Diary: 3/24 to 4/1/19

Copyright 2019 by Alan Carl Nicoll
All Rights Reserved

Lucy Flores with entitled fool

Note:  There are no April Fool jokes in this post.

Some potentially offensive content in this one:  my experiences with Viagra-substitute.

{3/24/19}  Weight 220.2.

Dream fragments:  I was driving somewhere near a freeway, on dirt roads through open terrain like farmland.  I came to a freeway but was unsure which freeway it was.  Seems like I pulled up to a man to ask him, when I suddenly realized that I had driven into a bog and that the car was sinking.  In conversation with the man I said, “What am I supposed to do, walk home?”  That’s all I remember, mostly because I had woken up and then went back to sleep for another hour.

Work at Writers Writing yesterday was relatively unproductive because I worked only about an hour.  I was doing Internet stuff when Pablo arrived.  After a while we visited J in the hospital yesterday.  We had to go in separately because he wasn’t in a room, just on a gurney in a hall.  J seemed cheerful and was able to walk a little.  He said they’re going to give him a walker, but where he would go and what he would do was unclear.

Pablo left while I was with J.  I was in a hurry to get to the bus so I could go on to the Beale Library for some “peace concert” at three o’clock, but I missed the bus, so I started to walk the few blocks down to the transit center.  It was cold and stormy-looking and had rained earlier, the time was late, and finally I decided to call a cab and just go home.  Exasperatingly, I gave the dispatcher the wrong address, saying “North Chester” instead of “Chester,” so it took an hour to get that sorted out.

MSM news has been completely useless since late Friday (it’s now Sunday morning) because of the Mueller report—endless speculation about what’s in it.  Nothing at all on TV until I have to leave for the Hemlock Club.

I’ve put together a stack of ten books to send to Zena O’Brien, mostly neuro/cognitive-science stuff and a couple on American Indians, including Black Elk Speaks.  Netter’s Atlas probably cost fifty bucks and I got very little use out of it because I’m just not studying neuroscience at all.  BES I read once in a smaller version, and while I had intended to read it again, I’ve had the book for a year and never found time for it.

Bought a “lot” of five van Vogt novels yesterday on eBay, since it seems that I’m interested in rereading him now, having enjoyed War.  Also, I picked up Pluche (by Jean Dutourd) again, hoping to finish it this time.  It’s interesting, but I’ve kept putting it aside for long periods.  Getting rid of home Wi-Fi has so cut down on my entertainment options that I now have more time for reading.  I even read some very relevant items in BookForum and am considering resubscribing to Foreign Affairs.

I started this cold on 2/19 and it’s still going strong in that I’m producing seemingly endless quantities of snot.  It had been tapering off a couple weeks ago, then, as noted at the time, it seemed like I got a second virus.  I’ve used three full boxes of tissues and then some, recently.  Fortunately, tissues “with lotion,” or I’d have no skin left in the relevant areas.

Last time at Barnes & Noble I bought Robert Reich’s The Common Good.  Also Pablo Harman’s People’s History of the World, which I’ve read and sent to Zena.  I checked out a bit of the coverage of the “collapse” of the Soviet Union (because of the recent dispute at the HC) and found it illuminating and very readable, unlike the “excessive” detail in Judt’s Postwar.  I’m enjoying the Judt, mostly, but am eager to get it over with.  Some parts have been pretty dry, and of course I’ll never remember all the names/places/dates.  Takeaway points are:  economic boom in the sixties, big slowdown in the seventies, growing unrest in the East, cracks in the Soviet Union in the early eighties because of economic problems.  The eastern satellites borrowing money to pay for food and consumer goods, a downward spiral.  It seems that the “collapse” is largely driven by the loss of confidence in “socialism.”


{3/25/19}  Weight 220.6.

Robert Mueller delivers a gut punch to America, if William Barr’s “press release” about the contents of the Mueller report is at all accurate.  Did I say “gut punch”?  I meant “kick in the balls.”  I’d like to compare this feeling to the original realization that Donald Trump would be President, but of course it’s orders of magnitude less than that waking nightmare.  Obviously, I had unrealistic expectations.

