Thursday, March 31, 2016

Tips for Regency English Travelers in Paris

From Geri Walton:
Paris, called by some people the sphere of the world, was a popular tourist destination in the Regency Era. Part of the reason for its popularity had to do with the wide range of sights and activities available there. People could visit the Louvre, drink coffee at one of the many cafes in the Palais-Royal, or stroll through the Tuileries Gardens. They could also attend a horse race, listen to an opera, enjoy a carnival, attend the theatre, or spend time shopping. Because Regency travelers were so prevalent, one nineteenth century writer published thirteen tips to help the continental travelers avoid problems and enjoy their time in Paris. Here they are (almost) verbatim:
  1. It is an unconverted rule, that inns most frequented are those whose charges are most reasonable. We may add, that the traveller, whose deportment is civil and obliging, will always be better served than the rude and overbearing. To know the best inns is to listen to the voice of common frame, but by no means to depend upon the eulogies of the postilions; however, it may so happen, that in many inns people may be better entertained, and at a lower rate, in one season than another. (Read more.)

The Triads of Ireland

From English Historical Fiction Authors:
One has to wonder at this point if the scribe has somehow found a wormhole where he is viewing the 21st century. Leaving his very pertinent observations on human nature, we come to the cleric’s Triads that relate to the natural world. These for me have great lyrical beauty.

‘Three slender things that best support the world: the slender stream of milk from the cow's dug into the pail, the slender blade of green corn upon the ground, the slender thread over the hand of a skilled woman.’
‘Three live ones that put away dead things: a deer shedding its horn, a wood shedding its leaves, cattle shedding their coat.’
‘Three cold things that seethe: a well, the sea, new ale.’
‘Three sounds of increase: the lowing of a cow in milk, the din of a smithy, the swish of a plough.’
‘Three dead things that give evidence on live things: a pair of scales, a bushel, a measuring-rod.’
‘Three renovators of the world: the womb of woman, a cow's udder, a smith's moulding-block.’
Beautiful, of course, but this unknown writer didn’t simply excel at pastoral imagery. He also has a number of observations of human nature that are on the nail and often hilarious.
‘Three rude ones of the world: a youngster mocking an old man, a healthy person mocking an invalid, a wise man mocking a fool.’
‘Three ungentlemanly things: interrupting stories, a mischievous game, jesting so as to raise a blush.’
‘Three deaths that are better than life: the death of a salmon, the death of a fat pig, the death of a robber.’
‘Three silences that are better than speech: silence during instruction, silence during music, silence during preaching.’
‘Three speeches that are better than silence: inciting a king to battle, spreading knowledge, praise after reward.’
‘Three things that constitute a buffoon: blowing out his cheek, blowing out his satchel, blowing out his belly.’
‘Three wealths in barren places: a well in a mountain, fire out of a stone, wealth in the possession of a hard man.’
‘Three oaths that do not require fulfilment: the oath of a woman in birth-pangs, the oath of a dead man, the oath of a landless man.’
‘Three worst smiles: the smile of a wave, the smile of a lewd woman, the grin of a dog ready to leap.’
(Read more.)

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Archduchess Maria Amalia Embroidering

Part of Liotard's series of portraits of the children of Maria Theresa and Francis Stephen. Share

Trump vs Cruz Headache for Radio Hosts

From The New York Times:
Part of the conservative radio divide reflects how Mr. Cruz was the darling of the far right wing of the Republican Party before Mr. Trump’s unexpected political rise. A frequent guest on talk radio, the Texas senator earned celebrity status for his effort to shut down the government, and was showered in effusive praise when he was the first to jump into the race. Mr. Limbaugh called his presidential announcement speech “dazzling” and “masterful.”

But Mr. Trump’s candidacy forced a realignment. Mr. Savage routinely has Mr. Trump on his show and decries Mr. Cruz as “an insider.” He sees Mr. Trump as galvanizing disaffected voters who have both powered his strong ratings for decades and have been ignored by previous Republican nominees.

“He’s speaking to the demographic of the electorate that has been ignored and castigated,” Mr. Savage said in an interview. “That’s what I see.”

Sean Hannity has not publicly staked out a side, and has said that both Mr. Trump and Mr. Cruz are conservative choices. He tries to have both on his show as often as he can.

“Who am I to come in and tell them to vote for this person?” Mr. Hannity asked in an interview, referring to his audience. “I don’t think I serve them well that way.”

But he warned that any effort to deny Mr. Trump the nomination if he comes close to the 1,237 majority of delegates would be the downfall of the Republican Party.

“If they try to steal this nomination or disenfranchise the voters, it would be the end of the Republican Party. I guarantee you, it’s over,” he said.

“If it’s Trump” who is denied the nomination, “Trump supporters are walking. If it’s Cruz, Cruz supporters are walking. And they’re not coming back. And I’ll walk with them,” Mr. Hannity said.

Laura Ingraham, who also said she would not be endorsing a candidate, shared a similar point of view in an interview, calling the stop-Trump effort “a little juvenile.”

“There are a lot of purists out there who, if they don’t get everything checked off on their little bucket list,” then they say “take your pail and go home,” she said. “Come to the real world.” (Read more.)

Point Counter Point

From Reid's Reader:
Point Counter Point is a series of conversations and a series of attempted or achieved seductions. It is a clash of intellectual “types”, like one of those witty conversation pieces (disguised as short novels) which Thomas Love Peacock produced a century before Huxley. (In an acute essay written in 2003, Clive James suggested that Huxley in effect created “orations” from each of his leading characters rather than conversations, padding out the novel’s length when he had a four-novel contract to fulfil.) Mark Rampion’s honest and healthy sensuality is set against Philip Quarles’ intellectualism, which is set against Everard Webley’s muscular brutalism, which is set against Maurice Spandrell’s dualism, which is set against Denis Burlap’s self-interested version of Christianity etc. etc.
I would be an ungrateful swine if I did not admit that much of this is very entertaining and all of it is written in that clear and readable prose that was one of Huxley’s greatest skills. One must acknowledge, however, that with all the chitter-chatter, the sum effect is like intellectual soap-opera or highbrow gossip.
Because you may not have read Point Counter Point, I will not reveal how it is all wrapped up in the last 100 pages, where “plot” intervenes. There are a couple of major domestic problems for Philip Quarles, one of which forces him and his wife Elinor to reassess their values. The way the plots involving the Fascistic Everard Webley and the dualistic Maurice Spandrell resolve themselves involve great violence. On the other hand, our last glimpse of the complacent faux-Christian Denis Burlap is purely farcical. And cynical. Having just signed a very lucrative contract, and having got rid of one mistress who was becoming a nuisance, Burlap is glimpsed on the last page frolicking naked in the bath with his new mistress. Huxley’s punch-line is “Of such is the Kingdom of Heaven”, which is the same sort of snappy zinger as the “Hot dog!” that concludes Norman Mailer’s The Naked and the Dead.
Before we can say anything else about Point Counter Point, there is one obvious thing that has to be said. It is, beyond all dispute, a roman a clef. Most of the leading characters are very clearly based on people Huxley knew or had read about. (Read more.)

