Sunday, March 18, 2018

Helena Modjeska as Marie Antoinette, 1899

Helena Modjeska was a celebrated Polish-American actress. More about her HERE. Share

Who Will Banish the Madmen in Education?

From Return to Order:
The modern mantra is that all students need to attend university. Thus, young people continue to enter colleges in droves. As a result, they pile up massive amounts of debt, which they owe mainly to the federal government. Such student debt now stands at an astounding $1.4 trillion and growing. The problem is that more and more graduates fail to pay back their loans. Federal loan programs can only work on the assumption that they will be paid back. In fact, interest collected on these loans has always been more than enough to cover costs. For decades, the government has even shown a surplus — a rare feat these days from any government agency. But the federal loan programs are now projected to lose tens of billions of dollars. And young people are getting the blame. (Read more.)

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Brian Boru and the Battle of Clontarf

Battle of Clontarf, 1014
Brian Boru
 From Live Science:
The famous Irish king, Brian Boru, is widely credited with defeating the Vikings at the Battle of Clontarf more than 1,000 years ago. But not everyone heaps praise on the king. For the past 300 years, historians have cast doubt on whether Boru's main enemies were the Vikings, or his own countrymen. Perhaps, say these so-called revisionists, the Battle of Clontarf was actually a domestic feud — that is, a civil war — between different parts of Ireland.

To settle the matter, researchers analyzed a medieval text used by both traditionalists and revisionists to bolster their arguments. The results are a boon for Boru: The hostilities revealed in the text largely indicate that the Irish fought in an international war against the Vikings, although Irish-on-Irish conflict is also described in the manuscripts, according to the new study, published online today (Jan. 24) in the journal Royal Society Open Science. [Fierce Fighters: 7 Secrets of Viking Culture]

The medieval Irish text, known as Cogadh Gaedhel re Gallaibh ("The War of the Gaedhil with the Gaill"), describes how an army led by Boru challenged the Viking invaders, culminating in the Battle of Clontarf in 1014. The Vikings weren't new to Ireland. Viking raids against the Emerald Isle began in A.D. 795. In the decades that followed, the Vikings took over Dublin and built camps that evolved into the settlements of Cork, Limerick, Waterford and Wexford, said study lead author Ralph Kenna, a professor of theoretical physics at Coventry University, in the United Kingdom. But Boru wanted a unified Ireland, and the Vikings and various regional kingdoms stood in his way. Boru achieved his goal of unification in 1011, but merely a year later, the province of Leinster and Viking-controlled Dublin rose against him, leading to the Battle of Clontarf. (Boru's army defeated Leinster and the Vikings, but victory came at price for Boru, as he was killed at Clontarf.) (Read more.)
Brian Boru rallies the Irish

We're All Fascists Now

It goes without saying that I completely disagree with characterizing Trump as a fascist. From The New York Times:
Why are so many demonstrably non-fascist people being accused of fascism? 


Partly, as the writer David French and others have pointed out, this ritual we keep witnessing of an in-group wielding its power against a perceived heretic seems to come from a deep human desire for a sense of belonging and purpose. Organized religion may be anathema on the political left, but the need for the things religion provides — moral fervor, meaning, a sense of community — are not. Partly, too, it is the result of a lack of political proportion and priority....

But it is also a concerted attempt to significantly redraw the bounds of acceptable thought and speech. By tossing people like Mary Beard and Christina Hoff Sommers into the slop bucket with the likes of Richard Spencer, they are attempting to place their reasonable ideas firmly outside the mainstream. They are trying to make criticism of identity politics, radical Islam and third-wave feminism, among various other subjects, verboten. For even the most minor transgressions, as in the case of Professor Beard, people are turned radioactive.

There are consequences to all this “fascism” — and not just the reputational damage to those who are smeared, though there is surely that. The main effect is that these endless accusations of “fascism” or “misogyny” or “alt-right” dull the effects of the words themselves. As they are stripped of meaning, they strip us of our sharpness — of our ability to react forcefully to real fascists and misogynists or members of the alt-right. (Read more.)

Ireland’s Rise in Demonic Activity

The exorcists have been busy. No, it's not a joke. From Patti Armstrong:
One sign is the growing pro-abortion mood in Ireland. This May, the traditionally pro-life country, will have a referendum for the repeal of the Irish Constitution’s Eight Amendment which recognizes unborn babies as human beings. Ireland’s prime minister has declared he will campaign to have it repealed. The devil makes war on God’s creation through the wombs of mothers by influencing people to push for abortion.

The devil is both hidden and influencing people and harassing some of them. In The Irish Catholic, Fr. Pat Collins, a renowned exorcist, said that in recent years, demonic activity has risen exponentially. He has called on Church leaders to appoint a team of exorcists to cope with what he sees as a rising tide of evil in the country.

Father Collins reported that he is “inundated almost daily with desperate people seeking his help to deal with what they believe to be demonic possession and other evil goings on.” People are claiming to have ghostly encounters, being pulled from their beds, and even full-blown possession. (Read more.)

Friday, March 16, 2018

A Well-Preserved Roman Villa

From The Daily Mail:
Sprawling ruins of the 2,000-year-old luxury villa of a Roman military commander have been unearthed during work to expand the Italian capital's subway system. Archaeologists working on Rome's Metro C line uncovered the second century AD residence, or domus, adjoining a military barracks excavated in 2016. The richly decorated dwelling is complete with a well-preserved geometric design mosaic, marble floors and frescoed walls. Government official Francesco Prosperetti, special superintendent for the Colosseum, the National Roman Museum and the archaeological area of ​​Rome, described the find as an 'astounding archaeological construction site.' (Read more.)


More on Gun Control

From The National Review:
The CNN town hall might in other circumstances have been easy to write off as an outlier, a result of the still-raw grief and pain left in the wake of the Parkland shooting. But it was no less vitriolic than the “discourse” online, where progressives who hadn’t lost anyone in the attack were using many of the same words as the angry crowd that confronted Rubio and Loesch. The NRA has blood on its hands, they said. It’s a terrorist organization. Gun-rights supporters — especially those who oppose an assault-weapons ban — are lunatics at best, evil at worst. This progressive rage isn’t fake. It comes from a place of fierce conviction and sincere belief. (Read more.)
UPDATE: An insightful article from The Times Free Press:
However, emotional reactions to despicable and sad events such as school shootings are not solutions. They are Band-Aids. Politicians and community leaders are afraid to address real problems: the breakdown of the nuclear family (especially in minority communities) in which two parents assume responsibility for the discipline, character and moral development of their children; churches, many of which abdicate teaching God's word in favor of a milquetoast gospel that sounds appealing but leads to a spiritual wasteland; the government, which abandoned meaningful care for the mentally ill, the most unfortunate among us; and, all adults who turn a blind eye when our youth display bad manners, immoral behavior and a lack of respect and civility. (Read more.)

