Archives for April 2012


Dear Korrektiv: I’m grateful you took
Me onboard. Soft! — One last, longing look….
If I have a successor,
God bless him or bless her!
(Now I’m just one more everyday schnook.)

31 Short Essays about Praying the Rosary

Whether you pray the Rosary frequently, occasionally, seldom, or never, I cannot recommend this link highly enough.

Whether you find the Rosary powerful, soothing, meritless, or counterproductive, I cannot recommend this link highly enough.

With 31 short pieces — one for each day of October, the Month of the Rosary — you’re almost certain to find something practical — or at least, interesting. Some present venerable traditions; others are inventions or observations by the author. Many of them are suggestions about how to think through the Mysteries in greater depth — imagining what a specific person involved in the mystery would have experienced, say; or comparing two or more mysteries (e.g., Christ’s crowning with thorns and Mary’s crowning as Queen of Heaven and Earth); or seeing how a given mystery exemplifies a given virtue.

Dana Gioia

Our coreligionist Dana Gioia — ex-General Foods executive, ex-NEA chairman, really good essayist/critic, pretty good poet — has a book due out next Tuesday, the 8th of May: Pity the Beautiful. Here’s one of the poems, which, though not one of his very best, takes a feeling I’ve felt while browsing through liturgical art in museums, and gives it an extra twist. I bet at least one or two of you out there can sympathize:

‘The Angel with the Broken Wing’

I am the Angel with the Broken Wing,
The one large statue in this quiet room.
The staff finds me too fierce, and so they shut
Faith’s ardor in this air-conditioned tomb.

The docents praise my elegant design
Above the chatter of the gallery.
Perhaps I am a masterpiece of sorts—
The perfect emblem of futility.

Mendoza carved me for a country church.
(His name’s forgotten now except by me.)
I stood beside a gilded altar where
The hopeless offered God their misery.

I heard their women whispering at my feet—
Prayers for the lost, the dying, and the dead.
Their candles stretched my shadows up the wall,
And I became the hunger that they fed.

I broke my left wing in the Revolution
(Even a saint can savor irony)
When troops were sent to vandalize the chapel.
They hit me once—almost apologetically.

For even the godless feel something in a church,
A twinge of hope, fear? Who knows what it is?
A trembling unaccounted by their laws,
An ancient memory they can’t dismiss.

There are so many things I must tell God!
The howling of the dammed can’t reach so high.
But I stand like a dead thing nailed to a perch,
A crippled saint against a painted sky.

Gioia’s also done a double-triolet, if you can believe that.

His interviews are always worth reading, and the ideas he expresses seem quite kongenial to Korrektiv. He knows a thing or two about trying to arrange marriages between money and art, and about cultivating patronage. He is a member of two groups — believing/practicing Catholics, and cultural Catholics (he’s of Sicilian and Mexican descent), and envisions a Catholic presence in American arts and letters that includes both groups. We might say he is interested not only in Catholic writers, but in Catholicish writers. JOB’s writing on Seamus Heaney has a similar spirit.

Here’s a short and pointed poem to punctuate this rambling post.


So much of what we live goes on inside–
The diaries of grief, the tongue-tied aches
Of unacknowledged love are no less real
For having passed unsaid. What we conceal
Is always more than what we dare confide.
Think of the letters that we write our dead.

Σίμων ὁ μάγος


The fisherman-wizard spit-sprayed a bit
When he growled, ‘Grace is free, if you pray for it.
Damn your dough!’ Not too nice!
But there must be a price,
And as hell is my witness, I’ll pay for it.


Thought upon attempting to exercise:  “Matthew Lickona:  less a man – a thing of muscle and bone, tendon and sinew, nerve and organ, spirit and flesh – than a cleverly crafted bag of suet.”

…and a moral act.

Nice to see someone’s still listening.

Eating is a morel act.




Well, now, this bodes well indeed…

But Angelico, you left out the best part:

“Probably the press were the only people to be taken in by Bruno Hat. Certainly, everyone at the private view knew what was happening; Bryan Guinness remembers: ‘it seemed to me a charade rather than a hoax since everyone appeared to be in the secret. Nobody betrayed it: to some extent the hoaxers were perhaps hoaxed in thinking anyone deceived.”

Anvil or Hammer

On one side of my family: Huguenot refugees, who settled in America to escape the power of Catholic France.

On the other side: Minh Mang, aka the ‘Nero of Indochina’, scourge of Vietnamese Catholic converts and missionaries.

Gives a certain frisson to the singing of ‘Faith of Our Fathers’, let me tell you.

The Korrektiv: Bright Youn… um, Bright Somethings?

Via the BBC: ‘In a sense… the history of every medium is also, at least in part, the history of using that medium for fakery, for hoaxes and all kinds of practical jokes.’

When pranksters create internet hoaxes for fun – or for profit – it becomes difficult to trust what we read or see online.

