Diary, 5/6 to 5/12/19

Copyright 2019 by Alan Carl Nicoll
All Rights Reserved

Mr. Peepers, childhood hero


{5/6/19}  Weight 221.4.

4:00 am.  I’ve been reading and editing Kick Me for more than an hour.  It’s interesting reading, but also very ego-driven, and a poor thing, and a ton of work is still required.  I just need to keep at it, and there’s the problem:  I don’t like to work on it, and I’m very poor at doing things that I don’t like to do.  Much of this is “just mood.”  On top of that, my Microsoft Word is acting up in rather peculiar ways.  Presumably, a reinstall will fix that.


Raced through van Vogt:  The Weapon Makers, and it was a thrill ride on a grand scale.  I think it’s his biggest and best book, with his best characters (two) and a lot of great ideas, plenty of tension, a great ending, and the only work of his that has ever made me choke up.  It is far from perfect, however, because of several regrettable, major scientific errors.  I have no trouble setting those aside.

Went to the GET Bus office and recovered my hat and sunglasses, but the old bus pass hasn’t turned up, so I now have a new one, at a cost of $22.


{5/7/19}  Weight 222.0.

The Fanciulla earworm continues.  Another pattern I seem to be stuck in is waking between 4:00 and 5:00 am and not getting back to sleep.  So by 9:00 my eyelids are heavy.

At the last Hemlock Club, J said he doesn’t want to play board games, though he made an exception for Scrabble, “because it’s educational.”  He was distinctly lukewarm about spending more time together.  Also, when I brought out the puzzle box, and talked about it, neither of the “Hems” were the least bit curious about it.  Clearly, I have mistaken my friends.


{5/8/19}  Weight 222.6.  Gains 4 days in a row.

Reinstalling MS Office, a very tiresome task because my Microsoft password was available only in a Word file, but I didn’t realize this until I needed it…anyway, it’s done, and it’s fixed the problems I had been experiencing.


{5/9/19}  Weight 221.2.

Went to the Maya theater with Pablo to see Avengers:  Endgame again.  Rave reviews.  Good theater with motorized reclining seats.  $9 to get us both in (Wednesdays only).

Trying to look up Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs in my library, and finding nothing.  Tried to find Abraham Maslow, Fritz Perls, and Noam Chomsky in my Biographical Dictionary, and failed—they’re not included, while Alan Watts,  Arthur Schlesinger, and Nelson Algren are.

I need a Dictionary of Psychology.  But—Noam Chomsky!?  Nuts.

Checked the dictionaries at Barnes & Noble and found none that suited my tastes.  I had to go there because the BOD (befuddled old doofus, i.e., me) had left the laptop charger behind yesterday.  Grr.  But at least they had saved it for me.

I have six channels of movies without commercials:  TCM and Starz.  Yet there’s nothing that I want to see.  Admittedly, these channels show some pretty good movies.

Reading Corngold’s Kaufmann and enjoying it greatly so far (30 pages in).  It inspires me to examine my education and attitudes toward education:

The earliest influences I can name are “Uncle Feeb,” “Professor Wottaschnozzle,” and “Mr. Peepers,” the first two from comic books, the last from television.  These characters are relatively similar:  a man who knows much, I think typically science, but is considered eccentric and probably comical.  “Mr. Peepers,” played by Wally Cox, was a science teacher.  But, suddenly, the vastness of the subject makes me feel tired.  And I think that I have covered this subject often in my diary and possibly somewhat in Kick Me.  I want very much to work on KM, but probably won’t much today.  [5/12/19:  Google searches reveal that “Uncle Feeb” was a character in Tubby comics, and possibly in Little Lulu; I remember reading the latter.  “Professor O. G. Wottaschnozzle” is mentioned as a character in Popeye cartoons, in which he had a time machine.  Mr. Peepers has a Wikipedia entry; the series ran for three years, cancelled in 1955, and had an astonishing 127 episodes.]

Perhaps a few more generalities:  at first I was studious about science, ancient history, chess, and nature, and I had fantasy for escapism.  In my teens I added math and Shakespeare and was curious about sex and naturally very driven about it, though with no contact with females except the abuse that I’ve discussed in the book.  In college I may have begun getting into literature, Gestalt psychology (primarily as self-therapy) and Torey Hayden’s books—certainly by my mid-twenties.  The interest in fantasy continued.

I’ve been reading Maslow this evening and more or less came to the conclusion that in my childhood, at least, I felt free to be myself.  That is, I wasn’t pressured to like this or that—I knew that I didn’t like mustard and would have none of it.  If I wanted to read Boy of the Pyramids yet again, nobody was there to deny it.  I remember that choice being questioned, and I remember being urged to read another book by the same author, rather than the same book again, but never was I forced to eat things I didn’t like, or to read things I didn’t want to read, or to do things I didn’t want to do.  This allowed me to, in Maslow’s terminology, discover my true self, or at least to the degree that this is possible to a ten-year-old.


{5/10/19}  Weight 221.2.

A dream:  I was walking across an open field which sloped downward to an isolated shack.  Next to the shack, I knew, was a boggy area with some standing water that was oily as a result of natural seepage.  I may have gone inside the shack for a moment, but if I did I went back outside immediately where people were lighting candles and floating them in small cups on the pond.  This seemed to be a memorial of something, though I didn’t know what and I didn’t ask (I suspect that this question was an afterthought from later).  Using a cigarette lighter, a gold-colored metal lighter that I recognized, I lighted a candle—which may have been red—then three more white candles, floating each on the pond in its own cup.  Then I walked up the hill and encountered Sir Patrick Stewart and he asked me what I did (apparently we knew each other and I was not surprised to see him).  I told him that I’d lit candles on the pond, miming the action of leaning down and striking the lighter, though I didn’t know where I’d gotten the candles, and he was surprised at my lack of caution.  I realized that the pond might have caught on fire, but I said that lots of people were doing it, and we could see them still doing it in the distance.  The dream ended there.

