Diary, 1/29/19 to 2/8/19

Copyright 2019 by Alan Carl Nicoll
All Rights Reserved

Comment to blog readers:  I’ve been off the Internet for a month due to software problems.  This is the first of two long posts to get me caught up to the present in my Diary posts.

Self portrait, 2019

{1/29/19}  Weight 220.0.

On 1/27/19 I said that “Pablo got all pissed off again.”  I am astonished that I let it go with that bald statement.  Here’s what happened:  at the meeting of the HC he had brought up my reaction to his reaction to the chapter of KM that I’d asked him to read, and we again disagreed about my reaction.  I clarified my reaction again.  He left shortly thereafter to catch a bus.  But he missed the bus, so he returned to Dagny’s about ten minutes after he’d left, and he was livid.  He started in again on the same damn thing, and he was distraught, quite crazed with anger, so that his jaw was trembling and he could hardly sit in his seat.  I was quite alarmed and told him repeatedly to calm down.  He complained and I again clarified that I had not been angered by his reaction to my chapter, which I summarized in two words:  that he found it “whiny and tedious.”  I told him that I valued that reaction, his reaction as a reader, saying that “it was exactly what I wanted,” but that I did not value the advice he offered (which was essentially twofold:  make it funny, and remove excess detail).  I know that he still doesn’t get it, but finally he settled down.  And again he called me later to apologize, thinking that I was mad at him.

I guarantee that he will bring this matter up again, no matter how many times I tell him to forget it, to drop it, that I don’t want to talk about it, and so on.  The thing is, when I don’t agree with him, he will insist that it is because I don’t understand, and so he will try to explain his position again, always beginning at the beginning unless I make a point of stopping that nonsense, and we go around and around and around.  This happens every time we have a disagreement, no matter how trivial—and even after we settle the disagreement, he’ll go back to it repeatedly, claim that I’ve changed what I said, and so on, and he will tell others about it, stating my position inaccurately, even ridiculously, and attribute silly things to me, such as that I “hate Bach and Mozart.”  It’s pathological; sometimes I’ll say, “You win, you were right all along,” etc., just to get him to stop talking about it.  Sometimes that works.

This kind of thing used to enrage me, but I’m trying to control that by “disconnecting my buttons,” i.e., the ones that he pushes.  I really need to keep things simple with Pablo, because even when he understands what I’ve said, he forgets it, and then reconstructs it incorrectly.


{1/30/19}  Weight 219.4.


{1/31/19}  Weight 220.4.

Now I’m reconsidering whether a bicycle might not be the best choice for me now.  I’m actually rather convinced.  I’ll likely do that today.

I’ve never watched The Walking Dead.  Given the silliness of the commercial I just saw, I never will.  I thought it was a parody—but then, maybe the show is a satire?

I thoroughly enjoyed reading Bertrand Russell:  “Understanding History,” in Understanding History and Other Essays, Wisdom Library, a Division of Philosophical Library, New York, 1957.  Here’s a strong quote:

“But Greek philosophy did not continue to live up to this brilliant beginning [of the Presocratics]; there was a serpent in the philosophic paradise, and his name was Pythagoras.  The Orphic religion, which had revivalist features, had captivated many previously rationalistic Greeks, and a form of Orphism was introduced by Pythagoras into philosophy, which ceased to be an honest attempt to understand the world, and became a search for salvation through intoxication.  Orphism was an offshoot of the worship of Bacchus, but sought to substitute a spiritual intoxication for the frankly alcoholic intoxication of the original cult.  From that day to this, there has been thought to be something divine about muddleheadedness, provided it had the quality of spiritual intoxication; a wholly sober view of the world has been thought to show a limited and pedestrian mind.  From Pythagoras this outlook descended to Plato, from Plato to Christian theologians, from them, in a new form, to Rousseau and the romantics and the myriad purveyors of nonsense who flourish wherever men and women are tired of the truth.”  p. 42.

I think the opening metaphor is somewhat too heavy, but otherwise I like this very much.

Rain today, and several days of rain are predicted, so I’ll have more time to think about the bicycle.


{2/1/19}  Weight 220.4.

Trying to understand W. V. O. Quine:  “Two Dogmas of Empiricism” is a real challenge.  This puts me in mind of a “statement by Bart Simpson”:  “If it’s not easy, don’t do it.”  So, why do it?

