Diary, 8/18 to 8/25/19

Copyright 2019 by Alan Carl Nicoll
All Rights Reserved

Pathfinder books

{8/18/19}  Weight 223.2.

{8/19/19}  Weight 223.6.

A near-lucid dream this morning.  I dreamt that John Wilmot, the Earl of Rochester, as played by Johnny Depp in the movie The Libertine, started dinner each evening with a duel with a servant.  This always ended with no one being hurt.  On one particular evening, however, Wilmot is injured.  As I dreamt this sequence of events, or this situation, I was trying to decide:  had Wilmot arranged this with the servant, that this time he should be wounded?  Or had each man been standing behind a curtain, firing at the other behind a curtain?  Or what, exactly?  And, perhaps he might die of his wound, not having anticipated that he would fail to recover from the resulting infection?

I called this “near-lucid” because I could not actually change the course of the dream to suit, yet I felt more conscious than I do in a normal dream.  I have always wished to have lucid dreams, but have actually experienced this fewer than five times.

As it happens, I recently rented and returned the DVD of this movie because I wanted to copy down some of the opening monologue—I had seen the movie fifteen or twenty years ago and was very taken with the monologue, but I didn’t watch the movie again, recalling it as more peculiar than entertaining, perhaps.  Anyway, it starts, “You will not like me.”  I thought I might use this line in Kick Me.

Scrabble yesterday at the HC.  Although I won, I was disappointed that I was unable to score the fifty-point bonus, despite having had use of both blanks, though not at the same time.  It didn’t help that we don’t generally take a long time over our turns because Pablo is impatient.  I am impatient also, but not to the extent of complaining during someone else’s turn.

Watched Avengers:  Age of Ultron last night.  It was very familiar, but I enjoyed it none the less.  Avengers:  Endgame has gone on sale, but I won’t be getting it until payday on the 28th.  I am less excited about this than I generally am about other Marvel movies, though I’m uncertain why this is.  Perhaps I could skip buying this until I am more excited about it.  I never bought Captain Marvel, though I was just thinking that I might get both at the same time.  Would I rather just “save” the fifty bucks?  “Save” meaning “spend on something else,” though I do intend to start saving money month-to-month, hoping to have a cushion against future troubles or (perhaps more likely) for a “special treat,” like renting a car to go do something out of town, perhaps visit the mountains, even Yosemite.

That sort of trip, though, is likely better in anticipation than in reality—I can imagine going to the trouble of getting camping equipment, driving somewhere, and feeling exhausted just by the labor of setting up camp and taking a little walk on leaden legs.  It would make a difference if I had someone with me, particularly the special someone.  I don’t see that happening, but then, I don’t really know.

How seldom it happens that my hopes and dreams work out better than I hoped and dreamt.  Pathetically, the only time I can recall this happening, though surely there must have been other occasions, was when I saw Avengers:  Infinity War the first time.

{8/20/19}  Weight 223.8.  Erk.

Dreamt of walking with others across an enormous very flat plain of small rocks.  The rocks were rounded and did not move as I stepped on them.  Possibly in the same dream I picked up a rock about the size of a large potato; it was white with shiny black inclusions.  I know there was more to the dream, but it’s all gone.

I spent much of the day on the bus yesterday, first to Food Maxx in the morning, then to the Beale library in the afternoon because I had a DVD that was due on Wednesday and it was only 93°.  I was at the library a while, long enough to look at many DVDs and check out two—the first season of Gotham, and Michael Moore’s Where to Invade Next.  I watched the first episode of Gotham and was not excited about it.  “James Gordon” just isn’t as interesting as Batman.  Which of course I knew going in, but I felt little interest in Gordon as portrayed; the future-Catwoman was more interesting but had little screen time, and almost all she did was observe the others.  I might watch a second episode in the hope of getting interested.

Briefly looking through Algorithms to Live By, it occurs to me that the “sifting” I do by reading and highlighting nonfiction books might be done more efficiently.  I don’t always have to read a book to decide what it is worth.  Of course, I don’t do that—I judge many books by their covers, as one must.  But even when I decide that I want to try a book, it might be better just to browse through it and cherry-pick the best that I can find.  Meaning with nonfiction only, of course.  Perhaps nothing is different here; I may be doing this sort of thing already without putting it into words or rules.

