Friday, December 31, 2021

Happy New Year!

As Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus said, "As this year has gone, so our life will go, and soon we shall say 'it is gone.' Let us not waste our time; soon eternity will shine for us." Share

'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.)
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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.)
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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.)
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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

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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.)


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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.)
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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.)

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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.)


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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.)

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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.)



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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.)


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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.)

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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.)


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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.)

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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.)


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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

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“Tomorrow Shall Be My Dancing Day”

 From The Imaginative Conservative:

William Sandys (1792-1874) was an antiquarian by hobby—a “person who collects or studies old things” or “a student of the past,” according to Webster’s. The things Sandys happened to collect were Christmas songs. His 1833 publication Christmas Carols Ancient and Modern helped to launch the Victorian revival of the holiday, a revival that followed centuries of puritan neglect.[*] Sandys claimed in his book to have unearthed English yuletide songs dating back four centuries. Making their first appearance in print were many carols we now take for granted, such as “The First Noel,” “God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen,” and “Hark, the Herald Angels Sing.”

Although it hasn’t soared to those heights of popularity, “Tomorrow Shall Be My Dancing Day” is richly fascinating nonetheless. The text has turns of phrase redolent of the Middle Ages or Renaissance, yet no source for the song prior to Sandys has been found. What is most remarkable about “Dancing Day” is that it narrates the entire story of Christ’s life in Christ’s own voice, and that it describes the story of salvation with the image of a dance:

Tomorrow shall be my dancing day;
I would my true love did so chance
To see the legend of my play,
To call my true love to the dance.

Refrain:

Sing, oh! My love, oh! My love, my love, my love,
This have I done for my true love.

Most scholars agree that the text goes back far earlier than 1833, with the phrase “legend of my play” a possible clue that the carol was connected to the medieval mystery plays. Musicologists Hugh Keyte and Andrew Parrott write:

It seems possible that ‘Tomorrow shall be’ was devised to be sung and danced at the conclusion of the first day of a three-day drama . . . The actor portraying Christ would have sung the verses and the whole company and audience the repeats of the refrains.

Hymn texts in which Christ himself speaks—a device one commentator refers to as vox Christi—are rare, making a theatrical origin for “Dancing Day” even more likely.

Mystery plays were one of the three distinctive medieval forms of theater, the other two being miracle plays and morality plays. All three types evolved out of short scenes performed in church by the clergy as an adjunct to the liturgy and depicting biblical subjects such as the Creation, Adam, and Eve, or the Last Judgment. Mystery plays eventually moved out of church premises into the village square, often traveled from town to town on wagons, and became increasingly elaborate.

As the plays traveled to various locales, they were often advertised by the players in a song called a “banns.” If our carol originally formed part of a mystery play about the life of Christ, the “dancing day” on the “morrow” might refer to the subsequent part of the play, treating the Redemption.

Most striking is the relationship between Christ and humanity being likened to that of a lover and his “true love,” with the refrain’s expressive repetitions of “my love.” This motif hearkens back to the love poetry of the Song of Songs, in which the lover and beloved are traditionally interpreted as representing Christ and the church or Christ and the soul. The idea of Christ and humanity being united as bridegroom and bride is a classic Christian motif, but we are surprised to find it in a popular Christmas carol, and even more to find the image extended to depict Christ as our dancing partner. There is a good amount of theology and scripture in “Dancing Day,” such as the treatment of the Incarnation:

Then was I born of a virgin pure;
Of her I took fleshly substance.
Thus was I knit to man’s nature
To call my true love to the dance.

In a manger laid and wrapped I was,
So very poor; this was my chance,
Betwixt an ox and a silly poor ass,
To call my true love to my dance.

(Read more.)


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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.)


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Saturday, December 25, 2021

"The Burning Babe"


The poem by St. Robert Southwell, priest and martyr. 
As I in hoary winter's night stood shivering in the snow,
Surprised I was with sudden heat which made my heart to glow ;
And lifting up a fearful eye to view what fire was near,
A pretty babe all burning bright did in the air appear ;
Who, scorchëd with excessive heat, such floods of tears did shed
As though his floods should quench his flames which with his tears were fed.
Alas, quoth he, but newly born in fiery heats I fry,
Yet none approach to warm their hearts or feel my fire but I !
My faultless breast the furnace is, the fuel wounding thorns,
Love is the fire, and sighs the smoke, the ashes shame and scorns ;
The fuel justice layeth on, and mercy blows the coals,
The metal in this furnace wrought are men's defilëd souls,
For which, as now on fire I am to work them to their good,
So will I melt into a bath to wash them in my blood.
With this he vanished out of sight and swiftly shrunk away,
And straight I callëd unto mind that it was Christmas day.


