Friday, September 30, 2011

Madame Royale on Porcelain

From Vive la Reine. Share

St. Adamnan of Ireland

He worked for the immunity of the civilian population during times of war.
In 701 he was employed by Longsech, king of Ireland, on an embassy to Alfred, king of the Northern Saxons, to demand of the latter a reparation of the injuries committed by his subjects on the province of Meath, and carrying off the effects of the inhabitants before the troops of the Irish could arrive to chastise those invaders. Adamnan succeeded happily in this negotiation: he was favourably received by the Saxon monarch, and obtained full satisfaction for all the damages done to his countrymen in the foregoing year. (Read entire post.)

Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Michaelmas Goose

A remarkable recipe and a bit of Irish history. (Via Laudem Gloriae.)
Michaelmas, known in Ireland as Fomhar na nGeanna, falls on September 29, the feast of St. Michael the Archangel. It is commonly associated with geese because the birds that we hatched in spring and put out to grass in May and on to the stubble after the harvest are plump and ready for market at this time.

Years ago most farms in Ireland would have reared geese. I have vivid childhood memories of the preparations for the Michaelmas feast in a neighbour's house. The bird was smothered several days ahead and hung by the neck in the larder. It was then plucked in an open shed. The wings were kept (and much sought after for brushing out dusty corners), the large feathers were sometimes made into quills or fishing floats, and the smaller ones and the precious down were collected for stuffing pillows and feather beds.
The goose was stuffed with potato, onion and sage stuffing and roasted slowly — by which time we would be in a fever of anticipation. Every now and then the fat would be poured off; some was used to roast potatoes but the rest was stored for myriad purposes apart from cooking — it was rubbed into chests as a remedy for wheeziness, rubbed in to the range to give it a shine or even into leather shoes. Nothing was wasted!

In many parts of the country the first corn of the new year was ground into flour and baked into bread to go with the feast and the last sheaf of wheat was the centrepiece on the able. There were many traditions attached to the last sheaf; in some places the girl who tied it had the honour of being led on to the dance floor by the farmer's son for the first dance of the evening.

Michaelmas was also the time to pick apples, so the goose was always served with apple sauce and often followed by baked apples or a golden apple tart dusted with caster sugar. (Read entire post.)

The Death of Privacy

Here we are in 2011, with our federal, state and local governments having the technological ability to track and store in massive databases what we say on the phone, in emails, on Facebook, on Twitter and the myriad other digital means in which we communicate....

Moreover, as I and others have reported, the Department of Justice's Nationwide Suspicious Activity Reporting (SAR) Initiative, or NSI, enlists We the People to spy on possible seditious Americans among us and report them to the FBI and local and state police. We are ordered to do this in obedience to the "If You See Something, Say Something" campaign. It's up to you to define "suspicious." This is what our America has become. Jefferson's ghost might want to start another revolution. (Read entire article.)

Is Facebook spying on you? Some people think so.
Facebook has admitted that it has been watching the web pages its members visit – even when they have logged out. In its latest privacy blunder, the social networking site was forced to confirm that it has been constantly tracking its 750million users, even when they are using other sites. The social networking giant says the huge privacy breach was simply a mistake - that software automatically downloaded to users' computers when they logged in to Facebook 'inadvertently' sent information to the company, whether or not they were logged in at the time. Most would assume that Facebook stops monitoring them after they leave its site, but technology bloggers discovered this was not the case. In fact, data has been regularly sent back to the social network’s servers – data that could be worth billions when creating 'targeted' advertising based on the sites users visit. (Read entire article.)

Edward Burne-Jones on Angels

The more materialistic science becomes, the more angels shall I paint. Their winds are my protest in favour of the immortality of the soul.
Via Hermes. Share

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

An Interlude

Madame de Lamballe reading to Marie Antoinette and her daughter, Marie Thérèse Charlotte by Joseph Carauad, 1858. Via Vive la Reine. Share

Quotes from English Martyrs

From Stephanie Mann:
John Wall: It is an easy thing to run the blind way of liberty, but God deliver us from all broad, sweet ways.

Ralph Sherwin: I make no doubt of my future happiness, through Jesus Christ, in whose death, passion, and blood I only trust.

Charles Mahoney: Now Almighty God is pleased I should suffer this martyrdom. His Holy Name be praised since I die for my religion.

John Kemble: I die only for professing the old Roman Catholic religion, which first made this kingdom Christian.

George Haydock: I pray God that my blood may increase the Catholic faith in England.

(Read more.) Share

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Queen and the Cats

Calee M. Lee has written a charming children's book entitled The Queen and the Cats, illustrated by Turbo Qualls. According to the press release:
Queen Helena has brought the greatest of gifts to the people of Cyprus. But when she tries to present the treasure, the Queen discovers that the local churches have been infested with a deadly problem. It’s up to Queen Helena and a little village girl to come up with a solution that will make the churches safe once more.
The Queen and the Cats tells a little-known, but dearly loved story of Saint Helena, mother to Emperor Constantine. After discovering the location of the True Cross in the Holy Land, Saint Helena visited the island of Cyprus.

