Tag Archives: U of I

‘The most thing I want’: April’s notes from my pocket pages

Searing visage of the minivan in which I drove students to state WYSE meet. 10 April

“They’re adult-ier than me,” said a 23-24-year-old woman who was soon to be interviewed for a teaching job by three school administrators. 1 April.

Perhaps I understand other people by creating models of their minds — and those people I don’t understand are those whose minds I have trouble modeling. I can’t even imagine. 3 April.

A book-length text isn’t a natural or automatic form of expression for anybody — in other words, nobody accidentally writes a book — so it must be a formal construct, an intentional creation, and I don’t want that level of formality. I’m looking for text-forms that come more naturally. 5 April

Most humans are women. So maybe we shouldn’t think of men as the default — or typical — person. 5 April

I don’t need to be a critic at all! For a long time, I have had the idea that what intelligent adults do is critique things. Perhaps I learned this from my older family members who had strong opinions, and maybe I had this reinforced during my liberal arts education, the point of which seemed to be training me to interpret and analyze and evaluate. But nobody’s asking me (in most of my life) to do these things. So I don’t need to. I don’t even have to care enough to critique things — I can let go of the sense I often have that I should always have thought-out opinions on contemporary society, on politics, or on educational policy. Instead, I can let go of my criticisms and just do those creative things I love doing. 5 April

Dandelion-pollen racing stripe on my dog’s forehead. 22 April

Part of my critiquing and complaining is a feeling that I could be or would be or should want to be in charge, in control. But I can finally admit to myself that I am not now, and probably never will be, and don’t really want to be, in control of any institution or group. This being the case, I can free up a lot of thinking-time by just not fretting about the functioning of these big things I’m not in charge of. I can save my energy and do what I really enjoy. What it comes down to is that I don’t want to be a cultural (or other kind of) critic, as once I thought I did. Instead of analyzing and evaluating, I want to have new ideas — that’s what is primary for me. 6 April.

Who I am, who I want to be — these are becoming the same, and that feels good. 6 April

My cat in my lap. 8 April

Why are my dreams usually narratives? They’re not abstract; they seem to be first-person narrative — though even it’s in the first-person, I often feel the dream is being told or shown to me. I’m not in charge. 7 April.

I’m starting to see why someone facing death would say they’ve lived a good life and not be super-desperate to keep living. 7 April.

Slime from where I’d dumped into my garden some nightcrawlers collected from the street after a rain. 27 March

“Nerds have the funnest fun,” said my student while on our WYSE (Worldwide Youth in Science and Engineering) state competition trip. 10 April

I’m interested in whatever I have to teach me. I’m referring here to how I seem to learn, to receive new ideas, insights, from my own mind, my subconscious, whatever, when I freewrite in my journals. 11 April

Me, Mr. Hagemann, in front of the “H” (for Hagemann, I tell my students) built near what had been my senior-year apartment building at University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. 10 April

It’s probably better — humbler, and more promoting of social calm — if I think of myself more as the annoying person (who should keep quiet) rather than thinking of myself as the fascinating person (who should keep sharing every insight with people) in any group of people. 11 April

“A rectangle is basically an oval,” said a senior student, to much peer criticism. 11 April.

My WYSE students at U of I: Lexy, Alec, Abe, Nick, and Matthew. 10 April.

A fiction idea: A protagonist learns that the nemesis has died, partway through the novel. 11 April

You don’t get to choose who likes you or your writings. You won’t necessarily impress a particular person, and you can’t necessarily make your enemies jealous. 13 April

Be careful what you decide is normal, I told my sophomore students after they’d expressed some harsh social views. What’s normal in our small town isn’t what’s normal in Chicago. 13 April.

Giraffes behind a barn door at “Ag Day.”

I often hear high school seniors bluntly announce their opinions about certain classes and teachers. Maybe this quasi-rudeness is useful in helping other students to figure out what’s popular. If students were quiet and less judgmental, they might not know how to fit in with each other. New York magazine has an article about people forming friend-groups by sharing certain views and excluding those who have different views. Perhaps if one has no views, one is in no views-group. 13 April

“Ah, the miracle of new life! Isn’t it easily made fussy?” I said to my wife of a tiny baby at a nearby table in our local diner. 16 April

Coulters in the coffee grounds, at “Ag Day,” 21 April.

When I do my own writing and thinking, my ideas expand, branch outward, into new ideas — but there’s no way to grade that type of thinking within a school situation. In class, we limit, or condense, thinking to what’s testable — in other words, what’s already known. Schools can’t handle new ideas. 18 April

My father-in-law begins a story this way: “This girl at work — OK, not work, but at church, and she’s not really a girl — she’s 82 years old …” 25 April

A calf-side map of an imaginary white island. On Jasmine Calf at my school’s “Ag Day,” 21 April.

“That’s the most thing I want for my birthday,” said an elementary-aged girl to an older girl about a journal at Target store on Rockford’s East State Street, 29 April

My dog seems to be dreaming when he’s sleeping and his legs start twitching. Does he know that he’s dreaming, like I do once I’ve woken up? The dog doesn’t have the dream-like experiences of watching movies and TV that I’ve had. 30 April

A statuesque farmwife at my high school’s “Ag Day.” I imagined that she still sometimes wonders what her life would have been had she finished that M.F.A. program. But then there are eggs to gather and geese to feed.

Academic writing is “over-equivocated”

Writer Rebecca Schuman makes an interesting point in a defense of her writing style:

Readers can sense hedging, equivocation and cowardice from 10 miles away, and they don’t like it. At the same time, those who wish to succeed in academe must compromise what they say in public (the recent Salaita affair is but the most extreme example of the kind of systemic restraint that academia demands). As a result, a lot of “public” writing by academics is self-censored, over-equivocated, bogged down in data analysis, and thus unreadably boring to a non-academic audience. But since I am no longer beholden to some imaginary search or tenure committee, I get to hold nothing back — and that is why I get to be at Slate. If you want anyone to read your op-eds on a mainstream platform, you must take a firm, blunt stance — one that might have to oversimplify a few things for brevity, and one that will bring its share of both support and vitriol.


