Sunday, December 30, 2007

Family Legacy?

I made it into my thirties without knowing this........

Was at a family function and one of our geneologist buffs told me that we are related to one of the 2 men executed as warlocks at the Salem witch trials.

Not particularly surprising, really explains alot.

If I remember correctly, upon hearing of the American holiday of Thanksgiving, instituted by the Puritans to commemorate their leaving England, Chesterton wanted to institute a similar holiday in England, celebrating the fact that they left.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Merry Christmas - Book Things

Sorry to have missed my regular Chaos.

Local library just had overflow sale.........amazing deals

Hardcover 50cents
Softcover 25cents

They are just trying to offload. Ive picked up some amazing stuff over the years.

This year I picked up a hardcover edition of the complete poetical works of Milton, and some of his more important prose and political tracts. Also picked up a hardcover, gorgeously illustrated edition of original middle English, but I can battle through it, I have contemporary editions of all the same material.

As far as GKCness.......Im making a resolution to read his small bio of Chaucer for New Years. I dont think it is very long regardless, just to get a feeling for his reactions.

And a QUESTION for the readership!!!

I got a $50 Barnes and Noble Gift Card for Christmas!!!

Im stumped what to do with it. Will take advice. Im leaning towards picking up a copy of Dore's Illustrations for Idylls of the King, but Ill take advice on what to do with the rest of it.

Thanks and God Bless.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

A Christmas Carol

By G.K. Chesterton

The Christ-child lay on Mary’s lap,
His hair was like a light.
(O weary, weary were the world,
But here is all aright.)

The Christ-child lay on Mary’s breast,
His hair was like a star.
(O stern and cunning are the kings,
But here the true hearts are.)

The Christ-child lay on Mary’s heart,
His hair was like a fire.
(O weary, weary is the world,
But here the world’s desire.)

The Christ-child stood on Mary’s knee,
His hair was like a crown,
And all the flowers looked up at Him,
And all the stars looked down.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

A surprising introduction

I was trying to teach my high school students about writing descriptively. We had a few examples in our book, but then I remembered one of my favorite descriptive passages: The opening chapter of Bleak House and its description of fog.

I knew I had an old “Everyman’s Library” edition – 1954, but first published in 1907 – that I hadn’t read in years. I found it in my bookcase at home, and brought it in the next day.

I read the passage. Then I happened to look at the introduction.

Yes, it was Chesterton’s. A treasure I didn’t even realize I had.

Somehow I never thought of Dickens as somehow like “mature potato“ or Napoleon, but Chesterton made it all work.

He talks of Dickens’ growing maturity as a novelist. And he praises the very section I read – “Dickens’s openings are almost always good; but the opening of Bleak House is good in a quite new and striking way.”

And in talking about Dickens’s use of the fog (of the air, and of Chancery), he observes, “He means that all the characters and all the events shall be read through the smoky colours of the sinister and unnatural vapor.”

Fancy that. Enjoying a great book not only for the book itself, but also for its introduction.

A little Christmas gift!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Schall at Dappled

Fr. Schall has written a GKCish piece for Dappled Things about Christmas. He opens with this lesser-known quote:
“Christmas . . . is one of numberless old European feasts of which the essence is the combination of religion with merry-making. But among those feasts it is also especially and distinctively English in the style of its merry-making and even in the style of its religion. For the character of Christmas (as distinct, for instance, from the continental Easter) lies chiefly in two things: first on the terrestrial side the note of comfort rather than the note of brightness and on the spiritual side, Christian charity rather than Christian ecstasy.”
- G. K. Chesterton, Charles Dickens, 1906

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Great Giving

If you still can not think of what to give that special someone who already has a book shelve of Chesterton here is a great idea, Portraits of Grace: Images and Words from the Monastery of the Holy Spirit, by James Stephen Behrens, OCSO.

Father Behrens is a Trappist monk at the monastery and a master photographer.

Photography is the most difficult of the art forms to create transcendent beauty because it is the easiest art to do – point and click. This is what still keeps the debate going on whether or not photography is an art or a craft.

Father Behrens has created art in this collection. He also has written short reflections to accompany the photos.

Good art or poetry takes the common and makes it divine or takes the divine and makes it common. Truly great art does both in the same piece. “The meaning of life is often hidden amidst the ordinary, asking only that we pause, look, ponder,” the author notes. All of Fr. Behrens art is good and some of it is great.

And by giving this gift you give twice because all the proceeds from the book’s sale help the Monastery of the Holy Spirit in Conyers, GA.

You can get this book at Amazon

Weekend Thoughts

Ive been thinking lately about the English-ness of Chesterton and its place in his Catholicism. As Americans, inheritors of the English language and other aspects of Anglo culture we could likely benefit from some reflection.

Olde England was Catholic to its soul. There are some in Chestertonia who delve into this deeply with the stories and legends of the old missionary saints and the role played by the monasteries for almost a thousand years. It also stands to note that the English model of governmental development reflected the development of doctrine in Catholicism to a certain degree. I hate using terms vaguely, but England, Britain, and the UK all mean specific things and I might accidentally interchange. To my point, the British government does not derive from a single document, like the US Constitution, but rather emerges from a long series of acts and motions over a period of time, beginning in general with the Magna Carta. At least that's what I was taught in school. This isnt a perfect parallel, but it does mirror the process of Catholic thought in many ways. This makes the sheer violence of the Tudor era unsurprising. An amputation, such as what the break away of Henry/Elizabeth was, is a very bloody thing by definition. I do not think that this is a point of historical minutiae or religious esotericism. There is a lesson to be drawn here that sexuality and power, particularly of the state, wield forces of persuasion stronger than a thousand years of tradition and entwined systems.

