Saturday, January 31, 2009

Josephine's Jewels

Lucy has an extensive post on the jewelry collection of Napoleon's first wife. Share

Theology for Infants

Author Regina Doman shares some beautiful ideas on how to introduce small children to God's love, saying:
The most important thing to teach my child remains the most important thing of all in the end: for we never get beyond the love of God. For teaching religion is not merely the passing on of doctrine, but an invitation to a relationship: to prayer, to searching, to receiving, to loving. And it all begins and ends with love.
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The Pope and the SSPX

Scott Richert sums up the drama as it has unfolded thus far...although the situation does change by the hour. Share

Friday, January 30, 2009

Marie-Antoinette Accused

"Marie Antoinette listening to the Act of Accusation" by Edward Matthew Ward.
She would never understand the audacity that enabled an individual to lie so shamefacedly, in such elaborate detail and at such great lengths about events that existed only in his mind, or in another's equally depraved. Had her poor husband gone through this, she wondered? Surely, he had; now it was behind him, and he was in Heaven.
~from Trianon, Chapter Seven: "The Sacrifice"
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Further Disappointment

PBS via associated pressCharlotte Riley plays Cathy and Tom Hardy is Heathcliff in the PBS production of ''Wuthering Heights.''

I was not going to watch the second part of Wuthering Heights on PBS last Sunday but curiosity prevailed. As in the novel, the division in Catherine's soul destroys her; she dies giving birth, so tormented that not even the love for her child gives her any peace or hope. I must say that the portrayal of the younger generation was interesting and well-done. Why, however, was it necessary to have Heathcliff die at his own hand, blowing out his brains in Catherine's bed? And did Edgar really threaten to throw Catherine out of the house? Sorry, unreasonable plot changes bother me. Elisa, a reader of this blog, wrote in to remind us that there is an earlier Masterpiece Theater version from the 90's, one which is said to be closer to the book. It can be ordered directly from BBC America. As for me, I will always be partial to the 1939 film. Share

Coffee in Vienna

Edwardian Promenade explores the cafés of Vienna:

According to legend, coffee was introduced to Viennese society after the Ottomans were finally expelled from its gates in the late 17th century. Leaving behind sacks of coffee, a victorious soldier, Georg Franz Kolschitzky was rewarded with them. He discovered coffee by accident, when, during his experimenting with the beans, he accidentally mixed milk with the bitter, black brew. In reality, the cafe culture originated with the Armenian Johannes Diodato, who was awarded for his spying with the monopoly on selling coffee for the period of 20 years. In 1700, four other Armenians named Isaak de Luca, Joseph Devich, Andre Be�n and Philip Rudolf Perg, obtained a license to sell coffee when Diodato was accused of spying for both the Hapsburgs and the Serbians. Cafes were opened in rapid succession. In the year 1714 Vienna had 11 licensed “coffee-houses”, who found a rival in the “waterbrewers” (distillers) who sold coffee without license. In 1747 Empress Maria Theresa effectively ended the quarrel by uniting the two.

By the middle of the 18th Century the basics of the café-tradition had been established. People would meet to read newspapers, play cards, have a game of billiards or just meet friends to chat. By the early 1900s, close to 500 cafes flourished in Vienna. There were so many, it was said every fifth doorway in Vienna admitted one either to an antique shop or a cafe.

CafeLike the English with their five o’clock tea, the social hour of Vienna was 4 o’clock, when the cafes would teem with so many people none but a habitué could obtain a seat. The cafes typically held two kinds of clients: “stammgäste,” or habitué’s, and the “laufende” or transients. The stammgäste, who generally spent from 3 to 4 hours every day at his cafe, were commonly called “wirthausbruder” (cafe brothers), and had tables reserved for them—woe betide any man who ventures to take possession of this sacred property! The coffee house played an important part in all the business ventures organized in Vienna. No business was performed without coffee. When visited by a fellow businessman who had some scheme to propose, they would adjourn to the nearest cafe, order coffee for two, pass a flew pleasant remarks on the weather and compliment each other on one another’s prosperous appearance. When the cups were emptied then the gentlemen took out his dainty cigarette case, offered a cigarette, and they were considered ready to handle business.


Coffee is part of American culture, too. And it's healthy! Share

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961)

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Paul Varjak: You call yourself a free spirit, a "wild thing," and you're terrified somebody's gonna stick you in a cage. Well baby, you're already in that cage. You built it yourself. And it's not bounded in the west by Tulip, Texas, or in the east by Somali-land. It's wherever you go. Because no matter where you run, you just end up running into yourself. ~Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961)
The opening scene of Breakfast At Tiffany's has got to be one of the most haunting in film history, with Audrey Hepburn strolling down a Manhattan street at five o'clock in the morning, glamorously attired, a paper cup of coffee in hand, nibbling a pastry, while pausing to gaze longingly into the window of Tiffany's jewelry store. Never has anyone looked so lost.

Made at the dawn of the sexual revolution, the film captures the angst of modern life, with the all the loneliness, the frantic striving for wealth at any price, seeking in material pleasures a happiness which remains elusive. The "Holly Golightly" character, nimbly portrayed by Miss Hepburn, embodies the lifestyle of so many contemporary young women, sans the Givenchy gowns, in whose lives there have often been many lovers but very little true love. The George Peppard character, "Paul" the writer-gigolo, was shocking at the time the film debuted. He, too, like so many modern people, knows a lot about sex but nothing of love. He longs for love, nevertheless. Paul, like Holly, is trapped in a lifestyle from which there seems to be no escape. Hope is presented in the awakening of love, and the desire for commitment, from which Holly flees like a bird.

The film would be nothing without the Henry Mancini song "Moon River," written for Audrey's limited vocal range. Although the words speak of a youthful desire to see the world, when Audrey sings it, she captures a deeper level of meaning, an intense yearning for home, for a family setting that is no more. It is essentially a mourning of lost innocence. Holly had lost her innocence by age fourteen, when she married a man old enough to be her father; instead of being a much-needed parent, he became a lover, and perhaps that is what set her on the path to promiscuity. Underneath her carefree exterior, she is tormented at the very core of her being, as is demonstrated when she smashes up her apartment upon receiving the news that her only brother has died.

When hearing the song "Moon River" as a child, I always thought of the Monocacy River, not far from our house. It was a yellow muddy river due to the cow manure and silt from the fields, but on a summer night, beneath the glimmering of the moon, it became beautifully surreal, connoting the magic and mystery of places far away. How often the youthful longing to see the world is replaced with the nostalgia for home, after the world has been seen and tasted. There is no going back home, only going forward, while creating structures of stability for the new generation. Paul and Holly standing in the rain at the end of Breakfast at Tiffany's, hugging a soggy cat, while a choir sings "Moon River" in the background, is almost like a gleam of promise. Amid the despair, depravity and chaos of modernity, a man and woman can still find each other, commit to each other, and build a life of meaning for themselves and for others. Share

This Will End in Tears

Gerald Warner waxes prophetic. I hope he is wrong about the future, simply because I do not wish for such disaster to befall my country. (Via Laudem Gloriae) To quote Mr. Warner:
What we are experiencing, in the deepening days of a global depression, is the desperate suspension of disbelief by people of intelligence - la trahison des clercs - in a pathetic effort to hypnotise themselves into the delusion that it will be all right on the night. It will not be all right....

