Saturday, February 29, 2020

A Legacy of Lace

From Victoria:
Just as the tranquil canals that wind their way through Bruges, Belgium, are woven into the history of this ancient Flemish city, so, too, is the time-honored craft of lacemaking. This centuries-old heritage continues to thrive, with new generations plying pins, bobbins, and thread to create ethereal art. Within the amber-stone walls of Kantcentrum, Bruges’s Lace Center and Museum, agile fingers flit and fly in a mesmerizing, clickety-clack dance, performed at a speed that doesn’t seem humanly possible. Part of the Adornes family estate, the circa 1899 building was once home to the Apostoline Sisters lace school, one of many in Bruges. (Read more.)
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Exposing The Lie Of Socialism

From the November 13, 2019 issue of The Federalist:
On Sept. 16, 1989, Boris Yeltsin was a newly elected member of the Soviet Parliament visiting the United States. Following a scheduled visit to Johnson Space Center, Yeltsin and a small entourage made an unscheduled stop at a Randalls grocery store in Clear Lake, a suburb of Houston. He was amazed by the aisles of food and stocked shelves, a sharp contrast to the breadlines and empty columns he was accustomed to in Russia.

Yeltsin, who had a reputation as a reformer and populist, “roamed the aisles of Randall’s nodding his head in amazement,” wrote Stefanie Asin, a Houston Chronicle reporter. He marveled at free cheese samples, fresh fish and produce, and freezers packed full of pudding pops. Along the way, Yeltsin chatted up customers and store workers: “How much does this cost? Do you need special education to manage a supermarket? Are all American stores like this?”

Yeltsin was a member of the Politburo and Russia’s upper political crust, yet he’d never seen anything like the offerings of this little American grocery store. “Even the Politburo doesn’t have this choice. Not even Mr. Gorbachev,” Yeltsin said. (Read more.)
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Ancient Pictish Hillfort

From Ancient Origins:
According to Perth and Kinross Heritage Trust ( PKHT.org), King's Seat Hillfort is situated on a prominent hill top above an important bend in the River Tay at Dunkeld, overlooking Strath Tay to the north and south. While the fort has been known about for at least the last century, only basic plans of the surviving earthworks have been made and no previous archaeological investigations have ever taken place, until now. 
The archaeological project was conducted by PKHT, Dunkeld & Birnam Historical Society and AOC Archaeology Ltd with around 30 community volunteers, secondary school pupils from Pitlochry High School and students on archaeological fieldwork training from the University of the Highlands and Islands . These new results from the King’s Seat dig follow the trust’s successful five-year project in Glen Shee, studying a prosperous Pictish farming community dating to the late 6th century to the mid-9th century. (Read more.)
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Friday, February 28, 2020

Costumes and Production Design for 'Emma'



From Variety:
Austen’s love story is also a stark exploration of class differences among the wealthy Emma (Anya Taylor-Joy) and the poorer Harriet Smith (Mia Goth) and Miss Bates (Miranda Hart). Byrne conveyed that dichotomy with a sameness of outfits for Harriet and Miss Bates and a great number of choices for Emma. A privileged woman like Emma would have a dressmaker, says Byrne, while Harriet might have a limited number of pieces in her wardrobe — outfits that also weren’t as elegantly embroidered. A “clean and perfectly presented” wardrobe denotes a person’s social position, says Byrne. 

The number of accessories characters wear can also point up the difference in standing. “Some directors shy away from [accessories],” Byrne says, so as not to overshadow the costumes, but for this film she used gaudy bows and necklaces to enhance comedy and economic discrepancy. Quinn also delineated class disparity via changes in the sets. “We made everything a lot plainer” for the lower-class houses, she explains. De Wilde is a big fan of Georgian “frippery,” Quinn adds, such as overly decorated cakes and wall hangings — these were used as focal points in the parties Emma attends. “Pink and green wallpaper and drapes really make a statement.” (Read more.)

From Tatler:
Jane Austen’s classic has been given a fresh lease of life with a stylish, witty new adaptation from director Autumn de Wilde, which hits cinema screens today. Starring a buzzy cast of up-and-comers, including Anya Taylor-Joy, Josh O’Connor and Callum Turner, alongside comedy greats Bill Nighy and Miranda Hart, the film is a bonnet-filled delight. But for the true Austen disciples, enjoyment of Emma is sure to be enhanced by a trip to some of its spectacular filming locations. Here, Tatler rounds up the destinations to head to for your very own Austen adventure. (Read more.)

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Bernie and Islam

From The Hill:
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) won the endorsement of a top Muslim political group Thursday. Emgage PAC, which calls itself the biggest Muslim political action committee in the country, says it is backing Sanders because of his “inclusive” presidential campaign, and it hopes that its endorsement spurs Muslims to the polls.
“More than any other presidential candidate, Senator Sanders has built a historically inclusive and forward-thinking movement: one that represents America as a set of ideas grounded in the belief that all humans are equal and worthy of a dignified life,” Wa'el Alzayat, Emgage PAC’s CEO, said in a statement. "Our endorsement is intended to galvanize Muslim Americans at the polls to ensure that our voices are heard. Furthermore, we hope that this endorsement marks a new era of presidential candidates including Muslim American voices in the political process and policy-making decisions," he added.
The group said it made its decision to endorse Sanders after conducting a “comprehensive evaluation” of the 2020 contenders and a survey of its members. “It is an honor to receive this endorsement from Emgage Action,” Sanders said in a statement. “While Donald Trump has demonized our Muslim communities, our movement is working to bring Muslims and people of all backgrounds into the political system. Together we will create an economy, justice system and immigration system that are rooted in human rights for all.” (Read more.)
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The Habits You Pick Up in France

After living in France one ever after demands good bread, good wine, good cheese and good coffee. From The Local:
Perhaps unsurprisingly in a country that prides itself on its cuisine and fine wines, many of the new habits that people reported centred around food. Whether is is discovering new favourites, gaining a better appreciation for fresh and seasonal produce or just making time for lunch, many people reported that their eating and drinking habits had changed radically since moving to France.
Alison Johnson, who has lived in Burgundy for almost three years; said: "We have started having regular lunches, discussing the taste of everything we eat, greeting everyone when we meet and buying bread every day."
 
Mike Owens, who has lived in France for 12 years, cited "drinking hot chocolate from a bowl" as the major change in his lifestyle, along with ditching American-style breakfasts.

David Ricardo Hernandez, who has recently moved to Metz after living in Rouen for two years, said: "Now I drink more wine, I buy bread only in the bakery and not in the supermarket, l cook much more often here, I check the food, in USA I never did that.

