Friday, December 8, 2023

Unexpected Things You Can Find At The Thrift Store


From Southern Living:

While it's easy to imagine that items are mistakenly donated to thrift shops all the time (haven’t we all lost a sweater or two this way?), every now and then, the accidental donation is something much more heartbreaking. In the case of one Oklahoma family, the local Goodwill found WWII documents in a hidden compartment of the lockbox they’d donated. Recognizing that these papers likely held great sentimental value for the family, the staff tracked them down and returned them for safe keeping. Should you ever stumble upon such a find in your local thrift shop, consider bringing it to management’s attention before taking it home. You might just reunite a family with a cherished possession that they’ll be thrilled to have back. (Read more.)


Minor, in a Major Key

 The false history of Chevalier. From City Journal:

The movie’s opening episode telegraphs the duplicity to come. A self-satisfied young prig performs on the violin in a rococo theater. “My name is Mozart, in case you are unaware,” he smirks to the audience, who presumably would have known the name of the performer they had come to hear. “Because you have been such a delightful audience, I might open the floor to requests.” A voice comes from the back of the hall: “Violin Concerto Number Five!” and then asks, “May I play along with you?” A light-skinned black man in a silk outfit and wig strides toward the stage and jumps onto it. Mozart mocks him to the audience: “I now give you music featuring the dark stranger,” and then sneers in a stage whisper: “This will be embarrassing for you.”

Instead, Bologne furls out a silken, singing line from his violin. Flustered, Mozart stops the orchestra and calls out for his cadenza (a solo at the end of the first or third movement of a concerto that allows a performer to show off his talent). After Mozart plays a few bars, Bologne improvises his own jazz-inflected cadenza. Audience members look at one another in amazement—as well they might, since anyone who had played such harmonies in the 1770s would have been regarded as a lunatic. Bologne jumps off the stage and, still playing, walks toward the back of the theater, now sounding like the nineteenth-century virtuoso violinist Niccolò Paganini. The orchestra backs Bologne up with resounding chords; Mozart is furious. Bologne jumps back onto the stage, now weaving into his solo some bluegrass touches. Then, raising his arms and violin, he bows, like a boxer who has just knocked out his opponent. The audience leaps to its feet in applause. Mozart rushes off the stage and hisses: “Who the fuck is that?”

This scene not only did not happen; it could not have happened. None of the Mozart family’s copious correspondence mentions Bologne. Two definitive Mozart biographies, those by Maynard Solomon and Stanley Sadie, make no reference to Bologne. A third biography, by Robert Gutman, brings up Bologne only in a footnote in order to say that Mozart did not meet him. Mozart was not even in Paris when this scene allegedly occurred. No contemporary account of Mozart gives any hint of the mean-spiritedness that defines his character in Chevalier’s opening scene. Though he could be critical of his fellow musicians in letters to his father, in public he showed his colleagues respect. As for the racial jab, that is even ranker fabrication.

But the primary reason that this seminal scene could not have happened is the music. Bologne’s alleged cadenza is as anachronistic as if he had pulled out a smartphone and taken a selfie. Its jazz idioms would not become possible for another 150 years. The cadenza is even more out of place when compared with Bologne’s own compositions, which were thoroughly conventional. His music can be mildly pleasing, not because of any unique gifts on Bologne’s part but because the eighteenth-century Classical style in which he wrote is inherently delightful. Indeed, it is the banality that he achieves within that idiom that sets him apart, as his most performed work, the second symphony and its lugubrious second movement, makes clear. (Admittedly, the final decades of the ancien régime were not a high point in French music history, as the works of François-Joseph Gossec and the organist Claude Balbastre demonstrate.) Bologne favors truncated melodic phrases that are almost immediately repeated verbatim, with little development.

It is no surprise, then, that any time in Chevalier when we hear Bologne in an alleged performance of his own composition, the music has actually been written by one of the film’s composers, drawing on modernists such as Dmitri Shostakovich, Ralph Vaughan Williams, and Thelonious Monk. Bologne’s actual music is confined to the background, as the actors talk over it, making detection of its blandness impossible. Yet the takeaway from the opening scene is that Bologne is Mozart’s musical superior and that Mozart—that miracle of majesty and beauty—knew it.

(Read more.)


Was Ambrosius Aurelianus the Real King Arthur?

 From The Collector:

In summary, Ambrosius Aurelianus was a historical leader of the Britons in fifth-century Britain, during a time of intense turmoil. He helped the Britons to recover from the devastating attacks of the Saxons and prevented them from being completely overwhelmed. From Gildas, we know that he was the son of prominent parents, although we do not know exactly what position they had. Based on the information from Bede and the Historia Brittonum, we can conclude that Ambrosius was likely born in about 420. The main part of his career, in which he campaigned against the Saxons, occurred somewhere between c. 475 and 491. Some scholars try to argue that he was the real King Arthur. This is based on the perceived implication by Gildas that Ambrosius was the victor at Badon. However, this is a very shaky foundation on which to base a theory. The dating of the Battle of Badon by other records places it well into the sixth century, which would make it impossible for Ambrosius to have been the leader. This argues strongly against identifying him as the real King Arthur. (Read more.)


