Based in London; Formerly of New York, Buenos Aires, Fife, and the Western Cape. Saoránach d'Éirinn.

2008 October

A writer, blogger, historian, and web designer born in New York, educated in Argentina, Scotland, and South Africa, and now based in London. read more

Russia Turns a Cinematic Page in History

Big-budget film celebrating anti-Communist hero & White Russian leader Admiral Kolchak is partly funded by Russian government

Here’s a film that has it all: naval battles, mutiny, revolution, civil war, brave men, beautiful women, sin, sacrifice, and betrayal on multiple levels. But “Admiral” («Адмиралъ»), which opened in Russia this month, is notable for another reason: this is the first major film depicting the tsarist White Russians as the good guys to receive at least part of its funding from the Russian government. The eponymous hero of the film is Alexander Kolchak, the naval commander and polar explorer who later led part of the White Army fighting the Bolsheviks during the Russian Civil War.


October 30, 2008 9:12 pm | Link | 23 Comments »

A Quick Glimpse at Recent Russian Films

“Alexander: Battle of the Neva”


October 30, 2008 9:07 pm | Link | No Comments »

A New Speaker in Quebec

Opposition parties unite to elect new President of the Assembly

François Gendron, the longest-serving member of Quebec’s National Assembly, has been elected Speaker against the will of the province’s prime minister, Jean Charest. The ADQ (conservative, autonomist) and PQ (social-democratic, pro-independence) are opposition parties but combined have more seats than the Libéral (center-left/center-right) minority government Mr. Charest leads. Action democratique du Québec and the Parti Québécois united to select Mr. Gendron without consulting Mr. Charest, which the premier described as a “breach of confidence” that was the result of “subterfuge”. The vote took place by secret ballot, and it was only in the hours before that the opposition parties withdrew their respective candidates in favour of a united ticket for Gendron.


October 28, 2008 8:52 pm | Link | 7 Comments »


From a Louisiana newspaper:

Amy and Andrew J. DiMaggio Fr. of LaPlace don’t have to be told that their 1-year-old daughter Anna Maria is special. They get a glimpse of it every day when the toddler walks out to the front yard of her house and begins an animated conversation with the Blessed Mother. “Whenever she is with us in the front yard, she will always stop playing at some point and walk up to our statue of Mary,” the DiMaggions said. “In this photo, she was holding her hands up and talking to Mary in her own babble language. We hope that this picture will inspire your readers to remember the words of Jesus who said that to enter the kingdom of heaven we must be as open as a child.”
October 28, 2008 8:45 pm | Link | 2 Comments »

The Hanover Bank: A Classical Gem

No. 35, East Seventy-second Street

Passing by, as I sometimes do, the Chase branch bank at East 72nd St., I think to myself “There’s a fine establishment, in which I should keep my money”. The thought never jumps from theory to practice, however, as I am a patriot in everything but finance, and keep my florins safe with the Hongkong & Shanghai Bank instead. Nonetheless, it’s a handsome building, and the Central Hanover Bank & Trust Company should be commended for erecting it. Central Hanover merged with the Manufacturers Trust Company in 1961 to form Manufacturers Hanover (“Manny Hanny”), which was taken over by Chemical Bank in 1991, which was acquired by Chase Manhattan Bank in 1995, which merged with J.P. Morgan in 2000, and the consumer & commercial banking arm of J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. is now simply known as “Chase”.

While the original Chase National Bank was only formed in 1877, with all these mergers and acquisitions, “Chase” can now trace its lineage back to the foundation of the Bank of the Manhattan Company in 1799, the second oldest bank after the Bank of New York. But — would you believe it? — “Chase” is now headquartered not in the hallowed caverns of Wall Street but — wait for it — Chicago, Illinois!


October 25, 2008 8:02 pm | Link | 12 Comments »

The Coronation of Blessed Charles

Blessed Emperor Charles was crowned as Apostolic King of Hungary on the 30th of December in 1916. It was the last Hapsburg coronation to this day. For those interested there are two accounts which do justice to the sacred rites. One is by that most devoted admirer of the Hapsburgs, Gordon Brook-Shepherd, in his excellent biography of Charles, The Last Hapsburg. (Brook-Shepherd also wrote excellent and quite readable biographies of the Empress Zita, of Crown Prince Otto, of Chancellor Dollfuß, and Baron Sir Rudolf von Slatin Pasha).


