Link: The Books that Defined the Decades

This list of The Books that Defined the Decades by Emily Temple at Literary Hub includes the big names of the canon as it seemed to be when I was in college in the ’90s, and it also includes some names I am less familiar with (like Jean Toomer’s Cane), and it also mixes in some nonfiction (The Joy of Cooking).

‘How to Survive a Life’: Pocket pages of October so far.

Maple tree-sky. 4 Oct.

I’d rather inspire my students than instruct them. What teachers who focus on instructing miss is the joy — the glee! — and the mystery and the new and the undefined and the sense that I don’t know everything but that there’s a big world out there to experience. Perhaps it takes some courage to teach without certainty. 3 Oct. 2018

The wise voice is not one that takes easy positions (advocacies). I’m wiser when I question my assertions. 4 Oct.

Maple leaf up-close, near Jarrett Prairie Center, Byron, Ill. 4 Oct. 2018.

Maybe I used to think I could learn something about writing and publishing from reading writers’ biographies. Now I think all the magic is in the writing process, not in writers’ lives’ details. 10 Oct.

I didn’t really need to know the condition of Richard Brautigan’s corpse, as it’s described in the opening pages of Jubilee Hitchhiker, which pages I read in recent days. (A review of that book called the opening “the needlessly lurid.”) It was enough for me to know just that it was a suicide — it’s not meaningful to know more. The problem with biographies — I just don’t need to know all the details of a writer’s life. But giving the details of his death makes that seem important, and I’m not sure it was. 10 Oct.

Jack Kerouac, Richard Brautigan — two writers whose work inspired me — didn’t have careers besides being writers, and they seem to have had money problems at some points. I’m not a career writer, but I don’t have money problems like they did. In other words, both JK and RB wrote stories and poems about sweetness and spiritual quests, but in real life, they had practical problems. Perhaps I’m being more honest in showing my whole life — they were making texts as products. JK’s road trips — those were vacations for him, not his ongoing way of life. 11 Oct.

My writings generally seem to be about getting by. They could go by the title, “How to Survive a Life.” I know that’s dramatic-sounding, but this is the big question, it seems to me: how to live — how to survive, and also, how to live well (when you have a choice!) 11 Oct.

Corn plants along Weld Park Road, Ogle County, Ill. 4 Oct. 2018

The analogy in Postman’s Teaching as a Subversive Activity of teachers to doctors ignores (if my memory serves) the fact that doctors seek to get patients restored to a default of health — but (as I’ve read somewhere) teachers see students by default as inadequate, as not knowing enough. There’s a difference here in motivation — patients want to get better, get back to feeling good — but students don’t necessarily want to live up to some teacher’s idea of what they should do or be. 12 Oct.

Sammy dog’s nose almost never breaks the plane of the open window when he sniffs. 4 Oct.

I’m thinking I need to respect all the work of all the people over the years — the meatpackers, the farmers, the construction workers — how seldom I’ve considered all the hours and efforts of labor that have gone into maintaining human life. 12 Oct.

Which of my writings might reveal a work-mindset — the nature of being at work. Work may be a relatively undiscovered part of human experience for writers. 12 Oct.

Last sweet peppers of the season. 11 Oct. 2018

I keep crossing two-land roads successfully, it seems. I look both ways and when I think I don’t see any cars coming, I cross. I seem to see traffic competently — I have so far, anyway! 12 Oct.

 

Thoughts come when they will: 30 May 2010 journal

Sunday, 30 May 2010 (MMX), 5:24 a.m.

[“M” is my wife. “Blerg” is a Tina Fey word from 30 Rock.]

There’s no reason to be up this early, except to give the mosquitoes a crack at our flesh. They are numerous and determined this morning. It’s time to wear pants, I guess. I killed several just on the walk down the drive this morning.

That was just a couple minutes ago, but the way I wrote that sentence, it could have been any time in history.

I was super-annoyed by these mosquitoes. It’s too bad we don’t have screened-in porches around here and central air — both would make summer more livable, enjoyable.

Anyway, mosquitoes — there are many of them, but you don’t have to overreact and not want to go outside at all. Damn, I’ve got a bump, a scratchy, well, itchy, bump behind my left ear.

Anyway, we went out yesterday late morning. M dropped off dry cleaning.

5:44. I’m back after second Sammy walk. I thought maybe he had to poop, and he did poop, and a few mosquitoes swarmed him as he pooped, and I wore my sweatshirt jacket with hood pulled tight around my face, which helped.

