Monday, February 28, 2022

The Hapsburg Legacy in Prague

 From The New York Social Diary:

Marie Antoinette was born a Hapsburg and during her childhood Prague was the seat of power of Bohemia, part of the Austrian empire. For the American Friends of Versailles who support restoration projects at the palace, this year’s annual heritage tour to Vienna and Prague was an opportunity to study the region which had shaped her. After four days visiting sites of the queen’s childhood in Vienna (click here for Part I) we boarded a comfortable coach for the five-hour ride to the capital city of the Czech Republic.

Pausing en route we stopped in Cesky Krumlov a charming medieval village, one of the country’s 23 UNESCO heritage sites. After touring the historic streets and dining in the restored dining room of the Rose Hotel which built in the 16th century as a Jesuit monastery and university, we were treated to a visit to the city’s remarkable 18th-century Baroque Castle Theater, a correlation to the theater Marie Antoinette commissioned near the Petit Trianon and which was recently restored at Versailles.

Remarkably well preserved, the theater in Cesky retains many of the original sets, costumes, and machines which were shown to us by Pavel Slavko who supervises the restoration. (Read more.)


A New Set of Numbers for the Church

 From Crux Now:

On Friday, the Vatican published the latest edition of the Annuario Pontificio, a big thick red volume that’s a combination between a statistical yearbook and a personal directory, as well as the Annuarium Statisticum Ecclesiae. Among other things, these books record changes in Catholic population over the past year, which allows observers to track demographic movements in the church over time.

Taking a look at the new set of numbers is instructive.

For one thing, the Annuario notes that Catholicism added 16 million new members in 2020, the latest year for which statistics are available. Granted, that meant the church did no more than keep pace with overall global population growth, but it’s still significant at a time when most western perceptions are that the church is shrinking due to the fallout from the sexual abuse crisis, various scandals at senior levels, bitter political infighting, increasing irrelevance to younger generations, and any number of other alleged failures. (Read more.)

The History of the Handkerchief

 From The Guardian:

Thus at the very beginning the handkerchief became a distinguishing mark of good society, and smart young Greeks had to decide whether to wipe their brow with their handkerchief or merely with their draperies. As they carried two – one in the hand and one at the girdle, – it was probably the former which ministered to the Classic brow. The Romans, who were inclined to overdo things Greek, carried, not two, but, several handkerchiefs, for each of which they had a different name, thus adding to the difficulties of Latin primers from a very early date.

The handkerchief then bounds across the dark ages to sixteenth-century Italy, brought there perhaps earlier by the indefatigable Marco Polo, and becoming fashionable suddenly and arbitrarily with such zest as to make it the object of sumptuary laws. The “fazzoletto” was an important item in the Italian bridal chest, and the bride was known by the richness and extravagance of her handkerchiefs. Thence it spread to France, and last of all to England, where it was regarded as a wicked extravagance by the older generation. There was even an Irish question in pocket handkerchiefs. (Read more.)

Sunday, February 27, 2022

Pachamama Did This

 From Crisis:

You read that correctly: I believe that the Covid pandemic and the horrific response to it were directly caused by the veneration of this pagan idol in the Vatican by prelates, priests, and lay people. In October 2019 a false idol was set up in the heart of the Catholic Church, and soon after all hell broke loose on earth. Bishops worldwide locked the doors of our churches. The dying were denied Last Rites. Catholics could not find priests to hear Confessions. Governments forced citizens into lockdowns. Children were forcibly masked for hours each day. The unvaccinated were treated like lepers. Small business owners lost their life’s work with the stroke of a governor’s pen. Would this have happened if Pachamama had been kept out of Rome? I do not think so. (Read more.)


This critical moment. Also from Crisis:

But let it be known that a moment of crisis is a critical moment. It is a moment when we are given the opportunity to make a choice, to ask ourselves why we are Catholic? Why am I in this seemingly brown and decaying field when my neighbors seem to be munching on yummy green grass? Am I here because I believe the pope to be the pythonic oracle and I must cling to his every word? Am I here because I was raised Catholic and have been too hesitant to make my own decision? Am I here because it is where I feel welcome and have found a safe space? Or am I here because I have been enraptured by the Beauty of Christ?

My response to those who inquire into my loyalty to the Church is quite simple. My faith is not in the princes of the Church, the pope, the hierarchical structures, or a particular form of worship or expression of the truth. My faith is in Truth Himself, in Jesus Christ, in whose Cross there is salvation and in whose Resurrection there is hope. “Do not put your trust in princes,” says the psalmist, “in mortals, in whom there is no help…. Happy are those whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord their God” (Psalm 146:3, 5).  (Read more.)


The "Brave New World" is here.

The family has been dismantled, monogamy is reviled, and promiscuity is the norm. Parents are obsolete. The government indoctrinates and raises our children, and it keeps the population subdued through widespread state-sanctioned drug use. Reproduction has moved to the laboratory: new generations are genetically engineered into varying social classes and are industrially grown.

It might be the plot of a dystopian novel, but in the nearly 100 years since the publication of Brave New World, the details of Aldous Huxley’s dystopia have inched their way out of the realm of science fiction and into our headlines. (Read more.)

