Sunday, October 31, 2021

The Dumbing Down of America Began in Public Schools

 From Intellectual Takeout:

In the last several years, Americans have been sensing that something is seriously wrong with the current crop of young people. True, they are likely to have the most education credentials any generation has ever received. They also are technically-savvy, and as such, have a wealth of knowledge at their fingertips.

But in spite of these factors, today’s students seem to exhibit a character that is high in sensitivity and low in knowledge. What gives? Why are our students turning out like this?

Camille Paglia recently revealed the answer to that question. Paglia, a long-time Democrat, feminist, and college professor, believes the problem started in the earliest stages of education in the nation’s public schools:

“It’s really started at the level of public school education. I’ve been teaching now for 46 years as a classroom teacher, and I have felt the slow devolution of the quality of public school education in the classroom.”

According to Paglia, teachers at elite institutions are unable to see this decline in knowledge because their students often come from private schools and wealthy homes, which presumably still retain some elements of rigorous education. The great majority of students, however, can be described in the following way:

“What has happened is these young people now getting to college have no sense of history – of any kind! No sense of history. No world geography. No sense of the violence and the barbarities of history. So, they think that the whole world has always been like this, a kind of nice, comfortable world where you can go to the store and get orange juice and milk, and you can turn on the water and the hot water comes out. They have no sense whatever of the destruction, of the great civilizations that rose and fell, and so on – and how arrogant people get when they’re in a comfortable civilization. They now have been taught to look around them to see defects in America – which is the freest country in the history of the world – and to feel that somehow America is the source of all evil in the universe, and it’s because they’ve never been exposed to the actual evil of the history of humanity. They know nothing!”

There’s one exception to this, however. Even while today’s students have not been taught knowledge, they have also been taught not to bully a person on the basis of their race, class, gender, or any other trait.

On the surface, that seems like a good thing. But as Paglia implies, such a singular lesson gives students a heightened sensitivity and a stilted lens through which to view the world and its problems. As such, she fears that students are catapulting their country toward a situation similar to that of ancient Rome in its last days. (Read more.)


Transhumanism And The Future Of Humanity

 From Forbes:

The coming years will usher in a number of body augmentation capabilities that will enable humans to be smarter, stronger, and more capable than we are today. Wearables will be one form of body augmentation, but they will far surpass the fitness trackers of today. In the future, we can expect the arrival of contact lenses that can take pictures or video, universal language translator earbuds that allow us to communicate anywhere in the world, and exosuits that increase physical strength.  We will also see increased use of implants ranging from brain microchips and neural lace to mind-controlled prosthesis and subdermal RFID chips that allow users to unlock doors or computer passwords with the wave of a hand. However, the most powerful body augmentation will come from biological augmentation as a result of increased insight into our genomes, advances in IVF technology that may allow us to select the most intelligent embryos, and powerful CRISPR gene-editing technology which may one day give us the ability to eliminate all heritable diseases. [i]

These body augmentation capabilities will give rise to humans that are more resilient, optimized and continually monitored. They will also lead to implications around which job opportunities are available to those with and without augmented abilities, as well as impacting sports competition with hierarchies based on body augmentation.  We already see the early days of this with questions around leg prosthesis and whether they provide runners with increased speed compared to that of an average human. At the same time, augmented bodies will usher in risks such as espionage potential via contact lens camera hacks, or even more worryingly, risk of a stratified human race based on those who can afford augmentations and those who cannot. (Read more.)


More HERE.


Saturday, October 30, 2021

Why Wonder About the Enlightenment?

 From Tal Bachman at Steyn Online:

Why wonder about the Enlightenment? Well, for one thing, the nations today which most boldly profess allegiance to, and at least ostensibly pursue, Enlightenment ideals, are precisely those in which Wokism has made the most gains.

How can that be? Don't Enlightenment ideals conflict with Wokist dogma?

They seem to, yes.

So how did we go from one thing to its opposite? That's the big question. A few possible answers spring to mind:

Possibility #1.) Nothing framed by mortal hands can last, no matter how great it is. Everything dies in the end. It's just what happens, and there's no way around it. No point wasting time trying to figure this out.

Possibility #2.) Saboteurs, foreign and domestic, have ruined everything. As Christ said in the Parable of the Tares, "an enemy hath done this".

Possibility #3.) Focusing just on America for a moment, there was something amiss in the original Enlightenment ideals, and the Lockean liberalism through which they found expression, which informed America's founding. Something in Enlightenment liberalism all but guarantees we—and maybe the West in general—were always going to wind up where we are now.

As for that first possibility, surely we can all accept that mortals can't create immortal objects and institutions. It's just that to dismiss any investigation into how we got here on grounds nothing lasts forever feels pretty silly. By that standard, no autopsies should ever be performed to find out how someone died, or whether they died needlessly or prematurely, since everyone's going to die in the end anyway. That doesn't make much sense.

So while Possibility #1 might be strictly true, I vote for setting it aside for right now.

As for Possibility #2, of course there have been saboteurs. How much damage has Joe Biden done to America in just nine months? That damage is as heartbreaking as it is infuriating and incalculable. It might actually be irreparable. This might be Humpty-Dumpty-level.

And of course, any adequate Enemies List would have to include hundreds of thousands of people, even millions. The politicians list would be long enough. What about all the academics? The media propagandists? The corporatistas? The social media censors? The intelligence agency sociopaths who tried to remove a duly-elected president by framing him? The Milley types among military brass? A huge number of people have wilfully, maliciously damaged American government and society—of late, particularly in the name of Wokism. Obviously, they're still succeeding.

But in a way, Answer #2 seems to beg the ultimate question of, "Why is Wokism so popular in the first place?" (a question we touched on a few months ago).

That leads us to Answer #3: the possibility that there is something within Enlightenment liberalism itself that all but guaranteed we were going to wind up here—that is, that all but guaranteed the eventual arrival and domination of Wokism as an official state ideology.

This is a difficult thing to consider, especially for conservatives. After all, to be a modern American conservative is to love America. To love America is to love its foundational precepts and goals. To love its foundational precepts and goals is to actually be an Enlightenment (or to say the same thing, a Lockean) liberal. To be an America-loving Enlightenment liberal is to be someone who wants America to return to its Lockean roots and stay there. And to be someone like that is to view with horror the possibility of a causal connection between the Enlightenment liberalism of the American founding and the Wokism now destroying America. In fact, such a discovery might be so painful, one might just reject the possibility out of hand.

But on the presumption we have unusually brave readers here at SteynOnline, I propose we start to wade into this and see what we find. After all, maybe we'll discover something to help us beat back the Wokist lunatics and get the country back on track, even if it takes twenty years. (Read more.)


The Hands of the King

 From Catholicism:

The White Wizard hastens to tell Aragorn of the prophecy, and Aragorn seeks the “King’s Foil,” an herb whose potency was long forgotten in Gondor, but which he knew from his Elven upbringing can cure Faramir, and all others who lie sick of the pestilence. With his “royal touch” — the phrase comes from the true legends we’ve recounted — Aragorn’s popular acclaim begins as the prophecy Ioreth recalled is fulfilled: “hands of the king are the hands of the healer.”