Something Ive thought about in the larger sense is that for as catholic and Catholic as England/Britain have been, their experience is still just a small part of the life of the universal Church. Paradoxically, it is the Angloness of Chesterton's Catholicism that has really opened my eyes to the fellowship we share with the ancient Syriac Churches, the Greeks, the Japanese martyrs, and continental Christendom.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

New Again

This, by all accounts, has been a bad year for me. Filled with tragedy, disappointments and emotional upheaval, perhaps the worst year I have gone through. I sunk into a deep blue funk. Blah. Blah. Balh.
A couple of things have helped me turn around to start winning the battle of spiritual sloth. The battle turned on a few seemingly unconnected phrases. The first was remembering what my grandma used to tell me whenever I was down, “Ah, It feels so good to feel so bad.” The next was a line from a popular song “Life goes on after the thrill of living has gone.”

These phrases swirled around in my head as I watched the first Advent candle being lit. Both made me laugh. Grandma was right, she was very Franciscan in her thinking and Cougar was wrong, life is always a thrill. As our friend Gilbert would say, " An adventure is only an inconvenience rightly considered. An inconvenience is an adventure wrongly considered."
The Church understands suffering and brings us comfort in many ways. One is with a sense of humor. Saint Steven (feast day Dec. 26) was named Patron Saint of stone masons and headaches. How can you not love a Church that would do that?
“Little did all the people present, casting stones upon him, realize that the blood they shed was the first seed of a harvest that was to cover the world.”

Yes, it is now Advent, the Word will be made flesh. The world receives hope. Yes, yes, it is the event that broke the back of the world and it is still reeling and still erect.

What could possibly be more of a thrilling ride.

Mencken on Wells and Chesterton

By E.J. Scheske

"A man with a head worth a pile of Chesterton heads as high as the Trafalgar monument."

That's H.L. Mencken, writing about H.G. Wells, dissing G.K. Chesterton.

Mencken was a Chesterton fan at first. In January 1910, he reviewed Chesterton's George Bernard Shaw with this type of high praise: "The cleverest man in all the world, with the second cleverest as his subject, is here doing his cleverest writing. . . Not since St. Augustine have the gods sent us a man who could make the incredible so fascinatingly probable."

HLM tired of GKC. Not too surprising. As GKC become increasingly Catholic, he probably became increasingly distasteful (and boring) to HLM.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Simply delightful

From Gerald Lynch's Leacock on Life:
In his time, [Canadian humourist/economist Stephen Leacock] shared the press’s more plentiful pages with such of his essaying contemporaries as H.G. Wells, Hilaire Belloc, George Bernard Shaw, and G.K. Chesterton. Leacock and Chesterton met over a billiard game, which the two insisted on keeping private for its three-hour duration, and became friends. In a piece poking fun at a fad for getting at the private person behind the public figure [...] Leacock concludes a pretty funny catalogue with the news that the corpulent Chesterton is, in private, actually quite thin.
I'll likely be putting together a brief piece about Leacock for an upcoming issue of Gilbert, so be sure to keep your eyes peeled for it in the future.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Friday Thoughts

Greetings All,

Cant wait to read the new encyclical. Im glad to see some reference to it here.

Im noticing a wonderful trend in the Catholic blogs over the last couple months. Im sensing a bit of a turn towards the fullness of the Good, the True, and the Beautiful. There are so many things we could lament and complain about when it comes to the Church , the nation, and the world, but Im seeing a great deal of appreciation of art, of the seasons, of beer and joie d'vive. This is what I think mature spirituality looks like rescued from a hundred different fundamentalisms.

A Clerihew...

Mitt Romney
Is not the enemy
Following Joseph Smith
Does not make him a Sith

er, ok. another one......

Barrak Obama
Is strong in Iowa
Oprah's best pitch
Can make Hilary a witch


Everybody have a great weekend and God Bless

Thursday, December 06, 2007

A Giuliani Clerihew

With Rudy
you get Judy.
His former mistress, I must confess,
looks better than he does in a dress.
(i.e. - Giuliani is currently married to his third wife and his former mistress, Judith Nation. And yes, that is Giulini.)

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Morley on GKC

In 1912 Christopher Morley, then a 22-year-old Rhodes Scholar at Oxford, was shown a "real" book manuscriptthe first he had ever seen. It was The Victorian Age in Literature, "all," he remembered, "in Chesterton's strong curly hand." [Helen MckOakley, Three Hours for Lunch, New York: Watermill, 1976]

Monday, December 03, 2007


So, I'm back.


Reading through the Holy Father's latest encyclical, Spe Salvi, I came across a passage that contains a dramatic evocation of something that will be familiar to many of our readers. The whole document is worth reading, of course, but this passage in particular (from article 6) delights me:
The figure of Christ is interpreted on ancient sarcophagi principally by two images: the philosopher and the shepherd. Philosophy at that time was not generally seen as a difficult academic discipline, as it is today. Rather, the philosopher was someone who knew how to teach the essential art: the art of being authentically human—the art of living and dying. To be sure, it had long since been realized that many of the people who went around pretending to be philosophers, teachers of life, were just charlatans who made money through their words, while having nothing to say about real life. All the more, then, the true philosopher who really did know how to point out the path of life was highly sought after. Towards the end of the third century, on the sarcophagus of a child in Rome, we find for the first time, in the context of the resurrection of Lazarus, the figure of Christ as the true philosopher, holding the Gospel in one hand and the philosopher's travelling staff in the other. With his staff, he conquers death; the Gospel brings the truth that itinerant philosophers had searched for in vain. In this image, which then became a common feature of sarcophagus art for a long time, we see clearly what both educated and simple people found in Christ: he tells us who man truly is and what a man must do in order to be truly human. He shows us the way, and this way is the truth. He himself is both the way and the truth, and therefore he is also the life which all of us are seeking. He also shows us the way beyond death; only someone able to do this is a true teacher of life.
What am I driving at? Why:
"The Convert"
By G.K. Chesterton

After one moment when I bowed my head
And the whole world turned over and came upright,
And I came out where the old road shone white,
I walked the ways and heard what all men said,
Forests of tongues, like autumn leaves unshed,
Being not unlovable but strange and light;
Old riddles and new creeds, not in despite
But softly, as men smile about the dead.

