Fritz Perls: Diary, 2/7 to 2/9/22

Hailee Steinfeld and Linda Blair DVDs; the struggle with protein; peas and bean snacks; down days; Dinklage in Cyrano (preview); Highsmith again; Erica Ridley book and many other books; my fiction trivial; lots more, with emphasis on self-guidance.

Autobio of Fritz Perls

Copyright 2022 (text only) by Alan Carl Nicoll
All Rights Reserved


Watched The Keeping Room (2014), the latest in my review of Hailee Steinfeld’s work; of the half-dozen movies I’ve seen in this category, this one was the least fun, and with the least appealing role for Hailee.  In 1865 Georgia (i.e., Civil War), two Union soldiers more or less try to rape and kill everyone in sight.  They meet their match in three young women living on a farm.  Despite this dismal picture of humanity, there is some sweetness and occasional gestures in the direction of character depth, but the overall experience is not heartwarming.  Nice (a deliberately bland adjective) cinematography of Rumanian forests, good work from the three female leads (though Hailee gets the least to work with), meh soundtrack (solo piano is all I remember), so overall I don’t recommend it.  74% from critics, 50% from audiences.  I should mention that the start is so brutal and unnecessary that I turned it off after twenty minutes, not wanting to see more; when I returned some days later, I skipped the opening sequence.  Lack of subtitles didn’t help me with the often-whispered dialogue [if I remember correctly].  A making-of short and voice-over commentary by the screenwriter and female lead (Brit Marling) are provided.

The struggle to get protein into my diet led me to buy “Rockin’ Protein Builder,” which I subsequently drank, and a bottle of Chobani Greek Yogurt (a liquid), which I haven’t drunk yet.  The former has 30g protein, the latter 10g but otherwise seems preferable because it’s not a concoction from somebody’s lab.  I don’t consider protein shakes, or “protein-anything,” to be a long-term solution.

I was thinking that the way to judge protein sources is to compare both grams of protein and calories.  Rather than work with small fractional numbers, I divide the calories by the protein, and rank the results as “low is better.”  On this measure, you can hardly do better than tofu, which has (more or less) the protein of a chicken egg, with fewer calories, and is better on other measures (i.e., plant-based).  On the other hand, my past experience with tofu has been blah—we used it to supplement “hamburger helper” style dishes (“we” meaning during my marriage, sixteen years ago).  I have yet to open the package I bought a week ago.  But I’ve acquired a rather pricey ($8) bottle of “taco seasoning” which has no added salt, which I’ll add to whatever I feel like adding it to; I bought it with the idea of seasoning fried peas, peas being a good source of protein.  The idea is to recreate the crunchy little peas that someone let me sample 45 years ago.

The yogurt is 15 calories/gm (of protein) at an outrageous $2.29 at Albertson’s, the RPB is more than twice as efficient at about 6 c/g at $2.79 (includes $.20 discount).  The bottles don’t have a CRV; both concoctions have way too many ingredients.

The bean snacks that I bought at Lassen’s, both being mostly mung beans, didn’t work out because they’re too hard, though not quite as tough as corn nuts.  Alas, in addition to seeking protein with low sodium, I am also dentally “challenged.”

Yesterday was very much a down day; doing no work in the morning, then going to Dagny’s to meet C, then buying groceries and coming home and being self-indulgent the rest of the day…it’s a usual pattern for a “down day” for me.

Worst-ever response to my latest diary-blog-post: zero views but two likes?! after ten hours.

New Cyrano starring Peter Dinklage has its appeal, but not after I looked at the preview on Rotten Tomatoes—despite 85% from critics.  It’s a musical, but the snippets in the preview have no appeal aside from the lush orchestration.  Dinklage’s reading of the lines shown were utterly flat, zero passion.  Where’s José Ferrer when we need him most?  (Actually, I like Depardieu’s rendition about as well, not that you asked.)  I’ll wait for the DVD in the library.


WordPress stats are inconsistent.  My latest post has gotten three “likes” but zero “views.”

