Monday, January 31, 2011

Sissi: Fateful Years of an Empress (1957)

Sissi–Schicksalsjahre einer Kaiserin is the final saga of the trilogy directed by Ernst Marischka about the early years of the marriage of Franf Joseph of Austria and his beloved empress, Elizabeth of Bavaria, known as "Sissi." Romy Schneider's Elizabeth is an enchanting as ever, and Romy's mother Magda Schneider's portrayal of Elizabeth's mother Duchess Ludovika is equally charming. In Fateful Years, however, drama parts company with history more than in the other films. The traumatic death of the oldest child is not shown or even alluded to and yet it was the event which pushed Elizabeth over the edge. I did not find out until later from reading articles on the internet that the baby shown is supposed to be Archduchess Gisela, the imperial couple's second child. And I thought that Karlheinz Böhm's Franz Joseph should have been given the emperor's famous whiskers by that point in the story.

Nevertheless, Fateful Years captures the glamor as well as the frustration of the Empress' youthful life, as did the other two films. Sissi's childlike manner, both wise and vulnerable, captures the hearts of all who meet her, including the most anti-Austrian Hungarian rebels. There are foreshadowings of the sorrows to come, as when Sissi playfully permits a Gypsy woman to read her palm, and as she walks away the Gypsy looks after her in horror, saying "that poor woman." As her relationship with her husband becomes increasingly strained, Sissi withdraws into her own world in which she finds interests to combat a growing depression. Her love of riding and hunting and her fascination with ancient Greece are shown in the film. However, the impression is given that Sissi was able to take charge of her own children but that did not happen until Archduchess Valerie was born.

In spite of the historical lapses of the film, its beauty still makes me wish for a fourth installment, but actress Romy Schneider would not do it. She later said: "Sissi sticks to me like oatmeal."


Out of the Mud

The role of Catholic culture is to lift people out of the mire of this world and help them to see the light of eternity. In the words of Anthony Esolen:

Yes, I do know that people of past ages were sinners, too. That is not my point. I mean to assert that while those people often failed to live up to some genuinely beautiful ideals, at least they had those ideals to which to aspire, while we have next to none. A friend of mine, a convert who is fascinated by the unraveling of social groups, notes that the word "professional" has largely replaced the word "honorable," and he has the linguistic graphs to prove it. Our words manhood and womanhood have been eviscerated. Our popular art, which is nine-tenths mass-marketed junk, is snide, sleazy, crude, coarse, not terribly artistic, and not genuinely of the people. Anyone who supposes that such crudity is but what the common people have always lived with does not know the difference between the merry, the earthy -- even the bawdy -- and the heartless and joyless sneering peddled to all classes by what is tellingly called the entertainment industry. If the testimony of the old Canadian author Louis Hemon is to be trusted, and even if he forgave the faults of his beloved countrymen, there was more courtliness, more beauty of language and gesture, more hospitality and celebration in a peasant home of old Quebec than in our neighborhoods now with all their material wealth and spiritual isolation.

What the Church must do for such a people is not to meet them in the mud, or in the glass and steel cubicles of the modern bureaucratic state, but to invite them to climb up out of that mud, or take an elevator ride back down to a world of grass and trees and dogs and children. We must preach the beauty of Jesus Christ, that beauty so often difficult for man to see, because he is also the suffering servant, the dying savior on the cross, the man laid to rest in the tomb. But He is our beauty; for we have beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten Son of God. And of His glory have the saints partaken, so that we look up in wonder at the beauty of the athletic Pier Giorgio Frassati, ministering to the plague-ridden of Turin, or the seraphic eyes of Thérèse of Lisieux, suffering and in love with Jesus.

When a lost soul wanders into the silence of one of our churches, it should not feel to him as if he had walked into a doctor's waiting room, or the department of motor vehicles, but into a new world, mysterious and true. And, sinners though we are, something of the glory of Jesus should shine through our persons, as light through the colors of a stained glass window, so that those who meet us on our pilgrimage may say to themselves, "I want to go on that journey, too." Let us pray that Jesus will conform us to His beauty, so that in all we do we may be a decorous testimony to Him.


Sunday, January 30, 2011

Mad for Plaid

A timeless classic.

Plaid continues to have broad appeal because of its history and its association with work clothing. It also lets men inject color into their wardrobes in a masculine, easily understandable way.

Tartan plaid usage dates back to 16th-century Scotland, specifically the Highlands area, says Jeffrey Banks, co-author of the 2007 book "Tartan: Romancing the Plaid." Plaid has long been a staple at places like Brooks Brothers and Ralph Lauren, and versions have been widely used for decades, from Burberry's iconic pattern to red-and-black buffalo checks.


The Capture of Charette

The execution of the hero of the Royal and Catholic army.
In prison his demeanor was calm and dignified, and worthy of his great name. He asked to be allowed to see his sister, who had already applied in vain several times for the sad pleasure of embracing her brother. At last she was admitted, along with two of her relations. He rose to meet her, and flung his arms round her neck. The heart of the poor lady was ready to break with grief. He who had been her pride, who had been the hope of the royalists and the terror of their foes, was about to pass from prison to death. As she wept, and her companions with her, he said, with a trembling voice, “Do not weep thus. Do not shake my courage. I have fought for God and for the king, and it is for them that I am going to die. I have need of all my firmness. I implore you, restrain your tears. Sister, have you not often said, that in heaven we shall meet again?”

