Diary, 12/1 to 12/11/19

Copyright 2019 by Alan Carl Nicoll
All Rights Reserved

Nesse book

{12/1/19}  Weight 217.2.  Same weight as on 11/21.  I’m supposed to be losing weight.  Unfortunately, I succumbed yesterday to the siren song of ice cream sandwiches, bought a dozen, and ate two.  Well, I seem to be solidly at 217.x, which is a loss, but not yet at my rather modest goal of 215 for the year.

Hemlock Club today.  Pablo told me that J had a run-in with a Dagny’s employee, and although he isn’t banned, he intends to stay away for a month…to punish them?

Well, I’m at the HC and a newcomer, John, showed up.  He has a lot of ideas about a nonprofit project he wants to work on, making a kind of project and home for veterans, organic farming for food and $$, too much to go into.  A lot of it sounds practical and possible, and a lot sounds like pure wishful thinking.

{12/2/19}  Weight 218.2.  Too much “holiday cheer,” it seems.

A bleak morning, thinking of the role the United States has taken in the world throughout my lifetime and before.  Thinking of the role the greedy rich have taken in the United States throughout my lifetime.  Thinking of the ineffectual Democratic Presidents, the hope-betrayers, that have been elected throughout my lifetime.

Our government, our society, is a fiction crafted to keep us useful idiots in line.  Fortunately, I still have a couple hundred dollars I can spend on things I don’t need, so not all hope is lost.

This is what my depression looks like this morning.  Not so bad.  At least I’m not blaming myself, for once.

Let’s take a look at myself:  no action on “my mission statement”; collapse of my “willpower challenge” of losing weight; spotty dedication to exercise; cowardice in the face of Maureen; profligate spending on books and DVDs; in summary, effectively, abandonment of the ideal of self-mastery; and depression as a result.  But, it’s only a few days, I can recover, hence, “not so bad.”

This is what my cautious optimism looks like this morning.

Since I can’t get enough of that teenaged angst, The Art of Getting By starring Freddie Highmore.  Remarkably dark and depressing.  Obligatory gutless fantasy music-video Hollywood ending, The Graduate all over again.  Would I have been happier with a real downer ending, like, say, Heavenly Creatures?  Yes and no:  yes aesthetically, no emotionally.

Nothing can make me laugh and cry in half an hour like The Simpsons.  Of course, “half an hour” is an exaggeration, because it’s a continuing series, but, even so.  Tonight’s winner is the episode in which Mr. Bergstrom, a substitute, is Lisa’s best teacher ever, Bart loses an election for class president because he and his friends didn’t vote, and Homer’s “best roll of his life.”

Randolph M. Nesse, M.D.:  Good Reasons for Bad Feelings is incredibly good.  It’s a good time to be alive, as far as science goes; I refrain from considering the larger situation because, you know, our doom.

{12/3/19}  Weight 217.2.

Reading Nesse’s book persuades me that if I want to reduce my depression, I should work on my goals, notably, Kick Me.  Yeah, I’ll get right on that.  Or not.

In looking back over recent decades, I see a pattern:  I am happy when I have frequent contact with friends or family.  The happiest I have been in my life was while I was married, and especially after the birth of my son, despite some often serious money problems.  Following that I was in prison, where I was surprisingly happy because I found many new friends.  After my release from prison, I’ve been very often in a low mood or even depressed, because I spend most days alone, or at best with strangers.  Two things have lightened this:  the Hemlock Club, and meetings with Pastafazool; the latter has been stopped for more than a month and is not expected to resume.

Clearly, I need more friends, especially friends I can meet with multiple times a week.  This is a moment of clarity, but hardly news—I’ve been trying to get more friends just about forever, it seems, with a few exceptions:  when I had Donald as a BFF, and when I had Jim and Ed.  Even while married, Sue and I both wanted friends and never really found any.  In my current situation, my many efforts through Meetup dot com have repeatedly failed, with the sole exception of the HC, of course.  The last two failures seem especially bitter—the Pathfinders and the Willpower group.  I undoubtedly could have tried longer with the Willpower group, but I was pretty disgusted with the lousy “rate of return” from Meetup, so I bailed out to save $66.

I should go to some Skeptics meetings, but more important is to look into personal ads.  That’s a hard road, but at least it’s a road.

I’m thinking that I’ll send Christmas cards this year.  Though the more that I think about it, the less I want to do it.

