Friday, December 31, 2021

'Lumieres en Seine'


A light show at the site of Marie-Antoinette's forgotten palace of Saint Cloud. From rfi:

The Domaine de Saint Cloud, located on the western outskirts of Paris, celebrates Christmas and the end of the year with an immersive show, "Lumieres en Seine", up till 9 January. The historical Saint Cloud park is easily accessible by public transport from Paris. RFI's Edmond Sadaka enjoyed a stroll with his camera....The château and grounds were created in the 16th century and embellished by Monsieur, the brother of Louis XIV, and his architects Le Pautre and Hardouin-Mansart. Queen Marie-Antoinette carried out further modifications. In the 19th century it was the royal summer residence, but the château burnt down in 1870. The remaining parts of the building were razed in 1891 as it was too intimately linked with the monarchy and the Empire. (Read more.)

The Wisconsin Purchase

 From The American Conservative:

Our research shows that CTCL spending in Wisconsin generated enough votes for Joe Biden to secure him an Electoral College win there in 2020. We estimate that CTCL spending in Wisconsin purchased Joe Biden an additional 65,222votes,without which Donald Trump would have won the state by 44,540 votes.

Although CTCL and CEIR are chartered as non-partisan 501(c)(3) corporations, our research shows that the $419.5 million of CTCL and CEIR spending that took place in 2020 was highly partisan in its distribution, and highly partisan in its effects. Targeted CTCL and CEIR spending played a decisive role in building a “shadow” election system with a built-in structural bias that systematically favored Democratic votes over Republican votes.

Big CTCL and CEIR money had nothing to do with traditional campaign finance, media buys, lobbying, or other costs that are related to increasingly expensive modern elections. Rather, it had to do with financing the infiltration of election offices at the city and county level by Democrat activists and using those offices as a platform to implement preferred administrative practices, voting methods, ballot harvesting efforts, and data sharing agreements, as well as to launch intensive multi-media outreach campaigns and surgically targeted, concierge-level get-out-the-vote efforts in areas heavy with Democratic voters.

The injection of bias into select local election offices through CTCL infiltration introduced structural bias into Wisconsin’s entire 2020 election. This involved favoring certain voters and voting practices over others, and disfavoring other classes of voters and voting practices, giving CTCL’s preferred voters and voting methods an outsized impact on the final election results. The outcome of the 2020 election in Wisconsin is not the outcome that would have occurred if the election had been conducted on the basis of established election laws, equal treatment of voters, and administrative neutrality. (Read more.)

Why Are Bilbo and Frodo Bachelors?

 From Gamerant:

In the first chapter of The Fellowship of the Ring, a group of busy-bodies in the Green Dragon pub say ‘They’re a queer breed, seemingly. They fool about with boats on that big river’ - which is a particularly Stoorish trait. Therefore, they were perhaps unable to find love because they were always slightly estranged from the rest of their peers, and were never allowed to just exist in peace without perpetual rumors floating around that they were both ‘cracked.’ This of course only got worse when they were found to have dealings with the lives of elves and dwarves, and especially Gandalf the Grey wizard, who was thought to be the most ludicrous troublemaker to have ever visited Hobbiton.

However, many Lord of The Rings fans believe that the reason for their lack of close, loving relationships stems from a far more emotive and traumatic aspect that they both share: that of loss. Indeed, anyone who has seen The Hobbit films will know that Bilbo lost 3 of his dearest friends in the battle to reclaim Erebor, the dwarven home under the Lonely Mountain.

The line of Durin, namely Thorin, Killi, and Filli, were very close friends and companions to Bilbo during his barrel-riding days, and helped him survive many close encounters, including his run-in with the ancient spiders of Mirkwood, and during the riddles in the dark he played with Gollum when he found the One Ring of power. Their loss was a bitter and devastating blow, and one that Bilbo carried with him long into old age.

Frodo is also no stranger to great and grievous loss, for his parents died when he was just 12, in a terrible boating accident. He was fortunate enough to be adopted by Bilbo and allowed to live in Bag-end, but he too spent much of his time alone in the wake of his parent’s tragic demise. Perhaps these losses and traumas that both characters have suffered prevented them from forming loving romantic relationships, for fear of losing anyone else. (Read more.)

Thursday, December 30, 2021

Titian: Women, Myth & Power

 Will Titian be canceled? From WSWS:

In The Ugly Renaissance: Sex, Greed, Violence and Depravity in an Age of Beauty, Alexander Lee points out, “Mercenaries and their commanders were violent, unpleasant human beings inured to war and accustomed to violence. Even among the ‘better’ condottieri, savagery was a way of life. Their campaigns were often waged with a brutality that went far beyond any strategic justification.” These are the circumstances in which Titian produced his masterpieces.

With this historical context in mind, one can only regard the treatment of “The Rape of Europa” by the New York Times ’ Holland Cotter, in his article “Can We Ever Look at Titian’s Paintings the Same Way Again?,” with derision and contempt. Glancing at the headline, one’s first thought is that this is a piece in some satirical magazine. The author is pulling our leg, no one could be this stupid …

In answer to the question in his headline, Cotter replies, essentially, “No, we cannot,” and then absurdly calls for Titian to be given the #MeToo treatment! “In fact, the whole cycle, with its repeated images of gender-based power plays and exposed female flesh,” Cotter writes, “raises doubts about whether any art, however ‘great,’ can be considered exempt from moral scrutiny.” What will this “moral scrutiny” consist of? Will it “cancel” or even destroy the paintings, which have survived the tumult of the Spanish wars of Succession and Independence as well the French Revolution, changing hands multiple times between aristocratic collectors in Europe, finally to be swept off across the Atlantic by new industrial fortunes like that of Isabella Stewart Gardner who could far out-bid the old aristocracy for its treasures? Is it not ironically analogous to the painting’s subject—the seizure of an unwitting beauty as a trophy—that when Gardner acquired the “Rape of Europa” in 1896 for $100,000, the equivalent of $3.2 million today, it became the most expensive painting in the US, enhancing her status as a preeminent collector of European art.

Or would the likes of Cotter and the New York Times, who do not seem morally outraged by an ongoing and entirely preventable death toll of the pandemic, now entering its third year and claiming several thousand lives a day, have the “immoral” Greek and Roman myths censored?

In the present politically diseased situation, even though “The Rape of Europa” has been prominent in the Gardner Museum’s collection for a hundred years, the museum defensively included the disclaimer that “In presenting these exhibitions, the Gardner does not condone this violence, nor suggest that gender discrimination and sexual assault live in the annals of history alone. Rather, we ask audiences to consider what Titian’s paintings meant in their time and what they mean today, and to confront the persistent issue of sexual assault.” It then goes on to list the numbers of six (!) sexual assault hotlines. (Read more.)

More on the Gardner Museum, HERE


Before You Correct Your Partner

 From The Candidly:

We spend countless hours a day with the same person. And if we have to see them load the dishwasher KNIVES UP one more time we will spontaneously combust. It almost doesn’t matter that they’re actually loading the dishwasher in a way they feel is right, because so much of our criticism stems from the fact that they’re just not doing it the way we would do it.

And so we pick at them. We correct their driving when they tailgate. We gasp in disgust when we notice they left the back door unlocked overnight even after they told us they checked all the doors before bed. We belittle their insane, hormone-riddled choice of deli meat they present to us after “helping” with grocery shopping.