Rain this morning, continuing from last night.

Went to the Beale Library to see what I could see in the sale books, and found that they’re selling an entire World Book Encyclopedia, 2013 edition, at fifty cents a volume.  I brought home the first six volumes, and a mighty formidable carrying job it was.  I hope to get the remainder tomorrow, a whole recent encyclopedia for $13.  Such deals do not come along very often, like never.  It’s unfortunate that I just bought the two dictionaries (geographical and biographical), because they will be redundant after this.  I have no shelf space for this acquisition, of course; this is worth buying more shelving for.

World Book doesn’t have the “knowledge in depth” volumes of the Britannica, but that’s not what I was looking for and not what I need.  I think those volumes must be for people who don’t own any books other than the encyclopedia.


{5/11/19}  Weight 220.8.

In reading Neurotribes, I learned some things about the importance of van Vogt to the history of science fiction that somehow I had missed in reading his books for sixty years, including even his autobiography.  Apparently, his Slan was a really big deal in the pulps in 1940.  “For first-generation fans, Slan had special resonance, because they saw a reflection of their own predicament in this tale of superintelligent, supersensitive, and profoundly misunderstood mutants struggling to survive in a world not built for them.”  (Steve Silberman:  NeuroTribes:  The Legacy of Autism and the Future of Neurodiversity, Avery/Penguin Random House, New York, 2015-2016, p. 236.)  A fan named Claude Degler popularized the catchphrase “Fans are Slans” and persuaded fans in 22 states to set up “Slan houses” for a while.

Perhaps it is interesting that I came relatively late to Slan and always thought it a bit overrated, or at least, it wasn’t a favorite, unlike half a dozen other of Van’s titles.

Late last night I started reading The World of Null-A, one of those half-dozen, in Van’s 1970 revision, and I was almost embarrassed at how bad the writing was.  I apparently missed reading this revision, because I was surprised at the frankly amateurish additions that I saw starting on page one.  Also, the chapter starts with a quote from Bertrand Russell, identified only as “B.R.,” and subsequent chapters also start with quotes, a practice that I quite enjoyed in the sequel to World, called The Players of Null-A.  Here’s that quote:


Common sense, do what it will, cannot avoid being surprised occasionally.  The object of science is to spare it this emotion and create mental habits which shall be in such close accord with the habits of the world as to secure that nothing shall be unexpected.  (A. E. van Vogt:  The World of Null-A, Berkley Publishing Corporation, New York, 1945-1970, p. 13.)


I like this quote and I think it’s a pretty good, though hardly the ultimate, argument in favor of going to the very considerable trouble of acquiring a basic knowledge of science.  A person who has no science seems to me but half a human being.  (My virtually archaic phrasing in that sentence seems odd to me.  But I resist the impulse to rewrite it.)

After writing the above, I went back to bed at 3:30 am but grabbed, for some reason, a volume of Copleston’s History and read about Bertrand Russell for far longer than I had intended because it was so damn good!

One positive thing has come out of the present existence of Donald Trump and Don Jr.:  the syno-names of “Bloatus” and “Traitor Tot”!  Ha!

The last time I mentioned bedbugs was in February.  In making my bed I found one just now and killed it, I think the first I’ve seen in the three months.

Reading and enjoying Corngold’s Kaufmann, but does he really have to use words like “banausic,” “parousia,” and “ephexis”?  There were at least two others that I didn’t recognize—all in about fifty pages.

In looking up “minilith” I also browsed my way to “cromlech” and “dolmen,” both rather tasty words that one might want to know.  Given that I’ve seen TV documentaries about Stonehenge, I’d think that they might have used one or the other of those words.  BTW, a minilith is not a small monolith or megalith.


{5/12/19}  Weight 220.6.

My memory has played me false again:  the revised version of The World of Null-A doesn’t have the changes that I thought had been introduced.  I know this because I saw a first edition version at the library yesterday.

A quote from “E.T.B.” in A. E. van Vogt:  The World of Null-A, p. 146:  “Nevertheless, the consuming hunger of the uncritical mind for what it imagines to be certainty or finality impels it to feast upon shadows.”

So, now I have an encyclopedia, which required three trips to the library.  I’m having rather painful twinges in my lower abdomen, apparently because of the effort of carrying these heavy books round yesterday and the day before.  Because I’m a FOD (feeble old doofus).  I’m already disappointed with the encyclopedia because I’ve found errors.  The only one I recall is as follows:  “Leibniz and the English scientist Sir Isaac Newton independently developed calculus, a branch of mathematics that deals with the notion of the infinite.”  “Philosophy,” The World Book Encyclopedia, World Book, a Scott Fetzer Company, Chicago, 2013, v. 15, p. 389, emphasis in the original.  This item would be better without the throwaway and completely misleading and unnecessary definition of “calculus,” which assumes that the reader is uneducated and too lazy to open a dictionary.  Another error was similar, adding an unnecessary and inaccurate throwaway definition.  This is disappointing and unexpected, but what can you do?  At fifteen bucks, I’ll take it.

Copyright 2019 by Alan Carl Nicoll
All Rights Reserved

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