Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Marie-Antoinette's Private Library

In her apartments at Versailles. The Queen enjoyed novels but among her books are also many works of history and religious devotion. Share

The Ray Gricar Case

This is the best article I have yet read on the mystery of the missing D.A., yet another morbid occurrence in Happy Valley. As I have said before, we are only seeing the tip of the ice burg. To quote:
In light of this intriguing data, skeptics may rightfully ask: why would a successful D.A. only eight months from retirement want to fake his own death? What would motivate him? Some in the media posit that Gricar had recently prosecuted a major drug dealer. Still, over the course of his career, Gricar never flinched from similar cases.

Or, had a more sinister message been delivered to Gricar—one with serious life-and-death ramifications? Namely, what if Gricar had uncovered incriminating evidence of such importance that it threatened the very existence of a nearby institution, as well as those employed there? Or, what if the repercussions stretched all the way to state, and even federal, government officials?
The invaluable source used for this article provided further insights. “I really believe that law enforcement hasn’t thoroughly investigated the Gricar case. Somebody in a position of power knows what happened, but they’re allowing it to remain a ‘botched investigation.’ When Stacey Parks Miller became D.A. in 2010, she commented on learning how much the public didn’t know about Gricar’s case. They’ve only been give a tip of the iceberg, and homicide seems the least likely scenario.”
The source attributes this undisclosed evidence to a troubling possibility. “Did Gricar disappear because he realized what happened to people like him that knew too much? They get killed. Maybe that’s the real message.” (Read entire article.)

Monday, July 30, 2012

The Cloud of Witnesses

A marvelous painting showing Madame Royale in exile, walking down a long road with her uncle Louis XVIII, as the Blessed Trinity, the saints, the angels and her own family, watch over her from above. Share

Madonna in Poland

Young Catholics in Poland are protesting the rock star's blasphemy.
 As the Polish news agency KAI reports on Friday the Catholic student organization "Crusade of Youth" has asked the Warsaw city council to ban the show.  They accuse Madonna among other things, of blasphemy.  45,000 Poles joined Friday's protest agains the student organization of the concert.

Meanwhile, three Catholic priests called on the faithful to pray for a cancellation of the show. The concert was the main aim of Madonna's, to mock God and Christianity, according to a joint appeal by the Rev. Andrzej Grefkowicz and Pawel Wiecek Robert Pajak and the Jesuits.[Really?] Previously, the Catholic Association of the Journalists of Poland, Madonna had turned against the appearance of the new National Stadium. The spokesman of the Polish Bishops' Conference, Jozef Kloch does not wish to take a position in the dispute. (Read entire post.)

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Modes Parisiennes

 Styles during the reign of Louis XVI.



Priestly Victims

Father James Valladares, who describe himself as a "survivors' advocate of sexual abuse," spent three months in the U.S. in his research into false accusations against the priesthood.

While he acknowledged there were many legitimate victims of sexual abuse by the priesthood, there was an equal number of claims made by those seeking financial gain, he said.

In this book, Hope Springs Eternal in the Priestly Breast,  Father Valladares examines the problem of false allegations and urges the church to adopt a set procedure that would protect accuser and accused until an investigation was complete.  He found about half the accusations against priests were false, mostly because accusers were seeking money.

"False allegations do occur and such allegations are devastating to the accused," he said.

"Having said that, I do not wish to denigrate any of the harm that has been done - for that we are all very sincerely sorry. Our whole purpose now is to create a climate of trust and openness, transparency and accountability."

Father Valladares said the pendulum had swung too far from the church protecting an accused priest to the church immediately acting on behalf of an accuser since 2002 when a huge cover-up of sexual offenses became public.  "I conducted this study to show that society is effectively tarring all priests with the same brush, using the allegations against a select few to discredit others," he said.

He said a priest falsely accused of sexual abuse or molestation was ruined for life.  "During my research, I found there are 1000 priests in America who are in limbo," he said.
(Read entire post.)

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Wittelsbach Brides

Above, Marie Gabrielle of Bavaria bids farewell to her mother, Maria Josepha of Portugal. Below, her sister Elisabeth, future Queen of the Belgians, poses on her wedding day. Marie Gabrielle and Elisabeth were both married in 1900, in July and October, respectively. (Read entire post.)

The Mystery of Lady Mary Seymour

What happened to Katherine Parr's only daughter?
Lady Mary Seymour was the only child of Queen Kateryn Parr and her fourth husband, Thomas Seymour. Parr died of childbed fever shortly after giving birth to Mary, and the baby’s father, Thomas Seymour, was executed for treason just a few short years thereafter. But what happened to their child, who seems to have vanished without trace into history? This is an enduring mystery. (Read entire post.)

Friday, July 27, 2012

The Pantheon's Dome

From The Wall Street Journal:
Seen from its north-facing front, the concrete-and-brick Pantheon consists of a pedimented entrance porch, a domed rotunda and a boxlike intermediate structure joining them. Their forms—triangle, hemisphere and rectangle—announce the underlying theme of pure geometry.

Inside, rising from a circle-and-square-patterned floor, the hemispherical coffered dome rests on a drum. The drum's bottom level is ringed with tabernacles alternating with recessed spaces screened with columns, its upper one with blind windows and framed marble panels.

But it is what's overhead that draws the gasps: the largest masonry dome ever built—142 feet in diameter and weighing five thousand tons—it is the paterfamilias of every structure like it erected since. At the top is one of the most famous features in architecture, the oculus. It focuses a circle of light into the Pantheon that, tracking the transit of the sun, passes slowly across the interior surfaces as the day progresses. This moving disc—glowing, silent, inexorable—transforms the Pantheon from bricks-and-mortar house of worship into an almost living thing.

Understandably, given its scale and spread, discussions of the Pantheon have tended to focus on engineering—what it took to erect it and keep it standing. To minimize its weight, the dome thins as it rises, starting at about 20 feet thick at the bottom and tapering to only about four feet at the oculus. Lighter aggregates were mixed with the cement as the dome rose.

The 28 radiating lines of coffers help, too. There has been much speculation over whether there is any symbolic significance to their number. That seems unlikely. The dome was the most critical part of the enterprise—one mistake and you've got rubble—so structural rather than numerological considerations surely drove their design.

If this hunch is correct, some formidable calculations would have been required. The architect would first have had to determine by what cubic footage the mass of the dome needed to be reduced; then figure out the size, shape and number of voids necessary to meet that requirement; finally, arrange them in a way that was uniform, well-ordered and pleasing to the eye. His task makes the creative feats of today's architects, with their CAD (computer-aided design) programs, seem a tad anticlimactic.