But. We’re doing it wrong. And so, as with all things relationship-adjacent, we asked The Gottman Institute how to do it right. And they told us that the key to correcting our partners, is to connect with them first: connect before you correct. Isn’t that a great phrase? Easy to remember. Straight-forward. But it’s the execution where things get tough. (Read more.)


On the Enduring Appeal of Xenophon’s Anabasis

 From LitHub:

Xenophon of Athens (c. 430-355 BCE) is one of just a few Greek writers whose full output has come down to us from antiquity. His fourteen books cover subjects ranging from history to household management, but are nearly all influenced by the philosopher Socrates, Xenophon’s teacher. His most famous work is his Anabasis, the story of Cyrus the Younger’s rebellion in 401 BCE against his brother, the Great King of Persia. The younger sibling, fired with ambition, hired a 10,000-strong force of Greek mercenaries as a leading edge to counter and cut through the numerically superior barbarian force his brother had under his command.

At the crucial moment in the heart of Babylonia, the commander of the Greeks disobeyed his order to attack the King’s own position in the center, and instead kept his force by the Euphrates River, a salutary warning about the dangers of relying on mercenaries. Cyrus was killed in the battle, and afterwards his head and right hand were cut off and displayed on the field by his brother.

In his eyewitness account, Xenophon, who later becomes one of the Greek leaders following the dramatic seizure of their high command by the Persians, tells of the army’s hazardous retreat homewards from Mesopotamia. His engaging descriptions of battles and of the highs and lows of the march are a classic illustration of what ancient writers termed enargeia, “vividness.” This quality is one reason why his Anabasis has retained its appeal to readers over the centuries.

Another is the book’s value as a mine of historical geography. Taking in much of what was the western half of the Persian empire—today Turkey, Syria and Iraq—the story provides a firsthand report of places and peoples the army encountered and is one of the earliest records of the natural and human environments of the region. The author, for instance, names and provides the width of many major rivers, describes in detail the date harvest in Mesopotamia, and names wild animals, like the ostrich, which are no longer present in the area. On the Black Sea coast, he describes such phenomena as “mad honey” and whistled speech, both of which can be found today in the same localities. His account of a desperate week fighting the Kardouchoi in south-eastern Anatolia may be the first written description of the ancestors of the modern Kurds. Later encounters with tribes such as the Drilai, Mossynoikoi and Taochoi are poignant in that little is heard of these peoples again in the historical record; in some cases virtually the only trace of them now is found in the pages of Xenophon’s book. (Read more.)

Wednesday, December 29, 2021

The Last Imperial Christmas

From Charles Coulombe at The European Conservative:

As Charles and Zita contemplated the future, things must have looked exceedingly bleak to them as they approached their ninth Christmas together; they could not have known it would be their last. Their first, a mere two months after their wedding in 1911, had been a joyous event at Brandys on the Elbe in Bohemia, where the young Archduke’s cavalry regiment was stationed. The following year saw them celebrating with their first child, Otto at Schloss Hetzendorf, the small castle in the Vienna outskirts that Charles’ Great-Uncle, the old Emperor Franz Josef, had assigned for their use. His Sister Adelheid was born in time for Christmas of 1913. Then came the War, but the expanding family still spent the next two Christmases together at the Villa Wartholz in Reichenau an der Rax. Christmas of 1916 would be spent at the Villa as well, but the death of Franz Josef on November 22 had made Charles Emperor-King of a nation at War. Moreover, he and Zita must have been filled with both apprehension and joy at the rapidly approaching date of their coronations as King and Queen of Hungary in less than a week’s time. A year later, however, Christmas found the Imperial family at Laxenburg, from which palace the Emperor commuted to the military headquarters at Baden. Alas, all of his peace overtures had come to naught, American had entered the war, and mere peace seemed as unachievable as victory. Christmas of 1918 found the Emperor out of power at his remote hunting lodge of Eckartsau; the family lived off what could be hunted in the woods. Several of the family including Charles were recovering from the Spanish flu, but despite illness and privation, the family managed to find simple gifts for each other and many of the locals. The Christmases of 1919 and 1920 were at least safe and snug, spent in relatively comfortable Swiss exile. But this ended with the defeat of the second restoration attempt in October and November of 1921. (Read more.)


How the Media Lost Touch

 From Spiked:

The American mainstream media are losing touch with reality. Journalists are increasingly drawn from elite backgrounds, and newsrooms are coalescing around a woke worldview. The media’s interest in race, gender and sexuality has exploded, while class issues and economic concerns struggle to get a look in. And when stories arrive that disrupt the woke narrative – from the acquittal of Kyle Rittenhouse to Jussie Smollett’s hate-crime hoax – journalists often find themselves on the wrong side of the truth. How did the American media get into this state? And how can proper journalism recover?

Batya Ungar-Sargon is deputy opinion editor at Newsweek and author of Bad News: How Woke Media is Undermining Democracy. She joined Brendan O’Neill for the latest episode of his podcast, The Brendan O’Neill Show. What follows is an edited extract from their conversation. Listen to the full episode here.

Brendan O’Neill: The woke have this notion that America is a white-supremacist country – that it always has been and it probably always will be. How do you think this notion of America being a permanently white-supremacist state came about?

Batya Ungar-Sargon: As racism and white supremacy in America have decreased, the obsession with race in the mainstream liberal media has absolutely skyrocketed. At the same time as our acceptance for things like interracial marriage has increased, the usage of the term ‘white supremacy’ in the liberal press has absolutely skyrocketed. It’s part of what sociologists call the ‘Great Awokening’. White liberals are becoming more extreme in their views on race than black and Latino Americans, who are much more socially conservative in general and are more moderate in their views on race.

The idea that all white people have white privilege that puts them above all people of colour started in the academy. It started with the postmodernist revolution, critical race theory (CRT), and the application of the Frankfurt School’s Marxist view in the cultural sphere. People will often call CRT ‘Marxist’, but the problem with CRT is an insufficiency of Marxism. There is no materialism in it. There is no class analysis. (Read more.)


The Later Stuarts

 From Medium:

The years 1685 to 1714, during which the monarchs mentioned in the title had their reigns, were of vital importance in the history of Great Britain, because the consequences of what took place had a huge effect on the British Constitution down to the present day.

In 1685 King Charles II died without leaving any legitimate heirs other than his brother James. Charles, who had been restored to the throne after the 11-year interregnum of Oliver Cromwell, had the good sense to balance his own desires with those of Parliament and, although they sometimes clashed, he had the skill to avoid the sort of conflict that led to his own father (Charles I) losing his head. Above all, Charles knew that the country was now firmly Protestant and, despite suspicions that he had Catholic sympathies (his mother was the Catholic Henrietta Maria, the sister of Louis XIII of France), he was wise enough to keep his own religious beliefs, such as they were, out of the public domain.

Despite having a Catholic mother, James’s own Catholicism came about from conversion, due to the years he had spent in exile in France along with other members of the Royal family. He had two daughters by his first wife (Anne Hyde) who had been brought up as Protestants, and these offered some sort of safeguard that the monarchy, and thus the country, would not revert to Catholicism in the long term.

However, as it became clear that Charles’s successor would be his brother, strenuous moves were made to exclude James from the throne. Parliament had debated an “Exclusion Bill” that eventually failed at Charles’s insistence, and also led to the emergence of two political groups, the Tories and the Whigs, who respectively opposed and supported the Bill.

When James did succeed to the throne in February 1685 he did so smoothly enough, being generally welcomed as king in the belief that he would recognise that England was now a Protestant country and not seek to rock the boat. At first there was little cause for alarm, with James being happy to call a Parliament and to re-appoint most of his brother’s ministers.(Read more.)


