Sunday, August 31, 2014

Murals

From Architectural Digest:
A 1970s Twigs reproduction of Dufour’s circa-1814 Monuments of Paris scenic panoramic lines Andrea Anson’s double parlor in Manhattan. The design illustrates some of the French capital’s notable landmarks—yet all stand on the banks of the Seine, which is impossible in some cases, given their actual locations. Scenic panoramics were meant to be evocative rather than accurate. (Read more.)
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A Place to Call Home

A Place to Call Home is the debut thriller of Maryland author Amy Schisler. In striking contrast to the quaintness of the Eastern Shore where the story is set, the book deals with corruption and crime in government circles, particularly the scourge of human trafficking. The heroine, Susan O'Neil, finds two small children picking through her garbage for food. She takes them in, and before long her life is in danger. She finds herself thrown into the company of officer Jim Russell, an old flame of her youth, and together they and the two hunted children embark on an odyssey of peril and discovery. The novel is coherently written with some believable characters. For any native Marylander, it is fun to read about familiar places in such an adventurous context. Baltimore is the city of iniquity from which the various evildoers sally forth, which is fictional but perhaps not entirely. The latest technology is used to outwit the criminals, as well as common sense and courage. The action begins on the first page and does not end until the ending. I especially like it that the heroine is someone I can respect for her determination to mother and protect the traumatized children, and in that context the hero discovers he is in love with her. Where there are those trying to destroy youth and innocence, there are others who at great cost to themselves are trying to salvage broken lives. It is a novel of hope as well as one of adventure.

*NOTE: This book was sent to me by the author in exchange for my honest opinion. Share

The Duping of Bogie and Bacall

From the Intercollegiate Review:
Unbelievable as it may seem, Lauren Bacall later said that as she and Bogie and the others flew to Washington, they did not know that most of the unfriendlies called to testify were secretly members of the Communist Party. “We didn’t realize until much later,” she admitted, “that we were being used to some degree by the Unfriendly Ten.” She conceded that they had been foolishly naïve, headstrong, emotional, and that they had hastily strolled into something “we knew nothing about.”

Most members of the Committee for the First Amendment felt that way. The group fell silent, withered, and died.

That’s the history. The villains were the communists who lied to and exploited their liberal friends. The communists had hung the liberals out to dry, tarnishing their reputations with the movie-going public. Liberals like the wonderful lyricist Ira Gershwin now appeared before the California legislature to explain how he could be so oblivious as to host meetings for a communist front at his home. All the liberals endeavored to explain themselves.

Bogart, too, looked to repair the damage. He went public with a strong statement explaining why “I am not a communist,” nor, for that matter, “a communist sympathizer.” “I detest communism just as any decent American does,” wrote Bogie. “I’m about as much in favor of communism as J. Edgar Hoover.” He pledged that his name would never again “be found on any communist front organization as a sponsor for anything communistic.” (Read more.)
Via A Conservative Blog for Peace. Share

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Dining Rooms

From Southern Living. Share

Femininity 101

Being a lady is an art which can be mastered. To quote:
Once upon a time, in the not so distant past, elocution was part of every young woman’s education. Thinking elocution to be some kind of chemical science I looked it up in the dictionary; it’s just a fancy word meaning feminine deportment.

While I’m glad we no longer walk around with books on our heads I don’t want to end up a female version of Huckleberry Finn either. Let’s face it, not all of us come from a “Little Women” background, femininity ingrained in every bone. (Read more.)
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Fall Fashions

From Regina Magazine. Share

Friday, August 29, 2014

An Allegory of the Bourbon Restoration

Featuring Louis XVIII and Artois on a vase. From Vive la Reine. Share

A Brief History of Heraldry

From Royal Central:
A typical coat of arms is made up of seven components. The shield is the central element in a coat of arms and bears the distinguishing elements or images of the House. The helm (or helmet) stands atop the shield and is used to indicate the rank of the bearer. The crest is a secondary hereditary device, used to distinguish the helm. The mantle is a flair of cloth, used to attract attention to the coat of arms, while a wreath covers the joint between the crest and the helm. (Read more.)
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Thursday, August 28, 2014

The Unsung Heroines of Bannockburn

From English Historical Fiction Authors:
An ancient Caledonian law gave the Clan MacDuff the privilege of placing the crown on the head of a new king. At the time, the MacDuffs were allied with the Comyns, enemies of the Bruces. Yet Isabelle MacDuff, the Countess of Buchan, defied her Comyn husband and rushed to Scone to perform the sacred deed for Robert in a second ceremony on Moot Hill.

English chroniclers at the time suspected that Isabelle, a distant kinswoman of the Bruces, must have been one of Robert’s secret mistresses. Outraged by her betrayal of the loyalty oath that the MacDuffs and Comyns had given him, Edward Longshanks ordered Isabelle tracked down and captured. Cornered with the other Bruce women in the sanctuary kirk at Tain, she was cruelly punished by being exposed for years in an iron cage hung from the ramparts of Berwick Castle.

Why did Isabelle risk her life to crown Robert Bruce? What happened to her during that brutish captivity? And why did so many brave women follow her lead to take up the Bruce’s cause? I unveil my theories about these mysteries and more in my latest release: The Spider and the Stone: A Novel of Scotland’s Black Douglas. (Read more.)
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Lost Cities of the Mayans

From Discovery News:
Indeed, more than 30 chultuns were found at the site. These are bottle-shaped underground chambers, largely intended for collecting rainwater.

"Several chultuns were unusually deep, going down as far as 13 meters," Sprajc said.
Like in Laguinita, plazas were surrounded by large buildings. These include the remains of an acropolis supporting a courtyard with three temples on its sides. A pyramid temple with a rather well preserved sanctuary on top and a stela and an altar at its base was also unearthed.

Tamchen appears to have been contemporaneous with Lagunita, although there is evidence for its settlement history going back to the Late Preclassic, between300 B.C. and 250 A.D.

"Both cities open new questions about the diversity of Maya culture, the role of that largely unexplored area in the lowland Maya history, and its relations with other polities," Sprajc said.

The work is a follow-up to the study of Archaeological Reconnaissance in Southeastern Campeche, Mexico. Directed by Sprajc since 1996, the 2014 campaign was supported by the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH), Mexico. Lead funding was provided by Ken and Julie Jones from their KJJ Charitable Foundation (USA); additional financial support was granted by private companies Villas (Austria), Hotel Río Bec Dreams (Mexico) and Ars longa and Adria Kombi (Slovenia), as well as by Martin Hobel and Aleš Obreza. (Read more.)
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Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Photo of Marie-Antoinette?

No. But it is as close as we will ever get. It is a Habsburg princess dressing the part. (Via Vive la Reine.) Share

Don't Settle for Less

From James Sama:
The more conversations I have with people, the more I really do see what is lacking in this generation. Simple etiquette, manners, appreciation, affection…simple, basic things that make someone a good partner in a relationship. We can chalk the shortcomings up to many sources. The devaluation of love in our society, perhaps a less-than-ideal upbringing, and/or who knows what else.

But there is also one thing for certain – the good ones are still out there. Many of you reading this are proof of that, because you are one of them. And if you are single, you are probably wondering why you haven’t been properly appreciated by the people you have been with in the past, especially since you have so much to offer.

