Diary, 1/22 to 1/31/20

Copyright 2020 by Alan Carl Nicoll
All Rights Reserved

Baldwin quote

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

Spent $70 at Barnes & Noble today.

{1/23/20}  Weight 215.4.  Dinner at El Pollo Loco is one way to get high sodium into your diet and gain two pounds overnight.

{1/24/20}  Weight 216.6.  Dinner at Del Taco.

Somehow it seems to be easier to write out of depression than out of happiness.  This early morning (4:24 am), I am happier than normal, though perhaps not happy overall.

Yesterday was unforgettable.  In the morning I ate at Lorene’s, not wanting to take the time to go to Macdonald’s, and not wanting to get that much sodium after yesterday’s high dose.  Then, walking towards Dagny’s for Shut Up and Write, I saw a well-built black man running along 20th Street in my direction.  I paused to let him pass, but he didn’t run past—instead, he punched me in the face while speaking loudly to me, words that made little impression.  I turned away, astonished, and he proceeded to rain another four or five blows to the side and back of my head as I covered up as best I could.  Then he ran on.  I yelled after him that he was crazy, but, fortunately, he did not return, instead he yelled some more, presumably curses on the whole white race.

I felt fortunate that I was not seriously injured—he hadn’t struck my glasses, nor my nose or mouth, but my head ached.  I recognized the likely injustice he had suffered throughout his life because of his color, and recalled that James Baldwin had said something about the rage of the black man, and I recognized that although I was a white liberal who sympathized with his rage, I had not done anything of significance in my life to struggle against the injustice under which he had presumably suffered.  If any white man deserved to be punched in the face in his old age, I deserved it just about as much, or almost as much.  And if, by venting his rage on me, a relatively healthy and robust old man, he later spared another who might be more fragile—

I know that my childhood was nothing like this man’s must have been—I grew up in the 1950s in the world of Ozzie and Harriet, essentially.  For him, that was an impossibility, and not only because he came on the scene forty years later.

These were something like the thoughts I had at the time, while I also recognized that I was vulnerable, frightened, and annoyed.  I went on to Dagny’s, shaken and thoughtful.  When B arrived I told him of the incident, and later Pablo.  Since then, I’ve felt a new tenderness in my right cheek and some neck strain—overstressed muscles, apparently—but nothing more.

Red-blooded American males will call me a pussy.  I disdain their opinions.

I came home later, intending to nap, but after a brief nap in the chair I went to bed and was unable to put in the hour that I expected and wanted.  I called Pablo and arranged to meet him downtown for dinner.

So, that was the day’s unpleasantness; the evening was as different as could be, because I played chess with a number of people, and as I summarized the activity later for Pablo, “I mowed ’em down.”  I was pumped up on adrenaline for two hours, my sight of the board seemed unusually solid, my positional insight seemed unusually sharp, and I crushed opponent after opponent while only occasionally having to think very hard.  In short, it was great, and a most welcome change after my recent dismay over my mental decline.  Admittedly, the competition was not the strongest—I was told that there are a couple of experts “in the club,” and they will find me in future about as easy to crush as I found my opponents—but, “I’ll take it,” meaning the evening’s triumph.

I had a lot of time to read yesterday, and I’ve been enjoying Maugham’s Of Human Bondage perhaps more than it deserves, that is, a lot.  I told Pablo that it seemed to me another Jane Eyre, but that’s misleading; later I said it reminded me of A Portrait of the Artist; thinking later that evening, I found that Joyce’s “artist” seems much more about religion and sin than art, and that’s like Maugham’s hero.  I’m 130 pages into a nearly 700-page book.

Watching season 3 Dance Moms…episode 2 was astonishing, and amazing tiny 10-year-old Sophia puts Maddie Ziegler in the shade, which I could not have believed if I hadn’t seen it.  She really seems superhuman compared to the other dancers, and her competitors and their moms while she’s dancing have faces like they’re watching approaching death.  I hope she sticks around for a while (in this DVD set) because I love watching her, but the moms, especially Christi, are already insanely jealous and doing what they can, explicitly, to drive Sophia’s mom out.

