Diary, 1/5 to 1/15/2020

Copyright 2020 by Alan Carl Nicoll
All Rights Reserved

{1/5/20}  Weight 217.0.  Good.

A dream:  I’m in a bookstore holding a book that I intend to sell, a history of cheddar cheese.  It feels flimsy and water-damaged, a flexible hardback with a white dust jacket.  I get in line behind a little boy who gives a book to the proprietor, a fat man who is seated behind the counter.  Breathing audibly, the man, in a flat, deep voice, says “Hundred fifty percent” and gives the boy a couple of dollars.  The boy leaves.  I open my book to the title page and put it on the counter in front of the man.  He says “Hundred fifty percent” then says “Cheddar” and hands me six one-dollar bills.  Holding both books open, he stamps the title pages with a round stamp, possibly a circle with a star inside, in a bright red.  That’s it.

A trivial little dream, but quite vivid in my mind, especially the vibrant red of the ink stamping, glistening liquid.  Six dollars is improbably high—sixty cents, or six, is more likely.

{1/6/20}  Weight 216.0.  This is rather shocking, but not displeasing.  I attribute this loss to being a bit hungry yesterday evening and, probably more important, reduced sodium intake yesterday (no fries, no chips).  Though the rotisserie chicken I had for dinner tasted quite salty.

I thought last night that I had caught a virus because I had a somewhat persistent cough due to a tickle deep in the lungs, but this morning I’m not feeling it—though I remain somewhat uncertain.  A bit of cough just now did not feel healthy…I’m doomed.

Yesterday’s Hemlock Club was very good, despite some tiresome conflict between L and N for “the floor.”  After L left, N was a bit ruffled for a while and complained about fatigue, but he seemed to recover quickly.  L’s contributions were not exactly inspired, something about race relations, and how Europeans had come to dominate the world.  I said “I completely disagree” regarding L’s last couple of paragraphs, and suggested that he read Guns, Germs, and Steel.  N said something less than clear about how the races stack up, something which sounded like the whites having superior intelligence, but he seemed to be backpedaling so I didn’t press him on it.  He had started off talking about Spinoza—he had a book, something like A Student’s History of Philosophy, before L showed up.  We also got into reality, and The Matrix was mentioned; N said he wanted to see it at the Fox with Pablo and me.  Anyway, we talked for four hours until I cut it “short” because I needed to contact Moleskine about the defective “smart pen.”
I talked little because both guys were sort of overflowing, but I showed N the pictures I had taken of the pavement outside Dagny’s a few days earlier.  This requires some explanation:  I had been watching the Simpsons marathon, and on the way home on the bus I had seen the conjunction of the moon and Venus, as mentioned here on 12/28/19.  On the 29th, the day had been rainy but was drying as I left Dagny’s (it was a Saturday), and I saw this dry spot on the pavement:

“Lisa and the Moon”–photo by Alan Carl Nicoll, 12/29/2019

I see here “Lisa Simpson observing the conjunction of the moon and Venus.”  I have subsequently realized that the moon is facing the wrong direction; that is, instead of “C” it should be “Ɔ”.  This “spooky” coincidence is the most surprising and remarkable I’ve ever experienced, I believe.  I see or assign no particular meaning to this “synchronicity.”

Lisa is my favorite character of the Simpsons because her environmental politics are most similar to mine (“she” never mentions class war or foreign policy, naturally—the areas where I am most radical).

Here’s my “daily log” for yesterday:

*X Mail PO form

X   Hemlock Club

X   Smart Pen complaint

X   Call C. re laundry Monday (tomorrow)—no answer.  Spoke later.

  • L: Polycarbonate blocks UV 99.9%; prejudiced; philos.

N on Spinoza, Sumer, ancient aliens, pineal gland

  • Shut Up and Write on 1/9
  • Skeptics 1/15, 6:00: Jackie Kegley, philos. prof. CSUB
  • Checked email & Twitter (briefly)

X   Blog post, not incl. today; 79 followers!  (up 2)

  • N wants to see The Matrix with us.

I’m not stressing to get the formatting exactly right.  As hinted above, N went on about some pseudoscience, which I pushed back against a bit—but he’s not fanatical about it, fortunately.

{1/7/20}  Weight 214.4.  I weighed 218 on 1/2/20.

