes, horror-movie style?
January 9th; Thursday. El Trumpo's zapping of General Qassem Soleimani appears to have paid off. He was a co-ordinator of irregular militias in Iraq & Syria. Usual suspects are outraged. Seems that Ed Miliband as a minister in 2007 vetoed an earlier chance to off the sinister-looking but very talented Iranian commander.
January 8th; Wednesday. A claim that unvaccinated Amish children don't get certain diseases. Though since they're socially isolated from epidemics and live lives low on stress, they might not be the best of control groups.
January 7th; Tuesday. Once again am sleepless from 3 to 6, and again eerie mood of inexplicable joy & beauty. Mutinous muttering among the goldbugs again.
January 6th; Monday. Much talk about how Australian bushfires are the fault of manmade global warming. Another
is they are the fault of
environmentalists (or perhaps just mentalists) who believe in manmade global warming, and have forced policy changes on logging
January 5th; Sunday. Awake in the small hours with strange stabbing feelings of indescribable happiness and gratitude: hard to put into words. Stumble over this woman's songs while trying to get back to sleep: Opening Night / As The World Turns / Aeroplane. This might be a case of less is less, but the record-cover image of her in flared slacks standing on someone's double bed is in some way exactly right for this echoey dream-ballad stuff.
January 4th; Saturday. Again go with Greek Michael to the nearby Indochinese soup restaurant. Place still full of well-presented fillies. Here's an interesting and clear piece about the alliance of Islam & leftism.
January 3rd; Friday. Later in day go with Greek Michael to the nearby Indochinese soup restaurant 100 paces from his door. Several tables of willowy girls with long, freshly-coiffed tresses are at tables in the restaurant, wearing the currently fashionable skintight black fake-leather leggings. I get the impression this place, only open 3 or 4 weeks, is still in its trendyness honeymoon as the new location in town to dress up and trawl for eligible bachelors, ie. men who aren't me.
January 2nd; Thursday. Much of the day we sit around the hearth, though there is an exciting mid-afternoon shopping trip to Kunszentmarton. Same night Andras & Denes cook a Hungarian dish for dinner and then drive back to town, giving me a lift. It seems that, even though they both slept last night in the only heated room at Robin's (its cosy grate heaped with glowing logs), the rural freshness was too much at least for Denes. Is modernism finally sinking?
January 1st; New Year's Day. Andras & Denes come down to Robin's and we drink to the New Year one day late. I show Denes the cow-moo device Andras gave me. Interview with idealist philosopher Bernardo Kastrup.
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
December 31st; New Year's Eve. Bela & I alone. I discover that the brown-paper-bag-and-ironing-board trick works. I vaguely recall my mother doing this, or perhaps talking about having once done it. Bela is fascinated as I iron through hot brown paper and the splashed wax stains on my nice soft black pullover lift right out hey presto. He asks do I think anyone elsewhere on earth is ironing out wax stains as New Year begins? My rather boring thought is if our time zone has 500 million+ people in it, there might well be a hundred or more folk tackling wax marks with irons and brown paper right now on this longitude. The wonder of large numbers.
December 30th; Monday. Robin & I watch 'Valerie & Her Week of Wonders', another film I've been meaning to watch properly all the way through for a few years. Although events are a little overdone halfway through during a set of crypt scenes, the magic-realism mood pulls the whole thing off. Something very odd about the Bohemians. This film about a girl coming of age occurs in an esoteric place and time, a village in Bohemia at some point in a perhaps rather unhistoric (give or take a straw hat) 17th-to-19th century span.
December 29th; Sunday. Robin & I watch 'Les Biches' (also known as 'Bad Girls'). Have been meaning to watch this for a few years now, not quite having the stomach to check out any of Chabrol's more blood-splattered films. Lots of buried psychological conflict between two steely beauties. All set in luxurious haute-bourgeois hipster France around 1968. Lacking subtitles, we didn't really follow the subtleties well with our very rusty French. Quite fresh, simple cinematography, not unlike some 1970s TV dramas. Clear, compelling opening credits and first scene.
December 28th; Saturday. I think it's today I make my first ever Yorkshire puddings, working from both a copy of the Constance Spry classic cookbook Robin inherited from his mother, and a Youtube video. Quite tasty for a first attempt, although the smoke I fill the kitchen with is a bit alarming. Especially worrying since, if anything, the puddings are underdone not overdone. Robin & I watch 'A Matter of WHO'. A very interesting 1961 black & white Terry Thomas comedy thriller we stumble across and watch on a whim. First of all, he is oddly new, yet different as a cheerful bowler-hatted, moustachioed English "germ detective" (an agent of the UN-affiliated World Health Agency of all things) hot on the heels of a smallpox outbreak between London and the Austrian Alps. Though he is clearly playing himself, the rogueish, witty Terry Thomas Naughty Gent of at least a dozen movies, something else stirred at the back of my mind. There is a gangstery scene in a cable car above the Alpine slopes vaguely reminiscent of the (made later, though set in WW2) 'Where Eagles Dare' movie, and as Thomas a couple of times surprises us wielding his furled umbrella, it snaps into focus. He is a prefiguring of the dapper British civil-servant/spy John Steed, also with comic bowler and umbrella, from the TV show The Avengers, also starting 1961. WHO is portrayed so mysteriously and approvingly, I wondered if they actually helped sponsor the film. This odd film is in fact both entertaining and clever, with some plot twists and genuine character development. Also something like an early Bond villain, a year ahead of the first of that franchise, 'Dr No', in 1962.