{1/25/20}  Weight 213.2.  3½ pound loss since yesterday?  Yeah, sodium is that big a deal in weight loss.

Watched Krzysztof Kieślowski’s mysterious, mystical The Double Life of Veronique, and loved it.  Video­hound again gives a miserable two bones.  Admittedly, it’s not to everyone’s taste—caviar to the general—but one simply cannot tire of watching Irene Jacob, no matter what she’s doing, and the music is exquisite.  Perhaps it doesn’t hurt that she has numerous nude scenes along with a number of great symbolic, poignant scenes.  Very much in the vein of KK’s Trois Couleurs (a trilogy, for those who don’t know), a puzzle that comes together at the end, though without a “real” explanation.

{1/26/20}  Weight 214.0.

Hemlock Club today.  Yesterday, P, who called me “Socrates,” introduced us to M, an eighty-something who takes great care to dress well and so on; she seemed intelligent but was intent on drumming up business for some book.  L showed up after 11:00, just as Pablo and I were leaving to drop in on the just-opened Bernie Sanders headquarters for Bakersfield.  I got a free button, bought a Bernie tee-shirt, and ate a doughnut.  T was there, and drove Pablo and me to the Beale Library.  On the way, I saw a homeless man sitting in a doorway and felt an urge to do something about the increasing homeless population, so I asked T about his church’s efforts and donated $15 to the cause; I didn’t have a twenty, having broken it at Dagny’s.

On Fareed Zakaria this morning, he says that Trump and Trumpism have become normalized around the world.  Great.  Class war, because the world doesn’t have enough desperately poor people.

Package arrived from Amazon which included the Dark Knight soundtrack, the Uptown Girls DVD, and a book of translations of ancient Egyptian texts.  There is one more item to come, La Rondine CDs.

The DK soundtrack is hard-driving and unmelodic, with a couple of tracks sounding like someone using a router or a circular saw.  This was not a surprise, since someone complained about it in the reviews.  But I like it overall, as expected.  I’ll likely play it a lot for a week or so, then it will subside into the faceless crowd of hundreds—in which the dozen or so soundtracks get the most play, while the dozen operas and half-dozen pop get the least.

Rondine is likely the last opera I’ll buy, at least at full price (I got almost all the others from Bookhounds at around $3.99).  Maybe a Jonas Kaufmann some time.  If I can ever find a decent DVD of the old Tales of Hoffmann movie at a reasonable price, though, I’d get that because the movie is every bit as beautiful as the music.  Why it hasn’t appeared on DVD is an endless puzzle to me—I suppose someone’s being stupid, and this time I’m pretty sure it’s not me.  [2/1/20: It is available on DVD, but not for US players.]

I think it’s time for me to start thinking like a pro when it comes to writing, or at least TTTB.  But maybe writing other things, too, like fiction.  We’ll see.

Now the question with TTTB is, what to do with this terrible book that I don’t want to read again?  If the next step is not reading (revision), then it must be writing.  I’ve been reading Sartre’s The Words, which is a strange autobiography or memoir of his first ten years.  I think he’s being satirical at times, but I can’t be sure.  But the point is, it’s fun to read, at least sometimes, while TTTB is not.

And reading Of Human Bondage and the Sartre, I’m coming up with some stimulating new quotes—so my new theory is, take the strongest of these and write, incorporating them and experimenting with approaches.  Now, the last thing in the world I want to do is to rewrite the whole book again in a different style.  So I’m hoping that I can throw in a few monkey wrenches, and let them just sit there like easter eggs, and thus change the feel of the thing, the overall impression.  Because I think what’s very wrong is the tone, the way I seem to be—in the book—towards the material.  The first small step seems to be, collect the quotes.

One from Sartre:  “My grandfather believes in Progress; so do I.  Progress, that long, steep path which leads to me.”  p. 34.  Throwing this quote into TTTB could be a sensation, as it would be completely ironic.  It might go with my claim of “grandiosity.”

