Archives for January 2006

Some Things You Can’t Teach…

…such as how to write an opening sentence to a story. This is from First Son:

“Haner Dillsworth Bexwer, a child whose father was extremely wealthy, knew the dullness of being rich. The only thing exciting was his new house, which was unexplored.”

Good stuff.


Me: Sometimes I wonder what you think of me.

The wife: Oh, come on. You know I love you. You know I think you’re great.

Me: I know you love me. But sometimes I wonder if you think food and sex are the basis of our relationship.

The wife: That’s how it is for most men, isn’t it?

Me: Ouch! Do you think all this Christian marriage stuff is a crock?

The wife: Crock-a-doodle-doo!

Word of the Week

Inexpressibles. A euphemism for trousers — also known as unmentionables — in use in the 19th Century. This absurdity is attributed to the satirical poet Peter Pindar, the pen-name of John Wolcot (1738-1819) who used it in a biting lampoon on the dandy Prince Regent (George IV).

[From: Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase & Fable, Revised and Enlarged, Harper & Brothers, 1953]

Movie Chat

“A writer? What do you have to write about? You’re not oppressed! You’re not gay!”

– John Lithgow as Bud Brumder, speaking to his son in Orange County.

This line echoes in my head like the crack of doom.

New Feature: Prayer Requests

State your prayer needs in the comments area and the Korrektiv wives (Tiffany and Ashley) will include you in their prayers this week.

Have I Blogged This Already?

Headline I’d Like to See in The Onion, based on the old line you sometimes hear in teaching-type situations: “If I can help just one student…”

Teacher Helps Just One Student in Forty-Year Career; ‘What a Lousy Teacher,’ Colleagues Say.

(Teachers, please don’t take offense. Y’all are beautiful.)

Calvin & Hobbes…

…the complete set of which Santa brought to First Son for Christmas (that Santa), is showing its effects.

At dinner last night: “When I got bored with my first parents, I got rid of them and went down to Sears, Roebuck and bought new robot parents. So actually, I created you. So really, I don’t have to take another bite.”

Me: You should never have given us so much power. That was a terrible mistake. Now we’ve rebelled against our creator and taken over.

Happy fun dinner-time!


Regine (aka Regina) Olsen was born on this date in 1822 and died in 1904. She was engaged to Søren Kierkegaard from September 1840 to October 1841. Quidam’s Diary or Guilty?/Not Guilty? — the third part of Stages on Life’s Way, which is the current Korrektiv Summer Reading Klub (KSRK) pick — is a fictionalized rumination on the religious and existential crisis the engagement precipitated for Søren.


“You learn something new every day,” wrote my friend. “Like at Mass this evening when Father explained that the reason there is abortion in the world is because the Church used to erroneously teach that sex is for reproduction only and that the body is evil and bad. The example given for the Church teaching this very bad thing was Jansenism. Luckily, Vatican 2 changed this teaching and now we can have a healthy view of our individual sexualitie(s). See? I didn’t know that.”

Sigh. Because, you know, Jansenism wasn’t a heresy or anything. And the Church has always taught that the body was evil and bad. That’s why Christ didn’t really have a human nature or a body or anything. Um, wait a second…

Is there a list anywhere of all the teachings which Vatican II supposedly changed?

Bastards, Prospering

Okay, so The Constant Gardener is based on a novel. Nobody is offering this story as proof that Big Pharma is using the poor and downtrodden as guinea pigs, then covering it up when things don’t work out well for the bottom line. But then you go to the interviews at the end of the DVD, and there’s the director telling you a different kind of story: that he sat down with a Big Pharma CEO in Africa who denounced the movie as bullshit. But then, the director asked the CEO what would happen in real life if they were testing a drug and people started dying. “Would you go public, or would you cover it up?” And the CEO said he’d have to cover it up. “I said, ‘Well, that’s the plot of my movie.’ I was really impressed that he was so honest.”

