Diary, 1/24 to 1/28/2021

Copyright 2021 by Alan Carl Nicoll
All Rights Reserved


Abraham Maslow

{1/24/21}  Weight 207.6(?) at 6:15 am.

It has become apparent, nay, obvious that I am too progressive for Twitter’s algorithms; criticize establishment Democrats and you start to fade, until you disappear altogether from people’s timelines, like Donald Trump.  I have over 3,000 followers, yet I can spend hours posting tweets and get nary a like nor a retweet.  It has become futile, quite unrewarding.  So, I have been censored.

Also, this morning my Internet has quit working.  The connection checks out okay, so I guess it must be a server malfunction.  Unless, that is, I’m wrong about Twitter and the real censors are the CIA, FBI, or other government agency.  The good news is, that if I’m cut off from the Internet, I can cancel my subscription to Spectrum.  (Which, of course, is satire.)

{1/25/21}  Weight 208.8 at 6:00 am.  Sigh.  Chili Cheese Fritos and ice cream sandwiches and the body’s demand to restore lost weight.

Two dream fragments this morning, both so mundane as to discourage writing them.  Slept seven or even eight hours straight through.  Or did I get up once?

I think six pages of prison diary dictation today, and skipped four pages of quotes from Wittgenstein.

Ninety-minute conversation with Pablo on the phone, then another fifteen minutes.  He said that anxiety sometimes interferes with his getting to sleep, so I recommended Lost Connections (which he has).  He complained about not getting anywhere on his priorities, so I recommended The Willpower Instinct (which he has).  Should I mention that I bought them for him, and he hasn’t read them?  I also reminded him about the bullet journal, to help him focus on his priorities.  But he’s not serious, and maybe not quite up to being serious about his life.  I told him about my learning to pay attention to unpleasant possibilities in my life.

He said he read some of the Dobyns thing on metaphor (which he liked), but he didn’t get into the Henry James part because he hasn’t read him.  I recom­mended my piece on “Shakespeare’s Tragic Heroes and the Value of Literature,” and later sent him a link via a tweet.  These days I wouldn’t post the Dobyns piece because it’s loaded with quotes and I don’t like to violate copyright so blatantly.

Watched the very recent Bloodshot (missed the first fifteen minutes)—pretty good futuristic action picture starring Vin Diesel, “full of nanites” which made him amazingly strong and practically indestructible.  Otherwise nothing much, though a supporting character had a good part.  Good effects, especially an extended fight on top of an elevator surrounded by glass walls.

I applied for food stamps and received my determination letter today.  They screwed it up, so I’ll have to get them straight.  Most of the things I’ve had to get straightened out since December 1st have required me to do more than necessary because the government keeps getting things wrong.  Poor dears, I know they’re overworked.  The errors, of course, always work against me.

Looks like I’ll never own another car.  I can live with that, but alas, it keeps me away from nature.  I made big plans about nature while I was in prison this last time, but all has come to naught.  The effects go well beyond loss of the best kind of entertainment—this also keeps me from the best kind of exercise (the unnoticed kind).

{1/26/21}  Weight 209.0 at 7:30 am.  Wow.  I keep denying myself the food I want, and see no loss.  I weighed this much just twice previously since 12/1/20.  Maybe I can’t have chili cheese Fritos in the house.  I refuse to give up ice cream.

Shutting down the TV just now, I said aloud to no one, “I feel better when I actually work.  So let’s do some work.”  I was cheerful yesterday after working on the prison diary transcrip­tion and making seven bean burritos.

I want to write an essay:  “The Class War in America is Over—and You Lost.”  I might get around to it or I might not, but in any case by the time I do, others will have beaten me to it.  In fact, they already have:

If the class war really is over, that’s because the rich have won. In the UK today, the richest 10% of households own 45% of the wealth, while the poorest 50% own less than 9%. Across the Atlantic, income and wealth inequality has returned to levels not seen since the 1920s.

This is from The National Scot of May, 2018.  Dennis Kucinich has a video on You Tube saying the same thing, from eleven years ago; it’s 45 seconds long.  We keep losing, and I guess we’ll keep on until the world is destroyed and all the poor people are dead or in prison.

Finished reading, finally, Abraham Maslow:  Motivation and Personality, Harper & Row, Publishers, Incorporated, New York, 1954, hc.  I was very enthusiastic while reading it, except for the unnecessary and dull first two chapters, but I likely would have been about as enthusiastic rereading Toward a Psychology of Being.  It provoked a lot of thought, though not necessarily anything earthshaking; I’ll have more to say when I type the quotes.  It seemed to take a very long time.  On 1/1/21 above I mention plodding through it, including having finished the first two chapters, so it took somewhat longer than three weeks.  There were some days during this period when I didn’t read at all.  During this time I also read John Cleese’s book on creativity (which I think is called Creativity), a very short and quite unnecessary book, though I was glad enough to buy it for $14.  It’s not bad, just nothing special and not at all funny.  I’ve already put it in the bag of books to pass along.