M. dropped off dry cleaning and picked up prescription and got cash at bank and ate breakfast at diner, and while there, we looked through a real estate guide, and saw a church and parsonage on sale for $160,000-something. I don’t have the money, of course, but I liked the idea of having a church for performances. But it freaked M out a little — church guilt, ideas of what should and shouldn’t happen there.

And later we drove past 721 Kristi in Rose Meadows (south of Mill Road) in Byron and 301 South 2nd in Oregon. Why did we go to Oregon? Oh, M wanted to drop off jewelry at jewelers at Conover Square, and I went for groceries, and in the cheese section, I thought, if I don’t want anything, I could be pretty mellow, laid-back. Wanting a particular house makes me less so.

A dream this morning that I went to a house under renovation. My brother Nace was working there (I sorta felt I should be helping Nace, but I didn’t. He was wiring a sound/electronics system, though he admitted an electrician should have done it. There were lots of tools around.). There were also some acquaintances of mine from high school with whom I talked. Somehow it turns out Rahm Emanuel, Obama’s Chief of Staff, was stepdad to a former student of mine, and this was his house — a barn-to-house conversion on Flagg Road, couple miles west of high school (not modeled on any particular house).

How houses grab my attention now. I thought yesterday how I used to be obsessed about something else — cars, I guess. I used to check out car ads in Rockford Register-Star newspaper, which mostly made me feel bad — I couldn’t afford a nicer one. But then I did get my cars — they have been good and not so expensive. Ah, well. I don’t want an older house now because of the lead paint and all that other old shit — old wires, pipes, insulation, all that necessary stuff.

Thursday, we saw a local lawyer hauling trash bags near the high school and railroad — Byron Community Revitalization (or some group-title indicated by “BCR”) clean-up day. An old dude on a little motorized seat — Ron Millard, M said later — saw me with Sam and asked if I take a bag with when I walk him.

And so yesterday, we came home after Oregon, hung up underwear, put socks in washer. Then I slept in TV room from 2:30 or 3 till 6 — woof. Then I hung up socks and we went to Dos Amigos in Byron, Family Video, and Sam’s for ice cream, and then we ate it over at that Byron park on Mill Road. There were some old dudes there and a few teens, boys and girls, horsing around — they probably live nearby. Rose Meadows is south and Fawn Ridge is east of park.

Skeeters weren’t so bad during the day yesterday. They’re worse at 5 a.m., apparently. Today is the first day in several that I have done journals before watching TV. My friend Dave’s play is today — I wouldn’t mind seeing him do an Italian-American accent (in “Italian-American Reconciliation.” M said she, with her Italian background, might be offended — partly a joke).

Well, here I am. I slept (napped) for 3 hours yesterday, and I am starting to feel more rested, less mentally exhausted. My low back has been tense and dully painful the last two evenings. I took Advil at bedtime and that was okay. Yesterday afternoon I felt it threatening to tense up.

Anyway, yes, here we are. I’m starting to get tired now. We did watch Secretary on IFC — it’s a story of dom/sub relationship — and then some of SNL before bed at 11. That movie was a little odd, so dark, a bit foreboding. It made me a tad anxious, but not a big deal. I remind myself sometimes that it’s okay to be anxious now. It’s no big deal. I sometimes tell M: it’s okay to feel bad. You (and I) don’t have to fight these feelings.

We argued — mildly — over “What a Fool Believes” by Doobie Brothers after hearing it on radio as we drove down Cox Road and up the driveway. M says the line “What a fool believes he can see, a wise man has the power to reason away” means that the man reasoned — overthought — away his desire to go after the woman who, we are told, is leaving. I was sticking to my earlier interpretation that the guy is a fool for believing something false about the woman that prevents him from going after her — maybe he believes he has seen her be unfaithful or something. But then I got sick of arguing it.

See, we really do just think a lot.

And I’m tired of pretending to like camping — not that I never did, but Dad and I even stayed in hotels half of our trip out west. How I smoked in front of dad, my buying into that mythology, that image of the West. How dad had intended Nace to go instead of me.

No, I’m just not too excited to go camping. And I’m comfortable with the fact that I would prefer sleeping indoors, on a good bed, to camping (lumberjacks would burn the straw from their mattresses and refill them every week, I saw on TV on some show about lumberjacking and Paul Bunyan. 1880 to 1890 was the height of lumberjacking in Wisconsin, said some guy from Eau Claire museum of lumberjacking (is that the verb form?).

