Category Archives: Nonfiction

I gave up that thought and felt relieved

Ready for bed at 9:30 tonight — earlier than recent Sundays and earlier than recent nights. Watched “Lord of the Rings: Fellowship” movie last night. It’s been out since Xmas but I’ve resisted watching it, didn’t want those characters to be in my head when reading the books but movie was well-reviewed and so we went.

I picked up a message there of personal discipline and self-sacrifice. I think how weak I’ve been of late — lots of sweets and TV, etc. No liquor or cigs lately, so not horribly unhealthy, just moderately so. But also, no school work done today.

Here’s the thing: about noon today, I had a clarity of thought: a choice of either (A) working all day to get caught up grading and planning for week ahead or (B) simply taking the day to relax. And I almost had enough energy and drive for A but not quite. I watched too much TV to completely do B either, though our walk to quarry and sitting in sun then talking to L. was relaxing. My shoulders relaxed and lowered. We were gone an hour and a half to 2 hours.

Telescoping back: today’s exercise was good but I haven’t exercised much at all this winter. But then warm temps (warmest ever on record, I heard) prevented winter sports and also I’ve been sick and/or busy.

But talking to mom last week, I realized I’m starting to feel much better as the days lengthen. Maybe I do have mild depression in winter? That would explain my funk, my lack of drive or desire — not profound, but I don’t feel like doing anything, and yet wasn’t relaxed either.

And today, too, I felt I couldn’t take the day totally off — pressures to do work. I realized I sort of need to work weekends this first year — a shame, that, because I really need at least one day a weekend to relax. And as a teacher, I have work do to weekends, or after work. At any rate, some work to be done outside class.

But it’s so easy for me to give myself pressures. Got to feeling mindful while sitting on picnic table, facing sun, with M., finally living in the moment, without thinking of “should” or “have to.” When I thought how pretty it was and that I should take pics of quarry floor before water rises — another “should” — I gave up that thought and felt relieved.

[From journal of Sun., 24 Feb. 2002, Journal 30, page 342]

Alone for 3 hours gives a chance to reflect

Got up and did [college radio] show at 9 – noon. Much nicer time than last term. Somehow, though, I just didn’t feel like doing the show this a.m.  —residue of my poor outlook of last week, I think.  I also needed to wake up earlier than 8:15, just so can get alert and into character by the time of the show.

Did homework for much of day — read many pages in Chaucer [this book, I think it was]. The nap I took in p.m. really helped me stay alert for reading in early eve. Called mom — she wasn’t home, so she called back when I was in study lounge. Then she called back at 9:30, when she said she would call at 9. I did some calc afterwards.

Short ideas —

– personal nature of radio show.  It’s me and the audience.  I choose the music, what I say, etc.  Alone for 3 hours gives a chance to reflect.

– technology -> nerds? Sure, there are weird people in humanities, but not so many anti-social nerds. Is there something about science/technology which creates nerds?

[Journal of Sun., 14 March 1993, written 20 March 1993]

To buy is a specific act. To not buy is not an act.

The thing is, I should start saving money, just for the sake of being frugal and to further my larger goal of saving a down-payment on a house in this Near West Side, between-downtown-Urbana-and-the campus neighborhood. (The house across street that, just Thursday night, I indicated to D.G. as a house I would like to buy, went up for sale.)

And I have gone through book-0buysing spells like this before — summer of ’93 an example. I wonder if I’m a tad of a compulsive (“impulse” is more-appropriate word) buyer — because while I normally have a strong money-saving sense, my lust for books seems to overpower it. If this is a compulsion, it would be the other half to my obsessive behavior — double checking stove burners to make sure they’re off, and “notebook-wallet-keys” to make sure all are in my pockets.

But I don’t really think so. I’m not clinical. Sometimes I do put books back, telling myself I really don’t have time to read them, and that I can buy them later (sometimes the fear is that they’ll be gone later , and sometimes the fear is I won’t remember to buy them later).

