Thursday, September 27, 2007

El perfil de la cordura

from Gen Ferrer at the ChesterBelloc Mandate:

Whether you speak Spanish or not, we encourage all our readers to join a special campaign in support of a new edition of The Outline of Sanity in the Spanish language!

Recently, and with the invaluable help of Dale Ahlquist, we acquired a copy of "El perfil de la cordura" from the last edition ever published in spanish (Buenos Aires, 1952). This book has been placed in the hands of a publisher in Madrid (Criteria Club de Lectores), interested and considering a re-release of this Chesterton classic!

We have not, nor will we benefit in any way by this happening. We merely love Chesterton and Distributism and wish to see this phenomenon spread around the globe. Over the past year our sister site La Espada y el Cañón has received emails from Chestertonians in Spain and Argentina who have never had the opportunity to read this distributist classic. In fact, there is a thirst not only in the form of Chesterton-mania, but specifically in regards to Distributism (see our sidebar, which includes the spanish-language Chesterton magazine).


Regardless of whether you know any Spanish or not, send an email to the publisher( in your native language in support of this new venture. Tell them how much you care about our dear Gilbert and how important it is to see his work completed in one of the most widely spoken languages in the world!

Attention: Sr. Antonio Arcones
Subject line: El perfil de la cordura

Please support us by showing Criteria Club de Lectores this title is a must have for anyone serious about Chesterton and Distributism. Send this posting to all your friends and family. Post it on your website or blog. Use the above image to let your readers know you support the desire for a spanish-language edition of Chesterton's The Outline of Sanity!!!

More importantly, take two minutes and drop Sr. Arcones a quick email that El perfil de la cordura is a must have!

Man is a Misshapen Monster

Yesterday the Wilfrid Laurier University student paper published a good article by Don Morgenson about the cult of progress and problems with university education.
“For some strange reason people must plant fruit trees in a graveyard. We seem to find life only among the dead. We have our feet set forward and our faces turned back. We can make the future luxuriant and gigantic only as long as we are thinking about the past.” So wrote G. K. Chesterton.

But how can this be so? We can all see that we are creatures born to look and move forward. Every morning we move forward – first into the shower, then to the coffee pot. We sit down to new, forward-looking, fortified and fiber-filled cereals. Our newspapers are filled with forward-looking features, our weather forecasts and news of pushing back medical frontiers.
click here to read the rest

The quote of Chesterton is actually a neutered paraphrase from What's Wrong With the World:
"For some strange reason man must always thus plant his fruit trees in a graveyard. Man can only find life among the dead. Man is a misshapen monster, with his feet set forward and his face turned back. He can make the future luxuriant and gigantic, so long as he is thinking about the past."
and the next line was left off:
"When he tries to think about the future itself, his mind diminishes to a pin point with imbecility, which some call Nirvana."

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

The Difference 80 Years Make

Amusing GKC anecdote. Could you imagine this movie getting made today without changing the title?

British novelist Daphne du Maurier was nervous about her impending 1928 screen test. She had been suggested for the title role in the movie version of The Constant Nymph and decided that the best way to prepare for the ordeal was to play some tennis and then relax with Chesterton's The Return of Don Quixote. [Daphne du Maurier, Myself When Young, New York, 1977, p. 114]

Monday, September 24, 2007

Flying Nun Spins Out

When it comes to the performing arts I subscribe to the basic statement that:

Theatre is life.

Film is art.

Television is furniture.

It is because of this that I generally have no interest in the Emmy awards but it seams this year I missed a lot. Even Bill Donohue of the Catholic League got involved. But Kathy Griffin’s comment was only one of many that made the news. The one that struck me the most funny, (not the Ha Ha funny but the other one), was Sally Field’s comment, “If mothers ran the world there would be no God damn wars.” Griffin’s comment was a lame attempt at comedy that went too far but Sally Field was serious. Putting her blasphemy aside history says she is wrong. Female leaders of countries have and still do send their children to war.