So, yeah, I don’t need to go camping. I mean, left to myself, I just don’t.

Something about the lime smell in my Negra Modelo yesterday (which went better with my Combination C than soda does) reminded me of Terranea vacation — something about that smell — and M’s pina colada — and we reminisced, though thinking of going to ocean still made me think/prompted worries of what I’d do to hide the hotel room key while we swam. And how funny, too, that I also had a thought of Denver vacation, and the thought that came first was: should we really get another dog? We had reserved Sam but hadn’t picked him up — and of course I’m glad we have him — but that’s what I worried about on that August ‘08 trip.

I do think a lot, not always original things. In fact, as I go through my daily life, many thoughts aren’t original at all. I’m not saying all my thoughts are interesting, but I do have a lot of them.

Take a pic of that green house on Route 2 near Supervalu in Oregon, and that tall house in Kings — collect pictures of houses you like.

No, what did I want to say about all my thoughts — not all of them — but when they occur?

My clothes dried quickly on the line yesterday, and I brought one basketful up, but the other I left at bottom of inside stairs — and just now (okay, a couple moments ago, before this paragraph, as I was advance-numbering the next few pages), I realized that basket is why the dog couldn’t sleep down there last night, as he often will, especially when he’s hot. I saw him coming back up from down there.

The psycho-sexual stuff in Secretary, how tedious that seems. Maybe that’s why I’m not a sadist. It seems to weigh on Spader, too, though there’s also guilt there.

But, yeah, the thoughts come when they will. When I’m examining pre-cooked bacon with thoughts of it as a dog treat, or heading to get string cheese — that’s when I thought yesterday (actually, after bacon, before string cheese) that I could be more laid-back if I had less desire. If I didn’t care, I could be a cool hippie.

Eh, this still isn’t catching my attention. I mean, I don’t think it’s remarkable or interesting in itself that I had that thought then. Reminds me now of something I read a while back, that in a literary novel, a character may learn a little insight — or maybe not — over the whole novel, which is in contrast to those movies or TV episodes where a lesson is learned (or maybe nothing is learned — that “Family Matters” episode I saw recently where Carl and his son were dealing with the son’s dealings with a racist cop. No lesson was solved there, but it still didn’t quite work dramatically).

Blerg, see, spitting stuff out of my head — that’s what these journals are for. It’s 20 till 7 now — I wonder if mosquitoes are less bad.

I nearly constipated myself by having ideas I didn’t want to write down — none were great, but now they’re dispersed. Maybe they lead to something else? Maybe there was a thought that I had quite said anything interesting about all the thoughts I have, or how I didn’t seem to have much to say, or how I don’t really need to watch the houses on TV real-estate shows this morning, or how I could pick out a topic from pocket pages but I’m about getting too tired to write just now. It is 6:45, and I have been writing for more than an hour.

But I think/feel there was more to say, something new to say, about the ideas — the insights. I have more insights than I have experiences — in Hollywood movies, there’s more of a one-to-one correspondence of experience to insights.

Narrative: why does so much have to be narrative? Jeez, I even saw a movie labeled “National Geographic Entertainment” yesterday — why not a documentary? At least Linklater doesn’t seem so devoted to narrative — Waking Life, Slacker. Movies, huh? We rented 5, including Being There and My Man Godfrey* and Bamboozled and The TV Set, and Avatar* (*These movies were M’s choice; other three were mine). Some of these we rented because we had heard they were good movies. But no movie really solves anything, does it? It is it really possible for a movie to even change/influence one’s life? Maybe books have more power that way.

Blerg. I’m done for now.

William Hagemann’s estate sued by some of his kids

My great-grandfather, William Hagemann, died on January 23, 1925, a few weeks after “he ran a rusty nail into the palm of his right hand,” according to an Illinois Supreme Court decision from 1929, in a case called “Veer v. Hagemann, 165 N.E. 175 (Ill. 1929).” In this case, the validity of William’s will, made a few days before his death, was challenged by some of his twelve children.

