Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The Youngest Brother

Archduke Maximilian Franz
Archduke Max was Marie-Antoinette's younger brother and the youngest of a family of sixteen. He was also the Archbishop-Elector of Cologne and a patron of Beethoven. (More HERE.)

Archduke Max being received by Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette

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Self-Portrait of Flannery O'Connor

From Full Stop:
It was the summer of 1953, and Flannery O’Connor had been painting.

“I am taking painting again,” she wrote at the time to friends Robert and Sally Fitzgerald, “but none of my paintings go over very big in this house.”

O’Connor, who was 28 years old that summer, lived in her childhood home with her mother Regina in Milledgeville, Georgia. She was already known among literary circles for her stunning and grotesque short stories, and had established herself as an up-and-coming fiction writer of national significance with the publication of her first novel, Wise Blood in 1952

But around this time, poor health forced O’Connor to return home to Milledgeville. In 1951, she was diagnosed with lupus erythematosus, the disease that had killed her father when she was 15 years old. Traveling became difficult for O’Connor, and she remained at home, for the most part, until she died of complications from the disease in 1964.

By the time O’Connor painted her self-portrait in 1953, lupus had already begun to take a vicious toll on her body, often leaving her swollen and in pain, and later, crippled. Critics debate the influence of O’Connor’s condition on her fiction, specifically with regards to the physical bodies of her characters, which are often deformed and distorted, if not blind or missing a limb. Physical violence and bodily discomfort permeate her written work. (Read entire post.)
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Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Chicago's South Side, 1970's

Some amazing photojournalism.
Day 3 of Documerica Week on In Focus -- a new photo essay each day, featuring regions of the U.S. covered by the photographers of the Documerica Project in the early 1970s. Today's subject is Chicago's African-American community, primarily the South Side, documented by photographer John H. White, who went on to win the Pulitzer Prize for Photojournalism in 1982. White landed a job with the Chicago Sun Times in 1978, and continued to work there until May of 2013, when the newspaper laid off its entire photojournalism department. His portraits of everyday life stand the test of time, inviting the viewer to travel back a few decades, and see just how we lived. The Documerica Project was put together by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 1971, with a primary goal of documenting adverse effects of modern life on the environment, but photographers were also encouraged to record the daily life of ordinary people, capturing a broad snapshot of America. (Read more.)
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"Sire, there are no Belgians"

From The Economist:
MORE than two centuries after French revolutionaries guillotined Louis XVI, Europeans still love their kings and queens. A quarter of the European Union is made up of constitutional monarchies. Even those living in republics are fascinated by this year’s royal foibles: in Spain King Juan Carlos made a rare apology for going on an elephant-hunting jaunt while his people suffered recession and unemployment; in the Netherlands Queen Beatrix abdicated in favour of her son Willem-Alexander; and in Britain William and Kate produced a little prince.

In purely political terms however, perhaps the royal event with the greatest importance took place this week in Belgium. Albert II surrendered the throne to his son, Philippe, now the seventh King of the Belgians. The monarchy is one of the few institutions that still hold Belgium together. And unlike other European royals, Belgian kings play a vital role in mediating the formation of governments. For a small country of 11m people, Belgium is bewilderingly divided into three federal regions (Flanders, Wallonia and Brussels) and three linguistic communities (Dutch, French and a small German one), each with its own parliament. (Read entire article.)
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Monday, July 29, 2013

Jane Eyre (2011)


Rochester: Then the essential things are the same. Be my wife.
Jane Eyre: You have a wife. 
~from Jane Eyre (2011)
I have seen so many film versions of Charlotte Brontë's classic novel Jane Eyre that I was going to skip the 2011 one. However, some friends recommended it highly; I gave in. I think I cried more while watching it than I have in any of the past  productions. Does that mean I enjoyed it? Why yes, yes it does. Mia Wasikowska is just as I picture Jane in the book: prim, plain and restrained with an inner serenity and sensitivity that glow from within, bestowing a beauty unlooked for. Similarly, I thought that Michael Fassbender had the right blend of wildness and self-loathing to be the Mr. Rochester who captures Jane's heart and mind.

I find myself agreeing with The New York Times review:
This “Jane Eyre,” energetically directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga (“Sin Nombre”) from a smart, trim script by Moira Buffini (“Tamara Drewe”), is a splendid example of how to tackle the daunting duty of turning a beloved work of classic literature into a movie. Neither a radical updating nor a stiff exercise in middlebrow cultural respectability, Mr. Fukunaga’s film tells its venerable tale with lively vigor and an astute sense of emotional detail.

The director does not exactly make the task look easy, but the wild and misty moors, thanks to the painterly eye of the cinematographer, Adriano Goldman, certainly look beautiful, and Dario Marianelli’s music strikes all the right chords of dread, tenderness and longing. Brontë’s themes and moods — the modulations of terror and wit, the matter-of-fact recitation of events giving way to feverish breathlessness — are carefully preserved, though her narrative has been somewhat scrambled.

The opening scene shows Jane in desperate flight from Thornfield Hall, dashing across the stormy landscape as if pursued by demons and menaced by a ghostly, wind-borne voice. She is taken in and nursed back to health by a young clergyman, St. John Rivers (Jamie Bell), and his two sisters (Holliday Grainger and Tamzin Merchant); then her earlier life unfolds in a series of flashbacks that compress many pages into a few potent scenes and images.

Despised by the aunt in whose care she has landed and abused by her cousins and the servants, Jane (played as a child by Amelia Clarkson) nonetheless manages to cultivate her innate decency and bolster it with self-reliance. And the movie audience, like the 19th-century novel-reading public, can relish, with only slight queasiness, the sadomasochistic spectacle of boarding school cruelty.

There is something voluptuous in the rage inspired by the kind of meanness we are used to calling Dickensian. The oppressors are so awful, the oppressed so innocent, that the desire to see justice done becomes an almost physical hunger. And as in Dickens, the brutality and dogmatic moral arrogance of Jane’s righteous oppressors at the Lowood school have a political dimension, one compounded by Brontë’s clearsighted feminism.

Ms. Buffini’s script, while it trims and winnows some of Brontë’s empurpled passages, preserves important elements of the author’s language, including, above all, Jane’s repeated invocations of freedom as an ethical and personal ideal. Freedom in “Jane Eyre” is a complicated theme in its own right — on the Internet you can buy several term papers that explore it — and also a word whose value and meaning change over time. For the Jane in this movie, it means the ability to act without external constraint and to think without fear or hypocrisy. (Read more.)
It is pleasantly surprising that Jane Eyre is still as popular as it. Everything about the story contradicts our modern outlook. A young woman renounces wealth and deep passion in order to do the right thing which, in Jane's case, is refusing to commit adultery. In this she is upholding the law of God at great cost to herself. The 2011 version celebrates her sacrifice amid breathtaking scenery even as the music drowns the viewer in her pain. There are few films that do justice to the books upon which they are based; the 2011 Jane Eyre is an exception, and honors the masterpiece of Charlotte Brontë.

