Monday, November 20, 2017

Ekaterina: The Rise of Catherine the Great (Season 1, 2014)


The Ekaterina series on Amazon Prime has to be the best and most accurate historical drama about Empress Catherine II of Russia yet made. The Russian production emphasizes the enigmatic Catherine's spiritual journey as she turns from the Lutheranism of her youth and embraces Orthodoxy, ultimately keeping the country from becoming Protestant under her husband, Peter III. While any portrait of Catherine can hardly ignore her obsessive search for love, the series avoids any exploitative, graphic scenes, in sharp contrast to most of the shows about royalty on Netflix. Marina Aleksandrova stars as the shy and studious Princess Sophie Friederike of Anhalt-Zerbst, who through many tears and hard lessons is transformed into the Great Catherine. Mademoiselle Aleksandrovna is able to accomplish the metamorphosis from gauche, romantic teenager into the shrewdly calculating and determined Empress who must conquer or die. Overthrowing her husband Peter III was the only way she could avoid being killed or separated from her children. By doing so she saved Russia from a ruler who hated his own country and wanted to destroy it.

Filmed on location in Russia, the viewers are afforded a glimpse of the magnificent palaces built by the Romanov dynasty, throughout the various seasons of the year. The costumes are likewise authentic mid-eighteenth century. The Russian Orthodox liturgy and iconography are given pride of place. Julia Aug is the mercurial, unscrupulous Empress Elizabeth who arranges Catherine's marriage to her dreadful nephew Peter,  later taking Catherine's son away from her the moment he is born. Meanwhile, Peter publicly flaunts his dislike of Catherine and his affair with another woman. Peter, played by Aleksander Yatsenko, is a frustrating and enigmatic character whom Catherine tries her best to love amid seemingly endless humiliations. The torment that the young Catherine experiences as a scorned wife and a thwarted mother in a court surrounded by enemies explains the consolation she eventually seeks in love affairs. Mademoiselle Aleksandrovna does an excellent job in conveying the subtle charm of Catherine and her remarkable ability to win people to her cause when she was a non-royal, powerless foreigner. It was that very vulnerability that won followers, as well as her brains and her genuine love for the Russia. In spite of her personal moral failings, she saves Russia as a nation and protects the Russian Orthodox Church from Protestantism.





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The Indefectibility of the Church

From Emmett O'Regan writing for La Stampa:
In the ongoing debate surrounding the authority of Amoris laetitia, a key issue has arisen, centering around whether or not the Divine assistance of the Holy Spirit is offered towards the successors of St. Peter to protect them from erring in matters pertaining to faith and morals even in the non-definitive teachings of the ordinary Magisterium. Some of the defenders of Pope Francis in this issue, such as Stephen Walford, argue forcibly that such Divine assistance is indeed given in the non-definitive, non-infallible teachings of the ordinary Magisterium (I). The opponents of Pope Francis’ reforms argue that this position is a logical fallacy, since the exercise of papal infallibility is limited to the extraordinary Magisterium and the ordinary and Universal Magisterium. They argue that if the Roman Pontiff cannot err in matters of faith and morals in the non-definitive teachings of the ordinary Magisterium, this would mean that he is infallible even in this respect (II). Christopher Ferrara has mockingly referred to this idea as the “fallible infallible Magisterium” (III). Such an idea is obviously untrue, since the non-definitive teachings of the ordinary Magisterium are non-infallible in nature.

In response, some conservatively minded Catholics have asserted that the claim to protection from error in faith and morals by way of Divine assistance falls into the category of ultramontanism, and the conclusion is then made that the pope actually can teach error in faith and morals by way of his ordinary Magisterium. Such a scenario is a very serious matter, since it would mean that the pope is in effect capable of binding the faithful to heresy in the ordinary Magisterium.

In the following article, I hope to be able to demonstrate that the protection from error in faith and morals offered towards the ordinary Magisterium through the Divine assistance of the Holy Spirit does not stem from the gift of infallibility, but is instead an essential corollary of the dogma of the indefectibility of the Church. A necessary ancillary means through which the perpetuity of the successors of St. Peter is nourished and maintained, which is independent of, albeit related to, the dogma of papal infallibility. This means that the pope cannot impose error on matters of faith and morals not only because of papal infallibility but also because of the Divine assistance implicit in the gift of indefectibility. As the document issued by the International Theological Commission “The Interpretation of Dogma” states: “The apostolic tradition in the Church cannot undergo any essential corruption because of the permanent assistance of the Holy Spirit which guarantees its indefectibility.” (IV)

Before we go on to examine how the Divine assistance of the Holy Spirit is primarily promised to ensure the indefectibility of the Church, rather than its infallibility, it will be worth first briefly addressing one of the chief issues raised above - concerning the proposed logical fallacy of the “infallibility” of the non-infallible ordinary Magisterium. The scope of papal infallibility is limited to the organs of the extraordinary and ordinary and Universal Magisterium, and concerns those teachings which have been definitively established by the Church, and which by definition are irreformable of themselves. They are also subject to either the response of an assent of faith, or are to be firmly held by the believer (depending on whether they are credenda or tenenda dogmas, which are both different levels of infallible teaching). The teachings found in the ordinary or authentic Magisterium are usually reformable of themselves (meaning they are subject to further refinement and/or doctrinal development), and also non-definitive in nature, which is why they are regarded as non-infallible. The level of assent required of these teachings is that of the submission of the will and intellect in obedience to the ordinary Magisterium. (Read more.)
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Writing While Under The Influence Of Depression

I have found that writing breaks the cycle of depression but everyone is different. From The Creative Penn:
For a start, writing is quite often a solitary life. We sit in our office or bedroom with the laptop, and we peck away at the keyboard. We invent worlds and characters, while the real world with its real characters continues on outside. But we are probably so wrapped up in those fictional worlds and characters that we don’t make the time to meet real people.

Isolation like that can have a crushing effect on a lot of people. Some people thrive on it, but humans on the whole are a social bunch and need to interact with others. When that isn’t possible, it’s easy to feel that the walls are closing in.

Lack of sleep, lack of exercise, lack of human contact, and lack of natural light are all factors that can develop into something much more serious.

Let’s not forget, writing is hard. I have just finished writing my second book and it was quite literally the hardest thing I have ever experienced in my life. This is coming from a 42-year-old guy who has already experienced quite a lot in life.

Since writing is so hard, it is very easy to get dispirited and to tell yourself that the whole project is hopeless. Especially when you get rejection slips from editors and harsh criticism from reviewers, and dare I say it, your family and friends. (Read more.)
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Sunday, November 19, 2017

A New Product

Introducing Grotto Facial Beauty Cleanser, a facial scrub I created out of natural ingredients* for women over thirty-five. The restorative formula is designed to help diminish signs of aging, as well as revive the skin's suppleness and softness, with regular use. The cleanser is meant to precede the Midnight Bouquet and Morning Bouquet** facial creams, creating a more complete beauty experience. Trianon Bouquet Beauty Products are inspired by Queen Marie-Antoinette, who loved her gardens at Petit Trianon, and was known to have beauty products made from her own herbs and flowers. The Queen loved to relax in the coolness of the Grotto. Please use only as directed. Free shipping. Purchase HERE.