Also from Crisis:

Over the past two years, our society has created an idol out of physical health and safety, protecting them at all costs. But Jesus tells us Himself: “Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both body and soul in hell” (Matthew 10:28). He reminds us that there are things far worse than illness and bodily sufferinglike separation from God.

Sadly, many of our Catholic schools have not been immune to society’s idolatry, as demonstrated by the strict Covid policies in many schools, and it will destroy the faith of our Catholic school children if we don’t remedy the situation. (Read more.)


The Cross of Saint Zacharias. From Daniel Mitsui:

This cross is a acrostic emblem, representing a set of prayers for protection against plague; these prayers are attributed to St. Zacharias, a 7th century Patriarch of Jerusalem. The letters in the emblem are those that begin each short prayer; the crosses stand for those that begin with the word CRUX. They are read in the order: +Z+DIA+BIZ+SAB+Z+HGF+BFRS.  (Read more.)



"Women’s Health Protection Act”

 Bad news for babies. Call your senators. From Life News:

Hard to imagine, unless you believe there can be no limitations of any kind on abortion at any point in pregnancy, that this coming Monday the Senate will vote on the misnamed “Women’s Health Protection Act.”

The bill has already passed the House on September 24, 2021 and Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-NY) is teeing it up in the  Senate. Democrats have filed cloture—end debate—so as to vote on the sweeping Women’s Health Protection Act (H.R. 3755).

Please click on this link to contact your Senators now and urge them to oppose H.R, 3755. In a word, the bill would eliminate virtually all pro-life protection for unborn children. The bill has been accurately described as the “Abortion Until Birth Act.”

The sweep of H.R. 3755 is truly breathtaking. Not only would H.R. 3755 invalidate nearly all existing state limitations on abortion, it would also prohibit states from adopting new limitations in the future!  If that weren’t radical enough, the bill would invalidate various types of laws already specifically upheld as constitutionally permissible by the U.S. Supreme Court.

ACTION ALERT: Contact your senators or call (202) 224-3121 and urge them to vote NO on the WHPA and oppose abortions up to birth.

H.R. 3755 would invalidate most previously enacted federal limits on abortion, including federal conscience protection laws and most, if not all, limits on government funding of abortion. As National Right to Life has written, among the protective laws that the bill would nullify. (Read more.)


Why the Restoration Happened

Most of the people did not want the King killed in the first place. From History Hit:

Cromwell’s regime soon became unpopular. Strict observance of Protestantism was enforced, theatres were shut down and ale houses across the country closed. Military failures in a war against Spain damaged his reputation abroad, and England was largely isolated from her European neighbours, who were fearful revolution and discontent would spread to the continent. However, Oliver Cromwell was a strong leader: he provided a powerful figurehead, commanded widespread support (particularly from the New Model Army) and had an iron grip on power.

When he died in 1658 rule passed to his son Richard. Richard soon proved to be not as proficient as his father had been: Oliver had run the country into debt, and left a power vacuum as head of the army. Parliament and the New Model Army became increasingly suspicious of each others’ intentions and the atmosphere became increasingly hostile. Eventually, under the command of George Monck, the army forced Cromwell from power – he resigned his position as Lord Protector peacefully to resign with a pension. This paved the way for the return of Charles I’s exiled, namesake son; an opening for the return of a monarch had appeared. (Read more.)


Saturday, February 26, 2022

A Who’s Who of the Gilded Age

Caroline Schermerhorn Astor
 From Tatler:

Old Money vs New Money, Old World vs New World: the Gilded Age was a time of seismic change in New York society. The industrial revolution of the late 19th century led to an explosion in the middle classes, with the likes of railroad men and construction tycoons suddenly becoming extremely rich. As these so-called nouveau riche emerged into society, they inevitably found themselves confronted with the rancour and jealousy of the existing upper echelons, whose wealth could be traced back generations. Now, the merchant class were mixing with New York royalty, buying up the best houses, marrying their daughters to the most eligible bachelors, and sending their children to the finest schools. This tension forms the basis of the central plot in Julian Fellowes's new drama, The Gilded Age, portraying these warring factions from the point of view of Marian Brook (played by Oscar-winner Meryl Streep's daughter, Louisa Jacobson) a newcomer to the social scene whose guiding lights are her Old Money aunts, whose lives are at odds with her New Money friends. Here, Tatler brings you a guide to the women who inspired these characters, from the warring Queen Bees who kept trying to out-do each other with their 5th Avenue mansions moving further and further uptown, to the most glamorous debutantes and dollar princesses. (Read more.)


Playtime for the Atheist

 From Dr. Esolen at Crisis:

When you see a man, you see—whether you are aware of it or not, whether you consider it or not, and whether it pleases you or not—a person fashioned to be, in his mode of physical existence and also, as we believe, his spiritual existence, a father. He bears within him the seed of new human life. You see the woman, and in the same way, regardless of the same things, you see a mother, the field, the nurturing soil whence the new life will spring. These are truths. From them, and from the nature of the human child, we can deduce the whole of the moral law regarding sexual action.

It should be a joy for us to do so. We should revel in it. That we do not revel in the moral law implies not that there is something defective in it, but that there is something defective in us.

