Friday, February 29, 2008

Letters from Belloc

I wasn't aware of the book "Letters from Hilaire Belloc", edited by his early biographer Robert Speaight, until today. Are there any H.B. fans reading this that have read his letters? John DeJak recently posted one of Hilaire's letters to Chesterton. If his other letters are only a portion as good as this one, then Speaight's book would be edifying to read.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

God Tube Chesterton

There's a Christian version of You Tube - it's called God Tube (

There's a variety of groups and videos on there - some great music videos, talks, skits, and so one. There's also some Catholic ones.

And when I searched there for Chesterton, I found a Gilbert monologue.

Check it out.

If I knew how to link a video, I would. This is the best I can do!

UPDATE: Here it is, "embedded":

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

New Gilbert is Here!

Volume 11, Number 5 is on my lap. In the editors' sites: Feminism. It looks pretty good, though I've only had a chance to read Sean Dailey's Tremendous Trifles. He mentions that the headmaster of new Chesterton Academy has started a blog: War, Drink, and the Church. Presumably not for the weak-hearted, weak-stomached, or weak-minded.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Definitely not P. C.

An interesting thing happened at work the other night that might explain Hillary’s “surprise” fall for inevitability. I say interesting because I was surely not expecting the comments I heard. It was a great example of the cheat the prophet game.

As a reminder my primary source of income is as a third shift factory worker in Ohio. The gender mix on my shift is 75% female of which 80% is over 35. They are fork lift driving, power tool using, tough, independent working woman. This is Hillary country or should be.

March 4th is our primary so election talk is now running through the lunch room along with domestic issues. The guy I was sitting with said he was going to vote for Hillary and before I could talk about the expensive and dangerous socialist policies Hillary is purposing, the woman next to him said, “What are you nuts! You don’t really want a menopausal woman as president. Do you?”
Another woman chimed in, “Yea, she’s all dried up.”
Another, “Even if she is not in menopause you can’t have someone PMSing with access to nuclear weapons.”
Another, “She can’t even keep her own house in line.”
This went on for little while till a 20 something female said, “Hillary, she’s a democrat right?”

Like I said, I was surprised and I think Hillary will also be surprised here in Ohio

Nothing is important except...

Nothing is important except the fate of the soul; and literature is only redeemed from an utter triviality, surpassing that of naughts and crosses, by the fact that it describes not the world around us, or the things on the retina of the eye, or the enormous irrelevancy of encyclopaedias, but some condition to which the human spirit can come.
from G.K. Chesterton's introduction to Dickens' The Old Curiosity Shop


Thursday, February 21, 2008

Political colors

Jim Wallis recently reminded me of G. K. Chesterton.

I was reading Wallis’ latest book, The Great Awakening.

In the book, he argumes that the old religious right coalition is being replaced by a new politics/faith alignment engendered by a new “great awakening.”

I don’t want to get into all his arguments here – though I admit I find them interesting.

It was one passage that jumped out at me.

Wallis argues that many evangelicals and Catholics are, “like most Americans … searching for a new political agenda that doesn’t fit the standard right-left battles of American politics and is more consistent with their deeply held values.”

He continues, “What would such a new political agenda look like, one that moves us beyond the color-coded cultural divisions of ‘red’ and ‘blue’ that the political class and media pundits continually impose upon the country? If many Americans are actually closer to ‘purple,’ as is often suggested what might be a compelling vision that could evoke their convictions, reflect their values, summon their commitments, and change America?”

That sounded familiar.

A couple of days later I picked up my copy of A Miscellany of Men, and spotted the essay “The Voter and the Two Voices.”

I had an Aha moment. That’s where I’d seen that notion before.

In that essay, Chesterton wrote, “The real evil of our Party System is commonly stated wrong. … The real danger of the two parties with their two policies is that they unduly limit the outlook of the ordinary citizen. They make him barren instead of creative, because he is never allowed to do anything except prefer one existing policy to another. We have not got real Democracy when the decision depends upon the people. We shall have real Democracy when the problem depends upon the people. The ordinary man will decide not only how he will vote, but what he is going to vote about.”