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Bishop and Martyr

The sufferings of Eastern-rite Catholics under Romanian Communism. To quote:
CHAINS AND TERROR

by Ioan Ploscaru

To all of us, the Greek-Catholic priests and bishops, freedom was offered in exchange for switching to the Orthodox Church. To me personally they proposed this exchange a number of times beginning with my first arrest. But one cannot compromise with one's conscience. If I had given in, it would have been a great disaster for my conscience and a source of confusion for those among whom I was living.

In the memoirs I have written you will not find grave lamentations, much less desperate states of mind, because in offering all of these sufferings to God they become bearable. But I would not have been able to bear them alone, if Jesus had not been always beside me and all of us.

I considered our jailers as “instruments,” and against none of them do I make any accusation: on the contrary, I desire for those inquisitors true conversion to God and true and clear repentance for all that they have done.

I was in prison for 15 years, 4 of them in isolation. Freed in 1964, I was still monitored, shadowed, pursued. Even in the years afterward I have continued, at times, to be afraid.

For all of the sufferings that I have had to bear, may God be praised unto the ages of ages. (Read entire post.)
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Sunday, July 28, 2013

The Benjamin Franklin House

In London. It's worth exploring, even online!
In the heart of London, is Benjamin Franklin House, the world's only remaining Franklin home. For nearly sixteen years between 1757 and 1775, Dr Benjamin Franklin – scientist, diplomat, philosopher, inventor, Founding Father of the United States and more – lived behind its doors. Built circa 1730, it is today a dynamic museum and educational facility. (Read more.)
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Saturday, July 27, 2013

Gathering Summer Flowers in a Devonshire Garden

Gathering Summer Flowers in a Devonshire Garden by John William Waterhouse
From Pre-Raphaelite Art:
The present picture can be dated between 1893 and 1910. Waterhouse's sister-in-law Emily, married the landscape painter Peregrine Feeney, who built a house at Baggy Point, Croyde in Devon, after leaving Primrose Hill in 1892. Both Waterhouse and his wife, Esther, were frequent visitors to the cottage in Croyde where he spent time painting, although few examples of his work from this period are in existence today. (Read entire post.)
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The Homemaker

From Nissa Gadbois:
I read an obituary today.  An obituary of a young woman in her 40s.  A single sentence, listing her occupation, leapt from the screen.
She was a homemaker.
It felt so important.  It feels so important.  Because it is.

Making a home is to bring beauty, rhythm, harmony, order and comfort to one’s own family.  And to guests.  It is an act of hospitality – the supreme act of earthly hospitality.

Home is where our security is.  It is where we run to when we have good news to share.  It is the place we long for when we are broken.

Home is a scent, a flavour, a texture.  It is the way the sunlight glints off of the beaded fringe on a lampshade, or how it slants into the room on an early spring morning.  It’s how the kitchen smells on Sunday afternoons.  It’s the squeaky stair – the Number Ten step.

Home is the way the beds were made with hospital corners, and the towels folded just so – and the soft smell of the powder stored in the linen closet.  It is the way that there always seems to be a brownie, or your favourite jam for toast and tea.  Every. Single. Time. (Read entire post.)
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History of Riding Habits

From the Side Saddle Lady Museum:
Ladies' clothing specifically for riding was not introduced until the second half of the sixteenth century, when protective overskirts or 'safeguards' were worn, together with cloaks, hats, boots, and masks to guard the complexion. Before that, women wore their everyday dresses on horseback. In the 1640s Queen Henrietta Maria was painted wearing a hunting dress and by the early eighteenth century the riding costume was established.

The first habits followed the fashion of men's attire, quite often adopting styles of military uniforms, and as equitation was considered an art and a courtly pastime, elaborate trimmings and materials were used, such as the brocades of the Restoration period and beyond. Designs were heavily influenced by the French court, but as the eighteenth century progressed, the English hunting country gentleman was a major inspiration, and habits became plainer cut and more functional.(Read entire article.)
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Friday, July 26, 2013

Sarah's Key (2010)

Julia Jarmond: And so I write this for you, My Sarah. With the hope that one day, when you're old enough, this story that lives with me, will live with you as well. When a story is told, it is not forgotten. It becomes something else, a memory of who we were; the hope of what we can become.~ from Sarah's Key (2010)
In my youth I had trouble comprehending how a nation could undergo mass hypnotism to adapt an idea which was contrary to reason. At the present time, I am no longer surprised; I have repeatedly seen people adopt ideas and opinions contrary to common sense, fact, and logic. I am still horrified when I read about the Nazis and their collaborators, but not astonished, since I have now personally experienced how an entire culture can be lulled into accepting the unthinkable. One of the most heartrending factors of the 2010 film Sarah's Key is that the persecution of the French Jews depicted in the film was perpetrated not by the Nazis but by French citizens upon other French citizens.

In July of 1942 the Vel d'Hiv round-up of the Jews occurred in Paris. Over 13,000 Jewish men, women and children were herded into the Vélodrome d'Hiver and kept for five days in inhumane conditions before being sent to the concentration camps. They were rounded up and transported by the French Vichy government.

According to The Guardian:
Kristin Scott Thomas plays Julia Jarmond, a modern-day journalist working on a magazine feature about the Vel d'Hiv affair. As the terrible events are shown in flashback, one particular story emerges: a frightened Jewish girl called Sarah locked her little brother in a closet to keep him safe and kept the key with her at all times – a story that turns out to involve Julia herself. The depiction of the dehumanised conditions in the velodrome is appreciably tougher here than in The Roundup. This movie shows a desperate suicide and also what happens when thousands of people are confined for days in a sports arena with no lavatory facilities. The first two acts of Sarah's Key, which disclose the connection between past and present, and the gruesome outcome of Sarah's desperate return to her Paris apartment, certainly move along at a rattling pace. The problem is in the modern day, as we move from Brooklyn, Paris and Florence on the trail of the grownup Sarah, things get a bit TV movie-ish. But Kristin Scott Thomas gives it weight. (Read entire article.)
Sarah's Key is a film about responsibility. While many of the adults in the film surrender personal responsibility for their actions, young Sarah holds herself to her promise to her little brother to rescue him from the closet. This promise consumes her and comes to define her existence. It is as if she had to compensate in her small person for the weakness of so many others. Similarly, in the modern story, Julia Jarmond is determined to take responsibility for the unborn child her husband wants her to abort. In the very spot where Sarah tried to save her baby brother by locking him in the closet, Julia is determined to let her baby see the light of day. The decision gives the film a powerful message about the preciousness of every human life. The horror of what was done to Sarah's family and thousands of other innocent people so overwhelms Julia that she cannot rest until she discovers the fates of Sarah and her brother. In the end, Julia finds the truth and by giving birth she finds hope. Share

Catacombs of Paris

From Daily Glimpse:
The Catacombs are former quarries, where gypsum and limestone were extracted until the 18th century to construct Parisian buildings. For the last two centuries, the underground tunnels have officially sunk into silence. They are closed to the general public, except for a very small part tourists can visit. The official museum – seventy feet underground – offers quite a spectacular tour: visitors go through a dimly lit tunnel surrounded by millions of skulls and bones transferred from Parisian cemeteries in the late 18th century. But this ossuary gives a distorted image of the Catacombs as a whole, because there is no light whatsoever in the unofficial parts of Paris underground, and not many bones outside the “museum”, except under Montparnasse.