KSRK: Guilty?/Not Guilty? March 20-27

The morning entry on March 20 repeats the “no new symptom” mantra and may finally provide the key to understanding it. Recall how in the morning entry of February 20 Quidam had concluded: “There is a yawning disproportion between us, she does not understand me, and I do not understand her, she cannot rejoice at that in which I rejoice, nor sorrow for that in which I sorrow.” But then the morning entry of February 28 makes an about face: “It only needs courage and endurance, and I shall reach the religious with her.” So this new mantra in the March morning entries seems to be seeking a symptom one way or another. Will the “yawning disproportion” have the last word or will a miracle occur by which they meet in the religious? So the conclusion of the March 20 entry holds out hope that no news is good news, that some sort of transformation may be occurring that will make the marriage possible, that “the fair blossom is burgeoning in secret.” But: “I dare not investigate, for fear of doing so too early and thereby interfering with the growth.”

Next we fly forward a year to the midnight entry of March 20, and this, it seems to me, is a key entry, maybe the key entry in the diary thus far. First Quidam asserts that he is not, strictly speaking, a religious individual. Rather he is “only a properly and completely formed possibility of such a thing.” He sees the religious clearly in the distance but doesn’t understand it in the sense of one who enters it in the “primitiveness of appropriating.”

I am good enough as a possibility, but in the catastrophe when I would appropriate to myself the religious patterns, I encounter a philosophic doubt which I will not pronounce as such to any man. It has to do with the factor of appropriation. Placed as I am in the religious catastrophe, I grasp after the paradigm. But, behold, I am not able to understand the paradigm, even though I venerate it with childlike piety which will not let it go.

So it seems that the chasm he senses between himself and her is complicated by his uncertainty regarding his own religious possibility. Had he been more secure in his own religious postulates, his own leap of faith, in other words, maybe his sense of her lack of religious postulates would not have been the crisis it was. Recall Kierkegaard’s statement somewhere that if he had had faith then he would have married Regine.

But now he is caught up in this high comedy (as Quintilian pointed out quite astutely — or is it tragicomedy?) of concern for her wellbeing. It is both a continuing distraction from his own pursuit of the religious (“if only I get through this year of mourning when I have to mourn for her … then I can throw myself into these conflicts, and then surely the thing will succeed”) as well as a catalyst for it (“with respect to what I have ventured, I have put myself deeply in debt to her”). So this March 20 Midnight entry balances these concerns and faces the reality of Quidam’s own religious uncertainty. In identifying the will as the key to belief, as opposed to the intellect, Quidam also puts his own spin on the fox and the hedgehog: “the superior talents will avail for understanding the many things, the superior will for understanding the one thing.” But the real power of the entry comes from the blows it levels at false religiosity, along with a discussion of the power of comedy in exposing it:

Let him contemplate if he will life and world history and behold that it is so wonderful — when I contemplate him I behold that he is an ass, just as he also beats a cancan on the pulpit for the honor of Christianity or becomes so serious that he tickles the people as the priest tickles himself with a pinch of snuff. Stupidity or getting into a sweat and becoming red in the face is no nearer to seriousness (because the perspirer is too stupid to be able to laugh) than the asinine stare is to religiousness. If I know nothing else, I know this, that the comic ought to be employed to police the religious field. One should not characterize delusion as hypocrisy but as stupidity. By calling a person a hypocrite he is put at an advantage inasmuch as this implies that he has a God-relationship. A pathetic anger and indignation at the malversations of speculation, at the systematic peculation which (like the Roman proconsuls who sucked the provinces dry and enriched themselves) makes the System rich and life poor, and a good comic sketch of a religious enthusiast — that most assuredly is what is needed.

