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Looks like Sharon Stone will have to give up her title of Most Frugal Oscars Dresser. (The actress famously stunned when she showed up at the 1996 Academy Awards in a Gap turtleneck.) Hunt has out-bargained Stone by wearing this midnight blue silk and satin strapless dress.”

Not even knowing the price or designer of Helen Hunt’s dress, I’d still say the style suited her and she wore it well…!

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melungeon family I recently came across an article posted in the British journal Mail Online, and wanted to share it’s discussion of a group of Appalachian people trying to avoid being racially tagged.

I have never heard of the Melungeons before reading this article, “Revealed: Ancient Appalachian people who boasted of Portuguese ancestry to avoid slavery were actually descended from African men and white women.”

Apparently the term refers to almost anyone of mixed-race ancestry, on the east coast from New York to Louisiana, but primarily to mixed native American or black blood, distinguished from the “mestizos” and “creoles” of Mexican or Spanish heritage further south in Texas and Louisiana. Other terms similar to Melungeon, in New York, included “Montauks”, the “Mantinecocks”, “Van Guilders”, the “Clappers”, and “Shinnecocks”. Pennsylvania had the “Pools. North Carolina the Lumbees, Waccamaws and Haliwas and South Carolina the Redbones, Buckheads, Yellowhammers, Creels and others.

As the article describes,

Some speculated they were descended from Portuguese explorers, or perhaps from Turkish slaves or Gypsies but a new DNA study attempts to separate truth from oral tradition.
Genetic evidence shows that the families historically called Melungeons are the offspring of sub-Saharan African men and white women of northern or central European origin

However I began to disagree with the tone the article took, in their explanation as to why the group would ‘hide black ancestry with claims of being Portuguese in identity.’ In a day and age when “Southern high-bred people will never tolerate on equal terms any person who is even remotely tainted with negro blood, but they do not make the same objection to other brown or dark-skinned people, like the Spanish, the Cubans, the Italians, etc,” it was merely a matter of survival.

The study quotes from an 1874 court case in Tennessee in which a Melungeon woman’s inheritance was challenged.
In that instance, if the defendant Martha Simmerman were found to have African blood, she would lose the inheritance.
Her attorney, Lewis Shepherd, argued successfully that the Simmerman’s family was descended from ancient Phoenicians who eventually migrated to Portugal and then to North America.

Obviously, if one’s genetic heritage could mean the difference between being free or likely to be enslaved or treated differently under the law, it was very important to maintain their historic claim that they were Portuguese. However, both claims could have been equally true. Ancestors of the Melungeons would have immigrated from Portugal originally, yet not necessarily been of “phoenician blood”. Instead their ancestors could have arrived in Portugal from any Portuguese colonial territories in sub-saharan Africa, such as Mozambique, Angola, or Cape Verde. Thus present-day researchers would be correct as to the genetic heritage being south African, and the Melungeons claim that they were Portuguese, being equally true.

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Adrian Piper 1991 exhibit Decide Who You Are-"Skinned Alive"

Adrian Piper 1991 exhibit Decide Who You Are-“Skinned Alive”

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Adrian Piper is a first-generation conceptual artist and analytic philosopher who was born in New York City and lived for many years on Cape Cod, Massachusetts before emigrating from the United States to Germany. She began exhibiting her artwork internationally at the age of twenty, graduating from the School of Visual Arts in 1969 with an A.A. in Fine Art and a concentration in painting and sculpture. While continuing to produce and exhibit her artwork, Piper received a B.A. Summa Cum Laude with Research Honors in Philosophy and a minor in Medieval and Renaissance Musicology from the City College of New York in 1974. For graduate school in philosophy she attended Harvard University, where she received an M.A. in 1977 and a Ph.D. in 1981 under the supervision of John Rawls.

self portrait

self portrait

She also studied Kant and Hegel with Dieter Henrich at the University of Heidelberg in 1977-1978. Her formal education lasted a total of 27 years. Piper taught philosophy at Georgetown, Harvard, Michigan, Stanford, UCSD, and Wellesley College. Following in the steps of trailblazing pioneer Dr. Joyce Mitchell Cook, in 1987 she became the first tenured African American woman professor in the field of philosophy. But for her refusal to return to the United States while listed as a Suspicious Traveler on the U.S. Transportation Security Administration’s Watch List, Wellesley forcibly terminated her tenured full professorship in philosophy in 2008. Since 2005, she has lived and worked in Berlin Germany, where she runs the APRA Foundation Berlin and edits The Berlin Journal of Philosophy.