The comment also reminded me of GKC’s comments in What’s Wrong with the World: “Openly and to all appearance, this ancestral conflict has silently and abruptly ended; one of the two sexes has suddenly surrendered to the other. By the beginning of the twentieth century, within the last few years, the woman has in public surrendered to the man. She has seriously and officially owned that the man has been right all along; that the public house (or Parliament) is really more important than the private house; that politics are not (as woman had always maintained) an excuse for pots of beer, but are a sacred solemnity to which new female worshipers may kneel; that the talkative patriots in the tavern are not only admirable but enviable; that talk is not a waste of time, and therefore (as a consequence, surely) that taverns are not a waste of money. All we men had grown used to our wives and mothers, and grandmothers, and great aunts all pouring a chorus of contempt upon our hobbies of sport, drink and party politics. And now comes Miss Pankhurst with tears in her eyes, owning that all the women were wrong and all the men were right; humbly imploring to be admitted into so much as an outer court, from which she may catch a glimpse of those masculine merits which her erring sisters had so thoughtlessly scorned.”

Women were in his time and are now no longer satisfied in being equal in dignity with men they want to be the same as men. Or as my dad once said about the feminist movement, “Women have always run the world. Now they want the title too.”

When women like men run a Government they know that “Government does not rest on force. Government is force; it rests on consent or a conception of justice. A king or a community holding a certain thing to be abnormal, evil, uses the general strength to crush it out; the strength is his tool, but the belief is his only sanction.” (GKC)

Sally thinks that a mother would run a Government like she would run her household which in essence is true and when a household is threatened a women will defend it far more tenaciously than a man. So if she ran a country she could not say to her enemies “Go to your room.” She would spank them and spank them hard with the rod of war.

Friday, September 21, 2007


I had a thought this morning, along the line of some of Chesterton's themes about the Catholic Church, and its utter uniqueness.

Most readers of this blog are aware of the awkward position of the Catholic Church in US history. Prevailing WASP culture was deeply suspicious of a mass of immigrants with allegiance to a foreign pope. I find it very interesting that this same force is still at work and can be seen in the career of any sincere Catholic entering politics. What I find most amazing is how so many people in politics, even on the Supreme Court, are talking about "international law" and following European models and precedents in some cases. Does nobody see the contradiction here?

totally unrelated.

Ive noticed alot of Chestertonians are into Star Wars. I would really like to see a parody video of George Lucas in a traffic stop for DUI or something. My reasoning? Given 20 years to plan, he was unable to come up with a consistent story. Imagine how he would fall apart with a flashlight in his face trying to come up with something on the spot.

Thursday, September 20, 2007


There's something very Chestertonian about the July/August issue of Gilbert arriving in mid September.

Good issue.

It's even the right year.

Will the next one arrive in time to help me with celebrate Christmas?


Chesterton sighting

The Art of Writing: Ten Tips from the Masters

Check out the tenth suggestion. A paradoxical and (likely) unintentional refutation of the entire exercise of which it is a part, but still...

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

The sounds of Belloc

Many of you have likely heard the diminutive examples of Gilbert's voice that have somehow made their way onto the internet. It has a good, solid quality to it, even if it does seem curiously high for such an immense man. It's a voice pleasant and refined, with almost the sound of music to it. A kind voice. It's appropriate.

With a hat-tip to Nancy Brown for bringing it to our attention, and to Meredith at For Keats' Sake for further direction, and finally to Karl Keating of Catholic Answers, we are happy to announce that the only known recording of Hilaire Belloc's voice is now available online for your enjoyment (link at end of post).

During the course of a Catholic Answers Live radio broadcast dedicated to the life and works of Belloc, Mr. Keating plays a number of tracks from an old recording of Belloc singing some of the poems and songs for which he was justly celebrated. He himself sings "Ha'nacker Mill" and "The Winged Horse," as well as two others that are less well-known. There are further recordings of a Scottish singer performing some other Belloc masterpieces (including "His Hide is Covered with Hair" and the infamous "Sailor's Carol"), and they are equally worth your time.

Belloc's voice is even more startling than Gilbert's. The mental image I've always had of Belloc is much in keeping with his nickname (earned as early as boyhood), "Old Thunder." The hard, strong face, shoulders hunched and head thrust forward pugnaciously, hands at the ready to clap a shoulder or strike a blow. And the voice was like the growling of a bear; a very similar voice to the faux mental voice I have for Samuel Johnson.

