Category Archives: From the journals

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]

Minds live in a lot of places, and minds don’t need tenure, either

So, yeah, (“soy,” I wrote, which is to say, I didn’t mean to say “soy” but the “y” snuck in there. The “why” snuck in — isn’t that always the case that the “why” sneaks in, at least mentally, and I wonder just why I’m doing something, and so often the answer that comes back is “because I have to — in order to keep my job, or to keep my house, or just to be a good person.” I have to keep my father-in-law living with us, spilling Pepsi all over …, because I want to do right by my wife, who wants to do what’s right by her dad. Sure, she feels filial piety — but also, what the hell else is there to do? I wonder if I’m at an age where I start being aware of how much I need the system — how I start to feel my fragility, or not “fragility,” really, but my vulnerability. I’m still feeling, seeming, strong, healthy, but I’m aware that that can be gone pretty damned fast.

[Later on in that day’s journals:]  My father-in-law thought I said “f***ers” when I’d said “Rutgers” and, well, he’s not wrong. It seems sometimes like the universities are where there’s a level of sophisticated living — of the life of the mind. Of course, minds live in a lot of places, and minds don’t need tenure, either. Also, I thought today that it’s — that it shouldn’t have been a surprise that people in the country have taken irrational positions w/r/t politics and pandemic. It’s always been true that a lot of people one meets aren’t rational, you know?

[From school journal of Fr., 1 October 2021]

Things I missed during the pandemic

Things I missed during the pandemic. I mean, did I really miss things? As I sit here today, I’m not sure. I guess I missed the sense of ease, of not being afraid to buy groceries, etc. I almost said I missed watching sports on TV, but, no, sports went on anyway, at least on TV. I missed … Hmm. Just now, as school gets back to normal, I feel I’m missing last year’s school a bit. Not entirely, of course, but I sure am a lot busyier (sp?) during the days this year than last. There’s no time, or, to be accurate, little time to plan and to grade. But it’s school. The pandemic didn’t really seem to lead to lasting changes, and maybe it’s too much to expect big changes, when many people just wanted to get back to how things were — though things weren’t always that great pre-pandemic. {Google has red-underlined “busyier” — and Google has asked me if I mean “bustier” — Google, I don’t.}

[From school journal of Weds., 18 Aug. 2021]

I made it another minute!

Bach’s a playin.’ By time I wrote the first time-quote on the line above, the time-quote had changed — but that’s the problem with time-quoting, isn’t it? Ah, well. So, I gave a quiz to 1st and 2nd hours, and I remembered that I need to grade the CW1 journals and several other things. But save those grading thoughts for later. You don’t have time to grade now — now ‘tis not the season for the grading. Now is the season of the writing and of the recording of the attendance, and suchforth and so on. And now I’m here, having arrived at the time-quote  of “12:23 PM” and still I live — I made it another minute! That’s not really much of an accomplishment — and yet, also, it is. …

I DO try to think of my favorite artists as not being superpeople — they’re more-or-less like me; I mean, I try to remember that. I try to remember that just because somebody wrote something cool that it was good to be in their presence all the time, or even any of the time. I think about the Chana historical signs, too — how any time we write something, it seems special, but no, it wasn’t all that special — especially that one dumb sign on Chana Road that says some dumbasses looked for oil but didn’t find any. Well, duh. But the attempt got a metal (poured — cast-metal, that’s the word) sign. We’d all like a cast-metal sign, like those blue plaques London puts on buildings where authors lived. And yet, to not have done something deserving of a plaque makes the enplaquened look goofy. And yet, of course, NOBODY actually deserves a plaque. THAT’s what I think of artists now, I guess. I don’t think anybody deserves a plaque. Nobody’s that great — or, let’s say, it distorts our understanding now to give anyone from the past a plaque. Mostly, even the great artists were, well, just, you know, doing their thing — doing some work, trying to have some fun, eating, showering/bathing, dressing, crapping, all that stuff. I wrote at home-journal this week that there are people (including neighbor lady I exampled) who are very helpful and warm and kind people, but if she never writes a book, she’ll never get remembered. I’m not as kind, but I’ve put down lots of words on paper! Of course, she knew the deal — what’s on paper gets saved, gets studied, gets remembered. She puts stuff on Facebook about her kids and her husband being a lawn perfectionist, and also a — what did she call him? She said something about how her husband is teaching their kids what  a “gentleman” is or some bu*lshi* like that. And she writes stuff about her kids on their birthdays, she characterizes them — hey, that’s great. I didn’t really want to characterize things lately — I don’t, I mean — because those characterizations are so flawed, they give the wrong idea. We teachers ask students to read things for class — novels or stories or whatever — and it’s cool when a student has, or, heck, when I as a teacher have, a cool idea/insight into what we’re reading — but the institution doesn’t really know what to do with that insight, or hell, even with enthusiasm. Teachers can’t care too much if students LIKE what we read in lit class because, well, we’re gonna read it anyway. It’s on the curriculum. And it’s ON the curriculum because, well, it’s not too offensive and we can get many copies of it — it’s certainly not the best stories that get curriculumed. 

[From school journal of Friday, 10 Sept. 2021]