The Bizarre Case Of Sarah Winchester

From Spirit Daily:
You have perhaps heard of Sarah Winchester, heiress to the Winchester gun fortune and a woman who built what was at one time the biggest house in the United States, this in the San Jose area. There’s currently a major movie about it. We’re talking here of about 161 rooms. It’s thought through the years she actually had workmen construct — and periodically tear down — on the order of four to six hundred rooms, which she built to house angry spirits of the deceased: those who, she was told (by a medium), had been killed by the guns her husband’s family manufactured. Carpenters and other workmen labored in shifts that went on at the sprawling house for twenty-four hours a day, 365 days a year, over the course of thirty-eight years. It was seven stories tall.

And if that isn’t unusual enough, consider that some of the doors in the home led to nowhere — opened only to reveal a blank wall, or a drop to the ground — and there was a stairway that led only to the ceiling: little steps also to nowhere. It was a series of mazes. This, she explained, was to confuse spirits who might be after her. She changed bedrooms every night. Understandably, many thought that Sarah was wildly eccentric. In fact the board of the Winchester Repeater company even sent a psychiatrist to evaluate Sarah for a week at her weird residence. (Read more.)

Thursday, March 15, 2018

A Well-Dressed Home

From Southern Lady:
Emily spent seven years working for an interior design firm, but she was still eager to find ways to express her own sensibilities. After starting a blog in 2010,  she received so many emails from readers asking for help with their homes that she started her own business, A Well Dressed Home. Her business grew rapidly, and she hired fellow designer Alli Walker in 2012. (Read more.)

The Crisis of Child Trafficking

From The Washington Post:
Some of these details might seem obvious; but, surprisingly, before the development of the IPC program in 2009 by a Texas Department of Public Safety officer named Derek Prestridge, there was no comparable, comprehensive training program to help patrol officers — those most likely to encounter children in distress — identify missing, exploited or at-risk kids.

The success of the program has been, unavoidably, difficult to quantify. Before the creation of IPC training, Texas DPS kept no record of “child rescues.” But Texas state troopers have made 341 such rescues since the program’s inception; and in formalized follow-up interviews, virtually all of the troopers said the training was key to spurring them to action.

The DPS has made the training available outside of Texas, and states that have participated are also reporting upticks in child rescues. But the training is far from standard. According to Prestridge, now a captain, IPC training has reached 7,709 patrol officers and child services professionals; according to the Justice Department, there are about 750,000 police officers in the United States (the statistics don’t seem to break out patrol officers). “If this training becomes routine,” Prestridge says, “we could be saving thousands of children.” Unfortunately, as he has learned, even the most promising approaches to the most disturbing problems can be difficult to implement. (Read more.)
 From USA Today:
The scale of the trade indicates that it’s not a small number of men who pay to have sex with kids.  A 2016 study by the Center for Court Innovation found that between 8,900 and 10,500 children, ages 13 to 17, are commercially exploited each year in this country. Several hundred children 12 and younger, a group not included in the study, also suffer commercial sexual abuse.

The researchers found that the average age of victims is 15 and that each child is purchased on average 5.4 times a day. I’ve interviewed victims who were forced to have sex with more than 30 men in a week; more than 100 in a month.

To determine a conservative estimate of the demand, I multiplied the lower number of victims (8,900) identified in the Center for Court Innovation study by the rate of daily exploitation per child (5.4), and then by an average of only one “work” day per week (52). The result: Adults purchase children for sex at least 2.5 million times a year in the United States. The number of identified victims in the U.S. is on the rise. The National Human Trafficking Hotline recorded a 35 percent increase in reports in 2016. Most of the cases involved sex trafficking and many of the victims were children. (Read more.)
UPDATE: Action is being taken to bring the horror to an end. From The White House:
President Donald J. Trump is taking a stand against human trafficking, dedicating our Government’s full resources towards fighting this repulsive crime.
  • The President’s Interagency Task Force to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons (PITF) is working tirelessly to address all aspects of human trafficking.
    • As defined by the Trafficking Victims Prevention Act (TVPA), it is the policy of the United States government to address human trafficking via “The Three P’s:”
      • Prosecution of Traffickers.
      • Protection of Victims.
      • Prevention of Human Trafficking.
  • In March 2018, the President appointed nine human trafficking survivors to serve on the U.S. Advisory Council on Human Trafficking for terms of two years.
  • President Trump declared January 2018 National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month. (Read more.)

Humanae Vitae: 50 Years Later

From author Ellen Gable:
In 1968 and with many of the faithful expecting and hoping that the Church would “change” its teaching on artificial contraception, Blessed Pope Paul VI issued his encyclical, Humanae Vitae (On Human Life) which confirmed and proclaimed the 2000-year consistent teaching of the Church that artificial methods of contraception were immoral.

Within two days, dissident theologians led by Father Charles Curran issued this statement: “Spouses may responsibly decide according to their conscience that artificial contraception in some circumstances is permissible and indeed necessary to preserve and foster the value and sacredness of marriage,” thereby, leaving it up to individual Catholic couples’ “conscience” to decide. The problem was there was no indication from dissidents as to how couples should form their consciences (nor, in my opinion, did the dissidents care). Two months after HV, the “Winnipeg Statement” was issued by the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops stating that “those who cannot accept the teaching should not be considered shut off from the Catholic Church, and that individuals can in good conscience use contraception as long as they have made an honest attempt to accept the difficult directives of the encyclical.”

While many of the faithful were only focusing on their own personal situations, Pope Paul VI was warning the faithful that going against natural law and the 2000-year teaching of the Church would bring a “general lowering of moral standards.” (HV 17) Welcome to the world in which we live. (Read more.)

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Grace Kelly’s Wedding Dress

From Fame10:
The material used to craft the dress was a delicate rose point Brussels lace. The gown featured sheer long sleeves made entirely of the lace and an elegant high neckline. The most shocking part, however, is that the antique lace was over 125 years old and still looked impeccable. Additionally, the full skirt was made of silk and the bride also switched between three different petticoats throughout the evening to change up her look.

 Not only was the antique Brussels lace over 125 years old, but it was also carefully stitched together with intense detail. The seamstresses re-embroidered the lace on the bodice to ensure there were no visible seams. They also added hundreds of seed pearls throughout to further hide any stitching and to make the look even more embellished and detailed. (Read more.)

Can Facebook Posts Destabilize the Nation?

From Return to Order:
It is unlikely that Russia’s Facebook offensive had a major impact on the elections for three reasons. The first reason involves the scope of the operation. In this particular case, even thousands of social media accounts are a tiny drop in a vast cyber-ocean of hundreds of millions of accounts. It is unreasonable to think that this drop might have had any significant or quantifiable effect upon the elections.

