Diary, 1/12 to 1/14/19

As my old photo might suggest, I am bookish and morbid.

Copyright 2019 by Alan Carl Nicoll
All Rights Reserved

{1/12/19}  Weight 219.4?

Well, I tried to watch A Quiet Passion, a movie from 2017 about Emily Dickinson.  The poetry was nice enough, and nicely read, but what a horrible experience otherwise.  It’s so slow!  At one point early on I said aloud (though home alone), “It’s like watching a painting.”  I felt tortured by the director.  When, at about an hour and twenty minutes in, we get an extended sequence of slow-mo of a man coming through a door and climbing a dark staircase, I turned it off in violent disgust.  I understand that it’s an important moment in the movie—well, to hell with all that.  Apparently E.D. was a whiny, self-pitying, bitter, horrible recluse because she saw herself as ugly.  Of course, the actress playing her is attractive, where E.D. was not, but one can make that kind of allowance.  This was a thoroughly joyless experience for me.  Perhaps it might have been different if I liked poetry better.

My Writers Writing work this morning was also disappointing.  I spent a lot of time struggling with MS Word, and a lot of time struggling with my approach to the material.  I was alternately judgmental and defensive, and not happy with either approach.  While talking to Pablo later about it, I recognized that I can make no judgment of myself in the book.  Too harsh would be as unsuitable as too lenient, while a just judgment is impossible to me.  I must avoid all judgment—that’s the only reasonable approach.  Let the reader decide, which of course they will do in any case.  Indeed, I think it best, now, to make no mention of my nonjudgmentalness.  At any rate, I am past that sticking point, I hope.

I finally finished Janet Malcolm:  The Silent Woman (see 12/30/18 for publication data).  I noted one sentence, which starts thus:  “Alvarez poured tea into large green, square-cut cups…”  Should there be a comma after “large”?  I noted also, that we would always say “large green” but never “green large.”  Interesting.  As the quotes (in CQ) make clear, it’s a very thoughtful book for a sort-of biography.

A distressing discovery:  I cannot use the dictation app while I’m offline.  That’s unfortunate, especially since I discovered another very good way to use it, entering quotations from books into my CQ file.  This way I can hold the book open and just read, and tidy up each entry as I go along.

Now, how am I ever to get my Prison Diary done?  Looks like I’ll be wanting a headset after all (so I can dictate efficiently at Dagny’s, etc.).  I could type it, of course; but dictation is less painful (in a metaphoric sense).

I printed five copies of my 1/11/19 entry for the Hemlock Club tomorrow.


{1/13/19}  Weight:  119.2.

It’s 2:30 and I’m ready for a nap.  I tried reading more of Wordsworth’s “Prelude,” and found it neither poetically nor historically interesting (it’s his “autobiography in verse”).  So it’s looking like I’ll be moving on again, presumably back to Spenser.

The nap didn’t work.  I ended up watching some news, masturbating, then watching an episode of The Sarah Connor Chronicles.  I love that series.

I’ve totally mixed up the chronology by editing this entry, but the chronology isn’t important.

Last night I watched the first hour of Heimat, which apparently was originally a German TV series.  I realized, eventually, that I had seen that part once before, a long time ago—before prison, in other words.  Possibly I got it from Netflix when I was doing that.  Now I’m finding it somewhat grim and uninvolving, so I’m not excited about watching the rest.  It would be educational, however:  a fictional history of one German town from 1919 through the mid-eighties.

I’ve started a new notebook, titled “Words.”  It’s to record words to be looked up, and the definition.  The first two entries:  “exiguous” and “pragmatism.”

At the Hemlock Club I read my diary entry for 1/11/19 and got a reasonably good response.  I had feared that it would fall flat.  I read the whole thing aloud, two full pages.  J said he wants to talk about it again next week.  We’ll see.

8:50 pm and I’m sleepy again.  I might as well just go to bed, and get up in the middle of the night if it works out that way again.  It doesn’t matter.

I have been neglecting, often thoughtlessly, some important duties that I have often mentioned.  I need to stop that.  [Text omitted]; see a doctor; update my driver’s license; change banks; take the time to work on my psych forms and requirements; that’s about it.

I don’t see much reason to contact [my stepmother] or my brother; it’s clear that they have no interest in me, and I guess that’s how it is from now on.


{1/14/19}  Weight 219.8.

