Category Archives: Nonfiction

A text that can be read






(Why cut this down at all? Leave it ALL in. It’s a document.)


Rock — the rocks I sit on, stand on — I’m always on rocks, you know. Ain’t much else to this planet to stand on but for rocks. 

I am the whispers, puppy.

     Whispers — if we whisper to not be heard, do we always want to be heard and overheard and heard too much otherwise?

PeachSunshine — neutral 

neural neural nyooral — new rails. Neural — sounds as gray as a brain. 

Peach shine — peach juice. Peachy keen. Kean, Michael Kean, actor, director, triple threat. 

Do any of us realize how unimportant we are? If I die, they fill my job with some other conscious person who will move the puppet strings — wait, or is the new teacher the actual puppet? No, that’s not a great metaphor, partly because all metaphors suck. Or, they are inadequate. Which is OK — ALL language is inadequate. I can make a great metaphor, I can fully describe a situation — which, it turns out, doesn’t solve the situation at all. Telling a freshman that they’re immature doesn’t get them to change. Or it doesn’t fully, anyway. That’s because language fails with an F. It hails with an F.

Every Qiss begins with Q. 

Every Hug begins with “hhh”

And so much brain-crap in my brain. … SOOO much brain-crap in my brain. I think it’s good to throw out (or ignore) what brainstuff I don’t need. I’ve forgotten so much of what was taught to me in college and that’s mostly OK, you know? I’m not actually sure what college is for, other than, well, to let us mature. Don’t tell us to mature — send us to college and let us mature. 

Professors are babysitters. They must be supplied an audience. I know this is cynical but also isn’t it kinda silly to be a professor? I mean, why don’t they get to just, you know, profess, without having to grade? But we can’t grade on anything except what we state that we’re going to grade on — what would a true pop quiz look like?

Pop Quiz. 

Popping a Quiz. Propping up a quiz because it’s as helpless as an 83-year-old man who lives with me and is nearly helpless. 

Helpless man needs help. Helped man still needs help. Why can’t he get enough help to keep him satisfied? 

cunning. Decorous standards. Tongue-nails. What is your tongue nailed to the floor?

The cool ones don’t need their own beauty. They give it away to …

Have your own symbology — make your own signs, sigh-ns, Signs, sighns, everywhere the sines, funkin’ up the scenery. I’d like to let my mind relax and read. Ah, the scholars write for the studnets to read. Why DON’T I use my own typographical system? Why have the writer’s name only in the beginning, or at the end — let’s put it in the middle to remind people they’re still reading something I (bolded I) wrote. It turns out that people who write books in order to sell them are, mostly, selling things people don’t actually need. Imagine the publishing industry as, oh, as necessary as a flower — that is, kinda necessary, but also, you know, not. 

Ask him, you goon!

I see purple

summer old you to hold morning’s sail.

Teacher adventure: 

dinosaur falls. Dinner’s something there.

She poles the repulsive mad garden. 

So now I’ve added things. Now let’s take away things. Let’s … you now, aim to mess readers up. Screw annotations, man. Let them figure things out. This is the age of Google, after all — all allusions are no longer clever. 

Allusions for Machines. 

(this is a chapter heading and I’m gonna leave the period there like this is an 1800s newspaper). 

(I’m gonna run a commentary — oh, multiple voices — mere cleverness! Don’t be merely clever!)

This rose to my consciousness: Notes from October & November

§ Maybe it’s hard to talk about the present moment and about existence because, well, language was mostly needed for talking about distant (in time and/or space) things, not things we (the speakers of language) could see around us or things all speakers and listeners had (for example, existence). [6 October 2021]

Backlit, green-tipped maple leaf. 13 Nov.

§ Art: How will this mind, my mind, transform the data, the image — the fall colors of foliage along train tracks, say? [6 Oct.]

§ Questioning my own life-story. [6 Oct.]

Ogle County rainbow ends on grain elevator. 8 Oct.

§ I’ve seen only 45 rainbows in my life? I think I see about one a year — how few that is. [8 Oct.]

§ I am living a writer’s life! I’m piling up the texts, scrambling to work. Kinda funny that I have an image of “a writer’s life” — it’s not necessary to have such an image. But it made me happy to think that I’m OK, on track, even. [13 Oct.]

Sammy Dog, getting chest scratches. 2 Nov.

§ “Like I’m the assh*le?” I said after someone pulled out in front of me and I got really close to this car. Well, yeah, I was being an as*hole by tailgating. [13 Oct.]

