Diary, 6/19 to 6/22/19

Copyright 2019 by Alan Carl Nicoll
All Rights Reserved


{6/19/19}  Weight 222.2.

3:00 am.  Came across a question somewhere about the difference between “pitiful” and “pitiable.”  I’ll say this the wrong way, because it amuses me:  In trying to get back to sleep, the question nagged me.  “Dangling modifier,” I think.

At the end of the last entry, “rotting remains” I had originally written as “rotting corpse.”  The first thought was better.  If I want a rule, I could say that “remains” is a euphemism, and why on earth would I want a euphemism?

Looking at Kick Me just now, I am not pleased.  The tone needs work.  Above all, I need to be honest, not pretentious, posing, defensive, or whiny.  “Simple and direct.”  The passive voice comes across badly.  The quotes are sometimes just awful because they’re not me.  Well, that’s what rewrites are for.  Now I just need to find a way to get the work done.  The War of Art advises:  turn professional.  Yeah.

Finished reading Ludwig Wittgenstein’s easiest book, Culture and Value.  It’s just a collection of notes, but some are very good.  I noted 21 for future attention; sometimes I type these things out, more often I don’t.  In either case, they fade.  The last one I noted goes like this:

“How God judges a man is something we cannot imagine at all.  If he really takes strength of temptation and the frailty of nature into account, whom can he condemn?”  (Peter Winch, tr., The University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 1977-1984, p. 86.)  There’s considerably more, but these first two sentences make a nice “aphorism” that would go in Kick Me if I want another excusing quote.  I’d be saying, “don’t condemn me,” which is exactly contrary to my book’s title.  It’s exactly this kind of thing, and some other kinds, too, that bothers me about how KM is written.

If I don’t want something to fade, the best place to put it is the A-List, which I reread more often than other of my efforts.  Second best is the Collected Quotations, because at least there stuff is easy to find.  Perhaps third best is just to leave the list in the book, which again allows easy retrieval.  And last is the diary, which I reread periodically, but it’s 1500 pages and growing, so I can’t reread it very often (and a lot of it is dull).  Once the whole diary is in the computer, of course, then searches become possible.  But that may not happen for many years, if ever.

On the rare occasion that I “really need” something from the diary, I can review the page-summaries and the index of names and usually find it without too much suffering.

Coming up on 6/28 is the expiration of my antivirus subscription, which is $69 for a year or $100 for two years.  I don’t want to pay it, I want to buy an air conditioner.  I suppose that most of the sites I visit are pretty safe, like Twitter, WordPress, the library, the bank…but I also do Google searches often, and click through, which clearly is a greater danger.  I would be gambling—so I guess I’m stuck with it.  I’ve never heard anyone say that “You really don’t need that.”  Would I trust them if they did?

These days—I’m using them up doing “absolutely nothing.”  Which means just doing what’s necessary to keep base life afoot, plus reading and this paltry writing.  And here it is, 10:00 and time for bed, and 86° inside, about the same outside.  (I’m thinking of crazy J, who is homeless by choice, not that he has much choice, given his disability income.  We talked briefly about sharing living quarters, but I think he might wear out my patience all too quickly.  I am sorry for him, but also jealous of my freedoms.)

I went through a 0.5 oz bottle of saline eye drops much more quickly than normal for me—perhaps about a month.  Heat and fans and wind and air-conditioned buses and such all combine to irritate my Bell’s-palsy-afflicted left eye.  Commercial eye drops are generally terrible for long-term use.  I mix the saline myself and it works just fine, though I use bottled water instead of tap.  I’d guess, without much confidence, that I’ve put fifty drops in that eye today.  In addition to drops, I very frequently have to remove mucus from that eye, which is tedious and sometimes difficult.


{6/20/19}  Weight 223.4.  Huh?  100 minutes later it’s 223.0.

