Diary, 10/7 to 10/19/19, biggest post ever

Copyright 2019 by Alan Carl Nicoll
All Rights Reserved

Baldwin quote

{10/7/19}  Weight 222.0.

Seven people at the HC yesterday, the largest group ever.  Even Salomé put in an appearance via Skype.  Discussion was lively, first regarding quantum mechanics and scientific understanding, then astrology, about which I was the only skeptic—that’s annoying.  Pablo went on and on, about Roman history and the structure of the atom.  ‘Nuff said.  Argument at Scrabble about rules, which we don’t have.  J was too loud and pretty unreasonable.  He actually, stupidly, accused Pablo of throwing the game to me.

Watched The Quiet Ones, a rather ordinary supernatural/horror film which I was interested in because of Olivia Cooke, who first caught my eye in the TV series, Bates Motel, that I raved about last year.  Cooke is excellent in this, too, but of course I’m not unprejudiced about that.  The situation also appealed to me:  scientists investigating Cooke’s madness and/or telekinetic abilities and/or possession.  I always enjoy the science angle in such movies, like The Legend of Hell House and, to a lesser degree, Poltergeist.  Other DVDs from the library are:  A Quiet Place and The Wonders; the latter is foreign, probably Italian.

{10/8/19}  Weight 222.4.

Slept seven hours straight through.  When I went to bed, I weighed 223-something.  So I take it that I was somewhat dehydrated.  After I weighed myself, I drank a couple ounces of water because I felt very thirsty.  As usual, I hadn’t eaten or drunk anything after 5:30.  So, anyway, I don’t know what to make of it all except that if I want to sleep straight through, I need to go to bed thirsty.

Yesterday I read an entire short book, Fred Kogos:  1001 Yiddish Proverbs.  Several could go into Kick Me, but I don’t feel like going back to them right now.  I think I read some of Clarel, which remains uninvolving.  Half the time I can’t tell what Melville means; when I can understand, it still doesn’t mean much to me.  I don’t get a strong sense of rhythm from it, and it has yet to impress me with its poetic qualities.  This after 36 pages.  Why bother?  Probably, to try to justify the purchase, which was indeed unjustifiable.  Chalk it up to stupidity and longing to be “a well-read intellectual,” i.e., snobbery.

Of course, if I hadn’t been impressed with the poetic qualities of Moby-Dick, I never would have bought this book.

“13.  The Arch” begins as follows:

Blue-lights sent up by ship forlorn
Are answered oft by the glare
Of rockets from another, torn
In the same gale’s inclusive snare.

The inversion of normal word order, “ship forlorn,” is a trick he uses often enough almost to become irritating.  Another trick is the omission of articles (“the,” “a”).  “Inclusive snare” and “same gale” seem clunky and inexplicable choices to me.  “Inclusive” seems especially colorless.  The repetition of “a” sounds in “same gale” seems irritating out of context.  “Forlorn,” by etymology, means “to lose utterly,” but the first two definitions include a sense of aloneness, which is belied by the rockets of the second ship, but I’m just picking nits now.

I selected this passage because it’s where I left off reading, and because it was set apart from the following lines.  Reading further, the meaning seems clear enough, yet also vague and difficult to interpret.  Perhaps it’s worth a closer look:

’Twas then when Celio was lanced
By novel doubt, the encounter chanced
In Gihon, as recited late,
And at a time when Clarel too,
On his part, felt the grievous weight
Of those demoniacs in view;
So that when Celio advanced
No wonder that the meeting eyes
Betrayed reciprocal surmise
And interest.  ’Twas thereupon
The Italian, as the eve drew on,
Regained the gate, and hurried in
As he would passionately win
Surcease to thought by rapid pace.

The dictionary, for “demoniac” offers “a person supposedly possessed by a demon.”  How, then, does this noun refer to the ships in a gale?  [10/10/19: If not the ships, then who?]  Beats me.  As for “the encounter,” what about it?  The mention seems unnecessary and out of place.  And why was Celio’s doubt “novel”?  And don’t “thereupon” and “as the eve drew on” work against each other?  And “regained the gate” suggests there was some opposition to his progress.

When I question these word choices, I am repeatedly baffled.  Now, I take it as a rule of thumb that poetry is to be read at least twice, yet I have not done that; so any context I should have here is mostly gone.  So I try to blame myself for feeling unmoved by Melville’s autobiographical poetic magnum opus.  Maybe I should just blame Melville, and say that “Clarel is justly neglected because its quality is disappointing”?  Or, maybe I should go back to page one and start over, paying as much attention to the poem as it took Melville to write it, as Thoreau would have me do?

My inclination is to give it a second chance, though I’m also inclined to say that I’ve given it 36 chances.  It may be that those “chances” are where the quality is lacking, because I recognize that I am an unsubtle reader of poetry, and even of fiction.  To justify that “unsubtle,” I’ll mention that as I have read the start of Clarel over the past week, I have sometimes been aware of and paid attention to the rhymes, but never to the rhythm.  Metaphors go unnoticed as metaphor but presumably are understood unconsciously (as most understanding happens).  I don’t recall reaching often for the dictionary, so perhaps I have “passed over in silence” the occasional unfamiliar word, to the detriment of my understanding.

Phooey.  By which I mean, enough—even though I can come to no firm conclusions and have formed no settled opinion of Clarel.  I will go back to the beginning and see if I can like it better, because if I can’t, I’m done with it.

{10/9/19}  Weight 223.6.  Fuck.

Dreamt that I had put a garbage can full of laundry into a front-loading washer and closed the door, then later wanted to get the can out, fearing damage to machine, can, and laundry.  Very silly.

