Friday, November 30, 2012

Dill Herb

A handy herb to have around. As one gardener writes:
Ancient Egyptian medical texts list Dill as an oft-prescribed treatment for digestion problems and it was a staple in the garden in many European areas. Native to Africa, the Mediterranean area and the southern regions of Russia, it can easily be grown seasonally in most temperate regions. The Book of Matthew lists Dill as one of the herbs given as a tithe, and this plant is related to the carrot, cumin and parsley family.
Dill is often included in home remedies for indigestion, flatulence and other digestive complaints including those that cause cramping or discomfort. Ginger and Dill were often combined to help control excessive internal gas production, nausea and cramping. The mild action and safety of this plant allow it to be used for children's complaints including gastrointestinal flu, over eating, stomach ulcers and cramps associated with menstrual cycles.
Once a common home remedy used by physicians to treat colic, a painful condition in infants, and to promote lactation the essential oil of Dill was often used. A few drops of Dill oil was placed in a small amount of water and lessened the discomfort of colic when given to babies suffering from this condition. Gripe water is an old home remedy for colic and included Dill, baking soda and alcohol and today is available commercially in a formula that does not contain alcohol. Lactating mothers often drank Dill herb tea to help improve and maintain breast milk production and the small quantities of Dill that are secreted in breast milk has been said to lessen the discomfort of colic as well. (Read entire post.)

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Battle of Montgisard

The Leper King and the battle for Jerusalem.
The Battle of Montgisard was fought between the Ayyubids and the Kingdom of Jerusalem on November 25, 1177. The 16 year old King Baldwin IV, seriously afflicted by leprosy, led an out-numbered Christian force against the army of Saladin. The Islamic force was routed and their casualties were massive, only a fraction managed to flee to safety.

More than wisdom and courage, what made Baldwin IV a great king was his indomitable faith – a virtue he demonstrated at the famous battle of Montgisard. After the attack on Egypt was cancelled, Philip of Flanders took his army to campaign in the northern territories of the kingdom, where Raymond of Tripoli joined him. The move left Jerusalem in a precarious situation. Very few troops had stayed behind to defend the capital and the king’s condition had worsened. (Read entire post.)

Unlearning Liberty

Stephanie Mann reports on liberal arts and campus censorship.
One of the most ridiculous cases of a university administration going after student was at Indiana University-Purdue University at Indianapolis in 2008: because the student/worker was reading a book titled Notre Dame versus The Klan he was accused and found guilty of racial harassment based on another student/worker referring to the cover of the book! (It offended him because he thought it was a book supporting the KKK.) According to Mr. Lukianoff, the university said that the student, reading a book about "How the Fighting Irish Defeated the Klu Klux Klan" was guilty of racial harassment for "openly reading the book related to a historically and racially abhorrent subject." (Perhaps this university won't show Steven Spielberg's movie Lincoln, because students would be openly watching a movie related to "a historically and racially abhorrent subject"!--slavery) The university finally backed down, apologized to the student, and cleared his record--but it took FIVE (5) months! (Read entire post.)

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The Strange Death of Richard the Lionhearted

From author Nancy Bilyeau:
What most historians agree on is that Richard was walking the chateau's perimeter without wearing his chain mail and he was shot by a castle defender using a crossbow. The wound in his left shoulder turned gangrenous. It steadily grew worse over the next 10 days. Some wrote that while dying Richard asked that the bowman be brought to him. He then forgave the man, who was named Peter Basil, and instructed that he should not be harmed. Richard died in the arms of his mother on April 6th. Later, defying Richard's orders, Peter Basil was flayed alive and hanged.

Why did Richard I, a seasoned and expert warrior, expose himself to a bowman's shot? Did the king and crusader put his life at risk to claim some grubby treasure dug up from the ground--why?
(Read entire post.)

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Baptism of Virginia Dare

I find this picture of the christening of the first English child born in America to be bittersweet since we have no idea what became of her. I have been reading about the Lost Colony of Roanoke and I wish I knew what happened to them. There is more background, here. To quote:
When I think of the lost colony, I think of John White; of his many beautiful illustrations of native life in the Americas, and of the anguish he felt at sea having left his daughter at Roanoke for more than three years. I think of how helpless he must have felt, being unable to find ships to return. I think of how it must have been to find the word Croatoan carved into the tree, of his doubtless desperation to continue, and the frustration of having to return to England when he was so close to finding them. Where were Eleanor White, her husband, and White's infant granddaughter? Were they living safely with the Croatans, or had they succumbed to disease or starvation? He never knew, and we'll never know either. We may find better evidence of what happened to the colony as a whole, but the small personal tragedies will always remain unaccountable. (Read entire article.)

The Pattern of Perfection

The stories of Nancy Hale. To quote:
The Pattern of Perfection by Nancy Hale (1908-1988), a collection of thirteen short stories, definitely falls into that genre disdainfully labeled by some as domestic fiction. There's even a recipe tucked into the prose.

Domestic, but not sentimental. Mostly written in the 1950s, the stories hover on  love, marriage, divorce, children, grandchildren, changes in place, and the succession of the generations. Hale's language is brisk and almost airy. Reading them is like taking a walk on a breezy warm day in March. But movement is driven not by plot; a mother returns her child to boarding school, in "Slow Boat to China"; a grandmother in New England takes her grandson for a boat ride in "Flotsam"; a young widow takes her five-year-old son to the graduation at her late husband's college. On a Halloween evening in "The Haunting," a widowed grandmother watches her daughter, newly separated from her husband and now back home with her two children, go trick or treating. Contemplation, memory, self-revelation are the themes.

Some stories center on displaced northerners in the South, as Hale was herself, moving from New York to Charlottesville, Virginia, in 1936, where she lived for the rest of her life. In the story "A Pattern of Perfection," Hale touches on disparities between the northern and southern way of life and the longing for home. "A New Place" tells of the frustration and discoveries of a northern woman recently moved to Virginia  as she attempts to meet the doyen who lives next door.

I liked all these stories by Nancy Hale, whom I encountered thanks to Frisbee: A Book Journal. Hale was born in Boston and was the daughter of two painters, Philip L. Hale and Lilian Westcott Hale. Although her parents were artists, she grew up in the environment of proper Boston society and then shifted her venue to New York City in 1928, where she worked as an editorial assistant and part-time model for Vogue and then as a reporter and fiction writer. (Read entire post.)

Monday, November 26, 2012

Young Goethe in Love (2010)

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832), one of Germany's greatest authors, is seen by many as an early Romantic, a movement which he later disowned. His bestseller The Sorrows of Young Werther, with its themes of rebellion and suicide, inspired the generation of Romantics who were to follow in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Romanticism was characterized by the placing of sentiment above common sense and strong emotions over duty, while relishing the outdoors, exotic cultures, ruined castles and morbid endings, all of which are present to some degree in the 2010 German film Young Goethe in Love. The 2010 film, however, resounds with Germanic practicality and eighteenth century logic as well as the robust joy and hope that come with youth.