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Cooking Winter Greens

Some delicious recipes. In our garden, Swiss chard usually makes it through the winter, as long as the ground hogs don't get to it first. Share

Artists and Their Children

A collection of paintings by artists of their children. Share

Friday, January 28, 2011

Images in Clay

Decoding ancient Greek pottery.
In the Days of ancient Greece, huge amounts of pottery were produced to serve all the basic needs of daily life. In "How to Read Greek Vases" (Yale University Press, 2011), Joan Mertens, curator of Greek and Roman art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, takes readers through 35 notable examples. Here, Ms. Mertens shares details about a 13-inch-tall terra cotta neck-amphora—a type of storage jar—made in Athens around 540 B.C.

Inspired by the Queen

Toronto artist Gabriela Delworth offers an array of Marie-Antoinette inspired crafts. Share

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Lost Vatican Manuscripts

An epic journey from Rome to Toledo. Share

The Art of Sausage Making

Hog butchering in old Virgina. Share

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Images of Athénaïs

Author Sandra Gulland has some portraits of the notorious Madame de Montespan. Share

An Ordered Plan of Love

The ordering of time requires the skill of a mother. Some wisdom from Caryll Houselander. Share

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Boring One?

Was Katherine of Aragon the most boring of Henry's wives? Claire of The Anne Boleyn Files explores the question in a balanced manner. (Via Gareth Russell) Stubborn, passionate, implacable Queen Katherine is by far my favorite of Henry's wives. From what I have read about her, I believe that the loss of so many of their children cast a pall upon a once joyful union. Henry seemed to have so much guilt attached to his marriage with Katherine; one wonders if it was because she was, as Henry himself testified, "buxom" in the bedchamber. Katherine was a saint but also a woman. Even when he was trying to have her annulled he would still visit her; I think that deep down he loved Katherine, which makes his obsession with Anne Boleyn seem all the more unwholesome and unhinged. Share

Cleopatra and Patriotism

An interesting post by author Stephanie Dray about patriotism in the ancient world, particularly in the life of Cleopatra. To quote:
The English may perhaps be forgiven their belief that they invented patriotism because the term is said to have first been coined in the Elizabethan Era. However, patriotism as a personal feeling and political tool is something far older and embraced by no lesser personage than Cleopatra VII of Egypt.

The word patriotism itself finds its root from the Greek patriōtēs. Both the ancient Greeks and the Romans had a strong notion of attachment to their fellow citizens, to their cultural identities, and sometimes to their homelands. The Romans, in particular, made highly effective use of national honor to persuade their soldiers to shun personal battle glory in favor of collective might. On their rise to super power status in the ancient world the Roman Republic frequently called upon its citizenry not simply as clans and coalitions but by their collective identity as Romans.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Sissi: The Young Empress (1956)

Sometimes when we see an historical event dramatized it gives insight into the past, granted the situation is correctly portrayed. In Sissi: The Young Empress (Sissi - Die junge Kaiserin), the sequel of Sissi, it is difficult not to shed tears when Empress Elizabeth's baby is taken away from her by her mother-in-law. It became more clear to me than ever that the trauma of that event, which was made worse by Franz Joseph taking his mother's side, was the first of many that would lead to the breakdown of Elizabeth's emotional and physical health. One can see why she later became obsessed by her beauty, since being early on deprived of the company of her children and frequently of her husband, all she could do was pour her energy into being the most beautiful woman in the world. It must have seemed to her that her looks were the only thing for which she was valued. It is a shame, because Elizabeth was a clever woman, with an ability to master foreign languages, as is touched upon in the film. What is more, she had the ability not only to create her own world but draw others into it, a magical quality which the actress Romy Schneider captures in her portrayal of the Empress.

As for the Archduchess Sophie, Elizabeth's mother-in-law, I do respect her as a formidable princess who saved the Habsburg dynasty. Sophie never asked anyone to make a sacrifice that she would not have asked of herself, which made her a indefatigable character. Her treatment of Elizabeth reminds me of how St. Louis' mother Queen Blanche treated her daughter-in-law Queen Marguerite. In order to maintain her influence on Franz Joseph she deliberately drove a wedge between him and the wife whom he loved so passionately. The only way Elizabeth felt that she could deal with such interference was to take flight.

The film takes liberties with history in that when the 1867 Hungarian coronation is shown Franz Joseph and Elizabeth only have one child, when in reality that had already had three. The oldest child's death is not shown, which greatly contributed to Sissi's collapse. In fact, her first bout with "lung disease" is not included until the final part of the trilogy. Nevertheless, the coronation scenes are intriguing for the Hungarian rituals and customs that are depicted. It is interesting to me that Elizabeth was so intensely attracted to the land which was the birthplace of her patroness St. Elizabeth of Hungary, another princess who married young and had to deal with difficult in-laws.

For those who enjoy stunning cinematic imagery, The Young Empress rivals the first film for lavish sets and costumes, and breathtaking vistas of the alps. The ballroom scene, in which Franz Joseph and Elizabeth swirl to Strauss waltzes, is worth the price of admission in itself. Most of all, Romy Schneider's unforgettable characterization of Elizabeth in all her enchantment and tragic sorrow brings to life a woman who was a legend even when she walked upon the earth.