And maybe the problem is partly one of existence. To buy is a specific act, and a book, a specific thing. To not buy is not an act; it’s a continuing condition of refrain from, and as such gives the positive act an overshadowing power that continues to haunt and influence after I leave the store. Every time I go back, I have to renew my resolve not to buy. And it’s (almost) impossible to use a negative state as a guiding principle because the anti-X statement inherently postulates and affirms the existence of X. The only successful response is to replace the statement or belief “anti-X” with positive statement of belief “Y” (Matt Nixon’s paper on “Forrest Gump” explains and credits this idea — as it relates to myths — to Barthes.). This idea like quitting smoking: gum or carrot sticks, if used as substitutes for cigs in the mouth and /or hands, merely remind of cigs.

So books — I think my motivation in buying is different this time from before. This time, I feel kinda like how N. described his buying of CDs when he was unhappy with his job. He was unhappy with work but he had to keep his job, and so he had cash and little time or freedom — so he bought CDs.

I like my job — I just wish I didn’t spend so much time doing it. I have cash but no time, so I buy books because it is fun, enjoyable to buy books, and I’m not fetishizing these books. I would like to — do intend to — read them. But I just don’t have time. However, I guess that I am fetishizing the books in the sense that I am buying/consuming objects, and that the act of obtaining is pleasant and that therefore, I am taking a materialistic view of these objects that are, in their creators’ purpose, idea-vehicles rather than commodities. (For the publisher and marketer, books are commodities — sales-objects, material, but for the artist, a book isn’t “product” or even “content” (I hate the currently fashionable use of that word to mean facts, numbers, stories, visual art and music in a publishing or media context, as if they are all interchangeable, for one thing. It’s very condescending and telling about the attitudes of publishers.) To an author, a book is the “story,” the “argument,” the structured (as opposed to a list of numbers) ideas. It’s the result (by my definition of art as the result of a certain mental state) of mental concentration, of putting ideas and words in their proper (according to inherent structure of the work) order.

[From journals of Sun., 8 Feb. 1998, Journal 21, pages 9-12]

We sat in shade of a small tree in parking lot and ate

Home about 5 or after, after M. and I got Beef-Roo at place a couple blocks southwest of State & Perryville and we sat in shade of a small tree in parking lot and ate. I had veg. burger with Swiss & fries & some of M’s chocolate shake. At one point, on drive home, I wanted more shake and I found more shake! (I also texted Doug last evening some pics I took off ABC News (on TV) of Hurricanes Douglas and Hanna — Doug and his daughter are hurricaning (I verbed it).

I got some red screws 3″ long, densely threaded, Phillips heads, out of one part of the ledger board Saturday night. I need to get wheel barrow & rake for making our concrete for pads (not posts) for deck. I need too to clear a place in garage for ladder and wheelbarrow.

I like that idea yesterday (pg. 119, I think) of thinking of these journals as improvs — improv sessions, or jam sessions. People don’t market jam sessions (though there were recorders of G.Dead concerts. And fans swapped bootlegs. People liked to groove (after getting high?) on a jam session. It’s harder to follow along when high to a text — though reading my texts would still provide an experience.

[From journal of Mon., 27 July 2020, Journal 328, pgs. 123-4]

People can’t be different than what they are, so don’t criticize them

I am going to try to write at least a half-hour per day to practice my writing, even if it’s just writing in the journal everyday.  And if I skip, I can’t make it up to keep from falling behind — I never will.

[My college-radio jazz] show went well today — I only talked 4 times.  I just didn’t feel a need to talk.  When I did, I sounded kinda silly, so I didn’t.  Had to let H. into office — that guy is a jerk.  He acts like he owns everything.

Had a great idea at lunch — people can’t be different than what they are, so don’t criticize them. There is specific series of events, in most all cases, which has shaped people’s personalities and even their appearance. And since I believe in only limited free will, people really can’t help the way they are.  Just a thought in the endless stream of consciousness. Thank god it’s endless.

Before nap, it was cloudy and cold. When I woke up from nap, it was sunny and warmer. Fooled around in p.m., looked at papers, messed with the Colombia catalog and got copies of my favorite artistes.  Went with Rob to Copper Country Mall, got fishing license and went to B. Dalton — found nothing interesting but a new edition of Tolkien trade paperbacks.

