Wednesday, September 30, 2015
According to Mr Sookhdeo, Britain’s offer to take up to 20,000 Syrian refugees inadvertently discriminates against the Christian communities most victimised by the Islamic State butchers.Share
He said: “The British government has said it will take 20,000 refugees and we have said, ‘Will you not take some Christians?’ But we have had no reply.
“We have even put out a joint statement with Muslim Aid to the Government saying both communities are suffering, can’t you look after both?
“What David Cameron is doing, we believe, is unfair.
“He has said he will go to the camps to get the refugees, but the problem is that the Christians don’t like to live in the camp.
“What they prefer to do is to live in church halls or else with families and the reason is that it is safer for them. What we are saying to the Government is that you need a broader based approach.
"By all means take the most vulnerable people but don’t just take them from the camps because you are only going to get one kind of people. When it comes to other countries they all say that European legislation means you can’t discriminate between one religious community and another but we say surely the most vulnerable are the ones you have got to be taking in.”
In areas controlled by IS, Christians have been crucified, beheaded, raped and subjected to forced conversion.
Christian children are also being sold as slaves.
Mr Sookhdeo added: “It is like going back 1,000 years seeing the barbarity that Christians are having to live under. I think we are dealing with a group which makes Nazism pale in comparison and I think they have lost all respect for human life.
“Crucifying these people is sending a message and they are using forms of killing which they believe have been sanctioned by Sharia law.
“For them what they are doing is perfectly normal and they don’t see a problem with it. It is that religious justification which is so appalling.” (Read more.)
The truth is that there is no more a link between star sign and intelligence than there is between madness and creativity. That a link has been drawn between the two is, however, understandable. How else can we explain the outrageous creative power of a Mozart or a Beethoven without resorting to some kind of brain chemistry imbalance? If these guys were as normal as everyone else, then where is the magic? It is the sad way of the world that someone doing something extraordinary (Beethoven) has to have an extra dollop of extraordinary (bipolar disorder) to make it, well, even more extraordinary.Share
Creativity is a broad subject. Musical creativity is what I know about. It’s my job, my passion, my absolute reason for being. And let me tell you something categorically: the great composers were not mad. Disturbed, sure. Angry, broke, alcoholic, anxious, neurotic, syphilis-ridden, depressed, grieving – often. As are most of us for that matter (minus the syphilis). But with the singular exception of Schumann, whose fictional characters Florestan and Eusebius were invented by him to depict in music his bipolar mood swings, there is not one big-name composer who, by today’s standards, would be hospitalised, or likely even diagnosed, with one of the more severe mental illnesses.
When it comes to being creative, my mental health is irrelevant. But when it comes to my mental health, creativity becomes very relevant. It seems to me vitally important to communicate the message that these composers achieved so much not because of, but despite, being anxious, neurotic and socially awkward.
Creativity is, for me, a sign of mental wellness and not one of mental illness. Because when it’s 4am and the wolves are at the door – when the solution is either suicide or homicide, and the twitching, itching, head gremlins are out in force – then being able to sit at a piano, and pour out notes on to the manuscript paper is the way out. Or so I keep telling myself because, going over piano pieces in my head, checking memory, trying out new interpretations and playing through entire concert programmes is more often than not the only thing that stops me throwing myself out of the window. Music helps my own particular brand of madness. It’s the only medicine that has never let me down. (Read more.)
Tuesday, September 29, 2015
These wonderful full-page watercolour illustrations are from a 16th-century edition of Pedanius Dioscorides’s work on herbal medicine, De Materia Medica. Dioscorides (ca. 40–90 AD), a Greek physician and botanist, is considered to be the father of pharmacology, with this five-volume book hailed as the forerunner of modern pharmacopoeias (books that record medicines along with their effects and directions for their use). His book was translated from the original Greek to Latin, Arabic, and Spanish, and continued to be in use with additions and commentaries written by various authors, one of them being the 16th-century Italian doctor Pietro Andrea Mattioli (1501–1577). Describing one hundred new plants not included by Dioscorides, Mattioli’s expansion of the book first appeared in Italian and was later translated into Latin, French, Czech, and German. These illustrations, found in Mattioli’s version of the book, are dated between 1564–1584 and are the creation of the Italian artist and botanist Gherardo Cibo (1512–1600).Share
The images, in which the plants take centre stage before a landscaped backdrop, seem to bear an uncanny resemblance to the images found in Robert Thornton’s “Temple of Flora”. (Read more.)
Therefore I was happy to see that the Larsson estate had found a writer capable of composing a sequel. Davis Lagercrantz, author of the new Lisbeth book The Girl in the Spider's Web, has done a breathtaking job, not only in taking up where Larsson left off, but in fleshing out the characters, making them richer and deeper. Lagercrantz is actually a more elegant writer than Larsson and makes the story his own while being totally faithful to the original brand. The suspense is as tremendous as in the original books but there is not nearly as much graphic violence and libidinous clutter. I think that the descriptions of Stockholm and the Swedish countryside are more detailed and vibrant; I had a stronger sense of being in a Scandinavian country with the clouds, mist and snow of a stormy November.
The novel opens with Lisbeth hacking into the main terminal of the NSA; at least, we guess it is Lisbeth, but what her motives are remain clouded in mystery for a time. Meanwhile, Mikael is thinking of quitting the Millennium since he has not had a good story in a while; he is also wondering what Lisbeth is doing. He soon finds out. New characters are introduced; at first they appear to have no connection with each other, but that illusion vanishes as the story progresses. The main plot of the novel revolves around an autistic boy who is revealed to be a savant, and Lisbeth ends up trying to save him from an international pack of cyber-gangsters. And that is all I am going to give away. Be prepared to stay up all night reading.
Beneath the surface of the drama are relevant issues of concern for the safety of everyone on earth: what limits need to be on technology to protect the privacy of private citizens? Are there any ethical limits to how far technology will be allowed to go? How do ordinary people protect themselves from online mastermind criminals? How do we protect ourselves from the overzealous watchfulness of our own governments? Such questions are confronted by the various characters, with Lisbeth at the center. But the deeper personal question for Lisbeth is if she will let Mikael back into her life. Share
ShareAfter collecting more than 300 cookbooks written by African American authors, award-winning food journalist Toni Tipton-Martin challenges those “mammy” characteristics that stigmatized African American cooks for hundreds of years in her new book The Jemima Code: Two Centuries of African American Cookbooks.