However, this is about as far from the truth as can be. His voice is light and high; almost airy, really. Meredith notes that his "R's" are French, and one can hear this on occasion while he's singing. It's likely that these recordings were made when he was somewhat advanced in years (though likely before the stroke; in any event, the radio show says when, I just don't remember), which could account for the somewhat elderly strain to the voice. He's also not much of a singer, but that hardly matters to us, after all. There's a lot of feeling there, particularly in "The Winged Horse," and it's frankly infectious.

To listen to and/or download the radio show, just go here and check near the bottom of the page.

Potential Chestertonian moment foiled

Sorry for the lack of posting recently; school is being a real bear right now, and, just as with last year, there are grant applications to be completed in addition to the actual classwork and the year-long research. I'll probably be able to book some idle days in mid-October, but until then... not so much.

In any event, two posts to make up for the lack. The first one is something of a downer:
A married couple who didn't realise they were chatting each other up on the internet are divorcing.

Sana Klaric and husband Adnan, who used the names "Sweetie" and "Prince of Joy" in an online chatroom, spent hours telling each other about their marriage troubles, reported.

The truth emerged when the two turned up for a date. Now the pair, from Zenica in central Bosnia, are divorcing after accusing each other of being unfaithful.

"I was suddenly in love. It was amazing. We seemed to be stuck in the same kind of miserable marriage. How right that turned out to be," Sana, 27, said.

Adnan, 32, said: "I still find it hard to believe that Sweetie, who wrote such wonderful things, is actually the same woman I married and who has not said a nice word to me for years".
If these two individuals were exercising Common Sense, naturally, they might have taken this as a sign of greater things to come. A sign, even, that a sort of Resurrection was at hand for them. Innocent Smith (Manalive) is a highly difficult person to practically emulate in the modern world. Walking around the world takes time that we don't generally have; breaking into our own homes would demand that we actually have something in them worth seeing anew, and this is not always the case.

When an opportunity comes along to marry your own wife, though, with a real dose of "new love" involved... why on earth wouldn't you take it? When you've both recognized that there's something wrong, why not move past it when such an unprecedented opportunity to do so is presented?


Friday, September 14, 2007

Following up and following on...

President John Kennedy had to battle that stereotype 47 years ago, but it still lingers.

I trace many of the problems in the American Church today to JFK. He made some very poor statements regarding his Catholicism and its role in forming his conscience and public decisionmaking. If he(or any contemporary politician) had said things more along the line of, "Yes, my faith informs my decision making, as does my outlook as a father, my pride and honor as a naval veteran, and my upbringing as an Easterner. I think the public should be glad that I am a person of faith, with an idea of a higher power outside of the state. This prevents me from seeing the state as the height of power, and actually makes me a better protector of the public's rights." This line of thinking needs to be developed and spun in order to be done with this ridiculous circus that we go through every election cycle.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Those Papist Jurists

"Bigotry may roughly defined as the anger of men who have no opinions." – G. K. Chesteron

I was skimming the editorial/op-ed/letters page in our local newspaper the other day when I began reading a piece by a Linda Stephens of Planned Parenthood (“Support bill to update abortion rights”).

She was talking about the Partial Birth Abortion case, and Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito who, she said, “showed their true colors.”

“Joining hands with the three other conservative Catholic justices on the court…”

I stopped short. Why did she mention the fact that they were Catholic? Why not just say they joined other conservative justices in voting that way? Why didn’t she mention the faiths of the other people cited in the article, such as Justice Ginsburg or New York’s Governor Spitzer?

If she had stopped there it might have slipped by, but she went on to say “… they rendered a decision that probably pleased the pope but left most American women in shock.”

Whether she intended it or not, she was echoing one of those old anti-Catholic charges.

Catholics are under the control of the pope. They are the pope’s legions, seeking to pervert and undermine our Christian nation.

Dirty papists.

“Catholic” has become in some circles a convenient code word, a short-hand way to portray a set of beliefs they don’t like, a label.

A stereotype.