It is questionable whether the present political system can survive the coming crisis. Whatever the solution, teenage swooning sentimentality over a celebrity cult has no part in it. The most powerful nation on earth is confronting its worst economic crisis under the leadership of its most extremely liberal politician, who has virtually no experience of federal politics. That is not an opportunity but a catastrophe.
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Wednesday, January 28, 2009

La Chapelle Expiatoire



On January 21, 1815, under a tent on the Rue d'Anjou, eventual site of the expiatory chapel, the coffins of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette reposed in state. After twenty-two years the former sovereigns were finally to receive Christian burial. As is told in the novel Madame Royale, the remains of the King and the Queen were carried by the Scottish company of the bodyguards, followed by rank upon rank of soldiers. Some members of the royal family were present, although the grieving Duchess of Angoulême remained closeted in her private oratory at the Tuileries. The funeral procession wound across Paris to the Basilica of Saint Denis, where the requiem Mass was offered. Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette were then interred in the royal crypt; the Office of the Dead was recited. It was the same crypt which had been hideously rifled in 1793.

Between 1816 and 1826, at the expense of Louis XVIII and the Duchess of Angoulême, the Chapelle Expiatoire was built on the place where the bodies of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette had been buried after their murders. According to one traveler:
While wandering one day though the Rue d’Anjou St. Honore, I came unexpectedlyupon one of the most beautiful chapels my eyes ever beheld—­the Chapelle Expiatore. It was originally a burial-ground in connection with the Madeleine church, but was afterward set apart to commemorate the sad fate of the elder Bourbons. When Louis XVI. and his queen were executed, in 1793, they were obscurely buried on this spot. A friend, M. Descloseaux, at once cared for their remains, else they would have been lost amid other victims of the bloody revolution. It is a singular fact, that Danton, Herbert, and Robespierre were also buried in this same place, together with the Swiss Guard.

An early entry in the parish records of the Madeleine, still shows to any one who has the curiosity to see, the plainness with which the queen was buried. It is as follows: “Paid seven francs for a coffin for the Widow Capet.”

M. Descloseaux watched carefully over the graves of the king and queen, purchased the place containing their bodies, and converted it into an orchard, with the view of shielding them from the fury of the populace. His plan was successful, and it is said that he sent every year a beautiful bouquet of flowers to the Duchess d’Angouleme, which were gathered from the ground beneath which her royal parents were sleeping.

Although the bodies of the King and Queen were identified and reburied in Saint Denis, as has been described, the Chapelle Expiatoire marked the spot where they had lain for so long. The chapel is considered a "perfect example of the late Neoclassicism." The statues of the monarchs are particularly unique. Marie-Antoinette is shown "supported by religion" while Louis XVI is portrayed as being "called to immortality." When my husband and I visited the chapel in 1999 we went there on a Wednesday and were quite disappointed to find it was closed. However, we rested in the serene little garden which surrounds the building. The chapel is open three days a week, on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays between 1 and 5 pm, and is certainly worth seeing.

Please see Madame Delors' post as well. Fascinating!


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The Vanishing Trousseau



The trousseau is another feminine custom that has practically fallen into disuse. While the trousseau presently seems to be limited to the apparel of a bridal party and the collecting of lingerie, it once consisted not only of clothes but of everything a young lady would take with her into her new life as a matron. Often it would take years to gather together the treasures meant for adorning a future home, as well as embroidering linens and making quilts. There would be special heirlooms passed down from grandmothers and usually it would all be stored in a cedar chest until the bride set up her new residence with her spouse. According to the 1969 Vogue's Book of Etiquette:
Traditionally, the bride has not only a clothes trousseau, but one for her new house as well. This includes her good china, silver, glass; bed, bath, and table linens; and the necessary pots and other cooking utensils for her kitchen. Like many traditions, however, this one is observed or not, depending on individual circumstances. Most brides try to acquire at least a minimum of these appointments, for three reasons. First, a minimum, regardless of quality, is essential for even the simplest way of life unless one lives in a hotel. Second, handsome household appointments tend to become a luxury after marriage, and if a woman does not start out with them she often finds that she never gets around to buying them later. Third and last, quality endures and quality shows. It is true that fine china can get broken, but not as easily as pottery.
I always encouraged the young brides who came to me for a wedding consultation to have a bridal registry. Even if a person does not care for fine china and silver, it is important to have bed linens, pillows, towels and the kitchenware. A cedar chest is the traditional place to store linens, etc. Before the wedding is the time to try to foresee what you might need later and suggest it in the registry to those who want to buy gifts. Many young couples have set up housekeeping together, long before marriage is even discussed, so that planning the trousseau and registry is not quite what it used to be. It is also customary for an expectant mother to prepare a trousseau for her baby.


Artwork: "Grandmother's Bridal Crown" and "The Christening Party" Share

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Boris Godunov, the Opera



When I first met my husband in the early 90's, he had a cassette tape with the coronation scene from Moussorgsky's Boris Godunov on one side, and Delibes' Coppélia on the other. Such an intriguing combination not only convinced me to marry him, but introduced me to some amazing music. Boris Godunov is based on a play by Pushkin about the tumultuous life of a Russian tsar who reigned from 1598 to 1605. Boris Godunov, descended from an old Tatar family, seized the throne from a feeble-minded ruler, and tried to hold Russia together in the dark years after the dark reign of Ivan the Terrible. The music and drama of Mussorgsky's opera captures the turmoil, intrigue, and violence of the era, as well as the mystical destiny of Holy Russia, always suffering, always in search of redemption. According to World of Opera:
Boris Godunov is one of several 19th-century Russian operas that tackle complex, historical themes. Mussorgky's own Khovanschina is another, along with Borodin's Prince Igor and Glinka's A Life for the Czar. But Boris is the only one that still has a consistent place in the repertory – perhaps because it's far more than a historical drama.

In many ways, the opera is a sort of musical psychoanalysis — with more than one subject. The title character is one of them. Few operas pry more deeply into any single character's private emotions. The opera also presents a psychological portrait of the Russian people, which comes through in Mussorgsky's extensive and powerful use of choruses. The people are also represented by the Holy Fool – a unique and eerie character who turns up in the final act, and is left on stage alone at the opera's bleak conclusion.