Sat down after dinner and wrote 5-page paper in response to my … paper I did last fall. It was really fun — the words just flowed from me.

Cleaned room and am going to work on story and finish it, so I can put it away for a few days.  I’m not really worried about homework at all tonight— I’m on a higher mission.  [From journal of Sun., 25 April 1993]

And so it ages

Ok, so, yeah, heay — I didn’t mean to write it backgwards but that’s what I’ve done. I’v also now put a “g” in “backgwards” and I’ve left out the silent “e” in “I’ve” — and English keeps its old spellings — it’s a good language in which to do etymology. I learned over weekend that “gnosis” — root word of diagnosis, prognosis — is also a shared root with “know” — and that’s back in the Indo-European proto-language that the etymologists speculate/theorize into existence. And now it’s 3rd hour and I’ve graded some today but it never feels like enough. That’s OK, — it isn’t enough. Ha! And so it oges. And so it ages. [From journals of 8 Sept. 2020]

I went to Recorder’s office after leaving school

I went to Recorder’s office after leaving school about 3:10 and got there 3:40 or so and did get info on several of the properties I was looking for. I still have research to do on road right of ways, to find dates when curves on Routes 38 & 251 were smoothed — sometime after 1939. Both roads look less like S-curves then. 

And I walked (after leaving at 4:30. I saw Julie at Recorder’s office. She said she had left but was back for training purposes. She told someone she moved to Wisconsin for her boyfriend) and I walked over to Supervalu — got 2 loaves (“loaves” and “loves” aren’t far apart) bread, P.B., and banana-flavored breakfast-cookies, on the reduced aisle for $2. Oddly, the food on that reduced/clearance aisle — this food is already expired — but it’s not as cheap as I’d expect. I saw a bag of white & chocolate chips mixed (Hershey? or some name-brand) expired a couple or few months back, still priced at $2. 

A lovely fall day — 50° F — I walked dog to park once I got home. We walked in the 5 p.m. hour.

[From journal of Thurs., 25 Oct. 2018, Journal 287, pages 34-5.]

The hum & crackle of possibility in real life: October pics & notes


My view from beneath the shrubs at school where I eat outside so as to not be maskless in my classroom during pandemic school. 5 Oct. 2020

‡  You need to double-check/peer-review your work when there are standards for your work — and there aren’t any for new ideas. [5 Oct. 2020]

‡  The work my brother and I did in building my new deck: we were moving things (dirt, concrete, lumber, etc.) around. The things, unlike my students at my teaching job, had no say in what work I was doing. Nor did I question my work, what I’m doing and why, as I do in my teaching work. [5 Oct.]

‡  There’s no time travel because only physical forces can cause physical objects to move — so what could replace objects how they were at an earlier time? [5 Oct.]

Foliage in Ogle County, Ill. 8 Oct. 2020

‡  3:56 or 57 p.m.: A minute ago, while driving on Lindenwood Road, I saw a white-faced black bovine sniff and rub its head on a trailer hitch in its pasture. [5 Oct.]

‡  My mind isn’t quite an animal’s mind. So it might as well be open (a human mind as its own kind). [6 Oct.]

‡  With my mind open, I can be at home (or at ease, at least) anywhere. [6 Oct.]+

‡  What ideas do you have about ideas? — I could ask this of my students. I’m thinking of my “creative reading” assignment today, and when I asked what they’d come up with, my student L. said he’d written sentences that were meaningless. I wonder if kids think writing has to refer to something real. If they don’t get see that it’s words themselves that prompt mental images and feelings — that our minds will find patterns in word groups and sentences, as I’ve said in other classes when we do “Poetry Bingo.” [6 Oct.]

Pre-mums. 2 Oct. 2020

‡  Is it possible that readers like to feel needed by their authors? And maybe my readers don’t feel I need them? [6 Oct.]

‡  I’m an exemplar of living my life the way I live it. I don’t seek fame because, well, I want to see what life is like without that. I want to not work at fame, anyway. [7 Oct.]