Inside, the dome springs from midway between floor and oculus. Outside, the springing point is significantly higher, the rotunda having been extended upward to buttress the dome. Two levels of heavy vaults concealed inside the rotunda walls transfer the dome's thrust down onto eight massive supporting piers.
Herein lies the essence of the Roman revolution in architecture. A Greek temple is structurally transparent, each element—column, capital, entablature—is visible and its role in forming and supporting the whole self-evident. But the Romans' epic architectural ambitions demanded new and more complex methods of construction. So we see the onset of a kind of illusionism, where the architectural effects and the means used to realize them travel separate paths. Today such sleights of hand are all around us in the modern skyscraper's glass-curtain wall.

But the Pantheon is about more than engineering. It is about space—architectural space as a conduit to spiritual space.

The Pantheon is the greatest interior in Western architecture, one where space is nearly as palpable as the forms that contain it—what isn't there is as important as what is. This effect derives in part from the perfection of its proportions. As William L. MacDonald writes in his 1976 book on the building (still the indispensable guide to the subject), the Pantheon is a sphere within a cube. Continue the curvature of the dome downward, and you get an orb whose bottommost surface kisses the floor. Then raise four vertical planes at the cardinal points of the rotunda, capping them with a horizontal one brushing the oculus, and, with the floor, they'll give you a container cube for the sphere.

It is also a function of the way voids, rather than, as is customary, masses, are used to articulate and embellish the interior. The tabernacles are the only projections; everything else recedes: the column-screened recessions between them, above those the blind windows, above those the coffers, and topping them all the ultimate void—the oculus.

Because of the vertical alignment of these elements, the eye is naturally drawn upward, and as it moves, we notice that the forms become simpler, more elemental. We trace a passage that gradually removes us from the specific, worldly realm below to the most abstract, universal shape of all. The oculus is many things. It is the Pantheon's basic design module. It is an act of consummate architectural audacity. Most of all, however, it is a portal to the heavens. (Read entire article.)

The Election of 2012

From Fr. George Rutler:
There is in Paul a model for Catholics at the start of the Third Millennium which began with fireworks and Ferris wheels but is now entering a sinister stage.  Like Paul, it is not possible to be a Christian without living for Christ by suffering for him, nor is it possible to be a Christian without willing to die for him when he wants.   The Christian veneer of  American culture has cracked and underneath is the inverse of the blithe Christianity that took shape in the various enthusiasms of the nineteenth century and ended when voters were under the impression that they finally had a Catholic president. (Read entire article.)
Via A Conservative Blog for Peace. Share

Thursday, July 26, 2012

The Kindness of an Empress

We often hear about Empress Sisi's eccentricities; we forget that she was also a genuinely kind lady.
While staying in England at the seaside resort of Cromer, in July 1887, she gave one of these proofs of delicacy of heart which are not easily forgotten among the humbler classes. She was walking on a stormy morning along the shore, when she suddenly caught sight of a group of sailors who were carrying the corpse of a drowned man. She immediately approached and inquired about this disaster, and was told that the victim was a poor employee of the railroad, called Walter Moules, who had accidentally met with his death in the tossing waters. (Read entire post.)

The Sinking of the "Britannic"

A disaster I have never heard of until now.
Weighing in at 50,000 tons, the Britannic was the largest ship ever built in the British Isles at the time of her launch in 1914. She was four thousand tons heavier than her unlucky sister Titanic and five thousand heavier than her eldest sister, and future running mate, Olympic. Together, the two surviving sisters were intended to operate a weekly crossing of the north Atlantic - with one leaving from New York, at the same time another would leave from Southampton in England. Unlike her sisters, however, the Britannic was not the largest ship in the world at the time of her construction. That honour had already gone to a 52,000-ton German liner, the Imperator, and would soon go to her sister, the 54,000-ton Vaterland - which, like Britannic, was pandering to the ultra-patriotic environment of 1914. However, she was to remain the largest ship built on British soil until the Queen Mary in 1936 - quite the achievement for Harland & Wolff. (Read entire post.)

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The Tudors, Season 4

Tamzin Merchant as Queen Katherine Howard
On the whole, The Tudors is an amalgamation of brilliantly authentic and well-acted historical recreations with the most banal and absurd distortions. The salaciousness of Season 3 carried over into Season 4 only to die off with Katherine Howard. I appreciated Tamzin Merchant's portrayal of the doomed Katherine much more in Season 4 than in Season 3, for she acquires some personality beyond that of a giggling teenager. It is enchanting to see her dancing at court with complete joie de vivre, as she and Henry VIII enjoy their idyll which will soon end so tragically. I wish they had showed how she sent food and blankets to the imprisoned Carthusian martyrs as well as to Blessed Margaret Pole, who was beheaded while Katherine was Queen. Perhaps it would have lent more depth to her character.

 It was odd that there was no mention of how the Howards, particularly Katherine's uncle the Duke of Norfolk, were the ones to maneuver her into court. In fact, after Season 1, the Duke of Norfolk, who was an active player throughout Henry's reign, seems to vanish from sight. Norfolk and Suffolk are basically combined into one handsome Charles Brandon in the latter Seasons. I know this was to get as much mileage as possible out of good-looking Henry Cavill but I found it confusing because I kept wondering what had happened to Norfolk. They did show Norfolk's son Henry Howard, the Earl of Surrey, which would have been fine except that the real Surrey was tall, lean, red-headed and not quite thirty. David O'Hara's Surrey is a roguish, middle aged, barrel-chested Irish sot, quite charming, but not the Henry Howard that I know.

Another principle player who disappears is Archbishop Cranmer. Bishop Gardiner is substituted in his place and becomes the chief cleric-in-residence instead of Cranmer which is most peculiar, especially when it was really Cranmer who visited Katherine Howard in prison. What is more absurd are the imaginary characters such as Season 3's lusty Lady Ursula and Season 4's Brigitte the buxom French lass. The latter is discovered dressed as Jeanne d'Arc by Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk, as he is fighting in France. He brings her back to England and makes her his mistress. I don't think this really happened. Also, Charles' third wife (or fourth, if you count Margaret Mortimer) was Kate Willoughby. Why they call her "Katherine Brooke" I will never understand. Did they think Americans would not be able to pronounce "Willoughby"? She is another intriguing character who just fades into the background although by all accounts the Duchess of Suffolk was alive and well and stirring up heresy in the household of Queen Katherine Parr. And what about all of Suffolk's children by his sundry wives? Where are Frances and Eleanor? They only show him having one son whose name keeps changing. I must admit, however, that the portrayal of Suffolk, Henry VIII's oldest and best friend, made me think more about him as a historical figure, whereas before he had never occurred to me beyond being the husband of Mary Tudor the elder.