Boris is a tsar particularly haunted by guilt; the score reveals his inner anguish which power and success cannot sooth. He eventually falls into madness. Considered to be the most majestic of Russian operas, regarded as revolutionary in its day, Boris Godunov explores the human conscience which, although it may sleep, never gives peace to those who betray it. Share

Madame Victoire de France



Catherine Delors discusses the life of Madame Victoire. Share

March for Life 2009

Fr. Trigilio offers a participant's point of view.

More HERE. Share

Monday, January 26, 2009

Jack and the Beanstalk

While famine is one recurring theme in classic fairy-tales, another is giants. Giants who terrorize and prey upon peasants appear again and again in the tales that have been passed down to us, the most popular being the story of "Jack and the Beanstalk." Other famous giant stories are "Jack the Giant-Killer," "The Brave Little Tailor" and "Tom Thumb." According to The Oxford Companion to Children's Literature:
One of the oldest printed fairy tales in England was Tom Thumb which appeared in 1621 in a chapbook. Chapbooks were works of popular literature sold for a few pence by pedlars or ‘chapmen’ from the 16th to the 19th cent. In 1711 there appeared the first printed version of Jack the Giant Killer, a popular English folk tale.

Tom Thumb is born in answer to the wish of a childless poor couple, who desire a son even if he should be no bigger than his father’s thumb. Magician Merlin answers their wish and the Fairy Queen names him and gives him a hat made of oak leaf and a shirt of spider’s web. Tom then encounters many adventures. The last of them is being eaten by a fish which is then caught for King Arthur’s table; Tom becomes a knight and when he dies is mourned by the whole Arthur’s court.

Jack the Giant Killer is a story of witty and ingenuous Jack, the only son of a Cornish farmer. He decides to destroy a giant terrorizing Cornwall. Armed with horn, shovel and pick-axe, at night he digs a pit outside the giant’s cave. Then he wakes the giant with a blast on the horn and after the giant falls into the trap he kills him with his pick-axe. As a reward he gets the giant’s treasure and the title ‘the Giant Killer’. He continues in the same style and kills two more giants; he also helps king Arthur’s son to marry a lady of his heart and becomes a knight of the Round Table. In the second part he sets out to rid country of all giants and monsters and finally to release a duke’s daughter whom he then marries and lives happily with on an estate given to him by the king. From this fairy are the words ‘Fe, fi, fo, fum, I smell the blood of an Englishman’, uttered by a giant who can’t see Jack who is wearing a coat of darkness he got from another giant together with a cap of knowledge, a never-failing sword and shoes of swiftness.

However, most fairy tales circulated in England only in oral form. Puritan writers, who were the first to write for children, considered tales about magical wonders inappropriate for children; John Bunyan, author of The Pilgrim’s Progress, regretted a childhood spent reading chapbook stories about marvellous happenings and in New England in America another writer, Cotton Mather, complained of ‘foolish Songs and Ballads’ on such fanciful subjects and recommended writing ‘poetical compositions full of Piety’.

In the 18th century English translations of French fairy tales mainly by Perrault were published in England and from the beginning of the 19th century also English folk fairy tales started to appear in print, e.g. Jack and the Beanstalk.

Jack and the Beanstalk is a story of lazy Jack, the only child of a poor widow. When she sends him to the market to sell her cow, he returns with a handful of beans instead of money. She throws the beans away and in the morning there is a huge beanstalk in the garden. Jack climbs to its top and finds there a barren land. He meets a fairy who tells him that nearby lives a giant who deceived and killed Jack’s father years ago. Jack goes to the giant’s house where he is given food and drink by his wife who then hides him in the oven. When the giant returns home and falls asleep Jack steals his hen which can lay golden eggs, climbs down the beanstalk and gives the hen to his mother. Later he makes two more journeys up the beanstalk and gets back with the giant’s money-bags and a magic harp. When stealing the harp it starts speaking so the giant wakes up and chases Jack; when he starts climbing down the stalk, Jack cuts it so that the giant falls down and is killed by the fall.

Around the middle of the 19th century J. O. Halliwell and Robert Chambers collected fairy tales, the latter in Scotland. In 1890 were published English Fairy Tales collected by Joseph Jacobs, followed by more collections of this editor.

The history behind the giant stories has always intrigued me. Were the giants a figurative way of describing baronial tyrants or thuggish robbers? Or were there really persons of extraordinary height who used their superior physical strength to bully everyone else? Sacred Scripture certainly has several mentions of giants, Goliath being one of the most notorious. In European folklore, giants are usually seen as being the remnant of a former civilization. Most of the giant stories which involve a youth named "Jack" are usually set in either Cornwall or Wales and appear to have some connection with the larger cycle of Arthurian legend. It must be noted, however, that Jack himself is not mentioned in the early tales. As Thomas Green states in The Arthuriad:

The curious thing about Jack is that – in contrast to that other fairy-tale contemporary of King Arthur's, Tom Thumb – there is no trace of him to be found before the early eighteenth century. The first reference to him comes in 1708 and the earliest known (now lost) chapbook to have told of his deeds was dated 1711.... If Jack was a literary creation – rather than a genuine figure of folk-tale – whose tale was woven from earlier non-Jack giant-killings and traditions, this naturally raises some intriguing questions about the origins of both these stories of Welsh and Cornish giants and the actual concept of Jack as the hero who finally rids Britain of these creatures. With regards to this, it is important to note the presence of King Arthur throughout Jack‘s tale....

The solution, as I have argued elsewhere, may well lie with Arthur‘s well-documented role as the slaughterer of British giants through a combination of extreme violence, cunning and trickery....In fact, in Welsh and Cornish folklore of the sixteenth to nineteenth centuries it is repeatedly claimed that Arthur was the greatest of all giant-killers, responsible for finally ridding the land of giants....

In Arthur we have a figure of genuine folklore and early British story who parallels and pre-dates Jack in both his role and the type of deeds that are ascribed to him....Jack was a new final vanquisher of the giants of Britain, designed for an England that was interested such folkloric tales but which would appear to have become bored of Arthur himself by the early eighteenth century....

This is not, of course, to say that a knowledge of the Arthurian tradition fully explains Jack‘s History... but rather to suggest that The History of Jack and the Giants deserves to be considered as a genuine part of the development of the Arthurian legend, not simply an unrelated fairy tale that happens to be set in the reign of King Arthur as a variant of 'Once upon a time.'

Perhaps we will never know exactly why "Jack" came to replace King Arthur as the slayer of giants in the popular mind. Maybe those who printed the chapbooks in seventeenth century England saw that Jack, a poor boy who, in spite of poverty, destroys a formidable aggressor, would have a more general, and highly marketable, appeal. At any rate, the various versions of the story of Jack and his giant opponent still resonate with us today.