I cannot think of myself as a philosopher; at best, I can try to be a popularizer of certain ideas that I find attractive and, one hopes, defensible—a kind of Alan Watts of western phil, without the charm.  I gather that Bryan Magee does (or did?) this.  But I might do better to think of myself in the mold of what’s his name, the homespun, tobacco-chewing, rope-twirling wit, Will Rogers.  I’m speaking, of course, about my writing ambitions; I’ll never be on TV or radio.

Here I am again, in the middle of the night.  I’ve realized that Pablo is good at remembering stories, but forgets the meaning and pronunciation of words; while I’m just the opposite, good with words but forgetting plots.  I guess we all want to be storytellers, but few of us like to think of ourselves as pedants.  Another difference is that he will labor mightily to create bad puns, while I much prefer the quick quip.  He accuses me of having no sense of humor.

“131313” words in this document, a wonderful number that no longer applied as soon as I started typing it.

I’ve long thought of myself as a pragmatist, at least in part, but on checking some books, I’m beginning to think that the word no longer applies, if it ever did.  I’m thinking of the quote from Dewey, something like, “the task of the philosopher [being] the dragging of the balloon of abstraction down to Earth.”  The pragmatic method is like that, defining meaning as the “practical consequences of a concept”—to understand a concept, examine its “real-world consequences.”  I’m not checking these quotes right now, it’s not important because I’m just talking to myself here, though of course I’ll post it on my blog, still without doing the checking, because it simply isn’t necessary.

Now I really use the pragmatic method to understand concepts, or perhaps as a way of cutting through muddle-headedness, but I look on it (the result) as a metaphor, where one presumably would want to avoid a metaphor in defining a concept.  So I gladly use the pragmatic method, but I am uncertain about what it would mean to call myself a pragmatist.

3:45 am and the little dog is barking and barking, as it has done on previous nights.

Reading in Mariano Artigas:  The Ethical Nature of Karl Popper’s Theory of Knowledge:  Including Popper’s Unpublished Comments on Bartley and Critical Rationalism, Ivan Slade (ed), Peter Lang AG, European Academic Publishers, Bern and New York, 1999—the only item I’ve been able to find that addresses the issues raised by Bartley in The Retreat to Commitment; other resources ignore Bartley and his “pancritical rationalism” altogether, which is troubling, because I’m very impressed with Bartley’s book.

Popper and Bartley disagreed strongly, but subsequently reunited, with some remaining differences.  Artigas reviews the story.  The crux of their differences is that Popper says that rationalism begins with an ethical commitment; Bartley claims that this is “fideist” (faith-based) and thus a “retreat to commitment”—in other words, that Popper’s rationalism begins with an irrational commitment to rationality.  Bartley tries to avoid this commitment because it leaves rationalism and Protestantism on the same shaky foundation, and he does this by establishing the position of pancritical rationalism.

While the difference is not trivial, and is extremely important in Bartley’s attack on religion, it doesn’t matter much to me personally, and smarter people than me have disputed Bartley.  To Bartley’s credit, he includes in the second (1987) edition of his book important articles critical of his book, and responds to them.  Artigas sides rather thoroughly with Popper, and Popper also had the last word (published in Artigas for the first time).  Regarding Bleakphil, if I can’t support Bartley’s pancritical rationalism, I can support Popper’s widely-accepted critical rationalism.

I added this to my book:  From “100 Ideas”:  “I am not some abstract reasoning machine, I am a real person with a real life to lead, and this fact has consequences, even for philosophy.  At least, my philosophy.”

What I had in mind was something like Peirce’s idea:  “…the whole function of thought is to produce habits of action…”  (From “How to Make Our Ideas Clear.”)  The point is that I study philosophy at all because I am seeking guidance—another word for wisdom.  I could say that my quest began with self-help books, notably the Gestalt Therapy of Fritz Perls.  If anyone wants to call this a “spiritual quest,” I have no objection at present, but maybe I should.  The very word, “spirituality,” is a club that the muddle heads use against the simple minds.

I’ve been reading Debi Holmes-Binney:  Desert Sojourn:  A Woman’s Forty Days and Nights Alone, Seal Press, Seattle, WA, 2000.  Surprisingly gripping story of a “plucky heroine’s” difficulties in a desert canyon on the edge of the Great Salt Lake or something.  The writer has an unfortunate whiny tone that seems to be giving way to a more heroic attitude, but I don’t mean to mock this very interesting book.  She did have some pretty rough days & nights early on, but now things have settled down somewhat.  She does seem rather easily spooked, but I recognize that I also had some of the city dweller’s fears of “people in the country away from law and order.”  Anyway, I’ll have more to say when I finish it.  It really does hold one’s interest.

Copyright 2019 by Alan Carl Nicoll
All Rights Reserved

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