Diary, 9/23 to 9/29/19

Copyright 2019 by Alan Carl Nicoll
All Rights Reserved

Vendler

{9/23/19}  Weight 222.0.

Today I reviewed my highlighting in Johann Hari:  Lost Connections:  Uncovering the Real Causes of Depression—and the Unexpected Solutions, a book I read in May (see 5/5 entry).  I called it “incredibly important” then, and can repeat that evaluation now.  It’s got the real data, and real solutions, to the American sickness.

Less personally valuable, but mind-blowing philosophically, is Noam Chomsky’s What Kind of Creatures Are We?  I read this in March, but didn’t write a review until 6/16.  I’m rereading it now, on page 93 of 127.

Watched a more-or-less great movie this morning, Yes, but…  It’s part coming-of-age story, which is not exceptional, but what makes it valuable is the therapist who treats the protagonist.  In French with subtitles (the French title is Oui, Mais…).  The “seventeen-year-old” girl protagonist is played very well by Emilie Dequenne, and I loved watching her.  I also felt like I was learning (or relearning) some valuable things about living.  The only thing I can recall, however, is that neuroses are essentially psychic bandages—how we unconsciously respond to hurt in order to prevent more hurt.  But of course it is necessary eventually to get beyond that stage.  This is a commonplace.  Another valuable lesson is how to respond to verbal aggressions like criticism, i.e., with self-deprecating humor (the “you are too simple” scene from Cyrano de Bergerac where he mocks his own nose was quoted in part).  Interestingly, while watching it I thought it was rather lengthy (the movie, not the nose), but it was only about a hundred minutes—I took this as a clue that I was really riveted.  Well, just see it, okay?

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, by director Luc Besson, reminds me somewhat of The Fifth Element—sometimes eye-popping visuals, but not really a lot more than that.  It seemed aimed at teenagers, quite derivative, and the plot, in particular, is heavy-handed and morally simpleminded.  Besson has done some movies I like better, including Scarlett Johansson as Lucy (not as in Lucille Ball).

{9/24/19}  Weight 222.4.  Later, 221.4.  Yeah, it was that big.

Dreams, memories, and ideas this morning as I lay in bed.  I also silently gloated, eyes closed, over memories of lost pictures that I will not describe here, and grieved over past “sins.”  I was trying to get back to sleep (I woke at 5:15), but failed.

The dreams are mostly gone:  I was on foot in a mountain valley of rather arid vegetation, heading for a distant dirt road.  A car drove too fast along that road.  The terrain reminds me of Frazier Park, but there were no nearby trees.  There was also something conceptual, cutting four sheets of paper into shapes—see “Ideas,” below, for what this became.  I woke gasping, perhaps another bout of sleep apnea.  Last time that happened I was sort of terrified that I was going to die in my sleep, my mission incomplete.  This episode was less extreme, i.e., this time I didn’t feel that I had narrowly escaped death.

Memories:  of jewelry I made, two metal disks, circular, three or four inches across, one a pierced-work piece in brass with a bamboo motif, the rim shaped and engraved to resemble bamboo, surrounding leaves; the other a solid disk of copper which I had colored by playing the flame of my propane torch over the surface, creating oxides that were muted purple, reddish, and bluish or greenish, the shapes hinting at a skull face.  These I kept; they weren’t really suitable for jewelry, but I believe that I wore both at one time or another.  Three silver rings with cabochons:  a tiger-eye that went to Lia, a green stone that went to Sheila Bass, and a blue lace agate that I wore until I gave it to Maureen Garrett.  I’d have made more, perhaps, but I had used up all my materials.  There were a pendant or two that I gave to Lia and a pendant to my mother, constructions in metal to hold an irregular tumbled stone.  The stones and other supplies were all bought at Grieger’s in Pasadena, except the tumbled stones that were given to me by someone who I no longer remember.

