Diary, 1/16 to 1/22/2020

Copyright 2020 by Alan Carl Nicoll
All Rights Reserved

Selfie on the way to Women’s March 2020

{1/16/20}  Weight 214.0.

A dream this morning of walking to a bus stop and catching a bus.  Wow.

{1/17/20}  Weight 214.2.

A diet Dr. Pepper yesterday played havoc with my sleep last night, keeping me awake past midnight and awake early this morning.  I think I’ll avoid that in future.

Reading Edith Hamilton:  The Echo of Greece and being deeply impressed and frankly inspired in a way unique to my experience.  It will take me a while to come to terms with this huge little book.

repuglikkkans are in the position of the husband caught in flagrant delicto, relying on the desperation strategy of “deny, deny, deny.”

Reading Cognitive Neuroscience last night on depression reminds me that, whatever it is going on with my moods, it’s not depression.  My “depression” never lasts even a whole day—it never has.  I think my problem is with goals and effort:  too many goals, scattered and inconsistent effort.  Or, as I never tire of saying, so many irons, so little fire.  And at the root of it all is that terrible, terrible book I’m “trying” to write.  Perhaps I should call it that:  That Terrible, Terrible Book:  A Memoir of Blunders, Humiliations, and Crimes, or TTTB for short.  I like it.

Of course, our nation has gone to the dogs, and climate doom advances apace.  Both these things are terrifying, and I’m not joking.  Depression is the only sensible mood, it seems.  Of course, there’s nothing sensible about doing nothing, but that’s what I’m doing.

A last thought on depression for today:  it could just be physical, like low blood sugar or lack of physical fitness.  Lost Connections made me aware of many factors, some of which are clearly at work in my case, such as isolation.  Maybe it’s enough just to have ways to cope, to get me past each bout as it happens.  But this seems inadequate, a making-do rather than flying high.

I have an opportunity to march in protest tomorrow with the Democratic Women of Kern (if I remember correctly).  What will I do?  It all depends on how I feel about it tomorrow morning.

{1/18/20}  Weight 214.6.  Grrr.

Well, I don’t want to march, but I will, if for no other reason than that I don’t want to—which doesn’t make sense, of course, and isn’t even true.

Went to the Women’s March, there’s much to say, but it can wait until tomorrow.

Now, it’s late because I watched The Little Stranger, a very effective ghost story, very subtle and low key with an unusually interesting set of characters and a kind of love story.  It made me realize that life is horribly mundane…nothing spooky or even very mysterious ever happens in real life.  The movie is not entirely satisfying because—given what horror movies are like these days, I always want the explanation, I’ve learned to expect it, but this movie doesn’t offer one.

Earlier I saw an hour of the most boring movie I’ve seen in just about ever—Les Rendezvous de (?) Anna.  I told Pablo that it was like a parody of foreign-language films.  Amazingly static camera work, very static scenes with one character talking for several minutes while the other just listens.  No conflict, no plot, an action starts then stops short, sterile and bleak sets, and so on.  I suppose it could be enjoyed on a meta-cinema level, viewing it as a critique of French films or something.  As with the “humor” of Andy Kaufman and Doonesbury, I’m not sophisticated enough for that or I just don’t get the jokes.  Blech.

Hemlock Club tomorrow.

{1/19/20}  Weight 215.0.  Disappointing.

I dreamt that Pablo was applying for a loan or mortgage on the house he lives in.

About spooky or mysterious things happening in real life, as opposed to movies, well, one wouldn’t want them to, of course.  And of course, reality and life itself are pretty mysterious, but it’s a mystery that one gets so used to that it requires an effort to see it at all.  The worst thing in the world would be to be living in a ghost story like The Little Stranger, or the many worse horror movies I’ve seen in the past year.  Zombieland, for instance.  But a surprise party once in a while would be fun.