The answer relates to the word “truth,” and my decades-old thought that it’s not a useful word.  I have often considered this thought, but have never really explored it in much detail.  Quine’s much-cited essay begins with:

“Modern empiricism has been conditioned in large part by two dogmas.  One is a belief in some fundamental cleavage between truths which are analytic, or grounded in meanings independently of matters of fact, and truths which are synthetic, or grounded in fact.  The other dogma is reductionism:  the belief that each meaningful statement is equivalent to some logical construct upon terms which refer to immediate experience.  Both dogmas, I shall argue, are ill-founded.  One effect of abandoning them is, as we shall see, a blurring of the supposed boundary between speculative metaphysics and natural science.  Another effect is a shift toward pragmatism.”  (In:  William Barrett and Henry D. Aiken, eds:  Philosophy in the Twentieth Century:  An Anthology, Random House, New York, 1962, Volume Three, p. 102, ref. to W. V. Quine:  From a Logical Point of View, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Mass., 1953, Chapter 2.)


Whether there is a “fundamental cleavage” between the kinds of truth of analytic and synthetic statements doesn’t much concern me; I just want to have firmly in my grasp the distinction and the words, which seem to me at least moderately useful and inoffensive.  Also, I am content that reductionism is the basic approach of science, while recognizing that it’s not the only useful approach.  (But I haven’t read Quine’s essay to the end yet.)  [2/3/19:  And that’s apparently not the “reductionism” Quine means.]

But back to “truth.”  In fact, I can’t argue with the truth of Quine’s paradigm analytic statement, “all unmarried men are bachelors”; I also cannot argue with the truth—in some sense—of my paradigm synthetic statement, “I am sitting in a chair.”  In the past I have believed that “true in some sense” is a useful concept, indeed, I don’t see how I could get along without it, except by replacing it with some vague synonym, like “useful.”  That is, it is “useful” to believe that “I am sitting in a chair” when I am, in fact, sitting in a chair.  This kind of “truth” is necessary vocabulary if I am to deal both with language and with the world, “as a guide to action” (which is a touchstone of pragmatism).  But the word “truth” continues to trouble me.

I suppose my real objection is to the expression “scientific truth,” because I am persuaded by Karl Popper to his view of science as “our best hypotheses at the moment,” in my words.  As a definition of “truth,” “best hypothesis at the moment” kinda sucks, because that’s not how people think of “truth” and not what they mean when they say “scientific truth.”  We don’t generally make a distinction between “truth” and “absolute truth” in conversation; but the common view seems to be, “If it’s true, it’s true forever,” and that’s never been an accurate description of “scientific truth.”

But as Bleakspeak, perhaps the rejection of “absolute truth” and its replacement by “true in some sense” works; and this could be abbreviated by a new word:  “twoof.”  And “true” can be replaced by “twoo.”  I am about half serious.

Perhaps it is worth taking a step back and considering, what is it I’m trying to do here?  Why do I care about Bleakspeak?

The goal is to improve my thinking by using and extending the verbal methods and approach to language originated in 1933 as “General Semantics” (“GS”) by Alfred Korzybski in Science and Sanity.

Philosophical refinements, even “discoveries,” generally have little impact beyond the small percentage of people who read and care about philosophy—that is, these refinements don’t become widespread memes.  One thought that has become a widespread meme is “The map is not the territory”; it was popularized during the heyday of GS and subsequently.  Bleakspeak is intended as a collection of philosophical memes, specifically, replacements for words in common parlance that embody some “philosophical flaws.”  And I see “truth” as a flawed word, essentially because it conflates the “absolute truth” of analytic statements with the “true in some sense” of synthetic statements; replacing it with “twoof” is a reminder of this flaw.

Likewise, saying “ee” (which means “this body right now”) in place of “I” is a reminder that “I” am not “my mind” but rather that I am the body existing in this place at the time that is speaking or writing.  This usage seems to me a more accurate reflection of current neuroscience than is the common practice of equating “I” and “conscious mind.”

Likewise, saying “et cetera” after some subject-predicate statement such as “Alan is a writer, etc.” is a reminder that Alan is oh-so-many things not expressed by the label “writer.”

Likewise, speaking of such things as atoms and gravity and chemical elements as “models,” which represent certain data and results of experiments, is a reminder that each label functions to both refer to and to obscure the mystery that lies beneath, that is, it is a reminder to beware of reification.  I see “models and mysteries” as just another way of talking less metaphorically about maps and territories.  This use of “model” is much the same as how scientists use the word.  Michael Ruse in the article “Models” in The Oxford Companion to Philosophy says, “There is a school of thought which argues that scientific theories are best understood semantically, in the sense of being families of theoretical models—interpreted according to specific empirical circumstances—rather than as general systems attempting to explain selected chunks of reality at one fell swoop.  Even if one protests that such families could never capture completely what one aims for in a theory, it is hard to deny that sets of interrelated models are what face scientists most of their working lives.” p. 583.

Except for “et cetera,” most of Bleakspeak goes beyond GS in reconstructing English.  And I use it, so far, only in talking to myself, and mostly not even then.  This is probably unnecessary; but the practice might eventually serve as a teaching tool and as shorthand for accepted arguments.


