Thursday, April 27, 2017

The Real White Princess

From Town and Country:
Everyone agrees: Elizabeth was ravishing. Which is not surprising, considering her gene pool. The Plantagenet princess was the oldest child of King Edward IV (the head of the House of York) and Elizabeth Woodville, both of them famed for their good looks and sexual charisma. Her parents’ marriage was actually the scandal of its time. Edward was under pressure to marry a fellow royal, but at age 22 he fell passionately in love with Elizabeth Woodville, an impoverished young widow, and tried to seduce her. The Widow Woodville refused to become his mistress, drawing a knife and threatening to kill herself if he raped her. This led to the king’s proposal of marriage. (Bear in mind, this was the 15th century.) (Read more.)

Nazi Super Babies

From Messy Nessy Chic:
Lebensborn, meaning “fount of life” was an SS-initiated program that encouraged anonymous births by unmarried “racially pure” women who were selected to breed with Nazi officers and secure the future of a “super race” for the German Reich. The program expanded into several Nazi occupied countries including Norway, France and Belgium, resulting in a shameful post-war ostracism of surviving Lebensborn mothers and the mistreatment of their displaced children across Europe after Germany lost the war.

An estimated 8,000 children were born in Lebensborn institutions in Germany, up to 12,000 children in Norway and countless others across occupied countries where “super babies” had been selected become part of the German master race. The most famous of the surviving Lebensborn children is Frida Lyngstad of the iconic Swedish pop band, ABBA....(Read more.)

The Audiobook Boom

From Digital Book World:
The digital audiobook industry is trending up. The recent launch of RBmedia, a digital audio company that brings together the management of several technologies that specialize in spoken-word audio, casts a spotlight on this growth. In recent years, spoken-word media has increased in both sales and the number of titles being published. The latest statistics from the Audio Publishing Association show that audiobook sales totaled more than $1.77 billion in 2015, up 20.7 percent over the previous year. During that time, unit sales grew 24.1 percent. In July 2016, The Wall Street Journal called audiobooks the “fastest growing format in publishing.” New digital technologies have led to the rapid growth in listening to books. The ubiquity of mobile smartphones and new in-home infotainment technologies are two leading factors. As the demand for audiobook content rises, publishers have begun to make audiobook production more accessible to indie authors. (Read more.)

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Marie-Antoinette Leaves Home

Another quote from my book:
On April 21, 1770, the youngest Archduchess left her family home forever. The moment came when she was to bid farewell to her mother. They had become particularly close in the last few months because the Empress had decided to keep Antoine constantly at her side, day and night, in order not to lose the opportunity to instruct the little bride in her duties of her new state in life. There was profuse weeping, not only on the part of the mother and her child, but the members of the imperial household, both servants and courtiers mourned the loss of their Archduchess, as did the citizens of Vienna. She knelt for her mother’s blessing. In the future she would see her sister Mimi and her brothers Joseph and Max; she would never see her mother or her other siblings again.

Marie-Antoinette, Daughter of the Caesars: Her Life, Her Times, Her Legacy - Elena Maria Vidal (Read more.)

The Cross That ISIS Could Not Crush

From FaithZette:
The monastery of St. Barbara, formerly a place of pilgrimage for many Iraqi Christians, is at the entrance to the town. We were accompanied by Fr. Thabet, the parish priest. He showed us the ruined home of his parents and grandparents, bombed by coalition forces because it was used as an ISIS outpost. Sitting in what had been the family garden was a large bomb. The rectory, like many of the empty houses, had ISIS graffiti sprayed on the outside wall — for the priest’s house it said, “The Cross will be broken.” Luckily for Fr. Thabet, his house was still standing and, unlike many of the houses, had not been burned out. ISIS fighters had left him a little gift on their departure: a booby trap by his office door. Many of the houses in the town are booby-trapped, burned out, or destroyed, and there is no water or electricity. As we walked around the empty streets some birds were singing, but the only other sound was the distant thump of bombing in Mosul, nine miles away. (Read more.)

The Great Retail Meltdown of 2017

From The Atlantic:
The simplest explanation for the demise of brick-and-mortar shops is that Amazon is eating retail. Between 2010 and last year, Amazon’s sales in North America quintupled from $16 billion to $80 billion. Sears’ revenue last year was about $22 billion, so you could say Amazon has grown by three Sears in six years. Even more remarkable, according to several reports, half of all U.S. households are now Amazon Prime subscribers.

But the full story is bigger than Amazon. Online shopping has done well for a long time in media and entertainment categories, like books and music. But easy return policies have made online shopping cheap, easy, and risk-free for consumers in apparel, which is now the largest e-commerce category. The success of start-ups like Casper, Bonobos, and Warby Parker (in beds, clothes, and glasses, respectively) has forced physical-store retailers to offer similar deals and convenience online. What’s more, mobile shopping, once an agonizing experience of typing private credit-card digits in between pop-up ads, is getting easier thanks to apps and mobile wallets. Since 2010, mobile commerce has grown from 2 percent of digital spending to 20 percent. (Read more.)

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Johanna and Josepha

Archduchess Johanna

Archduchess Josepha
A quote about two of Marie-Antoinette's sisters who died of smallpox:
There was no trouble, however, with Archduchess Maria Johanna and Archduchess Maria Josepha, sweet and docile girls who were being brought up together. Then Johanna contracted a virulent case of smallpox after receiving an inoculation, which was known to occur. She died at age twelve, much to her family’s horror, especially Josepha’s. But soon Josepha was being groomed to marry Ferdinand of Naples and being painted in honour of the occasion, for she would become a queen. There is at least one portrait of Josepha in blue which is often mistaken for Antoinette; they both possessed the same delicate winsomeness so it is an easy mistake to make.
Marie-Antoinette, Daughter of the Caesars: Her Life, Her Times, Her Legacy - Elena Maria Vidal

Sense and the City

Life in 18th century cities. From City Lab:
People in the 18th century, like today, tended to pay attention to their sensations only when those sensations were particularly good or particularly bad. That means that in order to access the routine, normal, and accepted sensory worlds of the past, one really has to read between the lines. With that in mind, the most common sensory observations that I encountered fell into two main categories: complaints about urban noise, and rapturous descriptions of new foods and beverages. Cities were growing by leaps and bounds in the 18th century, and the architecture and layout of Paris had developed haphazardly in response to these quickly changing demographics. Acoustics were not a central planning concern. Buildings were tall and streets were narrow, trapping ambient noise. Artisans clustered together, making the heavy ringing of hammers, calls of vendors, and noises of animals thick and concentrated. Cobblestones were uneven, meaning that wheels and hooves made a clatter, and walls were not built to keep out neighbors’ din. (Read more.)