Tolkien, the traditionalist Catholic Englishman, was a Monarchist, and well familiar with the king-as-healer stories from Christian history. One suspects he had in mind especially Saint Edward the Confessor while crafting Aragorn’s history. It was Edward’s death in 1066 that occasioned the Norman Conquest, when England began to be ruled by those Frenchmen with Viking blood (who, by the way, enriched the English language with words like beef, cuisine, pork, and… royal!).

Why is it we have so few real statesmen today? I will not overstate the case by saying that statesmanship is not possible in a society other than a Monarchy. That is simply not true. But I will say that a society that unmoors itself from history and mocks the paradigmatic statesman — the righteous king — is doomed to be ruled by something other than a statesman. If I may be permitted a bit of humorous exegesis on a Broadway tune, I think Stephen Sondheim may have said it best:

Nothing with kings, nothing with crowns
Bring on the lovers, liars and clowns

(Read more.)


Friday, October 29, 2021

"The Long and Winding Road"

 I was never a Beatles fan but I do love this song, and always have.


Weaponizing History

 From The American Experiment:

Fort Snelling was built in 1820, shortly after the Louisiana Purchase. It was the first permanent outpost of American sovereignty on the Upper Mississippi. Minnesota’s 24,000 Civil War soldiers mustered there, including the valiant First Minnesota Volunteers, who sustained an 82 percent casualty rate at Gettysburg — the highest of any unit in any one battle of the war. More than 275,000 Minnesotans were inducted at Fort Snelling to fight Hitler’s Germany in World War II. The fort was also home to our state’s first school, hospital, library and post office.

But today MNHS is reframing the fort as a site, first and foremost, of “genocide” and minority victimization. Its rich, 200-year military legacy is becoming a footnote — a source, not of pride, but of shame to present-day citizens. Museum codes of ethics require museum leaders always to act in a way that preserves public confidence and trust. Scholarly, balanced historical interpretation is at the heart of that responsibility.

But MNHS has broken trust with the people of Minnesota. Today, misleading “narratives” and double standards abound in its exhibits and publications.

For example, Ft. Snelling’s website now features the logo of the International Coalition of Sites of Conscience, connecting it in Minnesotans’ minds with sites of mass murders like Soviet gulags and Nazi death camps. To justify this, MNHS is grossly misrepresenting the complex history of a central event in Minnesota history: the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862.

In this war, Dakota warriors massacred more than 600 Southwest Minnesota settlers — the largest number of whites killed in a war with Indians in United States history. In relative terms, the death toll today would be 15,000 — fully five times the lives lost on September 11, 2001. But MNHS fails to convey either the nature and scale of the conflict or the brutal way many victims were slain.

Likewise, a typical MNHS interactive video for Minnesota schoolchildren — who are required to study Dakota history — romanticizes the Dakota as peace-loving, while depicting white settlers as swarming locusts and prominent settlers, like missionary Stephen Riggs, as malicious, robotic puppets. The video is “the definition of propaganda,” in the words of one dismayed Minnesota historian.

At MNHS, we hear constantly these days about “stories” and “voices,” but next to nothing about facts and evidence. The underlying premise is that the study of history is not an evidence-based search for truth, but a clash of opposing groups’ subjective “narratives.”

MNHS justifies its new orientation by claiming it is merely telling “all the stories.” In fact, it is primarily selecting stories that support an ideologically driven political agenda.

MNHS was founded in 1849, and enjoyed a sterling reputation for scholarly integrity for more than 150 years. Though legally a non-profit, it is largely publicly funded. MNHS’s new revisionist narrative is inconsistent with history as documented in its own extensive collections and publications. How did it take hold?

The ideology that now dominates MNHS’s Native American initiatives — called “decolonization” — is rapidly gaining influence on the Left. At its heart lies a Marxist concept: history is a relentless, zero-sum power struggle between oppressors and victim groups. White Europeans are the villains, cast as “colonizers” who ruthlessly exploit the land, labor and resources of non-white people.

Decolonization seeks to discredit our nation’s foundations, opening the way for transformation of our political and cultural institutions. At the national level, the New York Times’ 1619 Project is a paramount example. In Minnesota, MNHS holds that “most Minnesotans today are descendants of immigrants, living on conquered land,” and are here illegally and unethically, according to Fort Snelling at Bdote: A Brief History, by Peter De Carlo, published in 2017 by MNHS Press.

Decolonization began to take hold at MNHS around 2008, the 150th anniversary of Minnesota’s statehood. That year, Native American activists, skilled in political theater, mounted a “Take Down Fort Snelling” campaign, with protests that pressured MNHS to embrace their revisionist historical narrative.

This campaign was the brainchild of Angela Cavender Wilson (Waziyatawin), a college professor and Wahpetunwan Dakota from Minnesota. She denounced the fort as an “icon of imperialism” and called for “an end to settler domination of life, lands and peoples in Dakota territories.” She advocated “taking down Fort Snelling” along with “all monuments, institutions, place names and texts” that perpetuate the “institutions and systems of colonization.”

At the time, MNHS leaders were already flirting with the trendy new ideology. They “used the external pressure as a catalyst for action,” according to the De Carlo book. “The demonstrators’ criticisms…and the work of site staff members have brought changes in focus, in vocabulary, and in message to Historic Fort Snelling’s programing.” (Read more.)


The Merciful Act of Excommunication

 From Crisis:

Those who claim otherwise, suggesting that to deny communion to unrepentant pro-choice politicians is to act like a politician rather than a pastor, have it exactly backward. It is the pastor who continues to administer them the Sacrament that allows his pastoral care to be influenced by politics, both outside and inside the Church.

According to a recent Pew Center poll, about one-half of self-identified Christians, including 55 percent of Catholics, say that abortion should be legal in “all/most cases.” What’s more, over one-half of the nearly one million abortions per year are performed on self-identified Christians, and 24 percent on Catholics. Thus, the pastor who considers bringing a prominent public figure under Church discipline knows that he risks offending and alienating a large swath of his parish.

The possibility that such actions could lead to further hemorrhaging in a Church that has already experienced a 20 percent decline in membership since 2000 is certainly not lost on Pope Francis. Rather than speak with moral clarity on the issue, the pope, in characteristic ambiguity, has suggested that those who would excommunicate the unrepentant are acting Pharisaical by placing adherence to Church doctrine over the law of mercy. (Read more.)


Thursday, October 28, 2021

A Cozy Milan Flat

From Architectural Digest:

On bringing a bit of England to Italy, Hicks points out that “the English have been learning from Italians for centuries, since Henry VIII started using Italian artists for his palaces. In this case, I wanted to give Martina a contemporary version of her childhood home by the great Renzo Mongiardino, albeit with my own paltry skills and my own paintbrush in place of his army of craftsmen. Where his walls used panels of faux scagliola inspired by a Milanese altar, I chose an old Persian design, woven in silk for Ottoman caftans in 1490, which I stenciled onto the walls, sponging and painting highlights and shadows to give them the look of Moroccan carved plaster.” Indeed, Mongiardino’s spirit is everywhere here, perhaps most intimately in the form of Cosima’s twin beds, taken from Mondadori’s mother’s childhood home in Pordenone, outside Venice. (Read more.)