"France gave me the habit of being conscious of me, acknowledging the importance of health and care for myself." (Read more.)
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Thursday, February 27, 2020

Lent at Versailles


Versailles is not usually associated with Lenten penance, but fasting and abstinence, as well as some mortifications, were observed there by many during the old regime. For one thing, there would be no plays or operas performed; all the public theaters were closed in France during Lent. The daughters of Louis XV were known for their scrupulous observance of fasting and abstinence, although Madame Victoire found such penance especially trying. According to Madame Campan:
Without quitting Versailles, without sacrificing her easy chair, she [Madame Victoire] fulfilled the duties of religion with punctuality, gave to the poor all she possessed, and strictly observed Lent and the fasts. The table of Mesdames acquired a reputation for dishes of abstinence....Madame Victoire was not indifferent to good living, but she had the most religious scruples respecting dishes of which it was allowable to partake at penitential times....The abstinence which so much occupied the attention of Madame Victoire was so disagreeable to her, that she listened with impatience for the midnight hour of Holy Saturday; and then she was immediately supplied with a good dish of fowl and rice, and sundry other succulent viands.
Their nephew Louis XVI was also known for his fastidious observance of Lent, as recorded once again by the faithful Madame Campan:
Austere and rigid with regard to himself alone, the King observed the laws of the Church with scrupulous exactness. He fasted and abstained throughout the whole of Lent. He thought it right that the queen should not observe these customs with the same strictness. Though sincerely pious, the spirit of the age had disposed his mind to toleration.
Some of the King's tolerant behavior included the permitting of certain games at court during Lent. During the Lent of 1780, the Austrian ambassador Count Mercy-Argenteau was shocked to discover Louis XVI playing blind man's bluff with Marie-Antoinette and some members of the Court. Count Mercy described the scandalous scene to the Empress Maria Theresa:
Amusements have been introduced of such noisy and puerile character that they are little suited to Lenten meditations, and still less to the dignity of the august personages who take part in them. They are games resembling blind man's bluff, that first lead to the giving of forfeits, and then to their redemption by some bizarre penance ; the commotion is kept up sometimes until late into the night. The number of persons who take part in these games, both of the Court and the town, makes them still more unsuitable ; every one is surprised to see that the King plays them with great zest, and that he can give himself up wholly to such frivolities in such a serious condition of State affairs as obtains at present.
Given the long hours that Louis XVI devoted to affairs of state and the fact that people often complained that he was too serious and reserved, it seems that Mercy should have been pleased to see the King come out of his shell a little and take some recreation. But then, Mercy often tried to cast Louis in an unfavorable light. As far as the Empress was concerned, however, Lent was not the time for any games. Louis' devotion was sincere all the same; he was constant in prayer and good works, observing the fasts of the Church for Lent and the Ember days even throughout his imprisonment.

The King's sister, Madame Elisabeth, also steadfastly kept the discipline of Lent in both good times and bad. In the Temple prison, the jailers mocked the princess' attempts to keep Lent as best she could. Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette's daughter, Madame Royale, who shared her aunt's imprisonment, recorded it thus:
Having no fish, she asked for eggs or other dishes on fast-days. They refused them, saying that in equality there was no difference of days; there were no weeks, only decades. They brought us a new almanac, but we did not look at it. Another time, when my aunt again asked for fast-day food they answered: "Why, citoyenne, don't you know what has taken place? none but fools believe all that." She made no further requests.
As for Marie-Antoinette herself, she did not fast and abstain through every day of Lent as Louis did; her health did not permit it. However, after baby Madame Sophie died in 1787, it was noted that the Queen became more fervent in her devotions, especially during Lent. Jean Chalon in Chère Marie-Antoinette (p.235) notes that in 1788 she gave orders that her table strictly comply with all the regulations of the Church. Even the Swedish ambassador remarked: "The queen seems to have turned devout."

(Photo: http://www.cyrilalmeras.com/)

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Fidel Castro Did Not Give Cuba Literacy or Better Healthcare

Any "literacy" programs were part of Communist re-education. From Intellectual Takeout:
On CBS’ 60 Minutes, Senator Bernie Sanders recently praised the achievements of communist Cuba. An interviewer asked him about his 1985 comments that Cubans supported communist dictator Fidel Castro because he “educated their kids, gave their kids health care, totally transformed society.” In response, Sanders defended those comments, by stating that when “Fidel Castro came into office, you know what he did? He had a massive literacy program.”
But Castro did not give Cubans literacy. Cuba already had one of the highest highest literacy rates in Latin America by 1950, nearly a decade before Castro took power, according to United Nations data (statistics from UNESCO). In 2016, The Washington Post fact-checker Glenn Kessler debunked a politician’s claim that Castro’s rule significantly improved Cuban healthcare and education. In today’s Cuba, children are taught by poorly paid teachers in dilapidated schools. Cuba has made less educational progress than most Latin American countries over the last 60 years.
According to UNESCO, Cuba had about the same literacy rate as Costa Rica and Chile in 1950 (close to 80 percent). And it has almost the same literacy rate as they do today (close to 100 percent). Meanwhile, Latin American countries that were largely illiterate in 1950—such as Peru, Brazil, El Salvador, and the Dominican Republic—are largely literate today, closing much of the gap with Cuba. El Salvador had a less than 40 percent literacy rate in 1950, but has an 88 percent literacy rate today. Brazil and Peru had a less than 50 percent literacy rate in 1950, but today, Peru has a 94.5 percent literacy rate, and Brazil a 92.6 percent literacy rate. The Dominican Republic’s rate rose from a little over 40 percent to 91.8 percent. While Cuba made substantial progress in reducing illiteracy in Castro’s first years in power, its educational system has stagnated since, even as much of Latin America improved.
Contrary to Sanders’ claim that Castro “gave” Cubans healthcare, they already had access to healthcare before he seized power. Doctors frequently provided free healthcare to those who couldn’t afford it. As The Washington Post’s Glenn Kessler noted, “As for health care and education, Cuba was already near the top of the heap before the revolution. Cuba’s low infant mortality rate is often lauded, but it already led the region on this key measure in 1953-1958, according to data collected by Carmelo Mesa-Lago, a Cuba specialist and professor emeritus at the University of Pittsburgh.”
Cuba led virtually all countries in Latin America in life expectancy in 1959, before Castro’s communists seized power. But by 2012, right after Castro stepped down as Communist Party leader, Chileans and Costa Ricans lived slightly longer than Cubans.
Back in 1960, Chileans had a life span seven years shorter than Cubans, and Costa Ricans lived more than two years less than Cubans on average. In 1960, Mexicans lived seven years shorter than Cubans; by 2012, the gap had shrunk to just two years. (Today, life spans are virtually the same in Cuba as more prosperous Chile and Costa Rica — if you accept the rosy official statistics put out by Cuba’s communist government, which many people do not. Cuba has been credibly accused of hiding infant deaths, and exaggerating the life spans of its citizens. If these accusations are true, Cubans die sooner than Chileans or Costa Ricans).
Cuba has made less progress in health care and life expectancy than most of Latin America in recent years, due to its decrepit health care system. “Hospitals in the island’s capital are literally falling apart.” Sometimes, patients "have to bring everything with them, because the hospital provides nothing. Pillows, sheets, medicine: everything.”
(Read more.)
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The Untold Truth of Oat Milk