Elizabeth, Empress of Austria
King and Queen of Hungary
(Images) Share

The Kingdom of Elmet

Historical fiction writer Carla Nayland researches the lost British kingdom.
Bede specifically mentions Elmet once in his Ecclesiastical History:
A basilica was built at the royal residence of Campodunum, but this, together with all the buildings of the residence, was burned by the pagans who killed King Edwin and later kings replaced this seat by another in the vicinity of Loidis. The stone altar of this church survived the fire and is preserved in the monastery that lies in Elmet Wood and is ruled by the most reverend priest and abbot Thrydwulf.
--Bede, Ecclesiastical History, Book II ch.15

Loidis is modern Leeds. The site of Campodunum is uncertain. The two leading candidates are Doncaster and Slack, near Huddersfield, both the sites of Roman towns or forts. The Roman name of Doncaster, Danum, could be related to the second element of Bede’s name Campodunum. Both are within the boundaries of Elmet as suggested above. Bede uses the name Elmet not as the name of a region or province, but as the name of a forest, Elmet Wood. This may indicate that the name Elmet could refer to a specific locality, possibly part of a larger territory.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Anne of Denmark

A wonderful post on a new blog by a Danish student of English history.
The plans for a princess of Denmark to marry the king of Scotland, James the First, were already underway. At first Elisabeth had been the chosen candidate but while Frederik was still alive he betrothed her to the Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg. As he did so he promised to the Scottish delegation “for the second daughter, Anne, if the king did like her, he should have her”. Anne was fourteen when she traveled to Norway, to be met by her husband.

Reaching Out to Older Adults

Here is an interview with author Missy Buchanan about her books Talking with God in Old Age and Living with Purpose in a Worn-out Body:
Even when age creeps up on the body and mind, and life changes from what it once was, is it still possible to have a purpose in life?  When it is no longer possible to venture out and do the things you once loved, can you still find a reason to look forward to each day?  Missy Buchanan, a leading expert and advocate for senior adults, believes that you can.  Buchanan wants to encourage older adults to find their purpose, share their stories, and make an impact on those around them.

Q: What made you decide to start ministering to and writing books for older adults?

Well, as a middle-aged adult, I never had any intention of becoming an author of books for older adults.  But because of the journey that my own aging parents were on, I realized how they had become disconnected from their church as their lives changed.  They started off as active older adults and then that circle got smaller as they had more needs and physical limitations.  As I would visit them at their retirement community, I would also see so many others that were just like them.  They needed spiritual encouragement.  And so that’s why I got started.  The first book began as a project just for my own parents.  I wrote devotions and kept them in a loose-leaf notebook.   But others started asking for them and things just spiraled from there.

Q: What do you think children need to know about their aging parents?

What I realized personally was that I had been so caught up in my parents’ physical needs that I had neglected their spiritual needs.  They were no longer connected to their church, at least in regular worship attendance, and that had been such a huge part of their lives.  I almost made that mistake of just totally missing that, and that was the point where I began to write.  I looked and there were other books written about older adults but not very many that were written to them and for them.  So the first thing I would tell their children is to pay attention not only to their physical needs but also to their spiritual needs.

Q: What is your opinion about role reversal with children and their aging parents?

I hear the whole idea of role reversal where the older parent becomes a child and the grown children become the parent, and I understand what they are talking about because my own parents became more dependent on me.  But I think that when we refer to it as a role reversal, and we begin to think of our aging parents as children, we strip away their dignity.  We rob them of respect and we overlook the fact that they are not children.  They have had a lifetime of experiences that a child has not had.  And I think that is an important difference that grown children need to think about and pay attention to.  It’s more of a role shift in responsibilities and not a role reversal.  I know how much it hurts an aging parent to feel like they are being treated like a baby or like a child. 

Q: Other than aging adults, who else has benefited from your writing?

A friend of mine in an assisted living facility asked me to bring some books for one of her tablemates.  Her tablemate explained that these books were for her adult children.  “They don’t understand what it feels like to grow old, and I can’t seem to make them understand, but your books say it better than I ever could.”  My books are all written in the first person as if an older adult is speaking directly to God.  There are a lot of adult children that are buying them for themselves and older adults buying them for their grown children. 

And I’ve heard of different youth groups that have been reading my books in order to better understand what it’s like to grow old.  Instead of just mocking their older peers, they are learning that they share a lot of the same feelings—feelings of insecurity, feelings of fear.  As a result of reading the books, one youth group in Tennessee has even adopted the residents of the senior living center across from their church. 

Q: How can faith change our idea of growing older?

So many see aging as a punishment, and they dread it so much.  But even though it is difficult to be limited by an aging body, they need to look at it as a gift that God has given them.  They still have so much to give.  They have great wisdom to share and stories to share.  I always tell my older friends that their story is not yet over.
 More HERE.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Planning a Water Garden

It is not as difficult as it seems.

Visit my friends at Lilypons, HERE.


All is Vanity

The photography of Canadian artist Ingrid Mida is on display in Toronto, beginning today. In the words of the artist:
In this photographic series suggesting the haunted gardens of Versailles, I attempt to convey the journey and emotions of grief. Inspired by the work of Cindy Sherman, Sarah Moon and Deborah Turbeville, I have used soft focus, movement and filters to evoke a terrible kind of beauty. This series of ten black and white photographs pose the question of whether beauty and death are facets of the same experience.

No More "Mental Retardation"

The mother of a Down's Syndrome child speaks from the heart. To quote:
Recently, an American psychiatrist traveled to Ireland, and was puzzled by the fact that he saw many more children with Down syndrome in the population than he was accustomed to seeing at home. He noted that they were integrated into everyday activities, and marveled at how they were casually accepted in everyday life. Upon investigation into this rare phenomenon, he came upon a surprising fact: abortion is illegal in Ireland, so the 90 percent abortion rate that has virtually extinguished people with Down elsewhere is not operating. The Irish don't do a double take for children like Christina. In fact, they are debuting a cartoon on Irish TV whose main character, "Punkie," is a little girl with Down syndrome. It will be included among the ordinary children's programs.