*Natural ingredients may vary in color and consistency.
**We are currently sold out of the Morning Bouquet Facial Treatment but will restock our shelves soon. Share

The New Normal

From Return to Order:
In the Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary entry for normal, we find the following: “according with, constituting, or not deviating from a standard, rule, or principle.” How does this line up with our previous examples? It is not upholding a standard to begin consuming human flesh, though the practice may become commonplace. It is not in accord with an upright rule or principle to engage in pedophilia, even if it gains cultural acceptance.

Mass shootings now seem so commonplace, especially compared with the past. Does that make them normal? Again, commonality does not equate to normality. The standards, rules and principles of our society have been eroded. People no longer know what normal is supposed to be, and thus conclude that whatever is happening now must be the “new” one. It’s high time we admit there is something fundamentally wrong with the course of events. All avenues must be pursued to counteract the problem. Such a task is not easy. It seems as if the tears from one tragedy aren’t yet dry when another follows right behind. (Read more.)
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Something is Wrong on the Internet

From Medium:
I’ve also been aware for some time of the increasingly symbiotic relationship between younger children and YouTube. I see kids engrossed in screens all the time, in pushchairs and in restaurants, and there’s always a bit of a Luddite twinge there, but I am not a parent, and I’m not making parental judgments for or on anyone else. I’ve seen family members and friend’s children plugged into Peppa Pig and nursery rhyme videos, and it makes them happy and gives everyone a break, so OK. But I don’t even have kids and right now I just want to burn the whole thing down.

Someone or something or some combination of people and things is using YouTube to systematically frighten, traumatise, and abuse children, automatically and at scale, and it forces me to question my own beliefs about the internet, at every level. Much of what I am going to describe next has been covered elsewhere, although none of the mainstream coverage I’ve seen has really grasped the implications of what seems to be occurring. (Read more.)
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Saturday, November 18, 2017

Planning Thanksgiving

With some help from Victoria:
Sarah Josepha Buell Hale, nineteenth-century author and magazine editor, campaigned for more than three decades to have Thanksgiving recognized nationwide. She wrote a letter to President Abraham Lincoln in 1863, urging him to secure the “permanency and unity” of its commemoration. When the final Thursday of November was officially declared a time of gratitude for our country’s bounty, its intermittent regional observance was already cultivating a rich culinary tradition. (Read more.)
And here are some favorite dishes:
Although the turkey often gets the most attention during holiday-menu planning, the trimmings can bring just as much harvest flavor to your celebration. Fresh and delicious, these unforgettable sides might just steal the spotlight on your Thanksgiving table. From the hearty Winter Squash-and-Mushroom Medley to warm Brown Butter Rosemary Yeast Rolls, these delectable dishes are certain to have guests asking for more. (Read more.)
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The Brave New World of Trial by Media

The same struggles on either side of the pond. From Conservative Woman:
The truth is, though, that the feminist zealots determined to wage this dialectical male-privilege gender struggle are but a small group of privileged women. They occupy positions of extraordinary power and influence and, under the gaze of the media, pretend to speak for all women.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Just as the majority of MPs are grossly out of touch with the people on Brexit, these ‘feminist’ MPs and Parliamentary staff are grossly out of touch with the majority of British women, only 7 per cent of whom would describe themselves as feminists. Many of the rest are horrified by the apparently self-serving obsession of some of the privileged women to have found their way to the top of the Parliamentary tree.

The danger now is that those in charge of Parliamentary discipline will capitulate to knee-jerk solutions. Engulfed by the media storm, they feel they have to do something – anything – to signal to the baying, illiberal progressive media that they are not dinosaurs. Under pressure to say that they are ‘taking steps to ensure this will never happen again’, they appear too afraid to tell the truth: that the reaction has been hysterical, out of proportion; that conflating flirtation and behavioural lapses with serious harassment and assault risks trivialising the latter. (Read more.)
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The Old Patagonian Express

From Reid's Reader:
In reading The Old Patagonian Express, it is wise to remember that it was written 40 years ago, and some of the political situations to which it refers have passed away. (For example, Theroux conspicuously avoids visiting Nicaragua, because a civil war was then raging there, and the Argentina he visits was still the Argentina of the junta).

So what are the pleasures of reading (or listening to) this book?

Much is the simple pleasure of decription as the various trains pass through barren deserts, or have Theroux gasping in the thin air as they cross the Andes, or allow him to see the wide reaches of the pampas. Much is the pleasure or surprise of the unexpected spectacular event, such as the football match in El Salvador which turns into a full-scale riot. In terms of human habitation, it is not always a pretty world that Theroux observes. From Mexico to Patagonia, there are many descriptions of urban slums, sprawling squatter camps outside the cities, naked and unwashed children begging and an indifferent (but much smaller) affluent class often living in what amount to gated communities. Nor does Theroux stint on recording the run-down quality of most Latin American trains and their discomfort, or the type of accommodation provided by rat-infested or flea-infested hotels. In short, there is much human squalor in this book. (Read more.)
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Friday, November 17, 2017

"C'est Mon Ami" and "Portrait Charmant"


 Although it is fairly well-known that Marie-Antoinette loved music, studying under both Gluck and the famous Chevalier de Saint-Georges, many people are surprised to learn that she composed her own tunes. This is at odds with the typical image of the Queen as being a thoughtless playgirl. She also wrote poetry and spoke Italian. She was not an intellectual, but she was very bright, contrary to the myths. She composed several songs, the most famous being "C'est mon ami" ("My Friend"). Here are the lyrics of "C'est mon ami" by Jean Pierre Claris de Florian:
"C'est mon ami"

Ah s'il est dans votre village
Un berger sensible et charmant
Qu'on chérisse au premier moment
Qu'on aime ensuite davantage

C'est mon ami
Rendez-le moi
J'ai son amour
Il a ma foi

Si par sa voix douce et plaintive
Il charme l'écho de vos bois
Si les accents de son hautbois
Rendent la bergère pensive

C'est encore lui
Rendez-le-moi
J'ai son amour
Il a ma foi

Si même n'osant rien vous dire
Son seul regard sait attendrir
Si sans jamais faire rougir
Sa gaité fait toujours sourire

C'est encore lui
Rendez-le-moi
J'ai son amour
Il a ma foi

Si passant près de sa chaumière
Le pauvre en voyant son troupeau
Ose demander un agneau
Et qu'il obtienne encore la mère

Oh c'est bien lui
Rendez-le moi
J'ai son amour
Il a ma foi.
Translation :
Ah, if there is in your village, a sensitive and charming shepherd, whom we cherish at the first moment, and whom we later love more, he is my friend, give him back to me, I have his love, he has my faith.

If with his sweet and plaintive voice, he charms your forests' echoes, if the accents of his oboe makes the shepherdess thinking, it's him again...

If even not daring to tell you anything, his look only can move you, if never making you blush, his cheerfulness makes you always smile, it's him again...

If passing by next to his cottage, the poor seeing his flock, dares to ask for a lamb,a nd that he obtains the mother also, Oh yes it's him...