October 21, 2008 8:46 pm | Link | 3 Comments »

Charles & Zita

October 21 was chosen as the Feast of the Blessed Emperor Charles not because it is the date of his death — which is 1 April 1922 — but rather to commemorate the marriage (photo, below) between Archduke Charles of Austria (as he was then) and Princess Zita of Bourbon-Parma in 1911. While Charles died a mere thirty-four years of age, Zita lived on to ninety-six before passing away in 1989 (when I myself was four).

Not very long ago I was in Quebec City, which was where the Empress Zita and the Imperial Family spent their exile during the Second World War. The Hapsburgs, dispossessed first by the Socialists and then by the Nazis, were then so poor they had to collect dandelions from which to make a soup, but they took poverty in their stride. Passing a grassy bit near the Chateau Frontenac, I wondered “Did Crown Prince Otto once pluck weeds from this plot to feed his hungry mother and siblings?”

Also in that ancient Canadian city is La Citadelle, that great hunk of stone and earthworks, perhaps the oldest operational military installation in the New World. There we were lucky enough to be granted access to the tomb of the greatest Canadian, Major General the Rt. Hon. Georges-Philéas Vanier, Governor-General of Canada from 1959 until his death in 1967. General Vanier and his wife had such a reputation for Christian charity and piety that the Vatican is collecting evidence towards their eventual recognition as saints. Their son is Jean Vanier, the founder of the famous l’Arche communities that care for the handicapped and the disabled. I wonder if the Hapsburgs and the Vaniers ever crossed paths in wartime Quebec…

Charles of Austria
pray for us!

October 21, 2008 8:12 pm | Link | 3 Comments »

Sorb Serf Story Shown on Silver Screen

Otfried Preußler’s retelling of old Wendish legend hits German cinemas

Follow your dreams! It may sound like a Hollywood cliché, but what’s a fourteen-year-old orphaned Sorb peasant to do? Currently showing in German cinemas, “Krabat” is the first film version of Otfried Preußler’s 1971 novel of an old Sorbian tale whose eponymous protagonist is a beggar boy in the eastern Saxony of the early 1700s. Krabat is plagued by dreams of an old watermill outside the tiny hamlet of Schwarzkollm, which seems to be operational though farmers never bring grain to be milled.


October 19, 2008 8:17 pm | Link | 6 Comments »

From the memoirs of Count Banffy

« After getting home I must admit that I slept soundly, although occasionally, when still half-asleep, I seemed to hear more rumbling of heavy lorries passing under my windows than on previous nights. However, since the street outside was the habitual route for deliveries to the market halls nearby, and the market cars had always rattled past noisily long before dawn, it did not seem to be different from any other night in the year.

It was only later that I heard what had happened early that morning. When my old valet called me he announced three things: my bath had been prepared, revolution had broken out, and Count Mihály Károlyi was now Minister-President. »

October 15, 2008 9:20 pm | Link | 2 Comments »

October 15, 2008 9:18 pm | Link | 4 Comments »

Questions on the Present ‘Crisis’

I know next to nothing about finance and economics, but since stock prices which had previously been ridiculously inflated are now falling to their actual value: isn’t that a good thing? Shouldn’t we be glad the correction is finally happening and shouldn’t we have wished it had come sooner? Isn’t this something that should provoke a sigh of relief? Doesn’t all this panic on Wall Street make the financiers look like a bunch of little girls?

Of course in the old days, you had men in charge. J.P. Morgan was the head of J.P. Morgan, and by gum that meant something. There was someone to be accountable to. Nowadays, no one person owns anything, which is to say, everything is owned by everyone. As the American Loyalist of old oft said: “I would rather be ruled by one tyrant a thousand miles away then by a thousand tyrants not one mile away.” When you had a giant like Morgan around, he could invite everyone round and sort things out. Now, CEOs come and go and are accountable, not to one man, but to “shareholders”, who are apparently legion, and not terribly keen on holding their henchmen to account during the times when the profits are flowing in. The same goes for finance ministers and the central bankers.

Out with them all, I say, and bring back Mr. Morgan!

Mr. Morgan did not appreciate having his photograph taken.

October 15, 2008 9:17 pm | Link | 8 Comments »

The Queen of Aledo High

The overwhelming majority of Down’s Syndrome babies are killed before birth; This Texan girl was blessed enough to make the cut.

