The French use the term en suite (or continuation) to describe the use of a single fabric for a room’s walls, curtains, and upholstery, which became popular in the middle of the 17th century. The resulting look, as space-expanding as it is soothingly cohesive, merges and melds, erasing boundaries and, in many cases, obscures erratic architecture. Most of all, it’s simply stylish. For some of the best examples we’ve ever seen, go to our inspiring slide show. (Read more.)Share
Wednesday, December 31, 2014
Like Finding Camlann, this is a cerebral book with a love of nature underpinning its dialogue. Here, it's a defence of Catholicism and the experience of Irish immigrants as they set out for a new life in Canada and the United States during the reign of Queen Victoria. The grasp of Irish colloquialisms is impressive, as is the way Irish words peppered conversation even before the Gaelic Revival at the end of the century led, irony of ironies, by the privileged offspring of the Protestant Ascendancy. A love of domesticity, quotes from the Bible and Irish folk songs to start each chapter, and a pretty heartbreaking subplot about how far one character will go to prosper in their new homeland made The Paradise Tree a thought-provoking read. (Full review to follow) (Read more.)Share
Tuesday, December 30, 2014
From the perfectly placed brass object to the seamless execution of an intensely geometric floor, Kelly Wearstler interiors are all about the details. And when it comes to entertaining, her standards are no different. A seasoned host of dinner parties and intimate soirées, Wearstler gives Architectural Digest the rundown on high-style entertaining.Share
The invitations: “I’ve started sending out digital invitations via Paperless Post for my holiday soirées. It’s environmentally friendly and just so convenient. It also keeps RSVPs updated to the minute, which takes the guesswork out of maintaining an accurate head count.”
The tunes: “When I send out invitations, I ask guests to submit a song request with their RSVP, then I create a playlist customized for the crowd. Spotify and Pandora are great resources for putting together the right soundtrack.”
To drink: “A Champagne cocktail with fruits like tangerines or cranberries is my signature holiday drink, but when I’m feeling adventurous, I always check the Cointreau website for new recipe inspiration. The Cointreau Berry Rickey and Apple Rosemary Rickey are easy to make and fit the holiday vibe.”
To eat: “I love to put together a spread of fruit, cheeses, almonds, walnuts, and truffle honey. Linda of Farmers Market Fairy sends me a list every week of the best new organic produce. She buys what I like and delivers it to the house. It’s like having a personal shopper for all of the local farmers’ markets.”
For a treat: “Guests love it when I serve Compartes chocolate bars and truffles during a soirée. Their chocolate is handcrafted using the finest ingredients, and the packaging is like mini works of art.”
The recipes: “Sweet Paul magazine always has unexpected, unique recipes that are perfect for entertaining. Some of my favorites are Pink Vanilla Marshmallows with Candied Violets, Pistachio Date Balls, Spicy Fried Mixed Nuts, and Moscato Poached Pears, all on their website.”
Setting the table: “I mix and match my fine china patterns from Pickard for a fun, spontaneous vibe. My Bedford, Doheny, and Mulholland patterns complement one another so nicely and fit my go-to holiday palette of metallic hues and winter whites.”
The party favor: “I like to send guests home with a little something. I recently designed three Swiss-bound sketchbooks for Paper Chase Press, which offers monogram services. I will have my guests’ initials monogrammed in gold foil on the covers to make their gifts just a little more personal.” (Read more.)
Though her message is not always welcome, Sister Hatune seems to remain consistent in her message that America is inviting a slaughter into their country.
“America is inviting its own slaughterers to its door. You have already a parallel society in America. In 50 years they will kill your grandchildren before your eyes. The Middle East is already here. It is here. It is not far from here. It is at your door.” (Read more.)
More HERE and HERE. (Warning: Graphic) Share
ShareA Hollywood comedy lampoons a foreign dictator. That dictator gets peeved. A major studio has second thoughts about releasing the film to a wide audience. This scenario might make The Interview, North Korea’s Kim Jong-un and Sony Pictures come to mind. But in the best of Hollywood traditions, the recent ruckus over the Seth Rogen and James Franco comedy is little more than a remake.
Past films have taken tyrants to task, and other studios have pulled the plug on productions for apparently political considerations. The Interview is just the latest in a long list of films that have had their public availability limited thanks to dissed despots or scissor-mad censors. Here are 10 previous films, both famous and obscure, that have been banned or drastically censored over the course of cinema history:
The Great Dictator (1940)
Charlie Chaplin’s comic turn as Adenoid Hynkel, a tyrant with an unmistakable resemblance to Adolph Hitler, may be the most famous film ever to poke fun at a foreign head of state. It also performed a similar service for the Italian dictator Benito Mussolini, parodied as Benzino Napaloni by the actor Jack Oakie. Not surprisingly, the film was banned in Germany (where Chaplin’s films were already verboten), as well as in Japan, Spain, Peru and Argentina. It was also banned in Chicago, reportedly due to fear of antagonizing the city’s German-American population.
It Can’t Happen Here (1936)
This movie was based on Sinclair Lewis’s 1935 bestseller about a fascist takeover of the United States. Or it would have been. Production was already underway when MGM, which had bought the rights, decided to shelve the project, allegedly not wanting to anger fascist governments overseas. As the frustrated Lewis put it in a statement to The New York Times, “I wrote ‘It Can’t Happen Here,’ but I begin to think it certainly can.” (Read more.)
Monday, December 29, 2014
Mary was always fit and energetic so it must have come as a terrible shock to courtiers to discover that this most vibrant queen had contracted smallpox towards the end of 1694. The infection was virulent in England at the time and Mary immediately recognised her illness what it was and took steps to ensure that it didn't spread unduly. She went into seclusion at Kensington Palace and dismissed any members of court who had not previously suffered from the infection. Mindful of the danger, she refused to see even her closest family members for fear of their contracting smallpox too.Share
Mary did not linger and swiftly declined, dying in the small hours of 28th December, leaving her husband to rule on alone. The people of England mourned their queen throughout a bitter winter and she was laid to rest at Westminster Abbey on 5th March 1695. William declared that he would never recover from her death and he passed away less than a decade later, leaving no children to take the throne. (Read more.)