Tuesday, December 28, 2021

Being the Ricardos (2021)

I enjoyed Being the Ricardos a great deal. It brought back many memories of watching reruns of the I Love Lucy show as a child. It is fun to see the creative process in motion as the show comes together at Desilu studios as depicted in the movie. Some F-bombs and a fleeting sex scene give the film an R rating which otherwise it would not need. What struck me the most was the horror of Desi's memories of the Communist takeover of his country and how the trauma may have contributed to his addictions. His well-known alcoholism is not portrayed but his womanizing is. Lucy's own ups and downs throughout her life and the struggles and disappointments of her career may have helped her to be more of a control freak than she already was. But she was a brilliant control freak with a golden, loving heart. The tragedy is that in spite of their enormous love and passion for each other, their marriage is doomed by their fatal flaws. From Variety:

Everything that happens in “Being the Ricardos” really did happen. But it didn’t happen in the same week, or anything close to it, and Sorkin, by presenting it as if it did (not that he’s trying to fool anyone; he’s acknowledged the made-up timeline in interviews), has actually created a quintessential expression of the Sorkinese aesthetic. The dialogue in “Being the Ricardos” has the blunt directness, dagger wit, and perfectly cut corners of Sorkinese ­­— a sound that might be described as hardass Talmudic screwball. Beyond that, though, the entire movie is a piece of thrillingly stylized compression. It gets a real head of steam going, a hurtling energy and anxiety that rides on everything Lucy is feeling. And what Lucy does is to take her own pent-up anxiety — over the Communist-accusation situation, but mostly over the possibility that Desi is an adulterer — and pour it into that week’s episode of “I Love Lucy.” She keeps taking over the set, directing more than the director does, tweaking the comedy bits, trying to make it all work better, trying to make it more…authentic. We see her vision as a comic artist (and her attempt to seize the terrain of male power). But what she’s also doing, on some level, is trying to make the Ricardos be what she wants her and Desi to be. She keeps asking: What would Lucy do? What would Lucy not do? What she’s really asking is: What should Lucy do?

“Being the Ricardos” is a comedy of marriage, deft and romantic yet spun around a deadly serious suspicion that keeps eating away at Lucy. It’s also the R-rated version of a workplace-as-family sitcom, with characters who thrust and parry but also curse and speak their minds with toxic glee. It’s a backroom drama of corporate showbiz politics, showing us how the sausage of television gets made (or did in the ’50s). It’s a Lucille Ball biopic, showing us the movie star she nearly was before she got kicked off the star track and wound up creating the persona of Lucy Ricardo. And it’s an homage to “I Love Lucy” and everything that made it a hilarious culture-shifting touchstone, and also a deconstruction of “I Love Lucy.” Not everything in “Being the Ricardos” happened in one week, but part of what the film captures about the live-wire fishbowl of ’50s television is that it feels like it could have.

The movie is structured around the creation of that week’s episode, and from the moment everyone sits down at the first table reading, Sorkin sets a tone of high-spirited malice, in which these TV veterans are too mouthy and successful not to say just what they think. J.K. Simmons has a field day as William Frawley, the vaudeville veteran who played the curmudgeonly Fred Mertz, who Simmons makes 10 times as much of a curmudgeon off-camera — he’s a rancorous coot who likes to nip whiskey at dive bars at 10:00 a.m., and whose favorite pastime is to come up with new ways to insult his costar, Vivian Vance (Nina Arianda). But Simmons is such a sly dog that, of course, he keeps unpeeling the character. Beneath the bilious loner is a nostalgic relic of Old Hollywood, a caustically witty observer and, on some level, a real human being.

Nina Arianda, as Vivian, is just as indelible. She shows us how the feisty Vivian longed to break out of the fuddy-duddiness of her role as Ethel, a character married to her grandfather (as she puts it), and she brilliantly reveals how it cuts Vivian to the quick when she learns her new diet is being monitored by everyone on the show, from Lucy on down — because she’s not supposed to stray too far from the ideal of American “normalcy.”

Yet it’s the dance of Kidman and Bardem that gives “Being the Ricardos” its light but molten magic. I went into the movie not being able to put Nicole Kidman and Lucille Ball together in my head. But here’s how good Kidman is. As the Lucy of the sitcom, she’s perfection, nailing the squalls and pop-eyed double takes, the blaring voice, the whole way that Lucy Ricardo was goofy-clueless with an invisible trickiness — a form of passive-aggression. The sitcom moments, in black-and-white, are presented almost like dreams. But off-camera, Kidman captures the brassy glamourpuss that Lucille Ball was. She makes Lucy sensual and demanding, prickly and affectionate, with an ability to read the room — a quintessential modern woman who was stuck in the role of always trying to drag the rest of the world to catch up with her.

The movie tells Lucy’s story in flashbacks, going back to her days as an RKO contract player, where she met Desi on the set of “Too Many Girls.” And we see the moment when the possibility of stardom flickered for her. “The Big Street” (1942), in which she costarred with Henry Fonda, becomes a hit with critics and performs respectably at the box office, and when she gets a meeting with the head of production at RKO, Charles Koerner (Brian Howe), it’s a classic scene that speaks dark volumes about Hollywood — then and now. Kidman’s tag line is one of the three most exquisite readings of Sorkinese I’ve ever heard. (Read more.)


Exorcizing COVID for Christmas

 From Crisis:

And so 2020, the first year of COVID, proved to be a miserable year. Many people couldn’t work, go to school, or even breathe without some stupid cloth or paper mask over their face. What they could do was watch the number of COVID deaths (how these deaths were counted was never clear, but that didn’t matter) continually mount.

In 2021, the second year of COVID, vaccines and vaccine mandates became the focus. Little if any of this has to do with health since the virus has already run its course and mutated into vaccine-resistant variants—and it became evident that the vaccine didn’t actually prevent transmission or reinfection

Rather, it had everything to do with politics. Secular progressives proudly brandished their jabbed arms and aggressively denounced those who expressed any hint of skepticism about the vaccines. Somehow, this group of people was deemed more harmful and pernicious than the virus itself. COVID hysteria morphed into vaccine hysteria, and nothing made any sense. And as California’s new mask mandate demonstrates, so much public policy continues to be completely arbitrary. (Read more.)


The History Behind 'West Side Story'

 From The New Republic:

The new film sets the action in San Juan Hill, the slum in the West 60s cleared by Robert Moses to build Lincoln Center, and it portrays the neighborhood as a battleground between whites and Puerto Ricans. But in fact, San Juan Hill was a Black neighborhood of long standing, into which Puerto Ricans migrated during the postwar years. There was never much gang activity there during the 1950s. These jarring story elements make sense only when you learn that West Side Story’s creators drew inspiration not from gang wars in New York City but rather from gang wars in Los Angeles.

It was in L.A. that teenage gangs first burst onto the national consciousness with the 1943 Zoot Suit riots. The riots were provoked by Anglo GIs stationed in L.A., en route to the Pacific. The GIs harassed Mexican-American pachucos for flouting wartime regulations that outlawed the pachucos’ baggy zoot suits (because they used too much fabric). An argument ensued, and a uniformed Navy sailor was beaten up. In retaliation, 50 U.S. sailers marched through downtown Los Angeles and beat with clubs anyone in a zoot suit they could find. The result was six days of violence between servicemen and pachucos. These riots were, First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt said, a “racial protest.” L.A. Mayor Fletcher Bowron replied that the Chicano rioters were gang members. Both were right. (Read more.)


