Friday, November 24, 2017

Made-up Quotes

From the Brisbane Times:
France's Queen Mary-Antoinette is forever associated with the dismissive "let them eat cake". As the story goes, it was the queen's response upon being told that her starving peasant subjects had no bread. Because cake is more expensive than bread, the anecdote has been cited as an example of Marie-Antoinette's obliviousness to the conditions and daily lives of ordinary people. It would in later histories be quoted to illustrate the callousness and indifference of the upper classes in pre-revolutionary France.But there is no record of her having uttered the words. While the first known attribution was in an 1843 book by Alphonse Kerr – that is, half a century after the French Revolution – a similar quotation appears in the works of philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau, written in about 1765, and attributed to "a great princess". It's unlikely it was Marie-Antoinette, who was just nine at the time.

 There is, however, evidence that such a quotation, expressing scorn as much as ignorance, has an even longer history, with seventh-century Chinese chronicle The Book of Jin attributing to Emperor Hui (259-307), when told his people were starving because there was no rice, the words: "Let them eat meat."French philosopher Voltaire, hailed as the great champion of free speech, continues to be quoted as saying: "I don't agree with what you say but I will defend to the death your right to say it." A great quote, to be sure, but Voltaire never said it. It comes from a 1906 biography by Evelyn Beatrice Hall, in which it was intended to represent a summary of his thinking on free-speech issues. (Read more.)

Thursday, November 23, 2017

The True Story of Thanksgiving

Squanto, the pilgrims and the pope. (Via Esther.) To quote:
The Puritan Pilgrims were not always considered the survivors of religious persecution American history made them out to be. Writer, H.L. Mencken described Puritanism as “the haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy.” And G.K. Chesterton once famously remarked:
“In America, they have a feast to celebrate the arrival of the Pilgrims. Here in England, we should have a feast to celebrate their departure.”
(Read more.)
Capitalism made Thanksgiving possible. From Red State:
 Once Governor Bradford provided each family with a private portion of land, and allowed each family to keep the vast majority of the fruits of its own labor, prosperity came to the Colony. The starvation and stagnation of the first two years in the new world were reversed when freedom came flooding in. Gone were the days of the sluggards, who sought to survive off the sweat of their neighbors. In were the days of industrious self-reliance, which brought a rising tide to lift all boats. The real meaning of Thanksgiving is that the LORD of Providence provides for His people. The sub-theme, however, is that He used freedom to provide for those in need. The Apostle Paul had it right when he told the early church: “if a man will not work, he shall not eat” I, for one, believe that these words of Paul are just as inspired as the others that he preached. (Read more.)

What Did 17th Century Food Taste Like?

From Res Obscura:
What can we learn about how people ate in the seventeenth century? And even if we can piece together historical recipes, can we ever really know what their food tasted like?

This might seem like a relatively unimportant question. For one thing, the senses of other people are always going to be, at some level, unknowable, because they are so deeply subjective. Not only can I not know what Velázquez's fried eggs tasted like three hundred years ago, I arguably can't know what my neighbor's taste like. And why does the question matter, anyway? A very clear case can be made for the importance of the history of medicine and disease, or the histories of slavery, global commerce, warfare, and social change.

By comparison, the taste of food doesn't seem to have the same stature. Fried eggs don't change the course of history.

But taste does change history. (Read more.)

The Holy Week Breviary Used by Marie-Antoinette in Prison

Even as people continue to scrutinize old letters under a microscope, searching for the least word or phrase that would indicate a love affair between Marie-Antoinette and Count von Fersen, evidence of the Queen's fervent Catholic faith continues to surface. Soon to be auctioned in Paris is the Office de la Semaine Sainte en Latin & en François à l'usage de Rome et de Paris. Dédié à la Reine pour l'usage de sa Maison. Paris, Veuve Mazières & J. B. Garnier, 1728. In English, it is translated as follows: Office of Holy Week in Latin and French According to the Usage of Rome and Paris. Dedicated to the Queen for Use in Her Household. La Reine mentioned in the title was Marie Leszczynska, the grandmother of Louis XVI and Madame Elisabeth; the volume bears her coat-of-arms. The book was bequeathed to Madame Elisabeth, whose cause for beatification has been introduced, when the old Queen died. The princess brought it with her to the Tuileries when the Royal Family were taken to Paris by force in October of 1789. Madame Elisabeth left it behind when fleeing from the palace in August of 1792 but later sent a secret communication to her lady-in-waiting, Madame de Sérent, to smuggle books to her in the Temple prison, including the Holy Week Office. The Royal Family made use of the book not only during Holy Week but throughout the year, reading aloud the words of the Mass every day. According to Beauchesne's biography of Madame Elisabeth, the Queen and Madame Elisabeth were sewing and listening to the fifteen-year-old Madame Royale read to them from the Office of Holy Week, when the guards came to take away the eight year-old Louis XVII. Later, when the Queen was taken to the Conciergerie for her final ordeals, the prayer book went with her. To this day the book opens easily to certain pages, including p. 310, which has the passage:
Scarcely is he [Jesus] raised to the sight of all these people, that he is insulted, and charged on all sides with curses and reproaches. In the end, he makes one last effort to raise his eyes to Heaven: My Father, he exclaims, forgive them, I pray you, because they know not what they do.
A guard at the Temple gained possession of the book after the Queen's death, and it later came to the great nephew of Louis XVI, Henri d'Artois, the Comte de Chambord. Read more, HERE.


Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Mesmerizing Translucent Waves

I love ocean paintings. From My Modern Met:
The late 19th century Armenian-Russian painter Ivan Konstantinovich Aivazovsky created some truly spectacular paintings of seascapes that capture the beautiful, shimmering essence of the tumultuous waters. The marine artist gained recognition for his impeccable ability to recreate the expressive quality of oceans with over half of his 6,000+ paintings from his lifetime being devoted to the subject.

What separates Aivazovsky's seascape paintings from others is his ability to replicate both the intensity and motion as well as the translucency and texture. His energetic waves and calm ripples are equally effective. Aivazovsky also plays with colors, simulating the effects of sunlight filtering through the waters to present an ethereal quality that imitates a sort of magical realism. There's something absolutely stunning about the painter's ability to skillfully emulate the emotional connection to the coastal scenes that translates centuries later. (Read more.)

Syriac (Christian) Sutoro Fighters

Please read about the unsung heroes who risk everything to protect the weak and vulnerable. Chivalry is not dead. To quote:
Sutoro was formed in the Kurdish city of Qamishli in March 2013 to protect Christians and other religious minorities. They are a close Ally of the Kurdish YPG Forces and are Fighting side by Side against ISIS. Sutoro received the military training in the training camps of the YPG. The Christian religious symbols, various forms of the cross and Jesus’s name tattooed on the hands and arms of these young fighters signify their strong determination and willingness to fight for their ethnic and religious rights. “I have the name of Jesus tattooed on my arm so I can never lie about my faith if I’m captured alive by the enemy and fear may overcome my bravery.” (Read more.)

The Deaths of Jean-Marie Roland and Madame Roland

How the Revolution devours its own children. From Geri Walton:
Jean-Marie Roland de la Platière and his wife, Madame Roland, were supporters of the French Revolution. In addition, Jean-Marie was also an influential member of a loose political faction called the Girondins. When the Girondins fell in 1793 during the Reign of Terror, Jean-Marie went into hiding in Rouen with two spinster sisters, the mademoiselles Malortie. The spinsters were sisters to his previous fiancée, who died unexpectedly.

While Jean-Marie was in hiding, Madame Roland was arrested, as were other Girondins and Girondin supporters. She was imprisoned at the Abbey of Saint Germain des Près that had inscribed over its door, “All hope abandon, ye who enter here!”[1] This was also the spot where a wave of killings, called the September Massacres, had taken place between the 2nd and 7th of September in 1792.

During her imprisonment, Madame Roland continued to insist that she had been wrongly imprisoned. It seemed as if her protestations worked because suddenly on the 24th of June she was released. She gathered her things, ordered a carriage, and went home. Unfortunately, she had not mounted more than few steps when she was rearrested by the Paris Commune.

This time Madame Roland was locked up at the prostitute’s gaol known as Sainte Pélagie. While there she learned that all the imprisoned Girondins were to be tried. Madame Roland realized the seriousness of her situation and came to the conclusion that the end of her life was fast approaching. She then wrote:
“If I must die … I know of life the best it contains, while its continuance would probably only exact fresh sacrifices. … The moment in which I gloried most in my existence, when I felt most vividly that exaltation of soul which dares all dangers and rejoices in facing them, was the one which I entered this Bastille to which the executioners have sent me. … It seemed to give me an occasion of serving Roland by the firmness with which I could bear witness; and it seemed sweet to be of some use to him … I should like to sacrifice my life to him.”[2]
 (Read more.)

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Julia's Gifts

World War One, or the "Great War" as it is called, was intended to be the War to End All Wars, as the major European powers fought to the death, dragging Canada and America into the fray. If the nations of Europe had intended to destroy themselves in a suicide pact, the ruin could hardly have been more disastrous. Fighting in old ways with increasingly newer weapons resulted in multiple bloodbaths that were reminiscent of scenes in the Apocalypse. Atheistic Communism gained control of the largest country in Europe (Russia), as three emperors lost their thrones, along with many lesser kings and princes. The precarious structures of Christendom which had managed to survive the great political, social and industrial revolutions of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries came crashing down, or else hung on by a thread. Amid the upheavals, we have the apparitions of Our Lady at Fatima in Portugal in 1917 which called for personal conversion to God, warning of greater cataclysms to come.