Woke making an indrawn screeching sound, which makes me think “sleep apnea,” though I wasn’t short of breath.  I can’t make sense of this, but I don’t feel particularly alarmed, just somewhat alarmed.  I suppose the only thing worse than dying without knowing that you’re dying, is dying and knowing it.

Nasal congestion this morning, a side effect of the Viagra substitute I get from the VA.

Watched an odd Italian movie, The Wonders, which I mostly liked, though it was often joyless and more “up close and personal” with bees and honey than I liked.  Some strange goings on, but mostly it’s about coming of age and conflicts between one man and the six females of his family (sister, I guess, plus wife and four daughters of ages from about thirteen to about four).  The father was a real piece of work, seemingly arbitrary, sometimes cruel, often foolish.  The ending was an obscure and dull puzzle.

Library book sale today, but first, laundry.  The weather has been cool and dry for more than a week, but yesterday was mid-eighties.

The Vendler book on the Shakespeare Sonnets has failed to excite me as I first thought it would, so I’ve put it on the shelf after reading only six or so.  I’m still trying with Melville’s Clarel; I reread the first two cantos after writing about it yesterday, and things seemed clearer.  I don’t recall thinking much about the character’s puzzlement about his unexpected mood, but then, the poem doesn’t think much about it, either.  It’s expressed early, then mostly neglected, but it seems to be a unifying thread.  I think I’ll keep rereading, rather than jumping back to where I’d left off.  It’s too early to say that “I like it better now,” but I have hopes.

Started writing a summary of The Willpower Instinct, which I want for the group and for myself.

{10/10/19}  Weight 223.0.

Writing group this morning, which I feel like skipping, but won’t.

Went to the library sale yesterday and brought home two moderately heavy bags, $47.50.  That seems like a lot, but I also got a lot.  There was a huge selection of Library of America volumes at from $3 to $7.50, all in boxes; I got seven, which was all that I wanted, but I put back some other books to reduce the load and the total.  Got the much-wanted volume of William James that I was missing, the two Thoreaus, two Emersons (the Journal selections), and two of Melville’s novels, which I’ve been curious about since skimming through the chronology in the poetry book.  In addition to these, I got Wittgenstein’s Philosophical Investigations for $7.50 in hardcover but without dust jacket, which I considered a very lucky find, and three by Camus in uniform like-new paperbacks at $2 each.  It’s hard to say how much of these I’ll read—the Camus seem the least likely, since they’re all fiction.  I’ve already read the James and Thoreau and gave up on the Wittgenstein halfway through, and shudder at the thought of his slabs and planks at the start, in contemplating trying again.  Yet Rorty mentions some interesting bits in the “Introduction” to his Consequences of Pragmatism that I was reading last night while ignoring Rachel Maddow, mostly.  The Emerson Journals I don’t want to get into until I feel I can commit to, let’s say, “doing Emerson,” including the Richardson bio that I’ve had for a year.

Richardson’s Thoreau was fabulous and I should read it again, though I don’t have it and so won’t until I get a copy.  I’ve got other Thoreau books that I haven’t read—Cavell’s The Senses of Walden I’ve long wanted, and bought recently, but I was disappointed by what seemed to me his overblown style early on and so have put it aside lately.  I’ll likely get back into it sometime soon, since he’s actually a philosopher and Rorty mentions him (though not this book).  I’ve got a no-name bio of Thoreau that I’m not eager to try.

German seems to be on permanent hold, though the books are sitting within easy reach on my “desk”—I put the word in quotes because it’s used as a chairside bookshelf/table, of which I have three.

I neglected to mention that I also got the Oxford Guide to Archeology, which I’m thinking is a book without a use (for me).  Essentially an encyclopedia, it has articles on Egypt and Rome that I thought might be of use, as well as covering other areas that I’d otherwise have to rely on the hated World Book, uh, for, but in browsing those very sections last night, I found them both dated (in the case of Egypt) and somewhat beside the point (in the case of Rome)—though I’d think that I had enough and more than enough Roman history for my “needs.”  I apologize for that sentence, if I can call it that, but, while I’m active enough to have written it, I’m too lazy to fix its problems.

In putting the Wittgenstein on the shelf, I pulled out Eugene Thacker:  Infinite Resignation, a book I tried a year or more ago, having bought it new at B&N.  I read up to p. 48, but of course don’t remember it at all, other than a vague idea that it’s weird.  Clearly, it didn’t grip me.  I wanted to look at it again to see if I can dump it altogether.  The blurb on the back is interesting and amusing enough that I want to copy it here:  “Composed of aphorisms, fragments, and observations both philosophical and personal, [it] traces the contours of pessimism, caught as it often is between a philosophical position and a bad attitude.

“By turns melancholic, misanthropic, and tinged with gallows humor, Thacker’s writing hovers tenuously between the thought of futility and the futility of thought.”

Sounds like a book I should like, and indeed, might like to write myself.  As I recall, I was reluctant to risk my $18 on an unknown, but one must try new things.  As a bookmark I have a receipt dated 9/4/19, which seems impossible.  Oh, wait:  it’s 9/4/18.  I double checked.  So, maybe I’ll take it on the bus this morning.

In most of my conversations with Pablo, he spends a lot of time “lecturing”—telling me about, say, the Knights Templar, or the Emperor Julian, or Newton’s alchemy, or The Brothers Karamazov, none of which I want to hear from him.  Typically, he’s read one book, or in one book, about each—typically novels.  I sometimes hear these lectures two or three or four times—I’ll cut him off unless he’s telling it to someone else.  I wonder why he does this, despite my frequent complaints about it; my guess at the moment is that he does this to feel good about himself, to feel or persuade himself that he’s so very learned and intellectual.  He would do better to feel intellectual and intelligent by listening to others, drawing them out by showing genuine interest, and working out and absorbing what they’re trying to tell him—things he is not very good at.