There have always been people illegally visiting the closed parts of the catacombs, as the graffiti left on the walls by former “cata-addicts” show. The Catacombs are mainly narrow tunnels, but there are also bigger galleries, including some underground “monuments” (like a German bunker dating from World War II), where visitors like to gather.

Anthony is a “cata-addict”. This 23 year-old student engineer has visited all the Parisian and suburban quarries. He is part of a team of urban explorers: “What pleases me the most is discovering new things” says he, “I also like to take interesting pictures, like many cata-addicts, in order to show people everything that is worth seeing underground. But to be honest, we also go down to have dinner with other underground fans, drink alcohol and have fun. The Catacombs are a bit like a squat which is always free.” (Read entire post.)
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Thursday, July 25, 2013

St. Thomas More's Breviary

His handwriting is in the margins. From Daniel Mitsui. Share

Two Shirts a Day

From Two Nerdy History Girls:
It's a common misconception that all people in the past were dirty and smelled bad. Yes, not everyone in 18th c. London smelled sweet and fresh all the time, but then a ride on any modern subway during a July rush hour proves that modern folks aren't always delightful, either.

By the 18th c., however, most Englishmen of the middle class and above prided themselves on personal cleanliness as a sign of good healthy, respectability, and virtue. While a bath tub was still a luxury, a wash bowl, soap, and water were standard features of nearly every bedchamber.

Even more important to 18th c. notions of cleanliness was clean linen. According to medical beliefs of the time, perspiration was considered one of the body's important ways of "evacuating" ills, and a shirt made of linen, a naturally absorbent fibre, would contribute to good health. Linen shirts were an indispensable part of the male wardrobe and the only garment worn directly against the skin, and having a clean shirt was a literal sign of clean living. (Read more.)
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Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Portraits of Les Enfants de France by Fredou

Louis-Auguste de France, the Duc de Berry, the future Louis XVI
Louis-Joseph de France, the Duc de Burgundy, elder brother of Louis XVI
 From the Versailles website:
Between 1760 and 1762, Jean-Martial Fredou produced eleven portraits of the children of the Dauphin, the son of Louis XV and Marie-Josèphe de Saxe. The pastel portrait of the Duke of Burgundy, completed on 15 March 1760 and kept in the collections of the Palace of Versailles (INV.DESS 726), was the source for several other oil-painted versions produced by Fredou. One of them was given by the Dauphin to the Marquis de Sinety. In 1760, the latter had been appointed sub-governor for the Duke of Berry and, in 1762, sub-governor for the Count of Provence. The portrait of the Duke of Berry (future Louis XVI) was also drawn by Fredou as part of the 1760-1762 commission. The portrait, painted as a match to that of the Duke of Burgundy and also given to the Marquis of Sinety, is in all likelihood a variant of this still unknown drawing. The identical frames, which are probably the original ones, confirm that these two portraits were produced as a matching pair. (Read more.)
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The Time of Stalin

From The New York Times:
Mr. Antonov-Ovseyenko founded the State Museum of the History of the Gulag in Moscow in 2001 as a repository of artifacts from the Stalin era. Although it is rarely visited, Roman Romanov, his protégé and the current museum director, said in a telephone interview that Mr. Antonov-Ovseyenko worked there until the end, spending two full days a week at the museum and helping with a planned expansion into a new and larger space.

Anton Vladimirovich Antonov-Ovseyenko was born in Moscow on Feb. 23, 1920, to a family with an impeccable revolutionary pedigree. His father, Vladimir Antonov-Ovseyenko, was a famous Soviet military commander who led the assault on the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg (it was then Petrograd) in November 1917, helping to usher in more than 70 years of Soviet rule. 

Stalin’s rise to power at the end of the 1920s upended the family’s fortunes and set Mr. Antonov-Ovseyenko on the path to becoming a dissident. His parents were accused of being counterrevolutionaries and arrested. His mother, Rozalia, committed suicide in prison in 1936. His father was executed in 1938. 

As the son of convicted state enemies, Mr. Antonov-Ovseyenko was himself arrested in 1940. He spent the next 13 years in and out of the Soviet gulag, an experience that made him a lifelong opponent of the Soviet government. 

In a 2011 interview with the Public Radio International program “The Word,” he recounted being forced by a prison guard at gunpoint to read a speech by Stalin over the prison radio. 

“I had to read the words of the person who was my enemy, and I was an enemy of the state,” he said. He was released after Stalin’s death in 1953. Though almost completely blind, he began working in the Soviet archives in Russia. His first book, published under a pseudonym, was a biography of his father, who had been rehabilitated during the political thaw under Nikita S. Khrushchev. He went on to write several other books, most of them about Stalin and his associates. 

Perhaps his most influential work was “The Time of Stalin,” the first book published under his own name, which was smuggled out of Moscow and published in New York in 1981. Copies were then smuggled back in and disseminated among the underground dissident salons of Moscow. 

“The Time of Stalin” was among the first books to unmask the horror of the Stalin era, putting the death count through years of civil war, famine, purges and World War II in the tens of millions. Harrison E. Salisbury, who won a Pulitzer Prize for his reporting in Moscow for The New York Times in the 1950s, called the book “a milestone toward the understanding of three-quarters of a century of Russian trauma.” (Read entire article.)
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Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Monogram of Queen Claude of France

Via Louis XX. The cord means she was a Franciscan tertiary like her parents, Louis XII and Anne de Bretagne. Share