Tipton-Martin presents a new look at the influence of black chefs and their recipes on American food culture. Her goals are two-fold: to expand the broader community’s perception of African-American culinary traditions and to inspire African Americans to embrace their culinary history.
The earliest cookbooks featured in The Jemima Code date to the mid-19th century when free African Americans in the North sought avenues for entrepreneurial independence. In 1866, Malinda Russell self-published the first complete African-American cookbook, , which included 250 recipes for everything from medical remedies to pound cake. (Read more.)
Monday, September 28, 2015
As 1824 dawned, it was apparent to all those who knew Louis XVIII that the king was likely not long for this world. His weight had ballooned out of control and he suffered agonising pain from gangrene that had started in his foot and progressed into his spine, whilst his extremities were afflicted by painful gout. Barely conscious at times he struggled on nevertheless, battling his own deteriorating health in an effort to carry out his monarchical duties with some shred of dignity.Share
For long months Louis struggled on until, on 12th September, word was spread that theatres and business should close in expectation that the king was about to die. Still Louis would not accept his inevitable fate until Zoé Talon, comtesse du Cayla and the king's companion, prevailed upon him to receive the last rites. As the days drew on, a crowd of citizens gathered before the Tuileries to await word of their monarch's death whilst inside, courtiers and officials crowded into the king's private room where they were confronted by an almighty stench from the dying man's extensive gangrene.
Finally, mid-afternoon on 16th September 1824, Louis XVIII died. His exhausted, already partially rotted body was embalmed, dressed in fine garb and put on display. For a month the corpse of the king lay in state and before it was interred in the Basilica of St Denis, Louis XVIII's roaming finally at an end. (Read more.)
The right’s contretemps with Pope Francis has brought out into the open what is rarely mentioned in polite company: most visible and famous Catholics who fight on behalf of Catholic causes in America focus almost exclusively on sexual issues (as Pope Francis himself seemed to be pointing out, and chastising, in his America interview), but have been generally silent regarding a century-old tradition of Catholic social and economic teaching. The meritocracy and economic elite have been a main beneficiary of this silence: those most serious about Catholicism—and thus who could have brought to bear a powerful tradition of thinking about economics that avoids both the radical individualistic presuppositions of capitalism as well as the collectivism of socialism—have spent their energies fighting the sexual/culture wars, even while Republican-Democratic ruling machine has merely changed driver seat in a limousine that delivers them to ever-more exclusive zip codes.Share
In the past several months, when discussing Pope Francis, the left press has at every opportunity advanced a “narrative of rupture,” claiming that Francis essentially is repudiating nearly everything that Popes JPII and Benedict XVI stood for. The left press and commentariat has celebrated Francis as the anti-Benedict following his impromptu airplane interview (“who am I to judge?”) and lengthy interview with the Jesuit magazine America. However, in these more recent reactions to Francis by the right press and commentariat, we witness extensive agreement by many Catholics regarding the “narrative of rupture,” wishing for the good old days of John Paul II and Benedict XVI.
But there has been no rupture—neither the one wished for by the left nor feared by the right. Pope Francis has been entirely consistent with those previous two Popes who are today alternatively hated or loved, for Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI spoke with equal force and power against the depredations of capitalism. (JPII in the encyclical Centesimus Annus and Benedict XVI in the encyclical Caritas in Veritate.) But these encyclicals—more authoritative than an Apostolic Exhortation—did not provoke the same reaction as Francis’s critiques of capitalism. This is because the dominant narrative about John Paul II and Benedict XVI had them pegged them as, well, Republicans. For the left, they were old conservatives who obsessed with sexual matters; for the right, solid traditionalists who cared about Catholicism’s core moral teachings. Both largely ignored their social and economic teachings, so focused were they on their emphasis on “faith and morals.” All overlooked that, for Catholics, economics is a branch of moral philosophy. (Read more.)
If you already view "religion" with contempt and relish the prospect of brandishing the term as a weapon to vanquish moral and political opponents, then Krauss' "militant atheism" is for you. As for everyone else, they will see it for what it is: a dogmatic counter-faith that resembles the fundamentalism it professes to despise far more than it does the genuinely open-minded, scientific pursuit of truth in matters moral and religious. (Read more.)Share
Sunday, September 27, 2015
It really is a miracle we won World War II when you read about the American unpreparedness upon entering the global conflict. The initial logistics of getting the British and Americans to work together were daunting. In spite of many astounding victories there where several bad decisions which had tragic consequences. Roosevelt allowing Stalin to have Eastern Europe, including Poland, England's ally, to whom Churchill had promised independence, is the most infamous. Yes, Roosevelt was sick and dying, however he would not listen to people like Churchill who saw Stalin for the monster he was. Plus, Roosevelt was determined to bring an end to the British Empire and all European colonialism. However, trading the British Empire for the Soviet Empire can not be considered as positive change. In place of the Nazi tyranny came Communist tyranny, and the continuing rise of socialism, throughout Europe and Asia. England was saved, and France was liberated, only to have the Cold War dawn upon Europe. No wonder Winant shot himself, a tragic finale to what should have been pure triumph.
Citizens of London plows through the dark days and nights of the war in London while mapping out the various campaigns abroad. In the gripping portrayals of the various personalities, in their loves and dashed hopes and victories, the new world order is born. Share
The Lima of the 21st century is a relatively comfortable place, with plenty of jobs and an optimistic middle class. Yet in many ways it retains the spirit of the somber, deeply introverted city I came to know as a child. It doesn’t have great architecture. It’s not designed for walking. There are very few parks or public squares. The beaches often look abandoned. And the traffic is terrible. To put it bluntly, it’s not the sort of city you fall in love with at first sight. Most Limeños won’t ask travelers what sights they’ve seen or suggest a stroll; they’ll ask what dishes they’ve tried or invite them to have a meal. The tables we eat around aren’t just social spaces. In Lima, food has long been its own landscape, a haven of beauty and comfort.