Am I “just as bad”?  Ask him.

Read almost a hundred pages of Thacker’s book today.  It’s uneven—sometimes very good, sometimes irrelevant, sometimes just trying too hard to be very clever in a single sentence.  I may end up reading the whole thing, though it’s rather long for an unselective collection of generally very brief bits.

What is the point of getting a membership to a gym if I can’t even persuade myself to lift my dumbbells?

Checked my Willpower Group on Meetup dot com.  Only two people have joined.  I had thought that dozens would be there—doesn’t everyone know that they have “insufficient willpower”?  This certainly dampens my overweening enthusiasm.

{10/11/19}  Weight 222.2.

J’s valuing of astrology is for its personality types.  In other words, I’m an Aries.  He says that psychology—in which he has a BS—doesn’t offer personality types.  I disagreed, mentioned “introvert and extrovert,” and said he should read some recent psychology, but he wasn’t persuaded.  Of course, “introvert and extrovert” are a hundred years old, but I have in file a copy of a magazine article about a more recent and detailed system.  There’s also Meyer-Briggs.  I’ll give that [magazine article] to him at the next HC.  To my mind, the real problem with astrology is that there is no sensible explanation for its putative effects.  [Of course I’m referring to the planetary effects that astrology relates to events on earth–not the effects of astrology.]

The Penguin Dictionary of Psychology is not especially helpful, as it casts doubt on the validity of the concept of “personality types” and indeed on “personality.”  So, in that sense, J is spot on.  But, rather than dispensing with the concept, he goes to the shamans to get a typology based on nothing but wishful thinking.  Now, is this a harmless eccentricity, or what?  In any case, if it works for him, I should just STFU about it.

A DVD I watched day-before-yesterday didn’t get a mention here, and I should rectify that “omission.”  The premise of A Quiet Place is that large, super-fast, super-strong, ferociously-fanged-and-clawed blind aliens with exceptional hearing have taken over the Earth.  We follow the tribulations of one family that loses a young son in the first fifteen minutes of the movie; we jump ahead one year and watch as the family (parents, three offspring) live their peculiar lives in near-total silence.  Example:  they play Monopoly with colored cotton balls for houses and hotels.  And, the mother is pregnant and about due.  It’s all quite effective and scary as long as you don’t think too much about it (where do they get all the vast quantities of electricity they use?  how did the aliens defeat the many powerful armies they would face?  why are they so murderous?).  A couple of pointless jump-scares cheapens the effect, but on the whole it’s much better than average as a horror-SF effort, though nowhere near the crap-in-your-pants effectiveness of Alien.  But then, I saw Alien in the theater (and thought I might die of heart attack, but wouldn’t leave).

Caught a few minutes of The Queen of Outer Space on TCM, wanting to get a laugh at the cheap crappy silliness and see what Zsa Zsa looked like.  It was pretty awful, but I mention it at all because the screenplay was by Charles Beaumont based on a short story by—Ben Hecht!  A trifle of interest was added by the presence of Paul Birch, who is notable only for having a leading role in the creepy Not of this Earth that scared me in, I think, 1957.  I saw Birch in typical TV-series roles also, but he died at 56 and never had a role in a big movie, apparently.  Per Videohound’s Golden Movie Retriever.

Thacker, in Infinite Resignation, mentions and quotes “Cioran” several times, interestingly, but Cioran is not in the three references I checked.  That he’s not in the MW Biographical Dictionary is pretty annoying.  That Thacker doesn’t give references for quotes is even more annoying.  I resist the impulse to add to yesterday’s brief review.

I picked up Emerson’s “American Scholar” address last night, but got too sleepy to read even a full page.  I’ve read it before, of course; in prison I read his Essays twice in prison, with some appreciation, and some impatience for his excessive nebulosity.  Amazingly, I can remember that he was born in 1803 and died in 1886, having glanced through the “Chronology” in the LOA volume.  I wanted to see the date that his Nature was published, and added this to the Table of Contents.  Surprisingly, I can also remember that it was published in 1836 and revised in 1847—or, at least I think those are correct.  On checking, I see that the revision was 1849.  So, I can remember things I’ve read…

These dates stuck as well as they did, probably, because I acquired them in answer to questions I’d had in mind.  In other words, I looked them up in the book, I didn’t just read them.  This seems significant.

I made a point of remembering, long ago, Thoreau’s birth and death years, 1817-1862, and I wanted to see how Emerson compared, given that the bit I read of Nature last night sounded an awful lot like Thoreau.  I knew this before, of course, but was sort of stunned all over again of how much of Thoreau was “borrowed.”  [10/19/19: I.e., borrowed from Emerson.]

Kick Me is absolutely the wrong title for my book—it puts the reader into the position of being the kicker, a role no moral person would want.  But for now, I will keep it until I come up with something better.

I, Asshole would put some off, of course.

My Life as a Pig, maybe.

My Life as a Pig’s Asshole—no.

What it might be appropriate to say to a Christian who does not believe in global warming (or climate change):  “Do you have to be a complete fool?”

About a year ago I decided, “No more bookcases.”  However, since then I’ve put a box of books—the van Vogt—in my overcrowded closet.  Now I have a second box, the Pathfinder books.  And I’m contemplating a third:  the Durant set, The Story of Civilization, which is “too good to get rid of, but not good enough to keep on the shelves.”  I got rid of The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire some months ago, with regrets.  What to do, what to do?