The film received poor reviews, which I am glad I did not read beforehand since they might have colored my otherwise favorable impression. Many have compared Young Goethe in Love to Shakespeare in Love, saying that the Goethe movie is an imitation of the popular, Oscar-winning flick. I must admit that I watched the Goethe film without once thinking of Shakespeare in Love. There is no resemblance except for the fact that the heroine must marry against her personal inclinations for practical reasons, which was a frequent occurrence in times past. The story of Goethe and his romance with Lotte Buff is a true one, whereas the plot of Shakespeare in Love is pure fantasy. Furthermore, Young Goethe in Love, a lush and hearty masterpiece, contains subtleties which eluded the Shakespeare movie. Despite the fact that it does not always follow the actual course of Goethe's life, it is historically accurate as far as mannerisms, costumes and settings go. Most importantly, it captures Goethe's exuberant spirit.

According to Variety:
...The film has dashing young Goethe (Alexander Fehling) failing his bar exams in 1772, which leads his stern, poetry-hating father (Henry Huebchen) to send him to the sleepy town of Wetzlar, where he's made a clerk at a county court. His immediate boss is Kestner (Moritz Bleibtreu), the fussy but ambitious prosecutor. (The real Goethe already had some experience as a lawyer when he arrived in Wetzlar and was Kestner's equal, not his underling.)

Dragged to a dance by his overly sensitive roommate, Jerusalem (Volker Bruch), Goethe bumps into the pretty -- and pretty drunk -- Lotte (Miriam Stein), a fiercely independent spirit and, much to Goethe's delight, a drama fanatic. A stormy secret affair develops, and grows more complicated when Kestner, unbeknownst to Goethe, starts wooing Lotte with the help of the fair maiden's father (Burghardt Klaussner), a penniless widower who thinks the well-off Kestner a very suitable party for his eldest.

Plotting in the pic's second half not only follows the stories of the competing lovers, who in the meantime have become friends, but also cleverly weaves in a third storyline that becomes increasingly entangled in the other two, and finally serves as the initial inspiration for Goethe's literary breakthrough, "The Sorrows of Young Werther." Though the novella's success translates into something of a happy ending, pic's heart lies in the almost impossible love affair between Goethe and Lotte, which is refreshingly in tune with the period's artistic ideals (if not actual customs) and Goethe's later literary persona.
As Roger Ebert says:
Alas, Lotte's father is respectable but poor, and hopes to marry her off to none other than Kestner, Goethe's boss. This Kestner is not a bad man, but he is no Goethe, although at the time Goethe wasn't, either. The triangle leads to misery, a duel and a great deal of trouble. The film's ending is happy only in a technical sense. What does it profit a man to gain the whole world but lose Lotte?

I learn that a great deal of "Young Goethe in Love" is fiction. It's a film with boundless energy, filmed in sunny pastoral settings, gloomy interiors and with authentic-looking sets and costumes. I imagine Goethe himself, an uber-romantic, would enjoy it immensely, although he might not realize it was about himself. 
I beg to differ with Mr. Ebert; I think Goethe would recognize himself, and laugh a great deal, while perhaps shedding a few tears. The tale of a rare love which is lost even as it begins to blossom is a timeless human experience to which many people can relate. Lotte is a nurturing character who, in spite of her passion for Goethe, chooses to marry the man who will be able to help her destitute family. Her nobility of character is timeless and admirable, surpassing the fads of various literary movements, showing that Goethe's heart did not fail him when he chose to love her. Share


Rick Steves on France's hidden corner. Regarding the Albigensian Crusade, it was really fought over salt. The South of France had vast reserves of salt and the North invaded. Heresy was an excuse for a war of conquest. The papacy had very little to do with it.


Sunday, November 25, 2012

"Let Them Eat Cake": An Analysis

Where did such a ridiculous lie come from? Anna explores the question. To quote:
Erich Kaestner’s books were translated into numerous languages, although I was unable to find out of this particular book was translated into English, and it is possible that by including the story in his book, Kaestner helped to cement the connection between Marie Antoinette and “Let them eat cake!” in the eyes of readers and eventually, in popular culture. I hesitate to say that Kaestner was the catalyst of the cemented connection between Marie Antoinette and “Let them eat cake,” … however, most of the early newspaper records which connect Marie Antoinette to the phrase began in the 1930s. It is possible that by including the story in his popular book, it was spread to more children’s books and from there into the minds of parent—teachers, editors and journalists, and from there into newspaper articles to newspaper reader, etc etc, until it became a larger part of popular culture as a whole. What was once an anecdote sometimes associated with Madame Victoire, sometimes Maria Theresa, sometimes Marie Antoinette became associated with just Marie Antoinette. Countless newspaper articles, ad campaigns and other popular culture pieces from the mid-1930s until modern day include the phrase “Let them eat cake” being attributed or associated with Marie Antoinette, although once in a while they do add the caveat “She may have never said it, but…” (Read entire post.)

Tesla the Eugenicist

Eliminating the "undesirables" in the Brave New World.
One of Tesla’s most disturbing ideas was his belief in using eugenics to purify the human race. In the 1930s, Tesla expressed his belief that the forced sterilization of criminals and the mentally ill — which was occurring in some European countries (most disturbingly Nazi Germany) and in many states in the U.S. — wasn’t going far enough. He believed that by the year 2100 eugenics would be “universally established” as a system of weeding out undesirable people from the population. (Read entire post.)

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Picture Hats

A collection from Gio. Share

Mrs. Oscar Wilde

In case you were wondering whatever happened to Mrs. Wilde and the children, there is a new book about her.
'The world has grown suspicious of anything that looks like a happily married life," wrote Oscar Wilde. Given Wilde's current reputation as the patron saint of homosexuality. many people may not even know that, when Wilde went to jail in 1895 for "gross indecency," he left behind a wife and two young sons. In "Constance," the British biographer Franny Moyle shows that Wilde chose his wife with love and discernment. She was not only a fit match—including standing 5-foot-8 to his 6-foot-3—but a woman worth a second look on her own.

Constance Lloyd came from the same Dublin social world of cultured professionals as Oscar Wilde—they met there in 1881. His father was a noted eye and ear surgeon; hers was a barrister. Constance was comfortably provided for, thanks to her grandfather's financial cleverness in devising the Lloyd's Bond, a form of investment much relied upon in the railway boom. She had the usual ladylike accomplishments—playing the piano, painting, doing needlework—and dabbled in fashionable Arts and Crafts-related handicrafts. But she aspired higher, reading Dante in Italian, for instance, and taking a university class on Shelley when women were still not allowed to earn university degrees. Oscar and Constance also shared interests in clothes, interior design and social gatherings. They married in 1884, and promptly had two sons, Cyril and Vyvyan. (Read entire post.)

Friday, November 23, 2012

Michelangelo and the Sistine Chapel

From the Wall Street Journal:
Not until 1508 was the artist compelled back to Rome—not to renew work on the tomb, but to undertake a task ill-suited to a marble sculptor: the painting of the Sistine Chapel ceiling. Michelangelo's objection that "painting is not my art" proved weak against the will of the pope. But once reconciled to the task, the artist devoted enormous energy to creating a masterpiece.