President John Kennedy had to battle that stereotype 47 years ago, but it still lingers.

At one time in our history, it was “acceptable” to use stereotypes of various groups. African Americans. Gays. Poles. Women. The Irish. Italians. Jews. Those stereotypes provided fodder for endless cruel jokes, or were cited unthinkingly by otherwise educated or literate people (an offense Chesterton himself has been accused of committing)>.

I’m happy to say we have grown and voicing those prejudices directly or indirectly is generally no longer accepted in mainstream society. Just ask Don Imus, Isaiah Washington or one of our local radio hosts Bob Lonsberry (who made reference to monkeys when talking about Rochester’s African American mayor).

But Catholics? I’ve heard it said that Anti-Catholicism is the last acceptable prejudice. Some folks extend it to include people of orthodox religious beliefs (and more recently, Muslims).

Would we have accepted using labels of other groups that were not essential to the point being made?

I doubt it.

Should Catholics just lighten up?

That’s what African Americans were told. That’s what women were told. That’s what many of the other groups thus targeted were told.

Fortunately, they didn’t.

Prejudice is not a laughing matter. It’s an ugly thing no matter the target, or how it’s veiled.

(This is a slightly altered version of a piece I posted as a blog in the newspaper.)

Einstein clerihew

Albert Einstein
had to pay a traffic fine
for trying to reach the speed of light
in a Packard one night.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Thursday, September 06, 2007

New blog

Note for readers:

"Godescalc," a fan of Chesterton, philosophy, art and other sundry things, has a new blog. Check out Notes from the Scriptorium.

Michael Vick and Savonarola

Last week I wrote a clerihew about Michael Vick.

Today, I return to his case.

Part of his punishment is being suspended from pro football for a time yet to be determined. Some concerned citizens are calling for it to be permanent.

It occurred to me that perhaps we should do a bit more.

We should suspend all professional sports for a time.

Now before sports fanatics jump all over me, let me say that I am a lover of sports. I have several fantasy teams. I try to arrange my Sunday schedule so I can watch the Bills, who are so beloved in Western New York that some churches even move up or shorten their last services so that people can get home in time for kick off. I wear a Red Sox cap, and have a plaque of the 2007 New York Mets in my classroom. I used to sneak in transistor radios – remember them? – so I could listen to the World Series while sitting in class (remember when World Series games were played on weekday afternoons?). I am still haunted by memories of Scott Norwood’s kick that went right in the Super Bowl, and Keith Smart’s last-minute shot that give Indiana the NCAA Men’s Basketball title over Syracuse. I even won a journalism award for sports coverage. Oh, and I won letters in basketball and bowling in high school!

So I have some sports fan credibility.

But the Vick horror has led me to look at love of sports.

That love affects our culture, our schedules, our economy. It has broken up marriages and families. It has led to financial ruin, illness and even deaths. We make false gods of our sports heroes.

While sports may be in and of themselves good things, perhaps we are too attached to them for our own good.

Thus perhaps it might be for our own benefit to go cold turkey.


Well, some people thought that Savonarola was crazy. But Chesterton noted he “is a man whom we shall probably never understand until we know what horror may lie at the heart of civilisation. This we shall not know until we are civilised. It may be hoped, in one sense, that we may never understand Savonarola.”

In his essay on Savonarola contained in Twelve Types, Chesterton goes on to observe, that while lawgivers – sports commissioners? – physicians and reformers saved us from the likes of anarchy, pestilence or starvation, Savonarola went after something even more deadly: Satisfaction.

“Savonarola did not save men from anarchy, but from order; not from pestilence, but from paralysis; not from starvation, but from luxury. Men like Savonarola are the witnesses to the tremendous psychological fact at the back of all our brains, but for which no name has ever been found, that ease is the worst enemy of happiness, andcivilisation potentially the end of man.”

Isn’t sports idolatry part of our distorted culture of ease and pleasure?

Chesterton fancied that Savonarola “saw that the actual crimes were not the only evils: that stolen jewels and poisoned wine and obscene pictures were merely the symptoms;that the disease was the complete dependence upon jewels and wine and pictures.”

Or sports?