This year ending also saw the mask drop regarding Putin’s ideology beyond his bone-deep Chekism. In his fire-breathing speech to the Duma in March when he announced Russia’s annexation of Crimea, Putin included not just venerable KGB classics like warnings about the Western Fifth Column and “national traitors,” but also paeans to explicit Russian ethnic nationalism buttressed by Orthodox mysticism, with citations of saints from millennia past. This was the culmination of years of increasingly unsubtle hints from Putin and his inner circle that what ideologically motivates this Kremlin is the KGB cult unified with Russian Orthodoxy. Behind the Chekist sword and shield lurks the Third Rome, forming a potent and, to many Russians, plausible worldview. That this take on the planet and its politics is intensely anti-Western needs to be stated clearly.More on Putin and Russian Orthodoxy, HERE. Share
But what of Putin’s actual beliefs? This knotty question is, strictly speaking, unanswerable, since only he knows his own soul. Putin’s powerful Chekism is beyond doubt, while many Westerners are skeptical that he is any sort of Orthodox believer. According to his own account, Putin’s father was a militant Communist while his mother was a faithful, if quiet, Orthodox believer; one wonders what holidays were like in the Putin household. He was baptized in secret as a child but was not any sort of engaged believer during his KGB service — that would have been impossible, not least due to the KGB’s role in persecuting religion — but by his own account, late in the Soviet period, Putin reconciled his Chekism with his faith by making the sign of the cross over his KGB credentials. By the late 1990’s, Putin was wearing his baptismal cross openly, for all bare-chested photo ops. (Read more.)
Sunday, December 28, 2014
Anchoring another bedroom is a late-18th-century lit à la polonaise once owned by Madame Roland, a noted political activist during the French Revolution; Louis XV gilt-bronze sconces flank the mirror, and the antique bed side table features an integral screen for deflecting drafts or heat from the fireplace. (More here.)
- Start learning to be more human again. – Gadgets are great, but they can get in the way if you aren’t careful. Control them so they don’t control you. In other words, put down the phone. Don’t avoid eye contact. Don’t hide behind a screen. Ask about people’s stories. Listen. And smile together.
- Start filtering out the noise in your life. – Be careful about who you give the microphone and stage to in your life. Don’t just listen to the loudest voice. Listen to the truest one.
- Start choosing differently, for your own well-being. – A big part of your life is a result of the little choices you make every day. If you don’t like some part of your life, it’s time to start tweaking things and making better choices, right now, right where you are.
- Start being way more productive than you are busy. – There’s a big difference between being busy and being productive. Don’t confuse motion and progress. A rocking horse keeps moving but never makes any forward progress. In other words…
- Start dedicating time every day to meaningful activities. – What you do every day matters, but WHY you do what you do matters even more. So quit doing just what you’re able to do; figure out what you were made to do, and then do more of it. And if you only have fifteen minutes a day to spare, no problem – make those fifteen minutes meaningful.
- Start being present. – If your mind carries a heavy burden from the past, you will experience more of the same. Let it go. And also be careful not to dwell so much on creating your perfect future life that you forget to live today. Be here now and make the most of it. (Read The Untethered Soul.)
- Start replacing your worries with positive actions. – Most of the things I’ve worried about didn’t happen. Most of the things I’ve hoped for and worked hard for did. The same is true for the happiest and most successful people I’ve talked to and worked with over the years. So keep dreaming and keep DOING.
- Start running toward things, not away from them. – The best way to move away from something negative is to move toward something positive.
- Start letting your love overpower your fear. – There are only two energies at the core of the human experience: Love and Fear. Fear pushes what you want away from you. Love draws it in.
- Start doing what’s right, even if it’s not the easiest option. – Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. Just because it’s easy, doesn’t mean it’s worth your while. Do what’s right, not what’s easiest right now. It’s a less stressful and regretful way to live in the long run. (Read more.)
Saturday, December 27, 2014
If you’re wondering what 'elephant parent' means, it’s the kind of parent who does the exact opposite of what the tiger mom, the ultra-strict disciplinarian, does. Here’s a short video clip that shows how real elephants parent. And that’s what I’m writing about here—parents who believe that they need to nurture, protect, and encourage their children, especially when they’re still impressionable and very, very young.My elephant mom was a doctor with infinite patience. I failed a Hindi test when I was in fifth or sixth grade, and I remember going to her, teary-eyed, with my results—and hearing her tell me that it didn’t matter. There were many more tests ahead. As I sobbed in her lap, she stroked my hair, hugged me, and told me there would be another test, and I could pass that one. (I did get the annual proficiency prize for Hindi a year later at the same school.)My grandparents were doting parents, too. On both sides, the families lost everything in the partition of India. They had to flee to India from what is now Pakistan. My naana (mother’s father), originally a doctor from a wealthy family, began saving every rupee to educate his girls. He stopped going to the movies, his favorite past time. Both he and his wife stopped buying new clothes and began stitching them at home instead. (Read more.)
The Syllabus had a long and complicated history even before its publication in 1864. The first suggestion that the Pope should draw up a constitution listing the errors of the day emerged from the Provincial Council of Spoleto in 1849. Urged on by Cardinal Gioacchino Pecci (who later became Pope Leo XIII), Pope Pius set up a commission to study the matter, but this was overtaken by the Bishop of Perpignan publishing his own syllabus of errors in 1860. The Pope admired the bishop’s work and so set up a new commission which eventually came up with the document that we call the Syllabus, and which was published as an addendum to the encyclical Quanta Cura in 1864. So the gestation period of the Syllabus was 15 years, which is a sure indication that the document ran into numerous difficulties in the course of its preparation.Share
A casual look at the Syllabus itself shows the reader why this should be so. It is nothing to do with the contents of the document (which are mainly non-controversial, though more of that later), but rather to do with the form of the document. The Syllabus aimed to be, as its title says, a list of “the most important errors of our time, which have been condemned by our Holy Father Pius IX in allocutions, at consistories, in encyclicals, and other apostolic letters.” (Read more.)