Right now I’m feeling pretty depressed.  Recognition of the failures since leaving prison seems to be feeding it—I don’t feel like calling them “my failures”—a good effort that is not crowned with success doesn’t seem to warrant the name of failure.

{12/4/19}  Weight 217.6.  Rats, I had been expecting a loss, but it seems that if I’m going to have breakfast at Macdonald’s, I can’t get the sausage and egg McMuffins.  That’s what I did yesterday, but they’re 180 calories more than the McMuffins with ham.

Rain this morning, as predicted.  Rain tomorrow, too.

Last night, just before going to bed, I was feeling a bit down because I had done no work during the day, aside from a little reading, so I wrote this list of priorities:

  • Cartooning
  • Kick Me
  • Prison diary
  • Quotes from books
  • Exercise

I also didn’t exercise yesterday.  I kept putting it off throughout the day, and finally said “NO!” an hour before bedtime.  I resist making this a willpower challenge.

Why did I put cartooning above KM in the list?  I suppose because I find working on KM more odious than working on cartooning.

One thing that has hung me up with cartooning is my first priority:  coming up with a face to represent myself that is both a kind of likeness and something I like to look at.  How many faces have I tried?  Perhaps twenty.  The “likeness” part isn’t that difficult, but the best likeness I’ve come up with that is easy enough to draw, looks angry or just mean—perhaps too good a likeness, then?  No, I don’t believe that, even though I sometimes shock myself by my poor treatment of Pablo.  I keep trying to argue him out of his fantasy life, and I keep failing.  Clearly, this is something that I should stop, for my own sake, but I’m unsure that I can even do this.  I mean, when he makes some outrageous claim about me, for instance, must I humor him?  Or what?  Sarcastically agree, thanking him for straighten­ing me out?  That’s just mean again, isn’t it?  Responding to his meanness with meanness?  In other words, arguing with someone whom I consider mentally ill?  Isn’t that just as sick?

Maybe when he says something outrageous, I should just respond, “Okay.”  Refuse to take the bait, if it is bait?  Let the potential argument die for lack of oxygen.  It’s most infuriating when he explains me to someone who doesn’t know me, by way of an “introduction.”  Perhaps I can just respond with an “Okay” with an eye roll and shaking head.  Any stronger rejection will just provoke him.

{12/5/19}  Weight 217.4.

{12/6/19}  Weight 217.2.

I think if I want to get the book done, I need to make a commitment.  I think the right commitment is to work on it every day.  It’s not necessary to specify a minimum time or number of pages, just to get started.  Shall I make this commitment?  While I’m also committed to losing weight?  Yes.  Getting started every day is easy, and on some days it will lead to significant progress.  Do I start today?  Um…

{12/7/19}  Weight 217.4.  It seems that I need to reduce my “standard losing diet” again if I’m to lose weight.  And I don’t know what to do about that.  I’d prefer to cut dinner rather than breakfast or lunch, but dinner last night was two pieces of toast with a little butter and sugar, and five dates.  “Lunch” was an ice cream sandwich, of which I have one remaining (and don’t intend to buy more).  I’ll try reducing breakfast, have one piece of toast instead of two.

Sleep last night was interrupted three times for pee breaks.  I had thought that was behind me, since for a few nights running I slept until 3:30, and had to get up only once.  The good news is that I had no trouble getting back to sleep.  My only thought about this is to try cutting out all sodas (i.e., not just caffeine), drinking only water, but that’s just a speculation.

Listening to Bartók’s third piano concerto—the middle movement is so placid and simple it doesn’t sound like Bartók.  Though it is getting a bit stark.

Saturdays are dull in my life.  Nothing scheduled, news programs are fluff.  I can go to Dagny’s for Internet and hope somebody shows up.

Experimenting with macros this morning, I discover Selection.InsertSymbol.  I didn’t know that there was an “insert symbol” command; exploring further, I find that it’s not assigned to a shortcut key, so I assigned it to Alt-/.  This will save a lot of keystrokes, occasionally.  It turns out that the Selection keyword starts a huge number of commands; another such is ActiveDocument.  My knowledge of Visual Basic is almost nonexistent, of which I am reminded every time I try to write a macro from scratch rather than by “recording.”