§ Blogging last night, from 6 Feb. 1997, I was reminded that there have always been times (since I’ve been an adult) that I’ve felt I’m trudging through my workdays. Would I, once retired, feel that way? [15 Oct.]

§ A literature of particulars — not general statements about beauty or loyalty, no talk about paradise (as I saw on a poem book’s spine). [19 Oct.]

§ My writings show process of having new ideas — still, it’s easy to not notice the moment a new idea comes to mind (or to text). [19 Oct.]

There’s a fine line between evidence and B.S. 9 Nov.

§ I want to show process. I want to show not story or theory, but living, in my writings (probably not the first time I’ve said this). Daily drama, daily deadlines matter — they’re part of the texture of being alive. To be alive is to try to understand, to wrestle with ideas, as I do in my journal. The struggles and weirdnesses of daily living — these are glorious! Let’s revel in them! It’s not like living is dull outside of big events (the ones that usually make the stuff of fiction & nonfiction). Real people are weirder than characters! [20 Oct.]

§ So I talked for 10-plus minutes in Creative Writing 1 last hour in an attempt to describe why I think journal-writings are interesting. I’m not sure I did much more than stun the students with a lot of words — ah, well. Maybe it’s too far from their experience, or maybe it’ll make sense to them later. I start to feel ashamed that I struggled to communicate — but that’s OK, too. I shared my thinking. [20 Oct.]

A leaf and its rubbings. 31 Oct.

§ On my commute to school, I heard a weird sound. Got out, got a stick out from under the car. But this rose to my consciousness. I slowed for STOP sign on Church Road at Rte. 64. I don’t know when the sound started, only when I noticed it, when it rose to my consciousness. That’s comforting, to realize I’m not really in charge. It’s reassuring to think: duh, of course I don’t know all that’s going on, but I only know what comes to my awareness! I can’t be in control of everything, especially if I’m not aware, if I’m only becoming aware of what my brain selects for my consciousness to notice! [25 Oct.]

§ I’ve thought of reading or being told a story (being an audience member) as a kind of leisure, entertainment. But maybe storytellers, performers, also need to focus, too, and that focus is a respite from reality the same way get getting absorbed in a story is also a respite from reality (mental respite, escapist). [25, 31 Oct.]

§ 4th hour: It was nice to work 3rd hour (prep) while I heard rattly wind outside through open window. It was calming enough, sweet enough, to even make doing work OK. [29 Oct.]

A different kind of leaf-rubbing, in a city street. 13 Nov.

§ I wish more teachers would talk about beauty, joy, in ideas. Yes, I know beauty’s in eye of beholder. But beauty — or trying to make beautiful things — motivates us , gives reason and and urge to learn the skills teachers tend to dwell on. [1 Nov. 2021]

§ I could adopt a bemused attitude about most of the things that I see (and used to feel bitter about). I think the point of being bemused at what others do, rather than being annoyed by it, is that when I’m bemused, I’m not as critical of others, not expecting them to act in a certain narrow way to meet my expectations. It’s better to let people do as they will (whether I think it’s folly or not) than take narrow, critical view of them. [2 Nov.]

§ One of my students said he feels walking into my class is like walking into a college lecture. He said this to a peer in my classroom. And, yeah, he doesn’t know what college classes are like, but he does know high school classes. Anyway, he’s a bright-enough kid to appreciate what I do, and it’s a great compliment, I think. I said something to him about how I want to challenge my students to think. (The funny thing about his comment is that I wasn’t trying to teach English 2 like a college class — I thought I was being simple!) [11 Nov.]

§ In the world, there are some people capable of caring for themselves, and some not-capable. And as long as I’m in the world and capable, I may need to help the incapable people. [12 Nov.]

§ Bobbing along on a sea of thoughts — living through my days that way. [12 Nov.]

My school’s Commons area, facing east toward main office, about 3:45 p.m., Friday, 5 Nov.

§ Thinking about how much I value my writings, I started to look at news sites, as I often do, and then I wondered why should I look at others’ articles (often about newsy things I don’t really care about) when I could look at my own cool posts! What media could be cooler than my media, especially because of the forms: daily journals and blogged random moments from those journals? It’s worth reading my blog, whereas if I made distinct articles or essays, these wouldn’t be as cool for me to read. But it makes sense — I like me! I like my own jokes! I interest and amuse me! Screw “social media”! Me-media! I can’t really be jealous — whose experience would I want rather than my own?! I’m not going to only ever look at me-made media. But it’s a good option to keep in mind when other media disappoint.  [17 Nov.]

§ Confronting the creative moment — a pretty good adventure, even in a school. [17 Nov.]