From Mashed:
But what you might not have known is that Oatly's actually been on the market for nearly three decades, according to Time. Rickard Oste, a researcher at Lund University in Sweden, began producing his own oat milk in the '90s, while researching ways to produce milk alternatives for those with a lactose intolerance — he used oats because they're a particularly prominent crop in Sweden.

When he'd gotten the process down to a tee, Öste founded Oatly, selling the milk to a small but devoted crowd of milk-loving Swedes. The company's milk never made its way across the pond until 2016, when it took American markets by storm.

Although Oregon-based Pacific Foods company was the first oat milk producer to come onto the American scene back in 1996, Oatly is certainly to credit for the modern oat milk craze, as Pacific's oat milk never really reached the same levels of popularity as its Swedish counterpart. (Read more.)
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Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Mercredi des Cendres

From author Catherine Delors:
Ash Wednesday follows Fat Tuesday, and the mood could not be more different. Today, a day of fast and prayer, marks the beginning of Lent. The day of ashes on foreheads, and the admonition Memento, homo, quod pulvis es, et in pulverem reverteris (“Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”)

No better illustration of the contrast between Carnival and Lent than this work by the 19th century Bavarian artist Carl Spitzweg. Spitzweg, though classified as a Romanticist, admired and emulated the genre paintings of the 17th century Flemish school. His style is often humorous and down-to-earth (two qualities I find somewhat lacking in Romantic art.) (Read more.)
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9th Circuit Upholds President Trump’s Protect Life Rule

From the Susan B. Anthony List:
Finalized in 2019, the Protect Life Rule advances President Trump’s promise to stop taxpayer funding of abortion businesses like Planned Parenthood. Under the Protect Life Rule abortion centers cannot serve as taxpayer-funded family planning centers (“co-location”). In addition, Title X locations cannot refer for abortion. The Protect Life Rule does not prohibit Title X providers from providing neutral, nondirective counseling about abortion and does not prevent anyone from obtaining Title X services. It does not reduce family planning funding by a dime. Instead, it directs tax dollars to Title X centers that do not promote or perform abortions, such as the growing number of community and rural health centers that far outnumber Planned Parenthood facilities. Similar regulations were upheld by the Supreme Court in 1991 in Rust v. Sullivan (500 U.S. 173). 
Represented by the Thomas More Society, SBA List has filed 10 amicus briefs in support of the Protect Life Rule and the federal government in multiple cases being litigated throughout the country. In August, Planned Parenthood – the nation’s largest abortion business – announced it would drop out of the Title X program and forego nearly $60 million in taxpayer funding rather than comply with the rule. A Marist poll in January of this year found that 60 percent of all Americans – including 42 percent of Independents and 35 percent of Democrats – oppose taxpayer funding of abortion. (Read more.)
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An Ancient Egyptian Game

From Live Science:
A game board that dates back to before the reign of the pharaoh Hatshepsut may represent the transformation of the game senet from fun pastime to religious symbol. Senet is ancient, dating back some 5,000 years to Egypt's first dynasty. The game was played on a board with 30 squares arranged in a 3-by-10 rectangle. The precise rules are lost to history, but players had to move a set of pawns across the board, with moves determined by throws of a set of two-sided sticks. The squares were blank except for squares 26 to 29, which contained the same progression of symbols: one for goodness, one for water, one for the number three and one for the number two. (Read more.)
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Tuesday, February 25, 2020

"If Ever I Cease To Love"

It is Mardi Gras. "If Ever I Cease To Love" is the theme song of Mardi Gras in New Orleans. It is a song which does not make sense, but then neither does love, most of the time. Just a few more hours and it will be Lent.
In a house, in a square in a quadrant
In a street, in a lane, in a road.

Turn to the left on the right hand
You see there my true love's abode

I go there a courting, And cooing to my love like a dove;
And swearing on my bended knee, If Ever I Cease To Love,
May sheep-heads grow on apple trees, If Ever I Cease To Love.

Chorus:
If Ever I Cease To Love, If Ever I Cease To Love,
May the moon be turn'd to green cream cheese,
If Ever I Cease To Love
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The Collapse of Havana

From two years ago, but more pertinent than ever. From USA Today:
Some 3,856 partial or total building collapses were reported in Havana from 2000 to 2013, not including 2010 and 2011 when no records were kept. The collapses worsened an already severe housing shortage. Havana alone had a deficit of 206,000 homes in 2016, official figures show. The housing crisis is one of the most pressing challenges facing Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel, who vowed to improve housing after taking charge of the communist nation of 11 million people in April. (Read more.)
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The Holocaust of the Disabled

From LifeNews:
In January 2017, the Germany Parliament [Bundestag] commemorated the 72nd anniversary of the liberation of the inmates of Auschwitz concentration camp. The focus that year was on the more than 300,000 victims of Aktion T-4.

“For a long time, the euthanasia victims were the forgotten victims,” Maike Rotzoll, Deputy Director of the Institute for the History and Ethics of Medicine in Halle, told Deutsche Welle. “That’s why it’s enormously important for us that this ceremony took place in the Bundestag. I think it’s also enormously important for the relatives, who experienced the topic being taboo for so many years, to be allowed to speak and for this group of victims to be honored in this way.”

Fries’s essay is a first-rate contribution to this remembering, a powerful reminder of the power of words—when unchallenged–to exclude an entire category of human beings from the protection of the law . You should read his essay in its entirety. (Read more.)
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Monday, February 24, 2020

What is Burgundy?