Friday, January 21, 2011

A Moment for Louis On His Day

Remembering Louis XVI in pictures. Share

Catholics and Feminism

Here is an excellent post by the one and only Crescat. Why is it that we think that women and girls are only worthwhile if they are filling roles once reserved only for men and boys? Why do women have such an inferiority complex...and then pass it on to their daughters?

And speaking of roles once reserved for boys, here is an article from on women in combat. (Via Serge) Share


Why do otherwise intelligent, educated people become screaming banshees when it comes to Governor Palin? What is there to be afraid of? I don't understand it myself. We do not have to like everyone but why do we tear some people apart? I find myself agreeing with the woman quoted in the recent WSJ article:
I am amazed at how people still abhor her. I personally do not. I don't feel she would be a good choice to run this country, but she does not deserve the horrific treatment she gets. I can tell you, being privy to the endless, incendiary rants this past week about her, coming from hordes of liberal women--age demo 25 to 45--they rip her to pieces, they blame her for everything, and the jealousy/resentment factor is so clear and primal. I've never seen anything like it.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

An Ivory Saint

An old work of art resurfaces, reminding us of the sufferings of the martyr St. Sebastian.
The curvature of the raw material, elephant tusks, crimped the ambitions of ivory carvers, and only about a dozen ivories of this size and period are known to exist. Most were crucifixes made for princes or other wealthy patrons.

Where this Saint Sebastian has been for the last few centuries is unknown, but dealer Andrew Butterfield, who is offering it, bought it from a South American dealer last year. (Mr. Butterfield declines to say what he paid for it.) It was unattributed and needed cleaning. Mr. Butterfield, a Renaissance and Baroque scholar, researched the sculpture, pinning the attribution to Jacobus Agnesius, and paid New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art to clean it.

Only two other works by Agnesius, who was known to have worked in Italy for much of his life, have been universally recognized by historians: Another "Saint Sebastian" is owned by Paris's Louvre museum, and the "Martyrdom of Saint Bartholomew," is in a museum in Albi, France. Both are much smaller. The known record for an ivory, a private sale, is about $7 million.

Size alone would not make the work desirable, of course. In carving this nearly naked martyr-saint, who was tied to a tree and shot with arrows in the third century, Agnesius used the curvature of the tusk to create an arced, anguished body, supplementing it with two pieces for the arms. The piece will be on view, Jan. 26 through Feb. 4, at Moretti Fine Art in New York.

The Handshake

Gone by the wayside? According to Swell and Dandy:
Perhaps the most rudimentary staple of social interaction, the handshake, dates back as early as the 5th century B.C. in Greece. Likely originating as a gesture of peace (a hand engaged in a handshake can bare no weapon), it is speculated that the handshake was popularised in the 16th century by Sir Walter Raleigh in service to the British Court. The handshake is crucial in the social realms as a means of greeting, yet it appears at risk of falling out of use by the youngest generation. It is important to shake hands upon greeting colleagues, friends, or new acquaintances, and to do it properly.
I will add that a lady usually extends her hand first and it is her privilege not do so so as she sees fit. Share

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Sissi (1955)

There are moments in history, moments which appeared to be accidents, which end up shaping the destinies of nations. One such moment was the unplanned encounter of twenty-three year old Emperor Franz Joseph with his fifteen year old cousin, Elisabeth of Bavaria. They met for the first time since Elisabeth's childhood at the spa at Bad Ischl where the young emperor had journeyed to become betrothed to Elisabeth's older sister, Helene. Of course, it was expected that Franz Joseph would see Elisabeth at some point during the holiday, but it was not expected that when he did he would fall desperately in love with her. In spite of the bride's youth, immaturity and extreme reluctance to assume any imperial duties, the couple were married within the year.

The fateful meeting of Franz Joseph and Elisabeth at Bad Ischl is dramatized in the 1955 German film Sissi starring Romy Schneider in the title role and Karlheinz Böhm as the young emperor. The film is the first of a trilogy about Elisabeth, a trilogy which has been blamed for propagating the romantic fairy tale view of Franz Joseph and Elisabeth's troubled marriage. However, there are worse things to be deluded about than the relationship of Franz Joseph and Elisabeth, especially when during their lives they did as much to propagate the myth about themselves as did any filmmaker. All one has to do is look at the portraits of Elisabeth with her hair tumbling down, or the popular prints showing the royal couple riding together or walking arm-in arm or sitting surrounded by their children, to guess that they wanted the dream to be true as much as anyone else did. Ultimately, theirs is a story of star-crossed lovers who are never able to live out their love for each other because of the crushing demands of empire as well as basic incompatibility.

Romy Schneider's Sissi is an utterly captivating mischief maker, a cross between Marie-Antoinette, Maria of The Sound of Music and Heidi of Heidi. She is the antithesis of everything in Franz Joseph's regimented, highly disciplined life, a life which has already experienced war, revolution, exile and restoration. When Franz Joseph insists that he will marry no one but Sissi, the viewer knows he means it, even as Sissi herself knows her destiny has been determined as she accepts the armful of red roses from her suitor. The portrayal of Sissi's loving but topsy-turvy family is humorous and delightful, reminding me of other large families I have known. On the other hand, Franz Joseph's mother Archduchess Sophie thinks that Elisabeth is completely unsuitable to be empress and makes no secret of her disappointment  as well as of her determination to force the lively girl into submission.