When Your Mother Says She's Fat

A fabulous article. To quote:
Dear Mom,
I was 7 when I discovered that you were fat, ugly, and horrible. Up until that point I had believed that you were beautiful—in every sense of the word. I remember flicking through old photo albums and staring at pictures of you standing on the deck of a boat. Your white strapless bathing suit looked so glamorous, just like a movie star. Whenever I had the chance I’d pull out that wondrous white bathing suit hidden in your bottom drawer and imagine a time when I’d be big enough to wear it; when I’d be like you.
But all of that changed when, one night, we were dressed up for a party and you said to me, ‘‘Look at you, so thin, beautiful, and lovely. And look at me, fat, ugly, and horrible.’’
At first I didn’t understand what you meant.
‘‘You’re not fat,’’ I said earnestly and innocently, and you replied, ‘‘Yes I am, darling. I’ve always been fat; even as a child.’’
In the days that followed I had some painful revelations that have shaped my whole life. I learned that:
1. You must be fat because mothers don’t lie.
2. Fat is ugly and horrible.
3. When I grow up I’ll look like you and therefore I will be fat, ugly, and horrible too.
Years later, I looked back on this conversation and the hundreds that followed and cursed you for feeling so unattractive, insecure, and unworthy. Because, as my first and most influential role model, you taught me to believe the same thing about myself. (Read more.)
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Monday, July 22, 2013

American Lady: The Life of Susan Mary Alsop

I always find it interesting to read about old money WASP ladies like Susan Mary Alsop, whose perfect exterior world covered a life of heartbreak, adultery and alcoholism. The ability to maintain a sterling façade while falling apart inside is an ability which intrigues me since it is alien to my generation. There is much about that exterior to admire, however, as Caroline de Margerie describes in the recent biography American Lady. Susan Mary Jay Patten Alsop knew how to be a gracious hostess and by doing so did more for American diplomacy and the free world than any number of embassy attachés. Her dinners in Paris became legendary for the place to find out what was really going on in the highest circles of power. She welcomed guests regardless of political persuasion; her goal was to create an elegant but relaxed setting for genuine conversation and camaraderie. While what she did seemed effortless, anyone who has ever put on a successful party knows how difficult it can be. Susan Mary's parties were overwhelmingly successful, even after she exchanged Paris for Georgetown. Her guests included presidents and prime ministers, ambassadors and authors, artists and journalists, revolutionaries and aristocrats. The main figures of the twentieth century march across the pages of this engrossing book.

According to The New York Times:
“American Lady,” a new biography of Susan Mary Alsop by Caroline de Margerie, a French judge and former diplomat, reveals the influence and insight of the American hostess, who lived so elegantly in the public eye, and so passionately when no one was watching. 

Unlike her husband, Mrs. Alsop was not a syndicated columnist read by hundreds of thousands. But her gatherings drew people from both sides of the political aisles, creating lasting bonds....
Until she died in 2004, the tradition of giving parties to forge social and political alliances thrived in Washington, perpetuated by savvy, charming hostesses who delighted in making introductions and in smoothing discord between powerful men and women — magnifying their own reputations in the process. Mrs. Alsop was predeceased by Katharine Graham, another partygiver of wit and panache; and before that, by Pamela Harriman (whom she loathed, according to her biographer) and long before that, Perle Mesta. But the saloniste chain has been broken lately; it awaits a new doyenne to reattach the link and keep it growing. 

For those not quite sure who Susan Mary Alsop was, here’s a refresher. Slender, lovely, dark-haired, ladylike and intense, she was born Susan Mary Jay in 1918, descended from John Jay, a founding father and the country’s first chief justice. As a Jay, she had enough family money to live comfortably but not enough to be rich (in her own opinion at least, according to Ms. de Margerie). 

In October 1939, when she was 20, she married a man named Bill Patten, and in 1945, wangled him a job at the American Embassy in Paris, where she gave frolicsome dinners for European, British and American social and diplomatic luminaries that had a serious underlying intent: to strengthen European-American ties.
“She really set herself this purpose quite seriously,” Ms. de Margerie said last week by phone from Paris, on the eve of her American book tour. “She wanted to help Americans understand the French, and vice versa. She thought of herself as a go-between helping two countries she loved, France and America.” 

Ms. de Margerie’s mother in-law, Hélène de Margerie, who attended many of Susan Mary’s Georgetown soirees when her husband, Emmanuel de Margerie, was France’s ambassador to the United States in the ’80s, told her that “going to Susan Mary’s in some ways was like going to an exam: you had to have your French-and-American facts at your fingertips, because you would be examined closely.” (Read entire article.)
Later in life, when not in rehab for alcoholism, Susan Mary would write books, including a history of the Congress of Vienna entitled The Congress Dances. She also helped Jackie Kennedy redecorate the White House. Other than her love of research, her writing and her parties, Susan Mary's life was rather sad. Her great love was the British Ambassador to France, Duff Cooper, whose child she bore, naming the little boy after her husband. Duff did not love her as much as she loved him and had any number of other mistresses. What seems mildly romantic when dressed up in Dior gowns and French country estates would be just plain sordid and disgusting in small town America. For that matter, the chronic diseases suffered by alcoholics, chain smokers, and the sexually promiscuous are unattractive in the extreme, no matter how elegant the trimmings. What makes this book worth reading is the history which the reader is able to watch unfold from a comfortable corner in Susan Mary's living room. With her we watch the world become gradually swallowed by Communism and civil discord as the old traditions of courtesy and discretion fall by the wayside. But in her own way, Susan Mary did her best to create some bright spots in a faded, crumbling culture.


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Big Families

They're good for everyone. From The Telegraph:
So, with the help of Swedish researcher Therese Wallin, I set about pulling together data that put a different cost/benefit complexion on the “shall we have another?” conversation.

Some of the most startling literature comes from medical research. It has long been known that siblings – by sharing germs at a young age and mutually priming immune systems – provide some protection against atopic conditions such as hay fever and eczema. But the latest breakthroughs suggest growing up with a brother or sister can also guard against food allergies, multiple sclerosis and some cancers. For reasons that have yet to be fully fathomed, these benefits do not apply to children simply by dint of spending time sharing bugs with other youngsters – as they would, for instance, in day care.

The other “epidemics” of modern childhood, obesity and depression, are also potentially reduced by exposure to siblings. A clutch of major studies from all over the world shows that the more siblings a child has, the thinner they will be. Put simply, siblings help children burn off fat. One American study honed its analysis down to an amazingly precise deduction: with each extra brother or sister, a child will be, on average, 14 per cent less obese. Reductio ad absurdum? We can scoff at such a definitive conclusion, until we realise that no one in medical academia has suggested that having a sibling ever made anyone fatter.
None of this is rocket science. When we compare like with like, regardless of family background, children with siblings tend to enjoy better mental health. Obviously, again, this is to generalise massively. The world is full of jolly singletons. But dig into some of the big data sets out there and unignorable patterns emerge. On experiences on which nation states hold a big corpus of statistics, events such as divorce and death, for example, strong correlations exist.

Cause is not always correlation, but it stands to reason that when parents split up or die, a child will benefit from having a sibling to turn to.That solidarity runs throughout the lifespan. After all, a sibling is for life, not just for childhood....

And what of my own children? How do they feel, providing the material for a sibling laboratory? The eldest, just 14, has already announced that, should she have children, their numbers will be limited.