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Angels' Heads

From Catherine Curzon:
This unusual painting depicts five differing studies of the head of  his infant subject, Lady Frances Isabella Keir Gordon. Lady Frances was the five year old daughter of Frances Ingram-Shepheard and her husband, Lord William Gordon, who had once made scandalous headlines thanks to his youthful elopement with one of George III's old flames.

Now years later and steeped in respectability, Lord William commissioned the portrait in summer 1786. Over the months that followed, Reynolds worked tirelessly on the painting, eventually completing it in March 1787. The canvas was displayed at the Royal Academy and Reynolds took as his inspiration for the style a drawing of cherubs' heads by Carlo Maratta. (Read more.)

A History of Pet-Keeping

From Grace Elliot:
It took until the 19th century for the British authorities to drop the practice of sentencing animals to death for their ‘crimes’ and instead think of them as property. This led to a shift in responsibility from the animal onto the owner. It was now the owner’s job to decide if his livestock were a risk to other people, and take steps to prevent harm. Thus the female cat that bit someone interfering with her kittens was no longer held ‘at fault’ and the action was acknowledged as typical of a nursing cat. Furthermore, when a farmer let a vicious ram run amuck, it was no longer the ram that paid the price with his life, but the farmer who was required to pay compensation. (Read more.)

Monday, March 28, 2016

The Tapestry

The third installment of Nancy Bilyeau's beloved Historical Mystery trilogy, the Joanna Stafford Mysteries, The Tapestry, is now available in paperback, and to celebrate HFVBT is running a Book Blast with a chance for you to win a copy for your personal library!

02_The Tapestry

The Tapestry (Joanna Stafford #3) by Nancy Bilyeau

Paperback Publication Date: March 22, 2016
Touchstone/Simon & Schuster
Paperback; 416 Pages

Series: Joanna Stafford
Genre: Historical Mystery
"Fans of the Tudor era, you're in for a treat" --InStyle magazine

Henry VIII's Palace of Whitehall is the last place on earth Joanna Stafford wants to be. But a summons from the king cannot be refused.

After her priory was destroyed, Joanna, a young Dominican novice, vowed to live a quiet life, weaving tapestries and shunning dangerous conspiracies. That all changes when the king takes an interest in her tapestry talent.

With a ruthless monarch tiring of his fourth wife and amoral noblemen driven by hidden agendas, Joanna becomes entangled in court politics. Her close friend, Catherine Howard, is rumored to be the king's mistress, and Joanna is determined to protect her from becoming the king's next wife--and victim. All the while, Joanna tries to understand her feelings for the two men in her life: the constable who tried to save her and the friar she can't forget.

Ina world of royal banquets, jousts, sea voyages and Tower Hill executions, Joanna must finally choose her future: nun or wife, spy or subject, rebel or courtier.

The Tapestry is the final book in a trilogy that began in 2012 with The Crown, an Oprah magazine pick. Don't miss the adventures of one of the most unforgettable heroines in historical fiction.

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound


“In Joanna Stafford, Bilyeau has given us a memorable character who is prepared to risk her life to save what she most values.” (Deborah Harkness)

“Nancy Bilyeau's passion for history infuses her books and transports us back to the dangerous world of Tudor England. Vivid characters and gripping plots are at the heart of this wonderful trilogy, and this third book will not fail to thrill readers. Warmly recommended!” (Alison Weir, author of The Marriage Game: A Novel of Queen Elizabeth I)

"A rip-roaring Tudor adventure from Nancy Bilyeau! Novice nun turned tapestry weaver Joanna Stafford returns to the court of Henry VIII. She's that great rarity of historical fiction: a fiercely independent woman who is still firmly of her time. A mystery as richly woven as any of Joanna's tapestries." (Kate Quinn, author of Lady of the Eternal City)

"The Tapestry takes its history seriously, but that doesn't stop it from being a supremely deft, clever and pacy entertainment. This is Nancy Bilyeau's most thrilling - and enlightening - novel in the Joanna Stafford series yet." (Andrew Pyper, International Thriller Writers Award winner of The Demonologist and The Damned)

"A master of atmosphere, Nancy Bilyeau imbues her novel with the sense of dread and oppression lurking behind the royal glamour; in her descriptions and characterizations . . . Bilyeau breathes life into history." (Laura Andersen, author of The Boleyn King)

"In The Tapestry, Nancy Bilyeau brilliantly captures both the white-hot religious passions and the brutal politics of Tudor England. It is a rare book that does both so well." (Sam Thomas, author of The Midwife’s Tale)

“In spite of murderous plots, volatile kings, and a divided heart, Joanna Stafford manages to stay true to her noble character. Fans of Ken Follett will devour Nancy Bilyeau’s novel of political treachery and courageous love, set amid the endlessly fascinating Tudor landscape.” (Erika Robuck, author of Hemingway’s Girl)

“These aren't your mother's nuns! Nancy Bilyeau has done it again, giving us a compelling and wonderfully realized portrait of Tudor life in all its complexity and wonder. A nun, a tapestry, a page-turning tale of suspense: this is historical mystery at its finest.” (Bruce Holsinger, author of A Burnable Book and The Invention of Fire)

02_Nancy BilyeauAbout the Author

Nancy Bilyeau has worked on the staffs of InStyle, Rolling Stone, Entertainment Weekly, and Ladies Home Journal. She is currently the executive editor of DuJour magazine. Her screenplays have placed in several prominent industry competitions. Two scripts reached the semi-finalist round of the Nicholl Fellowships of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences. Her screenplay “Zenobia” placed with the American Zoetrope competition, and “Loving Marys” reached the finalist stage of Scriptapalooza. A native of the Midwest, she earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan. THE CROWN, her first novel, was published in 2012; the sequel, THE CHALICE, followed in 2013, and THE TAPESTRY in 2015.

Nancy lives in New York City with her husband and two children. Stay in touch with her on Twitter at @tudorscribe. For more information or to sign up for Nancy’s Newsletter please visit her official website.

My Review

Tea at Trianon has the honor of being part of the Book Blast of the paperback edition of Nancy Bilyeau's The Tapestry. In The Tapestry, the third novel in the Joanna Stafford trilogy, we travel again through Tudor England with the devout former novice who, in spite of her desire for a quiet, contemplative life, always finds herself amid the storms of the controversies of the day. Expelled from her beloved Dominican monastery with the other nuns by Henry VIII's closure of the religious houses, Joanna has learned to embrace her new life as a tapestry maker, although she continues to be haunted by her past. Invited to Henry's court, she is charged by the king not only to weave new tapestries but to enhance the collection he already has. Upon arriving at court, she becomes aware that not only is she being stalked but that someone is trying to kill her. Meanwhile, Joanna also wrestles with her conflicted feelings for the two men who love her: Edmund Sommerville, a former Dominican friar to whom Joanna was once betrothed, and Geoffrey Scovill, the dashing constable.

With profound psychological insight, the author describes the layers of confusion experienced by a young person who has unwillingly left the cloister and been launched once again into the cares of the world. In spite of her training in a life of prayer and study, Joanna, who was only a novice when she had to leave the order, must still struggle with her impulsive and headstrong behavior. Not only must she deal with her own painful memories and heartbreak, but she must see her homeland torn apart by the whims of the bloody tyrant Henry has become and his ruthless henchman, Thomas Cromwell. Joanna fears for her friend and cousin Catherine Howard, who has caught the king's attention, knowing that the teenager is a lamb among wolves.