Featuring 24 full-color illustrations and a charming story that will introduce little princesses to this royal saint. Ages 4-8. Available in print and ebook formats.
Since St. Helena is my patron saint, I was delighted that there is a new children's book about her, especially one which shows the saint expressing love and concern in a concrete, practical way. The veneration of relics, the holiness of the house of God, and the sacred priesthood are among the concepts presented to little ones in ways that they can understand. I recommend the book as an ideal gift for small girls, especially those who love cats! Share

How to Build a Hobbit House

Easy, convenient and inexpensive. I want one. To quote:
The family struck lucky searching for a site for their dream project. In return for looking after the area, the owner of the woods gave them their plot for free. After digging into the hillside, Mr Dale – with the help of his father-in-law, a builder – first constructed the building’s timber frame. The roof, which came next, has a layer of straw bales for insulation and is covered  with sheets of plastic to make it waterproof. Finally it is covered with a layer of earth, which ensures the house blends perfectly into its surroundings. (Read entire article.)

Monday, September 26, 2011


Her life in brief.
Joséphine de Beauharnais, the first Empress of the French, had a life, in many ways, as tumultuous as her famous husband, Napoleon Bonaparte. She made many friends, many enemies and was able to inspire intense feelings of devotion and anger in the “Little Corporal”. Despite their many ups and downs, probably no other woman ever held the affection of the parvenu emperor in quite the same way as his beloved Joséphine. A product of the colonial empire of the Kingdom of France, she was born Marie Joséphe Rose Tascher de La Pagerie on the Caribbean island of Martinique on June 23, 1763. Her father was an officer in the Troupes de Marine and after a hurricane devastated the family sugar plantation a profitable marriage was sought for Joséphine in an effort to change the fortunes of the family. As a result, on December 13, 1779 Joséphine was married to Alexandre Vicomte de Beauharnais but, despite the birth of a son and daughter in subsequent years, the marriage was not a happy one. (Read entire post.)

P.D. James and Jane Austen

P.D. James has written a new murder mystery based upon Pride and Prejudice.
Death Comes to Pemberley, which is due out in November, is set six years after the events of Austen's tale of romance and social advancement. It sees Darcy and Elizabeth's marriage thrown into disarray when Lydia Wickham arrives unannounced and declares her husband has been murdered. James said it had been "a joy" to immerse herself in Austen's world. "I have to apologise to Jane Austen for involving her beloved Elizabeth in a murder investigation," she said in a statement, "but this fusion of my two enthusiasms - for the novels of Jane Austen and for writing detective stories - has given me great pleasure which I hope will be shared by my readers." (Read entire article.)

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Entry of Charles X

The last anointed King of France enters Paris after his coronation. Via Vive la Reine.
During his triumphal entry, the King touched many hearts when he rode out of the procession and over to a window of the Tuileries, where two small, blond figures were jumping up and down, calling, “Bon-Papa!  Bon-Papa!”  Charles X, already famous for his hospitality, began to hold glittering receptions at the Tuileries, replete with pastries and ices and he melted many hearts with the gentle tones of his “Bon soir.” Thérèse, the tall, cool Dauphine at his side, in jeweled coronet and a cloud of white plumes, either offended by her frigid manner, or elicited tears by those who saw in her person the chaste austerity of Saint Radegonde and other holy Frankish queens of old. ~from Madame Royale by Elena Maria Vidal

Female Veterans

Tormented by combat and sexual trauma. It makes me angry to read about it.
June Moss struggled with suicidal tendencies and depression after returning home from her tour in Iraq. Nearly one in six members of the US military on active duty is a woman. Coming to terms with what they experience, especially when they come home, can take a terrible toll. Women in the US military have come a long way since a WWII recruiting poster urged them to 'Free a Marine to Fight' by joining up in support roles. Today 14.5% of active duty members of the US military are women. And even though they're not strictly in combat roles, women are experiencing warfare in Iraq and Afghanistan just like the men do. Women, too, are suffering from post traumatic stress disorder as a result of the horrors they've seen. Coping with that, and with being a mother, poses problems of its own. Take June Moss, a mother of two who was a staff sergeant in the US army shortly after the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003. (Read entire article.)

Saturday, September 24, 2011

La Pucelle

From Dymphna's Road:
I do not fear....God is with was for this that I was born.
Joan of Arc

Thrones in Majesty

The official Versailles website is a tremendous resource for historical information. Last spring an exhibit was held entitled "Thrones in Majesty" about the history of seats of power, going back to primitive times. The press kit that accompanied the exhibit, including an interview with curator Jacques Charles-Gaffiot, is still on line and absolutely fascinating to read. To quote:
The throne is a universal symbol. The Aztecs, who had had no contact with Europe, used thrones just as their Spanish conquerors did! In India, the statues of the awakened Buddha seated under his pipal tree echo the statues of the medieval French Saint Louis administering justice under his oak tree....