The issue with people who lack these characteristics themselves is that they tend not to recognize and fully appreciate them in others. Likely from no fault of their own – maybe not being shown enough love growing up or going through a traumatic experience. As sad as this is, we cannot forget that you deserve a happy relationship, and should be with someone who makes you as happy as you make them.

It is easy to get caught up in a situation where perhaps there is little reciprocation. We often find ourselves trying a little harder, thinking we are not doing enough and if we just do or say the right thing, then he or she will finally start giving us what we need. In reality, we are fighting an uphill battle against the nature of a person who has developed into who they are over far more years than we have known them. (Read more.)
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Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Master of Shadows

A review of a book about the artist Peter Paul Rubens. To quote:
Artists, historically, were viewed as craftsmen, who were given their talents by God to bring beauty and light into the world, to raise man up to God, by the medium of art. It is in the Netherlands that oil painting first became the supreme art by the genius of Jan van Eyck. It is in the Netherlands that an artist obtained nobility, fame, and wealth by respectability virtue and above all his devotion to the Catholic faith. That artist was Peter Paul Rubens.

There are a number of good works about Rubens’ art, and no biography can do without talking about it. However, Master of Shadows, by Mark Lamster, is about another, less known side of Rubens, not as painter, but as a diplomat and spy. He couldn’t have been born at a better time for it either. Spain and the nascent Dutch Republic were at war, and Spain, the greatest empire in the world, was on the losing side it seemed. The real losers were the inhabitants of the Spanish Netherlands (modern day Belgium) who were ruled by a foreign power that did not understand them, prevented from making peace with their Protestant neighbors, and their greatest city, Antwerp, turned into a ghost town on account of the Dutch blockade of the Schlect, the main river leading to it from the English channel. It was his native Flanders that Rubens loved, and he would devote his life to bringing it, and the rest of Europe, peace.

What is fascinating about this biography, is that we find Rubens continually involved with the great men of his time. Not just the Duke’s of Mantua, his first big patron, but the Spanish regents of the Netherlands, the Empress Maria and the Count of Lerma Philip IV’s chief counselor, Philip IV himself, the scheming Count Olivarez, the kind and upright general Spignola,  and conversely, Marie de Medici, Charles I of England, and many other contemporary artists and poets. He clashed swords, diplomatically speaking, with Cardinal Richelieu and won, he was knighted by Philip IV of Spain and also by Charles I of England. His correspondence was enormous, and his art production in the thousands of works, and even more copies of other great masters. What I have always particularly admired in Rubens, is his staunch Catholicism, married to his love of the pagan classics.

Like Raphael or Michaelangelo in the 16th century, for Rubens, classical and mythological themes were often used as an expression of Christian virtue, and they saw no particular contradiction in it. This was of course, the luxury of a christian age that had survived and long since vanquished the old paganism. Nevertheless, that pagan inheritance is the key to understanding most of Rubens’ art, as well as his life. (Read more.)
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More on the Third Secret

From author Emmett O'Regan, whose beautiful book Unveiling the Apocalypse is an inspiring blend of Scripture study and history. To quote:
In a recent blog post (found here), Antonio Socci, the author of The Fourth Secret of Fatima, notes the importance of a recently published official biography of Sr. Lucia from the Carmelites of Coimbra (the convent where the Portuguese nun lived and died), titled "Um caminho sob o olhar de Maria" (A Path Under the Gaze of Mary). This explosive new text contains several important writings of Sr. Lucia which were until now previously unpublished. Socci cites a portion of this text which appears to be hugely important in relation to my theory that the alleged "attachment" to the Third Secret is related to St John Paul II's reputed address at Fulda, Germany in 1980. It concerns a vision which Sr. Lucia had which helped her to overcome her fear about whether or not she should write down the content of the Third Secret:

THE UNPUBLISHED PIECE

Towards 16:00 hours on January 3rd, 1944, in the convent’s chapel, before the Tabernacle, Lucia asked Jesus to let her know His will: ‘I then feel that a friendly hand, affectionate and maternal, touches my shoulder.’

It is ‘the Mother of Heaven’ who says to her: ‘be at peace and write what they command you to, but not that which you were given to understand about its meaning,’ intending to allude to the meaning of the vision that the Virgin herself had revealed to her.

Right after – says Sr. Lucia – ‘I felt my spirit flooded by a light-filled mystery which is God and in Him I saw and heard: the point of the flame-like lance which detaches, touches the axis of the earth and it [the earth] shakes: mountains, cities, towns and villages with their inhabitants are buried. The sea, rivers and clouds leave their bounds, they overflow, flood and drag with them into a whirlpool, houses and people in a number unable to be counted; it is the purification of the world from the sin it is immersed in. Hatred, ambition, cause detructive wars. Afterward I felt in the increased beating of my heart and in my spirit a quiet voice which said: ‘in time, one faith, one baptism, one Church, Holy, Catholic, Apostolic. Heaven in eternity!’ This word, ‘Heaven,’ filled my heart with peace and happiness, so much so that, almost without realizing it, I continued to repeat for some time: Heaven, Heaven!’

That is how she was given the strength to write the Third Secret. 
(Thanks to Johnsp for the translation from Italian)
The above newly published text mentions a catastrophic earthquake, followed by the trembling of mountains, which in turn leads to a hugely destructive tsunami, followed by war - the exact sequence of events that I argue in my book Unveiling the Apocalypse is depicted in the Bible itself, concerning the fall of Babylon and the "huge mountain, burning with fire" being thrown into the sea in Rev 8:8, in relation to a potential mega-tsunami caused by the collapse of a volcano in the Canary Islands. It should be worth revisiting the contents of an earlier post on the subject of Fulda, which I will copy below.... (Read more.)
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Demography is Destiny

Archbishop Chaput speaks:
Houston, Texas, Aug 19, 2014 / 05:15 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The Church in the U.S. should not and cannot ignore the ever-increasing Latino population, Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia said Saturday, because they are the future of the Church in America.

Before launching into his full Aug. 16 address to the Catholic Association of Latino Leaders national conference in Houston, the archbishop paused to remember and to pray for the young undocumented immigrants on the southern border who “are stuck in an ugly kind of limbo.”

“There’s simply no excuse for the suffering of children and families,” he said. “I hope each of us will find time today to pray for the young people caught in our immigration mess, and also for the officials who need to deal with this reality quickly and humanely.”
CALL is a national organization dedicated to the growth and spiritual formation of the Latino leaders of the U.S. in their knowledge and understanding of the faith.

Continuing his talk, Archbishop Chaput noted that one of the biggest challenges facing the Church in America is creating a just and wholesome society in the face of an increasingly secular culture. But changes in culture, he said, must begin with patterning one's heart and personal life after Christ.

“If we really want God to renew the Church, then we need to act like it. We need to take the Gospel seriously.  And that means we need to live it as a guide to our daily behavior and choices – without excuses.”

But this challenge is not new to the Church, and history often repeats itself, the Archbishop noted.

“Sometimes the best way to move forward as a culture is to look back first,” he said, illustrating his point with a story about the Cathars, followers of a dualistic heresy that flourished in the 12th century.

“That can sound harmless to modern ears,” he said. “But their beliefs had deeply destructive implications for the fabric of medieval society.”

Cathars believed that all matter or anything with a human influence was evil and corrupt. They rejected marriage, family life, government, and the Church, and ultimately believed the human race should stop reproducing in order to be free of the corruption of created matter.