I’d long known that he had died in 1925, but I hadn’t known how, and I hadn’t known about this lawsuit. My grandfather, Ernest Hagemann, was one of the children who did not oppose the will, and he was described in the court decision this way: “As to Ernest Hagemann, the other son charged with undue influence, the evidence shows that he had nothing whatever to do with the execution of the will.” Ernest never talked about it with me, and he also apparently never talked about it with his son (and my uncle) Glenn.

I will be posting more documents from this case, but here’s the text of the Supreme Court decision:

Illinois Supreme Court

 

 

 

 

 

Plaintiffs in error filed a bill in the circuit court of Ogle county to contest the will of William Hagemann on the ground of undue influence and mental incapacity. On the trial a jury sustained the will. A decree was entered upon the verdict, and the cause comes here by writ of error.

Hagemann died on January 23, 1925, of pneumonia, which arose out of an infection caused by a puncture of the palm of his right hand with a rusty nail. All evidence relating to mental incapacity or undue influence is directed to the week immediately preceding his death. Plaintiffs in error concede that up to Friday, January 16, 1925, the deceased was of sound mind.

The deceased came to Ogle county from Germany when a young man. He was then without funds. He was sixty-four years of age at the time of his death. In that interval he acquired more than a thousand acres of land in Ogle and Stephenson counties and was possessed of $19,000 in personal property. He was a man of meagre education and did not speak English freely. In the early part of January, 1925, he ran a rusty nail into the palm of his right hand. On January 13, 1925, he went to the office of a physician in Leaf River to have it treated. Two days later this physician called at the home of deceased, who was at that time showing some temperature and the swelling from his hand had extended part way up his arm. By January 17 an abscess had formed on the back of his right hand, which was opened and drained. On Sunday, the 18th, a consultation of physicians was had at the request of the family. These physicians met at his home about five o’clock P. M. on that day. He then had a temperature between 104 and 105 degrees. Later in that day the physicians gave him a hypodermic injection to combat the infection and placed him under the charge of a nurse. On Monday, January 19, at the request of the deceased, one of his sons called Roy *Page 25 Mize, a banker at Leaf River, who came to the home of the deceased, and the latter told him he wanted to deed his property to his children, but Mize told him it would be necessary for him to make a will. The deceased thereupon told him what property he had and how he wanted to dispose of it. The will was written by Mize in longhand and it was read over to the deceased. After the correction of certain errors mentioned by deceased it was re-read, and he stated the will was all right and that he wanted to sign it. Samuel Garkey and Owen Wagner, neighbors of the deceased, were called in to witness the will. Hagemann at that time declared it was his last will and testament.

Lillian Brearton, the nurse in charge of the case, testified that on Monday, January 19, the day on which the will was executed, the swelling on the arm of the deceased was somewhat reduced, the inflammation had somewhat subsided and his temperature was lower; that he was of sound mind at that time, and that she did not notice any change in that condition until some time Thursday night. Dr. Borrowman, the family physician, who first attended the deceased, testified that he developed hypostatic pneumonia on Thursday afternoon, January 22. He died the following day. Dr. Holke, who was called in for consultation and who was also called as a witness for plaintiffs in error, stated that on Sunday, January 18, the deceased was rational; that he was not delirious, had no hallucinations of any kind and was normal mentally. This was likewise the testimony of Dr. Borrowman, who also testified that the deceased was of sound mind on Monday, January 19, the day the will was executed. He also testified that the comatose condition which was caused by pneumonia was first noticeable on the evening of the day before his death.

Four witnesses, including the witnesses to the will, who saw the deceased between January 13 and the date of his death, including the day on which the will was made and *Page 26 the day immediately preceding, testified that he was of sound mind at that time. Four other witnesses testified that they called on him during the afternoon of Sunday, the day before the will was made, and that he was then of sound mind and memory. These witnesses had all known the deceased for a number of years, most of them being his neighbors.

Plaintiffs in error produced three lay witnesses. Two physicians qualified as experts and testified for plaintiffs in error in answer to hypothetical questions. The court withdrew the issue of undue influence from the jury.

Plaintiffs in error contend that the verdict was against the weight of the evidence; that the court erred in withdrawing the issue of undue influence from the jury, in admitting the testimony of witnesses as to the soundness of mind of the deceased on Friday before the will was made and in refusing to admit the testimony of Fred Aukes; that counsel for defendants in error erred in their argument to the jury; also that the court erred in not sustaining the challenge to the array and quashing the panel of jurors.