The sages have a hundred maps to give
That trace their crawling cosmos like a tree,
They rattle reason out through many a sieve
That stores the sand and lets the gold go free:
And all these things are less than dust to me
Because my name is Lazarus and I live.
The second stanza, in particular, seems significant, especially given the attention paid in the passage above to Christ's status as the "true philosopher."

Further encyclical-based eurekas as events warrant.

Friday, November 30, 2007

On Hope

G.K. Chesterton in Charles Dickens (1906):
It is currently said that hope goes with youth, and lends to youth its wings of a butterfly; but I fancy that hope is the last gift given to man, and the only gift not given to youth. Youth is preeminently the period in which a man can be lyric, fanatical, poetic; but youth is the period in which a man can be hopeless. The end of every episode is the end of the world. But the power of hoping through everything, the knowledge that the soul survives its adventures, that great inspiration comes to the middle-aged; God has kept that good wine until now.

Pope Benedict XVI in Spe Salvi (30 Nov 2007, St Andrew's Day):
“SPE SALVI facti sumus”—in hope we were saved, says Saint Paul to the Romans, and likewise to us (Rom 8:24). According to the Christian faith, “redemption”—salvation—is not simply a given. Redemption is offered to us in the sense that we have been given hope, trustworthy hope, by virtue of which we can face our present: the present, even if it is arduous, can be lived and accepted if it leads towards a goal, if we can be sure of this goal, and if this goal is great enough to justify the effort of the journey.

Punker Chestertonian

Sean Daily, editor of Gilbert Magazine, is a punk rock fan. Check out his great post about punk rock music (which he ties into Distributism at the very end). Excerpt:

Punk as a genre arose simultaneously in America and the UK, but there were distinct sub-genres and styles depending on where it came from. There was Los Angels punk (bands like X and the Vandals), New York punk (the Ramones) and London punk (the Clash and, of course, the Sex Pistols). Of course there were a lot more bands than these, and there were other regional outposts, such as Athens Georgia (home of the B-52’s), but these are the most recognizable examples. The American Midwest, particularly Chicago, Madison (yes, Madison), and Minneapolis also developed its own regional sound.

Of these regions, LA punk was most heavily influenced by R&B and country. X even released a purely country-western LP, Poor Little Critter on the Road, for which they renamed themselves the Knitters. It is a BRILLIANT album, and nearly impossible to find (I found a scratched copy in a used record store in St. Paul -- still have it; and you can buy it here now -- and look, I guess X put out a second Knitters album. The things you can learn on Amazon...). Another West Coast band from a little later in that era, the Beat Farmers, shamelessly flaunted their rockabilly roots (I saw them play multiple times at the Cabooze in Minneapolis). The duo Mojo Nixon & Skid Roper, from San Diego, even took the stage with Skid playing a washboard for percussion.

The London punkers also were heavily influenced by American R&B and country, especially the Clash. To listen to their masterpiece, London Calling, is to listen to a band steeped in American musical traditions and styles: jazz, country, rockabilly, blues, R&B, folk, and more, with some reggae and Hispanic influences thrown in for good measure.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Happy Birthday Jack

Today is C. S. Lewis' Birthday.

In honor of the day - and of the Christmas season that is upon us - here's a little passage form The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe:

It was a sledge, and it was reindeer with bells on their harness. But they were far bigger than the Witch’s reindeer, and they were not white but brown. And on the sledge sat a person whom everyone knew the moment they set eyes on him. He was a huge man in a bright red robe (bright as hollyberries) with a hood that had fur inside it and a great white beard that fell like a foamy waterfall over his chest. Everyone knew him because, though you see people of his sort only in Narnia, you see pictures of them and hear them talked about even in our world—the world on this side of the wardrobe door. But when you really see them in Narnia it is rather different. Some of the pictures of Father Christmas in our world make him look only funny and jolly. But now that the children actually stood looking at him they didn’t find it quite like that. He was so big, and so glad, and so real, that they all became quite still. They felt very glad, but also solemn.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The Holiday Gilbert Magazine is Here

I don't have time to blog about it now, but it's thick. Unfortunately, based on a quick glance it doesn't appear to have much Christmas stuff in it. It is, however, heavy on Harry Potter. That's bad news for me (a mere spectator, the Harry Potter debates bore me) but good news for the normal people out there who share the HP obsession, either by loving HP or hating it. My wife loves Harry, so I'll put the copy on her nightstand.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Post Thanksgiving Thoughts

Greetings All,

Sorry to miss a couple appearances here.

A handful of unconnected thoughts. Unconnected save for a morsel from the Chestertonicopia.

Laura Ingraham(wonderful woman, convert to the Church as well) and some of the other conservative radio commentators really get after the pornification of the culture. I think we have truly warped sexuality in our society. However, I think money and its role have equally been distorted far from the place proper reason would put things of this sphere, much less the demands of the Gospels. Peter Kreeft said it so well...something like we use sex as a means of exchange, and expect our money to get pregnant and reproduce itself.