 Marie Antoinette completely composed "Portrait Charmant", music and lyrics, probably in honor of the Princesse de Lamballe. It is an example of the extremely florid and gushing language she used with her close friends and family. This is also typical of her era, and we cannot impose the same meanings to the words as they might have for us today. The song was written when she was barely out of her teens and still missing her family in Austria, most of whom she would never see again.
"Portrait Charmant"

Portait charmant, portait de mon amie
Gage d'amour par l'amour obtenu
Ah viens m'offrir le bien que j'ai perdu
Te voir encore me rappelle à la vie.

Oui les voilà ses traits, ses traits que j'aime
Son doux regard, son maintien, sa candeur
Lorsque ma main te presse sur mon coeur
Je crois encore la presser elle-même

Non tu n'as pas pour moi les mêmes charmes
Muet témoin de nos tendres soupirs
En retraçant nos fugitifs plaisirs
Cruel portrait, tu fais couler mes larmes

Pardonne-moi mon injuste langage
Pardonne aux cris de ma vive douleur
Portait charmant, tu n'es pas le bonheur
Mais bien souvent tu m'en offres l'image.
Translation:
Charming portrait, portait of my friend
Token of love, by love obtained
Ah come and give me back the good I have lost
To see you again brings me back to life

Yes here they are, her features, her features I love
Her sweet looks, her bearing, her ingenuousness
When I press you to my heart
I think I still embrace her herself.

No you don't have to me the same charms
Silent witness of our tender sighs
By recounting our fleeting pleasures
Cruel portrait, you make my tears fall.

Forgive me for my unfair language
Forgive the cries of my bitter woe
Charming portait, you are not happiness
But so often you give me the image of it.

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Our Secular Theodicy

From First Things:
The word “communism” needs to be used now, but it is misleading, and Bloch is partly responsible. Up until the late fifties, he was a supporter of both the Soviet regime and the German Democratic Republic (he fled East Germany for Tübingen in 1961, just as the Berlin Wall was being built). He called the Soviet Union of the 1930s “an achievement about which one can say with all one’s heart, yes, yes, yes,” and his defense of the show trials is obscene. Yet he never joined the Communist Party, and his writings placed him under its constant suspicion and occasional surveillance.

It was the religious dimension of Bloch’s thought that did so. It was apparent from his first book, The Spirit of Utopia, and led to the straining of friendships with Walter Benjamin, Theodor Adorno, and Louis Althusser, mandarins of what would be known as Western Marxism. Bloch’s use of Marx was selective and unorthodox. When he drew directly from Marx, it was not from the late “scientific” works of political economy like Capital, but from early letters that spoke romantically of humanity’s “dream” for a better life. This was Marx’s translation of Feuerbach’s projection theory of religion. Where the earlier thinker saw the Christian idea of God as the screen onto which we projected our intuition about human fulfillment, Marx cast that projection forward as the end of history. Bloch’s communism, if it should be called that, therefore verges on the mystical. He envisions a “communism of love” as the eschatological completion of our spiritual, not economic, development. (Read more.)
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Teenagers and Anxiety

From The New York Times:
Anxiety is the most common mental-health disorder in the United States, affecting nearly one-third of both adolescents and adults, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. But unlike depression, with which it routinely occurs, anxiety is often seen as a less serious problem. “Anxiety is easy to dismiss or overlook, partially because everyone has it to some degree,” explained Philip Kendall, director of the Child and Adolescent Anxiety Disorders Clinic at Temple University in Philadelphia. It has an evolutionary purpose, after all; it helps us detect and avoid potentially dangerous situations. Highly anxious people, though, have an overactive fight-or-flight response that perceives threats where there often are none.

But sometimes there are good reasons to feel anxious. For many young people, particularly those raised in abusive families or who live in neighborhoods besieged by poverty or violence, anxiety is a rational reaction to unstable, dangerous circumstances. At the Youth Anxiety Center’s clinic in the Washington Heights neighborhood of Manhattan, which serves mostly poor and working-class Hispanic youth, teenagers would object to the definition of anxiety I heard often at Mountain Valley: “The overestimation of danger and the underestimation of our ability to cope.” (Read more.)
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Thursday, November 16, 2017

Avocado Oil: A Hidden Treasure

From the Trianon Health and Beauty Blog:
I use avocado oil in the Morning Bouquet Facial Treatment for the special protection it gives the skin during the day. I have also begun using it as an astringent and as a make-up remover. I just put a few drops on a damp cotton ball and it wipes away the eye make-up without irritation. Indeed, avocado oil is a soothing way to both end and begin the day. (Read more.)
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Marriage Helps Families Escape Poverty

From Life Site News:
The marriage rate is “sinking” among lower and middle-class American adults; it’s now down to 48%. It has, however, remained stable among the wealthy.  And it’s “the proliferation of single-parent households” that “accounts for virtually all of the increase in child poverty since the early 1970s,” as Stanton quotes Jonathan Rauch.

In the early 1990s, sociologist Bill Galston said that to stay out, or climb out, of poverty, Americans needed to do only three things: graduate from high school, marry before having a child, and have that first child after the age of 20. Only 8% of Americans who follow these rules will be poor, Galston claimed, whereas 79% who fail in all three respects will certainly live in poverty.

This “success sequence”--high school, marriage, and only then baby carriage--still holds true today, and “working-class” women are three times more likely to have babies out of wedlock than wealthy women. Poor women are five times more likely than wealth women to have babies outside marriage. Both poor and working class women are twice as likely to be cohabiting than their richer sisters.

Marriage has a “extraordinary economic power,” Stanton wrote. “It boosts every important measure of well-being for women, children and men.” That includes income, health, savings, employment, educational success, happiness, recovery from serious illness--even a healthy diet.

“Marriage is an essential active ingredient in improving one’s overall life prospects, regardless of class race, or educational status,” Stanton observed. Astonishing as it may seem, the poverty rate for children living with two unmarried, cohabiting parents is similar to that of single-mother led households. Even so-called “shotgun” marriages, contracted when the bride was pregnant, help keep women and children out of poverty.

But doubters have asked if this is putting the cart before the horse. Does marriage really generate wealth, or does wealth generate marriage?

“That’s the criticism some scholars have had--the liberal scholars,” Stanton told LifeSiteNews. “But marriage itself is a wealth creating institution. That’s what the research is finding.”

Marriage creates wealth because marriage encourages men to become better, more committed workers, providers and savers. Married men are less likely to fall into substance abuse, they are less likely either to commit or fall victim to crime, they have better health and they’re even less accident-prone. “A married man is a far different kind of man than the single or cohabiting man,” Stanton told Lifesitenews. (Read more.)
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Give Communism a Chance

What? From The Washington Times:
The majority of millennials would prefer to live in a socialist, communist or fascist nation rather than a capitalistic one, according to a new poll. In the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation’s “Annual Report on U.S. Attitudes Toward Socialism,” 58 percent of the up-and-coming generation opted for one of the three systems, compared to 42 percent who said they were in favor of capitalism.
The most popular socioeconomic order was socialism, with 44 percent support. Communism and fascism received 7 percent support each.

