Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Queen of Kalahari

The best diamond. From Departures:
Diamond mining. The very words have some, well, conflict. The precious stones, first discovered in India in the fourth century B.C., are born 90 to 125 miles deep in the earth’s mantle, packed in kimberlite and lamproite, and cooked for a billion or so years under tremendous heat and pressure. Kimberlite magma funnels them up toward the surface, and then they’re blown from rock with artfully placed dynamite. Then the drama really starts.

Although diamonds were first mined in India, it was the diamonds discovered in Kimberley, South Africa, in 1866 that established the modern diamond era. And when Cecil Rhodes founded De Beers Consolidated Mines Limited in 1888, he also established the modern diamond market. In fact, by 1900, De Beers was responsible for approximately 90 percent of the rough diamonds cut in the world.
Toward the end of the 20th century, De Beers fielded competition from Rio Tinto Diamonds and Alrosa and diamonds were discovered in the former Soviet Union and in what is now the Democratic Republic of Congo. But in 1975, Angola, with many newly active mines, gained independence from Portugal, and diamonds went from being “a girl’s best friend” to a $4 billion down payment on a civil war. Indeed, an estimated 15 percent of diamonds purchased in the 1990s were conflict diamonds, stones originally sold for illegal and unethical gain. Today, thanks in large part to the United Nations Kimberley Process, a certification system initiated in 2000 and now adopted by 81 countries, that number has shrunk to less than 1 percent.

“Believe me, I want people to fall in love with a great stone first, then feel good about where it came from,” Scheufele says. “I first started thinking about this with gold when we introduced fair-mined gold in 2013. I believe this is where we are going as an industry. We will be like the car industry, the food industry—where this transparency will be imposed by governments. We at Chopard want to be early.” She twiddles her diamond necklace. The stones are from Botswana, by the way. “This is the new normal.”
(Read more.)

Creating Chaos

From Zero Hedge:
Fresh off a spirited panel with Christina Hoff Sommers hosted by the Independent Women's Forum, the iconic feminist dissident, who serves as a professor of media studies at the University of the Arts, accused journalists of colluding with the Democratic Party in an effort to damage the Trump administration.
"Democrats are doing this in collusion with the media obviously, because they just want to create chaos," she said when asked to comment on the aforementioned stories.

"They want to completely obliterate any sense that the Trump administration is making any progress on anything."
The popular author, whose latest book was released in March, pointed to early struggles experienced by previous presidential administrations to illustrate the media's bias against Trump. "Obama's administration for the first six months was chaos," Paglia recalled. "Bill Clinton's was chaos for six months. Nobody holds that against a new person."
"Those two guys had actually been politicians!" she continued, noting Trump's relative inexperience with government operations.
Paglia's assessment of media bias in the Trump era leaves little room for optimism.
"I am appalled at the behavior of the media," she declared. "It's the collapse of journalism."
As the Examiner reported in April, Paglia, who cast her ballot for Jill Stein last November, is predicting Trump will win re-election in 2020.
"I feel like the Democrats have overplayed their hand," she said at the time.
Though the news cycle has moved through plenty of additional scandals in the past month, it appears as though Paglia's assessment of the president's prospects has not changed. "I'm looking forward to voting Democrat again," the acclaimed philosopher explained. "But the point is I feel that the media has so utterly lost its credibility that I think people are going to vote against the media again." (Read more.)

Liturgical Music is a Prayer

Stephanie Mann explains exactly the reasons why I have trouble listening to chant in the car or as background music at dinner. It is music for praying the sacred liturgy; it is not recreation. From The National Catholic Register:
Because my interest in the history of the English Reformation, I have collected recordings of the Masses and motets of Robert White, Robert Parsons, Thomas Tallis, William Byrd, and Peter Phillips. Several of the professional choirs have made recordings to highlight the historical context of these composers’ careers as they struggled to remain Catholic in England when celebrating the Mass, assisting a priest, and denying that the monarch was the head of the Church were all felony crimes. Tallis and Byrd were so talented that Elizabeth I seems to have ignored their dissent from her Church of England, but Peter Philips, in exile on the Continent, was arrested and imprisoned by English authorities suspecting him of conspiring against her. I’ve written more about these recordings here.