So, quotes from Maslow:  “Most extant mathematics and logic deal with a world that is a collection of mutually exclusive entities, like a pile of apples. Separating one apple from the rest of the pile changes neither the essential nature of the apple nor the essential nature of the pile.” p. 57-58.  I commented:  “I take it as fundamental to pragmatism that there is no such thing as the ‘essential nature’ of an entity (outside of mathematics or logic).  What is ‘essential’ is determined by our goals, i.e., our destination determines the most appropriate map [or model].”  In fact, if our goal is to sell a pile of apples as ordered, that is, a certain quantity, the “essential nature” of the pile is a certain number or weight of apples of a certain quality; removing one might change that nature from “acceptable” to “unacceptable.”  If the goal is survival, I suppose the difference of one apple could mean life or death.  Of course, he said “separating,” not “removing” and I could be accused of quibbling, but the rejection of essences is an important principle to me.  His point is to contrast his holistic approach, somewhat new at the time, with other scientific approaches, so perhaps we should allow his point.

“If we examine carefully the average desires that we have in daily life, we find that say have at least one important characteristic, i.e., that they are usually means to an end …” p. 65.

“…the study of motivation must be in part the study of the ultimate human goals or desires or needs.”  p. 66.

“Psychoanalysis has often demonstrated that the relationship between a conscious desire and the ultimate unconscious aim that underlies it need not be at all direct. Indeed the relationship may actually be a negative one, as in reaction formations. We may then assert that sound motivation theory cannot possibly afford to neglect the unconscious life.”  p. 66-67.

“We should give up the attempt once and for all to make atomistic lists of drives or needs.”  p. 70.

“What a man can be, he must be. This need we may call self-actualization.”  p. 91.

“The neurotic organism is one that lacks certain satisfactions that can come only from the environment.”  p. 116.

“Our main hypothesis is that human urges or basic needs alone may be innately given to at least some appreciable degree.”  p. 127.

“The person who gives in eagerly to the distorting forces in his culture, i.e., the well-adjusted man, may be less healthy than the delinquent, the criminal, the neurotic who may be demonstrating by his reactions that he has spunk enough left to resist the breaking of his psychological bones.” p. 145.

“To be able to recognize one’s own needs, i.e., to know what one really wants, is a considerable psychological achievement.”  p. 148.

“Clinical work with nonneurotic people gives the clear answer that sexual deprivation becomes pathogenic in a severe sense only when it is felt by the individual to represent rejection by the opposite sex, inferiority, lack of worth, lack of respect, isolation, or other thwarting of basic needs.”  p. 157.

“…psychologists must now reject the final conclusion that the study of evolution points to an instinct of aggression in the human being.”  p. 168.

“…destructive behavior is a symptom…”  p. 178.

“…psychology…offers little to the modern man whose most desperate need is a naturalistic or humanistic value system.”  p. 180.

“Self-acceptance and spontaneity are among the easiest achievements, e.g., in healthy children, and the most difficult, e.g., in self-questioning, self-improving adults, especially those who have been or still are neurotic.”  p. 181.

“Apparently the insecure human organism cannot accept defeat gracefully.”  p. 189.

“It would now be universally agreed that the classical neurosis as a whole as well as single neurotic symptoms are characteristically coping mechanisms.”  p. 190.

“I had to conclude that self-actualization of the sort I had found in my older subjects was not possible in our society for young, developing people.”  p. 200.

“…the average normal, well-adjusted person often has not the slightest idea of what he is, of what he wants, of what his own opinions are.”  p. 210.

“If we are to take theory quite seriously, then each experience, each event, each behavior is in some way or other … different from every other experience, behavior, etc. that has occurred in the world before or will ever occur again.

“It would seem reasonable then, as Whitehead has repeatedly pointed out, to base our theories and philosophies of science and common sense squarely on this basic and unavoidable fact. The truth is that most of us do not do this. Even though our most sophisticated scientists and philosophers have long ago discarded the old concepts of empty space and enduring things moving around aimlessly in it, these verbally discarded concepts still live on as a basis for all our less intellectual reactions. Though the world of change and growth is and must be accepted, this is rarely done emotionally and with enthusiasm.