So, the Women’s March yesterday was a much bigger event than I had anticipated, given that my expectations were for a slightly larger Kavanaugh protest, the last (and first) such event I attended.  It turned out that there were many vendors set up in this park on 21st Street.  The hours from 10:00 to noon were devoted to speakers who were always wanting the crowd to chant or make noise, so that was pretty tiresome.  I told Pablo that if he’d said at 11:30 that we might leave, I would have left.  But at noon, the march started, which amounted to walking south for half an hour, then north for half an hour.  I took several photographs.  There were about three times as many people as I’d thought there would be, based on what I’d seen to that point.  If I had to, I’d estimate the crowd at less than five thousand.  After the march Pablo and I wandered around among the vendors, he wanting to eat but wanting me to pay—I said “Don’t go there,” or words to that effect.  I bought a tiny bag of vegan cookies for $5, which turned out to be three average-sized cookies (oatmeal-raisin-walnut) which were good but of course ridiculously overpriced, and gave him half.  I also bought a souvenir tee shirt and a generic neck wrap, the latter being something I’ve wanted for a month just as an addition to my winter clothing.  Then the speeches began again, soon followed by music, at which point I headed for the Beale Library.  We left for my place shortly thereafter.

In looking over the pix just now, I see that the last one I took isn’t there, which is rather annoying.  In fact, another pic is also missing, the only one that showed Pablo.  WTF?  I really can’t explain this, given that I showed Pablo the photo at the time—perhaps I should have been careful what I wished for, i.e., a “mystery.”

Unsurprisingly in retrospect, the “mystery” turns out to be “operator error.”  Oops.

Hemlock Club today was N and me, L arriving an hour later.  N had to leave after a little over two hours.  I left after three hours.  If I want us to stay on HC subjects, I need to have a handout prepared.

N talked about Buddhism and a book, Julian P. Johnson:  The Path of the Masters, which he is reading.  It was printed in India in the thirties.  It seemed to be a mashup of Indian religions.  I talked about peripheral vision and blindsight, trying to get into my reading, The Mind is Flat, but never really got the point out effectively, i.e., that our naïve view of our perceptions is mistaken.  L talked about our knowledge covering only 4% of the universe, “young kids today,” Hank Williams, and prohibition.  N said that “the West gets everything wrong,” and elaborated regarding our seating and how it’s bad for the spine because of pelvic tilt.  When he mentioned The Matrix, L launched into a summary of a movie, Extinction, the point being that reality is full of surprises, or something like that.  He also talked about “fractional banking,” though I’m not sure what his point was—something like “money is worthless and we’re all slaves.”  He saw me making notes, so I talked a bit about the Bullet Journal.  N had to leave to work on the brakes of his mom’s car.  Before and after that, L talked about welding.

I finished reading Edith Hamilton:  The Echo of Greece.  I’ve been unable so far to recapture the rapturous (?) feelings I had early—I’ll need to reread the section on Plutarch, it seems.  The passages I noted mostly seem unimportant now, except for a couple that might go into TTTB—the new title now strikes me as excessive, but I’ll keep it for a while longer.

My latest blog post, about three days ago, got only one look.  This is bigly disappoint­ing because the previous one had gotten five or six views and two new followers.

I posted my photos from the Women’s March on Twitter.

Watched a movie, My Days of Mercy, which was very good but something of a downer, with some hot scenes—tepid compared to La Vie d’Adele.  Ellen Page was the star, but lameo Dish Network’s description did not include her in the cast.  Not the first time I’ve noticed this kind of crap.  Page looked old; I think she’s near thirty now.  Hollywood is tough on kids, but then, so is life.

Now it’s 7:25 pm and there’s nothing on TV despite my getting free HBO and Cinemax through tomorrow.  I do have two DVDs from the library to watch.

Watched another French film, The Hedgehog, every bit as wonderful and memorable as the last one was awful.  A sweet story, excellent performances, a simple soundtrack that I want very much, wonderful cinematography and animations, alas a bit short (96 minutes), and the ending will not please everyone (I was very disappointed at first—not the gush of sentimentality I was expecting).  More than a little reminiscent of Moonlight Kingdom and Marty.  Videohound gives an incompre­hensible two bones.  A treasure, like the child star whose name I’m unsure of—the box reveals her as Garance Le Guillermic.

{1/20/20}  Weight 214.0.

Democracy Now is broadcasting King’s speech, “Beyond Vietnam,” 4/4/67.