Abortion is Failing Women

 That's for sure. From CNA:

Roe and Casey were premised on certain ideas about women in society, and about the necessity of abortion for women's advancement. This brief attacks the faulty premise that women have what the Court in previous cases called a “reliance interest” on the availability of abortion, that abortion supposedly ensured women's capacity to participate equally in the economic and social life of a nation.

The brief points out that the political scientist whose work is at the heart of this premise — she did not herself claim any causal link between abortion and women's improved economic and social status. In fact, contrary to the way the Court used her work, she specifically said that abortion was actually a result of the changing economic and social status of women, and not the cause. The brief spends quite a lot of time deconstructing that argument and looking at the [48] years since Roe and what has actually happened to women in society and in the workplace.

Although women in the workforce rose [as abortion increased] in the few years after Roe, in subsequent years, women's status in society and access to economic and social opportunity also continued to rise when abortion levels dipped precipitously. So, there wasn't even a correlation, much less causation.

The brief also outlines how wide access to abortion, and the assumption that abortion is not only available, but seen as necessary, has actually done damage to women. It severed sex from any idea of a joint future between the man and the woman who have sex, an act that often naturally leads to parenthood, and to children. It also enabled this idea that single parenthood is a woman's choice, and solely the woman's choice, and that it's solely the woman's burden, because she could get an abortion, but she elected not to. It really ties into the feminization of poverty. (Read more.)


Shirley Jackson and the Unsettled Mystery of Life

 From The Bulwark:

It’s difficult to trace exactly which of the writer’s short stories so upset Mrs. White, but by the time she’d lodged her complaint—evidently in 1954, given the date of Jackson’s response—Shirley Jackson was no doubt inured to such feedback. Six years before, The New Yorker published what would turn out to be her most famous, and most infamous, story, “The Lottery.” “The Lottery” has of course become a staple in high school English classes, and is a model of literate horror. No one who has read it is likely to forget one of the story’s final images, when the townspeople are gathering up rocks in preparation to stone to death the woman who “won” this year’s lottery, and Jackson writes “The children had stones already, and someone gave little Davy Hutchinson a few pebbles.” It’s worth mentioning here, as disturbing as that is on its face, that the woman about to be stoned to death is named Tessie Hutchinson.

The controversy generated from “The Lottery” led to a flood of angry letters, some demanding an explanation, some cancelling their subscription to the New Yorker; by Jackson’s own estimate, over three hundred of them were addressed to her, and forwarded along by the magazine. “Judging from these letters, people who read stories are gullible, rude, frequently illiterate, and horrible afraid of being laughed at,” Jackson said in a 1960 lecture collected in her posthumously published book, Come Along with Me. Her correspondents demanded to know where and when in America this ritual took place. These letters came from all over, with one New Yorker assuming it occurred in “the Middle West,” and one Texan imagining the horror must have occurred in “New England, or equally enlightened regions.”

How times have changed. It’s difficult to know why, exactly, readers were so outraged by the story. It’s certainly unnerving, but horror stories, or dark fiction dealing with human cruelty, were not new in 1948. Possibly it’s simply because the story appeared in the New Yorker. But I also imagine it had something to do with Jackson’s straightforward (which is not to say plain) prose style. There’s no horror in the descriptive passages, only in Tess Hutchinson’s reaction to her situation. This is the genius behind the story, and in so much of Jackson’s other writing. In fact, she wrote one of the most famous paragraphs in horror literature, the one that opens her great novel The Haunting of Hill House (1959). This paragraph is so well-known that I’m going to eschew it (though editor and writer Benjamin Dreyer diagrams it here, for those unfamiliar) in favor of one that is less well-known but is, to me, almost as brilliant. (Read more.)

Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Women Scribes Who Brought Medieval Manuscripts to Life

Nuns wrote and copied books for centuries, just like monks. From Smithsonian:

Prior to the 14th century or so, when paper became more widely available, manuscripts were written on animal skins known as parchment or vellum. Scribes, who were either members of the clergy or trained professionals, copied existing manuscripts or transcribed dictated accounts, copying an average of 200 lines of text per day for a total of about 20 books in a lifetime, writes Gerard DeGroot for the London Times. Though manuscripts were often richly adorned, with gold or silver gilding applied to their surface, they weren’t exclusively owned by royals and nobles. By the end of the medieval period, scholar Sandra Hindman told AbeBooks earlier this year, “‘ordinary people’ like doctors, lawyers, teachers and even merchants” could also acquire their very own volumes.

Part of what attracted Wellesley, an expert on medieval language and literature, to manuscripts was their tangible presence—a stark departure from the e-books of today. “An ancient manuscript tells secrets not only of its writer and scribe, but also of the readers who have handled it,” the Times notes. “They annotate, mutilate and steal. They leave wine stains, flowers pressed into pages and drips of candle wax.”

Wellesley also hoped to highlight manuscripts’ status as portals into the lives of those “who aren’t always ... discussed in our medieval histories—people of a lower social status, women or people of color,” per The Gilded Page. Examples explored in the book include Margery Kempe, a middle-class woman who worked alternatively as a brewer and a horse-mill operator, overcoming illiteracy to dictate the earliest autobiography in English; Leoba, a nun who was the first named female English poet; and Marie de France, who, like Hugeburc, refused to be anonymous, instead hiding her name and country of origin in lines of verse.

Complicating Wellesley’s efforts to excavate the stories of forgotten scribes is the fact that “the vast majority of manuscripts produced in the medieval era perished through fire, flood, negligence or willful destruction.” In Tudor England, iconoclastic Protestant reformers used the “contents of monastic libraries … as candlestick wedges, kindling, for boot cleaning and [toilet] paper,” reports Roger Lewis for the Telegraph. Raging infernos destroyed many priceless manuscripts; others were recycled, their pages cut up and reused to make bindings for new books, or tucked away in European estates, only to be rediscovered by chance centuries later. (A copy of Kempe’s autobiography, for example, was found stashed in an English family’s ping-pong cupboard in 1934.) (Read more.)


 From The Stream:

Yet contempt for Trump, in Liddle’s view, fails to justify what the columnist calls “a grotesque manipulation of democracy,” even if Trump was “unhinged,” with Liddle quoting one of the favorite phrases Trump’s detractors used.

“Was he?” Liddle asked. “I don’t know. He didn’t seem terribly hinged to me, but then Americans rarely do. But more unhinged than your average American — or Joe Biden?”

“Whatever the case, that election one year ago was plainly rigged. Not by fraudulent postal votes. But by an affluent elite conspiring, brutally at times, to ensure that the American public heard only one side of the story.”

Liddle cited three examples. One was Trump’s ejection from social media. Another was the squelching of any story, especially from the New York Post, alleging corruption on the part of either Joe Biden or his son, Hunter.

“We already knew, even as Biden was declaring victory, that Facebook and Twitter had cut off Donald Trump’s access to the electorate,” Liddle wrote. “He was deliberately rendered voiceless. Before then, they — and the national media — had smothered stories alleging the Biden family’s peddling of influence and Biden’s crackhead son and his dubious business interests in Ukraine. False news, we were informed. Nope, not all of it was false at all, it transpired.”