Although their beliefs may sound outlandish, Cathars drew in many followers because of their zeal and simplicity, which threatened the Church and the political order of the day.
Even though the Albigensian Crusade was led to wipe out the Cathars, they were difficult to eliminate completely until one man, Giovanni di Pietro di Bernardone, had a conversion and became known as Francis of Assisi.

The purity, simplicity and zeal of St. Francis and his religious brothers soon surpassed the influence of the Cathars, and the entire Church experienced a revival.

“Francis and his brothers in faith were then — and they remain today — a confirmation of how God renews the Church through a kind of gentle rebellion against the world; an uprising of personal holiness; a radical commitment to Christian poverty, chastity and obedience in service to the Church and the poor,” Archbishop Chaput said. (Read more.)
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Monday, August 25, 2014

Vases

Limoges vases representing the Princesse de Lamballe and Madame Elisabeth of France. Share

Jihadists and Amazon

From New Republic:
Sarwar and Ahmed, both of whom pleaded guilty to terrorism offences last month, purchased Islam for Dummies and The Koran for Dummies. You could not ask for better evidence to bolster the argument that the 1,400-year-old Islamic faith has little to do with the modern jihadist movement. The swivel-eyed young men who take sadistic pleasure in bombings and beheadings may try to justify their violence with recourse to religious rhetoric think the killers of Lee Rigby screaming “Allahu Akbar” at their trial; think of Islamic State beheading the photojournalist James Foley as part of its “holy war”but religious fervour isn’t what motivates most of them.

In 2008, a classified briefing note on radicalisation, prepared by MI5’s behavioural science unit, was leaked to the Guardian. It revealed that, “far from being religious zealots, a large number of those involved in terrorism do not practise their faith regularly. Many lack religious literacy and could ... be regarded as religious novices.” The analysts concluded that “a well-established religious identity actually protects against violent radicalisation,” the newspaper said.

For more evidence, read the books of the forensic psychiatrist and former CIA officer Marc Sageman; the political scientist Robert Pape; the international relations scholar Rik Coolsaet; the Islamism expert Olivier Roy; the anthropologist Scott Atran. They have all studied the lives and backgrounds of hundreds of gun-toting, bomb-throwing jihadists and they all agree that Islam isn’t to blame for the behaviour of such men (and, yes, they usually are men). (Read more.)
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A Spy Among Friends

Kim Philby and the Cambridge Spy Ring. To quote:
Much has been written about Harold “Kim” Philby and the Cambridge Spy Ring. In this engrossing new study, Ben Macintyre takes a novel approach that works, both as an entertaining piece of writing and analysis.

The idea for the book came to the author from John Le Carré. When asked to name the greatest intelligence yarn he’d ever heard yet never written about, Le Carré answered:  “the friendship between Kim Philby and Nicholas Elliott.”

Both men were scions of the British establishment: Philby’s father the personal adviser to Saudi King Ibn Saud, Elliott’s father the charismatic headmaster of Eton. They both took their degrees at Cambridge.

In what amounts to an intimate history of the core of the “Cambridge Five”—Philby, Guy Burgess and Donald Maclean—Macintyre shows that Britain’s old boy network facilitated the rise of these bright young men, but also offered a glittering prize to Soviet spy handlers. A sequence of London-based Soviet controllers infiltrated left-wing Cambridge circles and signed up Philby, then Maclean, Burgess, Cairncross, Blunt and others. These turncoats were seeded throughout Britain’s foreign and internal security agencies—MI6 and MI5—as well as the Foreign Office and the code-breaking unit at Bletchley Park.

Nicholas Elliott was the other face of the British coin: patriotic, loyal and not prone to the self-doubt and bourgeois guilt that afflicted the Cambridge circle. He spent his war unraveling Axis spy networks like the Abwehr, while Philby spied for the Russians from the War Office and MI6. The book recreates their parallel lives, and the many intersections: Philby and Elliott becoming friends, Philby manipulating Elliott for intelligence that could be passed to the Soviets.

When Burgess and Maclean were unmasked in 1951, escaping into Soviet exile, Philby came under intense suspicion as “the third man” and was forced to resign. This is a particularly interesting section of the book, for Philby was obsessed with clearing his name—lying fluently and with hair-raising hypocrisy throughout. His downfall broke the British security services into factions that either trusted him, or were convinced of his guilt. Elliott was in the faction that (warily) trusted Philby; when sent to Beirut by MI6 in 1956, he actually found intelligence work for Philby there. Officially cleared by a 1955 inquiry, Philby was conclusively fingered by a KGB defector in 1961. MI6 dispatched Elliott to confront Philby with the new revelations. In cat-and-mouse discussions in Beirut—described in detail—Elliott finally exacted a confession, but also permitted Philby to escape to Moscow, for murky reasons examined by Macintyre.

Macintyre’s book is an excellent study of British intelligence: methods of recruitment, personnel and tradecraft. It’s exceptionally well-written, and reveals just how silky and insinuating (but also lucky) Kim Philby was. (Read more.)
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Sunday, August 24, 2014

Van Loo's Marie Lesczynska

A portrait of the Queen of Louis XV from Tiny-Librarian. Share

The Men Who Killed James Foley

From The New Yorker:
A video showing the beheading, by a black-garbed executioner, of the American journalist James Foley is the latest in a series of sickening acts that the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham, or ISIS, has visited on the world in recent months. Foley’s execution was presented as a choreographed “message to America” by this band of performance-minded terrorists, who seek to be seen, heard, and feared by as many people as possible. Jim Foley, who was forty, was a handsome and quietly intrepid man who reported for GlobalPost, a Boston-based news site. He was in the field in northern Syria when he was abducted, two years ago. He had previously reported on the revolution in Libya, and had spent six weeks in the custody of Muammar Qaddafi’s regime after being captured, with several other journalists, on a battlefield in the Western Desert. It was a traumatic experience for Foley and the others, who feared for their lives after witnessing a friend, the South African photojournalist Anton Hammerl, be shot in the stomach and left to die. In the video of Foley’s execution, a masked ISIS fighter threatens to execute Steven Sotloff, an American reporter who has written for Time and other outlets, if President Barack Obama does not take the proper “next steps.” As proof of deadly intent, the masked fighter drags Sotloff before the camera as well. (Read more.)
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The Loneliness of the Sexual Revolution

From Msgr. Charles Pope:
In a certain sense we see today an age of lost innocence. Gone are the days of idealistic young men and women venturing out to find a spouse, excited at the prospect of marriage, family, and future. Now, because of divorce rates unimaginable fifty years ago, idealism has been replaced by cynicism. And with the explosion of easily accessible pornography, sexual innocence is lost very, very early. Almost no young people these days think ahead to a blissful wedding night and having their first experience of sexual intimacy there.
Yes, it is an age of lost innocence. The word “innocence” is from the Latin  in (not)  + nocens (harmful or noxious). Thus in seeing someone as innocent, we presume that they mean no harm. But in cynical and jaded times like these, fewer and fewer people presume innocence on the part of anyone. A young man can barely take notice of a woman’s beauty, let alone tell her she’s beautiful, without being suspected of predatory sexual advances.  He might even get sued or lose his job if he does so in the workplace. A woman cannot be even subtly flirtatious without fearing significant pressure to go very far, very fast with someone she might just like to get to know slowly.
Almost no one presumes innocence anymore and to do so is scoffed at as naïve. So cynical and jaded have we become, that we even ridicule the notion that there ever was an innocent time when men and women generally observed chastity, and within those safer boundaries, were able to speak more freely of their interest in one another and relate at more subtle levels than all-or-nothing sex.