‡  At one’s job, one has to adapt one’s mind to doing what others want and find valuable. Some people go to trainings in order to learn to think like their bosses (about new trends, say). These people want practical help. But my ideas aren’t always practical. My ideas are usually meant to provoke new thinking, not to practically tell would-be bosses what the currently popular ideas are. [7 Oct.]

Central beam of new deck being built by my brother, Dan. 14 Oct. 2020

‡  I’m tempted to take pics of lovely color on trees. But I’m skeptical of what I’d do with those picture. I don’t want to present that lovely moment as lasting. It seems a bit unreal — is it worth preserving? We get that impulse to preserve when we see these brief colors. [8 Oct.]

‡  At end of my commute home: I heard on radio “Love on an Elevator” (Aerosmith) and thought how distant rock as an art form can be from experience — not the lyrics, but the bombastic music. Rock is formal, not personal or in time. [8 Oct.]

‡  Maybe no moments are important as one lives them. [9 Oct.]

Concrete, clay, tile. 14 Oct. 2020

‡  The magic’s in the seeing, in my own attention, not in getting others’ attention. I saw a pattern of columns in a row as I headed outside — I thought about taking pics but didn’t. I don’t need a pic. The magic is in the experience, in the seeing. [13 Oct.]

‡  Being conscious means having context awareness (when and where you are, what led up to a particular moment of experience, etc.) But if you write about a particular moment, the text strips that context awareness away. [14 Oct.]

‡  Were it possible to do work unconsciously, would/should we? [14 Oct.]

Sky in Ogle County, Ill. 16 Oct. 2020

‡ The hum (the crackle?) of possibility in real life — that’s not in film or on TV, except maybe in live shots. [15 Oct.]

‡  Possession, in the sense of “these trees are mine because I see them.” Why revert to ownership, which is odd, too. [15 Oct.]

‡  We inflict intellectuals upon the young. The professor’s non-academic peers don’t need him/her (except to consult on practical matters, for law, science profs, etc.). Even literature and philosophy profs, we consult on questions within their specialties, but not as general life-models. People get learnéd, and then we inflict them on the young. [16 Oct.]

Ogle foliage. 23 Oct. 2020

‡  The real learning we do simply happens through repetition — that real learning is unintentional, unconscious/subconscious. It proceeds/happens without metathinking. Examples: the skills you do at your job everyday, or how the journal-writing I do every day has trained my mind to get faster, smoother, at producing words. Perhaps all the new-material learning we do at school is too specialized. When we say kids should be lifelong learners, are we saying that because workers learn new things? But mostly we don’t learn new things. We do old, familiar things again and again. And we value repetitions — experience — in technicians, surgeons, etc. [19 Oct.]

Oaky undertones. 24 Oct. 2020

‡  My monologuing, as in my journal-writing, communicates moods. Whatever I write about, even if it skips from topic to topic or is unclear, readers can probably discern my mood at the time I wrote it — anxious, relaxed, whatever. (Maybe that’s the essence of a journal monologue: I’m alive in this style (mood) today, now.) And moods seem important to communicate, I guess. [21 Oct.]

Lorado Taft’s “Eternal Indian” (aka Blackhawk) Statue, Oregon, Ill. Recently restored. 24 Oct. 2020. See previous state of statue here.

‡  Thinking of historical people’s bodies (say, typical people who lived a 100 or more years ago) — how they were dressed, what they used for transport, it’s easy to forget that these people also had desires. They were as desirous of money, sex, etc., as we are now. They were as eager to make money as people are now — we now can afford (in my region, anyway) not to farm every inch of land (as Illinois farmers did generations ago) because we have other jobs and investments by which to get money. [21 Oct.]

View west from base of “Eternal Indian” statue over Rock River toward north end of Oregon, Ill. 24 Oct. 2020

‡  Having confidence that you’ll get fed is part of what creates relaxation on vacation. If food’s scarce, there’s no ease. [21 Oct.]

‡  How I get captivated sometimes by images, idylls — maybe I want out of my context? [22 Oct.]

‡  “Just assume pretty. I can’t do it anymore,” my wife said after she’d pointed out some lovely natural scenes, and then did that several times, as we drove along River Road in Ogle Co., Ill. [24 Oct.]