But the most damning evidence, Liddle argued, appeared in February, when Time magazine published its article on the election. Time’s Molly Ball described a “conspiracy” involving “an informal alliance between left-wing activists and business titans,” including the AFL-CIO and the United States Chamber of Commerce, she wrote.

Those parties joined what Ball called “a loosely organized coalition of operatives” across the political spectrum who had been active for more than a year.

“Their work touched every aspect of the election,” Ball wrote. “They got states to change voting systems and laws, and helped secure hundreds of millions (of dollars) in public and private funding. They fended off voter-suppression lawsuits, recruited millions of poll workers, and got millions of people to vote by mail for the first time.”

“They successfully pressured social media companies to take a harder line against disinformation and used data-driven strategies to fight viral smears. They executed public awareness campaigns that helped Americans understand how the vote count would unfold over days or weeks, preventing Trump’s conspiracy theories and false claims of victory from getting more traction. After Election Day, they monitored every pressure point to ensure that Trump could not overturn the result.” (Read more.)

Deathless Classic

 From CrimeReads:

One should regularly refresh one’s acquaintance with the classics, for it is always an instructive exercise. What we imagine we remember of them as often as not turns out to be a hotchpotch of fragments retained from sleepy mishearings at bedtime, from condensed and bowdlerised ‘versions for children’ devoured on rainy Saturday afternoons—amongst an older generation, Dell Comics have a lot to answer for—and, above all, from the cinema. Bram Stoker’s Dracula in particular suffers, some might say gains, by association with the many film adaptations that have been made of it, although ‘adaptation’ is not always the justified word. In most of our minds now, when we think of the evil Count, there springs up at once an image of the clay-white, ruby-eyed, needle-fanged visage of the ineffable Christopher Lee, his high narrow head set necklessly upon the flounced collar of his black opera-cape, a sucked and sere fruit du mal.

By a coincidence that would have pleased, or perhaps worried, Stoker himself, Lee’s Dracula in the cheaply made but immensely stylish Hammer movies bears a marked and eerie resemblance, as surviving photographs attest, to the great Victorian ham Sir Henry Irving, especially in the role of Mephistopheles in W. G. Wills’ version of Faust, which entered the repertory of Irving’s Lyceum Theatre in London a dozen years before the publication of Dracula in 1897. Irving was the Irish-born novelist’s mentor, mephitic life model and blood-sucking friend, and Stoker’s memoir, Personal Reminiscences of Henry Irving, might profitably be read in tandem with his Transylvanian Traumbuch. From 1878, Stoker acted not only as managing director of the Lyceum, but was Irving’s acolyte, prop and general dogsbody until the great man was forced to surrender control of the theatre in 1898. (Read more.)

Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Holbein and Tudor England’s Elite

 From Smithsonian:

Co-organized with the Morgan Library & Museum in New York, where it will travel in February, the exhibition features 33 paintings and drawings by Holbein from the Getty’s collection and institutions around the globe. Those unable to visit the show in person can explore an online version through the Getty’s website.

Born in the German city of Augsburg around 1497, Holbein probably first learned his trade from his father, the religious painter Hans Holbein the Elder. After launching his career in Basel, Switzerland, Holbein the Younger fled the political turmoil of the Protestant Reformation for the relative refuge of England in 1526. (He briefly returned to Basel in 1528 but had settled in England permanently by 1532.)

Holbein’s big break came in the form of Desiderius Erasmus, a philosopher whose witty treatises made him “Europe’s first celebrity scholar,” per the Getty. The artist helped popularize Erasmus’ likeness across Europe; in return, the scholar introduced the painter to patrons in England’s royal court. Viewers at the Getty will see several Holbein representations of Erasmus, all of which feature his trademark profile: “long nose, deep-set eyes, strong jaw,” according to the exhibition website. (Read more.)

The Real Jesus

 From Monsignor Charles Pope:

Jesus was in the mode of the prophets, and the prophets were never ones to soft-pedal, compromise, or be vague. Any analysis of Jesus’ true message (not the selective and filtered modern version) shows that He made expansive, uncompromising demands on any who would be His disciples. We must repent and believe His Gospel. We must clearly accept that He is the only light, the only truth, and the only Son to the Father. We are to love no one and nothing more than we love Him. This includes our very family as well as the things most essential to our physical survival, such as career and livelihood. If we do not do this, then we are not worthy of Him. We must take up our cross daily. We must be willing to suffer even unto death for Him and what He teaches. It is not enough to love our neighbor; we must love our enemy. It is not enough to avoid adultery; we must have a comprehensive sexual purity that excludes all forms of sexual activity outside of biblical marriage, even impure thoughts. We must forgive others who have hurt us or else the Father will not forgive us.

Time and time again, the real Jesus warned of Hell and the necessity to be sober and serious about judgment. Jesus was not some angry preacher. Jesus, who loves us, warned that many would be unable and unwilling to enter Heaven on its terms; few would take the narrow road of the cross. Not all who say, “Lord! Lord!” will enter heaven, but only those who do the will of the Father. Many will hear from Him, “I know you not. I know not from whence you come. Depart from me.”

There is no compromise, no third way. We cannot serve two masters, God and mammon. A friend of the world is an enemy to God. He would say that no one who sets his hand to the plow and keeps looking back is fit for the reign of God. To our excuses and pleas for time in “getting our act together,” He might say, “Let the dead bury their dead, but you go and proclaim the Kingdom!”

There is little we can call gentle or soft in the mainstream of Jesus’ preaching. Though He invited His disciples to discover Him as the true shepherd, the true lover of our souls, who can give us the true Bread for which we hunger and lasting water to quench our thirst, He wants us carrying our cross, not reclining on our couch. Jesus healed many, but He insisted on faith being operative prior to performing miracles.

Jesus’ plan for us involves deep paradox; He challenges our every expectation. He does not apologize for offending our notions. He declared that if anyone was ashamed of Him and His teachings, then He would be ashamed of that person on the Day of Judgment. There is to be no compromise with the wisdom of the world.

All of this, though recorded clearly and consistently in the biblical record, is conveniently forgotten by. Most modern people prefer nuance and/or euphemisms; they prefer a suggestive and inviting tone. But Jesus, like the prophets of the day, combined a searing judgment on worldly ways with an uncompromising insistence that we choose sides. (Read more.)


Well of Hell

 From Atlas Obscura:

On the far eastern edge of Yemen, far from any cities or well-traveled roads, there’s a black mark in the desert, like a giant eye peering up from the earth. Regardless of how uncanny it looks from above, it is a natural phenomenon, a perfectly round and profoundly deep sinkhole called the Well of Barhout, or the “Well of Hell.” It’s easy to see why. Without the help of wings or long ropes, anything that disappears into this 367-foot-deep hole is not going to come out.

For centuries, sinister legends have swirled around the Well of Barhout. It’s said that visiting or even talking about it can bring bad luck. It’s also said to be a prison for uncontrollable jinn, a range of spirits that haunt Islamic mythology. The jinn, according to legend, will claim the head of anyone brave (or foolish) enough to descend to the bottom. “Yes, [locals] always told us about that,” says geologist and caver Mohammad Al-Kindi, matter-of-factly. “They also mentioned wild animals. They mentioned strange voices or people screaming below. They mentioned also that the air there is really bad. You will not be able to breathe.” But despite all those warnings, Al-Kindi says he didn’t feel any trace of fear before he recently became the first person to descend to the bottom (and come back up). His head remains attached to his body. (Read more.)