This gives coherence to a city that, at first, can seem utterly incoherent. One of Lima’s most celebrated ceviche spots, for instance, is found on a noisy avenue surrounded by car repair shops. Al Toke Pez is a fast-food restaurant with the spirit of a neighborhood bistro; it has a single counter open to the street, half a dozen stools and six options on the menu. Everything is served as takeout, yet most customers eat ceviche or stir-fry nestled along the bar, or standing, quietly relishing their food as they watch an enormous wok throw off flames. The place is run by chef and owner Tomás Matsufuji, a slight, serious guy. Matsufuji was trained as an engineer and has a doctorate in supramolecular chemistry; he also comes from a long line of nikkei chefs. (Nikkei refers to the large community of Japanese immigrants in Peru and their descendants, as well as the fusion created by mixing Japanese and Peruvian cooking. The Japanese immigrated to Peru in several waves, beginning in the 19th century, when industrialization in their homeland displaced agricultural workers.) (Read more.)
Saturday, September 26, 2015
In a very real sense, traditional mothers are probably the ultimate barrier to the consolidation and centralization of power of the Mass State. Think about it. Mothers who cultivate virtue and a sense of uniqueness in their children are the ultimate de-centralizers and distributors of power in a society. They set virtuous communities in motion. Behind the scenes.Share
I explore this idea in a series I recently wrote for the British web magazine, “The Conservative Woman.” You can click here to read the first installment: “Traditional Mothers are the True Subversives: That’s Why the State Wants to Gag Them.” It’s part of a conversation Leslie Loftis started at that publication with her essay “Conservative Women are a Deadly Threat to Liberal Elites." (Read more.)
It seems strange, but the boisterous, bustling, familiar precincts of London that Shakespeare trod have mostly vanished from sight. The Great Fire that devastated London in 1666 swept the core of the City into ash and ruin. Almost every building or church of note that lay west of the Tower, with the exceptions of the areas around Bishopsgate and Aldgate, were laid to waste. From the Tower to the Fleet, Tudor London was mostly devastation. The London we see today was built on its bones.Share
To understand the London of the playing troupes, you must first seek the roots of the city, the ebb and flow of its tides, particularly the torrent of change that was engulfing it throughout the reign of the Tudors....and what London meant for players, playwrights and theatre.
Rooted in commerce & trade, fed by the river Thames, inculcated with a sense of purpose and centrality and commercial drive, London was the dominant metropolis of Britain. 400 years later Disraeli coined it well when he described the City as "that great cesspool into which all the loungers of the Empire are irresistibly drained”.
Prior to the 15th century London had not been a large or overly populous city in a thousand years. London in the Tudor era had a dense, noisome population estimated between 160,000 and 200,000 people, all crammed into a few square miles of buildings. This density of population achieved during the Tudor era opened up the opportunity for a more robust and permanent situated forms of entertainment rather than the opportunistic and transactional formats previously used. In short, an audience was now waiting. (Read more.)
Friday, September 25, 2015
All of us are quite aware of, and deeply worried by, the disturbing social and political situation of the world today. Our world is increasingly a place of violent conflict, hatred and brutal atrocities, committed even in the name of God and of religion. We know that no religion is immune from forms of individual delusion or ideological extremism. This means that we must be especially attentive to every type of fundamentalism, whether religious or of any other kind. A delicate balance is required to combat violence perpetrated in the name of a religion, an ideology or an economic system, while also safeguarding religious freedom, intellectual freedom and individual freedoms. But there is another temptation which we must especially guard against: the simplistic reductionism which sees only good or evil; or, if you will, the righteous and sinners. The contemporary world, with its open wounds which affect so many of our brothers and sisters, demands that we confront every form of polarization which would divide it into these two camps. We know that in the attempt to be freed of the enemy without, we can be tempted to feed the enemy within. To imitate the hatred and violence of tyrants and murderers is the best way to take their place. That is something which you, as a people, reject.Share
Our response must instead be one of hope and healing, of peace and justice. We are asked to summon the courage and the intelligence to resolve today’s many geopolitical and economic crises. Even in the developed world, the effects of unjust structures and actions are all too apparent. Our efforts must aim at restoring hope, righting wrongs, maintaining commitments, and thus promoting the well-being of individuals and of peoples. We must move forward together, as one, in a renewed spirit of fraternity and solidarity, cooperating generously for the common good. (Read more.)
Colonial Americans quickly adopted the taste for these imported beverages and their fashionable equipage. Colonial coffeehouses, following the London model, became powerful social catalysts, providing an excellent forum for the exchange of ideas and the distribution of news. All three beverages were also consumed in the home, where fine silver and ceramic vessels were especially valued. American silversmiths emulated English and Continental styles. Coffeepots (1997.498.1) were tall and tapered, with a curved pouring spout and a wooden handle to protect the pourer's hand from the heat-conducting metal. Inverted pear-shaped pots became popular during the Rococo period, and urn-shaped pots on pedestal feet (1980.503.1) characterize late eighteenth-century design. Chocolate, always expensive, was taken at breakfast by fashionable society. Chocolate pots (33.120.221) differ from coffeepots in that their covers are made with a hinged or removable finial to accommodate a molinet (stirring rod). Thick with cocoa butter, the beverage needed to be milled prior to pouring.(Read more.)Share
Thursday, September 24, 2015
Jay Gatsby: I knew it was a great mistake for a man like me to fall in love... ~from The Great Gatsby (2013)Baz Luhrmann's 2013 production of F. Scott Fitzgerald's novel The Great Gatsby is like a cake with too much frosting or a wedding gown with too much tulle. It is overdone, and the rap music is absurdly out of place. However, the performances are moving and the interpretation of the story is hauntingly poignant. I found Carey Mulligan's Daisy Buchanan more likable than in other productions, less cold and more emotive, with the charm and grace one expects of a Kentucky Belle. Her large cerulean eyes register every flicker of the Golden Girl's tragedy and joy. Leonardo DiCaprio plays Jay Gatsby with suave uneasiness, like the Pauper disguised as the Prince, fearful that at any moment he may be unmasked. Perhaps a reason he does not win Daisy is that he is trying too hard to fit into her world instead of being himself. The entire romance is based upon a lie, along with being adulterous. But even in her marriage, Daisy is part of her whoring, hard-drinking husband's vision of the perfect domestic scenario with the perfect wife. She is seen as a sort of Madonna, to be placed on a pedestal, rather than a loved and cherished helpmate. Thus Daisy is a tool for the fulfillment of the dreams of Jay Gatsby and Tom Buchanan, rather than being loved for her true self.