The more I read about the Puritans the more I am deeply, deeply disturbed. I do think that the meme of the Puritans still exists in American culture, especially amongst East Coast Bluebloods. The puritanical morality is basically gone, but the puritanical urge to purge and persecute those who dont live up to its current incarnation is alive and well. The new scarlet letter is "C" for Carbon.

Does anybody besides me see the movies Fargo and My Big Fat Greek Wedding as racist trash?

Does anybody else see the irony and flat out weirdness of the recent bunch of athiest books that have been published? Im particularly thinking of the Mother Teresa hatchet jobs. What intellectual slovenliness. Even a superficial investigation into Catholic spiritual theology would find the concept of the Dark Night of the Soul. At the very least, one could point a finger at the Church for enshrining a depression related disorder as a mark of spirituality. One could also explore if such a state corresponds to any of our contemporary DSMMD conditions. But nobody does this. I could make better arguements across the board than these guys, and Im on the other side. And they consider themselves enlightened and "brights."

Isnt it ironic that despite the mad jihadists out to get us, the US has established more Moslem regimes around the world than Al Queda? (Bosnia, Iraq, Kosovo)

Have a great week?

Friday, November 23, 2007

A Black Friday Atheist

"There are two ways to get enough. One is to continue to accumulate more and more. The other is to desire less." GK

At 6 a.m., I got up and took the dog for a walk.

Then I went out for my morning walk, enjoying the quiet and the fresh snow.

When I returned home, I made some coffee, and sat down to read the paper.

I checked my e-mail, and posted a blog entry. I wrote a haiku.

I helped my wife fold some laundry. Then I made a nice bowl of oatmeal, and took a warm shower.

I post this as I sit here in my bathrobe. In a few minutes I will get dressed.

Maybe later we will go see a movie or dip into our Christmas video/dvd collection. Or go out for a cup of coffee. Or read a good book (plenty of Chesterton lying about!)

I also have some students' research papers to grade.

Mostly, we'll just relax.

You won't see me near the malls today.

Black Friday is a "holy day" I do not honor. I don't worship the gods of commerce and excess.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

A Huckabee Clerihew

With Mike Huckabee
you get what you see:
A plain-spoken man
with a national plan.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Black Wednesday

From my other blog:

These guys need a Black Wednesday: Beer sales in English pubs have slumped to their lowest level since the 1930s, brewery representatives have said. Of course, they don’t have Thanksgiving Day over there, though I’ve always liked Chesterton’s comment that they should: Just as America is thankful the Puritans came to America, England is thankful they left. (Puritans were a rather difficult lot, our Rockwell vision of them notwithstanding, and it’s no coincidence that their intellectual descendants today are secularist East Coast elitists who are quite demanding in their vision of how things ought to be.)

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

A Reader Writes

A reader wants to know where he can find this GKC quote: “I like children that are moderately well behaved, houses that are moderately clean, and their inhabitants that are moderately sober.”

I'm embarrassed to say that it doesn't even look familiar to me. Can anyone help?

GKC's Baptism

I always mean to run this factoid on July 1st, but I never remember:

"According to the 1874 Registry of St. George's Parish (page 45, item number 359), on July 1 the Reverend Alexander Law Watherston baptized the son of Edward and Marie Louise Chesterton of 14 Sheffield Terrace. The father's occupation was listed as "auctioneer." The child was given the Christian name of Gilbert Keith. The location was described in G.K.C.'s Autobiography as "the little church opposite the large Waterworks that dominated the ridge" of Campden Hill in Kensington. Chesterton did not claim the two buildings were related. "I indignantly deny that the church was chosen because it needed the whole water-power of West London to turn me into a Christian," he wrote.

Friday, November 16, 2007

The Fool

The fool of the village sat on a wall at the edge of town. He was wearing his long yellow rain coat with the black polka dots. At a distance he looked like a breathing pile of Daises.
The rains fell last night. From the sorrow colored sky they fell. They fell with the loud hateful anger born of ignorance. They fell upon the land without mercy. They fell like the giant gleaming curved swords wielded by those wild characters of Ali Babba's old gang, stripping the trees of the last of their meager autumn possessions.
“It was to be expected" they would say. No one cried at their passing, no one wore the dark cloths of morning. No one, except two, the fool cried and the sky wore grey.
The fool could never accept this ruthless behavior. He felt the shame of the naked trees, the lose of the promise. As the last leaf fell he cried out at the dashing of the dream.
"Look at their longing.” He would say to no one, to anyone. No one answered. They all had their collars up and no time to taunt the fool.
"What happened? Everything was going so well. Have they heard of this at the palace?!" Again no one heard. No one listened.
A bright red bird silently landed beside him on the wall.
The only two primary colors in the landscape were now next to each other.
The fool laughed.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Grow A Beard Month

I just learned that November is Grow a Beard Month. Heck, and all this time living in Michigan, I thought it was just rednecks getting ready for hunting season.

To the best of my knowledge, GKC always shaved, but this blogger invokes GKC's famous saying in honor of the month.

"You cannot grow a beard in a moment of passion."

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Halloween has slipped past us as if it were the end of a children’s holiday or maybe it was like the beginning of a holiday. All I know is that is was a weak event here where I live. As I walked my child and her two friends around town I saw very few candy beggars and too many dark houses and when we got home my wife still had a half a bowl left of chocolate treats.
I was saddened by the whole non-event.
I thought I was the only one to feel that this day of childhood pretending and ghostly delights was now a thing of the past. Then I read an editorial by Susan Estrict called Halloween Horrors She too laments its passing.

Just a quick poll: What was it like where you live?

Friday, November 09, 2007


Havent had the chance to post much here.