(Artwork courtesy of Hermes) Share

Wine and Cheese

Winegeeks offers some guidance on the pairing of wine and cheese:
Perhaps the best method to pair wines with cheeses is to go by the same simple standard that applies to all regional cuisine and wine pairing: Location, location, location. The connection between the cuisine of a region and the wine therein is a strong one forged over many centuries. Often the wine from a particular area reflects the style, weight, flavors and aromas of the local diet, and vice versa. There are hundreds of classical pairings that have evolved into a symbiotic relationship between food and wine. Chianti with pasta Bolognese. Truffled risotto with Barolo. The famous Coq au Vin of Burgundy with the famous Pinot Noirs of Burgundy. The list goes on and on. Cheese is no different....

The other school of thought when matching the velvety (not Velveeta!) goodness of an artisan delight and a delicious bottle of wine is to weigh the style of the cheese. Fresh and creamy cheeses need the crisp acidity of white wines to bring out their full range of flavors. These cheeses will often be overshadowed by a heavy red with lots of fiery tannins. Conversely, the harder a cheese is the better it will react to a wine full of tannins. In fact, the proteins in an aged cheese will temper the tannins in a full red wine allowing more of the fruit and complexity of the wine to pair with the flavors and aromas of the cheese.
More HERE.

For a selection of delicious cheeses from around the world, do visit igourmet. Share

Sunday, January 25, 2009

The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (1969)


Jean Brodie: Little girls! I am in the business of putting old heads on young shoulders, and all my pupils are the crème de la crème. Give me a girl at an impressionable age and she is mine for life. ~The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (1969)
The influence, for good or ill, of a charismatic teacher can never be underestimated. Such is the theme of the 1969 film The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, starring Maggie Smith, who flourishes in every direction as the schoolmarm with the double life. Although a teacher at a 1930's austere Presbyterian girls' school in Edinburgh, Jean Brodie is unable to keep her private amours from overflowing into the classroom. Although she breaks off an affair with the art teacher, Teddy Lloyd, on the grounds that he is married and the father of six, she continues to carry on a not-so-discreet dalliance with the art teacher, Mr. Lowther. Being obsessed with Teddy, she cannot bring herself to marry Lowther, and ultimately manipulates her students into acting out her romantic fantasies.

The film focuses on how certain girls are adversely affected by being brought into Jean Brodie's inner circle. Mary MacGregor is inspired by Miss Brodie's love of Franco to run off to fight in the Spanish Civil War, only to be killed. Jean tries to groom Jenny into taking her place in Mr. Lloyd's bed but it is Sandy, plain and practical, who ends up being his mistress. Teddy Lloyd, however, is still obsessed with Miss Brodie; Sandy, frustrated and jealous, reports Brodie to the school authorities for being a corrupting influence upon the students.

The novel upon which the film is based was written by Muriel Spark, a convert to Catholicism. Spark's book brings out many more allusions to religious faith than does the film, and the differences between Calvinism and Catholicism. According to one critique:
The novel's second theme shows Sandy's development from a young girl who hesitantly accepts Brodie's declarations, to a teenager who questions the limits of her loyalty to Brodie, to a cloistered nun. As a young girl Sandy is obsessed with understanding Brodie's psychology. However, as Sandy matures, her fascination with Brodie gives way to the realization of her moral obligation to the welfare of others and compels her to put an end to Brodie's tenure at the school, thus preventing her from influencing another set of impressionable girls. Spark's characters rarely, however, act from a single motive, and the author suggests that Sandy's impulse to act against Brodie is also tinged with jealousy. The novel's third theme centers on Roman Catholicism. Brodie abhors Catholicism and tells her students that it is a religion for those who do not wish to think for themselves. In authorial commentary, Spark notes that this is an odd view for someone such as Brodie and suggests that Brodie was best suited to the Roman Catholic church, which might have refined her excesses.
In the film Miss Brodie discovers it is Sandy who has betrayed her but in the book she never finds out, even as she later visits Sandy at the monastery. While Miss Brodie never finds the Faith which might have given her peace, Muriel Spark saw her own conversion to Catholicism as the force which most shaped her into a writer. She died in 2006; Jean Brodie lives on as one of her most colorful, eccentric and tragic characters. Both book and film are compelling meditations in how subtly and easily children can be psychologically seduced by those to whom their education and moral formation have been entrusted.
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A Trip to Lisbon

Screenwriter Barbara Nicolosi has some magnificent photos of her recent journey to Portugal. Share

The Letters of Mary Stuart


An archive containing some letters of Mary Queen of Scots will soon be made available to the public. According to The Scotsman:
Deep in an archive, more than two dozen letters written by Mary, Queen of Scots, lie largely unseen for centuries.

Many are written in a secret code as Mary fought to preserve and protect the Catholic faith in Scotland after the 1560 Reformation which saw the country break with Rome.

But soon the letters, which in recent years have only been seen by a select group of historians, will be available to view on-line.

Visitors to the Scottish Catholic Archives website will be able to examine the letters, which also contain details of Mary's power struggle with her Protestant cousin, Queen Elizabeth, who was on the throne in England. The struggle eventually led to Mary's execution in 1587.

Most of the documents are diplomatic letters exchanged between Mary and Archbishop Beaton, who became her ambassador to France.

He was her "eyes and ears" in Paris after her return to Scotland on the death of her first husband, Francis.

The letters, written in French and often penned by her staff but signed by Mary, also express her concerns over the growing political turmoil in Scotland in the wake of the Reformation, which led to the celebration of Mass being declared illegal.

The letters are part of a treasure trove of 250,000 items on the origins and history of the Catholic Church in Scotland.

(Via Enchanted by Josephine and History Buff) Share

Saturday, January 24, 2009

St. Francis de Sales

Today is the feast of Saint Francis de Sales. He is a saint very close to my heart. Here is one of his best-known sayings:

Do not look forward to the mishaps of this life with anxiety, but await them with perfect confidence so that when they do occur, God, to whom you belong, will deliver you from them. He has kept you up to the present; remain securely in the hand of his providence, and he will help you in all situations. When you cannot walk, he will carry you. Do not think about what will happen tomorrow, for the same eternal Father who takes care of you today will look out for you tomorrow and always. Either he will keep you from evil or he will give you invincible courage to endure it. Remain in peace; rid your imagination of whatever troubles you.

Fr. Mark writes on confidence and peace according to St. Francis de Sales.

God never changes. God is worthy of all our confidence. That “blessed assurance” is, ultimately, the only remedy for the anxiety that at certain hours torments even the most phlegmatic among us. Saint Francis de Sales invites us to let go of the false security of the anxieties that have become so dear, and to surrender in peaceful confidence to the “blessed assurance” of the Love of God. Confiance et paix.

