Tuesday, August 31, 2010

BUtterfield 8 (1960)

Mrs. Jescott: Vulgarity has its uses. 
~BUtterfield 8 (1960)
I often wonder if it was the descent of films into trashiness which dragged society into the mire, or whether the films were (and are) merely a reflection of on-going societal trends. Perhaps it is a little of both. BUtterfield 8, in the tradition of other films about lost girls in the big city, depicts the night life of Manhattan in the late '50's. While the film may have lessons to teach, it portrays a sordid side of life, including the idea that someone can find the love of their life after a one night stand. It was the Sex and the City of its time. As the reviewer for the New York Times wrote when the movie debuted in 1960:
 ...It offers admission to such an assortment of apartments, high-class bars, Fifth Avenue shops and speedy sports cars, all in color and CinemaScope, that it should make the most moral status seeker feel a little disposed toward a life of sin. Brandy, martinis and brittle dialogue flow like water all over the place. Figure another million has been spent on consummate chic.
Unlike Sex and the City, however, BUtterfield 8 shows promiscuity to be a disorder of heart, mind and soul. The protagonist, Gloria Wandrous, played by Elizabeth Taylor, is being treated by a psychiatrist even as she carouses and sleeps around just for fun. She lies to her mother (Mildred Dunnock) who meekly goes along with the fiction that her Gloria is a respectable girl. Amid all the partying, Gloria is miserable, and when she meets and beds the equally miserable Weston Liggett (Laurence Harvey), she has no idea of the obsession that will be released.

According to Apollo Movie Guide:
BUtterfield 8 gave Taylor her first Academy Award winning role, coming after she was nominated four years consecutively. While the movie sometimes slips into manipulative oversimplification and sentimentality, Taylor’s performance is tremendous, showing both her wit and her ability to express believable emotion.

Taylor plays Gloria Wandrous, a New York City party girl who has dedicated her life to drinking with and loving a variety of men. She has an answering service (just dial BUtterfield 8) to prove it. Gloria has a long time male friend, Steve Carpenter (Taylor’s husband at the time, Eddie Fisher, is very good in one of his only two big screen roles), but their relationship is purely platonic, contrary to the insecurities of Steve’s fiancé (Susan Oliver).

Currently, Gloria is spending time with Weston Liggett ( Laurence Harvey) a wealthy cad who’s not exactly respectful of Gloria, and is married. As Gloria and Liggett embark on a tumultuous relationship, it becomes clear that both are troubled and short on self-esteem. They drink and party and – to the surprise of both – fall in love. But there’s the matter of Liggett’s wealthy wife (Dina Merrill) and their mutual doubts about whether this is the real thing.

Daniel Mann’s film version of John O’Hara’s scandalous novel features plenty of emotional manipulation and a few doubtful character transformations, yet is still a compelling success. Much of the repartee is smart and its timing is good throughout the film.

Taylor deserves much of the credit for the movie’s success, as she imbues Gloria with moxie and vulnerability at the same time. Taylor is sharp-tongued, with pain almost constantly in her eyes. Largely due to Taylor’s performance, it’s difficult to dislike Gloria, even if she is a self-professed ‘slut.’ The same can’t be said for Liggett, as Harvey successfully paints him as a fellow with a sharp tongue, a cool exterior and plenty of trouble just beneath the surface. Liggett’s vacillation from spiting Gloria to loving her – and back again – is sometimes difficult to believe, as Harvey isn’t able to make his character as transparent as Taylor does.

Gloria is determined to reform herself, especially after she catches a glimpse of Liggett's faithful and virtuous wife (Dina Merrill), who impresses her as having a kind of beauty that comes from goodness rather than mere physical appearance. She decides to break it off with Liggett and leave him to his wife. Meanwhile, it is revealed that Gloria was molested as a young girl, which set her on the path to her disturbed and unhappy existence. Nevertheless, she does not give up seeking redemption, even though her past pursues her up to the very last moment.


Microwaves are Dangerous

Now that we are dependent on them, we find out that they are toxic.
Another problem with microwave ovens is that carcinogenic toxins can leach out of your plastic and paper containers/covers, and into your food.

The January/February 1990 issue of Nutrition Action Newsletter reported the leakage of numerous toxic chemicals from the packaging of common microwavable foods, including pizzas, chips and popcorn. Chemicals included polyethylene terpthalate (PET), benzene, toluene, and xylene. Microwaving fatty foods in plastic containers leads to the release of dioxins (known carcinogens) and other toxins into your food. [8] [2]
One of the worst contaminants is BPA, or bisphenol A, an estrogen-like compound used widely in plastic products. In fact, dishes made specifically for the microwave often contain BPA, but many other plastic products contain it as well.

Microwaving distorts and deforms the molecules of whatever food or other substance you subject to it. An example of this is blood products.

Blood is normally warmed before being transfused into a person. Now we know that microwaving blood products damages the blood components. In fact, one woman died after receiving a transfusion of microwaved blood in 1991 , which resulted in a well-publicized lawsuit.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Los San Patricios

The Irish Brigade of Mexico. (Via The Lion and the Cardinal.) The tragic story of the soldiers of St. Patrick who put  faith ahead of politics, at great cost to themselves. To quote:
Confronted by enormous numbers of Irish-Catholic immigrants in the 1840s, American nativism reared its ugly head. All the world knows, wrote historian Thomas Gallagher, that Yankee hates Paddy. And so it seemed to those who had survived the perilous journey to America only to be labeled inferior by demagogic politicians and feared by Anglo-American workmen. Victims of prejudice in the New World, it should not be considered strange that they would shortly find themselves becoming sympathetic to the Mexicans. Here was another Catholic people being invaded by Protestant foreigners. According to a contemporary account, On reaching Mexico they discovered they had been hired by heretics to slaughter brethren of their own church. On top of this they were confronted with the hatred of their fellow soldiers.