He wrote of his travails in an acerbic sonnet: "My beard to heaven. My chest bent like a harp. The dripping brush making a rich pavement of my face. My loins have been shoved into my guts, my butt is ballast." At the bottom of the sheet, Michelangelo complained: "I'm not in a good place, nor a painter." The ceiling, however, tells a different story, one of magnificent achievement and sublime beauty.

Michelangelo had no previous experience directing a large-scale campaign in the demanding medium of fresco, but here he employed more than a dozen painters and craftsmen to help carry out the herculean project: hauling water up 65 feet of treacherous ladders, slaking lime for plaster, grinding and mixing pigments, pricking and transferring preparatory drawings, and painting miles of architecture and ornament. (Read entire article.)

Thursday, November 22, 2012

An Interview with Alison Weir

An interview with Alison Weir by Nancy Bilyeau.
NB: How much is known about Richard III's daughter, Kate Plantagenet? Was it more challenging or more interesting to develop her character and plot, since there is less documentation of her life than Katherine Grey's?

AW: Yes, she is mentioned in only four documents--a gift to any novelist, as her life is a blank canvas. But I knew the context of it, as I've studied Richard III's reign over many years. I had to rely on a lot of detective work, inference and probability.

NB: Why did you decide to tell their stories in one book, and not write a book on each of them?

AW: The idea for the book evolved gradually. It was originally going to be based on the premise that Perkin Warbeck really was Richard, Duke of York, but I couldn't make that work, given the source material and the flimsy premise on which he based his claim. I liked the idea of a mystery with a supernatural theme, possibly a timeslip. I wanted to find a new way in which to explore the fate of the Princes in the Tower, and I needed a love story to replace that of Perkin Warbeck and Katherine Gordon. I also wanted to write a sequel to Innocent Traitor. It occurred to me too that writing about Richard III from the point of view of the daughter who loved him would be a novel approach. Eventually, all these ideas came together--and after many nights spent lying awake wondering how to meld them!
(Read entire interview.) Share

Thanksgiving Morning

Bon Appetit suggests serving toast. 
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Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Louise and Henri d'Artois

The grandchildren of Charles X.


The Trial of Sir Walter Ralegh

A transcript. To quote:
Sir Walter Ralegh was tried for treason in the great hall of Winchester Castle on Thursday 17 November 1603. As with almost all treason trials of the period, the result was a foregone conclusion: he was found guilty. The jury took less than fifteen minutes to reach its conclusion, surprising even the king’s counsel, the recently knighted Sir Edward Coke, in its speed: he was still out walking in the castle gardens when the verdict came in.

And yet, the day was in many respects a personal triumph for Ralegh.

Hitherto, he had been widely detested by both his peers and the populace for his arrogance and apparent avarice. He had been, one courtier said a year or two previously, ‘the most hated man in England’. Indeed, the journey from his prison in the Tower of London to the castle in Winchester – the court was out of London because of an outbreak of plague – was particularly fraught. ‘It is almost incredible with what speeches and execrations he was exclaimed upon all the way through London and the towns as he went; which they say he neglected and scorned, as proceeding from base and rascal people. They threw tobacco-pipes, stones and mire at him, as he was carried in the coach,’ a friend at court wrote to the earl of Shrewsbury. (Read entire post.)

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Madame Royale in White and Scarlet

Circa 1799.


The Recusant Bonds

From Stephanie Mann:
Caryll Houselander, like St. Hildegard of Bingen, was a visionary: she had vivid experiences of seeing Christ in the world and even had a vision of Sidney Reilly suffering in a Russian prison. She had loved Reilly but he had married someone else--his story was told in the BBC miniseries, Reilly: Ace of Spies in 1983. (Read entire post.)

My posts on Sidney Reilly, the real James Bond, and Caryll Houselander are HERE and HERE. Share

Monday, November 19, 2012

The Dream

“The Dream” by Gustave Jean Jacquet (1846-1909). It is from a wonderful blog called Rococo Revisited. (Click on each picture to find out more.) Share

The Food Revolution

The invention of the canning process.
Napoleon Bonaparte’s famous quote, “An army marches on its stomach,” captures the essence of a military campaign. In 1795, while Bonaparte was emerging as a leader, French armies were fighting across Europe to protect the young Republic, which had been established in 1792 with the deposing of King Louis XVI on Sept. 21 from the established European powers.

It was a significant challenge to equip and feed its soldiers and sailors, with starvation and sickness often more effective enemies than the Austrian, Dutch, English and Spanish armies they faced. To foster the development of a safe way to preserve food that could be easily transported, the French military offered a 12,000-franc (the new currency introduced that year to replace the livre, a franc was the equivalent of 4.5 grams of silver) prize.

Nicolas Appert, who was born Nov. 17, 1749, in Châlons-en-Champagne, Marne, France, responded to the challenge. (Read entire post.)

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Over the Edge of the World

Most versed in nautical charts, he knew better than any other the true art of navigation, of which it is certain proof that he by his genius, and his intrepidity, without anyone having given him the example, how to attempt the circuit of the globe which he had almost completed... The glory of Magellan will survive him. ~Antonio Pigafetta on Ferdinand Magellan
Laurence Bergreen's Over the Edge of the World: Magellan's Circumnavigation of the Globe brings to life the greatest adventure of the Age of Discovery. Not in any myth or legend or chronicle told by Homer or Scheherazade or Irish monks of extraordinary voyages is there anything which compares with the true odyssey of Ferdinand Magellan and his companions. No storyteller or dramatist could invent such a tale of peril and woe, of grandeur and tragedy, in which men must confront not only the fierceness of the elements, but the darkness of their own souls and their helplessness before God. I do not understand why a movie has not yet been made about the first recorded European circumnavigation of the globe. At least there is this book which I found spellbinding to say the least.

Bergreen explores not only the mysterious lands that Magellan and his men came across but the character of Magellan himself. Devoutly Catholic and faithful to his wife (by all accounts), Magellan struggled with his pride and his temper, both of which ultimately led to his downfall. One can hardly blame him for occasionally losing his composure, given what he had to deal with from the captains and crew of the armada granted him by King Charles I of Spain, who later became Holy Roman Emperor Charles V. Although Magellan was Portuguese, he had a bitter falling out with the King of Portugal, which made him turn over his allegiance to Charles of Spain. When Magellan set out on his expedition for Charles to seek the "Spice Islands" of the East Indies by sailing west, the Portuguese heard of it and began to pursue him.

While being chased across the Atlantic by the Portuguese, Magellan endured constant complaints from his mostly Spanish companions who not only deeply resented having to serve under a Portuguese Captain General but were convinced that Magellan was secretly working for the King of Portugal. So along with storms and rotting supplies, Magellan had to face mutiny and desertion. It was through the sheer force of his personality and use of his intelligence that he was able to keep the voyage on course. His personal discipline and organizational skills were remarkable; he not only maintained the ships in top form but kept the crew in line. Whenever possible he insisted on morning and evening prayers and participation in the sacraments.