Jokers and for-profit marketing companies are now devising elaborate online hoaxes, taking advantage of the in-built desire among consumers and media outlets to believe what they really know is unbelievable.

Hacking giant video monitors in New York’s Times Square? Kanye West launching a web startup? Fakes like these are just about believable enough.

Fakes that are just believable enough? Sounds familiar….

In the accompanying video, one of the kids behind the ‘Kanye West web startup’ hoax explains why he dragged Kanye West’s name into his little personal prank: ‘We realized this would probably only be funny to us and our friends, and so we need a name bigger attached to it’ — which sounds very familiar… very VERY familiar. Am I right, friends?

But the Korrektiv Konnektions don’t stop there. About halfway through the video, a professor type mentions that Evelyn Waugh and friends staged a fake art exhibit in London in 1929! Did everyone else know that already? I didn’t know that.

But, sure enough:

This celebrated hoax involved all the leading social figures of the time, and was the brainchild of Brian Howard, the effete socialite dilettante, upon whom Evelyn Waugh modelled the languid Anthony Blanche of Brideshead Revisited. Flushed with the success of his twenty-fourth birthday party, a ‘Great Urban Dionysia’ with Greek mythology as its theme, Howard then dreamed up a project that would not only be a good prank, but might also serve the dual purpose of launching him as an artist.

With his great friend Bryan Guinness, who was at that time married to Diana Mitford later to become the wife of Oswald Mosely, he carefully planned an exhibition of paintings by an imaginary artist. The show opened on July 23 1929 at Bryan Guinness’ house at 10 Buckingham Street, London SW1, advance information having been leaked to the press. Lady Eleanor Smith was suitably duped when she reported in the Sunday Despatch: ‘BRUNO HAT. What will be almost a cocktail party, is the private view of the exhibition of paintings by Bruno Hat to be held in London next week. Bruno Hat is a painter of German extraction, and his work is mainly of the abstract type, seemingly derivative from Picasso and De Chirico….’


This natural, intuitive modern artist was in fact Tom Mitford, Bryan Guinness’ brother-in-law in heavy disguise and with a very affected German accent, who sat in a wheelchair and answered questions during the packed private view.

And Waugh himself even wrote an introduction to the exhibition catalogue, called ‘Approach to Hat’:

Now everyone is aware that what has come to be termed “abstract” painting has only just begun to be “taken seriously” in England. Some years ago Mr. Roberts and Mr. Wyndham Lewis achieved a certain success in that direction, but the acknowledged masters, such as Picasso, Gris and, perhaps, Marcoussis, have only recently found a market in this country. Artistically, we are incurably unpunctual.


The painting of Bruno Hat presents a problem of very real importance. He is no Cezanne agonisedly tussling to reconcile the visual appearance of form with his own intuitional perception of it. Like Picasso, he creates it. Though the experienced eye can see at a glance that his work is entirely free of Picasso’s influence, it is to that artist that we go so far as to compare him. Picasso is the greatest painter of our time for one reason: this reason is that he is the most inspired of all the creators of abstract pictures. Those experts who have seen Bruno Hat’s work definitely accredit him with a similar power, developed, because of his youth only, to a less degree. The significance of this cannot be sufficiently stressed. It means, among other things, that Bruno Hat may lead the way in this century’s European painting from Discovery to Tradition. Uninfluenced, virtually untaught, he is the first natural, lonely, spontaneous flower of the one considerable movement in painting to-day.

Hitherto, good abstract painting has been the close preserve of its Hispano-Parisian discoverers. Bruno Hat is the first signal of the coming world movement towards the creation of Pure Form.

And that got me thinking… and thinking… and thinking…


Anxiety of Influence

So I just wrote this graf for this Surfing with Mel thing, and I’m almost sure it’s mostly ripped off from somewhere.  Help? [Language alert.]

Jesus, Joe, have you lost your nerve?  You used to enjoy pissing people off.  It was one of your strong points.  Haven’t you lived long enough to know that if people don’t like you, you’re not ever going to make them like you?  You can bend and bend and give and give until you’ve given your whole damn soul away and there’s nothing left of you but the lips you use to kiss their asses.  And the best you can hope for is that they’ll stop telling people you’re an asshole.  They might accept you, but they’ll never love you, and they’ll sure as fuck never respect you.  Because by that point, you won’t be able to respect yourself.  Stop trying to please the Jews, Joe.  We’re not making this movie to please the Jews.  If anything, we’re making this movie to convert them.


Surfing with Mel Update

Sometimes, the lines just write themselves:  “It’s been kind of weird the last couple of years.  It’s like living in a bad B movie. From slipping on a banana peel in your driveway to sort of midnight phone calls – ‘We have the girl; we want $1000 in unmarked bills’ – it’s like, ‘How did I get here?’ It is bizarre.”

An Open Letter to Jack White

That is no way to treat a bottle of Bulleit.