The loss of innocence and the rise of cynicism have rendered the relationships between men and women hostile, fearful, and fraught with posturing and negotiation.

To be fair, men and women have struggled to get along since the time of the book of Genesis. Many women are in fact very different from most men. Men think differently, often have different priorities, and behave rather differently. But, Holy Matrimony had traditionally been an important way that we bridged the wide gap between men and women, getting them to focus on a shared vision of family and children. The differences might well remain, but with a common goal those differences could become a diversity that added strength to the shared work of family.

In terms of continuing the discussion on the disappearance of dating and on the tension between the sexes, I’d like to share the insights of Anthony Esolen, who has made some very poignant observations. I would encourage you to read his book Defending Marriage: Twelve Arguments for Sanity, which is one of the finest analyses of the demise of marriage that I have seen. (Read more.)
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Saturday, August 23, 2014

5 Design Tips for a Small Living Room

Some basic ideas:
1. Use a neutral color palette. Calming colors are easy on the eyes; opt for light-colored furniture to make your space appear larger. 
2. Utilize vertical space. Add visual interest on walls, whether it's with art, shelving, or window treatments.
3. Think about scale. Choose furniture that's proportional to the room's size. An oversized sofa will overwhelm a small living room, instead try a loveseat.
4. Try multi-functional furniture. Use pieces that do double-duty, like a storage ottoman as a coffee table or a cocktail ottoman that works as seating, too.
5. Consider lighting. A well-lit space instantly creates an airy feel. Install sheer, lightweight curtains to filter in soft, natural light, or use mirrors to reflect light. (Read more.)
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Correcting Bad Posture

Good posture is important for one's health in addition to building self-confudence. To quote:

What Are Your Bad Posture Habits?

How do you know what good posture habits to develop if you don't know what bad habits you now have?
My back is slightly too curved in, thus I look a little to slouched. My shoulders tend to be slightly rounded. These two problems affect my walk.
To figure out if you have good posture, take the following posture test.

Good Posture Wall Check

Stand with the back of your head and bottom touching the wall. While doing so, do not push your heels back, let them position naturally.
Then, place your hand between your lower back and the wall, and also between your neck and the wall. If you can get within an inch or two at the low back and two inches at the neck, you are close to having excellent posture. (Read more.)
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The Degradation of Society

From Freedom Outpost:
Societal attitudes about fertility, contraception, abortion, and marriage driven by the "sexual revolution" made it acceptable and legal to use abortion as a contraceptive, while men evaded the responsibility of marrying the women they've impregnated.

More than half of non-marital births are of couples who live in a cohabiting relationship. The shame of producing offspring out of wedlock disappeared when churches started celebrating pregnant teens on Mother's Day and the federal government became the Daddy and gave generous welfare and medical care to single mothers. According to Solomon, "Women ages 20-24 currently have the largest share of non-marital births." (CRS R43667, July 30, 2014)

Solomon-Fears said, "The entry of more and more women into the paid labor force also made childbearing outside of marriage more economically feasible." The belief that "parents should stay in unhappy marriage for the sake of the children" began to disappear after the 1960s.

Divorce became acceptable as adults centered on their happiness as opposed to the health and happiness of their children. "Marriage is now more likely to be viewed through a framework of adult fulfillment rather than through a framework of child well-being." (Kathryn Edin and Maria Kefalas, "Promises I Can Keep: Why Poor Women Put Motherhood Before Marriage," University of California Press, 2005, p. 136)
The typical age for first marriage in the U.S. is 27 for women and 29 for men. Even though cohabiting relationships are less stable than marriage, lasting two years as opposed to 8 years for marriage, "cohabitation has now become a common method of family formation." (Read more.)
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Friday, August 22, 2014

Madame Royale in Blue

A miniature of the daughter of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette. Share

In Defense of Classical Theism

From Strange Notions:
As Eastern Orthodox scholar David Bentley Hart puts it: "When I say that atheism is a kind of obliviousness to the obvious, I mean that if one understands what the actual philosophical definition of 'God' is in most of the great religious traditions, and if consequently one understands what is logically entailed in denying that there is any God so defined, then one cannot reject the reality of God tout court without embracing an ultimate absurdity."3
 
But if the classical and modern traditions so starkly diverge, what accounts for this? In a large way, the divergence arises from a disagreement on whether God participates in existence.

All of nature has being, and it is by virtue of having being that it exists (whether that being is substantial, material, or whatever). Folks working in the modern tradition discuss whether God has being, a topic about which there could obviously be rational disagreement given its assumptions. But, classical theists do not think that God has being, or that he could, even in principle. On classical theism, God is the most fundamental reality, and just is subsistent being itself. Thus, he does not instantiate properties, or participate in forms of being, as if there were anything independent of and prior to him: everything apart from God is subsequent to and dependent upon him. Everything else derives from the fount of being. Is there room to rationally think that derivative being ultimately doesn't derive from anything?

Instead of considering that question, I’d like to look at a way an atheist might respond to classical theism. She might agree that regardless of what shape derivative being takes — whether it extends infinitely into the past, or forms a causal loop in which A causes B, B causes C, and C causes A, etc. — derivative being is still derivative being, and thus there must be something from which it derives, namely a First Cause. But, she might caution, this First Cause needn't be God. Sure, it might be immutable, and even the source of all value4 and so forth, but we needn't say it has intellect or will. (Read more.)
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Thursday, August 21, 2014

House of Habsburg-Lorraine

 Emperor Francis and Empress Maria Theresa and their thirteen children who survived infancy. They had a total of sixteen; Marie-Antoinette was the fifteenth child and youngest daughter. Share

Looking Young Forever?

From God and the Machine:
Helen Mirren, Maggie Smith, and Jamie Lee Curtis have all, allegedly, skipped the knife and simply aged into their faces the way God intended.
And what is wrong with that? Remember the words of Yeats:
When you are old and grey and full of sleep,
And nodding by the fire, take down this book,
And slowly read, and dream of the soft look
Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep;
How many loved your moments of glad grace,
And loved your beauty with love false or true,
But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you,
And loved the sorrows of your changing face
The pilgrim soul in you. A pilgrim is not the same at the end of a journey as at the beginning. If he is, he’s done something wrong. Pilgrimage changes us. It marks us.
Life marks us too. Wood enters the ocean as little more than a dying tree, and is plucked out, miles further and years later, a beautiful piece of art shaped by no human hand. When we try to use technology to strip away that effect of time and tide on ourselves, we don’t retain our youthful looks. We simply put on the mask of a child we no longer are.

I don’t want to be a child again. I’m getting older, as is my wife. We wrinkle and sag and creak. We also love and create and grow. We’re slowly being called home, our bodies bearing the years and the miles on their return trip to the earth from whence we come. Technology could give us back only a facsimile of youth, and a grotesque one at that. It cannot give us back the real thing.