Thursday, December 7, 2023

Pugin’s Illustrations of Newman’s Lives of the English Saints

 From NINS:

Two major pieces of literature on Augustus Welby Pugin (1812–1852), the renowned Gothic Revivalist and Catholic convert who designed Big Ben, the Houses of Parliament, six cathedrals, and more, state, in summary fashion, that Pugin illustrated St John Henry Newman’s Live of the English Saints.[1] The late Professor Margaret Belcher, however, provided a great deal of detail on this subject in the second volume of her The Collected Letters of A.W.N. Pugin, published in 2003.[2] This essay republishes, for the first time since 1914, all eleven of Pugin’s illustrations[3] and does so for the first time ever in a single document.[4]

The period in question is mid 1842 through the end of 1844.[5] During this time, Pugin was, among other things, doing his typical traveling (Scotland, Ireland, and the Continent),[6] worked on his home in Ramsgate,[7] and on several churches, including three cathedrals.[8] He also published An Apology for the Revival of Christian Architecture in England (1843) and Glossary of Ecclesiastical Ornament and Costume (1844).[9] For his part during this time, Newman (1801–1890) was in the throes of converting to Catholicism and had relocated from Oxford to Littlemore, a few miles away, in February 1842.[10] Among other things, he was busy drafting An Essay on The Development of Christine Doctrine (1845).

With respect to Newman’s Lives of the English Saints, the first thing to notice is that any and all illustrations were by Pugin, no one else, and they were not attributed to anyone at the time of original publication. Second, Newman himself may not have written any of the Lives.[11] He edited the first two numbers: St Stephen Harding and St Richard.[12] The introduction to the 1900 edition, the first comprehensive edition, stated that the work is described as Newman’s because he initiated the effort.[13]

Here is how the work came about: Newman’s thoughts on the subject started at least as early as 4 April 1841, when he wrote to his friend, J.W. Bowden, about English saints, the “National Church,” and the desirability of someone writing a biography of St Anselm (1033/34–1109).[14] In the summer of 1842, Newman had a conversation with publisher James Toovey about “publishing the Lives of the [English] Saints … thinking it would be useful, as employing the minds of persons who were in danger of running wild, and bringing them from doctrine to history, from speculation to fact; again, as giving them an interest in the English soil and English church, and keeping them from seeking sympathy in Rome as she is”.[15] On 3 April 1843, almost precisely two years since Newman had first written Bowden on the subject, he wrote Bowden again, stating that he intended the work “to be historical and devotional, but not controversial.”[16]

As of 18 May 1843, “Many men are setting to work [researching and writing biographies].”[17] There were 30 such men. A few months later, in early fall of 1843, Newman published a prospectus describing the anticipated Lives.[18] He envisioned a monthly publication written by various authors, each writing independently of the others.[19] He identified 300 saints![20]

At some point in 1843, Newman asked J. R. Bloxam, previously a curate to Newman, to find out from Pugin what he wanted to do about illustrations for Saints Stephen and Richard.[21] Pugin initially declined the work.[22]

In late 1843, Anglican Father and Oxford Professor E. B. Pusey saw some pre-publication proofs of the first Life, that of St Stephen Harding, by J. D. Dalgairns who lived in community with Newman at Littlemore. Pusey’s objections to these proofs caused Newman great anxiety. Newman had wanted the Lives to present facts with total detachment but realized that “miracles, or monkery [monasticism], or popery”[23] would unavoidably seep in. Newman consulted James Hope, a young barrister and William Gladstone, then a Member of Parliament (and future Prime Minister), both of whom shared Pusey’s concerns.[24]

By December, Newman decided to withdraw from the project but desired that individual biographies, many of them in process, would be published one at a time and that enough of them would eventually constitute a series.[25] As soon as the first, on St Stephen, came into print, it was clear that the project of publishing lives of English saints was incompatible with Anglicanism.[26] After the second biography (of St Richard[27]) was published, Newman gave public notice in January 1844 that he was withdrawing as editor.[28] He declared that only those biographies completed or nearly completed would be subsequently published.[29]

There was a flurry of correspondence—28 letters identified and summarized by Belcher—between Pugin, Newman, Toovey, and the new editor Frederick Oakeley (then minister at Margaret Chapel, the predecessor of All Saints, Margaret Street, and the author of the draft life of St Augustine of Canterbury) from the last half of January through November 1844, some of which may have crossed in the mail. The subjects included employing Pugin to illustrate individual lives as well as the design of a “Wrapper,” or frontispiece, that is, a title-page illustration that would be used for every number in the series, Pugin’s fees, the colors of the illustrations, the status of the work of the engraver, Orlando Jewitt, and comments on Pugin’s illustrations. For example, Toovey wrote Newman on February 9 that Pugin had supplied a “beautiful” design for St Augustine.[30] (Read more.)