Had a dream, but I can remember just a small part:  I was walking with a group that included my stepfather, and I was carrying some papers that I folded and wadded up as a group and dropped on the ground, wanting to get rid of them.  But Bruce Banner picked up the wad and was unfolding it…

I’m not much for dream interpretation, but that wad of papers looks rather like Kick Me:  the job that I want to get rid of, but it keeps hanging around.

Now, with that and novels and a book of aphorisms and The Bleak Philosophy and maybe a Dream Journal—it’s beginning to look like I’m committed to being a writer, i.e., Turning Pro, as in that annoying book, The War of Art.  Because just last night I had the thought that I’ve often had, that “I’m reading too much.”  The solution would seem to be to stop reading—but then my life is a gaping hole that would need to be filled, by writing?

It’s an attractive dream, yet…

Wittgenstein:  “A man’s dreams are virtually never realized.”  And, “Don’t for heaven’s sake, be afraid of talking nonsense!  But you must pay attention to your nonsense.”  Both on page 56, Culture and Value.  I was looking for the places, I wanted at least one to quote, where W disparages himself as a writer—this man whose every scrap of paper is studied…

There are lessons for me in W:

“Taste makes things ACCEPTABLE.

“(For this reason I believe that a great creator has no need of taste; his child is born into the world fully formed.)” p. 59.

I think he emphasizes “acceptable” because he sees it as pulling one’s punches, diminishing the work and its impact.  In other words, “Fly high, for fuck’s sake,” dare to be tasteless, and “first word, best word,” as a poet said.  The lesson for me seems to be:  don’t rewrite.  I’ll think about it.

It would be easy enough, one might think, to turn my morning diary-writing habit (especially now, with the “depressing news” turned off) into a professional-writing habit.  It would be easy enough to write like Bukowski, one might think, “typing” quickly and never editing, but mailing out to publishers (more or less) whatever comes.  Or to write like Leslie Charteris, who writes very slowly, editing and reediting in his mind until it’s just right, and then putting it down on paper and never going back, or so he claimed.

My preferred style seems to be, type it, tinker with the paragraph, then go on, but…I don’t know, there’s no system that can be easily put into a sentence or a method, yet the pages pile up.  (Actually, there is a method:  don’t edit yesterday’s diary entry today, or if you must, date the changes.)  146 pages of this diary since 1/1/19, not much of a pile, but since the no-news decision, an accelerated rate.  How much more accelerated would it be if I made a no-reading decision!  It wouldn’t be an all-day no-reading rule, of course—I’d go mad!  But a four-hours-in-the-morning, no-news and no-reading decision would simply mean turning pro.  It’s approximately Louis Lamour’s rules:  you don’t have to write, but you can’t do anything else (for four hours).

Now, if I wanted to make this commitment, there would be a problem with breakfast.  Because once I eat breakfast, which I do usually a couple of hours after getting up, I tend to get sleepy.  I suppose there are a couple of obvious “solutions”:  either don’t eat breakfast until the four hours are up, or have just a small snack (granola bar) and keep writing.

L swears by his The War of Art, yet he is still welding, but let’s not weasel out of what I feel inclined to try.  As it has been since I turned the no-news corner, I often sit here typing for two hours, just because I’m interested!  Just because I have things to say in the diary!  Or I type some and read some and type some more, again for two hours, or more.  It looks like I’m just working step-by-step into the four-hour commitment as a matter of course.

What would have to change?  Not necessarily anything:  I could PUT ALL MY WRITING IN THE DIARY, then cannibalize.  This is hardly the way to get books written; at best it would give me a huge stock of “aphorisms.”  I was already thinking this way when I thought of a book of aphorisms; and I had the same thought when I mentioned a Dream Journal.  I guess those are books, but not novels, and not KM.

“Turning pro” in my case looks like publishing.  And, maybe, changing my goals.  I don’t need to write either KM or novels, as long as I’m working towards some goal or goals.  But KM “refuses to go away,” and rightfully so.  It’s the giant among my dreams or goals, and it’s already written.