Chesterton goes on to contend, “A certain alternative is put before them by the powerful houses and the highest political class.Two roads are opened to them; but they must go down one or the other. They cannot have what they choose, but only which they choose.”

Sound like the “political class and media pundits” Wallis mentions.

Chesterton, like Wallis, then uses some colorful imagery in terms of what “suffragettes” might want to do with Mr. Asquith.

“Let us say (for the sake of argument) that they want to paint him green. We will suppose that it is entirely for that simple purpose that they are always seeking to have private interviews with him; it seems as profitable as any other end that I can imagine to such an interview. Now, it is possible that the Government of the day might go in for apositive policy of painting Mr. Asquith green; might give that reform a prominent place in their programme. Then the party in opposition would adopt another policy, not a policy of leaving Mr. Asquith alone (which would be considered dangerously revolutionary), but some alternative course of action, as, for instance, painting him red. Then both sides would fling themselves on the people, they would both cry that the appeal was now to the Caesar of Democracy. A dark and dramatic air of conflict and real crisis would arise on both sides; arrows of satire would fly and swords of eloquence flame.”

In this Presidential primary season, doesn’t this sound familiar?

“The Greens would say that Socialists and free lovers might well want to paint Mr. Asquith red; they wanted to paint the whole town red. Socialists would indignantly reply that Socialism was the reverse of disorder, and that they only wanted to paint Mr. Asquith red so that he might resemble the red pillar-boxes which typified State control.The Greens would passionately deny the charge so often brought against them by the Reds; they would deny that they wished Mr. Asquith green in order that he might be invisible on the green benches of the Commons, as certain terrified animals take the colour of their environment.”

“There would be fights in the street perhaps, and abundance of ribbons, flags, and badges, of the two colours. One crowd would sing, 'Keep the Red Flag Flying,' and the other, 'The Wearing of the Green.' But when the last effort had been made and the last moment come, when two crowds were waiting in the dark outside the public building to hear the declaration of the poll, then both sides alike would say that it was now for democracy to do exactly what it chose. England herself, lifting her head in awful loneliness and liberty, must speak and pronounce judgement.”

All well and good – or not so good – but what if red and green are not what the people want?

“Yet this might not be exactly true. England herself, lifting her head in awful loneliness and liberty, might really wish Mr. Asquith to be pale blue. The democracy of England in the abstract, if it had been allowed to make up a policy for itself, might have desired him to be black with pink spots. It might even have liked him as he is now. But a huge apparatus of wealth, power, and printed matter has made it practically impossible for them to bring home these other proposals, even if they would really prefer them. No candidates will stand in the spotted interest; for candidates commonly have to produce money either from their own pockets or the party's; and in such circles spots are not worn.”

As for the media pundits – “Nearly all the great newspapers, both pompous and frivolous, will declare dogmatically day after day, until every one half believes it, that red and green are the only two colours in the paint-box. THE OBSERVER will say: 'No one who knows the solid framework of politics or the emphatic first principles of an Imperial people can suppose for a moment that there is any possible compromise to be made in such a matter; we must either fulfil our manifest racial destiny and crown the edifice of ages with the august figure of a Green Premier, or we must abandon our heritage,break our promise to the Empire, fling ourselves into final anarchy, and allow the flaming and demoniac image of a Red Premier to hover over our dissolution and our doom.' The DAILY MAIL would say: 'There is no halfway house in this matter; it must be green or red. We wish to see every honest Englishman one colour or the other.' And then some funny man in the popular Press would star the sentence with a pun, and say that the DAILY MAIL liked its readers to be green and its paper to be read. But no one would even dare to whisper that there is such a thing as yellow.”

CNN vs. FOX, with maybe Colbert tossed in?