Typed four pages of Prison Diary, after a day spent on TV, several naps, and a little reading—it’s now 7:20.  Of course, last night’s sleep was interrupted by a bout of insomnia at 4:00 am.

The reading was, in part, in Richard Rorty’s Consequences of Pragmatism; the “Introduction” starts with essentially a statement of antiphilosophy.  I also read some on “scepticism,” Sextus Empiricus, Diogenes Laertius, Diogenes the Cynic, and the Cynics, in the Oxford Guide to Philosophy.  There was more material than I wanted to read, though it was quite interesting.

Though I have 23 channels of commercial-free cable, “nothing is on.”  The highlights of the day were Dance Moms and Scary Movie 3.  Yawn.  The schedules of most channels contains a lot of duplication.  Die Hard gets played many times each week.  Even so, too many movies get made.

Scary Movie 3 gets 1½ bones, but I thought it was funny and the star, Anna Feris, is pretty and good in her scaredy-cat role.  Many cameos, well used.

Two days until payday.  I’ve managed to save $200 in the last two months, not as much as I wanted, but it’s a start.

Reading Edith Hamilton has given me an itch to try Herodotus again.  If I get bogged down in the Egyptians, I’ll skip ahead—though somewhere along the line I’m bound to think, “Is it really worth it?”  The Landmark Herodotus is excellent, especially the maps, but it has way too many footnotes—do we really need to be reminded multiple times that Sparta can be found on map x?  I have to think of this as “entertainment reading,” because nothing is going to stick except general impressions.  So if it ceases to be entertaining, then it really does become pointless.

I deleted three “really”s from the last paragraph, but there are still three more.  Really.

I told Pablo a few days ago that every morning I am faced with a choice, either to be a slug in the mud, or to “fly high, for fuck’s sake,” and that I generally choose the former.  Today has been such a day, which is what prompted me to do that typing.  It’s the one thing in the Bullet Journal that I can do without much struggle.  The point is to get more accomplished toward my goals, but so far, aside from typing, it hasn’t helped.  The “daily log” and the “review” sessions just duplicate this diary too much—so I write in the diary and neglect the BuJo.  On the other hand, it does offer an overview summary that the diary lacks.

{1/21/20}  Weight 213.8.

At the HC I unfortunately said something to L about him and N “competing for the floor.”  He got all defensive, saying that he wasn’t that self-centered—I’m not getting this quite right—anyway, I tried to backpedal it, but there was no way to really recover.  Well, too bad:  his conversation is worth approximately zero to me, and the more he talks, the less I like him.  There’s more than a little redneck to him, I suspect.

He kept saying things about how we “talk about philosophy,” but in fact, we virtually never talk about philosophy because nobody knows anything about it—rather, I’d say that our approach to issues is somewhat philosophical.  I get on Pablo’s case whenever he says that the HC is a “philosophy club.”  I believe that he’s read exactly two books of philosophy:  the Plato dialogues on the trial and death of Socrates, and Barrett’s Irrational Man.  Perhaps a bit of Nietzsche as well, or perhaps not.  I suppose I must include Lao Tze and the like.  Which gives little scope for “talking about philosophy.”  If we ever had someone who actually wanted to talk Western philosophy, he’d be worse than useless, and I might not be much better.

To the 1/4/20 entry above, I added:  [1/21/20: It might make sense to consider what I’m doing instead of what I want to be doing, though it seems that I moan about this enough in here, like almost constantly.  Every day seems another day lost, and very rarely a day of accomplishments.]  Maybe this is why I don’t do the BuJo “daily review.”  It would be like pointless nagging.

Well, this is a problem.  I set myself goals that I don’t pursue.  Is this what Fritz [Perls] called a “self-torture game”?  Close enough.  But what is the answer?  What do I do about TTTB?  It seems that I can neither put up nor shut up.  There isn’t a lot of work remaining, unless I’m insistent on adding cartoons.  I’m going to be staying home today, mostly squandering my time with TV, unless I decide otherwise.  I’ve decided to go to Macdonald’s for breakfast, which is not wise but I’m doing it anyway.