§ A satisfying unity of my writing, publishing, and my philosophy: Belief in moments as primary. [18 Nov.]

§ Value idea about how comics and so many other writers veer away from depth toward shallow relatability. (This reminds me of a note from 31 Oct.: I read a thing that said not all art needs to be frictionless, easy for audiences to understand.). [19 Nov.]

Gophers, I believe, were undermining my carrot crop. 11 Nov.

§ Realized that I don’t spend much time describing driving for as much as I do it. [22 Nov., a.m. commute to work]

§ Did a freewrite today (starting from a first line) and I just (simply) wrote stuff that amused me. I really didn’t fret trying to write a story — I just heard a dialogue between two speakers and it was jokey and that’s OK! Why struggle to met some external standard of storyness or poemosity?! Just write what interests or amuses you, do that only, and only that! (at that time of freewriting creation). (I liked writing this phrase — “do that only, and only that” — but it’s silly in this context. It’s better to have an open mind than stick to any idea!) [22 Nov.]

Road view, White Rock Road, just east of Stillman Valley, in Ogle County, Illinois. 11 Nov.

§ There’s value in just writing down and photographing everyday things (and not just for album covers!). [29 Nov. 2021]

Rereading some wisdom tonight

Rereading some wisdom tonight — Sermon on the Mount, and Conclusion to Walden.

“Judge not lest ye be judged” (or “… that you be not judged”). That’s almost all you need right there.

But it also reminds me, in thinking about humility.

Matt 7:7: “Ask, and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For every one who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, …” — reminds me that I do need to seek, that’s up to me, and to have the faith that by seeking (by going through the process), I will find.

And the humility — God providing for me — 6:25 through 34 — “do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself” — and Chapter 19 about not laying up treasures on Earth. See, at once that says to me don’t fret the job, just leave it.

Yet part of me says I don’t know — I am humble enough to not presume to know — what and how God is providing for me. Maybe this teaching job is where God wants me to be for now. Who am I to presume I know what’s best for myself, and that I should take such rash moves as quitting my job? Yet, Jesus does say to seek, and Thoreau talks about dreams undreamt in common hours.

M: Jesus is saying, don’t fret about the material world, and the spiritual world is always perfect.

Stories on the news — murders, crime, no longer seem to me to be stories at all. Maybe the public, the average hearer of news, does identify with the extreme tragedies — do they empathize with victims or recoil (to boo and hiss, perhaps?) at the attacker?

p. 347 Thoreau: “If you are restricted in your range by poverty, if you cannot buy books and newspapers, for instance, you are but confined to the most significant and vital experiences.”

and p. 344: “I fear chiefly lest my expression may not be extra-vagrant enough, may not wander far enough beyond the narrow limits of my daily experiences, so as to be adequate to the truth of which I have been convinced.”

[from journal of Tues., 10 May 2005, Journal 50, page 35–37]

Adults have hobbies

Adults have hobbies — fixing old cars, blogging, knitting, reading — things we do for fun, pleasure rather than profit, but is this the same as play? Or is imaginative play the realm of children — them trying on scenarios for when they’re adults, like puppies and kittens play-fighting with each other? Dog doesn’t play so much — though he does roll in grass, and he does play, gets frustrated if I don’t play with him, playing chase (though that was a quick session this morn. He went out and has stayed out.).

I read a Calvin & Hobbes recently where Cal’s dad said adults don’t play, they exercise, measure it, get serious, make it a chore. I don’t want a FitBit to count my steps for that very reason. I don’t need another number in my life to live up to.

And since nobody’s telling me how many assignments to give and to grade, well, then, I’m the only one who needs to be satisfied by how much I do. In other words, adjust your feelings — your shoulds and your guilt at not living up to your shoulds. You’re the measurer of your own teaching performance! (sure there are evaluations, but those are snapshots.)

[From journal of Sun., 23 April 2017, Journal 250, page 42-3]

I saw this morning the Harman-Ising cartoon “To Spring”

I saw this morning the Harman-Ising cartoon “To Spring” (1936, Wikipedia says). I saw it once before in recent months. The old dude underground singing “Time for spring, time for spring,  it’s time for spring, I say” and waking up … the people (humanoids? humunculi?) who mine and refine color underground to make color in spring.

I also saw an art style I like — flowers just written with a color outline [in a different cartoon] …

I’m looking at Wikipedia article for “To Spring,” released 4 June 1936, with Elmore Vincent credited as “Troll.”* Wiki also said this was “the first cartoon to be directed by the future cartoon giant William Hanna” — and Wiki does call the workers “gnomes” — but I feel bad for them having to do this hard labor.