{2/2/19}  Weight 219.4.

At 5:30 am it was 61 degrees outside.  This is astonishing—impossible—it’s the middle of winter.  Meanwhile the rest of the country is having a “polar vortex.”


{2/3/19}  Weight 219.6.

Added to my “100 Ideas” notebook this morning:  “75.  A thought or vision on waking:  a short film shows a panel with a small door (6 x 8 inches, perhaps); the door opens from the other side and a face looks through the opening and reacts.  This repeats with a new face and different reaction each time.”

What’s everybody reacting to?  My first thought was a mirror; my second thought was a screen on which their face is projected, as with a laptop w/camera.

Yesterday was a dismal experience all around.  I had slept poorly the night before, and finally got up at 5:30 (as noted above).  I drank a Dr. Pepper and ate a granola bar—ordinarily I’d have waited until I got to Dagny’s, since it was my Writers Writing morning.  I walked to the bus stop—it started raining as soon as I left the motel—and by the time I got there ten minutes later it was raining and very windy (I had my umbrella).  I saw rainbows in the distant west.  After waiting at the stop with another guy for five or ten minutes in the storm, I said to him, “Maybe this wasn’t such a great idea.”

I got to Dagny’s by 8:30 (on the way I read Charles Bukowski:  On Writing), saw another rainbow, ordered hot chocolate and a cookie, and sat down to work.  Opened my project, Kick Me, stared at it, read a little, stared at it, gave up.  Started up the Internet browser, couldn’t get anything.  Tried the other browser, couldn’t get anything.  But the connection tested out okay, I wasn’t getting error messages or anything, though Firefox crashed several times.

Anyway, I gave it up as a bad job, sent a text message to Pablo saying I was sleepy and going home, and I left.  As I was walking away a young woman (twentysomething and rather beautiful) stopped me—I had seen her playing mediocre chess with a guy (on arrival I had observed for about thirty seconds, then apologized for “eavesdropping”) and when I left she had chased after me—and we more or less made a date to play chess, some Saturday or Sunday morning.  I gave her a HC card.  Her name is Monica, I believe.  I got on the 22 bus.  My phone rings—Pablo was at Dagny’s and wanted to know where I was.  The timing on this was sitcom-perfect.  So I returned to Dagny’s, and J also had arrived.  So we sat around and BSed for a while (I was quite bored), then Pablo & I went to Lorene’s for breakfast.  I left for home.

I hemmed and hawed about going home or going into Valley Plaza to try their Wi-Fi, but ended up going home.  I wanted to go to Walmart to get bug bombs and stuff that I’d neglected to get there yesterday (I’d gone with Pablo and, as I’m looking at bikes, he springs on me that he’s in a hurry).  So I go back to the bus stop, go to Walmart, come home.  While at Walmart my morning DP caught up with me and I had to take an emergency crap in their (fortunately well-kept) restroom.  A cold beverage on an empty stomach has been a problem for me for forty years.

And I was depressed.  I suppose primarily because the morning at Dagny’s was a bust except for the chess lady.  I ate the three little [cherry] pies that I’d gotten, as “dinner.”  I went to bed early, as I’ve been doing lately because depressed & bored.  And here I am this morning.

Printed the 2/1/19 entry for discussion at the Hemlock Club later this morning, with the added title, “‘Truth’ and Bleakspeak.”  Frankly, my dear, I’d rather play chess with a twentysomething, attractive woman.  I’ll likely get rid of my chess books to her, if she shows up and wants them.  [Haven’t seen her since.]

She didn’t show up, but the HC was good, the discussion of T&B was better than the usual (in fact, J and D both spoke approvingly, even of Bleakspeak).

Watching Link TV and seeing horror stories from Africa.  The world is full of horrors, every day.  What is behind most of these stories, these situations that go on and on, year after year?  Mostly, greedy men.  In Africa, it may sometimes be desperate men, but my ignorance is huge.  For each horror that is ended, another springs up, every bit as horrible.  There is no end, there is no solution.  Is the world of today better than the world of ten years ago, a hundred years ago, a thousand?  Is there any less suffering now than existed in the darkest days of humanity, whenever that was?  Were prehistoric times better?  I suspect that they were, because everyone was so focused on survival that there was no time for the exploitation of others.  Mothers tended their children, tribes survived together, there were no powerful men to exploit others.  Climate catastrophe cannot turn the clock back for us—we will never forget agriculture, so exploitation will always be possible.