I try not to listen to Gregorian chant or other liturgical music as though it is background music. Readers might remember the “Gregorian Chant for Relaxation” CDs issued after the great success of the recordings by the Benedictine Monks of Santo Domingo de Silo in the mid-1990’s. Gregorian chant was promoted as calming and perfect for meditation, Christian or otherwise. One critic commented on an anniversary re-release of the CDs:

. . . this is music for reflection, calming down, re-fueling and getting away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life--which may be even more needed now than they were 10 years ago. Texts are not supplied and you won't need them; it's all about reverence and mood. Doing nothing but listening to this in 25-minute chunks will allow your breathing to slow and re-energize you. Each 55-minute CD will probably put you to sleep--and this isn't meant as a criticism.”(Emphasis added)

Since the Latin Biblical texts are the reason that chant exists, saying that they’re not necessary demonstrates a real misuse of this liturgical music. A listener should not be lulled to sleep listening to chant: she should be awakened and inspired to prayer and devotion. On the other hand, I don’t want to respond to this music as though I’m in a concert hall, applauding a performance. (Read more.)

Monday, May 29, 2017

Modest Wedding Gowns

They are making a comeback. People forget that bridal gowns for a religious marriage ceremony are a liturgical costume and are not something that would be worn at the opera or a night club or the Mardi Gras ball. But when many women now wear only one formal gown for one day in their life, they lean in the direction of sexy and sensational. They forget the sacred aspect of the nuptial bond. From Country Living:
For several seasons, "naked" or "sexy" wedding dresses have ruled the bridal fashion world. Aisles were inundated with illusion panels, flirty hemlines, plunging necks, and barely-there bodices that showed a little—OK, a lot—of skin. Sure, they were sexy and daring, but they also had more, shall-we-say conservative brides wondering, "What will Grandma think?" Luckily for those ladies, it looks like the naked dress is trending no more. During Spring 2018 Bridal Fashion Week, designers debuted covered-up creations that recall a more traditional time, while still feeling fresh and modern.

As the New York Times notes, now, it's all about the long sleeves, high necklines, full-skirted ball gowns, and capelets or jackets. Think Grace Kelly, Audrey Hepburn, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, and Kate Middleton. While today's wedding dresses might still play with a strapless or V-neck or even a high slit here and there, for the most part they're modest, compensating with coverage elsewhere.

Below, we've gathered some of the most iconic wedding dresses of yesteryear, along with some more modern gowns, all of which are all classy, contemporary, and chic—and 100 percent Grandma-approved. (Read more.)

History of the Habsburg Dynasty

Where did the Habsburg dynasty come from? To quote:

Guntram had a grandson named Radbot. Radbot and his brother (or brother-in-law) Werner, bishop of Strasburg and friend of emperor Henry II, decided to build a stronghold in the centre of family estates in today’s north Switzerland. It was named Habitschburg. The name was soon changed and since 1090 descendants of Radbot have been using name von Habsburg. After centuries the image of the clan did not fit into with the modest residency, which did not even have solid defensive walls. Therefore words of reprimand were put into Werner’s mouth, pointed at Radbot - that the latter had not taken care of it. The ancestor of the Habsburgs allegedly responded that he would construct fortifications even within one night. And in fact, when Werner woke up, the whole town was surrounded by footmen as if they were wall itself and beween them there were horsemen set in the shape of towers.

Through another age the Habsburgs expanded their lands at the frontier of Switzerland, France and Germany, constructed castles, towns and monasteries. They controlled communication routes in the Alps, including St Gotthard Pass where they constructed a bridge, which bolstered the importance of the said pass. This way they became very wealthy. Their subjects made money on trade and manufacturing, additionaly toll was a permanent source of income.

The wealthy lords who controlled the strategic route between Germany and Italy caught attention of the emperors. The more that in 1212 the count of Habsburg was able to gather more money for the monarch than the most powerful liege lords of German Reich. Emperor Frederick returned a favour, becoming a godfather of Rudolf Habrburg, born in 1218.

Rudolf started ruling over the county after death of his godfather during Great Interregnum in Reich. In those circumstances Rudolf proved to be ruthless warrior that was feared by everyone in the region. He took significant part of his possessions by force from other members of his clan. During conflict with bishop of Basel, he did not hesitate to attack the town at night and burn the monastery for which he was temporarily excommunicated by the pope. When in 1273 German electors gathered in order to choose the ruler, powerful clans were checking one another, not letting their competitors win. So it was agreed upon to choose someone who would not constitute a threat.

Archbishop of Mainz and count of Palatinate advocated the candidature of Rudolf of Habsburg. The electors took this suggestion up. A 55 year old Rudolf did not have enough predial support to oppose the great liege lords and his “old” age seemed to guarantee that his reign would be episodic.

