Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Marie-Antoinette Leaves Home

Another quote from my book:
On April 21, 1770, the youngest Archduchess left her family home forever. The moment came when she was to bid farewell to her mother. They had become particularly close in the last few months because the Empress had decided to keep Antoine constantly at her side, day and night, in order not to lose the opportunity to instruct the little bride in her duties of her new state in life. There was profuse weeping, not only on the part of the mother and her child, but the members of the imperial household, both servants and courtiers mourned the loss of their Archduchess, as did the citizens of Vienna. She knelt for her mother’s blessing. In the future she would see her sister Mimi and her brothers Joseph and Max; she would never see her mother or her other siblings again.

Marie-Antoinette, Daughter of the Caesars: Her Life, Her Times, Her Legacy - Elena Maria Vidal (Read more.)

The Cross That ISIS Could Not Crush

From FaithZette:
The monastery of St. Barbara, formerly a place of pilgrimage for many Iraqi Christians, is at the entrance to the town. We were accompanied by Fr. Thabet, the parish priest. He showed us the ruined home of his parents and grandparents, bombed by coalition forces because it was used as an ISIS outpost. Sitting in what had been the family garden was a large bomb. The rectory, like many of the empty houses, had ISIS graffiti sprayed on the outside wall — for the priest’s house it said, “The Cross will be broken.” Luckily for Fr. Thabet, his house was still standing and, unlike many of the houses, had not been burned out. ISIS fighters had left him a little gift on their departure: a booby trap by his office door. Many of the houses in the town are booby-trapped, burned out, or destroyed, and there is no water or electricity. As we walked around the empty streets some birds were singing, but the only other sound was the distant thump of bombing in Mosul, nine miles away. (Read more.)

The Great Retail Meltdown of 2017

From The Atlantic:
The simplest explanation for the demise of brick-and-mortar shops is that Amazon is eating retail. Between 2010 and last year, Amazon’s sales in North America quintupled from $16 billion to $80 billion. Sears’ revenue last year was about $22 billion, so you could say Amazon has grown by three Sears in six years. Even more remarkable, according to several reports, half of all U.S. households are now Amazon Prime subscribers.

But the full story is bigger than Amazon. Online shopping has done well for a long time in media and entertainment categories, like books and music. But easy return policies have made online shopping cheap, easy, and risk-free for consumers in apparel, which is now the largest e-commerce category. The success of start-ups like Casper, Bonobos, and Warby Parker (in beds, clothes, and glasses, respectively) has forced physical-store retailers to offer similar deals and convenience online. What’s more, mobile shopping, once an agonizing experience of typing private credit-card digits in between pop-up ads, is getting easier thanks to apps and mobile wallets. Since 2010, mobile commerce has grown from 2 percent of digital spending to 20 percent. (Read more.)

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Johanna and Josepha

Archduchess Johanna

Archduchess Josepha
A quote about two of Marie-Antoinette's sisters who died of smallpox:
There was no trouble, however, with Archduchess Maria Johanna and Archduchess Maria Josepha, sweet and docile girls who were being brought up together. Then Johanna contracted a virulent case of smallpox after receiving an inoculation, which was known to occur. She died at age twelve, much to her family’s horror, especially Josepha’s. But soon Josepha was being groomed to marry Ferdinand of Naples and being painted in honour of the occasion, for she would become a queen. There is at least one portrait of Josepha in blue which is often mistaken for Antoinette; they both possessed the same delicate winsomeness so it is an easy mistake to make.
Marie-Antoinette, Daughter of the Caesars: Her Life, Her Times, Her Legacy - Elena Maria Vidal

Sense and the City

Life in 18th century cities. From City Lab:
People in the 18th century, like today, tended to pay attention to their sensations only when those sensations were particularly good or particularly bad. That means that in order to access the routine, normal, and accepted sensory worlds of the past, one really has to read between the lines. With that in mind, the most common sensory observations that I encountered fell into two main categories: complaints about urban noise, and rapturous descriptions of new foods and beverages. Cities were growing by leaps and bounds in the 18th century, and the architecture and layout of Paris had developed haphazardly in response to these quickly changing demographics. Acoustics were not a central planning concern. Buildings were tall and streets were narrow, trapping ambient noise. Artisans clustered together, making the heavy ringing of hammers, calls of vendors, and noises of animals thick and concentrated. Cobblestones were uneven, meaning that wheels and hooves made a clatter, and walls were not built to keep out neighbors’ din. (Read more.)

Two Thieves and a Funeral

From Brandon Hawk:
Recently, I’ve been reading Mary Dzon’s new book, The Quest for the Christ Child in the Later Middle Ages (Philadelphia, PA: U of Pennsylvania P, 2017), and it’s turned out to be quite appropriate for the season of Lent leading up to Easter. This might seem somewhat odd, given the focus on Jesus’ childhood rather than his later life and death. But Dzon demonstrates that many medieval representations of Jesus as child also evoke strong links with his Crucifixion. This is especially true in later medieval devotional writings, but it may also be found in many other texts.

Some of the conceptual links between Jesus’ childhood and death come from earlier apocryphal narratives that influenced medieval people. While most apocryphal infancy gospels have little in them directly regarding Jesus’ death or afterward–which is expected, considering that they focus on his childhood–there is one fascinating instance in an apocryphal gospel that I’ve recently been reading: the Arabic Gospel of the Infancy of the Saviour. In this apocryphon, an explicit connection between Jesus’ childhood and death is found during the Holy Family’s flight to Egypt, when Jesus, Mary, and Joseph are stopped by two robbers. (Read more.)

Monday, April 24, 2017


Two of Marie-Antoinette's sisters became nuns. To quote from my recent book:
Archduchess Maria Elisabeth, called “Liesl,” was lovely but like Mimi also had a sharp tongue. She was supposed to have gone to France to marry Louis XV but was prevented not only by Louis’ mistress Madame du Barry but by an attack of smallpox, which disfigured her. This was tragic on more than one level. How helpful it would have been for Antoine to have an older sister at Versailles who was already Queen of France! Instead, Antoine had to face the French court practically alone and without her family. Meanwhile, Liesl became fat and crabby; Joseph eventually expelled her from the Imperial court, as he did all his sisters. She went to live with La Marianne and discovered a religious vocation, becoming an Abbess. 

Marie-Antoinette, Daughter of the Caesars: Her Life, Her Times, Her Legacy- Elena Maria Vidal(Read more.)


What the Dying See

From What's Up, Doc?:
According to David Kessler, author and expert on death and dying, the following things often happen when a person is about to die.
  • The dying are often visited by their dead mothers.
  • Their hands often reach up toward a force that can’t be seen. (My mom did this)
  • Family members and friends of the dying can’t see their visions or participate in conversations.
  • Visions often occur hours to weeks before they die.
While there is no “proof” that their visions and communication with deceased family members or friends are real, some death and dying experts are adamant they should be taken seriously. “People think it’s just confusion or the drugs,” explains Maggie Callanan. As a hospice nurse for more than 27 years, she has helped more than 2,000 dying men and women in their last days. “But frankly, the confusion is ours. The patient knows what is going on.”

Dr. Martha Twaddle, chief medical officer of the Midwest Palliative & Hospice CareCenter, explains further: “You can write it off and say it’s a hallucination, they’re not getting enough oxygen in their brain, but no, it doesn’t apply to many people in these situations. I have to believe they are transitioning; they are in a phase we don’t understand physically or metaphysically. And it is profoundly reassuring to see it happen.” (Read more.)