The evidence so overwhelmingly demonstrates the soundness of mind of the testator that the record does not justify an extended discussion of the proof. The scrivener who wrote the will discussed it with the testator for an hour or more concerning the terms of it, the amount of his property and what each of his twelve children was to receive. The will was also discussed by the deceased in the presence of the witnesses to the will, Wagner and Garkey. The physician in charge testified that he was of sound mind up to Thursday afternoon, when he went into a coma. The nurse in charge from Sunday, the 18th, until the date of his death, also testified that his mental condition was sound, as did the other witnesses referred to. The only witnesses produced by plaintiffs in error who saw the deceased were Dr. Holke, who testified that he was of sound mind on the day before the making of the will; Edna *Page 27 Steinhagen, who testified that the deceased was of unsound mind on Friday, January 17, (one of the days on which plaintiffs in error admit the deceased was of sound mind,) and on the 18th, 19th and 20th; and Fred Steinhagen, who testified that the deceased was of unsound mind on January 19, basing his reason for such conclusion on the fact that he appeared sleepy, tired and pretty sick. The verdict of the jury was abundantly sustained by the evidence.

Nor did the chancellor err in withdrawing from the jury the issue of undue influence. The only evidence in the record pertaining to that matter is to the effect that William A. Hagemann, a son of the deceased, was sent by his father to ask the scrivener to come to the house to draw the will, and to ask the witnesses Wagner and Garkey to come for the purpose of witnessing it. There is no evidence that he attempted to exert any influence over his father or occupied a fiduciary relationship. As to Ernest Hagemann, the other son charged with undue influence, the evidence shows that he had nothing whatever to do with the execution of the will.

The complaint as to the wrongful admission of testimony is, that witnesses were permitted to testify as to the sanity and soundness of mind of the testator on Friday, the 16th of January, one of the days on which it is conceded he was sane. This was not error. It is competent for witnesses to testify as to the mental condition of the testator at or near the time of the making of the will, and the fact that his sanity is conceded as to a certain date does not bar testimony of witnesses on that matter. Chandler v. Fisher290 Ill. 440;Walker v. Struthers, 273 id. 387; Carnahan v. Hamilton, 265 id. 508; Voodry v. University of Illinois, 251 id. 48.

Complaint is also made of the exclusion of the testimony of Fred Aukes, a witness produced by plaintiffs in error. It was sought to show by him that one of the farms held in the name of the testator had been purchased for one *Page 28 of his sons-in-law, Clint Bolen. The purpose of offering such testimony, as stated by counsel, was to show that Bolen still owed the testator about $4000 on this farm and was in possession of the same, and since by the will the testator devised this farm to others, it was evidence that he did not know the condition of his property. It was not error to refuse to admit this testimony, as it would have opened the question of an account between the testator and Bolen and had to do with the equities of the latter, if any, in this land. It is conceded that the testator had title to the land at that time. The effect of this testimony would have been to confuse the issues and to present to the jury the matter of the equities of Bolen in certain lands devised by the testator, which matter may be inquired into in another proceeding. Where the confusion of issues will not be compensated by the assistance of useful evidence it is proper to exclude the evidence offered. Whether such offered evidence should be admitted where its admission will tend to confuse the issues is left to the sound discretion of the trial court. Kankakee Park District v. Heidenreich,328 Ill. 198; I Wigmore on Evidence, (1st ed.) sec. 443.

It is next urged that an improper remark was made by counsel for defendants in error. The remark complained of is, “There has never been a will broken in Ogle county and there won’t be to-day.” It is urged that the effect of this statement was to call upon the jury to maintain the reputation of juries in Ogle county for sustaining wills. This statement is not necessarily subject to that construction. It was a comment of counsel on a matter outside of the record and had no place in the argument. The court sustained the objection to it and admonished the jury to disregard it, and it could not have resulted in harm to the plaintiffs in error.