Friday, December 26, 2014
|The Earl of Arundel in the Tower|
Whatever the case, Philip decided to flee to France, but was yet again betrayed and captured at sea. He was brought back to England where he was thrown into the Tower in 1585, sentenced to pay a fine of 10 000 pounds and to remain imprisoned at the Queen’s pleasure. His wife was ordered to leave London and retire to the country, and no matter how much Philip begged, the Queen refused permission for his wife and newborn son to visit him. Not one of Elizabeth’s better moments…Share
Things might have ended differently for Philip had it not been for the events of 1588. When Philip II commanded the Great Armada to invade England under the auspices of restoring the True Religion, he did every Catholic in England a huge disfavour – including Philip Howard. As we all know, the threat of invasion came to nothing, and the English people rejoiced. Not so Philip Howard, who was now tried for treason for having prayed for the Armada’s success and for having been party to a plan to excommunicate Queen Elizabeth. (As an aside, it is somewhat interesting that the excommunication threat be brought up: as a Protestant Monarch, why should Elizabeth care about a papal bull excommunicating her? Shows just how ingrained the Old religion still was…) (Read more.)
“Every day now brings turnips, turnips and still more turnips.” The hunger felt across Central Europe during the First World War is barely remembered today, but for millions of German and Austro-Hungarian civilians, as for the Hamburg girl who wrote those words in January 1917, it was the conflict’s defining experience. A desperate search for food dominated wartime life. Malnutrition and, in some places, starvation had killed around a million people in Central and Eastern Europe by the end of 1918.Share
The food shortages were partly a consequence of mobilisation for “total war”. By 1915, the drafting of hundreds of thousands of farm workers and horses to the army, soil exhaustion and bureaucratic inefficiency had precipitated crises in production and distribution. Yet the shortages were also engineered deliberately by the ring of enemies surrounding Germany and Austria-Hungary. Britain used its naval supremacy and diplomatic clout ruthlessly to halt imports to Central Europe. The Royal Navy closed the entire North Sea to international trade. What could not be blocked was purchased: Norway’s herring catch, for example, was cornered by the British and then left to rot, solely to deny it to hungry Germans.
The Central Powers struggled to overcome dearth. Officials slowly tried to centralise food management and experimented with rationing and mass soup kitchens. More darkly, occupied territories’ food stocks were callously seized. Society mobilised to search for substitutes. At universities, historians scoured dusty manuscripts to discover what people had eaten in earlier famines. Chemists tried to extract oils from grape and poppy seeds. Private business also strove to fill gaps in the markets. In all, 11,000 so-called “Ersatz” (replacement) foods were produced. Most ranged from the unappealing, through disgusting to actually poisonous. For example, in the absence of flour, wartime sausages could legally be filled with 70 per cent water, becoming squidgy tubes of slime. Walnut shells, plum stones and even turnip heads went into wartime coffee, and dishonest traders mixed sawdust into bread and marketed ash as pepper substitute. (Read more.)
Thursday, December 25, 2014
- Asymmetrical table arrangements can be unexpectedly lovely, and they create an inviting look. A rustic vase filled with branches of red berries adds just the right amount of height; a single candle adds an understated, cozy glow.
- If place card holders seem too formal, try placing a single party cracker on each place setting for a lively start to the meal. Filled with charms, written jokes and other trinkets, guests will have something to take home and remember the evening.
- Mix and match patterns in similar colors. Our solid gold chargers are the perfect complement to painted Christmas plates and golden toile linens.
- A tray makes it easy to carry glasses of wine from the kitchen or bar area to the table. Glasses with a touch of metallic color feel especially festive.
And here are five rum drinks for the holidays.
Wednesday, December 24, 2014
ShareHere are some basic tips:
- There’s no need to dress in anything outlandish or revealing. To keep it classy and dignified, avoid low cut tops, and make sure your kneecaps and upper arms are covered. To be comfortable all night, don’t wear anything tight, clingy, or sheer. No need to have the discomfort of tugging, pulling, and ‘wondering’ all night long.
- The “Little Black Dress” (LBD) is always de rigueur (as long as it isn’t too “L”). This simple, black ‘dress’ can be dressed up or down for any occasion and ought to be a staple in every wardrobe. However, if you have a unembellished jewel tone dress that you can bedeck, that is also perfectly acceptable–and sometimes preferable.
- Have you noticed that many dresses are either strapless, short sleeved, or capped sleeved? (And let’s face it–cap sleeves only look good on arms that are skinny and need a cap sleeve to make their arms look fuller). Faux fur wraps are chic and affordable. Boleros are a nice option. Or, you can search your closet, fabric store, or thrift store for an inexpensive wrap in lace, organza, or some other elegant fabric. Wrapped and flung artfully over your shoulders, you’ll look like Audrey Hepburn or Maureen O’Hara.
- Holiday fashions are all about sparkly accessories! Find a clutch purse in gold or silver lame or something glittery. Yes, I know they’re small, but seriously–for a few hours, what do you really need to carry in it? Plus it has the added advantage of giving your hands something to do in awkward moments at your husband’s office Christmas party.
- Next, statement earrings. This is where cheap, costume jewelry comes in. Look for earrings with tons of smaller stones set in gold or silver plated metal, as they look better than earrings with a few very large ‘gems’. It’s an added bonus if you can find a bracelet to match. Slim earrings longer than chin-length will flatter a round face. Square faces can handle tear-drop (but nothing geometric). Tear-drops and round stones soften the chin of a heart-shaped face, and oval faces have their pick of just about anything.
- If you can’t find earrings and a bracelet you like, consider a statement necklace. But don’t do all three together! (Read more.)
Three airstrips at Luzon were taken very quickly, while the Lingayen Gulf region fell on 22 Dec. Between 22 and 28 Dec, an additional 43,110 Japanese troops arrived via the beaches at Lingayen Gulf despite poor weather and rough seas. As an open city Manila fell quickly, giving Japan the use of the naval bases at Manila Bay. The troops who landed at Mindanao marched toward Davao, which was captured on 20 Dec. A seaplane base was immediately set up at Davao to provide local air superiority, and then the work to establish Davao as the staging point for the next invasions further south began; the Japanese landing force at Mindanao only consisted of 57,000 men, but it had little difficulty fighting American and Filipino forces.
On 24 Dec, 7,000 troops from Japanese 16th Division landed at Mauban, Atimonan, and Siain on the shores of Lamon Bay at eastern Luzon island. The Filipino 1st Regular Division opposed the Lamon Bay landings fiercely and slowed the Japanese advance, but ultimately would not be able to hold the line.