The ultimate result could be good—if the Democrats finally find their voices and their backbones and the people rise up the way they should have in November, 2016.  But I think instead we’re going to wait for the Dems in the House to do it for us, and that would be a mistake.

So:  what am I going to do about this?

Shopped early at FoodMaxx because I was out of eggs.  Made the mistake of buying a box of Entemann’s chocolate-covered donuts, made a bigger mistake by eating three of them (840 calories) while waiting for the bus, partially recovered by leaving the box of five at the bus stop.  BTW, they didn’t taste good!

I wanted to buy potatoes to nuke to accompany my evening burger, but FM has the choice of either very large Russets by the pound, or a ten-pound bag of small ones (for a ridiculously cheap $2.99).  I wanted small ones, but not ten pounds!  So I bought two cans of peeled, cooked taters, like I had before.  (I wanted to be more ecological, you see.  Thwarted again.  More tin cans for the landfill.)

Next time, I think I’ll get the ten-pound bag, take out about ten, and leave the rest by the dumpster.  A better idea would be to knock on doors in the motel until I found a taker—after all, getting to know one’s neighbors is supposed to be a first step toward getting them politically “woke.”  Yeah, a “better idea” for some people.  Probably an essential idea for my own education and awakening and growth and so on.  Do you think I’ll do any of this?

$175.44 on books and DVDs out of my last paycheck.  I’m insane, right?  Most dubious purchase was A Documentary History of the United States.  Biggest ripoff was the DVD for North by Northwest, a great movie, but I bought it (for $4.99) because the back said there was a music-only audio track.  Turns out that there isn’t.  It’s conceivable that I’ll watch the movie again someday, but I’ve already put it in with other “DVDs I don’t know when I’ll want to watch again, if ever.”

I’m in a sour mood this morning.  The cold is slightly improved—I’m blowing my nose every half hour or so, instead of every three minutes or so.  And consequently coughing less.

Now, I’m thinking that the state of American politics and democracy is an even bigger and more urgent issue than climate change.  My power to affect events is minuscule in either case, but that small power can be more effective in US politics.  If this is so, then my self-education in climate change must also allow room for a self-education in US politics and democracy.  And part of that must involve my consumption of news and other media.

So:  I could subscribe to a newspaper and some magazines.  I could investigate (i.e., by reading books and magazines) media ownership and bias.  I could seek guidance from, say, the local Democratic headquarters and online groups like 350.org.  I could read that book on propaganda that I saw at B&N yesterday.  The propaganda issue is a sort of self-meta-education, a way, perhaps, to make my reading more effective.  A bit of study of the Constitution would also be useful.

Issue number one is the release of the full Mueller report?  Or is that even needed?  It’s clear to me that our current President should not be President—I don’t need more evidence.  Looking to the Mueller report at this point is to continue pursuing the false hope that “Mueller will save us.”


{3/26/19}  Weight 221.0.

Met Pablo at Barnes & Noble yesterday.  I bought Jason Stanley’s How Propaganda Works, a book I mentioned yesterday.  Pablo was talking about his reading of a novel a friend had written, which he’d had for a year but hadn’t read, something like that, and I responded, “I know what that’s like,” because of course that’s what he did with Kick Me.  He sort of took offense at that, claiming, “I read your book.”  Well, he’s read less than a third of it, and even against my expressed wishes because I was working on a rewrite.  It’s complicated.  Anyway, he insists that he’s going to read the rest of it, and the conclusion was that he would send me written responses, chapter by chapter, or something.  I’m guessing that he won’t, or at least he won’t for quite some time.  We talked for a long time about this, and I said that I’d had about all the writing advice that I wanted because I’ve read a hundred books or more on how to write—which is completely accurate.

