Phoebe in Wonderland, and Stuff

Diary 6/20 to 6/22/22: “Revoltin’ development”; talking with Nog; summer heat; Sam Harris book, quotes; dabbling as a method; Phoebe in Wonderland; meeting Pablo.

Sam Harris, writer

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

{6/20/22} Continued.

In the immortal words of William Bendix of The Life of Riley, “What a revoltin’ development dis is!”  RexMD has charged me $102 for a refill of sildenafil, via PayPal.  I did not authorize this and I don’t need the pills (I have stopped using them because of a scare regarding my circulatory system).  I have contacted RexMD and PayPal.  Stay tuned.

William Bendix, The Life of Riley


Had a nice but mostly pointless three-hour conversation on the phone with Nog last night.  Many rather lengthy pauses.  I think we mostly talked about how depressed we were…so maybe it wasn’t pointless after all.  I called a halt at midnight.

Miserable heat ahead, 101° forecast for today.


Sam Harris seems to be relatively popular as a writer and atheist [with a Ph.D. in cognitive neuroscience from UCLA], but I have yet to get much of value from him.  I tried his book on free will and thought it much inferior to Daniel Dennett’s books, and most recently Harris’s Waking Up:  A Guide to Spirituality Without Religion, Simon & Schuster, New York, 2014, in February. I got to page 110 before giving it up.  I got it used somewhere, most likely a library sale.  Since I’m going to pass this along to Pablo, I wanted to get the one or two quotes from it that I had noted:

“On one level, wisdom is nothing more profound than an ability to follow one’s own advice.” p. 15.  This is what I have worked on for much of my life; these days I call it “self-guidance.”

“We seem to do little more than lurch between wanting and not wanting. Thus, the question naturally arises: is there more to life than this? Might it be possible to feel much better (in every sense of better) than one tends to feel. Is it possible to find lasting fulfillment despite the inevitability of change?” p. 17.

“A person’s experience of the world, while apparently unified in a normal brain, can be physically divided. The problem this poses for the study of consciousness may be insurmountable.” p. 74.

Had a four-hour conversation on the phone with Nog last night, until about 1:30 am.  I had left him a voice mail saying that I had “some more questions for” him.  He has complained lately about being dissatisfied with his life. I asked him about music and whether he had ever learned to play an instrument. We talked a long time about music and reading, didn’t really get into art, and in the end I doubt that I changed his mind much if at all about how he spends his time. I would like to get him to read Walden and some good novels, but I’m unsure about the possibilities. Simply giving him a book seems lame.

“Dabbling?” Photo by Joe on

I talked about “dabbling,” that is, learning a little bit about a foreign language, not by reading a book, but by talking to someone who speaks it—or, rather, trying to learn with someone else. I expressed this more clearly last night, but I see “dabbling” as an approach that can apply generally to a number of situations, and it is quite unlike what I normally do. For instance, when talking to a woman I don’t know, in the past I’ve always had an agenda, in other words, I want to do form a relationship or a friendship with her. This generally has gotten dismal results. If I can approach a woman as, say, I would approach a new musical instrument, just playing with it to find out what kind of sounds I could get out of it. In line with this, I read somewhere about avoiding “practicing” a musical instrument, and instead just playing music. So, with a foreign language that I don’t know very well, I want to try speaking it with someone who knows it to an extent. Likewise, with a woman or even a man that I don’t know. Just comment to the person about a current news item, the weather, or perhaps the book I’m carrying. Meanwhile avoiding having an agenda. In theory, this should make it much easier to start a conversation.

This theory aside, I want to return to the Bakersfield Senior Center and “dabble” there for a while. What I’ve been doing isn’t working very well, or rather, what I have accomplished is good but I want more.

Troubled Elle Fanning in Phoebe in Wonderland

Watched a DVD, Phoebe in Wonderland (2008). The story is that Phoebe (Elle Fanning) is exhibiting some troubling behavior, like spitting, but she blooms in a school production of Alice in Wonderland. Her parents show growing concern and problems of their own.  It sounds like a typical American Girl or Hallmark sugar overload, but I found it quite wonderful and psychologically insightful. There is some overlap between fantasy and reality, and it’s much darker than the children’s movie one might expect from the title.  The cast is outstanding and deserves the highest praise; Ms. Fanning is a revelation, coming across not so much as a brilliant actress but as a fascinating and very troubled child; Felicity Huffman as Phoebe’s mother is astonishingly good.  I shed several “manly tears” (Robert Downey, Jr., uses this expression in some movie, possibly a Marvel).  Phoebe in Wonderland has a heart as big as the world; admittedly, I’m a sucker for movies that make me laugh and cry.  Scores a barely passing 61% from critics, 70% from audiences at Rotten Tomatoes.

I did meet with Pablo today, at the library; he bought me a lunch/snack at Dagny’s and paid me $20 that I had loaned him within the past two weeks.  He seems to be serious about turning his life around and keeping the troublesome “Gertrude” out of his life.  I got some good stuff at the library, including buying the above-reviewed DVD.  I expect to watch it again, possibly several times—I think I smell a new favorite, of which I have perhaps a hundred.

My thermometer topped out at 100° today; we also had a little rain, so it was really humid much of the time.

Have not received a reply from RexMD.

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

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