Friday, June 8, 2018

Diary

I seem to have been preoccupied with mundane activities, not leaving me with much of interest to say. The carpenter ants are out and require attention, and the lawn needs mowing again. Troubleshooting plumbing problems (literally plumbing the depths) isn't much fun. The spring has been relatively cool, not ideal for growing tomatoes, and mine are still quite small. My new car has sophisticated warnings that alert you to minor system failures, requiring me to drive forty-five minutes each way to the dealer in Burlington to have it checked, and I've recently made three round trips and waited a total of four hours. Nevertheless, with the snow gone I am enjoying occasional drives over the mountains on winding roads. I've started to read a new book and will begin commenting on it soon, but so far am finding it less thrilling than expected.

The problem of locating compelling reading material seems intractable. Over the last few years I think I've found biographies to be the most satisfying. In a way, they are a substitute for a satisfactory social life, one that doesn't require the recitation of a series of platitudes or boring chitchat. In a biography or memoir, one has an opportunity to engage with a person, no matter how distant in time or place, who is not leading a superficial, materialistic life. Memoirs, however, are more susceptible than biographies to the interweaving of fiction. The main problem with biographies, I find, is that not many people merit one, so there aren't many good ones. Still, they can be better than fiction, which I am increasingly equating with lying. At the heart of my objection to fiction is the feeling I get while reading it that the author, for one reason or another, is bamboozling me. What, really, is the point of making things up when life is already insurmountably confusing? Adding fiction to confusion is not a promising recipe. Moreover, in my reading, linguistic skill is not the most important aspect of fiction, and writers such as Joyce and Proust receive far more credit than I think they deserve. Nonfiction in general is more reliable, though one must be careful with historical works, because the human brain has a way of interweaving fiction with history. Then, though I often appreciate the information provided in scientific nonfiction, that is usually narrow in scope and offers no emotional satisfaction. I still have some interest in poetry, but the interest is centered on the unexpected surprise one may find in it, which, in my experience, is extremely rare.

After ten years, I've finally given up on Netflix. Since it became popular and began to produce its own programs, the quality has deteriorated significantly. Much of the problem has to do with the fact that it would be nearly impossible to provide a stream of programming that I would find satisfactory. In their early years, they had several decades of films to draw from, and now there is practically nothing left besides new material. For the time being, we are watching Kanopy, which is a free library-sponsored streaming website that attempts to obtain high quality videos.

The stargazing opportunities have been extremely limited since last fall. Jupiter has been prominent in the sky, but the viewing conditions have been far from ideal. You can still spot double stars, and Albirio is back for the season.

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