When it comes to issues, Chesterton says, we are given two choices, when there are many available: “What is plain is that it was not inevitable; it was not, as was said,the only possible course; there were plenty of other courses; there were plenty of other colours in the box.”

Chesterton notes, “The democracy has a right to answer questions, but it has no right to ask them. It is still the political aristocracy that asks the questions.And we shall not be unreasonably cynical if we suppose that the political aristocracy will always be rather careful what questions it asks. And if the dangerous comfort and self-flattery of modern England continues much longer there will be less democratic valuein an English election than in a Roman saturnalia of slaves. For the powerful class will choose two courses of action, both of them safe for itself, and then give the democracy the gratification of taking one course or the other. The lord will take two things so much alike that he would not mind choosing from them blindfold - and then for a great jest he will allow the slaves to choose.”

Sounds like the criticism of our two-party system in the U.S. - a system in which the parties are really much closer than they (and the political aristocracy and pundits) would care to admit. The Republocrats and Demicans that Ralph Nader cites.

Anyway, at least I discovered why Wallis’ point sounded familiar.

Maybe he had an Obama moment and used someone else's ideas and neglected to mention where he got them.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Season IV . . . And It's Racy

Received from Dale Ahlquist: The 4th season of “The Apostle of Common Sense” with all-new episodes will finally begin to air on Sunday, March 2nd (9 pm EST, 8 pm CST). The first episode “The Only Man I Regularly Read” will have a bedroom scene!!!

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Date With A Broken Record

I was thumbing through a new Art History Dictionary I received and the following made me smile, as this kind of comment always does.
AD or A.D. - Abbreviation for "Anno Domine," which is Latin, and means "in the year of Our Lord." It is conventionally placed before a number to show that it refers to a year following the birth of Christ, although contemporary experts generally agree that Christ was probably born in 3 BCE. These are fundamentals of the Christian calendar. Other cultures designate years according to other schemes. An alternative term for AD is CE, standing for Common Era. Although CE is a less traditional term, it is globally preferred because it avoids the bais inherent in an insistence upon referring to Christ.

"Every scholar I know uses B.C.E. and shuns A.D."Harold Bloom, contemporary conservative scholar, Professor at Yale University, in correspondence quoted by William Safire in No Uncertain Terms, 2003, NY: Simon & Schuster, p 150.
"[The D. in] A.D. [standing for] Dominus means 'lord,' and when the lord referred to is Jesus, ... a religious statement is made. Thus, 'the year of our Lord' invites the query 'Whose lord?' and we're in an argument we don't need."William Safire in No Uncertain Terms, 2003, NY: Simon & Schuster, p 152.
First of all Safire’s book No Uncertain Terms is a fun read and sometimes enlightening but his quote above is of course absurd for the argument he is trying to make. This is because, “…invites the query Whose lord? and we are in an argument we don’t need” it is precisely that argument along with “Who is Lord”, and “What is the nature of our Lord” that shaped and unified the “Common Era”. When someone says “the Common Era” what if another asks, “What makes it the Common Era?”, what answer will be given? I have yet to hear one that did not include the Judeo and Christian ideals. Also it is exactly the argument we do need.

And if we use the nomenclature B. C. E. (Before the Common Era) what is it that makes it uncommon or unattached to each other in that pagan era? There was no consistent common story (outside of the Jews). Or as GKC said “The term "pagan" is continually used in fiction and light literature as meaning a man without any religion, whereas a pagan was generally a man with about half a dozen.” Oops back to a religious statement.

We are the family of man and what is the common thread that binds a family, it is blood and a story. A.D. gives us the unifying blood of Christ and a story that is about His family, which would be us – warts and all.