Secondly, claims of destabilization seem to insinuate that social media posts are the elections. Exposure to posts does not mean actually reading them. Social media is merely a small part of any election campaign. Such posts do not determine the results. Moreover, anything the Russians may have employed during the elections is dwarfed in comparison to the social media assets brought to the table by both the Democratic and Republican Party establishments. The Russian effort is a non-issue.

Finally, the claims assign an almost fatalistic quality to Russian posts. Some people seem to believe that a carefully crafted post can change the convictions and beliefs of a person in an instant especially in a highly polarized election. It attributes an almost zombie-like lack of personality to voters, as if incapable of resisting the message posted by Russian agents. (Read more.)

On Being Catholic

From The Catholic Thing:

Modern critics of religion have long chastised religion, especially Catholicism, because it claimed a source of authority independent of and transcendent to the state. This abiding authority meant that the Socratic principle that morally limited the state only to use what is good was operative in every state no matter what its configuration or era. The state was limited, not absolute. No world parliament of religions under the sole authority of the state or the U.N. was possible. Freedom for all citizens of any actual state was rooted in the Socratic principle.

What today concerns many observers, both Catholic and non-Catholic, is whether the Church has, in effect, rejected the Socratic principle and the revelational divine law related to it. Many, no doubt, are confused and say so. It is rare that anyone does not, when the subject comes up, wonder about “What is going on in Rome?” The concern comes back to the loyalty of the Church to itself, to what it was assigned to uphold from the beginning.

Several kinds of response are heard. One group thinks the Church is outmoded and should change to a paradigm of modernity. For them, things are going quite well. Another group does not want to say anything, just ignore it. It will go away. Some are deeply upset but maintain that, until something ex officio is so clear that no doubt about its deviation can be sustained, they will continue to think things are all right. Others pore over discussions of heretical popes in Bellarmine and Suarez. The general conclusion of these earlier sources is that, if a pope is heretical, he is ipso facto no longer pope. It is just a question of who officially points it out.

Frank Sheed, in his discussion of papal infallibility in A Map of Life back in the 1930s, held that the Holy Spirit would prevent a heretical pope from saying anything. Others await a change in the papacy itself, either through death or resignation. Agitation comes from a few bishops about their responsibility to reaffirm the Socratic/divine law tradition. (Read more.)

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

More on Madame Tussaud

From Artsy:
For most Parisians, a stroll through the ruins of the Bastille in the summer of 1789 was the ultimate exercise in free will: the chance to personally trample over the regime’s most notorious symbol of oppression. Yet for Madame Tussaud—then the 27-year-old protégée of famed waxmaker Philippe Curtius—the experience was drenched in destiny.

“Whilst descending the narrow stairs, her foot slipped,” recounts her earliest and most breathless biographer, “when she was saved by [Maximilien] Robespierre.” As it turned out, this would rank among her more pleasant encounters with the firebrand. “How little did Madame Tussaud then think,” the passage continues, “that she should, in a few years after, have his severed head in her lap in order to take a cast from it after his execution.”

Like Tussaud’s apocryphal tour of the Bastille, it is nearly impossible to separate the French waxmaker’s life and lore. A baptismal record places her birth in Strasbourg, France, on December 7, 1761. In a grisly portent of Tussaud’s future associations, her absent father came from a long line of public executioners dating back to the 15th century. Her mother was a housekeeper for Curtius—then a resident of Berne, Switzerland, and a doctor by training—fueling suspicion among scholars that Curtius and Tussaud’s mother may have been siblings or secret lovers.

Whether he was Tussaud’s uncle, father, or simply a benevolent physician, Curtius soon assumed the role of her guardian and artistic mentor. After impressing the visiting Prince de Conti, a cousin of Louis XV, with a small museum of anatomical wax miniatures produced as part of his medical practice, he accepted patronage to pursue wax modeling as his primary vocation in Paris. Tussaud and her mother joined him shortly thereafter. (Read more.)

The Issue of Movie Accents

From Film School Rejects:
English language films tend to do something films from other parts of the world rarely ever do, and that is use accented English as a stand-in for a non-English language. You don’t, for example, see Germans making films where everyone is walking around New York City speaking American-accented German. (Sounds ridiculous, right?) We frequently even take it one step further, and just sort of sub in British-English accents for anywhere European, especially in films dealing with the upper echelons of society. It doesn’t matter if it’s the court of Louis XVI of France or Alexander II of Russia — it’s the Queen’s English for everybody. There’s a particularly delicious irony one feels watching a featurette for some Paris-set period piece in which the costume and set designers are going over the huge lengths they went to in the name of historical accuracy while the characters are all speaking in British RP.

Look, I’m not some starry-eyed idealist. I get why movies do this. American audiences, in particular, have a reputation for avoiding movies that require reading — that is, films with subtitles — like the plague. Non-English-speaking audiences are more used to dealing with subtitles or the sad joke that is most dubbing. While I can hardly even imagine the farce that is watching a film supposed to be set in your country in which the dialogue has to be dubbed into your language, I understand why it happens (even though it’s absurd).

It is perfectly valid to call out, say, Russell Crowe and/or Kevin Costner’s attempts at Englishness in their respective Robin Hood adaptations, or about 90% of all non-Irish attempts at various Irish accents (Cameron Diaz in Gangs of New York, Gerard Butler in P.S. I Love You, Tom Cruise in Far and Away, the list goes on). Once you venture into judging accents originating from non-English-speaking regions when the language being spoken by the actor is still English, the territory becomes a lot more complicated. (Read more.)

Cohabitation, Concubinage, and the Council of Trent

From The Five Beasts:
Sociologically speaking, little comparison can be made between the form of concubinage that was popular in the Middle Ages and today’s marital alternative known as cohabitation. The medieval pastime endured for centuries and was deeply rooted in feudal society’s pagan history. It generally took the form of a nobleman, unmarried or married, keeping a woman of lower rank or from the peasantry in his home to provide sexual favors. Unsurprisingly, medieval concubines produced many illegitimate children, with many of the bastard daughters growing up to become concubines themselves. The concern for maintaining a family’s social status meant that concubinage would rarely lead to marriage. In most cases of modern cohabitation, however, there is an intention on the part of the couple to eventually get married, giving the relationship some sense of permanence. Recent statistics demonstrate, however, that a majority of cohabitating couples eventually break up, including couples that eventually do get married. One well known fact about remarried people is that their second marriage is more likely to end in divorce, the third even more, etc. The same goes for cohabitating couples. Advocating cohabitation is giving dangerous and costly advice. (Read more.)

Monday, March 12, 2018

A Rural Retreat

From Victoria:
Illustrating their enthusiasm for travel and passion for interior design, one British couple has adorned their home with a collection of French antique furniture and exquisite vintage finds. A converted stone barn nestled in the tranquil Oxfordshire countryside has proven the ideal rural retreat for Kate and Paul Gerrish, whose desire for beautiful views and longing to live in a period property drove their search for a new residence. Pieces such as the timeworn antique corner cabinet and a contemporary hare-themed lampshade, pictured above, layer old and new. Together with Isobel, her youngest daughter and business partner, Kate runs Bliss, a shop in Chipping Norton that sells a selection of French homewares, vintage furniture, contemporary accessories, and paint. (Read more.)