The electors had contradictory desires. They wanted to have a ruler who would be weaker than them but strong enough to usher new laws and recover lands that had been taken away during the Interregnum. Austria was the most important of them all. It was legacy of the Babenbergs whose line became extinct in 1246, it had been taken by king Ottokar II of Bohemia. Being upset upon the results of the election, Ottokar wrote letters to the Curia in which he demonstrated his hostility towards Rudolf, calling him “poor count”. Allegedly he even ordered poison from Styrian witch, which he was to use to poison Rudolf. Habsburg declared war on king Ottokar. He gained support of the pope who even gave him the whole tithe that had been gathered in Germany. Through marriages Rudolf managed to win the favour of powerful noblemen of the Reich. In 1276 he took Austria basically without fight. Ottokar paid him liege homage at the gates of Vienna. The ceremony took place in a tent but when Ottokar was kneeling before Rudolf, the walls fell down.The troops could see powerful king at the feet of “poor count”. Ottokar lost the lands of the Babenbergs. When two years later he tried to recover them, he was defeated during The Battle on the Marchfeld.

Rudolf and his son Albert settled the situation in Austria and reconciled the liege lords. They expanded the privileges of Vienna and favoured economic development. In 1282 they obtained official confirmation of their rights as Dukes of Austria from the Parliament of German Reich. And so ever since Austria became a basis of the political and material power of the Habsburg clan. The family was even being identified with the land - just like in famous motto: “Leave the waging of wars to others! But you, happy Austria, marry.”

Although the Habsburgs did not have a single drop of the Babenbergs’ blood in their veins, they linked their genealogy to their own through the ages, treating the Babenbergs like their own ancestors.

Rudolf cared for his subjects’ safety. He was tall and well-built, did not like pomp, was moderate in eating and drinking. He was also kind towards people. He was an epitome of patriarch and fair judge. Any other medieval ruler (except Charlemagne) was not a protagonist of so many anecdotes and tales. One of them says that when Rudolf met a priest who was carrying Blessed Sacrament, he gave him his horse and when during the coronation there was no scepter, he took crucifix off the wall and used it. (Read more.)

What Everyone Gets Wrong About the Hobbit

From The Art of Manliness:
For Tolkien, nothing in this world — not its culture, knowledge, assumptions, and expectations, nor its rocks, trees, and people — was entirely as it seemed. Hidden behind what the poet P.B. Shelley called “the veil of familiarity” existed other layers and dimensions. While such realms cannot normally be seen with the eye, they are sensed through poignant pangs of longing for something more — the occasional, fleeting feeling of being on the threshold of something greater.

Not enough people, Tolkien felt, had the imagination to consider this idea seriously, nor the courage to follow their longing beyond the surface of things. The average bloke was like the Bagginses of The Hobbit, where you know what he “would say on any question without the bother of asking him.” Most folks don’t attempt to draw back the curtain on another realm of meaning — can’t be bothered to penetrate the conventional, comfortable, respectable notions of the way things are in order to discover deeper truths.

For Tolkien, those important truths included the idea that all of life — whether in suburbia or on an actual battlefield — constitutes an epic, heroic clash between good and evil, dark and light; that everyone’s choices, no matter how “little” of a person they are, matter; and that each individual’s small story is part of a larger, cosmic narrative. Everyone has a part to play and a pilgrimage to make — not necessarily a physical journey, but a moral and spiritual one.

Tolkien further believed that reading myths was one of the surest ways to begin such a journey. In myths one finds fantastical explanations of who we are, how we got here, and what we’re capable of. Such stories, Tolkien held, are filled with echoes of Truth with a capital T – “a sudden glimpse of the underlying reality” that was truer than anything strictly factual. A good myth, in departing from reality, paradoxically helps us rediscover it — reminding us that beneath the blandness and busyness of our day-to-day lives, lies heroic and mythic potential. (Read more.)

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Russian Windows

From East of the Sun, West of the Moon. Share

The Silent Tragedy

From Victoria Prooday:
Today’s children are being deprived of the fundamentals of a healthy childhood, such as:
  • Emotionally available parents
  • Clearly defined limits and guidance
  • Responsibilities
  • Balanced nutrition and adequate sleep
  • Movement and outdoors
  • Creative play, social interaction, opportunities for unstructured times and boredom
Instead, children are being served with:
  • Digitally distracted parents
  • Indulgent parents who let kids “Rule the world”
  • Sense of entitlement rather than responsibility
  • Inadequate sleep and unbalanced nutrition
  • Sedentary indoor lifestyle
  • Endless stimulation, technological babysitters, instant gratification, and absence of dull moments
Could anyone imagine that it is possible to raise a healthy generation in such an unhealthy environment? Of course not! There are no shortcuts to parenting, and we can’t trick human nature. As we see, the outcomes are devastating. Our children pay for the loss of well-balanced childhood with their emotional well-being. (Read more.)