A seat becomes a throne when it is “staged” by the use of three principal elements: the platform, the canopy and the footstool. The platform isolates and raises it above the crowd, making the holder of authority more visible. It is also a sign of proximity with the celestial powers. The canopy is a symbolic representation of the heavenly vault, the place of divine authority. The upper part of the canopy is also referred to as the ‘heaven’. Lastly, the footstool is the substitute of the defeated enemy on which the weight and legitimacy of authority triumphing over Evil is exercised with serenity, not by its power, or the violence or personal strength of its holder, but in virtue of a pact of assistance concluded with a higher entity.....

In modern history, I trace [the erosion of authority] back to the anarchist movements of the 19th century and the various revolutionary episodes that took place notably in France in this period. It was then that the phobia of the throne was expressed with the greatest virulence. In 1830, the throne of Charles X, after being used as a mortuary bed for the corpse of a young student, was destroyed. In 1848, the throne of Louis-Philippe was burned publically on the Place de the Bastille. French rulers, since the presidencies of general De Gaulle and Georges Pompidou (and in certain aspects François Mitterrand), seem to disregard the seated position. The Head of State is seated in his official car, but is hidden behind tinted windows. In France today, as in the United States and in a large number of countries, the President of the Republic makes his addresses from behind a Plexiglas stand. I see in this an inversion of the traditional respective positions of rulers and subjects that that goes back to the Protestant Reformation. In the 16th century, the celebrants of the Protestant faith stood before the seated faithful, in contrast to the customs of the Catholic and Eastern churches where the bishop was seated in his throne chair facing the standing congregation. This attitude is also a return to the model followed by Athenian democracy: the orator stood before the boule assembly, facing the conscripted members, in danger of being interrupted at any moment if he failed to be sufficiently eloquent. He had to be able to hold on to his audience to the end, at the risk of appearing to be a demagogue. Even in some contemporary monarchies, the seat of authority is prohibited. Thus, as constitutional monarchs, Spanish kings refrain from sitting on their throne during official ceremonies. Another influence that I would like to point out is the Enlightenment movement. The new ideas seem to have had the effect of making the kings of the century of Louis XV entertain some doubts about the origin of their mission. While they had themselves painted seated in majesty until the end of the 17th century, during the following century they were more often depicted in a standing position with a martial and dominating posture which relegated the royal throne to the background as a superfluous encumbrance. This aspect is clearly visible in the full-length portraits of Louis XV and Louis XVI, and many other monarchs of this period. (Read entire article, pp.6-7.)

Friday, September 23, 2011

Life of Louise-Marie d'Artois

Author Gareth Russell gives a brief sketch of Louise d'Artois, also known as Louise de Berry, granddaughter of Charles X.
As dramatised in Elena Maria Vidal's novel, Madame Royale, Princess Louise-Marie's life was not to be as happy or tranquil as royalists would have hoped. At the age of only five months, she lost her father when he was stabbed to death by a republican assassin as he left the opera one evening with his wife who was, already, two months pregnant as her husband bled to death in front of her. The Duke's death led to a backlash of anti-republican legislation and sentiment in France, with royalism in France losing its liberal base and becoming more and more dominated by conservatives of the far Right. When the old King died in 1824 and Louise-Marie's grandfather inherited the throne as King Charles X, he was determined to preside over a government with a policy of zero tolerance for compromise. Along with colonial expansion in Algeria and government support for the Industrial Revolution, Charles's government also curtailed the freedom of the press, limited the suffrage and promoted the Catholic religion so overzealously to the extent that one wit once quipped that it was a government for priests, by priests. Intent on atoning for the sins of his youth, Charles X apparently could not understand that the whole nation was not content for the government to insist they atone along with him. In 1830, the King was badly advised by those around him and betrayed by members of his own family, when he was swept off the throne in favour of his liberal cousin, Louis-Philippe. (Read entire post.)

Solzhenitsyn's Prophetic Voice

Joseph Pearce on the great Russian author.
The current chaos in the global economy serves as a timely warning that Solzhenitsyn's prophecies are coming true before our eyes. Solzhenitsyn's socio-political vision, which harmonizes with the social teaching of the Catholic Church, is full of the sort of Christian wisdom that the modern world can scarcely afford to ignore -- or, at least, the sort of wisdom that it ignores at its peril. (Read entire post.)

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Il Faut Que La France Survive!