Who Believes in Russiagate?

Hatred of Trump has made people so gullible. From The Tablet:
In other words, there’s the truth, and then there’s what’s even more important—sticking it to Trump. Choose wrong, even inadvertently, Chen explained, no matter how many times you deplore Trump, and you’ll be labeled a Trumpkin. That’s what happened to Facebook advertising executive Rob Goldman, who was obliged to apologize to his entire company in an internal message for having shared with the Twitter public the fact that “the majority of the Internet Research Agency’s Facebook ads were purchased after the election.” After Trump retweeted Goldman’s thread to reaffirm that Vladimir Putin had nothing to do with his electoral victory, the Facebook VP was lucky to still have a job.

Chen’s article serves to explain why Russiagate is so vital to The New Yorker, despite the many headaches that each new weekly iteration of the story must be causing for the magazine’s fact-checkers. According to British court documents, The New Yorker was one of the publications that former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele briefed in September 2016 on the findings in his now-notorious dossier. In a New Yorker profile of Steele this week—portraying the spy-for-corporate-hire as a patriotic hero and laundering his possible criminal activitiesJane Mayer explains that she was personally briefed by Steele during that time period.

The New Yorker has produced tons of Russiagate stories, including a small anthology of takes on the Mueller indictments alone. Of course there’s one by the recently-hired Adam Entous, the former Washington Post and Wall Street Journal reporter who broke the news that the Washington firm Fusion GPS, which produced the Steele dossier, had been hired by the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee—a story that helped Fusion GPS relieve some of the pressure congressional inquiries had put on the firm to release its bank records. No doubt Entous will continue to use his sources, whoever they are, to break more such stories at The New Yorker.

One person at The New Yorker who won’t get on board with the story is Masha Gessen. Born in Moscow, Gessen knows first-hand how bad Putin is and dislikes Trump only a little less than she dislikes the Russian strongman. Yet in a recent New Yorker piece, Gessen mocked Mueller’s indictments: “Trump’s tweet about Moscow laughing its ass off was unusually (perhaps accidentally) accurate,” she wrote. “Loyal Putinites and dissident intellectuals alike are remarkably united in finding the American obsession with Russian meddling to be ridiculous.” (Read more.)

It's Worse Than We Thought

From Allen B. West:
I just wanted to get this out and known as widely as I possibly can. This is how the left is going about getting illegal immigrants registered to vote in America. Through the motor voter law, they’re allowing illegals to acquire drivers licenses, and then automatically registering them to vote. We see this happening in California. And in Chicago, Mayor Rahm Emanuel has come up with an “identification card” for “residents.” This card can be used as picture ID allowing illegal immigrants to vote in our elections. Here we thought that voting in our elections was restricted to citizens.

Leave it to the progressive socialist left to redefine that to “resident” or “driver.” We can no longer sit back and allow such egregious and lawless behavior and actions to go without consequences. The left in America has fully exposed themselves and we must recognize them for who they are and thwart their actions. Consider the recent billboards being displayed in Pensacola, Florida that refer to the National Rifle Association as a terrorist organization. Yes, if you’re an American that supports the Second Amendment, to the left you’re a terrorist. And why should we be surprised? A constitutional conservative grassroots movement, the Tea Party, was denigrated as an extremist group. There’s never a mention by the progressive socialist left about Black Lives Matter or Antifa, both violent domestic terrorist organizations guilty of assault and conveying threats against law enforcement — and funded by George Soros.

We’re devolving into banana republic status, and it’s time these leftist elected officials are held accountable, and spend some time in orange…and I’m not talking about Tennessee Volunteers colors. What happened in Pennsylvania is certainly the tip of a widespread iceberg, and I know a thing about leftist electoral corruption and cheating. This is tyranny at its grandest, and it has to be squashed. This is why the left promotes sanctuary cities and states, especially. This is why the left doesn’t embrace the American ideal of national sovereignty. They thirst for power, and will attain it by any means necessary. (Read more.)

Grooming Gangs in the UK

From The Conservative Woman:
The police have arrested 110 men in Rotherham. Of these, 18 have been charged, two cautioned and four convicted and jailed. Thirty-four investigations are continuing under the Operation Stovewood umbrella, and six trials will take place later this year. Will the newly sanitised Rotherham Social Services be featuring in any of these? Across the UK only 317 people have been convicted in connection with organised grooming and sexual abuse crimes. Other towns and cities involved include Keighley, Blackpool, Oldham, Blackburn, Sheffield, Manchester, Skipton, Rochdale, Nelson, Preston, Derby, Telford, Bradford, Ipswich, Birmingham, Oxford, Barking and Peterborough.

The huge number of victims in Rotherham raises the question of how many there really are elsewhere, and how many more rapists continue to evade justice? In Rotherham, the National Crime Agency believes there are still ‘a handful’ of high-risk abusers at large. Operation Sanctuary in Newcastle is continuing to investigate grooming and sexual abuse against 700 girls, and a report by barrister David Spicer into the operation concludes that the grooming of girls for sexual exploitation is still rife in the UK today. How is this still happening? In Rotherham, as in Rochdale and the other towns, the evidence points to a disproportionate number offenders being of a Pakistani background. Such gangs may have been operating in the UK since the 1980s, according to Peter McLoughlin in his book Easy Meat: Inside Britain’s Grooming Gang Scandal.

The distinction between Pakistani grooming gangs, exploiting vulnerable white girls, and white paedophile rings (characterised by their longstanding sexual interest in children) has been established, for example, in a report by the Quilliam Foundation. Despite this, Britain’s top female police officer continues to obfuscate the problem by not acknowledging the racial aspect of these gangs.

Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick was asked at a recent meeting of the London Assembly if she was concerned that the Met was sitting on a Rotherham-style grooming gang epidemic in the capital. She replied that she did not accept the characterisation that offenders were mainly Asian or Muslim men, but that this type of problem has been ‘going on for centuries’. Not like this. Not on this scale, and not without the willingness of authorities to tackle it. (Read more.)
The Daily Mail reports on the Telford scandal:
 A brutal sex gang raped as many as 1,000 young girls over 40 years in what may be Britain's 'worst ever' child abuse scandal. Girls in the town of Telford, Shropshire, were drugged, beaten and raped at the hands of a grooming gang active since the 1980s. Allegations are said to have been mishandled by authorities, with many perpetrators going unpunished, while it is claimed similar abuse continues in the area, reports the Sunday Mirror

Home Office figures show there were 15.1 child sex crimes reported per 10,000 residents in the year to September 2015. Telford's population is 155,000 – meaning a potential 225 victims. Telford's Conservative MP, Lucy Allan, has previously called for a Rotherham-style inquiry into the allegations and called the latest reports 'extremely serious and shocking'.

