Sunday, January 16, 2022

Josef Hoffmann’s Modern Brooches

From Daily Art Magazine:

Jewelry was in fact among the first items produced by the Wiener Werkstätte and remained the mainstay of the firm for 30 years of its activity. Quickly did its original and singular pieces become the most sought-after jewelry items of the time, appreciated by the Viennese high society for their unprecedented personalization aimed at reflecting the wearer’s individuality. Already in 1898 Hoffmann said in Das individuelle Kleid  (The individual dress) that he “would like an element of dress and the way in which dress is worn, to be (…) familiar so that we can recognize it as being in accord with the wearer’s character” and Marianne Hussl-Horman argues that Hoffmann’s jewelry can be read as portraits of its wearers.

 At the same time, the projects are extremely versatile and can be considered as autonomous works of art. This autonomy is achieved by means of stark geometry which extracts from a piece an almost ‘abstract’ quality, and which is enhanced by the omnipresence of the square, the core shape of Hoffmann’s entire aesthetic. He considered it a perfect manifestation of his concept of frame, which he believed should unite all aspects of life making it a total work of art, the Gesamtkunstwerk. Square was so pronounced in his architecture (e.g. Purkersdorf Sanatorium), furniture and tableware (from chairs to fruit baskets), and fabric designs, that it earned Hoffmann a nickname Quadratl (Little Square). (Read more.)


Supreme Court’s Massive Blow Against Biden’s Vax Mandate

 From The Daily Wire:

The Supreme Court on Thursday blocked the Biden administration’s vaccine mandate for employers with at least 100 employees. On November 4, the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) ordered all companies with at least 100 employees to ensure that they were either vaccinated against COVID-19 or tested weekly. The order was immediately met with opposition, including from The Daily Wire, which was the first business to sue the Biden administration in the Sixth Circuit. (Read more.)


From Gregg Jarrett:

As Supreme Court decisions go, this was surely the easiest call the justices will have this term.  Their companion decision involving federal healthcare facilities was also an obvious one.  In that case, the government was acting as an employer with the authority to enforce workplace rules requiring workers to be inoculated.  Besides, they were doing it on their own anyway.  The Supreme Court upheld that smaller aspect of Biden’s order.

So, Joe did it again.  He managed to upend workers and businesses all across the nation for the last four months, only to have his actions roundly rejected as lawless.  It’s become a pattern with Joe.  And a measure of his chronic incompetence.

Let’s revisit what happened.  When President Biden, with much fanfare, announced his new nationwide vaccine mandate on September 9th it was destined to be overturned by the Supreme Court.  His sweeping and lawless order forcing COVID-19 shots impacted close to two-thirds of the American workforce.  He did it without authority, and he knew that what he was doing was lawless.  But he didn’t care. (Read more.)

From The Epoch Times:

Companies are reviewing their vaccination requirements after the U.S. Supreme Court (SCOTUS) ruling, with some dropping them, some sticking with them, and some reinstating them. A General Electric Co. spokesperson said on Friday that it will stop requiring the U.S. employees to be vaccinated with COVID-19 vaccines, the Wall Street Journal reported. The Epoch Times reached out to General Electric for comment.

COVID-19 is the disease caused by CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, which started in Wuhan, China, and spread to the world. The pandemic has cost over 5.5 million lives and infected over 300 million people globally. General Electric is a Boston-based maker of jet engines, wind turbines, and medical scanners. It had about 56,000 employees in the United States at the beginning of 2021. The company’s decision came after the U.S. Supreme Court (SCOTUS) on Thursday blocked the Biden ministration’s vaccine mandates for private businesses while upholding the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS)’s vaccine mandate for health care workers. (Read more.)


46 Million Indian Girls Killed in Sex-Selection Abortions

 From LifeNews:

Pro-abortion feminists remain largely silent as baby girls in the womb are targeted for sex-selection abortions at a massive rate across the world. In India alone, experts estimate that approximately 46 million girls have been singled out for abortions specifically because they were girls in the past 50 years, the New York Post reports. The discrimination hurts mothers, too. Frequently, mothers are forced or coerced into aborting their unborn daughters, or they are abused for refusing to do so. A few recently shared their stories with The Guardian to shed light on the growing problem.

One woman, a 40-year-old from Mumbai, said her family forced her to abort eight unborn babies this year because they were girls. Another, Laali, 25, shared how distraught she was after her husband and in-laws forced her to have two abortions. She said they blamed her for giving birth to two daughters and insist that her third child be a son, according to the report.

“My mother-in-law refused to see my daughter’s face,” she said. “She refused to take care of me, saying: ‘You are giving birth to girl after girl. How far can I take care of you?’ Families want a son at any cost. Any cost! If I die, my husband will remarry tomorrow morning, hoping the next woman will give birth to a son.” (Read more.)