The intense prejudice of many of the American soldiers, especially the volunteers, has been commented upon by at least one careful historian. According to K. Jack Bauer, author of The Mexican War, 1846–48:
The majority of American soldiers were products of a militantly Protestant culture that still viewed Catholicism as a misdirected and misbegotten religion. Although the regulars included a significant number of Catholic enlisted men, the volunteers did not. This strengthened the tendency to ignore the rights and privileges of the Church in a Catholic country as well as increase the harassing of that Church. Some of the volunteers’ acts, like the stabling of horses in the Shrine of San Francisco in Monterrey, so upset the Mexicans that they still mention it in modern works...
While in the early Republic there was some tolerance of Catholic minorities, this was to change quickly with the increase in immigration of Irish Catholics during the 1830s and 1840s, reaching its crest during the years of the Irish famine as poor, rural Catholics flooded into the American towns and cities. Anti-Catholic riots broke out in Philadelphia in 1844, and when they were over, the Irish ghetto lay in ruins, hundreds of homeless Irish roamed the streets, and two Catholic churches were burned to the ground.

Since solidarity in the face of commonly perceived oppression is a universal characteristic of any ethnic or religious group, it is hardly surprising that Irish Catholics would find unity among themselves in the military service. As the war progressed and they witnessed more depredations against their coreligionists in Mexico, it is understandable that some Irishmen felt they had more in common with the Mexicans than the invading Americans. The destruction of Catholic churches in Mexico by the invading U.S. army and other depredations by Protestant volunteers had also been well-documented by both sides... Many Irishmen were quick to see that higher loyalties should prevail, and they joined the Mexican side. They simply had more in common with the Mexicans than with the invaders.
 The movie about the San Patricios with Tom Berenger is worth seeing, if just for the portrayal of brave young men whose Catholic faith came before all else. It is a story that I had little or no knowledge of but will now not ever forget.

Mother Dolores Hart and Patricia Neal

Mother Dolores is interviewed. Share

Sunday, August 29, 2010

What is Vulgarity?

"Stupidity and vulgarity are harder to put up with than sin, harder on the nerves."
~Flannery O’Connor

What is vulgarity? Is it a matter of personal taste? Yes, in some respects, especially where clothes are concerned, depending upon an individual's personality and bearing, as well as the more obvious physical aspects. In my twenties I had a red hat from Paris. I loved to wear it to church, one of the few places where anyone dressed up, although my grandmother, who dressed quietly, thought it was a bit much. She never used the word "vulgar" but said: "You know, we don't dress up so much up here." By "here" she meant Schenectady, New York. What would have been fine in Paris or even Washington, D.C. was considered excessive in Schenectady.

Of course, the definition of "vulgar" has changed over the years, as the Wikipedia article states:
From the fifteenth to seventeenth centuries, "vulgar" simply described the common language or vernacular of a country. From the mid-seventeenth century onward, it began to take on a pejorative aspect: "having a common and offensively mean character, coarsely commonplace; lacking in refinement or good taste; uncultured; ill bred". In the Victorian age, vulgarity broadly described many sorts of activity, such as pushing to get on a bus, wearing ostentatious clothing, and more subtle aspects of behavior. In a George Eliot novel, one character could be vulgar for talking about money, a second because he criticizes the first for doing so, and a third for being fooled by the excessive refinement of the second.
A modern dictionary defines vulgar as: "lacking sophistication or good taste, unrefined: the vulgar trappings of wealth; making explicit and offensive reference to sex or bodily functions: a vulgar joke; (dated) characteristic of or belonging to the masses." Nowadays, all is relative, and good taste or bad taste is determined by the individual, in lieu of the lack of a common standard. It is a standard that has been deteriorating for a long time, little by little, to the detriment of society. In an introduction to Emily Post's 1922 Book of Etiquette, Richard Duffy writes:
  The perfection of manners by intensive cultivation of good taste, some believe, would be the greatest aid possible to the moralists who are alarmed over the decadence of the younger generation. Good taste may not make men or women really virtuous, but it will often save them from what theologians call “occasions of sin.”....Selfishness is at the polar remove from the worldly manners of the old school, according to which... others were preferred to self, pain was given to no one, no one was neglected, deference was shown to the weak and the aged, and unconscious courtesy extended to all inferiors. Such was the “beauty” of the old manners, which he felt consisted in “acting upon Christian principle, and if in any case it became soulless, as apart from Christianity, the beautiful form was there, into which the real life might re-enter.”
Emily Post herself always emphasized that good taste and good manners have nothing to do with money but with sensitivity to the feelings of others by not making ourselves the center of attention. Mrs. Post especially lamented vulgarity in women's clothes and behavior, saying:
Vulgar clothes are those which, no matter what the fashion of the moment may be, are always too elaborate for the occasion; too exaggerated in style, or have accessories out of proportion. People of uncultivated taste are apt to fancy distortions; to exaggerate rather than modify the prevailing fashions.
  For example:...The woman of uncultivated taste has no more sense of moderation than the Queen of the Cannibals....She despises sensible clothing; she also despises plain fabrics and untrimmed models. She also cares little (apparently) for staying at home, since she is perpetually seen at restaurants and at every public entertainment. The food she orders is rich, the appearance she makes is rich; in fact, to see her often is like nothing so much as being forced to eat a large amount of butter—plain.
 I think it can still be agreed that showing off in any way is vulgar, especially if it has to do with flaunting newly acquired wealth. Also, four letter words are vulgar, as I think most people would agree, as well as public discussions of private bodily functions. We have to remember that everyone is not a voyeur and that many are probably not interested in hearing about what goes on (or does not go on) in our private lives.

However, with celebrities talking about their private matters on television and in magazines, it is difficult to find examples for young people. According to Chuck Colson:
In an article in Christianity Today, I once quoted the great historian Arnold Toynbee. He contended that one clear sign of a civilization's decline is when the elites—people he describes as the "dominant minority"—begin mimicking the vulgarity and promiscuity exhibited by society's bottom-dwellers. The result: The entire culture is vulgarized.
Christians need to resist the slide into vulgarity by creating strong counter-cultural influences. We can start by elevating our own standards in speech and dress, if we need to.
Those of us who want kindness and courtesy in society instead of the prevailing rudeness and vulgarity must give an example, which can be difficult in today's world. This can be a struggle when it is easier to blend in with the status quo. It takes strength of character to be kind in the face of rudeness, when a harsh retort would just be so easy. Believe me, I know quite well how it is to slip and fall in that regard. I am blessed, however, because I had the example of my grandmother, an example I wish I had heeded more at the time.