We will never be young again, and that’s okay. Even young, we weren’t truly who would we should be, because we were born deformed by sin. None of us are perfect at 20 or 25, but we will be so at the end when, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed: for this perishable nature must put on the imperishable, and this mortal nature must put on immortality. All else is just dust. (Read more.)
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Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Suite Française

Suite Française by Irène Némirovsky is a posthumously published novel about the German invasion of France. Written before her death in a concentration camp, Madame Némirovsky's manuscript did not see the light of day until 2006. Of Jewish extraction, she and her family escaped the Communists, became devoted French citizens and Catholics, only to be killed by the Nazis. Due to the author's murder, the novel has a slightly unpolished feel about it and the ending leaves the reader hanging in some ways. It is brilliant nevertheless and captures all the fear and uncertainty of the early days of the invasion. According to The Guardian:   

It was Némirovsky's habit to go into the woods to write, and to make notes on her work-in-progress. This was to be a novel written in five sections, dealing with France under German occupation. The book, she thought, would be a thousand pages long: an ironic reference to the German fantasy of a thousand-year Reich. She completed the first two sections, "Storm in June" and "Dolce", and together these make the novel now published as Suite Française. Even these sections were not finished, in Némirovsky's view. She intended to revise, noting that the death of one character was perhaps schmaltzy, and that she found "in general, not enough simplicity".

Like Katherine Mansfield, whose journal she took to the woods on that July day, Némirovsky was an incisive critic of her own work. This search for simplicity reflects Mansfield's own longing to purge her work of effective little writerly tricks. Némirovsky knew what she was aiming for, how high a standard she had set for herself, and how hard it would be to achieve.

Her model for this large-scale novel set in wartime was Tolstoy's War and Peace, which she knew intimately. There is a great deal of play and echo between War and Peace and Suite Française, some of it respectful, some experimental. Némirovsky creates brilliant and often ironic parallels between scenes in the two novels. For example, Tolstoy's description of the Rostov family loading their possessions into carts as they prepare to flee Moscow before Napoleon's advance is echoed in a scene in Suite Française where the wealthy, bourgeois Péricand family crams its worldly goods into the car as the Germans advance on Paris. But while Natasha Rostova is horrified by her family's materialism, and shames them into emptying the carts and filling them with wounded soldiers, the Péricands behave throughout with selfishness barely cloaked by convention. Their departure is absurd, and it is observed with cool, merciless comedy. The high-minded, religiose Péricands delay not because they wish to help anybody else, but because the monogrammed linen is not yet back from the laundry. Némirovsky understood very well the callousness of those who consider themselves virtuous. Unlike the Rostovs, the Péricands cannot be abashed, and cannot repent.

In her increasing isolation and danger, Némirovsky had good reason to understand the psychology of collaboration. Her portrait of French society in the tumult of war and occupation is not judgmental, but it is devastating. The Michauds, clerks who belong neither to the bourgeoisie nor to the working class, are almost alone in their kindness, their gentle, practical goodness and their realism about human suffering. This couple resembles the wise innocents so cherished by both Tolstoy and Dostoevky, who become touchstones for those around them without making the slightest claims to moral grandeur.

Tolstoy's technique fascinated and inspired Némirovsky, as her notes on the composition of Suite Française show. Némirovsky had been forced to leave Russia at the age of 15, after the revolution, and French became her everyday language as well as the language in which she wrote. But her work does not repudiate her Russian identity: instead it reflects the historical interplay of the French and Russian languages in Russian literary culture. Némirovsky comes across as an intensely Russian writer, lyrical, forceful, earthy, idealistic and yet without illusions.

The influence of Turgenev and Chekhov is also apparent. Her descriptions of the French rural landscape have the blend of realism and poetic tenderness that Turgenev perfected in Sketches From a Hunter's Album. Like Chekhov, she observes and powerfully expresses the detail that fixes a scene, whether interior or exterior. For example, when the injured soldier Jean-Marie Michaud is sheltered by a farming family in a remote hamlet, a girl puts a bunch of cherries next to him on the pillow. Jean-Marie is delirious and has returned to a childlike state as he slips in and out of consciousness. But all the time he's aware of the cherries. "He was not allowed to eat them, but he pressed them against his burning cheeks and felt content and almost happy."

When she began Suite Française, Némirovsky was in her late 30s and already a well-known novelist. From her notes, it's clear that she knew her new work was of a different order. "Today, 24th April, a little calm for the first time in a very long time, convince yourself that the sequences in Storm, if I may say so, must be, are a masterpiece. Work on it tirelessly." Her longing to complete the masterpiece which she believed she had in her is immensely moving, given that she was never able to go beyond the second section of the novel. Two days after Némirovsky sat writing for the last time in the Maie woods, she was arrested by the French police under a directive that affected "stateless Jews between the ages of 16 and 45". She was taken first to Pithiviers concentration camp, and from there was deported to Auschwitz, where she died on August 17 1942. Her husband, Michael Epstein, had begged for her release but was also arrested and sent to the gas chamber immediately after he arrived at Auschwitz on November 6. Her children escaped death only because of the dedication of their carers.

The manuscript of Suite Française was preserved by Denise Epstein, Némirovsky's daughter, who was 12 at the time of her parents' murder. She kept her mother's leather-bound notebook with her each time she and her younger sister were moved from one place of safety to another. Almost 60 years later, Denise read the notebook and discovered that it contained not a diary, as she had always supposed, but a novel. The history of the manuscript, and its survival, is remarkable enough. The authority of the novel, though, does not come from its history, but from its quality. Incomplete as it is, lacking the revision that its author undoubtedly wished to give it, the narrative is eloquent and glowing with life. Its tone reflects a deep understanding of human behaviour under pressure and a hard-won, often ironic composure in the face of violation.

Némirovsky understood that her own life was about to be horribly violated, even though she could not know exactly what was intended for France's Jews. She created characters who would coexist comfortably with these violations, such as the author Corte, a man of letters whose preciousness about his own creativity is matched only by his mean-spiritedness. Némirovsky noted that "Corte is one of those writers whose usefulness will become glaringly obvious in the years following the defeat; he has no equal when it comes to finding euphemisms to guard against disagreeable realities".

In the fictional world of Suite Française, everything is in flux. Some are stunned, while others already jockey for position in the new order. A few prepare themselves to resist. But nothing is abstract; everything is made present, whether it's the cherries on the pillow, the privileged little dinner that Corte secures for himself and which is then snatched away by a hungry man, or the sound of music drifting over a lake at evening while young German soldiers celebrate. Perhaps Némirovsky's most extraordinary achievement is the humanity of these individual Germans, and the sense of tragedy when their celebration dissolves at the news that Germany has invaded the Soviet Union. Their dreams of peace vanish; fantasies of a bargain between conquerors and conquered cannot survive. (Read more.)

What struck me most about Madame Némirovsky's work is her insistence upon upholding the humanity of every single character, even the German invaders. There are no Nazi stereotypes in the novel, which shows the author's ability to rise above the hatred of the time. Such greatness of spirit is even rarer now, which makes this book shine like a light in the darkness.

Michelle Williams stars in the upcoming film version.
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Medieval Horses

An indispensable commodity for a noble. To quote:
Steven Muhlberger, in his book Jousts and Tournaments, helps us understand the value of warhorses during the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries by looking at the records of the king’s compensation to men-at-arms for horses lost during a campaign. He says that, “the lowest value assigned to a warhorse was £5 and the highest £100.”