Western Europe, the U.S., Australia—there are pockets where slavery and the severest exploitation are minimal (as far as I know).  What conditions are like for the common people in India, Pakistan, China, and Russia, I don’t know, but I suspect that these advanced countries are not starving their people to death, they are perhaps working them to death, because money.  So, maybe things are better now than they were a hundred or a thousand years ago, and perhaps it can be hoped that this will continue.  Climate catastrophe may have other ideas.  Greedy men may have other ideas.

Word sabotages me again; my ignorance of templates sabotages me again.  Macros and key assignments gone.  I restored the macros, since I had previously exported them as a separate .bas file.  The keyboard assignments are gone who knows where.  So I guess I need to spring for a Word manual anyway.  In the long run, knowledge will save me from problems.  One would think that Word would save me from my ignorance by double-checking whenever I’m about to lose things like my macros and key assignments; but that doesn’t happen.

I have no Internet.  I tried both browsers, tried alternative WiFis, finally ran a virus scan.  My battery ran out at Dagny’s, so I continued it at home.  Nothing revealed.  I was thinking that I needed to reinstall Windows, etc., but, suddenly gunshy about that, I checked around and found some troubleshooter apps that I want to try first.  For the Internet troubleshooter I’ll need WiFi, so, tomorrow.  If that fails, I’ll go on to reinstalling Windows, I suppose.  If I can make that work.  I have backup disks, fortunately, to do that.

Well, this is what life with a computer is always like; at least with the MacBook I could go to the Apple store and get competent advice face-to-face.  For Windows and Word, not so easy, I’d have to go to someone and pay them money, with all the dangers that allows.  I can always buy another computer if it comes to that, since I will have my files.

Of course, that’s what I thought when I had the MacBook—and I was wrong about that.

And I do still have the hard copy of Kick Me, if it comes to that.

Now I’m going to provide TMI and say…nah, never mind.  You don’t want to know.

As it happens, I spent considerable time reading, or browsing in, R. D. Laing:  The Politics of Experience, Pantheon Books/Random House, New York, 1967, pb.  It’s a very frustrating book.  The first chapter is full of double-talk that I’m not inclined to try to sort out or make sense of; the last chapter is full of strange stories that seem to be mostly about medical students and their patients who die.  I’d toss the book aside except (1) it has a great reputation, and (2) some of what I read was quite fascinating.  I wanted to record a bit of the latter, before it disappears into the usual vapors.

Chapter 5, “The Schizophrenic Experience,” the idea is presented that, in my words, schizophrenics are essentially created by crazy families.  The important quote:  “In over 100 cases where we studied the actual circumstances around the social event when one person comes to be regarded as schizophrenic, it seems to us that without exception the experience and behavior that gets labeled schizophrenic is a special strategy that a person invents in order to live in an unlivable situation.  In his life situation the person has come to feel he is in an untenable position.”  (p. 114-115, italics in original.)

I thought this might be useful in KM, but also wanted to write these comments about it.  I think I’ll keep the book for a while, anyway.

Now, I had closed this Diary document and shut off the computer, to do this reading.  When I opened the document, I discovered that the macro file I had loaded previously this evening, was again missing from the template attached to the document, that is, the “global,” “normal” template.  It seems that I must open that template document itself, load the macros, save it as a template, and then see.  I took a look at KM also, and the macros aren’t there, so I need to make sure that my changes are made to the template file itself.  This has not, as far as I know, been necessary before; but then, I don’t know a hell of a lot about what’s going on here.

I just did what I suggested, then closed down Word and restarted by opening KM, and the standard macros are there.  They are now a part of the “normal” template.  So, presumably, any changes I make to the key assignments will become part of that template also.  [2/4/19:  Somehow I keep clobbering that template file—apparently, whenever Word tells me that I haven’t saved a template file and am about to lose changes, I should avoid saving.  This BS seems to come up when I get two copies of a file open at the same time, almost always by accident with the trackpad, and then try to shut down Word.]

Making a key assignment in KM carries over to this diary file, without requiring a special save of the template file.  One wonders how many bitter experiences I must undergo to finally learn all this crap.  Here’s something I might try:  recover an old “normal” template file from my backup and copy it over the current “normal” template, then reload my saved macro file into the template file and save it.  I have nothing to lose, and I might…uh…that’s not true.  I’ve defined and redefined (ad nauseam) some style definitions also, and wouldn’t want to lose those while trying to recover the keyboard.  It becomes more complicated, but I can probably make it work.  Maybe tomorrow.


{2/4/19}  Weight 222.0.  Annoying and surprising.

In my “Kick Me Notes,” I have “the futility/mediocrity bind.”  I can no longer remember precisely what this means, though I can remember approximately:  trying to do part-time, or as a hobby, what others are doing professionally and full-time, is “futile,” and probably will result in work that is “mediocre at best.”  How this related to me is uncertain, possibly it was in relation to computer programming, because I once had the ambition to write computer programs—games—for a living.  I had created one game, which was in fact only an elaboration of someone else’s existing game, and I was trying to create an adventure game language, but never got to the finish line.  Many stupidities occurred along the way.  The story deserves a place in KM.  It is not unlikely that the F/M bind related as well to novel writing, but of course nobody starts out as a professional novelist.