Monday, December 27, 2021

Festive Hotel Displays

From The Bruno Effect:

Fairmont San Francisco prides itself on its extravagant festive displays, and this year is no different. In time for the holidays, the hotel has transformed its main lobby into an enchanting grotto, with a ceiling-scraping 23-foot-tall Christmas tree and colourful decorations including the Molinari Family Nutcracker Collection. The centrepiece of the exhibit is a giant gingerbread house measuring a staggering 22 feet high by 23 feet wide – around the height of a two-story building. The brainchild of executive chef Michael Quigley, the house features a completely edible exterior, made from thousands of home-baked gingerbread bricks and more than a ton of royal icing and candy decor.

 “We are delighted to once again celebrate the holiday season in true Fairmont style,” says Fairmont’s general manager Markus Treppenhauer. “The unmatched Victorian Gingerbread House, resplendent in See’s Candies, the festive Moët Champagne Bar, and the ever-popular traditional holiday tea offerings truly define the magic of the holiday season in San Francisco.” (Read more.)


He Brings True Peace – and a Sword

 From Robert Royal at The Catholic Thing:

In some ways, this is nothing new. As Benedict XVI rightly argued in Jesus of Nazareth: The Infancy Narratives, “The ordinariness of Jesus, the provincial carpenter, seems not to conceal a mystery of any kind. His origin marks him out as one like any other.” Generations of Scripture scholars now have labored, largely taking their start from materialist or secularist assumptions, to show that this is really the whole of the Christian story. He was born like everyone else; his life unrolled like his neighbors’; yes, he said some remarkable things – but we can find rough parallels in earlier Judaism and even other religions; the miracles are unbelievable and must be explainable as really natural human phenomena like sharing (loaves and fishes) or as merely symbolic stories (the Eucharist, above all).

Against all that, however, stand two millennia of witnesses to the way Christ works in individual lives and the world. Thomas Aquinas, no credulous thinker he, recalls that Jesus Himself encouraged people, if they could not believe in Him as who He was, to believe in Him because of “the miracles by which Christ confirmed the doctrine of Apostles and of the other saints.” Thomas added for the sake of his contemporaries – and us:

And if anyone says that nobody has seen those miracles done, I reply that it is a well-known fact, related in pagan histories, that the whole world worshipped idols and persecuted the Christian Faith; yet now, behold all (the wise, the noble, the rich, the powerful, the great) have been converted by the words of a few simple poor men who preached Christ. Now was this a miracle or was it not? (Commentary on the Apostles’ Creed)

This highly improbable conquest of the mighty Roman Empire (and in several crucial respects the rest of the world) has been so successful that we no longer appreciate what a revolution it was. For example, modern societies no longer believe, at least in theory, that some people are elites who can demand freedom and respect while others are “slaves by nature.” For a brilliant secular account of how that massive revolution in morals and manners occurred, even though few people today realize its debt to Christianity, read Tom Holland’s book Dominion: How the Christian Revolution Remade the World.

So, yes, in these days, let us take comfort in the birth of this Prince of Peace who, over and above all controversies and conflicts, continues to provide what the world cannot give, yet blindly and desperately seeks.

But let’s also remember after the respite of this season that we now live in a world that increasingly resembles its pre-Christian, even anti-Christian, counterparts. Abortion, euthanasia, pornography, disrespect for marriage and family, the high-handedness of elites who believe in their right to lord it over us – all those pre-Christian phenomena indicate the return of struggles for sheer power. (Read more.)


California’s Wild Weather

 From California Globe:

For those wondering about the recent heavy rains, going from drought to deluge in a few short months, here’s some data and history to illustrate that it is nothing new, and it has nothing to do with the claims of a “climate change” influence.

Before the industrial revolution, electricity, eight lane highways, and gas-guzzling SUV’s, there was a 43-day rainstorm that began in December 1861 that put central and southern California underwater for up to six months.

The highest rainfall ever in California during recorded history likely occurred in January 1862, during the “Great Flood”. This was an atmospheric river event like we are experiencing now, but lasted several days, dumping 24.63 inches of rain in San Francisco, 66 inches in Los Angeles, leaving downtown Sacramento underwater.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA):

“Atmospheric rivers are relatively long, narrow regions in the atmosphere – like rivers in the sky – that transport most of the water vapor outside of the tropics. These columns of vapor move with the weather, carrying an amount of water vapor roughly equivalent to the average flow of water at the mouth of the Mississippi River. When the atmospheric rivers make landfall, they often release this water vapor in the form of rain or snow.”

That’s exactly what is happening now, and exactly what happened in 1861-62. (Read more.)


Sunday, December 26, 2021

"A Lovely Depiction"

Henrietta Maria with child and wearing the diamond cross from the Pope

 From San Francisco Book Review:

Elena Maria Vidal’s novelization of Charles I and Henrietta Maria’s love story is in itself a piece of history. My Queen, My Love is set in 1600s France and England and depicts the story of fifteen-year-old Henrietta’s rise into Queendom with her marriage to King Charles I. The marriage begins with excitement and love but quickly devolves into a tumultuous relationship. Henrietta is a devout Catholic and her loyalty to her religion and country creates tension between her husband and his. Her first years as a wife are plagued by cruel incidents incited by her husband’s best friend and closest confidant leaving her often lonely and afraid for her future. She corresponds in secret with her mother who in turn becomes worried for her daughter.

Vidal’s characterization of the royal family of the time is interesting and the plot flows throughout the timeline of their lives. Vidal clearly has her finger on the pulse of history. The book was so interesting, I often found myself looking up more information to learn about these people and this time period. I’m not a history buff but everything I read flowed with what My Queen, My Love said so it seems like the historical aspect of the book is accurate. Vidal has written three other books, according to her introduction, on historical lives and really seemed to know what she’s talking about. She takes a period of time and creates a story that is easy to understand and appealing to read....It was packed with information and the author sets the reader up for success with [the] list of characters in the beginning. I found myself often going back to that list and refreshing to help with understanding the historical characters and who they were.

All in all, I enjoy a book that gives a different perspective on history especially when it allows its historical figures to have a personality. The emotional connection from husband to wife, from servant to royalty, and even mother to daughter really sparkles in this book and I enjoyed it immensely. I would recommend this book to anybody who is interested in history or romance. It was a lovely depiction and I enjoyed it from the beginning to the end.

Reviewed by Jenna Swartz


The Sacred Earthiness of Christmas

 From George Weigel at First Things:

Christianity begins in a real place, at a specific point in time in which real men and women met an itinerant rabbi named Jesus of Nazareth—and after what they had thought to be the utter catastrophe of his degrading and violent death, met him anew as the Risen Lord Jesus. The lives of those real men and women were so transformed by these encounters that they, in turn, went out and got to work on the task the Risen One gave them: to “make disciples of all nations” (Matt. 28:19). 

The earthiness of the Christmas story—the manger, the stable, the “swaddling clothes,” the stolid oxen and lowing cows, the bewildered but kindly shepherds, the exotic Magi from the East and their gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh, the child’s circumcision—underscores this core Christian conviction: The Second Person of the Most Holy Trinity, the “Word” through whom “all things were made” (John 1:1, 3), entered history through the cooperation of a Jewish girl and her overshadowing by the Holy Spirit, and was born at a precise moment in time at a precise place. Whether “the first cuttings of His infant hair” really are in Rome’s Basilica of the Holy Cross in Jerusalem may be beyond historical verification; the real point being made in such claims is that the incarnate Son of God really was at one point in his life among us, an infant who had an infant’s hair and all the other attributes of a weak and defenseless child. 

