Friday. Catch a plane in Budapest to get to London so as to play my small role as rude taxi passenger again. A charming but gloomy-looking man from Kosovo drives me from Heathrow to a rather swish hotel across a bridge from the Houses of Parliament. The cheerful make-up-and-hair ladies let me snaffle some wonderful cakelets seemingly abandoned outside their cosmetics den in the bowels of the hotel. The carpets in corridors and rooms upstairs have a curious design: an orangey tandoori sort of colour with the words of Keats' poem Asleep! O sleep a little while, white pearl! set into the carpet in yellowy-cream cursive italic. A block of text doing this poem twice recurs every couple of yards. Rather an adorable idea for a hotel carpet, really.
Thursday. Finish Paul's copy of the 1975 book 'Biology of God' by Alister Hardy. He was a marine biologist involved at an Oxford college with research into people's reports of religious experiences. Hardy proposes that some higher moral sense of togetherness (perhaps some richer kind of telepathic communication across a tribe) was of evolutionary advantage for early humans. He's quite careful and thoughtful in summing up various positions on science-versus-faith.
Wednesday. Nicely restrained song Why Don't You from Cleo Sol. On the other hand, Amber Mark and Lose My Cool.
Tuesday. Interesting attempt to claim the great Tunisian historiographer Ibn Khaldun as an early economist centuries ahead of his time. Suggesting he anticipates both Smith and Keynes rather torpedoes the idea before it even gets going though. Still, I ought to check Khaldun myself.
Monday. Psychiatric diagnoses meaningless? Not a complete surprise.
Sunday. Brave firm reviews 3 ways (it says) to raise IQ. Not quite how I remember modafinil, but never mind.
Saturday. Two tunelets from the adorably named "Young Rascals", many moons ago. Feast your eyes on that green-satin-shirt-plus-waistcoat combination on tambourine man. Then another from the following year, again with some mighty outfits but noticeably more post-suit.
Friday. Curious research result that immune cells, the little tinkers, invade brain tissue over time. This is not a good thing, say men with clipboards.
Thursday. Pick up document from the FCO. Ja! My papers are in order!
Wednesday. 40 years on, China repeating Japan's Fifth Generation mistake.
Tuesday. Trudge over to new British Embassy location up bright, sunny 11 bus route on Fig street for my "emergency travel document" for July's filming. No! Is not so simple, my friend! Later find Theology Andras & two of his brothers, before a lovely dinner of steak on hot stone in small town just outside Budapest. We touch on Jaynes and Sulloway, among other coffee-fuelled topics.
Monday. The day (July 1st) one Hungarian colleague told me one year that summer was already over. Prizewinning example of looking on the bright side. Meanwhile, even a single exercise session helps brain cells.
Sunday. Fascinating theory: depression caused by tissue inflammation.
Saturday. Finish a book from Robin's library: 'Wartime Writings 1939 - 1944' by Antoine Saint-Exupery, the French pilot and lyrical, almost mystical, author who never returned from his final mission flying over southern France in July 1944. A fascinating section from pages 106 to 116 shows his curious form of love for country, and how much it revolves around a kind of philosophy of joy, peace, and friendship. A memory of one occasion drinking outdoors in sunshine in a French village with a friend where they invited two bargemen (one German, one Dutch) to join them seems to glow in his memory as an emblem of happiness, a symbol of what it is the war is really for. The letter "to an American" that was published in LIFE magazine, where he is flying above France taking aerial photographs for the Allies while breathing oxygen bottled in New York, is a highlight showing how enchanting his writing could be. But his basic anxiety - what is civilisation? are we losing it? can we rebuild it? - comes through on every page. Even the "Pharoah's blocks" maths problem on pages 148 & 149, one of those he makes up to fill idle hours while grounded with an injury, is about reconstructing a relic of a lost civilisation. The book combines many of his private letters, diary entries, published articles, and a few letters and entries about him, written by others. There is an introduction for American readers by Anne Morrow Lindbergh, daughter of the pioneering aviator.
Known mainly to English-speaking readers today for his 'Little Prince' children's book (which struck me as sickly sweet when I first read it), "St-Ex" (as he signs his letters) was much better known in the 1940s as a pilot who wrote. In particular, his experiences in French North Africa in the 1930s flying airmail postal deliveries seem to have filled him with an almost religious awe for the Sahara desert. Memories of crossing the desert, landing in it, being rescued, rescuing others dying of thirst, looking up at the stars during nights in the desert, seem to haunt him. He has an almost Bedouin reverence for the silent vastness of the flat dry plain and what it seems to say about creation, crossed with an excitement about what can be achieved with modern machines that echoes the Italian Futurists of two decades earlier.
It was these reminiscences about flying and about the Sahara that he was better known for in his own lifetime. In his disagreements with fellow Frenchmen who are Gaullists he already sees and dislikes the notion of a postwar bloc drawing together several nations together in one European Union, but St-Ex has an odd mixture of emotions defying political categories. He yearns for a return of religious sensibility, he is a passionate patriot constantly driven to return to the battle against Nazi Germany, and yet he also has a strangely naive belief in universal love and comradeship beyond nations. He seems to want to struggle against comfort, consumerism, suburbanism, reaching for some austere supreme good he cannot quite describe except in terms of aviation and the desert. Much of his writing sounds like a reprise of the British World-War-One poets, alternating between their early longing for a cleansing, purifying conflict and their later jaded anti-war mood. At a few points it's possible to sense how charming he was and what an enormous impression he made on those he met, something beyond his writing. His superior officers were right - he should have allowed them to put him to work in propaganda instead of letting him insist on enduring pain & risk (& ultimately death) flying high-altitude missions in his forties.
Friday. Short piece about attacks on satellites.