He told me about how his brother used to tell stories to his family, at the dinner table or whatever, and these were well received because he was a good story teller, but when he (Pablo) told his stories, his family wasn’t interested, and he went on about how this affected him.  I said that it made him diffident.  He didn’t know the word and asked me to define it.  After a moment’s thought I said it meant lacking in confidence.  He said, in essence, “Pshaw.”  He might have gone so far as to say, “No, you’re wrong.”  So I entered it into Google and showed him the result, which included the exact phrase I had used, “lacking in confidence.”  This will go into my blog, but fortunately he rarely reads it; otherwise, it would just lead to more arguments.

So then he berated me for using such an obscure word and putting on airs!  That gets an exclamation point because in the past he has complained that about people saying that very thing to him.  I didn’t point this out, however.  I was feeling expansive.  (I looked it up:  “4.  Characterized by a free and generous nature; sympathetic; demonstrative; open [an expansive person].”)  It has since occurred to me that there is no good, more-common synonym for “diffident” though my thesaurus index shows (for “diffidence”) “fearfulness,” “self-effacement,” “demur”, “hesitation,” and “doubt.”

I go into this in such detail because it’s a good example of the kind of squabbles we get into a lot.  I see now that by using a word he didn’t recognize, he felt that I had put him “one down,” and he reacted emotionally.  If he had used a word that I didn’t recognize, I would likely have asked him what it meant, not because I would have felt my manhood challenged, but because I would have been curious and wanted to learn.

Indeed, much of our lengthy conversation was again about J and the arguments he and Pablo get into very often; we’ve had two or three long phone arguments about this.  I’m not going into detail because I’m thoroughly sick of what they do.  The last Hemlock Club meeting was ruined by these two again going on about “where J will be sleeping.”  I think Pablo finally heard me, however, about how these arguments keep coming up because Pablo will not let J (or anyone) lead his life as he sees fit, when Pablo disagrees with their choices.  He is constantly trying to save people from themselves, indeed, insisting on saving them, and he will not “agree to disagree.”  I reminded him of our long, bitter arguments about my tricycle, and I think that made an impression.

I’ve been reading Stanley’s book.  Unfortunately, it’s quite poorly written, repetitive and with obviously clumsy sentences.  I suppose the important selling point for me was the quote from Noam Chomsky on the back cover, which says that it’s “a novel and significant contribution that should revitalize political philosophy.”  Here’s an example of “Stanley’s bad writing”:  “Plato is not referring to a specific means of voting.  He is referring rather to a certain kind of character of a culture, properties that are true of a society.”  (Princeton University Press, Princeton & Oxford, 2015, p. 13).

I’d rewrite this for concision as:  “Plato is not referring to a specific means of voting, but rather to a character of a culture.”  I don’t like the sound of my sentence, and “rather” could be omitted, but it will do to make my point.  So maybe the book is “novel and significant,” but it’s not going to be a pleasure.

I am concerned about propaganda because I have referred to mainstream media as “propaganda” and want to know what I’m talking about.  That is, I want to be able to defend that opinion, though no one has challenged me yet.

I noted one vivid example a couple of decades ago.  Some young Americans had been arrested, I think in Italy, for some protest they had made or perhaps for some literature they had distributed—I have forgotten all the details, but I remember that the persons involved had been described in various MSM in three different ways that I saw:  approximately, as “terrorists,” “activists,” and “students.”  Clearly, this single choice is crucially important to the viewer’s likely or intended response.  My observation is a commonplace, nothing unusual, though it seemed so at the time, because that was before the Fox News phenomenon.

The current (April/May) issue of Bookforum has a review of The Uninhabitable Earth which I bought recently and is next on my climate-change reading list, and a couple of other articles that I actually read because I’m doing more reading at home, as previously mentioned.  But I mention this because I wanted to note the following quote:  “There’s bravery in a writer’s willingness to look bad.  A genuine reckoning demands it.”  I don’t get the last sentence, however.