In her novel of suspense as well as of authentic historical drama, Ms. Bilyeau is not afraid to face the controversies of a faraway time, controversies which eventually would produce the modern world.

Interview with Nancy Bilyeau

1.) Nancy, writing such a vivid recreation of Tudor England obviously required a great deal of research. Could you tell us a little more about the highs and lows of your forays into the past?

NB: I’m a research fiend, so there weren’t any “lows,” exactly. I love to read about the 16th century. Sometimes when the novel writing is going badly, when I’m unsatisfied with what I have on the screen, I give myself a “treat” and delve into the research instead.

I have to say that in the beginning, there was some nervousness. I’ve been interested in Tudor England since I was a teenager, and I’ve built a home library of many biographies and political studies. But when I decided to set the first book inside a priory of the Dominican Order, I had my work cut out for me. That priory, which was in Dartford, in Kent, was demolished. Nearly ever monastery was. They didn’t leave diaries or memoirs. There was very little chronicling of what went on inside the monasteries besides the rules they followed. It was like studying a lost world.

The high point was my research trip to England in June of 2011. I was so excited about simply being able to travel there—I have a fulltime job, two children at home and my mother suffers from Alzheimer’s—that I slept perhaps an hour on the night flight from New York City to London. But I did not nap when I checked into the hotel at noon. I threw myself into my research immediately. At sundown, I was sitting at a little table overlooking the Tower of London. I’d been in the last group of the day to tour inside. I had my dinner, eating fish and chips, thinking about what happened inside those centuries’ old walls. I know it may sound bizarre to find such happiness at the Tower, but I did!

 2.) As someone who spent time in a monastery as a young woman, I have always been impressed with your portrayal of the novice Joanna Stafford, and her struggles when having her monastic life taken away from her.  I find your characterization of her to be ingenious and inspired. How did you create such an authentic character?

NB: Thank you so much! I had a few ideas of actions she would take, like leaving her priory without permission to stand by her cousin’s side when she is to be executed at Smithfield. I thought about what kind of person would be truly committed and devout yet would take drastic, bold action. And then I built a personality from that, adding layers and details. I did research the lives of those young women who were from the noble families of England but were not in the center of power—like the Staffords. That helped me too when it came to her values and her education and her expectations.

 3.)Your books give a refreshing view of Reformation England by showing the suffering of faithful Catholics, especially monks and nuns. What originally inspired you to write from the point of view of a devout young woman?

NB: My driving goal was originality. I felt that real-life queens and princesses, and fictional ladies-in-waiting, had been written about enough. I wanted to write a protagonist who is female and I wanted to tell the story from the perspective of someone not heard from in Tudor fiction: a nun. The tumultuous medieval period of England is I think better understood through the Brother Cadfael books of Ellis Peters than the traditional king and queen stories. And the Tudor period for the monastics was more than tumultuous—it was cataclysmic! I wanted to set a story in that time of intense conflict.

4.) I like how you show how Henry VIII could be an extremely charming man and that he was in fact a brilliant and gifted man. Why do you think he indulged in such tyrannical behavior?

NB: Yes, I think that historical novelists sometimes go wrong with Henry—they ignore his charm and intellect and all of his passionate interests. There is a reduction that takes place. In these other books he is a tyrant who kills people and marries six women. And Henry was tyrannical, and he did have wives and ministers executed. He was extremely ruthless and manipulative. But isn’t that what fascinates us now, the dichotomy of a strikingly handsome man of royal birth and a fine mind and sometimes affable nature, who did frightening things that destroyed people, demolished a whole way of life? As to the why, I think it’s hard for us to grasp today, because the Tudors seem like such glittering monarchs, that it was an insecure dynasty. Henry VII, Henry VIII, Edward VI, and Mary I all faced serious rebellions and challenges to their rule. Elizabeth I defeated a serious invasion attempt. I think Henry VIII was fearful of holding onto his throne, and many of the things he did were to strengthen his grip. Also I suspect that despite his handsomeness and athletic build, he had some insecurities as a man. That would explain a lot.

5.) Thomas Cromwell, whom many regard as Henry's evil genius in the pillaging of the monasteries, has experienced some good press lately via Hilary Mantel's Wolf Hall. Why do you think Henry gave Cromwell such a free hand in despoiling Catholic religious houses and shrines, etc. in England?

NB: There were two reasons. Money and vindictiveness. Henry VIII was emptying his treasury. He spent a great deal of the money that his frugal father, Henry VII, left him on trying to wage war on France and on luxurious living. Cromwell opened up an enormous new source of cash: the land and buildings and valuables owned by the Catholic abbeys, priories and shrines. It was a land grab. Henry VIII would not have to beg Parliament for money or be forced to listen to his nobles if he had his own source of money. And by handing out properties to the “new men,” he bound them closer to him alone.

 The vindictiveness comes from the king’s anger over the Pope not granting him the annulment he wanted. He had to wait for years, being frustrated and sometimes outmaneuvered by the opposition: his first wife, Catherine of Aragon, her nephew, the Emperor Charles V, and those loyal to them. By the time Henry VIII married Anne Boleyn and had himself declared head of the Church of England, he was seething. He seemed like he had won a victory, but by pulling away from the great Catholic powers he isolated himself. And then he had to defeat a very serious rebellion, the Pilgrimage of Grace, that broke out in the North of England, among people who feared and hated Cromwell’s religious reforms. Henry VIII blamed the monastic orders for stirring up dissent and also he distrusted them because he thought their loyalty was to their orders and to Rome, rather than to him. He took out his vengeance. His cruelty to some, such as the Observant Franciscans, the Carthusian Martyrs and the abbot of Glastonbury, is stomach turning. You don’t see any of this in Wolf Hall.

6.) Joanna is a devout but spirited heroine and anything but dull. Thank you for challenging the stereotypes that exist about pious people, namely that they are dull, bigoted and cannot think for themselves. Joanna is bursting with life, love and determination and actually reminds me of some nuns that I have known. Where do you think people get such dreary stereotypes of devout people?

NB: I think that some people who don’t know anything about nuns and monks believe they are strange, joyless creatures. They don’t see any happiness in devotion to a spiritual life. I met a sister at a real Dominican Order in the United States who was friendly and upbeat and told jokes. A nice “normal” person. She read my second and third books for accuracy. And in my books I tried to show the spirited intellectual life of the time, particularly in The Crown. Having a meal with Bishop Stephen Gardiner would be many things, I’m sure, but it would not be dull! I received two emails from friars after The Crown was published that said they felt I had captured what it was like to live in a religious community.

7.) For those who are inspired by your novels to explore Tudor England through their own research, what non-fiction books would you recommend?