Ditto for what is really being proposed by the “napkins,” the cradle, St. Joseph’s blanket-cloak, and all the rest: He whom Christianity proclaims as Lord and Savior, the One who fully reveals both the truth about God and the truth about our humanity’s dignity and destiny, was not a character in some virtual reality “metaverse” constructed by Mark Zuckerberg. He was here, on this third planet of the solar system. And he is still with us: in the Scriptures proclaimed, and above all in the holy bread broken and shared. (Read more.)


Friday, December 24, 2021

A Case for Withdrawing the Genre of “Christian Fiction”

 From LitHub:

The premise of the book I’m holding is a familiar one: girl and boy meet, girl and boy don’t get along, girl and boy can’t deny the romance that sparks between them. It’s a plot I’ve read dozens of times before and will gladly read a dozen times more. Yet beneath my anticipation there’s a lurking insecurity, one that tells me I shouldn’t be reading this book, and it causes me to sneak it into the house as though reading it were an illicit activity. For this novel is categorized as Christian fiction, and I’m not Christian.

Not even a little bit Christian. Religion wasn’t part of my upbringing, and I chose not to align with anything spiritual in my adult life. But I am an avid reader, one of those reads-four-books-per-week types. I’m not too picky and take pride in traveling through so many new worlds in the books I encounter. This includes Christian fiction, for which I’ve formed a habit that can be rather uncomfortable for a non-Christian identifier. Much of time, the Christian fiction I read has nothing to do with Christianity; in truth, the book I’m about to dive into is simply a work of formulaic contemporary fiction that just so happens to be published by a Christian publishing house.

So-called “Christian fiction” is the category assigned to novels published by Christian faith-based publishers. Rising to popularity in the US in the late 1970s, the big names today are Baker House, which houses six imprints, each with their own flavor and specialty, Zondervan, which considers itself the gold standard for Christian publications, and Tyndale, my personal favorite. As with all fiction, there are subgenres to note: Amish, biblical, contemporary, historical, fantasy, and western. In my experience, the latter four subgenres tend to feature very little Christian-specific content. (Read more.)


Thursday, December 23, 2021

Christmas Pudding

All you need to know. (Via Stephanie Mann,)
 Few foods can trace their history back through multiple centuries. Plum pudding stands out as one of those few. It began in Roman times as a pottage, a meat and vegetable concoction prepared in a large cauldron. Dried fruits, sugar and spices might be added to the mix as well.

Another ancestor to the plum pudding, porridge or frumenty appeared in the fourteenth century. A soup-like fasting dish containing meats, raisins, currants, prunes, wine and spices, it was eaten before the Christmas celebrations began. By the fifteenth century, plum pottage a soupy mix of meat, vegetables and fruit was served to start a meal.

As the seventeenth century opened, frumenty evolved into a plum pudding. Thickened with eggs, breadcrumbs, and dried fruit, the addition of beer and spirits gave it more flavor and increased its shelf life. Variants were made with white meat, though gradually the meat was omitted and replaced by suet. The root vegetables also disappeared. By 1650, the plum pudding had transformed from a main dish to a dessert, the customary one served at Christmas. Not long afterward though, plum pudding was banned by Oliver Cromwell because he believed the ritual of flaming the pudding harked back to pagan celebrations of the winter solstice.

George I, sometime called the Pudding King revived the dish in 1714 when he requested that plum pudding be served as part of his royal feast to celebrate his first Christmas in England. Subsequently it became entrenched as part of traditional holiday celebrations, taking its final form of cannon-ball of flour, fruits, suet, sugar and spices, all topped with holly in the 1830’s. In 1858 it was first dubbed the Christmas Pudding, recorded as such in Anthony Trollope's Doctore Thorne.  (Read entire post.)

The Disappearing Irish

 From The Washington Examiner:

Over 7,000 people lived at 97 Orchard Street in Manhattan’s Lower East Side between 1863 and 1935. The five-story tenement building housed mostly immigrant families from Italy, Germany, and Ireland, with names such as Baldizzi, Rogarshevsky, and Moore.

Tired of constantly updating the small apartments with each new domestic advance (first indoor plumbing, then gas, then electricity), the owner boarded up the top four floors in 1935 and just rented out the bottom floor to businesses, creating a sort of time capsule of the residential units.

In 1988, the building was then turned into the Tenement Museum, where visitors could tour apartments made to look as they were when immigrant families lived there. Researchers took great care in identifying the actual families that lived in each apartment so that museum staff could tell the real stories of the people that lived there.

In 2017, the museum bought a second building up the street, enabling staff to incorporate the stories of the Chinese and Puerto Rican families that lived there. At no point could researchers identify a black family who lived in either tenement, however, and that became a huge problem in 2020 after the killing of George Floyd.

The Tenement Museum initially issued a statement supporting Black Lives Matter, acknowledging that “black people have lived in the area we now know as the Lower East Side since the 1640s.” But this was not nearly enough.

A second statement was issued claiming that “white supremacy and anti-blackness are central to American history and its violent present.” “Part of that violence,” the statement continued, “is an institutional practice of omitting and erasing black voices and perspectives.”

In other words, the Tenement Museum was forced to say that by not pretending black families had lived in its buildings, the organization was committing violent acts of white supremacy. (Read more.)

Holly Jolly

 From The Imaginative Conservative:

The holiday also so ably serves as a fixed moment in time, thus transcending the normal bounds of time and space. “The wondrous and mysterious thing about Christmas is that for one day a year, we live in the past as well as in the present,” Mr. Voger explains. “We break out the same decorations, many that go back decades. We observe the same traditions. We’re always saying things like, ‘Remember that Christmas back in ’78? Or whenever. But each year, we add a few new decorations, traditions and memories—which, of course, are revisited in ensuing Christmases.” Mr. Voger is especially effective in remembering and describing the timelessness of Christmas Eve as well, a night which teaches all children “the ultimate in delayed gratification.” Anticipation of the gifts, he argues rather beautifully, is not about what one gets, but potentially what one can become. The desire for a bb-gun, after all, is not about owning a bb-gun. Rather it’s about becoming an armed warrior-hero-vigilante.

Additionally, Mr. Voger wonderfully captures his own Christmas shopping as “from a young age, we children were encouraged to save our pennies, nickels, and dimes all year to buy Christmas presents for one another.” His favorite place to shop, the Berlin, New Jersey, Farmer’s Market. “There was no place on Earth like the Mart at Christmastime. Small gestures like strings of colored lights and Old Christmas songs playing through tinny speakers transformed the drab milieu into something magical. The Mart’s sometimes forlorn denizens moved with a bit more purpose, and even some joviality. At the lamp shop, the animated ‘bleeding Jesus’ framed art (remember those?) took on extra significance.” (Read more.)


Wednesday, December 22, 2021

Rare Red Sprites in the Night Sky

 From Peta Pixel:

Once the location and conditions are right, a photographer then also needs a bit of good luck for the right sprites to happen at the right time.

“I was able to set up for this composition on a lakeshore during the height of activity and managed to capture a number of large, bright specimens from this part of the storm,” the photographer says. “Because the moonlight was interfering, the sprites appeared more magenta than red.”

As is often the case with photographs of auroras, a sad truth about sprite photography is that a camera can capture far more than the human eye can usually see. That said, sometimes if sprites are bright enough, they can be visible to observers on the ground.