The House of Mirth

An excellent discussion of Edith Wharton's novel by Interpolations. (Via Stephen Riddle.) To quote:
Set in New York in the 1890s, the House of Mirth is an unflinching look at the ruthless exile of the doomed Lily Bart. Lily is an amazingly pretty and charming socialite. Because she has a taste for the finer things in life, but no means of attaining them, she plans to marry well. “I’m horribly poor—and very expensive,” she says. To this end, Lily, a master of grace and artifice, curries favor with the Fifth Avenue elite to attain wealth and power, comfort and ease. The House of Mirth displays Wharton’s incomparable gift for blending tone and subject matter, as well as her incisive yet sympathetic understanding of human nature and, in particular, the failure of imagination that often lies at the root of spiritual wreckage.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Apple Season

Apples and Flowers
by Pierre-August Renoir


by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings

Apple cobbler, apple-cake,
Apple sauce and apple pie—
No one can resist their taste,
Or pass an apple dumpling by!

Cinnamon and powdered clove,
Grated nutmeg, sugar, crumbs,
Make apple Betty fit for kings,
And sweet as sugar-plums!

Apples by the bushel box—
Everyone can help himself,
Children never beg for sweets,
With apples handy on the shelf.

When Eve put her white hand forth
And picked an apple from a tree,
She helped all housewives’ menus out,
And planned six months’ dessert for me!

(Via Under the Gables)

Life Without Fathers

I hope that no one will take Jennifer Aniston seriously but in case they do they should read Scott Richert's post.

Also, it has been found (surprise!) that married people experience less stress than single people, especially as parents. Share

Friday, August 27, 2010

Lawrence of Arabia

His secret missions revealed.
The secret missions helped Lt Col Lawrence capture Damascus in 1918 where he became instrumental in setting up an Arab government.

But the flights were so sensitive the RAF were said to have known nothing of them and they remained a secret - eluding depiction in the 1962 Hollywood movie Lawrence of Arabia starring actor Peter O'Toole.

Now details of the flights have emerged in diaries complied by an aircraft mechanic George Hynes who was one of Lawrence's closest aides during the Arab revolts.

The Seventy-Two Hour Expert

Everything you ever wanted to know about Afghanistan. Share

Thursday, August 26, 2010

"The Flaming Heart"

O thou undaunted daughter of desires!
By all thy dow'r of lights and fires,
By all the eagle in thee, all the dove,
By all thy lives and deaths of love,
By thy large draughts of intellectual day,
And by thy thirsts of love more large than they,
By all thy brim-fill'd bowls of fierce desire,
By thy last morning's draught of liquid fire,
By the full kingdom of that final kiss
That seiz'd thy parting soul and seal'd thee his,
By all the heav'ns thou hast in him,
Fair sister of the seraphim!
By all of him we have in thee,
Leave nothing of my self in me:
Let me so read thy life that I
Unto all life of mine may die.

~from Richard Crashaw's "The Flaming Heart" in honor of St. Teresa of Jesus

Here are the "Maxims" of the Holy Mother.

Stephanie Mann has a post on the metaphysical English Catholic poet, Richard Crashaw.

Sir Walter Scott

Scotland's image maker.
The novels of Sir Walter Scott are now – in England, at least – almost unread. It is hard to imagine an author simultaneously so famous and so unfashionable, his novels frequently written off as prolix and unbearably dense.

However, according to one writer and critic, the author of Ivanhoe and the Waverley novels was not only crucial in creating the idea of Scotland as it persists today, but also "invented England". Speaking at the Edinburgh international book festival, Stuart Kelly argued that Scott invented a raft of English national stereotypes. That quintessentially English hero, Robin Hood, for example, owes some of his most famous exploits to the author.

The notion of Robin's arrow splitting that of the Sheriff of Nottingham – which appears in the Disney cartoon – comes direct from Ivanhoe, in which Scott's character Robin of Locksley performs the deed. The detail, said Kelly, was then incorporated into later versions of the Robin Hood story.

Scott was also, said Kelly, the first person to coin the phrase "the Wars of the Roses" to describe the conflict between the houses of York and Lancaster, while the incident in which Sir Walter Raleigh laid his cloak before Elizabeth I to protect the royal footstep from a muddy puddle comes from Scott's novel Kenilworth.
He was key in making "medievalism the centre of English experience", said Kelly. Without Scott, "there would probably have been a neo-classical houses of parliament rather than a neo-gothic houses of parliament". Scott, by way of novels such as Ivanhoe, popularised the notion of the centrality of the medieval period to the extent that its architecture was adopted as "the national style" when the new Palace of Westminster came to be built in 1835.

Life Without a Publisher

A best-selling author goes out on his own.
In a significant defection for the book industry, best-selling marketing author Seth Godin is ditching his traditional publisher, Portfolio, after a string of books and plans to sell his future works directly to his fans. 
The author of about a dozen books including "Purple Cow" said he now has so many direct customer relationships, largely via his blog, that he no longer needs a traditional publisher. Mr. Godin plans to release subsequent titles himself in electronic books, via print-on-demand or in such formats as audiobooks, apps, small digital files called PDFs and podcasts.