Ideas:  about how to hang Salomé’s photos on the wood-and-string mat that I bought to hang on the wall, using sheets of construction paper in various colors and shapes as a decorative background.

The “sins” are not fit for posting here; they’ll be in my book, Kick Me:  A Lifetime of Blunders, Humiliations, and Crimes.  ‘Nuff said.

The news yesterday was uniformly depressing, Trump-crime-horrors, except for Greta Thunberg’s impassioned plea at the United Nations, capped with her cries of “How dare you?”—that was both inspiring and depressing.  I can hardly watch her on TV without weeping, and this time she was almost weeping herself.  Her words were received with cheers, but presumably no action.  She’s so tiny and sweet and beautiful and doomed.  On Sunday on Twitter I said she’s a shoo-in for a Nobel Prize, which I hope and believe.

Finished my reread of Noam Chomsky’s invaluable What Kind of Creatures Are We?  Important ideas on language, ethics, and science packed into 127 pages.  I hadn’t previously appreciated that he is one mean philosopher.

Querulous kitten sounds from outside this morning.  There are a lot of cats (20+) here, fed by my landlady, Sue.  I sense a frustrated mother.

Watched maybe forty minutes of a movie, Creative Control, that so bored, annoyed, and disgusted me that I turned it off.  An interesting concept—user-programmable virtual reality—squandered by being used as the basis of a sordid tale of marketing and addiction.  It might have worked for me (Variety and New York Magazine apparently loved it) if the protagonist had been at all appealing.

Seeing video just now of Trump speaking (with the sound off), Melania standing next to him looking like a hate-filled Soviet assassin.  Minutes later, the corrupt buffoon is addressing the U.N. General Assembly.  What could possibly go right?

Reading Helen Vendler:  The Art of Shakespeare’s Sonnets, I begin to suspect that the reason I’ve been lukewarm to 99% of poetry is that, in the words of Vincent van Gogh in the movie Lust for Life, I look too fast.  I have had this thought often before.  But my reading of books about poetry, and even Vendler’s wonderful Dickinson, never made clear to me just how much I was missing.  I think I’m in for a serious lesson in poetry reading, facing this six-hundred-page book on the poems I’ve never been able to read all the way through before.  I’m excited.  Maybe after this effort will finally enable me to appreciate any poem.  Assuming that I can finish what I start, this time (my attempt with The Road to Reality—by Roger Penrose—and the necessary math books was my most recent dismal failure—see 5/19/19.  I shipped those books to Z).

So, it’s a good thing I didn’t buy the Melville poems.  Another thing is that it’s $33 from Hamilton (plus $4 shipping), compared to the $45 list price at Barnes & Noble.  But I will buy it at B&N anyway, if I buy it at all, unless they fold first.  Because I’m trying to help them to survive, and because I get a 10% discount (which just covers sales tax, which Hamilton doesn’t charge).

{9/25/19}  Weight 222.0.

Greta Thunberg receives the Right Livelihood Award, well deserved; I can hardly think of her without tearing up.

In other news, the impeachment of the Don, also known as Bloatus, also known as #NotMyPresident, begins; I can hardly think of this POS without my gorge rising.

Dreams, “dreams,” and memories in bed this morning also.  The dreams are forgotten; the “dreams” will not be recorded here; the memories now escape me—I’ve been too distracted by Democracy Now!

Payday today.  Yay.  I need to save some of this money; I’ve set a goal of $200.  Last month I had the unusual expenses of getting started in Pathfinder; this month that won’t be an issue.

Marion Milner’s On Not Being Able to Paint, which I read forty years ago and thought well of, this time looks pretty dull, though the purpose is of great interest, i.e., increasing /one’s creativity.  Too soon to abandon it, but I sense that coming.