I wanted to get [Abraham] Maslow’s books from the library, but most of them are not in the local library system.  The thing is, if my “flying high” is the same as Maslow’s “self-actualization,” I want to know more about his ideas.  Must I write in order to self-actualize?  What else might I do…how do I rank writing against other goals and skills?

But I think I’m just writing to see myself write, here.  If I want to fly high, I need to take care of the elephant in the room, first.

{8/21/19}  Weight 223.6.

Last night was pretty annoying, with getting up every two hours to pee, a touch of indigestion, then dreaming twice about myself washing dishes.  Other dream fragments had ants in the electronics, also twice.

Watched almost all of Escape Room last night.  While it’s generally competent, interesting, and tense, when it’s not, it’s terrible because at critical moments the characters become too stupid to live.  It lacks the elements that made Cube fun, mostly.  Not recommended.

Simon Blackburn’s On Truth has a promising start, reminding me of the style of Bertrand Russell.  And Barbara Ehrenreich’s Living with a Wild God has begun impressing me with the author’s philosophical sophistication—I had been skipping ahead, but got interested enough to resume reading.  I’ve been sampling many books, and seriously reading four:  the Lennard, Churchland, Ehrenreich, and Pablo Harman’s A People’s History of the World.  I doubt that I’ll finish the Häaglund (see 8/16) because it’s endlessly repetitive.  I’ll try skipping ahead.  The Blackburn is going on hold for a while.

Well, I started a Pathfinder Meetup and acquired a group member within the first hour.  I doubt that J or Pablo will be interested.  If I can get just two enthusiastic members, well, that’s two potential friends.  I’ve also discovered just a ton of stuff on the Internet, no surprise.  I haven’t found any online play yet, but surely it’s out there.  I’m not sure that I want that, because I’d then want home Internet…well, I wouldn’t necessarily fall into the same black hole that I discovered previously, i.e., something like “all Twitter, all the time.”  But the real point of Pathfinder is, as always, new potential friends.  I wonder why it took me so long to get around to this.  I hope it pays off, because I don’t know what else I could try.  The thing about Pathfinder is that it really takes some dedication to play it at all, so any experienced player who joins my game (or lets me join his) is likely to become a friend of sorts.

The down side is that it will distract me from KM [memoir-in-progress]; a commitment is needed there.

{8/22/19}  Weight 223.6.

It is always interesting to me whenever, during a dream, I pose questions and answer them.  In last night’s dream I was in a nightclub of some sort and I saw a young girl in a black leotard costume, vinyl or leather, with shiny studs, black boots, and a black mask that covered the whole head except for the mouth and chin, and I wondered, “What kind of job could she have here?”  Then I saw her at the front door, handing out leaflets.  Question posed and answered.

In another dream I was in a room in the middle of a musical.  A man next to me was doing something with an aquarium(?) when he began singing, but his voice was unpleasant.  Then I picked up a thin, flat, shiny black shape like a parallelogram with rounded corners, and bit it in half as though it were a chocolate bar.  Strange.  There was much more, all now forgotten.

Barbara Ehrenreich’s Living with a Wild God continues to impress me.  I’m more than halfway through.  It’s essentially an autobiography with focus on her “spiritual” questions and experiences.  She calls herself an atheist, but she has bouts of solipsism, revelation, and dissociation that remind me somewhat of lesser things that I went through as a teen.  It’s stylistically solid and very mature—she comes to no glib conclusions.  I hope she brings into the mix William James’s Varieties of Religious Experience (there’s no bibliography or index).

So I spent most of the day watching TV, listening to Shostakovich, and reading the Ehrenreich, which I’ve finished.  It’s really an excellent book, but it’s not persuasive because I cannot accept her experiences as my own.  Early on in the book I wrote the following:  Don’t worry about finding truth—just figure out what works best for you.  Some quotes (Barbara Ehrenreich:  Living with a Wild God:  A Nonbeliever’s Search for the Truth About Everything, Twelve, New York, 2014):

“…if you’re not prepared to die when you’re almost sixty, then I would say you’ve been falling down on your philosophical responsibilities as a grown-up human being.”  p. xi.  This strikes me as pretty arrogant, reflective of her advantages:  a lot of time to think, and the benefits of money and education leading to a Ph.D.  I feel the same way about “the unexamined life is not worth living.”