Monday, October 25, 2021

Why the Abortion and Transgender Issues Are Two Sides of the Same Coin

 From TFP:

Indeed, The New York Times opinion writer J. Boylan says it all with an article titled “Abortion Rights and Trans Rights Are Two Sides of the Same Coin.” Anyone having any doubt will find Boylan consistent with liberal dogmas. Anyone who does not know where the pro-abortion position leads to has only to follow the article’s twisted logic.

The central thesis of this “transgendered” author is that the State does not have the right to limit what one can or cannot do with one’s body. Thus, abortion is linked to the “trans” movement and all sexual deviations and lifestyles. The State must provide the “healthcare” of abortion and “gender transition.” It is essentially the same thing.

It is no coincidence, the article’s author maintains, that Planned Parenthood is also “one of the top providers for trans people’s health care nationwide.” The author reports that “trans” activists are also increasingly involved in fighting for abortion. (Read more.)


Parisian Walkways: Rue Cadet in the 9th Arrondissement

 From France Today:

For lovers of French food and Parisian cafés, nowhere are the charms of the City of Light so deliciously distilled as on its famous pedestrian market streets. Whether it’s Rue Cler (dubbed the ‘paradise of Parisian foods’), Rue Montorgueil (beloved by centuries of bon vivants from Casanova to Balzac), or Rue des Martyrs (now a launching pad for the trendiest food concepts in the capital), a visit to Paris isn’t complete without a stroll down one of its lively commercial walkways.

But one of the most captivating is one that’s easily overlooked – Rue Cadet. Perhaps a bit too far south of popular areas like SoPi (South Pigalle) and Montmartre, or a bit too far north of Palais Royal and Musée Grévin, Rue Cadet doesn’t appear on many tourist maps. But nestled in this lively corner of the ninth arrondissement, with its many office and residential buildings, and running 300m between Rue du Faubourg-Montmartre and the Cadet metro stop on Rue Lafayette, Rue Cadet is an oasis of fine food shops and sunny café terraces – a secret street reserved for locals and Parisians in the know.

“Rue Cadet certainly isn’t a major tourist destination, but the few who do venture here are always enchanted by this welcoming little quartier they discover,” says Martin Garros, head of the Rue Cadet business owners’ association. “You really are in the middle of the city: Montmartre, the Musée Grévin, the Grand Boulevards and many other tourist sites are all nearby, yet hidden in the centre of it all you have this little enclave of authentic Parisian life.” In fact, ‘secretive’ could be the leitmotif of Rue Cadet, for besides numerous fantastic under-the-radar food addresses, the street has also been home to several discreet and fascinating slices of society through the centuries, making it a delight for foodies and history buffs alike.

Rue Cadet originated during the reign of Charles IX, when two master gardeners named Jacques and Jean Cadet had the fine idea of transforming a footpath through a garbage dump (called Chemin de la Voirie) into well-fertilised soil beds for market gardens earning a fortune from melons, beans, lettuce and strawberries in the process. The street was named after them in the 18th century, when it began to be developed by aristocrats and entrepreneurs. Early among them was Claude Gallerand, Louis XV’s head of fruit production, who built a house at what became 9 rue Cadet.

In 1762, Jules-David Cromot de Fougy, one of Louis XVI’s financial advisers, acquired the house and transformed it into a luxurious mansion – the Hôtel Cromot du Bourg. In the early 1800s, Hôtel Cromot du Bourg became one of the most exclusive addresses in the musical life of France, when the renowned composer Ignace Pleyel opened a piano manufacturing plant at nº9.

In the 1880s, his son Camille, himself a famous pianist, transformed part of the hotel into a salon for concerts seating 150 people, which became known as the Salle Pleyel. Here, one February evening in 1832, Frédéric Chopin gave his first public concert in Paris, performing his Concerto in E minor, Nocturnes, Mazurkas and Variations on a theme from Mozart’s Don Juan. This intimate salon became one of the shy Pole’s favourite concert settings, and it was here he performed his final concert in Paris on February 16, 1848, in front the cream of Parisian society, including Louis Philippe and the royal family – who one week later would be ousted as part of the 1848 Revolution. (Read more.)


Sunday, October 24, 2021

Rare Portraits of Marie-Antoinette

From Le Boudoir de Marie-Antoinette, HERE, HERE, and HERE

The Dauphine painted by Duplessis in 1773, for her mother the Empress.

And from around the web, it seems that one of the the popular "diary" novels written in the last twenty years has been mistaken for a genuine diary of Marie-Antoinette by a researcher. From Anna Gibson:

Reminder to check the sources of your sources!

So an article by a fashion historian in a peer-reviewed journal thought that Kathryn Lasky’s The Royal Diaries novel was real and cited the information in it for an article about the evolution of the chemise dress. (Marie Antoinette had no diary, and she certainly didn’t somehow write in 1769 about dresses that start showing up in fashion journals in the late 1770s; nor did Rose Bertin time travel to meet Marie Antoinette when she was just an archduchess, or design her wedding dress, etc.)

So far I’ve uncovered two articles that cited this historian’s article while repeating the false information regarding Marie Antoinette’s diary and the robes à la créole. Completely understandable that these second writers would take this historian at their word because one would assume they know their stuff, but not understandable that the historian behind the original article found Lasky’s book, read the page in question, and then cited it as fact.(Read more.)


The Rationing Is Already Here

 From Jeffrey Tucker at The Brownstone Institute:

Stores are frantically moving shelves further apart to disguise the growing shortages. They don’t like empty shelves because that inspires hoarding. Consumers are pretty sensitive at this point. Anything can trigger panic buying. Suddenly all detergent is gone. Suddenly all paper towels are gone. Suddenly the milk is gone. When people spot that they start buying anything and everything. When others come in and notice the shortages, they quickly hurry off to another store and the place loses business. 

Empty shelves are indeed bad for business. They will disguise them as long as possible until they cannot do so anymore. We are getting to that point. 

Diapers, glass, liquor, beer, wine, lotions, makeup, creams, milk, plywood, aluminum, hammers, candy, flour, salt, spices, heaters, dishwashers, shopping bags, candles, plastic wrap – it can be anything. At this point it is unpredictable, and varies store to store. Fast-food places are running short on cups and lids. Even straws and ketchup packages. Most of this stuff is stuck in the ports in crates. Some of it hasn’t shipped at all. The more shortages there are, the higher the prices go. 

There are two major factors behind the clogged ports. The first is a lack of people to drive trucks. They are living on government largess and generally demoralized by vaccine mandates and high regulations on their driver habits pushed by the Department of Transportation. Truckers have to use an app to clock their drives and it regulates how much they can drive in a day. Too annoying. So after lockdowns, many people just stopped working. 

In addition, there are far fewer domestic flights now, so those cannot be relied upon for moving goods around the country. The cancellations are continuing too. This is one reason that the demand for trucks and truckers is so high, just as there are extreme shortages in people to move the goods. 