As I have said elsewhere, I love the depiction of young Princess Mary, Katherine of Aragon's daughter. The series portrays her ordeals and character as I have never seen or read in any other dramatization or novel. She really came alive for me, symbolizing the difficulties of trying to live a faithful Catholic life in a world gone mad. It is sad knowing that she would later lose the love of her people, who did not take kindly to being burned alive. I enjoyed Joely Richardson's Katherine Parr; in the show as in reality she is a character whom it is easy to love. She makes being Henry's wife look easy when we know by that point that marriage with him was like trying to have a picnic on an erupting Mount Vesuvius. Laoise Murray was radiant as the Lady Elizabeth. As Henry VIII says farewell to his wife and children everyone weeps except the young Elizabeth, who stares stonily at her father with the heartlessness of an adolescent who can see too clearly the failings of her elders. It is sad to me that Henry never seemed to appreciate his girls, both in the series and in actuality; they both suffered for it.

Sarah Bolger as Princess Mary

Laoise Murray as Young Bess (Elizabeth I)


Origins of a Tragedy

"Tragedy" seems too small a word to describe the massacre in Aurora. Will we ever know why it happened? Here is an article which strives to put the pieces together. To quote:
James Holmes was one of six recipients of a National Institutes of Health Neuroscience Training Grant at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus in Denver, Madsen writes for the Wayne Madsen Report.

“The Anschutz Medical Campus is on the recently de-commisioned site of the U.S. Army’s Fitzsimons Army Medical Center and is named after Philip Anschutz, the billionaire Christian fundamentalist oil and railroad tycoon who also owns The Examiner newspaper chain and website and the neo-conservative Weekly Standard,” Madsen explains. “The Anschutz Medical Campus was built by a $91 million grant from the Anschutz Foundation.”

Holmes also worked as a research assistant intern at the Salk Institute at the University of California at San Diego in La Jolla. The Salk Institute teamed up with DARPA, Columbia University, University of California at San Francisco, University of Wisconsin at Madison, Wake Forest University, and the candy bar company Mars “to prevent fatigue in combat troops through the enhanced use of epicatechina, a blood flow-increasing and blood vessel-dilating anti-oxidant flavanol found in cocoa and, particularly, in dark chocolate,” according to Madsen’s research.

The DARPA program was part of the military’s “Peak Soldier Performance Program,” which involved engineering brain-machine interfaces for battlefield use and other bionic projects.

In addition, James Holmes’ father, Dr. Robert Holmes, worked for San Diego-based HNC Software, Inc., a company that worked with DARPA to develop “cortronic neural networks” that enable machines to translate aural and visual stimuli and simulate human thinking. (Read entire article.)

Here is a lament from Judie Brown on the culture of death which more and more seems to pervade our society. Miss Brown says:
You and I are not responsible for what Holmes did.

Yet, on the other hand, the responsibility to restore moral sanity to our country begins with our individual responsibility to respect human dignity, teach the difference between right and wrong, and live a life that exemplifies what we preach. Every one of us can act out of respect for the natural law and, perhaps, if each of us accepted this responsibility, the misguided would be influenced by the love and affirmation that flows from respect for one's self and those we influence.

Let us pray for the victims, for their families, and for the community as we resolve to become lights in this darkness. (Read entire article.)

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Saints of Restoration and Reform

There is always hope because God sends us saints. To quote Fr. Mark:
It may be the Eleventh Hour, but it is not the Twelfth; it is not too late for a few brave religious to choose life and, like Abraham and Sarah, to revel in the joy of a wondrous generativity. Saints like Jerome Emiliani make me long to see this happen. The "state of holiness" that he saw in the Church of the Apostles can yet be restored to the faithful of Ireland, and may be coming soon to a monastery or convent near you. (Read entire post.)

Monday, July 23, 2012

More Enchantment

Norma Shearer as Marie-Antoinette in the 1938 film. Share

The Psychology of Partisanship

From The American Conservative:
Intelligence is a virtue. So are prudence, integrity, humility, and courage. People who possess the first trait, but lack the latter ones, tend to downplay the importance of their weaknesses and inflate the importance of their strength. The limitations of intelligence are never as glaring as when highbrains advocate intelligence as the panacea for everything. But it is not the intelligence of Haidt’s fellow liberals that he indicts. It’s their morals. (Read entire article.)

Sunday, July 22, 2012

A Saint to Whom No One Listened

From author Christina Croft:
This was a man who was a model of courage and humanity in the midst of unimaginable horrors. He showed physical courage on the battlefield, and even greater moral courage throughout his life. Regardless of criticism, he acted always from the highest motive – as was demonstrated not only in the major events of the war, but also at the funeral of his uncle, Franz Ferdinand. No other member of the family went to meet the train bringing Franz Ferdinand and Sophie’s bodies back from their fatal trip to Sarajevo, but Karl was there. When Franz Ferdinand’s enemies tried to prevent the crowds from paying their respects to the Archduke, Karl broke through the cordons to lead a peaceful procession behind the coffins. He showed great courage too in the way in which he bore the fallacious and ridiculous calumnies levelled against him after the war (he was a drunkard and a womaniser? – allegations which, incidentally, were thoroughly investigated and proved to be entirely false during his beatification process). A devoted family man, who put the service of his people before his own needs, and a man of great humility, he lived his entire life according to his faith and it is fitting that he is now recognised by the Roman Catholic Church, to which he was so committed, as ‘Blessed Karl of Austria.’
Karl plays a major role in the ‘Shattered Crowns’ trilogy, the first two book of which: The Scapegoats (1913-1914) and The Sacrifice (1914-1917) are currently available in paperback and Kindle formats. The third book, The Betrayal, is coming soon... (Read entire post.)

Altar Wine During Prohibition

It never occurred to me that wine might be an issue.
Sadly, during prohibition, many wineries went out of business. However, the lucky ones who got contracts with the Catholic Church to make sacramental wines survived or even flourished. You see, alcoholic beverages for medicinal and sacramental use were exempt from the ban. (Read entire post.)