Marion Smith, executive director of the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation, said the report shows millennials are “increasingly turning away from capitalism and toward socialism and even communism as a viable alternative.”

“This troubling turn highlights widespread historical illiteracy in American society regarding socialism and the systemic failure of our education system to teach students about the genocide, destruction, and misery caused by communism since the Bolshevik Revolution one hundred years ago,” Mr. Smith said in a statement. (Read more.)
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Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Olympe de Gouges: Feminist and Revolutionary

It is interesting how so many of the early feminists experienced abuse and hardship in their youth. From Haaretz:
From a young age, de Gouges believed she was destined to be a distinguished playwright. But fate cast her instead in the lead role in the widespread tragedy of the 18th century: life as a woman. She was born Marie Gouze in 1748, in the town of Montauban, southern France, and grew up in a bourgeois family that was not well-off. Officially, her father was a butcher, but very early on she learned that her real, biological father was actually her mother’s lover, Jean-Jacques Lefranc, the Marquis de Pompignan.

Lefranc, whom Marie got to know as a child, was an educated man and a successful playwright-poet. His occupations and social status left a deep impression on her, but their relationship did not last long: The marquis’ ties with Marie were abruptly severed when he married a rich Paris widow. Marie was 9 at the time, no longer had the right to be with him and, of course, had no legitimate claim to his fortune. Far from fading with the years, that early affront only intensified and became a major driving force in her later writing.

De Gouges’ education and place of birth were also not likely to land her in Parisian intellectual circles. The language spoken in southern France at the time was Occitan, not French; she did not learn the latter until she was older. Moreover, her education was quite basic. “Fate left me in total darkness, in the most enlightened century. I know few things, only a few ideas that have not become confused in my memory,” she wrote later, though she was intellectually superior to the girls around her, most of whom were illiterate. (Read more.)
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Statistics We Refuse to Collect

From Dr. Esolen at Crisis:
What is the median number of pornographic images that a boy will have seen before his fifteenth birthday? I specify “median” rather than “average,” because the median will give the more conservative number; an average would be much higher, as the minimum is bounded by zero, and there is no maximum. We can call this the Male Index of Moral and Intellectual Rot.

What is the percentage of people between 20 and 30 who have never fallen into regular fornication, but who are either married now, or who have been in a normal relationship of at least six months’ length, whether by dating or by courtship? That would have been almost everybody, in my parents’ time, and very few people now. We can call this the Index of Pre-Marital Health.

What is the percentage of people between 15 and 30 who have had sexual relations with someone who was a stranger—that is, someone whose name they did not know, or with whom they had not, before that day, exchanged more than fifteen minutes of conversation? We will call this the Index of Lonely Whoredom. (Read more.)
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Urban Southern

From Southern Lady:
While fashion trends come and go as fleetingly as winter in the South, there are some accessories that remain steadfast in every woman’s wardrobe: a strand of pearls, a flattering black dress, a crisp white blouse, and a leather handbag. Recognizing this abiding niche, Regina Bauman, owner and designer of Urban Southern, sought to make her mark with accessories that would showcase the timeless beauty and versatility of naturally tanned cowhide. With the encouragement and expertise of her husband, a third-generation leather craftsman, Regina’s vision not only for a collection of everyday style essentials, but also for a lifestyle brand with a unifying message, began to take shape.

As Urban Southern attracted growing support, Regina recruited her cousin and best friend, Meg Delagrange, to help her articulate the company’s mantra: “Urban Southern is for everyone.” Intrigued by the clean lines and elegant restraint of her designs, customers expressed their desire for a bag that would complement all facets of their day-today routine. It was this idea that inspired Regina and Meg to parlay their products into a sense of community for women from all walks of life. “To me, the everyday woman can really be anybody,” says Regina, “no matter what her everyday looks like: a career woman, a stay-at-home mom, a single woman, or an older woman with grown children.” (Read more.)
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Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Childhood of Maria Theresa

From Geri Walton:
Maria Theresa was Marie Antoinette’s mother, but before she became a mother, she was a child herself. She was born to Emperor Charles VI and Elisabeth Christine of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel on 13 May 1717 at the Hofburg Palace. Her older brother, Leopold John, had been born on 13 April 1716, but he died when he was seven months. Thus, there was great rejoicing in the kingdom when a healthy baby girl was born. (She was also the oldest of three girls, her younger sisters were the Archduchess Maria Anna and the Archduchess Maria Amalia, who lived to be only six years old.)

Because of the loss of Leopold John and the difficulty of having children, Charles VI took steps to provide for a male-line succession failure with the Pragmatic Sanction of 1713, a document which abolished male-only succession. The sanction allowed Maria Theresa or any of Charles VI’s other daughters to succeed over the children of his elder brother and predecessor, Joseph I. Moreover, Charles VI “felt the importance of securing his beloved daughter’s undisputed title to the throne,”[1] even though he remained disappointed Maria Theresa was not a boy and knew the male line would die with him. Maria Theresa also recognized her political importance, and it was said from an early age she “seemed one of nature’s queens, born to reign and subdue.”[2] (Read more.)
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"Slavery was Never Abolished"

Instead of obsessing about the slavery of a century and a half ago, people need to focus on abolishing the slavery which exists in the world now. From Crux:
“I’m the one. Put a face to it. I had a mother and father who loved me. Remember me when fighting human trafficking.” Those words belong to Rani Hong, who was born in India. She was stolen from her parents at the age of seven, and sold to a slave master, who kept her in a cage to be “seasoned into submission.” When she was eight, due to her physical condition and emotional state, she was near death.

According to United Nations statistics, 40 million people are trapped in slavery today. “They thought I would die, and that I had no value,” Hong said on Monday. “But they wanted one more [source of] profit from me, so my captor sold me into international adoption in Canada.”

Today, Hong is a leading voice in the fight against modern-day slavery. Together with her husband Trong, a Vietnamese refugee who fled his country at the age of nine to avoid being recruited as a child soldier, she runs the Tronie Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to providing freedom to those who are enslaved and to help eliminate the root causes of slavery. Rani Hong was at the Vatican this weekend, participating in a Nov. 4-6 workshop titled “Assisting Victims in Human Trafficking - Best Practice in Resettlement, Legal Aid and Compensation,” organized by the Vatican’s Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences (PASS). (Read more.)
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The Problems of “Privilege”

From Quillette:
The suggestion that French society should be transformed through the elimination of privilege might have remained only a daring idea aired in philosophical debates, had the debt-ridden French monarchy not stumbled into a desperate crisis in the late 1780s. Previous attempts by the monarchy to push through reforms of the French judicial and economic systems had been stymied by traditional institutions representing the interests of the nobility. Now, as reform seemed more urgent than ever, many were ready for radical solutions. In 1789, as crowds stormed the Bastille, and as non-noble elites proclaimed themselves to be a ‘national assembly,’ the previously obscure cleric Emmanuel-Joseph Sieyès placed himself in the center of French politics with an essay singling out privilege as the cause of France’s woes.