Filmed on location in Austria and Bavaria, every scene shows stunning mountain vistas that Americans would later relish in The Sound of Music. As far as pageantry goes, the film is second to none, except perhaps the other two films in the trilogy, which as of this writing I have yet to see. The shot of Elisabeth's barge sailing down the Danube as she waves to the rejoicing crowds on the shore is almost Wagnerian in its beauty and pathos. The wedding scene is incomparable for the majesty of both the liturgy and the imperial pomp. Anyone who loves historical drama must see Sissi.

Sissi is overall one of the best films about royalty ever, free from the skeptical undercurrent which too often characterizes Hollywood films about royals. To watch a film about south Germans and Austrians with German and Austrian actors truly makes the past come alive. Effort was made to make the costumes and sets as accurate as possible. I think that Sissi perfectly captures the mood of the beginning of the relationship of the imperial couple, with all the joy and hope and fairy tale glamor amid great misgivings. I look forward to the other two films, entitled Sissi — die junge Kaiserin  (Sissi — The Young Empress) and Sissi — Schicksalsjahre einer Kaiserin (1957) (Sissi — Fateful Years of an Empress).

 Elisabeth of Bavaria, Empress of Austria
(Images: HERE and HERE.) Share

Chinese Mothers

Are they the best? Some interesting insights. To quote:
What Chinese parents understand is that nothing is fun until you're good at it. To get good at anything you have to work, and children on their own never want to work, which is why it is crucial to override their preferences. This often requires fortitude on the part of the parents because the child will resist; things are always hardest at the beginning, which is where Western parents tend to give up. But if done properly, the Chinese strategy produces a virtuous circle. Tenacious practice, practice, practice is crucial for excellence; rote repetition is underrated in America. Once a child starts to excel at something—whether it's math, piano, pitching or ballet—he or she gets praise, admiration and satisfaction. This builds confidence and makes the once not-fun activity fun. This in turn makes it easier for the parent to get the child to work even more.
An American mother defends Western parenting, HERE. Share

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Winter Sale at Shabby Apple

Please do visit Shabby Apple during their Winter Sale for dresses with classic style. (Use the Coupon Code WINTER20 at checkout.) Women's and Maternity sizes are also available. And the little girls' dresses are too cute to miss!

O Wind,
If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?
~Ode to the West Wind by Percy Bysshe Shelley

Little Girls Dresses from Shabby Apple Share

Deferred Gratification

Has the sexual revolution come full circle? It is darkly amusing to me how the young woman in the article insists that, in spite of all the heartache, that women should have the option of "acting like men" when it comes to sexual misbehavior. It still makes me wonder how the negative behavior espoused by some (not all) men throughout history should be seen as a sign of "equality" for women. It would make more sense if self-control and restraint were adopted by women who wanted to be seen as being in charge of their destiny, rather than the mimicking the worst vices of men. But perhaps restraint is coming back in style. According to The Guardian:
I'm glad that women can now, mostly, do as they please sexually, without (too much) cultural opprobrium; we should have the option of acting like men. But casual sex has come to seem more of a necessity or an expectation. Young women – and older ones, too – feel significant pressure, from their peers and a culture in which girls who go wild are minor celebrities and Samantha Jones is cast as a role model, to have rollicking sex lives. If they want to wait to have sex, they wonder if something's wrong with them: that they're too prudish or serious or boring, or that they'll be left behind by the men they're dating.

But wasn't feminism supposed to be about choices? And giving women control over their lives? Ironically, contemporary women – with our expensive degrees and good jobs – are more valuable, in a literal sense, than we ever have been before; yet, we've lowered our value in the sexual marketplace. Regnerus points out that young women are competing with each other for men's attention and, in doing so, have lowered the metaphorical "cost" men have to pay to be with them. "When that happens, what men (even substandard men) want – access to sex with few strings – will win out," says Regnerus.

But what if women stopped settling for less? What if we felt assured it was fine to wait until we knew we wouldn't feel used? Till we felt confident that we'd enjoy the sex, and whatever might come after it? We wouldn't have utopia. But women would likely feel more empowered than we do now. Perhaps we'd also begin to feel happier. (Women's overall level of happiness has declined steadily since the early 70s, both relative to men and to women of past generations.)

More sad commentary HERE, on how American women lost their femininity. (Via The New Beginning.) Share

Hearty Winter Breakfasts

“Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and dinner like a pauper.”-Adelle Davis


Monday, January 17, 2011

North and South (2004)

 Margaret Hale: I have seen hell and it's white.
~North and South (2004) 
The way in which the British gentry tended to look down on those who engaged in trade has always amused me. My ancestors in County Cork were forced to engage in trade after their castle was confiscated by Oliver Cromwell. They had to eat, so they went to work. Being from a long line of hard-working and thrifty Irish and Scottish craftsmen, coal miners, blacksmiths, and farmers has instilled in me the deepest respect for manual labor. I know that engaging in trade is not the end of the world, having done it myself.

However, to an English gentlewoman such as Margaret Hale, the heroine of Elizabeth Gaskell's novel North and South, moving to a factory town in the north of England, where she has to rub shoulders with persons who engage in trade, is the fate worse than death. Not only does John Thornton the mill owner engage in trade, but when Margaret first claps eyes on him he is shouting in a coarse manner as well as kicking and punching some blithering idiot half to death. Margaret does not realize that the blithering idiot with the pipe could have easily caused an inferno in the cotton mill which would have led to many deaths. She only sees that John Thornton is a bit on the rough side and therefore decides then and there that he is first, last, and only NOT a gentleman.