Here’s a radical thought about rewriting:  rewrite by dictation.  You read aloud what you’ve written, into a recorder, with changes as you go.  Then you pay to get the dictation typed.

Seems like it would be easier just to make the changes as you read.  And, indeed, I have worked on a lot of KM that way, i.e., the “normal” way.  Now I’m thinking that a tweak to the process would help:  when I’ve rewritten part of KM, move it to a separate file.  Because what keeps happening is that when I start working, I don’t always pick it up where I left off, and I get caught up in rewriting something a third or fourth or tenth time when there are large parts that I’ve never gotten back to.  Easy solution.

Okay, I’ve been at this an hour, and my stomach is starting to nag.  Since I have no commitments until four o’clock, I can experiment as I please.

Now, as I contemplate the four-hour rule, I see a problem.  I’d grow to hate it.  There would come a time when, after an hour and feeling “written out” for the time being…I’d want to chuck it.  But how hard is it to “do nothing”?  You don’t have to write.  You don’t sit there hammering yourself on the head, saying, “Write write write,” the way Winnie the Pooh says, “Think think think.”  You just relax, daydream, generate ideas, wander about the house.  You don’t have to write, but you can’t do anything else.  It’s the difference between trying to force something, and letting it happen of itself.  You don’t push the river.

And then, I can see, the possibility will suddenly appeal:  “I don’t have to write new material, I can work on Kick Me.”  Because rewriting is “writing.”

As long as I’m getting up at six anyway, the only real changes would be:  no reading until ten, no news until ten, can’t leave the house until ten, can’t eat breakfast until ten, can’t do anything until ten, except write (and have a snack if necessary).  I could even make an exception:  can’t do anything except write or ride the trike.  Because I know there would be few days that I would actually ride the trike in preference to doing nothing.  And if I do ride the trike, so much the better, because I need that more than I need the writing.

I don’t even have to commit—all I have to do is live my life, and think about what I’m doing, what choices I’m making.  “Is it ten o’clock yet?  No reading.”  All I have to do is keep saying “no” until ten o’clock, and I’m usually very good at saying “no until.”  It’s a sort of no-stress commitment.  As it is, I rarely have anywhere to go until ten because nothing (Valley Plaza, libraries) is open earlier.

An important discovery about Word:  I don’t need programmed keys to enter characters like…well, I tried typing Alt-E, but the macro assigned to that key is not assigned to that key now.  WTF?  The macro is there…?  Anyway, what I was getting from Alt-E can be gotten from the built-in Ctrl-apostrophe, e:  é.  Other accents work similarly.

Now if I could just discover WTF with my missing key assignments.  This has happened a dozen times and it’s always maddening.  Key assignments are supposed to be part of the template, I thought, but…?  And the Alt-S “scroll” macro, which is relatively new, is still assigned, why is Alt-E gone?  And Alt-O?  These are just the macros that have become redundant, and no other key assignments to macros are missing—a spooky coincidence!  I’ll need to get a book, apparently.

Wanting to turn on the TV at 8:00.  No.

I ate two chocolate chip cookies as a “snack.”  That’s not what I had in mind, and there’s this thing about my prediabetes.  I think when my blood sugar spikes, it makes me sleepy, hence the nap after breakfast.  The urge to sleep after breakfast might depend on how I top it off:  cookies, granola bar, or ice cream sandwich.  I haven’t come to a conclusion yet, but cookies seem to be the worst in this regard.

I have visualized a very few scenes so vividly that I can remember them as though I had seen them.  One such came to me just now:  Apple sitting in sunlight on the hardwood floor in front of Fynn’s bookcase.  What puzzles me is, why this scene?  I have a special fondness for Apple, but not for this “nothing special” scene.

Two and a half pages of diary this morning, in 2½ hours.