From Laudem Gloriae:
As one admittedly proud of the French blood coursing through her veins, I read with interest Valle Adurni's succinct and interesting summary of the history of Catholic France. In the following excerpt, he provides some insight into an aspect of traditionalist France difficult for non-French (particularly Americans) to understand:
So, you have two strands of self-understanding in France. The traditional religious standpoint adheres to the Clovis moment as being the decisive moment of French self-understanding. Here you will find many monarchists and right-wingers, many, if not most of whom are also Catholics of a traditional persuasion, going regularly to the Extraordinary Form of the Mass. These have a traditional notion of the Glory of France, so it is not to be wondered at that many of these families' sons end up in the army. I heard somewhere that a few years ago, one of the great military schools (?St Cyr?) actually appointed its chaplain from the Fraternity of St Peter because so few of the students wanted the Ordinary Form of the Mass. So, in France, traditionalism in religious matters more often than not involves all these other things as well. It is a culture, an outlook entirely of itself, and not well understood outside France. in the States, in the UK, traditionalism is mostly about religion (though in the US there can be associated matters like Republicanism, opposition to big government, the right to bear arms and the rest, but they are not essentially linked, just the same sorts of people tend to hold the same sorts of views). In France, the linkage is a real one; this school of thought is usually called Integrism; a complete vision for France, one might say, honouring her glorious past (but not, of course, the revolution and all that stands for), and working to make it her future too. Il faut que la France survive!
Andrew Cusack has conveniently amassed links to the several-part series here.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Dauphine of France

A rare painting. Via Vive la Reine. To quote from the novel Madame Royale:  
On Trinity Sunday of 1825, Charles X was crowned and anointed at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Rheims. Jewels sparkled like stars within the gothic heights amid the blaze of candles. In the galleries and nave there was a crush of silk, velvet and plumes. The sword of Charlemagne, Joyeuse, was borne in triumphantly, as was the new golden dove containing the Holy Ampulla....Thérèse, weighted by her ermine-lined regalia and the crown jewels, viewed with joy the first such ceremony she had ever witnessed, in the very spot where Jeanne d’Arc had watched the anointing of Charles VII before her fiery immolation. ~from Madame Royale by Elena Maria Vidal


The Happiness Routine

What to do the first few minutes in the morning to get the day off to a good start, as recommended by the ladies of BlogHer. I am mentioned as recommending a good swim. More HERE.

I would also like to recommend making a morning offering. Here is the prayer I like to say:
O Jesus, through the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I offer you my prayers, works, joys, and sufferings of this day in union with the holy sacrifice of the Mass throughout the world. I offer them for all the intentions of your sacred heart: the salvation of souls, reparation for sin, the reunion of all Christians. I offer them for the intentions of our bishops and of all the apostles of prayer, and in particular for those recommended by our Holy Father this month.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Valley of Heaven and Hell: Cycling in the Shadow of Marie-Antoinette

A review from Blogcritics of the new book by Susie Kelly.
Imagine being on vacation and spending the time cycling through France. In The Valley of Heaven and Hell: Cycling in the Shadow of Marie-Antoinette by Susie Kelly, she introduces us to both the beauty and history of this European country just a bit smaller in scale than the state of Texas. Kelly writes a heartwarming and challenging story of her arrival into the art of cycling, keeping the story entertaining and mostly lighthearted. She keeps up an amazing dialogue along the path she and her husband have chosen which seem to parallel that traveled during the final days of Marie-Antoinette and her Husband King Louis XVI as they tried to make their escape during the French Revolution.

The book is littered with known facts in this final flight as well as many of the other venues of historical significance that happened in this small area that may have had a hand in the way the world has changed over the centuries. We feel the charm though the names such as Versailles, La Villette, the Tuileries and Montmedy. Just the enunciation of the words brings to mind the chic and trendy French countryside. Americans, too, have been involved in many of the miseries that seem to embody some of the history of the area by acting as allies during the wars. France is full of memorials and places of special significance throughout erected in the effort to memorialize those that gave their lives for others.

As Kelly and her husband Terry take their tour, she keeps us entertained with the different antics of the trip and pokes a great deal of fun at herself. She interjects bits of the history of the areas they encounter and her thoughts and feelings about these as well along her way.

What I didn’t expect was to feel the history, to have the faint ghostly presence of those long past come through the reading and descriptions. It is uncanny, and it is the feeling you have when visiting those areas were many have died and been laid to rest. I could feel the sadness and fear of the Monarchs for their children and for each other. The beauty and the pain are laid out in such stark relief that it is difficult to not be caught up in the history. I found myself researching and following up on some of the information that she interjects throughout to get just a bit more background. (Read entire review.)

Blogging Historical Fiction

Some thoughts I shared with the Catholic Writers Guild.
Always aim for quality and do not worry about quantity. Ultimately, as Catholic writers, we are writing for God, to give Him glory, not to glorify ourselves. We do our best for Him, and if it is His will, our work will bear fruit and help others on their journey to Heaven. (Read entire post.)

Monday, September 19, 2011

The Rite (2011)

Father Lucas Trevant: Be careful Michael, choosing not to believe in the devil doesn't protect you from him. ~The Rite (2011)

The Rite is a film that I am glad I saw in spite of some of the lukewarm reviews. Anthony Hopkins' portrayal of an eccentric Welsh Jesuit, living in an antiquated dwelling on the outskirts of Rome with a motley collection of cats, is worth seeing in spite of the film's flaws. Fr. Lucas' blunt and practical approach to casting out the devil is mesmerizing, as well as his admission that he suffers from periods of darkness and seeming unbelief. One is reminded of great saints like the Little Flower who endured with fidelity similar trials of expiatory interior desolation and obsession, feeling that they no longer believed in the cherished truths of the faith. The movie demonstrates how those trials which appear to crush the soul can become the means of redemption for others. Surrender, however, is not an option.