"Publishers provide a huge resource to authors who don't know who reads their books," said Mr. Godin in an interview. "What the Internet has done for me, and a lot of others, is enable me to know my readers."
It's unclear how many, if any, best-selling authors will follow Mr. Godin's lead. However, his departure from Portfolio, an imprint owned by Pearson PLC's Penguin Group (USA), comes at a critical juncture for the industry. With many new titles spending less time on best-seller lists and in bookstores, publishers are increasingly dependent on brand-name authors such as Mr. Godin to deliver significant book sales.
Mr. Godin, a public speaker and proponent of nimbleness and the need for speed in marketing goods, has long delighted in shaking up traditional thinking.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Bonhomme Richard

The ship donated to the Americans by King Louis XVI and placed under the command of Scottish-born John Paul Jones, the Bonhomme Richard took part in the most famous naval battle of the Revolutionary War, described as follows:
On 23 September 1779, they encountered the Baltic Fleet of 41 sail under convoy of HMS Serapis and Countess of Scarborough near Flamborough Head. After 18:00 Bonhomme Richard engaged Serapis and a bitter engagement, the Battle of Flamborough Head, ensued during the next four hours that cost the lives of nearly half the American and British crews. At first, a British victory seemed inevitable as the more heavily armed Serapis used its firepower to rake Bonhomme Richard with devastating effect, killing Americans by the score. The Commanding Officer of Serapis then called on Jones to surrender, who replied, "Sir, I have not yet begun to fight!" Jones eventually succeeded in lashing the two ships together, nullifying his opponent's greater maneuverability and attempting to take advantage of the larger size and considerably greater crew of Bonhomme Richard. An attempt by the Americans to board Serapis was repulsed, as was an attempt by the British to board Bonhomme Richard. Finally, after another of Jones's squadron joined in the fight (uncaringly causing serious collateral damage aboard the Richard) the British captain surrendered at about 10:30 p.m. Bonhomme Richard, shattered, on fire, and leaking badly defied all efforts to save her and sank about 36 hours later at 11:00 a.m. on Saturday, 25 September 1779. John Paul Jones sailed the captured Serapis to the United Provinces for repairs.

Though Bonhomme Richard sank subsequent to the battle, the outcome of the battle convinced the French crown of the wisdom of backing the colonies in their fight to separate from British authority.
                                                                                               John Paul Jones. Share

The Inquisition

"Reverend Know-it-all" gives a brief history. Share

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Henry VIII in the Movies

Which portrayal was most accurate?

Also, here is a post about Katherine of Aragon in films.


World Without Men

A 1950's sci-fi novel explores the consequences of feminism and social engineering.
The blurb on the thirty-five cent Ace paperback likens Charles Eric Maine’s 1958 novel World without Men to George Orwell’s 1984 and Aldous Huxley’sBrave New World.  Ordinarily – and in consideration of the genre and the lurid cover – one would regard such a comparison skeptically.  Nevertheless, while not rising to the artistic level of the Orwell and Huxley masterpieces, World without Men merits being rescued from the large catalogue of 1950s paperback throwaways, not least because of Maine’s vision of an ideological dystopia is based on criticism, not of socialism or communism per se nor of technocracy per se, but rather of feminism.  Maine saw in the nascent feminism of his day (the immediate postwar period) a dehumanizing and destructive force, tending towards totalitarianism, which had the potential to deform society in radical, unnatural ways.  Maine grasped that feminism – the dogmatic delusion that women are morally and intellectually superior to men – derived its fundamental premises from hatred of, not respect for, the natural order; he grasped also that feminism entailed a fantastic rebellion against sexual dimorphism, which therefore also entailed a total rejection of inherited morality.

In World without Men, Maine asserts that the encouragement of sexual hedonism, the spread of pornography into the mainstream of public culture, and the proscription of masculinity are inevitable consequences of the feminist program, once established. The fifty years since the novel’s publication – as a thirty-five cent paperback – have vindicated Maine’s notable prescience as a social commentator.

Monday, August 23, 2010

A Tribute to Parmentier

He introduced the potato to Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette for the benefit of the people. Share

Cool Catholicism

Is it important to be "cool" in order to spread the Faith?  I thought that this article from The Wall Street Journal on "Hipster Christianity" made some valid points. To quote:
If the evangelical Christian leadership thinks that "cool Christianity" is a sustainable path forward, they are severely mistaken. As a twentysomething, I can say with confidence that when it comes to church, we don't want cool as much as we want real.

If we are interested in Christianity in any sort of serious way, it is not because it's easy or trendy or popular. It's because Jesus himself is appealing, and what he says rings true. It's because the world we inhabit is utterly phony, ephemeral, narcissistic, image-obsessed and sex-drenched—and we want an alternative. It's not because we want more of the same. 
 Catholic author Danielle Bean adds to the discussion, saying:
While this article happens to be about evangelical churches, I think the lesson here applies to Catholics as well. I am all in favor of Catholics “re-branding” and keeping up with technology in order to bring Christ to wider audiences, but we do need to follow up the “branding” and “cutting edge” with something solid.

Fortunately, our Church has that. Over 2,000 years’ worth of the “real deal” of Catholic teaching and tradition, to be precise. It’s easy to get caught up in the “cool” ideas of tweeting, facebooking, and otherwise broadcasting a “cool to be Catholic” message to the masses, but we need to be sure that we follow up the flash and the fluff with substance.
 I remember the teachers whom I respected the most were the ones who were not trying to be buddies with the students.  There is nothing more pathetic than seeing someone in their forties or fifties trying to act cool for the benefit of  the younger generation. Young people need role models, not older versions of themselves. Reflecting upon my own experience,  there are many times in my youth when to have been "cool" would have meant compromising my values. Sometimes to being faithful to Jesus means being uncool, at any time of life, and swimming against the current rather than being swept along by it. Share

Sunday, August 22, 2010

A "Heroic and Amazing Journey"

Author Stephanie Mann reviews Madame Royale.
Trianon and Madame Royale certainly deserve to be read consecutively but the reader must adjust her expectations. After the poetic and multifaceted episodes of Trianon, offering different people’s views of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, Madame Royale is a thorough-composed historical novel telling the story of their one surviving child, Marie-Therese, spanning time and place, with an omniscient narrator unbound by geography or character. The prologue, however, offers a transition in style of sorts, as it depicts a scene that presages the horror to befall the title character’s family—a scene of conspiracy and cruelty taking place while she is an innocent and unaware child.

While Elena-Maria Vidal artfully composes the episodes of Trianon to redress the calumnies against the king and queen consort and tell a sympathetic version of Revolutionary history, she addresses a more complex narrative in Madame Royale. This is a broader canvas—a more expansive scene: Marie-Therese travels the world widely, while her mother’s world was geographically restricted and Marie-Therese crosses the sea and the English Channel, while her mother never even saw the ocean. Such a story requires a more direct narrative approach.