While Japanese troops advanced across Luzon, President Manuel Quezon of the Philippines requested President Roosevelt to grant the Philippine Islands their independence so that he could announce Philippine neutrality. Quezon's 8 Feb message said that:
after nine weeks of fighting not even a small amount of aid has reached us from the United States. Help and assistance have been sent to other belligerent nations,... but seemingly no attempt has been made to transport anything here.... [T]he United States has practically doomed the Philippines to almost total extinction to secure a breathing space.Despite the harsh truth told from his Filipino counterpart, Franklin Roosevelt refused the request for independence and neutrality. Partly, Roosevelt turned down the request knowing the Japanese would not acknowledge such a late statement of neutrality. However, he did grant MacArthur the permission to surrender Filipino troops (but not Americans).
Immediately following capturing key cities, naval bases, and airstrips, nine ships with 4,000 troops departed from the main Philippine Islands for Jolo of the Sulu archipelago on 22 Dec. Jolo would fall on Christmas Day, 25 Dec, providing a forward base for supporting the attacks on Borneo. Another seaplane base was also set up at Jolo to form local air superiority. (Read more.)Share
Tuesday, December 23, 2014
This painting depicts the death of Louis, Dauphin of France, who died of consumption on this day, December 20th, in 1765. He was the eldest and only surviving son of Louis XV and Marie Leszczyńska.
Louis was married twice. His first wife, Maria Teresa Rafaela of Spain, died shortly after giving birth to their daughter, Marie Therese, who only lived for two years.There are four boys in the painting. I am guessing that, left to right, they are Provence (Louis XVIII); Berry (Louis XVI), who is clutching his father's legs in an effort to keep him from leaving; Burgogne, who is dead and ready to lead his father to the heavenly kingdom; Artois (Charles X), who is looking to his mother for comfort. It is allegorical painting, but it genuinely captures the grief of the family of the Dauphin and Dauphine. Share
He and his second wife, Maria Josepha of Saxony, were the parents to many children, though only five would survive to adulthood. They had three sons who were kings of France: Louis XVI, Louis XVIII, and Charles X. One daughter, Marie Clotilde, became Queen of Sardinia. Another daughter, Madame Elisabeth, never married and remained in France with her family, and was ultimately guillotined during the French Revolution. (Read more.)
ShareThis past Sunday, on a stage in the foyer of the National Museum of American History, three theatrical performers sang a version of "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" I had never heard before—the original version. " Have yourself a merry little Christmas / It may be your last / Next year we may all be living in the past," they crooned . "Faithful friends who are dear to us / Will be near to us no more."
Dark, right? Off-putting, for sure. Had I not heard the singers preface their performance by saying they were going to sing the more melancholy, original lyrics, I would have thought them perverse for tampering with the coveted carol, as passing museum-goers might have. But the rest of the audience and I, in the know, gasped simultaneously at the first departure from the more familiar lyrics and then broke into nervous laughter at the rest.
So the story goes, Judy Garland, who sang the song in the 1944-film Meet Me in St. Louis, found the original lyrics too depressing for wartime. Hugh Martin, the songwriter, somewhat begrudgingly revised the song to have a more optimistic bent. Among other tweaks, " It may be your last / Next year we may all be living in the past" became " Let your heart by light / Next year all our troubles will be out of sight." And, in 1957, at Frank Sinatra’s request, Martin changed the penultimate line, " Until then we’ll have to muddle through somehow," to " Hang a shining star upon the highest bough." (The name of Sinatra’s album, with his version of the song, was A Jolly Christmas, after all.) (Read more.)
Men’s faith formation has been a pet project of mine for the last half of my 26 years as a priest. Among many things, I ‘ve wanted us men to rediscover the treasury of Catholic devotions. If men are going to be the spiritual leaders of their own domestic church, we simply must explore these time-tested and Church approved jewels of our Catholic life.Share
As I poured myself into this endeavor, I was struck by how effeminate many of the sacramentals tended to be. It’s no wonder men are inclined to see these devotions as “what women do.” In particular, most of the rosaries looked like women’s jewelry. I began to scour the internet to find something truly masculine in a rosary. Sure, there were the classic black or brown bead rosaries, but they still seemed weak to me.
One day I happened upon a very intriguing rosary among some of the collectors’ websites. It was tough. It was strong. It had a kind of gravitas to it. This was truly a man’s rosary. As I read the description, it turned out I was looking at an original World War I military rosary. As described, it was commissioned and procured by, believe it or not, the U.S. government and issued by the military, upon request, to soldiers serving in World War I. Some of these rosaries were also seen in WWII. All of these rosaries were made around 1916. Awesome!!
Now I was really intrigued. I began doing some research on these military rosaries, and I discovered that there were some knock-offs made since the originals in 1916. I wanted to stay clear of those, if I was going to take the dive and purchase an authentic World War I military rosary. So, what made these authentic?
It turns out that there are certain key elements to the original rosaries. The beads were the kind of beads one sees used for making dog tags. Some call them “lamp pull chain” beads. The government, after trying some prototypes in early production, discovered the best metal for avoiding rust and blacking was a silver washed brass or bronze. While all of the crucifixes are not the same, none of them had company marks on the back (the backs are blank) and they were all silver washed, brass crucifixes. Most of the crucifixes had a swirl or the letters INRI at the end of each cartouche. All of these rosaries measured between 16-17 inches, depending upon the size of the crucifix they used.
I found it very curious that I would occasionally come across a silver or gold plated rosary among collectors. It turn out that many veterans credited their survival to these rosaries. So, after the war, they went to a jeweler to have them gold-plated or silver-plated.
The most interesting and most identifying feature of these military rosaries was their center medals. The front of the medal always had some image of the Blessed Mother, which was usually Our Lady of Sorrows. But it is the back of this center medal that gives it away as an authentic 1916 World War I military rosary. They all had the same image of Jesus carrying his cross. This symbolized the burdens these soldiers were willing to shoulder for the sake of our freedom. (Read more.)