Saturday, July 21, 2012


Norma Shearer as Marie-Antoinette in the 1938 film. Share

Angers vs. Elizabeth II

I thought this was a joke at first. (The Earl of Warwick mentioned is the brother of Blessed Margaret Plantagenet Pole, who died in prison under Henry VII.) To quote:
Angers, in the Loire valley, was the capital of Anjou province and the geographical base of the Plantagenets, who ruled England from 1154 until 1485, providing some of the most celebrated monarchs in British history, including Richard the Lionheart and Henry V.
But when Edward Plantagenet, the Earl of Warwick, was executed for treason in the Tower of London in 1499, the house’s legitimate male line came to an end. “As redress for the execution of Edward, Angers today demands that the Crown Jewels of England be transferred to Angers,” reads a petition posted on the city’s official website.
Recalling 25-year-old Edward’s “unfair and horrible death” at the hands of henchmen working for Henry VII, England’s first Tudor king, the city believes it is owed an apology and 513 years’ worth of compensation.
This would amount to billions in today’s currency, but Angers is prepared to accept the jewels to cover it all. The petition, which has already been signed by hundreds of so-called Angevins, as well as sympathisers around France and other parts of the world, is directed at the Queen. It describes a “state crime” against a noble line that played a central role in making Britain great, and wants the jewels to be put on public display at the Saint Aubin tower in Angers. (Read entire article.)
More on Edward Plantagenet's life and execution, HERE. Katherine of Aragon thought that her trials in life were a punishment for the murder of the young earl. Share

Friday, July 20, 2012

Happy Birthday, Mom!

It is hard to believe that my feisty and beautiful mother turns seventy-three today. The descendant of Spanish conquistadors, Chinese pirates, and Alabama Confederates is more energetic than ever, still driving like a bat out of hell.

My mom as a baby in her father's arms, in the Philippines, shortly before the Japanese occupation and her father's internment in the concentration camp. More HERE and HERE.

With her brother David in Birmingham, Alabama in 1947 after surviving the Japanese occupation of the Philippines.

Wedding day on October 14, 1961, Blessed Sacrament Church in Seattle, Washington.

In Gaithersburg, Maryland. She read to us a lot when we were little.

What a survivor! She is still taking care of all of us today, and lots of other people, too. Happy Birthday, Mama Alice! Share

The Psalter of St. Thomas More

From artist Daniel Mitsui. Share

Let Them Eat Kale

It was the revolutionaries who were telling people what to eat, not Marie-Antoinette.
Vegetarianism during the French Revolution is most often traced to the political writings of Jean-Jacques Rousseau. He was a philosopher who greatly influenced the revolutionaries, says Tristram Stuart, author of the book The Bloodless Revolution: A Cultural History of Vegetarianism: From 1600 to Modern Times.
Rousseau writes in Emile, his treatise on education:
"The indifference of children towards meat is one proof that the taste for meat is unnatural; their preference is for vegetable foods, such as milk, pastry, fruit, etc. Beware of changing this natural taste and making children flesh-eaters, if not for their health's sake, for the sake of their character."
Stuart takes it further. "When revolutionaries fought in the French Revolution, some of them got bound up in this idea that animals, too, were in need of liberation from oppression and from slavery," Stuart says, "and therefore, they built animal rights into their revolutionary ideology." (Read entire article.)

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Monsieur le Dauphin

Marie-Antoinette presents her first born son to France. It is interesting that even before the Revolution a classical goddess was used to represent France. Share

"We Are Penn State"

Here is an article which sums up the whole hideous debacle. I used to live in State College, PA and I am afraid that what we have seen so far is only the tip of the iceberg. To quote:
This entire sad and tragic tale brings to mind my favorite definition of what it means to have character. Character isn't just a function of public actions or pronouncements, but is more about what you do when no one is around to see you do it. When you're all alone and faced with a difficult choice and you choose to do the right thing even though no one is watching, that's the ultimate definition of character. At least four powerful men at Penn State faced those private moments and pivotal choices and made their private decisions about what was right and what was wrong. No one was watching, until now. (Read entire post.)

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The Hound of Heaven

A discussion of the great poem by Francis Thompson.
I fled Him, down the nights and down the days;
I fled Him, down the arches of the years;
I fled Him, down the labyrinthine ways
Of my own mind; and in the mist of tears
I hid from Him, and under running laughter.
Up vistaed hopes I sped;
And shot, precipitated,
Adown titanic glooms of chasmèd fears,
From those strong Feet that followed, followed after.
But with unhurrying chase,
And unperturbèd pace,
Deliberate speed, majestic instancy,
They beat-and a Voice beat
More instant than the Feet-
'All things betray thee, who betrayest Me.'
What many didn't know was that this poem, hailed as one of the great Catholic poems, was the product of a deeply troubled soul, a man who battled addiction, poverty and depression throughout his adult life.
(Read more.) Share

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Father and Victim

An elegy for Louis XVI on July 14.
The French Republic was founded on a monstrous crime and the criminal act was the judicial murder of King Louis XIV and the later one of his wife Queen Marie Antoinette. Instead of wearing sashes and dancing in the streets, the French people and their representatives should be donning sackcloth and ashes. (Read entire post.)

Wales and the Catholic Church

From Stephanie Mann:
Of course, you've noticed that the two groups of martyrs canonized and beatified are the "Forty Martyrs of England and Wales" and the "Eighty-Five Martyrs of England and Wales": Here is a site dedicated to telling the stories of the Welsh martyrs.

And of course, one of the most evocative of all the monastic ruins, Tintern Abbey, is in Wales: Here is a site dedicated to the Welsh Abbeys and other holy sites in Wales. Tintern Abbey, of course, inspired William Wordsworth. (Read entire post.)

Monday, July 16, 2012

A Bitter Veil

A Bitter Veil: A Novel of Iran is a tragic story of our own time. I was in high school when the Shah was overthrown and the Iranian exiles began to arrive. Over the years I have had the pleasure of meeting a few of those exiles and once went to a party at an Iranian home. The hospitality was generous and refined; the food and drink abundant and superb. Needless to say, I had a marvelous evening. I was happy to encounter similar scenes of Middle Eastern graciousness in A Bitter Veil, as the author describes the lifestyle of a prosperous Iranian family in the late 1970's in Tehran, from the point of view of a young American girl who has married the son and heir. When they first meet in Chicago, Anna and Nouri plunge madly into an intoxicating affair which, like most relationships based solely upon passion, is bound to be strained when reality sets in. In this novel, reality comes cruelly knocking with violent, apocalyptic fury.