Thursday. Thoughtful review of a rather cross-sounding book called The Return of Race Science.
Wednesday. Writer says remove all furniture from your home. All of it.
Tuesday. Pick up mended basketwork picnic-hamper thing from Wicker Man, two trolleybus stops behind IKEA.
Monday. Some evidence human brains have DMT receptors.
Sunday. Do some filming in a rather hot mock-up of a London taxi, being towed around central Budapest, acting my small part as a rude passenger ('Banker Dude' in the script). My task is to be sneeringly patronising to a rather fit, sleek black girl who is the taxi driver (a major character in the show), curtly demanding she turn off her Nigerian pop music. Which tune shall we use?
Saturday. Short piece fills out the Whitby/Dracula connection.
Friday. Longest day. Seemingly the long-running "yellow-jacket" protests across France have pushed Teacher's Pet into recklessly increased spending & debt. Driven slowly to rage over long years, it seems, a segment of rural France has now snapped and is determined to riot every weekend no matter what, like a sort of revived Vendee uprising.
Thursday. Meet Laszlo the Wicker Man in a suburb, then visit Kerepesi street for a costume fitting for Sunday, then find Theological Andras at home behind the Keleti station. Here's some music the truckdriver/theologian/programmer/monk chopped up before it got used to back an interview. Sexy sexy.
Wednesday. Chatting late at a cafe with Michael, he tells me of black Africans' morbid dread of owls, and I have to check again who Holderlin shared his theological university dormitory with (Hegel & Schelling). I rant on about the misconceived Hegelian nature of the EU. We touch on Benetar and I find a rather startling review of the Cape Town philosopher's dismally nihilistic book 'Better Never To Have Been': "My girlfriend was on the fence about having an abortion so I picked up a copy of this here shit right here, had her read it and VOILA! Fetus Deletus! This shit is magic and I recommend all sexually active males retain a copy!"
Tuesday. Visit Paul & Marion at home. Remembering an evening at the open-air cafe with Michael and his art-trader friend Tony about 2 weeks ago. Tony & I urged Michael to write a zombie-apocalypse opera about sunspots. Next day I decide it should be a trilogy of zombie-apocalypse operas, the first one (obviously) named 'Maunder'. That was the night Sirius and the caniculae of mid-summer heat got Tony talking of having known Florence of the Machine as an eerily pretty little toddler running round her daddy's gardens, referring to this song.
Monday. Paul sends me a wonderful article on Spengler.
Sunday. Talking of Miklos, 2 weeks ago he showed me this 1950s TV chef from whom we must suspect Sesame Street's Swedish chef was comedy offspring.
Saturday. Rather confusing train journey through summer heat (changing at four places on Hungary's Great Plain: Kiskunfelegyhaza, then Szentes, then Tiszafoldvar, then finally reaching Kunszentmarton to meet Gyuri. He's chuckling in his car as he finds me outside the station dancing around in the dusk, dodging mosquitoes). While on the train, I finish a book by a friend Miklos Molnar '33 Hungarian Histories', collecting short 600-word biographies of famous Hungarians he wrote for issues of Time Out magazine before it pulled out of the country. Written with a light touch, he gives an entertaining mix of lively historical characters, some famous, some not. Would have liked to see chapters on Denes Gabor and John von Neumann, but perhaps a second volume is planned? Thirsty at throughout the second train journey, I asked a cute but tubby woman ticket inspector why none of these stations seemed to have buffets or bars or even vending machines on such a hot day. She said "Because they don't", but at Szentes pops out of the staff office with two 1-litre mineral-water bottles, one for me, free of charge. The bottle is squat in shape but quite feminine, not unlike her.
Friday. Short decade-old review of book claiming WW2 US general Patton was assassinated at the behest of his own government. Sounds intriguing.
Thursday. Last 2 or days suddenly hot & sticky, like a classic Budapest summer. Japanese Buddhist shrine unveils robot goddess of mercy.
Wednesday. Student Tamas tells me the floating crane I saw yesterday came from upriver near Slovakia, and had to wait six days before the flood river had gone down enough for it to fit under the several bridges to the north on its way here.
Tuesday. Crossing the Danube by bus east to west via Margit Bridge, and to our left an enormous yolky orange crane thing towers at least 40 feet above the bridge from a barge on the river. Must be there to haul up the wreck of the small boatload of South Korean tourists pushed underwater by a bigger ship several nights ago, dragged upriver some distance and rammed into the mud just under the bridge. In the afternoon I finish a book from Michael's late wife, 'The Aesthetic Adventure', by William Gaunt. It traces the century of "art for art's sake" from the second decade of the 19th century to the second decade of the 20th century in principally England and France. A good summary, breezing through Baudelaire, Whistler, Swinburne, Walter Pater, Walter Sickert, slowly building to a kind of climax with Beardsley and Wilde. Every page enjoyable to read.
Monday. Another lushly-orchestrated female solo about loneliness: 2Wicky by Hooverphonic.
Sunday. The strange death of Labour England?
Saturday. Old Moloko song, quite good, with a we-didn't-really-run-out-of-ideas video. "It's going to be brilliant, Jason, we just have them all dance in a tunnel. Back to basics, trust me."
Friday. That Brazilian cover of Fool on the Hill. More Brazilian music from back then: Panis et circenses.
Thursday. Portishead doing Glory Box live.
Wednesday. Nice article: learning about life from Mick McManus.
Tuesday. Entertainingly tetchy interview with Evelyn Waugh. Notice the BBC make sure to get their version of events on record at the start of the footage.
Monday. Weather is still cloudy, rainy, chilly. New moon.
Sunday. DJ Fresh decade-old tune: Gold Dust.
Saturday. Men with clipboards model human cells as circuit boards.
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