Just wanted to put out the idea that despite the decades between Chesterton and ourselves, he stands as such a powerful model of a person of faith interacting in the public sphere. I think the upcoming 2008 elections will effectively shatter the "moral majority"/Catholic-Evangelical/Neocon junta. I think we need to look to Chesterton as an example of one who sees the nuances of faith as it moves from the intimate parts of the soul, to the community, to the nation, and to a philosophy of life. Faith and politics are two separate things, often at odds and with a tension, but Chesterton's writings and professional career stand as a beacon guiding us to proper discernment in these areas.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

A clerihew

Belloc of Batavia
imbibed a bottle of ratafia.
His subsequent hangover led him to snark,
"I place all the blame on Bishop Clark."

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Generations of Newspapers

The forerunner of G.K.'s Weekly was Cecil Chesterton's New Witness, and the forerunner of the New Witness was Hilaire Belloc's Eye Witness. Few probably know that Maurice Baring and Belloc founded an earlier newspaper called the North Street Gazette and that this was indirectly the parent of the Eye Witness. The paper's motto was "Out, out, brief scandal!" It folded after one issue in the summer of 1908. [Emma Letley, Maurice Baring, London: 1991, 139-40] Upon Gilbert Chesterton's death in 1936, the newspaper became The Weekly Review. The directors of G.K.'s Weekly had wanted to shut it down, but they were persuaded by Hilary Pepler to pass the enterprise on to a small group of key Distributists, including Hilaire Belloc. Belloc edited the paper for a brief time and then passed that responsibility to his son-in-law, Reginald Jebb. [Brocard Sewell, Habit of a Lifetime, Padstow, 1992, p. 99]

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Belloc in "Commonweal"

The October 26 issue of Commonweal arrived. It contains a Peter Steinfels article about Belloc.

"A Catholic in the Room - Second Thoughts on Hilaire Belloc" has some pointed things to say about Belloc. What occasioned the piece was Steinfels reading of Belloc's The Crisis of Civilization earlier this year - 70 years after the Fordham University lectures by Belloc that became that book.

Steinfels says he was a fan of Belloc when younger. But he is critical of the book and Belloc's ideas contained in it, and in some of his more insensitive comments concerning Jews and African Americans.

I need to read the piece more closely. And I admit that I have not read Crisis, so I don't know if the picture is accurate. But it is damning - and it gets in some digs at modern "conservatives."

Just to quote a couple of passages (out of order):

"There is little mention of Christian impulses like charity, kindness, humility, and forgiveness. At least in these lecture, Belloc's celebration of Roman Catholicism is far more Roman than Catholic."

"So should Belloc's myopic and skewed views be quietly left to gather dust on the Fordham library bookshelves? That might be the case were it not for the current temptation to shore up a sagging sense of Catholic identity with the bellicose, pseudo-swashbuckling, in-your-face style that was Belloc's signature and that, alas, only looks pitiful and self-deceiving in today's imitators."

"The greatest gap in Belloc's history is the story of political liberty. Early and repeatedly he stresses the movement in Christian Europe from slavery to serfdom to freedom and suggests its religious origins. But of modern civil and political rights - freedom of speech and religion, constitutional accountability, independent judiciaries, democratic suffrage, and so on - he says nothing. In part, he takes them for granted. In part, he considers them illusory. It would take a tale that he could not have told without shining a different, more favorable light on Protestantism, the nineteenth century, and the great absentee from his account, liberalism."

The concluding paragraph is:

"Belloc is a major figure in the remarkable Catholic literary and intellectual revivals of the century past. Those revivals continue to hold out a hope and a model for resurgent Catholic presence in the twenty-first century. But Catholics, including myself, are tempted to look only at the finest moments of these revivals, loyally and nostalgically veiling their less happy aspects. Pragmatically, we need to ask why, in the long run, these revivals petered out. Morally, we need to ask, with unblinking eyes, whether they responded adequately to the brewing crisis of civilization and if not, why not."


Anyone else read the article? If so, observations?

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

GKC at Christmas

Something new every year. This year, it's the GKC Christmas tree ornament. It's advertised in the new edition of Gilbert Magazine. I might get one. It's mildly salty ($19.95), but you ain't gonna find it cheaper at Wal-Mart.

Monday, October 29, 2007

New Gilbert is Here

And it's a fine-looking 10th Anniversary edition. Very well done, thick (58 pages) enhanced cover. From the letters to the editor:

Four score and seven cases of beer ago, I served as editor of this esteemed, if occasionally beleaguered, publication. Neither before nor since have I had so much occasion to drink, and I'm told that readers during my short, interim-ish, editorship bolstered the bottom line of many liquor stores during my 14 months at the helm.

The magazine is, based on my distant view through the amber glass, flourishing under my successor's able guidance. This is good news for every person interested in drink, joy, truth, and everything else worthwhile in this vale.

The magazine's ten-year anniversary is now here. I remember learning during my editorship that special interest publications like this one are lucky to last maybe four years. If that's the case, Gilbert is almost 150 in niche-magazine years, which is certainly an apt occasion for offering congratulations.

As long as Gilbert runs, I know there'll be a sliver of sanity in an often-callous world and a slice of silver over an horizon that too frequently grows dark.


Eric Scheske

Thursday, October 25, 2007


"October" by Hilaire Belloc

Look, how those steep woods on the mountain's face
Burn, burn against the sunset; now the cold
Invades our very noon: the year's grown old,
Mornings are dark, and evenings come apace.
The vines below have lost their purple grace,
And in Forreze the white wrack backward rolled,
Hangs to the hills tempestuous, fold on fold,
And moaning gusts make desolate all the place.