Mother and daughter endure many of the same struggles, however: the family divisions, unhappy (at first) arranged marriages, misunderstanding, revolutions, violence, and flight. Marie-Therese must live with uncles who betrayed her father and slandered her mother while encountering a cousin whose father cast the deciding vote that condemned her father to death. She also accepts poverty, difficult travel, and most of all, takes on the frustrating and emotional effort to find out what happened to her little brother, abused and imprisoned in the Temple.

That narrative thread competes with the patterns of exile and restoration, triumph and defeat, charity and conflict that emerge from the story of the Bourbon court, first in England, then in France, then returning to France after Waterloo, then in Scotland , briefly in Italy and finally in Austria. Throughout these peregrinations, Madame Royale bears the burden of the Bourbon dynasty, encountering both betrayal and loyalty. Some of the best passages in the novel depict the conflict in Marie-Therese’s soul, as when she returns to the scenes of so much tragedy in the French Revolution during the festivities celebrating the restoration of the monarchy after Napoleon’s abdication and first exile. She recalls the suffering of her parents even as she experiences the triumph of her new family.

She is steadfast in her Catholic faith and devoted to the remembrance of her parents and the restoration of the Catholic Church in France, welcoming the Marian apparitions experienced by Catherine Laboure on Rue de Bac in Paris and the children at La Sallette.

Marie-Therese finally accepts a conclusion of uncertainty as to the fate of her brother. Although she never bears a child, she becomes the de facto mother of the heir to the Bourbon throne, Henri, the Comte de Chambord and his sister, Louise. She raises them while their mother, the widow of Marie-Therese’s brother-in-law, the Duc de Berry remarries and briefly fights for her son’s rights.

The drive and devotion of the title character infuse the narrative of Madame Royale, indefatigably following the heroic and amazing journey of Marie-Therese. 
Madame Royale is also available on Kindle and in paperback. Signed copies are available below.


Louis XVI Style

Neo-Classical furniture.
The Louis XVI style furniture – also known as Neo-Classical – was greatly influenced by the excavations at Pompeii and Herculaneum. The classical architectural elements of columns and pediments were adapted for use on furniture, a definite departure from the more stylistic approach of the Louis XV period.

Where the Louis XV style is very asymmetrical, the opposite holds true for Louis XVI. Symmetry was dominant throughout this era, with the chairs favoring straight legs and well-defined joints.  Canopy beds were in vogue as well.  According to Artquid, “The beds most frequently seen are the lits à la polonaise with a domed canopy and the lit à la duchesse, having a rectangular canopy supported from the ceiling.
Other popular pieces during this time period were the square-backed fauteuil, semi-circular commodes, tripod stands and athéniennes tables. Among the popular motifs of the Louis XVI period are columns, pilasters, wreaths, drapery, urns and ancient mythology.

The decline of the extravagant Louis XV style began just before the American War for Independence.   The Louis XVI style ended by 1792 amid the growing unrest and riots of the French Revolution.
In general, the evolution of the four Louis reigns followed a simple pattern. Louis XIII furnishings were a push to create more elaborate furniture than that of the Renaissance Era. After Louis XIII, in the Louis XIV reign, furniture grew more elaborate and even more intricate in the Louis XV reign. The designs finally moderated during the Louis XVI reign when style tempered and grew more conservative. While this general pattern helps apply a simple model of understanding to the four styles, it’s important to note that even though style is less excessive in the Louis XVI reign, furniture was still produced by a handful of artisans, with expensive materials, for the very rich.
(Photo) Share

Saturday, August 21, 2010

New Films about the Queen Mum

Gareth Russell reports. Share

Summer is Almost Over

People won't be exposing themselves in church as much. I really wish everyone would learn how to dress for Mass. I don't blame the young people since they do not know any better. As for the adults, well, they seem to have lost all common sense and awareness of the dignity of God's house. Each Christian soul is a Temple of the Lord, so modest attire should be a given. As Christine of Laudem Gloriae describes:
I must confess, though, that I get tired of having within my line of sight (and prominently displayed) tight-fitting jeans, miniskirts, bra straps sticking out from tank tops, bare backs, bare shoulders, and flip-flops. It is even more irritating when they are worn by adolescent girls accompanied by parents who should know better.

I grew up rather clueless about such things. I didn't understand, as an awkward teenager, that my body could actually be attractive to men, and that certain clothing could accentuate my physique. I simply wore what I wore, and thought no more of it. Thus, I do understand why so many girls show up at Mass looking as if they're about to go to a nightclub, or to the beach. Girls do not necessarily instinctively know (especially in today's society) how to dress as they should--and this is why it is up to parents (especially mothers) to
teach their children. Mothers, after all, are no longer naïve or ignorant of such things; having dated, married, and, naturally, had sex, they know exactly what men find attractive and what sort of clothing serves as a distraction. So the fact that so many girls are showing up to the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass looking like Britney Spears clones shows that parents aren't doing their jobs. (Of course, attending the Traditional Latin Mass, one has the opposite problem: women who go too far in the other direction and equate modesty with frumpy, androgynous, utterly unfeminine clothing; but that's another post for another day.)

So, my dear parents, and especially my fellow mothers, let me list a few no-no's for attire at Mass:

--Bra straps: There's a reason they're called undergarments. They belong
under your garments.

--Halter tops: If you feel the need to expose your neck, back, chest, shoulders, and armpits for the world to see, at least have the decency to wrap a pashmina around yourself.

--Cleavage: The last thing Father wants to see while offering you the Sacred Host is a bird's-eye view of your chest. Obvious.

--Tight jeans/pants: This is usually the hardest one for women to grasp. I'll be as frank as possible: the eyes of the most chaste heterosexual man in the world are still naturally drawn to (1) your behind and (2) your crotch. Most women, unaware of this fact, tend to be surprised when they discover it. Consider yourself no longer surprised or unaware. (There is a reason only "emancipated" women and lesbians wore pants in the 19th century; it was considered indecent.) Try to prefer skirts if possible, but if you must wear pants, at least cover up certain portions of your anatomy so as not to distract these poor men trying to exercise self-control over their eyes during the liturgy.