I see above that I called Pablo “mentally ill.”  Not the first time I’ve said that here.  The thing is, he’s been told that by his family, and he’s mortally afraid of being committed—a sentiment I agree with.  I have little confidence in mental health professionals.  Pablo is only moderately screwed up, and I have no doubt that he might benefit greatly from “talking to someone.”  I should try to persuade him of that.  I’ve no doubt that he won’t be open to it, preferring to cling to his fantasy that he’s “getting better,” or to his fantasy that his meditation/yoga/gurus/pseudoscience are all he needs.  It’s possible that he is getting better; it’s also possible that he’s deluded about that.  I’m not sure that he even wants to get better—though he did want me to buy him a copy of Lost Connections and he read some of it.  I find it telling, however, that he hasn’t asked for a copy of The Willpower Instinct.

Well, after a call from Pablo I ended up at Dagny’s, then, on a walk around downtown I came to a thrift shop that had DVDs for a buck each.  One of them, titled Burgess Meredith, has two movies, and I watched The Yin and Yang of Mr. Go, a strange concoction from 1971 written and directed by Burgess Meredith.  It stars James Mason (as “the evil Mr. Go,” a Mexican-Chinese criminal mastermind), Meredith as a Chinese acupuncturist, introducing Jeffrey (Jeff) Bridges, Jack MacGowran (whom I last saw, also with Mason, in Age of Consent—he’s just as annoying here), Irene Tau (with several nude scenes), and finally, Peter Lind Hayes and “Special Guest Star” Broderick Crawford in thankless roles!  This is a lot of star power.  Interestingly, although Bridges is pictured and named on the back of the package, the other “names” are not mentioned at all except Jay Adler, whoever he is (he has four credits in the Hound’s Golden Movie Retriever).  This was shot mostly in Hong Kong, apparently.  Alas, despite these intriguing features, and aside from some nice location color, it’s classically awful:  cheaply made, exploitative, homophobic, and offensive on many levels.  The movie pretends to be an action-spy-thriller (though in the last ten minutes it aims for laughs) involving some kind of laser anti-nuke defensive technology.  Evil Mr. Go is converted at the critical moment into a good guy by a ray from the head of a Buddha statue (this ray happens every fifty years, according to the framing story).  There is so much that’s unfortunate here:  terrible sound (mostly recorded on location, with traffic noise and gurgling waves drowning out dialogue), equally terrible control of the color, erratic cinematography, ridiculous fight scenes, choppy editing, embarrassing, cheap ’50s-level special effects, overbearing and inappropriate music…enough.  Don’t look for this in stores.  It’s from “Genius Entertainment” and, I guess, distributed by Movie Classics of Solano Beach, California.  Copyright is by Granville Trust Limited.  Also on the disk is Winterset from 1936 which I haven’t watched yet, supposedly starring Meredith.

{12/8/19}  Weight 216.0.  This is good, but given that I weighed 217.2 last night before bed, I expected to crack 215 this morning.

I dreamt of walking up stairs behind Maureen O’Hara and hugging her from behind.

On checking, I see that I haven’t mentioned the Patrick Stewart Christmas Carol.  It was a good, mostly very traditional effort, but they really blew it with the silly ghost of “Christmas yet to come,” which caused me to laugh out loud.  I watched this two days ago.

The Hemlock Club this morning was a big nothing, and I gave it up at 11:00.

Quite a thunderstorm today at 3:15 pm, with abundant lightning and thunder, strong wind, heavy rain, and loads of pea-sized hail.  I went out on my steps with my umbrella to watch—the bigger the storm, the more likely I am to do this—and got soaked from the knees down.  It was well worth it.  It’s lucky I didn’t get caught in this, earlier, because I was out without my umbrella.

So I worked for about an hour on Kick Me.  This was supposed to cheer me up, ease my depression or “low mood,” but doesn’t seem to have done that.  Now it’s 4:30 and I’m thinking about dinner.  I’ve been snacking, unfortunately, so “what to have for dinner?” becomes:  one slice of toast, or two?  I think two.  I’m expecting a small weight gain tomorrow.

I’ve been reading Nietzsche:  The Gay Science.  It’s not entertaining me.  My alternate is Rolf Dobelli:  The Art of the Good Life:  52 Surprising Shortcuts to Happiness, Wealth, and Success.  Wealth and success don’t interest me much (though success in writing is important).  I gave up on Dostoyevsky’s Raw Youth, and Vonnegut’s NF book I’ve put back on the shelf, halfway through.  Gestalt Therapy has been neglected for about a week, and I’ve little desire to pursue it.  I have two new books that I’ve done little with and am unexcited about.  What to do?