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When Massachusetts Banned Christmas

 It was banned in England, too, under Cromwell. From History:

After the Puritans in England overthrew King Charles I in 1647, among their first items of business after chopping off the monarch’s head was to ban Christmas. Parliament decreed that December 25 should instead be a day of “fasting and humiliation” for Englishmen to account for their sins. The Puritans of New England eventually followed the lead of those in old England, and in 1659 the General Court of the Massachusetts Bay Colony made it a criminal offense to publicly celebrate the holiday and declared that “whosoever shall be found observing any such day as Christmas or the like, either by forbearing of labor, feasting, or any other way” was subject to a 5-shilling fine.

Why did the Puritans loathe Christmas? Stephen Nissenbaum, author of The Battle for Christmas, says it was partly because of theology and partly because of the rowdy celebrations that marked the holiday in the 1600s. n their strict interpretation of the Bible, the Puritans noted that there was no scriptural basis for commemorating Christmas. “The Puritans tried to run a society in which legislation would not violate anything that the Bible said, and nowhere in the Bible is there a mention of celebrating the Nativity,” Nissenbaum says. The Puritans noted that scriptures did not mention a season, let alone a single day, that marked the birth of Jesus

 Even worse for the Puritans were the pagan roots of Christmas. Not until the fourth century A.D. did the church in Rome ordain the celebration of the Nativity on December 25, and that was done by co-opting existing pagan celebrations such as Saturnalia, an ancient Roman holiday of lights marked with drinking and feasting that coincided with the winter solstice. The noted Puritan minister Increase Mather wrote that Christmas occurred on December 25 not because “Christ was born in that month, but because the heathens’ Saturnalia was at that time kept in Rome, and they were willing to have those pagan holidays metamorphosed into Christian [ones].” According to Nissenbaum, “Puritans believed Christmas was basically just a pagan custom that the Catholics took over without any biblical basis for it. The holiday had everything to do with the time of year, the solstice and Saturnalia and nothing to do with Christianity.” (Read more.)

 

Cromwell and Christmas, HERE.


Here is a defense of the traditional date of Christmas:

The Catholic Church, from at least the second century, has claimed that Christ was born on December 25. However, it is commonly alleged that our Lord Jesus Christ was not born on December 25. For the sake of simplicity, let us set out the usual objections to the date of December 25 and counter each of them.

Objection 1: December 25 was chosen in order to replace the pagan Roman festival of Saturnalia. Saturnalia was a popular winter festival and so the Catholic Church prudently substituted Christmas in its place.
 
Reply to Objection 1: Saturnalia commemorated the winter solstice. Yet the winter solstice falls on December 22. It is true that Saturnalia celebrations began as early as December 17 and extended till December 23. Still, the dates don’t match up.
 
Objection 2: December 25 was chosen to replace the pagan Roman holiday Natalis Solis Invicti which means “Birthday of the Unconquered Sun.”
 
Reply to Objection 2: Let us examine first the cult of the Unconquered Sun. The Emperor Aurelian introduced the cult of the Sol Invictus or Unconquered Sunto Rome in A.D. 274. Aurelian found political traction with this cult, because his own name Aurelianderives from the Latin word aurora denoting “sunrise.” Coins reveal that Emperor Aurelian called himself the Pontifex Solis or Pontiff of the Sun. Thus, Aurelian simply accommodated a generic solar cult and identified his name with it at the end of the third century.
 
Most importantly, there is no historical record for a celebration Natalis Sol Invictus on December 25 prior to A.D. 354. Within an illuminated manuscript for the year A.D. 354, there is an entry for December 25 reading “N INVICTI CM XXX.”  Here N means “nativity.” INVICTI means “of the Unconquered.” CM signifies “circenses missus” or “games ordered.” The Roman numeral XXX equals thirty. Thus, the inscription means that thirty games were order for the nativity of the Unconquered for December 25th. Note that the word “sun” is not present. Moreover, the very same codex also lists “natus Christus in Betleem Iudeae” for the day of December 25. The phrase is translated as “birth of Christ in Bethlehem of Judea.”[i]
 