“…the effort to appear unperturbed in the face of the inexplicable, which is as far as I can see one of the central tasks of adulthood.”  p. 169.

I was surprised to see that she had worked in a lab under Gerald Edelman, one of the scientist/writers who has most impressed me in the past fifteen years.  “…he told me and another potential student that you’re not really doing science unless you find yourself ‘waking up in the middle of the night screaming.’”  p. 170.

“Do I believe that there exist invisible beings capable of making mental contact with us to produce what humans call mystical experiences?  No.  I believe nothing.  Belief is intellectual surrender; ‘faith’ a state of willed self-delusion.  I do not believe in the existence of vampire-spirit-creatures capable of digging deep into our limbic systems while simultaneously messing with our cognitive faculties, whether we experience the result as madness or unbearable beauty.  But experience—empirical experience—requires me to keep an open mind.  And human solidarity, which is the only reason for writing a book, requires that I call on others to do so also.”  p. 232.

Well, it’s just not that easy.  She wants us to conduct scientific research into religious and mystical experiences instead of dismissing them.  I am unwilling to argue with anyone’s experiences, but I am also unwilling to accept them as conclusive.  I can’t imagine that I would accept “peer reviewed scientific papers” as proof of anything, either.  At least, nothing, let’s say, metaphysical, or “beyond beyond.”

But it is a book worth reading, and she does offer some interesting thoughts about “God,” whatever that is.

The final movement of Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 11 impressed me deeply this evening, with its bleakness and darkness.  I’ve heard it dozens of times, of course—it used to be one of my favorite cassettes—but I never really heard the ending before.  I’ve also listened to his 12th and 8th, enjoying both greatly.  Now, some hours later, I’m listening to his Violin Concerto No. 1.  How I managed also to fit in three episodes of Terminator:  The Sarah Connor Chronicles is that I stayed home all day and had, I think, only a half-hour nap.  Now it’s 8:30 and a bit too warm to have the laptop in my lap.

Damn—I had a dream during the nap that I wanted to record…I remember, it was “Sarah Connor” and “John Connor” carrying cases, made of red leather, like musical instrument cases, into a music room.  “Sarah” had one that looked like a guitar or ‘cello (it was a dream, after all) and another that I briefly thought might be a viola, then decided it was too square.  That’s where I woke up—dreams are no place for critical thinking.

{8/23/19}  Weight 222.6.

{8/24/19}  Weight 223.4.

Well, this morning I had one of those things where I’m conscious but thinking that I can see through my eyelids.  I realized that I could not see, because the ceiling fan was “missing.”  So I waved my hand in front of my eyes and could not see it, and it was a very creepy feeling.  This could form the start of a story (e.g., “astral travel”), but I doubt that I’d ever write it.

Let’s imagine for a moment that I’ve finished Kick Me; what then?  Is there a “next writing project”?  Or do I develop a new mission statement?  Suddenly, the question loses interest.

Let’s imagine for a moment that I’ve abandoned Kick Me; what then?  Reading, Pathfinder, Hemlock Club, and masturbation, till the end of time?  I can imagine being satisfied with that, if…. might be a huge disappointment; as I was saying recently, more or less, things never live up to my hopes.  In trying to find that statement, I did a search on “disappoint” [in my 2019 diary] and found that it’s in this document 41 times.  It seems that I am suffering a disappointment worth writing about about ever five or six days.  That doesn’t sound so bad.

I’m staying home today because my ankle, which was troubling yesterday, was worse this morning.  I think maybe I need to try a gym.  I need leg exercise, but walking isn’t going to get it.  A stationary bicycle would be good, but I don’t want to buy one and have it sit there nagging.  On the other hand, going on the bus to a gym isn’t likely to happen very often.  Maybe I’m just doomed to have this body continue to deteriorate and weaken until it’s all over.  I am made of marshmallow.