“Though it was very quick, I did see the brighter parts of this one with my eyes,” Smith says. “They looked like white lines throughout the sky — they did not exactly look like what the camera captured.”

You can find more of Smith’s work on his website and Facebook. (Read more.)


New Details Emerge about January 6

 From Revolver:

It would be one thing if Epps’s repeated calls on January 5 to “go into the Capitol” had simply amounted to bluster. But Epps followed through on his stated mission to shepherd others inside. In clips 4-6 of the above compilation, we see Epps actively orchestrate elements of the very first breach of the Capitol barricades at 12:50 p.m, while Trump still had 20 minutes left in his rally speech.

It is noteworthy that this Ray Epps breach occurs just one minute after Capitol Police began responding to reports of two “pipe bombs” located at DNC and GOP headquarters, respectively. Rather conveniently, the already-handicapped Capitol Police thus had still-fewer resources with which to respond to the barricade breach in question.

While the “pipe bombs” turned out to be a dud, the Ray Epps breach proved fateful. Today, the official stories told by the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and the US Justice Department all depict the apparent Ray Epps-orchestrated 12:50 p.m. initial breach of metal barricades as the “Big Bang” event of January 6.

In large part, this description is hardly an exaggeration. Indeed, it was the 12:50 p.m. breach of the Capitol grounds, in conjunction with a handful of suspicious individuals ripping down fencing and signage, that set in motion the conditions allowing for 1/6 to turn from a rally into a riot. 

In this report, we will blow open this network of still-unindicted key operators who appear to have been at work either with or around Ray Epps during the initial Capitol grounds breach. You, dear reader, will be scandalized — though perhaps unsurprised — to learn that none of the actors covered in this report have received attention in the mainstream press, despite their active and indispensable roles in the events of 1/6.

As we explained in detail in our previous report, the FBI originally put Ray Epps’s face on its Capitol Violence “Most Wanted List” on January 8, 2021, just two days after 1/6. They offered a cash reward for information leading to his arrest. In fact, rank-and-file FBI agents initially deemed Epps’s role as an apparent riot organizer so important that they named him Suspect #16—one of the first 20 high-profile FBI targets in a database now packed with more than 500 suspects.

Then, six months later on June 30, 2021, both Revolver News and The New York Times published inconvenient stories that encouraged a more aggressive interrogation of the “Ray Epps third rail,” leading reasonable people to wonder why this publicly identified man on the Most Wanted List still had no charges filed against him.

The FBI responded to these important media stories the very next day. But their response was to quietly purge all online Ray Epps files from their website, then switch to a posture of “What? Who? Ray Epps? Never heard of him.”

Agents of the FBI Field Office in Phoenix (where Epps lives) have gone so far as to explicitly deny knowledge that Ray Epps even exists. Instead of pursuing Epps, FBI agents have instead pursued journalists who had the temerity to ask Epps in person if he was a government operative. “I understand that, but I can’t say anything,” is all Epps would tell them. (Read more.)


From the Ghetto with Love

 From Joseph Pearce at Crisis:

Our crime, it seems, is a desire to attend the same Mass for which the English martyrs laid down their lives for 150 years. Martyrs, such as St. Edmund Campion and St. Margaret Clitherow, along with hundreds of others, priests and laity alike, risked their lives and laid down their lives so that the people of England could still have access to the very Mass that our own bishops are now forbidding. If this isn’t madness, or something worse than madness, I don’t know what is.

It is understandable that those forced into the ghetto or shepherded onto the reservation should feel anger. It is reasonable to expect that those who are forcibly marginalized will be resentful of those who have used force against them. But this is the way of the world. It is not the way of Christ, nor is it the way of the Christian. We know that we will suffer persecution for following Christ because Christ Himself told us so. We know that such persecution is a blessing because Christ told us so. We know that the mark of the Christian is to love those who persecute us. It is, therefore, with love, not with anger, that we who find ourselves in the ghetto should respond to those who have placed us here.

We are comforted by the presence in the ghetto with us of St. Edmund Campion, St. Margaret Clitherow, and those other martyrs who died for the preservation of the Mass for which we are now persecuted for attending. We are comforted by the presence in the ghetto of Pope Benedict XVI, who is being scourged and crowned with thorns for his teaching on the spirit of the liturgy and the beauty of the Traditional Mass. We are in good company. We are in the best of company! (Read more.)

Memorial to Austrian Prince Vasyl Vyshyvany inaugurated in Kyiv

 From Euromaidan Press:

A bust of Archduke Wilhelm von Habsburg-Lothringen (Vasyl Vyshyvany), colonel of the Ukrainian Sich Riflemen (Sichovi Striltsi) and the UNR Army, politician, diplomat, poet and dreamer, was unveiled in Kyiv on May 20, 2021 (Vyshyvanka Day). It is located on Vasyl Vyshyvany Square, 39 Illienka Street (Lukyanivska metro station).

 Slowly but surely, Kyiv’s landscape is changing. A bust of Colonel Petro Bolbochan, colonel of the UNR Army, recently replaced a memorial to Stalin’s henchman Stanislav Kosior. Today, a monument to Wilhelm von Habsburg has been erected on Illienka Street, which recently bore the name of another communist criminal,” wrote journalist Rostyslav Martynyuk on his Facebook page.

The ceremony was attended by public activists, government officials, Ukrainian MPs, representatives of the Austrian Embassy, ​​the brass band of the Heroes of Kruty Military Institute of Telecommunications and Information, the National Guard of Ukraine, and many others.

The monument to Vasyl Vyshyvany was erected not far from the Lukyanivska Prison, where he was transported in 1948 by NKVD officers after being abducted from Vienna. He was tortured in the same prison, and his body was secretly buried somewhere nearby. (Read more.)


Tuesday, December 21, 2021

The Queen's Life in Jewelery

From The Tatler:

Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee Necklace was a gift from a group of aristocratic ladies in 1887 to mark her 50-year reign. After some wrangling over excess funds, Carrington & Co were commissioned to make a diamond and pearl necklace featuring a central crown design. Queen Victoria was so fond of the gift that she designated it as an heirloom of the Crown. The Queen inherited it in 1952, and she has frequently worn it at the State Opening of Parliament. During her reign, the Queen has been monarch of up to 15 Commonwealth Realms in addition to the United Kingdom. Among the outstanding inherited pieces from her mother in 2002 was Queen Elizabeth’s Canadian Maple-Leaf Brooch. It had been a gift from her husband King George VI to mark their first visit to Canada in 1939 and has been worn on successive state visits - by Queen Elizabeth II in 1951, by the Duchess of Cornwall in 2009 and by the Duchess of Cambridge in 2011. (Read more.

Who was Margaret Greville? From Town and Country

Born in 1863 to a brewery tycoon and his mistress, Greville began her ascent through the ranks of blue-blooded society when she married Ronald Greville, heir to a baronetcy and member of the Marlborough House set, a 19th-century version of the Turnip Toffs, if you will, that swirled around the court of Albert Edward, then the Prince of Wales (and by 1901, King Edward VII). Though her husband died of pneumonia in 1908 after just 17 years of marriage, Mrs. Greville, who never remarried, continued to cultivate her position as a notable socialite and hostess—and ingratiate herself with the royal family.