The date of December 25th only became the “Birthday of the Unconquered Sun” under the Emperor Julian the Apostate. Julian the Apostate had been a Christian but who had apostatized and returned to Roman paganism. History reveals that it was the hateful former Christian Emperor that erected a pagan holiday on December 25. Think about that for a moment. What was he trying to replace?
These historical facts reveal that the Unconquered Sun was not likely a popular deity in the Roman Empire. The Roman people did not need to be weaned off of a so-called ancient holiday. Moreover, the tradition of a December 25th celebration does not find a place on the Roman calendar until after the Christianization of Rome. The “Birthday of the Unconquered Sun” holiday was scarcely traditional and hardly popular. Saturnalia (mentioned above) was much more popular, traditional, and fun. It seems, rather, that Julian the Apostate had attempted to introduce a pagan holiday in order to replace the Christian one! (Read more.)

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Last Will and Testament of Louis XVI

The last Will and Testament of Louis XVI, King of France and Navarre, given on Christmas day, 1792.
In the name of the Very holy Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Ghost.
To-day, the 25th day of December, 1792, I, Louis XVI King of France, being for more than four months imprisoned with my family in the tower of the Temple at Paris, by those who were my subjects, and deprived of all communication whatsoever, even with my family, since the eleventh instant; moreover, involved in a trial the end of which it is impossible to foresee, on account of the passions of men, and for which one can find neither pretext nor means in any existing law, and having no other witnesses, for my thoughts than God to whom I can address myself, I hereby declare, in His presence, my last wishes and feelings.
I leave my soul to God, my creator; I pray Him to receive it in His mercy, not to judge it according to its merits but according to those of Our Lord Jesus Christ who has offered Himself as a sacrifice to God His Father for us other men, no matter how hardened, and for me first.
I die in communion with our Holy Mother, the Catholic, Apostolic, Roman Church, which holds authority by an uninterrupted succession, from St. Peter, to whom Jesus Christ entrusted it; I believe firmly and I confess all that is contained in the creed and the commandments of God and the Church, the sacraments and the mysteries, those which the Catholic Church teaches and has always taught. I never pretend to set myself up as a judge of the various way of expounding the dogma which rend the church of Jesus Christ, but I agree and will always agree, if God grant me life the decisions which the ecclesiastical superiors of the Holy Catholic Church give and will always give, in conformity with the disciplines which the Church has followed since Jesus Christ.
I pity with all my heart our brothers who may be in error but I do not claim to judge them, and I do not love them less in Christ, as our Christian charity teaches us, and I pray to God to pardon all my sins. I have sought scrupulously to know them, to detest them and to humiliate myself in His presence. Not being able to obtain the ministration of a Catholic priest, I pray God to receive the confession which I feel in having put my name (although this was against my will) to acts which might be contrary to the discipline and the belief of the Catholic church, to which I have always remained sincerely attached. I pray God to receive my firm resolution, if He grants me life, to have the ministrations of a Catholic priest, as soon as I can, in order to confess my sins and to receive the sacrament of penance.

I beg all those whom I might have offended inadvertently (for I do not recall having knowingly offended any one), or those whom I may have given bad examples or scandals, to pardon the evil which they believe I could have done them.

I beseech those who have the kindness to join their prayers to mine, to obtain pardon from God for my sins.
I pardon with all my heart those who made themselves my enemies, without my have given them any cause, and I pray God to pardon them, as well as those who, through false or misunderstood zeal, did me much harm.

I commend to God my wife and my children, my sister, my aunts, my brothers, and all those who are attached to me by ties of blood or by whatever other means. I pray God particularly to cast eyes of compassion upon my wife, my children, and my sister, who suffered with me for so long a time, to sustain them with His mercy if they shall lose me, and as long as they remain in his mortal world.
I commend my children to my wife; I have never doubted her maternal tenderness for them. I enjoin her above all to make them good Christians and honest individuals; to make them view the grandeurs of this world (if they are condemned to experience them) as very dangerous and transient goods, and turn their attention towards the one solid and enduring glory, eternity. I beseech my sister to kindly continue her tenderness for my children and to take the place of a mother, should they have the misfortune of losing theirs.

I beg my wife to forgive all the pain which she suffered for me, and the sorrows which I may have caused her in the course of our union; and she may feel sure that I hold nothing against her, if she has anything with which to reproach herself.

I most warmly enjoin my children that, after what they owe to God, which should come first, they should remain forever united among themselves, submissive and obedient to their mother, and grateful for all the care and trouble which she has taken with them, as well as in memory of me. I beg them to regard my sister as their second mother.