Several days ago, Rachel Maddow showed on her show some drawings created by a prisoner at our prison at Guantanamo Bay, drawings that showed how he was tortured for four years.  I am reminded of this story, published on the front page of the New York Times, by reading some of David Griffith’s A Good War is Hard to Find:  The Art of Violence in America.  I’ve read to page 64.  He discusses the fiction of Flannery O’Connor, Hersey’s Hiroshima and the bombing, Abu Ghraib, and gross videos that he saw as a child.  And I wonder:  why couldn’t Barack Obama close Gitmo?  He was “Commander in Chief.”  Did he have no control over the CIA?  Who, exactly, is responsible for keeping Gitmo in action?  Why are we still torturing people—if we are?  Why did we ever?

It’s all too easy to turn off Rachel Maddow and forget about those drawings and the crimes they document.  By tomorrow these things will have faded into the general background of my hate for America.  Perhaps it’s not necessary that I be reminded of these things, because that hate is secure and unshakeable.

In other news, I watched an episode of Harley Quinn, a modestly amusing and thoroughly dispensable animated show.  I mention it only because it disgusted me twice:  first, by using “the F-word” many, many times in the half hour, and second, by bleeping it every time.  We have DC Comics to thank for this excrescence.  I watched it, sort of enjoyed it, and am ashamed of having gotten even a little fun from it.  On top of which, it was pretty stupid.

Griffith’s book is damn good.  It’s been sitting on the shelf for several months, maybe even close to a year.

I listened to the first CD of Verdi’s Rigoletto, a package I bought several months ago.  I enjoyed it only a little.

I have no final thought to tie all this together—it’s just this was my day, and a generally depressing day it was, though I feel pretty good right now.  I’m going to check my weight (being a glutton for punishment), then go to bed.  I did my exercise today.  I will show a weight gain tomorrow.  Boo effing hoo.

{12/9/19}  Weight 217.4.  Despite this gain, I am somewhat relieved because I expected a higher result.

5:20 am.  An odd dream this morning:  I dreamt that I had woken at 5:30 and was happy because I had slept eight hours straight.  I knew this without checking the clock.  Well, in fact I woke at 4:30 to pee and couldn’t get back to sleep.  Instead of sleeping I was thinking about Dance Moms, how the kids truly love each other, how they welcomed as one of their own the new arrival Kendall, how Maddie in particular, but the others also, truly are happy for the others when they win, then about my brother and how he was desperate to beat me at whatever, such as chess, like Pablo is now, and how he led the way for me in being screwed up (thinking in particular how he bought a new computer game and wanted me to play it first), and how I might send my brother a Christmas card and what I might say on it.

Before I weighed myself this morning I was reviewing what I had eaten yesterday:  standard breakfast, then for “lunch” a granola bar, 1¾ oz. bag of Cheetos, a Mexican “marzipan” treat, an ice cream cookie sandwich, then “dinner” of two slices of toast with honey, and finally the second and last “marzipan.”  I put marzipan in quotes because it was, aside from the color, nothing like what it claimed to be.

On “Morning Jerk” (Joe) this morning, the war in Afghanistan is revealed as another Vietnam, i.e., a tissue of lies, as though this is a surprise.  It seems that a FOIA challenge has brought out thousands of pages of “papers” documenting the lies.  This the very day after I started reading A Good War is Hard to Find.

I was in a pissy mood yesterday and I suppose still am, saying that I “hate America.”  I don’t, actually; I just want us to stop doing what we criticize others for doing, notably torture and injustice.  I hate that we do that and seemingly have been doing that since the Declaration of Independence.  And, of course I hate our illegitimate President for reasons too numerous and well-known to list again here.  And these words echo in my mind:  “Not a puppet.  You’re a puppet.”

I am almost completely undecided about what to do with Oliver.  I say “almost” because I intend to send him a Christmas card.  I could send him a book also, and I have considered sending a check or cash or a gift card or something else.  Nothing seems likely to produce the effect I desire, a call or something back from him.  So I’ll send him a card and I suppose a birthday card all the way off in August 2020, and continue to eat my heart out.