And in relation to my own humble suggestion about sports, Chesterton went on to say, “This is a thing constantly forgotten in judging of ascetics and Puritans in old times. A denunciation of harmless sports did not always mean an ignorant hatred of what no one but a narrow moralist would call harmful. Sometimes it meant an exceedingly enlightened hatred of what no one but a narrow moralist would call harmless. Ascetics are sometimes more advanced than the average man, as well as less.”

I couldn’t have said it better. Really.

“Such, at least, was the hatred in the heart of Savonarola. He was making war against no trivial human sins, but against godless and thankless quiescence, against getting used to happiness, the mystic sin by which all creation fell. He was preaching that severity which is the sign-manual of youth and hope. He was preaching that alertness, that clean agility and vigilance, which is as necessary to gain pleasure as to gain holiness, as indispensable in a lover as in a monk.”

“The fact is,” Chesterton continues, “that this purification and austerity are even more necessary for the appreciation of life and laughter than for anything else. To let no bird fly past unnoticed, to spell patiently the stones and weeds, to have the mind a storehouse of sunset, requires a discipline in pleasure, and an education in gratitude.”

So, perhaps we need to do something truly fanatical and radical like suspending sports to truly appreciate them, and to put them in their proper perspective.

Maybe Michael Vicks’ heinous actions can lead to good.

But we should wait until after the Red Sox/Mets World Series rematch I’ve been dreaming about.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

New Chesterton fan needs feedback

The incomparable Nancy Brown has a message up on the ACS blog that she received from a gentleman who is an extremely recent convert to our beloved Gilbert, and who would like some input on his first analysis of his ideas. Check it out here, if you please, and encourage a fellow who deserves it.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

New from Amazon.......

If you need to read this,

Then read this:

Collected works in Large Print.

Ox Blog

A new blog dedicated to The Dumb Ox, who kinda qualifies as a GKC friend, though there's obviously the problem of about 750 years between them.

Addendum: Alright, alright: Go here.

Monday, September 03, 2007

On the trolley again

Now happily ensconced in London once again, I can get back to the furious content-production for which I'm famous. Not immediately, of course, for there is much I must do before I can get back into the groove properly, but a recent development is very promising indeed as far as this blog is concerned.

Some readers may remember my attempts to hornswoggle the government into giving me money to research Gilbert in some regard over the course of my MA year, and they, duly impressed with my application, thought it worth supporting. I had regretted that any actual study of our great man would be unlikely, as the fellow best-suited to supervising a year-long research project on the subject is on sabattical this year, but as I would certainly give them good value for their money whatever project I turned my hand to, my conscience was more or less clear.

So it was with surprise and delight that I discovered that one of the senior professors in our department, with whom I have always been on excellent terms, has some small affection for GKC and had been nursing a growing interest in the man's works. A few meetings and exchanged e-mails later and I'm happy to report that I will be able to fulfill my earlier hopes, though not in precisely the way I had imagined. Rather than looking at Chesterton as a subtle precursor to various popular and modern literary approaches (chiefly post-colonialism and cultural studies; it's a long story), I will instead be looking at him in the context of the anti-modernist movement which seemed to have its last and greatest gasp around his time. Sidelights on Whitman and Eliot will also be inevitable, for the thing is primarily concerned with his poetry, but I'm alright with that.

It seems likely, then, that I'll have plenty to post about in the coming months.

Sunday, September 02, 2007


In Kyro’s post on Mother Theresa I was reminded of a William Wordsworth poem that I will share with you. It is the last few lines that remind me of the Dark Night of the Soul. And Mother Theresa was both calm and free.


IT is a beauteous evening, calm and free,
The holy time is quiet as a Nun
Breathless with adoration; the broad sun
Is sinking down in its tranquillity;
The gentleness of heaven broods o'er the Sea:
Listen! the mighty Being is awake,
And doth with his eternal motion make
A sound like thunder--everlastingly.
Dear Child! dear Girl! that walkest with me here,
If thou appear untouched by solemn thought,
Thy nature is not therefore less divine:
Thou liest in Abraham's bosom all the year;
And worship'st at the Temple's inner shrine,
God being with thee when we know it not.