“All reactions that may be labeled rubricized may then be redefined as ‘efforts to freeze or staticize or stop the motion of a moving, changing process world in order to be able to handle it,’ for it is as if we could handle this world only when it is not in motion. An example of this tendency is the ingenious trick that static-atomistic mathematicians have invented in order to treat motion and change in a motionless way, i.e., the calculus. For the purposes of this chapter, psychological examples are more pertinent, however, and it is necessary to pound home the thesis that habits, and indeed all reproductive learning, are examples of this tendency by statically minded people to freeze a process world into temporary immobility, since they cannot manage or cope with a world in a flux.”  p. 271-272.

“If we were permitted a slight exaggeration, thinking might almost be defined as the ability to break our habits and to disregard our past experiences.”  p. 283.  This is open to the objection that people who disregard their experiences are often the worst of bigots.

“…our culture lacks a usable value system.”  p. 306.

“It is average in our society to have a sick, pathological sexual life…”  p. 337.

“… neurotic needs and inherent needs all feel alike.”  p. 345.

“One last point. The key concepts in the newer dynamic psychology are spontaneity, release, naturalness, self-acceptance, impulse-awareness, gratification. They used to be control, inhibition, discipline, training, shaping, on the principle that the depths of human nature were dangerous, evil, predatory, and ravenous. Education, family training, bringing up children, acculturation in general were all seen as a process of bringing the darker forces within us under control.

“See how different are the conceptions of society, law, education, and family that are generated by these two different conceptions of human nature. In the one case they are restraining and controlling forces; in the other they are gratifying and fulfilling.

“If this conception that identifies normality with ideal health holds up, we shall have to change not only our conceptions of individual psychology but also our theories of society.”  p. 352.  Brilliant.

Much accomplished today.

{1/27/21}  Weight 209.6 at 7:15 am.  Shit!  Well, this is what I weighed eight days ago.

Getting Medicare to pay my hospital bill is turning into a new hobby.  It turns out that Medicare doesn’t actually settle claims, they have independent contractors to do that.  Surprise!  And Medicare won’t let you talk directly to the contractor.  So, talking to Medicare can take you only so far, and “Medicare for all” could be just another form of nightmare.  Spent “half the day” on the phone (actually about ninety minutes).

Piled on this “nightmare” this month:  getting Wal-Mart to send a replacement for a package that was “delivered” but I didn’t receive, and applying for “food stamps” and getting a response based on incorrect information.  These two items actually went rather smoothly, compared to the medical bill nightmare (which is really just beginning).  I have no assets, which actually is a “blessing” in this situation:  there’s no point in anyone taking me to court (I hope).

Looking through my old paper Quotes that I produced while in prison, I found tons of great material.  I typed a list of the typed and photocopied pages; there is already a handwritten Table of Contents to the handwritten pages.  Now I want to read these hundreds of pages (about two hundred) to make the most of my past efforts, and to use them in blog posts and books I might write and so on.  These pages are in addition to the 200+ pages of quotes in a computer file.

Given my completion of the Maslow, I have time for Richard D. Wolff:  The Sickness is the System, which I started reading a couple weeks ago; unfortunately, much of it is familiar from his TV and You Tube shows.  But it’s a short book that I won’t be lingering over.  I want to get back to the Cognitive Neuroscience textbook, and there’s Noam Chomsky:  Failed States and Glenn Greenwald:  No Place to Hide, and of course I suspended my attempt to get back into Richard Rorty, plus there are several books I bought at Barnes & Noble and haven’t even cracked yet, at least six.  Never mind the 800 books that “nag me to read them,” sitting on the shelves.  Then there’s Corngold’s Walter Kaufmann, a book I’m somewhat dreading because it will criticize one of my biggest heroes.  For now, I’m intending mostly to read the quotes noted above.

No response yet from N to my shot-in-the-dark letter.  Also, repeated efforts online to find [my son] have proved fruitless.  The last thing I can think of to try is to send a letter “c/o” some relative of his.  I should try all of them.  I’m going to run short of stamps, and my money right now is very tight and will be so until late March.  About all I will be able to cover is normal rent (i.e., no back rent), normal bills, and food.  If I get a decent amount on the “food stamps” I’ve applied for, I’ll have some money to give to the long-suffering landlord.

To try to lose weight, I’m skipping lunch today.  It’s 2:30.  At this point it’s not difficult to refrain from eating.  I don’t want to eat until 4:00.  I know that this skipped meal isn’t going to go away; it will linger as an increased tendency to binge at dinner time and an increased tendency to violate my 5:30 ban on further eating.

Listened (mostly with “half an ear”) to the first CD of Mussorgsky’s Boris Godounov.  I had a highlights LP of this opera in my youth and liked it.  Given my lack of interest today in what I was hearing, it looks like I’ll need to follow along in the libretto to get much out of it.  Pablo “wants to listen to” my CDs of Shostakovich’s Lady Macbeth; well, so do I, but having only the English text from an online source, I suspect it will be difficult to impossible to follow along (no guide to the CD tracks, and I have zero Russian).