The HC today was a bust, so I spent about ninety minutes on the Internet, most of that on Twitter.  Also a bust was my last blog post.  It seems that Thursday mornings are the worst time to post—apparently, when I post something, a single notification goes out at the time, and that’s it.  So the timing of that announcement is super-critical.  On weekends, which is what I used to do, I’d sometimes get as many as six viewers; on Thursday mornings, practically none.  So, back to Saturday and Sunday mornings.

{1/27/20}  Weight 213.8.

So I watched DC’s Justice League again last night.  There are lame and stupid things in it, as I’ve mentioned before.  I mention it again because I want to say that there are many good things in it as well:  the actors, the music, the costumes, the props, the effects, occasional funny dialogue, and some scenes.  It’s a good looking movie, and it’s just entertaining enough to make me contemplate buying a copy to put on the shelf next to my copies of Man of Steel and Batman v Superman.  Contemplate, not do, because I know I’d never watch it (I’d do better with Captain Marvel).  It’s not like I have endless cash to spend on marginal DVD choices.  So, I’m glad it exists, but it will always remain a “guilty pleasure” that I’ll be happy to catch on cable occasionally.  If Marvel’s best movies didn’t exist, JL would look a little better.

The DC trend, if I’m reading it right, is more encouraging:  Joker and the Harley Quinn entry that comes out in a couple of weeks.  Joker, at least, was a not-guilty pleasure; DC seems to be continuing the darkness of The Dark Knight—their best film to date, by far.  It was listening to that soundtrack that appetized me for JL.

Yesterday I went to Target to buy root beer; I bought three twelve-packs and loaded them on my fold-up cart, along with the rest of the stuff I bought (not much in bulk).  Well, in getting on the bus, I tripped, and saw myself collapse and strike my forehead on the floor of the bus.  It’s only when something like this happens that I see how very feeble I am, an unpleasant fact that I can hide from myself during normal days and activities.  I have no plans to do anything about this, other than to ask for the bus ramp in future.

Notes I made while reading (up to p. 248 of 268 pages) Nietzsche’s Human, All Too Human a year or two ago—actually, June-August, 2019:

  • The cultures and subcultures most in thrall to religion are also the most repressive.
  • Ulysses was not written for me.
  • He would rather meditate than think.
  • We will all suffer like Salamano’s dog.
  • My thoughts are more vile than you can probably imagine.
  • I’ve never been called an asshole!

I also suggested that I write aphorisms, or “Pontifications”—check A-List—cull from diary into categories, subjects; clever titles for subjects?  Aren’t these always dull, even Nietzsche’s?  [No]

Why did I not finish the book?  Boredom, of course.

The long paragraph of aphorism #137, which I highlighted, and have just now quoted in my Notes to TTTB, reveals yet another optical illusion.  While looking at text above the highlighting, I can see that the text below the highlighting looks lighter than it should, that is, it looks gray while the text I’m looking at looks black.  Apparently the brain tries to average out the brightness, away from the fovea, of the highlighted and not highlighted text.  When I shift my gaze to the “grayed” text, it looks black, and the text I’d just been looking at now looks grayed in turn.

{1/28/20}  Weight 214.2.

Finally recognized this morning that the cold I had on 1/6 became bronchitis some days or weeks ago.  I don’t know what to do about bronchitis, except maybe NSAIDs and to force fluids a bit.

Regarding feebleness, I feel somewhat a pull towards resuming my minimalist exercise practice, though three times a day instead of once.  It’s not enough, but “enough” is never going to happen.  Maybe I can do some walking for the sake of walking, however.  Thus I speculate rather than act.

I miss hot dogs.  I want donuts.  Chips, I need chips.  Dieting plus low-sodium equals boring food.

{1/29/20}  Weight ?  BP 146/86; second test, 134/89, pulse 73.

It seems these days all I want to do is what I want to do—gone are the efforts on TTTB, weight loss, and seemingly all the other goals I claim to want to pursue.  I don’t know what to do about this failure of the will.  This morning (it’s now 5:30) I’ve been up for two hours, during which I watched the last half of The Dark Knight, a movie I’ve seen a dozen times, and ate a Klondike bar and considerable cashews:  completely self-indulgent.  Let’s call that “breakfast” and move on.