The basic story is an age-old fable about the curse of riches. Not only does the rich man find it difficult to enter the Kingdom of God but he finds that happiness on earth is also unattainable. In the meantime Nick, Daisy's middle class cousin, finds himself so seduced by the fairy glamor of the unreal world of the super rich that he forgets his own birthday. He comes to genuinely respect Gatsby when he discovers his true identity and finds out how hard he had worked to make his way to the top, the very truth which Gatsby was trying to hide. In the mind of Daisy's husband Tom, Jay's ultimate sin is not the adultery with Daisy but the fact that Jay does not have an illustrious background. Jay has dared to enter the ranks of of the elite which to Tom is the ultimate arrogance for which Jay must be destroyed.
The 1920's marked the beginning of modern times, as the old world came to a thundering cataclysmic finale in 1918 at the end of World War One. Daisy and Jay's love is marked by a nostalgia for the old refined ways of innocent youth in an innocent America, or so it was perceived by those who came of age during the War. Through their love they hope to capture what has past, but as the novel makes clear, it is already too far behind them.
A visitor to the city of London today has little sense of the Medieval city, even though he or she walks along streets that would have been familiar to Geoffrey Chaucer. The street-names give some clues (Chaucer or his servants would have bought milk in Milk Street, bread in Bread Street and chicken or eggs in Poultry), and many of the churches occupy the same positions, but little of the Medieval fabric is visible because of the Great Fire of 1666 which destroyed almost everything. All that remains, at least above ground, is the Tower of London and some fragments of the wall that once surrounded the city, itself built on Roman foundations. (Read more.)Share
Wednesday, September 23, 2015
When most Washingtonians hear the name Merriweather Post, they likely think of the namesake concert venue in Maryland where they spent the summer lifting their phone screens to the live performances of Mumford & Sons, Sam Smith and Florence and the Machine.
Yet Marjorie Merriweather Post was hardly one to don a concert t-shirt. One of the tastemakers of the early 20th century, the heiress to the Post cereal empire and founder of General Foods was followed relentlessly by the press, who were desperate to snap photos of her high fashion wardrobe.
"They would show what she wore to every event," said Kate Markert, executive director of Hillwood Estate, Museum and Gardens. "There were even sketches of new outfits."
Hillwood was Post's home on Linnean Avenue, NW, a sprawling Georgian estate that now functions as a museum for her art collection, her gardens and for the woman herself. In addition to the rare French and Russian decorative arts and handpicked furnishings on display, a new exhibit, "Ingenue to Icon: 70 Years of Fashion," features the striking designs and sumptuous fabrics that made Post a trendsetter.
Much of her closet and jewelry box is on display for the public to admire. And as Post would certainly be transitioning her wardrobe as the summer air cools in D.C., the museum soon plans to switch out the exhibit in favor of fall attire. "We will be changing over from spring and summer fashions, which we've been showing since the show opened in June, to fall and winter beginning Oct. 1," said Markert. "We have so many great dresses that we will be essentially installing an entirely new exhibition for the second half." (Read more.)
|Afternoon Dress, circa 1910|
Although the brothers Grimm toned down the sex in later editions of their work, they actually ramped up the violence. A particularly horrific incident occurs in “The Robber Bridegroom,” when some bandits drag a maiden into their underground hideout, force her to drink wine until her heart bursts, rip off her clothes and then hack her body into pieces. Other tales have similarly gory episodes. In “Cinderella” the evil stepsisters cut off their toes and heels trying to make the slipper fit and later have their eyes pecked out by doves; in “The Six Swans” an evil mother-in-law is burned at the stake; in “The Goose Maid” a false bride is stripped naked, thrown into a barrel filled with nails and dragged through the streets; and in “Snow White” the wicked queen dies after being forced to dance in red-hot iron shoes. Even the love stories contain violence. The princess in “The Frog King” turns her amphibian companion into a human not by kissing it, but instead by hurling it against a wall in frustration. (Read more.)Share
ShareTracing the origins of eroticism, Del Noce says the ideas of sexual freedom had already been fully formulated between 1920 and 1930, beginning with the anti-rationalist Surrealist writers and then further developed by Wilhelm Reich (1897-1957). Reich died in an American prison, “almost completely forgotten,” Del Noce notes, “after having been condemned by the still moral United States.” But the “various beat and hippie movements then rediscovered him.”Del Noce thus sees the countercultural revolution of the 1960s as the apotheosis of various long-dormant revolutionary strains. He elaborates: “The French ‘May Revolution’ was marked precisely by the hybridization of Marxian themes with Freudian themes and themes inspired by de Sade.” But he also faults the global entertainment industry and the arts, as well as the media and other powerful elites, for having participated in an aggressive “campaign of de-Christianization through eroticism.”For the revolution against the transcendent to triumph, explains Lancellotti, “every meta-empirical order of truth” had to be abolished. Recreational sex replaced the truth of conjugal love. And the ideas of procreative sex and indissoluble monogamous marriage were destroyed since they presupposed, Del Noce says, “the idea of an objective order of unchangeable and permanent truths.”Del Noce was clearly a highly astute observer of societal trends. But as Lancellotti points out, he also sought to understand “philosophical history”—which he insisted had to be understood given how profoundly affected the West had been by the philosophies of earlier centuries. Atheism, empiricism, historicism, materialism, rationalism, scientism, etc. had all led to the “elimination of the supernatural” and a “rejection of meta-historical truths." (Read more.)
Tuesday, September 22, 2015
In 1813, Jane Austen did something revolutionary: she elevated the novel, which had been mostly populated with gothic fantasies, and elaborate, sex-driven plots, entirely disconnected from reality, to a work of fiction that incorporated questions of ethics and virtue, painted realistically in the daily lives of England’s upper-middle class—and the result was the novel Pride and Prejudice. There is a reason that Pride and Prejudice has maintained its popularity throughout the past three centuries, for it tells us something very true about the nature of romance and of love. Ms. Austen’s protagonist—Elizabeth Bennet—is a heroine who achieves happiness in love through applying the virtues she cultivates to her daily actions.Share
Happiness in love is possible for Elizabeth Bennet, because she chooses a spouse, who can facilitate her happiness, and she, his. Instead of seeking a “romance of the moment” she seeks a person whose character is such that they can both encourage each other to pursue virtue, to pursue goodness.