She was especially close to Alice Keppel, King Edward VII's favorite mistress, who also happened to be Camilla Parker Bowles's great-grandmother (Greville was the godmother to the Duchess of Cornwall's grandmother Sonia Keppel). She became good friends with Queen Mary and particularly adored Mary's daughter-in-law Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, the future consort to King George VI and later Queen Mother—when the couple married in 1923, Greville hosted them at Polesden Lacey, her grand country estate in Surrey, for their honeymoon.

Much like Queen Mary, Greville had an impeccable eye and voracious appetite for jewelry. She loved Boucheron and Cartier, and picked up gems from her travels around the world. And while Mary loved buying up Russian imperial jewels, Greville might have preferred the French—she supposedly had in her trove a necklace once owned by Marie Antoinette, and another that belonged to Empress Josephine, Napoleon's first wife. Given that the Grevilles never had children of their own, the entirety of her collection (the real ones only, of course—anything under £100 was given to the maid) was left to Elizabeth, "with my loving thoughts," when Greville died in 1942.

Some 60 bijoux are rumored to have been in the Greville bequest but the entirety of its contents will likely never be known to the public: only a handful of gems in this collection have ever seen the light of day over the past 79 years. Still, a select few have become fabulous mainstays in the House of Windsor jewelry repertoire. The Queen Mother made excellent use of possibly the two most valuable pieces: the Greville Tiara, created by Boucheron in 1921, and the five-strand diamond festoon necklace. (She also had the good sense not to debut them until the end of World War II and its subsequent period of austerity.)

Those showstoppers now adorn the Duchess of Cornwall, who have them on loan from the queen for important occasions. Other known treasures in the box include a pair of diamond ivy clips the Queen Mother gifted to her daughter Elizabeth for her 21st birthday; chandelier earrings the current monarch received as a wedding gift from mom; a diamond and pearl brooch the queen likes for low-key functions; a ruby and diamond floral necklace Kate Middleton borrowed for a state banquet in 2017; and the striking emerald kokoshnik tiara Princess Eugenie wore on her wedding day, marking the gem's first public debut since entering the Windsor coffers. (Read more.)



Are Autocrats Always Adversaries?

 From PJB:

When did the political systems of 193 nations become the business of the government of the United States? And who elected us Americans to write the moral code for the regimes that rule other lands? Consider: On taking office, President Joe Biden pledged to center his foreign policy "on the defense of democracy and the protection of human rights." At his Summit for Democracy, he said it was America's intent to undertake the bolstering of democracy and human rights worldwide. Yet no nation bristles more than we Americans do when we discover foreign regimes meddling in our politics or presidential elections. Why? Historically, Americans have collaborated not only with democracies but also with autocrats, dictators, monarchs and tyrants.

George Washington danced a jig when he learned an alliance had been forged with the France of King Louis XVI to fight beside us in our war of independence against the England of King George III, in whose army Washington had himself fought in the French and Indian War. (Read more.)

‘Please Do Not Break Glass’

 From The Daily Wire:

“In the month of November, city data shows there were 3,375 reports of larceny theft in San Francisco – the overwhelming majority of those were car break-ins. SFPD’s Central District, home to tourist hot spots including Fisherman’s Wharf and Chinatown, sees the highest number of smash-and-grabs,” CBS San Francisco added.

In Mid-November, NBC Bay Area titled a piece, “SF Suffers Highest Rate of Car Break-Ins Compared to Atlanta, DC, Dallas, LA,” subheading it, “The NBC Bay Area Investigative Unit rode along with undercover police officers, interviewed top law enforcement officials, and obtained and analyzed court and police records to find out why car burglaries remain one of the most prolific crimes in San Francisco.” (Read more.)


The 17th Century Japanese Samurai Who Sailed to Europe

 From Open Culture:

We learn about intrepid Europeans who sought, and sometimes even found, trade and missionary routes to China and Japan during the centuries of exploration and empire. Rarely, if ever, do we hear about visitors from the East to the West, especially those as well-traveled as 17th-century samurai Hasekura Tsunenaga. Sent on a mission to Europe and America by his feudal lord, Date Masumune, Hasekura “set off on a quest to earn riches and spiritual guidance,” Andrew Milne writes at All that’s Interesting. “He circumnavigated the globe, became part of the first Japanese group in Cuba, met the Pope, helped begin a branch of Japanese settlers in Spain (still thriving today), and even became a Roman citizen.”

Hasekura was a battle-tested samurai who had acted on the daimyo‘s behalf on many occasions. His mission to the West, however, was first and foremost a chance to redeem his honor and save his life. In 1612, Hasekura’s father was made to commit seppuku after an indictment for corruption. Stripped of lands and title, Hasekura could only avoid the same fate by going West, and so he did, just a few years before the period of sakoku, or national isolation, began in Japan. Traveling with Spanish missionary Luis Sotelo, Hasekura embarked from the small Japanese port of Tsukinoura in 1613 and first reached Cape Mendocino in California, then part of New Spain. (Read more.)

Monday, December 20, 2021

A Reed Shaken by the Wind

 From One Peter 5:

They could not have known that earlier that very morning the priest had stared into the abyss. He had had a vision of himself, standing before his bishop and being given the ultimatum: give up the old Mass and sacraments or be banished without faculties into the world. He was reminded of his vow of obedience to the bishop, solemnly sworn before God and his brother priests on the day of his ordination. But he was torn; his conscience unquiet. What would he say?

He had been reading and praying over this. What is the duty to obey an unjust order? Who is to decide whether a superior’s order is unjust? What is the duty of a priest to his parishioners? Can a successor of the apostles be wrong? Would this be happening if Pius X were pope? Is his own soul in peril if he submits? (Read more.)

From Father Z:

Today’s Bolletino (daily notices from the Holy See Press Office) has a document from the Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments.   The document includes an introduction from the Prefect to Presidents of Bishops Conferences and “responses” to several “questions” (dubia) allegedly posed to the Congregation about the implementation of the cruel Traditionis custodes.

I’m dubious about the dubia.

I must say that, reading through the questions, I have a very hard time believing that these are actual questions that came from outside the Congregation, unless they were collaborations, like that risible exchange between the Prefect and the Archbishop of Westminster.   I strongly suspect that the “dubia” were concocted inside the Congregation.  I also do not believe for a nanosecond that the “survey” sent to bishops came back with even a sliver of evidence that something had gone awry with Summoum Pontificum.  In essence, I suspect that we are being lied to.   They are simply imposing their will. (Read more.)


Will the Metaverse Create a Virtual Hell on Earth?

 From Return to Order:

The next step in the cyber-revolution is the so-called metaverse, a powerful computing platform that goes beyond anything seen to date. It is marketed as the next generation of the Internet, facilitating intense experiences and opening new markets. Some fear this metaverse will make present social media addictions worse. Others see it as a much more harmful distraction, especially among youth.

However, no one considers the moral implications of the project. The metaverse will harm souls. Tragically, people see no reason to involve God and morality in a technological invention seemingly outside the private realm of religion. Worst of all, clergy show no sign of acknowledging the issue. It is not even on the radar. However, the issue does exist. The metaverse is a metaphysical attack on the Church’s worldview. It obliterates the nature of a God-created universe. It will make possible immoral acts that will gravely offend God.

The metaverse must be understood in the context of a process of modernity’s continuous effort to put humanity, not God, at the center of all things. Indeed, modernity has an obsession with imagining new worlds without God. The Enlightenment introduced ways to stretch reality to its limits by developing new technologies, philosophies and lifestyles. Modern times have ushered in the glorification of the individual. Society became a collection of persons, Hobbes’ “sandheap of individuals,” each guided by self-interest and kept in order by a strong rule of law found in his Leviathan. (Read more.)