--Skirts shorter than the knee: At every parish, one always has the middle-aged mom who thinks her legs too shapely to cover up and puts them on prominent display when at the lectern doing the reading. Women, please get over yourselves; short skirts are inappropriate at Mass. For one, when you sit, they hitch up to mid-thigh. For another, they just look tacky. Knee-length or longer is far more dignified. (Oh, and even long skirts can be inappropriate if they are spandex-tight.)

--Flip-flops: This is sheer laziness.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Our Cat

Her name is Tessa. She almost died a week or so ago. Our friend Serge tells what happened. Share

Murder or Cholera?

The mysteries of a mass grave of Irish immigrants found in Pennsylvania. (Via Richard) Share

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Using Kind Words

In an unkind world. Miss Janice says:
"Excuse Me" should be used when politely...
~Interrupting someone
~Telling someone you are leaving
~Getting someone's attention
~Asking someone to move so that you can get past them

Saying "I'm Sorry" is a polite way of expressing sadness and sympathy or apologizing when you have done something wrong.

"May I?" is a polite way to ask permission..."May I take your coat? May I carry your groceries to your car? May I speak with Miss Janice?"

"Please" is a magical word and should be used all the time. When you make a request from someone and add the word "Please," you are showing respect and consideration for another person.

"Thank you" is a word that should be used by all of us...everyday of our lives! "Thank you" is a word that shows respect and appreciation for an act of kindness...from someone opening the door for you to buying you a meal.

"You're Welcome"...is an appropriate way of responding to a 'thank you.' It's a word that we sometimes forget to use and should be used instead of a response like "No problem!"

Air Guns

The automatic weapon of the eighteenth century. Catherine Delors shares some of her remarkable historical research for her novel For the King. Share

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Sans-Culottes

Street fashion became THE fashion. A tongue-in-cheek post. More about the sans-culottes here. Share

Where Demons Dwell

The revival of paganism.
Those who complain of America’s descent into paganism are being unfair—to pagans, that is. After all, polytheistic cultures typically recognized that vocation is not an entitlement: A Vestal Virgin who felt she had an inalienable right to get married was simply out of luck, as was any male who resented the aforementioned office’s sex restrictions. Pagan culture often surpassed modern-day America by Americans’ own standards. Our “egalitarian” society treats political elites’ lives as infinitely more dear than those of military recruits drawn from flyover country and the ’hood. At least Agamemnon was no chickenhawk.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Le Bossu

The real hunchback of Notre Dame. (Via Richard)
A British archivist believes he has uncovered the real-life inspiration for French novelist Victor Hugo's mysterious character Quasimodo, the deformed bell ringer of Notre Dame cathedral in Paris.
Adrian Glew, who works on the Tate collection's archives in London, was studying the seven-volume handwritten autobiography of 19th century British sculptor Henry Sibson when he came across a reference to a Frenchman whose nickname was "le bossu," or hunchback.
Sibson had been employed in the 1820s to carve stone as part of the renovation of Notre Dame in Paris which had suffered damage during the French Revolution in the 1790s.
But he fell out with one of his contractors and applied for another job at the government studios where he met a carver called Trajan.
According to Sibson, Trajan was a "most worthy, fatherly and amiable man as ever existed -- he was the carver under the government sculptor whose name I forget as I had no intercourse with him. All that I know is that he was humpbacked and he did not like to mix with carvers."
Glew immediately thought he was on to something.
"It was almost like peering into Tutankhamun's tomb and you see a glimpse of something that attracts your eye," he told Reuters.


Should we tolerate it? Share

Monday, August 16, 2010

"Neither Monsters nor Angels"

Author Stephanie Mann reviews Trianon. To quote:
When I attended the Catholic Writers Conference last week, I obtained a copy of Trianon: A Novel of Royal France by Elena-Maria Vidal, kindly signed by the author. Reading it on my much delayed flight home I was transported to the places and time of Revolutionary France, almost complete secure within the world of Trianon. Although there were a couple times when the veil opened and I saw the art and intent behind the world Vidal creates in these vignettes, I was otherwise completely present and involved.

As in her most recent novel, The Night's Dark Shade, Vidal achieves wonderful immediacy and verisimilitude in historical fiction. These episodes from the life of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette sympathetically and honestly depict the trials, triumphs, sadness, joy, and ultimate sacrifice of this much-maligned couple. They emerge as real people, neither monsters nor angels, but, as we are, mixtures of faults and virtues.

The novel begins with the celebration of St. Teresa of Avila's feast day, honored both at the Carmelite convent and at the French court. It ends with the death of the priest who accompanied Louis Capet to the guillotine as the one surviving member of the royal family, Marie-Therese, waits by his bedside. (Fortunately, her story is continued in Madame Royale.) In between, Vidal depicts how love grew between the royal couple after their arranged marriage of state, the birth, growth, and death of their children, the rising tide of Revolution and the efforts of the King first to forestall it with reforms and then to survive it with accommodations that sometimes cost him dearly, and finally with the family's capture and imprisonment, the execution of Louis and then of Marie Antoinette, the abuse of the young Dauphin and the sufferings of Marie-Therese. I highly recommend this book, and its sequel.

Fighting High Divorce Rates

Marriage is hard work. In the words of Colleen Hammond:
To quote my great-uncle, who had been married for 67 years when his wife died, “Marriage is a sacrament for a reason…we need the grace!”

Grace. Unflinching commitment. The attitude, “No matter what, we will not divorce.” That’s what it takes.
Sure, there will be tough rows-to-hoe in a marriage. But the fact that couples committed to it no matter what (abuse is another story) saves our marriages every time.