Colin O’Donoghue plays Michael the troubled seminarian, haunted by memories of his excessively morbid childhood at a mortuary, who now projects his disillusionment and bitterness upon the Church and her teachings. Mercifully, he obeys his superior, albeit more out of monetary necessity than faith, and goes to Rome to study exorcism. He is sent to work with Fr. Lucas the famous exorcist. How the Holy Spirit can guide souls through the hierarchy and legitimate superiors, in spite of the personalities involved, is aptly illustrated. Fr. Lucas' house is both charming and creepy with the creepy element generated by the fact that the viewer knows almost immediately that the cottage is the site of exorcisms. The effect is heightened by the murky lighting and music. Seen through Michael's eyes, one gathers that his life at the mortuary, and most especially the early loss of his mother, has permanently tinged his perception of reality.

Steve Greydanus has some thoughts worth taking into account about The Rite:
...Michael Kovak (newcomer Colin O’Donoghue), a doubting seminarian roped into a Vatican-sponsored training initiative for new exorcists, belongs to the postcritical milieu of The Exorcism of Emily Rose, Requiem and The Last Exorcism. Michael is among the more thoughtfully skeptical characters in this type of movie, proposing naturalistic explanations for possible supernatural phenomena when he can, and citing other unexplained phenomena when he can’t. Still, Michael seems to respect the priesthood more than some of his less troubled classmates; he rolls his eyes at the future clerics in the dorm room across the hall playing violent video games. “Honestly?” he mutters rhetorically, pushing his door closed.

This is not a world in which demons manifest openly or in which sacred objects like crosses or holy water are omnipotent over the forces of darkness. Exorcism in The Rite is a long, drawn-out process that can last for weeks, months or even longer. In that way, among others, The Rite is probably the most sober, realistic treatment of exorcism in Hollywood history. It’s also a pretty thoughtful depiction of doubt and faith — one of a tiny number of exorcism films, along with the original Exorcist and The Exorcism of Emily Rose, that offers a spiritual, even theological take on what most films in the genre treat as mere horror-movie trappings.
The rituals of the Church, radiant with the authority of binding and loosing, are shown with respect. Indeed, the Catholic faith in general is treated pretty reverently in the film, and the few lapses are amusing rather than terribly disturbing. Every time a group of nuns appear they all have long flowing medieval habits of the same cut, with different colors thrown in; no orders that I recognized, however. Also, in Father Lucas' house there is quite a collection of crucifixes, usually placed together in a bunch. I was always told that it is liturgically incorrect to replicate the same religious symbol in the same space (one crucifix is usually enough); I can only gather that Fr. Lucas' interior decorator was not up on the rubrics. Nevertheless, I found the repeated use of the symbol of the cross to be an uplifting element in the film, showing how the cross is always with us and is the instrument for conquering evil. The most powerful moments of the film emphasize that the strength of intercessory prayer, especially when united with fellow believers and the sacramentals of the Church, can withstand hell itself.

For more on the rite of exorcism and the true story behind the film, go HERE, HERE, and HERE. Share

The Guilty Pleasure of Historical Fiction

More popular than ever.
So why have we fallen in love with historical fiction – and why are more authors writing it? I admit that I’ve just succumbed to its siren call with my first historical novel, The Girl in the Mirror, a story about the Earl of Essex and a girl sucked into the dramas at Elizabeth I’s court. Readers can readily justify this sort of fiction because they believe it’s respectable, almost intellectually improving – after all, they reason, the plot’s based on real events (or most of it is). There’s a faint extra frisson of self-satisfaction at the thought we’re not just wasting our time – we’re learning something. Most of us would not necessarily be picking up the same tale from the non-fiction history section. (Read entire article.)

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Louis XV and His Grandsons

And the grandsons' wives, with Marie-Antoinette at the top. From Vive la Reine. Share

Bankruptcy Today

It can happen to anyone. According to The Wall Street Journal:
A wedding ring, college degree and a well-paying job: the American dream or a recipe for bankruptcy? Some of the factors often associated with financial success are increasingly becoming correlated with personal bankruptcy filings, a study released Tuesday by the Institute for Financial Literacy found. The study found that from 2006 to 2010, bankruptcy filings increased among college graduates and those earning $60,000 a year or more. What’s more, last year, 64% of bankruptcy filers surveyed were married—a number that also increased from five years ago.

“The Great Recession has had a dramatic impact on the bankruptcy filings of American consumers across the economic spectrum—including college educated, high income earners,” said Leslie E. Linfield, executive director the institute. “While less educated, low income individuals continue to represent the typical bankruptcy filer, this report underscores sophisticated evolution of the profile of the American debtor that now extends to disparate age, income and ethnic groups.”