From The Drinks Business:
In 880 AD this territory would be made into a duchy of West Francia, one of seven powerful dukedoms (alongside Champagne, Aquitaine, Normandy, Brittany, Gascony and Flanders) in the kingdom and one which was further sub-divided into several counties, each managed by a count – one must remember this is the beginning of what we now call ‘feudalism’, a system of vassalage where land was held by nobles with obligations to a monarch – covering Chalon, the Charolais, Mâcon, Autun, Nevers, Avallon, Tonerre, Senlis, Auxerre, Sens, Troyes and Auxonne. The duchy’s administrative centre was Dijon, which had grown from its Roman origins into a flourishing mercantile town.

Between 880 AD and 1004, the duchy would be ruled by various nobles and families until it was annexed by Robert II, king of France and member of the new ruling House of Capet. In 1032, Robert II’s son, also called Robert, rebelled against his older brother King Henry I and was given the Duchy of Burgundy as part of the peace terms.
An unpleasant and violent man, his descendants would nonetheless rule as Dukes of Burgundy until 1361, powerful and important nobles in France. We shall return to them later. (Read more.)
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Bernie in Soviet Russia

From The Federalist:
Nobody knows what paid for the construction and maintenance of Soviet culture palaces. In a planned economy with its web of subsidies and bribery, such things are not transparent. The trade union fees, however, were levied on everyone enrolled in a trade union, meaning every worker, because all those employed by the government were automatically enrolled in one, and everyone worked for the government — or at least pretended to. As the Soviet joke went, “We pretend we work, and they pretend they pay us.”

To be in awe of those palaces of culture performances in the late ’80s, a visitor would have to be really, really — I mean really — incurious. I understand the Sanderses went on their honeymoon surrounded by the KGB minders, but wow! The newlyweds were shown performance venues, but did they make an effort to meet an artist? Their tour was literally a Potemkin excursion through the Soviet Union: the best of architecture, no real people. (Read more.)
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The Last Neanderthals

From The BBC:
Neanderthals may have clung on in the region until as recently as 24 to 33,000 years ago, according to the dating of one of the layers in Gorham's cave. This puts this area as one of the last known places where Neanderthals lived. They may have spread to the surrounding coastal areas too, but the water has risen considerably in the last 30,000 years. This means any other fossil evidence has long been submerged. "We are lucky that in Gibraltar because of its steep cliffs, the evidence has stayed in these caves," says Clive. Clive, along with his wife Geraldine and son Stewart, has been excavating these caves for many years. All three are scientists. 

While the front part of the cave is relatively open, bathed in natural sunlight with a direct view of the ocean, the back is darker and splits off into several chambers. The caves remain cool in the summer and slightly warm in the colder months – a perfect place to rest tired eyes and stay safe from dangerous predators. (Read more.)

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Sunday, February 23, 2020

Marie-Antoinette and Carnival


I usually do not use photos from the 1938 Marie Antoinette film; the costumes were glitzy and the wigs, too platinum. However, Norma Shearer's portrayal of Marie-Antoinette was soulfully authentic; the photo above captures the zest of the young Dauphine taking Paris by storm at Carnival. As a young girl, Marie-Antoinette embraced the festivities of Carnival with alacrity, especially the masked balls. Since members of the royal family were constantly surrounded by semi-liturgical ceremonies, at the masked ball the princes and princesses could engage in something vaguely resembling normal human interaction. The wearing of a mask, although it did not always endow total anonymity, lightened the tight protocol so that royals could mingle and converse with others in society.

In February of 1773, Marie-Antoinette wrote to her mother Empress Maria Theresa, relating how she went with her husband the Dauphin Louis to the Opera ball in Paris:
We went- M. le Dauphin, the comte, and comtesse de Provence and I- last Thursday to the Opera Ball in Paris; we kept the utmost secret. We were all masked; still, we were recognized after half an hour. The duc de Chartres and the duc de Bourbon, who were dancing at the Palais Royal right next door came to meet us and asked us pressingly to go and dance at Madame de Chartres's; but I excused myself from it as I had the King's permission for the Opera only. We returned here at seven and heard Mass before going to bed. Everybody is delighted with M. le Dauphin's willingness to have this outing since he was believed to be averse to it. (Secrets of Marie Antoinette: A Collection of Letters, edited by Olivier Bernier. New York: Fromm International, 1986, p. 102)
In January of 1774, Louis and Antoinette once again ventured incognito into Paris to the Opera ball, accompanied by Louis' two brothers and their wives. Here is Comte Mercy's description of the event in a letter to Empress Maria Theresa:
The three Princes and Princesses came on the 30th of January to the masked ball at the Opera; measures had been so well taken that they remained a long while without being recognized by anyone. M. le Dauphin [Louis] behaved splendidly; he went about the ball talking indiscriminately to all those he met on his path, in a very gay and decorous manner introducing the kind of jests suited to the occasion. The public was enchanted with this conduct on the part of M. le Dauphin, it made a great sensation in Paris and they did not fail, as always happens in these cases, to attribute to Madame la Dauphine the improvement they noticed in her consort's way of showing himself....

The Princes and Princesses came back a second time to the Opera ball on Sunday, the 6th of this month [February]; but this time their presence was less well concealed and consequently there was a greater influx of people to the theater. However, nothing improper or embarrassing resulted, and Madame la Dauphine, who did not unmask, drew on herself all the applause and admiration with which all the public always hastens to do homage to her, both owing to the people to whom she spoke and the things she said to them. (Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette before the Revolution by Nesta Webster, p. 21)
It was at the Opera ball on January 30 that Marie-Antoinette chatted with Count Fersen behind her mask, in the presence of her husband and in-laws, but no eyebrows were raised by this playful incident. The Empress Maria Theresa was more concerned with her daughter getting sick from exhaustion than with anything else, and at the end of the 1773 Carnival wrote: "Thank God it is all over...." (Secrets of Marie Antoinette, p. 104) Later, she expressed reservations about the young Queen's taste in fashion. On March 5, 1775, after Louis XVI had ascended the throne of France, the Empress penned:
Thank God the endless Carnival is over! That exclamation will make me look very old, but I must admit that all those late evenings were too tiring; I feared for the Court's health and for the order of it's usual habits, which is an essential point....In the same way I can't prevent myself raising a point which many gazettes repeat all too often; it is the coiffure you use; they say that from the forehead it is thirty-six inches high, and with so many feathers and ribbons to adorn it! (Ibid.,p.159)
Marie-Antoinette responded by saying:
Although Carnival did amuse me a great deal, I agree that it was time it was ended. We are now back to our usual routine....It is true that I take some care of the way I dress; and, as for feathers, everyone wears them, and it would be extraordinary not to wear them. Their height has been much curtailed since the end of the balls....(Ibid., 160)
After Marie-Antoinette became a mother in December of 1778, her participation in Carnival was greatly mitigated, since she preferred not be too far away from her babies at night. It is sad that the enjoyment of the masquerade balls during her teenage years would later lead to many false rumors about her lifestyle.