Through the determination and navigational brilliance of Magellan, the armada traversed the perilous strait at the base of South America which was to ever after bear his name. Then came the journey across the Pacific in which scurvy and starvation picked off so many of the seamen. It was a shame that they did not know about Vitamin C; if so, Magellan could have given the quince preserves reserved for the officers to everyone and it would have saved many lives. By the end of their adventures in South East Asia, where Magellan was hacked to pieces in the Philippines by an irate chieftain, there was only one ship left out of the original five. The caravel Victoria was sailed back to Spain by the Basque captain Juan Sebastian Elcano, amid many hardships. When Elcano and the seventeen other survivors made it home to Seville at last, the first thing they did was walk to the Cathedral in their ragged clothes with lighted candles in their hands. There they knelt before the statue of the Virgin and Child to give thanks that they, out of the original 237 men, had miraculously survived the voyage around the world.

Over the Edge of the World is enjoyable to read for the clear and descriptive narrative based upon the detailed research and travels of the author. One is introduced to quite a cast of characters not only among the  European seamen but among the various tribes, peoples and nations they encounter. The world was, and is, a much bigger place than any of them thought. I learned, and was inspired.

Ferdinand Magellan


From Grammarian to Theologian

Saint Gertrude the Great. To quote:
Her biographer points out two directions of what we might describe as her own particular "conversion": in study, with the radical passage from profane, humanistic studies to the study of theology, and in monastic observance, with the passage from a life that she describes as negligent, to the life of intense, mystical prayer, with exceptional missionary zeal. The Lord who had chosen her from her mother's womb and who since her childhood had made her partake of the banquet of monastic life, called her again with his grace "from external things to inner life and from earthly occupations to love for spiritual things". Gertrude understood that she was remote from him, in the region of unlikeness, as she said with Augustine; that she had dedicated herself with excessive greed to liberal studies, to human wisdom, overlooking spiritual knowledge, depriving herself of the taste for true wisdom; she was then led to the mountain of contemplation where she cast off her former self to be reclothed in the new. "From a grammarian she became a theologian, with the unflagging and attentive reading of all the sacred books that she could lay her hands on or contrive to obtain. She filled her heart with the most useful and sweet sayings of Sacred Scripture. Thus she was always ready with some inspired and edifying word to satisfy those who came to consult her while having at her fingertips the most suitable scriptural texts to refute any erroneous opinion and silence her opponents" (ibid., I, 1, p. 25). (Read entire post.)

Saturday, November 17, 2012


“And what is martyrdom,” asked Lamballe, “but the triumph of love?’
~Trianon by Elena Maria Vidal
Here are other quotes from Trianon with pictures that some readers have put together.


Persecution and Martyrdom

Some words from the Apostolic Nuncio for the United States. To quote:
Persecution is typically associated with the deeds preceding those necessary to make martyrs for the faith. While acts of persecution can mirror those associated with martyrdom, other elements can be directed to sustaining difficulty, annoyance, and harassment that are designed to frustrate the beliefs of the targeted person or persons rather than to eliminate these persons. It would seem, then, that the objective of persecution is to remove from the public square the beliefs themselves and the public manifestations without necessarily eliminating the persons who hold the beliefs. The victimization may not be designed to destroy the believer but only the belief and its open manifestations. From the public viewpoint, the believer remains but the faith eventually disappears. (Read entire post.)

Friday, November 16, 2012

Sir Francis Drake

Queen Elizabeth's slave trader. To quote:
In 1567 the young Francis Drake sailed to Sierra Leone in a fleet commanded by his cousin, John Hawkins. Here they bought, stole and captured some 500 African slaves which they transported to the Spanish Main and sold to Spanish colonists. But although the colonists were glad to acquire the slaves, they were less happy about the merchant; King Philip of Spain had made it very clear that English merchants like Hawkins should be regarded as pirates, and kept out of his New World Empire. (Read entire post.)

Poor Mary Lincoln

Was she really bipolar? To quote:
Mrs. Lincoln acquired a spotty public image early on, partly due to a scandal over lavish White House expenses and partly due to her Southern roots. (Born in Kentucky, she had family in the Confederacy.) The term First Lady was not yet in wide circulation when the Lincolns reached the White House, and no previous president’s wife had stirred such controversy, according to Harold Holzer, a leading Lincoln historian based at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Even so, contemporary media portrayals were fairly restrained, just as they were, Holzer says, for “all ‘the ladies,’ as they called them.” After President Lincoln’s assassination in 1865 and the loss of a third son in 1871—two others died in 1850 and 1862—Lincoln’s emotional state deteriorated until, after some erratic behavior, the two police officers showed up at her door. She was institutionalized, released months later, and lived out most of her remaining years overseas.  
After her death in 1882, historians—all of them initially male—began to mine her legacy, advancing a questionable theory of lifelong mental illness that remains hotly debated today. “This is a really gendered subject, I’ve discovered—there weren’t a lot of women who wrote about her,” said Jean Harvey Baker, author of a 2008 biography. “She got an utterly raw deal.” Early portrayals of Mrs. Lincoln as unhinged and volatile were followed by claims that she suffered from bipolar disorder, a diagnosis which, of course, did not exist in her lifetime. (Read entire article.)

Thursday, November 15, 2012

"My Very Worthy and Honored Companion"

Louis XVI insisted that Marie-Antoinette should become Regent of France in the event of his death. (Via Vive la Reine.)
As long as I live, I shall do all that is possible to carry out my duties and restore peace and happiness to my people. If God disposes of me, the Queen my very worthy and honored companion, will become Regent with full rights. Her good judgement, her good heart and her virtues are guarantees to me of the wisdom of her administration; her fondness for my son will redouble her natural attitude and zeal. —Louis XVI in 1791
(Read entire post.) Share

The Photographer from Auschwitz

Pure horror.
Wilhelm Brasse was forced to take photographs of frightened children and victims of gruesome medical experiments moments from their death at the extermination camp where some 1.5million people, mostly Jewish died in the Holocaust.

Mr Brasse, who died this week aged 94, has had relive those horrors from inside Auschwitz but is considered a hero after he risked his life to preserve the harrowing photographs, which later helped convict the very Nazi monsters who commissioned the photographs. (Read entire article.)

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Prince Henry the Navigator

From Nobility. The Portuguese prince who began the Age of Exploration was the great grandson of Edward III of England. To quote:
To achieve these objects, his swift caravels made continual voyages down the African coast, and in 1434, after twelve years of failures, one of his seamen, Gil Eannes, bolder than the rest, and inspired by his master’s zeal and generosity, doubled the terrible Cape. From that date events move quickly, and Henry, while still bearing in mind his crusading ideal, became more and more an explorer for the sake of knowledge, though he also endeavoured to draw commercial profit from the new-found Lands which would recoup his order for the vast expense of the voyages. He showed his scientific sagacity by obtaining from some captured natives (Azenegues) sufficient information about the Senegal to enable his men to recognize it when they reached it; moreover, he not only studied the ancient geographers and medieval maps, but engaged an expert map and instrument-maker, Jayme of Majorca, so that his explorers might have the best nautical information. This last incident probably accounts for the legend of the School of Sagres, which is now discredited. Though Henry certainly spent much time in the Algarve, of which province he was governor, the centre of his maritime activity was not Sagres or the Villa do Infante, but Lagos, where nearly all the early expeditions were equipped. (Read entire post.)