The survey collected responses from some 50,000 of individuals that filed for bankruptcy in the past five years. All respondents had sought credit counseling. The study found that those holding a bachelor’s degree accounted for 13.58% of filings last year, up from 11.2% in 2006—a 21% increase. Those holding high school degrees still accounted for the largest percentage of filers, 36.27%, but their proportion of all filers fell by 8.6%. Those most at risk for a bankruptcy filing were individuals who attended college but did not complete a degree, the study said. They accounted for 28.7% of filings last year.

“This we suspect is because they have all the burdens of school related debt and none of the rewards of an actual degree,” the study said. While those earning less than $20,000 per year accounted for nearly 40% of all filings, higher-income earners saw their ranks grow in the past five years, the study found. (Read entire article.)

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Faithful Place

"Things around here were more like they used to be than they ever had been." — from Faithful Place by Tana French
My BlogHer Book Club review of Tana French's mystery novel set in Ireland. To quote:
In Faithful Place, undercover policeman Frank Mackey must...go home and face the dysfunctional family he fled from twenty years earlier. Now the Mackeys are no more dysfunctional than any other family where one of the parents is a severe and brutal alcoholic but, to paraphrase Tolstoy in Anna Karenina, every unhappy family is unhappy in its own unique way. I suppose this applies to the Mackey family, who in spite of the boorish father and sewage-mouthed eldest brother, as well as the prodigious use of the word "feck," do have their charming moments and redeeming qualities. Their uniqueness is indubitable, and for me the members of the Mackey family are among the most unforgettable bunch of characters I have ever encountered in fiction for combining hilarity and pathos with sheer insanity. (Read entire review.)

First Architect to the King

Ange-Jacques Gabriel designed Petit Trianon and many other famous and beautiful buildings.
While First Architect to the King, Gabriel designed many famous public buildings including the Place de la Concorde and the Opera of Versailles. Other important projects that he worked on included those at the Louvre and Fontainebleau. (Read entire post.)

Friday, September 16, 2011

English Rood Screens

Most of them were destroyed during the Reformation.
The purpose of the screen was to divide the chancel, with its altar, from the nave, which was often used for secular purposes. It was an invariable part of the furnishing of every church until the Reformation, usually placed directly beneath the chancel arch, though sometimes brought forward slightly so that it could stretch right across the nave and aisles. The screen was generally surmounted by a loft, upon which stood the Rood, a giant figure of Christ crucified. The Reformation saw the destruction of virtually every Rood and the great majority of lofts, though the screens themselves were often spared as they were a useful feature in the ordering of the church. Most figure sculpture and painting depicted thereon, however, was generally defaced. (Read entire post.)

The Tatler Review

The Ulster Tatler reviews Gareth Russell's newly released novel Popular.
 With a tagline that reads, 'Have you got what it takes?', Gareth Russell's new novel focuses on Meredith Harper, a rich, manipulative, popular and unnaturally beautiful 16 year old who rules not only her school but Belfast's social scene with a designer clad fist. Her entourage is composed of best friend Imogen Dawson, a sex-bomb in the making; Kerry Davison, who has a passion for pink and a penchant for 'Fabulous Induced Breakdowns'; and Cameron Matthews, a six-foot tall, blue eyed hottie who is the most popular boy in school. Together they're unfathomably gorgeous and the envy of all their peers. However under the glamorous surface of parties and spa days is a wealth of comforting lies and convenient silences, bitching, break-ups and scandal.
As the first installment of a new series, Popular definitely packs a punch. What makes it such compulsive reading is without a doubt the creation of the fabulously fierce Meredith Harper. She is no way the heroine of the novel, instead she is pure villain. In much the same way Wicked tells the story of what it takes to make a witch wicked, Popular illustrates what it takes to make a 16 year old popular. As Meredith plays one friend against another, actively encourages immoral behaviour to suit her own needs, and openly insults anyone not in her clique, Russell creates a character you will simply love to hate. However I am ashamed to say, at points I was also in awe of her. The main reason for this is that Gareth Russell refused to make her a one dimensional, stereotypical character. Instead Meredith has many layers. As well as being beautiful and rich and manipulative, she is extremely clever and her barbed remarks are legendary. However Russell also allows the reader rare glimpses of Meredith at her most vulnerable and as a result he illustrates the humanity she desperately tries to hide.
Popular illustrates that the villain is often the most enthralling character. The novel has a moral compass in the form of Mark Kingston, a friend of Cameron's and the anthitheses of Meredith. However his life, which seems him hanging out with friends at the front of Belfast City Hall and having a marathon Lord of the Rings session, pales in comparison to the fascinating life Meredith leads attending the province's most fashionable events and appearing in social magazines, including yours truly, Ulster Tatler. In fact, even though Mark despises Meredith with a passion, even he can't help but be drawn to her.
 Packed with wicked humour, glamorous characters and razor sharp dialogue, Popular is likely to draw comparisons to the US hit Gossip Girl. Russell's expertly crafted novel is a hilariously refreshing read which is ingenious, entertaining and like nothing you have ever seen from Northern Ireland before. (Read entire review.)