Monday, December 22, 2014
Born in Warsaw in 1741, the son of a history painter and portraitist, Alexander-Albert Kucharski had followed his father into the artistic profession and been sent to Paris to study by King Stanislaw August Poniatowski, who awarded him a pension and placed him under the profection of his correspondent Madame Geoffrin. Kucharski won several prizes at the Académie royale de peinture and from 1762 frequented the ateliers of Vien and Van Loo. Contrary to the wishes of his patron who wished him to specialise in history painting, he became a portraitist, thereby freeing himself to remain in Paris and seek work in aristocratic circles. He joined the household of the prince de Condé at Chantilly and in 1776 was described as painter and drawing master to Louise Adélaïde, princesse de Bourbon-Condé. He was residing by this time in the rue de Grenelle in the fashionable Faubourg Saint-Germain. Though the princesse he would have had ample opportunity to meet the comtesse de Boufflers, the princesse de Polignac and other members of Marie-Antoinette's immediate entourage. He was subsequently employed the prince de Carignan and his sister, the princesse de Lamballe. Having produced portraits of Madame Elisabeth and the comte d'Artois, in 1789 he succeeded Elisabeth Vignée Le Brun as painter to the Queen herself. According to a note on the back of a portrait Kucharski painted the Marie-Antoinette for the first time in 1780. (Read more.)Share
While at Buchenwald, the SS assigned me to work in the munitions factory. But early one morning after roll call, a soldier placed me on a 12-prisoner team to perform repairs outside the camp in nearby Weimar.Share
Working in the city was a welcome distraction from camp life. Sometimes you got lucky and spotted a potato in a field or smuggled a trinket to trade for food. Either way, it was a chance to see the sky, escape the stench of rotting corpses, and confirm that there was still a world beyond the barbed wire.
We loaded our gear and marched the few miles to Weimar. The soldiers stopped us in front of a bombed-out mansion, home to the mayor of Weimar. A big black Mercedes sat out front. The soldiers commanded us to sift the rubble, clear the debris, and begin repairs on the mansion.
I walked alone to the back of the estate to assess the damage. Dusty piles of broken bricks lay scattered across the yard. Seeing the cellar door ajar, I slowly opened it. A shaft of sunlight filled the dank cellar. On one side of the space sat a wooden cage wrapped in chicken wire. I walked closer and noticed two quivering rabbits inside the cage.
“They’re still alive!” I said to myself with surprise.
Inside the cage were the remains of the rabbits’ dinner. I unlatched the cage and pulled out a wilted leaf and carrot nub. The lettuce was browning and slimy, the carrot still moist from the rabbits’ gnawing. Excited, I wolfed down the lettuce and tried to crack the chunk of carrot in half with my teeth.
My luck was short-lived. “What are you doing?” a voice yelled.
I whipped my head around toward the door. A gorgeous, smartly dressed blond woman holding a baby stood silhouetted in the door frame. It was the mayor of Weimar’s wife.
“I . . . I found your rabbits!” I stammered with a cheerful nervousness. “They’re alive and safe!”
“Why in the hell are you stealing my rabbits’ food?” barked the woman. “Animals!” I stood silent and stared at the floor.
“I’m reporting this immediately!” she said, stomping away. My heart pounded in my emaciated chest. A few minutes later, an SS soldier ordered me to come out of the cellar. I knew what was coming, and the knowing made it all the worse. (Read more.)
ShareScrooge is not really inhuman at the beginning any more than he is at the end. There is a heartiness in his inhospitable sentiments that is akin to humour and therefore to humanity; he is only a crusty old bachelor, and had (I strongly suspect) given away turkeys secretly all his life. The beauty and the real blessing of the story do not lie in the mechanical plot of it, the repentance of Scrooge, probable or improbable; they lie in the great furnace of real happiness that glows through Scrooge and everything around him; that great furnace, the heart of Dickens. Whether the Christmas visions would or would not convert Scrooge, they convert us. Whether or no the visions were evoked by real Spirits of the Past, Present, and Future, they were evoked by that truly exalted order of angels who are correctly called High Spirits. They are impelled and sustained by a quality which our contemporary artists ignore or almost deny, but which in a life decently lived is as normal and attainable as sleep, positive, passionate, conscious joy. The story sings from end to end like a happy man going home; and, like a happy and good man, when it cannot sing it yells. It is lyric and exclamatory, from the first exclamatory words of it. It is strictly a Christmas carol. (Read more.)
Sunday, December 21, 2014
Marie Thérèse and her father shared an affectionate relationship that began during the first days of her life. Ambassador Mercy wrote, of the week after her birth, that the king “did not want to leave the chateau even to take a walk,” and that he spent most of his day in the Queen’s chambers, dividing “his time between the Queen and his august child, to whom he shows the most touching love.” Some of the first words spoken by the young Marie Thérèse were, to the delight of her parents, “Papa.”
In his recollections of the royal family’s imprisonment in the Temple, Jean-Baptiste Cléry recalled the pain that the king felt in being separated from his family during his trial proceedings, but especially from being separated from his child on her birthday:Share
On the 19th of December the king said to me while dining: ‘Fourteen years ago you got up earlier than you did to-day.’ I understood His Majesty at once. ‘That was the day my daughter was born,’ he continued tenderly, ‘and to-day, her birthday, I am deprived of seeing her!’ A few tears rolled from his eyes, and a respectful silence reigned for a moment.(Read more.)
Reports that 14 women had died following surgery at a government-run sterilization “camp” in central India last month sent shock waves around the world. But such butchery is not unusual in populous India. Urged on (and quietly funded) by the dying West, the subcontinent has long relied upon mass sterilizations carried out in assembly-line fashion in temporary camps set up for just this purpose.Share
Now, thanks to a new investigation by the New Delhi-based Human Rights Law Network (HRLN), we know more details surrounding this particular tragedy, which occurred in the central Indian state of Chhattisgarh at an abandoned rural hospital. We know that a single doctor, R.K. Gupta, over the course of just a few hours, carried out some 83 (eighty-three!) surgical sterilizations in rapid succession. We know that he was in such a hurry that he didn’t bother to wash his hands beforehand, or even, as he began cutting into woman after woman, bother to once change his bloody latex gloves. We know also that he was paid per operation, and so was eager to cram as many 100-rupee procedures into an afternoon’s work as possible.