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The Prosecution of Daleiden

A travesty of justice. From The Federalist:
As an undercover journalist, California shield laws should have protected Daleiden from warrants to seize his videos or recording equipment, yet that’s exactly what Harris’ California justice department did.

“It’s blackletter California law that you are not supposed to get a search warrant to seize the unpublished materials of a journalist, whether citizen journalist or professional journalist,” Daleiden told Tucker Carlson in September. “But that’s what Kamala Harris did … to protect [Planned Parenthood] from further scrutiny from the crimes of selling aborted baby body parts.”
The prosecution of Daleiden and Merritt could set a detrimental precedent for undercover journalism. In the same year Daleiden released his alarming videos speaking to employees of Planned Parenthood and tissue procurement company StemExpress, animal rights activists in California used similar tactics of undercover recording on farms and in slaughterhouses to expose the mistreatment of chickens, yet they faced no legal consequences from the state. (Read more.)
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Medieval Ethiopia

From Apollo:
Our understanding of the history of the emperors who ruled over late medieval Ethiopia is still quite fragmentary but, as far as we can tell, life at their courts was marked by violence, betrayal, and power struggles. Perhaps the most prominent among these rulers, who belonged to a house that rose to power in 1270 and traced its descent back to King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba, was Zar’a Ya‘eqob (r. 1434–68). What is known about his reign has hitherto been gleaned mostly from Ethiopic texts in ancient parchment manuscripts, some still preserved in the country’s hard-to-access monasteries, others now in Western collections. However, objects such as icons and wall paintings can also provide insights into the culture and society of this period and, through an interweaving of text and image, present a fuller account of one of the most important rulers in Ethiopian history.
A retelling of his life could begin with a late 15th- or early 16th-century Ethiopic manuscript now kept in the Giovardiana library in Veroli, the frontispiece of which bears an image of the Virgin and Child. It contains a collection of texts known as the ‘Miracles of Mary’. The nucleus of these stories about the miraculous interventions of the Virgin, which vary in number and content in each manuscript, was written in 12th-century France, but the work was translated into Arabic in the 13th century, and into Ethiopic at the end of the 14th century at the behest of Emperor Dawit II (r. 1382–1413), Zar’a Ya‘eqob’s father. Because the Ethiopic version was soon enriched with local traditions about the Virgin’s miraculous powers, it is a valuable source for understanding the political and religious history of Ethiopia from the 15th century onwards.
One of the stories in the Giovardiana manuscript describes the miraculous birth of Zar’a Ya‘eqob. According to this text, his mother, Queen Egzi’ Kebra, had miscarried her first child and almost lost him, too. Seized by spasms five weeks into her pregnancy, she asked a priest called Athanasius to pray to the Virgin Mary on her behalf, after which her pains ceased and about eight months later, in 1399, the future emperor was born. Local traditions make this the first of many miraculous interventions of the Virgin Mary into the life of Zar’a Ya‘eqob, whose devotion to her reached the point of zealotry. (Read more.)
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Saturday, February 22, 2020

Carnival

 P. Bernaigne, "A Carnival Ball"
José Benlliure y Gil, "At the Carnival"


Carnival season officially began on January 6 and ends on Shrove Tuesday or "Fat Tuesday," called Mardi Gras. It is now Shrovetide, when most parishes used to have Forty Hours devotions in order to atone for the excesses of Carnival. Outside of certain exotic places such as New Orleans, carnival is not celebrated to the extent that it once was in the Christian west, when the season was a time of joyful merry-making before undertaking the rigors of Lent. At home, we usually have a "king cake;" HERE is an easy recipe. Amid the festivities, the traditions of the liturgy remind us that Lent is near. Not only Lent approaches, but death as well; the hour of reckoning for each soul is unknown.

"If Ever I Cease To Love" is the theme song of Mardi Gras in New Orleans. It is a song which does not make sense, but then neither does love, most of the time.
In a house, in a square in a quadrant
In a street, in a lane, in a road.


Turn to the left on the right hand
You see there my true love's abode

I go there a courting, and cooing to my love like a dove;
And swearing on my bended knee, if ever I cease to love,
May sheep-heads grow on apple trees, if ever I cease to love.

Chorus:

If ever I cease to love, if ever I cease to love,
May the moon be turn'd to green cream cheese,
If ever I cease to love.

Winslow Homer, "Dressing for Carnival"
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Is America Suffering A Mental Health Crisis Or A Moral Crisis?

From The Daily Wire:
Resignation and defeat seem to pervade the American landscape. We can barely even register notions of the common good, never mind what is objectively good for ourselves. The moral and ethical foundation that ought to buttress us in times of hardship and fatigue is cracked and crumbling, if not altogether broken. While the Left has certainly deconstructed our values into oblivion, we cannot disregard our collective spiritual and moral lassitude in this crisis either. At best, only frail and brittle platitudes inform our collective moral pedigree these days. There are no longer discernible footholds to guide us out of the various trials and tribulations that assail us. Instead, we are told to inoculate ourselves with all manner of pills and potions. Others simply turn to illicit drugs and alcohol to remedy the existential aches. (Read more.)
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Coffee and Revolution

From History:
Parisian Cafés, with their social egalitarianism, were an ideal location for Republican agitation and organization during the French Revolution. A royalist of the era complained: 
“Where does so much mad agitation come from? From a crowd of minor clerks and lawyers, from unknown writers, starving scribblers, who go about rabble rousing in clubs and cafés. These are the hotbeds that have forged the weapons with which the masses are armed today.” 
The Paris's Café de Foy hosted the call to arms for the storming of the Bastille. During the Enlightenment, the Café Procope had been the place where men like Rousseau, Diderot and Voltaire gathered to hone their philosophies and art. After the Revolution, Parisian café culture again became the haunt of writers and thinkers gathering to exchange ideas and work on their next masterpiece. 
Expatriates like Ernest Hemingway, Gertrude Stein, F. Scott Fitzgerald and T.S. Eliot met at La Rotonde. French poet and critic Apollinaire worked on his art review, “Les Soirées de Paris,” at the Café de Flore, sitting alongside André Breton. By midcentury, Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre debated and created philosophies from its tables. (Read more.)
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Friday, February 21, 2020