Thursday, September 15, 2011

England's Catholic Queen

A new book on Mary I is reviewed at the blog Mary Tudor: Renaissance Queen.
It’s best to start with the positives of this book and there are many. Undoubtedly this biography is the most important one of Mary in regards to her marriage, her husband’s role as King of England, and Anglo-Spanish relations in general throughout the course of Mary’s lifetime. Edwards is a Modern Languages Faculty Research Fellow in Spanish at Oxford University and specialises in Early Modern Spain. He has already written a joint biography on Mary’s maternal grandparents, Ferdinand and Isabella, along with a separate one on Isabella. He is an authority on the Spanish Inquisition and Spanish religious influence in mid-Tudor England. His knowledge of Spanish sources of this period shines through this book. Not only has he exhausted Spanish archives for primary sources (some of which are not used in other works on Mary) but he is mindful of secondary Spanish sources. I was impressed (and jealous) that he got hold of María Jesús Pérez Martín’s María Tudor: La gran reina desconocida (Madrid: Ediciones Rialp, 2008) which clearly helped guide him to certain primarily materials in Spain. The result of such wide-ranging research, unconfined to the libraries and archives in the UK, is a marvellous account of Mary’s relationship with her Habsburg relations. Or, as Diarmaid MacCulloch nicely put it, Mary as ‘a Trastamara princess as well as a Tudor’. (Read entire review.)

The Soul of a French Palace

The Abbey-Palace of Royaumont.
The collection adorned the French neoclassical Abbey Palace of Royaumont near Chantilly, a late 18th-century mansion designed by Louis Le Masson for the Abbot of Royaumont, Henri Eléonore Le Cornut de Balivière, chaplain of Louis XVI. The actual abbey was destroyed in the French Revolution, but the Abbey Palace survived. The mansion changed hands until it was eventually bought by Baron and Baroness Eugène Fould-Springer in 1923. Their grandson Nathaniel de Rothschild says in the catalog that they immediately set out to restore the "magnificent property" and give it a "soul."

The Fould-Springers carefully selected works of art, furniture, lighting, clocks and ceramics that reflected the stately beauty of the house. Before the three-day auction, Sept. 19-21 in Paris, the collection will be on view Sept. 17-18 at Abbey Palace, offering an opportunity to see the pieces in their original surroundings and arrangements. (Read entire article.)

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Madame de Lamballe: The Official Report

 From Vive la Reine. I only hope she was fully dead before they began to violate and dismember her. Among the remains of the Princess were found:
[A] small volume bound in red morocco with gilt edges, entitled ‘Imitation de J.C.’; a red morocco portfolio; a case containing eighteen national assignats of five livres each; a gold ring with a bezel of changeable blue stone, in which was some blond hair tied in a love-knot with these words above it: ‘Whitened through misery’; an English bulb; a small ivory pencil-holder containing a gold pen with two small gold rings; a small two-bladed knife, the handle of tortoise-shell and silver; a corkscrew of English steel; a small pair of pincers of the same metal; a small card attached to a vignette bearing undecipherable words; a bit of paper on which was written a laundry list; two small glass flasks used for inkstands, with gold stops, and some sticks of different colored sealing wax; a sort of double-faced image, on one side representing a bleeding heart surrounded with thorns and pierced by a dagger, with these words below: ‘Cor Jesu, salva nos, perimur,’ on the other a bleeding heart with a fleur-de-lis above and below the words: ‘Cor Mariae unitum cordi Christi’; a medallion on light blue cloth, on which was painted a bleeding heart pierced by a dagger, embroidered in blue silk. (Read entire post.)
The devotional objects mentioned include a copy of The Imitation of Christ, as well as a medal and a scapular in honor of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary. The hair "whitened by misery" is no doubt that of Marie-Antoinette. Here is a prayer for the Princess:
O Almighty God! O God of kindness, divine Providence! O Holy Trinity for all eternity! Believing fully in the immortality of the soul we humbly beg Thee to reward Louise de Savoye, the unfortunate princess, with the brilliant crown of the martyr, and to admit her into the shining company of the elect, where in her eternal resting place she may sing forever to the glory of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. Amen. De Profundus.
For more on the Princess de Lamballe, please visit Vive la Reine.


To Pen Name or Not to Pen Name

Here are some interesting thoughts on using a pen name.
A pen name also allows you privacy. You can choose who you want to know about your "secret identity."

What are the drawbacks? If, like me, both of your identities are writers, it means that you need to do double the marketing / social networking, etc. Also, you can't capitalize on your current reputation. If you are going to keep your identity secret and therefore reap the benefits of having a pseudonym, you can't publicly announce who you are to everyone on your Facebook page. (Read entire post.)

