Japanese Movies on TCM, and a Bit About “Free Will”

Diary 8/19 to 8/20/22: Climate terror; Toshiro Mifune; Hemlock Club; hygroscopic vs hydroscopic; a puzzle unsolved; quoting myself; the striatum overwhelmed? A curious dream.

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

Toshiro Mifune in Samurai I: Musashi Miyamoto

{8/19/22} continued.

Turner Classic Movies sets me a dilemma:  they’re showing Japanese movies all day, starting with a trilogy about Musashi Miyamoto, Samurai I, II, and III; I caught the last twenty minutes of the first.  The problem is, I have “work” to do, getting ready for tomorrow’s big day (meant ironically) at the Hemlock Club.  Sam to put in her first appearance.

News from Democracy Now this morning was terrifying:  unprecedented drought in China and Europe.  The Yangtze ran dry, FFS.  Election staff in a Texas county has resigned en masse because of death threats—our experiment in democracy is failing.  The US and the world are going down together.  Not exactly news, but the details are awful.

So I watched all of Samurai II and III, with some enjoyment and some boredom.  I was nodding a bit through III, but it ended well, and stupidly.  The women in these movies are excessively clingy (while running hot and cold), the men are excessively samurai:  the best always have to fight each other to the death, just like the mythical gunslingers in the Old West.  The whole samurai code leaves me, uh, cold.  Can’t find these movies on Rotten Tomatoes; here’s a link to IMDB for Toshiro Mifune.  I’m skipping Yojimbo, which I’ve seen but don’t remember; what I’ll see of the rest is unpredictable.


I spent much of this week reading my Collected Quotations and this year’s diary, both out of curiosity and in the hope of finding things to discuss at today’s Hemlock Club meeting.  I didn’t find anything to discuss.

Well, this morning, I was looking at my books with no particular goal in mind, though I did manage to pull out three books that I can donate, freeing up a bit of space to shelve some of the homeless volumes (of which I have more than twenty).

Dozing over a book

One book that I picked up as a candidate for abandonment was Peter Watson:  The Age of Atheists: How We Have Sought to Live Since the Death of God, and I was surprised to find highlighting and comments in the first quarter of the pages.  I briefly browsed these markings, finally ending up at page 127, where the author discusses some ideas of André Gide.  I read all of that page and on through to page 129, completely fascinated.  I’ll be keeping this book for a while, and taking it with me to the Hemlock Club.

André Gide (1869-1951)

The other thing I came up with for Sam’s first appearance is a wooden box which is a puzzle to open.  Inside it, assuming that I remember correctly, are three more puzzles.  I took this to a HC meeting three or four years ago and put it on the “table” at Dagny’s, without comment.  Pablo and Jonah were there, and neither expressed the slightest curiosity about this odd-looking box; I have no idea whether they even saw it, though it was “unmissable.”  Neither Pablo nor Jonah will be present today, so I have a new group of people to “test.”  Unfortunately, I’ve mentioned this previous experience to both Neil and Sam, so it’s not a fair test; but Eric, Tim, and Portia will be naïve subjects, if they show up.

I spoke to Tim last night and told him that I was betting that Sam wouldn’t show.  I hope I’m wrong, because I can’t find her phone number.

Stay tuned…

The Hemlock Club went reasonably well, though Sam didn’t show up, and Eric also didn’t.  Neil arrived an hour late, and we talked for three hours, and the words “hydroscopic” and “hygroscopic” came up regarding the powdered milk that he had been eating at home (his diet is peculiar, to say the least).  We both misunderstood the words.  On looking in the dictionary at home, I found “deliquescent,” which is what I had thought hygroscopic meant, and hydroscopic isn’t in my dictionary. [Internet reveals that it’s a device for seeing things underwater.]

Towards the end of the three hours I pulled out of my tote bag a wooden puzzle box that I have previously mentioned some years ago [and yesterday, duh!].  He and someone from the game club eventually figured out how to get it open, then we worked on the three puzzles inside.  The two-piece pyramid puzzle was not much of a challenge, though it gave Neil some trouble (about as it did with me, three or four years ago when I bought it).  The Soma cube was not of special interest.  The snake-that-folds-into-a-cube, however, stumped me, then Neil, then a fellow from the game club.  I told Neil what I knew of the history of the Soma cube, and told him of other shapes that could be made.  I tried to make “the castle,” but didn’t get the corner right; he then worked on it, but I don’t recall how it went.  He made a tower that I recognized from published figures.  I also read some from Peter Watson:  The Age of Atheists:  How We Have Sought to Live Since the Death of God.  Employee Tiana inquired about the book, but I dropped the ball and didn’t talk to her about it, not having read it through and having forgotten everything I’d read except the couple of pages that morning.  Neil thought this a lapse on my part, which it was, but I suppose I got defensive and we dropped it.

At noon, Tim and Portia arrived.  Portia read part of the diary pages I had printed out from my blog, 11/20 to 12/1/19.  She wanted to read the rest (it prints at twenty pages), so I let her take it home.

One paragraph of this document is worth a note.  The paragraph goes like this:

I’ve been reading Stephan Guyenet:  The Hungry Brain:  Outsmarting the Instincts That Make Us Overeat, Flatiron Books, New York, 2018, hc, a book I bought earlier this year.  The first step I set for my wp challenge was “research,” and this is it.  Fortunately, it’s a pleasure to read, and I learned some recent science about how choices are made in the brain.  Briefly, neural circuits representing available options put in “bids” to the striatum; the striatum blocks action by any of these circuits until one strong-enough and the strongest bid is (mindlessly) selected by the striatum—I think of it operating as a “difference engine”—at which point the striatum passes along that option to the motor cortex for action while suppressing all other options. [from 11/20/19]

At the bottom of the page I wrote something this morning, essentially this:  I think the competing neural circuits overwhelm the striatum, breaking through the resistance rather than being “selected.”  The latter word gives an entirely too active role to the striatum, in my opinion.  (Not claiming to know anything about the striatum, however.)

“Striatum”? No, it’s a Red-tailed hawk. Photo by Brett Sayles on Pexels.com

Subsequent to this item in that diary selection, I summarized my thinking in words that I find useful now regarding our “free will”:  “The body chooses, and you are your body.”

A curious dream, worth mentioning here (though I’ll also put it into the dream journal).  I thought (dreamt) that I had woken from my nap, and through the washcloth covering my eyes, I could see that I was holding a book.  Except that I knew that I wasn’t holding a book, I could not feel a book in my hand.  I moved my left hand across my field of vision, and I saw a faint image of my hand, through the washcloth, moving across the image of the book.  The words of the book began graying out, as though they had been gone over with a gray highlighter, so they were still visible.  Then it got really interesting:  the image began dissolving, until it was fragmented into a huge number of pixels, as though each cell in my retina was showing me an individual spot, having nothing to do with the book.  Eventually the image was washing out, I opened my eyes for a fraction of a second, and this destroyed the image of the book.  Finally I opened my eyes all the way as I removed the washcloth.  Then, disbelieving, I put the washcloth over my eyes again—I could not see through it at all, it was completely opaque.  The whole episode had been a dream.

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

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