Now I have never read the book upon which the BBC production of North and South is based, although I have read Elizabeth Gaskell's Wives and Daughters, which I thoroughly enjoyed. Mrs. Gaskell is a genius when it came to making subtle characterizations of complex personalities amid scathing social commentary. Her social commentary is by no means subversive or bitter but rather shows how venial faults in even the most sterling characters can have adverse consequences for many. Margaret sees how her gentlemanly father loses his living as a clergyman, reducing her family to penury, simply because he no longer agrees with the Book of Common Prayer. Her brother likewise brings shame and scandal by running off to sea on a lark, an adventure which swiftly becomes an unmitigated disaster.

On the other hand, the mill hand Nicholas Higgins proves himself not only to be the support of his family but a prince among men.  Margaret seeks out the poor Higginses in their hovel in order to be their Lady Bountiful. The Higginses, however, give Margaret the emotional support she needs through so many upheavals. In the meantime,  Margaret becomes so desperately attached to the factory owner John Thornton that she cannot bring herself to acknowledge the intensity of her feelings or his. Her regard for him increases as she sees that he tries to be a fair employer, having overcome a childhood of extreme hardship in order to provide for his family. She realizes that people cannot be put into all the neat little categories in which she had originally arranged her world. As her eyes open, so does her heart, which makes North and South one of the most powerfully romantic and memorable television films of the decade.

 (Images) Share

Five Things That Are Worse Than Being in Debt

All true; I can vouch for it! Share

Sunday, January 16, 2011

The Wicker Man (1973)

A very British horror film about a community which reverts to pre-Christian practices. (Via Joshua Snyder.) Share

The Psalmody of the Divine Office

Dom Daniel Mark Kirby explains the traditions for the recitation of the Liturgy of the Hours, as well as some of the recent breaks with tradition, saying:
In order to respond effectively to the liturgical vision of religious life articulated by Pope Benedict XVI, I will focus on the single most important element of the Divine Office in its various forms: the recitation of the Psalter. The Roman Liturgy of the Hours, reformed after the Second Vatican Council in view of the many demands made on the time and energy of the diocesan clergy and apostolic religious, distributes the entire Psalter over four weeks. Each Hour contains, nonetheless, an element of psalmody. The psalms belong, then, to the very substance of the Liturgy of the Hours.

The psalms, inspired by the Holy Spirit and entrusted to the Children of Israel in view of the day when Christ Himself and, after Him, His Bride, the Church, would pray them, are lyrical poems expressing every sentiment of the human heart, and directing those sentiments Godwards. The psalms are, at once, universal and personal.

Making Sense of Tuscon

Health care professional Nick Jacobs discusses the policies which led to the unspeakable tragedy in Arizona, saying:
Those people killed and wounded in Arizona were killed and wounded because of a man who is most likely mentally ill.  We, as a country, must begin to address this mental health issue with parity, with commitment and without judgment.  No family is without some member who is suffering from some mental health issue, but  this discussion is still ignored, hidden or buried.

So, when the pundits ask if it is about the rhetoric? We don’t know. When they ask if it is about the availability of weapons and ammunition?  The answer seems to fall under that same category. BUT, when the question is properly directed toward mental health?  The answer seems to be absolutely, yes without a doubt.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

A Marie-Antoinette Style Wedding

I don't care for the gown so much but the general idea is enchanting, especially the place settings. Share

Working from Home

Here are some great tips from Patricia Rossi for those who have a home office.
Number One:  Set your agenda/schedule and follow it.
Number Two:  Dress the part. If you wouldn't do business in your husband's boxers or your wife’s robe then don't wear that when you start your business day. Dress in a professional manner.
Number Three:  Be careful of snack attacks, taking little bites here and there add up- the freshman 15 doesn't look good or sit well on any us.
Number Four:  Beware of activities that are dressed up like business opportunities. Things such as emails, texting, Skype, Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn- all of these are important, yet must be utilized in a limited fashion. Set time parameters and follow them.
Number Five:  Keep your professional persona; don't relax your professional boundaries and or personal screen. You’re in your home office-not on the Jerry Springer show… so comments that are of personal nature should be kept out of business conversations.  People don't want to know you haven't brushed, had a fuss with your spouse or changed your clothes in 2 days.
Number Six : Set Boundaries with your friends, animals, children, husband, & neighbors. They need to know you keep a tight office schedule and that they can't just stop by and plunk down for a 20 minute coffee klatch.
Number Seven: Open and close shop at the same time every single business day. 15 minutes before closing time, read over your list of things to accomplished; check off things completed and start a list of things to complete the next day.
Working from home can be most satisfying and successful for both you and your family if you keep these simple steps in mind!
PATRICIA ROSSI is the Nationally Syndicated Manners Correspondent for NBC’s “Daytime” where she hosts the popular Manners Minute segments. Patricia is a renowned etiquette consultant and author of  “Everyday Etiquette Made Easy”.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Louis Joseph, Prince de Condé

The Prince of Monaco. Share

An Example Of Christian Imagination

Tolkien is an ideal example of the Catholic imagination. People mistake Catholic or even Christian art with directly representing Christian content. It can do that, as in the paintings of Michelangelo, but as we’ve seen in the work of Waugh or O’Connor or Shakespeare, it can infuse the work like herbs infuse hot water. A woman taking a baby down to a river doesn’t have to have the word Moses or Jesus, or the words baptism or renewal, attached to them. It’s all in there. Locked in, like the secrets of Tolkien’s Middle English words.

Tolkien explains the Catholic infusion in his work for us: “The Lord of the Rings is of course a fundamentally religious and Catholic work; unconsciously so at first, but consciously in the revision. That is why I have not put in, or have cut out, practically all references to anything like ‘religion,’ to cults or practices, in the imaginary world. For the religious element is absorbed into the story and the symbolism.”