How different pandemic school looks. Students in the high school where I teach don’t use lockers this year, and furniture has been removed from classrooms to allow recommended spacing between students. 26 Oct. 2020

‡  We must choose what we’ll say about any topic when we start to write about it. I’m pointing out that whenever one crafts a nonfiction story or description, biography or eulogy, one has to leave out a lot — and one must choose what to leave out. What attitude would I take if I wrote about my school, say? [26 Oct.]

Fuzzy sunrise. Ogle Co., Ill. 30 Oct. 2020

‡  There’s no why — it’s what sounds good. I’m thinking here about how some music-analysts talk about pop music in terms of chords and keys (which is like when some English teachers talk about literature in terms of alliteration and metaphor) and how these are levers that artists can pull to make music. But I suspect that most creating artists don’t think first about these levers. They probably have a germ of an idea and explore it and follow it and make decisions (using their experienced-but-open-minded judgment-faculty) based on gut feelings — rather than intentionally thinking of the levers. [28 Oct.]

I voted early this election in the basement of our old courthouse and jail. 31 Oct. 2020

‡  There’s nothing I wanted to compete for, jobwise or businesswise. I sometimes think I could’ve lived a bigger life — have had more money, fame, titles. But then, I don’t really regret these lacks at all. I never wanted to compete for a job or to get more business. [28 Oct.]

‡  As someone whose main message (frequent perspective) is to question the common ideas, I don’t need to create a whole alternative body of ideas. I just need to point away from (question) the common ideas. [30 Oct.]

‡  I’m not going to win awards (which, almost by definition, are mainstream, Establishment) and maybe my point — the main message of my writings (not that I have often thought about my writings having a single message, but if they did) is to question the common ideas of the Establishment, to say that there’s always more than one way to do things and to think of things. So my point is to show that there’s a good life to be lived without Establishment praise. [30 Oct.]

“Used Pens (need sanitized).” Early voting office, Ogle Co., Ill. 31 Oct. 2020

Instead of ‘now vs. then,’ different ‘nows’ — this now vs. that now

I grant that I have this new publishing approach that I like. That doesn’t mean I should judge others for not having this idea. But after I blogged last night, I thought of a way to explain, a simple way to explain, what I like about blogging just bits of my journal — and not introducing them as journal bits (which is a newer thing — not putting “journal” in the post title, but only at the very end, where I cite it kinda as a Works Cited source). Instead of thinking about moments as “now vs. then” (where “then” could refer to future or past, expected or prior (in the sequence) moments) — instead of that, think of “different nows” — this now vs. that now. Since we live (are alive) only now, we can’t live through — experience — a “then” moment, not directly.  “Then” is an abstraction, verging on story, that arbitrary construct. …

And this “different nows” is subtle but it’s the key, I think, behind why (as to why) I like my publishing of bits — a paragraph or so, each idea as roughly paragraph-length.

I like my publishing of bits from journals because each bit was written at/during a “now” — and so, different writings in any (all) journals pages are just the product of different nows.  … Royko writing his columns at different times, those are writings written for others within a historical (political, cultural, societal) context, written for the moment. And they don’t have much shelf life past the moment. They are merely historical documents. But because I’m not writing to an audience — I’m writing journals to a readership of one (of me) — well, then, it’s ever-present. I think something and then I write it. My ideas are fresh from my mind, and meant to be read only by my mind, at nearly the same time as I think them. I’m not thinking about when my audience will read my column — today, next week, tomorrow, whatever, So since I’m not in time, I’m timeless. I’m not writing to or for any moment but the very present moment, the now, and so somehow the texts seem alive to the reading moment of years later.

Of course, my journal texts are also historical documents. If you look at the date, the text is what I wrote on that date. By extension, it’s what I thought about on that date, and I couldn’t have known then what would happen next. So I do cite date and journal and page at the bottom of my text-selection.