Yesterday was the anniversary of his death. Here is another bibliographical account from Wired:
1460: Infante Henrique (Prince Henry), known to history as Henry the Navigator, dies at 66 in Sagres, Portugal. While not a seafaring man himself, Henry’s zealous advocacy and generous patronage of science, cartography and oceanic navigation effectively opens the age of European exploration.

Henry the Navigator was the third son of Portugal’s King João I, whose ascent to the throne in 1385 touched off a confused period of civil strife and warfare that finally secured Portugal’s independence from Castile. However, the conflicts left much of the royalty impoverished, so Portugal began looking elsewhere for ways of reviving its economy.

At Henry’s urging, the king dispatched a fleet in 1415 to capture the Moorish port of Ceuta. The Moroccan port was a longtime safe haven for the Barbary pirates who marauded along the North African coast. The conquest of Ceuta awakened Henry to the possibilities of the Saharan trade routes and piqued his interest in charting the West African coast south of the Canary Islands.

The world south of Cape Bojador on the African mainland was unknown territory at the time, at least to European sailors. But Henry was determined to discover the extent of the Muslim world, which, as a good Christian of his era, he was hellbent on defeating.

Finding someone willing to sail into what the Europeans called the “Sea of Darkness” was not easy, however. It wasn’t until 1434 that the Portuguese explorer Gil Eannes, a former servant of Henry’s, became the first to round the cape. Exploration and commercial exploitation of the West African coast followed soon enough.

Henry, in his capacity as the governor of the Algarve and backed by the treasury of the Order of Christ, began authorizing expeditions into the Atlantic, which resulted in Portugal colonizing the Madeira Islands, the Azores and the Canary Islands. All the while, he was employing cartographers to chart the growing Portuguese world, as well as funding the building of newer, faster ships to expand the Portuguese reach into distant oceans.

Whether Henry actually established a formal school for navigators and cartographers as claimed — and this is the central pillar on which his lofty reputation rests — is unclear. Certainly navigators and mapmakers were in his employ and played a key role in the expansion of the young Portuguese Empire.

The Portuguese had explored the African coast as far south as present-day Sierra Leone by 1462, two years after Henry’s death. Bartolomeu Dias reached the Cape of Good Hope at the southern tip of Africa in 1489. Nine years later, Vasco da Gama became the first European sailor to make landfall in India.

None of this would have been possible without the driving spirit of Henry the Navigator. (Read entire post.)
More about Prince Henry, HERE. Share

"Pious Rhetoric"

A look at the abortion culture by a Canadian journalist.
In our times feminists contend that social equality is a compelling reason. They interpret it as women having no burdens imposed on them that aren’t also imposed on men. Since nature imposes pregnancy only on women, in order to even the scales, women should be entitled to an absolute license to terminate their pregnancies on demand.

This is the essence of the feminist argument, though it’s seldom put so bluntly. The matriarchy needs popular support to achieve its ambitions, and while members of the Me Generation are ready to pull the plug on anybody for selfish reasons, few face the logic of their position. They can’t quite bring themselves to grant women a licence to kill, like 007. This is why the debate is filled with pious rhetoric about women controlling their own bodies, or lives aborted not being “life.” Ironically, the pro-choice crowd usually oppose capital punishment — except for the crime of inconveniencing a woman.

Inconveniencing men is okay. Fathers can’t opt out of child-support if the mother decides to keep the baby, no matter how “inconvenient” fatherhood may be for them. Nor could a father save his child’s life even by assuming sole responsibility for its maintenance.

Men and women are supposed to be equal. What’s sauce for the gander is sauce for the goose. Yet fatherhood is compelled by law, while motherhood is a matter of choice. How do lawmakers get around this hurdle? In the same way they get around any question for which there’s no answer in logic or equity. They ignore it. (Read entire article.)

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Marie-Antoinette as Venus

Marie-Antoinette was often painted as various characters from Greek and Roman mythology, as was the custom of the time. It is thought to be the Queen in the painting above. Marie-Antoinette is shown as some kind of a classical deity, holding coral and rushes, crowned in pearls, with a dolphin at her side. Catherine Delors discusses this unique miniature, saying:
More to the point, the nautical character of the work is obvious: the branch of coral and bunch of rushes held by the lady, the seascape in the background, and the fish on which she rests her arm. All quite unusual for a miniature. This one is dated as of 1781, the year when Marie Antoinette gave birth to the heir to the throne, the Dauphin Louis-Joseph. “Dauphin” in French was the title given to the heir to the throne, and also the name of the dolphin. So here the “fish” wouldn’t be a fish at all, but a dolphin, and the allegory of the long-awaited achievement of the royal couple: the birth of a male heir. Some artifacts around the time of Louis-Joseph’s birth reflect the form of a dolphin to celebrate the momentous event. (Read entire post.)
I am wondering if Marie-Antoinette is supposed to represent Venus, the goddess of love and beauty who, according to the myth, rose out of the foam of the sea. Furthermore, coral, symbolizing joy and happiness, has a classical association with that goddess. Venus was the wife of Vulcan, god of the forge. Perhaps the portrait was a gift for Louis XVI, whom she once likened to Vulcan because of his dedication to his locksmith work. A dolphin was on the coat-of-arms of the Dauphin. I think this miniature was intended as an intimate gift from the Queen to the King to celebrate the birth of their son and heir. Share


Art professor and atheist Camille Paglia blames the rise of secularism for the decline of the fine arts.
The Italian immigrant culture in which I was raised (all four of my grandparents and my mother were born in Italy) esteemed beauty as a primary principle of life. Everything from a mischievous little boy to the cut of a home-sewn lapel or the construction of a stone wall was called bello (beautiful) or bellissimo (very beautiful). There was no borderline between the arts and crafts: The works of Michelangelo—reproduced on souvenir plaques or ashtrays from the Vatican—occupied the same continuum of handiwork as the lacquered wooden nut bowls carved by my uncle or the wedding dresses stitched by my mother and grandmother to earn extra income.

Thanks to the traditional reverence for art and beauty among the Italian country people from whom I came, I have been waging war for decades against the toxic trends in academe (such as postmodernism and post-structuralism) that view art in a reductively ironic or overly politicized way.

As a 40-year veteran teacher in art schools, I am alarmed about the future of American art. Young people today, immersed in a digital universe, love the volatile excitement of virtual reality, but they lack the patience to steadily contemplate a single image—a complex static object such as a great painting or sculpture. The paintings of their world are now video games, with images in febrile motion; their sculptures are the latest-model cellphone, deftly shaped to the hand. (Read entire article.)