Highsmith’s diaries (the book) continues to charm me, but there’s so far not much else to recommend it.  Of course, she’s still in her early twenties; when I recall my diary from that age, the advantage is all on Highsmith’s side.  I’ve no doubt that fans of her fiction will adore it, unless they’re sexually bigoted.

Finished reading Erica Ridley:  The Perks of Loving a Wallflower, a lesbian romance novel.  Pretty much a meh all around, with a somewhat dubious view of London in 1817—though I’ve no doubt that Ridley knows more of the era than I do.  Specifically, I’m doubtful that the attitudes toward lesbianism would be quite so easy.  Undoubtedly I’d have enjoyed the book more if I’d read the previous volume, The Duke Heist, but of course I wouldn’t have been interested.

Abandoning Octavia Butler’s Wild Seed, a novel that enthralled me when I first read it many decades ago; of course, in those days George Reeves was Superman.  Actually, it was published in 1980.  Post-Marvel, it’s pretty tame, or at least slow.  This time I read only a hundred pages, but then, I have many books sitting around waiting for my attention, meaning, that I’ve started them and not yet abandoned them.

Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones is a good book for beginning writers that I’ve read twice before.  This time it never came close to catching my interest.  Good writer, and good speaker, though.

I’ve also given up on Carson McCullers:  Reflections in a Golden Eye.  I wanted to read it to see how she handled her weird characters, but I don’t think I learned anything.  I read only 13 pages.  It’s only 85 pages long, but I found the writing rather flat, with little quoted dialog but more indirect discourse, and the descriptions were rather similar in effect, like this:  “Captain Penderton was in no comfortable state of mind this evening.”  (The Riverside Press, Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, 1941, p. 7.)

Marcus Aurelius is on hold and I’m doubtful that I’ll return to it; Thich Nhat Hanh: At Home in the World has gotten stale, whatever that means—perhaps I’m just tired of being nagged by it, so I’m abandoning it halfway through.

These days I’m more interested in George Northoff:  Neurophilosophy and the Healthy Mind, though I’m getting annoyed with the dreadful style (heavy reliance on rhetorical questions and often repetitive) and Sam Harris:  Waking Up:  A Guide to Spirituality Without Religion, the best so far of the Harris I’ve read, and a lot better than it has any right to be.  (More clearly:  I had hoped it would be stupid so I wouldn’t have to read it all the way through, but it’s not at all stupid, and his discussion of consciousness seems very good indeed.)

I’m still actively reading Gail Eisnitz:  Slaughterhouse:  The Shocking Story of Greed, Neglect, and Inhumane Treatment Inside the U.S. Meat Industry, every bit as harrowing as it sounds.  I wanted to reinforce my conversion to vegetarianism, but it’s not really needing reinforcement—seeing her on Chris Hedges: On Contact was harrowing enough.


Watched Linda Blair in Born Innocent (1974), a portrait of a “nice” (i.e., conforming) girl who is let down by the adults she is forced to live with.  That is, she’s a repeat runaway who is turned over to the courts by her parents; she ends up in “reform school” among other damaged kids, some of whom damage her, leading to rebellious behavior that gets her only more grief.  It’s a grim story with little fun or humor, but it’s also mostly softballed, with the exception of one controversial scene.  A “food fight” and subsequent riot liven things up.  I enjoyed some moments between Blair and a counselor well-played by Joanna Miles; indeed, the acting throughout is effective, with the other troubled girls managing to convey their differences without a lot of screen time or dialogue.  But it’s Blair’s movie, and she’s good, convincingly showing her change in character.  I suppose it’s a pity party, and so won’t appeal to some viewers.  Rotten Tomatoes has no critic reviews; audience score of 50%.  I took a look at the reviews at IMDB, where it scores 6.4/10, amounting to “not bad.”  The reviewers got many details wildly wrong, however, and the misleading IMDB “poster” has her in a more revealing costume than any in the movie.