I turned the TV on at 8:50, wanting to determine when I could catch the 15 minute headlines from Democracy Now!  The show starts at 5:00, 8:00, and 12:00.  This does not work well with the proposed 6:00 to 10:00 “writing hours” schedule, so if I decide to commit to the no-stress commitment, I’ll be wanting to take a break 8:00 to 8:15.  I can live with that on a trial basis.  What I haven’t decided is whether to make that commitment.  I am reluctant because almost all of my previous commitments have failed.

Given that I’ve been at this for three hours now, and am wanting to do other things, “get on with my life,” though I have nothing particular in mind except probably a nap…

So what about Culture and Value?  Well, it held my interest, mostly, but on the whole it’s kinda meh.  W has some odd opinions about Shakespeare and beauty and other things (he loves Beethoven, despises Mahler), and some points are worth knowing about, but I’m glad it wasn’t any longer.  Which is a lazy review, but that seems to be the only kind I’m willing to do any more.

There is more than one way to listen to classical music.  Typically, I have music as a background to other activities, and this prevents me from giving full attention to the music.  But when I listen with full attention, I am not trying to do anything, I am simply perceiving without much real understanding.  I can recognize when Shostakovich quotes Wagner and Beethoven and, I think, the William Tell Overture in his Fifteenth Symphony, but I’m not sure that this adds to my “understanding.” While I am content with that, in reading Wittgenstein, he went on at some length about understanding music, but he didn’t really say how one does or is supposed to do that.

Now, I’ve heard talk about, say, a “dialogue between the violin and cello” in a certain piece, and I can see how the sounds of the instruments might be taken as voices, perhaps a woman and a man in the v&c example.  But the “understanding” one might get from this is mostly one’s own creation, unless perhaps the composer had something similar in mind as s/he wrote.

And I’ve heard talk of “letting the music create pictures in your mind.”  Does this constitute understanding?  Whenever I’ve thought about this, I’ve generally come up with flowers, sunsets, storms at sea, and the like:  clichés, in other words.

And people talk about the themes.  Leonard Bernstein had a show in which he talked about, and illustrated, the themes in Brahms’s Fourth Symphony, and how the music alternates between the themes and so on, and I can see that this is a real understanding of how the music is structured, how Brahms plotted it out and worked with it.

And there is tension and resolution, in the way the music sounds—I once thought of Shostakovich’s Fifth Symphony, some years ago, as sustaining the tension (by not coming to a resolution) throughout the whole piece, right up to the end, and I thought this was masterful.  But I’ve not noticed or listened for this in subsequent experiences of the symphony, and it seems that the one time I sought to hear this tension, I couldn’t.

And there’s such technical things as keys and key changes, that Pablo talks about most tediously, but I seldom hear these things in the sounds themselves.

I’ve read books about this—Aaron Copland wrote What to Listen for in Music, which I read but got nothing out of that I can recall.  I have the broad outlines of music history in my head, but, aside from knowing some minor points, it doesn’t really add anything to my appreciation or understanding that I can see.

Leonard Bernstein said on TV some time, “The meaning of a piece of music is what it makes you feel.”  And I think we might talk about feeling the right things when listening to a piece, and if one feels the wrong things, or nothing at all, when listening, we might say that one simply doesn’t understand.  One can call pieces of music “somber” or “dark” or “cheerful” and others will agree:  does this constitute “understanding”?

When I first heard “Musetta’s Waltz Song” from La Boheme, I thought it the saddest thing I’d ever heard, quite heartbreaking.  Later I learned that it was actually lighthearted and mocking.  Still later, I learned that it was mock-lighthearted, in fact, neither lighthearted nor sad, but bittersweet.  Or so it seems now.

Seems to me Stravinsky also said something about music not having any meaning at all.  Bartlett’s has a couple of good quotes from Leonard B., but doesn’t have anything from Stravinsky.  Stravinsky’s “My music is best understood by children and animals” is in A Dictionary of Quotations, A. Norman Jeffares and Martin Gray, eds., Barnes & Noble Books, New York, 1995-1997.  My understanding is close to that level, I suppose, even though I can read music at a primitive level and took ‘cello lessons for six months.