'There must now be an independent inquiry into child sexual exploitation in Telford so that our community can have absolute confidence in the authorities,' she told the paper. A mother and four teenage girls have been linked to the allegations of abuse. Lucy Lowe, 16, died alongside her mother and sister after the man who had been abusing her, 26-year-old Azhar Ali Mehmood, set fire to their house. (Read more.)

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Heavenly Earth: Images of Saint Francis at La Verna

From The Leaven:
WASHINGTON (CNS) — St. Francis of Assisi’s reception of the stigmata, the wounds of Christ, at La Verna in Italy and its depiction by artists beginning in the 15th century is the focus of a National Gallery of Art exhibit. “Heavenly Earth: Images of Saint Francis at La Verna” includes 30 pieces of Franciscan art centered on the miraculous 13th-century event. The exhibit was to open Feb. 25. Ginger Hammer, an assistant curator at the museum in Washington, said the display focuses on an “unprecedented event in Western spirituality.” No one in recorded history had experience such an occurrence before St. Francis did in 1224.

It happened while St. Francis was meditating on the passion of Christ during one of his regular retreats in the mountain wilderness. “He wanted to understand the very suffering that Christ endured. The result of his prayers reportedly is that a seraph, or six-winged angel, approached him enfolding the image of Christ on the cross. When the seraph departed, the actual wounds of Christ’s passion were transferred to the body of Francis,” Hammer told Catholic News Service Feb. 20 during a media preview. “That had never happened before and it was quite remarkable that through his own endeavors something mystical of this magnitude could happen to a human being,” she said.

A Franciscan sanctuary and museum complex mark the La Verna site today and continues to welcome pilgrims. The event was so extraordinary that artists over the centuries have tried to capture it to share with others. The exhibit focuses on work in various media from the 15th through 18th centuries. (Read more.)
More information at the National Gallery of Art website, HERE. Share

The Slyest Fox

Jeff Sessions. From Polizette:
When Bream asked about the recent request for appointment of a second special counsel from House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) and House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), here’s what Sessions said: “Well, I have great respect for Mr. Gowdy and Chairman Goodlatte, and we are going to consider seriously their recommendations. I have appointed a person outside of Washington, many years in the Department of Justice [DOJ], to look at all the allegations that the House Judiciary Committee members sent to us; and we’re conducting that investigation” (emphasis added).

"Also, I am well aware we have a responsibility to ensure the integrity of the FISA process. We're not afraid to look at that. The inspector general — some think that our inspector general is not very strong; but he has almost 500 [employees], most of which are lawyers and prosecutors; and they are looking at the FISA process. We must make sure that it's done properly, and we're going to do that. And I'll consider their request.”

Note that Sessions appointed "a person outside of Washington," an individual with "many years in the Department of Justice," but he doesn't say when he did so. Sundance, a blogger on The Last Refuge, explains why this is immensely important: "Attorney General Jeff Sessions is noting the existence of an outside prosecutor who has been in place for quite a while ... All the evidence of this was/is clear if you follow the granular details closely," Sundance wrote. (Read more.)

Enemies of the People

It goes without saying that I totally disagree with Dreher about Trump and "Trumpishness." Otherwise, he makes some vital points. From The American Conservative:
...Take a look at this sign of the times: Mike Huckabee was forced to resign from the board of the Country Music Association Foundation, CMA’s charitable arm, one day after he was appointed to it. When I first heard about it this morning, I assumed that it was because he had become too politically divisive, given his tub-thumping for Trump. Yes, that was it, sort of. But here’s the real reason:
Jason Owen, co-president of Monument Records and owner at Sandbox Entertainment, called the appointment a “grossly offensive decision” in an email to the association’s CEO Sarah Trahern and CMA Foundation executive Tiffany Kerns. Owen wrote that due to Huckabee’s election to the CMA Foundation’s board, neither his companies, nor anyone they represent would continue to support the foundation. Owen and his husband Sam are fathers to a young son and are expecting twins. Owen said that Huckabee’s stance on the LGBTQ community “made it clear my family is not welcome in his America.”
“The CMA has opened their arms to him, making him feel welcome and relevant,” Owen wrote. “Huckabee speaks of the sort of things that would suggest my family is morally beneath his and uses language that has a profoundly negative impact upon young people all across this country. Not to mention how harmful and damaging his deep involvement with the NRA is. What a shameful choice.”
So, get this straight: a former Southern governor and ordained Southern Baptist minister was forced off the board of a Nashville-based country music philanthropy because he supports traditional marriage. Look, I think Mike Huckabee, who I supported in the 2008 GOP primaries, has made a fool of himself with his Trumpishness, but when he is not permitted to serve on a country music board because he is a traditional Christian on the subject of gay marriage, then cultural conservatives like me — and you, reader — had better pay attention. We might be more winsome (I hate that word) than Mike Huckabee, but we are no different in the eyes of the left-wing militants. I have been resisting this conclusion hard for a long time, but I can see with each passing day that it is becoming untenable. You don’t have to like Donald Trump, Mike Huckabee, or any of that populist tribe to understand that they are not coming for your job, and they are not trying to drive you out of decent society. (Read more.)

A Wrinkle in Time (2018)

I do not plan on seeing it since I have no desire to see one of my favorite books butchered beyond recognition.  The book is a great story and has the potential to be a great film. From PJ Media:
As Disney adapted the beloved children's book "A Wrinkle in Time" (1962) into a major motion picture — with no less than Oprah Winfrey on the star-studded cast list — the studio cut out a great deal along the way. Bible quotes, a reference to Jesus, and even Christian historical figures all got the boot. Could the excising of God help explain why the movie is projected to struggle at the box office? In the transition from book to movie, many aspects get left on the cutting-room floor. Even so, these omissions proved particularly egregious, partially because they involved rewriting history.