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Versailles, 1919



The Wilson Revolution Unplugged reminds us of the disastrous Versailles Peace Conference which led to another and more terrible war. Share

Marie-Thérèse Confronts Madame Hervagault


The novel Madame Royale contains a scene in which Marie-Thérèse of France confronts the mother of one of boys who had claimed to be her brother Charles, known as Louis XVII. There were rumors about many claimants and Marie-Thérèse felt it her duty to follow the various trails which led either to dead ends or to horrors. In 1827, she finally tracked down the mother of Jean-Marie Hervagault, one of the original pretenders. Nicole Bigot Hervagault may have been related to the police commissioner, Rémy Bigot. Bigot identified the body of the ten year old boy who died in the Temple prison in June of 1795 as being Louis XVII. Marie-Thérèse, of course, had not been allowed to see the body. Nicole's son Jean-Marie was the natural child of the Duc de Valentinois, a Habsburg relative. Marie-Thérèse thought perhaps Jean-Marie had been substituted for her brother. (The grave had not yet been found, and there was no DNA testing in those days.) Here is the excerpt from Chapter 24, "Jewels:"
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Nicole said nothing, but only sobbed. Thérèse reached into a small velvet purse, and drew out an emerald brooch, surrounded by diamonds, as well as two garnet bracelets, and a ruby ring. The jewels, luminous in the dark room, flashed with their own sparks of flame. The tailor's widow's eyes widened.

"Madame Hervagault, I would like very much to make you the gift of these jewels," said Thérèse. "I have receipts for each setting, so that you can sell them if you desire, and have a more comfortable life than you have now. But first, I must know everything that you can tell me about Jean-Marie and if he was exchanged for my brother. The boy who was arrested in Chalons in 1798, I do not think that he was your son. Was he my brother Louis XVII?"

"I do not know," said Nicole. "Oh, Madame. I can say no more. Forgive me, but I swore...never to speak of it. I am too afraid...."

Thérèse put the jewels away. "I am very sorry that you will not accept my gift, Madame Hervagault. I truly want to help you, and protect you from whomever it is you fear. I cannot and will not force you to speak. But I do have something that I will be able to leave with you."

Thérèse reached into her purse again and took out the lock of chestnut hair that had been taken from the boy who died in the Temple on June 8, 1795 and which did not belong to Charles. She handed it to Nicole.

"This lock of hair was taken from a boy who died not far from here," said Thérèse.

Madame Hervagault examined the lock with trembling fingers, then kissing it several times, she sank to her knees in a storm of weeping.

At that moment, Thérèse was almost certain what had become of Charles. Slipping a few gold coins onto the chair, she departed from the cobbler's shop.

~from Madame Royale by Elena Maria Vidal, Chapter 24 "Jewels." (Copyright 2000 by E.M. Vidal)
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Friday, January 23, 2009

Marie-Antoinette's Veil

Many people ask what became of Queen Marie-Antoinette's clothes and jewels after the fall of the monarchy. People particularly want to know what became of her wedding gown. Like many of the queen's gowns which were designed for special occasions, the wedding gown was probably made into a set of vestments and donated to the Church. A veil which belonged to the Queen later graced the head of the niece of Tsar Nicholas II, Princess Irina, when she was married to Prince Felix Youssopov. As Felix wrote in his memoirs:

We were quite overwhelmed with gifts: the most gorgeous jewels as well as the simplest and most touching presents from our peasants.... Irina's wedding dress was magnificent; it was of white satin embroidered in silver with a long train. Her veil, which had belonged to Marie-Antoinette was held by a tiara of rock crystal and diamonds.
As for her other gowns, the queen would usually have them refurbished so that they could continue to be worn. Those that were not eventually recreated into vestments were given to the lady-in-waiting in charge of the wardrobe, who could then sell them or keep them as souvenirs.

As for the jewels, a few pieces were smuggled out of the country before the fall of the monarchy and eventually came to the queen's daughter Madame Royale. Most of the royal jewels fell into the hands of the revolutionaries in August 1792 and scattered to the four winds. Napoleon managed to gain possession of some of the crown jewels. Over the next several generations, jewels that had belonged to Marie-Antoinette would turn up in various places, such as with the Youssopov family in Russia. To trace the fate of all the jewels extensive detective work is required and the findings would certainly fill a tome. The best lesson from it all is Sic transit gloria mundi.
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A Cottage in New Orleans

This enchanting 1833 cottage was built and owned by a free woman of African descent, according to Style Court, which says:
The trend in the Crescent City has always been to add a little unexpected elegance to even the most humble cottages. Although it's not really visible in the pictures shown here, this house has a Greek key door surround. (Greek Revival style is very prevalent in NOLA.)
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Thursday, January 22, 2009

The Magnificent Ambersons (1942)


Eugene: I'm not sure George is wrong about automobiles. With all their speed forward they may be a step backward in civilization. May be that they won't add to the beauty of the world or the life of the men's souls, I'm not sure. But automobiles have come and almost all outwards things will be different because of what they bring. They're going to alter war and they're going to alter peace. And I think men's minds are going to be changed in subtle ways because of automobiles. ~The Magnificent Ambersons (1942)

The 1918 novel by Booth Tarkington, chronicling the decline of an American dynasty, was the inspiration for Orson Welles's 1942 film. It is considered a cinematic masterpiece in spite of the fact that the film was wrested from Welles' control and did not conform to his original inspiration. According to Turner Classic Movies:
Director Orson Welles had long been interested in Booth Tarkington's novel The Magnificent Ambersons (which had been filmed as Pampered Youth in 1925). Apart from Welles' fascination with 1890s America he was also drawn to the novel's exploration of social illusions and the changes technology creates as it follows the fortunes of a Midwestern family over two decades....

With Citizen Kane, The Magnificent Ambersons introduced new approaches to narrative filmmaking via visuals and sound. Through his cinematographer, Welles used deep focus and visible ceilings to capture the worlds in which his characters moved as rarely before on screen. Aurally, he used radio tricks -- overlapping dialogue, volume levels related to the speaker's proximity to the camera, timbre affected by the size and physical makeup of the scene's setting -- to create some of the most innovative sound recording in film history. Many historians have referred to these effects as "Welles sound," though they certainly can be found, at least individually, in the work of other directors.
The film is quite faithful to the book as films go, capturing the grandeur of a wealthy American family who are about to fade into oblivion due to bad investments, overspending, and the rise of auto manufacturing. The opening lines describe the culture of the midwestern town over which the Ambersons preside:
The magnificence of the Ambersons began in 1873. Their splendor lasted throughout all the years that saw their midland town spread and darken into a city. In that town, in those days, all the women who wore silk or velvet knew all the other women who wore silk or velvet, and everybody knew everybody else's family horse and carriage. The only public conveyance was the streetcar. A lady could whistle to it from an upstairs window, and the car would halt at once and wait for her, while she shut the window, put on her hat and coat, went downstairs, found an umbrella, told the girl what to have for dinner, and came forth from the house. Too slow for us nowadays, because the faster we're carried, the less time we have to spare....In those days, they had time for everything. Time for sleigh rides, and balls, and assemblies, and cotillions, and open house on New Year's, and all-day picnics in the woods, and even that prettiest of all vanished customs: the serenade. Of a summer night, young men would bring an orchestra under a pretty girl's window, and flute, harp, fiddle, cello, cornet, bass viol, would presently release their melodies to the dulcet stars. Against so home-spun a background, the magnificence of the Ambersons was as conspicuous as a brass band at a funeral.
It was after one such aforementioned serenade that Isabelle Amberson (Delores Costello), humiliated by her drunken sweetheart Eugene Morgan (Joseph Cotten), rejects his suit and marries Wilbur Minafer, a man she does not love. All her affection is lavished upon her only son, George Amberson Minafer (Tim Holt), who grows to be a spoiled brat, despising the labor which had originally built up the family fortune. He refuses to learn a profession, but plans to be a gentleman of leisure. He hates the noisy motorcars as a symbol of all modern ways.