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Gowns of Two Tsarinas

Melanie has a post on the gowns of Empress Maria Feodorovna and Empress Alexandra Feodorovna. I saw some of the gowns when they were displayed in Wilmington, DE. about twelve years ago.


The Return of Georges Rouault

Jennifer Pierce discusses a reverent modernist, saying:
If you suppress something it usually goes underground and re-germinates, becomes stronger, and changes flavor and character until it again pushes through the earth and seeks light.  It's the irony of totalitarianism.  That which you try to suppress will usually become strengthened by your action.  Communist Poland produced Karol Wojtyla.  Go figure.   Rouault seems to be a little like that.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

A Predictable Tragedy

Why are people with serious mental illnesses roaming the streets untreated? According to Dr. E. Fuller Torrey:
The killing of six people in Tucson is one more sad episode in an ongoing series of tragedies that should not be happening. The alleged shooter, Jared Lee Loughner, is reported to have had symptoms associated with schizophrenia—incoherent thought processes, delusional ideas, erratic behavior—and almost certainly was seriously mentally ill and untreated. The fact that he was barred from his college until he was evaluated by a psychiatrist would appear to confirm the nature of the problem.

The truth is that these tragedies are happening every day throughout the United States. The only reason this episode has received widespread publicity is because there were multiple victims and one victim was a member of Congress. Such senseless killings have become increasingly common over the past 30 years, starting in about 1980, when Allard Lowenstein, coincidentally a former congressman, was killed by Dennis Sweeney. Sweeney was a young man with untreated schizophrenia who had been Lowenstein's protégé in the civil rights movement. Congress was also prominently involved in 1998, when Russell Weston, who also had untreated schizophrenia, killed two policemen while trying to shoot his way into the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C.

These tragedies are the inevitable outcome of five decades of failed mental-health policies. During the 1960s, we began to empty the state mental hospitals but failed to put in place programs to ensure that the released patients received treatment after they left. By the 1980s, the results were evident—increasing numbers of seriously mentally ill persons among the homeless population and in the nation's jails and prisons.
Over the past three decades, things have only gotten worse. A 2007 study by the U.S. Justice Department found that 56% of state prisoners, 45% of federal prisoners, and 64% of local jail inmates suffer from mental illnesses.

A 2008 study out of the University of Pennsylvania that examined murders committed in Indiana between 1990 and 2002 found that approximately 10% of the murders were committed by individuals with serious mental illnesses. There are about 16,000 homicides a year in this country. Using the Indiana study as a guide, roughly 1,600 of them are likely committed by people with serious mental illnesses.

In Arizona, public mental-health services are among the worst in the nation. In a 2008 survey by the Treatment Advocacy Center, Arizona ranked next to last among all states in the number of psychiatric hospital beds per capita. If you don't have hospital beds and outpatient clinics to treat mentally ill people, those people don't get treated. Thus the tragedy was somewhat more likely to happen in Arizona because mentally ill individuals are less likely to receive treatment there. Although Arizona is the worst state, except for Nevada, in psychiatric-bed availability, there is no state that currently has enough beds for its mentally ill population, according to the Treatment Advocacy Center study. This tragedy occurred in Arizona, but it could easily have happened in any state.

True Grit

The new film is true to the novel by Charles Portis. According to Steve Sailer:
True Grit will likely wind up as the frauteurs’ biggest box-office hit yet, perhaps even their first to earn $100 million domestically. True Grit’s verbose Victorian Wild West dialogue is at times daunting to decipher, yet it’s somewhat familiar from the Oscar-winning John Wayne comic Western and the surprisingly influential 1968 Charles Portis novel. Over 40 years ago, Portis created prototypical Coen Brothers characters—hyper-articulate, eccentric, and violent—avant la lettre, allowing the Coens now to make a straightforward adaptation of his novel.
More HERE. Share

The Great Skirts Debate

Betty Beguiles handles the matter with grace and aplomb, saying:
We find ourselves in a unique place in history. Though women today are experiencing unparalleled freedom, we are not yet far enough away from a time when we were socially marginalized to have completely moved on. Because there may be some residual fear of having their liberties taken away, some women have a knee-jerk reaction when they hear it suggested that there might be some benefit to their favoring skirts over pants. Several of the individuals who contributed to this conversation asserted that the mere fact that the question had been raised concerned and insulted them....
When questions are raised regarding the appropriateness of women wearing pants, they are often received as a demand that women take a step backwards in the quest for equality. One of the key tenets of the feminist revolution of the 1960’s was that, in order to be equal, women should not be asked or expected to do anything differently from men. The assumption being that to do so would be an infringement upon our autonomy and might prevent us from living full lives. This worldview has so infiltrated our culture that the average American wouldn’t even think to question it.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Just Come Casual

What does casual mean, anyway? Here is a lovely article from a lady who has had experiences similar to my own. To quote:
What is the difference between an invitation to come to a picnic and another to come casual? Why is one invitation orderly and reassuring and the other disorderly and disconcerting?

A dress code, the unwritten law of modesty and decorum that everyone in a community knows just because he knows it, is a great freedom. It is liberating in the same way that any proper structure is a freedom; taking it for granted, one's attention can move on to something else perhaps more important.

Not only is clothing our first link to manners and morals,
hence to civilization, but it is also one of the most reliable and comforting components of order in our lives. Hanging on the same rack in the closet (if not disturbed by pillaging daughters), it remains right where we put it, familiar and all ours. First thing every morning we find the same slippers there beside the bed, conforming to the habit of their owner's feet. The familiar bathrobe, too, reminds us that the world is a friendly place. The clothes, moreover, that we put on for the day in some way govern that day. According to the activity to which they are suited, they structure the day's activities.