My wife and I started out similarly sceptical about fecundity. But, having struggled to have a second child, it was hard to shake the mindset that a pregnancy was anything other than a blessing. As our family expanded, necessitating bigger cars and fewer holidays, we took to heart the views attributed to Elizabeth Longford, the historian and Roman Catholic mother-of-eight. Asked why so many, she said that since her children were so different, curiosity drove her to find the limits of genetic diversity.

We find that a big family has unleashed the inner anthropologist in us, too. Some friends flinch at the managed chaos of our home, but my wife and I love the abundance of human interaction. We are the directors of our own daily soap opera. (Read more.)
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Sunday, July 21, 2013

The Illustrations of Genevieve Foster

From Anna Gibson:
George Washington's World by Genevieve Foster is a children's book which covers the life and times of George Washington. The book is filled with wonderful illustrations, including a number of illustrations of Marie Antoinette. (Read entire post.)
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The Color of Crime

It is tragic that we are still operating on this level. To quote:
...In 2009 in Greece, N.Y., a suburb of Rochester. Roderick Scott, a black man, shot and killed an unarmed white teen, Christopher Cervini, whom he believed was burglarizing a neighbor's car, with a licensed .40 cal. handgun.

There are many similarities between the Scott-Cervini case and the George Zimmerman-Trayvon Martin case in Florida. In both cases, there had been a spate of criminal activity in the neighborhood. In both cases, the shooters called 911 to report suspicious activity, yet chose to confront the unarmed suspects outside their residence and off their own property prior to the arrival of the police. In both cases, the shooters claimed that they felt threatened, and fired in self-defense. In both cases, local law enforcement applied relevant state law.


Unlike Florida, New York does not have a "stand your ground" law. New York law allows a person to use deadly force to defend his residence from home invasion only as a last resort. It does not allow the use of deadly force to prevent a property crime, and requires retreat if possible. Thus, while Zimmerman was not arrested under Florida law, Scott was tried for manslaughter.

New York law does allow a person to use deadly force anywhere, including off his own property, if he feels that his life is in imminent danger and retreat is not possible. Despite the fact that he left his own property, confronted, and shot dead an unarmed white person thought to be committing a petty property crime, Scott was acquitted by a majority-white jury after claiming that the Cervini charged at him, putting him in imminent fear of his life.

Despite the racial difference between the shooter and the decedent, there were no allegations of racial bias. Scott was not charged with a hate crime. There was no Federal civil rights investigation. There were no white protests. The case was settled for what it was: a tragedy caused by a series of poor decisions on behalf of the shooter, and a split-second decision that will forever be second-guessed.

In all probability, the actions of Zimmerman in Florida were also based on a series of poor decisions: the decision to follow a suspect after a police dispatcher told him not to, the decision to confront a suspect with a firearm off his own property, and a split-second decision to shoot an unarmed person when Zimmerman felt his life was in imminent danger, resulting in tragedy. But a tragedy is not necessarily a Federal civil rights case - unless the mobs in the streets and their allies in the media and government want to make it one. (Read entire post.)
Via Joshua Snyder.

UPDATE: This is a must-see video for anyone interested in facts instead of spin. (Via Adrienne.)
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Defending the Normal

How many of us ever thought it would come to this? From Crisis:
We continue to reel from the blows dealt by the Culture of Death. The attack on life, and particularly on the family, that institution which is the incubator and nourisher of life, continues relentlessly. Our states and our courts have now given the name of “marriage” to a fundamentally unnatural and barren relationship that was once unmentionable in polite company. Being pummeled like this can be disorienting, and even good people are starting to talk like they’ve been hit in the head too many times.

We have let ourselves get cornered. But we can change the momentum in this fight. It starts by taking control of the conversation, and not being controlled by buzz words that are purely diversionary.

We can begin by shifting the discussion away from the abused word “marriage” and focusing on the word “matrimony,” which implies a bond that creates motherhood. And let us be sure to add the adjective “holy,” which points to the sacredness of the act before God.

But then we must get the discussion back to the principle of what a family is and what is its role in society. Through all of human history, from the ancient world to the modern, the family is the basic brick of civilization. It is what builds not only the four walls of the home but also the walls that protect the city. To destroy the family is to destroy the society, and redefining the family is in essence destroying it.

If we really want to win the fight, well, we should read a lot more G.K. Chesterton, and so should everybody else. He is a defender of the faith, of the family, of life, and, what is especially needed these days, a defender of the normal. It is normal to believe in God. It is normal to believe that a family is composed of a father, mother, and children. It is normal to protect life. But it is surprisingly difficult to defend the normal. It is challenging to state the obvious. And this is where Chesterton provides great help.

We protect the home because it is a place of liberty, even if liberty is sometimes a hard thing to define. Chesterton argues that the world outside the home—the office, the business, the bank, the shop—is more regimented and narrow, and less respectful of human dignity and freedom than the home. Commerce is always pursuing fashion. And “social life” is also always pursuing fashion because it is always pursuing pleasure, and pleasure, which is distinct from happiness, is a matter of taste and taste is driven by fashion. People have become more caught up in the narrow and strange and trendy world outside the home, than in the broad and beautiful and permanent world inside the home.

Chesterton says, “My complaint of the anti-domestic drift is that it is unintelligent. People do not know what they are doing; because they do not know what they are undoing.” Every discussion is “a separate escape or evasion” from facing the fact of what a family is for and how it is being torn apart.

How did we get to this point? Chesterton saw it coming over a century ago. The modern breakdown of the family, he says, is due to “sex emancipation.” This term covers many things that are all connected: the loss of the distinct roles of man and woman, husband and wife, father and mother; the dishonoring of the vow, which has led to divorce and remarriage and children with one parent or three parents; the unwillingness even to make the vow, which has spread into the epidemic of “cohabitation,” which perpetuates infidelity, illegitimacy, and violent abuse; the plague of pornography which tries to make sex something solitary, and now, the latest, the mockery called “same-sex marriage.”  It is all part of “sex emancipation” which is “sexless sex,” the vain attempt to free ourselves not only from the marital bond but from the consequences and responsibilities of the marital embrace. It is also the flat denial of the obvious fact that sex makes babies and the best place for babies is in a family. (Read more.)
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Saturday, July 20, 2013

Louis XVIII and the Royal Family, 1814

The Duchesse d'Angoulême is once again shown wearing her white plumes. (Via Vive la Reine.) Share

Iris Scans

Brought to you by the Brave New World.
South Dakota-based Blinkspot manufactures iris scanners specifically for use on school buses. When elementary school students come aboard, they look into a scanner (it looks like a pair of binoculars). The reader will beep if they're on the right bus and honk if they're on the wrong one.

The Blinkspot scanner syncs with a mobile app that parents can use to see where their child is. Every time a child boards or exits the bus, his parent gets an email or text with the child's photograph, a Google map where they boarded or exited the bus, as well as the time and date.