Aledo High seniors pick classmate with Down syndrome as homecoming queen

By MICHAEL E. YOUNG / The Dallas Morning News
Saturday, October 11, 2008

Never has the selection of a homecoming queen sent so many tears falling so freely.

Kristin Pass, an 18-year-old senior with Down syndrome, became Aledo High School’s homecoming queen Friday to a joyous standing ovation and the flutter of a thousand tissues on a remarkable night for an amazing young woman.

Her grandfather, Dr. David Campbell of Corsicana, escorted her onto the field and gave her a quick kiss on the cheek as Kristin joined eight other young women in the Homecoming Court to await the results of the vote, cast by the 360-plus members of Aledo High’s senior class.

Then came the announcement … and pandemonium.


October 13, 2008 7:21 pm | Link | 2 Comments »
October 13, 2008 8:51 am | Link | 1 Comment »

Our Lady of Luján

Fr. Finigan tells us that a million young people joined a recent pilgrimage to the Shrine of Our Lady of Luján, forty miles west of Buenos Aires. I had the privilege of being a pilgrim there myself on the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin in the summer (or rather winter) of 2001.

The Good Priest of Blackfen also recently pointed out an article from La Nacion about the twenty-fifth anniversary of the apparitions at San Nicolas (below).

Blessed Virgin, pray for us!

October 9, 2008 8:42 pm | Link | 1 Comment »

Quo Vadis, Benedicte?

Roman Forum and Una Voce New York Event

October 19, 2008: 1:30—6:00 P.M.

Since the Catholic revival of the nineteenth century, the Papacy has found itself facing dangers on all fronts in its efforts to transform the world in Christ. On the one hand, this work has involved a need for protecting and deepening knowledge of the Deposit of Faith. On the other, it has entailed developing strategies for dealing with a globe filled with hostile visions of life that have nevertheless proven seductive to many Catholics. John Rao, Associate Professor of History at St. John’s University, discusses the historical development of the problem from the reign of Blessed Pius IX (1846-1878) until the near present; Christopher Ferrara, President of the American Catholic Lawyers Association, treats of it with respect to the specific difficulties of Pope Benedict XVI.


October 9, 2008 8:07 pm | Link | No Comments »

The Badge of the Cincinnati

George Washington’s Society of the Cincinnati medal was auctioned off at Sotheby’s last year for a whopping $5,305,000. Founded by General Washington and other officers of the Continental and French armies who served in the American Revolution, the Society of the Cincinnati is the oldest and most prestigious of America’s many hereditary societies. Louis XVI was himself a member, and the Society was known as the ordre de Cincinnatus in France, where it was added to the hierarchy of orders (even though it was not, strictly speaking, an order) as ranking just below the Order of Saint Louis. General Washington’s Cincinnati badge was, after his death, given to the Marquis de Lafayette whose descendants kept it in the family until the auction last December.


October 8, 2008 8:24 pm | Link | 4 Comments »

Let Louis XVI Rest in Peace; A Funeral Mass in Manhattan

By PETER STEINFELS | The New York Times | July 17, 1989

They came not to praise the French Revolution but to bury it.

In the place of tricolor bunting, there were the black vestments of an old-fashioned Roman Catholic funeral Mass. Instead of fireworks, there were the flickering candles of a Manhattan church. Instead of the “Marseillaise,” there was the rise and fall of Gregorian chant.

They came not to praise the French Revolution but to bury it. In the place of tricolor bunting, there were the black vestments of an old-fashioned Roman Catholic funeral Mass. Instead of fireworks, there were the flickering candles of a Manhattan church. Instead of the “Marseillaise,” there was the rise and fall of Gregorian chant.


October 8, 2008 8:08 pm | Link | 2 Comments »

Pink champagne & civil war

In “Neither a Lender Nor a Borrower Be” from the October New English Review, Theodore Dalrymple discusses his own first-hand encounter with the lending crisis:

With a large loan outstanding, I continued to receive, about every month or so, offers of a further loan of $50,000, no questions asked and mine for the borrowing by mere telephone call, just in case there were any little extras or extravagances I happened to feel like treating myself to (but apply now, before next month’s offer of precisely the same thing!). The principal example given of the little extras or extravagances to which I might want to treat myself was the holiday of a lifetime.