NB: There are so many wonderful books! Here is a sampling:

The Stripping of the Altars and Saints, Sacrilege and Sedition, by Eamon Duffy

Henry VIII, by Jasper Ridley

Inside the Tudor Court: Henry VIII and His Six Wives Through the Writings of His Spanish Ambassador, by Lauren Mackay

Winter King: Henry VII and the Dawn of Tudor England
, by Thomas Penn

Henry VIII: The King and His Court and The Lady in the Tower,
by Alison Weir

Elizabeth: The Struggle for the Throne
, by David Starkey

The Creation of Anne Boleyn
, by Susan Bordo

Supremacy and Survival, by Stephanie Mann

Book Blast Schedule

Tuesday, March 22
Just One More Chapter
Historical Fiction Addicts
Svetlana's Reads and Views

Wednesday, March 23
Passages to the Past
With Her Nose Stuck In A Book

Thursday, March 24
Impressions In Ink
The Life & Times of a Book Addict

Friday, March 25
The Reading Queen
Queen of All She Reads

Saturday, March 26
A Holland Reads

Sunday, March 27
Layered Pages

Monday, March 28
A Book Drunkard
Historical Readings & Reviews

Tuesday, March 29
Book Nerd
Carpe Librum

Wednesday, March 30
The Lit Bitch
Eclectic Ramblings of Author Heather Osborne

Thursday, March 31
A Book Geek
What Is That Book About

Friday, April 1
CelticLady's Reviews
A Dream within a Dream

Saturday, April 2
So Many Books, So Little Time

Sunday, April 3
Susan Heim on Writing

Monday, April 4
100 Pages a Day
A Literary Vacation

Tuesday, April 5
The Tudor Enthusiast
Oh, for the Hook of a Book!


Two paperbacks of The Tapestry by Nancy Bilyeau are up for grabs! To enter, please use the GLEAM form HERE.


– Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on April 6th. You must be 18 or older to enter.
– Giveaway is open to US addresses only.
– Only one entry per household.
– All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspect of fraud is decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion
– Winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.

Here is an interview of Nancy Bilyeau by Christine Niles.


Candelabra for Saint Cloud

Designed for the Queen's apartments. Share

Charlotte Brontë: A Fiery Heart

From The New York Times:
No sooner has Jane Eyre discovered that her dear master is a married man than she gives him up. “I will keep the law given by God; sanctioned by man.” She will not be Mr. Rochester’s mistress; she nearly becomes a missionary. But the works of the Lord are great: The wife dies. Jane nurses Mr. Rochester back to health. More important, she saves his soul. All his life, he had been an “irreligious dog,” but Jane’s example has swelled his heart “with gratitude to the beneficent God of this earth.” And so the novel ends with an acknowledgment that the couple’s happiness falls short of the bliss they will know in heaven. The last sentence of “Jane Eyre” isn’t “Reader, I married him” (I always forget this) but “Amen; even so come, Lord Jesus.”

What fault could the sternest Victorian moralists have found with any of that? But to the novel’s first critics, Jane was too independent and assertive, “the personification of an unregenerate and undisciplined spirit.” Her longing for Rochester was “coarse” (that is, sexual), and as the reviewer for The Christian ­Remembrancer averred, the book “burns with moral Jacobinism.” Jane is always “murmuring against the comforts of the rich and against the privations of the poor,” and so — since God decides who is born a weaver and who a viscount — the novel was thought to be criticizing “God’s appointment,” a kind of blasphemy. Never mind that Queen Victoria stayed up late reading it to Prince Albert. “Jane Eyre” was an “immoral,” even a “dangerous” book, and whoever was behind the authorial pseudonym “Currer Bell” was in possession of a sordid mind. (Read more.)

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Running to the Sepulchre

From Crisis:
In “The Disciples Peter and John Running to the Sepulchre on the Morning of the Resurrection” by Eugène Burnand, John clasps his hand in prayer while Peter holds his hand over his heart.  The viewer feels the rush as their hair and cloaks fly back with the wind.  They are sprinting towards discovery of the moment that forever altered heaven and earth.  As you look at it, engage for a moment in what the Catholic blogger Bill Donaghy calls “the visual equivalent of Lectio Divina.”  As Donaghy notes, “This Resurrection scene does not put us before still figures near a stagnant stone, or figures standing with stony faces in a contrived, plastic posture, pointing to an empty tomb. This scene is dynamic; we are in motion.”

During his time, Burnand was fascinated by the possibilities of the emerging art of photography. Ironically, he would later be dismissed in the twentieth century as too “bourgeois” and anti-modernist when in fact he was merging his love of tradition with his interest in new technological ways of capturing the human person.  His painting feels cinematic long before cinema existed as a major art form.

Through the movement and immediacy of the scene, the preceding minutes with Mary Magdalene are palpable.  In a sense, she is in the painting too.  “You can almost hear her voice in the background, can you not, a few minutes earlier, as she burst into their house…” writes the Episcopal Bishop Dorsey McConnell in an Easter sermon meditating on the painting. (Read more.)

Friday, March 25, 2016

ISIS in Europe

We are in a war. From Town Hall:
In light of the Brussels attack, it's important to emphasize that the ISIS terrorists who carried it out didn't get to the city from Syria or Iraq, but were in fact born and highly-educated there. The bomb maker who constructed suicide belts detonated in the Paris attacks last November, held a degree in mechanical engineering and was born in the Brussels, not in a far away and foreign terror hot spot of the Middle East. He's likely the same person who made the suicide belts for the Brussels attack.
A senior Iraqi intelligence official who was not authorized to speak publicly said people from the cell that carried out the Paris attacks are scattered across Germany, Britain, Italy, Denmark and Sweden. Recently, a new group crossed in from Turkey, the official said.

The latest new name to surface this week, Najim Laachraoui, turned out to be a Brussels resident with a degree in mechanical engineering — the bombmaker who made the suicide vests used in the Paris attacks, according to French and Belgian officials. Attackers used an explosive known as Triacetone Triperoxide, or TATP, made from common household chemicals.

Fifteen kilos of TATP were found in an apartment linked to the Brussels attackers, along with other explosive material, although Laachraoui has not been publicly linked to the latest attack.
According to intelligence estimates, more than 5000 Europeans have left for Iraq and Syria as ISIS continues its march. Closer to home, the State Department came under fire last year after it was revealed the passports of Americans who have joined ISIS in Iraq and Syria were not revoked. Today, nothing has changed.

The FBI confirmed last fall it is investigating more than 1000 ISIS leads inside the U.S. and at a hearing in January, directors of a number of U.S. intelligence agencies expressed concern ISIS will attack inside the country within the year. (Read more.)

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Posthumous Portrait of Marie-Antoinette

A gift from the artist to the orphaned daughter of the Queen. From Vive la Reine:
The Comte de Cossé presented me, Madame, with the portrait of my Mother which you had asked him to bring me. You have afforded me the double pleasure of seeing in one of your most beautiful works an Image very dear to my heart, thus of being beholden to you for having used your talents as a proof of your sentiments. Be assured that I feel this more deeply than I can express. And count on my feelings for you. –a letter from Marie Thérèse Charlotte to Elisabeth Vigée-Lebrun. (Read more.)

Distorted Thinking and the Spiritual Life

From Monsignor Charles Pope:
Many sinful attitudes, fears, resentments, aversions, and anxieties come from distorted thinking. These patterns emerge from our flesh but are also open doors for demons, who can exploit and further twist our experience of reality. The world, too, is able to exploit cognitive distortions for both profit and influence.