It is finally contended that the court should have sustained the challenge to the array. It appears that when the *Page 29 trial of this cause was begun a jury of twelve men of the regular panel was considering another case. For some reason one of the remaining twelve jurors was not called to the box or had been excused, and counsel agreed to proceed to the selection of a jury with eleven jurors in the box. The jurors had all been sworn to answer questions, and the examination of the first panel of four was conducted by counsel for defendants in error. Counsel for plaintiffs in error took part in this examination, interposing objections to certain questions. While this examination was in progress one of counsel for plaintiffs in error went to the county clerk’s office to examine the record of the selection of the jury, and after counsel for defendants in error had completed the examination of the first four jurors and tendered them, plaintiffs in error offered a challenge to the array, which was overruled for the reason that it was not made in apt time. It is the right of a party to a lawsuit to enter a challenge to the array where a panel of jurors is not drawn in accordance with the statute, but if the objecting party has entered upon the business of selecting a jury from such panel he waives his right to challenge the array and any objection which he might have taken to the regular organization of the panel. (Muellerv. Rebhan94 Ill. 142.) It is evident from the record that counsel for plaintiffs in error had opportunity, before the commencement of the trial, to examine the records in the county clerk’s office. It was not error to overrule the challenge to the array.

There being no reversible error in the record the decree of the circuit court will be affirmed.

Decree affirmed. *Page 30

 

The resulting text is beside the point: Journal of 11 September 2016

Dog blur with two tennis balls. 10 Sept. 2016

Dog and I walked the big block through a nearby subdivision and the park to the roads that would get me back home, with an additional loop through another subdivision to see where an acquaintance and her chickens live. We’d left at 5:50 a.m., still kind of dark, and got back home at 7.

I could do some grading today, blogging, laundry, mowing. It’s the first NFL weekend of this season, but I feel guilty now when I watch concussionball (maybe calling it “concussionball” will help me stay away.) I’m fighting my tradition of watching football on Sundays more than I’m fighting some love of the game.

So, M and I went to diner yesterday, got iced cream and fake bacon (for our cuke sandwiches) on way home. We sat outside and talked about carbon and iron in steel, whether that’s an alloy (it is, according to Wikipedia articles), and I wondered about carbon as a semiconductor and transistors. But I did read lots about steelmaking before going to sleep, 2 p.m. to nearly five, and got up and wrote my two paragraphs for a history teacher colleague’s slideshow of memories of the events of 11 Sept. 2001. I copied my text — I liked it, a decent bit of writing about how it seemed the U.S. went nuts after 9/11, and how Guantanamo, Afghanistan, Iraq Wars, these are still going on. And then I blogged that, and I got a reblog this morning.

And we ordered pasta and pizza from LaRosa’s, paid the $36 bill with the $50 bill we got in mail from M’s mom. The delivery person was the slick-hair, rolled-cuffs hipster dude whom I tipped only 10% last week, so I gave him 20% here, $8, plus $4, which makes 48 — and why mess with $2? — so the whole $50. And we had a nice dinner at the table. M cleared off two-thirds of it — the north end, with bills and pens, M said overwhelmed her. And I put on the swing music channel on TV, but too many slow songs, including Harry Connick Jr.’s “Save the Last Dance For Me” and Sarah Vaughan’s “My Favorite Things,” so to jazz channel. At 8, we watched the “Star Wars: Force Awakens” (broadcast on several channels of Starz simultaneously). My reaction to “Force Awakens” — it’s okay but mostly dull because it repeats so much of the first “Star Wars” movie’s plot and character points. Adam Driver as Kylo Ren is kind of menacing but also funny at same time, and sometimes uses a Christopher Walken vocal cadence.

Bed 10:35, sleep probably about 11. It’s a lovely, cool day.

Cat rain. 10 Sept. 2016

I’m feeling like I need to address some things I wrote yesterday, but I’m not sure what. I mean, not to make corrections, but I feel I criticized without making the turn toward the positive, by which I mean going beyond the criticism of old ideas to get to a new idea, an idea of how to do things better.

I looked up Auburn University, wanted to know what town it was in — Auburn, Alabama. Got to philosophy department website. Under “What can You Do with a Philosophy Degree?,” the first line is “The study of philosophy is its own reward.” It continues: “It deepens and intensifies engagement with fundamental questions regarding the self, others, and the world that arise in everyday life. But the study of philosophy also offers great practical rewards. It cultivates skills in clear thinking, writing, logical criticism, and it increases the power and discipline of the imagination.” Later, under “Our Programs,” it says, “Auburn’s Department of Philosophy holds to high standards of reading, writing, and conversation.” I like including “conversation.” Further, “It expects students to become adept at criticizing the views of others and their own views,” which statement I love for its “fuck you and your idea of college as job prep” boldness but also because it’s kind of like what I was saying yesterday, or trying to say yesterday, about writing poetry.