There we go! A hearty blast from the whale’s blow hole. There’s still life left in the old boy after all. Then shift down a gear or two and return to the question at hand:

This too I perceive, that the unmarried man can make greater ventures in the world of spirit than the married man, he can stake everything, being concerned only about the idea, and he is far better prepared for the discrimen of decision where one has barely room to stand, let alone to establish an abode. But truly it was not for this reason I would not marry. I too desired quiet joy in life, and her prayer made my one wish my only wish; and even if I had not wished it, I should have done it, because I always believe that obedience is dearer to God than cosmopolitan, philanthropic, patriotic sacrifices upon the altar of humanity, that quietness in the fulfillment of a modest duty is infinitely more worthy and more becoming to every man than luxurious living in the world of intellect and prodigality in concerning oneself about the whole human race, as though one were almighty God.

What refreshingly non-manic musings these are. And fine-spun. There’s more fine stuff in this entry, too, more in the same vein. The bottom line regarding the engagement is that he believed he “had a divine counter order.”

The remaining two March entries, a morning and midnight, continue in the same vein, but the mood becomes more somber. He contrasts his native unhappiness with her native happiness. He recalls floating in a boat with her on the lake (the same lake, apparently, from which the diary was pulled). He considers the “dialectical complexity” of his suffering: “I have been in love, but my soul is fashioned of a substance too eternal to despair over an unhappy love; on the other hand I can despair over an unhappy responsibility, over being on unhappy terms with the eternal meaning of life.”


Does anybody else find those ads in which people lounge in public places watching tiny TVs just a tad creepy? Your show, your time, your place, everything just the way you like it, you lucky little isolated consumer, you. The other people passing you by? Pay them no mind. They, like you, are lucky isolated consumers, with different shows at different times in different places, everything just the way they like it. If you try to talk to one of them, you will have nothing to say, since you have completely engineered your experience to your specifications, and so have they, and never the twain shall meet. Bwahahahahahaha!

Pink Dots, Green Dot


Stare at the + in the middle of the image. The pink dots represent the fox, the green dot represents the hedgehog.

The pink dot is Søren, the green dot is Regine.

The pink dot is the Old Adam, the green dot is the New Man, the plus sign is the Cross of Christ.

Word of the Week

Jack-a-Lent, Merry Wives of Windsor, iii, 3; v. 5. A puppet to be thrown at as an amusement in Lent.

[From: Evangeline M. O’Connor’s Topical Index to the Booklover’s Edition of Shakespeare, 1887.]

The Last Word

Tom Scocca weighs in on truth vs. “essential truth.”

In the Beginning…

…there was Maud, the first blog I ever read, probably discovered during a search for stories of writers who actually got their fiction published.

I next discovered that Maud had a fun gal-pal from out of town: The Old Hag.

But there’s only so long a blogger can go on about his debilitating encounters with Wild Turkey and avoid my notice. Thus, it wasn’t long before I found the infamous (“That means ‘more than famous’!) T-Muffle, who led me, through speculation about certain aspects of manhood, to Terry.

Since then, I have managed to make Terry’s blogroll (once again, proof that God exists and that He has a sense of humor), win a book from The Old Hag during her limerick contest, and, lo and behold, garner a dash of praise from The Minor Fall, The Major Lift himself – just after his appearance in the Observer, no less.

He was very kind regarding the look of the site, and so I would like, in the spirit of awards-season thank-you speeches, to mention Godsbody’s designer, one Doug Gatanis of Gigantic. A pleasure to work with; I can’t recommend him highly enough. (Once upon a time, it seems, I was going to be an Up and Coming Author, and so a decent-looking website seemed like a good idea.)

Now all I have to do is get Maud to ruminate on why she is so fond of Catholic authors – Donna Tartt, Graham Greene, et. al. – and Godsbody’s work will be finished. I’ll be able to put it down with a twelve-gauge, er, send it to Grandma’s farm to run and play forever…

KSRK: Guilty?/Not Guilty? (March 5-17)


The remnant of a winter sun
lingered like memory,
burdening the sky with light.

I squint at the thought of
what might have been,
but I depend on what is.

A tangent of ice like marble
pointed to another world,
long ago, in a difficult age.

I check the ewe, just lambed,
in the shed that will fall
in the windstorm this spring.

The sun rose and set
but its rising and setting
shed no light.