The battle between good and evil (light and darkness) forms a central theme in "A Wrinkle in Time," and both book and film mention many historical figures who fought the darkness on behalf of the light. Disney seemed zealous to excise any hint of Christianity from the film, going so far as to cut even historic artists mentioned by Madeleine L'Engle, the book's author. (Read more.)
From The Ringer:
 DuVernay’s previous movie, the Oscar-nominated Selma, went out of its way to invoke and analyze, but not emulate, every civil rights movie we’d all already seen and forgotten. A Wrinkle in Time’s relationship to other Disney movies is much the same, down to DuVernay employing a cast led by Chris Pine, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, and the movie’s young star, Storm Reid, who together resemble the remixed vision of the American nuclear family you used to be able to see only in Cheerios commercials. That much is beautiful. You could sum the movie’s mission statement up in what is, as of this writing, DuVernay’s bio on Twitter: “A girl from Compton who got to make a Disney movie.” Or be in one!
Maybe it’s because those goals are so admirable, and the script so loaded with platitudes to that effect, that so much of the focus in the media so far has been on DuVernay and her powerful collaborators’ intentions rather than on the massive challenges of bringing this movie to the screen in the first place. But that’s the true accomplishment here. Like L’Engle’s sci-fi-fantasy novel from 1962, the movie tells the story of the Murry family — mother Kate (Mbatha-Raw), who’s a microbiologist, oldest daughter Meg (Reid), and adopted son Charles Wallace (Deric McCabe) — who are in the midst of trying to get over the disappearance of NASA scientist Alexander Murry (Pine), a.k.a. Dad. Alex was working on a new form of space travel, one premised on traveling with the mind. He either figured it out or, as a pair of teachers at Meg’s school are later overheard to gossip, simply ditched his weirdo family. The movie gets going four years after he disappears, by which point Meg has proved herself a little bit of a malcontent in school, throwing a basketball at the face of a girl who makes fun of her and the preternaturally smart Charles Wallace. That’s par for the course; it’s clear Meg is still hurting from the loss of her father.

But then a white-robed Reese Witherspoon, playing the celestial being Mrs. Whatsit, shows up in the Murrys’ house one night unannounced, claiming to know a thing or two about Alex’s disappearance and dropping words like “tesseract,” which I only halfway understand thanks to National Geographic and Interstellar (this movie was unfortunately no help). Charles Wallace seems to know what’s going on, however, and soon after, Meg and Calvin, a popular boy from school who’s taken a liking to her, are led to the house of Mrs. Who (Mindy Kaling), who speaks entirely in trite quotes from world-famous philosophers, like Lin-Manuel Miranda and Outkast. Soon after that, a 50-foot-tall Oprah has appeared, playing Mrs. Which, implicitly the most powerful of the three celestial beings because she’s played by Oprah. (Read more.)
  From Forbes:
A Wrinkle In Time isn’t terrible - it’s just not worth watching. The film is adapted from Madeleine L'Engle’s surreal sixties novel, and reminded me of the adaptation of Philip Pullman’s Northern Lights into forgettable family film The Golden Compass. Both films are fine, I guess, if you haven’t read the book. If you have, they’re somewhat soul-destroying, simply because of the wasted potential. I’m not exactly the target audience for this movie, but even tweens need strong characters, a sense of threat, and a reason to care.

The film suffers from an intense abundance of CGI, the hangover from Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland. As a result, nothing feels remotely real, but the backgrounds can be pretty. Watching the movie feels a bit like selecting a screensaver for your laptop; the characters flick through different dreamy locations, without really changing, barely interacting, until it suddenly ends. Also, Chris Pine pops up occasionally to be annoyingly melodramatic - every scene he’s in feels like a corny commercial for life insurance.

Oprah Winfrey is severely miscast as Mrs. Which, a grand, almost Gandalf-like character, who simply comes across as bored here. She’s like a tired museum tour guide, dispassionately reading the plaques on the wall. Winfrey may have many talents, but she can’t read lines without sounding like she’s reading lines.

Reese Witherspoon is the soul of the film, when she does appear. She seems to understand what kind of movie she’s in, and appears to be genuinely having fun, like a chirpy children’s television presenter. At one point, she turns into a flying creature that resembles a Romaine lettuce leaf, a visual that actually caused laughter in the cinema.

Disney’s garish fantasy blockbuster aesthetic makes a return for this movie, which is unfortunate, because the story calls for a unique art direction. There are so many sequins, so much glitter, you can practically smell cheap perfume; it’s like My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding in Disneyland. (Read more.)
 From the WSJ:
L’Engle was born in New York City in 1918. When she was 12 years old, her parents dropped her off without warning at a boarding school in Switzerland. It was a traumatic and isolating experience. She attended Smith College and was working as a novelist and theater understudy in New York when she fell in love with a fellow actor, Hugh Franklin.

After their first child, Ms. Voiklis’s mother, was born, they abandoned their theater careers and moved to rural Connecticut, where they ran a general store. L’Engle was restless there. Grappling with existential questions, she turned, by chance, to the writings of Albert Einstein and other physicists.

The names Mrs. Who, Mrs. Whatsit and Mrs. Which popped into her head as she and her family drove through Arizona’s Painted Desert on a camping trip in the spring of 1959. At the heart of the book is Meg, a temper-prone teen struggling to harness her intellectual gifts. She, Charles Wallace and Calvin travel through time and space to rescue Mr. Murry, a scientist who has gone missing on a secret assignment for the U.S. government. Publishers didn’t know what to make of it and one after another rejected the manuscript. “Today I am crawling around in the depths of gloom,” the author confided to her journal on Sept. 17, 1960, after a rejection from a publisher who suggested it be cut in half. “I’m willing to rewrite, to rewrite extensively, to cut as much as necessary; but I am not willing to mutilate, to destroy the essence of the book.” (Read more.)

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Boxwoods Boutiques

From Victoria:
The award-winning Boxwoods Gardens Gifts has been a fixture of the Atlanta design scene for decades. An array of floral compositions, outdoor accessories, and European finds draw loyal clientèle to this pair of historic English-style cottages in the heart of the upscale Buckhead neighborhood. Divisions added in recent years extend the company’s aesthetic to the realms of hospitality and fashion.

 Although friends advised against expanding operations on the heels of a recession, when commercial space across the street from the business became available in 2011, owners Dan Belman and Randy Korando knew the time was right. “We felt that if we opened a shop dedicated to home entertainment using the same philosophy that has proven successful in our original shop—namely offering great-looking products at affordable prices—it would be successful,” Dan says. (Read more.)
Such magnificent shops inspired me to start the Trianon Market, HERE. Share

Planned Parenthood and the Democratic Party

From The Federalist:
In Western Pennsylvania, pro-life Democrat Conor Lamb is facing a Republican in a special election March 13. The race is neck-and-neck, despite the fact that Donald Trump carried the district by 20 points. Lamb’s candidacy in this conservative district is helped by the fact that he’s Catholic — a self-styled moderate who’s not a slave to Democratic Party orthodoxy. In fact, he’s already pledged not vote for Nancy Pelosi as Speaker of the House. “I’ve already said on the front page of the newspaper that I don’t support Nancy Pelosi,” Lamb says in his latest TV ad.

What else won’t Lamb vote for? Any restrictions on abortion, including the recent GOP proposal to limit late-term abortions — specifically abortions after 20 weeks when, according to overwhelming scientific evidence, babies in the womb can experience pain. “[Catholics] believe that life begins at conception,” he told The Weekly Standard, “but as a matter of separation of church and state, I think a woman has the right to choose under the law.” So Lamb’s not afraid to tell the top House Democrat to take a hike, but he’s too timid to vote his conscience on late-term abortions? Why? Because Planned Parenthood is the NRA of the Democratic Party. Only worse.