Okay, I wasted eighteen dollars (actually, $19.25):  How Propaganda Works is so badly written that I can’t bear it.  It makes me feel like I’m losing IQ points, page by page.  I can’t imagine what Chomsky was thinking.  I’m flummoxed at the praise on the back cover.  Clearly, I’ve gone totally insane, because surely all these important people can’t be so terribly wrong?  In any case, I’m giving up on it.  The thing is, given the grotesque awkwardness of the sentence structures and the blatant repetition on this page of what was just said on the last page, I am made to distrust the author’s judgment about his subject, because bad writing strongly implies bad thinking.


{3/28/19}  Weight 221.4.  Birthday overindulgence.

Yesterday was my 72nd birthday.  D had invited the Hemlock Club members to have dinner at his place, and this morphed into a birthday party for me.  What a difference a year makes.  Well, perhaps not as great as all that—instead of dinner with Pablo at Sizzler, I had dinner with Pablo, D, and C (D’s S.O.) at D’s house.  But the difference was that great.


{3/29/19}  Weight 222.4.  Yikes!

Had my first experience of sildenafil citrate yesterday evening; this is what the Veterans Administration provides in place of Viagra.


{3/30/19}  Weight 222.2.

Something I should have mentioned in yesterday’s entry is that the effects of the “Viagra” carried over to the following morning, in that “a little stimulation went a long way,” and that was a pleasant surprise.

This is annoying.  I told Pablo about my trial with “V” and he was grossed out, said I was giving too much information, although I really hadn’t said much of anything.  Now I’m feeling inhibited about this in the last place in the world I want to feel at all inhibited, that is, in this diary.  So I’m going to start again, with the intention to “tell all,” and anyone who doesn’t want more complete detail can skip the next paragraph.  I will, however, avoid unnecessary grossness, because that’s what I do, and this computer is monitored by the feds.

I was a bit leery at first, and considered taking just half a pill; but since I was unable to break it with my fingers, I just took the whole thing.  Thirty minutes after taking the “V” I had an unfamiliar sensation, a faint warmth in the crotch and surrounding tissues.  I had my pants off.  It’s conceivable that the sensation was a placebo effect or that I was imagining it, but it seemed real enough.  So I put on a DVD to view a usually-stimulating scene, and I began stroking my penis.  The result was the kind of erection I haven’t experienced since my arrest:  quick, robust and, I might say, “self-confident.”  That is, once it was up, it stayed up with very little attention.  It was not, however, the kind of erection that indicated maximum excitement, in other words not entirely hard and upstanding, but it was otherwise very satisfactory and a real pleasure.  Masturbation lately, before “V,” has been difficult:  the erection was rarely very gratifying, and reaching orgasm was difficult at best, sometimes taking an hour, and sometimes taking repeated sessions of persistent effort.  The session with “V,” on the contrary, was a luxuriation, with a desire to prolong the experience.  And so I did.  The final orgasm was merely ordinary, almost a disappointment, and the tumescence was slow to subside.  It occurred to me that I might have been able to go on to a second orgasm, but I wasn’t that interested and didn’t pursue that possibility.  The following morning I was viewing something modestly stimulating, with modest genital stimulation, but the result was a good, persistent erection much like from the evening before, but I had little desire to pursue another orgasm.  Today the effect is almost completely gone:  my penis at rest seems a bit larger, is all, and remaining flaccid on moderate stimulation.  Now, since I was given only four pills for the month, I intend to wait before trying a second one.  Given the difficulties I’ve been experiencing before now, I had been uninterested in trying to find a sex partner; based on the one experience with “V,” I would be more than willing to give it a try, and I would anticipate no difficulties.  In speaking to Pablo I called it “a revelation,” and it was indeed that encouraging.

In other news, I am disappointed in Robert B. Reich:  The Common Good.  It is quite dull and almost simple-minded, quite unlike the lecture of Reich’s that I saw on “Pirate Television,” on Free Speech TV.  The lecture was very entertaining and somewhat moving.  So, I’ll keep trying with the book for a while at least.  [See more comments below.]