To the modern imagination, which has been trained to crave the situational and emotional elements of love, and prize them at the expense of the objective act of love, this state of virtuous harmony sounds, well, boring. In our cultural narrative of romance, we are plagued by the “romantic” sensibilities that affirm emotional egoism over reason. Instead of seeing romance as the ability of two humans to overcome their own ego to pursue a common good together, the common cultural narrative of romance does not transcend that level of simply emotional situation, stirred by mysterious forces outside of ourselves.
When Elizabeth learns, that Darcy is a flawed, but truly virtuous man, she realizes that she has misjudged someone who could potentially be an excellent partner:
“She began now to comprehend that he was exactly the man who, in disposition and talents, would most suit her. His understanding and temper, though unlike her own, would have answered all her wishes. It was a union that must have been to the advantage of both: by her ease and liveliness, his mind might have been softened, his manners improved; and from his judgment, information, and knowledge of the world, she must have received benefit of greater importance." Pride and Prejudice.
Elizabeth Bennet comes to the realization that Darcy is an ideal spouse for her because he is indeed a partner who will help her grow in virtue. Elizabeth does not fall for Darcy because he turns her head, flatters her, or rings her bells. Elizabeth falls in love with Darcy because she finally realizes his true character, and (since she possesses valuable self-awareness and self-knowledge [a first ingredient for any successful romance]) she is able to reassess his potential as a husband. After examining her own conscience, Elizabeth begins to see that Darcy is truly an equal who could respect her, complement her, and live in happiness with her. (Read more.)
Monday, September 21, 2015
It may be difficult for people with weak convictions to understand, but maybe those of us who champion traditional marriage do so because we would give our lives to uphold any doctrine of the Church, not because we have deep-seated "issues" from childhood. Maybe we want to save babies because human life is precious and a gift of God. Maybe we want to save the girls held in sexual slavery because it makes us sick to think of a ten year old being raped. Maybe there are causes in this world that are worth a passionate and unflinching response and perhaps worth even giving our lives for. But I understand how it is easier to make up ugly stories about people who stand for uncomfortable things rather than risk losing an ounce of human respect. It is easier to label someone "intolerant" than to take seriously what they have to say. Share
On 30 Sep 1943, the Imperial General Headquarters in Tokyo, Japan endorsed a plan to reduce Japan's defense perimeter, a plan which was drew up 15 days before. This new defense perimeter went from Burma through Dutch New Guinea, the Caroline Islands, and finally to the Marshall Islands. Although it was a serious effort to consolidate conquests and to shorten supply lines, this plan meant the abandonment of 300,000 troops outside of the perimeter, who were unable to be evacuated easily due to Allied air superiority. At this time, 120,000 Japanese personnel were located in eastern New Guinea island, many groups of which were running out of food and supplies. (Read more.)Share
For all his scholarship Johnson never divorced learning from life. He valued literature for its human wisdom, its honest portrayal of the human condition, and he measured the greatness of a book by its ability “to enable the readers better to enjoy life, or better to endure it”—a policy he practiced in his own work.Share
This is the very purpose of Johnson’s short novel Rasselas, a book that examines the truth of human happiness in an age that fantasized about utopias with simplistic theories like “return to nature,” “the best of all possible worlds,” and the repudiation of civilization as the source of all evil. Prince Rasselas learns in the novel that no one from wealthy kings to isolated hermits is perfectly happy because everyone has complaints about some aspect of his life.
The king worries about envious rivals, and the shepherd suffers loneliness and loss of friendship. Rasselas, however, also discovers that some human choices and ways of life increase a person’s sources of happiness more than others.
Even though Rasselas acknowledges that “Human life is everywhere a state in which much is to be endured, and little to be enjoyed,” he also acquires a timeless wisdom about happiness that corresponds to Johnson’s own learning and experience. (Read more.)
Sunday, September 20, 2015
On a recent visit, I was delighted to learn about a recently completed restoration project. After seven years of work, Marie Antoinette’s Turkish Boudoir has reopened to the public. Originally created by the Rousseau brothers in 1777, the boudoir is the last remaining example of the "Royal Turqueries”-- reflecting the Orientalism style that was fashionable at the time. Designed with symbols inspired by the Levant, the décor and fabrics are just exquisite. Even the original textiles were restored, what the chateau explains was the “work of master goldsmiths”, and the silk velvet upholstery were rewoven. (Read more.)Share
The European refugee situation is highlighting an issue that has been simmering for some time: the tug of war over Christians in the Middle East. While many Christians from trouble spots such as Syria and Iraq have decided to seek a more stable life in the West, Christian leaders fear an exodus that might drive the final nail in the coffin of a two-millennia presence in the Holy Land.Share
Patriarch Louis Sako, the Baghdad-based head of the Chaldean Catholic Church, is the latest to voice his concern. In an interview Monday with La Stampa‘s Vatican Insider, he argued strongly against Christian emigration and criticized anyone who would give a preference to Christians seeking refuge in the West.
And, the bishop who earlier this year ordered overseas Iraqi priests to return to their homeland called priests and religious who went abroad without their superiors’ permission “luxury emigrants.” In response to a question about Christian nations giving Christian refugees priority, the patriarch said, “This should not happen.”
“It would pose a problem for us too,” he said, referring to the dwindling Christian community that is left behind, adding that those most likely to go abroad are the young and able Iraqis who can help rebuild society.
“It will encourage those who say they want to give a religious justification to war,” he went on. “Those on either side who say Christians cannot stay.” (Read more.)
Catholicism is traditional. It contends that the Apostles received a Revelation almost two thousand years ago; their witness was preserved in a law of worship which establishes our law of belief. This idea affects every aspect of Catholic life, including art. The conviction of Catholic artists, everywhere at least through the Middle Ages, was that they were preserving an ancient memory; this was succinctly expressed at the Second Council of Nicea: The composition of religious imagery is not left to the initiative of artists, but is formed upon principles laid down by the Catholic Church and by religious tradition ... The execution alone belongs to the painter; the selection and arrangement of subject belong to the Fathers.Visit Daniel's website, HERE. Share
Of course, there is development in Catholic art over time. St. Vincent of Lerins says that authentic development of tradition is like the growth of a body; it looks different in maturity than in infancy, but it has all the same parts. When I draw a scene from the Gospels, I study depictions of the same scene in the work of ancient and medieval Catholic artists. I look for selections and arrangements of subject that endure across historic and geographic boundaries, and perpetuate them as a matter of duty. Doing so makes me a participant in a tradition that stretches back to the very beginnings of Christianity. That is an awesome privilege. (Read more.)