Album liner notes are much disparaged—I’ve never heard or understood why, and sometimes I find them quite interesting, perhaps even valuable (though not to the point of quoting them).

Pablo says that I “don’t understand jazz” when I tell him that I don’t care for it or don’t like it.  I should quiz him on this.  Yet he’ll say that “rap isn’t music,” which I disagree with, because he’s clearly wrong.

So:  to hell with it!  At least for now.

Four pages and more of diary today.  Shall I claim victory and move on?  No.  Chattering “on paper” like I’ve done today perhaps has some value, but that’s not really for me to decide, as long as I like it.  And I’ve often told myself that my diary is my best writing and my best reading.  So there.

Noon.  Breakfast and nap are done, and I just missed the fifteen minutes of news that I wanted to hear, damn it.  Listening to Appalachian Spring for the ten thousandth time.  For the longest time, I used to think of Sherlock Holmes when I heard this piece or Billy the Kid, because, as a teenager, while I was playing the LP that I had of these pieces, I was also reading all of the Sherlock Holmes stories.  That association came back to me just now in hearing the piece, but most of the time that no longer happens.

This writing thing is dangerous unless I keep in mind what I have to do; and today, I have to go to my probation group, which I had totally forgotten for 6½ hours, even though it’s written on my calendar and I crossed today off my calendar first thing in the morning.  However, I don’t have to leave for another 3½ hours yet.  Tomorrow I have to leave at 9:30 am.


{6/21/19}  Weight 223.6.

I just reread the last three or four diary entries, the long ones, and enjoyed it rather more than they deserve.  In the background I have the TV on with the sound off, a movie, Every Secret Thing, in which Dakota Fanning looks quite grotesquely tall and thin, with “raccoon ring” eyeliner.  At first I could hardly recognize her.  Later she looked like herself.

This morning I have absolutely no desire to spend four hours on “writing or nothing,” and I’m not even keeping to that because I have the TV on, and I checked the news, too.  Trump orders an attack on Iran, then calls it off.  This erratic idiot is going to get many people killed, and is already doing so with his “our doom” denial and insane environmental actions.  Adding a war to this indescribable horror show would make it just about perfect.

Videohound gives this movie 1½ bones, saying that the mystery gets lost in the family drama.  Maybe the family drama was the point?  Guess I’ll never know.  Diane Lane, whom we have loved ever since Under the Tuscan Sun, has a modest role.  I wonder:  does she have body language or something that subliminally reminds me of my mother?  She seems, rather, a kind of antithesis of my mother:  vivacious and emotional.  But who can see his mother objectively?

I feel a bit cold this morning.  It’s 72° but I’m keeping the swamp cooler on because it will be hot outside soon enough.  I want to “get a running start,” you see.

Flashbacks, which this movie is full of, are very phony.  We don’t remember things that way; even the most memorable incidents become just glimpses and vague impressions after a short time.  People write memoirs as though they videotaped their entire lives, too.

On 6/14 I wrote here, “…climate catastrophe makes pursuit of my ordinary interests surreal.”  Well, suppose there were no “climate catastrophe”?  How would my situation be different, given that I will be dead in, presumably, less than 28 years?  I suppose the difference is that I could “live on” in the memories of others and in “my books,” if any.  But my point in starting this paragraph was that “I’ve always been doomed”—so what activities under that circumstance would not be surreal?  Prima facie, activities to prevent the doom would not be surreal, but everything else would be.

I seem to be unable to say anything sensible right now.

Actually, “I’ve always been doomed” seems pretty sensible to me.  Perhaps less sensible is to say, “I’ve always been alive.”  Yet I like it.  Since it is not literally true, let’s call it a “poetic truth.”  Or, if you prefer, a lie.