I have realized that my circadian rhythm is out of whack, at least regarding vasopressin.  That is, lately, I need to pee generally very little during the day, but make up for that during the night while I’m sleeping or trying to sleep.  I noticed last night that, although I had drunk considerable fluids during the day, I only had to pee once, around 2:00 pm, and once before bed; then, during sleep time, I had to get up three or four times to pee.  This has become an all-too-common occurrence.  It’s possible also that my sleep cycle itself is out of whack, making me sleepy during daylight and insomniac during the night.  Some days I will have more than one nap; on weekends, when I am out and about, I won’t nap at all and notice little sleepiness, but will sometimes nap as late as 7:00 pm.  I am uncertain whether caffeine consumption has any effect on this business.  I wonder, too, if this has roots in childhood, that is, that the same whatever that made me a bed wetter has come back to haunt me in a different guise.

Continuing the saga of Word and templates:  after laboriously restoring my key assignments, I saw that they were, by default, assigned to the “normal, global” template.  So I created a new document (by Ctrl-N) to verify that they were now “globally” available, and discovered that the default font had gone back to the much-loathed Word default of “Calibri.”  Also, my defined styles were gone.  So, I went to the “Templates and Add-ins” thing (“manager”?), which I long ago cleverly made easy-to-find as an icon in my customized ribbon, and copied the defined styles from the KM file to the “normal” template.

Now, lurching into uncharted territory, I’m wondering whether I can (or need to) go where WordPerfect 5 (WP5) accustomed me to go:  multiple customized keyboards.  My standard keyboard in Word has all my standard (i.e., customized) key assignments; is there any reason I’d need different customized key assignments for the other file that I work on all the time, KM?  I don’t see it.  When I worked in WP5, I was at a job where much of my work required editing of data entry forms, so a specific keyboard for those documents made perfect sense; now that I’m my own man, I don’t routinely work on different kinds of documents.  I don’t see much chance of that happening now.

Annoyingly, I have so far been unable (because unwilling to spend the time) to recreate some of the fabulous macros I had in WP5—such things as “delete to end of sentence,” “join sentences,” “reverse three words,” and so on.  What’s so fabulous?  Well, consider “join sentences”—if the first sentence to be joined ends with a quotation mark or two, and perhaps even an exclamation point or question mark followed by a quotation mark or two, these subtleties would get clobbered if they’re not allowed for.  What’s needed is a character analysis (categorization) subroutine so that various punctuation and quote marks can be handled by category rather than needing each macro to be written totally ad hoc.  Now, because Visual Basic (VB) is so much more complex (and powerful) than the WP5 macro language, getting it to do exactly what I want depends on my finding exactly the right commands and such.  And I’ve found this to be quite frustrating, to the extent that I’ve had to go to online support groups to beg for help.  Alas, two or three of my oh-so-important queries have gone unanswered.

I’ve often thought that somebody should make available to writers an “intelligent word processor” that would include the kind of functions that I liked creating; I’ve little doubt that somebody has done so, and I should look around to see what I can find.  It would be great to have a “move sentence” function without having to create it myself, and I just bet that there’s a whole vast group of writer-programmers doing a ton of stuff far more brilliant than anything I ever came up with.

One of the most interesting but least useful macros I had was to “attach” highlighted text to the cursor, so that a word (or sentence, etc.) could be moved around just as the cursor is moved, until one has it where one wants it, then press [Enter] to “make it so.”  This was just a gimmick or experiment, however.

Perhaps my greatest accomplishment in WP5 was the “help” function I built into the macro editor.  The macro editor was extremely primitive, just an editing window without additional functions.  When my macro system got complicated, it became useful to have readily available some notes about what had already been accomplished.  Essential to making this work was the fact that customized keys (and hence, macros) could be used within the macro editor.  So, problem solved.

One obvious function that is built into WP5 apparently is not available in VB:  that is, what characters are on either side of the cursor?  I got an answer to this from online support, but it is so difficult to work with that I have been unable to make much use of it yet to make it the basis of some basic functions that I want.  That is, many of the macros I had in WP5 involve searching through text, character-by-character, to find a particular category, such as the end of the word where the cursor is.


I have far too much to do today, on a day I had thought to spend in going to the V.A.  As usual, what I want to do and what I most need to do don’t coincide.  Each of these will eat up a day:

Want:  buy bicycle.