“If you can’t write novels, carve statues, raise children,  or find true love, still you can plant trees, or seeds.  Make this a better world by your efforts and you will feel satisfaction now and later, and know the meaning of life, in proportion to your efforts and results.”  This statement, which had seemed to me so profound, now seems a bit off. [It’s my “mission statement.”]  The implication is that I have been leading such a life, but I am more interested—so my behavior would indicate—I say I am more interested in leading a meaningless life than in pursuing the goal of making a better world.

{9/26/19}  Weight 221.4.

I skipped to the end of On Not Being Able to Paint and again found little of interest, so I’m done with it.

Turning on the news this morning I find sickening sycophant Devin Nunes questioning the legitimacy of the DNI hearing.  I quickly turned that off, since I never watch Congres­sional hearings, though I made an exception for Kavanaugh, for a while.  I believe Christine Blasey Ford.

After 30 minutes of The Ice Storm I said aloud, “I don’t care about these people!” and turned it off.  It’s about rich people whose marriages are dismal comedies, and their neglected children.  In other words, nothing I could relate to.

Earlier I watched an annoying movie called The Nameless.  It had some good points, but not enough, and the ending was stupid and silly.  Yesterday I watched another movie from the same “Masters of Terror” package of eight movies; it was called The Hole.  Some good actors, Thora Birch and Keira Knightley—the latter appears topless, a fact I mention for those who might be interested.  The movie gets one and a half “bones” from the Videohound, but I thought it was better than that.  Not much better, alas.  Marginally worth watching, though “thrills” are few.

So I went to the library at the end of a long day and ended up buying six books from their permanent book sale.  A cartoon introduction to Sartre, which is completely redundant because I have plenty of Sartre that I haven’t read, and given what I was reading in Rorty’s Consequences of Pragmatism, I’m doubtful that I’ll ever be motivated to read him.  I know that’s obscure.  Anyway, other books include Edith Hamilton’s The Echo of Greece, a book I might actually read—I read her Greek Way and maybe The Roman Way several decades ago and thought it/them excellent.  A book of Sierra wildflowers, or was it desert wildflowers?  Quite useless, probably.  I have three or four books that cover similar ground (flowers).  I just checked and in fact it’s a book about marine invertebrates—I actually passed on the flowers books.  Kierkegaard on Love, which I got only because you don’t come across much K at prices like these (fifty cents); given the little I know and have read of him, this is likely to end up donated soon.  A book about the Quakers, quite unnecessary, but I’m interested, having often considered trying one of their services.  Sam Harris’s Letter to a Christian Nation, also unnecessary and unlikely to be read, though I might leaf through it.  And that’s the six.

I’ve bought several other books from Thriftbooks, including Bertrand Russell’s Analysis of Mind and Analysis of Matter—old stuff, but Chomsky mentions the latter several times in the book I recently reread, so I decided to get both.  I read I think about half of Mind before, ages ago.  The Marion Milner was from them, and a book of Helen Vendler on modern American poets.  And others…too many.  And three packages of Dance Moms DVDs.  I don’t remember all of them, oh, there was a German Worterbuch, that is, a dictionary of the language, not a bilingual dictionary.  Probably useless, but the idea is that you use it instead of the bilingual because it works your brain harder and keeps you from translating, encouraging one to think in the foreign tongue.  I mention with regret that it’s been maybe a week since I did anything with German.

Consequences of Pragmatism is also a recent purchase.  With the dregs of last month’s money I bought four books from Thriftbooks for $20, that being one and the Milner another.  I started on Rorty’s “Introduction” in the former and found it good, much easier than his magnum opus.  The best thing about Rorty’s philosophy (aside from its persuasiveness) is that it gives one a philosophical excuse for not reading philosophy.

I spent about $40 at Bookhounds, mostly on CDs, including especially Brahms’ piano quartets, my favorites of his chamber music.  One of them made me weep once, for the sheer beauty of it—a never-since-repeated effect of any music.  Of course, opera used to make me weep all the time; these days, not much at all.  I think I got a bit choked up over Brunhild’s Immolation Scene the last time I listened to the Furtwängler (for some reason the keyboard shortcut for the umlaut isn’t working; Word is so effing unreliable).  (Problem solved:  I was pressing the wrong keys, so, “operator error.”  I corrected the name but will leave all this crap in to demonstrate my willingness to admit my gross stupidity.  This time.)