Imagine someone going to a place of tremendous and sublime beauty—to Angel Falls, to the Grand Canyon, to the foothills of Mount Fuji. Imagine that he is quite unmoved by it, perhaps bored, or even irritated. We would not lay the blame on Angel Falls. We would lay the blame on him. (Read more.)

Quarter Days and Cross-Quarter Days

 The ancient Celtic calendar. From Almanac:

The timing of present-day rituals, traditions, and holidays was influenced by the ancient Celts:

  • Their calendar year was divided into four seasons or major sections—four Quarter Days
  • Then, each section was divided in half, creating four Cross-Quarter days. For the ancient Celts, Cross-Quarter days signaled the beginning of a season! For example, what is now Groundhog Day (Candlemas) would be considered the start of spring.
  • Some historians are divided as to whether the ancient Celts observed the solstices and equinoxes (what we call Quarter Days). Some believe that the Celts divided the year into just four major sections: Samhain, Imbolc, Beltane, and Lughnasadh (what we call Cross-Quarter days). For this article, we will assume that the ancient Celts observed all eight divisions of the year.

(Read more.)


Friday, February 25, 2022

Eight Decorating Rules of 'The Gilded Age'

 From House and Garden:

That said, there are universal regulations, which according to Wharton include avoiding unnecessary window dressings, ensuring privacy is afforded via doors that close (no open plan for her; also, doors should swing into a room, and screen the part of the room in which the occupants usually sit) and making sure tables are not “so littered with knick-knacks” that there isn’t room for books. She remarks that the drawing room in some houses “is still considered sacred to gilding and discomfort” and complains about the modern upholsterer who “pads and puffs his seats as though they were to form the furniture of a lunatic’s cell.” She also loathed extendable dining tables.

Next, “the fewer the colours used in a room, the more pleasing and restful the result will be. A multiplicity of colours produces the same effect as a number of voices talking at the same time. . . . continuous chatter is fatiguing in the long run.” Additionally, Wharton advised using the same materials for curtains and chair-coverings, which “produces an impression of unity and gives and air of spaciousness to the room.” 

We’re not sure the Van Rhijn house would pass; there are definitely rooms that have curtains in a different shade to the walls, and there’s a sofa that is a different colour again. But worst are the stairs, which appear to have a patterned carpet. “It is fatiguing to see a design meant for a horizontal surface constrained to follow the ins and outs of a flight of steps.” We’re not totally with Wharton on all of this, incidentally, and nor are quite a few of our Top 100. (Read more.)


Amazon’s Tolkien

In regard to the skin color of various elves in Tolkien, I recall reading about Dark Elves in the Silmarillion.  On the other hand, most of the High Elves are described as being "fair" which usually means having white skin, even when they have dark hair, like Arwen and Elrond. (Elrond, for that matter, is half-Elven.) I do not object to a black dwarf, just to her not having a beard, since even lady dwarves had beards. At any rate, because the whole thing is a fairy tale, it really does not bother me what color anyone's skin is, as long as it does not change the Tolkien canon too drastically. I do understand why Tolkien fans are objecting to what they perceive as "wokeness" and the so-called "real world" being imposed on Tolkien's stories. People have a right to object and voice their disappointment over their perception of a beloved story being distorted without being labelled "racist." Just because someone disagrees with the casting of a certain actor or actress does not make them a racist or a Nazi. From Crisis:
But records are made to be broken, they say—and it seems likely that Amazon Studios’ Rings of Power series will soon surpass Peter Jackson’s Battle of the Five Armies as the worst vandalism of Tolkien ever committed to film. The earliest reports on the series were discouraging enough; practically from the moment the project was announced, ominous portents began to escape from Amazon Studios like flames shooting from Mount Doom.

The showrunners originally brought Tom Shippey—Anglo-Saxonist, medievalist, and one of the preeminent Tolkien scholars of his generation—in to serve as a consultant; he parted ways with the show by April of 2020. Two novice writers were hired to pen the sprawling series, even though neither had a single IMDb credit to their name. The studio hired “intimacy coaches” to help prepare actors for nude scenes.

Now Vanity Fair has given readers their first glimpse behind the scenes of the series—and it looks very much as though fans’ worst fears will soon be realized. But before considering the full range of catastrophic decisions made by the showrunners, let us pause to consider one controversial decision that may actually be defended: the introduction of characters never named or imagined by Tolkien. Granted, the invention of new characters may turn out to be a problem in fact, but it need not be on principle. It is in the nature of a great tale—the legend of Arthur, or the tale of Troy—to inspire imitators, continuators, and even (in a sense) collaborators. (Read more.)


From The Federalist:

The trailer, photos, and article all suggest “The Rings of Power” will deviate drastically from Tolkien’s appendices, not only by introducing a racially diverse cast of characters that makes no sense in Tolkien’s mythology, but also by compressing thousands of years of Middle Earth history into a few truncated storylines, creating completely new characters, and introducing hobbits (nonsensically calling them harfoots, one of three breeds of hobbits) eons before any hobbits migrated over the Misty Mountains into Arnor.