Food for Mardi Gras

From Aleteia:
One of the reasons New Orleans has become nearly synonymous with Mardi Gras, especially in America, is that the holiday is celebrated well beyond just Fat Tuesday. For the weeks leading from Epiphany to Ash Wednesday, the Mardi Gras season is in gear, featuring daily parades (weather permitting) and community events that become grander the closer we get to Lent. While the turning of a feast day into a feast season is a good tourist draw, the Catholic population can appreciate a heightened awareness of their faith. This in turn helps the faithful remain mindful that the solemnity of Lent is soon to be here. (Read more.)
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Pornography: A Public Health Crisis

Pornography endangers everyone, but most especially women and children. How many innocents are raped as a result of someone's porn addiction? It must stop. From AL.com:
Families have brought in their children to our clinic, boys and girls, ages 6-11, who were addicted to internet pornography. By addicted, I mean they were “hooked” after one or two exposures to pornography and would go to great lengths to gain access. For example, one little girl was getting in trouble at school for stealing iPhones from women’s purses to gain access to pornography and acting out the scenes she had seen on an infant sibling. An 11-year-old boy who could not get access to pornography at home was breaking into a neighbor’s home in the middle of the night to access their computer. These were good kids from good homes whose developing brains had been hijacked by a highly addictive and traumatizing material. Their parents also noted that their children were “different” in that they had become unable to bond, had normalized views about sexual violence against others, and their personalities had become eerily flat. (Read more.)
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Manila House

From Boundary Stones:
2422 K St. NW, nestled in the Foggy Bottom neighborhood just down the street from the George Washington University, looks like any other D.C. row house. But for the Filipino community in D.C. during the 1930s through the 1950s, it was a haven - a source of culture, community, and comfort. As those who remember it fondly today can testify, 2422 K St. NW wasn’t just a row house; it was the Manila House. 
Although today there are only a couple of Filipino-Americans still living who visited the Manila House in its heyday, stories of the house have been documented by Filipino writers and have been passed down in families. “I first learned about Manila House 24 years ago, in 1993, when I interviewed my father Clemente Cacas and his friends, Fernando Aguilar and Mateo Perez,” recalled Rita Cacas, writer and archivist of D.C. Filipino history.[1] “They described the house as a place for taxicab drivers like themselves to hang out, play cards and attend dances for ten cents on weekends.”[2]
It was a place of leisure for certain, but the Manila House was also much more than that. It provided Filipino-Americans a unique space to connect with each other and with their culture in a city that could be isolating. 
Filipinos began to settle in and around D.C. as early as 1900, but their numbers were small.[3] According to U.S. Census data, there were only 294 Filipinos living in D.C., 327 in Maryland, and 126 in Virginia as of 1930.[4] The Asian population at large in D.C. was only 780, or 0.2% of D.C.’s total population.[5] Many Filipinos came to the D.C. area to work as government workers in the office of the Philippine Resident Commissioner, as cab drivers, or as officers in the military[6]. Many Filipino men enlisted in the U.S. Navy in particular. Since Washington was the center of government work and Annapolis housed the U.S. Naval Academy, the D.C., Maryland, Virginia area was attractive to Filipino immigrants who sought work in those fields. Still, Filipinos found themselves just one small part of a large metropolitan area. 
The city was still largely segregated, with African-American communities in the southeast and southwest quadrants of Washington and white communities in the northwest and northeast quadrants.[7] Nila Toribio-Straka was just a child during the 1940s, but she remembers how her parents had to navigate the racial dynamics of the city. “[They] would be walking down Pennsylvania Ave, or wherever… and if a Caucasian person walked toward them, they had to cross the street and walk to the other side,” she explains.[8] “If they were on a bus, and again if a Caucasian came, they had to go to the back of the bus.”[9] (Read more.)
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Thursday, February 20, 2020

Fabricating Fashion: Textiles for Dress, 1700–1825

A fashion trend begun by Queen Marie-Antoinette. From Art Institute of Chicago:
In a portrait by Jean Baptiste-François Désoria, Constance Pipelet wears an elegant gown similar to a white cotton muslin dress from about 1800 (above), both simple garments that belie the complex global networks necessary to supply Europeans with imported fabrics like Indian muslin or Chinese silk. Drawing upon the Art Institute’s permanent collection, Fabricating Fashion illuminates the artistry that enabled the creation of these intricate textiles and garments. Presenting these works alongside portraits and prints from the period, this exhibition highlights the rich legacy of their mostly anonymous creators and tells a fuller story of the people who made and wore fashionable textiles in Western Europe between 1700 and 1825. (Read more.)
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How is Climate Change Deadlier Than Abortion?

From Return to Order:
Bishops need to be involved in political battles, but that is not their chief function. They must uphold Church teaching even when it is not politically correct or opportune. Thus, American Catholics must question why the bishop is raising this issue now. Pro-life Catholics have reached the height of their political power mobilizing millions nationwide. They have turned the tide to the point where nearly half of all Americans identify as pro-life. No one, not even the president, can ignore the influence of the pro-life movement. This influence is starting to bear fruit in the appointment of pro-life judges. Some are even saying that the overturning of Roe v. Wade is possible. By denying abortion’s preeminence, the bishop is undermining decades of work in the trenches by countless Catholics and other Americans to end the intrinsically evil sin of procured abortion in America and the world. (Read more.)
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Ancient Automatons

From Classical Wisdom:
The majority of technology developed by the Greeks seems to have only been for entertainment, spectacle, and toys. However, the Antikythera mechanism (1st century BC), recovered from a sunken ship in the Aegean Sea, appears to be the first analog computer, and it was designed to make astronomical calculations possible in order to determine the timing of the Olympics. There is little record of the Romans developing automatons, however, they were great engineers. It seems that, like the Greeks, they used automatons as toys, entertainment and public spectacles. Mark Anthony had an automaton of Julius Caesar, made of wax, depicting Caesar rising from his deathbed and turning, slowly, to display his twenty-three bleeding wounds to the crowd. This started a riot and led to Brutus and the other killers of Caesar fleeing the city. There are also reports that Roman temples used mechanical birds and figurines in a similar manner to the Greeks. (Read more.)
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Wednesday, February 19, 2020