To put this in perspective, “a well-off English peasant family at the beginning of the century might earn just a little over £3 annually.” In order to qualify to become a knight, Muhlberger says that a landowner would need to make £40 a year. They were “an elite class that included at the very most 1500 men.

With warhorses being valued all the way up to £100, some of the noblest of the beasts would be worth more than a lower-level knight’s yearly income. The loss of a horse, therefore, would be a devastating blow to all but the wealthiest of men (meaning that a man would think twice about taking his horse into battle…unless the king was willing to compensate him if his horse was lost). (Read more.)
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Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Comte and Comtesse d'Artois

A portrait on Sèvres of the newly married couple. Share

Medmenham Abbey

An intriguing history from Nancy Bilyeau:
History does not record a single event of interest that took place within the abbey walls while Cistercian monks actually inhabited Medmenham between 1207 and 1536. It's what happened to a woman around the time of its founding and to a man two hundred years afters its dissolution that spark interest--and, in the case of what happened in the 18th century, an infamy that reverberates today.

THE FOUNDING: The person responsible for the abbey's existence was Isobel de Bolebec, a woman of strength who was determined to have a say in her own life. This was no small feat in the early 13th century, especially for an heiress.

The de Bolebecs were a family that possessed extensive land at the time of the Domesday Book in 1086, mostly in Buckinghamshire. Isobel was the daughter and co-heiress of Hugh de Bolebec--builder of a stone castle with a moat--and is believed to have been born shortly before his death in 1165. Her first husband was Henry de Nonant, Lord of Totnes; they had no children together.


The mound is all that remains of
Bolebec Castle, destroyed by Oliver Cromwell

At some point Isobel granted lands to the abbey of Woburn, an existing house of Cistercian monks, and they decided to expand, using those lands. Medmenham Manor had belonged to her father, and she decided to bestow the land between the manor and the Thames to the Cistericians. She was clearly a pious woman who believed in religious patronage--she is best known for being a major benefactress of the Dominican order in England. In 1204 a colony of Cistercians began to live in the newly constructed abbey on the Thames. (Read more.)
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Monday, August 18, 2014

Marriage of the First King and Queen of the Belgians

From Cross of Laeken:
[August 9] is the anniversary of the first, and most important, of Belgian royal weddings: the nuptials of Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, first King of the Belgians, and Princess Louise-Marie-Thérèse-Charlotte-Isabelle d'Orléans, eldest daughter of Louis-Philippe, King of the French. The marriage was celebrated with great magnificence at the Château de Compiègne, on August 9, 1832, exactly two years to the day after the bride's parents, in the aftermath of the July Revolution, had ascended the French throne. Leopold and Louise had three wedding ceremonies: civil, Catholic and Protestant. Bride and groom left Compiègne a few days later, traveling to Laeken in triumph, amidst a sea of French and Belgian tricolor flags, acclaimed by Belgians eager to welcome their new Queen. 

Physically, morally, spiritually, Leopold and Louise presented a striking contrast. He was dark, she was fair. He was a seasoned, middle-aged soldier and statesman, a widower and an experienced lover, an ambitious man of the world, rather hardened by years, sorrows and disappointments; she, a shy, innocent, tender young girl, who had dreaded the idea of becoming Queen, weeping copiously at the thought of separation from her parents, brothers and sisters, the only loves she had ever known. He was a Lutheran, and, reputedly, a Freemason, she a devout and pious Catholic. 

Yet, by the standards of the time, their marriage proved a success. Despite her initial reluctance to marry Leopold, Louise gradually fell deeply in love with her husband. Although he never returned her passionate devotion, and felt free to seek romance elsewhere, Leopold did cherish Louise as a dear friend and a clever political ally. He was profoundly grieved by her untimely death in 1850. (Read more.)
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Pro-Choice: The Choice of Failure

From TFP:
The pro-choice cliché resonated somewhat well during the 60s and 70s, but it is now falling upon deaf ears. A 2003 CBS/New York Times poll found that 35 percent of young women ages 18 through 29 thought abortions should be available to anyone who wants one, down from 50 percent in a 1993 poll indicating a 15 percent drop in only 10 years. Corresponding to this lack of sympathy for abortion from young women, the total of abortion clinics nationwide has shrunk dramatically. According to the website AbortionDocs.org, the total number of surgical abortion clinics remaining in the country is now 582. That is a 12 percent decrease in surgical abortion clinics in 2013 and a 73 percent drop from a 1991 high of 2,176.

As feminists struggle to give plausible answers as to why the steady decline in clinics and the resistance to the abortion movement continues, they fail to see the more profound reasons why pro-choice caught in the first place and what has happened to public opinion since. Liberal optimism thought that it was possible to ride the wave of success indefinitely considering that each successive generation would increasingly favor their cause as morals declined.

However, this did not happen. The ferment in public opinion that was evidenced by declining morals by the late sixties indicated an increasing willingness to accept abortion and to throw off all moral restraints. Slogans such as “it’s forbidden to forbid,”  “if it feels good do it,” or  “do your own thing” summarized the ideology that drove the sixties revolution. (Read more.)
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Sunday, August 17, 2014

Jane Eyre's Attic

The inspiration for the madwoman's attic at Thornfield Hall. To quote:
Novelist Charlotte Brontë penned the ‘madwoman in the attic’ based on her experiences vising the stately home of Norton Conyers, North Yorkshire, in 1839. Upon her visit, the author heard the homeowner’s “legend of a mad woman who had, sometime in the previous century, been confined in a remote attic room still known as ‘Mad Mary’s Room’”, the house’s website states. Eight years later, Brontë based Mason – the wife of her protagonist’s love interest Edward Rochester – on this elusive tale. In the book Jane Eyre, Mason is locked away in the upper enclaves of the home for ten years by her husband for being ‘mad’, before she sets fire to the home she shares with her spouse and throws herself off the roof. (Read more.)
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China and Cuba

From TFP:
China suffers from the massive and unavoidable problem of being an export dependent economy that has suppressed domestic consumption in order to amass capital. Doing so creates a considerable imbalance in an economy the size of China’s rendering this economic model inherently unstable. Thus, in order to continue growth, China must produce more than it consumes and someone else must consume more than they produce, creating significant trade deficits. The current U.S. import/export ratio with China is almost 4:1 and 2013 ended with net balance of $-318.7 billion.[1]

Investors became enamored with China in the last few decades supported by stunning emerging market growth figures, and few wished to see that these numbers were impossible to sustain without the development of a healthy internal consumer market.

As external demand for Chinese products decrease, there became a need to increase internal purchasing to offset available production capabilities, without which an economy naturally plummets. To offset this lack of external demand, China has created false internal demands through building massive amounts of infrastructure such as housing, “ghost cities,” replica European cities, factories, bridges and highways—that nobody can purchase or use.

With the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Cuba lost more than 75 percent of its foreign trade and worsened its economic crisis. To remedy this situation, Castro naturally looked to China as a comrade less ill than itself. Realizing the opportunity to capitalize upon Cuba’s Chinese, Castro set about to regenerate Havana’s Chinatown by granting the Chinese special privileges allowing them to run small businesses. Unfortunately for Castro, visiting Chinese officials saw Havana’s Chinatown first hand, much like it has been for the last sixty years; mired in abject misery. (Read more.)
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Saturday, August 16, 2014

The Coronation of Queen Alexandra

From Tiny-Librarian. More HERE.