Back at 8:18 after copying the quotes above and after 10 minutes or so reading about transistors and semiconductors after M and I talked about them yesterday. I’d said, as we sat on deck and watched dog roll around in the grass, clover, and dandelion foliage, that chemistry class terms like “compound” and “mixture” are vague, and to apply them to what we could see in the yard is hard because we don’t see any elements. We don’t see O2 in the air — and what we do see — the wood of the deck, plant leaves, dandelion leaves, are made of so many compounds (which we also can’t see — what we see is tissue). Anyway, I’ve critiqued science before, and it’s not quite what I want to do right now.

What I wrote for my colleague’s slide — I wonder if she’ll edit it? I am glad the public discourse isn’t so single-mindedly fearful as it was then soon after Nine-Eleven. I saw in Rockford Register-Star Sunday paper I pulled out of someone’s delivery box this morning an article about how there was unity after 9/11 but partisan divide now — but what seeming unity there was after 9/11 was driven by fear.

But also there was the underlying partisan bullshit of Bush Administration, tax cuts and what not, and so here we are now, with Trump as GOP leader, but thank God there’s more dissension, questioning, now then there was then — “then” especially being the lead up to 2003 Iraq invasion. It was creepy how isolated I felt then in questioning that war. Andrew Sullivan was for it, I read later. Hillary Clinton voted for it. Now Trump brags that he wasn’t for it — he’s a liar, but at least we’re against that bullshit now. So much stupid, wasteful, violent, and illegal torture shit was done in the name of 9/11. Yeesh.

I don’t normally want to get political with my blog. But, you know, sometimes it’s okay to just make a point rather than being always aesthetically focused or experimental (as with form and content — blerg, that distinction).

Back now at 8:40 after paging through some of Tristram Shandy to which I saw a reference in the GQ article of Jonathan Safran Foer I saw yesterday, how young man Foer seemed to try things typographically that he wasn’t aware others (Sterne) had done before. Form isn’t my main interest now, if it ever was. Sure, I probably tried a few things with form, but soon discovered I wasn’t all that interested in form merely (and after I wrote my one-memory-a-year memoir thing — in 2005? 2006? — I learned Nora Ephron did a similar thing in one of her I Feel Bad about my Neck essays. How could she be curt with people and also expect their welcome, their indulging of her insecurities, in her essays?)

Form is something anybody can alter. It’s range-bound and, like any limited set of ideas, somebody will try, or will have tried, each of the options in this set — like how people say the multitude of writers on Twitter seem to come up with a common set of jokes for any big event — comedians aren’t all that unique if they’re merely reacting to things.

I put my text about 9/11 up on my blog partly because it’s okay to make a point, partly because the text is well-written, and partly because, well, it’s nice to have my blog as as a repository of my writings — an archive of sorts, and not just a place for recent thoughts (which hasn’t been my use of the blog lately) and recent creative writing pieces. My journals are a level removed from making a point.

From earlier: That Auburn quote — “the study of philosophy is its own reward” — sounds like my idea that the purpose of writing poems is writing poems! The purpose is in the doing! The purpose isn’t to come up with something saleable, or something that will improve my reputation, or even something that will communicate. It’s possible to use writing for these purposes — commercial, career, and communicative — but any of those put the purpose into the product. The goal is outside you. You’re using writing and words merely to accomplish something else in the world — but you don’t need to!

What I realized (or re-realized) last Friday is that this is an attitude/process I can also take when writing poems — is that the resulting text is beside the point. It’s not the point of my writing, but it’s beside the point. The point is to write in a way that’s enjoyable, that’s interesting, and any text that results, it doesn’t matter what that text goes on to do, if anything. Whether something I’d write would make money or get me in trouble or be completely ignored, it doesn’t matter (though I try to avoid trouble) because it’s done for me! It’s over. Something I realized decades ago was that once a journal notebook was filled, it’s gone dead for me. Now I’m not quite going to stick to that because something else I’ve been thinking lately is that editing can go on indefinitely! You can pick up an old text and pick out the best parts and publish these on blog — and even there, you can always go back and keep editing! If you never go to print on paper, you never have to stop editing. There doesn’t need to be one version of a text. This is a striking new paradigm for writing, or at least for publishing. Publishers don’t really care about process at all. They just need product to sell, whether it’s actually all that good or not. Lots of books sell lots of copies, only be soon forgotten. They’ve made money! But see, if you’re like me and don’t need the money, then, shoot, you never have to be done. I’m thinking of Thoreau’s quote: if quality matters, time doesn’t. I took that to be a statement about product, but it doesn’t need to be. And the quality doesn’t have to be a judgment about the text or walking stick (Thoreau’s example) but an abstraction toward which one works, an abstraction that in practice may not be distinguishable from what I called “interesting,” as in, do what seems most interesting with the words as you make poems. You could mechanically put words together and call it a poem. (I have an expansive definition of poem — “whatever words you put together, we’ll call that a poem,” I said in my writing classes on Friday as I assigned magpo.com to them.) I’m even reminded of the Pirsig quote in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance — “The real motorcycle you’re working on is yourself,” something like that. Now, I don’t usually like to see myself as working on myself — that feels like self-consciousness, self-monitoring, exhaustion — but, yeah, if you’re the only thing that’s really alive, you know?