Iris-scanning is part of a growing trend called "biometrics," a type of security that recognizes physical characteristics to identify people. As the technology becomes faster and cheaper to build, several security equipment manufacturers are looking at biometric methods like iris scanning as the ID badge of the future.
In the next year, industry insiders say the technology will be available all over-- from banks to airports. That means instead of entering your pin number, you can gain access to an ATM in a blink. Used in an airport, the system will analyze your iris as you pass through security, identifying and welcoming you by name.

One company developing that technology is Eyelock. The company's scanners are already in use in foreign airports and at high-security offices, including Bank of America's (BAC, Fortune 500) North Carolina headquarters.

Eyelock's technology records video of your eyeball and uses an algorithm to find the best image of each eye. Eyelock is also entering the school market, piloting their devices in elementary school districts and nursery schools around the country. (Read more.)
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Friday, July 19, 2013

Portrait of Madame Campan's Son


I had forgotten that Madame Campan had a son. An interesting story from Art Daily.

STOCKHOLM.- Nationalmuseum’s collection of Swedish-French paintings from the 18th century now includes a portrait painted by Adolf Ulrik Wertmüller. It depicts Henri Bertholet-Campan, the son of the French Queen’s First Lady of the Bedchamber Henriette Genet-Campan. The acquisition adds an important piece to the fascinating puzzle of Wertmüller’s portrait of Marie Antoinette. Painted in autumn 1786, the portrait depicts the two-year-old Henri Bertholet-Campan with his dog Aline in the English landscape garden at the family’s summer house in Croissy outside Paris. The painting was exhibited at the Salon of 1787, but under the rather anonymous title of A child playing with a dog. Adolf Ulrik Wertmüller (1751–1811) trained under his second cousin Alexander Roslin in Paris and studied at the French Academy in Rome. When Wertmüller returned to the French capital in spring 1781, he found it difficult to obtain work as a portraitist and instead earned his keep as a copyist at Roslin’s studio. Here he was discovered by the Swedish Ambassador Gustaf Filip Creutz, who made several important commissions. This in turn resulted in Gustav III convincing France’s Queen Marie Antoinette, during his stay in Paris in the summer of 1784, to let Wertmüller paint her portrait as a gift to the Swedish King. The portrait is currently held in the collections of Nationalmuseum. King Gustav III had intended this to be Wertmüller’s ticket to a successful career in Paris, but jealousies abounded. When the portrait of Marie Antoinette was exhibited in August 1785, it was attacked by the critics. The Queen was also unimpressed. The artist fell into a deep depression, but recovered enough to make the necessary changes before the portrait was dispatched to Sweden the following year. It was Wertmüller’s friend Henriette Genet-Campan who came to his aid. The fact that Wertmüller even got paid was largely down to Mme Campan, since she managed the Queen’s purse and was intimately involved in the royal finances. For security reasons a mutual friend, Gabriel Lindblom, acted as a go-between in contact between the two. Lindblom had been governor to Mme Campan’s younger brother Edmond Genet and served as an interpreter at the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Versailles. This explains why Wertmüller was so well informed and why he came to paint almost a dozen portraits of various members of the Genet-Campan family.

More Information: http://www.artdaily.org/index.asp?int_sec=11&int_new=63730#.UeX8Eti-X1U[/url]
Copyright © artdaily.org
STOCKHOLM.- Nationalmuseum’s collection of Swedish-French paintings from the 18th century now includes a portrait painted by Adolf Ulrik Wertmüller. It depicts Henri Bertholet-Campan, the son of the French Queen’s First Lady of the Bedchamber Henriette Genet-Campan. The acquisition adds an important piece to the fascinating puzzle of Wertmüller’s portrait of Marie Antoinette. Painted in autumn 1786, the portrait depicts the two-year-old Henri Bertholet-Campan with his dog Aline in the English landscape garden at the family’s summer house in Croissy outside Paris. The painting was exhibited at the Salon of 1787, but under the rather anonymous title of A child playing with a dog. Adolf Ulrik Wertmüller (1751–1811) trained under his second cousin Alexander Roslin in Paris and studied at the French Academy in Rome. When Wertmüller returned to the French capital in spring 1781, he found it difficult to obtain work as a portraitist and instead earned his keep as a copyist at Roslin’s studio. Here he was discovered by the Swedish Ambassador Gustaf Filip Creutz, who made several important commissions. This in turn resulted in Gustav III convincing France’s Queen Marie Antoinette, during his stay in Paris in the summer of 1784, to let Wertmüller paint her portrait as a gift to the Swedish King. The portrait is currently held in the collections of Nationalmuseum.

More Information: http://www.artdaily.org/index.asp?int_sec=11&int_new=63730#.UeX8Eti-X1U[/url]
Copyright © artdaily.or
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Heredity, Family, and the Church

The Genealogy of Christ in the Book of Kells
From Pius XII's Allocution of January 5, 1941:
The nature of this great and mysterious thing that is heredity—the passing on through a bloodline, perpetuated from generation to generation, of a rich ensemble of material and spiritual assets, the continuity of a single physical and moral type from father to son, the tradition that unites members of one same family across the centuries—the true nature of this heredity can undoubtedly be distorted by materialistic theories. But one can, and must also, consider this reality enormously important in the fullness of its human and supernatural truth.

One certainly cannot deny the existence of a material substratum in the transmission of hereditary characteristics; to be surprised at this one would have to forget the intimate union of our soul with our body, and in what great measure our most spiritual activities are themselves dependent upon our physical temperament. For this reason Christian morality never forgets to remind parents of the great responsibilities resting on their shoulders in this regard.

Yet of greater import still is spiritual heredity, which is transmitted not so much through these mysterious bonds of material generation as by the permanent action of that privileged environment that is the family, with the slow and profound formation of souls in the atmosphere of a hearth rich in high intellectual, moral, and especially Christian traditions, with the mutual influence of those dwelling under one same roof, an influence whose beneficial effects endure well beyond the years of childhood and youth, all the way to the end of a long life, in those elect souls who are able to meld within themselves the treasures of a precious heredity with the addition of their own merits and experiences.