Being too lazy to check the spelling of “Brunhild,” I’m going with the spell checker, though I think Wagner has it differently.

The Melville itch refuses to be quiet, so I suppose I’ll squander almost $45 on the Library of America volume.  With the anticipated inadequate notes, how much will I miss of Clarel?  Indeed, how much will I read of it?

{9/27/19}  Weight 221.4 I think.

{9/28/19}  Weight 221.8.

A dream this morning of a form of torture.  I imagined lying in a coffinlike box full of water.  If I lifted my head, I could breathe; if I put my head down, I was under water and had to hold my breath.  I imagined variations on this preventable-drowning theme; if prolonged, this would amount to sleep deprivation and/or actual drowning.

Two thoughts about where this might have come from:  a scene in Captain America:  The Winter Soldier in which one man drowns another who is helpless; and I watched Jigsaw last night—it’s the latest in the Saw series, in which people are trapped in horrifying lethal situations.

Listening to the second of the Brahms piano quartets, third movement, and thinking that it sounds like four soloists playing at the same time rather than an ensemble playing together.  The soloists in this recording are big names, which suggests to me that there are some large egos involved and that rehearsals accordingly were slighted.

Reading Kelly McGonigal, Ph.D.:  The Willpower Instinct:  How Self-Control Works, Why It Matters, and What You Can Do to Get More of It, Avery/Penguin, New York, 2012-2013.  It looks promising for my attempt to cure my neurosis, as well as for general “maturity.”  That is, “promising” based on the endnotes because it appears to be science-based rather than wishful thinking or a rehash of other self-help books.  The author’s style is a bit too cute at times, but the ideas could be important.  A quote:  “…the main job of the modern prefrontal cortex is to bias the brain…toward doing ‘the harder thing.’”  (p. 13)  In other words, when lying comfy in bed after seven-plus hours of sleep, the PFC nags you into getting up.  Et cetera.

Real-life horrors:  a man outside the group home next door to my motel, screaming as he beat himself with fists on the head; then a woman, as skinny as a concentration camp survivor, simply walking; then a large young man casting off hoodie and shirt, chasing another man through heavy traffic, challenging him to fight, apparently.  Not a typical day in Bakersfield for me, thankfully.

Watching Mr. Holmes; it’s sad to see Sir Ian looking so old, and it’s a sad movie.

Sad in another sense is the completely unnecessary Tomb Raider, the remake starring Alicia Vikander.  She’s good; the movie is not.

{9/29/19}  Weight 223.4.  Yow.  The gods are just:  dinner yesterday was an entire box of donut holes.  Meanwhile, I’m reading a book on willpower.

I slept for almost exactly eight hours; blissfully, no interruption to urinate.  Other factors:  no food or drink after 5:30, and no nap.  The morning’s caffeine clearly was not a factor.  On the other hand, I was pretty sleepy in the evening, long before I went to bed.  I put on a movie, They, which held my interest because the actress protagonist was appealing.  Otherwise, it was pretty bad.

HC today.  The Pathfinder group is moribund (which means dying; I looked it up to make sure it was appropriate, since it’s a word I’ve never used before).

Dreams this morning; the only thing I can remember is one person explaining to another the shape of the head of a lawn edger; as it happens, the shape was incorrect in the dream.  I don’t believe that I’ve ever used such a tool.  One of the miserable experiences of my childhood was trimming the edge of our front lawn with shears.  A woman came along the sidewalk with a child and the mother said how nice it was that I was helping my parents by doing this work.  To me, this was just an additional bitterness, since I was an unwilling laborer; and I was never required to do this again.

Copyright 2019 by Alan Carl Nicoll
All Rights Reserved

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