My impulse, derailed by the Mussorgsky, was to listen to La Rondine; I’d have enjoyed it more.  My favorite Puccini for “very casual listening.”

Some good news for once:  my “endlessly running nose” (really quite ridiculous at times) and my “constantly irritated” left eye have both eased up today, being “back to normal”—which amounts to needing attention a couple of times a day.

The first page of my handwritten quotes shows Michael Moore saying, in books from 1997 and 2003, more or less the same things I’m saying now about life for the 99% in the U.S.  I’ll copy just part of one of them here:

“Now we must fight each other for whatever scraps are left, leaving the rich to enjoy the greatest wealth this country has ever seen.”  Michael Moore:  Downsize This!, 1st Harper Perennial Edition, New York, 1997, p. 14.

Pablo was here this evening, from 4:30 to 6:30.  I told him he was a bore.  This is almost unforgivable in a friend (I mean my behavior); but being a bore is also almost unforgivable in a friend.  I told him this after criticizing him for taking five minutes to tell me about tweets he had posted earlier today:  tweets I had either seen, or would see tomorrow morning.  He said I was rude, and I agreed, but said that he drove me to it.  He got really mad, shouting F-U and such, and it turns out that he was pretending this anger—which I think is not healthy.  He’s got some problems, which of course I’ve talked about here before.  Anyway, after that he again launched into some ordinary talk, apparently “all is forgiven.”  Of course, until N shows up, Pablo is my only friend.

I should learn to “chat up” librarians—when the libraries finally open up again.

{1/28/21}  Weight 209.6 at 4:00 am.  Despite skipping lunch yesterday!

I’ve been getting some good work done on the prison diary.

After the kerfuffle with Pablo yesterday, he said that he was going to get into the three books (Carroll, Hari, McGonigal) that I had told him about (and had bought for him), I gave him my “Self-Mastery” document, which consists of quotes from those books as well as some others, and my handwritten comments.  I told him I wanted it back in a week.  If I don’t get it back, I doubtless have the computer file and can reprint and reread and recomment.  I also said that he might consider that I could die that night, so maybe he shouldn’t leave his “favorite CD” with me, a jazz thing he has been nagging me to listen to.  He’s not concerned about that, though I mentioned that I had had two procedures done on my heart.  It’s an odd sort of love-hate relationship we have, probably best not examined too closely.

Thinking in bed this morning about books, and when will I ever get time to read this one and that one?  And about the medical bills and how long it will take to get them paid off, and the possibilities of having my finances taken over by the court, yada yada.  My golden years are looking rather tawdry at the moment, or dismal, perhaps.  In any case, I’ll sit here working on my writing, and in the end it will all go into the landfill.  Perhaps a little of it will linger on for decades in my free blog site.

Said to Pablo yesterday, “I wonder if some big campaign-donor billionaires actually want fascism.”  He said something like, “Of course they do,” but I doubt that he had ever considered the thought before.  Certainly I haven’t heard anything like it from my “usual sources,” but at the moment it does seem pretty obvious.  They’ve about squeezed everything they can in a “democracy” out of the 99%.  In the news this morning, “GOP renews push for new laws to curb voting.”  Shameless assholes.

Typing up the list of typed and handwritten quotes and photocopies from books yesterday, I was impressed by the quality and quantity of stuff I’d read during my nine-years three-months stay in prison; a few of the titles were somewhat surprising.  These, for instance:

  • Wayne C. Booth:  Now Don’t Try to Reason with Me
  • Wing-tsit Chan:  Source Book in Chinese Philosophy
  • Noam Chomsky:  The Chomsky Reader

I suppose the surprise is that I was able to get these books.  I read the two William James volumes from Library of America, as well as the Great Books volume, Principles of Psychology.  I have other copies on the shelf now, but don’t expect to use them other than for occasional reference—like most of my library.

Showed the Yale Shakespeare set to Pablo; he picked out Antony and Cleopatra to thumb through for a minute.

430,760 dead from coronavirus; the actual number is surely higher because.  [sic]  It’s beyond comprehension, a continually astonishing process inflicted on us by the GOP and capitalism generally—the latter being the opinion of economist Richard D. Wolff, one of my “usual sources.”

Will “Medicare for all” happen in my lifetime?  I’m pessimistic, should I live to be a hundred.

Two windy days, and it hasn’t let up yet.  But let’s do some prison-diary dictation.

So I’ve been up for three hours, have eaten breakfast, dictated and corrected four pages, watched some news, and am ready for bed.  It’s 7:00 am.

Copyright 2021 by Alan Carl Nicoll
All Rights Reserved

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