3:00 am.  I’ve been awake for more than two hours, both in trying to get back to sleep, and reading, mostly in I to Myself, selections from Thoreau’s journals.  The reading makes me think of myself as roaming through books the way Henry roamed through the woods.  In the selections presented, he does not mention his reading, though he alludes and the editor glosses—if that’s the word I want.  Reading Thoreau gave me an itch to write myself.

In addition to the Thoreau, on my bed I have David Griffith:  A Good War is Hard to Find, and Hawthorne’s Tales and Sketches, the Library of America volume.  I read the brief “The Haunted Mind” in the Hawthorne, which was only moderately interesting; I didn’t get into the War book, though I had read it extensively earlier in the evening.

Tonight’s sleep has been disappointingly fragmentary.  The reading, however, has been calming and lyrical.  Thoreau really is a poet, or perhaps a convincing poseur; his actual poems are almost uniformly dull to me, it’s his prose that sweeps me away as does no other writer that I can think of.  Perhaps the modern “nature writers,” Aldo Leopold and Edward Abbey, sometimes come close to Henry—but I haven’t read many in this genre, nor even very much of these two.  Notably missing from my experience are John Muir and Rachel Carson.  No doubt there are many others whom I can’t even name.  Annie Dillard has not moved me.  But who am I trying to impress?

I have a whole bookcase full of stuff that I no longer hope to read:  philosophy and religion.  I tried getting back into Nietzsche, The Gay Science, and it just wasn’t working.  I’m letting go of the Kant volume and several others and I’m thinking about the Hume.  Among the pre-1900 philosophers, I’ve found very little to interest me:  Pascal, Marcus Aurelius, a bit of Seneca, and Plato’s Apology.  I’ve read tons of Nietzsche, generally concluding “Yeah, he really is a Nazi,” yet not willing to write him off like that.  I can’t accept his eternal recurrence or his superman but I enjoy his writing on Christianity and the Greeks and more.

Since I’m name dropping because it amuses me to do so right now, I should mention that Russell is always fun except when he’s way over my head—though The Analysis of Mind was just too dull to plow through to the end.  I mention it because it’s recent in my reading.  Bartley is readable, Rorty is often difficult but is important to me, Kaufmann is a favorite but his literary studies (e.g., From Shakespeare  to Existentialism) are tough going.  Later Wittgenstein is good, though I’ve complained here about the dullness of the Philosophical Investigations.  Perhaps consistently best is William James, for entertain­ment value.  And there’s Camus, who’s rarely very dull, but rarely very useful.  Sometimes he soars beautifully.  Sartre’s novels are good.  Chomsky’s little book is great—What Kind of Creatures Are We?  Thomas Nagel is interesting.

Some pre-prison reading deserves mention:  Bryan Magee’s Confessions of a Philosopher and Derrick Jensen’s books.

Karl Popper, Lakoff and Johnson, Alan Watts, Daniel Dennett!  I’ll shut up now.

{12/10/19}  Weight 216.0.  So can I call yesterday’s weight a blip?

{12/11/19}  Weight 216.2.  I expected better.

Better was last night’s sleep:  eight hours with one interruption.

I don’t know what I did yesterday.  I mean, I didn’t go out, I didn’t write or work on KM, I did very little drawing, not much reading.  I watched one full movie, Parts Per Billion which didn’t entertain me, and small parts of two others (big DVD shipment arrived yesterday, 24 movies, and looked them up in Videohound).  Listened to Pablo on the phone for half an hour.  Oh, one or two episodes of The Simpsons.  Rearranged a few books, trying to make room for The Story of Civilization which is in the closet.  Masturbated.  75-minute nap.  I didn’t listen to music.  It seems like very little to fill a whole day.  Maybe there were more Simpsons episodes, but I didn’t even watch much news.

I know I read The Age of Anger and that I liked it and expected to read it again.  Why, then, is there no mention of it in my diary?

On 11/16/17 I wrote:  “I have acquired a new friend, Pablo Craddock.  He runs a blog and talks too much and he’s working on a novel.”  I copy it here because it amuses me how apt it is.  I’d change only one thing today:  add scare quotes around “working.”

“Trump attacks Dems at Pennsylvania rally.”  Really?  MSNBC is stupid.  CNN has Pompeo on (or perhaps it was just tape), lying about the meeting with the Russian Foreign Minister.

Copyright 2019 by Alan Carl Nicoll
All Rights Reserved

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