Need:  go to V.A. to get health cares seen to, get free money maybe, and who knows what-all.

Need:  go to Trader Joe’s to buy bread, and buy eggs there or elsewhere.

Need:  bomb the bedbugs and do laundry to kill bugs.

Want:  get Internet browser working and to visit Beale library.

It’s the last two that I’ll be doing today (except for laundry).


{2/5/19}  Weight 220.2.

Went to bed early last night, 8:30, depressed after a day without caffeine.  Got up at about 1:00 and watched Girl, Interrupted, which I enjoyed a lot.  I had seen it before, after reading the excellent book.  Then back to bed at 3:30 and slept until 7:00.  Got up just the once to pee.  Now, that seems like a good result overall.  Is it because no caffeine, or because of reduced fluid intake?

Various troubleshooter apps revealed nothing, so I reinstalled Windows (finding the way was difficult because Windows (“HP Recover Manager” led me to “Windows System Restore”)) and the process took several hours.  We’ll see today if that fixes my Internet problem.

Unsurprisingly, it did not.  The next step is to get help from Mesh, a local computer business.  I have $200 that I can spend on whatever, including a bicycle.


{2/6/19}  Weight 220.0.

I had one dose of caffeine yesterday, none the day before.  Last night I suffered no insomnia, though I did get up twice to pee.  Many dreams, all forgotten.  On the whole, I think that I should avoid caffeine, despite the possibility that it helps stave off depression.

Went to Barnes & Noble (on the way to Trader Joe’s) and bought two books for $43.  Reading one of them, Peter Watson:  The Age of Atheists:  How We Have Sought to Live Since the Death of God.  It’s interesting, encouraging, and entertaining so far (p. 33).

One of the more troubling aspects of no Internet is the inability to check my bank balance for the last ten days.  In theory, of course, this shouldn’t be a problem.  Maybe I’ll stop by the ATM to check it.

My claim that when I don’t eat out I can lose weight is belied by the results of the past two weeks:  I’ve eaten out once, a steep decline from my normal practice, yet no weight lost.  The bicycle must save me.

Sort of lost my mind for a while today:  spent about $5.50 for See’s candy, and ate it all.  I guess that’s dinner.  It was good.  Later I ate a lot of potato chips; that was not good.  I should never sit down with chips when I’m hungry, because I’ll almost always turn them into a meal.

Monkeyed around a little with KM this evening because I had a quote from Bukowski (On Writing) that I wanted to include.  I have done virtually nothing with it for more than ten days.  Depression has something to do with this, or not.  Given that I rarely work on it, depressed or not, it would be silly to blame depression.

I watched an hour-long new National Geographic Nova special on the Great Pyramid instead of Rachel Maddow; but her repeat show is about to start, so I’m going to watch that.  Been watching much TV lately because depressed.  (Or whatever.)


{2/7/19}  Weight 219.4 (at 5:00 am).

A quote from Peter Watson:  The Age of Atheists:  How We Have Sought to Live Since the Death of God, Simon & Schuster, New York, 2014, pb.:  “Plato, Aristotle[,] and the main monotheisms all insist on a sense of mystery and wonder in regard to non-human powers; that there is, already in existence, ‘something better and greater than the human.’” p. 63.

Now, the “spiritual” idiots (I’m feeling especially cranky this early morning, while recognizing that we are all seekers rather than finders) all look to their “God” as the ultimate “mystery and wonder.”  I call bullshit.  The world, nature, and even “man” and “his” creations, are the true mysteries and wonders.  No “God” need apply; no invisible friend should be given credit for what we do.  “Mystery and wonder” are fine emotions in which I indulge as often as possible, typically by viewing some natural or nearly-natural scene, typically involving plants or clouds or water.  But I also recognize that these emotions are “mere moods” that I can, essentially, conjure up at will.

I hearken back to the quote from Russell which is above at 1/31/19:  “From that day to this, there has been thought to be something divine about muddleheadedness, provided it had the quality of spiritual intoxication; a wholly sober view of the world has been thought to show a limited and pedestrian mind.  From Pythagoras this outlook descended to Plato, from Plato to Christian theologians, from them, in a new form, to Rousseau and the romantics and the myriad purveyors of nonsense who flourish wherever men and women are tired of the truth.”

Well, I don’t know about “truth,” there, not wanting to call science “truth”; but I am surrounded by muddleheads who are intoxicated on their own gullibility, fleeing from their fear of “the cold world of science”—or whatever it is they’re fleeing from—into the flabby arms of nonsense, whether their own delusions and meaningless words or those taken over from the myriad purveyors, and pitying me all the while because I am in my corner calling “bullshit.”  I have my own idea of who is pitiful here, but I rarely have the heat necessary to insist on rubbing their noses in it.  This morning I’m feeling it.