Meanwhile, Isabelle is left a widow, and after a respectable span of time, she is courted by Eugene again, who has returned to town. Eugene, who has made a fortune in the automobile industry, has become a widower with a lovely young daughter Lucy (Anne Baxter). George falls in love with Lucy, who loves George but has reservations about his pursuit of aristocratic idleness. George is outraged by the idea of his mother marrying again, and is horrid to Eugene. To placate George, Isabelle sends Eugene away once more. Her heart is broken, her health fails and she dies.

Eventually George is left alone, except for his annoying Aunt Fanny (Agnes Moorehead). The legendary wealth of the Ambersons is gone, and George is forced to work for a living. To his credit, he does not abandon his aunt but makes personal sacrifices on her behalf, showing that he is capable of being the most magnificent of the Ambersons, a magnificence that ultimately has nothing to do with passing wealth. In the end, he is run over by one of the motorcars he hates. Eugene decides to help him for Isabelle's sake, and by doing so finds peace, knowing that in rescuing Isabelle's son he has been "true at last to his true love."

Another version of The Magnificent Ambersons was made in 2002, based on Welles' screenplay and his editing notes. It is also quite good and in some ways, better.

(Artwork courtesy of The Ambersons) Share

Daughters of Jerusalem

"Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not over me; but weep for yourselves and for your children." (Luke 23:28)

It has occurred to me more and more how many walking wounded there are in our society and in our Church. I am only beginning to comprehend the level of despair and infinite pain that lives in the hearts of an unimaginable number of women whose children were victims of abortion. Many were coerced into making such a "choice." Furthermore, abortion is not just something that happens to a mother and her child; it happens to the entire extended family, whether they are aware of the abortion or not. Here are some sites that offer healing and reconciliation not only to mothers of dead babies but to the fathers and grandparents as well. Share

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Death of Louis XVI

January 21, Saint Agnes day, is the dies natalis of the Roi-Martyr, when two hundred and sixteen years ago, Louis XVI was taken from the Temple prison to be guillotined. The previous night he had said farewell to his family, and their reaction was so hysterical that he decided not to see them again in the morning, for fear of faltering in his own courage. His fifteen year old daughter fainted. He rode to his death in a coach accompanied by the Irish priest, Abbé Edgeworth de Firmont, who had been Madame Elisabeth's confessor and who had refused the oath to the government. Together they recited the seven penitential psalms.

Arriving at the scaffold, the executioner tried to bind Louis' hands behind his back but he resisted, not wanting to be treated like a criminal who might try to run away. Abbé Edgeworth, fearing the king might be struck, convinced him to submit to the indignity by saying that it was one more way in which he resembled his Master. Louis raised his eyes to the sky as if seeing beyond this world and then with hands bound he ascended the scaffold unassisted. The drummers drowned out his last words to his people.

Some observers later reported that Abbé Edgeworth cried out,"Ascend to heaven, son of St Louis!" although the priest said he did not remember, being overwhelmed. Many ran forward with handkerchiefs to dip in the king's blood, as the executioner raised the head aloft, making obscene gestures. Some of the handkerchiefs were later preserved as holy relics.

The king's last words were:

“I die innocent of all the crimes imputed to me. I pardon the authors of my death, and pray God that the blood you are about to shed will never fall upon France.”

The forgiveness of Louis XVI.

His widow.

The Vow of Louis XVI.

Memoirs of Abbé Edgeworth

Attempt to Canonize Louis XVI. Share

Saint Agnes of Rome


Today is the birthday of a virgin; let us imitate her purity. It is the birthday of a martyr; let us offer ourselves in sacrifice. It is the birthday of Saint Agnes, who is said to have suffered martyrdom at the age of twelve. The cruelty that did not spare her youth shows all the more clearly the power of faith in finding one so young to bear it witness.

~from a treatise "On Virgins" by Saint Ambrose, bishop, in the Roman breviary.

More HERE.
St Agnes' Eve - Ah, bitter chill it was!
The owl, for all his feathers, was a-cold;
The hare limp'd trembling through the frozen grass,
And silent was the flock in woolly fold:
Numb were the Beadsman's fingers, while he told
His rosary, and while his frosted breath,
Like pious incense from a censer old,
Seem'd taking flight for heaven, without a death,
Past the sweet Virgin's picture, while his prayer he saith.
~from "Eve of St. Agnes" by John Keats
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Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Disappointing

PBS via associated pressCharlotte Riley plays Cathy and Tom Hardy is Heathcliff in the PBS production of ''Wuthering Heights.''

Sunday I watched the newest version of Wuthering Heights on PBS. Sadly, it in no way compares to the quality of Tess of the D'Urbervilles that was on a couple of weeks ago. And like most contemporary versions, it pales to the artistry of the classic 1939 film starring Lawrence Olivier and Merle Oberon. Although the 1939 version only covered the first half of the book, it captures the obsession and passion of the attachment between Catherine and Heathcliff much more than does the new PBS version, for all the panting love scenes in the latter. That Cathy and Heathcliff carried on an adulterous relationship is not even implied in the novel. It is a novel full of subtle implications; Cathy running off to meet Heathcliff on the sly after her marriage to Edgar is not one of them. It seems to me that what gave the edge to the lovers' frustration is that their relationship was indeed unconsummated. However, it was not the physical aspect (or lack of) that caused the destruction, rather it was the psychological turmoil and interior conflict that induced the despair. Instead of honoring Cathy's marriage Heathcliff tempts her and then torments her by marrying Isabella, whom he does not care about at all except as the vehicle of his vengeance.

In the old movie as in the book, no sins of the flesh are committed, that anyone is aware of, although suppressed passion simmers in every chapter. The tempestuous climate of the moors reflects the inner tumults. The core of the evil is not in the wildness of the elements but in the addictive behaviors of the Earnshaw family. Heathcliff is as addicted to his anger and hatred for all who have injured him as much as Hindley is addicted to his drink. Heathcliff's inability to forgive, more than his thwarted love for Catherine, is what destroys most of the main characters.