Mummies, Lice, and DNA

 From Heritage Daily:

The research was led by the University of Reading, in which Dr Alejandra Perotti, Associate Professor in Invertebrate Biology said: “We have shown that our genetic information can be preserved by the sticky substance produced by headlice on our hair. In addition to genetics, lice biology can provide valuable clues about how people lived and died thousands of years ago. Headlice have accompanied humans throughout their entire existence, so this new method could open the door to a goldmine of information about our ancestors, while preserving unique specimens.”

Until now, ancient DNA has preferably been extracted from dense bone from the skull or from inside teeth, as these provide the best quality samples. However, skull and teeth remains are not always available, as it can be unethical or against cultural beliefs to take samples from indigenous early remains, and due to the severe damage destructive sampling causes to the specimens which compromise future scientific analysis.

Recovering DNA from the cement delivered by lice is therefore a solution to the problem, especially as nits are commonly found on the hair and clothes of well preserved and mummified humans.

The research team extracted DNA from nit cement of specimens collected from a number of mummified remains from Argentina. The mummies were of people who 1,500-2,000 years ago reached the Andes mountains of the San Juan province, Central West Argentina. The team also studied ancient nits on human hair used in a textile from Chile and nits from a shrunken head originating from the ancient Jivaroan people of Amazonian Ecuador. (Read more.)


Saturday, January 15, 2022

Bespoke Joinery

From Homes and Gardens:

Without beautiful bespoke joinery, even the grandest room will be nothing more than a box. That’s what Bruce Hodgson, founder of architectural joinery specialists Artichoke Ltd, believes. 
'Beautifully crafted and conceived joinery can add drama to an interior, employing light and shade to lend depth, as well as framing openings and significant features,' he says. 'It can also play a vital role manipulating proportions.' The art of traditional joinery in interior design – one that respects the rules of classical design detail, scale, proportion, joints and shadow to create bespoke joinery – is one that’s worth the investment, he believes. (Read more.)


Remembering and Misremembering Vatican II

 From Church Life Journal:

In the rich Catholic imaginary of a former age, Dante Alighieri launches his pilgrim into the heights of Paradiso by bolding announcing in the very first canto the theme of this concluding portion of his pilgrimage: “trasumanar” (l. 70)—transformation beyond the human. And the final sublime canto of the entire Commedia poeticizes Dante’s transforming vision of the Trinity. To his astonishment the pilgrim discerns that the second of the revolving circles bears human imprint: “la nostra effîge” (l. 131). The graced destiny of the pilgrim/poet’s transfiguring journey is divinization. And the condition for its possibility is the Ascension of the Incarnate Word.

Seven centuries later, Charles Taylor, in a little noticed retrieval, challenges a secular age to recover a sense of theosis. To move beyond merely human flourishing to that “further greater transformation”[32] that breaks through the constricted and ultimately dehumanizing “immanent frame.” It entails a purification of the spiritual senses that enables one to perceive, in the words of Gerard Manley Hopkins (whom Taylor invokes in his final chapter “Conversions”) that “the world is charged with the grandeur of God” and that “Christ plays in ten thousand places/ lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not his/ to the Father, through the features of men’s faces.”

Christ’s Ascension has definitively broken the bounds of the “immanent frame” and inaugurated the new creation of humanity’s transfiguration in the glory of God. As the Collect for the Mass of the Ascension proclaims: “Christ’s Ascension is our exaltation!” The Ascension brings into bold relief the unique Headship of Jesus Christ and founds the new identity of Christians as members of his body. In a rich and stimulating study on the theology of the Ascension, Douglas Farrow:

The Ascension of Jesus is the act by which God in principle—or rather in Person—completes the formation of man and perfects his image in man. In bearing our humanity home to the Father, Jesus brings human nature as such to its true end and to its fullest potential in the Holy Spirit. He causes it to be entirely at one with God, and so become the object and (for other creatures) the mediator of God’s eternal blessing.[33]

That “perfected created image” of the Triune God is not the Head alone, but the Head together with the members, forming the totus Christus, beloved of Augustine. It is the new, supernatural order of redeemed and transfigured relations which is vividly imagined and celebrated in the final chapters of the Book of Revelation. (Read more.)


The Hidden Agency of Women in Medieval Stories

 From LitHub:

So then what would the story of early medieval Britain—of the early Middle Ages generally—be if it were told by pulling back these layers? The heroic narrative of this chapter that began with Gregory the Great sending missionaries off to the far north, with Guthlac braving the fens, with Beowulf conquering monsters, would be quite different. We must dissolve this nostalgia into air and see a more human, more diverse world beneath it.