This essay, What is the Third Estate?, came to be seen by many revolutionary politicians as a justification and elucidation of their own inchoate demands. Sieyès himself became one of the most prominent figures of the revolutionary decade of the 1790s, and saw many of his ideas put into action. In What is the Third Estate?, Sieyès condemned France’s ‘Estates system,’ by which people were identified as clergy (First Estate), nobles (Second Estate), or the rest: the vast majority of the population (Third Estate). He called for a new kind of society in which elites would be chosen not on the basis of their bloodline, but on the basis of ability and merit. People like himself—smart, ambitious men from comfortable but non-aristocratic backgrounds—should make the decisions that mattered. (Read more.)
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Monday, November 13, 2017

The Most Beautiful Portrait

I think that this miniature at the Walters Museum in Baltimore, by an unknown artist, possibly Pierre Adolf Hall, is the most beautiful portrait of Marie-Antoinette. Just my opinion. Share

An Elite Form of Dumbing Down

From Reid's Reader:
Recently, I came across the following quotations from the philosopher and cultural critic Hannah Arendt. They appeared in her essay “The Crisis in Culture”,  first published in 1961 in her collection of essays Between Past and Future. At this point in her essay, Arendt was distinguishing between “culture” (basically great and challenging works which have come to us from the past) and “entertainment” (what is ephemeral, undemanding and basically intended to fill up our spare time).
She wrote: “those who produce for the mass media ransack the entire range of past and present culture in the hope of finding suitable material. This material, moreover, cannot be offered as it is; it must be altered in order to become entertaining; it must be prepared to be easily consumed.”
Of real works of art, she goes on to say: “their nature is affected when these objects themselves are changed – rewritten, condensed, reduced to kitsch in reproduction, or in preparation for the movies. This does not mean that culture is spread to the masses, but that culture is being destroyed in order to yield entertainment. The result of this is not disintegration but decay, and those who promote it are not the Tin Pan Alley composers but a special kind of intellectual, often well read and well informed, whose sole function is to organise, disseminate, and change cultural objects in order to persuade the masses that Hamlet can be as entertaining as My Fair Lady, and perhaps as educational as well. There are many great authors of the past who have survived centuries of oblivion and neglect, but it is still an open question whether they will survive an entertaining version of what they have to say.” [Underlinings added for emphasis.]
Of course, after most of 60 years, there are some things here that now sound a little dated. Perhaps we could substitute something like Mamma Mia! for My Fair Lady and we might say “the music industry” rather than “Tin Pan Alley”, a phrase which means little nowadays. We might remark that it would be television and the internet rather than “the movies” which now do most of this cultural simplification, although the movies are still part of the process. If we read only these quotations, we might also think that Arendt is attacking pop culture and the mass media per se, and in therefore (to use the easy insult word) an “elitist”. In fact she isn’t. The essay as a whole makes it clear that she understands the legitimate functions of the mass media and also the necessity for “entertainment”. Then we might consider how, over the past half century, television and film have been more readily recognised as media capable of rising to the status of real art. (Read more.)
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Growing Rice in the South

From Southern Lady:
Ninth-generation farmer Mike Wagner thought he knew all there was to know about growing rice. But when he noticed a change in his soil after ducks and geese had flocked to the area, a realization struck him: he might not need conventional fertilizers or chemicals to raise a healthy crop. “I started experimenting on my own,” he says. “I would cut the fertilizer every year, to no detriment. Now, we farm with nature’s rhythm, and we’ve been farming the land this way for 20 years.

With the help of a tenth generation of Wagner farmers, son Lawrence and daughter Abbey, Mike’s environmentally sustainable long-grain rice has become the basis for Two Brooks Farm, which offers a line of 14 products that include grits and flour as well as rice. Flavor profiles range from the buttery, sweet Delta Belle Long Grain White Rice to the fragrant, earthy Missimati Bayou Bouquet, a Basmati brown rice.

The grits from Two Brooks Farm are nearly as diverse in taste. One of Mike’s favorites is the Original Mississippi Midlands Brown Rice Grits. “They feel like little champagne bubbles in your mouth,” he says. Four rice flours were added to the line after a mechanic at the farm told Mike about his granddaughter’s gluten allergy. Mike dusted off a vintage grist stone and started grinding the byproducts of his rice. With the addition of the flour, Mike says, nothing goes to waste. “We’re trying to get everything out of the hog,” he says, “including the squeal.”

Mike is pleased that the changes he instilled decades ago allow him not only to produce rice rich in nutrients, but also to create positive change in the natural surroundings. He likens his Mississippi Delta farm to a nature reserve that has helped to rebuild the waterfowl habitat, increasing the variety and the population of migrating birds in the area. (Read more.)
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Sunday, November 12, 2017

Why You Hate Contemporary Architecture

From Current Affairs:
The British author Douglas Adams had this to say about airports: “Airports are ugly. Some are very ugly. Some attain a degree of ugliness that can only be the result of special effort.” Sadly, this truth is not applicable merely to airports: it can also be said of most contemporary architecture.

Take the Tour Montparnasse, a black, slickly glass-panelled skyscraper, looming over the beautiful Paris cityscape like a giant domino waiting to fall. Parisians hated it so much that the city was subsequently forced to enact an ordinance forbidding any further skyscrapers higher than 36 meters.
Or take Boston’s City Hall Plaza. Downtown Boston is generally an attractive place, with old buildings and a waterfront and a beautiful public garden. But Boston’s City Hall is a hideous concrete edifice of mind-bogglingly inscrutable shape, like an ominous component found left over after you’ve painstakingly assembled a complicated household appliance. In the 1960s, before the first batch of concrete had even dried in the mold, people were already begging preemptively for the damn thing to be torn down. There’s a whole additional complex of equally unpleasant federal buildings attached to the same plaza, designed by Walter Gropius, an architect whose chuckle-inducing surname belies the utter cheerlessness of his designs. The John F. Kennedy Building, for example—featurelessly grim on the outside, infuriatingly unnavigable on the inside—is where, among other things, terrified immigrants attend their deportation hearings, and where traumatized veterans come to apply for benefits. Such an inhospitable building sends a very clear message, which is: the government wants its lowly supplicants to feel confused, alienated, and afraid. (Read more.)
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Hatred for Prayer

From The Stream:
I went to bed last night, still in shock and grief over the shooting in Texas. But also over something else — the apparent hatred among many for prayer, and those who deem it unworthy in times such as these. One example, among the many that are out there, comes from Marina Sirtis, who played Deana Troy in Star Trek: The Next Generation (of which I am a big fan): “To all those asking for thoughts and prayers for the victims in #churchshooting, it seems that your direct line to God is not working.” (Read more.)
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Winemaking in Armenia

An ancient heritage. From The Spectator:
Every 100 metres or so on the main road to Iran that runs through the Vayots Dzor province of Armenia there is a stall selling tomatoes, watermelons and Coca-Cola. I was with an Italian-Armenian businessman Zorik Gharibian and his wife Yeraz, and they suggested we stop at one. On closer inspection those bottles didn’t contain Coke, it was red wine cunningly packaged to smuggle into the Islamic Republic of Iran. We went into the nearby house and there was the winemaker, Haykaz Karapetyan, cigarette in mouth making that year’s wine in plastic bins. ‘No chemicals,’ he said. This was proper natural wine. It smelt good, like a young Beaujolais with the same floral quality. We then went into his cellar to try some older vintages. The 2015 had a distinct tang of vinegar. The 2012 tasted of old socks.