I have whole areas of subject matter that I don’t read:  native American stuff, nature & field guides, history & political, and religion & philosophy.  Clearly, I read some of this, especially history & philosophy, but I have more of both than I have time for.  I should get rid of the lesser volumes in each area, of course; but I do that and fall further and [still] further behind my “rule.”

The DVD situation is also bad and getting worse, and I have way more CDs than makes sense—I can spend a whole week using none of them.

{10/12/19}  Weight 221.4.

So yesterday I removed from shelves the World Book encyclopedia and a big bag of books to donate, and packed the Durant set into a box in the closet.  Getting rid of these things will be a big job that I’ll do whenever.  I’ll be returning to the Beale Library for the last day of the book sale, hoping to get the Whitman LOA volume and Gardiner’s Egyptian Grammar.  I could have gotten both before, of course, but today it’s all half price.  Chances of getting these two seem slim.  In looking at books to get rid of, I ended up reading Oscar Wilde’s short piece on Whitman, so now I want the book I passed on previously.  I didn’t get the Gardiner because it was $30.

In fact, to buy the Gardiner would be a great foolishness—I’ll never find the time to actually study hieroglyphics.  Maybe I can persuade myself to let it go.  Or maybe I’ll call it a rare self-indulgence and buy it so I can look through it once and put it on the shelf until I decide to donate it.

So, another day given over to book buying and schlepping.  I did get the Gardiner plus a book of Egyptian Gods and Symbols.  The Whitman was gone, but I got another Melville (novels) and another Emerson (poems & translations), plus Susan Sontag and Nathaniel Hawthorne (tales & sketches), all in the LOA series, at $1.50 each.  Two Chinese things—Mo Tzu, Chuang Tzu, and the like—but the spectacular acquisition was the Oxford World Atlas for a buck.  It’s twenty years old, in great condition, and was originally priced at $80.  I’ve been wanting a bigger atlas, so now I have one.  It’s so big that I decided to keep it in the magazine stand.

Also got the DVD of The Legend of Hell House which was cheaper to buy than to rent from the library.  It’s an old movie that I liked a lot at the time.  I’m sort of a Pamela Franklin fan, though I think I’ve seen her in only three movies, this one, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, and one other, possibly set in a girls’ school.

So I just watched the DVD and enjoyed it.  I think it’s one of the better ghost stories, but I won’t be eager to see it again soon.  Novel by Richard Matheson, Hell House, which might be fun to read, but I’ll likely not bother.

{10/13/19}  Weight 220.8.  Last time I was below 221 was in May.

Lay in bed this morning half asleep, turning over in my mind several words:  acicular, acuminate, corm, carom, and maybe some others.  Oh, yeah, crom, which comes from Conan the Barbarian.  I looked it up; under cromlech, I found that crom is Welsh for bent or crooked.  On looking in the Scrabble dictionary, I found, to my surprise, many words beginning with bh…; the only one I’d seen before was bhakti.  I think there’s a book by Joseph Campbell titled Bhakti and Baksheesh, about his time in India.  I think I owned a copy for a while, started reading it, and gave it up as insufficiently interesting (i.e., “boring”).

Looking up words in the dictionary is tedious, but it can become a bit of an obsession (for me).  I just looked up “fnork,” as in “fnorking around,” which seems to be a common expression, but of course is just a euphemism, and not in the dictionary.  I like it better than the other euphemisms for that particular word, that is, I like it.

A “cromlech” is a stone like those in Stonehenge.  The rest you can look up yourself.

So I started a notebook and on the first page listed my “willpower challenges”:  TV channel surfing, saving money, losing weight, exercise, shyness, writing, housework, typing, and my neurosis.  I thought about:  German (or languages or study), and cursing and/or being mean in conversation.  But I think that these can wait—the important ones are saving money, shyness, and losing weight.  The TV thing is probably too easy to bother thinking much about; basically, I’m not worried about it.

Losing weight seems to be happening, though today might be a setback.  My eating habits are not particularly regular—lunch in particular, which I think of as a snack, sometimes gets out of hand, but when it does, I can usually call it dinner.  This is a relatively new habit, made somewhat easier by not having lots of cookies, ice cream, and such, in the house.  Buying dried fruit and nuts, and aiming to snack on those, has not been the rousing success I had hoped it would be, but when I snack now it tends to be granola bars and reduced salt tortilla chips and sometimes dried fruit and nuts.  One late discovery is grapes; the last time I shopped but one, I bought some grapes and discovered that they were quite good, so I ended up eating “a bunch of them” but not the dried fruit.  Now I have lots of prunes, raisins (not opened yet), and dried apricots (in the freezer).  How this will all work out is uncertain yet.

When I overindulge at “lunch” I sometimes have two slices of toast with a little butter and honey, which generally satisfies me for “dinner.”  Today, however, I ate lunch at McDonald’s with Pablo at 3:00 so we could go to a free concert, and on the way home I bought an ice cream sandwich and had chips, too.  So a gain tomorrow is not unlikely.

The concert was in a church, by the Synergy Chamber Players, playing pieces for string quartet, the highlight being Shostakovich’s Eighth.  They did really well on it, to my surprise and pleasure.  And get this:  I found a fan in the gift shoppe!  At 50% off!  I’ve been looking for a fan for months.