Two considerations led me to turn down all these kind offers. The first is that my taste in holidays of a lifetime runs more to observing civil wars than to lolling in the lap of luxury, and while sometimes expensive to go to, civil wars offer little in the way of sybaritic possibilities (though there was a surprising availability of pink champagne during the Liberian civil war, even if it was difficult to chill).

October 8, 2008 8:01 pm | Link | No Comments »

The South African Fleet Review

Africa’s oldest navy parades its newest frigates

Fleet reviews are not very common occurrences. According to legend, the first fleet review took place when King Henry VIII on a whim gave the order to assemble his navy’s ships as he wanted “to see the fleet together”. On that occasion, the omnivorous monarch was rowed from vessel to vessel and enjoyed a repast on each. The tradition of the monarch reviewing the fleet continued, and usually took place to commemorate the coronation, to welcome a visiting monarch, or to commemorate some other event or occasion of great import.

Since the time of George III, British fleet reviews have typically taken place at Spithead between Portsmouth and the Isle of Wight. The 1814 review celebrating the Treaty of Paris was the last to be composed of only sailing ships, and included fifteen ships of the line and thirty-one frigates: “the tremendous naval armaments which has swept from the ocean the fleets of France and Spain and secured to Britain the domain of the sea”. The 1937 Coronation Fleet Review was made famous by the BBC radio commentary given by Lieutenant-Commander Thomas Woodrooffe. The retired naval officer had met up with a number of chums from his more sea-worthy days in a pub before the broadcast. Woodrooffe’s commentary was so incoherent that he was taken off the air within a couple of minutes; as the fleet was specially illuminated in the evening, Lt.-Cdr. Woodrooffe continually repeated “the Fleet’s lit up”; “lit up” also being a euphemism at the time for being drunk.


October 5, 2008 10:11 pm | Link | 6 Comments »

NRC, among others, gets it right

The Netherlands’ premier broadsheet has gone partly English online

The moderate liberal Dutch broadsheet NRC Handelsblad is the latest of a series of European periodicals looking for a more international readership by translating part of their content into English for distribution on the world wide web. “NRC International” is partnered with the German weekly magazine Der Spiegel, itself a pioneer in featuring English content in an “international” section of its website. Aside from NRC and Der Spiegel, other news outlets now featuring web-only English-language content are Germany’s Die Welt and Hungary’s Heti Világgazdaság, while Eurozine features translated and original content from a broad spectrum of continental reviews and journals. Sadly, Sign and Sight recently had to reduce their “From the Feuilletons” — looking at the culture pages of German-language newspapers — from a daily to a weekly feature. Sign and Sight also features a weekly “Magazine Roundup” doing the rounds of a wide variety of European, Asian, and American magazines.

The move comes as print newspapers of the conventional variety across Europe and America are losing circulation. Some Manhattan newsstands have seen takers for the Sunday New York Times fall by as much as 80% in the past few years. The New York Times and Wall Street Journal both recently narrowed their page width in a move to save paper costs; the change, however, also means less room for advertising and a more ungainly appearance.

South Africa’s Herald, meanwhile, has bucked the gloomy trend and increased its readership by 14.5% in the past year. The Herald, the Eastern and Southern Cape’s regional broadsheet, attributes its success to a visual redesign and reorienting content to encourage readers to link up with the newspaper’s website. South Africa is also home to The Times (not to be confused with the older Cape Times), a new upmarket broadsheet newspaper launched as a daily extension of the century-old Sunday Times. The weekday Times was started a year ago and its circulation since just June has seen a 10.4% increase.

A major problem for the industry is that formerly high-end newspapers have driven down the quality of their product to a suicidal extent over the past decades. The middle market, for better or worse, is dead, and publishers have three alternatives to this disappearing sector: 1) go lowest-common-denominator — as The Times of London has done, with only moderate success; 2) go up-market — The Times and Sunday Times of South Africa have proved worthwile; or 3) go niche — the New York Observer is still in business after two decades of aiming towards Manhattan’s yuppie community.

Whichever path taken, integrating print and web operations is vital for the survival of print newspapers and other “dead tree” media. That European newspapers are providing at least part of their content in English is helpful in keeping up with events and ideas in countries like Germany, the Netherlands, and Hungary as our native English-language media are tightening their belts and cutting foreign correspondents and coverage. I hope more non-English papers follow this trend and help to permanentize it.

October 2, 2008 8:12 pm | Link | No Comments »
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