The Gharibians make wine too and from the same grape, Areni Noir, but it is rather different. Their nearby winery is called Zorah and their red, Karasi, costs about £25 in London shops. They are both diaspora Armenians, Zorik brought up in Italy and Yeraz in London and New York. They wanted to buy a vineyard in Tuscany but following a visit to the mother country in 1998 decided to make wine in Armenia. ‘It was like I’d come home,’ Zorik tells me. In 2000 they came across the region around the town of Areni (after which the variety is named) which turned out to be a viticultural paradise. It’s phylloxera (a pest of commercial grapevines) free – though other parts of Armenia are not; there’s plenty of sunshine but the grapes preserve their acidity. ‘Freshness comes naturally because of altitude,’ Zorik explains.

The landscape with its precipitous cliffs, caves and ancient monasteries would be the perfect setting for a new Indiana Jones film. The arid mountains are peppered with bright spots of cultivation, including Zorah’s main vineyard thanks to a recently constructed irrigation pipe built with money from the World Bank. After they bought the land, experts in Armenia and back in Italy advised them to plant Cabernet Sauvignon. ‘When we said we wanted to do something with local varieties people were laughing at us,’ Zorik says. Italian oenologist Alberto Antonini, though, saw the potential in Areni Noir. After years of experimentation with different Areni clones, they planted the vineyard in 2006. (Read more.)
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Saturday, November 11, 2017

Beauty According to Marie-Antoinette

From the Trianon Health and Beauty Blog:
Marie-Antoinette was renowned for her beautiful skin, in spite of the fact that she had faint pock marks near her mouth. She had survived a childhood bout with smallpox which had taken the lives of several of her family members. When  Marie-Antoinette was Queen of France it became fashionable to have a healthy and radiant complexion. While some of her beauty treatments, such as the famous pigeon-water, are not those we would care to imitate, many others are. Drinking lots of water, eating fresh fruits and enjoying the outdoors are things we can do. I try to use as many of her favored ingredients as possible in my beauty creams, such as rose, lavender, and orange blossom essential oils, as well as grapeseed oil and sweet almond oil. (Read more.)
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Shelby Foote’s Civil War History

From The Federalist:
In our case, the entire history of the United States prior to outbreak of war in 1861 was full of compromises on the question of slavery. It began with the Three-Fifths Compromise written into the U.S. Constitution and was followed by the Missouri Compromise of 1820 (which prohibited slavery north of the 36°30’ parallel, excluding Missouri), the Compromise of 1850, then the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854, which repealed the Missouri Compromise and eventually led to the election of Abraham Lincoln and the subsequent secession of the southern states. Through all this, we inched toward emancipation, albeit slowly.

In other words, the breakdown of all those decades of compromise did indeed lead to the Civil War. This is a point that Foote and other historians have made many times and that Kelly tried his best to paraphrase. Compromising on slavery had been part of how America stayed together, and staved off war, from the beginning. No historian disputes this. But for writers like Chait and The Atlantic’s Ta-Nehisi Coates, compromise was a bad thing because it preserved slavery. That such compromises limited slavery’s spread and put it on the path to extinction carries no weight with them. (Read more.)
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Children and Friends

From Return to Order:
People forget that education involves not only the imparting of knowledge to children. Education above all consists of the building of character that will prepare children for the hardships of life. The time in school should be spent helping the boy develop the certainties that will guide him for his whole life. The girl develops those qualities and charms that will be with her for her lifetime. Childhood games teach valuable social and negotiating skills to the young. Forming friendships of all intensities is part of the learning process. Youth should be a time of carefree and chaste pleasures that gradually prepare the child to assume hardship and responsibilities. Children need their time of innocence to develop a non-cynical worldview that will guide them throughout their lives. (Read more.)
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Friday, November 10, 2017

Cause of Beatification of Madame Élisabeth of France

Guillotined at the age of thirty in 1794 by the revolutionaries who hated her beloved Catholic Faith, the cause of beatification of Madame Élisabeth of France, the youngest sister of Louis XVI, has finally been introduced. According to Zenit, a plenary assembly of  the French bishops approved a motion for the beatification of the princess in Lourdes, France on November 7, 2017. It is sad that in so many novels and films,  Élisabeth is either erased or minimized, when her presence was a source of comfort to the king and the queen in their ordeals, even if she disagreed with them. She withstood the mob at her brother’s side and encouraged the rest of the family in the darkness of imprisonment. She became a second mother to her niece Madame Royale, and comforted the condemned on the way to the scaffold.

Madame  Élisabeth (1764- 1794) became an orphan at the age of three and was raised by her governesses Madame de Marsan and Madame de Mackau. She was a stubborn child but eventually conquered her willfulness so that gentleness and kindness became her most outstanding character traits.
Mme. de Marsan asked the king to appoint Mme. de Mackau, who was living in retirement in Alsace, as sub-governess. This choice proved to have all the elements required to work a happy change in the nature of a self-willed and haughty child. Mme. de Mackau possessed a firmness to which resistance yielded, and an affectionate kindness which enticed attachment. Armed with almost maternal power, she brought up the Children of France as she would have trained her own children; overlooking no fault; knowing, if need were, how to make herself feared; all the while leading them to like virtue. To a superior mind she added a dignity of tone and manners which inspired respect. When her pupil gave way to the fits of haughty temper to which she was subject, Mme. de Mackau showed on her countenance a displeased gravity, as if to remind her that princes, like other persons, could not be liked except for their virtues and good qualities. (see Katherine Wormeley’s The Ruin of a Princess)
Élisabeth always remained strong-willed when it came to adhering to her principles, however. Many princes sought her hand in marriage, including Marie-Antoinette’s brother Emperor Joseph II, but  Élisabeth wanted to become a nun. She longed to join her Aunt Louise at the Carmelite monastery at Saint Denis, where she often visited and served the nuns at table. Louis XVI would not give his permission for her to enter, begging her to stay. “We will have need of you here,” he said.

So  Élisabeth took on the challenge of living the single, consecrated life in the world, without the support of a community, and living it amid the splendors of Versailles. As Élisabeth grew older she more frequently joined Marie-Antoinette at Petit Trianon, and she remained close to her brother, Louis XVI. She was devoted to her brother Artois, the rascal of the family, and tried to encourage him to reform his life, while comforting his forlorn and forsaken wife, Marie-Thérèse de Savoie. For her twenty-fifth birthday,  Élisabeth was given a farm called Montreuil by the king and the queen, where she started a dairy to provide milk for poor children. While she organized her ladies in devotions and charitable works, Élisabeth also enjoyed music, embroidery, clothes and especially shoes. She loved to dance and was the last to leave any ball.