Monday, November 12, 2012

A Royal Affair (2012)

At last a film has been made about one of the most tragic queens who ever lived, Caroline-Mathilde, Queen of Denmark. Her story shows us what happened when a queen consort committed adultery. It was almost impossible for a sovereign to conduct an illicit liaison without being discovered, and then, for a wife, the repercussions were most bitter. According to Joe Morgenstern of The Wall Street Journal:
Nicolaj Arcel's Danish-language film, which he wrote with Rasmus Heisterberg, starts in 1766, with an English girl's fateful journey to Denmark. Caroline Mathilde, a sister of Britain's King George III, makes the trip to marry her cousin, the Danish King Christian VII (Mikkel Boe Følsgaard), and become his queen. She's only 15, but already cultivated and accomplished, and Alicia Vikander's performance spans the next nine years with lovely authority.

What Caroline doesn't know is that her husband-to-be is infantile, willful and insane. This is suggested in a piquant imagining of their first meeting, in a field; Christian isn't visible for a while because he's hiding behind a tree. (The film's inventions are so dramatic and entertaining that you're tempted to think of the whole thing as fiction, but the main elements of the script hew remarkably close to historical fact.) What Caroline can't imagine at this frightening juncture is that her life will be transformed by the royal physician, Johann Friederich Struensee, a man of the Enlightenment whose seductiveness extends far south of his brain, since he's played by the marvelous Mads Mikkelsen.

Mr. Mikkelsen's face is unmistakable, with its high cheekbones, brooding eyes and chiseled lips, and his character is the plot's fulcrum. For Caroline, Struensee opens up the world of learning, and of love. For Christian, the royal doctor is a constant companion who drinks with the king and whores with him but never judges him. What's more, Struensee turns the king into a progressive force in a struggle against the power brokers and connivers of the State Council who have kept Denmark poor and ignorant in the name of tradition and faith. Still, Struensee is an overreacher, as well as an adulterer. While hundreds of laws are being passed—enlightened laws that will open the country to the winds of change—the conditions of his downfall are inexorably coalescing. (Read entire article.)

The film's website is HERE. Share

The Recycled Goat

A delightful piece from a mother of ten.
Second-hand gifts have their hazards, however. Once I found a little stuffed goat for Helena's birthday. "I found it at St. Vincent de Paul's," I announced as she opened it. I was, I remember, rather proud of myself.

"But Mom," the other kids groaned in chorus, "we gave that goat to St. Vincent de Paul's!"

As I said, giving second-hand gifts can be a humbling experience. And there are worse hazards than recycled goats. (Read entire post.)

Sunday, November 11, 2012

An Irish Country Wedding

Author Patrick Taylor continues his lively series about the adventures of feisty Dr. Fingal Flahertie O’Reilly in the Northern Irish village of Ballybucklebo. Set in the 1960s, it is a village overrun by eccentric characters of every kind and is seemingly untouched by the outside world, until the world creeps in unbidden. Dr. O’Reilly is preparing to marry his sweetheart Kitty O’Hallorhan while dealing with the illness of his housekeeper, Kinky Kincaid. In the meantime, his partner in medicine, Dr. Barry Laverty, is having some romantic ups and downs as he helps O’Reilly deal with the various intrigues and crises in the village. Taylor adds a hint of political ferment for the first time ever in the series, which is appropriate considering how close Ballybucklebo is to Belfast. There is otherwise not a trace of religious conflict in the story, and it is difficult to tell who is Catholic and who is Protestant, which seems odd in a book about Ireland. There are a great many subplots which all come together at the end, as well as a prodigious amount of medical descriptions. Fraught with earthy humor, the wedding scene and the reception are particularly enjoyable for the comedy provided. Ballybucklebo is definitely worth a visit.

This review originally appeared in the November 2012 edition of the Historical Novels Review.

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


The Reason Obama Won

From the Russian paper Pravda (of all places):
The Democrats and Republicans are notorious for wanting to stay in power. Their worshipers get their education from TV and their friends. In the future, after it becomes obvious that their plan failed, these "useful idiots" will still blame Bush for the economy, overlook Obama as they overlooked Clinton's mistakes or think their vote counts and they actually have freedom while approving of wars overseas. Such people are the product of America's decaying society whose reality has been warped by drugs and other selfish pleasures. America has gradually become worse from the drugs, rock and roll of the 60′s and 70′s to the drugs and rap music of today. The communists won while Americans smoked pot. 

The alienation of God in society began in the classroom. Today, blasphemies can easily be seen on TV and the cinema. Hollywood portrays the sane as the insane. The abnormal and perverted as normal. The unborn babies are seen as nothing. The silent holocaust continues. Is it any wonder America is in trouble?
The economy destroyed by white collar crimes were done by men of immoral character. They are not personally responsible for all of America's failings but are a symptom of America's spiritual illness most commonly referred to in previous centuries as "sin". This is the connection that most fail to see. Where there is no God there is chaos.

We are seeing that now. Abortions financed through tax dollars now total 50 million babies killed. Their blood cries out to Heaven while Hollywood justifies abortion and some women call it a choice. Yes, a choice to kill infants without even taking the time to see what they have destroyed. They willingly blind themselves to the truth. Or do their sins blind them? The other half of America stands against this evil tide with constant prayer while their public protests are not completely shown by the American media.

"Freedom of the press" means the media will be free to report what it wants you to know. ABC, CBS, NBC , MSNBC, CNN and even Fox are similar to the Communist Soviet Union's "Pravda". You are now in  an atheistic society as the Soviet Union once was. Pravda online has become more news worthy now as Christianity flourishes. Patriarch Kirill  said:

"The world should see the Orthodox Russia's great feat of rebuilding all that was destroyed." Russia once was swept with an even more horrific terror across its land. There is no comparison in the past sufferings of Russia and the turmoil of America. However, it is interesting to note that the number of deaths are equal to Russia's when including the aborted children in America.

When Alexander Solzhenitsyn came to America he warned the US in the 70′s:
"Destructive and irresponsible freedom has been granted boundless space. Society appears to have little defense against the abyss of human decadence, such as, for example, misuse of liberty for moral violence against young people, motion pictures full of pornography, crime and horror. It is considered to be part of freedom and theoretically counter-balanced by the young people's right not to look or not to accept. Life organized legalistically has thus shown its inability to defend itself against the corrosion of evil" (speech to Harvard 1978).
 The American press laughed at him and turned a deaf ear at his observations of America's immorality and materialism. Solzhenitsyn also warned long ago of today's socialism:

"A number of such critics turn to socialism, which is a false and dangerous current."

The danger is already here and the situation is much, much worse. Thus, Obama can try putting duct tape on a sinking ship but only when most Americans turn to God will the storm subside. Only then will America be able to fix the problem. Remember:

"Those who will not be governed by God will be ruled by tyrants." -William Penn (American hero of Liberty and religious freedom).

" We've staked our future on our ability to follow the Ten Commandments with all of our heart." - James Madison, 1778, to the General Assembly of the State of Virginia.

