Tuesday. Read to the end of 'Turner on the Loire' from Robin's library, a careful reconstruction of what the contents of his sketchbooks tells us about Turner's route up the Loire in 1826. The effect of gazing on painted sketch after painted sketch, with some wonderfully minimal pencil skylines in between, is not only sensuous but also a kind of time travel. The kind of rural France that was already vanishing by the time photography became a mass craft twenty years later is here noted, taken for granted, and seen as normal if interesting. The idea that ten years before the first motorised railway lines in Britain women in different provinces of France quite close to each other wore different headgear (combination hats, caps, whatever you call what nuns and nurses still sometimes wear) is startling really. Yet no odder than supporters of different football clubs today marking themselves apart with insignia, colours, flags etc. Why wouldn't milkmaids or woolworkers or stable girls proudly show allegiance to their valley or district? The catalogue/book says a section of Turner's notebooks were given up to these head-dresses - shame not more given in the illustrations. Many
are haunting, and show someone in love with the effects of light yet who doesn't see this as part of a political movement the way some in and around French impressionism forty years later did. The writer makes sure not to spare readers knowledge of Turner's argumentative nature, and his habit of always pushing for the highest possible price for his works.
Monday. Intriguing back-to-front Indian mirror.
Sunday. An unhappy daughter not nagged enough? Headline quote (Steve Jobs told her "You smell like a toilet") not quite as it sounds. Still a sobering read.
Saturday. So if you want your daughters to succeed you should nag them?
Friday. In the newish lift (1980s or 1990s) in Michael's rather older building I notice what seems to be a dead moth lying on the inch-wide ledge against the glass on the outside of one of the lift windows. Boring, dead, dusty triangle with edges about an inch and a half in length, I first see it travelling down in the morning, then again in the afternoon. By the end of the day dawns on me it might have been there weeks or months. After all, once the lift reaches ground-floor level it's not easy to reach the outside to clean it. On all sides it's hedged in with black-painted metal grillework designed to prevent people falling into the shaft and being crushed. No way to open those windows except by completely unscrewing the frames. Balancing on the bannisters to clean it while at another floor would hardly be safety-conscious. That moth corpse might have been riding up and down dozens of times a day and night with that lift for a decade - perhaps more.
Thursday. Today, the largest single-day drop in price of any single share, on any US bourse, ever. The hitherto mighty Facebook/Instagram loses 119 billion US dollars of value in a single trading session. Interesting to note that internet/computing companies suffered the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th largest one-day drops ever to date as well. Are there really larger falls from some other market?
Wednesday. Murderer of girl hitch-hikers electrocutes own genitals.
Tuesday. Wealthy lady prosecuted over slavegirl cult.
Monday. Rich Kuwaiti woman bemoans servants with passports.
Sunday. Travel back from countryside to Budapest. In the evening, Film-maker Jessica tells me slightly lurid details about the man who created the Wonder Woman comic strip in 1941. Meanwhile, more JFK-assassination documents released by Trump show two separate cases of junior US intelligence officers (one in Scotland, one in France) coming across chatter between spooks in classified cables about the killing of John Kennedy, in both cases a couple of weeks in advance of the event.
Saturday. Finished the Julian Jaynes book 'The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind'. Both careful and audacious, this has to be one of the most thought-provoking books I've ever read. Jaynes, writing in the 1970s, claims that what we call consciousness appeared among humans around the year 1000 BC, spread over several centuries. Before that date, he suggests, people directly heard insights and gestalts in their right hemispheres as the voices of gods speaking inside their heads. After that date, man is increasingly conscious and self-conscious, he has a moral sense independent of gods and god-kings, he no longer hears the voices or no longer feels comfortable acknowledging them, and he is haunted by a deep nostalgia for that older and more unified timeless time when the gods still spoke and moved among men. Jaynes writes at length about the medical literature on schizophrenia and also quotes from Mesopotamian, Greek, and Hebrew myth to illustrate his point. Moses is one of the borderline figures between the bicameral minds and the modern minds, and he sometimes cannot resolve his Lord's voice into anything clearer than a pillar of fire. Moses closes a period of history by putting laws down in writing on pieces of stone, excoriating his people for constructing in his absence a traditional dummy god from gold intended to speak inside their heads in the familiar old hallucinatory style. Jaynes sides with the classicists who put the two great epics attributed to Homer several centuries apart, written down by different hands, and actually claims that the Illiad, even with redactions and additions since, is one our last glimpses of the bicameral mind in its raw, preconscious strangeness, while the Odyssey is an early example of the modern mind, just about on our side of the great divide. Some of the old preconscious hallucinators were mass-murdered on the orders of kings, creating an evolutionary pressure for modern consciousness. Jaynes cites specific purges of the old prophets, the hearers of voices, at dates given in the Old Testament.