In the days of the Revolution, Madame Élisabeth disagreed with the conciliatory policies of her brother Louis XVI and the political maneuverings of Marie-Antoinette. She saw the Revolution as pure evil, as an attack upon the Church and Christendom and thought that it should be stopped with fire and sword if necessary. There were many heated arguments at the Tuileries and as author Simone Bertiere points out in L’Insoumise, Marie-Antoinette could hardly stand her sister-in-law at times. However, misfortune bonded the two women together as if they had been blood sisters.

Élisabeth was deeply aware of the danger to her own life but refused to leave her brother’s family. She stood at his side on June 20, 1792 when the mob stormed the Tuileries and hoped that the people would mistake her for the queen so that her sister-in-law would be spared. “Were it not better that they shed my blood than that of my sister?” she said. When Louis XVI was killed and the little Dauphin taken away and brutalized, Élisabeth comforted Marie-Antoinette and young Madame Royale, keeping them from despair. Nesta Webster reports in Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette during the Revolution that when a friend wondered if Madame Élisabeth could escape on her own, it was said, “Madame  Élisabeth is inseparable from the queen; she would not leave her for the most splendid crown in the universe.” After the queen’s death in October 1793, the aunt and the niece remained in the Temple prison, enduring humiliations and taunts of the jailers. Élisabeth trained Marie-Thérèse Charlotte how to survive in confinement, knowing that soon she would be alone.

In May, 1794,  Élisabeth was removed to the Conciergerie. According to Deborah Cadbury in The Lost King of France,  Élisabeth, knowing she was to die, offered to God the sacrifice of her life. At her trial she was condemned for plotting against the Revolution. While awaiting death, eyewitnesses reported how she inspired the other prisoners: “She seemed to regard them all as friends about to accompany her to heaven….the tranquility of her mind subdued their anguish.” (Cadbury, page 138) On May 10, 1794 she recited the De Profundis on the way to the guillotine. The princess was the last of a group of twenty-five people to be executed; they each knelt before her, asking her blessing. (Some say she fainted in the process; the sound of so many decapitations was too much.) When it was  Élisabeth’s turn, the executioner pulled her bodice down very low off her shoulders, and she begged for modesty’s sake to be covered. There were no cheers when Élisabeth’s head was thrown into a basket, the crowd was silent, and some reported the scent of roses filling the square, a miracle from the middle ages to disturb the dawn of modernity. Many regarded her as a saint, including Pope Pius VII, and now at last her cause has been introduced. According to The Catholic Herald:
Her piety, acts of charity and defence of the monarchy against the forces of revolution brought her attention akin to hero worship in the early 19th century. An association to promote her Cause for beatification was initially introduced in 1924, and followed up in 1947. In 1953 her Cause was reopened by the cardinal-archbishop of Paris, and she was declared a Servant of God. In 2016 Cardinal André Vingt-Trois, Archbishop of Paris, once again reopened her cause. (Read more.)

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On Fatherhood

From LMS Chairman:
God sets the father in the family so that by the gifts of his masculinity he can be “close to his wife and share everything, joy and sorrow, hope and hardship. And to be close to his children as they grow – when they play and when they work, when they are carefree and when they are distressed, when they are talkative and when they are silent, when they are daring and when they are afraid, when they stray and when they get back on the right path. To be a father who is always present. When I say ‘present’, I do not mean ‘controlling’. Fathers who are too controlling overshadow their children, they don’t let them develop”. Some fathers feel they are useless or unnecessary, but the fact is that “children need to find a father waiting for them when they return home with their prob-lems. They may try hard not to admit it, not to show it, but they need it”. It is not good for children to lack a father and to grow up before they are ready. (Read more.)
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7 Myths about Robin Hood

From History Extra:
Robin Hood is an invented, archetypical hero, whose career encapsulates many of the popular frustrations and ambitions of his era. Robin (or Robert) Hood (aka Hod or Hude) was a nickname given to petty criminals from at least the middle of the 13th century – it may be no coincidence that Robin sounds like ‘robbing’ - but no contemporary writer refers to Robin Hood the famous outlaw we recognise today. There were men like Robin Hood, however, such as fugitives who flouted the harsh forest laws [unpopular laws that retained vast areas of semi-wild landscape over which the king and his court could hunt], and these fugitives were largely admired by the oppressed peasantry. But the individual(s) whose deeds inspired the legend of Robin Hood may not have been called Robin Hood from birth, or indeed even during in his own lifetime. (Read more.)
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Thursday, November 9, 2017

More on Coconut Oil

From the Trianon Health and Beauty Blog:
Coconut oil is indispensable for health and beauty. I always keep a few jars of coconut oil around, not just for making the creams. (Read more.)
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A Gene for Divorce?

From Science of Relationships:
In a landmark study in this area from the early 1990s, researchers estimated the heritability of divorce to be about 50%.1 What does a heritability estimate like this mean? Imagine a city or town where all of the people are either married or divorced. A heritability estimate of 50% means that the genetic differences between people in that city can explain half of why some people in that city stay married and why others get divorced. (What explains the other half of why some people get divorced? The environment!) Importantly, what a heritability estimate doesn’t mean is that half of the reason that Joe or Mary, individuals who live in our imaginary city, get divorced. In other words, a heritability estimate tells us that genetic factors play a role in general, but it does not explain why any one of us will experience divorce.

A heritability estimate also doesn’t tell us—by itself—whether we carry the specific genes or genetic variants that make us more likely to experience divorce. To find those genes, we would have to take a different approach. Right now, the most popular approach for gene identification is the genome-wide association study, which looks across the genome to see whether there are genotypic differences between people who do and do not have a trait or behavior of interest. For example, this analysis could determine if there are specific genetic variants associated with whether someone has straight or curly hair2. No one has conducted a genome-wide association study of divorce (yet!), so it will be a while before we can ship off a saliva sample to 23andme (or any other direct-to-consumer genetic testing company) to find our risk of divorce.

A complicating factor in any such search for “divorce genes” is that divorce is what we call a “complex” outcome. In genetics, when we say that a trait or behavior is complex, we mean that there are multiple genes and genetic variants that influence that trait or behavior. Most of the things that psychologists and relationship researchers study—like how neurotic someone is, whether they have an alcohol or drug problem, or whether they are likely to get divorced—are complex traits. Contrast this with other types of outcomes that a single gene causes, such as Huntington’s disease or cystic fibrosis. The effect of each individual gene on a complex outcome like divorce is expected to be exceedingly small. This makes the search for “divorce genes” very challenging, like trying to find needles in a haystack. (Read more.)
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Talk to Your Father

From Crisis:
Every single culture in the history of the world has been built upon three forms of love. The first is what we have in common with all the animals: it is the most powerful of our natural bonds. It is the love of a mother for her child. The second love gives the first love a haven, and is blessed by God in a special way; it is the love without which children themselves would not exist. That is the love of man and woman in marriage, raised to the height of glory in the marriage of the eternal bridegroom Christ, with his bride, the Church.