Such is the most prized patrimony of all, which, illuminated by a solid faith and enlivened by a strong and loyal practice of Christian life in all its demands, will raise, refine, and enrich the souls of your children. (Read more.)
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Beauty Will Save the World

From Crisis:
A popular quote we often hear but find hard to understand is “beauty will save the world.” How will beauty save the world? The line comes from Dostoevsky’s novel, The Idiot, attributed to the main character, Prince Myskin. The prince, an epileptic Russian nobleman, serves as a Christ-like figure, who stands apart for his innocence and even naiveté. Out of the mouth of this idiot comes a clearer vision of beauty and reality than those around him, his clarity heightened even in the midst of his sickness.
The saving power of beauty in the prince’s life could not overcome his sickness, but nonetheless illumined his vision: “What matter though it be only disease, an abnormal tension of the brain, if when I recall and analyze the moment, it seems to have been one of harmony and beauty in the highest degree—an instant of deepest sensation, overflowing with unbounded joy and rapture, ecstatic devotion, and completest life?” In the midst of his suffering, he glimpsed, though in a paradoxical manner, the heart of reality.
Are the prince’s words on beauty the words of a mad idiot or of a prophet?
In Solzhenitsyn’s Noble lecture, he notes that after dismissing the quote for years, he realized that “Dostoevsky’s remark, ‘Beauty will save the world,’ was not a careless phrase but a prophecy. After all he was granted to see much, a man of fantastic illumination. And in that case art, literature might really be able to help the world today?”
If that is not enough, Pope John Paul II quoted the line in his Letter to Artists, under the heading “The Saving Power of Beauty”:
People of today and tomorrow need this enthusiasm [of wonder] if they are to meet and master the crucial challenges which stand before us. Thanks to this enthusiasm, humanity, every time it loses its way, will be able to lift itself up and set out again on the right path. In this sense it has been said with profound insight that “beauty will save the world” (§16).
Can the words of an idiot set the tone for our response to the modern world? In a mad world, maybe only the idiot is sane. It seems we can and even must trust him, now that the words of an idiot have become the words of a Pope!
Upon reading Pope Francis’s first encyclical, Lumen Fidei, I was struck most of all by its literary quality. The encyclical does not offer much theological innovation, but is remarkable for its engagement of culture: classical, medieval, and above all contemporary. It seems to follow Dostoevsky’s vision for the power of beauty. In our world that has largely rejected the ability of reason to know the truth and the moral order toward the good, is it a privileged moment for beauty? The encyclical seems to point to this reality, using literature and art to underscore its points.
Pope Benedict XVI, the primary drafter of Lumen Fidei, emphasized the absolutely essential role of beauty in human life in his “Meeting with Artists.” Guess who he turned to for support?
Dostoevsky’s words that I am about to quote are bold and paradoxical, but they invite reflection. He says this: “Man can live without science, he can live without bread, but without beauty he could no longer live, because there would no longer be anything to do to the world. The whole secret is here, the whole of history is here” (quoting from the novel, Demons).
Is it not clear that we are missing this key element of human life? And if we are, what does this mean for the life of faith? (Read more.)
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Thursday, July 18, 2013

Gowns of Russian Empresses

Coronation gown of Empress Elizabeth Petrovna, 1742     

Coronation gown of Empress Marie Feodorovna, consort of Alexander III, 1883

Gown worn by Empress Maria Feodorovna, consort of Paul I, 1790
Gown worn by Empress Marie Feodorovna, widow of Paul I, 1820
Gown of Empress Alexandra Feodorvna, consort of Nicholas II, circa 1900

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Medieval Saddlery

Conserved in Ireland. To quote:
COUNTY CORK, IRELAND—Conservation of a piece of leather retrieved from a well located at Caherduggan Castle has shown that it is an intact breast strap from a horse’s harness. Called a peytrel, the fitting, which dates to the thirteenth or fourteenth century, is covered in hinged, gilded mounts and pendants decorated with heraldic symbols. There are buckles at either end. “Post-excavation analysis has revealed it is the only intact example ever found in Britain or Ireland and it may have belonged to a medieval knight or one of his retainers or retinue. It certainly belonged to someone important in the medieval period. This is a hugely significant find in Ireland,” said archaeologist Damian Shields. Other finds from the well include bone gaming dice and a woman’s shoe. (Read more.)
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The Return of the Masked Ball

From The Telegraph:
Who would have predicted that masked balls would become a trend in 2013? Ruby-encrusted eyewear and Marie-Antoinette-inspired dresses are not generally considered a sensitive look during recessions - a point not lost even on the Kardashians.

Cecil Beaton was appalled when he discovered that Truman Capote was planning one in the summer of 1966. "What is Truman trying to prove?" he wrote testily in his tell-all diary. "The foolishness of spending so much time organising the party is something for a younger man or a worthless woman to indulge in, if they have social ambitions."

Beaton, who valiantly overcame his misgivings to attend Capote's party along with most of the elite of the day, may have been right, but not entirely. Capote's party made social history. It's as famous in certain circles as his novels. Mission accomplished.

IN PICS: French Vogue's 90th anniversary masked ball
 
Those masks surely contributed to Capote's lasting mystique. There's something compelling about an invitation that requires disguise - the suggestion of an Eyes Wide Shut moment. Yet it's seven years since the last grand one, hosted by photographer Nick Knight and sponsored by Moët & Chandon at Strawberry Hill, Sir Horace Walpole's giddily Gothic castle in Twickenham. Beaton would have been even more outraged by the sponsorship than the time-wasting that went into some of those masks. Even Pete Doherty remembered to wear one.

Since then, it's been lean pickings on the masked-ball front, sponsored or otherwise. But now, suddenly, two in the same week. Yes, along with sustained British sporting success, the masked ball is a fantastical mirage taking solid shape. First Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana host a spectacular one last Saturday in Palazzo Pisani Moretta, a terracotta-coloured renaissance palace - also with Gothic flourishes - on Venice's Grand Canal. Guests arrived by boat and gondola. Candlelight was the order of the evening, the diamonds real and not borrowed, and the beaded dresses couture. (Read entire post.)
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Wednesday, July 17, 2013

French Salon, circa 1780


From Vive la Reine:
Mrs. Thorne’s design was heavily inspired by the private rooms of the Petit Trianon, which were designed in the Marie Antoinette’s preferred style. Of the Petit Trianon, Thorne wrote:

“Nothing could be more chaste, more restrained. This was Marie Antoinette’s favorite retreat and it is here that I always feel her shadow.” (Read more.)
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Paris in the Movies

From MessyNessyChic:
Attention Parisphiles! There’s a new smartphone application on the block ready to take you on a cinematic journey through the city you love. Cinemacity is a new website and free application that allows users to rediscover Paris through iconic movie scenes filmed around the city. You can view film clips and screen stills pinpointed by location on the cinemacity map and filter movies by release date, director or the neighbourhood in which they were filmed. (Read more.)
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What's in the Burger?

You don't want to know. But here it is anyway:
Hambúrguer chef Jamie Oliver has just won a battle against one of the largest fast food chains in the world. After Oliver showed how McDonald’s hamburgers are made, the franchise announced it will change its recipe. According to Oliver, the fatty parts of beef are “washed” in ammonium hydroxide and used in the filling of the burger. Before this process, according to the presenter, the food is deemed unfit for human consumption.