We might tell the story of early queens in the southeast of Britain. Rather than ascribing the reconversion of Britain to Christianity to Roman bishops and local kings, we should pay more attention to Queen Bertha (d. ca. 606), the Christian daughter of a Merovingian Frankish king, who married the polytheistic King Aethelbert of Kent (589–616) on the condition she could keep her religion and bring her confessor-bishop with her across the Channel. It was she who paved the way for Gregory’s missionaries from Rome to arrive in 596–597 and likely pushed Aethelbert to convert and allow further proselytization. Bertha’s son King Eadbald (616–640) was still a polytheist when he succeeded his father, though, and it took another marriage to another Frank—Queen Emma (d. 642)—to bring himself and the kingdom fully, and finally, to Christianity.

We might also tell a different story of the Synod of Whitby in 664. This famous event, in which the king of Northumbria observed a debate over whether to follow Rome or the traditional Irish practice when it came to the date of Easter, was argued among men. The king judged, the abbot of the monastery of Ripon argued against the bishop of Northumbria, and other very important men consulted and conspired. But the event itself was held at the monastery of Whitby, under the care and gaze of Abbess Hilda (d. 680).

Converted to Christianity in 627 after her father married into the family of the same King Eadbald of Kent, she lived a primarily political life until her thirties. She then had to flee the north when her father fell in battle, but soon found refuge with her stepmother’s family. She returned north only later, when she was appointed abbess in Hartlepool before helping found Whitby as a double monastery for monks and nuns in 657. Although she was on the losing side of the Easter debate, she remained so powerful and important that the Northumbrian king who ruled against her position at the synod was still buried in her monastery, and she seems to have been instrumental in getting her debate opponent, St. Wilfrid of York, removed from his bishopric shortly before her death in 680.

Not only do we find a more complicated situation when it comes to gender and power, we also find connections that stretch across continents. By the end of the 8th century, King Offa of Mercia (757–796) ordered a gold coin minted. In the middle, his artisans slapped the Latin words “Offa the king” (Offa rex). Around the edge of the same coin, though, we find a jumbled Arabic that seems to reflect the shahada, the basic profession of Islamic belief. This coin, perhaps despite our assumptions, doesn’t say anything about Offa’s religious commitments (the Arabic, for example, is upside down). Rather, they were clearly working from a model—specifically a gold dinar minted around 773–774 by the first Abbasid caliph al-Mansur (754–775).

But the coin’s itinerary reveals even more about early medieval connections across vast regions and among diverse peoples. It was discovered in modernity in Rome, perhaps part of a tribute sent to the bishop of Rome, and so we can trace the ideas—and perhaps the gold itself, shining brightly in the light as it passed from hand to hand—from Baghdad to Britain to Rome.

Goods were not the only things to leave the island. Just as people and ideas from across the medieval world made their way to Britain, Britain reciprocated. Not long after Hadrian’s death, the monks of Wearmouth-Jarrow produced a lavishly illustrated Bible so massive that it had to be carried by cart. Perhaps like Offa’s dinar, the manuscript, known as the Codex Amiatinus, was intended for the bishop of Rome. Britain began to send missionaries back across the channel.  Both men and women traveled to the continent, missionizing to polytheistic groups such as the Frisians. Another traveler, a monk named Alcuin, made his way to Rome on behalf of the king of Northumbria. But he never returned to the north, instead installing himself at the court of a foreign king named Charlemagne and leading his palace school. Even in early medieval Britain, a space often characterized as the most remote, the “darkest” of the “dark ages,” they felt themselves a part of a much wider world. (Read more.)


Friday, January 14, 2022

On Researching Daniel O'Connor

"Fear not, O man of desires, peace be to thee: take courage and be strong."
Daniel 10:19

Today is the wedding anniversary of Daniel and Brigit O'Connor, my great-great-great grandparents, married in 1831 as described in my novel The Paradise Tree. They look a bit careworn in the only photograph we have of them, taken many years later, but then building a farm in the Canadian wilderness in the mid-19th century required ceaseless toil. The photo of them is iconic, for they are staring beyond the present world, into eternity. Eternity was something that Daniel O'Connor kept ever before him, as was typical of the old Irish, and can be seen in this excerpt of a letter to his grandchildren: “Farewell, my grandchildren, God bless you all, and keep you in his love and fear of offending Him, as my prayer for you all big and little, young and old." (from November 8,1884 letter to Lena and Etta Flood)

Daniel was born in 1796 at Togher parish in Dunmanway, County Cork, Ireland, the son of Michael and Joanna Ronan O'Connor, one of nine children. Descended from the High Kings of Ireland and the Lords of Connaught, they were a branch of the O’Connor clan known as the “Kerry-O’Connors.” In the high middle ages they migrated from Roscommon to Kerry; some went on to Cork to aid the McCarthys, then the Lords of Munster, in their perpetual fight with the Normans. Cork was known as the "rebel county" and, at the time Daniel was born, was the site of many insurrections against the tyranny of English rule, which forbade the Irish Catholics the open practice of their religion. Due to the harsh penal laws imposed in 1695, Catholics could not own land, hold a public office, or receive an education. The O’Connors defied the laws to the best of their ability, and, according to Daniel’s daughter Ellen, he and all of his siblings received “a liberal education” in spite of the prohibitions.