Mine host the month, at thy good hostelry,
Tired limbs I'll stretch and steaming beast I'll tether;
Pile on great logs with Gascon hand and free,
And pour the Gascon stuff that laughs at weather;
Swell your tough lungs, north wind, no whit care we,
Singing old songs and drinking wine together.

Belloc's Map of Sussex from "The Four Men"

Hilaire Belloc's map of Sussex from "The Four Men", worthy of Tolkien:


(click it for a larger view)

Belloc clerihew

Hilaire Belloc
walked off the end of a dock
but being in the midst of a debate
he failed to recognize his fate.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Micro Belloc

Last week, someone (in this blog's comments section, I believe) recommended that we read Belloc's The Four Men while hoisting a tankard. "Splendid suggestion," I thought, so I plucked it off the shelf and read from it last Sunday. The very first sentence made me pause:

Nine years ago, as I was sitting in the "George" at Robertsbridge, drinking that port of theirs and staring at the fire . . .

"Drinking that port of theirs." The folks at Robertsbridge must've made their own port, as I'm supposing many inns did back then. They probably also made their own beers.

Within thirty years of Belloc's death, such a thing was virtually unheard of. One didn't go to a bar "to drink that port/beer of theirs." You drank the same thing everyone else across MTV land drank: Swiller Lite, Crapweiser, and the other mass-advertised brands. Today, that's changing. Microbrews dot the land. One is even going up in my fairly dry home town (though my preview of their beer was not pleasant). The microsbrews are a slice of distributism, and they're taking a bite out of Grudge (or is it Hudge?) breweries. Be a good man: Visit a microbrew this weekend, buy a growler, and toast Belloc's memory repeatedly.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

without a rag of excuse

"[I]f a healthy man lies in bed, let him do it without a rag of excuse; then he will get up a healthy man. If he does it for some secondary hygienic reason, if he has some scientific explanation, he may get up a hypochondriac."
- G.K. Chesterton. "On Lying in Bed" in Tremendous Trifles, 1909.

"In fact, psychologist Matthew Walker of the University of California, Berkeley, says that 'almost all psychiatric disorders show some problems with sleep.' But, he says that scientists previously believed the psychiatric problems triggered the sleep issues. New research from his lab, however, suggests the reverse is the case; that is, a lack of shut-eye is causing some psychological disturbances."
- Nikhil Swaminathan. "Can a Lack of Sleep Cause Psychiatric Disorders?" in Scientific American, October 23, 2007.


Saturday, October 20, 2007

"You should see him catch buns in his mouf"

an article by Gilbert Adair, all about our favorite big man, in today's Guardian

There was never just one GK Chesterton. There was Chesterton the Catholic proselytiser, the hearty balladeer of Merrie England, the harrumphing castigator of teetotallers and vegetarians, the blustery anti-Communist, anti-plutocrat and, also, alas, anti-Semite [alas, Adair is misinformed on the anti-Semite bit, and just regurgitates what he read or heard from some anti-Chestertonian]. There was Chesterton the charmer of children - one little boy, asked after a visit to the great man's home if GKC had been awfully clever, replied, "I don't know about clever, but you should see him catch buns in his mouf." ....

The article somewhat focuses on The Club of Queer Trades and even mentions Kafka and Borges.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Another Broken Nail

When I got bumped to third shift I knew that would put me a little out of touch with the news or at least somewhat behind the curve. But why didn’t anybody tell me that Captain America was killed off because he became irrelevant, "He hasn't been living in the modern world and the world does move," says Marvel Editor-in-Chief Joe Quesada.
Gilbert would question that logic.

But I did notice that Bill O Rielly has finally gone insane with his support for torture.

Although there are too many quotes from Chesterton on insanity to reprint here I could not find a Chesterton quote on our modern tendency to kill off cartoon characters. I only feel that this should not happen - it does not fit the fairy tale model, “Fairy Tales are more than true; not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.” In fairy tales dragons DON’T beat the prince. If a cartoon character loses his or her “relevance” then, like in the past, they should just not show up one day, like Calvin and Hobbs or Zeus.

Why fret about cartoons or fairy tales?
For want of a nail the shoe was lost.
For want of a shoe the horse was lost.
For want of a horse the rider was lost.
For want of a rider the battle was lost.

Chesterton Sighting

At WaPo, via Ignatius Scoop. Carl Olson is a bit harsh on the WaPo writer. At least the writer got the quote right.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Belloc Biography (Rochester Chesterton Conference 4)

Shaw, Belloc and some other guy

Among the many pleasures of attending the Rochester Chesterton Conference two weeks ago was meeting Joseph Pearce, and getting a copy of his biography of Hilaire Belloc (Old Thunder: A Life of Hilaire Belloc).

I had enjoyed his biography of Chesterton - Wisdom and Innocence: A Life of G. K. Chesterton - so I happily bought the Belloc book.

In part, I wanted to learn more about Belloc, about whom I knew little beyond his ties to Chesterton and a few of his children's poems.

I started it after finishing another book I'd been reading (due back at the library). Even with all my other reading for school, correcting student papers, creating worksheet and tests, choir practice, family activities and town meetings, I've already finished a third of it. I am thoroughly enjoying it.

I also get to look at the signature in the front, and to recall Pearce's story of his own remarkable life - which I'll deal with in another post about the conference.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Belloc Redux?

The Atlantic's literary editor, Benjamin Schwartz, summarizes Cambridge historian Eamon Duffy's 1992 book, The Stripping of the Altars: Traditional Religion in England, 1400-1580:

His meticulous and beguiling reconstruction, along with his exploration of the psychological and spiritual devastation caused by the Tudors’ wrecking of the physical culture of the late-medieval Church, demonstrated that the Reformation was “a great cultural hiatus, which had dug a ditch, deep and dividing, between the English people and their past”—a past that over merely three generations became a foreign country, impossible for the English to regard as their own. The book stirred the English popular and scholarly mind from a historical and cultural complacency bred of Protestant and Whiggish triumphal­ism.