The renewal of our minds, traditionally referred to in spiritual manuals as “the purification of the intellect” is a key aim of spiritual direction, deliverance ministry, and of overall spiritual growth. Hence, we should learn to recognize and name the more common forms of distorted thinking, also called cognitive distortions. In learning about them we can begin to master them and to experience greater freedom and authority over our thought life. And, since most feelings come from thoughts, our emotional life will also be improved. This includes having greater authority over and freedom from anxieties, resentments, anger, paranoia, and depression. (Read more.)

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

On the Coronations of Russian Empresses Regnant

Here is an interesting essay which deals with the nature of monarchy in Russia, which had a sacerdotal aspect, as did the French monarchy. The Salic law was reaffirmed by Tsar Paul after the death of his mother, Empress Catherine II. From Ryan Hunter:
Brenda Meehan-Waters’ superb essay “Catherine the Great and the Problem of Female Rule” reveals remarkable evidence that, prior to Emperor Paul changing the Russian imperial succession laws in 1797, three of Russia’s four empresses regnant communed of the Body and Blood exactly as reigning emperors did. Meehan-Waters confirms Robert Massie’s unsourced and uncited claim in his Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman(2011) that Catherine II would have received communion in the clerical manner in the altar of the Kremlin’s Uspenskiy Sobor, as well as gone into the altar area to be anointed immediately before receiving the sacrament. What neither Meehan-Waters or Massie observe is whether or not empresses regnant were anointed simply on the forehead, as later empresses consort were due to their sex, or, more likely, as reigning sovereigns, they were likely anointed as male monarchs were, on the eight holy spots consecrated with the holy myrrh during chrismation.

Meehan-Waters writes that, beginning with Anna Ivanovna in 1730, all Russian empresses regnant took communion in the priestly manner, performing a fundamentally male sacerdotal role — or, rather, showing that the Orthodox Church did not understand the sacerdotal role performed by the monarch at his or her coronation as an intrinsically or necessarily male one. This is extraordinary. Considering that Catherine I’s coronation as consort in 1724 marked the first time in history the Russian Orthodox Church had officially blessed and sanctified any coronation of a woman — we have no evidence that Orthodox Muscovite tsaritsas were ever crowned along with their husbands or in separate ceremonies — it is all the more remarkable that, only six years later, the Church was not only blessing a second woman as Empress regnant of Russia, but was allowing her to take communion as if she were part of the clergy, and to receive the holy anointing in the altar itself.
The political and theological implications for this are huge. By taking the Body of Christ in their own hands and putting it into their own mouth, and then drinking directly from the chalice containing the Blood, the three Russian empresses regnant who did this — Anna, Elizabeth, and Catherine II — did something that no male emperors before them had done, and no empress consorts after them would ever do. By communing as if they were priests or bishops, these empresses regnant assumed unto themselves a fundamentally male role that, strictly speaking, was utterly without solid Christian theological justification. For all intents and purposes, at Anna, Elizabeth, and Catherine II’s coronations, the Church treated these sovereign women as if they were mixed persons, part God-ordained and God-consecrated lay woman, and, astonishingly, somehow, as part priest.

This practice of empresses regnant communing as if they were male clergymen is without firm Christian theological foundation, yet Meehan-Waters provides no evidence that any layman or member of the clergy present in the Uspenskiy Sobor objected to, or attempted to correct or stop Empress Anna or her two female successors from doing this. Instead, we have only silence, and thus, we can assume, either quiet approval or at least benign tolerance of this one woman, the female sovereign, communing as if she were a priest. The metropolitans who communed these women did not, strictly speaking, have to do so, but they did, and left no objection to history.  (Read more.)

Via Once I Was a Clever Boy. Share

The Emperor Intervenes

From The Telegraph:
The papers, due to be auctioned in London on Thursday, include a tally of results from early voting in the papal election of August 1903 showing that another cardinal, Mariano Rampolla del Tindaro, was by far the most popular candidate.
But Cardinal Rampolla, who had been the Vatican Secretary of State under the previous Pope, Leo XIII, was blocked by the Austro-Hungarian Emperor Franz Joseph through powers known as the Jus exclusivae, which allowed a select group of Roman Catholic monarchs to veto any would-be pope of whom they disapproved.
The procedure, used only a handful of times in history, allowed a king or queen of Spain or France or the Holy Roman or Austro-Hungarian emperor, to nominate one of the cardinals in advance to exercise their veto with instructions to step in if someone to whom they objected was about to be elected. (Read more.)

Tuesday, March 22, 2016


Here is a review of a new novel called Scarpia by Piers Paul Read, about the villain in one of my favorite operas. From Sarah Johnson:
Readers will take away different things from Read’s newest novel, depending on their familiarity with the source material. Newcomers to Puccini’s Tosca will find themselves following a dramatic tale of love, war, honor, and women’s fickleness while learning about the political circumstances of late eighteenth-century Italy, a land where monarchies and Catholicism are threatened by the rising tide of republican thought emanating from revolutionary France. Those with prior knowledge of the opera will also recognize how shrewdly its heartless villain, Baron Scarpia, has been refashioned into a tragic hero.

Vitellio Scarpia is a flawed protagonist, a hotheaded Sicilian adventurer “possessed by the spirit of vendetta.” Following some youthful recklessness, he loses his fortune but later ascends to become a loyal, trusted officer in the pontifical army. Scarpia’s background is richly imagined, and Floria Tosca, a young woman with a glorious singing voice, is mostly a minor character whose story interweaves with his. There are numerous nonfiction digressions from Scarpia’s story, some of which are fairly dry, but they illuminate the context of his turbulent times. (Read more.)

My post on the opera Tosca HERE. To quote:
Tosca was the first Puccini opera with which I fell in love; as a junior in college I would listen to it everyday after classes. The score explores a vast array of human emotions although the story line is deceptively simple. It is about how two young lovers, Mario and Tosca, are destroyed by the lust and cunning of the ultramontane Baron Scarpia. The underlying theme of the opera can be summed up by the old sacristan, who mutters, while the artist Mario is singing about his love for Tosca in church, "Do not mix the sacred with the profane."

All the characters seem to mix the sacred with the profane in varying degrees. Act I unfolds entirely in a church where jealousy, passion, anger, vengeance and lust all come into play, culminating in the magnificent Te Deum scene. Then, while the praise of God is sung, the evil Scarpia fantasizes about Tosca, exclaiming, "Tosca, you make me forget God!" His profane musings border on blasphemy; he is an example of how lust and cruelty so often go hand-in-hand.

Scarpia is a villain among villains, for there is no villain worse than an ostentatiously pious one. In Act II he tortures Mario in order to get Tosca to sleep with him; Tosca, driven to the edge of reason by Mario's cries, agrees. But when Scarpia tries to embrace her, she stabs him, crying: "This is Tosca's kiss!" Yet she does not flee all at once, but pauses to place candles around the body with a crucifix, as if at a wake. The funereal aspect combined with the frantic, broken mind of the heroine makes it one of the most powerful scenes in any opera. (Read more.)

Ancient DNA

From Heritage Daily:
An international team contributed to the research, which compared the DNA sequences of 35 modern people living on islands off the coast of New Guinea with DNA drawn from two early human species: Denisovans, whose remains were found in Siberia, and Neandertals, first discovered in Germany.