Jaynes suggests that the strangely effortless Spanish conquests of the Incans and the Aztecs (two and a half millennia after that split between the two Homers) should be understood as confrontations between modern conscious men and entire archaic civilisations of people still thinking with bicameral minds intact, still hallucinating the reality of their gods' voices into their daily reality. The nostalgia of so many, from Hegel back to the author of the episode with the Serpent in the Garden, for some half-forgotten, more ancient paradisical state of innocent completeness, gains immense nuance from Jaynes' extraordinary hypothesis. If he's right, it changes everything. Even depictions of angels with wings and the rise of games of chance are pulled into this vast theory. With implications for a range of controversial topics from hypnosis to theology or archeology, he writes sometimes coolly, sometimes lyrically. "They have called it the Dorian invasions. And classicists will tell you that indeed they could have called it anything or everything, so groping our knowledge, and so dark these particular profundities of past time. But continuities in pottery designs from one archaeological site to another do fetch a few candles into this vast and silent darkness, and they reveal, albeit in flickering fashion, the huge jagged outlines of complex successions of migrations and displacements that lasted from 1200 to 1000 B.C. That much is fact." starts one chapter. Very much recommended.
Amazing thunderstorm keeps me awake much of night in Robin's studio, cloud-reflected lightning rippling through the skies, casting weird shadows inside the high ceiling of the studio itself. Filled with a sense of being close to the heavens, infused with the power of the elements.
Friday. It seems horses remember people who smile at them.
Thursday. The French sex cult from outer space.
Wednesday. Three weeks and one day with no sunspots. Longest break since 2009. Today finished a borrowed book about Einstein's opus magnus called 'The Perfect Theory' by Pedro Ferreira. Nicely readable, this speeds through a century of general relativity going in and out of fashion - eclipsed for a decade or so by quantum physics, then re-emerging with new surprising predictions such as black holes, then again passing out of favour, and so on. Sad stories like Jocelyn Bell being left out of the Nobel for discovering pulsars or Joe Weber getting ensnared in his own calibration errors, convincing himself he had discovered experimental proof of gravitational waves and destroying his reputation, flesh out the human narrative. As much about fifty or sixty great physicists over the century, as the physics.
Tuesday. Turns out gene-editing tool CRISPR might create cancer dangers of its own.
Monday. Excitement builds in the US impeachment putsch, as 18-month-old claims force an indictment of some Russians. US prosecutors accuse 12. For more, here's a short interview with Mr Nunes, a piece by one of our contributors, zerohedge, alleges Hillary Clinton committed serious treason, and a short interview with veteran investigative reporter Seymour Hersh on why not to be too trusting of The New York Times.
Sunday. Slight pause for thought in the late evening when I realise that Robin, buoyant as usual, intends to drive back to Budapest with a chest of drawers strapped to the car roof. Earlier in afternoon, finish a book about brainwave research into moments of insight when people solve puzzles or have sudden fresh ideas. 'The Eureka Factor' by John Kounios and Mark Beeman does a nice job of spelling out the psychological experiments in their essential simplicity, and balancing this with the overall implications for how creative thinking and problem-solving happens. One interesting discovery is the split-second burst of alpha waves in the brain just before a new solution emerges, as if clearing clutter off a desk, or shutting out distraction for that vital moment like a "blink".