As far as the women themselves are concerned, they were led like lambs to the slaughter. They were not informed in advance about the risks of the procedure. Some were bribed with a promise of 500 rupees – about $8 – if they agreed to sterilization. Others were simply told to report to the camp. There they were told to lie down on a makeshift operating table, had their wombs inflated with bicycle pumps, and were injected with a small amount of anesthetic. Only one needle was used for all the women. As the doctor began to cut, some could see – and feel – Gupta pull shreds of their organs from their abdomens.
The cause of death of the fourteen victims is still unknown. Some of the women many have died because they were infected during the course of these too-hasty surgeries. The rusty surgical equipment used by Surgeon Gupta was reportedly not sterilized between procedures. The authorities themselves have blamed tainted drugs, and went on to arrest the head of a local drug factory for selling antibiotics and painkillers tainted with rat poison. Rat poison.
The victims were all young mothers with anywhere from one to three children. Chaiti Bai, for instance, was 22 years old and the mother of a six year old and 7 month old baby. She had never used contraception between her pregnancies but she had been feeling unwell this past fall and was suffering from jaundice. So when the community health worker—called a mitanin in Hindi--came to her door and told her she could receive free medical treatment at the Community Health Center in Bilaspur, she agreed. Unbeknownst to her, the health center was under extreme pressure to meet its government-mandated quota of sterilizing 800 women per year. But the mitanin never mentioned sterilization, or family planning, or anything of the kind to Chaiti. She just offered her “free” health care. (Read more.)
Located 12 km south of Jerusalem, in the Judean desert, Herodium looks like an extinct volcano, but it really is a fort built by King Herod the Great between 23 and 15 BC. King Herod’s palace and fortress was built atop a natural hill, raised to a greater height by heaping earth around the walls, creating a cone-shaped mountain. The complex was surrounded by double walls seven stories high, within which Herod built a palace that included halls, courtyards and opulent bathhouses. At the base of the fortress was an impressive royal compound with magnificent gardens. A special aqueduct brought water to the desert from the area of Solomon’s Pools near Bethlehem. Being the highest peak in the Judean desert, Herodium commanded a breath taking view, overlooking the desert with the mountains of Moab to the east, and the Judean Hills to the west. (Read more.)Share
Saturday, December 20, 2014
Owned by the National Trust since the family of grocers who lived there passed it on, it is one of the Trust's more unusual properties, and all the more fascinating for it. There are no expensive treasures or rare antiques; instead the house, known as Mr Straw's House, offers an authentic glimpse into how an ordinary British family lived a century ago. Built in 1905, it was the home of the Straws, a grocer family headed by William Straw senior and his wife, Florence.
The couple, who had two sons, William and Walter, decorated it in 1923 in the style of the day, with dark and heavy wallpaper, patterned carpets, dark wooden furniture and thick curtains to keep out the cold.
William Straw senior ran a thriving grocery and seed business, and his younger son Walter joined him in the business while William junior left to teach in London where he made a considerable fortune by investing in Marks & Spencer shares.
A well-to-do local family, they lived a quiet, respectable and well-ordered life until 1932 when Mr Straw senior died suddenly at the age of 68. In their grief, the family decided nothing would be changed. (Read more.)Share
“O Magnum Mysterium”, by Francis Poulenc. Those who have read this far could well have heard Tomas Luis de Victoria’s motet of the same title, but how about Poulenc’s? It comes from Quatre motets pour le temps de Noël, begun in 1951 and finished the following year. Somehow, despite the more or less complete moral mess which Poulenc made of his private life, he retained enough of a religious spirit to have responded intermittently to Chesterton’s “twitch upon the thread.”Share
After one has heard this, it comes as no surprise that Poulenc would soon knuckle down to the best and most powerful thing he ever did: Dialogues of the Carmelites.The inimitable Robert Shaw (R.I.P.) conducts. (Read more.)
Friday, December 19, 2014
D'Agoty had been the queen's painter of choice since she came to France and became peintre de la reine in 1775. That same year, he began work on a painting showing Marie Antoinette playing the harp at Versailles. Surrounded by an audience of adoring courtiers, she happily performs music for their entertainment. Dressed casually in a morning gown, Marie Antoinette looks at ease in her role as hostess, though she remains the centre of both the scene and attention.Share
In the bottom right of the portrait d'Agoty has added himself as a character, sketching out the formal full-length portrait of the queen below. Clearly very happy with the way his life and career had gone, d'Agoty couldn't help but add a little self-congratulatory element to the painting and to the left Marie Antoinette's lady-in-waiting hands her the royal warrant that will name d'Agoty as peintre de la reine! (Read more.)
In a village about 50 miles from Marigat in Baringo County, Kenya, among a tribe that practices genital mutilation as a rite of womanhood, a teenage girl is sold into an arranged marriage. Her price is 20 goats, 10 cows and a few camels, paid to her family over several weeks. And her reaction is heartbreaking.
Dressed in bright-colored clothes and ceremonial beads, she tries to escape, balling up a fist and kicking her bare feet from the ground when a man picks her up from behind and pulls her away from her home. The scene, which unfolded over the weekend in the Pokot tribe, was captured and described by Reuters photographer Siegfried Modola. His photos document a Pokot tradition in which parents give away their daughters, usually at the start of adolescence. The girls are sold for a dowry and married to men in the tribe.
The girl’s family claimed she didn’t know about the arrangement her father made with her future husband, Reuters reported. If they told her, they feared, she would run away. A group of men from the tribe came to collect her and led her to a two-day ceremony in the village. (Read more.)Share
Thursday, December 18, 2014
According to Olivier Blanc Dumont, along with Kucharski, was the artist of Marie-Antoinette's "mauvais jours". He never hid his royalist sympathies and was imprisoned in the Abbaye prison at the end of 1793, to be liberated only after the fall of Robespierre. He continued to occupy a place in salons of painting from 1789 to 1824 though his work was overshadowed after the Revolution by that of Isabey and Augustin....
Marie-Antoinette had herself painted, probably in 1791, as a vestal, standing next to an altar (identified by Olivier Blanc as a altar to amitié) and holding a vase of lilies with an image of Louis XVI. The pose is a standard one, though it may have been chosen to echo French Revolutionary imagery; certainly the fleurs-de-lys are an obvious royalist emblem. It is possible too that the picture portraits the more personal theme of conjugal love elevated into passionate friendship. Louis XVI was fond of the picture; according to Marguerite Jallut the original gouache stood on his bureau in the Tuileries, whilst a smaller copy accompanied him on the flight to Varennes.