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No More Nice

Niceness has been replaced with vulgar display. From The Spectator:
Niceness is also under assault from the raucous guffawing now being heard from women on talk shows. Big, loud, forced laughs, like men at a stag party intent on proving how comfortable they feel in the in-group. Nothing irritates a woman more than overhearing this kind of male laughter in public places because it ‘sounds dirty’, but frantically competitive women are even willing to irritate themselves. There is nothing they won’t do to get rid of niceness, which explains why the subject of bullying has become almost overnight the latest bandwagon in the endless parade of American cultural crises. Why the sudden fascination? Bullying is male in that it is a search for hierarchy; it is also American in that it is a twisted plea for leadership to bring order out of our run-amok equality; but best of all, it is a niceness-ridder that can’t be beat. The next guffaws you hear will come from ‘Women and Bullying’, a news special in which the all-female panel regale us with confessions of what they did to other girls at school and what the other girls did to them because — wait for it — ‘Women bully too!’

Niceness is also under assault from the raucous guffawing now being heard from women on talk shows. Big, loud, forced laughs, like men at a stag party intent on proving how comfortable they feel in the in-group. Nothing irritates a woman more than overhearing this kind of male laughter in public places because it ‘sounds dirty’, but frantically competitive women are even willing to irritate themselves. There is nothing they won’t do to get rid of niceness, which explains why the subject of bullying has become almost overnight the latest bandwagon in the endless parade of American cultural crises. Why the sudden fascination? Bullying is male in that it is a search for hierarchy; it is also American in that it is a twisted plea for leadership to bring order out of our run-amok equality; but best of all, it is a niceness-ridder that can’t be beat. The next guffaws you hear will come from ‘Women and Bullying’, a news special in which the all-female panel regale us with confessions of what they did to other girls at school and what the other girls did to them because — wait for it — ‘Women bully too!’ (Read more.)
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Friday, August 15, 2014

Holocaust by Bullets

Mass grave of 11,000 Jews in Ukraine
Holocaust by Bullets by Father Patrick Desbois is the odyssey of a French Roman Catholic priest who felt called by God to search for the lost graves of Holocaust victims in Eastern Europe. While the Nazi atrocities in Western Europe are well-documented, until the collapse of the former Soviet Union, there was little recorded about the murder of 1.5 million Jews in Ukraine and other parts of Eastern Europe. Fr. Desbois' book is not for the faint of heart. Father and his companions found and questioned peasants who witnessed the mass murders of their friends and neighbors. Those who saw the horrors were, of course, traumatized for life, especially when they had been forced to assist in the executions.

Stripping the victims naked even in the harshest weather was always a part of the dehumanization process. Young women and girls were routinely brutalized; the numbers of Jewish women who were violated during the Holocaust has never been adequately assessed. The victims were lined up and shot so that they fell into a pit, only to have another layer of victims thrown upon them. Witnesses repeatedly claim that the earth "moved" and "groaned" for days following the massacres, meaning large numbers had been buried alive. Such abominations occurred over and over again throughout the entire region.

Father Desbois uncovered many mass graves in his travels, giving the victims the most basic courtesy of prayers and a marker. He says he always found the local orthodox clergy to be helpful in his searches for mass graves and in his desire to honor the memory of the slain. His simple account brings home to me more than ever the extent of the horrors of the Holocaust. Reading the testimonies in which faces and names are given to the victims places the murders at a personal level which the mind can barely process. Only Sacred Scripture can adequately express the inexpressible.
Weeping, she hath wept in the night, and her tears are on her cheeks: there is none to comfort her among all them that were dear to her: all her friends have despised her, and are become her enemies.

 Ghimel. Juda hath removed her dwelling place, because of her affliction, and the greatness of her bondage; she hath dwelt among the nations, and she hath found no rest; all her persecutors have taken her in the midst of straits.

 Daleth. The ways of Sion mourn, because there are none that come to the solemn feast: all her gates are broken down; her priests sigh; her virgins are in affliction; and she is oppressed with bitterness.
...
O all ye that pass by the way, attend, and see if there be any sorrow like to my sorrow. ~Lamentations 1: 2-4, 12
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A Good and Holy Priest

Damian Thompson on the passing of Fr Jean-Marie Charles-Roux. To quote:
Rarely did he miss an opportunity to preach in favour of the canonisation of Queen Marie-Antoinette – and, should no opportunity arise, he would create one, much to the bafflement of his congregation.

Often he celebrated Mass alone in the medieval sanctuary of Ely Place. It was there that I witnessed the Old Rite – then virtually outlawed – for the first time. As Fr Charles-Roux’s voice dropped to the ‘blessed mutter’ of the silent canon, he seemed to enter an ecstatic trance; it was as if he was blinded by the glory of the Host, which remained elevated for an eternity. He was a good and holy priest. Requiescat in pace. (Read more.)
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Chesterton on Romance

From Mary Victrix:
 You cannot love a thing without wanting to fight for it. You cannot fight without something to fight for. To love a thing without wishing to fight for it is not love at all; it is lust. It may be an airy, philosophical, and disinterested lust… but it is lust, because it is wholly self-indulgent and invites no attack. On the other hand, fighting for a thing without loving it is not even fighting; it can only be called a kind of horse-play that is occasionally fatal. Wherever human nature is human and unspoilt by any special sophistry,there exists this natural kinship between war and wooing, and that natural kinship is called romance. (Read more.)
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Thursday, August 14, 2014

The Moon Mistress: Diane de Poitiers

The Moon Mistress by Jehanne d'Orliac is a 1930 biography of the beloved mistress of Henri II of France. After reading about Henri's queen, Catherine de Medici, and taking her side, I thought it only fair to see what anyone had to say on Diane's behalf. By the way, I tend to take the side of the legitimate wife in such situations; I do so in the Catherine/Henri/Diane triangle as in the Katherine/Henry VIII/Anne Boleyn fiasco. One thing I have learned in Diane's favor, to put it gingerly, is that if Diane had wanted she could have talked Henri into annulling Catherine and marrying herself.  She could have been Queen. She had complete dominion over her Henri in a way that Anne never had over her own Henry, except perhaps for a passing year or two. Instead, Diane did everything she could to strengthen Henri's marriage by encouraging him to sleep with his wife and beget progeny. There are several practical reasons for this: Diane was twenty years older than Henri and knew that Catherine had a better chance of bearing children for France, which she did. The bottom line, however, is that in spite of her scandalous relationship with the king, Diane was more conservative than Anne; she despised the new religious ideas which fascinated the latter and never wavered in her support for the Roman Catholic Church. Diane, strangely enough, is one reason why France and the royal family remained Catholic.

Why do I keep dragging in Anne Boleyn? Anne and Diane were both ladies-in-waiting to Queen Claude of France and must surely have known each other. Even then, Diane was the more conservative, preferring the the staid household of Queen Claude to the licentious court at large. Anne, according to d'Orliac's book, finding the placid routine of the Queen to be deadly dull, asked to be transferred to the more lively service of the Duchessse d'Alençon. Diane, by that time, was already happily married to Louis de Brézé, a much older man known as the Grant' Sénéchal. He adored his young wife and after his death she wore mourning for the rest of her life, as well as the title of the Grant Sénéchalle.