However, what struck me funny was that it was used in an art history book. If you pile up all the art done before Christ you get different people working out their ideals on different views of the transcendent. If you pile up all the western art done for the past 2,000 years 99% of it is of a religious nature. Even the early 20th century artist grappled with religious issues. It can be argued that weakest art produced in history has been done in the past 6o years where a denial of our story has been the vogue. And the fruits of the denial of universal truth are always banality and boredom. B.C.E and C.E. are boring terms because they have no meat to them.
[As a side note: what really gets me rolling on the floor with laughter is when the HistoryChannel uses BCE and CE when talking about Bible History]

Next let’s look at Harold Bloom who put together the western cannon of must read literature. I will not impute Mr. Bloom’s intelligence on this list but I question two of his entries which relates to the above quote.
The first is he included, under The Ancient Near East Category, The Holy Bible - King James Version. Not only is the King James Version bereft of several books known in the Ancient Near East it is also full of translation errors in the books it keeps.

Secondly and the bright spot on this list is that he does include G. K. Chesterton (collected poems and The Man Who Was Thursday) but he includes him as a 19th century writer and The Man Who Was Thursday was published in 20th. And Bloom does not include any of his other writings – To religious I suppose.
And he puts G. B. Shaw (a long list of books) as a twentieth century writer. He also places H.G. Wells in the twentieth century saying all his science fiction work is a must read. Maybe it is one of the rules at Yale, a former divinity school, that religious thought has to be pushed back to the 19th AD where it’s stuffy but cute and right thinkers are pushed to the 20th CE where he lives.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

"Book's exuberant truths still impact readers a century later"

Ray Waddle writes today in The Tennessean about his choice of book for Lenten reading. It is G.K. Chesterton's Orthodoxy.
Existence itself was always a shocking wonder to him. It made him grateful for creation, where nothing is trivial because everything holds clues to divine revelation.

His religious witness offered a rare mix — intellectual dazzle and humility. We could use both just now.

Friday, February 15, 2008

GQ Guy Quotes GK Chesterton

Dylan Jones, editor of GQ, quotes GK in today's [London] Daily Mail article Attack of the 50ft Dream Woman. The article overwhelms me. Perhaps someone else can comment on it.


Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Colbert on the Angels and Free Will

Read the quotation from Chesterton below, and then enjoy watching Colbert speak the truth with levity.

Angels can fly because they can take themselves lightly... Seriousness is not a virtue. It would be a heresy, but a much more sensible heresy, to say that seriousness is a vice. It is really a natural trend or lapse into taking one's self gravely, because it is the easiest thing to do... It is much easier to write a good Times leading article than a good joke in Punch. For solemnity flows out of men naturally; but laughter is a leap. It is easy to be heavy: hard to be light. Satan fell by the force of gravity.
-- G.K. Chesterton in Orthodoxy

UPDATE: the original embedded video clip (at YouTube) was removed due to copyright restrictions. Comedy Central has it available on their website: Colbert interviews Philip Zimbardo, author of The Lucifer Effect

"Hat tip" to Marcel LeJeune, The Catholic Evangelist, who sent along the link.


Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Monday, February 11, 2008

GK's Poetry in the NY Times

A bit of Chesterton's poetry was quoted in yesterday's New York Times (link). The article was about suicide and the quoted poem was, of course, Ballad of a Suicide.


Friday, February 08, 2008

Chesterton in Russia

Take a minute to watch this video clip about a small Chesterton conference and debut of a new edition of his writings in Moscow.

H/T to Mark at Straight Flusche who sent me the link.


"I gave Bobby a book about G.K. Chesterton..."

Big News brought to our attention by Sean Dailey @ The Blue Boar:
In 2004, [Bobby] Fischer was arrested and detained in Japan for allegedly attempting to travel on a revoked passport. The U.S. government insisted that his passport had been revoked. San Diego attorney Richard Vattuone, a Catholic, flew to Japan to act as counsel for Fischer. After his release, Fischer emigrated to Iceland.

Vattuone is intrigued by Fischer's final act. "When I met him in Japan, I gave Bobby a book about G.K. Chesterton, The Apostle of Common Sense. The book covered many matters of culture and religion. I know Bobby had read at least some of the book. Chesterton was a convert and the book contained an article about his conversion. We had also discussed religion."
-- from an article by Robert Kumpel

Thursday, February 07, 2008

A haiku clerihew

on seeing a frog jump said, "Oh,
that should inspire a haiku
or two!"