“Substantial amounts of Neandertal and Denisovan DNA can now be robustly identified in the genomes of present-day Melanesians, allowing new insights into human evolutionary history,” they wrote. “As genome-scale data from worldwide populations continues to accumulate, a nearly complete catalog of surviving archaic lineages may soon be within reach.”

D. Andrew Merriwether, a molecular anthropologist at Binghamton University, collected the modern-day blood samples used in the study about 15 years ago in Melanesia. This is the first time full genomes from those samples have been sequenced. (Read more.)

A New Form of Child Abuse

From Illinois Family Institute:
The American College of Pediatricians has released an in-depth report stating that the move to indoctrinate children with the idea that they can pick their gender amounts to child abuse.  They are urging legislators and educators to reject all policies that would condition children to accept chemical and surgical distortions allowing people to impersonate the opposite sex.
Some of the points made in their report include the following:
  • Human sexuality is an objective biological binary trait. “XY” and “XX” chromosomes are genetic markers, not a disorder.
  • No one is born with a gender.  Everyone is born with a biological sex.  Gender is a psychological concept, not an objective biological one.
  • A person thinking he or she is something they are not, at best, is a sign of confusion.
  • Puberty is not a disease and puberty-blocking hormones can be dangerous.
  • When an otherwise healthy biological boy believes he is a girl, or an otherwise healthy biological girl believes she is a boy, an objective psychological problem exists that lies in the mind not the body, and it should be treated as such.
  • People who identify as “feeling like the opposite sex” or “somewhere in between” do not comprise a third sex. They remain biological men or biological women.
(Read more.)

Monday, March 21, 2016

Adélaïde of Savoy

Duchesse de Bourgogne, Dauphine of France and the mother of Louis XV, as well as the great grandmother of Louis XVI. She was also a great granddaughter of Charles I of England. Louis XIV and his wife Madame de Maintenon both adored her and were devastated by her death. Via Vive la Reine. More HERE. Share

A Warning from Judge Jeanine

From Rick Wells:
She continues, “While we, the underclass, have to work two and three jobs, rack up a debt our children and grandchildren are going to have to pay for generations. And to scare you into submission, they predict Trump cannot win the general election.” She asks if that is the case, then “Why does he keep winning the primaries and drawing crowds like we’ve never seen in American primary history?

She cites statistics which indicate that in addition to appealing to the base, Trump is winning with independents and Democrats as well, asking, “Does that not bode well for the general election, especially against an establishment politician most people consider untrustworthy and dishonest?
“So now they say he’s divisive,” says Pirro, who then points out that all of the chaos-dispensing  groups predate Trump, including Black Lives Matter and, as well as the melees in Ferguson and Baltimore. She calls it astonishing that the Republicans are plotting against their own frontrunner.  But she knows why.

She notes that under the current political configuration, no matter who wins, the entrenched power structure doesn’t lose. Their jobs, offices and lifestyles remain intact as they “continue on their treadmill of DC money and power.  The party elders are petrified of Trump. The man is beholden to no one. He wins and it’s game over for the elites. With Hillary, the game goes on.”

Judge Pirro warns, “Heads up Washington, we’re not listening to you anymore because we’re fed up. You haven’t fixed a damn thing and we can’t take it anymore; the lies, the corruption, the debt, the taxes, the invasion, the freebies, the lack of accountability, sanctuary cities, religions forced to violate their own faith by providing birth control at the altar of Obamacare.” (Read more.)
 More on why the establishment is opposed to Trump, HERE. Share

The Art of the Handwritten Note

From CatholicMom:
On Sunday afternoon you could always find my mom sitting at the kitchen table, catching up with her “correspondence.” Equipped with her address book, and surrounded by cards, she wrote messages of love, hope, and consolation to those who needed it. Recipients ranged from family members to acquaintances and everything in-between. She even wrote to the author of a compelling article she read in a magazine, expressing her appreciation for her sharing her story and empathizing with her pain.

As a child I just couldn’t grasp the purpose of such a seemingly boring and old-school practice. But as I grew older, I began to understand. By sending a card, a small and simple gesture, my mom was sending a powerful message of affirmation and love to each person. She was acknowledging that the milestone they were grieving or celebrating was worth the joy or sorrow that they were feeling. She was saying, I am here and I stand with you. You are not alone. Right now, as I write this card, I am thinking and praying for you.

When my mom died, I was approached by a friend of my oldest brother. He told me how moved his wife was by a recent card that she had received from my mom. He said that of all the things given to her after the untimely passing of her father, the thing that was most comforting and most touching, was a card with a note that was sent to her by my mother. “They just don’t make women like your mom anymore,” he lamented. “So classy.”

They don’t make women like my mom anymore, and I want to be one.

In this age of the internet, we have forgotten the the power and impact that comes with a handwritten message. It’s just so much easier to shoot out an email or post a two second response to Facebook. Although not without value, these messages are not equal. Even the most beautiful email will not contain the same warmth and personal touch as a written note. (Read more.)

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Queen Anne's War

From The Mad Monarchist:
What is known in America as Queen Anne’s War is known in Europe as the War of Spanish Succession. The last Hapsburg King of Spain had died and King Louis XIV of France put forward a grandson of his to be the first of a new line of Bourbon monarchs for the throne of Spain. This caused a great deal of opposition. The Hapsburg Emperor Leopold I wanted to maintain his own dynasty on the Spanish throne or at least to retain certain Spanish possessions, particularly in northern Italy, for the Austrian Hapsburgs and other powers such as the British under Queen Anne were concerned that this Bourbon proposal would effectively make Spain and the whole Spanish empire a subsidiary of the Kingdom of France. The British, Dutch and a few others feared this would make France far too powerful and thus a threat to their own security and interests. So it was that the powers of Europe formed up into two warring camps, the most prominent players being France and Spain on one side and Austria and Britain on the other. (Read more.)

A Classical Education

From Dr. Esolen:
Most of the time in this tangled life, we must weigh one good thing against another, because we cannot pursue both with the same devotion. Sometimes we must give up one of them altogether. I cannot spend all my time teaching college students the grammar they were never taught in school, because that would leave no time for the splendid literature of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. I must be content with a modest effort in the former, while pursuing the latter directly.

But sometimes life offers you a chance to pursue many important ends simultaneously by a single means. Such opportunities are precious.

Consider these problems facing the Church:

•  We need to triple our vocations to the priesthood.
•  We need ten times as many vocations to the religious life. Many orders of religious women have “modernized” themselves into oblivion. The sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary taught me and my siblings in our grade school in Pennsylvania. My class ranged in numbers from 45 to 51. That parish school no longer exists; the parish could not afford to pay full salaries to the lay teachers who replaced the sisters.
•  Vocations come disproportionately from Catholic schools. We need to be building schools, and preserving from decline those that have survived.
•  If the heart of the parish is the Mass and the sacraments, its young arms and legs are to be found in the parish school. There, families encounter one another as families, building up memories that span the generations. We need those memories more than ever, as in most places community life is a shadow of what it was, and the next door neighbor may as well have dropped from another planet.
•  Little of what merits the name of “education” goes on in our schools. Some subjects have been discarded: grammar, for instance, as a coherent and systematic whole. Our approach to education springs from a truncated view of man. It is dully utilitarian in its aims, which it nevertheless fails to meet. It fixes a low ceiling over the mind and heart and soul. It begins by denying God, by whom and for whom we are made, and proceeds to deny the objective existence of beauty and goodness, until at last all that’s left are the shreds of learning, political expediency, and the fads of the day.
•  Our schools are Petri dishes of vice: impiety, lust, spiritual sloth, ambition, and avarice. It is not clear to me what more desperately needs the Catholic school less: the Church, or the nation.
(Read more.)