So this program to help strengthen communication skills before marriage is admirable. But I suggest reading this series on marriage and courtship first!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Relics of the Martyr-Queen

Marie-Antoinette's last crucifix. "Her Christ" to translate from the French.
The Queen was bone tired. She was led across the courtyard of the Palais de Justice to the Conciergerie and her damp, moldy cell. Yet in that hopeless place she had received much spiritual consolation.
~from Trianon by Elena Maria Vidal

Making Introductions

For gentlemen (and ladies, too!) (Via Colleen Hammond)
Being introduced invites you into the conversation and makes you feel like part of the group, which is why making an introduction shows your respect for your guest. Neglecting to make an introduction leaves a person feeling ignored and, well, awkward. Making introductions is particularly important in business settings as they establish a rapport of respect, get relationships off on the right foot, and give you an aura of being confident, prepared, and in control.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Bonnie Prince Charlie

The Mad Monarchist describes his tragic life. Sometimes I think it would have been better for Prince Charles Edward Stuart if he had died heroically in battle at Culloden rather than becoming an international drunk. I am going to write a book about him someday. Share


And how to attain it. A charming vintage book discovered by Colleen Hammond. Here is an excerpt:

The enemies of poise are many and of different origins, both of feeling and of impulse. They all tend, however, toward the same result, the cessation of effort under pretexts more or less specious. It is of no use deceiving ourselves. Lack of poise has its roots deep in all the faults which are caused by apathy and purposeless variety.

We have learned in the previous chapter how greatly the vice of lack of confidence in oneself can retard the development of the quality we are considering. Balanced between the desire to succeed and the fear of failure, the timid man leads a miserable existence, tortured by unavailing regrets and by no less useless aspirations, which torment him like the worm that dieth not.

Little by little the habit of physical inaction engenders a moral inertia and the victim learns to fly from every opportunity of escaping from his bondage. Very soon an habitual state of idleness takes possession of him and causes him to avoid everything that tends to make action necessary.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Nicholas II

Weak and ignorant? A new look from author Christina Croft:
Imagine if you - and only you, one person - were faced with trying to sort out the the present situation in Afghanistan and the recent conflict in Iraq , together with all that happened in Serbia and Bosnia a couple of decades ago, and on top of that you were personally responsible for the well-being of 180 million people from different cultures in one of the largest empires on earth, and in the middle of a time of great change through industrialization and the speed of advances in technology...oh and you also had a son, whom you loved very deeply, who was seriously ill and a wife who was badly treated by your own family, and that same family had, for the most part, decided not to support you...Well, that is a little of what the 'weak' and 'ignorant' Tsar Nicholas faced every day. It wasn't his choice. He would have liked to have lived a simple life on a Dacha somewhere, caring for his family and spending his time outdoors, but he had been saddled with this responsibility and with more moral courage than any of his contemporaries he tried to rise to that challenge.
In 1913, while King George V (who is never described as 'weak' or 'ignorant') shot over 1000 pheasants in one day for 'sport' or pored over his precious stamp that had cost him over £1000, and while Kaiser Wilhelm strutted around in his uniforms, laughing too loudly and playing at being a king, the weak Tsar, Nicholas, who frittered his life away in luxury, was spending all day and most of the night trying to resolve the crisis in the Balkans. He wrote to the Kings of Bulgaria and Serbia, offering to arbitrate between them and even when 'Foxy Ferdinand' of Bulgaria, refused to listen and sent his troops into a disastrous campaign, Nicholas had the foresight to realize that if the Bulgarians were humiliated by their defeat, it would lead to resentment and future carnage. Nicholas successfully persuaded his ally, Serbia, to relinquish some of their gains to Bulgaria. Meanwhile, he was faced with the problems of German interests in Persia (Iran) and trying to maintain the balance of power to prevent the outbreak of war.

Healthcare's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell"

Is there a problem with the abuse of drugs and alcohol among physicians? Share

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Age of Dryden

The world well lost.
John Dryden, English Poet Laureate and Catholic convert, was born on August 9, 1631; he so dominated the Restoration era of literature that it is called "The Age of Dryden". He was a poet, playwright, critic, and translator, of course establishing the heroic couplet as the standard in poetry of the age.

His play, "All for Love: Or, the World Well Lost" was an attempt to revive Shakespearean tragedy, while his "Marriage a la Mode" signifies his dominance in Restoration Comedy, after the Puritan ban on the stage was lifted by Charles II.

His satiric poetry is occasional, as when he wrote "Absalom and Achitophel" as a commentary on the Exclusion crisis, the Popish Plot and the Monmouth Rebellion during Charles II's reign.

The Allure of Anne Boleyn

Why are people so fascinated? Share

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The Temple

A legendary political prison.
Many Royalists and Jacobins were jailed together at the Tower of the Temple, named after its first owners, the Templars. Within its grim walls had been jailed the royal family: Louis XVI until his execution on January 21, 1793, Marie-Antoinette until her transfer to the Conciergerie in August of the same year. Madame Elisabeth, Louis XVI’s devoted sister, had stayed behind until her turn had come to face the guillotine. There too had poor little Louis XVII died in 1795. His elder sister Marie-Thérèse-Charlotte had stayed there until she was exchanged against other prisoners and freed a few months later.

In 1800, all royal prisoners were long gone, but the medieval Tower of the Temple, with its pointed turrets, remained the political jail of choice for all prominent opponents to Bonaparte’s regime. Many of them were held there indefinitely without trial. Some only left the Temple the face the summary proceedings of a Military Commission and, later the same night, the guns of a firing squad.

The End of Courtship

The murky path to matrimony.
Today, there are no socially prescribed forms of conduct that help guide young men and women in the direction of matrimony.… People still get married — though later, less frequently, more hesitantly, and, by and large, less successfully. For the great majority, the way to the altar is uncharted territory: It’s every couple on its own bottom, without a compass, often without a goal. Those who reach the altar seem to have stumbled upon it by accident.…

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

August 10, 1792

August 10, 1792 , the Feast of St. Laurence the Martyr, saw the fall of the French monarchy, the massacre of the Swiss Guards and the beginning of the Reign of Terror. Madame Royale gave a detailed account in her Memoirs of the royal family's flight from the Tuileries to the National Assembly, of the long, agonizing hours trapped in the stenographer's box, and the imprisonment in the Temple prison. Here follows the account of the teenage daughter of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette:

Massacre at the Tuileries; Dethronement of my Father.