The only version of this work now publicly accessible is an engraving by Pierre-Alexandre Tardieu, begun in 1793 but only completed in 1815, having been interrupted by the Revolution. According to the Louvre database the gouache was formerly in the Collection of the duc de Mouchy and the miniature copy sold by Drouot in 1991. The books by Marguerite Jallut and Olivier Blanc have reproductions of what are obviously the two different versions, though which is which is not entirely clear! (Read more.)
There are certain things Germans do better than everyone else. Not incurring massive amounts of public debt is one of them. Christmas baking is another....
ShareA buttery, fruit-filled, sugar-coated loaf, stollen is about as rich and dense as yeast bread can get—and therein is a potential pitfall. Some years I have been disappointed by stollen dough that did not rise at all, thanks to amounts of melted butter and booze-soaked nuts and raisins so copious that they suffocated the yeast. Making stollen as luxurious as possible without dooming it to leadenness is a tricky balancing act—especially since I, and most other home bakers I know, have no patience for recipes that call for proofing the yeast in a sponge and letting the dough rise several times.
But there is a solution: Let the dough rise once without any fruit and nuts in it—during which time, conveniently, you can let the fruit and nuts soften in alcohol—and then knead in the fruit and nuts, shape the dough into loaves, and let it rise only once more before baking. This way, the yeast gets a head start on fermenting without the extra weight of fruit and nuts—but be warned that this is not a dough that will double in size while rising. Nor is it the world’s most compliant dough; there’s no avoiding sticky fingers while you’re shaping the loaves. But the resulting texture is moist as all get out, with a lovely buttery orange flavor, thanks to orange liqueur and, well, lots and lots of butter....
The biggest mistake people make with stollen, I’ve found, is not making it at all. This Christmas, don’t let that happen to you.
Yield: 2 to 4 loaves (24 to 32 servings)
Time: About 6 hours, mostly unattended, plus time to let the stollen sit before serving
1 cup golden raisins
1 cup dried cherries
1 cup chopped crystallized ginger
1 cup sliced or slivered almonds
⅔ cup orange liqueur (like Grand Marnier or Cointreau)
1¾ cups (3½ sticks) butter
⅓ cup milk, preferably not skim
4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon grated orange zest
2¼ teaspoons instant yeast or one ¼-ounce packet active dry yeast
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Oil or butter for greasing the bowl and baking sheet
1½ cups powdered sugar
1. Combine the raisins, cherries, crystallized ginger, almonds, and orange liqueur in a medium bowl. Stir to combine, cover, and let sit at room temperature while you make the dough or overnight if time allows.
2. Meanwhile, put 1 cup (2 sticks) of the butter and the milk in a small saucepan over medium-low heat and cook until the butter melts (or combine the butter and milk in a microwave-safe bowl and microwave in 30-second intervals until the butter melts). Combine the flour, ¼ cup of the sugar, the orange zest, the yeast, 1 teaspoon of the ground ginger, the cardamom, the salt, and the nutmeg in a large bowl. When the butter mixture cools to 100°F—about the same temperature as the inside of your wrist—add it to the flour mixture and stir with the dough-hook attachment of a stand mixer or by hand. Lightly beat together the eggs and vanilla and stir them into the dough.
3. Knead the dough with the dough-hook attachment of a stand mixer or by hand until it feels smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes. Grease a large bowl (it’s fine to use the same one you mixed the dough in), add the dough, and turn it over to coat it lightly with oil or butter. Cover the bowl with a clean kitchen towel or plastic wrap, put it in a warm place, and let the dough rise for 1½ to 2 hours.
4. Punch down the dough and add the raisin mixture. Knead the dough in the bowl with the dough-hook attachment of a stand mixer or by hand until the fruit, nuts, and ginger are evenly incorporated. (The dough will be sticky.) Grease a baking sheet and shape the dough, as well as you can, into 2 to 4 long, oval loaves on the baking sheet. Cover the baking sheet with a clean kitchen towel or plastic wrap, put it in a warm place, and let the loaves rise for 1 hour.
5. Heat the oven to 350°F. Uncover the baking sheet and bake until the loaves are golden brown, about 35 minutes (for smaller loaves) to 1 hour (for larger loaves). When the stollen is done, melt the remaining ¾ cup (1½ sticks) butter in a small saucepan over medium-low heat (or in a microwave-safe bowl in the microwave). Brush the tops and sides of the stollen with the butter while the loaves are still warm. Combine the remaining ¾ cup sugar and 1 teaspoon ground ginger and sprinkle over the stollen. Cool thoroughly. Sprinkle the powdered sugar all over the stollen, pressing lightly to help it stick. Wrap each loaf in foil or plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature for at least 1 day before serving. (Read more.)
Wednesday, December 17, 2014
Bunratty Mead is a traditional wine, produced from an ancient Irish recipe of pure honey, fruit of the vine and natural herbs. It’s a medium sweet wine, with a wide taste appeal, and suitable for all important occasions. As the drink of the ancient Celts, Mead derives much of its appeal through Irish Folklore, which is legendary of this mystical drink with strong attachments to Ireland.Share
In the days of old when knights were bold, the drink of choice was mead. Much more than an extraordinary legendary drink with strong attachments to Ireland, mead can be traced back as many centuries before Christ. It became the chief drink of the Irish and was often referred to in Gaelic poetry. Mead’s influence was so great that the halls of Tara, where the High Kings of Ireland ruled, were called the house of the Mead Circle. Its fame spread quickly and soon a medieval banquet was not complete without it. (Read more.)
By the end of World War One, the British army had dealt with approximately 80,000 cases of shell shock. Four out of five cases were unable to return to active duty. A decade after the end of the war, over 74,000 cases were registered with the Ministry of Pensions. As estimated 10% of over 1.6 million military wounded of the war were attributed to shell shock. Shocking to say the least.(Read more.) Share
During the war, Siegfried Sassoon was sent to Craiglockhart Hospital, a treatment centre for officers suffering from shell shock. He wrote many poems, one of which is called Survivors.