And self-mastery?  I have made undeniable progress on several goals:  dish washing, losing weight, saving money.  This seems huge, after a life spent in longing for self-mastery but never moving an inch from where I was.  The big goal languishes, but the past two months-plus have otherwise been a golden age of self-mastery.  Despite that, I know how much I still give in to whim and self-indulgence:  that is, almost all the time.  I don’t know if that’s accurate…I lack data.

Consider eating:  yesterday, I made dinner out of cashews, dates, a granola bar, raisins, and ice cream.  I didn’t want to start with cashews, they may be a food that I can’t have in the house, because I sometimes overindulge.  As it was, I had more than I “wanted,” because after the cashews, two slices of toast with peanut butter seemed excessive, especially since I knew that I’d have ice cream afterwards.  If I’d had fewer cashews “before dinner,” it would have been my normal dinner.  So I continued snacking.  It was a struggle, and if I’d gained this morning, I wouldn’t have been very surprised.  The trifling loss is meaningless.  So, was last night’s dinner a failure?  I can’t call it a success, because I didn’t eat what I wanted:  toast for dinner.  I wanted to push the weight loss again, after a couple weeks of slacking.  Yet I didn’t gain—I had just enough self-control to avoid going hog wild, I suppose.  Last night’s dinner feels like a failure stopping short of catastrophe.

That’s not self-mastery.

What about this month’s money?  Because I’m getting rid of more and more books, I have little urgency about buying new ones.  Yet even so, I spent about $150 on books, CDs, and DVDs.  When I went to B&N, it was with only Iran Reframed in mind—a book they didn’t have on the shelf.  So I bought four.  The book of quotes I read quickly and plan to keep, so I suppose that was $3 well spent.  The book on graphic memoirs was pure self-indulgence towards the big goal of TTTB—if that makes any sense—and I’m not likely to read it through, and I could have seen that at the store if I’d looked a bit more closely into it.  The Mind is Flat was unobjectionable.  The Iran book is a disappointment that I’m unlikely to read.  If I’d checked it out at Amazon, I might have avoided the waste.  That could be set as a rule:  don’t buy a book you haven’t researched adequately.

This month I’d like to get the Yale Shakespeare, which I’ve been wanting for a long time, but it depends on what I find on eBay—I’m not willing to go over, say, $100.

I don’t know…nothing jumps out at me here.  I’m going to do some shopping for pleasure, and I don’t object to it in principle.  I want to save more than $100 a month, but it doesn’t seem to happen.

So, going to Macdonald’s, I was clever enough to check the bus holiday schedule, but stupid enough to check the holiday schedule.  That is, I remembered two contradictory things:  that MLK day calls for the holiday schedule, and that MLK day was yesterday.  D’oh!

I had taken with me the steno notebook where I had been writing down pretty much all the ephemera that I “wanted to remember” or to be able to look up—web sites, book titles, and so on.  The point this morning was to find the really important ones and copy them into the BuJo.  Well, leafing through it was depressing—so many “important” things noted for future use, and so many things totally forgotten even with them staring me in the face.  What to do?

Recognizing that reading Herodotus is a giant waste of time—i.e., entertainment—what to do?

Three books last year stand out:  The Bullet Journal Method, The Willpower Instinct, and Lost Connections.  The first two are mostly “well-learned”; the third “needs review.”  With LC, I both highlighted and typed out quotes, yet what can I remember of the seven “causes of depression” that he lists?  Lost connections to:  meaningful work, other people, nature…and that’s about all I remember.  The baboon tribe comparison doesn’t fit these three—status, maybe?  Or is that part of “other people,” like I’m assuming “community” is also.  I’ve lost connection to the book.  What to do?

So here we are at the end of civilization, and rich people are still fucking the world to get even richer.  I’m not going to ask “what to do,” because I know what I’ll do:  virtually nothing.  Maybe walk in another march; maybe post some tweets; wring my hands in my diary.  Phooey.

Not much point in watching the “impeachment trial.”  I’ll get the lowdown later, and soon I’ll want a nap.

Bertrand Russell advises, read the best books, but know them thoroughly—something I’m fond of quoting but have never practiced.  Externalizing my memory of reading—that is, highlight as I go, and put it on the shelf—clearly isn’t working very well.  I recognize the deterioration of my mind, and I recognize that behavioral changes are called for.  But I don’t know how to prevent fiascoes of stupidity like this morning’s 25-minute wait for the bus.  Dates and times often lead me to confused behavior; the solution would seem to be to “try harder” to get things right.