Anybody else thinking Belloc's Europe and the Faith?

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Classic GKC

We find in the Little Brown Book of Anecdotes that on one occasion when Hilaire Belloc demanded that a public attack on Chesterton by George Bernard Shaw be answered, Chesterton replied, "I have answered him. To a man of Shaw's wit, silence is the one unbearable repartee." [Boston, 1985, p. 117]

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Some things....

I recently read Jonathon Strange and Mr. Norell, and found it one of the most entertaining novels Ive picked up in a long, long time. I was surprised to see it mentioned by Touchstone as worthy of the Inklings. See here. Susanna Clark creates a very, very plausible "real world" magic scenario with solid characters.


Here is the trailer for The Golden Age, a very gorgeous looking film of Queen Elizabeth fighting off the Spanish Armada. I think most of us on this blog know about how unquestioningly pro-Anglo our cultural historians are. The fear of the Inquisition coming to England seems to be used as a device. Most of us are aware that Elizabeth's purges and actions make the Inquisition look tame. I wanted to bring this up to demonstrate "Small World Theory." The guys at Arms & Armor/ The Oakeshott Institute that Dale and I visited for the "Sword Issue" designed and made most of the props and weapons used in this movie.

Have a great weekend!!

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Rochester Chesterton Conference 3

I first heard of Father Leo Hetzler back in the dark ages when I was a student at St. John Fisher College.

Several friends recommended that I take a course with him. I was never able to do so, but I did attend a talk he gave on Catholic writers.

One of the writers he praised enthusiastically was G. K. Chesterton. I had recently discovered Chesterton myself through his biography of St. Francis, so I was pleased to hear him lauded by a respected and bright teacher.

What I didn’t know at the time – I discovered it later – was that Father Hetzler was a well-known Chesterton scholar and advocate. I later came across his name in The Chesterton Review, for which he wrote and served on the Editorial Board.

I wrote an article about Chesterton back when I was a Catholic journalist – and naturally I interviewed Father Hetzler. And when I’ve been able to make meetings of the Rochester Chesterton Society, I’ve always enjoyed his stories and insights.

So it was no surprise when I spotted him at the Rochester Chesterton Conference last Saturday. What did surprise me – and Father Hetzler – was when Dale Alquist presented him with the American Chesterton Society Lifetime Achievement Award.

A well-deserved award.

Even if I never took a course with him, Father Hetzler has taught me much over the years.

(And yes, there's more...)

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Big Business Beer

And on the other end of the spectrum (from the previous post) we have in the news today the Big Business Beer (anti-distributist) getting even bigger. You know, the kind of brewco that uses sex to sell its product, and gorifies heavy drinking to youth.
Anheuser-Busch rivals Miller Brewing Co. in Milwaukee and Coors Brewing Co., of Golden, Colo., will be combined under a joint venture announced by the parents of the two firms Tuesday.

SABMiller plc, of London, and Denver-based Molson Coors Brewing Co. have signed a letter of intent to combine the U.S. and Puerto Rico operations of Miller and Coors.

The new company, which will be called MillerCoors, will have annual combined beer sales of 69 million U.S. barrels and net revenue of approximately $6.6 billion, SABMiller and Molson Coors said in a joint press release.

read it all at the St. Louis Business Journal


The Culture of Beer

Majoring in international business at the University of Tulsa, [Eric] Marshall spent a semester studying in Germany.

"And I just fell in love with the culture of beer," he says, putting the emphasis not on the word beer, but on culture.

The culture of beer has nothing to do with drunken keg parties or stumbling out of a bar late at night. A beer lover, to paraphrase G.K. Chesterton, would never insult beer by drinking too much of it.

The culture of beer is about an ancient craft that has been handed down generation-to-generation since the pharaohs and the Babylonians. It's about the infinite subtleties that can be achieved with just four simple ingredients -- water, malt, hops and yeast.


"I always knew that sooner or later I'd come back to Tulsa," Marshall says, standing next to that open trench in his warehouse. "I love Tulsa. This is my home. This is where my family is. And this is where I want to make my beer."


"The goal is to be part of the culture," he says. "To become 'local lore,' as they say."

The way Kansas City has Boulevard. Boston has Sam Adams. And Houston has Saint Arnold.

"This is going to be our beer and I want to make something that Tulsa can be proud of."

read the whole article, "Hops for Tulsa" by Michael Overall at Tulsa World


Monday, October 08, 2007

Rochester Chesterton Conference 2

The October 6 Chesterton Conference in Rochester - Conversion of Heart - focused on converts. Those converts were St. Paul, St. Augustine, John Henry Cardinal Newman, Joseph Pearce, and, of course, Chesterton.

In his introductory remarks, Lou Horvath, Presdient of the Rochester NY Chesterton Society, noted that when he invited speakers for the conference, it dawned on him that he was inviting converts to talk about these converts.

This seemed appropriate, he observed, "In Chesterton circles ... there's converts all over the place."

He admitted that he had hopes that at least Father Derek Cross was a cradle Catholic like himself. No luck.

But the many people who gathered for the confernece were treated to the insights of a spectacular group of converts.

David Higbee, director of Rochester's Irenaeus Center, spoke on St. Paul.

Ronald Stansbury, a professor of history at Roberts Wesleyen College (in the Rochester suburb of Chili) talked about St. Augustine.

Father Cross, a priest of the Oratory of St. Philip Neri and a teacher at St. Philip's Seminary in Toronto, offered observations about Cardinal Newman.