An idea I’m toying with, and have occasionally mentioned, is cartooning, rather like what Cindy Crabb did with her Encyclopedia of Doris (which now has a new name, something like Things That Work).  (Actually, it’s things that help [sic].)  Now, the interesting thing is that Barnes & Noble is selling a notebook which works as a graphic tablet, for $200.  This seems ideal for the kind of thing I have in mind, allowing “easy” incorporation of sketches into the diary, Kick Me, or wherever I want it, or conceivably into a completely handwritten book or booklet.  The ugly thought in the back of my mind is that it would just be an expensive toy that I wouldn’t use beyond the first evening.  Another such is that it might not work well enough to suit me.  In either case, it wouldn’t be the first such blunder.

It would be ideal for Albert’s Book, however, and so, I think I’ll have to try it.  But:  I hope they have a return policy (“Can I get that in writing, please?”), or at least a sample that one can try before plunking down the two c-notes (“Can I try it first?”).

The last not-unlikely snags are that replacement notebooks and/or pens will be prohibitively expensive, or the pen will be too clunky, or the software will be erratic, or, or, or…

Who knows, it might be fun and a real pleasure to use.  It could happen.  Well, it could.

Cindy Crabb does nearly-stick figures:  the arms and legs are sticks, the body is a rectangle or triangle, the heads are semicircles with geometric-shaped “hair.”  It’s the heads that make her drawings work.

I’d rather do figures like those in Fritz Perls’s In and Out the Garbage Pail, rather challenging for me at present (and probably forever).  But this is not something to be decided in the diary, rather, at the sketchpad.  And, of course, this doesn’t answer for Albert’s Book (which may just be an excuse anyway to get me to buy the graphic tablet.

Cindy uses simple dots for eyes; things like commas can suggest irises and brows, i.e., an arc and a dot can suggest looking at something.  Another thing to be experimented with.

So I experimented, mostly filling a small page with heads.  If I want to suggest my beard and pony tail, it’s going to look weird.  Maybe weird is good.  But what about my “dramatic” eyebrows (Sue’s word)?  Reducing all these features to simple lines is a challenge, all right.  I don’t want my cartoon self to look ferocious or angry.  The real failure would be to stop trying.

{10/14/19}  Weight 221.4.

If I’m going to do NaNoWriMo next month, I’d do well to work hard on Kick Me this month, hopefully finishing a second read-through with edits.  Actually, I guess that would be a third.  I know that I left behind some spots that needed fixing, and I want to fix them this time.

Well, this week I’ll be seeing Joker with Pablo, then another library book sale—these will make large holes in my time on Wednesday and especially Thursday.  I’m about done with Thacker’s Infinite Resignation, since I have little interest in the second part, “The Patron Saints of Pessimism”—it’s focused more on biography (indeed, gossip) and less on philosophy (or whatever) than I’d like.

At 6:50 am I’m sleepy and hungry.  I’ve been up since 6:15.  I slept well last night, having to get up only once, around 4:00.  There were dreams, but I have little interest these days in writing them down.  It was mostly about food—eating a stuffed baked potato and trying to get a plate for strawberry shortcake.

Work on KM is completely unappealing, like washing dishes.  Maybe later.

Saw a burning building a few days ago, and just now distant sirens suggesting another.  So I had the thought, “What would I save?”  The answer is easy:  this laptop and the paper files in a metal rack on the floor.  Thinking of books, there’s really nothing so important, as most of them are cheap and easily replaceable.  Add my wallet.  ’Course, I’d hate to lose the fan I just bought.

In some ways, losing everything would be a relief because it would allow me to move, and give me a chance to live a leaner lifestyle—not so many personal possessions to tie me down.  Right?  Nah.  If I ever want a lesson in how wrong that thought was, I’d just have to spend a night in a different motel room, reading library books perhaps.  I’d much prefer my home library.

The fact is, I want to work on KM.  But I’m hungry, and I think that will take precedence.

{10/15/19}  Weight 221.6.  Later, 221.0.

In other news, a dog barking at 5:15 am.  Oh, wait, that’s hardly news.

The good news is that I’ve started a Willpower Workbook.  It starts with a list of wp challenges:  TV channel surfing, saving money, losing weight, exercise, shyness, writing, housework, typing, and “my neurosis,” with page references to McGonigal’s book and cross-references to the WpWb.  Then, a page each for three of the challenges (housework, shyness, and exercise), with ideas or rules for meeting those challenges.

Housework:  no book buying when you have dirty dishes.

Exercise:  “As you learned on the Sierra trip, exercise increases your energy”; “A sedentary lifestyle” tends to “increase depression”; and “No shopping for pleasure if you haven’t exercised for the week.”  [10/19/19: The last one is just a thought, not a commitment.]

Shyness:  Dress for success—being well-dressed will enhance self esteem and make you bolder, and lose weight for the same and other reasons.

Tying together shopping and goals was inspired.  These challenges look relatively easy to accomplish, except that shyness is a lot more difficult than the above makes it look.  Once I start being concerned about my appearance, beyond what I normally think of and do, hair, skin, and teeth become new issues that I’d rather not have to face.  I already “dress for success,” to a certain minimal level, including not wearing shirts with holes and so on—but tee shirts aren’t exactly going to impress anyone.  The point is that my shyness does not, I think, equate to low self esteem, though I can’t deny the connection altogether.  Indeed, it’s a lifelong problem to which I have sometimes given serious, sustained attention, with virtually no progress.

TV channel surfing is really no challenge—it’s more a matter of being aware of my intentions and avoiding getting a bad habit.  That is, I consider “the problem” already solved.