Watched Trainspotting, or most of it, this morning.  It is often hilarious, and as a surprising plus, Brie Larson has a significant role as Amy Schumer’s sister.  I wasn’t feeling the love story, though.

I also watched Terminator:  The Sarah Connor Chronicles and was very pleased with the episode.  “Pleased” appears in this document seven times, “happy” twenty-five times.

Reading a bit of Brian Christian and Tom Griffiths:  Algorithms to Live By:  The Computer Science of Human Decisions, and finding some information about human memory that I found somewhat encouraging (e.g., the Ebbinghaus “forgetting curve”).  The “memory problems” I’ve been having seem to be normal for a heavily loaded brain.  That is, I’ve crammed so much in, that retrieval has become less efficient.

What I find interesting and annoying right now is that I can remember so much useless and unimportant stuff, like the names and faces of character actors from really old movies—but of the four “friends” in that photo from TI, I can remember the name of only one, and just the nickname of another.  The remaining two are almost blanks, despite my having pondered this for several days.  I have recovered very few names that I couldn’t recall earlier.  I remember so much, including 72 years of living, many of which included my current habit of reading-cramming, or reading-sifting, perhaps I should just be happy that it’s as excellent as it is.  Indeed, unlike books, my failure to remember movies works very much to my advantage, allowing me to watch and enjoy, and sometimes be surprised by, movies I’ve seen even twice before.  A quote (Henry Holt and Company, New York, 2016):  “A natural way to think about forgetting is that our minds simply run out of space.”  p. 100.

As I’ve noted before, facts without emotion readily slip away.  Mike Burns was my cellie for about a year, and although we got along well enough, he was disappointing to me as a companion because he didn’t read and he was not good at games (nor very interested in them, items which go together).  We shared meals and talked sometimes…I don’t know, perhaps he’s not a good test case, especially because I was eventually able to dredge up his name.  The Pathfinder players that I can’t remember are better test cases because they were filling a role (one more body for the game) but did not rise in my esteem or affection.  And so I remember Tony Balek’s eyes better than anybody else (in whole or in part) from my army years.

I haven’t managed yet to discover a method of getting emotional about German vocabulary.  I do remember “Tomatensanft” as “tomato juice” from my efforts at Fresno County Jail about twelve years ago.  Apparently I had a book to work from.  (My dictionary cannot verify this word; it shows “sanft” as “soft” or “gentle.”)  Further looking reveals “Saft” as “juice.”  Oops.  I wrote a “humorous” dialogue in German with one character mistaking tomato juice for blood; I can’t remember any other words that I was trying to learn then.

I’ve also noted before that Sue could remember dates far better than I can or could; but when she got together with one of her sisters, they reminisced and discussed the dates of the events.  In other words, they were invested in those facts in a way I’ve never been.

I’ve long been curious about Miguel de Unamuno:  The Tragic Sense of Life.  I tried it once, maybe thirty years ago, and was put off by the abundance of untranslated Greek and Latin words.  My brother scoffed at my ignorance—I should have asked him to translate.  Anyway, I’ve given the book a second, more persistent try, and I am no longer curious, or even interested.

This quote was important in forming my opinion:  “‘One human soul is worth the entire Universe,’ someone said, and said magnificently.  A human soul, mind you!  Not a human life.  Not this life.  And the less a man believes in the soul—that is, in his conscious immortality, personal and concrete—the more the worth of this poor transitory life is exaggerated.  And this exaggeration is the source of all that effeminate mawkishness against war.”  (Anthony Kerrigan, tr., Bollingen Series LXXXV-4, Princeton University Press, p. 16.)

I have no interest in replying at length, because I am lazy and I write primarily to please myself.  And, Martin Hägglund’s This Life provides the words that I am too lazy to even quote right now.  Perhaps I’ll return to that book in future and copy some parts of it, because I do find the early parts compelling and lucid.  Very briefly, MH says that it’s the lack of conviction of immortality that makes this life worth living.

I took a look at the brief entry in the Oxford Guide to Philosophy and William Barrett’s “Afterword” to Tragic and found nothing in either to spark any further interest in this writer.