Until she became Henri's mistress, Diane was known for her chastity and faithfulness to her husband and to his memory, and for her dedication to bringing up her daughters in a proper Christian manner. She was an outdoorsy sort and lived for the hunt, in accord with her name. Her early education had been flawless. Diane had been brought up in the court of the regent Anne de Beaujeu, daughter of Louis XI, who ruled during the minority of her brother Charles VIII. Anne made certain all the girls in her care were thoroughly versed in music, literature, history and the classics. In Anne's household, Diane also learned how to be a great lady and skilled courtier. She was known for her integrity, grace, intellect, and charities. This was no small feat.

The Renaissance, though much-lauded as a time for rediscovering the learning and cultural riches of ancient Greece and Rome, brought with it a renewed fascination with paganism, the occult, and alchemy, as well as a general decadence which permeated the great courts of Europe, including the papal court. Such decadence and total disregard of morality spurred on the Protestant "reformers" who offered a "pure" Christianity. Diane found herself a widow with young daughters caught amid a power struggle with the Reformers for control of the French throne. The mistress of Henri's father Francis I leaned towards the Protestants, whereas Henri's  Catholic wife, the young Catherine Medici, was deeply enthralled with her astrologers and alchemists. Diane, as royal mistress, a queen in all but name, kept Henri, his children, and his court from chaos through her ability to manage people as well as finances and prickly situations. Under Henri II, France recovered from the debts of Francis I while experiencing a flourishing of the arts.

Henri's obsession with Diane began when he was a child and was ready to be sent off to a Spanish prison as a hostage for his father King Francis I. Henri and his older brother were sent as hostages in the place of their father who had lost a war to Charles V the Holy Roman Emperor.  Upon leaving his country the small Prince Henri was embraced by a compassionate Diane la Sénéchalle, and henceforth her face never left his mind. When Francis I broke the treaty he had made with Charles V, his imprisoned sons were moved to harsher quarters where they experienced great suffering. When finally released, Henri, now a teenager, was met by the court, which included Diane. Diane was appointed to help him remember what it was to behave like a prince. Somewhere along the way, Henri declared his love and begged Diane to be his lady. Diane, twenty years older, saw it as an opportunity to secure her future and that of her daughters in an unstable political climate. This is where I fault her. She took advantage of a highly vulnerable and confused teenager who afterwards was never able to really love anyone but her, including the wife who bore him many children. But in those days, they did not even have the word "teenager." Boys came of age at fourteen. Diane herself had married quite young. What we see as psychological dysfunction, Henri and Diane saw as high romance.

Henri put Diane in charge of his children, including his daughter-in-law, the young Mary Queen of Scots. I wonder if Mary received her exquisite taste, and fondness for the simplicity of black and white, from Diane? I must say that the older children of  Henri of whom Diane had charge were more psychologically stable than the younger ones brought up by their mother the Queen. Not to blame Catherine, who had to deal with overwhelming odds in order to survive at all.

The author ridicules the rumor that Diane drank liquid gold in an attempt to preserve her youth, although recent forensic tests on Diane's remains have shown the rumors to be true. D'Orliac also spends pages trying to convince the reader that Diane was not a courtesan, and should never be lumped in with persons such as Agnes Sorel and Madame du Barry. This is because Diane was a faithful wife and after her husband died she never slept with anyone but Henri. After Henri's sudden tragic death, she retired quietly to her country estate where she lived a life devoted to charitable works. Not that she could have done anything else; Catherine would not have allowed it. Ultimately, as I find more and more, it is better and wiser to withhold all judgment and commend all souls to God, Who alone sees all intentions and purposes.

Diane de Poitiers at age 16 after her marriage

Diane's crest

Monogram of Henri II and Diane de Poitiers
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Nixon's Catholic Coup

There is a new book about Richard Nixon. To quote:
Nixon ran a very centrist presidency, not a Goldwater conservative presidency. He did not tear apart the social programs or the social safety net that a lot of Catholics favored. At the same time, he stood for peace with honor in Vietnam, against the demonstrators and the rioters—and against the liberal media. And I think many Catholics of that generation—conservative, traditionalist Catholic union folks—were much closer to Richard Nixon than they were to the elites demonstrating on the campuses or the rioters. They were concerned about the crime rate and all of these things factored into it. The amazing thing is to look at the figures. Nixon won 22 percent of the Catholic vote against Jack Kennedy in 1960, he won 33 percent in 1968 and he would have won more that year if Wallace hadn’t been in the race. I don’t think it would have been much more, but I think if Wallace had been out of the race we would have won the race going away. But in 1972, he won 55 percent of the Catholic vote against George McGovern, who Tom Eagleton called the candidate of amnesty and abortion. So cultural, moral and social issues brought postwar Catholics into the Nixon new majority. (Read more.)
Via A Conservative Blog for Peace. Share

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

The Art of Wearing a Train

From History and Other Thoughts:
At the court of England, trains have been indispensable at the receptions called a "Drawing Room" from time immemorial, but Louis Philippe had banished them from his court, so that their revival at the court of France, under the present Emperor, or rather Empress, for we are to suppose that she presides over costumes, has created quite a sensation in Paris.

A train is the most difficult thing to wear; many a woman, graceful in the ordinary dress, feels awkward and embarrassed with this addition to her dress, for it must not be imagined that a train, such as is worn on the stage, is at all the train worn at court.

On the stage half a yard added to the length of the dress is considered a train, whilst the court, train is three yards long, leaving a yard and three-quarters or yard and a half on the ground.

At the English court, the train neatly folded, is thrown over the arm while passing through the spacious but crowded rooms loading to the presence chamber, the fullest, though not the most crowded, because the numerous assembly are all symmetrically arranged.

The queen on the throne at one end of the room, has the royal family and the officers of state ranged on each side of her in a semicircle; the middle of the room is entirely filled by the foreign ambassadors, the ministers of state, and the attaches, leaving only a narrow passage-way for the person presented to Her Majesty.

The lady about to be presented enters at a side door, where her card is taken by an officer and handed to a chamberlain, who pronounces her name to the queen. At the moment she passes this door, her train is spread out by a page, she then proceeds somewhat rapidly along this passage-way to the throne, kisses the queen's extended hand, then passes on and goes out at a door on the opposite side. As she passes out, another page whisks up her train and throws it over her arm, and all is over—she has nothing more to do but to chat with her friends, and in due time make her way to her carriage, the real ceremony for which she came to court having taken about one minute and a half.

A far more formidable thing, is a presentation at the Imperial Court of France. Here, instead of being in a crowded and comparatively small room, as at Sr. James, the emperor and his court all stand at the extremity of a very long saloon. The lady to be presented enters through folding-doors at the other end; all eyes are upon her, and she has to traverse the whole length of the room, alone, under this ordeal, with the satisfaction of hearing her name handed from chamberlain to chamberlain, until it reaches the emperor. At the door of the saloon, as she enters, the lady presented has to make one formal curtesy, then walking into the middle of the room, she makes another, and lastly, advancing close up to the imperial group, she makes the third and last, which is most graciously responded to by the emperor by an imperial kiss on each cheek, and by a profound and courteous salutation from the empress.

All this appears easy to accomplish, but those who have not tried it, cannot tell how the courage, which is great at the opening of the folding-doors, oozes out whilst crossing the long gorgeous room to no other sound than that of your own name, and knowing that you are under the gaze of a whole court, yourself examined and criticised by the gentlemen, your dress most closely looked into by the women, and with no very indulgent comments. (Read more.)
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