For awhile, however, the couple exists in a  happy dream, as Anna, who had foundered all of her life, blossoms in the shelter of Nouri's love and in the affection of his family. She enjoys creating a luxurious abode for herself and her husband while shopping with her sister-in-law and going to elegant lunches and parties. The descriptions of Tehran in its glory days reminds me of similar stories of the last days of St. Petersburg before World War One or the summer of 1789 at Versailles, except that it occurs after I was born. What follows is to be expected, if one understands the history of revolutions, and how they are well-planned long before erupting, and yet for the tranquil life of the the Samedi family to be disturbed in any way seems obscenely outside the realm of possibility.

The debacles which turn the country upside down are a matter of public record which the author has keenly researched. Hellmann, however, gives us an inside look as only a good novelist can do. With Anna we enter the heart of darkness and despair, facing murder, betrayal, and a heartrending mystery. With her we also find the strength and the resourcefulness to survive. The novel captures a slice of recent history which many have already forgotten; it is a brilliant portrayal of existence in an Islamic dictatorship. I would recommend A Bitter Veil as a companion to such books as House of Sand and Fog and Reading Lolita in Tehran.

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


The Hollow Crown

The new BBC production.
We’re in Gloucester Cathedral in January and it is freezing. Jeremy Irons has admitted to wearing long johns and Tom Hiddleston says he’s been piling the layers on too, but mainly on his top half “because otherwise it’s a mission to go to the loo”. The director, Richard Eyre, has a very large Michelin-man coat on. “I’ve found a radiator!” sobs one of the extras.
The actors are midway through a key scene from Shakespeare’s Henry IV part one, an exchange that constitutes one of the great dressings-down in literature. Sporting a cloak and furs over those thermals, as well as a thorny beard, Irons is playing the king in a rage, tearing strips off Hiddleston, humble and ashamed as Henry IV’s errant son, Prince Hal....

The film they are making will form part of a tetralogy of Shakespeare history plays that the BBC is presenting as a contribution to the year’s sprawling Cultural Olympiad and the Beeb’s own Shakespeare Unlocked season. The full sequence of plays, entitled The Hollow Crown, and following the fall of one branch of the Plantagenets and the rise of another, will be Richard II, Henry IV parts one and two and Henry V.
This line up has been put together by executive producers Sam Mendes (more a benign consultant in the distance thanks to his duties on the next Bond film, Skyfall) and Pippa Harris (last production, the ratings hit Call the Midwife). “The plays seemed particularly fitting for this particular year, with the Olympics but also the jubilee,” says Harris. “They are about monarchy, they are about England. They are about British history.” (Read entire article.)

Sunday, July 15, 2012

The Potting Shed

An important place for gardeners.
A clean, well-lighted place (to borrow from Hemingway) nicely describes what one needs in a potting room. Whether a lean-to on the side of the house, a garage, a repurposed laundry room or mudroom, an old shed or a new one, a potting room is the same for all gardeners—a place of our own, to do what we love, where making a mess is just fine. It's a spot to arrange flowers, to cut herbs for drying and to plot and plan your garden. A potting room is also an opportunity for letting your creativity run free—a space to lay out, decorate and style every last rake and trowel. It is your central point for all gardening activities, a management hub, your cockpit. (Read entire article.)

Contemporary Elites

From The New York Times:
Through most of the 19th and 20th centuries, the Protestant Establishment sat atop the American power structure. A relatively small network of white Protestant men dominated the universities, the world of finance, the local country clubs and even high government service.

Over the past half–century, a more diverse and meritocratic elite has replaced the Protestant Establishment. People are more likely to rise on the basis of grades, test scores, effort and performance.
Yet, as this meritocratic elite has taken over institutions, trust in them has plummeted. It’s not even clear that the brainy elite is doing a better job of running them than the old boys’ network. Would we say that Wall Street is working better now than it did 60 years ago? Or government? The system is more just, but the outcomes are mixed. The meritocracy has not fulfilled its promise....

Today’s elite is more talented and open but lacks a self-conscious leadership code. The language of meritocracy (how to succeed) has eclipsed the language of morality (how to be virtuous). Wall Street firms, for example, now hire on the basis of youth and brains, not experience and character. Most of their problems can be traced to this. (Read entire post.)

Saturday, July 14, 2012

How to Make a Bed

There is nothing so nice as a crisp bed.
For a smart finish, turn your top sheet back at least 14 inches over your coverlet to show off interesting trim details. Fold your duvet in thirds in a Z pattern, and place it at the foot of the bed so it looks nice and fluffy during the day and can be pulled up easily at night. (Read entire article.)

Penal Laws in Ireland

The tragic legacy of war.
After these decisive victories in Ireland, and the Jacobite surrender of the seige of Limerick, more punitive Penal Laws were passed against Irish Catholics, including, but limited to:

~Exclusion of Catholics from most public offices (since 1607)

~Ban on intermarriage with Protestants; repealed 1778

~Catholics barred from holding firearms or serving in the armed forces (rescinded by Militia Act of 1793)

~Exclusion from the legal professions and the judiciary; repealed (respectively) 1793 and 1829.

~Education Act 1695 – ban on foreign education; repealed 1782.

~Bar to Catholics entering Trinity College Dublin; repealed 1793.

~On a death by a Catholic, his legatee could benefit by conversion to the Church of Ireland;

~Popery Act – Catholic inheritances of land were to be equally subdivided between all an owner's sons with the exception that if the eldest son and heir converted to Protestantism that he would become the one and only tenant of estate and portions for other children not to exceed one third of the estate. This "Gavelkind" system had previously been abolished by 1600.

~Ban on converting from Protestantism to Roman Catholicism on pain of Praemunire: forfeiting all property estates and legacy to the monarch of the time and remaining in prison at the monarch's pleasure. In addition, forfeiting the monarch's protection. No injury however atrocious could have any action brought against it or any reparation for such.

~Ban on Catholics buying land under a lease of more than 31 years; repealed 1778.

~Ban on custody of orphans being granted to Catholics on pain of 500 pounds that was to be donated to the Blue Coat hospital in Dublin.

~Ban on Catholics inheriting Protestant land

~Prohibition on Catholics owning a horse valued at over £5 (in order to keep horses suitable for military activity out of the majority's hands)

~Roman Catholic lay priests had to register to preach under the Registration Act 1704, but seminary priests and Bishops were not able to do so until 1778

~When allowed, new Catholic churches were to be built from wood, not stone, and away from main roads.