Some Thoughts and observations.....

Ive got a couple different thoughts Im going to mix and match here. Im a bit erratic in my posting. I apologize. My time issues make me have to mash together some very different things when I do get the chance to come on here. Some outstanding things being said lately.

This is Despicible


This is bizzare

I do think that someone has to come up with some solid ideas for cultural assimilation of Middle East/Central Asian immigrants. I find this interesting as a Chestertonian. I think those of us in this circle do take the lessons of Lepanto seriously. On the other hand, I also think that it is the little "c" catholic ideas which we espouse which would form the basis of the mixed culture of the future. During my time in the Balkans and the Middle East, I observed something which Ive been mulling over for years. Despite the seeming contradictions of theology and history, the Islamic interpreters Ive worked with, and even Islamic villagers seemed most comfortable dealing with the more fervently Christian religious soldiers. I think there is a recognition of honor and purity in lifestyle that appeals across denominational lines. The Muslim men, in my opinion, saw that I would not be eyeballing their wife and daughters, and would treat him as a true paterfamilias. Obviously there are extremists and those who stir that pot, but ultimately I think that the common morality of robust faith is the key to cooperation.

Must end with a final rant.......Saw an excerpt and overview of USCCB document on Islam. I value it as an apologetic. Surely the Church must be propped up by the power of God if it is run by people like these guys...............

A bit unrelated....politics.

If Hillary Clinton becomes president and moves Bill back into the White House will a notification have to be sent to all the schools and daycares within a mile of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue?

I have very bad feelings about this election year. Democratic turnout is so high, and Hillary/Obama both have messianic appeal as "first of their kind" presidents. Contrast that enthusiasm and emotion with the begrudging, ho-hum support that McCain gets from the Republican side. A great many of McCain's primary supporters will cross over to vote Democratic. Im predicting a margin of victory equal to that found in nations where you sign your ballot with name, address, and coffin size.

Have a great day!!


Birthday of Dickens

Today, Feb 7, is the birthday of Charles Dickens. Without G.K. Chesterton's advocacy of Dickens over 100 years ago very few people would be reading Charles Dickens today. A brief quotation:
Christianity said that any man could be a saint if he chose; democracy, that every man could be a citizen if he chose. The note of the last few decades in art and ethics has been that a man is stamped with an irrevocable psychology and is cramped for perpetuity in the prison of his skull. It was a world that expects everything and everybody. It was a world that encouraged anybody to be anything. And in England and literature its living expression was Dickens.
- G.K. Chesterton in Charles Dickens


Recentl googler's have found their way to two articles from this blog's past, and have left short comments on these posts from 2006: Dawn Eden yesterday found Nick Milne's transcription of Homesick at Home, and "bls" found Lee Strong's post on G.K.C and Fairy Tales.


Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Super Winston

Jonah Goldberg in today's LA Times:
As a conservative, I'm a big believer in the importance of tradition, which writer G.K. Chesterton dubbed "democracy for the dead." But tradition can only be as strong as it is in the people who pass it on. And so when I read that 23% of Britons think Winston Churchill is no more real than Spider-Man, it makes me shudder at the voluntary amnesia of society, the wholesale abdication of parental responsibility that represents.

Primary Purity and Innocence

Whatever else the worst doctrine of depravity may have been, it was a product of spiritual conviction; it had nothing to do with remote physical origins. Men thought mankind wicked because they felt wicked themselves. If a man feels wicked, I cannot see why he should suddenly feel good because somebody tells him that his ancestors once had tails. Man's primary purity and innocence may have dropped off with his tail, for all anybody knows. The only thing we all know about that primary purity and innocence is that we have not got it.
-- G.K. Chesterton in All Things Considered

(this is today's quote from Chesterton Day by Day)