It’s easy to dismiss these complaints as so much nit-picking from Tolkien nerds, and to some extent maybe it is. But this will be the most expensive TV series ever produced, adapted from the most celebrated work of fantasy literature ever published, a work beloved by millions of people all over the world that has no equal in the English language. What happens with this series isn’t some trifling thing, it’s a major cultural event that deserves serious consideration, whatever one thinks of Tolkien’s novels or Peter Jackson’s film adaptations of them.

So when Amazon’s Lindsey Weber, executive producer of the series, tells Vanity Fair, “It felt only natural to us that an adaptation of Tolkien’s work would reflect what the world actually looks like,” in reference to casting a black elf and a black dwarven princess (without a beard!) and a black hobbit, because “Tolkien is for everyone,” it should set off alarm bells. (Read more.) 

From The Imaginative Conservative:

The death-culture of Mordor, like the death-culture of the Tech Tyranny, seeks to wipe out genuine cultural diversity, the multifarious fruits of the folk cultures of the free peoples of the world, each in their own hobbit-sized shires, in order to replace it with a one-size-fits-all “multicultural” monoculture in which nobody sings their own songs but everyone listens to globally marketed “world” music. This “multiculturalism” which the Tech Tyrant is imposing upon the Shire in Middle-earth and the shires of the world is nothing but the cultural imperialism of the globalist plutocracy. It ploughs down all the beautiful and multifarious flowers of authentic local and national culture, replacing it with one brand of bland monochromatic monoculture. It is the replacement of the spectrum of colours with fifty shades of grey.

It should go without saying that those with a modicum of freedom-loving sanity and wisdom will steer clear of this new “adaptation” of The Lord of the Rings, which might be likened to one of the palantír stones, the so-called seeing stones which allow the Dark Lord to feed his propaganda to anyone stupid enough to peer into them. Denethor spent so much time staring into one of these stones that he believed the Dark Lord’s victory to be inevitable, committing suicide in an act of abject despair. It is no coincidence that the word palantír means “far-seeing” and can be translated as television, which was surely Tolkien’s intention. Choosing to watch the Tech Tyrant’s palantír version of The Lord of the Rings is playing with fire. It is taking the Denethor option. It would be much better to make a silent protest against this latest desecration of Middle-earth by picking up a copy of Tolkien’s classic and reading or re-reading it. Doing so will not only shame the devil and his globalist servants, it will lead us closer to the God to whom Tolkien points in what he described as his “fundamentally religious and Catholic work”. (Read more.) 

Also from Crisis:

Dystopian fiction can offer a curious consolation in dark times. There is comfort of a sort in the knowledge that our current troubles were foreseen by others: this shows, if nothing else, the evils of our age are not as chaotic as they sometimes seem. On the contrary, they conform to a pattern that can be predicted and perhaps even evaded. Indeed, I imagine many of my readers habitually compare 21st century America to a favored dystopian world: A Brave New World or 1984 or The Lord of the World. Today, I write to propose another: J.R.R. Tolkien’s Akallabêth, the tale of the fall of Númenor.

Suggesting the Silmarillion as an analogue to contemporary politics is admittedly counterintuitive. As Tolkien repeatedly insisted, he did not write allegory at all—much less overtly political allegory on the model of Animal Farm. But this does not mean that his works have no relevance for the world we live in. Tolkien’s native intellect, his learning, and (above all) his practical faith gave him a keen insight into human nature—man’s glory and frailty, and his distressingly predictable patterns of sin. It is therefore reasonable to suspect that Tolkien’s tale of the fall of Númenor—the greatest and most glorious kingdom of men in his imagined world—might tell us something about the decline of America—the greatest power the world has yet seen. (Read more.


From The Daily Signal:

The creators of “Rings of Power” have made it clear why they made this choice. In an interview with Vanity Fair, the show’s executive producer, Lindsey Weber, said, “It felt only natural to us that an adaptation of Tolkien’s work would reflect what the world actually looks like.”   

Which world? Why, our modern world, of course. 

In the views of leftists like Weber, Middle-earth—a world heavily steeped in the ancient mythology of Tolkien’s native British Isles—should resemble 2022 New York or San Francisco. Diversity must be shoved into places it doesn’t fit; original source material be damned. 

The treatment of established characters isn’t much better. Galadriel, an elf depicted by Cate Blanchett in director Peter Jackson’s “The Lord of the Rings” film trilogy, has had her personality radically shifted.   

Gone is the ethereal and graceful Galadriel from Tolkien’s work. She’s been replaced by a generic fantasy warrior, a carbon copy of a million other “empowered” female characters in today’s fantasy landscape. Weber and her team seem to believe that for a female character to be strong, she must be a physically imposing warrior. In other words, she must be a man. Yet, Galadriel radiates power in her film and book depictions without the need to make her a man.  

Even worse, when devoted fans of a series like “The Lord of the Rings” point out issues with these adapted products, they are accused of bigotry for not acquiescing to the left’s butchering of their beloved franchises. 

“Rings of Power” is far from the first series to intentionally alienate fans of its progenitor product. But it does constitute a new frontier in the radical left’s Sauron-esque invasion of popular culture.  