The recent PBS rendition is not without its merits; it is well-cast, and includes the latter part of the book. As one reviewer observes:
"Wuthering Heights" benefits from some compelling and surprisingly credible performances by several cast members. Tom Hardy, who will play Bill Sikes in the forthcoming "Oliver Twist" on "Masterpiece," makes a very intriguing and believable Heathcliff, despite all the character's personality U-turns. He looks almost handsome as the young Heathcliff, yet somewhat grotesque as the older man consumed by hate, and that's almost entirely because of his performance, as opposed to, say, makeup and messy hair. Charlotte Riley makes for a beautiful and spirited Cathy, Burn Gorman is properly reptilian as Hindley Earnshaw and Andrew Lincoln - at first noble and patient, and then frustrated by jealousy as Cathy's husband - is almost equal to the challenge of making us believe this unlikely character as raggedly sketched in Peter Bowker's script.
I found Tom Hardy's Heathcliff to be so demonic that it is incomprehensible how anyone, even Cathy, could love him. Olivier's Heathcliff, on the other hand, was still worth loving, and did not seem so beyond redemption, even when he was being a wretch. I might watch the second installment on PBS; it is probably more worthwhile to curl up with the novel, or watch the classic version again.

Wuthering Heights (1939)
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Overcoming Fear

Let us help each other not to be anxious about the future.
If anything, the current economic crisis underscores just how interconnected we all are. We all need each other to keep the economic engine going. So, while it is foolish to spend outside one’s means. It is necessary that we do continue to spend and share the wealth that we do have. We shouldn’t hoard our money. The only way to fight the fear that is so prevalent is if we all work together against it and refuse to let it define us. We need to follow the Biblical injunction to hand over our fear to the Lord. We need to trust that, somehow, things will get better. And, we need to continue to share the monetary resources that we do have with others. We can’t let the fear win. Reacting out of fear will only make the problem worse.
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Monday, January 19, 2009

The Queen's Necklace



Catherine Delors reviews Frances Mossiker's book about the diamond necklace scandal. Although it is called The Queen's Necklace, the necklace in question never belonged to Marie-Antoinette; she never ordered it or even wanted it. She was an innocent victim of the swindle. However, there are deeper layers to the debacle than most historians care to represent, which are explored in Trianon as well. Share

Crackdown on Unapproved Apparitions

Fr. Blake explains. I agree with him, especially with the following words:
I find it surprising that good faithful priests and people, who would never dream of disobeying the Church normally, flock to the latest site of an apparition, despite the instructions of the local bishop. It is often their first introduction to liberalism or pick n mix Catholicism.
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On the Passing of Andrew Wyeth

Linda discusses the life and work of the great American artist, saying: "The power of Wyeth's work, which was embraced by the American people, is its poetry, which lifts us out of time to something more mysterious and eternal." Share

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Love Letters (1945)

File:Loveletters1.jpg
Singleton: I think very few people are happy. They wait all their lives for something to happen to them - something great and wonderful. They don't know what it is but they wait for it. Sometimes it never happens. What they want is the kind of spirit I found in those letters. A spirit that makes life beautiful. I love that man. I loved him more than my own life. I still love him.... ~Love Letters (1945)
The William Dieterle film Love Letters takes the Cyrano de Bergerac theme and adds a dash of mystery and psychological melodrama. It shows the dangers that can can come from romantic deception and playing with people's hearts, especially the hearts of the innocent. While fighting in Italy during World War II, a soldier Allen Quinton agrees to write letters on behalf of his boorish comrade Roger Morland to a young lady Roger briefly encountered at a dance. The girl's name is Victoria; as Allen reads her letters to Roger he is captivated by the beauty of her soul. Allen's letters to her, written under Roger's name, become more rapturous as he falls in love with a woman he has never seen. He begins to feel guilty at helping Roger deceive Victoria, especially when he hears that Roger has returned to England and married her. Allen is injured and has to return to England himself. He hears that Roger has been killed. Later, at a party, he meets a charming young woman with amnesia called "Singleton," played by Jennifer Jones. As the drama unfolds, Allen realizes the damage his careless but well-meaning love letters have caused.

According to Turner Classic Movies:
This variation on the "Cyrano" story was written for the screen by Ayn Rand, who adapted Chris Massie's novel Pity My Simplicity. Rand had not written a screenplay at this point, though her play Night of Jan. 16th had been filmed in 1941, and her novel We the Living was made into an Italian film in 1942. Love Letters producer Hal Wallis hired Rand to write two scripts at the same time; You Came Along (1945) was the other, and it opened in theaters a month before Love Letters. Rand's most famous novel, The Fountainhead, would reach screens in 1949....

Love Letters
was shot by the great Lee Garmes, whose expressive and moody cinematography greatly enhances the romantic feel of the picture. Garmes later recalled in Charles Higham's book Hollywood Cameramen: "On Love Letters I used the same method I used on Guest in the House (1944). I created an artificial landscape: clouds, trees, everything were in the studio. Dieterle, the director, used to go home every night and have dinner, and afterwards he'd have a little tiny set at home which he'd put the actors on in the shape of tiny dried-up peas. He'd move them around to prepare the next day's shooting."

William Dieterle was a freelance director at this point. He had built his career at Warner Brothers in the 1930s, directing many prestige pictures there under Hal Wallis - films like The Life of Emile Zola (1937) and Juarez (1939). He had a reputation as a sadist on the set and always wore white gloves to work. Nonetheless he coaxed a fine performance out of Jennifer Jones and would direct her again in Duel in the Sun and Portrait of Jennie (1948), both of which also co-starred Joseph Cotten. The two stars would team up for five pictures in all.
Ayn Rand had a bizarre personal life but her writing in Love Letters is poignantly lyrical. Although the film is tinged with her Randian philosophy, it is not so heavy-handed as in The Fountainhead. Love Letters is a searing love story and shows that human heart can never be handled in a cavalier fashion. Broken hearts can be mended but sometimes at a very high price. Share

Andrew Wyeth



The passing of a great reactionary. "Really, I think one's art goes only as far and as deep as your love goes," said the artist in 1965. Share

The Tragedy of Leopold III


An interesting new blog about the royal family of Belgium, The Cross of Laeken, tells the sad tale. Share

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Our Lady of Hope



On this day in 1871 the heavens opened at Pontmain in France. Once again, the Blessed Mother gave hope to her children. According to Fr. Mark:
Before the beautiful Lady appeared a blood red crucifix. At the top of the cross, on a white crosspiece, the Name of Jesus Christ was written in red letters. The beautiful Lady grasped the crucifix in both hands and showed it to the children while a small star lit the four candles in the blue oval. Everyone prayed in silence. They sang the Ave Maris Stella. The red crucifix disappeared. The beautiful Lady extended her hands in a gesture of welcome. A small white cross appeared on each shoulder. Everyone knelt down in the snow. A white veil, like a great sheet, covered the beautiful Lady from foot to head. “It’s finished,” said the children. Eleven days later the armistice was signed. The Prussians never entered Laval.

