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Write as the Wind Blows




"Write as the wind blows and command all words like an army! See them how they stand in rank ready for assualt, the jolly, swaggering fellows!"

--Hilaire Belloc, The Path to Rome






Photo: Lowell Thomas, 1962,via Photographers Gallery.


Study for 'The Haunted House' (An Oil Selection)

Study for 'The Haunted House'

Oil on Board, 1878-1959

Alfred James Munnings

     "I believe that the whole frame of a beast doth perish, and is left in the same state after death as before it was materialed unto life . . . that the souls of the faithful, as they leave earth, take possession of Heaven: that those apparitions and ghosts of departed persons are not the wandering souls of men, but the unquiet walks of Devils, prompting and suggesting us unto mischief, blood, and villainy; instilling and stealing into our hearts that the blessed Spirits are not at rest in their graves, but wander solicitous of the affairs of the world. But that those phantasms appear often, and do frequent cemeteries, charnel houses, and churches, it is because those are the dormitories of the dead, where the Devil, like an insolent champion, beholds with pride the spoils and trophies of his victory over Adam."

--Sir Thomas Browne, Religio Medici


The Killjoy Critic's Weapon

      This "very 'umble" (as Uriah Heap would phrase it) piece of satire was read at a meeting of the Killjoys (a literary discussion group) in a dilapidated, crumbling backhockey of a 1950's Cape Cod style house in Manhattan, Kansas last Friday. Though the current reader (you) will not be able to capture the aura surrounding its reading (the haze of pipe smoke, the taste of fermented barley and the imminent possibility of the roof caving in) I hope he or she (you) will at least enjoy the written words. So without further ado . . .

      While we killjoy critics are against physical weapons of any kind—especially wooden or plastic weapons for children, which might lead little boys to imagine they are slaying dragons and saving socially constructed and dangerously gendered princesses in pink tulle . . . You will notice I have digressed, as is proper, for Killjoy critics also approve heartily of academic digressions which lead to new discoveries of thought and keep the writer from that format more menacing than a thousand, bloody-handed, ravenous capitalists at a rally for pollution: the five paragraph essay.

            To return to what was posited at the outset of this paper, we killjoy critics are against physical weapons of any kind, but our arsenals are full of metaphorical weapons when approaching a text. One of these weapons is our ability to, once we have stated an idea about a text, repeat it at least twenty different ways using as many synonyms and obscure words as possible so as to make the audience think we are making tens of points, while, in reality, we are only making one. In other words, we present superfluous phrases to explain single concepts to our readers utilizing alternative phrases to give the appearance of nuanced meaning. What I mean by this is, we find other ways to state the same concept under the auspices of separate words and word pictures. To put it another way, we use diverse symbols, metaphors and cultural commentary under the aegis of one theory so as to skew the perception of the readers. Another way of looking at this is to think of a thesis as a fractal, made up by thousands of other mini-theses—namely words and phrases—that resemble the original thesis. It is best to state as many of these as is possible. Maybe an example would make my point seem stronger: Karl Marx famously said, “Workers of the world unite!” though we Killjoy critics esteem Mr. Marx highly for his ability to suck every drop of joy from any text on which he places his full, German lips, it would have behooved him to have found twelve to fifteen other phrases that meant the same thing as “workers of the world unite!” For instance, “Laborers of the planet, come together!” “Drudges of the globe, coalesce!” “Those who toil in this diurnal course, fuse yourselves!” “Proletariat of the blue planet, meld!” “Toilers on terra firma, merge!” “Those whose noses are to the grindstone, combine!” “Hired hands of earth, unionize!” His call for action would have stayed the same, but his audience would have been awed by his ability to repeat the same phrase in so many diverse ways. To put it simply, he could have used sundry phrases to supplement his singular thought. He might have told his readers what seven or eight critics said; if they happened to have said the exact same thing as he said, all the better. Over-citing critics is a sure way to let your audience know you are taking the text before you very seriously and will not let any joy seep through the hermetically sealed door you have forged from numerous examples.

          In short, killjoy critics can assure themselves that the reader who used to find joy in a text now rues the day they laid eyes on that series of socially constructed words by employing seven strategies: repetition, reiteration, restatement, review, reminder, recapitulation and regurgitation. Another way of seeing this is this is to picture yourself in a room of mirrors. How many of you are there? Are any of your reflections different than the others? The answer to at least one of those rhetorical questions is, “no.” Write like that. In other words, put down words on paper following the example of the mirrors. As critic Mary S. Wagoner puts it, “Tristram” (never mind who he is, just imagine he stands for all authors everywhere in every time period) “Tristram repeatedly replies to the reader.” This is wise. It is prudent and smart. It is good advice. Make it your motto. Incorporate it as your life’s most meaningful phrase. By doing so, you will be a better killjoy critic, or, to say it slightly differently, you will be successful in academia.

R. Eric Tippin
In a basement office on the campus of Kansas State University
October 23, 2013

Portrait of an Unknown Artist
Oil on Canvas - 1897
Elizabeth Hean Alexander 


In Defense of Beauty

O how can beautie maister the most strong,
And simple truth subdue avenging wrong?