In other news, I seem to be suffering a bit of PTSD as a result of being attacked a week ago, and I have a little bronchitis.  Yesterday afternoon, intending to go to my required therapy, I headed for the wrong bus stop and almost missed my bus.

Surprisingly, I don’t feel depressed.

I made a list of eighteen items that I’d like to buy from Hamilton Booksellers.  It’s mostly DVDs, but it’s just too much money ($126).  It’s been a while since I bought anything much from them, so I had accumulated about eight catalogs which I have now disposed of.

There is one item I will definitely get, Thoreau’s essays, annotated by Cramer, the same guy who did the annotated Walden that I sorta treasure.  Also, a library book sale happens tomorrow.  I’ve been reading Volume IV of the Thoreau diary—more accurately, skimming it, looking for anything that might be worth reading and finding very little of that.  This experience has definitely killed my interest in trying to get the set from eBay.  I read Volumes I and II decades ago, when I owned the set, and found a lot to like in those; but Volume IV so far is about 99% nature notes, of virtually no interest.  I more or less decided that I’ll just read people’s selections of the Journal from now on—I’ve read two so far, and really, have about exhausted my lifelong interest in this peculiar writer.  Sooner or later I’ll read Walden again, if I live so long, perhaps primarily because I might want to include some quotes in TTTB.

Absurdly, I’ve been toying with the idea of trying (again) to write a novel.  Watching Awkwafina in Nora of Queens, a new sitcom, suggested an approach:  brief, funny scenes.  It’s not much to go on.  But I am intimidated by my ignorance—I cannot even try to be hip or cool, and it’s hard to be funny without either.  Confederacy of Dunces managed, however.  [2/1/20: And Dickens!]

I think what’s happening is that I’m failing to pursue my “meaning of life,” so everything seems trivial.  On the other hand, perhaps I’m expecting a bit much given that I have bronchitis.

Saw 1917 with Pablo.  It’s an astonishing technical achievement, seemingly done in two hour-long takes.  Brilliant camera work, convincing huge sets, lotsa extras, good acting, amazing scenes, good music (Thomas Newman).  The movie generally avoids clichés and cheap sentimentality, but the mission of the two soldiers is illogical, and some details make no sense.  Overall it was good, tense and impressive, but I found it uninvolving, the dialect was difficult, there were very few plot surprises (if any), and a couple of scenes dragged and made me impatient—really, I almost couldn’t wait for it to be over.  I wouldn’t be surprised if it loses out to Joker for Best Picture (assuming both are nominated), an unpleasant movie that I can imagine watching several more times.

A new Emma was previewed at the theater, also the new Harley Quinn movie.  I’ll likely see both of these.

{1/30/20}  Weight 212.8.  Cardio:  136/84, 67.  2nd: 135/80, 64.

My bronchitis is getting worse, so I’m thinking that I’ll stay home, skipping Shut Up and Write, the first day of the library book sale, and Chess Club.

{1/31/20}  Weight 213.4.

Well, I did go to the book sale and got $15 worth.  Nothing particularly exciting:  Collected Poems of Millay, Dennett’s Freedom Evolves (a nice hardcover, though I already had it in paperback), Collected Ancient Greek Novels, The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations, a Dictionary of Foreign Terms, and In Bed with the Ancient Egyptians.  There might have been one other.  Yes, something on language and evolution by Noam Chomsky and another author.

I’m reading The Prophet in preparation for sending it to Zena, because there will be a few quotes that I’ll want in the book, the current title of which is A Secular Salvation:  How I Learned to Live with Myself.  This was inspired by Augustine’s Confessions, which I’ve started rereading, though only or primarily as fodder for the book—ASS is how I’ll abbreviate the new title.  This is the best title yet, I think, and it indicates the new tack I intend to take (assuming that I ever work on it again).

Copyright 2020 by Alan Carl Nicoll
All Rights Reserved

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