No doubt they’ll soon get well; the shock and strain
Have caused their stammering, disconnected talk
Of course, they’re ‘longing to go out again’
These boys with old, scared faces, learning to walk.
They’ll soon forget their haunted nights; their cowed
Subjection to the ghosts of friends who died
Their dreams that drip with murder; and they’ll be proud
Of glorious war that shatter’d their pride…
Men who went out to battle, grim and glad;
Children, with eyes that hate you, broken and mad.
Tuesday, December 16, 2014
Not surprisingly, ‘Jesus Christ’ is the name Fr. Amorth most often calls upon to expel demons. But he also turns to saintly men and women for their heavenly assistance. Interestingly, he said that in recent years one man – Blessed Pope John Paul II – has proved to be a particularly powerful intercessor.Share
“I have asked the demon more than once, ‘Why are you so scared of John Paul II and I have had two different responses, both interesting. One, ‘because he disrupted my plans.’ And, I think that he is referring to the fall of communism in Russia and Eastern Europe. The collapse of communism.”
“Another response that he gave me, ‘because he pulled so many young people from my hands.’ There are so many young people who, thanks to John Paul II, were converted. Perhaps some were already Christian but not practicing, but then with John Paul II they came back to the practice. ‘He pulled so many young people out of my hands.’” (Read more.)
Monday, December 15, 2014
He was a skilled Swedish statesman and diplomat. A soldier in the War for the American Independence. A devoted and fervent royalist who faithfully served both the Kings of Sweden and France. An innocent victim murdered by a ferocious mob for a crime he didn't commit. Yet, to most people, Axel von Fersen is just Queen Marie Antoinette's lover. Too bad he never was.More HERE, HERE, and HERE. Share
Yep, that's right. There is absolutely no proof that Marie Antoinette and Fersen were lovers. Even historians like Antonia Fraser, who believes they were, had to admit in her biography of the Queen, that the evidence just isn't there. Instead, everything we know about Marie Antoinette indicates that, regardless of what she may have felt for Fersen (and no one can truly say what is in someone's heart), she was never unfaithful to her husband.
An affair would have devastating consequences for Marie Antoinette. If Fersen had really been in love with the Queen, that alone should have prevented him from touching her. But were Fersen and Marie Antoinette really in love? He was entirely devoted to her, and she surely cared for him, but what they truly felt for one another, only they knew. (Read more.)
Whoever you are, wherever your people came from, and whatever you enjoy doing with your free time, I don’t hesitate for a moment to recommend purchasing Elena Maria Vidal’s latest historical fiction novel The Paradise Tree.
The book begins in mid-19th century Ireland around the time of the Great Famine, a time in Ireland when Irish Catholics were discriminated against and persecuted by British landowners and occupiers. Main character Daniel O’Connor (who is based upon the stories and descriptions of Vidal’s own great-great-great-grandfather) strikes off for a new and better life in the New World.And, it is better — well, at least, Daniel O’Connor and his bride, Brigit, don’t ever again know in Ontario, Canada, the pains of starvation they knew too well in Ireland. But, no new home one may find for one’s self and one’s family is ever exactly Eden, of course. And, no one’s family life is perfect and without strain, loss, or seasons of deep sadness. No man’s work is free of difficulty in this hard, fallen world. And, it seems, no culture or society is without its own forms of bigotry.Despite their tribulations throughout the years, the O’Connors’ family (a vibrant, large family of 11 children) is one which is primarily shaped and formed by deep and abiding religious faith, married love, family tenderness and fidelity. As well as a good deal of enjoyable Irish wit and wisdom, with a touch of fascinating “mystical” Irish folklore. Vidal’s description of Irish immigrant life brings deeper understanding of the background and experiences of my countless delightful and much-loved friends of Irish heritage.For me the quality of a book depends a great deal upon having likable, relatable characters. The Paradise Tree is filled with deeply likable characters about whom the reader comes to care very much, and desires to know better…and personally. It also has a few richly described dastardly characters.I can say from a personal perspective that this book is an inspiring read for those beginning their own families who desire to know just how Catholic families in generations past kept and handed down the Faith to their children and their children’s children.
Above all, the O’Connor story is of re-birth, carrying on and going forward in hope for the future with a faith that sustains. (Read more.)
Now a previously unknown folio has surfaced at a small library in northern France, bringing the world’s known total of surviving first folios to 233.
“This is huge,” said Eric Rasmussen, an American Shakespeare expert who traveled to France over the weekend to authenticate the volume. “First folios don’t turn up very often, and when they do, it’s usually a really chewed up, uninteresting copy. But this one is magnificent.”The book was discovered this fall by librarians at a public library in St.-Omer, near Calais, who were sifting through its collections for an exhibition on English-language literature. The title page and other introductory material were torn off, but Rémy Cordonnier, the director of the library’s medieval and early modern collection, suspected that the book — cataloged as an unexceptional old edition — might in fact be a first folio.He called in Mr. Rasmussen, a professor at the University of Nevada in Reno and the author of “The Shakespeare First Folios: A Descriptive Catalogue,” who identified it within minutes.“It was very emotional to realize we had a copy of one of the most famous books in the world,” Mr. Cordonnier said. “I was already imagining the reaction it would cause.”Few scholars have yet seen the book. But its discovery among holdings inherited from a long-defunct Jesuit college is already being hailed as a potential source of fresh insight into everything from tiny textual variants to the question of Shakespeare’s connection to Catholic culture.“It’s a little like archaeology,” James Shapiro, a Shakespeare expert at Columbia University, said. “Where we find a folio tells us a little bit more about who was reading Shakespeare, who was valuing him.”
ShareThe folio, whose discovery was first reported by the regional French newspaper La Voix du Nord, is not the rarest book the St.-Omer library owns. It also has a Gutenberg Bible, of which fewer than 50 are known to survive.But few books hold the first folio’s value — one was sold at Sotheby’s in 2006 for $5.2 million — or its mystique. It contains 36 plays, nearly all of Shakespeare’s output. Printed in a run of about 800 copies in 1623, seven years after the playwright’s death, it is considered the only reliable text for half of his plays. (No manuscripts of any Shakespeare plays survive.) (Read more.)