‘Even transcendent moments can drain you’: Pocket pages week in review

I indulge my obsessive mind sometimes in pursuing an idea. Maybe that’s why my posts (for example, here), my writing, can get a little too dense, some readers have commented.

It’s OK if I don’t have all my ideas and ideals worked out. The tension makes my writing interesting (maybe).

My town's water tower gains a crown during maintenance work this week.

My town’s water tower gains a crown during maintenance work this week.

There’s no need to speak against an artwork (like this example speaks against the movie Dead Poets Society). A person may like or love an artwork’s tone or voice, without caring too much about whether the artwork is particularly realistic or accurate or even philosophically astute.

I got upset about something I read that my alma mater did. I’m reminding myself that I don’t need to get upset about institutional decisions — there will always be ones I don’t agree with. I can disagree with things without actually getting upset about them.

My blog doesn’t need to be as timely as a news site is. I’m writing more “undated” (as the journalists say) pieces that can be read at various times. I’m building an archive, a set of stories, ideas, etc. More a book (like an anthology?) than a newspaper.

Reading in book “Jazz Poems” a poem by Frank Landon Brown that contains the line “a boy … who’d become great before he should have.” This prompts a thought that there are seasons, there’s a paced unfurling, to a life. And it may not help to hurry it. That if we get attention young, we may not be able to handle it, or we may be ignoring /sacrificing some other part of our lives. That even transcendent moments can drain you.

After seeing an ad in American Poetry Review for Bennington College M.F.A. program, an ad that said, in 72-point Helvetica,



be read.

as if readers could be delivered. What if people were actually eager to read writings? What would those writings be like? It doesn’t seem that writers should need all this machinery working toward fame — the small journals, the MFA programs, the poetry contests with entry fees, etc.

I was showing off for my fellow teachers last night, I can now [the next morning after the open house] recognize. I was telling stories in an attempt to entertain.

There’s a narrow range of responses, reactions, a person might have to something (particularly I’m thinking here of reactions to seeing, reading, or hearing something in real life or in media). This range of responses might include agreeing, disagreeing, associating something with it, mocking it, etc. To go beyond these mere responses, you gotta think a little deeper, dive in, engage, not go with your first reactions, which tend to be of that narrow range. Instead, you can use that event as a starting point, not as the whole first half, of an essay.

The midpoint of my commute from home to school (or school to home) is just a concept, the middle of a whole, a unit, a defined distance. But physical things aren’t relative to particular points. There isn’t an obvious relation or comparison between the locations of my home and my school, except that they are locations that matter to me.

I have an obsessive tendency to check a few things, in particular, to check to make sure my stove is off before I leave the house, and to make sure my classroom’s windows are locked before I leave school. I look at each thing, each burner knob, each window, and I say “off” or “locked,” respectively, as I look at its state. I wonder if having this habit is part of what inspired my interest in wondering in a more general sense how much words and perceptions match physical reality. Perhaps I say “off, off, off, off,” to confirm my perception of the stove’s real status, to make sure I am paying attention, forming a memorable idea that it’s really off (that if I say “off” at the same time I’m looking at the burner, I may remember that I said “off” and that it really was off). [My variety of obsessive thought involves being concerned that I am paying attention now to turning off the stove so that if I later wonder if I turned off the stove, I can reassure myself. But actually the goal is to not wonder later at all — it’s better to get busy doing something else. But maybe this habit of mine is partly why I’m philosophically interested in wondering how ideas and words match/reflect reality, as here, for example.]

Writers write in order to find something to say (for explanation). We don’t have things in mind that we need to say, or at least not always do we. When we do, that’s not usually as interesting.

A different way of thinking about places, about physical things: There doesn’t need to be, there is no one way to conceive of nature, including the concept of no-concept.

Weather and other physical world conditions don’t matter in the mental realm — or maybe they do. I mean, we can read and discuss, say, Plato, whether it’s cold or hot outside. We’re inside, climate-controlled — it’s hard to even read outside (it’s too bright, etc.). But if clouds shape (even partially) our mood, and mood shapes ideas … maybe I’m sensitive to my surroundings. I observe lots, and get critical of things, maybe because I feel overwhelmed and feel a need to respond, so I get defensive (and thus critical).

I did no reading online while eating today at lunch (I usually do read online, or watch TV, or even write, while eating).

[End of the school day Thursday:] Feeling too tired today to want to grade student papers. This is what I felt like much of last year, rather than the energetic mood of the last few days when I was keeping up with grading.

“Oh, well, what’s a little memory loss,” laughed one of my colleague teachers to a student.

Every time I go to Walmart, I regret it.

I think that one thing I’m searching for in my writing is some unity of consciousness and place/physical locale. I know I’ll never get to know the truth of the physical world (not talking particle physics here, but what really happened as outside of, apart from, my perception of what happened), but the particular consciousness’s voice matters. The writer’s voice is in, is embedded in, comes from, the consciousness.

In contrast to the individual’s voice, there’s the language we use when people join into groups, organizations, institutions — anonymous, role-based speech. Not unique consciousnesses at all (or the uniqueness is minimized) because the teacher in the classroom, the boss in front of a staff meeting, feels the need to play the role of teacher, of boss.

On Friday afternoon in the parking lot, one male student was telling another male student some plans for afterschool transport options. The second student said, “I think that’s your mother over there.” The first student said, “Oh. Nevermind.”