Diary, 1/3 to 1/7/19

Copyright 2019 by Alan Carl Nicoll
All Rights Reserved

jane austen
Jane Austen, 1775-1817

{1/3/19}  Weight 219.2.

My free book offer has gotten zero response.  However, twitter notification of “The Bleak Philosophy” has brought four visitors where I usually get one or none.


{1/6/19}  Weight 219.8.

Wow, I’ve really been neglecting the diary.

Yesterday, Writers Writing was again me alone, but I got three solid hours of work on Kick Me, almost all of which was on the first three text pages [meaning, I ignored the Table of Contents].  Interestingly, I was engaged with the work, rather than hating the “drudgery.”  Oh, and I was stuffing my face (not much, really—a cappuccino, a cookie, and a blackberry soda) and bought a Dagny’s tee shirt.  I suppose that I checked my twitter notifications and responded.

Hemlock Club today; I have about 45 minutes before I have to get started on breakfast.  J said by email that he was going to be absent today.

Watching the Jane Austen BBC miniseries from the ‘80s.  I really enjoyed Emma with Doran Godwin, as I previously raved about (apparently handwritten, since a search came up empty); Sense and Sensibility was okay, but Northanger Abbey, the shortest of the three, was so tiresome and silly that I turned it off after half an hour (of the total of 90 minutes).

One visitor to my blog yesterday did I think 19 views, but left neither likes nor comments.  This was encouraging after weeks of doldrums.  I am reminded of a quote from Virginia Woolf, “One writes for a few people, who understand.”  I have this written down somewhere, but it’s not in my Collected Quotations, so I can’t cite the source (without doing research) nor verify the complete accuracy.  Google was no help, but did lead me to a web site that looks interesting:  http://thephilosophersmail.com/.

About five pages to go on Wolfgang Köhler:  Gestalt Psychology.  It probably wasn’t worth reading, and it was often tedious, but overall I’m glad to have read it because I’ve seen it referred to often.  The main point I’m taking away is that he considers “organization” a valuable insight or tool for understanding perception.  This isn’t quite the same as the usual “figure-ground” view of a gestalt, but more like “do you see a vase or two faces” kind of thing.  I’ll copy out some quotes later.

Also most of the way through The Silent Woman, ostensibly about Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes, but really more about how one researches to write a biography, the persons encountered in this case, and something about the ethics of writing biographies at all.  It’s quite interesting, and I learned some things about SP/TH, though I’d have welcomed a few photographs.  I can’t call it a biography at all.

The Brother laserjet continues working “like a champ.”  Very glad I chose it.  I just printed five copies of “The Bleak Philosophy:  A Preliminary Sketch.”  Of course, my choice was constrained by my probation officer, i.e., “no Internet connection.”

Speaking of which, I’ll be dropping the Spectrum Wi-fi that I have now because the price goes up to $71/mo on the 18th.  That’s too much money and it’s slow, as I’ve mentioned here before.

I’ve gotten stalled on W. W. Bartley, III:  The Retreat to Commitment.  Not because it’s a poor book, because it’s quite excellent, even great; but because I’ve covered the material that I’m most interested in, and I wanted to get through the Gestalt book.  I’ll be resuming it today, reading it on the bus.  Also stalled on Camus’s Notebooks.  So many books, so little time.  After the 18th, I may not be able to say that, because I’ll no longer have to contend with Twitter eating up my day.

I’m putting off buying the trike until next payday, which loosened my purse strings for other wants, like books and DVDs: two of each from Hamilton, and 1 and 2 from Amazon.

“AM Joy” this morning is all about the 2020 election; how tiresome and frankly silly.

Caught a few minutes of the Bernie Sanders Town Hall on “Climate Crisis.”  It was more interesting than I expected, and some good people involved, so I’ll keep an eye out to catch the whole thing.

And now I’m out of time this morning.

[Hours later.]  The Hemlock Club was good today, though a bit shorter than usual.  Four attended.  I ate too much at Dagny’s.  We talked about Poe’s poem, “Alone,” which Pablo had prepared for us, I took some notes (hence these details), D sang (from his phone) “Silent Night,” a very creditable performance, I talked about how I was a lousy employee and got fired from virtually every job I ever held, Salomé worked on a watercolored bookmark which she presented to me, I asked Salomé to marry me (a joke), I talked about Norman Cousins:  Anatomy of an Illness (but had the title completely wrong), D mentioned The Biology of Hope by Bruce Lipton (which sounds really interesting), and we all went for a walk around downtown Bakersfield (it was fun).

Pablo and I went to Taco Bell, though I wasn’t ready for lunch, and we found J there.  We talked for a couple of hours, then I finally had lunch.


{1/7/19}  Weight TBD.

After a rather long time without any evidence of bedbugs, now I’m up at 3:40 am (insomnia) and am bitten by three.  I killed them all, angrily.

Tried to get into Lucretius last night, having gotten somewhat impatient with Silent Woman.  By the time I had gotten through his tiresome invocation of his muse (Venus), and the “thees and thous” of the GBWW translation, I was ready for sleep.  I had tried this book in the Viking Portable Roman Reader and found it somewhat charming, so maybe I’d better compare the translations.  But I checked just now and it seems that Reader is one I’ve donated or discarded; in any case, I no longer have it.  Well, small loss—I generally like the Viking Portables, despite their typical lack of notes & “apparatus,” but I didn’t think much of the Roman Reader.  There are treasures in Roman literature, undoubtedly, but I have many of them in other editions, and this volume offers mostly excerpts.