Writing, as a problem, is probably not an issue; it’s less a matter of wp than of choice, i.e., “shall I make a commitment?”  There’s also an issue of understanding my natural work habits:  laying off work on KM for a month or two or three isn’t necessarily a problem unless I think that some other method is required.  That is, yesterday I printed the book and started reading it, wanting to get a feel for the shape of the whole, and I hardly thought about it as some kind of challenge, or even work.  It was just what I wanted to do at the moment, it was the natural thing to do, just as this diary is, all the time.  I don’t force myself to write diary entries, ever; it would be unnatural and probably ineffective, not to mention senseless, since I write the diary for myself.  It would be like forcing myself to think, or to breathe.

Other writing tasks can become wp issues, especially fiction.  Given that I’ve told a couple of people that I plan to take the NaNoWriMo challenge next month, clearly I’ll be facing that issue.  Undecided yet:  what to write!

I’m usually pretty good about following the rules I set for myself, but the rules have to be well thought out.  A rule like “spend less money” is worthless.  “No more than $100 per month for books” is sensible and fairly easy to follow because it has the precision the other lacks.  In addition, it’s not draconian, like “buy no more books” would be.  New books are an important part of my life, and, as today’s entry shows, they can have far-reaching effects towards making a better, happier life.  The Willpower Instinct is all about making better choices, and bad choices are a major source of unhappiness.

And rules are useless if you forget them—hence the WpWb, rather than having my rules entombed in the diary.

When I started typing this morning, I was in the wrong diary (last year’s), so I thought I had a three-pound gain!  Whew.  I’ll be glad to get back under 220 again.

In the long entry for 4/21/19, I find the business about Richard being an odious lecturer.  Well, he showed up for the 10/6 HC and indeed was lecturing again, this time about various nature stories (i.e., animals), surprising me with some things I had not heard before.  Not that I can recall any of it.  Anyway, it seemed much less odious this time, but I’m glad we don’t see him often.

I suppose that I have sometimes lectured about philosophy; did anyone find it odious?  Generally, I think that only happens one-on-one.  [10/16/19: Meaning, I only lecture one-on-one, typically because I’ve been asked.]

After dumping Paul Johnson’s Intellectuals because, as expected, he’s basically a Republican, I picked up Umberto Eco’s Travels in Hyperreality (Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, New York etc., 1973-1983) and, in the valuable column titled “Cogito Interruptus,” I encounter this sentence:  “In the course of history these extensions have caused traumata, blunting and restructuring our sensibility.”  (p. 227)  Note the necessary omission of the “Oxford comma” (after “blunting”).  A comma there would seriously alter the meaning of the sentence, tying “blunting and restructuring” to “extensions have caused,” when they properly are tied to “our sensibility.”  I’ve never, to my knowledge, seen a sentence like this before, though of course I could have seen dozens and failed to read them correctly.

“Cogito Interruptus” is worth knowing, but is not easy to summarize, so I guess I’ll have to keep the book for a while.  I think the gist is that someone points to a symbol and says “You see?” without explanation of what we’re supposed to see.  I am reminded of the auto mechanic who said to me, “You hear that?” while trying to rip me off.

{10/16/19}  Weight 220.2.  Yay!

My laptop can record sounds, as I rediscovered yesterday (I had recorded a test in 2016).  I want to try this at the next HC.

Yesterday, I was reading Lin Yutang:  The Wisdom of Confucius, and later, dipped into Wing-Tsit Chan:  A Sourcebook in Chinese Philosophy.  I’ve tried both before.  It again depresses me to see how little “sticks.”  It seems that any book that I want to be able to talk about requires an effortful study, as I did somewhat with Lost Connections and am doing more with The Willpower Instinct.  Of course, the excitement level was high on both.

I also got started on The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson, which I bought a couple of months ago.  Now, I want to read the whole, but here’s a thought:  when I find a poem that I especially like, memorize it.  That would be a good rule in any case, not just for ED.

In other words, heroic measures are called for.

“Tao can Tao, not eternal Tao.  Name can name, not eternal name.”  Thus I recall the start of the Tao Te Ching, the most literal translation possible.  I arrived at it by studying and translating the Chinese characters, with Wieger’s book.  It was unnecessary to make a separate effort to memorize it.  Chan translates it thus:  “The Tao (way) that can be told is not the eternal way.  The name that can be named is not the eternal name.”  The point of the effort was to learn what was going on with the various translations.

Where Chan has “told,” others translate “Tao” as “walked” or “followed.”  Not that you asked.

Dr. Lin says that simply reading the Analects is not the way to get Confucius.  In his book, he translates much of the Liki, devoting only one chapter of selections to the Analects.  The chapter on the life of Confucius is long and very tedious, but has some surprises.  For instance, he has reached a position of importance, “Prime Minister” I think, when he is with Duke Ch’i I think, and some musicians are playing.  Confucius wants them to be killed for attempting to corrupt the Duke, and they are killed.  So much for his Golden Rule in practice.

There’s not much point in reading a little, dropping the subject, and picking it up again six months later.  Which means, I either need to study the German language and Chinese philosophy and Rorty every week (if not every day), or give up any thoughts of learning anything.

That’s an exaggeration, but not by much.  I don’t have to read three or four new books at a time; I should read one new book while continuing the other studies:  Dickinson, Rorty, and either German or Chinese philosophy.  But also the willpower project, can’t forget that.

What do I want to do every day?  I’m uncertain.  Long ago I started on The Oxford Handbook of American Philosophy, which relates to “Rorty,” but there’s also Maslow and Chomsky and Kaufmann, all sitting on my desk to be within easy reach when I want to resume them.  Plus two by Rorty.  I don’t actually have a “new book” that I’m reading, unless the Dickinson counts (it doesn’t, because I don’t plan to read it for hours at a time).  Given that I’ve just started again on the Chinese, while German has been languishing for a month, I guess I’ll continue with the Chinese.  In the mental background is Nietzsche.  Starting to read the Kaufmann biography got me started on Nietzsche again—Human, All-Too-Human, then The Gay Science, which I quickly dropped, having too much going on.