Come to think of it, it is just as true to say, “I’ll always be alive” as to say, “I’ve always been alive.”  And finally, “I will live forever.”  Because I have never experienced a time when I was not alive, nor will I ever.

I’ll remind you that Wittgenstein said, “Don’t for heaven’s sake, be afraid of talking nonsense!  But you must pay attention to your nonsense.”

In talking to Pastafazool today, I broke my rule of not inflicting others with “our doom.”  She got to looking pretty depressed while I was talking.  I apologized.  She seems to take my opinion pretty seriously.  That’s too bad.  I have done evil, I guess.

But I wanted to talk about it, very much.  I suppose I was hoping on some level that she might be able to change my mind or offer me some comfort.  She didn’t do either.  I know it’s not her job to be my shrink, yet that’s how I treat her.

Captain America:  The Winter Soldier is one of the few movies (currently) that I can watch over and over.  Nonstop action (with a few stops) and some humor and even a couple of moral questions to ponder.  I’m not sure it’s worth seeing commercials for Schick Hydro-something-or-other Trim something (three women trimming tiny bushy plants).  My tolerance for commercials has always been near zero, with a few exceptions, like those with “Flo” for some insurance company.

Went to Barnes & Noble to get a book on Word, but they didn’t have anything I wanted.  So, naturally, I bought two other books:  1) Bruce Bartlett:  The Truth Matters, about “separating facts from lies and stopping fake news in its tracks,” and 2) John Kaag:  American Philosophy:  A Love Story.  $25, making my total for books, etc., about $275 this month.  No wonder I “never have any money.”


{6/22/19}  Weight 222.8.

Cooler weather yesterday and today.

Dreamt about the cast of Agents of Shield in a camping situation.  AoS last night was bizarre and I missed the first ten minutes because I had tuned into Pirate Television and got caught up in the presentation by Jamie Susskind about the future of A.I. in our lives—which I had seen before but it was fascinating.  Based on his book, Future Politics, which I suppose I must buy.

Kaag’s book, American Philosophy, so far is very disappointing.  He provides a wealth of irrelevant detail about how to get somewhere or other.  Eventually he arrives at a dead philosopher’s (W. E. Hocking) personal library, which contains a large number of extremely rare and valuable books.  Philosophy, so far, has gotten little attention, 30 pages in.

Bartlett’s book, which I was reading on the bus home and at home last night, is worthwhile, but may be most valuable for the Internet websites he provides.

So, am I going to commit to writing, or not?  Turning Pro?  I think that I must—I think I’m at a “make or break” point in my life, and must make something lest I break something.  It seems most natural to start each day with diary writing, unless some day I wake with an urgent need to work on another project.  Of course, it would be a mistake to allow myself to be distracted by the diary to the point that I never work on anything else.

The idea of putting pieces of Kick Me in a new file as I finish with them has a drawback that if I need to find something, I would have two files to search.  A simple alternative is to just change the color of each paragraph as I finish with it.  If I ever reach the end, it would be simple enough to change the color of the whole back to black.

Annoyingly, changing the color of text does not record in a macro; highlighting does, however, so highlighting it is.  I suppose I could find a way to change text color, but phooey.  In fact, the workaround was easy; now if the key assignment doesn’t go away, I’m all set.

I think there’s a built-in Word function to keep track of edits, but with not having a book and not having home Internet and Word’s relying on the Internet to provide “help,” I can’t immediately research this.

Would it make sense to buy Fürtwangler’s Ring just because it’s dirt-cheap?  Hamilton has it at $15, Amazon $50.  Much as I’d like to, I don’t want to buy it today, because Hamilton charges $4 for shipping regardless of how many items you order, so it makes sense to delay until payday when I’ll likely buy more stuff.

I’m putting off getting into KM…sort of, “If I don’t think about it, I don’t have to do it.”  Well, that’s true.  I can sit here and “do nothing.”  Which means, of course, sitting here and thinking about it.

Copyright 2019 by Alan Carl Nicoll
All Rights Reserved


Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s