Joseph Pearce, who has written on Chesterton, J.R.R. Tolkein, C. S. Lewis, Hilare Belloc, and on so many more topics, had the fortune - or misfortune - of talking about his own path into the Church.

And finally, Dale Alquist, President of the American Chesterton Society, naturally provided some insight into Chesterton's conversion.

In addition to their own presentations, the dream team of converts also fielded questions from conference attendees.
In true Chestertonian fashion, none of the listed times in the program were strictly observed, and the conference, scheduled to end at 3, actually came to an end closer to 4:30 - with people lingering to chat. I suspect conversations went on well into the evening.
One of the joys in such gatherings is that they draw people together who have discovered a Catholic literary giant who faded into obscurity for a while, but who is enjoying a revival with enthusiasts readily spreading the word.
"Here you have a writer who just demands to be shared," Horvath observed.
(More to come)

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Good post from a blog I just happened into.

Very, very good. Very Chestertonian. Found this blogsurfing

Rochester Chesterton Conference 1

What do you call a gathering of Chestertonians?

A flock? A covey A school? A congregation? A conference?

How about well-read!

Friday, October 05, 2007

Old and new again.....

I recently had an enlightening conversation with someone who was basically fed up with the politics which seem to pervade everything from sports to church to government. He made a very good observation that we seem to be at the whim of extremists.......only people who have deep convictions, high energy, and the time to devote to causes. These folks seem to be the polar opposites, and any sort of middle, balance, or even maturity doesnt have a chance to come forth because everything is framed from the extremes.

I have to agree to a certain point. I have seen riots for many different causes, but not for moderation. Does not fire people up.

As a Chestertonian, I think GKC comes the closest to making a passionate argument for balance and moderation. His line about his conversion, seeing hope as resting on the edge between presumption and despair sums it up. One of the things that upsets me the most is that the true Christian position, especially the Catholic position on many issues is never clearly defined in debate, or even casual discussion. People throw out an adolescent label and then in a very Freudian way proceed to rise above and demolish an argument for an idea which doesn't exist anywhere except in their own misconceptions. For example, I think even an honest atheist should be intrigued by the ideas of Theology of the Body, that loving a woman with true romantic love and the chaste/celibate life are both water from the same well.

Have a great weekend!!!

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Chesterton Conference

Joe stole my thunder.

(Actually, given that I missed my turn last week, maybe "whimper" is a better word.)

The Rochester Chesterton Society is sponsoring a conference this Saturday entitled, "Conversion of Heart: St. Paul, St. Augustine, John Henry Newman, GK Chesterton."

It will feature Joseph Pearce and Dale Ahlquest, along with Fr. Derek Cross, Dr. RJ Stansbury, and Rochester's own David Higbee.

Although I have been a devotee of Chesterton for many years, I have never been able to make any of the conferences. I used to work at a radio station on Saturdays (for 21 years). But I quit this past Spring, and so I am finally going to make the conference.

I'll report back this weekend.

By the way, St. Francis is my patron saint - and Chesterton's biography of him was one of the first books by Chesterton that I read - so happy feast day to all.

Memorial of St Francis of Assisi

Today being the Memorial of St Francis of Assisi, I offer you a quote from G.K. Chesterton's acclaimed biography of St Francis. It has special meaning to me because my wife wrote this quotation in a note to me after our fourth son was born.
With the fourth man enters the shadow of a mob; the group is no longer one of three individuals only conceived individually.
- G.K. Chesterton. St. Francis, chapter VII.


Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Rochester, NY Chesterton Conference

passing this along...
There is a Chesterton Conference coming up on Saturday, October 6. It's being put on by the Rochester, NY Chesterton Society. Some time later this month the St. Irenaeus Ministries podcast will feature recordings from this event. Check it out!

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Slow Blog

We haven't had any postings since Thursday. Quite the shameful lull, but I'm hardly one to cast stones. For the sake of posting something/anything, I thought I'd mention that Encyclopedia Britannica has an online GKC entry, though you need a subscription to access the entire thing.

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.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Friday thoughts..........

Mother Theresa, oh my gosh, was human!!

For those of you who dont follow news, some of Mother Theresa's diaries and letters are being published which reveal she lived most of her life in a Dark Night of the Soul. This was reported years ago in First Things, but only hit the mainstream press now. I hope this is grasped as a teaching moment to get across some of the very unique teachings of authentic Catholic spirituality.....Holiness is not a "buzz", fanaticism is not a virtue, steadfast fidelity through thick and thin (Way of the Cross, perhaps?) is.

Senator Craig
Um, wow. Lets reason through this. Either he is guilty or it is a misunderstanding. If this was a misunderstanding I would picture the accused behaving in a totally different manner. Innocent people accused of something like this should be vocal, angry, and beligerent in protest.

Other option, he is guilty, in which case this man's devience is so deep and his compulsions so strong that he would try something like this in a public place. And, by the way, he is a senator.

Finally, a Clerihew

President Amadinejad
Rants for global Jihad
His name is difficult, I get it wrong.
Cant we call him, "President Tom?"

Have a great weekend.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Clerihew - Michael Vick

Michael Vick
is sick.
Like many of his passes, his notions of sport
fall short.

So she hesitated.

today in BBC news:

In 1937 Marie Slocombe was working as a summer relief secretary at the BBC.

One of her tasks was to sort out - and dispose of - a pile of dusty broadcast discs. She noticed that among them were recordings of GB Shaw, HG Wells, Winston Churchill, Herbert Asquith and GK Chesterton. So she hesitated.

In that moment was the humble beginning of what became one of the most important collections of recordings in the world - the BBC Sound Archive.