The third, we are apt to overlook and neglect. It is the bond of brother and brother. It is not foundational, as is that of mother and child; it is not an image of the eternal, as is that of bride and groom. It is, however, the bond without which no culture comes into existence in the first place, and then survives. It is the bond that builds bridges, tunnels through mountains, raises walls, drains swamps, clears fields, drills wells, fights for the homeland, erects churches and temples, strings the nerves of commerce and power across a continent, and makes a people into a people rather than a confusion of squabbling families.

Is it celebrated in Scripture? It hardly needed to be; it was so taken for granted everywhere. But the answer is yes. We have what a wise friend of mine long ago set before my attention, the “forgotten icon,” the band of brothers we know as Christ and the apostles. Jesus was under no illusions about male perfection. He calls Peter “Satan,” he expresses impatience with Philip for being so slow to understand him, he rebukes James and John—to whom he has given the jaunty and somewhat unflattering nickname, “Sons of Thunder”—for their ambition; and we need not bother to discuss the hard words he has for the important men of his time. Meanwhile his words to women, though they are frank, are always gentle, even when he tests the faith of the Canaanite woman. Yet Jesus chose men for his apostles.

You see, young man, that Jesus himself was a man, and was drawn to the band of brothers, just as he was drawn to every other good thing in our lives: to the flowers of the desert, to happy feasts, to the love of a kind father, to the sacred songs of his forefathers. Let us then pierce through the confusion of your adolescence and the treachery of our times, and see realities again. What Jesus experienced in his humanity—the boy’s attraction to the male band; recall how the boy Jesus remained behind in Jerusalem to trade questions and answers with the learned men?—every boy and young man experiences. Every one of them; it is as natural as breathing. You are not different from any boy or young man in this regard. We are all the same. (Read more.)
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Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Les Liaisons Dangereuses

A review from author Isabel Azar:
Today, Pierre Ambroise François Choderlos de Laclos was born in 1741, in Amiens, France. He served as a soldier, but is best known for his novel, Les Liaisons Dangereuses (in English, Dangerous Liaisons). This book ruffled quite a few feathers among both the aristocrats and the bourgeoisie when it was first published in April, 1782 - people were unsure of what to make of it. Many deemed it scandalous due to its sexual content, others couldn't put it down for the same reason, and some readers took moral lessons from the tale. I believe the latter response is what Laclos desired; in his "Editor's Preface" (he pretends that his work of fiction is a compilation of actual letters, which was a common authorial device at that time), he explicitly states:
It seems to me, at any rate, that it is to render a service to morals, to unveil the methods employed by those whose own are bad in corrupting those whose conduct is good; and I believe that these letters will effectually attain this end. There will also be found the proof and example of two important verities which one might believe unknown, for that they are so rarely practiced: the one, that every woman who consents to admit a man of loose morals to her society ends by becoming his victim; the other, that a mother is, to say the least, imprudent who allows any other than herself to possess the confidence of her daughter. Young people of either sex might also learn from these pages that the friendship which persons of evil character appear to grant them so readily is never aught else but a dangerous snare, as fatal to their happiness as to their virtue.  
These messages are exemplified in the novel; the Marquise de Merteuil and the Vicomte de Valmont wreak havoc on their prey. Valmont's virtuous, devoutly religious conquest, Madame de Tourvel, dies of a broken heart after having the misfortune to fall in love with the libertine, and Cécile, Merteuil's teenaged cousin, returns to the convent where she was educated to become a nun, in order to atone for her fornication with Valmont (in which she was encouraged by Merteuil, her confidant). Her first (chaste and respectable) lover, the Chevalier Danceny, becomes a monk to make reparation for his fling with Merteuil; though their decisions to enter religious life, I believe Laclos was indicating that God's redeeming love provides solace for those who have transgressed. At the conclusion, Cécile's mother, Madame de Volanges, laments:
Who is there who would not shudder, if he were to reflect upon the misfortunes that may be caused by even one dangerous acquaintance! And what troubles would one not avert by reflecting on this more often! What woman would not fly before the first proposal of a seducer! What mother could see another person than herself speak to her daughter, and tremble not!
(Read more.)
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"White Children" are "Part of the Problem"

What?! ALL children of every color are a gift from God. I have never know people to be so obsessed with skin color! From Fox News:
A City University of New York sociology professor reportedly said in a tweetstorm last week that “the white-nuclear family” promotes racism, prompting a backlash on social media. Jessie Daniels, described as an expert on “the Internet manifestations of racism” on her CUNY page, infuriated social media users after reportedly saying that white families promote racism by default. The professor began her argument saying she learned that “the white-nuclear family is one of the most powerful forces supporting white supremacy,” adding that that families “reproducing white children” are “part of the problem” as they facilitate white supremacy in the country, Campus Reform reported. (Read more.)
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The Prosecution of the Chicago Tribune

From the National Security Archives:
Documents posted today by the George Washington University-based National Security Archive detail FBI, Justice Department, and Navy efforts to charge the Tribune with damaging national security by indirectly alluding to U.S. penetration of Japan’s naval codes – one of the most sensitive secrets of the day. But federal prosecutors dropped the case after senior officials expressed doubts about whether the Tribune and its correspondent knowingly acted improperly and after Navy brass chose not to allow public testimony for fear of increasing the chances Japan would realize its codes had been compromised.

The Tribune case was the first time the U.S. government tried to pursue charges against a major media source under the Espionage Act for publishing classified information – making it of particular interest in the current political environment.

Today’s posting draws on grand jury records that had been sealed for decades until historian Elliot Carlson, joined by the Reporters Committee on Freedom of the Press, the National Security Archive, and other historians’ organizations, filed a lawsuit for their release. A court ruled in favor of the suit on June 10, 2015, but the government appealed, sending the case to the U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, which decided 2-1 on September 15, 2016, to unseal the files. They are now available to researchers at the National Archives and Records Administration in College Park, Maryland. This is the latest in a series of judicial decisions to open grand jury records of historical importance, including from the investigations of Alger Hiss and Julius Rosenberg. (Read more.)
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Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Matisse and the Decorative Arts

From Meredith Mendelsohn at Architectural Digest:
Matisse was collecting more seriously as early as 1906, when he purchased of a small seated African figure from the Congo from a Paris dealer. But the artist never thought of himself as a collector in the traditional sense. “This may sound like an odd thing for an artist to say, but later in his life he remembered that in his early years of hardship, he detested collections and collectors,” says Matisse scholar and independent curator Ellen McBreen, who co-organized the show with Helen Burnham from the MFA. “His parents were hardworking seed-shop owners, so he was raised with a fundamental distrust for excessive luxury and waste.” It’s not surprising then, how much use he got out of these objects.The Surrealist poet Louis Aragon aptly referred to the wares as Matisse’s “palette of objects,” and just like a painter might grab a different brush or tube of paint, Matisse stored his collection in his studio and pulled out different pieces while working. In some cases this means a direct representation, or using his wares as props. A green blown-glass Andalusian vase, a Tunisian hexagonal table, and a French silver chocolate pot on view in the show reappear in his paintings, given new life with each rendering, while a stunning Egyptian curtain appears in an interior and also clearly inspired the floral shapes of Matisse’s cutouts. Other textiles, meanwhile, were hung in layers like curtains to provide lush, exotic backdrops for his odalisques. (Read more.)
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