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Demimonde: The Floating World and Toulouse-Lautrec

From The Ronin Gallery:
Ronin Gallery invites you to Demimonde: The Floating World and Toulouse-Lautrec. This exhibition explores the parallel cultures of fin-de-siècle Paris and the Edo’s floating world, juxtaposing Toulouse-Lautrec’s lithographs with the Japanese woodblock prints that inspired him. Demimonde will also introduce Japonisme through works by Cassat, Degas, Manet, Tissot, and Whister. (Read more.)


Never Give Up

A young girl triumphs over darkness:
During the hard times, I made a promise to God that if He would help me I would spend the rest of my life spreading hope and opposing sexual exploitation and upholding human dignity. I did receive help and many people were placed in my path at perfect moments to boost me up and push me along.
Now I have three messages for the world.

The first is that sexual exploitation hurts. It hurts children who are sexually abused and I know from experience that it continues to hurt them for the duration of their lives until they can access healing. It hurts people who are addicted to pornography. It alters their brains just like a drug. There are many who are addicted who don’t want to be and are desperate for a way out. It hurts those who are trafficked, sold, bought and used. Their dignity and humanity are stripped from them.

It hurts the people who love the people it affects. I witnessed immense suffering in my parents and siblings because of my experience and I’ve watched it ripple out to our neighbors and friends. Sexual exploitation is an epidemic in our society. Disregard for dignity, respect and morality is corroding our society and some people are making a gigantic profit because of it.

The second is that nothing will change if we don’t talk about it. You cannot fix a problem you don’t understand. Because it is a problem that is bigger than a few individuals there has to be widespread understanding across society. I was very sick because of sexual exploitation. Healing did not come until I looked it squarely in the face, acknowledged it and how it affected me, and understood it. Because then I could see things I needed to change. It is the same with society as a whole. (Read more.)

Mistakes with Catechesis

From Monsignor Charles Pope:
Industrialization, urbanization, and poverty often put great strains on immigrant families. Educational levels in general among largely poor Catholics were low and to some extent it made sense to entrust the critical task of religious education to the Church. But the effect was the marginalization of parents as the primary religious educators of their children.

And this would have lasting effects when the system of priests and religious collapsed in the 1970s. Religious sisters and priests, once a numerous and effective army of teachers, diminished and largely disappeared almost overnight. Despite this, parents were still kept on the periphery. But, frankly, how could catechesis have been redirected back to the home at that time? For at least three generations, Catholics had been led to relegate religious formation to the parish rather than the home. Attitudes change slowly and there was also little catechetical experience to rely on within the family.
In reaction to this, many well-meaning but at-first-untrained laity stepped into the gap to prop up the parish-based system. Despite the revolution of the late 1960s and the exodus of religious, parish-based religious instruction continued as usual.

Add to this problem the fact that “professional class” of religious leaders and teachers in the 1960s and later came to be infested by dissenters. Poorly trained adults were at first little equipped to resist those dissenters and were easily led astray.

So the first problem is that it is never good when parents and other adults are told to consign the religious education of their children to others. It tends to remove faith from the home and allows a class of dissenters too much access and influence. As we shall see, this left many chronological adults with a faith that was little more than elementary. (Read more.)

Friday, March 18, 2016

Margaret Tudor, Queen of Scots

Daughter of Henry VII, sister of Henry VIII, wife of James IV, mother of James V, and grandmother of Mary Stuart. Share

The Forgotten Americans

Some uncommon common sense from Van Hipp:
One thing is for sure this 2016 presidential race, the “silent majority” is no longer silent, and everybody knows it.  But who are these people?  Before President Richard Nixon called them the “silent majority,” he called them the “forgotten Americans.”

The forgotten Americans love their families and want a better life for their kids.  The forgotten Americans work hard—they weren’t born on 3rd base and thought they hit a triple.  They worship their God and they go to church.  They pay their taxes and obey the law.

The forgotten Americans believe in American exceptionalism.  When America’s security is threatened, they are always the first to volunteer to defend her.  They understand and appreciate the sacrifices their forefathers made to give them a land of opportunity and freedom.  And they respect and appreciate those in the military and in law enforcement who put on the uniform everyday to protect those freedoms and keep us safe.

Yes, the forgotten Americans love their country, but today believe their government and its leaders have let them down.  They see Judeo-Christian values under attack.  They are concerned about the erosion of the freedoms they cherish.  They worry about America’s economy and each has a family member or knows someone who has looked so long for a job that our government doesn’t even consider them unemployed anymore. (Read more.)

At Home on Patina Farm

From InsideChic:
When we first dreamed of living on Patina Farm, we imagined that we would spend our free time tending to the gardens and the animals. We envisioned eating our chickens’ fresh eggs in the morning and cooking with the vegetables and fruits we would grow. To make these dreams come true, we first needed to design and build the gardens and animal structures.

During the time we were designing Patina Farm, we took our children on a trip to visit colleges back East. To break up the many campus tours, we decided to visit George Washington’s Mount Vernon. What a wonderful unexpected bounty of inspiration! George Washington was the epitome of the gentleman farmer. His gardens were the perfect combination of beautiful form and function. Each garden had a formal structure combined with a relaxed, unpretentious air. We were impressed by Washington’s ability to create a self-sustaining farm with such charm.
We made note of the different elements from Mount Vernon that we wanted to emulate at Patina Farm, from small details like the rows of espaliered fruit trees on simple wood trellises to larger design ideas like the symmetrical axial compositions of the gardens. I noticed the way irises and tulips shared space with the lettuce and cabbages in the vegetable garden. The natural twigs used for the sweet pea supports were both practical and attractive. Even the most rustic structures, like Dung Repository, with its gray wooden board walls, log columns and shingle roof, inspired our color palette as well as helping us decide to create our own compost area. (Read more.)

Thursday, March 17, 2016

"Danny Boy"

From Irish Central:
Inevitably, the song has resonated most with those who have experienced loss – loss that includes ‘losing’ one’s own country – but who still believe in a bright new day. So 'Danny Boy' means a great deal to members of the Irish diaspora forced into exile, particularly in the States. Black Americans, too, have recognized the loss-hope dynamic in the tune. It’s cathartic, like the blues.

What particularly intrigued me when I started making this film was the number of versions recorded by country artists. It didn’t feel like coincidence. I knew they weren’t covering 'Danny Boy' just because it was a standard. They had to be tapping into the heartbreak center of the song.

In the film, I use Johnny Cash’s 1965 recording of 'Danny Boy' as the prism to investigate the appeal of the song to country artists. His daughter, Rosanne Cash, speaks of why it’s such a natural fit for poor white southerners and their tough, intense lives. While Larry Kirwan of the Irish-American band, Black 47, explains how 19th Century Irish immigrants brought their fiddles and music to the Appalachians. This subsequently influenced bluegrass – then country. With an ancient Irish tune, the 'Londonderry Air,' at the song’s musical heart, it was all beginning to make sense.