Tolkien and “The Lord of the Rings” represent the bedrock upon which much of modern fantasy can build. George R.R. Martin, author of the immensely popular “A Song of Ice and Fire” series that later inspired the HBO show “Game of Thrones,” has said he was inspired by Tolkien to write epic fantasy.  

By capturing Tolkien’s work for the left, the radicals are sending an ominous message to lovers of his creation: “We own this now. And we will remake it in our image.” 

“Rings of Power” appears to be yet another soulless husk, devoid of the original love and care that Tolkien infused into his work and with which Jackson crafted his original “The Lord of the Rings” movies. 

Ironically, Tolkien’s own work seems to depict the radical left’s corruption of popular cultural artifacts. In his “The Return of the King,” his Hobbit hero, Frodo, pontificates on the nature of Orcs, a race of purely evil creatures sent by big baddy Sauron to reclaim The One Ring: “The Shadow that bred them can only mock, it cannot make: not real new things of its own. I don’t think it gave life to Orcs, it only ruined them and twisted them.”  

The radical left spreads its ideology not by genuine acts of creation, but by twisting and defiling things people love. Tolkien’s work will not be the last to be corrupted, but it should be a wake-up call to protect the series fans love.  

Thankfully, this is a fight we’re winning. The response to Amazon’s trailer has been overwhelmingly negative, and fans are pushing back against the forced diversity and lore inaccuracies. (Read more.)

A Tolkien expert weighs in, HERE.


The Menehune of Hawaii

 From Ancient Origins:

The mythology of the Menehune is as old as the beginnings of Polynesian history. When the first Polynesians arrived in Hawaii, they found dams, fish-ponds, roads, and even temples, all said to have been built by the Menehune who were superb craftspeople. Some of these structures still exist, and the highly-skilled craftsmanship is evident. According to legend, each Menehune was a master of a certain craft and had one special function they accomplished with great precision and expertise. They would set out at dusk to build something in one night, and if this was not achieved, it would be abandoned.

Some scholars, such as folklorist Katharine Luomala, theorize that the Menehune were the first settlers of Hawaii, descendants of the Marquesas islanders who were believed to have first occupied the Hawaiian Islands from around 0 to 350 AD. When the Tahitian invasion occurred in about 1100 AD, the first settlers were subdued by the Tahitians, who referred to the inhabitants as ‘manahune’ (which means ‘lowly people’ or ‘low social status’ and not diminutive in stature). They fled to the mountains and later came to be called ‘Menehune’. Proponents of this theory point to an 1820 census which listed 65 people as Menehune. (Read more.)

Thursday, February 24, 2022

‘Casablanca’ at 80

It is through Rick's self-sacrifice that we know that "this time our side will win." From Aleteia:

Casablanca turned 80 years old this past week. It is often cited by critics as one of the best films ever made, and it is easy to see why: Witty dialog, humor, romance, action, Casablanca has it all. Yet what keeps Casablanca relevant after all these years is something that goes beyond its surface merits. At its heart, Casablanca is a film about virtue.

The word virtue is not one we hear often in popular culture these days. Most people either associate the word with faux gentility, or with people showing off their agreement with fashionable social causes via “virtue signaling.” But virtue is not about false displays of moral superiority. The Catechism says, “A virtue is an habitual and firm disposition to do the good.” Human beings are hard-wired to form habits. It is what allows us to do things like drive a car or speak our native language without thinking about it. We do things often enough, and they become second nature to us. They become a part of who we are. If those habits are good, they are called virtues. If they are bad, they are called vices.

At first glance, Casablanca seems more concerned with vice than virtue. Set during World War II in the Moroccan city that is its namesake, the film centers on Rick Blaine (Humphrey Bogart), an American who runs a bar and casino where an international clientele comes to make black market deals, gamble, and drink away their sorrows. Casablanca was controlled by Vichy, the so-called “free French,” who collaborated with the Nazis and were therefore under their thumb. People trying to escape the violence in Europe and Africa often found themselves stuck in Casablanca, waiting for exit visas that would never arrive.

Rick makes it clear that he is uninterested in the sob stories of those who come his way looking for help or a handout. “I stick my neck out for nobody,” he says more than once. When the Nazi Major Strasser (Conrad Veidt) asks Rick his nationality, he says, “I’m a drunkard.” This prompts his friend, the corrupt Vichy police chief Louis Renault, played by the inimitable Claude Rains, to quip, “That makes Rick a citizen of the world.” Rick boasts of having no convictions. When he learns that a famous Czech member of the underground resistance named Victor Laszlo (Paul Henreid) will be arriving in Casablanca, he bets Louis 10,000 francs that Laszlo will find a way to escape the city, but he later tells Major Strasser that his “interest in whether Victor Laszlo stays or goes is purely a sporting one.”