Saturday, September 19, 2015
The current Minister of Education, Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, is a member of the Socialist Party, and a Moroccan-born “non-practicing Muslim.” Before she backed off for the time being, her predecessor, Luc Ferry, with a typical Gallic disinclination for understatement, or “euphémisme,” called her proposals “scandalous, empty-headed, noxious, and partisan.” Two steps forward, one step back. In 1945, there were 100,000 Muslims in France. There now are nearly seven million. With increasing Muslim immigration and a current Muslim population now approaching 10 percent, possessing a birthrate three to four times that of the rest of the nation, 40 percent of the population could be Islamic within fifteen years. One should expect tension in classrooms where common warnings about the social destructiveness of Islam are found in Bossuet, Chateaubriand, Condorcet, Flaubert, Montaigne, Montesquieu and de Tocqueville. Thus, they are in the cross hairs of the national education establishment.Share
Voltaire was more wary of Islam than Christianity: “Nothing is more terrible than a people who having nothing to lose, fight with a combination of rapacity and religion.” In religious matters a utilitarian, Napoleon idiosyncratically perceived Islam as a threat only to those who threatened him and declared under the Egyptian sun, if only for propaganda, that Mohammed was “a great man.” He objected to Voltaire having attributed to Mohammed, “whatever trickery can invent that is most atrocious and whatever fanaticism can accomplish that is most horrifying.” In 2005, Voltaire’s play “Mahomet” was revived in Saint-Genis-Pouilly, inciting “street disturbances,” to which the much put upon mayor refused to yield “in the name of France.” For the poet Vigny, the crescent moon was a suitable symbol of Islam, for it was “trompeuse et sans chaleur”—derivative and without heat. (Read more.)
Fran E. Cook-Bolden, MD, a dermatologist and director of the Skin Specialty Group and the Ethnic Skin Specialty Group in New York, suggests the following home remedies for acne.Share
Grab a few fresh grapes from your fridge, and you've got an easy facial cleanser. Cut two or three grapes in half and rub the flesh over your face and neck, says Dr. Cook-Bolden. Follow with a cool water rinse.
Cucumber Face Mask
"Make a paste by blending one small cucumber and 1 cup of oatmeal," says Cook-Bolden. Mix 1 teaspoon of this paste with 1 teaspoon of yogurt and apply it to your face. Leave it on for 30 minutes, and then rinse.
Cucumber Face Pack
This cooling, soothing mask will help smooth your skin, which can often feel rough from acne. "Mash one whole cucumber, strain the water, add 1 tablespoon of sugar, and mix well," says Cook-Bolden. "Apply to your face and leave it on for 10 minutes; then wash with cold water."
Simple Honey Mask
Before applying this mask, rinse your face with warm water to open up pores, says Cook-Bolden. Then apply honey and leave it on the skin for 30 minutes. Rinse the honey off with warm water; then rinse again with cold water to close the pores.
Friday, September 18, 2015
Fersen remained fiercely loyal to Marie Antoinette and her family, remaining at court as the clouds of revolution gathered. With the worsening situation he began assisting with plans to get the family to safety, playing an important role in the ill-fated flight to Varennes. It was Fersen who commissioned the carriage that would carry the Marie Antoinette, Louis and their children and he even travelled with them on part of their unsuccessful journey to the border. One can only imagine the horror with which he must have greeted news of their capture and from that moment, there would be no more hope of escape for the doomed family.Share
With the situation in France growing ever more dire, Fersen was dispatched to Austria to entreat Emperor Leopold to join a coalition in support of the French monarchy. When Leopold proved himself disinterested in the idea, Fersen requested that he be released from the pointless mission and returned to France. At great danger to himself, he presented himself in Paris under an assumed identity and stole into the Tuileries, where he was able to spend an evening with the king and queen discussing counterrevolutionary plans. He made further secret visits but his audacity was to prove unrewarded, the royal family utterly trapped. (Read more.)
A year and three months ago, the militant group then calling itself the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) captured the vital Iraqi city of Mosul as government forces melted away. The sudden loss of such an important city seized the world’s attention, and the brutality with which ISIS then purged Mosul of its Christian and other religious minorities shocked those newly focused eyes.Share
A year ago this past Friday, the newly founded organization In Defense of Christians (IDC) reached the culmination of a three-day summit bringing a historic collection of the heads of the oldest churches in Christianity to Washington in order to raise awareness of the plight of Christians and plead for assistance. The solidarity gala dinner closing the summit was keynoted and summarily crashed by Senator Ted Cruz, who threatened to overshadow the calls for unity with a provocative speech that ended with the senator storming off stage. (Read more.)
The world of L’Engle’s Time trilogy resembles the fictional worlds of C.S. Lewis, one of her acknowledged heroes. Like Lewis, L’Engle posits the presence of other worlds whose fates hinge on the actions and decisions of human children. To penetrate the natural human world, to strip characters down to both their essential flaws—pride, short-sightedness, fear, lack of faith—and their innate but unexplored potential for heroism and sacrifice, L’Engle’s impulse, like Lewis’s, is to remove them from their own world for a time and then to return them from their adventures safe and outwardly unchanged but with new understanding.
Their stories are conversion stories. L’Engle’s protagonists are called from their nets to follow; they do so with fear and grumbling and little vision in the beginning for what is at stake or the grace they will need in the end. In A Wrinkle in Time , the clumsy, myopic, awkward Meg, confronted at every turn with her own incompetence, ultimately saves both her imprisoned father and her beloved little brother Charles Wallace—an awkward and inadvertently unlikable character in himself—by discovering that the one thing she can do, and the one thing that the disembodied totalitarian brain IT cannot do, is love the people she loves.
In A Wind in the Door, Meg is called one step further, to move beyond the easy emotion with which she loves her family and her friend Calvin, to love her human nemesis, the school principal Mr. Jenkins. Likewise, Mr. Jenkins, a pallid, timorous, incompetent sort himself, discovers his own capacity for courage as he is drawn with Meg and Calvin, in company with an alarming “cherubim” named Proginoskes and other supernatural personages, into a battle between good and evil that takes place, simultaneously, everywhere in the universe. In A Swiftly Tilting Planet, the now teenage genius Charles Wallace must lay aside his reliance on his own intellect to enter into the minds and lives of other characters in other times to avert a course of events leading to disaster in the present, while Calvin’s angry, inscrutable mother, now Meg’s mother-in-law, reveals herself in her final hours to be a character of depth and dignity on whom, unexpectedly enough, the fate of the known world turns.