I’d celebrate this big weight loss step, except I owe it to the 24-hour flu.  Pablo and I were to do laundry yesterday, but I had been getting progressively sicker throughout the day, and finally I begged off.  So he left some time after three, and I went to bed around five in the evening, which was the beginning of a painful bout of headaches, sore throat, body aches, and “fever dreams.”  I got up once, I think around midnight, and stayed up for a couple of hours, typed some of the Prison Diary because I didn’t feel up to reading, then back to bed.  Around 7:00 [AM] I weighed myself, and called Dr. Holder at 8:15 am to beg off our appointment this afternoon, tried to eat breakfast of a granola bar, orange juice, and a banana, but after a couple of bites and half the orange juice I felt so nauseated that I couldn’t eat the rest.  I slept some more in bed, got up again, only to nap in my chair off and on, taking additional bites of the granola bar, finally finishing it while drinking part of a diet 7-Up, and now at 2:15 pm I’m writing this.  I still have a moderate headache and no appetite.  Quite a horrible experience.  I feel another nap coming on—I’m very glad to have this comfortable but broken recliner that my neighbor Audrey scrounged up for me a few days ago.  I paid $30 for it.  If I move to a new place I won’t take it with me, probably.

I’ve been reading the Letters of Pliny the younger as bedtime reading for a few days.  It’s pretty dull because the details don’t amount to much, but the introduction in the Harvard Classics volume says that he describes the eruption of Vesuvius, so I guess I’ll read on.  It seems that Domitian reigned at the time Pliny wrote some of these letters.  It might make more sense—if any of this makes sense—if I read Herodotus.  I “scored some points” at the last meeting with Pablo at Dagny’s—Q present, I think—by naming the Roman Emperors from Nerva to Commodus.  Pablo had been crowing because I had doubted that Commodus was Marcus’s son, which Pablo had claimed.  I could have started with Augustus, but that would have been showing off…!

I’ve started keeping a Bullet Journal, as I noted on 1/4, and I like it.  It complements this diary well, I think.

{1/8/20}  Weight 214.0 at 3:00 am.  213.8 at 8:00 am.

So it turns out I’m not over this “24-hour flu.”  Last night I developed a sore throat, again.  Never a dull moment.

Going to see Little Women in the theater today, with Pablo.

Had an early breakfast of granola bar, raisins, and orange juice.  I’ll go back to bed eventually.

Being bored by Pliny earlier, I started reading George Orwell’s Diaries.  Much more vivid and quick-moving in comparison, but not exactly enthralling.  In 1931 he’s bumming around London, homeless.

I haven’t written yet about the momentous events in Iraq.  It will be a miracle if Trump doesn’t get us into a shooting war with Iran.  With his repuglikkkan enablers in Congress and throughout the country, and Fox, it’s looking like another miracle if he doesn’t get reelected.  Looming above all is the climate doom.  We’re so fucked.

The current version of Little Women is very good, but I’m glad I’ve seen most of the other versions or I would have been completely lost—this is a good or even great movie that has been run through a blender.  Individual scenes compare favorably with those in the previous movies and the stars are up to their very sentimental tasks.

{1/9/20}  Weight 214.0.

After yesterday’s sentimental Little Women, last night I felt in the mood for the sentimental Now, Voyager, a movie I love dearly but seldom watch because it is over-familiar.  I enjoyed it thoroughly.  There are one or two cringeworthy things in it—at least Lee Patrick’s gossip about Jerry—but that’s a small price to pay.

I was supposed to go out this morning, to Shut Up and Write, followed by laundry, but will do neither, because I’m still sick.  The situation is complicated by my recent reaction (gastritis) to aspirin, but perhaps acetaminophen will serve.

I’ll likely type some Prison Diary pages today, but otherwise devote myself to just being miserable and self-indulgent.

{1/10/20}  Weight 213.6.

Long waking-dreaming about having two turtles as pets.  It would be amusing [IRL] for up to a week, perhaps, after which it would become a small burden, an unwanted responsi­bility.  No thanks.

Reading Wing-Tsit Chan’s The Way of Lao Tzu, again being baffled by the obscurity of the Tao.  I looked into several books and copied a couple of definitions into my Words notebook.  I was stimulated to do this by Q’s asking me—why me, I don’t know—the difference between Taoism and Confucianism.  I told her that the one is mysticism, the other pragmatism—which pleased her and pleases me when I find confirmation and just in retrospect.  Chan calls Confucius a positivist, however, not the same.  He also says, approxi­mately, that Confucius is focused on the state, Lao Tzu on the individual.  But Confucius has much to say about the individual also.