The Days from the 10th to the 13th of August, 1792.

After the fatal epoch of June 20, my family no longer enjoyed any tranquillity; every day there were fresh alarms, and rumours that the faubourgs Saint Antoine and Saint Marceau [together with those wretches who were called the Marseillais] were marching against the château. Sometimes they sounded the tocsin and beat the générale; sometimes, under pretext of a dinner of confraternity, they invited [and worked upon] the sections of opposite opinions to demand the dethronement of the king, which Danton, Robespierre, and their party wanted at all costs. After these many preludes, we heard with certainty on the 9th of August that the populace, armed, was assembling to attack the [Page 237] Tuileries; it was already evening. The troops who remained faithful to my father were therefore hastily collected, among them the Swiss Guard; and a great number of the nobles who were [still] in Paris arrived [in haste]. Imagine the situation of my unhappy parents during that horrible night; they remained together [expecting only carnage and death], and my mother had ordered my brother and me to go to bed.
Pétion arrived about eleven o'clock, exclaiming loudly against this new tumult. My father treated him as he deserved and sent him away; nevertheless, malignant people spread the news that Pétion was kept prisoner in the Tuileries; [on which] minds grew [embittered and] inflamed even to fury, and at midnight the signal was given to begin the dreadful massacre. The first shot fired killed M. Clermont-Tonnerre, a member of the First Assembly. For a part of the night the tumult went on outside the Tuileries, where fresh reinforcements of the National Guard were successively arriving; unfortunately, [far] too many came, for most of them were already seduced and treacherously inclined.
At six in the morning it was suggested to my father to visit all the posts and encourage the troops to defend him; but only a few cries of Vive le Roi! were heard in the courtyards, and what was worse, when he wished to enter the garden, the artillery-men, most wicked of all, dared to turn their cannon against their king; a thing not believable if I did not declare that I saw it with my own eyes.

More on the Medicis

The murdered princesses.
Finally, on the 11th of July 1576, matters reached a head and Don Pietro attacked his wife, Leonora in her bedchamber at the Villa de Medici at Cafaggiolo and strangled her with a dog lead, during a struggle that was so violent that she bit and injured his hand. Pietro then calmly sat down and wrote to his brother, Grand Duke Francesco:

Last night at six hours an accident occurred to my wife and she died. Therefore Your Highness be at peace and write me what I should do, and if I should come back or not.’
It was a disingenious attempt to deflect blame from both brothers as the twenty three Leonora had been murdered with Francesco’s full knowledge and connivance.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Michelle Obama is Marie-Antoinette?

When I first saw the frail comparison of Mrs. Obama to Queen Marie-Antoinette, I thought  it too silly to take seriously. However, the silliness seems to have taken over the internet, even sites that I used to respect. Anyone who has ever studied Marie-Antoinette or read even one of the reputable biographies about her will see that there are no similarities between the two women at all, other than being wives of heads of state. Since the comparison is meant to insult the Queen as well as the First Lady, it might be helpful to look at some basic facts.

Marie-Antoinette is once again being portrayed as the Queen who was indifferent to the suffering of the people. However, Marie-Antoinette never said "Let them eat cake." It is not a mere allegation, it is not a matter of speculation. She said nothing of the kind. It was not even a rumor spread about her in her lifetime, but did not start circulating until the nineteenth century. What the Queen did say was: "It is quite certain that in seeing the people who treat us so well despite their own misfortune, we are more obliged than ever to work hard for their happiness."

As a practicing Catholic who assisted at daily Mass, Marie-Antoinette had extensive charities. In pre-revolutionary France it was for the King and the Queen to give an example of almsgiving. Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette took this duty seriously and throughout their reign did what they could to help the needy. During the fireworks celebrating the marriage of the young prince and princess in May 1770, there was a stampede in which many people were killed. Louis and Marie-Antoinette gave all of their private spending money for a year to relieve the suffering of the victims and their families. They became very popular with the common people as a result, which was reflected in the adulation with which they were received when the Dauphin took his wife to Paris on her first "official" visit in June 1773. Marie-Antoinette's reputation for sweetness and mercy became even more entrenched in 1774, when as the new Queen she asked that the people be relieved of a tax called "The Queen's belt," customary at the beginning of each reign. "Belts are no longer worn," she quipped. It was the onslaught of revolutionary propaganda that would eventually destroy her reputation.

The King and Queen were patrons of the Maison Philanthropique, a society founded by Louis XVI which helped the aged, blind and widows. The queen taught her daughter Madame Royale to wait upon peasant children, to sacrifice her Christmas gifts so as to buy fuel and blankets for the destitute, and to bring baskets of food to the sick. Marie-Antoinette started a home for unwed mothers at the royal palace. She adopted three poor children to be raised with her own, as well overseeing the upbringing of several needy children, whose education she paid for, while caring for their families. She brought several peasant families to live on her farm at Trianon, building cottages for them. There was food for the hungry distributed every day at Versailles, at the King's command. During the famine of 1787-88, the royal family sold much of their flatware to buy grain for the people, and themselves ate the cheap barley bread in order to be able to give more to the hungry.

I fail to see the connection between the First Lady's trip to Spain with anything that Marie-Antoinette ever did. For one thing, after traveling to France from Austria at age fourteen to marry the heir to the throne, Marie-Antoinette never traveled anywhere again, except for the futile escape attempt during the Revolution. Otherwise, she never left the environs of Paris and Versailles; she never in her life saw an ocean. It was considered too expensive for the royal family to travel.

As for Mrs. Obama having a European holiday while America is struggling financially, it might not be the most prudent of choices. Nevertheless, the pictures I saw of Michelle and Sasha relaxing on the beach and lunching with the King and Queen of Spain do not seem to me to be examples of extreme decadence. There are plenty of serious issues for which one might critique the Obamas but comparing Michelle to Marie-Antoinette is foolish to say the least. Share