I’ve actually continued with the dumbbell exercise for about a week straight.  After payday I’m going to sign up for the gym, too.  I anticipate mostly walking their track and using the stationary bicycle, or possibly a treadmill or Stairmaster.

Saw the new movie, Joker.  It’s amazingly dark and joyless in any healthy sense.  Joaquin Phoenix did a very strong job—he’s on the screen all the way through, and one can’t help but watch.  I’d guess he lost considerable weight for the role.  At times there’s a strong tragic sense, which helps a great deal towards accepting the character, and loads of tension as you worry about what this nut case is going to do.  The ending is very wild.  The music is very dark and synthesized and alternately old pop songs like “Send In the Clowns” and, I don’t know, maybe “Keep Your Sunny Side Up.”  [10/19/19: “That’s Life” is one, with a Sinatra soundalike.  It’s become an earworm.]  The songs annoyed me, the rest was repetitive but fun.  Not a movie I plan to see again any time soon.

{10/17/19}  Weight 219.8.  Yay!

Two things remain from last night’s straight-through sleep:  Their Eyes Were Watching God, and “rock bar,” or perhaps “Raqbar.”  The latter item came from a scene of “Final Jeopardy.”  I don’t know what it means.  The name of the novel is explained by my reading the first page yesterday, then dumping the book into the bag of books to donate.

Library book sale today, so I’m going to skip this morning’s Shut Up and Write group.

Last night I read most of “Fate,” the first essay in Emerson’s The Conduct of Life.  It’s interesting, engaging, but quite insubstantial.  I get the impression that he might want me to believe in fate.  Ain’t gonna happen.  But if, in fact, he wants me to disbelieve, he also wastes labor because that’s already the case.  The quote I copied out suggests the latter:  “’Tis weak and vicious people who cast the blame on Fate.”  (p. 954)

On page 962 I find mention of “inferior races.”  Whaat?  Thoreau famously spoke against slavery; what was Emerson’s opinion?  (Of course, one might be against slavery without believing black and white equal; Lincoln, for example.)  In the half-page of prose titled “Antislavery Poems” I find “the old outrage of negro slavery.”  (p. 1270)  Unlike the Thoreau volume, this one (Essays & Lectures, Library of America) has no Index.  The Chronology reveals that, as a lecturer, he was an active abolitionist.

I was thinking last night of the silly arrogance of those who pray to “God” for forgiveness—as though the creator of the universe would be interested in their stupid “sins,” not to mention, punish them in hell forever.  I certainly don’t think that I’m that important.  To not see that we are essentially animals requires blindness.

Worked on KM for 45 minutes yesterday morning, then, being unwilling to face the dismal humiliations of my sex history any further at that time, I stopped.

Elijah Cummings died last night.  He will be missed.

Six glasses, one pan, two plates, a cup, and some silverware (really flatware, but I hate the word for no obvious reason).  Most of these have been sitting in my sink for two months, three months?  I don’t know how long.  I wash the pan, the plate, and a fork every time I want to cook breakfast; the rest just sits and sits.

The point is, The Willpower Instinct, plus my idea of an application, got me to wash my dishes when seemingly nothing else could.  And will keep me washing my dishes at least every month, because I established a rule, as noted on 10/15:  no book buying if I have dirty dishes.  I have also exercised with the dumbbells every day, and expect that to continue, though no rule is involved.  [10/19/19: I soon put a stop to that nonsense!  (satire)]  It’s just what I want to do, like writing.  Rules to “force” me to do what I “want” to do…it’s a good idea, but not for everything, I think.  I don’t necessarily want to write every day—I don’t know, maybe if I could come up with the “right” rule, I would have no objection.  It’s just a feeling that, in this case, I want to go with.  [10/19/19: “Don’t Push the River”]

Worked a bit on KM this morning, another potential wp challenge that I’m resisting treating as a wp challenge, as discussed here recently.  Of course, this reviewing process counts as “writing” also.  Indeed, if diary writing counts as “writing,” no rule is required, because I always want to at least record my weight measurement every morning, which gets me into the document and makes a continuation painless.

The weight I’m losing is the result of very modest effort, seemingly.  Yesterday, at the movie, I bought popcorn and ate enough.  Then, facing a twenty-minute wait for the bus, I bought a milkshake.  So when I got home, “dinner” was a non-starter.  I had a granola bar, and as usual was not really hungry.  Having no tempting snacks, aside from the rather underwhelming tortilla chips, I had no real urge to eat much.  And so, under 220 again.

I know that it won’t be this easy all the way to my goal of breaking 200.  I will have setbacks, binges even, but I’m not willing to make this a wp challenge, aside from the “usual operating mode” that I’m hoping to establish:  being aware of my choices as they come up.  That simple awareness is the true heart of self-control.

Perhaps one area of trouble I haven’t talked about before, and that is, expensive purchases.  The van Gogh letters ($600), the Halloween supplies ($200?), the bicycle, the tricycle, and now this graphic tablet that lingers in my mind.  The van Gogh was not exactly stupid, but then, I never got them (not delivered, so I got a refund).  The Halloween thing was really stupid, because, on probation, I am not allowed to decorate, etc.  The bike and trike were the triumph of hope over good sense, but perhaps were worth a try.  The graphic tablet, unless I actually get down to business with cartooning, is not worth a try.