Saturday. Drive with Robin down to The Great Plain after a warm afternoon in town, partly to retrieve my cards, and also to fish out of his attic my copy of Jodorowsky's book about restoring the Marseille pack.
Friday. My Salisbury Review article: blimp babies battle above London.
Thursday. Researcher says facial-recognition systems see gayness.
Wednesday. Creepy con woman probably based in Indonesia swindles film industry people out of their savings.
Tuesday. Finished off a book kindly lent to me by Robin, dauntingly called 'Eco-Aesthetics' by author Malcolm Miles. Helpfully subtitled 'Art, Literature, and Architecture in a Period of Climate Change' this consists of a review of various art projects, community architecture schemes, and novels that seem to have something to do with alleged man-made warming of the earth's atmosphere since the 1980s. Various anaemic bits of art and more or less pompous episodes are looked at, where "tensions are inscribed" or themes "intervene polemically" or "modes are transposed" in the usual jargon. The book comes to a sudden stop at the end of the community house-building chapter. On page 119 it comes out that he thinks melting Antarctic shelf ice raises sea levels: "Five hundred million tonnes of ice" (Larsen B) "break into icebergs and eventually melts into the southern oceans, where it contributes to rising sea levels" Apparently he has no memory from school of why ice floats in the first place. Overall, dispiriting, vaguely drab. As with the Stallabrass book, nice to get some overview of who is doing what, but depressing to see the miserable and ignorant left-wing paradigm they do those things within.
Monday. Is it possible she could do it again?
Sunday. An EU-funded wall that is quietly approved.
Saturday. Vatican banker has eerie message.
Friday. Something for seekers after knowledge.
Thursday. Much of day with Robin, helping as best I can with internet problems and paperwork. A brief afternoon break in leafy park in front of his building as we coffee with Bianka and learn of her half-year in the South Sea islands. Then Robin & I natter until late: cabbages & kings, the Gothic novel, luck.
Wednesday. Starting around lunch time, Izabella and I help Film-maker Jessica get her flat ready for the Independence Day party. It's duly in shape by time festivities begin in the evening, with lots of alcohol, water, sausages, and potato salad. I meet several lovely people in the mingle. After this ends go with Robin, Krisztian, Zsofi, Tamas to do a couple of Tarot readings outside a cafe in the warm night air facing the big synagogue. Oxana arrives, we decide she should consult the cards also, and she & I end up carousing in a dance-only location several streets away. She leaves her half-bottle of Martini hidden in a potted shrub outside and it's still there when we leave 3/4 of an hour later. A brief discussion about paradise and menthol cigarettes with a man on a bicycle called Gabor, and then at about 3am I'm alone crossing the small korut at Deak where two pretty girls from North Wales accost me, asking directions. I share my cheese with one, and get the other to speak a sentence of Welsh for me.
Tuesday. So there is this standard pack of sliced cheese which formerly cost 379 forints in the supermarket near Michael's flat for 1/4 lb, that is slightly over 1 pound sterling for 4 oz, so around GBP 4.50 to five quid per lb. I bought it sometimes, and then it went up to 489 forints, one day to the next, so I stopped. It brought back memories of people laughing in the early 1970s when critics of the EEC said joining would raise prices of meat in Britain to over one pound per pound (which of course it did). This was sneered at back then as doomsaying hysterical nonsense, and no-one even dared speculate cheese would go above a pound a pound. That was simply regarded as beyond satire. After a while at the nearby supermarket (recall that this is a low-income country which has enough agriculture to feed itself) at 489 the price suddenly went back down to 379 forints once more. Once or twice I bought this 1/4 lb pack of sliced smoked cheese again. 2 or 3 days ago it returned to 489 again, so I stopped again. Some kind of marketing mind-game technique?
Monday. Facebook hiding inaudible messages in TV ads? Nice.
Sunday. AI article discusses running artificial online culture histories at increased speeds to develop computer IQ more swiftly. Confident!
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