I exhort my son, should he have the misfortune of becoming king, to remember he owes himself wholly to the happiness of his fellow citizens; that he should forget all hates and all grudges, particularly those connected with the misfortunes and sorrows which I am experiencing; that he can make the people happy only by ruling according to laws: but at the same time to remember that a king cannot make himself respected and do the good that is in his heart unless he has the necessary authority, and that otherwise, being tangled up in his activities and not inspiring respect, he is more harmful than useful.

I exhort my son to care for all the persons who are attached to me, as much as his circumstances will allow, to remember that it is a sacred debt which I have contracted towards the children and relatives of those who have perished for me and also those who are wretched for my sake. I know that there are many persons, among those who were near me, who did not conduct themselves towards me as they should have and who have even shown ingratitude, but I pardon them (often in moments of trouble and turmoil one is not master of oneself), and I beg my son that, if he finds an occasion, he should think only of their misfortunes.

I should have wanted here to show my gratitude to those who have given me a true and disinterested affection; if, on the one hand, I was keenly hurt by the ingratitude and disloyalty of those to whom I have always shown kindness, as well as to their relatives and friends, on the other hand I have had the consolation of seeing the affection and voluntary interest which many persons have shown me. I beg them to receive my thanks.

In the situation in which matters still are, I fear to compromise them if I should speak more explicitly, but I especially enjoin my son to seek occasion to recognize them.

I should, nevertheless, consider it a calumny on the nation if I did not openly recommend to my son MM. De Chamilly and Hue, whose genuine attachment for me led them to imprison themselves with me in this sad abode. I also recommend Clery, for whose attentiveness I have nothing but praise ever since he has been with me. Since it is he who has remained with me until the end, I beg the gentlemen of the commune to hand over to him my clothes, my books, my watch, my purse, and all other small effects which have been deposited with the council of the commune.

I pardon again very readily those who guard me, the ill treatment and the vexations which they thought it necessary to impose upon me. I found a few sensitive and compassionate souls among them – may they in their hearts enjoy the tranquillity which their way of thinking gives them.

I beg MM. De Malesherbes, Tronchet and De Seze to receive all my thanks and the expressions of my feelings for all the cares and troubles they took for me.

I finish by declaring before God, and ready to appear before Him, that I do not reproach myself with any of the crimes with which I am charged.

Made in duplicate in the Tower of the Temple, the 25th of December 1792.

LOUIS

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Friday, December 24, 2021

Victorian Christmas Decorating

From Mimi Matthews:
There’s nothing more quintessentially Christmas than a Victorian Christmas, complete with mistletoe, tinsel, and candles on the tree. But there was more to Victorian holiday decorating than tinsel and candles. Just like us, many Victorians had a fondness for glitter and gold. In my new Victorian Christmas romance A Holiday By Gaslight, there’s a scene in which the guests at a country house party decorate for Christmas by gilding acorns and artificially frosting the tips of holly and ivy leaves with crystals. These Victorian decorating ideas didn’t originate in my fevered authorial brain. They were actual methods used to create glittering, gold-flaked, holiday cheer. 
An issue of the Delineator from 1900 declares that “one of the handsomest effects” for the Christmas tree was “having the tips of the green boughs glittering with crystals and reflecting the lights in many brilliant colors.” It goes on to state that: “One would suppose, at first sight of the glittering display, that some expensive method was necessary to produce the effect, but the process of covering the green twigs with crystals is very cheap and simple.” 
At this juncture, I feel it necessary to warn you that you should definitely NOT try this at home. Many recipes the Victorians employed for decorating were highly toxic and not at all safe for use. The information provided below is purely for your historical edification. (Read more.)
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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.)

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How Christmas Was Celebrated in the Middle Ages

 From History:

Long before Santa Claus, caroling and light-strewn Christmas trees, people in medieval Europe celebrated the Christmas season with 12 full days of feasting and revelry culminating with Twelfth Night and the raucous crowning of a “King of Misrule.”

Christmas in the Middle Ages was preceded by the month-long fast of Advent, during which Christians avoided rich foods and overindulgence. But all bets were off starting on the morning of December 25, according to Anne Lawrence-Mathers, a historian at the University of Reading in the UK where she specializes in medieval England, a period that runs roughly from the 5th century A.D. to 1500 A.D. 

“Once Christmas Day came around, if you had the stamina, then you were expected to eat, drink, be merry, dress up, play games, go dancing around the neighborhood for 12 days solid before you collapsed in a heap,” she says. (Read more.)

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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.)
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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.)
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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.)


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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.)


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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.)


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