*Or maybe this credit was from a non-Wiki source on my Google search. This is credited to E. Vincent by Dude has a credit as Doc Appleby on Dukes of Hazzard (1982), and as Floyd in Little House sur la Prairie and as neighbor in Beloved Infidel (1959).

[From journal of Sat., 6 Nov. 2021, Journal 350, page 84-85]

So, we left here 1 p.m.-ish Saturday

So, we left here 1 p.m.-ish Saturday and went to see cat [at M’s office], then went through McD drive-thru in Genoa [Illinois]. M was treating herself a bit. And what else? Oh, so got to Algonquin Commons [in M’s parents’ town of Algonquin] about 3. M met her dad at DSW while dog and I walked around parking lot and west on County Line Road to Boyer Road, past condos and back, and met M & her dad at car at 3:30 (I think my time line’s right here) and then we stopped and I bought $100+ at Trader Joe’s and then to Crystal Lake and I walked Sammy around that strip mall — past Bed Bath & Beyond, etc. At Algonquin Commons, Sam pooped near a retention (detention?) pond and when he walked by the first auto-slide-open door, he got startled, but less so after that first one — and he wanted to go into these opened doors.

Got to E___’s just after 4:30 for pepper-dip and to open a few gifts between M____ & E____’s family and ours — and to drink some of the old grape-peach juice M’s mom had given to Elena how long ago, Elena didn’t know. Then about 6, to [M’s parents’] casa, next to Russians next door having barbeque. And Sam and I walked past several other dogs being walked — two had red flashing lights on collars. About 9, K___ and her fiancé A____ show up. He’s 2 years older than us, and he went to U of I. He’s a programmer at B_________ [company] and he’s been working on his stand-up since January. He’s done 12 performances.

Maybe, it just now strikes me, my generation will take a while to get going. Some like Steph Meyers (aged 38, she recently aged to that number) will become notable early — others, later. I mean, we’re not having kids that young.

Blerg — there’s danger of generational generalizations ahead. M said K___ said she and A___ are trying to have kids. The live in Lower East Side, near Chinatown, in Manhattan. They live above a Chinese restaurant, a real restaurant for Chinese, where the menu’s not in English. And we chatted 9 ’til after 11, dropped M’s dad at mall to get truck, home 1 a.m.

The Loot report: perhaps fewer things than other years, but same value? One: a little decorative tree with nine crisp 50-dollar bills attached to it. A 10th had fallen off upstairs (there was talk among M’s family that Matt would be angry. Matt was more astounded and Matt was tired but mostly Matt kept that to himself). We had Chinese food delivered about 7 and Mrs. wanted to transfer the food out of trays into bowls.

[From journal of Sun., 25 December 2011, Journal 150, page 76-78]

Funny, how, now that I’m teaching, I’m supposed to have ideas about what’s best for my students

Funny, how, now that I’m teaching, I’m supposed to have ideas about what’s best for my students to learn, what it is they need, etc. They also have ideas about what they need. It’s possible none of us is exactly right. Likely their ideas are very far from mine — they don’t know what the world (college) holds. I at least have an idea, and a fairy recent experience at college, and yet …

Truly education is so broad. In Rockford Register-Star today, columnist Dale Dauten says, “People who go to college tend to have ambition and a tolerance for bureaucracy, and to come from backgrounds where they are born into opportunities and connections.” That’s key — part of college is in just getting used to/learning to operate in a bureaucracy. Fits in my recent theory (inspired by [my friend] Doug) how much current society looks like feudal society — corporations are the lords, individuals pledge loyalty and service to the corporation, etc. — and the university is where people learn to live within that structure: gaining the ability to be obedient and to please others and to learn the code of behavior — formal dress, interview skills, writing a resume, etc.

Yet of course education can happen anywhere — and as the book “E=Me2” (I started Friday & finished Saturday) points out, most revolutionary (as opposed to evolutionary), new-paradigm ideas come from people who somehow have an outsider, alienated influence on their perceptions. That is, they simply think about things differently than those people who are cultivated from within the system. Example: how Faraday’s religious perspective helped him imagine magnetic fields — not that he was right, but that this different perspective allowed for unique ideas.