Another factor is missing funds to pay for the chassis to move containers from the boat to the trucks. These used to be paid for by the shippers but when lockdowns froze international commerce for weeks and months, major providers stopped their contracts. When they started again, to save money to make up for billions in losses, they stopped paying for this extended piece of their work. No one now wants that hot potato because they are all trying to reduce costs to keep from rising prices. 

These kinds of dislocations are pervasive in the global economy today. It’s a stunning experience for basically everyone who is alive. We’ve never seen a situation in which the basic functioning of supply chains has been so broken down. We’ve never had to think about ports, cargo, crates, and the labor required to get goods from here to there and finally to us. It’s always been there for us. No question. Suddenly, as in a novel, it has slowed to a crawl and stopped for many goods. 

It was a very strange moment when this week the spokesperson for the president defended inflation and shortages as a high-class problem. She explained that higher prices are merely a sign that economic activity is picking up. People are buying things and that’s good. Of course that pushes up prices, she said. Just deal with it. As for “high class” what these people mean is not that it is only affecting the well-to-do; they mean that it is a first-world problem about which they care not. (Read more.)


The Emancipated Empire

 From Aeon:

Britain ended its slave trade in 1807, and abolished slavery in much of its colonial empire in 1834. Four years later, Queen Victoria was crowned. For British liberals, the timing was auspicious, and the lessons were obvious. The 18th-century empire of enslaved labour, rebellious colonies and benighted protectionism had been purified by the ‘sacrifice’ of the profits of slavery to the principles of free trade, free labour and free markets. But the empire that slavery made endured.

Although individual enslaved people were often brought to Britain by the people who claimed to own them, for most Britons, mass enslavement was something that happened ‘over there’ – in the colonies, especially the sugar-producing islands of the Caribbean. This fact of geography shaped British antislavery. The ‘mother country’ could also be the stern but benignant ‘father’, correcting children in the ‘infant colonies’. In the slave colonies, opposition to slavery could be a revolutionary threat to the social order. In Britain, antislavery affirmed Britain’s superior virtue in relationship to its empire.

This contented patriotism was a feature of British antislavery, decades before the leaders of the movement succeeded in securing the abolition of the slave trade. In 1785, William Cowper published ‘The Task’, a long poem in blank verse. In Book II, Cowper celebrates Somerset v Stewart, the 1772 case that set a precedent for enslaved people from Britain’s colonies to sue for freedom in metropolitan courts. He wrote:

Slaves cannot breathe in England; if their lungs
Receive our air, that moment they are free
They touch our country and their shackles fall.
That is noble, and bespeaks a nation proud
And jealous of the blessing. Spread it then,
And let it circulate through every vein
Of all your empire; that where Britain’s power
Is felt, mankind may feel her mercy too.

William Wilberforce, the leader in Parliament of the campaign to abolish the British slave trade, admired Cowper’s eye for evidence of Providence. He was his favourite poet. For both men, antislavery confirmed Britain’s special place in human and divine affairs. To Wilberforce, slavery kept an enslaved person from choosing salvation. Consequently, to enslave was a terrible sin. Emancipation, however, did not imply independence. Social hierarchy was natural, and therefore desirable. Virtue flowed downhill from the powerful to the weak, the rich to the poor, Britain to the colonies. Wilberforce assumed that Britain would hold the interests of freedpeople in trust during a long journey toward civilisation. What greater proof of advanced civilisation could a nation offer than opposition to slavery?

For Cowper and Wilberforce, Britain was exceptional – and in historical memory, the antislavery movement is still offered as evidence of British exceptionalism. For conservative Eurosceptics such as the Oxford theologian Nigel Biggar, antislavery is the antidote to criticism of empire. ‘Between the slave-trade and slavery of the 18th century and the present,’ Biggar writes in a widely circulated recent essay for the group Briefings for Britain, ‘lies 150 years of imperial penance …’ With his talk of penance and his totting-up of the ‘gifts’ given by empire – English, railroads, parliaments, property rights – Biggar performs a mawkish pageant of the pith helmet, the Bible and the flag. Antislavery, from this point of view, symbolises Britain’s moral awakening and special destiny, first and greatest among the European empires.

In the United States, a similar caricature of British antislavery as especially precocious and virtuous has become a useful foil for reimagining American history, in The New York Times’s 1619 Project and elsewhere. If slavery is the American ‘original sin’, and the preservation of slavery was a cause of the American Revolution, British antislavery becomes an avenging force driven out of the new United States. And yet, when white Virginia colonists first purchased enslaved African workers to cultivate tobacco in 1619, the colonists thought of themselves as English. They looked south to Spain and Portugal’s colonies, where plantation slavery was well-established, and hoped to make a fortune. To the colonists, hierarchy was natural and defined by God. Coerced, enserfed or enslaved labour was unremarkable – and, from the colonists’ perspective, necessary – gentlemen, by definition, did not work in the fields. The sins weren’t original, and they weren’t ‘American’. (Read more.)


Saturday, October 23, 2021

Cats in Egyptian Culture

 From My Modern Met:

Lions and African wildcats appear in the earliest Egyptian art. As of the mid-third millennium BCE, cats in collars were depicted in tombs. These paintings suggested pharaohs kept wildcats as pets. Pharaohs and nobles would long continue to be associated with these noble beasts. By the 20th century BCE, a breed of domestic cat was found depicted in tombs. Around 1350 BCE, Prince Thutmose of the royal house mummified his beloved pet cat and buried it in an engraved stone coffin. While this luxurious burial is an early example of cat mummification, the tradition would continue until late Roman Egypt.

Contrary to popular belief, the ancient Egyptians did not worship cats. Rather, they revered them as sacred to deities. Cats were respected for being fierce hunters and protectors of their homes and young. They could be sweet at times, warrior-like at others. While there is clear evidence that many Egyptians adored their family pets, these pets likely were useful, too, as mousers and snake-hunters. These household cats often wore collars as pets do today. (Read more.)


The Catholic University of America at a Crossroads

 From Crisis:

It appears to some faithful Catholics on campus that, on most matters, President Garvey sides with the campus progressives—against the conservatives. A scathing article published in LifeSiteNews by Theresa Nixon, a former staff member at Catholic University, suggests that President Garvey appears “more intent on pleasing the left than addressing the concerns of staff and faithful Catholics who have long supported CUA.” It is difficult to know whether or not that is true. But what cannot be denied is that Catholic University is clearly committed to embracing some of the most progressive movements in the secular culture.

Encouraging students to “publicly witness against institutional racism and to pray for the soul of George Floyd and the soul of this country,” President Garvey encouraged interested faculty and staff to “rededicate themselves to the defense of all life and to recommit ourselves to pray for an end to racism” by gathering in Lafayette Park and proceeding to the White House for prayer. (Read more.)

First Written Mention of America

 From ZME Science:

In a new study, Paolo Chiesa of the department of literary studies at the University of Milan has documented the first written mention of America in the Mediterranean area. The researcher was stunned to come across a reference to a “terra que dicitur Marckalada,” found west from Greenland, in the work called Cronica universalis written by the Milanese friar Galvaneus Flamma in 1345.