Songs like 'Danny Boy' that last 100 years are rare. They appear simple, but are beautifully complicated. You need a bunch of keys to unlock the mysteries of 'Danny Boy,' but I believe one of its most essential elements is its emotional dialectic – loss and hope, joy and pain, sunshine and shadow – and these lie at the very center of all our lives. (Read more.)


Is the System Rigged?

From Freedom Outpost:
Yesterday, it was reported that Republican "establishment figures" gathered in Washington, DC to "lunch" and foment a plan to derail Donald Trump. Of course, this is only one plan in the works hatched by Republican oligarchs to place their desired "golden boy" or another loser in the election against another Democrat, socialist/communist. Desperation is running rampant among Republicans. The question is "how desperate is the Republican Party to thwart Donald Trump?" On Friday, the Republican National Standing Rules Committee informed its "membership convention delegates are not bound to the will of Americans who voted in the primary." If this is the case, what is the point in having a primary? reports:
Curly Haugland of the Republican National Committeeman for North Dakota said in a letter sent out on March 11 delegates may "vote according to their personal choice in all matters to come before the Republican National Convention, including the vote to nominate the Republican Candidate for President" and disregard voters. Haugland dismisses primaries as "nearly worthless 'beauty contests'" and believes delegates "have been bound only once in the history of the Republican Party."
 According to the letter sent by Haugland, "In 1976, the Ford campaign, afraid of losing "pledged" delegates to Reagan forces and having the strength of delegate numbers needed, forced the adoption of the "Justice Resolution" which amended the convention rules to bind the delegates to cast their convention votes according to the results of binding primaries. This historic event was the first convention in the history of the Republican Party where the delegates were denied the freedom to vote as they wished in the nomination vote for President. And, 1976 was also the last time delegates have been bound by convention rules to cast their votes according to the results of binding primary elections, since the 1980 convention rescinded the Justice Resolution entirely restoring the prohibition of binding."

In other words, every delegate is a superdelegate. It is a tactic that has been used by the Democrat Party for years. As Nate Silver explains, "Superdelegates were created in part to give Democratic Party elites the opportunity to put their finger on the scale and prevent nominations like those of George McGovern in 1972 or Jimmy Carter in 1976, which displeased party insiders."
Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Democratic National Committee chair, admitted in February the system is rigged, but for the sake of diversity. (Read more)

Irish Americans and the 1916 Uprising

From Irish Central:
Yet Redmond took the terrible gamble of recommending tens of thousands of young Irishmen fight in World War I, where 30,000 or more Irish lost their lives in order to prove his thesis of the Home Rule paradox that fighting for Britain was the best way to achieve freedom from it. In the days following Easter 1916, he utterly misread the impact of the Rising, praising the British: “It has been dealt with with firmness, which was not only right, but it was the duty of the Government to so deal with it.”

Even Edward Carson had warned the British government to be careful who they punished. In contrast to Redmond, most of Irish America quickly saw the Home Rule Bill as the latest illusionary comet sent by British leadership. Most of the Irish in America traced their roots back to the Famine, so it's hardly surprising that theirs was a rebel tradition much more in tune with the men and women of 1916 than with John Redmond's paradoxical call to fight for the British in order to free the Irish.

The historical inflexion point for the Irish Americans was not Home Rule but the American Revolution, which began in 1775 when farmers and peasants took up arms against a far superior army and somehow defeated them. As is often noted, most Americans started off the war as Loyalists but ended as Republicans or Patriots. Ironically it was an Englishman, Thomas Paine, and his hugely influential “Common Sense” with its rallying cry to fight that convinced many of them. Empires and monarchies were never to be trusted, Paine hammered home, and the Great War proved him right. A pity Redmond never took note.

For Irish America, once news of the Easter Rising broke, the great mission was first to get President Woodrow Wilson to speak out, but while the patrician president agreed with them heartily in public, he mercilessly mocked them in private as Professor Robert Schmuhl’s excellent new book on the Easter Rising – “Ireland’s Exiled Children” – makes clear. Short of gaining Wilson’s support, the Irish American leaders wanted to turn back the global tidal wave of condemnation surrounding The Rising. (Read more.)

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Rackham and Alice

From Brain Pickings:
A number of elements made Rackham’s visual interpretation a turning point in the history of both the Carroll classic and the art of illustration. First and foremost was his distinctive aesthetic at the intersection of the sentimental and the grotesque — sensitive and dark at the same time, like a Neil Gaiman story or a Patti Smith song. But public reception was polarizing — while many instantly recognized that a singular creative genius was before them, others felt that Sir John Tenniel’s original illustrations for Alice had become so central to the beloved story that any other interpretation was a sacrilege. Still, Rackham’s drawings came to captivate the popular imagination and paved the way for a century of artistic takes on Carroll’s tale. (Read more.)

An Apology

 Last week, Catholics on Facebook were triumphantly hailing the "Appeal" against Trump as if it were Holy Writ. I saw it and was not impressed. Personally, I have been shocked at the malice and hatred towards Donald Trump on the part of Catholics. You would think they would be happy that we finally have a winning candidate who has declared himself to be pro-life. I had to block several people whose ill-humor spilled over on to my wall, with lies, insults and half-truths. I was happy to see the following statement in The Christian Review:
On March 7, 2016, prominent Catholics Robert P. George and George Weigel published in the National Review “An Appeal to Our Fellow Catholics” to “reject [Donald Trump’s] candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination.” As a fellow Catholic to whom this appeal was addressed, I respond in this open letter, apologizing for both the purpose and language of this published piece.
While Professor George and Mr. Weigel opened their letter with a noncontroversial (if incomplete) statement of Catholic priorities, and a more questionable embrace of the Republican Party, they immediately shifted, not to a candidate-by-candidate, reasoned analysis, but to a direct and hostile attack on one candidate, Donald J. Trump. With no factual support for their assertion that Trump’s appeal rests upon racism and ethnic prejudice, George and Weigel fashioned a personal, conclusory, name-calling hit piece on this candidate whose voter base constitutes a culture distinct from the more polished, elite world in which the authors live...Many Catholics, myself included, were dismayed that these respected Catholic intellectuals drew upon the sort of language they disapprove of in the candidate Trump. This alone warrants an apology. I wish to assure candidate Trump and his voters that Catholics generally are called upon by Gospel and church law to respect people whose differences we might not understand and to treat all persons with dignity, even people with whom we most strongly disagree or don’t understand.

The Catholic laity is held to a higher standard than mere avoidance of hypocrisy. Our church law, and letters and directives from our popes, exhort us to engage our work in a manner that serves as ‘witness to Christ throughout the world.” (Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity, 1965). This fundamental mission entails concern and care for the dignity of every person, not merely the promotion of the church as institution and enforcement of Catholic principles via legislation and political mandate.

The dignity of every individual includes good reputation. Catholics are admonished to avoid name-calling, gossip and other harm to a person’s reputation in the community. Canon 220 of the 1983 Code of Canon Law provides: “No one is permitted to harm illegitimately the good reputation which a person possesses or to injure the right of any person to protect his or her own privacy.” (Read more.)