Sealed with a Spiral

 From Ars Technica:

On the eve of her execution for treason in February 1587, Mary, Queen of Scots, penned a letter to King Henri III of France and secured it with a paper lock that featured an intricate spiral mechanism. So-called "letterlocking" was a common practice to protect private letters from prying eyes, but this spiral lock is particularly ingenious and delicate because it incorporates a built-in self-destruct feature, according to a new paper published in the Electronic British Library Journal.

The authors are an interdisciplinary team of researchers working under the umbrella of the Unlocking History Research Group. In this paper, they describe a dozen examples of a spiral lock in letters dated between 1568 and 1638, including one from Mary's former mother-in-law, Catherine de Medici, as well as her arch-rival, Elizabeth I, who signed Mary's death warrant. (Read more.)

Sunday, December 19, 2021

Social Infertility and the Denial of Reality

 From The Christian Post:

One of the features of the sexual revolution, especially in these latter days, is the steady stream of new words invented in the wake of increasingly incoherent ideas. For example, the word “cisgender,” coined by sociologists in the 90s, refers to “those who continue to identify with the sex they were assigned at birth.” It’s a definition loaded with ideas, such as sex being assigned at birth, but it basically means boys who identify as boys and girls who identify as girls. Only a culture committed to normalizing dysphoria and de-normalizing biology needs a word like that.

More recently, but in the same spirit of social engineering through nomenclature, some activists have suggested a new take on infertility, not based on biology or reproductive health but on lifestyle choices. The term is “social infertility,” and it refers to the state of those who intentionally choose sterile sexual arrangements, such as same-sex relationships, but still want children.

Proponents Lisa Campo-Engelstein and Weei Lo argue for the term this way: “Expanding the current definition of infertility to include social infertility will elevate it to a treatable medical condition, justifying the use of ART [assisted reproductive technologies] for such individuals.” Further, they continue, “States with infertility insurance mandates should provide the same infertility coverage to socially infertile individuals as physiologically infertile heterosexual couples.” [emphasis added]

Assumed here is that everyone has a right to babies. So, if you want one but are in a relationship unable to procreate, technology and the government should adjust accordingly, and force employers, hospitals, doctors, and insurance companies to help you have a baby. To be clear, this is not yet law, but this same “universal parentage” line of thinking was used to legalize commercial surrogacy in the state of Washington a few years ago, and the Department of Health and Human Services has indicated this kind of language may find its way into new mandates.

The irony is that the very concept of “social infertility” undermines the “love is love” slogan that has so effectively advanced the social innovations of the sexual revolution, such as same-sex marriage. Clearly, same-sex love — even when committed, sincere and monogamous — isn’t the same as heterosexual love in terms of what intercourse means and its procreative potential. Therefore, new words need to be invented, and others redefined.

Redefining “infertility” in this way demands that a slew of other important words, such as “medical condition,” be redefined as well. If an otherwise healthy man and woman fail to conceive a child together, it’s reasonable to suspect a deeper medical condition. Two men (or two women), however, will never be able to conceive a child together. And, when they can’t, nothing has gone wrong. No one suspects their inability to conceive is due to disability or sickness. All that’s left is to create a new category of discrimination.

Advocates of so-called “social infertility” suggest it is unjust when two men or two women cannot conceive and that, therefore, the government should step in. This assumes, of course, that conceiving a child is a “right” even when biologically impossible, an idea only plausible in a culture in which the value of children is tied wholly to whether or not they are wanted. If terminating preborn life is justified when a child is not wanted, then all it takes to justify conceiving a life is that it is wanted. This leaves other words like “rights,” “discrimination,” “equality” (not to mention “men” and “women”) up for grabs. (Read more.)

A Mosaic Discovered at a Roman Villa in Rutland

 From Country Life:

An elaborate Roman villa complex discovered in Rutland in 2020 has been protected as a Scheduled Monument, after excavators uncovered a 36ft by 23ft floor mosaic depicting the battle between Achilles and Hector during the Trojan War. This is the first example in the UK to show scenes from Homer’s Iliad and one of only a handful across Europe.

‘What started as a ramble through the fields with the family turned into an incredible discovery,’ explains Jim Irvine, whose father, Brian Naylor, owns the field.

‘Finding some unusual pottery among the wheat piqued my interest and prompted some further investigative work. Later, looking at the satellite imagery I spotted a very clear crop mark… this really was the “oh wow” moment.’

Leicestershire County Council and Historic England got involved, securing funding for urgent archaeological investigations by the University of Leicester Archaeological Services (ULAS) and, as well as the mosaic in a large 3rd–4th-century villa, outbuildings including barns and a bathhouse were found. The rubble above the mosaic contained late-Roman/early-medieval human remains, thought to be a deliberate burial.

‘This has been… extraordinary,’ enthuses Richard Clark, county archaeologist for Leicestershire and Rutland, ‘placing the county on a national and international stage and providing a vivid insight into the life and demise of the local Romano-British elite at a time of remarkable change.’ (Read more.)

Saturday, December 18, 2021

"A Lush, Passionate Portrait"

  From BookLife:

In the first of her Henrietta of France trilogy, Vidal (Marie-Antoinette, Daughter of the Caesars) paints a lush, passionate portrait of the life of Henriette-Marie, a seventeenth century French princess descended from the Bourbons and Medicis. Wed to King Charles I of England at the tender age of fifteen, Henriette is determined to bring Catholicism back to England, despite her Protestant husband and the country’s “hatred of Catholicism.” Often buffeted by political and social forces beyond her control, Henriette, known in England as Queen Mary, faces the challenges she encounters with the courage and resolve that she draws from her deep Catholic faith.

Firmly grounded in real historical events and settings, Vidal breathes life into Henriette’s era through extensive, evocative descriptions of its clothing, food, and palaces. This attention to detail offers a tantalizing immersion in this royal world, from the elaborately-costumed “masques” she and courtiers create to entertain the King at holiday celebrations to her beloved spaniel, Hebe. Vidal also illustrates the complexity of royal life through her careful elaboration of the complicated web of marriages, kinships, and associations. Some readers will be overwhelmed by the many branches of the royal family tree, but the text’s clear exposition and strong narrative arc offer clarity and guidance.

Vidal highlights the most important characters through her vivid depiction of their personalities and motivations. Antagonist George Villiers, the Duke of Buckingham, creates a true sense of menace as he threatens Henriette and works to disempower her. Although she is pure and steadfast in her intentions, Henriette’s struggles to balance her devotion to her husband and to her faith will earn readers’ respect and sympathy, even if they do not share her allegiance to the Catholic church. Offering insight into the passions behind the protocols, My Queen, My Love infuses these historical figures with humanity.

Takeaway: Readers of historical fiction will appreciate the depth and nuance Vidal brings to this often overlooked historical figure. (Read more.)

"Elena Maria Vidal brings history to life again with the story of Queen Henriette Marie, complete with an unlikely but true love story of the Queen and King Charles I of England, a formidable personal enemy in the menacing Duke of Buckingham, lots of well-researched period details, and the matters of Christian faith behind many of the conflicts. An antidote to the Whiggish story that is often passed off as history in America, with its anti-monarchical bias. Though Henriette Marie is not nearly as well known as another maligned consort, Marie Antoinette, Americans should learn her story because, coming after Jamestown's founding, she was their queen." —John Beeler, A Conservative Blog for Peace