“Galvaneus’s reference, probably derived by oral sources heard in Genoa, is the first mention of the American continent in the Mediterranean region, and gives evidence of the circulation (out of the Nordic area and 150 years before Columbus) of narratives about lands beyond Greenland,” Chiesa wrote in the study published in the Journal of the Society for the History of Discoveries. (Read more.)

Friday, October 22, 2021

The Theological Error in Many Modern Catholic Hymns

 From Crisis:

One principle missing from the Committee’s “Aid” that deserves inclusion is the problem of speaking in God’s name. Thomas Day flagged this phenomenon in his Why Catholics Can’t Sing. A number of contemporary composers, wanting to exploit biblical texts (especially from the prophets) for the liturgy, put God’s words on the tongues of choir and/or congregation.

Dan Schutte’s “Here I Am, Lord,” is a moderate illustration of what is, arguably, an abuse. The verses all involve God speaking: “I, the Lord of sea and sky…” “I, the Lord of snow and rain…” “I, the Lord of wind and flame….” The refrain is the human response: “Here I am, Lord!”

Such interplay is inevitably leveling: God is reduced to the needy, human level, while man is raised up. While this interplay can be narrowly interpreted in a theologically orthodox way, its practical consequence blurs the lines between God and the human person. God is not bereft of means to come to our assistance; nor is the human agent—whose vocation is itself God’s gift and inspiration—“doing God a favor.” (Read more.)

The Yorktown Tragedy

A sad story. From Journal of the American Revolution:

In October 19, 1781, Gen. George Washington attained his apex as a soldier. Straddling a spirited charger at the head of a formidable Franco-American army, Washington watched impassively as 6,000 humiliated British, German, and Loyalist soldiers under the command of Lt. Gen. Charles, Second Earl Cornwallis, emerged from their fortifications to lay down their arms in surrender outside Yorktown, Virginia. The following day, Washington voiced the elation filling his heart in a general order congratulating his subordinates “upon the Glorious events of yesterday.” Ordinarily a stickler for discipline, Washington authorized the release of every American soldier under arrest “In order to Diffuse the general Joy through every breast.”[1]

Five days later, October 25, the Continental Army’s commander-in-chief issued quite a different order. Thousands of Virginia slaves—“Negroes or Molattoes” as Washington called them—had fled to the British in hopes of escaping a lifetime of bondage. Washington directed that these runaways be rounded up and entrusted to guards at two fortified positions on either side of the York River. There they would be held until arrangements could be made to return them to their enslavers. Thus, with the stroke of a pen, Washington converted his faithful Continentals—the men credited with winning American independence—into an army of slave catchers.[2]

This is not the way that Americans choose to remember Yorktown. When President Ronald Reagan attended the festivities marking the battle’s bicentennial in October 1981, a crowd of 60,000 nodded in approval as he described Washington’s crowning triumph as “a victory for the right of self-determination. It was and is the affirmation that freedom will eventually triumph over tyranny.”[3] For the African Americans who constituted one fifth of the young United States’ population in 1781, however, Yorktown did not mark the culmination of a long and grueling struggle for freedom. Rather, it guaranteed the perpetuation of slavery for eight additional decades. (Read more.)


Thursday, October 21, 2021



From The Magazine Antiques:

In the late nineteenth century, when the colorful and glossy earthenware called majolica was at the height of its popularity, ceramics factory floors teemed in Britain and America. Entrepreneurial owners made fortunes as staff artisans pummeled, sliced, squeezed, and sculpted slabs of clay. Glazes for multiple kiln firings were concocted from antimony, arsenic, manganese, and lead. Buyers of almost every socioeconomic stratum could afford the results of the gritty, arduous manufacturing process.

 Whimsical and astounding creations emerged from the kilns. Along the rims and handles of teapots and vases, monkeys squabbled, sailors sprouted three legs, and deities performed contortionist backbends. Miniature boots, hats, rowboats, lighthouses, and beehives held matches, ink, ferns, toothpicks, and food. Serving pieces and flowerpots also depicted various organisms in mid-decay. Vessels “disguised the dribbling contents of a game pie in a tureen topped with lifelike duck and hare heads, hid a tangle of roots and soil in a planter seemingly woven from sticks and leaves, or preserved smelly Stilton in a cheese dish besieged by mice,” Jo Briggs, a curator at the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore, writes in a new book, Majolica Mania: Transatlantic Pottery in England and the United States, 1850–1915. (Read more.)


From Pender and Peony:

Today, Majolica mostly refers to the Victorian pottery popularized by the English ceramicist Herbert Minton at the Great Exhibition in 1851. Designed for the Minton Factory by Leon Arnoux, Victorian Majolica advanced fanciful charm, visual pun, exuberant colors, and unique forms.

The pottery technique for producing Majolica dates back to 14th century Spain and was then introduced to Italy via the island Majorca. This style of pottery is known as Maiolica. 18th century French Faience is also a direct pre-curser to Majolica. (Read more.)


From Apollo:

The first time I visited the majolica collection of one of the largest lenders to our upcoming exhibition, I remember feeling a bit bewildered by the concentration of material in front of me – shelves upon shelves of teapots and game-pie dishes, jugs and ornamental figures, garden seats and jardinières – many in the form of moulded animals or embellished with exuberant historicist decoration. I recall thinking, where does one begin to understand this glorious excess? The combination of vibrant colours and sheer diversity of objects was reminiscent of a Victorian interior in its density of display, yet it complemented this sleek Manhattan apartment in a wholly contemporary manner. It was the first of many paradoxes that encounters with majolica would present – and this was just the beginning of an ‘Alice Through the Looking-Glass’ type of visual journey that has culminated in the exhibition and catalogue ‘Majolica Mania: Transatlantic Pottery in England and the United States, 1850–1915’. (Read more.)

More HERE.


The Lion and the Bard

 From The National Review:

While Churchill could thrill or weep (and Churchill was a cryer) at the swirl of Shakespearean drama, his intimate knowledge of the Bard wasn’t simply recreational. It was formative. The wit and the nerve, the agony and the ecstasy of the human experience told in pristine English was woven into the fabric of Churchill himself. To be sure, without the sweeping histories written by Macaulay and Gibbon, Churchill would not have offered the same epic style. But without Shakespeare, Churchill would likely never have galvanized the masses with phrases such as “I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears, and sweat,” or “Never in the field of human conflict has so much been owed by so many to so few,” or “Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves that, if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, ‘This was their finest hour.’” In the wake of the war and pressed by colleagues about how history would treat him, Churchill quipped with a twinkle in his eye, “History will be kind to me, for I intend to write it.” Shortly thereafter, Churchill did just that, penning a magisterial six-volume series on the Second World War. (Read more.)

More Poem Than Proposition

 From The Symbolic World:

Since the 16th century, people have described the regularities of nature with an analogy to “law”, as in “the laws of nature,” which Wittgenstein famously called “The great delusion of modernity,” but we all know a law is a human construct given by a judge to govern society. No one believes a rock is intentionally obeying a legal edict. 7

Naturally, if one uses the analogy of legal fictions to describe the regularities of nature as pre-existing natural “laws”, or if one imagines these regularities more analogous to the creative process of thoughts in some mind, the story we fit these “facts” into will organize our understanding and perception, even as all the fluid poetic ambiguities of reality that escape such scientific categories of definition, determination, and certainty are forgotten in the misty oblivion of modernity’s amnesia.

