Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Happy Anniversary, Uncle Gilbert and Aunt Frances!

Today marks the 105th anniversary of the wedding of Frances Blogg to Gilbert Keith Chesterton. It was also (as my friend Nancy, the blogg-mistress of the ACS Blogg) found out, Frances' birthday (she was born in 1869, five years before GKC.)

And today I got a wonderful present, which I am sure they both had a hand in: in the mail I received the brand-new book by Fr. Jaki on the Litany of the Sacred Heart! Wow, what an amazing thing - history, meditation, explanation, by an eminent academic, scientist, historian and theologian!

Tuesday, June 27, 2006


Alas, last year I completely forgot to make this posting - and it was on my mind constantly! For tomorrow is the great day on which geologists - and indeed all scientists - all over the world remember the beginning of a most amazing adventure - the adventure which began in Iceland so many years ago on a clear, crisp, sunny June 28.

Might I be permitted to recall the document which made it possible?
In Sneffels yoculis craterem kem delebat Umbra Scartaris Julii intra calendas descende Audas viator, et terrestre centrum attinges.
Kod feci.
Arne Saknussemm.
Which dog Latin being translated, reads as follows:
Descend into the crater of Yocul of Sneffels, which the shade of Scartaris caresses, before the kalends of July, audacious traveler, and you will reach the center of the earth.
I did it.
Arne Saknussemm.
Indeed, though few of the wonderful tales of the great Jules Verne remain to be fulfilled, yet this one still stands as a triumph to the audacious - thank God it is a quality not restricted to geologists, or even scientists!

On one of the first days after I arrived as a brand new curious freshman at the-school-which-must-not-be-named, I went to the library, wandering in utter delight at the thought of so many new books to read - and I remembered that here would surely be a place wherein I might find highly detailed maps... so I sought out an atlas which would show Iceland in as high a resolution as might be available.

And behold, I saw that there really is a Jokullsneffels and a Scartaris!

So! When shall we go and follow the audacious Arne Saknussemm? What an adventure! What possibilities of new knowledge! What are we waiting for?

Note: Saturday is the kalends of July, we must not let it slip by this year!

No, let us make haste, and then join with Hans as he orders "Forüt" - Forward! To the center of the earth!

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Amazing Sonnet Sequence

My friend John, of This Red Rock, has completed his sonnet sequence!

It is an amazing piece of work, exploring the reality of a friend's vocation to the cloistered life of prayer, a life of work in the world, and the mystic link uniting these disparate paths.


"I am the Vine, you are the branches. Apart from Me you can do nothing. With Me you will bear much fruit."

Please pray for more such vocations.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Rusty Droppings on Campus

I post this by request. It was written in tribute to the schools which must not be named - which I must admit have truly disgusting heaps of what is herein described!

Yes, there was some on the lawn just outside ChesterCon.

Dr. Thursday

Rusty Droppings on Campus

I hope that I shall never meet
Those loathsome creatures which excrete
Their rusty droppings on the grass
Of every college that I pass.

(I'm sure you know just what I mean.)
These monsters, though, are rarely seen,
But in a classroom once I heard
That they're a kind of ancient bird

With metal wing and eye unblinking
And of sulfur ever stinking,
Choosing forges for their nests,
Horrid, shrieking, filthy pests.

"It's art," say some as they walk by
This mess offensive to the eye.
Art is what they've never seen
In sky of blue and grass of green,

But not in this brown pollution.
So, herewith, is a solution
To this problem I've complained:
Get these creatures campus-trained!

begun August 25, 1990, finished August 26, 1990

GKC comments on his TMWWT

Spoiler Warning: If you have NOT as yet read Chesterton's The Man Who Was Thursday I strongly advise you not to bother reading this post. It does not exactly "give away" the ending, but it is better for you to read the book first, and then these commentaries. This is a general rule I urge on all, as there is no worse sin in literature than giving away the ending to a mystery...

Dr. Thursday
I happened to dedicate to Mr. Bentley, in those distant days, a book called "The Man Who Was Thursday"; it was a very melodramatic sort of moonshine, but it had a kind of notion in it; and the point is that it described, first a band of the last champions of order fighting against what appeared to be a world of anarchy; and then the discovery that the mysterious master both of the anarchy and the order was the same sort of elemental elf; who had appeared to be rather too like a pantomime ogre. This line of logic, or lunacy, led many to infer that this equivocal being was meant for a serious description of the Deity; and my work even enjoyed a temporary respect among those who like the Deity to be so described. But this error was entirely due to the same cause; that they had read the book but had not read the title-page. In my case, it is true, it was a question of a sub-title rather than a title. The book was called "The Man Who Was Thursday: a Nightmare." It was not intended to describe the real world as it was, or as I thought it was, even when my thoughts were considerably less settled than they are now. It was intended to describe the world of wild doubt and despair which the pessimists were generally describing at that date; with just a gleam of hope in some double meaning of the doubt, which even the pessimists felt in some fitful fashion. The matter was fully stated in some rather bombastic verses which I addressed to Mr. Bentley at the time; and I may be excused for mentioning them here in this connection; as a salutation and a memorial of old times.
{GKC, ILN June 13, 1936 - note, this was his second-last essay!]

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

A Lesson from Anatomy: hints of greater things

I am looking at a book called Developmental Anatomy by L. B. Arey, doing a bit of research. This chapter is on the Vascular System (the blood, blood vessels, and heart).

You may already know that our red blood cells do not have a nucleus; they do NOT divide. They spend their lives carrying oxygen to the rest of the body, and taking away carbon dioxide. The curious thing is that for some time in embryonic life, there are blood cells which reproduce:
At seven weeks almost every red blood cell in the circulating blood is nucleated; at 11 weeks only a few with nuclei remain.
[Arey, Developmental Anatomy 346]
Note that the times are measured from conception.