Just moments ago, I saw the “For Sale” sign on a neighbor’s lawn — those specific words sound sad, like the owners are no longer willing to care for that particular property. Whatever feelings they had for it, desires for it, are gone. The real feelings of caring that are gone are their marriage-bond-love. Damn, it makes me sad. I keep dwelling on this divorce — maybe I’ve never quite gotten over my parents’ divorce.

I thought, while walking on Mill Road this morning, of using all four senses during my walk. I saw some dudes get out of a car at the park, and car left, and two or three dudes walked under picnic shelter and then — ? And I wonder a little about whether they’d come after me for witnessing their drug deal — which probably wasn’t a drug deal, of course — but other people could. I need to be aware of others, who could come after us or just accidentally hit us on the roadway. Also I can hear, feel the cool, smell the air — I tried smelling some leaves on shrubs in northwest corner of park — they didn’t smell much. They’re not putting out any volatile chemicals except oxygen and water vapor, which, since there’s already O2 and H2O in the air, probably doesn’t smell. If I crushed a leaf, there might be smells through the release of plant chemicals, but I didn’t want to do that. Tried to avoid stepping on a bug this walk, too.

So I’m back after making eggs, cheese, and rice and starting laundry. I guess I had two things to say/reiterate: one was that I write journals because I like to write, and I do like clearing my mind, etc., the emotional benefits, and I like to document my life, but I also just like to write. My journals are me writing about real stuff, real experiences, as myself. When I write poems, as on magpo.com, I’m less tethered, just going with what I see, more pure intellect, less tied to me. Both are okay, just different.

Sunday evening: I’m having self-doubting thoughts about the quality of my writing. But I can dismiss those. We can ask whether anyone’s (even published writers’) works are all that great.

Byron, Illinois, aerials. 9 Sept. 2016

[Journal Sunday, 11 September 2016, starting at 7:36 a.m. ]

Commencement of journals, adulthood

My journals start with the end of my senior year of high school. I had graduation practice and then went to work at the electronics store where I worked renting videos. The next day, I was awarded the Bronze R for having third-highest grade-point average in my class, but the elderly presenter was off her game and called me by my dad’s name. The following year, she was replaced.

 

29: 1st day out. Grad practice, work after.

30: Graduation day. Got Bronze “R.” Mary Carney called me “Gene” and handed me the notecard she was reading from. Went to Matt D’s open house, then Dawn’s, Chris K’s, Kim’s, stayed late and played volleyball.

 

[Entirety of the 29 & 30 May 1992 journals, the beginning of an informal, personal writing habit I practiced irregularly from age 18 to age 30, then daily since]

Doris Lessing on schooling

According to an article at Lit Hub, Nobel Laureate Doris Lessing quit formal schooling at age 14 and wrote, in The Golden Notebook, an assessment I think worth considering (though I’m not quite sure yet if I agree with it or not):

“Ideally, what should be said to every child, repeatedly, throughout his or her school life is something like this: ‘You are in the process of being indoctrinated. We have not yet evolved a system of education that is not a system of indoctrination. We are sorry, but it is the best we can do. What you are being taught here is an amalgam of current prejudice and the choices of this particular culture. The slightest look at history will show how impermanent these must be. You are being taught by people who have been able to accommodate themselves to a regime of thought laid down by their predecessors. It is a self-perpetuating system. Those of you who are more robust and individual than others will be encouraged to leave and find ways of educating yourself—educating your own judgements. Those that stay must remember, always, and all the time, that they are being moulded and patterned to fit into the narrow and particular needs of this particular society.”