~'No person of the popish religion shall publicly or in private houses teach school, or instruct youth in learning within this realm' upon pain of twenty pounds fine and three months in prison for every such offence. Repealed in 1782.

~Any and all rewards not paid by the crown for alerting authorities of offences to be levied upon the Catholic populace within parish and county.

These repressive penal laws wouldn't be repealed until the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century Catholic relief acts, while other practices, like Catholics paying tithes to the Church of Ireland survived even those legislative milestones. The Orange Order marches on The Twelfth still provoke disorder, conflict and violence. (Read entire post.)

Friday, July 13, 2012

Shattered Crowns

 The following is a guest post by author Christina Croft.
"The Greatest Crime of the Twentieth Century"
When attempting to solve a series of crimes, detectives tend to look for patterns and gradually create a profile of the criminal and his/her methods. In the same way, while carrying out research for what I believe was the greatest and most appalling crime in history – the First World War - I became increasingly aware of a terrible pattern which bears the distinct hallmark of the methods that have been – and continue to be - used by some of the most secretive and powerful criminals imaginable.
Speaking of the French Revolution, Elena Maria Vidal eloquently points out that a secretive group deliberately provoked the revolution and purposely and unjustly vilified King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette in order to justify their subsequent executions. The King had to be removed and the Roman Catholic Church suppressed so that these people could gain the power they were seeking. It is almost too horrific to contemplate but, while researching the background for my ‘Shattered Crowns’ trilogy, it became very apparent that the same methods were used to provoke the war in order to bring about the collapse of the autocracies of Russia, Germany and Austria-Hungary...and over eight million soldiers and many more millions of civilians from over one hundred countries were killed in the process.
Who could commit such a crime and why? Perhaps it is worth asking who had anything to gain from this war. The monarchs certainly didn’t. Wars are extremely expensive and they each contributed to the war effort from their own personal funds, gaining nothing in return. What’s more, they were friends and cousins and to the last moment they were desperately seeking to avoid war. Tsar Nicholas of Russia and Emperor Franz Josef of Austria (and his heir Archduke Franz Ferdinand) had many domestic problems to deal with, while Kaiser Wilhelm’s Germany was prospering and thriving after forty years of peace. Archduke Franz Ferdinand (who sadly is only remembered for his murder)  had made definite plans to bring greater autonomy to the different ethnic groups within Austria-Hungary and, had he lived to succeed as Emperor, he would have implemented many changes, creating greater harmony within his Empire. Sadly, those who wanted a war, did not want greater harmony and Franz Ferdinand was murdered. Even more striking is the fact that the week before the Archduke was murdered, Kaiser Wilhelm paid him an informal visit during which both men agreed to make friendly overtures to the Tsar of Russia in order to maintain peace in Europe. This is rarely mentioned in the history books, nor is it stated that all the monarchs were away on holiday in the days immediately prior to the declarations of war.
Unfortunately, however, these independent monarchs stood in the way of the same group who perpetrated the French Revolution, in their desire to gain control of the resources and the economies of these nations. In order to do that, it was necessary to bring down the autocracies and the easiest method of so-doing was first to bankrupt them by expensive war (at the same time the members of this group were lending vast sums at very high interest to both sides) and to create chaos, disillusionment and disorder. After this – as clearly happens today - the very people who created the disorder could then step in and restore calm on their own terms. While this was happening, the economic centre for the Allies shifted from London to Wall Street – so soon after the founding of the (privately owned, I believe?) Federal Reserve - and over a thousand new millionaires prospered almost overnight in the United States. Interestingly, too, Trotsky, one of the leaders of the Russian revolution was being driven around New York in a limousine and, soon after his and Lenin’s arrival in Russia, vast amounts of Russian gold were shipped to a specific American-based banking house and access was granted to the Russian oilfields. In the same way, by the terms of the Treaty of Versailles, the thriving German Chemical industry passed into the hands of foreign industrialists, and all German patents taken out in America were sold for next to nothing to pharmaceutical companies, coincidentally owned by members of the same banking/industrialist families.
It was not sufficient, however, to gain economic control. There was also a spiritual aspect to this crime. Austria-Hungary – the Apostolic Kingdom – was bound to the Roman Catholic Church and the Russian Imperial Family were bound to Orthodoxy. It was necessary to destroy these links and, through the media and oppressive laws, turn people to a more materialistic ideology (which, of course, profits the banker-industrialists).
The Tsar was murdered with his entire family; Kaiser Wilhelm and Emperor Karl (who had succeeded to the Austro-Hungarian thrones in 1916) were deposed and forced into exile; and, as with Louis and Marie Antoinette, they were each vilified. The Tsar has been erroneously portrayed as weakling; the Kaiser as a madman and a warmonger, and Emperor Karl (now Blessed Karl of Austria) as an alcoholic womaniser! It is easy to refute each of these ridiculous accusations but it would take to long to do so here.
In the Shattered Crowns trilogy, I hope to have demonstrated the courage and humanity of these monarchs who were genuinely concerned for the welfare of their people and who endured many personal tragedies, and to cast a different light on the greatest crime of the twentieth century. The first two books The Scapegoats (1913-1914) and The Sacrifice (1914-1917) are available in paperback and Kindle format; the third book of the trilogy ‘The Betrayal’, will be coming soon.
Thank you, Elena, for your hospitality and allowing me to write on your blog!   

Marie-Antoinette's Brothers and Sisters

Some pictures I've never seen before.


Thursday, July 12, 2012

Pope Clement VII

The Pope who said "no" to Henry VIII.
He was born Giulio di Giuliano de’ Medici in Florence on May 26, 1478, the natural son of Giuliano de’ Medici and thus the nephew of the famous Lorenzo the Magnificent. He was always serious, studious, intelligent and loved learning and intellectual conversation. In his youth he was made a Knight of Rhodes but his real rise began after his cousin, Giovanni de’ Medici, was elected to the Throne of St Peter as Pope Leo X. He was a very close and trusted advisor to the Pope and became Archbishop of Florence, the Medici stronghold that was always first in their hearts. In 1513 he was created Giulio Cardinal de’ Medici and was widely praised for his good judgment and sound advice to Leo X. The Medici Pope was himself very popular with the Romans for his elaborate ceremonies, numerous celebrations and lavish style, all of which provided people with much gainful employment. When Leo X was succeeded by the Dutch Pope Hadrian VI things were different and much more strict and austere. Needless to say, Hadrian VI was a very pious man but very unpopular with the Romans who longed for another Medici on the papal throne. (Read entire post.)