An Icon of American Painting

Hot Moon by Milton Avery
From Artsy:
Known to many as the “American Fauvist,” Avery painted the world around him––his wife, Sally; daughter, March; and the landscapes they traveled to––in broad planes of poetically juxtaposed colors. In works like Checker Players (1943) and Cello Player (1944), Avery captured the human figure as a series of large, chunky shapes. Rather than rendering the details of his subjects, Avery found his voice in the hues he observed, and used his feelings as fodder to render the underlying atmosphere of a scene. And yet, for much of his life, Avery’s career was eclipsed by  American Realism and the rise of  Abstract Expressionism; his work was too abstract for the academics and too representational for the AbEx scene. And despite his selling prices today (a painting can easily earn $3–$5 million at auction), he rarely sold work in his lifetime. Despite these difficulties, Avery continued to paint lilting abstractions of his family, shorelines, and forests until his death at the age of 79. The relentlessness with which Avery painted perhaps made sense given how accustomed he was to dealing with adversity, thanks to a youth frequently touched by death and poverty. (Read more.)
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The Guillotine: A New Democrat Symbol

You've got to be kidding. From The Blaze:
Bre Kidman unveiled a new campaign logo last week: a guillitone, the execution apparatus commonly associated with the French Revolution that was used for the beheadings of King Louis XVI and his wife, Queen Marie Antoinette. But fear not, Kidman, who hopes to challenge Republican Sen. Susan Collins in November, says using an image of the deadly device in campaign materials is not meant to be taken literally.

"We're not going to start a guillotine in Monument Square (in Portland) and start beheading people," Kidman clarified to the Portland Press-Herald. "It's a symbol of the work we have to do to overcome flaws in our system – flaws that have become deeply evident in the last few weeks." (Read more.)
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A Lost Anglo-Saxon Monastery

Where the first King of England was crowned. From Live Science:
Newly unearthed remains may come from the monastery where England's first king, Edgar the Peaceful, was coronated more than 1,000 years ago, according to Wessex Archaeology, an archaeological company and charity in England.  The so-called smoking gun emerged during an excavation at the famous Bath Abbey, ahead of planned renovations there. During the excavation, archaeologists were surprised to find hints of Anglo-Saxon architecture in two structures next to the abbey. These are the first known Anglo-Saxon structures in all of Bath, a city that was founded by the Roman Empire and that is known for its thermal hot springs. The two apsidal (semicircular) structures, or apses, were found below street level, underneath what once made up the cloisters of the 12th-century cathedral built over Romano-British deposits. The cathedral is just south of the abbey church. (Read more.)
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Tuesday, February 18, 2020

A Review of Hartwell House






Where the French Royal Family lived in exile. as told in the novel Madame Royale. From The Guardian:
The French royal family lived here in exile. In fact, it was in the ornate library that Louis XVIII signed his accession to return to the French throne. ‘Why wouldst thou leave calm Hartwell’s green abode?’ asked Lord Byron of Louis’s departure. Indeed....We stayed in the Duchess d’Angouleme room, once occupied by the daughter of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette. It features a sumptuous four-poster bed and cosy window seats from which to view the parkland....The dining room is formal, old-fashioned, and rather wonderful. For traditional afternoon tea, head to the drawing room or library, for cakes and scones on a silver cake stand. (Read more.)
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Inside a Southern California Rental Empire

I guess this is why so many live on the street. From LAist:
Many of Nijjar's tenants live in starkly different conditions, fighting off roaches, rats, bedbugs, bees, maggots and mold, all while struggling to get even minor issues fixed. At many of these rentals, low-income residents feel stuck in unsanitary, dangerous housing.The sprawling rental empire grew from modest beginnings in the 1970s into a behemoth. According to a KPCC/LAist analysis of government data and a review of public records, businesses connected to Nijjar account for at least:
  • an estimated 16,000 units spanning Los Angeles, San Bernardino, Riverside and Kern counties, and reaching Sacramento, Fresno and Arlington, Texas
  • $1.3 billion in real estate
  • 4,400 parcels of land
  • 4,300 eviction lockouts in Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties between 2010 and 2018
  • one in 20 evictions in San Bernardino County over the same time period
  • 170 business entities, including corporations, limited partnerships and limited liability corporations
Tens of thousands of California's poorest tenants -- many just a step away from homelessness -- have endured conditions in housing run by PAMA Management, which can be dirty, dilapidated and even deadly. That's according to code enforcement documents, lawsuits and public data, as well as interviews with plaintiffs' attorneys, fair-housing advocates, tenants and ex-employees. Those sources point to alarming issues at properties run by Nijjar's company.
At a Pomona trailer park owned by a Nijjar entity since 2005, typhus broke out in 2015. The medieval, flea-borne disease can kill if left untreated. Public health officials came in, trapping feral cats and opossums. On one opossum, they counted 1,087 fleas. It was L.A. County's first typhus outbreak since 2009. Since the outbreak, the state has twice suspended PAMA Management's permit to operate the Pomona park, citing electrical hazards and sewage leaks.
At another PAMA property, a manager testified that rats would swim in garbage water, walls would "bubble up" with mold and roaches "would fall over your body." At a third property, a lawsuit said a cockroach infestation was so severe that one of the insects climbed into a girl's ear, requiring surgery for the bug to be removed. At yet another complex, crime was so rampant that LAPD officers were afraid to patrol the property, leading the city attorney to file a lawsuit. (Read more.)
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Neanderthal DNA

From Fox 43:
We all likely have a bit of Neanderthal in our DNA — including Africans who had been thought to have no genetic link to our extinct human relative, a new study finds. Evidence that our early ancestors had babies with Neanderthals first emerged in 2010 when the first genome, extracted from the bones of the Stone Age hominims who populated Europe until around 40,000 years ago, was sequenced.

They found that modern Europeans, Asians and Americans — but not Africans — inherited about 2% of the genes from Neanderthals, with our ancestors apparently hooking up with their stocky cousins only after they moved out of Africa. However, researchers from Princeton University now believe, based on a new computational method, that Africans do in fact have Neanderthal DNA and that very early human history was more complex than many might think.

“This is the first time we can detect the actual signal of Neanderthal ancestry in Africans,” said Lu Chen, a postdoctoral research associate at Princeton’s Lewis-Sigler Institute for Integrative Genomics (LSI) and a co-author of a new paper that published Thursday in the journal Cell. Joshua Akey, a professor at LSI who led the study, suggested their findings cast doubt on the widely held “out of Africa” theory of human migration — that modern humans originated in Africa and made a single dispersal to the rest of the world in a single wave between 60,000 and 80,000 years ago. (Read more.)
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Monday, February 17, 2020

Is Charles I a Martyr?