According to the chef and presenter, Jamie Oliver, who has undertaken a war against the fast food industry: “Basically, we’re taking a product that would be sold in the cheapest way for dogs, and after this process, is being given to human beings.”

Besides the low quality of the meat, the ammonium hydroxide is harmful to health. Oliver calls it “the pink slime process.”

“Why would any sensible human being put meat filled with ammonia in the mouths of their children?” asked the chef, who wages a war against the fast food industry. In one of his initiatives, Oliver demonstrates to children how nuggets are made. After selecting the best parts of the chicken, the remains (fat, skin and internal organs) are processed for these fried foods. The company, Arcos Dorados, the franchise manager in Latin America, said such a procedure is not practiced in the region. The same applies to the product in Ireland and the UK, where they use meat from local suppliers. In the United States, Burger King and Taco Bell had already abandoned the use of ammonia in their products. The food industry uses ammonium hydroxide as an anti-microbial agent in meats, which has allowed McDonald’s to use otherwise “inedible meat.”

Even more disturbing is that because ammonium hydroxide is considered part of the “component in a production procedure” by the USDA, consumers may not know when the chemical is in their food. (Read more.)
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Tuesday, July 16, 2013

"There was none so haunted as Trianon..."

From Anna Gibson:
"Thérèse had lived in many places, but there was none so haunted as Trianon, or as vibrant with memory. Its haunting was a wistful and compelling call to linger, as if the murmuring poplars and cedars entreated one to stay forever. The soul seemed drawn into an enchanted realm where time itself dallied. She breathed in the scented air. No one would ever live there for long in peace; no one could ever again make it a dwelling place, for the person who had enlivened Trianon with her own spontaneous magic was gone from the world. Trianon was no longer a home, but a tangible dream of lost happiness." Madame Royale by Elena Maria Vidal
(Read more.)

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On the Trail of Annie Oakley

Always a lady. To quote:
There are endless Oakley myths, but it's probable that 15-year-old Annie beat stage marksman, Frank Butler, in a match held on Thanksgiving Day 1875 in a suburb of Cincinnati. By most accounts, Annie married Frank in 1876, but didn't shoot in his act until 1882 -- a period sometimes called Annie's "missing years." When she and Frank joined Buffalo Bill's Wild West in 1885, the seeds of Annie's legend took root, and today she's revered as the greatest marksman our country has ever produced. Paradoxically, the private Annie Oakley Butler was a genteel woman who remained true to her Quaker roots and who reveled in her reputation as "the peerless lady wing-shot," emphasis on lady. (Read entire article.)
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Monday, July 15, 2013

A Young Archduchess

The Archduchess Maria Antonia of Austria before her marriage to the Dauphin of France. (I think I found this picture on the Tiny-Librarian blog but cannot find the exact link.) Share

Italian Renaissance Crime Scenes

Eleonora of Toledo
From Smithsonian:
The wealth of biographical information available on Cosimo I allowed Fornaciari to synthesize contemporary testimony and forensic investigation. Documentation concerning Cosimo and his descendants is some of the most extensive in early modern history—the online database of the Medici Archive Project contains descriptions of some 10,000 letters and biographical records on more than 11,000 individuals. Portraits of Cosimo I in museums around the world depict his evolution from a shy, seemingly wary youth in 1538 to a bearded warrior in a polished suit of armor in 1565, and an elderly, corpulent and world-weary figure, gazing absently into space, toward the end of his life in 1574. Reports by court physicians and foreign ambassadors to the Florentine duchy recount Cosimo’s medical history in excruciating detail: He survived smallpox and “catarrhal fever” (likely pneumonia) in youth; suffered in later life from paralysis of his left arm, mental instability and incontinence; and had a painful condition of the joints described by contemporaries as gout.
Fornaciari found that Cosimo’s remains indicated he had been an extremely robust and active man, in whom Fornaciari also noted all of the “knightly markers”—sacro-lumbar arthritis, hypertrophy and erosion of certain parts of the femur, rotation and compression of the upper femur, and other deformations—typical of warriors who rode into battle on horseback. He noted nodes between Cosimo’s vertebrae, signs that as an adolescent, the young duke had worn heavy weights over his thorax, most probably suits of armor. Fornaciari also noticed pervasive arthritis and ossification between the sixth, seventh and eighth thoracic vertebrae, possible signs of diffuse idiopathic skeletal hyperostosis (DISH), a disease of the elderly linked to diabetes. “We see Cosimo getting fatter in his portraits, and the presence of DISH suggests he may have had diabetes, too,” says Fornaciari. “The diet of the Medici and other upper-class families often contained many sweets, which were a sort of status symbol, but often caused health problems.”
Another vivid marker was Cosimo’s poor dental health. The right side of his mandible is marred by an enormous gap, the result of a serious periodontal disease; an abscess had eaten away his first molar and a considerable chunk of bone, leaving a massive crater in his jaw. Fornaciari’s examination of the Medici, the Aragonese and other high-born individuals has revealed appalling abscesses, decay and tooth loss, bringing home just how painful daily life in that period could be, even for the rich and famous.
Cosimo’s wife, Eleanora of Toledo, was the daughter of the Spanish viceroy of Naples and related to the Hapsburg and the Castilian royal families. Her face was immortalized by the Renaissance master Bronzino, who in a series of portraits captures her transformation from a radiant, aloof young bride to a sickly, prematurely aged woman in her late 30s, shortly before her death at age 40. Fornaciari uncovered the maladies that beset her. Dental problems plagued her. Slightly curved legs indicated a case of rickets she had suffered as a child. Childbirth had taken a major toll. “Pelvic skeletal markers show that she had numerous births—in fact, she and Cosimo had 11 children,” Fornaciari says. “She was almost constantly pregnant, which would have leached calcium out of her body.” Further analysis indicated that Eleanora had suffered from leishmaniasis, a parasitic disease spread by biting sand flies that can cause skin lesions, fever and damage to the liver and spleen. DNA testing also revealed the presence of tuberculosis. “She was wealthy, and powerful, but her life was brutally hard,” Fornaciari says.
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So Much for Churchill

From the Express:
Labour's Chris Bryant, who represents Rhondda, said his constituents had never forgiven the wartime Prime Minister for sending in the army to support police during a miners strike when Sir Winston was Home Secretary in 1910.

Mr Bryant made the comments in the House of Commons today during a debate on Education Secretary Michael Gove's reforms to the national curriculum.

The plans involve teaching about Sir Winston in English schools, but education in Wales is a devolved responsibility of the Welsh Government.

Mr Bryant told the Commons: "There's only one constituency in the land where Winston Churchill was never ever welcome, including after the Second World War, namely the Rhondda.

"So I am delighted this curriculum, which bizarrely only insists on one politician being studied in the whole of the history of the 20th century, namely Winston Churchill, will not apply in Wales or in the Rhondda." (Read entire article.)
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