This pity of the spiritual idiots is, to me, exactly the same as the pity felt by the LSD users towards those (me) who refuse to find value in chemicals that radically alter their consciousness.  I have tried three, and find them lacking; I don’t need to try more.

What of my “wakeup pill,” caffeine?  It alters my mood; so does chocolate, or lunch, or music, often.  If this is a difference of degree, not of kind, so be it.

Perhaps I’m just repeating Russell in less temperate words.  How much of my own nonsense am I overlooking here?  Do I claim to be a finder rather than a seeker?  It is my judgment that I am a finder and a seeker:  a finder of partial solutions and a seeker of more.  And I’ll keep my simple-mindedness, thank you.

Had dinner at Leo’s Burgers (chicken taco plate)—too much sodium, but very good.  I was really digging the rice and beans.  Leftovers in the fridge.

Library book sale today, spent about $23.  Fortunately, Pablo was able to cover his own costs.  Got I think six CDs, classical.  The Mussorgsky-Ravel Pictures is already disappointing because the “Gnomus” theme is far less vigorous and exciting than the version I have on my MP3 player.  And “Baba Yaga” at a slow tempo?!  I’ve often set one or the other of these tracks on repeat and just let it go for an hour.  Also has the Stravinsky Firebird Suite.  If I don’t like that, I’ll get rid of it.  The rest is Debussy & Ravel quartets and trios; Bartok’s piano concertos; Jennifer Higdon’s blue cathedral [sic] which I’ve been wanting (indeed, any Higdon); the Scottish Fantasy of Bruch; and a disk of modern shakuhachi/koto music that Pablo borrowed “for a week.”

Some modest “finds” among the books, including Unamuno’s Tragic Sense of Life, which I’ve been wanting, the GBWW Kant (to replace the one sent to Zena), an Ortega y Gasset that I already had, something about Hume & religion, a field guide to wildflowers that I’ll never use, probably—I don’t remember the rest, but there wasn’t much more.  I had some poetry and classic fiction picked out, but put them all back (Dostoyevsky’s Possessed, which I’ve read; Kafka; Coleridge).  Ah:  I kept Horace’s satires & epistles, and finally Henry George’s Progress and Poverty (I checked), surely a mistake to buy because I never read my economics and/or progressive stuff.  My CD space is already full, so I may dump some of the opera or something.


{2/8/19}  Weight 219.4.

Long dreams this morning, all forgotten but this vivid fragment:  a man and a woman bound naked on a camel or two, as an act of revenge by two Old West thugs.

This dream apparently was stimulated by my watching The Seven Faces of Dr. Lao for the umpteenth time a couple of days ago.  I’ve always liked this movie a lot, while recognizing some substantial defects.  I never had the thought before, though, that the character of Lao, played by white Tony Randall, would likely be as offensive to a Chinese as someone in blackface would be to a black person.  Which is unfortunate, because it’s otherwise a cute, clever, and amusing movie “for children of all ages.”

No insomnia last night, slept until 7:00 with two interruptions.

Idea 77:  “For virtually my whole life, the Soviet Union, then Russia, were ‘The Enemy.’  Now, it seems, we were our worst enemy, we have destroyed the planet.”  This may be unfair to my own country, but there are many reasons to be unfair to the United States, most of which are the result of the class war.

Quotes from Charles Bukowski:  On Writing, Abel Debritto (ed), Ecco, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers, New York, 2015:

“After all, who wants to read childhood stuff?  It brings out the worst kind of writing.”

After writing the above, or rather copying it from the current draft of KM, I ended up putting the quotes in my CQ.  Then I got distracted by some books, several books, poetry anthologies, and finally, Brenda Knight (ed):  Women of the Beat Generation:  The Writers, Artists and Muses at the Heart of a Revolution, Conari Press, Berkeley, CA, 1996.  Either this book or the previous one (The Beat Reader) gave me the idea of calling Salomé and asking her to paint my portrait.  I am astonished by the brilliance and audacity of this idea.

Now, what stimulated me to open the diary at this moment was an idea about how I read.

I was reading in the above-referenced book a quote from Denise Levertov:  “Strength of feeling, reverence for mystery, clarity of intellect must be kept in balance with one another.  Neither the passive nor the active must dominate, they must work in conjunction, as in a marriage.” (p. 205.)