When it comes to getting rid of books to free up shelf space, the soft underbelly of my library is fiction and poetry, because I so seldom read them.  My reading (and buying) lately is heavily into philosophy.  I still want to get the complete Dickinson, and I’m reading, finally, Spenser’s Faerie Queene, but there are books I would hardly miss if they were gone.  Though saying that I’m willing to get rid of some of these is a lot easier in the abstract than it is to say, “Yes, this book can go.”  But two full shelves of poetry (which includes rather a lot of Shakespeare) is, seriously, more than I need.

Archy and MehitabelWhen I am an Old Woman I Shall Wear PurpleThe Beat Reader?  Leonard Cohen?  I don’t know which would be harder:  getting rid of books I’ve enjoyed and hope to read again, or getting rid of books I haven’t read at all.  And what of books I’ve tried and gotten bored with, like the big Byron volume?  The pain there is that it cost me a lot, though “Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage” bored me.

I’m wool gathering here, writing for the sake of writing, because I’ve neglected the blog and want to get my two-page minimum so I can post again.  I’d do better to work on my start on the Bleak Philosophy book.  I don’t have the stomach to work on the Kick Me revision.

I mentioned turning off the Northanger Abbey DVD a couple of days ago; I’m now watching Mansfield Park and enjoying it.  I think it’s one of Austen’s best for characters; Mrs. Norris is tiresome, certainly, but Mrs. Bertram, though verging on tiresome, actually amuses me (likely thanks to the actress).  MP is the only Austen that makes me think of Jane Eyre (which I prefer over any of Austen, except possibly P&P), though the heroine isn’t an orphan.  She’s orphan-like.  The male characters are not very interesting yet, but I remember liking Sir Thomas Bertram from the novel, so I expect I’ll end up liking him in the video.

After watching Pride and Prejudice I tried to read it again, and couldn’t get into it at all.  I may just be too impatient for fiction any more.

Speaking of fiction, I have a new angle on the Fynn novel that I’d like to try (which is probably an unintentional joke, now [meaning that I don’t anticipate actually writing anything]).  He is the closest I’ve come to writing a hermit character, and now I’m thinking that I’ll make it first-person, and have him writing excessively Romantic love poetry to his way-too-young neighbor—without intending to share them with her, which suggests the twist of having her find and read them, which becomes Fynn’s motive to go all Death in the Desert.  If I go with this, then they should be, perhaps, not-so-subtly erotic.  His forbidden fantasy threatens to become horrifying reality, you see.  I considered having her call him “Humbert” as a joke, early on.  I also thought of starting the novel with something like this:  “I steel myself against the pain, then, with a cry of triumph, terror, and rage, plunge the very-sharp-knife into my neck and force it forward through the carotid artery.”  “Triumph, terror, and rage” is quite awful, but I like the general idea.  And I’d probably drop the present tense.  And I’ll likely never write a page of it.

Perhaps the most interesting part, to me, is the poetry angle.  I tried something of this in the Seff novel and liked the result.  Having a view into the mind of a poet working on a poem could only be of particular interest to some readers.  Granted, however, that I’m not much of a poet, surely an understatement.

“Particular interest” is rather archaic; watching all these Austen videos, some as long as five hours, has modified my word choice or speech patterns somewhat.

Where did I get the idea that Salomé requires an accent mark?  The accent would change the pronunciation in a way that would not match any usage I’m familiar with; I’ve always heard it with stress on the first syllable.  A Google search, followed by the Wikipedia article, suggests inconsistent usage, and most of the many listed movies on the theme include the accent mark, but mostly nowhere else.  I haven’t seen any of these movies that I’m aware of.  Regarding Wilde’s play, Wikipedia shows the title both with and without.  Meh.

[Late addition]  I looked into Bruce Lipton’s book, The Biology of Belief, which I had mistitled previously.  It looks like a scientific snow-job to sell some new-age BS, including the usual lectures and books.  The subtitle gives the game away:  Unleashing the Power of Consciousness, Matter & Miracles.  Lipton was originally a scientist.  David finds him worthy.  Some of the one-star reviews on Amazon are unusually good.  That’s the place to look when you think you might be dealing with pseudoscience or the like.

The science indeed looks like pseudoscience.  Lipton’s web site has a free article titled “Embracing the Immaterial Universe” [link] which is very new-agey, using terminology like “noetic,” “new biology,” “new physics,” “vibrational chemistry,” “energy psychology,” and on and on.  It’s sickening.  The article lists an article by T. Y. Tsong; I took a look at it or another of this person’s articles which was badly written (or translated) and also looked pretty suspect, but I’m not willing at this point to retrace my steps to demonstrate something that will interest few.  Even casual attention to the linked article by someone with even a modest scientific literacy will reveal the usual garbage.  Anyone who can’t see that for what it is, won’t be persuaded by anything I say here.  Lipton’s article was published by the Institute of Noetic Sciences, a “nonprofit parapsychological research institute” according to Wikipedia.


Copyright 2019 by Alan Carl Nicoll
All Rights Reserved

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