Here's another important datum:
As a mammalian embryo advances through the stages characterized by cleavage, morula, blastocyst and germ layers, it satisfies all its metabolic needs by simple, diffusive interchanges with the fluid medium inwhich it is immersed. But as the embryo continues to gain size and begins to take form, a functioning circulatory system becomes necessary in order to make use of the required food and oxygen obtainable from the mother's blood. Hence it is that the heart and blood vessels are the first organ system to reach a functional state.
[Arey, Developmental Anatomy 375]

For reference, the beat begins at about 3.5 weeks; the general form of the heart is complete by about 6 weeks.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Back again

The last week went so fast it is hard to believe it's all past. It was such a great time... so many Chestertonians, and bloggers, too! (Nancy, John, Sheila, Joe, "Thursday", and others...) My camera seems to have stopped functioning, so I will not have anything to show, and you will have to rely on Nancy or others for the visual effects. But it was a wonderful time. I heard that it was the biggest conference yet. There were lots of college-age people, and seminarians, too. In particular, the auditorium was jammed for the performance of GKC's "The Surprise".

The play was stupendous. It was one of the most high-tech things GKC wrote, containing two plays within a larger play. I hope we shall see someone do a talk next year - or perhaps a dissertation at an "institute of higher learning" - on how GKC's "The Surprise" is connected to Tolkien's "subcreation" and Sayers' The Mind of the Maker and even such things as recursion, and how the ribosome is represented within DNA. Well, maybe that's getting too technical. But it was a great romp of a play, very funny, but also extremely intellectual and stimulating. Lots of people were surprised, especially because there are several surprises in the play, culminating in that last most awesome line of all.

Besides the play, there were other talks, some of which I attended, and some of which I did not attend, as I was involved with other projects and discussions. I had a very good time with a number of people, including some who are here in the E-cosmos, and I am sure you will read their comments with glee.

And there were also lots of books available for purchase. I did get to Loome on Wednesday for about an hour at each of their two stores - it was amazing to see that they had very cunningly put out on shelves some of the very books I was hoping to find! But at the conference most of the lobby is full of tables at which used-book sellers stack their offerings. And I found some rather amazing things there too, including remarkable items like The Popes and Science to which I have seen attributions in some of Fr. Jaki's books - when I finish reading it I will review it here. Also in the lobby I found The Oxford Classical Dictionary, a hefty tome of about 1000 pages which I have already installed next to the Lewis and Short Latin dictionary.

Er.... I'm still recovering from the journey, so for now this summary will have to do - perhaps I will add more later.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

ChesterCon 2006 begins today!

After a long journey, which almost did not get started, I am happy to say that I am here on the campus of the University of St. Thomas, on Thursday morning (hee hee) with the Chesterton Conference to start this evening!!!

The important thing to note about the journey is that I was able to stop at the fabulous Loome Booksellers yesterday (see link at right)!!! And I made some discoveries and bought some books. Some will be reported on later as time permits. The one which brought the great noise of discovery was the three-volume translation of Dante's Divine Comedy by Dorothy Sayers!!! Excellent. Also an intense volume by John Buridan YES!!! WOW from the 1300s!!! If you don't know who that is, I will tell you. You need to know.

But here and now: it is somewhat gray out, and there was a drizzle, but that is very Chestertonian weather.

More on all this later. The others will be coming soon...

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Preparing for ChesterCon 2006

Yes, it has been a little while since I posted. No, nothing is wrong. Yes, I have been busy. Busy at work, busy with my writing, and busy preparing for the journey to the Chesterton Conference which is only a few days away!

And it ought to be very bloggable, too! So far, based on things I have heard from comment boxes or elsewhere, I understand that some of our nephews and nieces expect to be there:

Nancy from Flying Stars
LoveToLearn Mom from Studeo
John from This Red Rock
Sheila from Enchiridion
Thursday from Thursday's Trifles
Katie from Doubleshot Thoughts

I also expect to be there, God willing.

Let us pray that all have a safe journey and a good and productive time.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Amazing discovery of an unpublished GKC essay

This was something I had meant to post back when we were discussing the chicken/road thing.

Some little time ago, the following fragment was discovered - I only have the electronic form, and I have never seen the paper original (if there ever was a paper original!)

So you will have to take any claim to authenticity cum grano salsa as the Latinists say...

--Dr. Thursday
"Why Did the Chicken Cross the Road?"
An answer by G. K. Chesterton.

Just the other day, as I was riding somewhere in a hansom cab, I saw a chicken cross a road. It reminded me that I had the confounded botheration of having to write this article, and so, since I had nothing in my pockets, and nothing to read, I decided to write about the chicken.

The chicken is a homely and common bird, though Swinburne I think compares it to the ostrich. Speaking of birds, I remember that I always wanted to eat peacock pie; I thought it would be full of gorgeous colors, like the feathers. But where the peacock is proud, the chicken is humble. The chicken is humble enough for any man to eat. And let us not forget how this fowl once had its moment in the light: when its call made Peter weep in the night.

The chicken is the feast-day meal of the common man: it is not too much to ask that he have his chicken and eat it too. The road was surely a Roman Road, as so many roads in England are. But in crossing the road the chicken performed an act not unknown even this world of heretics, an act easily identified as one of orthodoxy. It is as though the chicken scrawled in the dust of that Roman road an ancient symbol - the symbol with which Godfrey challenged the gates of Jerusalem - the symbol of the cross, standing erect against all the chimney-pots and telegraph-posts of civilisation. ...