The O’Connor family lived about a stone’s throw from an old tower called “Togher castle.” It had officially belonged to the McCarthy clan but according to family tradition the O’Connors lived in the castle at one point. Perhaps they held the old keep in fealty to the original owners, or perhaps resided there as in-laws, since there was a great deal of intermarrying between the two clans. At any rate, they were all thrown out of the castle by the English in 1688 and reduced to a state of servitude. Daniel was trained as a blacksmith, and since it was the blacksmiths who set broken bones in those days, I wonder if it was his skill at mending injured limbs that led him to want to be a doctor. He studied medicine under a physician in Cork City, but alas he was never certified, probably due to lack of money. There was a series of potato crop failings and famines throughout the first half of the nineteenth century, culminating in the Great Famine of the 1840’s. Many Irish Catholics found it impossible to ever get ahead.

Daniel migrated to Canada in the spring of 1821. He worked and saved his money until he was able to purchase land in Leeds County, Ontario, which he called Long Point Farm. In January of 1831 he married fifteen-year-old Brigit Trainor of County Westmeath, who had recently arrived in Kitley Township with her family. Together they faced the grueling hardship of clearing the land, building a cabin, and having babies in the wilderness. There was also a great deal of prejudice against Catholics in the new world. According to Glenn J. Lockwood in Leeds and Lansdowne: “O’Connor was rare as an Irish Catholic settler in Leeds and Lansdowne Rear, and the reason why was no mystery. He found that local settlers were very prejudiced against anyone professing the Catholic religion, and more especially if that person happened to be an Irishman.” (pp148-149, Lockwood) As one of Daniel’s daughters wrote to her niece Madeline O’Connor: “When father came to Delta one of the first salutes he got was ‘for the love of God do not tell that you are a Catholic or you will not succeed.’ He said, ’Never will I deny my faith,’ and he fought valiantly for it.”

There were few priests and Daniel often had to walk fifty miles or more in order to make his Easter duty, fending off wolves. As the children were born (they had nine) he and Brigit sought to raise them in the faith. According to the letter to Madeline:

Mother and he used to take a child a piece on horseback…when a priest had a station in Kitley which was very seldom, they rode on horseback to have their children christened….By good examples, good books, and constant admonishing to their family they kept the light of faith burning in their children. How often Protestant ministers were invited to come partake of father and mother’s hospitality in order to discuss religious questions to point out to his family the truths of our holy religion. No church, no school to send us for instruction, that, my dear, is the faith of our dear old Irish parents.
Daniel believed that a Christian was required to live as Christian, no matter what. As he wrote to his daughters Ellen and Mary:
My dear children, it is superfluous for me to admonish you as respects your moral and religious duty. For, thanks be to God, you did not neglect your instruction under your paternal roof. I pray to God to shed His grace unto your hearts to practice faithfully the duties of His religion. You will be saved not only because you are Catholic but when you are a true and pious one. Let not weak and silly minds persuade you that that this is an unnecessary thing to engage in exercise of piety….
Education as well as faith was paramount to Daniel. Donald Harman Akenson writes in his study, The Irish in Ontario: “in the rear of the township on Long Point, Daniel O’Connor, a large Catholic landholder who was recognized as the squire of the area, built a first-class stone school which became part of the common school network.” (Akenson, p.276) Daniel eventually gained the respect of his neighbors and was appointed the first Irish Catholic magistrate in the County of Leeds. While serving as juryman in Brockville, the county seat, he was responsible for abolishing customs which were prejudicial to Catholics.

Daniel died on December 8, 1886, two years after his beloved wife Brigit, of whom it was said in her obituary “her death was calm as her life had been.” According to Daniel’s obituary in the Brockville Reporter, March 1887:
Of the deceased it may be truly said that his faults were few and his virtues many….Upright and honest, a true-hearted Irishman, he leaves behind him memories which link his name to the true and trusted who have gone before. His death was more the result of the natural decay of old age more than actual sickness. And he died fortified by the sacraments of the church, in peace with himself, in peace with his fellowmen and in peace with his God.


The Paradise Tree is available internationally from Amazon.