Clearly what’s at stake in L’Engle’s fantasy is no mere matter of pushing the witch into the oven; on the other hand, that’s precisely what does happen in these heady fairy tales, with the crucial difference that the witch keeps coming back, in wildly different guises: an alien brain, a troupe of shape-shifting annihilators called Echthroi, and finally a human madman, his finger poised over a fatal button. Each novel in L’Engle’s time trilogy leaves the door ajar. (Read more.)Share
Thursday, September 17, 2015
In October I will be joined by novelists Alexandra Hamlet and Drake Ferguson to teach a class on "How to Publish and Market a Book in the 21st Century." The classes are sponsored by the Academy of Lifelong Learning at the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum. We will be meeting on Wednesdays, October 7, 14, 21, at 1:30-3:30 pm. The price is $30 for ALL members and $45 for non-members. The location will be in the Van Lennep Auditorium, Steamboat Building, CBMM, St. Michaels, MD. Here is a course description:
Having a book published is the dream of many fine writers. Today’s technology provides resources to help with the challenging task of finding an agent and a publisher, as well as an abundance of marketing tools. Published authors Alexandra Hamlet and Elena Maria Vidal will share their hard-earned knowledge of how to get one’s work published and onto the book store shelves. Drake Ferguson, writer and broadcaster, is here to help you interact with the media and conduct an effective interview, so that you can become an interviewee the media will enjoy seeking out. He works to create interview formulas to make writers better able to perform on cue.
Several topics will be covered in 3 weekly two hour classes, including how to write a query letter, how to take rejection and criticism, what to expect from an editor, how to pitch your story, the importance of careful proofreading, how to use social media (Facebook, Twitter, blogs, BlogTalkRadio, Linked In, Google +, forums, etc.), and how to find your readership. Practical tips will also be given about how to set up book-signings, internet etiquette, how to protect yourself from trolls, navigating Amazon and Goodreads, and what to do if you receive bad reviews. The internet book world is a new frontier where there is great potential but it helps to have a guide.To quote Drake Ferguson: "Writers are the modern mountain men. They lead a solitary life pacing the hallways of their minds until the work is finished. Then they get together in a rendezvous to celebrate, party, dance til dawn, and disappear into the mountains again until the next work is finished."Maryland native Mary-Eileen Russell is the author of four historical novels and one biography, writing under the name of Elena Maria Vidal. She has worked with publishers and has self-published as well. Her fiction has been acclaimed by Kirkus Reviews, the San Francisco Book Review, the Midwest Book Review, and the Portland Book Review. Through Mary-Eileen’s Tea at Trianon blog and radio show her work has gained an international following. Visit Elena at her website.Alexandra Hamlet is a cultural and defense anthropologist, an international lecturer and a former TV and print journalist. She consults on cultural affairs and international business. She was an auxiliary nurse in London; Visiting Fellow at Harvard University; an executive search specialist for world-wide C-suite positions; and is a consultant on irregular warfare. The Right Guard, published in 2012, is her first novel. Visit Alexandra at her website.Drake Ferguson has created and produced several hundred audio interviews for WCEI-FM and WINX-FM in Easton Maryland since 2005. He recently volunteered to do the same for WHCP-FM, a new National Public Radio affiliate in Cambridge, Maryland. He has interviewed governors, state and federal senators, doctors, lawyers, volunteers of every type imaginable, and Two Boomer Babes (twice). But his favorite interviewee is an author; perhaps because Ferguson is an unpublished writer himself. He is presently working on his third novel in the David Barrister series.
Despite the fact that Scottish Presbyterians strongly supported the Williamites in the Williamite war in Ireland in the 1690s, they were excluded from power in the postwar settlement by the Anglican Protestant Ascendancy. During the 18th century, rising Scots resentment over religious, political and economic issues fueled their emigration to the American colonies, beginning in 1717 and continuing up to the 1770s. Scots-Irish from Ulster and Scotland, and British from the borders region comprised the most numerous group of immigrants from Great Britain and Ireland to the colonies in the years before the American Revolution. An estimated 150,000 left northern Ireland. They settled first mostly in Pennsylvania and Virginia, from where they moved southwest into the backcountry of upland territories and the Appalachian Mountains.Share
The average emigrant would find passage aboard a linen trade vessel. The ships would bring flax seed from Pennsylvania to Ulster, and the captains were happy to have a return cargo that could pay cash. Some Ulstermen paid their own way, while many had arranged to become indentured servants, selling their labor for a period of seven years. Many, though, had no way to pay. These souls, upon arrival in Philadelphia, would have to remain on board the ship until the captain was able to sell their labor and collect payment. (Read more.)
Wednesday, September 16, 2015
From Catholic World Report:Share
The pundit class have all weighed in now on Kim Davis, the Rowan County, Kentucky clerk who refused to affix her name to licenses for homosexual couples to marry. "To issue a marriage license which conflicts with God’s definition of marriage," Davis had said, "with my name affixed to the certificate, would violate my conscience."
Every night updates on her jailed-then-released-from-jail status have brought a new barrage of commentary, both cultural and legal. There are several arguments made on her behalf, and, indeed, at least one Republican presidential hopeful quickly came to stand beside Davis as she weathered the media storm. However, many of those sympathetic to Davis' cause have said, albeit with regret, that she should "follow the law."
No, I don't think she should.
People of good will can and have disagreed about the philosophical and legal fine points that Kim Davis presents to our culture. Those who hold that, to keep her job, she must perform the duties of that job, have adopted their stance based, at least in part, on a fear of a looming chaos if significant numbers of Americans refuse to "do their jobs." On Wednesday night during a Fox News program, Andrea Tantaros warned, “The problem is she’s [Davis] essentially rewriting the laws of that county by not issuing [licenses]...As a Christian I do feel sorry for her and I’m sympathetic to her beliefs, however she doesn’t have a legal leg to stand on.”