Inhuman Violence

 On October 7, 2023 there occurred one of the most documented of atrocities ever. Unfortunately, the perpetrators are not only walking free but being defended by some politicians and media personalities. Warning: Extremely graphic. From the BBC:

Police say they have "multiple" eye-witness accounts of sexual assault, but wouldn't give any more clarification on how many. When we spoke to them, they hadn't yet interviewed any surviving victims. Israel's Women's Empowerment Minister, May Golan, told the BBC that a few victims of rape or sexual assault had survived the attacks, and that they were all currently receiving psychiatric treatment.

"But very, very few. The majority were brutally murdered," she said. "They aren't able to talk - not with me, and not to anyone from the government [or] from the media." 


"It really feels like Hamas learned how to weaponise women's bodies from ISIS [the Islamic State group] in Iraq, from cases in Bosnia," said Dr Cochav Elkayam-Levy, a legal expert at the Davis Institute of International Relations at Hebrew University.

"It brings me chills just to know the details that they knew about what to do to women: cut their organs, mutilate their genitals, rape. It's horrifying to know this." (Read more.)


Ocean Discovered Beneath the Earth

 From Indy100:

Scientists previously discovered that water is stored inside mantle rock in a sponge-like state, which isn’t a liquid, solid or a gas, but instead a fourth state. The scientific paper titled ‘Dehydration melting at the top of the lower mantle’ was published in 2014 and laid out the findings.

"The ringwoodite is like a sponge, soaking up water, there is something very special about the crystal structure of ringwoodite that allows it to attract hydrogen and trap water," said geophysicist Steve Jacobsen at the time. "This mineral can contain a lot of water under conditions of the deep mantle,” added Jacobsen, who was part of the team behind the discovery. He added: "I think we are finally seeing evidence for a whole-Earth water cycle, which may help explain the vast amount of liquid water on the surface of our habitable planet. Scientists have been looking for this missing deep water for decades." (Read more.)


Wednesday, December 6, 2023

A History of the Mince Pie

Medieval recipe

 From English Heritage:

Today there’s nothing remotely savoury about the mince pie. But this wasn’t always the case. Like so many dishes, the mince pie has evolved over the centuries. We recognise them as the quintessential Christmas confection, packed with citrussy dried fruit plumped with brandy, spiked with spices and wrapped in crumbly pastry. However, long before Nigella introduced salted caramel to the nation, the English had a fascination for combining the sweet with the savoury.

Our mince pies undoubtedly have medieval origins, although we would not immediately recognise them. Pie crusts were known as coffins, and used as a vessel to cook delicate foods or house pre-boiled meat fillings. Pastry was little more than flour mixed with water to form a mouldable dough. It was designed to be discarded once the contents of the pie had been eaten, although perhaps the poor may have eaten the cast offs.

Pies were generally large as they needed to serve several people. However, smaller pies known as chewets (possibly so called because the pinched tops resembled small cabbages or chouettes) were also available. Many medieval recipes combine sweet and savoury ingredients, and pies were no exception. Desserts as we know them didn’t really exist, so it was perfectly acceptable to use sweet ingredients in meat dishes.

Sweetness came courtesy of honey or dried fruits as sugar was not widely available. Along with spices such as saffron and ginger, dried fruits such as figs and dates were the preserve of the wealthy as they had to be imported into the country. Liberally using spices in your food was one way to show your peers just how much money you had. (Read more.)

Europe Has Failed Armenia

 From First Things:

The Cold War had already broken out while Adenauer, Schuman, and De Gasperi began to lay out the plans for a united Europe. We, the children of the war, rejoiced in their plans. They meant freedom: a solid future. Such was my own hope in the united Europe that I stayed in the Europa-Haus dormitory while I studied in Göttingen, and lived alongside my Spanish, French, German, and Norwegian friends. We all wore pins with the European flag.

But the ideological battle that the war had left in its wake killed our dream before it was born. The late sixties were filled with loud, angry protests, and the seventies with terrorism. Worse than the violence was the hypocrisy of those who ignored the underlying discord, who refused to address it. And now that hypocrisy has destroyed Nagorno-Karabakh.

The war that I grew up in never really ended. It has reached my beloved Artsakh, the Artsakh in which I drank Tuti oghi (mulberry vodka) under a star-filled sky near the excavations of the old city of Tigranakert, the city founded by the great Armenian king Tigran the Great. It was handed over to Azerbaijan after the 44-Day War in 2020. And now, more recently, over 100,000 Armenians have been driven from Nagorno-Karabakh after Azerbaijan launched an attack in September.

I saw that governments would make grand statements about morality and do nothing. I saw that they would try to take advantage of the unrest in the Caucasus in order to further their own ideological agendas. I saw that it would be the people, my people, the Armenians of Artsakh, who would suffer.

I hope the United States, who liberated us before, will remember its extraordinary generosity. Our memories of violence stretch back millennia. Centuries and centuries of wars and invasions have made hypocrites of us. (Read more.)