It is also the feast of St. Anthony of Egypt. Share

Tea and Cheese

Cheese does not just go with wine; a cheese platter is a lovely addition to high tea.
...Most often, we think of wine as the perfect companion to cheese; the wine and cheese party is an established theme when it comes to entertaining. I had taken an interesting workshop on tea and cheese pairing while at the World Tea Expo where this was first introduced to me. Tea, can also pair very well with cheese, as it also contains tannins. Tannins are a substance that exists in grapes and tea leaves among other things and produces that tart, astringent taste that you may experience after drinking a deep red wine or black tea. It also lends to the color of the tea. Without tannins, both wine and tea would lack that complex taste and beautiful color. Not all teas are tannin-rich; exceptions are White and Green teas, which contain very little tannins, while Oolongs are in the middle, and Black teas have the most. When thinking of teas to pair with your cheese plate, sticking to Black or Oolong teas are good, but including a Green tea with a grassy or vegetal note will round out your selection wonderfully.

The idea of building a cheese plate may seem intimidating, but it's a great exercise in learning about different varieties of cheeses and exposing your palate to something different. Cheese and tea have a lot in common if you think about it: both vary when it comes to the region they are grown or produced as well as yield different tastes depending on the amount of or lack of processing. There are many good guides that have come out in the last few years that can also be helpful, if you think it'll be baffling. Though there might not be a cheese shop in your town or nearby, many supermarkets are expanding their cheese sections to include a diverse selection, going beyond Cheddar and Swiss. If you are fortunate enough to have a gourmet market with an extensive department or a cheese shop nearby, your cheese monger can help you make a selection and answer your questions.


There are some lovely cheese selections, HERE. For everything else, visit our Tea Room. Share

What's the Story?

Here is a podcast by Barbara Nicolosi for Salvo, recommended to us by reader Clare Krishan. Barbara discusses the problem many modern filmmakers have in coming up with decent narratives. Thank you, Clare! Share

Friday, January 16, 2009

Beauty and the Beast

Here is an article exploring the origins of the classic fairy tale.
The story of Beauty and the Beast has been around for centuries in both written and oral form, and more recently in film and video. Many experts trace similarities back to the stories of Cupid and Psyche, Oedipus and Apuleius’ The Golden Ass of the second century A.D.

The tale of Beauty and the Beast was first collected in Gianfranceso Straparola’s Le piacevolo notti (The Nights of Straparola) 1550-53. The earliest French version is an ancient Basque tale where the father was a king and the beast a serpent. Charles Perrault popularized the fairy tale with his collection Contes de ma mere l’oye (Tales of Mother Goose) in 1697. The 17th century Pentamerone is also said to include similar tales.

The first truly similar tale to the one we know today was published in 1740 by Madame Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Gallon de Villeneuve as part of a collection of stories La jeune amériquaine, et les contes marins (told by an old woman during a long sea voyage). Mme. de Villeneuve wrote fairy tale romances drawn from earlier literature and folk tales for the entertainment of her salon friends....

As stories swap back and forth, new elements are introduced and exchanged....Whatever the varying versions or systematic cataloging, the basic values that the stories convey are similar. The story and its questions regarding human values run deeper than the simple facts and details of the tale and remain timeless. We all have the potential to be beautiful or beastly; how do we overcome our ‘monsters’?


(Artwork courtesy of Hermes) Share

Where have you gone, Sr. Aloysius?

Tom Piatak offers some reflections on the film Doubt. (Via A Conservative Blog for Peace)
Catholic schools and the men and women religious and lay teachers who staff them still do enormous good in America. But the particular world depicted by Shanley—the parish church and school at the center of a cohesive neighborhood, where well-dressed neighbors who know each other well walk to a Mass unchanged for centuries—has largely disappeared. At the center of that world was the parish school, staffed by nuns. Despite the universality of Catholicism, this particular world was largely an American creation. The American bishops determined that their flock would not be lost to the Faith, and mandated that each church have a grade school. And so people who had been peasants in Europe managed to create the largest private school system in the world, entirely by their own efforts.
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Thursday, January 15, 2009

The Apartment (1960)

C.C. Baxter: The mirror... it's broken.
Fran Kubelik: Yes, I know. I like it that way. Makes me look the way I feel.
~from The Apartment (1960)
Another classic film about lost girls is Billy Wilder's 1960 The Apartment. It is described as a comedy but underneath the wit is a serious treatment of exploitation in corporate America. According to Turner Classic Movies:
While it may be hard to imagine now, The Apartment (1960) actually shocked some moviegoers upon its initial release. The problem wasn't the central premise - an ambitious office worker performs dubious favors in exchange for career advancement - but the actual treatment of it. In the hands of writer-director Billy Wilder and his collaborator, scenarist I. A. L. Diamond, The Apartment became a razor-sharp farce that equated corporate success with immorality. Actually, filmmakers in communist Russia viewed it as an indictment against capitalism. The central character, [C.C.] Baxter, is actually little more than a pimp for upper management while the girl of his dreams, elevator-operator Fran Kubelik, is a demoralized working girl whose solution to a failed love affair is to commit suicide....The most astonishing thing about The Apartment is how Billy Wilder manages to keep the tone light and playful while exposing the worst aspects of Manhattan corporate life, from the drunken office parties to the casual adultery committed by married employees. Despite these controversial elements, the film racked up ten Oscar nominations and won the Academy Award for Best Picture and Best Director of 1960.
For those who think that all was moral in the America of the 1950's and that hell did not break lose until the mid-sixties, they have only to watch The Apartment to be disillusioned. It is amazing how the executives in the office take it for granted that the young women employees are at their disposal, to use and discard at their pleasure. The big boss, Mr. Sheldrake, goes through the girls at the office faster than Louis XV went through mistresses at Versailles, and I doubt that Louis XV was such a two faced liar. An insurance clerk C.C. Baxter, in order to rise in the corporation, is prevailed upon by the upper echelon to let them use his apartment for liaisons. Such lackadaisical attitudes about adultery, cloaked by a veneer of respectability, certainly paved the way to the breakdown of family life that we have now.

Shirley MacLaine plays Fran the elevator girl who has one heartbreak too many. C.C. Baxter, the office worker who pimps out his apartment in exchange for career advancement, is portrayed with humor and poignancy by Jack Lemmon. It is a poignant role since in spite of his apartment being such an active place, he leads a lonely life, and is not at peace with himself. How could he be? His conscience is the Jewish doctor down the hall. Dr. Dreyfuss saves Fran's life and is one of the only truly noble characters in the film.

In the end, it is Baxter's love for Fran that inspires him to rise out of the slime of compromise and lose his career in order to do what is right. Refusing to cooperate with evil might bring about the loss of a job but it is also the only way to true freedom and peace of mind. In this case, Baxter's stand also releases Fran from her sordid relationship with Mr. Sheldrake. The Apartment was followed by Breakfast at Tiffany's in which the hero and heroine are much deeper into whoredom, showing how there can be many kinds of slavery, even in a free land. Share