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Soul Reader

 Gerard Webster's The Soul Reader, the continuation of his thriller In-Sight, is everything a sequel should be. Not only do we get to know the original characters better but once again the mystery of iniquity and the mystery of divine grace strive with each other for mastery. Ward and Carrie, the former lovers from In-Sight, are together again as they must deal with drug cartels, hired assassins, corrupt politicians and shady foreign businessmen. Their repartee is reminiscent of a classic romantic comedy with a contemporary flavor, tinged by the constant awareness that darkness lurks right beyond the edge of light. As they unwittingly chase danger they are building their relationship anew, although they are too caught up in the adventure to realize it. What was once grounded solely on pleasure is now finding a more solid base on which to grow into genuine love.

According to the publisher's website:
The Soul Reader is the exciting sequel to Gerard Webster’s award-winning debut novel, In-Sight. The two people Ward McNulty most wished he could forget were the woman he once loved and the man he still hated. He succeeded sometimes by smothering their memory under mounds of activity—his physical rehabilitation, looking for a job, and staving off foreclosure. But try as he might, it was always there—just under the surface, like smoldering embers embedded in layers of ash, needing only a breath of oxygen to burst into flame. And that’s exactly what happens one sunny Saturday afternoon, when Carrie Hope unexpectedly breezes back into his life.
It is a year after his father’s murder when Carrie asks Ward to assist her in writing a book about the North Beach Project, the money-laundering scheme that led to his father’s death. Ward initially turns her down. He knows that reopening the investigation would be dangerous for three reasons. First, it could cost them their lives—the identity of the man behind the scheme remains a mystery, and he would do almost anything to keep it that way. Secondly, it may cost Ward his very soul if he gets sucked back into the vortex of hatred and revenge that he has just escaped. And finally, Ward does not know if he or Carrie could survive falling in love and hurting each other yet again.
In this page-turning novel of suspense I must admit that I was completely fooled as to the outcome. I thought I had the villains figured out, and I partially did. However, at the end there were several twists and turns that took me by surprise. In addition to the fast-moving and highly-entertaining plot some serious issues are explored, not only about relationships and addiction but about the forces that are currently shaping our world. Mr. Webster shows us that the enemies to be feared are not those who would kill the body but the forces which can corrupt the soul. There is no power, however, as great as prayer and the powerful ones of this world are baffled by the mystery of lowliness and humility by which they are, or will be, ultimately defeated.

(*NOTE: This book was sent to me by the author in exchange for my honest opinion.)

Frederick Douglass

His life and times.
 Like many abolitionists, Douglass initially despised Abraham Lincoln for tolerating slavery where it already existed in the South, and for merely opposing its extension into new territories in the hope that this containment would ultimately lead to the extinction of slavery.  After actually meeting Lincoln, however, Douglass developed a deep personal admiration and affection for the President. In the fragile and explosive political climate of the time, Douglass also came to appreciate the prudence of Lincoln's incremental approach to emancipation and black civil rights. (By contrast, Douglass thoroughly disapproved of Lincoln's successor, Andrew Johnson). Nonetheless, Lincoln and Douglass still had their disagreements. On one occasion, Douglass arrived at the White House to seek justice for black Union prisoners murdered or sold into slavery by the Confederates. Outraged, the fiery Douglass recommended that Lincoln should immediately retaliate upon Southern prisoners, whether or not they had personally been involved in the crimes, but Lincoln was understandably upset at the idea of punishing the innocent for the guilty. He also worried that retaliation would lead to a vicious cycle of brutality and revenge. (Eventually, he did issue a retaliatory order, but it was not enforced). In his memoir, Douglass says he respected Lincoln's humane spirit, but still could not agree with him…(Read entire article.)

Monday, September 12, 2011

Shabby Apple's "Academia"

A message from Shabby Apple:
It's Back to School time, and Shabby Apple is going back to school in style with their newest line, Academia. And to celebrate?  We are offering 15% off site-wide with coupon code "Ivy".  But wait, it gets better.  Right now Shabby Apple is offering FREE SHIPPING on standard domestic orders.
Dresses from Shabby Apple Share

The Coronation of Mary Queen of Scots

Stephanie Mann discusses the Infant Queen of Scotland.
When Mary, Queen of France and Queen of Scotland, also claiming the title Queen of England, was born on December 8, 1542 at Linlithgow Castle, her father, James V was mortally ill after a resounding defeat by the English in November of that year. When hearing that his second wife, Mary of Guise had been delivered of a girl, he is said to have turned in face to the wall in bed, saying only "It came from a woman; it will end in a woman" referring to the Stewart claim to Scotland's throne.

When James V died on the 14th of December, 1542, Mary became Queen of Scotland as an infant, only six days old. She was crowned in the chapel at Stirling Castle on September 9, 1543. The painting at the right is by William Ewart Lockhart, a Victorian era painter trained at the Royal Scottish Academy. (Read entire post.)