Charles I with his son, the future James II
From Charles Coulombe at The Catholic Herald:
Indeed, surprising as it may sound to Catholics, the King is the only individual the Church of England has ever tried to canonize. The reason is that it was made very clear that his life would have been spared had he been willing to sanction the abolition of bishops in the Church of England by Cromwell.
His feast day was removed from the Book of Common Prayer by a Whig government in the mid-19th century, but the Anglo-Catholic wing of the CofE fostered devotional societies who ever since have tried to bring the holiday back. Chief among these are the Society of King Charles the Martyr and the Royal Martyr Church Union. Interesting as all these facts may be to students of English history and Anglican beliefs, what interest could the question of Charles I’s sanctity possibly have for Catholics? Quite a bit, really.
For one thing, his cultus plays a prominent role in that Anglican Patrimony which Pope Benedict XVI created the Personal Ordinariates to preserve within the Catholic Church. When various Eastern Orthodox groups have been reconciled to the Church, they have been allowed to continue to venerate a number of post-1054 figures as Saints. So, might our newly admitted brethren of Anglican background be able to do the same with Charles I?
A close reading of his life and reveals some striking points. Raised by a Catholic mother and married to a Catholic Queen, Charles demonstrated a sympathy for Catholics unseen since Mary I died. At various times throughout his reign he negotiated with several Popes for reunion, assuring them that his beliefs were the same as theirs – a fact that helped bring him to the axe. He venerated Mary and the Saints and believed in the Real Presence.
It must be remembered that this was two centuries before Apostolicae Curae, meaning Rome had not yet ruled Anglican Orders invalid and it was still very much an open question whether Anglicans had the Apostolic Succession. Though in retrospect they did not, it was a doctrine Charles was willing to die for.
Moreover, shortly after Laud was appointed Archbishop of Canterbury in 1633, Urban VIII twice offered him the Red Hat: something that could not have been done without Charles’s permission. (Laud refused the offer.) The King vowed to return Church lands – including monastic properties – to the Church if he won the war. The famed Bishop Bossuet declared that Charles’s blood was in atonement for Henry VIII’s great sin.
Although feeling unable to release the imprisoned Catholic priests in London he inherited from his father, he allowed them to visit their flocks by day. Charles was no more able to save them from the Long Parliament then he was Laud or Strafford. As a husband and father, he rates with Bl. Emperor Charles I of Austria. At the end of the day, Charles I certainly considered himself to be of the same religion as the Pope – and died for his actions based upon that belief. Miracles were attributed to him after his death.
Catholics may not venerate him publicly as a saint. So, in Ordinariate parishes, Requiem Masses (such as are offered for Louis XVI – despite Pius VI’s private opinion that he, too, was a martyr) would be more appropriate than Masses honouring him as a saint. They may also pray privately for his intercession, given his prior cultus and efforts toward reunion. (Read more.)
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Bernie and the Catastrophe of Socialism

The love affair of young Americans with Bernie Sanders is the result of their disturbingly disastrous belief that they are entitled to what other people worked for. Pied Piper Bernie seduces young followers with his seductive lie: “You deserve and I will give you everything for free.” Ponder that, folks. In Bernie's America, no one has to work for anything.

Unless Bernie is another Jesus Christ who can feed 5,000 with a few fish and loaves of bread, Bernie's free everything means everyone will get a crumb -- long lines waiting for a crumb of healthcare, food, and so on. Far too many youths are Bernie Bros, true believers of his absurd mystical Promise Land where everyone gets a free ride.

Decades ago, we allowed New Leftist progressive zealots to infiltrate our schools. They taught our kids to hate the traditional family, God, America, and capitalism. They are still teaching our kids craziness such as “all whites are born racist” and “calling a boy a boy or calling a girl a girl” is hate speech. Anti-American schools have created this generation of entitled gimme, gimme, gimme Bernie Bros.

Almost 20 years ago, a newbie in politics, I accompanied our Republican Executive Committee official to a high school assembly. A Democrat and Republican spokesperson pitched the virtues of their party to the students. The Democrat promoted socialism using feel-good language, fairness, and a desire to take care of everybody. The Republican gave a brilliant intellectual speech of which I am confident did not resonate with the students.

Inside I was going nuts. I wanted to say, “Look kids. You and Larry have summer jobs as waiters. You work your butt off, remembering patrons' food orders correctly and swiftly filling their empty glasses; doing everything in your power to make their dining experience enjoyable. For your excellence, patrons tip you generously. (Read more.)
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The Rise and Fall of the Duchess of York

Another sad royal story. From Jezebel:
When Sarah Ferguson first joined the long-running primetime soap opera The Windsors in the 1980s as love interest to Prince Andrew, she was a popular figure, both inside and outside of the family; for a while, she was cast in a role very close to that of Meghan Markle, as the breath of fresh air livening up the stiff royal scene. But while Markle was welcomed as a progressive figure, a woman with a thriving career and a history of philanthropy and activism, Fergie’s narrative was that she was jolly, rowdy, horsey, charming—and, thrillingly, just a bit vulgar. For instance, Vanity Fair reported that Prince Philip was “tremendously taken with her off-color after-dinner jokes.”

It didn’t help that she was paired with and compared to Diana, who was more beautiful than ever and yet increasingly publicly miserable as Fergie arrived on the scene. At first they were “The Merry Wives of Windsor,” as the media dubbed them, a couple of girls having fun together. But in 1987, Vanity Fair asked, “Is Fergie’s Fizz Leaving Di Flat?” The subhead made it even more clear that Fergie was her foil: “In the year since her wedding, the rambunctious redheaded Duchess of York has charmed the Queen, captivated Prince Philip, and romped away with the hearts of the British public. Her angst-free antics have highlighted the mounting pressures on the Princess of Wales.”The narrative quickly turned against Ferguson. The very same qualities that had gained her praise—her cheerful informality—were deployed against her. For instance, she drew criticism for her performance in It’s a Royal Knockout, a variety show meant to demonstrate the young royals were hip and approachable, a.k.a a perfect vehicle for Ferguson. It was organized by her brother-in-law, Prince Edward, and featured several other members of the family including Anne and Andrew, but Fergie came off particularly poorly. What had once been refreshing was now recast as undignified; suddenly the vulgarity wasn’t thrilling. It’s probably not a coincidence that around the same time Fergie began to put on weight. “It became fat Fergie against wonderful Diana,” Harry Arnold of The Sun told Tina Brown. (Read more.)

Good news for the Duchess, HERE. We wish her well! Share