Just for laughs, I’ll put here my attempts at cartooning:


Clearly, nothing to write home about.  The idea is to use these sketches or cartoons to illustrate and comment on whatever text I write to go with them.  Naturally, I want to include “myself” as the main subject, as with Cindy Crabb’s Things That Help.  But if this is the best I can do—clearly there’s no reason to think that yet—it’s not worth the bother.  And especially not worth the graphic tablet.  But I’m likely to buy it anyway, the point being to get cartoons easily into the computer.

These are bad enough to be ashamed of, though I’m not.  I can just about live with the face on the bottom right, if I have to.  It’s not pleasant, but it seems close enough to a likeness, and not too hard to draw.  I can imagine having this face with “rolled eyes,” and inserting it here at appropriate places.  Indeed, this suddenly looks like an incentive to take this seriously, and so, the graphic tablet is now a “must.”  Yay!

Assuming it’s good enough to work with, of course.  The gray background here really ruins the look.  With the graphic tablet, I’m sure that won’t be an issue.  You can also use the tablet to enter handwritten text as editable text, i.e., OCR.  This isn’t likely to be of much use, unless I’m very much mistaken—I suppose it can be used as a note pad, allowing me to leave the laptop at home occasionally.

So it seems that I’m to have a “career in art” after all (I decided decades ago that I “didn’t have time for art,” i.e., creating art).

If I can actually make useful (amusing) cartoons, this will be a real boon to the blog.

How does my work (I resist scare quotes here) compare to Cindy Crabb’s?  The early stuff in her Doris anthology, 1991-2001, is actually worse than mine above.  I shouldn’t compare mine to her more recent work, which is very simple but also cute and appealing (which means cute).  We’ll see where I am in six months.

Adjusting the laptop camera brightness gave me this:  [image omitted]

Much improved, but still not the ticket.

This is the result of in-camera editing, using the “whiteboard” option and the awkward “crop” function.  I know this is all very primitive, but I’m limited to the software I got with the laptop (for now), and I haven’t done this sort of thing for fifteen years or more.

But now I’m going to get ready for the trip to the library, lest I get too involved in this and miss my time.  (Previous editing was done in Paint.)

Bad news from Pastafazool today:  she will no longer be working with us after this month.  I feel like, no, I am losing my best friend.  The reason for this loss is obscure, I guess she’s quitting because of differences with a higher-up.  This is a tragedy for about a dozen men, though some may not know it yet.  At the meeting, I talked about The Willpower Instinct and, basically, how it is reforming my life.  While sitting there before the meeting, I realized that the easy way to avoid bingeing on chips is to not bring the bag into the living room.  This is not actually news—I think Sue told me about it—but I hadn’t actually done it.  The real value of the book is to make me more thoughtful about my habits, especially the bad ones that defeat my goals (like to lose weight).  Now, how am I to manage to save money?  (The short answer is to avoid unusual expenses, fat chance.)

In other news, I got four books at the library sale.  Actually, I bought five, but realized that I already had a copy of Bradbury’s October Country, so I gave it Pablo because he likes The Twilight Zone.  I got a copy of James Thurber:  The Beast in Me and Other Animals (for the cartoons, maybe to copy), The Homeric Hymns, complete poetry of Alexander Pope in a very old and yellowed book, and Dostoyevsky’s A Raw Youth.  With the eleven dollars for books for Pablo, the total came to a mere $18, about half of what I’ve been spending at the Beale sale ($75 in two trips).  There were some big sets—Dickens, and two German authors, in German—nothing I could deal with or even really wanted.  On the whole, it was a rather disappointing sale.  There were a couple of books on Shakespeare that I picked up, walked around with for a while, then put back (I did the same thing with a Suetonius).  One was by Harold Bloom, a pretty famous book, actually, but he has sometimes annoyed me.  I opened the book, I think to As You Like It, and found him talking about seeing Katharine Hepburn on stage in the ‘50s, and this annoyed me, but that’s not why I put it back—I just don’t need more Shakespeare stuff, because I so seldom read any of it.  I want the Yale Shakespeare, however, because those little hardbacks are so convenient for reading on the bus or even while walking a track, which I anticipate starting next month.

I’m sort of wishing I’d kept the Suetonius, but I’m not reading any of these old history books that I’ve bought, including the Landmark Herodotus and Thucydides at Barnes & Noble, i.e., the “big bucks” copies.  I did actually start the Herodotus, but quit after very few pages, thinking that I had better uses for reading time.  These days, my main passion has been self-help books, given how exceedingly valuable I’ve found the Hari and McGonigal.  But of course now it’s going to be cartoon and cartooning books for a short while.

Annoyingly, I forgot that I had two DVDs on hold at the same library I visited today.  So maybe I’ll go back tomorrow and get the Suetonius and look around for another hour.

{10/18/19}  Weight 221.x.  Crap.

Up at 3:30 am, weight up, eating before 5:00.  Yesterday’s shocker at the group meeting became an obsession when I woke in the middle of the night, though it wasn’t an issue at 1:30, the first time I woke up.  But it’s quite distressing.

I have a graphic of James Baldwin quoted as saying, “To be a negro in this country and to be relatively conscious is to be in a rage almost all the time.”  To me, seeing the injustices, the murders of black people by white police, knowing about the racism baked into the system, is enough to keep me in a rage almost all the time—except, I’m not in a rage.  It’s enough to do that, but somehow, most of the time I don’t think about it.  Black people don’t have that option.

{10/19/19}  Weight 219.2, thanks to diarrhea brought on, apparently, by yesterday’s strawberry milkshake.

Copyright 2019 by Alan Carl Nicoll
All Rights Reserved

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