Clothes, furthermore, are a sign of respect to others. If one is invited to a picnic, then one is happy to oblige the hosts by showing up in something that fits the mood of the party. On the other hand, just to go casual when one is invited to dinner shortchanges the dignity of the hosts. After all, hospitality is an ancient virtue; it should be honored with a degree of reverence.

Holocaust in Rwanda

A story of our own day which makes my blood run cold every time I hear it.
A cloud descends. A curtain drops. The lights go out. It was seen in the horrors of Babylonian and Roman persecutions and in Nazi Germany and in Cambodia and Ukraine under the Communists and most recently in Rwanda, where the most intense genocide in history occurred in 1994. To read about this epidemic of darkness is to delve into a completely riveting story that defies normal human understanding. In less than a year, up to a million were left dead.

In house after house, village after village, town after town, tribal Tutsis were butchered without mercy by rival Hutus who dismembered and decapitated them with machetes in the most sadistic massacre with which modern history is familiar. In many cases, Hutus turned on Tutsis who were friends and neighbors and virtually indistinguishable from them -- sharing the same culture, religions, and many genetic traits. It wasn't even a clear ethnic dispute -- just an outbreak of the unthinkable. 

Corpses lined the roads of Rwanda to the point where many expected the Hutus to kill every last Tutsi. The killers -- former childhood friends or schoolteachers and town officials who were now simply part of a killing mob -- wielded spears and guns and machetes and chanted, "Kill them, kill them, kill them all; kill them big and kill them small; kill the old and kill the young; a baby snake is still a snake; kill it too; let none escape; kill them, kill them, kill them all!" Some dressed like demons, wearing tree-bark skirts and goat horns strapped to their heads.


Monday, January 10, 2011

Elsie de Wolfe

She has been called the inventor of interior design.
Her philosophy: "On a cushion which accompanies me everywhere is my philosophy: 'Never complain. Never explain.' Nothing ages a woman like worry or bad temper. . . . Make-up is an art that every woman must learn for herself. There is one element which must always go into it. Plenty of time."
More quotes:
"Be pretty if you can, be witty if you must, but be gracious if it kills you."

"It is the personality of the mistress that the home expresses. Men are forever guests in our homes, no matter how much happiness they may find there."

"I believe in plenty of optimism and white paint."

"Simplicity, suitability and proportion."

"The cardinal virtue of all beauty is restraint."

"I am going in now for interior decoration. By that I mean supplying objets d'art and giving advice regarding the decoration of their houses to wealthy persons who do not have the time, inclination, nor culture to do such work for themselves. It is nothing new. Women have done the same thing before."

"I am going to make everything around me beautiful. That will be my life."

Top 25 Grammar Mistakes

I found myself reading this very carefully. Share

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Notorious Royal Marriages

Lord Darnley and Mary Stuart
Notorious Royal Marriage by Leslie Carroll is a delightful romp through European history by way of examining several of the most infamous couples of all time. Eleanor of Aquitaine and her consecutive kings, Isabella and Ferdinand, Juana and Philip, Henry VIII and all six Queens, Mary Stuart and Henry Lord Darnley, Marie-Antoinette and Louis XVI, Alexandra and her Nicholas and many more. It is a book which I found not only highly entertaining but in each chapter, even those about royals whom I have studied, I always learned  things I had never known before. In most instances, when addressing certain controversies, Leslie carefully presents the evidence, gives her opinion, but lets the reader draw their own conclusions. I have to say that I am impressed with the vast amount of information that was compiled for each royal marriage, yet summarized into compact narratives.  

Royal Marriages has a distinct common touch that makes it an easy read but contains enough dates and details for any lover of history. While the chapter on Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette had a few items that Leslie and I could probably sit and debate about over cocktails, I was moved by the chapters on Franz Josef and Sissi, who suffered everything throughout their long and rocky marriage, as well as by the retelling of the saga of George IV and Mrs. Fitzherbert. I was very glad that Leslie pointed out the Nazi connection in recounting the bizarre relationship of Wallis Simpson and Edward VIII. Most of all, I loved the chapters on Mary Queen of Scots. On the book blog Historically Obsessed, Leslie gives a description of each of the doomed queen's doomed weddings. To quote:
The sun was not yet up on the morning of July 29, 1565, when Mary was led down the aisle of the Chapel Royal at Holyrood by Darnley’s father, Lord Lennox, and the Earl of Argyll. Over her wedding gown she wore her deuil blanc, a white gauze sack that covered her from head to toe—the traditional mourning garment for French queens—emblematic of her status as a widow, and by extension, the Dowager Queen of France.

Darnley entered the chapel and the bridal couple exchanged vows. Since they were first cousins, a papal dispensation was necessary in order for them to marry. It had not arrived in Edinburgh by July 29, but Mary blithely assumed the document was en route, and therefore, she married Darnley without it. Although the dispensation finally made it to Scotland, the July 29 marriage was technically not legal because it had been performed while the bride and groom remained within a proscribed degree of affinity.

After the rings were exchanged, despite the fact that he, too, was a Catholic, Darnley quit the chapel to avoid being charged with “idolatry,” leaving his bride at the altar to continue the mass. As soon as the ceremony was over, Mary invited her guests to help her cast aside her mourning garments by each removing one of the pins that affixed the deuil blanc to her wedding gown.
I had trouble putting this book down and must have been an incredible bore to my family over the holidays as I kept slipping away to read it. It was intriguing to see how even the best of marriages had ups and downs, with the complications of royalty adding to the challenges of compatibility.