Even before the revelation that Laszlo’s wife is Ilsa Lund (Ingrid Bergman), Rick’s long lost love, there are signs that Rick may have been a different kind of man in the past. Louis accuses Rick of being a secret sentimentalist because of his history of fighting against fascism years earlier in Ethiopia and Spain. Rick assures Louis that those actions were all done for money. Rick projects an image of himself as an unfeeling, self-interested shark, yet that image falls to pieces once Ilsa is suddenly back in his life. Over and over, we see Rick performing small acts of kindness and courage. He refuses money from a German banker. After a young Bulgarian woman tells him she will have to give her body to Louis for a visa because she has no money, he rigs the roulette table so that her husband can win big. When Louis forces Rick to shut the doors of his bar for a time, Rick insists that every member of the staff be kept on the payroll. (Read more.)


How The CDC Abandoned Science

 From Zero Hedge:

The main federal agency guiding America’s pandemic policy is the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, which sets widely adopted policies on masking, vaccination, distancing, and other mitigation efforts to slow the spread of COVID and ensure the virus is less morbid when it leads to infection. The CDC is, in part, a scientific agency—they use facts and principles of science to guide policy—but they are also fundamentally a political agency: The director is appointed by the president of the United States, and the CDC’s guidance often balances public health and welfare with other priorities of the executive branch.

Throughout this pandemic, the CDC has been a poor steward of that balance, pushing a series of scientific results that are severely deficient. This research is plagued with classic errors and biases, and does not support the press-released conclusions that often follow. In all cases, the papers are uniquely timed to further political goals and objectives; as such, these papers appear more as propaganda than as science. The CDC’s use of this technique has severely damaged their reputation and helped lead to a growing divide in trust in science by political party. Science now risks entering a death spiral in which it will increasingly fragment into subsidiary verticals of political parties. As a society, we cannot afford to allow this to occur. Impartial, honest appraisal is needed now more than ever, but it is unclear how we can achieve it. (Read more.)

Farm Servants and the Hiring Fairs

 From History Scotland:

Many of us have ancestors who were farm servants, ploughmen, and dairymaids and although it may be difficult to find out about the individuals themselves, we can discover more about how they were hired at the feeing or hiring markets. In October 18621, for instance, an autumn feeing market at a village twelve miles from Edinburgh – “an old weather worn place that has seen better days” featured sweetie stands, itinerant theatres and peep shows, but basically it was a place where farm servants - men and women - came into the streets to sell themselves to the highest bidders. Such a curious and sad sight was reminiscent of the American slave markets, although the servants here presented themselves with smiling faces and a general air of bravado in order to be employed. (Read more.)


Wednesday, February 23, 2022

Ghosts of Edgehill

From History Hit:

The Battle of Edgehill was the first major conflict of the English Civil War, taking place on the fields of Warwickshire. But after the armies departed, the villagers continued to be haunted by spectres and apparitions. The ghosts were recorded by Charles’ officers, and are the only ones to be officially recognised by the British Public Record Office.

The Battle of Edgehill was fought on 23 October 1642. After the fighting, the Parliamentarians retreated to Warwick, and the Royalists made tracks south, but failed to monopolise on the open road to London. Edgehill was not the decisive, one-off battle everyone had hoped for. It was the start of a long slog of years of war, tearing the fabric of Britain apart.

 The Earl of Essex and Charles I may have moved on, but they left behind a trail of bloodshed and upheaval. Corpses which littered the fields were tossed into mass graves. For those who survived, they were pretty much ruined, becoming dependent on local charity. One Royalist’s account of Kineton stated: “the Earle of Essex left behind him in the village 200 miserable maimed solders, without relief of money or surgeons, horribly crying out upon the villainy of those men who corrupted them.” (Read more.)


In Defense of Life and Family

 From The European Conservative:

In my opinion, the Italian people are enduring a highly confused historical moment: they are witnessing the gradual destruction of the values and principles upon which our civilization has been established, while ‘new’ principles are being advanced, which are called ‘civil rights’ and which range from abortion to euthanasia, and from surrogacy to the legalization of drugs. While our Constitution acknowledges and defends the family as a “natural society based on marriage,” today, the pretense of the LGBTQI lobby to equalize same-sex unions with natural families is more intense, resulting in the legitimating of surrogacy and adoptions by same-sex couples. I believe that most Italians absolutely disagree with this, but feel a resignation that, in fact, has opened the door to these destructive choices. (Read more.)


Horned Helmets

 They look like something from outer space. From Popular Science:

The Viksø helmets, as the pair is called, were discovered in 1942, buried in a peat bog near Copenhagen. They’re made entirely of bronze, including the twisted, bull-like horns. They’re probably not objects meant to be worn into battle, but are closer to religious gear, intricately decorated with a curling beak and two bulging eyes around the forehead. Recesses in the crown of the helmet likely held a horsehair crest, and a pair of long feathers.

These ornate helmets actually represent something more mysterious than Viking intimidation: the emergence of a new mythology, and possibly politics, in the time before written history.

In a new study, a team of Danish archaeologists scraped off a fingernail’s width of the organic glue used to hold the horns in place. Radiocarbon dating of that substance showed that the glue was last applied—and therefore helmets were likely last used—somewhere around 950 BCE. (Read more.)


