Middlemarch: Diary, 3/22 to 3/24/22

Tolstoy and War and Peace; movies reviewed; powerful video on You Tube; Cindy Crabb’s book; sildenafil arrives; 300% reduction (Truthout); almost overdrawn; blood on the page; quote from Harmful to Minors.

Trevyn McDowell as Rosamond of Middlemarch

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

{3/22/22} Continued.

In scrolling through recent pages here, I see the “comparison of Middlemarch to War and Peace.”  Has no British author written about the Napoleonic wars, in the manner of Tolstoy?  Of course, Tolstoy was not a participant in that war—he was born in 1828, thirteen years after Waterloo.  I know that C. S. Forester’s Hornblower series takes place during the Napoleonic wars, and I read all of them with great pleasure many decades ago, but it’s…uh… different?

Juliet Aubrey (Dorothea) and Rufus Sewell (Will)

Finished watching the Middlemarch (1994) miniseries on DVD.  It’s a bit less gloomy than the book, but still overall a mostly cheerless prospect (possible spoiler ahead) until the last voice-over (by Judi Dench in this production) plus visual updates about how those who survive essentially end up thriving.  Which is not to say that I’m sorry I watched it; but overall, I think any [other] Jane Austen is more fun and less, um, gruesome?  Middlemarch is a county that apparently has nothing but fools, hypocrites, and backbiters in it, with the possible exception of Will Ladislaw.  It’s a bit depressing, and not very amusing (the book has been called a “satire”) to see fools ruining their own lives.  Anyway, the main actresses (Juliet Aubrey and Trevyn McDowell—Dorothea and Rosamond, respectively) are pleasant to look at, the many subplots are engaging (if you can get past the horrible Casaubon), but there is much more heartbreak and angst than joy.  Still, it’s an effective “entertainment.” [Middling “fresh” ratings on RT.]

Olivia Vella, You Tube sensation from 2017

Saw a powerful video on YouTube, purportedly from a girl named Olivia Vella in seventh grade.  It’s called “Why Am I Not Good Enough?”  It’s from 2017, but it’s timeless, and has almost twenty million views, 1.2 million likes.  A news article from Arizona Central has more.

Headline from Truthout.org:  “USPS Could Reduce Emissions by 300 Percent With All-Electric Fleet, Report Finds.”  How can you have a 300 percent reduction of anything?

Several texts from Salomé, saying she’s unhappy about Ukraine.  Of course, she’s Ukrainian, so I knew that.  I suggested we might talk, but she didn’t respond to that.

A bucket of cold water on my enthusiasm:  I would have been overdrawn today except that my credit union credited my Social Security payment a day early.  ???  Too many books, too much at Panera Bread, etc., etc.

Time to jerk on my choke chain:  “no more books.”  And I did it all without a “Rosamond” in my life.


A few days ago I opened at random, near the middle, Cindy Crabb’s The Encyclopedia of Doris.  It’s a book I’ve read twice.  And this is the paragraph that I read:  “I sat cross legged at the mirror, with the insense, and ratted my already matted hair. I put on my walkman, rub mascara onto the skin underneath my eyes, line my eyes with lip liner, pluck the hairs from the mustache trying to grow on my lip. I stare in the mirror. I punch my face. ‘slut’ I go upstairs, eat my Capt’n Crunch, walk out the door and up the hill, and stand with my siblings, waiting for the bus that will take us to Keesley Highschool.”  p. 129, spelling and grammar per original.

Perhaps this isn’t particularly impressive.  Yet it’s “blood on the page,” especially the “I punch my face” and “slut”.  This morning I read the two pages preceding this last paragraph of a five-page piece.  “Blood on the page” of a kind I can hardly hope to write, more real and painful than anything in Catcher in the Rye or in all of Bukowski.  It puts me to shame.  I must try harder, get down into my own guts, whatever that means.  The sad fact is, I don’t feel that much.  I am grammatical and can spell, but compared to this woman, I am numb and a beginner.


The sildenafil arrived yesterday.  For more, see “Viagra: My Desperate Gamble” (updated today).

Recent reading has me thinking about the insanity in the U.S.  Here’s a quote from Judith Levine: Harmful to Minors: The Perils of Protecting Children from Sex, University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis, 2002:  “In fact, we do have some ‘long-term outcomes’ of childhood sex. At the University of California at Los Angeles, a thorough review of the literature and a major longitudinal study of families from a child’s birth to its eighteenth year found that three-quarters of kids had engaged in masturbation or some kind of sex with other kids before the age of six. Was there a ‘pernicious influence’ of such experiences, a ‘main effect’ correlating early sex play with childhood distress or later maladjustment, as many psychologists hypothesize? ‘No such correlations were apparent,’ the California group concluded.” p. 57, reference omitted.  The old (1980s) Masters & Johnson have similar information.

The context is a review of the explosion of criminal prosecutions of children for sex crimes they are supposed to have committed, and the point is that there is no data to support the hysteria.  As I see it, it’s the sort of thing that the vile repugliKKKans are always whipping up because votes (i.e., power) and money.  There is no pushback by Democrats because the voters are ignorant and proud of it.  These voters and the politicians that pander to them (because if they don’t, they don’t win) are the ruin of the country, and so of the world.  Not that this is in the book; but the book is depressing nonetheless (though I am not close to finishing it yet).

Watched The Andromeda Strain (1971), one of my all-time favorite movies.  I’ve seen it four or five times, plus reading the novel twice.  It always impresses me, though some of the dialogue is silly.  It is a longish movie (two hours and ten minutes) and the DVD has no extras.  The final sequence with the lasers is more annoying than suspenseful, and the crying baby is tiresome.  67% from critics, 72% from audiences.  It will have the most appeal to anyone who might consider buying a microscope for their own use.

Found Sanditon on PBS today; apparently the miniseries I reviewed here (first two episodes) has a continuation, a second season currently running.  If you’ve already seen season one, you can read my second-look review, with spoilers, here.  The continuation is good news, but I won’t see it until it’s out on DVD.

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

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