December 27th; Friday. Robin & I watch 'Baby Driver'. The director for over a decade wanted to make his pop video with the same concept into a full-length film. Finally he got the chance, and the result is nothing if not slick. Many scenes were shot & edited to fit round the soundtrack, rather than the other way round. The whole idea is a clever piece of identification fantasy. As so often, the trailer gives away much of what the film has to offer, and there is a definite loss of discipline halfway into the story. Towards the end, parts are cartoonish, and something goes wrong. The other bank robbers are too butch or villainous, for one thing.
December 26th; Thursday. Boxing Day. Drive after dark into flat, windswept countryside of central Hungary with Robin and Bela, discovering Cserkeszolo neighbour Comedian Dave with two daughters and ex-wife in a restaurant. Russian dog walks 200 miles to find girl who nursed it to health. But how?
December 25th; Christmas Day. Short, dark, sleep. Augustine & free will.
December 24th; Tuesday. Christmas Eve. Festive lunch with Textile-designer Edina, her mother, and her daughter. Later on, splendid feast at Irish Michael's antique-packed apartment, attended by Mark & Zoe and their two daughters. Remarkable Christmas pudding, soaked in rum & Cointreau. Michael & I natter late into small hours, discussing philistines, scholars, and
December 23rd; Monday. Possible forgotten influence on Edward Hopper.
December 22nd; Sunday. Depressing humour: the Married Kama Sutra.
December 21st; Saturday. Slightly dizzying photographs of Persian mosque ceilings.
December 20th; Friday. Unreported in Britain's largely pro-EU press, French strikers cut power to their central bank; French generals accuse Macron of treason.
December 19th; Thursday. Doctors euthanising patients to harvest organs? Hilarious to recall pompous medics angrily telling me such a thing was impossible.
December 18th; Wednesday. Have some researchers found a fifth force of nature?
December 17th; Tuesday. Interview with US Navy pilot who filmed a UFO he charmingly dubs the Tic Tac.
December 16th; Monday. Late at night with Andras, interesting discoveries about internal affairs at funny old Centrum.
December 15th; Sunday. Naked Mexican hero painted on perky horse: patriots irate.
December 14th; Saturday. Senior Labour figures reproach British voters for letting them down in the election. Ken Livingstone chides Britain's Jews as "unhelpful".
December 13th; Friday. Exit polls turn into proper counts and it emerges that the Tories did well and Labour did very badly. The only seat in the entire country won (as opposed to held) by Labour is wealthy London suburb Putney. Oddly enough the Putney Debates in 1647 saw the emergence of a kind of radical 'left' inside the Parliamentarians' New Model Army. A sort of prefiguring of the famous 1944 mock Parliament organised by British soldiers at Cairo, late in WW2.
December 12th; Thursday. A
general election in Britain.
December 11th; Wednesday. Warning on sexual morality - long essay, thoughtful.
December 10th; Tuesday. China forces face scans for phone users. Fraud, right?
December 9th; Monday. Charming, plausible American fraudster on a radio show. His style in interview eloquently shows how he did it.
December 8th; Sunday. Social-media vegan lady eats meat. Feels much better.
December 7th; Saturday. Man claims his farts kill or repel mosquitoes.
December 6th; Friday. While we discuss US politics back in the 1990s, Dr D. is momentarily unable to recall the name of Monica Lewinsky. "You know who I mean," he says, snapping his fingers as he tries to remember, "You know, you know --- the fat girl." Not how most English-speakers remember Bill Clinton's impeachment scandal, but: Continental values. Meanwhile, this politics chart claims to show the network of extremists on the Labour far left. Supposedly by some "retired spooks".
December 5th; Thursday. A cheerful talk about why cooking for yourself matters.
December 4th; Wednesday. Thought-provoking talks by Alan Watts, the inspiringly lucid Anglican/Buddhist active in the 1950s and 60s, some with low-key bits of instrumental music in the background.
Mystery of Time /
The Veil That Conceals Reality /
The Joker /
Outwitting the Devil /
Spectrum of Love.
December 3rd; Tuesday. Got to the end of 'The Devil Rides Out' by Dennis Wheatley (an interesting interview with him here). A mid-1930s novel which marked Wheatley's first foray (he had already successfully published 3 or 4 other thrillers) into the supernatural. Greeted by critics at the time as "the best thing of its kind since Dracula", it was adapted for film, along with later novels of his like 'To The Devil a Daughter'. Although big handsome motor cars with style and horsepower are a feature of the tale, there is something also of the 1880s Holmes stories: chilly, foggy outdoor scenes contrast with stuffy interiors. The indoor scenes are cosily padded out with comfortable old furniture, cigars, cheroots, deferential servants, and some totally routine heavy drinking. Even young vigorous characters, for example, find it quite a testing ordeal to stay inside a pentacle for 12 hours without their usual refills of wine and brandy. An unspoken dread in the background of the novel is that there should be another great war in Europe. Published in 1934, the threat that the magical beastliness unleashed by the chief villain might bring forth again the horsemen of the apocalypse, is explicitly part of the plot. Both the love-interest characters are East European totty - the young almost-English wife of one of the thoroughly decent eggs is in fact a beautiful girl "brought out of Russia", while the other exotic lass "mixed up in" the dark arts is a Hungarian girl named after a moon goddess. She must be rescued in all senses of the word by Rex, the bluff good-hearted American chum of "The Duke", chief warrior against the forces of evil. Main message of the tale is: Don't Look Into His Eyes!
December 2nd; Monday. Lunch with Tim. Snowy streets. Apparently coral makes a sound, and is encouraged if you play that sound back to it.
December 1st; Sunday. One of those articles claiming hot baths are as good as exercise. Looking forward to professional athletes abandoning training for hot baths. Could this be any link to zero gravity killing cancer cells?
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