I’m almost done with Naomi Klein’s book.  It’s been interesting and depressing, but not particularly informative or enlightening because I’ve heard most of this before.  But the details are important, and one point in particular struck home.  Climate change is not going to be controlled by a Green New Deal because it is a global problem, and the “Third World” cannot cope on its own.  Climate justice, including massive aid to the Third World from the United States and Europe, are absolutely necessary.  A major part of the problem is that the US has been “shipping the pollution overseas,” in that we are buying stuff that is being manufactured elsewhere.  Unfortunately, climate justice is going to be a harder “sell” than even the GND, and the Republican echo chamber is already shrieking.  The next two years are going to be very interesting and very troubling, and I’m not at all sure of the eventual triumph of the right (meaning morality, not the political right).


{3/31/19}  Weight 220.0.  Diuretics to the rescue!

The Hemlock Club meeting today was rather dull, in part because Pablo was visiting relatives in San Jose.  J mostly talked about Pablo.  Then D and C [Ooh!  Maybe I want to rethink these aliases?] arrived around eleven, and the conversation again focused on Pablo.  The point of it all escapes me.

I’m watching the miniseries of Lonesome Dove, which I guess I’ve seen about three times previously.  It’s all rather familiar, yet still entertaining.  I’m halfway.

The Robert Reich book has gotten a lot more interesting.  He explains “what happened to America,” and I think it’s a pretty good explanation.  Political parties now want to “win at any cost”; corporations want to “maximize profits at any cost.”  I forget what the third thing was.  On checking, I find, “whatever it takes to rig the economy.”  He says that the first started with Nixon and Watergate; the second started with Michael Milken and Jack Welch; the third gets blamed on “Lewis Powell’s memo, Tony Coelho’s bargain, [and] Wall Street’s bailout,” which he calls a “structural breakdown.”  That is, each one was a “structural breakdown.”

All of which I have expressed poorly.  Anyway, Reich is providing clarity and light where all had been obscure before.  Important stuff.

I’ve also started reading Steve Silberman:  NeuroTribes:  The Legacy of Autism and the Future of Neurodiversity.  Some interesting stories about Henry Cavendish and Paul Dirac so far, but there’s a limit to how many “interesting stories” can hold my attention, one after another.  I’m waiting for some shoes to drop.  However, I noted with interest Silberman’s talk of “gaze aversion” (which Pablo complains about in me) and “always listening,” which is what I do.  And I think it was Dirac who had trouble asking for salt at the table (which was a problem for me for a short time in my teens).  I clearly have never been as afflicted as these guys, but I have had some symptoms.  This is basically why I was willing to buy this very long book.  [Clarification:  In KM I said that I might have been “somewhat autistic” in my youth, and I wanted to get good info on ASD to see how I fit in, if at all.]

I’ll be meeting with Salomé on Tuesday so she can get started on my portrait.  This is a rather frivolous expense.  I sure hope that I like the resulting watercolor.  It would be bad if she tried too hard for a realistic likeness and didn’t quite get there.  Better if she makes it more impressionistic (which is like her normal style).


{4/1/19}  Weight 219.2.  Diuretics and diarrhea, yay?

After listening to twenty minutes of discussion on Thom Hartmann’s program about Joe Biden’s behavior towards the woman who has come forward to complain, here’s the point that I haven’t heard made:  Where has this fool been, that he is so out of touch with feminist opinion?  If he had any sensitivity toward the man-woman issue, he would have stopped that hands-on business decades ago.  That he needs to be educated now, after a lifetime in the Democratic Party, speaks volumes to me.  Patriarchy runs in his veins, it seems, and so he is the last candidate we need now.

Context:  I know just about nothing about Joe Biden.  He’s been below my radar essentially until this year, except for the times he has made a fool of himself—I’ve seen the mockery, and that’s most of what I remember.  Of course, I was in prison through the years when he was Vice President, and it seems that he was generally ignored by my main source, KPFK-FM in Los Angeles, progressive radio.

Copyright 2019 by Alan Carl Nicoll
All Rights Reserved

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