I came to the realization that I’m not writing fiction because none of the ideas I’ve come up with—with the possible exception of the Philosophy Club novel—are likely to be anything but trivial entertainments.  My aim in writing is to change peoples’ lives for the better, or to otherwise write “significant” or “important” books.  Of course, Kick Me was supposed to be my “important” book.  I should look into publishing it with a pseudonym.

Went to the library yesterday to return six items and check out I think six new ones (three being DVDs).  I got Kahneman’s Noise (two additional writers) and Bertrand Russell’s The Conquest of Happiness, a book I’ve read at least twice before.  I wanted the Russell in conjunction with my quest for “self-guidance” that I’ve talked about here recently.  I might call it “The Tao of Self-Mastery,” because the idea is to avoid using brute force methods like naked willpower; rather, one is to find ways to avoid having to use willpower.

In reviewing my “Self-Mastery Quotes” document recently, I was interested in this quote from Fritz Perls:  “A habit deprives you of your freedom to choose.”  (This is from In and Out the Garbage Pail, Bantam Books, Inc., Toronto/New York/London, 1969-1972, p. 66.)  Deprives?  When I am contemplating a new bag of Cheetos, do I really want to be free to choose to binge?  Perhaps, yes; but maybe no more than once every couple of months!  Instead, I’d rather have a habit of not bingeing at all.  And that’s the essential task of “self-guidance”:  “to recognize the repeat situations that lead to error, and set rules so that decisions and willpower aren’t really needed very often.  By having firm rules and habits in place, the tempting option doesn’t even have time to become tempting.  It stops being an option”—thus leading to success in pursuit of your goals.  And that quote is what I wrote in the top margin of the printout.

Perls says on the same page, “Habits are integrated gestalten and, as such, in principle, are economical devices of nature.” 

A digression:  The “Self-Mastery Quotes” is a document I assembled from already-existing quotes that I had typed into my computer (the file is dated 11/2/2019).  I’ve studied it often in the two years plus since then, trying to finally get a grip on my “impulsive” nature.  As “impulsive” people go, I’m not very impulsive.  It’s just that I binge “too often,” both in eating and in spending money, leading to an inability to save consistently, and an inability to lose weight consistently.  My impulses “too often” lead me away from my goals.

Of course, “impulsive” and “too often” are judgment calls, so I put them in scare quotes.  These judgments are made by “this body right now.”  But my dissatisfaction with my behavior is chronic, whether this is because I’m “self-indulgent” or “a perfectionist,” or both.  You see, I resist trying to firmly characterize myself by pasting on labels, having seen in the past that they refuse to stick!  End of digression.

Is there more to be said about habits?  What else is to go into the “book about self-guidance”?

Ooh…rhetorical questions, which is just what I was criticizing [Georg] Northoff [author of Neurophilosophy and the Healthy Mind] about.

Anyway, I wanted to look up page 66 in Perls’s book, but I found a post-it note in the book where I had written this:  “If I had a session with Fritz, would I be able to let him past my layers of defenses?  Is bravado just another defense?  [Barry] Stevens:  accept others as I accept the sea?  How about accept myself?  I give reasons for being frozen but maybe a phobia? has none.  Can a defense be relaxed without therapy?  Can it be recognized?  How?”  Then, an unrelated thought:  “Instead of religion, my parents taught me smoking!”  Which is unfair, of course.

That page 66 in Fritz’s book is great; I can’t copy it for posting on the blog [out of respect for copyright], or I would, because I see it as that important.

Habits can make you or break you.  I don’t doubt that I have other books that address the question in more detail—Fritz is theorizing, he was a theorist (he wrote the book on gestalt therapy, literally, with two co-authors), though Garbage Pail is his rather loose and digressive autobiography.  It was very important to me in the ’70s.  It may be that it was the first of his books that I read; the cartoons would have caught my eye.  But there’s no way to tell, now.

Copyright 2022 (text only) by Alan Carl Nicoll
All Rights Reserved

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