Unamuno seems intent on proving to the reader how much of a MAN he is.  He disparages “pedants” and “framers of definitions” and so on; without knowing anything about his life, I’m inclined to suppose that he “protests too much” his manhood, simply by criticizing others who demonstrate “effeminate mawkishness.”  Yeah, later, dude.  I suppose that Bertrand Russell—my kind of “MAN”—has said something pungent and quotable about this one.  Nothing in the index of his History of Western Philosophy nor in the collection Russell on Religion, however.

One discovers, with some distress, in the translator’s “Foreword” that Unamuno had a hydrocephalic son.  This does not, however, make him or his philosophy palatable to me.  Time to move on, placing this book on the donate pile.

Twenty-five minutes of Terms of Endearment was all I could stand of Shirley MacLaine’s character.  I don’t want to see another ninety minutes of her acting like a totally unbelievable asshole before the tearful change-of-heart conclusion.  And if I’m wrong about that ninety minutes, I don’t care, because on top of everything, I don’t think I’ve ever liked her in a movie.

Apart from these two pages of diary, I haven’t done very much today except not overeat yet; it’s 5:30 pm. and I had dinner at 4:00, so I’m hoping for the best.  Alas, it’s very hot, 85° inside, 100° outside.  I haven’t been out of the house today, and my ankle is not better.

{8/25/19}  Weight 222.6.

HC today.  Printed four sheets of business cards.

80° inside this morning.

Worst pain yet in my ankle.  It was as much as I could do to get into the bedroom because I wanted to finish a book I had left in there, so I could give the book to J at the HC.  Lying on top of the bed, reading the last pages of Natasha Lennard’s Being Numerous, I thought and worried and finally worked on my ankle, rotating the foot and massaging the troublesome area at the Achilles tendon.  When I finished the ~10 pages I had left, I slowly, slowly stood up and walked to the living room, without significant pain.

In addition to the right ankle, there has been pain in the right hip.  Not in the hip joint, where I might expect some twinges, but at the top of the iliac crest, if my anatomy is correct.  I can’t figure that one out—the iliac crest presumably exists to serve some major function, since the ilium is a large bone—I suppose some major muscles attach there, and so the gout, or whatever it is, that is attacking my ankle could presumably also be attacking the right side of my belly.  (No, it’s not appendicitis.)

The two pains seem to rise and fall together, though not in lock-step.

Stay tuned.

Quotes from Natasha Lennard:  “Know Your Rights” in Being Numerous:  Essays in Non-Fascist Life, Verso, London and New York, 2019:

“[John] Berger highlighted a conflict inherent to the sort of public demonstrations that First Amendment rights aim to defend:  ‘If the State authority is open to democratic influence, the demonstration will hardly be necessary; if it is not, it is unlikely to be influenced by an empty show of force containing no real threat.’  It’s safe to say we live in a moment when it is clear and correct to distrust the state’s openness to democratic influence.”  p. 72.  Attributed to “a 1968 essay in the journal International Socialism.”

“Again and again, US lawmakers referred to the threat of ‘violent protest.’  The UN experts demurred.  ‘There can be no such thing in law as a violent protest,’ the investigators wrote.  ‘There are violent protesters who should be dealt with individually and appropriately by law enforcement.  One person’s decision to resort to violence does not strip other protesters of their right to freedom of peaceful assembly.  This right is not a collective right; it is held by each of us individually.’”  p. 73.  Attributed to a statement issued by “two UN Human Rights Commission investigators” in April, 2017.

Copyright 2019 by Alan Carl Nicoll
All Rights Reserved

2 thoughts on “Diary, 8/18 to 8/25/19

  1. I read this whole thing but was mainly interested in the part about Shostakovich. I like the 7th Symphony & the 8th string quartet but could go for the 11th. My TV burned out but maybe it was a bad habit and a waste of time. I still think you are a lot like Ivan Karamazov. What did you think of his conversation with the devil? I am reading The Big Sleep. I think I read it before but I enjoy it & also I am analyzing it. Peace, Seacrest out.


    1. Whence cometh this “Seacrest”? Explain FTF.

      As for the conversation with the devil, seems to me I have one of these about once a week. Hyuk hyuk. Frankly, my dear, I don’t remember it much.



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