She thought she could be a martyr….

Anonymous, c. 1500

Heads up.

The 29th of April is, when not displaced by Sunday, the feast-day of Saint Catherine of Siena, the great Dominican tertiary.

The wonderful Maria Lectrix has read and recorded Catherine’s dialogue with God the Father — starting here.

Also edifying: Wikimedia Commons’ gallery of Catherine-of-Siena-related pictures, including this painting of a Carmelite/Dominican/Franciscan triple threat, and some intense images of Catherine’s exchange of hearts with Our Lord.

Project Gutenberg has her Letters in multiple formats for free. The translator and editor of that volume, Vida Scudder, prefaces one of Catherine’s letters to Blessed Raimondo of Capua thus:

With all her longing to suffer for her faith, Catherine was only once, so far as we know, exposed to physical violence. This was on the occasion of which she is here speaking. She is still in Florence, faithful under the new Pope as under the old to her efforts to bring about the passionately desired peace. In a tumult in the disordered city, it came to pass that her life was threatened, and she took refuge with her “famiglia,” in a garden without the walls. Hither her enemies pursued her, but as they drew near, fell back of a sudden, awestruck, as she herself here tells us, by her words and bearing. The danger was averted, and Catherine had met one of the disappointments of her life.*


*Footnote: As she herself expresses it, “The Eternal Bridegroom played a great joke on me.”

Phat Diem Cathedral

This is Phat Diem Cathedral, built in the late 1800s in Vietnam. The cathedral complex also includes a number of freestanding chapels.

Here’s a one-minute video of a stroll around one of the complex’s courtyards:

Here’s Lonely Planet’s description.

Here’s Wikipedia’s page.

Here’s Flickr.

And Google Image Search.

And here’s a Sino-Vietnamese bas relief of an incense-scattering angel, crowned like a Deva King, with Genesis 28:17 carved overhead in Latin. Pretty Catholic, no?

Though for what it’s worth, my father, whose judgment I am inclined to trust in this matter, considers the Vietnamese priest who masterminded this cathedral complex — Fr Tran Luc aka ‘Pere Six’ — to have been a pro-French traitor. (Fr Tran Luc’s name comes up in this Vietnam Studies Group email thread on Vietnam-Vatican relations, which provides a few more facts and a lot more opinions.) If that’s so, then Phat Diem is a field of wheat and tares. But what excellent wheat.

Today in Porn: E-Commerce Edition


‘At lunch, the most common question, aside from “Which offensive d-ck-shaped product did you handle the most of today?” is “Why are you here?” like in prison.’

That line (in its original, unredacted form) comes from Mac McClelland’s ‘I Was a Warehouse Wage Slave’, an undercover report on what it’s like to work at a hellish hinterland packing facility for a certain, but unnamed, e-commerce entity. There’s a bit to unpack here (as it were), what with the dehumanized workforce rushing at breakneck speed to fulfill orders for products that objectify the human body.

‘I Was a Warehouse Wage Slave’ appeared in — sorry, Mr Webb — Mother Jones, whose website seems to be down at the moment. But Google caches of the article’s four pages are available here:

Page 1          Page 2          Page 3         Page 4

Also worth a look — or, if you’re pressed for time, even more worth a look — is Cory Doctorow’s featurette on ‘I Was a Warehoue Wage Slave’. Scroll down to find a comment thread that will be of interest to readers of Korrektiv. The first commenter, one Deidzoeb, begins the discussion:

How do they deal with sexual harassment in a place that produces “offensive d-ck-shaped products”, or say a person who wants to do the lighting on a porn shoot? Do we assume that employees become asexual if they agree to work on a sex-related job? For a while, part of my job included preparing journals like Playboy and Penthouse to be microfilmed. Playboy microfilm made enough money that we were supposed to check every page for missing pages, printing errors, things like that.

We had one of those sensitivity and sexual harassment workshops one day like you see on The Office, not quite as ridiculous. I asked the instructor how I can avoid creating a hostile work environment or an accusation of sexual harassment when my job could seriously involve asking my female supervisor what to do about a torn page or printing error on a centerfold.

The instructor seemed a little annoyed by the question. He said it should be clear from the context of the situation. […]

More here.

Tulips for Elsie

The day before you died I thought I’d bring
You tulips for your bedside table, bright
Ones, pink and white, to give your gaze a place
To rest, to make your labor seem less harsh.
I told my daughter so, my four-year-old
Who’d told me I should visit you, who’d hinted:
Your work, this dying business you were in,
Was making worldly things seem flimsy, thin.
The day moved on and tulips left my mind, though,
Until I thought of you again, too late,
The night descending, bringing sleep’s regrets.
The morning came and with its obligations
Distracting me, I let my dream of tulip
Fields plow under and turned to hear the news.

Today in Porn: Speaking of Watching About Porn, Here’s Out of the Darkness

Read all about it.