Tuesday, February 22, 2022

Trip to London

 Last month we went on our first family vacation since an aborted trip to Canada in 2014. We flew to London, and had a wonderful time. We had to take COVID tests before, during, and at the end of the trip. Thanks be to God, they were all negative. The flight over to the UK was fine except for the turbulence crossing the Irish Sea. It was actually pretty scary. The flight attendant said it was quite unusual. And some of the flight attendants were mask Nazis, and practically threatened to turn the plane around when my daughter pulled her mask down so she could breathe through her nose. We arrived early on the morning of January 26 and were allowed to check in early as we were quite exhausted After a short rest we walked down to the Victoria and Albert on Cromwell Road, which we could walk to from our hotel.

The Point A Kensington Olympia, a lovely boutique hotel in an old town house.

Here is the Café at the Victoria and Albert where we had a delicious repast. I also found a lovely gallery of English Civil War era art and artifacts. Just about everyone we met in London was kind and welcoming.

The next day we
 had a fabulous day. At breakfast we had croissants with jam and butter at our hotel. The lady who served us was Portuguese and we talked about world politics. Then I ordered a taxi through my new FreeNow app and we were promptly picked up by a nice Romanian man. I told him how much I admired Queen Marie (of Romania) and he told me about her castle in the mountains that he has visited. Then we had a great talk about the New World Order. Plus he pointed out famous spots to Ellie. He dropped us off at the Tower. The Tower was phenomenal. We saw the Crown jewels and everything. Then we met a genuine Cockney cabby who took us to Westminster Abbey. We discussed Churchill. Prayed at Mary Queen of Scots' tomb. And  saw George Villiers!! Then made our way to the Tate Britain and saw the Pre-Raphaelites, amazing! And a gallery called The Fairy Round!  We had a lovely high tea at the Tate. Everyone we met was kind and helpful. The ladies at our hotel were like guardian angels.

Above is a recreation of the bedchamber of Edward I. Below is a view of the Tower Bridge from the Tower courtyard.

On the 28th we were up at 7 to go take our second day test. Our tests were negative. Then we had a wonderful breakfast at the MacDonald's at Leicester Square!! Then we walked to the National Gallery. It was heaven. I gave my daughter a crash course in Renaissance art. After 2 hours, she was exhausted so I took her home. Our hotel was exactly behind Freddie Mercury's house!! And across from Alfred Hitchcock's house!!

Trafalgar Square and Lord Nelson as seen from the National Gallery. And below is the National Gallery.

Everyone at the historical sites was friendly and you can tell they are committed to preserving their history. In 1980 I remember finding London an upbeat town and my memories were correct.

On Saturday, January 29
 we had a lovely breakfast at our hotel, with croissants, creamy yogurt, soft boiled eggs and sausage. The Portuguese lady was there and we had another great conversation about being Woke vs Being Awake. While my daughter finished her breakfast, I walked down to the pharmacy at the grocery store to get some things we were running out of. Then we made our way out to Greenwich to Henrietta Maria's house designed by Inigo Jones.

It is very similar to Marie-Antoinette's Petit Trianon. Very elegant in its simplicity. Funny that they kept showing portraits of Queen Elizabeth who was born nearby but not in the Queen's house. Not much of Henriette's belongings were there, other than paintings of her family, but instead there were paintings and treasures on loan from the Duke of Bedford's Woburn Abbey! That is where my daughter's Russell ancestors lived!! She was thrilled to see portraits of her Russell relatives. I told them at the Queen's House that I had written a book about Henriette and they told me to send them the info so they could carry it in their gift shop. Afterwards the wind came up and it got cold. But the park at Greenwich was full of families relaxing as if it were a warm spring day. There were babies everywhere and people walking their dogs. Loads of people were walking up to the observatory on the hill. Everyone having a good time. I told my daughter that it was an example of how hardy the British people are.

Henrietta Maria's tulip staircase at the Queen's House

The King's Presence Chamber at Greenwich

The Queen's Presence Chamber

Then we made our way to Bloomsbury and the British Museum. Bloomsbury was built by the Russell family, the Dukes of Bedford, and so our name was everywhere. Meanwhile I was amazed at all the mummies in the museum. Then we made it to the Brompton Oratory where we went to confession. There were shrines to all our favorite saints and we lit candles and prayed. Then, being very hungry, we found a lovely elegant restaurant called
Caffé Concerto. They had wonderful pasta and hot, crisp fish and chips. Then we walked back to our hotel. Lots of families were out and about.

Brompton Oratory

St. Wilfrid's altar in the chapel where they daily have the traditional Latin Mass at the Brompton Oratory.

Sunday, January 30 was really an amazing day. We went to Mass at the Brompton Oratory. It was a sung, high Latin Mass. Magnificent choir. Clouds of incense. There was an extremely diverse congregation of old and young, from all nationalities. Lots of young families. Afterwards we joined our friends the C. family, who sat near us at Mass. Mr. C. knows London quite well and we walked from the Oratory to the Mall where the Royal Stuart Society was commemorating the most foul murder of Charles I, complete with historical costumes, horses, drums, weapons, etc. Very cool. Then the C.'s took us to a delightful pub called The Sherlock Holmes. It was full of Sherlock Holmes memorabilia. We had a delicious English pub lunch and a fascinating conversation. Then we walked through London and saw so many things, and talked about so many things. We stopped at Westminster Cathedral which had a long line of people going to confession. There are many very devout Catholics in London. Then we walked back to the Oratory. We saw a great deal of London that we would not have seen otherwise. Thanks be to God for sending us such kind friends.