Recently, I have been reading the first book of Edmund Spenser's Faerie Queene in which Spenser tells the story of the brave Redcrosse Knight who undergoes a falling away from faithfulness to his lady Una only to be redeemed at the end. His fault led ultimately to the perilous battle between Truth and the deceit of sight. Beauty and Truth are one in the same, yet our world so falsely portrays Beauty that it often can become confused with Truth: we tell ourselves that the beautiful in appearance must be Truth, and in the confusion we end up deceived.

As I read the book this time through, I decided to note the many times Spenser uses sight in reference to deception. What is beautiful is often a deception, and the Redcrosse Knight's biggest mistake in the poem is his leaving Una for the deceptive Duessa. Upon seeing Archimago's disguised couple, the Redcrosse knight deserts his lady, forgetting to trust in her as a faithful companion. This leads to his abandoning her and joining with the evil Duessa who is beautiful on the outside yet horribly ugly when uncovered. The Knight's mere lust of the eyes leads him down a path in which he is taken captive by Duessa's giant Orgoglio and nearly dies. It all leads to what I believe is a climax of this theme concerning deception: his battle with Despair.

This scene in the story demonstrates how blindly following after the beauty of mere appearance can lead to a desensitizing of Truth and true Beauty. While the reader can somewhat sympathize with Redcrosse as he is deceived by Archimago's disguise and Duessa's physical beauty, he cannot accept the scene with Despair which culminates in Redcrosse longing after death and damnation.

He shew'd him painted in a table plaine / The damned ghost, that doe in torment waile, / And thousand feendes that doe them endlesse paine / With fire and brimstone, which forever shall remain. / The sight whereof so throughly him dismaid, / That nought but death before his eyes he saw.

With this Redcrosse begins to give in to despair. No longer is he deceived by disguises and fake beauties, but his wayward ways have lead to a misunderstanding of what is desirable in this world, what Beauty and Truth actually are, and the ugly has become beautiful. Just as Abraham was about to end dear Isaac's life, so Redcrosse raises the dagger to end his, only to be saved by his better half, fair Una: Fair Una who never allows herself to give into the lusts of the eyes.

The tale of Redcrosse's failing is a testament to the modern. Our desires today are in the wrong place. We are far too easily pleased with mere outward appearances, unwilling to see the unseen Truth. I find it interesting in this first book that Redcrosse deals as would any good knight with the obvious evils he encounters (Sansjoy, Sansfoy, the beast Error, etc.). But when it comes to deception, he nearly fails completely, and it is only because of his hero Una that he has any hope at all. The lesson is one the Christian should take to heart: What looks good in this world can easily be a trap by the Angel of Light to lead us down a destructive path which ends in our longing for sin. Thus, the Christian should seek for Truth above all, for seeking after Truth will result in an accurate evaluation of what is truly beautiful. When Redcrosse finds the light of Truth, he is finally able to see straight, for he was "taught celestiall discipline," which "opened his dull eyes, that light mote in them shine." A world colored with Truth is a world that despises what ought to be despised and loves what ought to be loved: "That flowre of faith and beautie excellent."

Sam Snow (
Bluestem Bistro
Manhattan, KS
October 8, 2013

“Children and Fairies”
William Shackleton, 1924


On Position Papers

 I must admit that whenever I come to write another little-what-not on this collaborative site, a fear, or rather a concern, seems to rise before me as a specter at the gate of the very outset. For, as it has been wisely put "there is nothing new under the sun," my worry consists of the fact that the point I am about to make was probably already made this week, in a much more cogent fashion, on some other blog. If not lately, a bloke fifty years ago pointed it out in a well circulated pamphlet or book. It gets worse. The fact is and odds are, most of the current readers of this passage have probably read those other self-same things and are wondering under what kind of dusty slab I make my rounds. 

However, now that I have let you in on my secret troubles, I will let you in on the magic of the very same assumptions. For, if another fellow, probably an unmitigated sapp like myself, has already come to this conclusion, mine is a mere seconding and both of our points become much more sure. For it is a trustworthy saying that the most basic conclusions of the simplest minds make for the surest footing, where as, the most profound decree of the brilliant intellect is the slippery slope. Theories of the PHD's will pass us by on the desert track while the simpleton will stop to give us a drink of water.

Now that the realization is starting to dawn on you that even the knowledge that I am being repetitious won't stop me from proceding, I perfectly understand if I will be going it alone.


Thesis: Funny thing about position papers, they seem to assume a different underlying position for each situation.


I made it to this point in my thought processes before I realized I don't agree with this thought/thesis, so there is really no point in going on. However, there is one loose end. It is, as you may recall, that another bloke probably made this point somewhere else quite recently. I guess what you do with him and his point is now up to you. Maybe you can second him. It is a competition in the end, and maybe by siding with him you may be on the winning side and I will be left to regroup and look at rebuilding for next season.


N.B. Seeing as how I don't agree with my above thesis, position papers may soon follow.


Phillip Tippin
The cool rains having started
Roeland Park, KS

Catherine Wood
"Books and Papers on a Desk"
Unknown Date