The Communists took over America after JFK was shot. American society then took a sharp nose dive into Hell. With the presidential elections rigged there was no stopping their agenda. Call it Marxism, Socialism, or Communism. It's all the same. (Read entire article.)

And here is an article on the importance of internet technology in elections. 
 As Republicans try to explain their Election Day losses in terms of policy, tactics, and strategy, one factor is emerging as the essential difference between the Obama and Romney campaigns on November 6: the absolute failure of Romney’s get-out-the-vote effort, which underperformed even John McCain’s lackluster 2008 turnout. One culprit appears to be “Orca,” the Romney’s massive technology effort, which failed completely. (Read entire article.)

Saturday, November 10, 2012

A City of Broken Glass

In this fourth installment in the Hannah Vogel series, Rebecca Cantrell continues the adventures of the spy and journalist which dramatize the rise of Nazism in the years leading up to World War II. Determined to stay out of trouble, Hannah has traveled to Poland to write a fluff piece, accompanied by her twelve year old son, Anton. However, she encounters some Jewish prisoners recently deported from Germany, among whom is Miriam, the wife of her old friend, Paul. When Hannah discovers that Paul’s toddler daughter has been left behind in a cupboard in Berlin, her new odyssey begins. Hannah soon finds herself captured by the Gestapo, only to be rescued by Lars, her former lover, who she thought had died in Russia. As she eludes the Nazis in the streets of Berlin, she finds that the city of her youth has been transformed into a place of dread and hopelessness. She is troubled by the anti-Semitic laws and does not think the persecution can get any worse, but in that she is mistaken. With compelling characters and a narrative which makes it hard to put down, A City of Broken Glass combines romantic thriller with historical tragedy.

This review was originally published in the November 2012 edition of the Historical Novels Review.

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


Cooking Winter Squash

From Ecocentric:
A few notes on nomenclature:   If you hail from Britain or a place formerly under British rule, you’re likely to refer to all winter squash as “pumpkin.”  The same idea applies to Spanish-speaking cultures here, in Central America and in parts of the Caribbean, where it’s generically referred to as calabaza. On this side of the pond, Anglos tend to make the distinction between jack-o-lantern pumpkins and the many other varieties of winter squash.

Don’t let the word “winter” fool you: Winter squash is actually harvested in autumn before a hard frost and stored for later.  When most people had root cellars, they would harvest the squash in the fall and store it through the cold season, hence the name.

And the botanical difference between winter squash and summer squash? Very little. They’re both from the same plant family, cucurbita, and both ripen on a vine, but look and act like they’re from different tribes. Zucchini and the summer varieties have tender skin and almost nonexistent seeds and can be eaten raw.  Winter varieties boast tougher skins, larger seeds and a flesh that needs to be cooked.

Squash is most likely native to Guatemala and Mexico and surrounding areas dating to 10,000 years ago.
According to cookbook author and Mexican cooking authority Diana Kennedy, calabaza is one of the earliest known foods to be domesticated in pre-Columbian Mexico.  However, it may have been the seeds that were sought after, not the flesh, which would make sense, given the central role pumpkin seeds (pepitas) play in moles and other sauces throughout Mexico, particularly in the Yucatan.

It is believed that Christopher Columbus brought squash to Europe. (Read entire post.)

Friday, November 9, 2012

For You, Madame Lenin

Kat Meads’ exquisite prose brings to life one of the most determined and enigmatic women in history in a story which exemplifies with irony, pathos and dark humor that there is no tragedy like a Russian tragedy. The life of Nadya Krupskaya, wife of the first Soviet dictator Vladimir Lenin, is told in vignettes and through fictional historical interviews, mostly from the point of view of Nadya’s devoted mother Yelizaveta Vasilevna. Yelizaveta watches as her daughter immolates her entire person for the triumph of the Revolution and the glory of Lenin. In striving to build a free new world by destroying the old one, Nadya endures sickness, prison, exile, poverty, an unfaithful and mercurial husband, and ultimately the betrayal of the party for whom she sacrifices herself. Throughout the novel she nourishes hatred and contempt for the bourgeoisie and the monarchy, with particular hatred for the Empress Alexandra. Nevertheless, the day comes when she realizes how difficult it is to carry the burden of supreme power, and like Alexandra must face her own downfall, as Russia falls into the hands of a ruler more tyrannical than any tsar could have imagined.

This review was originally published in the November 2012 edition of the Historical Novels Review.

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


Can Chivalry Return?

Some thoughts from Charles Coulombe:
Knighthood was the state of being an armored warrior on horseback, in the days when cannon and rifles had not yet banished those worthies from the battlefield. Chivalry was the code by which they attempted to live. Both were the result of marrying the Catholic Faith to Roman civilisation and the Germanic martial ardour that conquered that civilisation. To put it another way, it was the Christianisation of war. As Leon Gautier put it in his masterful work, Chivalry: “Chivalry is the Christian form of the military profession: the knight is the Christian soldier.” (Read entire post.)

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Gifts from a King

The magnificent gifts from Louis XVI to George Washington were sadly never delivered.
We all know the story of France’s joining the American cause of liberty from Britain.  King Louis XVI considered himself a friend of President George Washington and wished to offer him a magnificent gift.  Unfortunately and ironically, the French Revolution prevented the great gift to be delivered to the American hero.  One of my contributors sent these images of a suite of Louis XVI gilt furniture with Aubusson covers with their “American themes” which are now in the Metropolitan Museum in New York.  Along with the furniture a series of Gobelin Tapestries were to accompany the furniture as gifts from the King.  This is an amazing story which I felt should be given greater exposure.  This is an amazing story.  A gift from a King to a rebellious American cause only to lose his head by his own band of revolutionaries.  The irony of it all! (Read entire post.)


Etiquette Schools for Everyone

From MercatorNet:
Every so often the question of manners bubbles up through the rough exterior of public life and reveals a hankering for less brash informality, more civility in daily life. A few years ago there was a rash of articles in the US press about parents sending their children to after-school etiquette classes. There they learned how to use a knife and fork, shake hands and introduce themselves, and make eye contact with another person while conversing. Judging by a quick Google peek at the Web there is plenty of that still going on.

The death this week of a famous American arbiter of etiquette raises the question of who the standard bearers of good manners are today. Letitia Baldrige, social secretary at the White house under the Kennedys, took over from Amy Vanderbilt as the nation’s authority on the subject in the 1970s, says the New York Times.

A businesswoman herself, her advice extended to executives and the workplace.

“There are major C.E.O.’s who do not know how to hold a knife and fork properly, but I don’t worry about that as much as the lack of kindness,” she told The New York Times in 1992. “There are two generations of people who have not learned how important it is to take time to say, ‘I’m sorry’ and ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ and how people must relate to one another.”

Since then another generation has arrived at adulthood clutching mobile devices to which their eyes constantly drift in the midst of conversation -- assuming that a real face-to-face conversation even begins when there are so many distractions.