Tantaros believes that Davis sets a dangerous example because others of different belief systems might do the same. Tantaros cited Sharia law which does not permit women to drive, thus no drivers' licenses would be issued to women citizens by a Muslim clerk. This sort of reasoning is woefully short of reason. (The conscience objection of a Muslim clerk over drivers' licenses is based on an opinion about women, not on an objective reality about women.) Tantaros is a smart lady as are many others, including Carly Fiorina, who sympathize with Kim Davis but who still insist that she should "just do her job."
However, the big question that is never posed or addressed by the pundits is: when ought a citizen refuse "to do their job?"
Let's pause here for sober recollection on this fact: some Germans went to prison after World War II because, in their view, they "just did their job." Restated, some Germans were imprisoned although they did nothing illegal under German law.
When they filed papers to send victims to death camps, some may have seared their conscience. Some were browbeat into "doing their job," perhaps in fear of losing their livelihood or even their freedom. Most, however, allowed their conscience to be soothed by the assurance that it was legal. The average citizen grew comfortable with the Nuremburg Laws due to the relentless cultural pressure that reinforced the ideology of German leadership. Had more Germans refused to cooperate with these unjust laws, some civil chaos would have resulted; but consider the greater, grievous chaos that engulfed their culture because not enough Germans followed their consciences! (Read more.)
In a fascinating article for FrontPage Magazine titled “Now the Twelfth Imam Can Come,” scholar of Islam Robert Spencer provides a crash course on the nature of Twelver Shi’ite theology, with particular reference to a nuclearizing Iran. Shi’ites believe in the return of the so-called Twelfth Imam who is descended from Mohammed’s son-in-law Ali ibn Abni Talib, the fourth caliph assassinated in 661 in a succession war, after which the split between Sunnis and Shi’ites eventually became permanent. As Spencer explains, the Shi’ites continued a line of imams, “members of Muhammad’s household and his prophetic heirs. Each one in turn, over two centuries, was poisoned.…According to the traditions of Twelver Shi’ism, the official religion of the Islamic Republic of Iran, the twelfth of these Imams, a boy of five years old, disappeared under mysterious and disputed circumstances in the year 874 – but remained alive.” Though communicating with the world through various agents, he entered the state of “occultation” in 941, promising to return when the time would be propitious.
The reigning authority on Twelver Shi’ism is the historian Emmanuel Sivan, who in his magisterial volume on the subject, Radical Islam: Medieval Theology and Modern Politics, warned that an integral part of Shi’a Islam’s belief and thought involves the initiating of a planetary conflagration. This belief system posits that Allah’s kingdom will be established on earth by the Twelfth or Hidden Imam, also known as the Mahdi, whose advent can be hastened by creating the right set of circumstances: friction and misunderstanding among the nations and violent upheavals in a welter of blood and fire.
Incredulous westerners who would pass this off as merely a quaint belief to be taken with a grain of salt, or indeed with a whole salt shaker, should reconsider. Sivan spends many pages describing and analyzing the Shi’ite vision of an “ideal, legitimate state to be instituted by its leader, the Hidden Imam.” Over the course of history, he writes, a “minority of Shi’ites, quite substantial and dangerous at times, would move from pessimistic idealism to an optimistic brand of the same approach—the imam’s arrival is imminent, God’s kingdom is bound to be brought upon earth by this messiah (mahdi), and one should help precipitate its descent by armed revolt.” The Mahdi’s arrival has been eagerly anticipated and rumor has it that Iran’s former president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad—like Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, a fervent believer in the Mahdi’s parousia—widened a boulevard in Tehran to welcome the savior with public celebrations. This may be a canard, but even were it the case, Ahmadinejad need not have bothered. That was yesterday; today is a new beginning.Via The Free Republic. Share
What the world does not yet know is precisely that of which the Iranian mullahs are now gleefully aware, namely, that the Twelfth Imam has already returned and is hard at work arranging the coming apocalypse. According to an occult scripture, unearthed in a clay jar at an excavation works near the Arak nuclear site, that only the ayatollahs and a few select individuals (like the present writer) have been privileged to study, the Mahdi has fulfilled all the signs and portents that announce his presence.* (Read more.)
Tuesday, September 15, 2015
Boscobel is situated high on a hill above the Monocacy River and Bush Creek. The builders of the stunning house made their money as millers, and so, at the base of the driveway is the Mill House. My great-grandparents were not millers, but farmers. And early in their marriage, my grandparents resided in the stone Mill House at the base of the long driveway up to Boscobel. In addition to my personal history, all of this ground was part of the Battle of the Monocacy, sometimes called The Battle that Saved Washington.(Read more.)
Pope Francis has sped up the process by which Catholics can obtain marriage annulments, reducing the number of courts and judges, dropping automatic appeals, and making the process free.
The pope’s major overhaul of the Church’s system for granting annulments, announced Tuesday, is designed to streamline the process out of “concern for the salvation of souls” while maintaining Catholicism’s traditional ban on divorce.
An annulment is a finding by a Church court that a union between a man and a woman, even if it was ratified with a Church wedding, was not a real marriage because it didn’t meet one of the traditional tests for validity, such as informed consent.
Under the rules, Catholics whose relationships break down and who wish to marry someone else in the Church must first obtain an annulment. Critics have complained that the process is overly lengthy and complicated, and in some places, too expensive.
The pontiff decreed that the annulment process will be free of charge, and that every diocese in the world has the responsibility of naming a judge or a church tribunal to process requests, with the possibility of the bishops acting as judges.
The changes were presented in Rome this Tuesday, in the form of two motu proprio. The documents were signed by Francis Aug. 15. They will take effect Dec. 8, the first day of the Holy Year of Mercy. The new process was suggested to the pope by an 11-member commission he created to work on a simplification of annulment procedures. It was led by Italian Monsignor Pio Vito Pinto, dean of the Roman Rota, the main canon law court in Rome dealing with marriage cases.
At a Vatican news conference Tuesday, Pinto said the Church’s “sacramental theology” of marriage remains unchanged, but that the reform responds to the pope’s desire to have a more collegial Church, with bishops helping in Church governance as called for by the Second Vatican Council (1962-65).
Pinto said Francis is “putting great trust and confidence in the diocesan bishops,” adding that the new process won’t be an easy one, and referred to the “solemn responsibility of the bishops” to prevent abuses. (Read more.)
Via A Conservative Blog for Peace. Share