The Real Holly Golightly

Holly, aka Lula Mae Barnes, was based upon Lillie Mae Faulk, Capote's mother. (Via A Conservative Blog for Peace.)
Lillie Mae Faulk – much like Lula Mae Barnes – was a beautiful Southern orphan (seen here in the headscarf), and God, she hated the country. Unlike Breakfast at Tiffany’s readers, she was not charmed by the fact that she was a southern orphan being sort-of, kind-of raised by her Aunt Jennie. Presumably, like Holly, she spent her youth in the South running through briar patches and stealing chicken eggs – but all she wanted to do was move to New York. Andreas Brown, a literary archivist claims:

“Lillie Mae Faulk was said to be a great Southern beauty. Not in the sense that we consider great beauties today but at that time she was considered a very attractive and charming woman. By all accounts the prettiest girl thereabouts, just an inch or so about five feet, dark blond hair, barely sixteen, but today what we might refer to as a bubblehead. She certainly was irresponsible, childlike, a case of arrested development in the sense that she pursued adolescent values well into her thirties. She married the first fellow who came along who had any money.”

That fellow was Arch Persons. He came from a good family and wooed her with a sports-car, which he said he could use to drive her to every city she wanted to go to. And oh, Lillie Mae was on it. They married after a few weeks – and then Arch ran out of money on their honeymoon. Completely. He was actually broke. They were forced to return to the small town of Monroesville. In many ways, it sounds similar to Holly’s marriage at 14 to Doc Golightly, except that Arch turned out to be a con man. (Read entire article.)

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The Tudors, Season 3

Sarah Bolger as Princess Mary
As mentioned in a previous post, I have been watching the Showtime production of The Tudors starring Jonathan Rhys-Meyers as a svelte Henry VIII. Season 3, like Season 2, is heavily laced with torrid bedroom scenes, so many that after awhile they make sex seem boring. I say "bedroom" although if one were to believe the mini-series half the ladies of the court were getting slammed up against the wall without so much as a sonnet being written for them. Furthermore, there was no swimming pool at Hampton Court; ladies' limbs were white and fleshy, not sleek and tanned. The drama would have been immensely more credible without those fictional reenactments, especially the ones which lead us to imagine that Henry VIII would even be capable of such aerobics in his state of health.

On the other hand, I have never seen or heard of such a magnificent dramatization of the Pilgrimage of Grace as was featured in Season 3 of The Tudors. The  Catholic Pilgrims of Grace were simple people who had had their religion taken away from them; all they wanted was the opportunity to voice their complaints to the King. They marched under the sacred banner of the Five Wounds. It was one of the first times in history, if not the first, that the image of the Sacred Heart of Jesus was borne aloft in the name of a cause. They were brutally betrayed and executed. As I was watching the scene where their leader Robert Aske is bound in chains and preparing himself for a hideous death, I said to my mother, who was watching the show with me, "We don't know what faith is." Compared to people like Mr. Aske, I do not think most of us do. In reality, it was the Duke of Norfolk, not the Duke of Suffolk (Charles Brandon) who put down the Pilgrimage and oversaw the executions.

The character of Mary Tudor was again particularly well done, beautifully acted by Sarah Bolger with integrity and grace. We are presented with the portrait of an innocent young girl in an increasingly profligate court, who is alone and isolated because of her Catholic faith, kept from marrying because her father is too busy with his own matrimonial ups and downs. Yet she tries always to do the right thing. Whatever course of action she follows, it seems to lead to heartbreak, and more heartbreak. She clings to her faith nevertheless. We can see the future Queen regnant beginning to take shape. Mary is no less her father's daughter as she is her mother's, and the granddaughter of the great Isabel. It is easy to weep for her.

It is a big disappointment that the real Jane Seymour was not anywhere near as lovely as depicted in the miniseries. As Tracy Borman writes:
A portrait painted of her in around 1536 (when this episode is based) shows her to have had a large, plump face with a double chin. Her eyes were small and beady, her lips thin and closely compressed, and she wore a cold, detached expression. One onlooker at court dismissed her as being ‘of middle stature and no great beauty’. Even the Imperial Ambassador Chapuys, who was predisposed to favour Jane because of her traditional Catholic beliefs, was at a loss to explain what the King saw in her.
As for Anne of Cleves, she is so fetchingly portrayed by Joss Stone that it is incomprehensible why Henry would put her aside for Tamzin Merchant's insipid Katherine Howard. I do not like how Katherine is portrayed; Joss Stone would have made a better Katherine. Katherine was not well-educated but that does mean she was an imbecilic waif. She was a nobleman's daughter, the niece of the Duke of Norfolk, the first cousin of Anne Boleyn, and must have possessed some of the basic qualities that Henry liked in his women, including poise and wit. Some of the casting in The Tudors is a bit puzzling.

Now, on to Season 4.... Share

Scientology's Cult Leader

The global operation.
At first glance, the handsome Georgian mansion in the heart of the Sussex countryside could easily be mistaken for a National Trust property. Indeed, at this time of year, Saint Hill Manor would not look out of place in a BBC costume drama; lawns are manicured and greenhouses stocked with abundant produce.
Only the presence of stern-faced young men sporting pristine black naval uniforms and white flat caps indicate Saint Hill's true calling. The cadets are members of the Sea Org, the 6,000-strong unit within the Church of Scientology that is run along quasi-military lines and which is treated with a degree of respect that borders on fear by some of its followers.

Many members are little more than children who have signed contracts pledging to perform a billion years of service for the fledgling church which was set up in 1954 by the former pulp fiction writer L Ron Hubbard, and is famed for its celebrity followers.

Banned from having children while part of the group, Sea Org members are considered the Scientology elite, shock troops to be dispatched to the church's trouble spots. Hubbard declared that they had "unlimited ethics powers".

One of the Sea Org's earliest recruits at Saint Hill, a major Scientology training centre, was David Miscavige, a Roman Catholic raised in New Jersey who joined at the age of 16, having spent several years attending the church's courses which his father hoped would cure his asthma. Miscavige was quickly selected as one of only a handful of people allowed to work directly with Hubbard, who impressed upon his apprentice the powerful role the media played in promoting religion. (Read entire post.)

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

A Summer Night

An evening festivity in the gardens of Trianon. (Via Vive la Reine.) Share

American Children: The Most Indulged?