Or, exercise.  About a month ago I stopped my daily exercise—why??  That was stupid.  Once I have the inevitable stroke or heart attack, it will be too late to save myself.

It’s interesting that I didn’t mention Nesse’s Good Reasons for Feeling Bad among last year’s standout books; here’s my review from the title page:  “Profoundly important, opening new vistas of thought and understanding.  Very readable, seldom excessively technical.”  How long did it take for this “important” book to fade from memory?  The review is dated December, 2019.  The only reason I opened it today is that I quoted it on the title page of Lost Connections.  The import of the quote and the referenced page is that maybe the problem is That Terrible, Terrible Book that I’ve been trying and not-trying to write.  If there is indeed a single problem—meaning my “depression,” that is.

As for the “new” problem, my mental decline, in relation to how I read, perhaps my “Words” notebook is part of a way to cope.  I’m thinking that some pages set aside in the Bullet Journal for notes taken while reading might be enough to help me remember what I read.

What do I remember of the Herodotus that I read last night?  It wasn’t a lot of pages, and part of it was about how the Medes offer sacrifices and such.  Given that I wasn’t interested…  There was also something about a herder who was ordered by the king to kill a newborn child; the herder eventually brought about the overthrow of the king in revenge for the murder (etc.) of his own son by that king.  I remember a lot of the details, likely because the story was vivid.  The names were difficult and didn’t stick.  If I didn’t make an issue of it, how much would I remember tomorrow, or a week from now?  Not a damn thing, but I knew that already.

If Herodotus is now to be considered “mindless entertainment,” then most of the books I have fall into the same category, and they can easily be sacrificed in preparation for my big move.  They are more of a burden than a pleasure.  Bye bye Durant set?  Really?  Reading Melville’s Typee to page 114 has provoked mostly yawns.  He’s not providing the kind of thing that I read for—I want to say, insight into human nature, but how accurate is that?  Perhaps my last major effort in fiction reading was Daniel Deronda; what did I get from that?  Nothing I can point to, but there is also such a thing as unconscious knowledge, the sort of thing that makes our intuition valuable.  I can’t say why I managed to finish that rather long, rather dull book.  The last fiction reading that I was actually excited about was four novels by John Ajvide Lindqvist.  The van Vogt, years more recent, was fun, occasionally.  Desert Sojourn and The Fat Girl were both valuable, the latter even exciting, but those are memoirs.

What have I decided today?  That I need to study rather than read (nonfiction), and some NF is not worth studying (Herodotus).  That I need to review recently read “important” books, not a new realization, which is why I keep them in the living room on a particular shelf.  That I am desperately in need of exercise—but I’ve been saying that for decades.  That Melville’s early novels are not worth my time (it seems).  That most of my history books, including Durant, can go, a decision I’ve felt coming on for a few days.  Of course, the Durant set helps fill the hole that an encyclopedia would fill better.

I don’t know how much I “need” to get rid of books.  The mass of them inhibits my willingness to move to new digs.  Meh.

Some dialogue from The Hedgehog, irrelevant dialogue omitted:

Fatuous man:  Go is an extraordinary game.  It’s a bit like the Japanese equivalent of chess.

Precocious girl:  Not true.

FM:  Another Japanese invention.

PG:  That’s not true.  The Chinese invented Go, not the Japanese.

FM:  No, my dear girl, the Japanese invented the game of Go.

PG:  No, my dear sir, you’re wrong.

FM:  No…

PG:  It’s not the equivalent of chess.  In chess, you kill to win.  One of the finest aspects of Go is you live to win, but also let your opponent live.  Life and death result from good or poor construction.  And what counts is good construction.

Whoever wrote this knew what they were talking about.

Watching a girl speaking French in slow motion, I see that the mouth forms kisses over and over again.  Perhaps that accounts for the reputation of the language.

{1/22/20}  Weight 213.6.  (Or was it 213.4?)

Spent $70 at Barnes & Noble today.

Copyright 2020 by Alan Carl Nicoll
All Rights Reserved

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