Ms Baldrige’s biography, as summarised in the Times obituary, oozes class, but she was not hidebound by the rules of yester-year (it was acceptable to cut salad with a knife, she advised executives). It seems she “long contended that the heart of all etiquette was consideration for other people rather than a rigid set of rules.”

Married, and the mother of two children, she acknowledged the critical role of the family in civilizing society:

Family, Ms. Baldrige believed, was where the patterns for manners, humanity and true civilization were set, and the American family was failing to do its job.

“We are not passing values on to our children,” she told The Toronto Star in 1999. “We are not sitting down at the dinner table talking about the tiny things that add up to caring human beings. Jackie [Kennedy] learned from her mom, who had beautiful manners.”

That, I think, answers the question about today’s standard-bearers: parents, in their own homes.


Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The Day After

Well, we survived the last four years. Hopefully, we will survive the next four years. I guess I did not realize how important free birth control is to some people. We have become a nation of weaklings, ready to sacrifice our human dignity for momentary pleasures. Such a people cannot rule themselves, but will be ruled by others, and in the end we will be trampled by the nations, like ancient Rome before us. Share


From Vive la Reine. (Click on picture to see it close up.) It is the marriage contract of a Bourbon family retainer and was witnessed by everyone in the Royal family old enough to write in 1785. From top to bottom, we have the signatures of Louis XVI, Marie-Antoinette, the Comte de Provence, the Comtesse de Provence, the Comte d'Artois, the Comtesse d'Artois, Madame Elisabeth, Madame Adelaïde, Madame Victoire, the Duc d'Angoulême (the future husband of Madame Royale), the Duc d'Orléans, and the Duc de Berry (who signs his name almost as large as his uncle the King.) I cannot decipher the name beneath Berry's and the names next to Berry's but one looks like Louis-Joseph de Bourbon (the Dauphin.) I do not see Madame Royale's signature but perhaps I just cannot decipher it.


The Ordinary Form after "Summorum Pontificum"

Some more liturgical reflections from Fr. Mark:
I thought that I might, however, share with my readers and, especially, with my brother priests, some reflections on the experience of the Ordinary Form, given that I have celebrated daily in the Usus Antiquior since 2007. The first thing that struck me was the inappropriateness of beginning the Holy Sacrifice from the chair facing the congregation, rather than at the foot of the altar facing the liturgical east. Beginnings, introductory rites, and the crossing of thresholds are hugely important, precisely because they have such an impact on all that follows. Nowhere is this more true than in the sacred liturgy. (Read entire post.)

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

The Colors of Ancient Greece

From Smithsonian Magazine:
 Ancient sculptors were very much interested in color as well as form; the white marble statues we admire looked stunningly different in antiquity. They were painted with a palette that displayed a sophisticated understanding of color and shading.
To illustrate how a marble Aphrodite might have appeared to the ancients, we asked German archaeologist Vinzenz Brinkmann, who has pioneered techniques of color restoration, to create a photomechanical reconstruction—never before published—of the first-century A.D. Roman Lovatelli Venus. It was excavated from the ruins of a villa in Pompeii. Unlike most ancient statues, this one gave Brinkmann a head start, because copious evidence of original paint survived. “There are rich traces of pigment which we analyzed using noninvasive methods such as UV-Vis absorption spectroscopy,” he explains. “What we do is absolutely faithful, based on physical and chemical measurements.” (Read entire article.)

The Apparitions at Templemore

I never heard of this one.
The programme, Am an Ghátair: Deora Dé, is to be screened on TG4 on Wednesday night. It tells the story of Jimmy Walsh, a teenager in Templemore, Co Tipperary, who believed that he saw statues of the Virgin Mary weeping blood in the town in the summer of 1920.

The War of Independence was in full throes, the first shot having been fired in January of 1919 at the south Tipperary village of Soloheadbeg. Walsh’s story, however, drew the focus to its north Tipperary counterpart. Templemore was a dangerous place at that moment, the IRA having killed a Royal Irish Constabulary District Inspector named Wilson, and the RIC now carrying out reprisal attacks on local businesses and homes.

However, reports began to filter through to local and national newspapers of “supernatural manifestations” in the area with particular focus on young Jimmy Walsh who was not only receiving apparitions from the Virgin Mary but apparently had found a ‘holy well’ had appeared in his bedroom floor. A whole host of statues of the Virgin Mary in various places in the town were supposed to be crying tears of blood, including one, ironically enough, in the RIC barracks.

History Ireland cites contemporaneous reports of the ‘visitations’ and the belief locally that they had prevented Templemore from being entirely destroyed by British forces.

Pilgrims began to visit the town in the hope of seeing the visitations and statues and the attention had the effect of halting the battle between the Irish rebels and the British in Templemore, at least for a while. The RIC found itself confined to barracks as the crowds – up to 15,000 people arriving a day – grew in strength and the IRA stopped fighting. (Read entire article.)

Monday, November 5, 2012

Mr. Lincoln Goes to Hollywood

Abraham Lincoln's posthumous relationship with Hollywood is explored by Smithsonian Magazine, including a look at the new film by Steven Spielburg, starring Daniel Day-Lewis.
On the set everyone addressed Day-Lewis as “Mr. Lincoln” or “Mr. President.” “That was my idea,” Spielberg says. “I addressed all the actors pretty much by the roles they were playing. When actors stepped off the set they could be whoever they felt they needed to be, but physically on the set I wanted everybody to be in an authentic mood.” He never did that in any of his 49 other directorial efforts. (“I couldn’t address Daniel at all,” says Kushner. “I would send him texts. I called myself ‘Your metaphysical conundrum,’ because as the writer of the movie, I shouldn’t exist.”)

Henry Fonda in Young Mister Lincoln (1939) might as well be a youngish Henry Fonda, or perhaps Mister Roberts, with nose enhancement. Walter Huston in Abraham Lincoln (1930) wears a startling amount of lipstick in the early scenes, and later when waxing either witty or profound he sounds a little like W.C. Fields. Day-Lewis is made to resemble Lincoln more than enough for a good poster shot, but the character’s consistency is beyond verisimilitude.

Lincoln, 6-foot-4, was taller than everyone around him by a greater degree than is Day-Lewis, who is 6-foot-1 1/2. I can’t help thinking that Lincoln’s voice was even less mellow (it was described as high-pitched and thin, and his singing was more recitational than melodious) than the workable, vaguely accented tenor that Day-Lewis has devised. At first acquaintance Lincoln came off gawkier, goofier, uglier than Day-Lewis could very well emulate. If we could reconstitute Lincoln himself, like the T. Rex in Jurassic Park, his looks and carriage might put us off.

Day-Lewis gives us a Lincoln with layers, angles, depths and sparks. He tosses in some authentic-looking flat-footed strides, and at one point stretches unpresidentially across the floor he’s lying on to stoke the fire. More crucially, he conveys Lincoln’s ability to lead not by logic or force but by such devices as timing (knowing when a time is ripe), amusement (he not only got away with laughing at his own stories, sometimes for reasons unclear, but also improved his hold on the audience thereby) and at least making people think he was getting into where they were coming from. (Read entire article.)