Graded papers for 3 hours this afternoon; didn’t even get caught up with last week’s papers. The grading seems overwhelming, monolithic — maybe should be grading tonight but trying to get to bed early so that I can start the week refreshed —

Something I had no idea about before I started teaching (except for R__ I__’s comment last spring that I won’t have any time to do unique lessons but once a quarter or so): how much what happens in classes is not driven by what’s best for the students but it’s driven by what’s feasible: what is practical with 28 students, what can the overworked teacher handle, etc. I’m starting to see why teachers use multiple-choice tests — not because they are the best assessment tool but simply because they are practical — they’re easier to grade than essay tests, which might be more revealing, and certainly simpler to prepare and to evaluate than are projects/performance assessments. No one should be under the illusion that tests reflect real learning, or even that grades do. Here I am now, a teacher, giving grades, and yet I know these reflect primarily amount of work and innate talent, and only secondarily reflecting actual amount learned, ideas changed, etc. I admit that. Yet that’s the system I’m in — can’t change everything in a day.

[From journal of Sunday, 21 Oct. 2001, Journal 33, pages 80–82]

There’s a tendency to be profound, or to want to seem profound

There’s a tendency to be profound, or to want to seem profound, not all the time in my writings but in these ISS journal-writings, anyway. But there’s no need. I mean, no moment needs to be any more profound than any other. I’m tempted to say profundity is just a mood, an attitude, like any other mood/tone/attitude that a text writer could take — maybe acknowledging the writer

([student] R__ V___ just asked if he can get a 5-minute break “because we’ve been writing so much” [the in-school suspension punishment includes hand-copying rules from the student handbook] — [student] C___ S____’s been writing all hour, but R___ didn’t get here and start writing ’til 10-12 minutes ago.)

(Papa had his sleep test yesterday — Monday–Tuesday morning, he said. He said he didn’t go to sleep Monday night ’til —no, he woke up about 11 and stayed awake, thinking of all he’s gotta do, he said: get his driver’s license renewed, work on an old truck of Eric’s that Papa and Bruce will share, etc.)

[continued from the end of the first paragraph above] that profoundity (yes, profundity) is better when it seems something innate to the writer or the text, and not a choice.

[From school journal of “Weds., I think, 21 Sept. 2016, 2:03-04 p.m., In-School Suspension Room C105, ISS-labeled pencil,” Journal 238]

I haven’t been on a first date in over a year

It is just disappointing, though — here I am, lots of women, at college, my last year of college, and heading out to Montana next year where there are even fewer women, and [I have] no woman, not even any leads. 

[Roommate] Dave and I were sitting on the balcony last night, watched First Floor Sarah in a nice dress come out and get into some guy’s small convertible. Dave saw them come back and he said it looked like a 1st Date — no kiss, she got out after a little while and went inside, he turned up the radio and roared off (feeling manly and happy, I suppose — I would be if I were him). Wow, I said when Dave told me, a 1st Date. Must be nice. Hell, even a second or 3rd Date would be nicer. I haven’t been on a first date in over a year. F***, that’s depressing. Women all around and nary a drop to drink. 

[From journal of 30 June 1995, Journal 10, which journal entry starts with “8:30 p.m., Garcia’s [Pizza] on Wright [Street, Champaign], 2nd floor, behind the tomato [outdoor sign]”]

Nobody owes an explanation of one’s own life to anyone else

Nobody owes an explanation of one’s own life to anyone else. Nobody has to write an autobio. Of course, most people who do write one do it for the money, but my point is more about existence, and how it’s perfectly fine to live one’s life in obscurity because, well, a life isn’t really for the writing — it’s for the LIVING of it. Duh. And — and this is vague — but I’ve also been thinking lately that it doesn’t matter to get things about one’s life into the media. I don’t need my photos to be widely seen — I don’t need weird trivia about my life (my favorite show, say) to be out there in public. I don’t need to give interviews. I don’t really need to present my life — my physical or experiential life — for others to see, when I’m already sharing what I want to share: my life-as-written, my writing-life — my mind-on-page. I don’t need to tell anybody what pens or paper I use. None of that matters to anyone else’s experience. I mean, sure, a little — after I read that the Mamet writer used Clairfontaines, I got some of those Frenchy notebooks — and they’re good, sure, but they also don’t matter. It doesn’t matter that I make my own journals, or that I use Google Docs instead of Microsoft Word. It doesn’t matter what I wear, drive, watch on TV — none of my opinions matter! And that’s wonderfully freeing. Sure, it’s OK to write my opinions into my journal writings, and, yes, those opinions may then see the light of publication, but not because they’re vital. I’m not gonna post those things to my Facebook profile or to my blog. None of the particulars of what I do matters — the writings are enough. Don’t turn my house into a museum. Life moves on — see my house as YOUR house! Don’t look at my relics — look at your own things as relics (maybe).

[From school journal of Thurs., 26 Aug. 2021]