King Charles I at Trafalgar Square

We joined in the commemoration of the murder of King Charles I. More HERE.

At the side gates of Buckingham Palace

Westminster Abbey

With our new friends after a fabulous pub lunch at The Sherlock Holmes Tavern. Westminster Palace is in the background.

The Holy Family Chapel at Westminster Cathedral

Natural History Museum

Last supper in London at the Earl's Court Tavern

Lovely tea room at Heathrow. It was so wonderful we almost missed our flight!

Thanks to all the friends and family who made the trip possible. Thanks to all the people we met in London who welcomed us with love and made us feel safe and at home. Thanks to our sweet wonderful friend Mrs C. and her family who took us all over old London town and treated us like family. Thanks to the wonderful ladies at the Point A Kensington Olympia who took such good care of us. It was a magical trip which we are both grateful for and which we will remember the rest of our lives.

My new novel My Queen, My Love: A Novel of Henrietta Maria really needs customer reviews on Amazon. I am asking everyone who has read it and liked it to please leave a review, HERE. I am really grateful to those who already have made the extra effort. Thank you so much! Meanwhile, here is a recent professional review from The 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....

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: 

 "Dreams of princesses, fairy tale palaces, and living happily ever after collide with the realities of favorites, mistresses, courtiers, and intrigues in the lives of Marie de Medici and her daughter Henrietta Maria in this first volume of Elena Maria Vidal's Henrietta of France trilogy. Vidal depicts the religious conflicts of the seventeenth century vividly in this historical novel, as the marriage of King Charles I of England and Queen Henrietta Maria overcomes many obstacles of language, faith, and even different calendars. Even knowing how their story ends, the reader looks forward to Vidal's delicate and dramatic retelling."—Stephanie A. Mann, author of Supremacy and Survival: How Catholics Endured the English Reformation

“'Henrietta Maria - for those who know of her at all - is one of the most divisive figures during one of the most volatile periods in British history. With My Queen, My Love, the first in her trilogy of Henrietta Maria, E.M. Vidal has brought Henrietta Maria's passion and character to life with remarkable skill'.” —Andrea Zuvich, author of Sex and Sexuality in Stuart Britain

“Like the works by Sharon Kay Penman and other exceptional historical fiction authors, My Queen, My Love takes the reader on an intense journey back in time, allowing the reader to feel immersed in the era, the events, the people, the loves and the tragedies (and so much more). Beautifully told.” —Readers’ Favorites

“Elena Maria Vidal’s new historical novel captivated me from the beginning. The fascinating story of the often tumultuous life of Henrietta Maria of France, a devout Catholic Queen living in post-Reformation England, is beautifully written. This will especially be appreciated by readers who want to immerse themselves in the world of 17th century England and France. The characters are well-developed and believable. I highly recommend this remarkable book to all who enjoy a compelling story.” —Ellen Gable, award-winning author

My Queen, My Love chronicles the passionate marriage of Charles I, grandson of Mary Queen of Scots, and Henrietta Marie of France during the perilous years of 17th century England. Naive Henriette’s teenage love for her husband and King must navigate English hatred of her Catholicism. Elena Maria Vidal envelops readers in period detail with each rustle of silk, every whispered prophecy. A richly told tale of intrigue and betrayal, loyalty and hope, My Queen, My Love rushes headlong toward the tumultuous history of the English Civil War.” —Mary Jo Anderson, author of Male and Female He Made Them

“Henrietta Maria’s life is so richly improbable that it’s unusual that she hasn’t attracted the attention of more historical novelists. Now, we have an exciting, beautifully-researched, and sympathetic first installment in a new trilogy inspired by this remarkable seventeenth-century queen.”
—Gareth Russell, author of A History of the English Monarchy: From Boadicea to Elizabeth I and Young and Damned and Fair

"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

"Offering insight into the passions behind the protocols, My Queen, My Love infuses these historical figures with humanity." —BookLife

"Vidal clearly has her finger on the pulse of history...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." —The San Francisco Book Review (starred review)

"Vidal’s expansive tale...offers palace intrigue, international conflict, and personal turmoil. But at its heart, it’s a poignant and often charming love story....A royal tale enlivened by imaginative drama...." — Kirkus Reviews

Now available internationally from Amazon in ebook and paperback.


Migrants and Minorities in Angola

 From Crux Now:

With a deepening social crisis in Angola, the living conditions of thousands of migrants are getting worse. The African country has been facing the effects of a political crisis and a severe drought that is impacting the southern part of the country. Unemployment affects about one third of the people, and more than half of the population lives in extreme poverty. Inflation has caused the food prices to increase 36 percent over the last year. 

“If the situation is bad for everybody, for the refugees and immigrants it is even worse,” affirmed Brazilian-born Scalabrinian Sister Neide Lamperti, who has been working with immigrants in Angola for 11 years. Lamperti said that there are about 55,000 immigrants and refugees in Angola, most of them undocumented and facing several restrictions on the ability work and receive government assistance. (Read more.)