I need groceries and I need to get on the Internet, but I have no energy.  I just want to sleep until this cold is over.

{1/11/20}  Weight 213.4.

Long dream this morning involving a board game in which my character was accused of murder.  I can’t make much sense of how this was supposed to work as a game.

The cold continues in the form of a runny nose and sore throat.  Pills help.

{1/12/20}  Weight 213.8.

HC today.  The Matrix tomorrow.  Cold almost gone, energy returning slowly, appetite about normal.  I have lost interest in all my reading except Melville’s Typee.

Nobody showed at the HC.  So I went to Barnes & Noble and bought some interesting books.  Started reading all three (a fourth is to be delivered); listed in the BuJo.

{1/13/20}  Weight 213.2.  Good good.

A dream this morning about being in Italy, attempting to communicate in Italian.  I think this might have been provoked by reading last night in Typee about the protagonist trying to communicate with Polynesians.

{1/14/20}  Weight 213.2.

Very long, very complicated, spectacular dreams last night about a team of time manipulators changing moments in the past to affect the present.  Quite a blast, presumably stimulated by seeing The Matrix yesterday.

Yesterday and this morning I’m completely disgusted by the uselessness of news on MSNBC.  They’re covering two stories:  when Pelosi will send impeachment articles to the Senate and what will happen next, and the 2020 “race.”  These are non-stories receiving endless “analysis.”  Admittedly, I didn’t get to watch Chris Hayes and Rachel Maddow, who occasionally cover important stories.

I was thinking last night that I’d spend the day drawing cartoons instead of reading.  Well, that’s not gonna happen, but a day devoted to doing actual work for once…even setting aside one day a week to work on KM, typing, writing, and cartooning is an excellent idea that I’ll have to think about enforcing on myself.

After a three-hour nap—rather a puzzling thing—I am feeling depressed and lazy and longing for death!  I put on a CD I haven’t listened to before, Songs of the Auvergne, sung by Dawn Upshaw.  I recognize some charms here, yet I feel more irritated than entertained.  Such is my mood at 1:30 on a Tuesday of no importance.  I should get my ass out of the house for any reason or for no reason at all.  I’m not going to.

It would not be wise to try to draw conclusions about life when I am in such a mood.  I have a great longing for “meaning,” but don’t want to do the very few things that I consider meaningful.

I could mention “seasonal affective disorder,” but what would be the point?  I cannot change the season.  I’m gonna eat some chocolate.

So what did I do to get past this?  I sacrificed long-term goals for short-term coping, that is, I watched movies:  The Matrix Reloaded and Matrix Revolutions.  A lot of empty-headed fun.  It’s a crime that Hugo Weaving wasn’t nominated for Best Supporting Actor.  Now it’s 9:10 pm.  What happens tomorrow?  Easy:  more of the same, or not.

Reading Harold Bloom’s collection of criticism of Thoreau, I am led to ask (by the end of p. 82), am I leading my life, or am I being led by it?  Today, clearly, the latter.

{1/15/20}  Weight 214.0.  Disappointing.  Somewhat lower at 7:00 am.

Chuang Tze is a closed book to me.  But then, so is Lao Tze.  Having read both, I feel no understanding at all beyond Wu-wei and Yin-Yang, and these are perhaps mere straws clutched at.  Huston Smith (The World’s Religions) offers a threefold view of the Tao, though I can’t remember the three ways.  On checking my Words notebook, I find:  the way of ultimate reality, the way of the universe, and the way of human life.  The Tao Te Ching says:

My words are very easy to understand,

And very easy to practice,

Yet none in the world are able to understand them,

And none are able to practice them.  (#70, in part, from de Bary & Bloom:  Sources of Chinese Tradition:  From Earliest Times to 1600, Volume One, Second Edition, Columbia University Press, New York, 1999, p. 93)

The Tao is not to be understood in any real sense, it seems.  I added the quote to the notebook.  Is there any point in pursuing this will-o-the-wisp any further?  It depends on why I would bother.  For instance, if I like posing as a sage, being able to quote Lao Tze is useful.  If I like to avoid pretense and pomposity, it’s better not to quote.  In fact, I like both, so where does that leave me?  Dabbling, that’s where.

But seriously, Taoism can never mean anything to me.  I’d be better off reading Shakespeare again, or Thoreau.

Copyright 2020 by Alan Carl Nicoll
All Rights Reserved

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