I haven’t gotten feedback from M or Mom or Doug or readers making comments. I’m going on my own interpretation and adjudication. But also, I don’t seem to require others’ feedback. I’m not making a carving that’s smoothed for the public. What I’m making has some sharp edges, and that’s OK. You can touch my sculpture (as an image-metaphor for my blogs of journal bits), but carefully, mindfully, attentively.

And I wondered just now if I were feeling I had to defend myself and my project — nope. Sure, I am publishing these, making these publicly available, but I’m not promoting them. I’m not saying people should come read these. I’m not Disneyland, creating something thrilling (pandering to those who like speeds, scares, through roller coasters, which is most people) and safe (no real risk in riding a roller coaster) — or, there is real risk — ride could break — but the roller coaster marketers want to downplay that, make people feel safe.

I feel I could talk more about my blogs of journal bits — how I’m both putting particular flavor, concerns, specificity into an ostensibly dull, monolithic adulthood experience — and I’m capturing some kind of subtle-but-interesting ideas, interesting not in the history of human experience (or of human written-about experience) but interesting in a subtle way. Maybe my written-in-the-now blog posts also draw readers’ attention to their own present (in that my blog posts are subtly weird, that I’m not participating with new entries in familiar forms, like the one-panel meme is a form, like the op-ed column is a familiar form).

[From journal of Sat., 18 April 2020, Journal 321, page 157-160]

I harmed my reputation with some of those people, largely in an effort, I can now see, to get attention.

I read parts of the cartoons-about-Bush book Bob gave us. It contains Tribune Co. cartoons from 2000 through mid-2007, and what struck me is how much Bush has gotten away with his stupid plans and actions. But then I remembered: yeah, I’ve been wondering that since he got elected. I’ve been wondering every year how he’s gotten away with as much sh!t as he has. And finally the public has woken up to Bush’s idiocy. I mean, you (any person) can do and say whatever rude and obnoxious things you want to, and politicians can — well, the president can — seemingly get away with doing even illegal things— and in truth, the worst — or only real? — consequences are impacts to your reputation. Talk-show hosts like Limbaugh can be as juvenile and crass and rude and insulting to others as they want to be — but other people retain the right to think worse of that person for their rude behavior — giving them enough rope to hang themselves. And there’s not much else to be done. If Rush Limbaugh says something stupid about Barack Obama (or something else — I can’t recall exactly who said what about whom, but I heard about a talk show host who said a dumb, mean, juvenile thing about somebody who didn’t deserve it), we have the 1st Amendment, and beyond libel protections, there isn’t’ much to be done. So you just wait til others pick up on this reputation. I mean, even if people don’t indict Cheney for the things he’s done, they would never put him in another position of power. They might not impeach Bush, but he’ll be remembered in history as an idiot. And in a sense, he can’t do much about that, and it’s good advice to do what you want regardless of others’ approbation. But that advice is better, maybe, for artists and positive innovators, than it is for bullies —maybe bullies should care what others thing.

And as I write this, I’m thinking about my own pot-stirring of years past — at the Daily Illini, … Yes, I harmed my reputation with some of those people, largely in an effort, I can now see, to get attention. I didn’t think I could just be a nice guy. I thought I had to have an edge, I guess, though it wasn’t always that conscious. Sometimes I’d just blurt things out, or I’d feel an impulse to point out someone’s hypocrisy, etc. That’s just who I was back then. I’m more mature now, less critical, but still don’t have many friends where I work. Oh, well.

But this is the thing about Bush — he can be and do what he thinks best. He can take crazy (to me) positions, he can do wrongheaded (to me) things. And well, this is the thing: I’ll think badly of him. But he has long been a polarizing figure. Bush seldom reached out to try to get consensus, or to really convince others of the merits of his position. He mostly just made up his mind and “forget the rest of you.” Books about him have been suggesting that his real decision-making process was, in fact, on the inside (and not just how it appeared from the outside) just a narrow-minded, ideological, differing-P.O.V.-ignoring process.

And so, he can work that way, but then he lives with the consequences — no broad support for his programs, no good favor, no willingness of the people to go along with him — and so it goes. You can be a jerk, but don’t expect others to like you.

[From journal of Fri., 28 Dec. 2007, Journal 95, page 44-7]