It didn’t make an impression, I had the idea that she was talking about active and passive voice in grammar.  I read it again, then a third time, slowly, pondering each phrase, getting to the meaning of it, and then came the thought that I wanted to record:  when I read, I am racing.  I race through words—at least, that’s what I was doing with this book, because of course I was browsing, and had been browsing in The Beat Reader, browsing and sort of marinating in the whole Beat scene, as stimulated by reading in Don’t Hide the Madness, nearing the end of it and wanting to finish with it.  That’s a book that doesn’t seem to warrant slow, thoughtful reading, at least for me, because a lot of it, the bulk of it, for me is a complete waste.  Random talking about nothing in particular—guns, cats, Burroughs’s books, stupid shit from Ginsberg, words from people I don’t know, apparently wandering in and out during the taping, and so on.  Page after page of dead loss as far as I’m concerned.

So, rereading the Levertov quote, and recognizing that when I am reading, it’s as though I’m looking for something.  And indeed I am:  looking for something of importance to me, something to strike my mind, strike sparks.  And if no sparks are struck, it’s just so much dross, chaff, matrix hiding the hoped-for gems, however I want to express it.  Is this any way to read?  It’s a way to browse, and I don’t see a problem with that.  But isn’t most of my reading a sort of browsing?  Searching, not engaging with, but almost avoiding engaging with.  Though perhaps I’m trying to adopt a pose here, rushing to self-judgment.


I seem to be cramming my days with words and chores, yet doing little or nothing towards my stated goals, one in particular:  “making the world a better place through my writing.”  Now, of course, an important part of that writing is this diary, and I recognize that “fact” whenever I contemplate my stated goal, and I am really doing a lot in the diary.  Forty-one pages in the last thirty-nine days.  Well, that’s not really a lot.

But reading:  I think in general, I subconsciously adjust my pace to my goals and to the difficulty of the material.  With a philosophy book that I find difficult, I do of course slow down, working through it thought-by-thought and so on.  (At least one hopes so.)  But especially with poetry, I need to slow down.  I’ve said something like that before, recognizing that the more time I take with a piece, especially, the more thinking I do about a piece, whether a poem or a novel (usually), the better I end up liking it, as with Plath recently.  (On checking, I find no such mention.)  But I find that few works stimulate me to that kind of effort.

Had a nice talk with Salomé regarding “my portrait.”  We will talk again on Sunday and settle something.  I am essentially committed to this, for a couple of reasons:  one is that I may want to use the result for a book cover or back cover illustration, etc.  One is simply that I find Salomé charming and want to spend time with her while also “helping her” with her finances.  (The reader says “Ah HA!” at this point.)  And one is that such a watercolor (probably) or painting will inflate my ego, make me think for a while that I’m not quite the nonentity that I told her I feel like.

Many thoughts have combined to make me feel this way:  the often-realized recognition that one of the important reasons that many of my efforts have led to nothing, indeed, my life has led to nothing of significance (aside from one son) is because I have not spent time with “important people.”  If it had been possible for me to go to Harvard, say, or even just an excellent, vital school like Berkeley or…well, I don’t know, but some institution of higher learning that had suited me and inspired me and given me contacts with like-minded “seekers,” I might not have ended up schlupping through life (as it seems to me at the moment I have done).  As Bukowski did, to an extent—though he was of course very driven as van Gogh and Tolstoy were driven, and I have never been.  Though perhaps I’m feeling somewhat more of that now, at age 71, than I ever have before (with the exception of Rubik’s Cube).

I said “many thoughts” but gave only one.  The fact is, simply, with the exception of the Feds and their employees, I am very much a non-entity to everyone outside of the Hemlock Club.  Possibly one or two of my blog readers find me more worthwhile than that, but possibly not.

So, it’s not like getting my portrait painted will be an accomplishment to make me proud; yet I believe that it will make me feel good about myself in a way that I otherwise seldom feel.  As, for instance, buying the Shostakovich Edition and the six-volume van Gogh letters (which I never received).  Spending money usually does make me feel good when I thoroughly approve of the purchase.  The MacBook, for another instance.  But “good” and “good about myself” are very different things; surely in the latter is finishing the first draft of KM and times with Oliver, and much in the distant past.  Not much in the present, aside from a good HC meeting and Saturday commitment accomplished, is the problem.  Well, okay, maybe there are a lot of things.  Can I then say, “I am somebody”?

I’m pretty sure that seeing a “Blakean portrait of Allen Ginsberg by Carolyn Cassady” in Women of the Beat Generation, page 73, got this portrait idea to percolate to the surface.  Maybe, too, my “thoughtful” self-portrait photographs that I actually like, helped the idea along.
Like that.

In some ways, I like the hand above all else in the pic.  Or, let’s just say that I like the picture as a whole, but especially the hand.

The laptop is still under warranty; getting it to an “authorized dealer” or whatever may not be so easy.  It may be necessary to mail it.  Or buy another one for hopefully less than the $270 this one cost.

If I had a MacBook, life would be easier but more expensive.  So, maybe not easier.

Copyright 2019 by Alan Carl Nicoll
All Rights Reserved

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