From The Wall Street Journal:
Picture a child of 8 or so. He wakes up and carefully makes his bed before going downstairs and emptying the dishwasher. He fixes himself a bowl of cereal and calmly eats it at the table, then clears his place, rinses the bowl and spoon, and places them both in the now-empty dishwasher.

If this seems like some sort of mythical youngster from a faraway culture or a bygone age, you may be in the market for one of the parenting books smartly reviewed by Elizabeth Kolbert in this week’s New Yorker. Summing up the point of both the books and the review, she writes, “With the exception of the imperial offspring of the Ming dynasty and the dauphins of pre-Revolutionary France, contemporary American kids may represent the most indulged young people in the history of the world.”

Kolbert describes an anthropologist’s encounter with 6-year-old Yanira, part of a remote Peruvian tribe. On a leaf-gathering expedition with another family, Yanira constantly makes herself useful—she sweeps the sleeping mats twice a day; she fishes for crustaceans, cooks them up and serves them to the others. “Calm and self-possessed, Yanira ‘asked for nothing,’ ” Kolbert writes of the anthropologist’s impressions.

The same anthropologist was part of a family study in Los Angeles as well, with very different results.  In those families, “no child routinely performed household chores without being instructed to. Often, the kids had to be begged to attempt the simplest tasks; often, they still refused. …In [one] representative encounter, an eight-year-old girl sat down at the dining table. Finding that no silverware had been laid out for her, she demanded, ‘How am I supposed to eat?’ Although the girl clearly knew where the silverware was kept, her father got up to get it for her.”

Madeline Levine’s “Teach Your Children Well: Parenting for Authentic Success” places much of the blame on parents’ keen desire that their children be special in all things, Kolbert says. “Being special takes hard work and can’t be trusted to children,” writes Levine. “Hence the exhausting cycle of constantly monitoring their work and performance, which in turn makes children feel less competent and confident, so that they need even more oversight.” (Read entire article.)

Monday, July 9, 2012

Happiness Sustained

First of all, let me say that I do not believe that there is any lasting happiness in this world. Genuine, everlasting happiness will only be found on the other side. When we focus all of our hopes for happiness in any one person, place or possession, feeling that we cannot be happy without such-and-such a person or such-and-such a place or thing in our lives, then we are certain to be disappointed eventually. It is beyond the power of anything or anyone on earth to be the source of our happiness. In a way, it is asking too much of created things. It is asking too much of life.

However, I do believe that we can and will experience contentment and even joy when we are doing what we know we should be doing, whatever that may be. We will find moments of happiness when going about our business, either at work or home, with family or friends, or alone. As for myself, I find that happiness overtakes me when I am not looking for it. When reading to my child, or toiling in the garden, or washing the dishes, or swimming, or walking by the bay, or any number of mundane tasks, I suddenly realize: "I am happy. Praise God." The feeling may pass, but it is only a feeling. Feelings come and go but actions endure. Love is an act of the will and where love dwells, there will be happiness. The key to this is to remember that in the course of life there will be as many moments when we feel unhappy, trapped and hopeless. It is as important, in those dark moments, to say to ourselves as we do in moments of light: "May God be praised." In those words are perfect joy.

For more thoughts on sustaining happiness, visit the ladies at BlogHer.

What Makes Bad Writing?

From The Wall Street Journal:
I'm tempted to say that the only universally acknowledged characteristic of bad writing is that you can't understand it, but even that's not true. In the late 1990s, the journal Philosophy and Literature sponsored a contest to identify the worst sentences in published academic prose. I cite this third-place winner only because it has the rare virtue of being short: "The lure of imaginary totality is momentarily frozen before the dialectic of desire hastens on within symbolic chains."

William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White in "The Elements of Style" would respond to what seems like intentional obscurity—both in academia and fiction—by saying, "Be obscure clearly! Be wild of tongue in a way we can understand!" "The Elements of Style" remains the single best primer on writing English with "cleanliness, accuracy and brevity," and if writers take only one piece of advice from it, let it be "Omit needless words!" (Read entire post.)

Sunday, July 8, 2012

St. Maria Goretti: The Child Victim

Fr. Ray Blake speculates on sexual abuse in the past.
The Church honours virginity in both its male and female saints, it isn't just a matter of "spiritual integrity" but physical integrity too, the two go together. There is a tendency to saccherinise such saints but St Maria had resisted Serenelli previously. She was the victim of child abuse, she resisted, her "no meant no". I cannot help thinking that one of the reasons for her popularity was that there was an undercurrent of sexual abuse within within Italy at the time.

St Jeanne Vianney at various times during the year rails against village dances; times when young people might find themselves alone together. Padre Pio takes the same stance, as do many Irish sermons of the early 20th century. Abuse, we know generally takes place within the family or extended family, I can't help wondering whether devotion to her was a rather discreet way of talking about sexual abuse.

I remember some years ago talking to a woman whose Polish mother had involved all her children in abusive sexual practices, she, a sociologist and counselor, was convinced that in rural societies, especially isolated ones such practices were "normal". I don't know. (Read entire post.)

The Church and America

Tension, assimilation, and mutual benefit.
Ever since the Calverts (Lord Baltimore) started Maryland (I know the Spanish were here first but America starts with the British*) the Catholic story in America’s been paradoxical, puzzling both to European churchmen such as the Popes and to American Catholics. Protestants turned agnostics founded this country, which happened to be a haven for Catholics thanks to liberty while the church, rightly fearing indifferentism and the founding fathers’ heresy and apostasy, until recently condemned religious liberty. (Americans had to choose between godless republicans or an anointed Christian king, not the monster American history makes him out to be... but he was Protestant and, in the motherland, persecuted the church; the colonies were free to do what they wanted with religion.) (Read entire post.)

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Cool As a Cucumber

Light, tasty meals for hot days.
I've assembled a few recipes that show off the cucumber's greatest assets. Its cooling, melony flavor marries with avocado and tangy buttermilk in a chilled soup that's as refreshing as a lake on a mid-July afternoon. I love the juicy crunch that cucumbers add to a bread salad dressed with the sweet, sour and funky flavors of Vietnamese cooking. That crunch also plays well with fish in ceviche and in a lemony pasta salad. It co-stars—in long, tender ribbons—in another salad with herbed pesto.

When I'm finished preparing these dishes, I'll juice any leftover cucumbers (and their scraps) for mixing into Pimm's Cups and other gin-based cocktails, then sweeten and freeze the remaining juice into granita for dessert. (Read more.)