“People are complaining about NRA but the abortion lobby is just as strong,” says Kristen Day of Democrats for Life America. “There are sitting members of the House and Senate who are pro-life, but who are too afraid of the abortion lobby to vote that way." (Read more.)

Monks and Beer

In medieval times, beer was the usual drink of the peasants, and was a staple during Lent, which was much more rigorous in  past centuries. In the Eastern rite it remains so. There are still Catholic religious who embrace the "black fast" during Lent, in which there is abstinence from eggs and dairy products as well as from meat. In Mediterranean countries, wine and olive oil were also staples during Lent. From Catholic News Agency:
But did you know that Catholic monks once brewed beer specifically for a liquid-only Lenten fast? Back in the 1600s, Paulaner monks moved from Southern Italy to the Cloister Neudeck ob der Au in Bavaria. “Being a strict order, they were not allowed to consume solid food during Lent,” the current braumeister and beer sommelier of Paulaner Brewery Martin Zuber explained in a video on the company’s website.

They needed something other than water to sustain them, so the monks turned to a common staple of the time of their region – beer. They concocted an “unusually strong” brew, full of carbohydrates and nutrients, because “liquid bread wouldn’t break the fast,” Zuber noted. This was an early doppelbock-style beer, which the monks eventually sold in the community and which was an original product of Paulaner brewery, founded in 1634. They gave it the name “Salvator,” named after “Sankt Vater,” which “roughly translates as ‘Holy Father beer,’” Zuber said.

Paulaner currently serves 70 countries and is one of the chief breweries featured at Munich’s Octoberfest. Although its doppelbock is enjoyed around the world today, it had a distinctly penitential origin with the monk. Could a beer-only fast really be accomplished? One journalist had read of the monks’ story and, in 2011, attempted to re-create their fast. J. Wilson, a Christian working as an editor for a county newspaper in Iowa, partnered with a local brewery and brewed a special doppelbock that he consumed over 46 days during Lent, eating no solid food. (Read more.)

Friday, March 9, 2018

Reborn Relics Home

From Victoria:
Arkansas designer Debi Davis believes that “beautiful, interesting pieces are what separate your house from everyone else’s.” Her own home—which brims with exquisite antiques, from Portuguese columns assimilated into a fireplace surround to the ornate mirror from Paris that hangs above it—is a shining example of that philosophy. Her line of furniture and accessories, based on architectural remnants collected from around the world, was christened Reborn Relics Home. Today, it shares space with her decorating firm, Debi Davis Interiors. (Read more.)

The Russian Trail

From Forbes:
The media’s focus on Trump’s Russian connections ignores the much more extensive and lucrative business relationships of top Democrats with Kremlin-associated oligarchs and companies. Thanks to the Panama Papers, we know that the Podesta Group (founded by John Podesta’s brother, Tony) lobbied for Russia’s largest bank, Sberbank. “Sberbank is the Kremlin, they don’t do anything major without Putin’s go-ahead, and they don’t tell him ‘no’ either,” explained a retired senior U.S. intelligence official. According to a Reuters report, Tony Podesta was “among the high-profile lobbyists registered to represent organizations backing Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich.”

Among these was the European Center, which paid Podesta $900,000 for his lobbying. That’s not all: The busy Podesta Group also represented Uranium One, a uranium company acquired by the Russian government which received approval from Hillary Clinton’s State Department to mine for uranium in the U.S. and gave Russia twenty percent control of US uranium. The New York Times reported Uranium One’s chairman, Frank Guistra, made significant donations to the Clinton Foundation, and Bill Clinton was paid $500,000 for one speech from a Russian investment bank that has “links to the Kremlin that was promoting Uranium One stock.”  Notably, Frank Giustra, the Clinton Foundation’s largest and most controversial donor, does not appear anywhere in Clinton’s “non-private” emails. It is possible that the emails of such key donors were automatically scrubbed to protect the Clinton Foundation.

Let’s not leave out fugitive Ukrainian oligarch, Dymtro Firtash. He is represented by Democratic heavyweight lawyer, Lanny Davis, who accused Trump of “inviting Putin to commit espionage” (Trump’s quip: If Putin has Hillary’s emails, release them) but denies all wrongdoing by Hillary. (Read more.)

Gravestones in Dorset

From Cryssa Bazos:
In Winterbourne Steepleton, Dorset, you’ll find St. Michael’s church. A church has stood here since the 11th century, and its cornerstones are Pre-Conquest. Over the centuries, that little church has been rebuilt and expanded. Seven different periods are represented here. I came upon St. Michael’s and explored its graveyard on a grey misty morning, which is perfect if you want to get the full experience of a Dorset graveyard. (Read more.)

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Behind the Artist: Albrecht Dürer

From Park West Gallery:
Born in 1471 in Nuremberg, Germany, Dürer found an interest in art at an early age under the tutelage of his father, a successful goldsmith. He later apprenticed with Michael Wolgemut, a popular artist who ran a workshop specializing in the production of woodcut illustrations for various books and publications.

Following his apprenticeship, Dürer traveled extensively throughout Europe. He first visited Italy in 1494, where he was greatly influenced by the artistic works of the Italian Renaissance, particularly the naturalistic ways artists portrayed proportion, perspective, and human anatomy.
Dürer eventually returned to Nuremberg where he opened a workshop. Just a few years later, Dürer completed an original woodcut series that would bring him his first critical and popular success—1498’s “The Apocalypse.” It was quickly followed by two other acclaimed series—“The Large Passion” (1497-1500) and “Life of the Virgin” (c. 1501-1510)—all of which were heavily collected, spreading Dürer’s reputation as a talented artist. (Read more.)

The Violence of Popular Entertainment

From The National Review:
 Since the mass shooting in Parkland, Fla., a considerable amount of energy has understandably been expended on the matter of which guns should be available to whom and when. But it is striking that the president’s comments on Thursday about film and video-game violence have been either derided or glossed over. They are worth lingering on.
Most of us probably inhabit a kind of bubble when it comes to violence on screen. We choose to watch the sorts of films we think we’ll like and, unless we are film critics, get to avoid the sorts of films we think will bore or repel us. Until we become parents, most of us probably pay no particular attention to the drip-feed of blood and gore that now forms the basis of almost all popular entertainment. As it happens, I’ve had to be on a lot of planes recently, and have used some of the time to watch movies I would never otherwise seek out. Apart from concluding that the Oscars shouldn’t award anyone for anything this year (can’t the whole thing just be called off?), I have mainly been repulsed at the extreme violence (often mixed with the most crass “sexiness”) that seems now to be the cinematic norm.