Against such a backdrop, award-winning and best-selling author Ellen Gable has set her most recent novel, Julia's Gifts, about an American Red Cross nurse serving in France towards the end of the war. The novel begins with Julia Murphy in the streets of Philadelphia, living a quiet life in a country untouched by war, with a happy, devout Catholic family. Julia dreams almost obsessively of the man she will some day marry but has not yet met, even buying gifts for her unknown "Beloved" at Christmas. The lighthearted innocence of the opening of the story, showing the heroine's girlish hopes and dreams, stands in stark contrast to the rest of the book. For Julia soon finds herself plunged into Armageddon as a volunteer with the Red Cross, having not the slightest concept of what she would be facing. As happens to most of us in the course of life, but to Julia in a short, intense period, the youthful dreams and misconceptions are stripped away by a brutal reality.

Julia, however, is young and resilient, and most of all, she has strong faith. As her romantic illusions are cast aside, her faith is purified in the crucible. Yet so strong is her fantasy about her "Beloved" that when he arrives in the shape of a young Canadian officer, she fails to recognize him. I think that it is a common experience for many Christians, that when God answers our prayers we do not always see His hand, because of our attachments to our own way of thinking, which is, of course, limited. The same global conflagration which is consuming lives all around her becomes an instrument of redemption and rebirth, bringing Julia to genuine love. Ellen Gable once again shows us the light that shines in the darkness.

Virtual Book Tour Stops/Links
November 1  (Open Book)   Plot Line and Sinker
November 2   Mary Lou Rosien, Dynamic Women of Faith
November 4  Karen Kelly Boyce
November 6 Carolyn Astfalk, My Scribbler’s Heart Blog
November 7  Jean Heimann, Catholic Fire
November 8  A.K. Frailey   Sarah Reinhard
November 9  Allison Gingras, Reconciled to You
November 10  Barb Szyszkiewicz, Franciscan Mom
November 11  Plot Line and Sinker  Remembrance Day/ Veterans Day post
November 12  Spiritual Woman   Patrice Fagnant MacArthur
November 13  Mike Seagriff, Harvesting the Fruits of Comtemplation                                                   RAnn This That and the Other Thing
November 14 Lisa Mladinich, Amazing Catechists
November 15 Theresa Linden
November 16  Barbara Hosbach   and Alexandrina Brant
November 17  Barb Szyszkiewicz    Catholic Mom
November 18 Cathy Gilmore, Virtue Works Media
November 19 Erin McCole Cupp
November 20 Virginia Lieto
November 21 Elena Maria Vidal  Tea at Trianon
November 22  Elizabeth Kathryn Gerold Miller, The Divine Gift of Motherhood
November 23  Leslie Lynch, author
Others:  Catholic Reads, Alyssa Watson
Prints of Grace, Trisha Niermeyer Potter


Scandals: Past and Present

The powers-that-be must want the Clintons thrown under the bus, twenty years too late. The damage is done. From Ross Douthat at the New York Times:
I have less confidence about what was real in the miasma of Whitewater. But with Paula Jones and Monica Lewinsky, we know what happened: A president being sued for sexual harassment tried to buy off a mistress-turned-potential-witness with White House favors, and then committed perjury serious enough to merit disbarment. Which also brought forward a compelling allegation from Juanita Broaddrick that the president had raped her.

The longer I spent with these old stories, the more I came back to a question: If exploiting a willing intern is a serious enough abuse of power to warrant resignation, why is obstructing justice in a sexual harassment case not serious enough to warrant impeachment? Especially when the behavior is part of a longstanding pattern that also may extend to rape? Would any feminist today hesitate to take a similar opportunity to remove a predatory studio head or C.E.O.?

There is a common liberal argument that our present polarization is the result of constant partisan escalations on the right — the rise of Newt Gingrich, the steady Hannitization of right-wing media. Some of this is true. But returning to the impeachment imbroglio made me think that in that case the most important escalators were the Democrats. They had an opportunity, with Al Gore waiting in the wings, to show a predator the door and establish some moral common ground for a polarizing country.

And what they did instead — turning their party into an accessory to Clinton’s appetites, shamelessly abandoning feminist principle, smearing victims and blithely ignoring his most credible accuser, all because Republicans funded the investigations and they’re prudes and it’s all just Sexual McCarthyism feels in the cold clarity of hindsight like a great act of partisan deformation. (Read more.)

Building a Culture of Vocations

From Catholic Philly:
Society already makes it hard enough for a young person to hear their call today; shouldn’t we as a church be doing all we can to make it easier? It wasn’t always easy for me, but eventually I heard God’s voice and by his grace was ordained a priest in 2015. Only one of my parents is Catholic, and I went to public school my entire life until I entered seminary. Growing up I played every sport you can imagine. Like every other kid in America, I dreamed of “going pro.” Unlike most kids in America, I had my share of health problems when I was very young. On a few occasions, the doctors seemingly ran out of options. Yet miraculously, I recovered. I was able to play high school sports, but I knew I would never be one of the lucky few who actually become professional athletes. (Read more.)

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 pathetic 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.


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.)

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.)

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.)

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.)

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.)

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.)

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.)

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
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
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.
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.


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.)

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.)

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.)

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.)

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.)

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.)

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.)

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.)

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.)

"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.)

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.)

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.)

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.)