This is why liturgy is vital. After all, Christ did not come to bring us doctrines, but His body, the Church, which enfolds us into the pattern of its life, the life of Christ. By participating in the rhythms of religious rituals, we order our modes of perception to receive the world as a sacrament. Truth is a habit, a habitat, a pattern that we love, move, and have our being in. (Read more.)


Wednesday, October 20, 2021

The Rehearsal by Edgar Degas

I love the way Degas perfectly captures the fleeting moment so beautifully, with the grace and elegance of each movement. It is that same movement in dance that has inspired me; you can see a nod to ballet in many of my designs. The close-cropped composition leaves me intrigued. It suggests more is happening outside the frame, in the busy room. The dancers are unaware of the viewer and you can feel their nervous energy. Equally, you can hear the muffled chatter and fine pitter-patter of points. It fascinates me how Degas captures the fabric of the tulle tutus in such a life-like way using oils. The blurred-edge sfumato effect emphasises the sense of realism. Oh, and the contrast of the sashes and the black neckline ties. I could look at his works for hours and hours. (Read more.)


There’s Something About Brandon

 From John Zmirak at American Greatness:

In the spirit of Dave Chapelle cutting through the cant, defying his LGBTQMYNAMEISLEGION critics, Brandon zeroes in on the truth. The phony media spin on that NASCAR chant is exactly, exquisitely our current moment. It nails the vast, yawning gap that separates the Bidenist fantasy world from the real one we’re living in.

As prices shoot up and store shelves empty, half of Haiti somehow appears on the Rio Grande, and China prepares its next war of conquest, our elite fritters and squanders America’s legacy. People who’ve been triple-vaccinated cower in fear of those of us who won’t take it—wait, shouldn’t they be the ones feeling safe? But cower they will, and I say we should pretend to sneeze on such people. Maybe those groundhogs will go back into their homes for another six months.

We’re sick to death of an insanely overhyped pandemic, which blue-state governors turned really deadly by using COVID as euthanasia in nursing homes. We don’t trust big pharma companies that lied to us about using aborted baby parts. Or weird little creepy dictators like Fauci who try telling us in their Bugs Bunny voices whether or not to celebrate Christmas. And about whom Disney makes a fawning biopic, casting Fauci as an epic hero, which 91 percent of “professional” movie critics praise compared to . . . 4 percent of actual audience members. (By the way, that page with viewer comments is now mysteriously down.) (Read more.)


 The Milky Way. From Science:

To make the map, astronomers looked to its bright, pulsing stars called cepheids. These stars burn up to 10,000 times more brightly than the sun so they are visible from across the galaxy and through interstellar clouds of gas and dust. Crucially, cepheids are "standard candles": Their light waxes and wanes at a rate that corresponds to their inherent brightness. Astronomers can combine their true brightness with their apparent brightness, measured from Earth, to calculate how far away they are. Using a 1.3-meter telescope at Las Campanas Observatory in Chile, astronomers monitored the steady pulses from more than 2400 stars and pinpointed their location on a 3D model of the galaxy.

The research, published today in Science, helps us see the galaxy in a whole new way. From above, the Milky Way can be seen as a spiral-shaped galaxy, but this spiral disk doesn't sit flat on the galactic plane. The cepheid stars cluster along an S-shaped curve, showing that the Milky Way's disk is more warped than previously thought. For many years, astronomers had to rely on measurements from other galaxies to infer the size and shape of the Milky Way. But new data, such as the cepheid map and billions of stars mapped by the European satellite Gaia, are helping astronomers find our place among the stars. (Read more.)


Tuesday, October 19, 2021

The Managed Decline of the Catholic Church

 From Eric Sammons at Crisis:

It’s easy to criticize the plan, and it’s easy to lay blame. It’s also tempting to play “What If?” What if the Spirit of Vatican II were a spirit of faithfulness and orthodoxy, rather than a spirit of chaos and destruction? What if bishops and popes had acted quickly and decisively to stop priestly abuse? What if the liturgical reforms that followed Vatican II actually followed Vatican II? 

These are all interesting questions, but we live in the here and now. We can’t go back and change the past—millions of Catholics have left the Church, we’ve lost tens of thousands of religious vocations, and the Church’s moral standing in the world is in tatters. Decline is a reality we can’t avoid. 

Another temptation is to propose simple solutions to this problem. “Let’s start a new diocese-wide evangelization program!” “We need to return every parish to the traditional Latin Mass!” “Bishops need to stop supporting liberal politicians!” While these ideas might have value, here’s the grim reality: No matter what we do, the Church will continue to decline in the coming years, barring some divine intervention (which we hope and pray for, but cannot presume). (Read more.)

Also from Crisis:

For years now, ordinary Catholics have been barraged with a number of trendy buzzwords and catchy slogans: “A listening Church,” “accompaniment,” “pastoral,” and more. While these words are not necessarily wrong or inappropriate for ecclesial discourse, they often serve as a Trojan horse through which heterodoxy and heteropraxy emerge.

As preparation for the “Synod on Synodality” begins, news regarding the extension of the German Church’s “Synodal Way” into 2023 has ensured that such ordinary Catholics will continue to hear the word “synodality” for the unforeseeable future. In his opening remarks for the synod’s preparatory phase, Pope Francis said, “There is no need to create another church, but to create a different church.” Of course, one wonders where the distinction between the two lies. And furthermore, how can an ordinary, right-believing Catholic survive this era of “synodality”? (Read more.)


From Real Clear Religion:

Continuing his pivot from ancient sources to modern times, Benedict argued that the connection between natural law and justice was well-understood by many Enlightenment thinkers and reflected in documents like the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Produced partly in reaction to the horrors unleashed by National Socialism, this text was composed by individuals ranging from a secular French Jew, René Cassin, to the Lebanese Greek Orthodox diplomat, Charles Malik.

The expression “natural law” appears nowhere in the 1948 Declaration. Some of its articles are more evocative of mid-twentieth-century social democracy than Aquinas. Yet the text’s reference to the “inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family” and its claim that all humans are “born free and equal in dignity and rights” and “endowed with reason and conscience” imitate the language of natural law, albeit one tinged with Enlightenment emphases. The fact, however, that the Declaration was drafted and endorsed by believers and non-believers itself illustrated that some principles are recognizable by all humans as true.

But this confidence in reason’s ability to know truth, Benedict went on, was now in question. The twentieth century’s second half, he said, had witnessed the triumph of “a positivist understanding of nature” throughout the West.

By “positivist,” the pope meant the idea that reason can only know scientific and social facts. Philosophy and religion were subsequently demoted to the sphere of the subjective. The West had consequently cordoned itself off from “the classical sources of knowledge for ethics and law”—and trapped itself in what Benedict called “a concrete bunker with no windows, in which we ourselves provide lighting and atmospheric conditions, being no longer willing to obtain either from God’s wide world.”

How then do we escape this self-imposed prison? “How,” Benedict asked, “do we find our way out into the wide world, into the big picture? How can reason rediscover its true greatness, without being sidetracked into irrationality?” (Read more.)