I could describe the sheer awfulness of Charlize Theron in Atomic Blonde, a long-legged female spy dispatching her male foes in gruesome fashion between coolly pouring herself drinks, but I didn’t make it to the end. Far worse was a film I did slog all the way through, Kingsman 2. I won’t bother to explain the risible plot, but it is presented as a sort of cooler, wryer, modern take on James Bond. Certainly all the advertising for it, the cast, and the buttons it presses make it clear that it is not aimed at an adult audience. I was surprised at the opening to see that it had an R rating, not least because I had heard people (including an air-stewardess) talking about having taken their children to see it.
(Read more.)

The Sadness of Liturgical Abuses

From The Catholic Thing:

Consider the words he offered to explain his action: “Do you know why I’m not going to say the Creed? Because I don’t believe it! As if anyone understands it – but as for myself after many years I’ve realized that it was something I didn’t understand and couldn’t accept. Let’s sing something else that presents the essential things of the faith.” He doesn’t “believe it?” O.K., fine, that’s his free choice, although he may – with an eye to his own intellectual integrity – want to reassess his chosen vocation. But he doesn’t “understand it?” Certainly, it is true the Creed proposes a set of mysteries revealed by God, which being mysteries challenge and ultimately defeat the finite intellect attempting to grasp the Infinite. As readers are probably aware, even the greatest intellect of the Church, St. Thomas Aquinas, famously awoke from a dream in which he experienced God and termed all he had written as just a “heap of straw.” Yet on another level, the Creed is so simple even an elementary school student can understand it. (Read more.)

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Versailles (Season 2, 2017)

as Louis XIV
Louis XIV at the theater with Madame de Montespan (Anna Brewster)
Jessica Clark as Liselotte

Catherine Walker as Madame de Maintenon

as Sophie de Clermont (Duchesse de Cassel)

 Versailles (Season 2) is now on Netflix. As entertaining as was Versailles (Season 1), Season 2 is better, with more depth, character transformation, and spirituality. As in Season 1, some of the more seemingly far-fetched aspects of the series are the ones which are historically true. Louis XIV goes through a dramatic religious conversion and breaks up with his mistress, Madame de Montespan, who takes to consulting a sorceress and a warlock in order to get him back, as true to history. Louis becomes friends with the devout Madame de Maintenon, with whom he begins to forge the most profound relationship of his life. Filmed in the palaces and gardens of the Sun-King, there is an emphasis on historical authenticity, except as in Season 1 everyone is shown going to Holy Communion standing in a line when in those days they knelt at the altar railing.

According to The Masculine Epic:
Last year, we saw the airing of a new historical drama, Versailles, set in the court of Louis XIV. The first season centered on Louis’ establishing Versailles as the new center of power in France, getting the nobles to come there, and trapping them in the gilded cage. There came of course, a ton of intrigue with this move, but the first season stalled at times. Sometimes it felt like there was a lack of direction, even though the acting and staging was all excellent. Still, it lacked something that would make it truly excellent to a general audience, rather than just people interested in the period.

That wasn’t the case at all this year, as Versailles season 2 fired on all cylinders for all 10 of its episodes. The progression of the season was direct and focused, dealing with the infamous Affair of the Poisons in the 1670s. In Versailles, we are shown a palace that, despite its beautiful facade, is rotting from within. In the first episode, Louis’ minister of justice is poisoned, and things go downhill from there.

The poisonings continue throughout the season and Louis grows increasingly distressed as his beloved Versailles turns more and more into a hell, as he and his people seem to be powerless to stop them. The Affair of the Poisons is far from his only problem, however, as the Franco-Dutch War is raging in the Low Countries. Things look to be going well at first, and the king wishes to take part in the proceedings, partly to establish his presence and increase his reputation, but partly also to escape the gloom that has descended on Versailles.

His trip northward wouldn’t be the reprieve he was hoping for. Reliant on England’s fleet for assistance, that piece of the puzzle went out the window, as the Dutch fleet sent it packing. Things got even worse from there, because as if Versailles couldn’t be bad enough with all the poisons in it, there was a Dutch spy in its midst, who was none other than Louis’ official historian. As such, William of Orange (the future William III of England) knew the French strategies before the armies met, and great a leader as Louis XIV was, he was no general. So the mid-point of Versailles‘ second season shows the great king defeated both at home and abroad. His armies were losing ground and he was losing control of his court. The Sun King had descended below the horizon, into katabasis.

The second season of Versailles was all about descent and redemption for Louis. The imagery of Christ throughout the season, particularly its closing episodes, was well-placed, not only for the Biblical parallel, but because Louis grew more religious as his reign went on. His increasing religious devotion would wind up being the key to solving the crisis and saving his hold on power in Versailles season 2, as at the low point, after suffering a defeat at the hands of William of Orange, the two rulers met, and for once, Louis was dealing with an equal in rank. He at first didn’t seem to acquit himself well. William revealed that he knew everything that was going on at Versailles, from the poisonings to his personal activities, including his relationship with his mistress, the Marquise de Montespan. Taunting Louis with how much power she had over him, he declared that she was the one he should be negotiating with, not him. This caused him much distress. (Read more.)
Welsh actor Alexander Vlahos reprises his role of Monsieur, the King's brother Philippe d'Orléans, with equal doses of nuance and panache. Philippe is unhappy with himself; his sexual proclivities are increasingly of the obsessive-compulsive nature, and his golden-haired lover the Chevalier de Lorraine is dragging him into debt, drunkenness and depression, with one orgy after another. Frustrated in his desire for military glory, Philippe is told he must marry again, and the Queen and Madame de Montespan unite to choose a fitting candidate. Philippe's new wife Liselotte, the Princess Palatine (starring Jessica Clark), tries to befriend him and build his confidence. In a scene of comic genius, Philippe is asked by the Queen to pretend to be the King while Louis is away at war, in order to make a vital trade agreement with an Indian sultan. Philippe proves to be a clever negotiator, as Liselotte beams with pride. The frank and high-spirited Liselotte is a delightful addition to the cast as she was to the French court in real life. She became Marie-Antoinette's great grandmother.

By the end of the season it is clear that the weak-willed women are those who have multiple affairs and seek the council of the tarot sorceress, while the women of strong character, like the Queen and Madame de Maintenon, find consolation in their faith. In reality, they found solace in caring for the children in their lives as well. The debauchery of the court is shown to be not only soul-eroding but dangerous, especially when a young girl is accidentally killed in a drug-fueled party. Yes, drugs were rife at Versailles, drugs and poisons, provided by the tarot sorceress and, in the series, encouraged by Madame de Montespan, who in one of the final scenes repents and goes to confession. It is one of many dramatic church scenes. It is also interesting that the one character who calls for revolution is inextricably linked with murder and the diabolic. As Louis, his wife and family emerge from successive tragedies it is clear that virtue, the Church, and marriage have triumphed at Versailles, at least for the time being. That the struggle for the King's soul should be the theme of a television series is a modern miracle in itself.

Louis and his brother Philippe ()

The Queen (Elisa Lasowski) and Liselotte
George Webster as William of Orange