Adrian Piper is also bi-racial. Much of the early focus of her artwork, became the interpersonal dynamics of racism and racial stereotyping, as seen here, in her video installation, “Cornered” (1988).

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Works that further explore racial themes include her pencil drawing “Self-Portrait Exaggerating My Negroid Features” (1981); her collective performance and video “Funk Lessons” (1982-4); her unannounced “Calling Card” interactive performances (1986–1990); her mixed media installation “Close to Home” (1987); her video installation Cornered (1988); and Vanilla Nightmares (1986–1989), her series of racially and sexually transgressive charcoal drawings on pages of the New York Times. Her first retrospective in 1987 at the Alternative Museum in New York, reintroduced the art public and a new generation of viewers to the media, strategies and preoccupations of first-generation Conceptual art.

And yet Piper is also well-known for her principal philosophical publications in metaethics, Kant, and the history of ethics. Her scholarly two-volume study in Kantian metaethics, “Rationality and the Structure of the Self, Volume I: The Humean Conception” and “Rationality and the Structure of the Self, Volume II: A Kantian Conception”, was accepted for publication by Cambridge University Press in 2008. “Rationality and the Structure of the Self” was the culmination of 34 years of work.

A multi-faceted woman and creative genius, Adrian Piper founded the Adrian Piper Research Archive (APRA) in 2002, after being diagnosed with a chronic, progressive, and incurable medical condition. Although the condition had vanished within two years after she emigrated to Germany in 2005, she continued to develop APRA as a personal and public resource for students, scholars, curators, collectors, writers, and members of the general public who have a constructive curiosity or scholarly or professional interest in her work and life.

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It is amazing for that one who’s talents and knowledge have been so demonstrated, that physical features such as skin color could ever play a negative role in her life.

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De Staalmeesters – van Rembrandt


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reprise of the article “Black History: Black European nobility tucked away”

Black nobility in Europe? According to black Dutch researcher Egmond Codfried and author of the book “Belle van Zuylen’s forgotten grandmother” there was black nobility in Europe, but their history and images were later carefully hidden, edited out or painted over. His claims are controversial, and of course not accepted by European historians and the man in the street. Codfried has systematically studied hundreds of paintings of famous and less famous nobility. He regularly stumbled upon people who looked black or coloured, or although they were white, clearly had African facial features.

Maria Jacoba van Goor

Codfried writes: “This study of historical sources and literature on black and coloured historic persons was inspired by the chance finding of a portrait of Maria Jacoba van Goor. We get a view of the problems and of the methods to identify these Europeans. This beautiful painting was also a reason to cast an afrocentric view at Belle van Zuylens life and her works, the biographies en the origin of her financial fortune. Through her coloured grandmother, the Dutch Belle van Zuylen (1740-1805) also known as Madame de Charrière, joins the rank of writers as the Russian Alexander Pushkin, the French Alexander Dumas and Colette, the Britons Elizabeth Barrett and her husband Robert Browning. As well as the German classic composer Ludwig von Beethoven and Queen Charlotte of Britain. These are Europeans of great merit, who had black forefathers. Also we find that Belle was a friend of Pierre Alexander Du Peyrou (1729-1794), a brown coloured and wealthy Surinam plantation owner in Swiss. Belle is renowned as a close friend, benefactor and publisher of the most famous philosopher of the Enlightenment, Jean Jaques Rousseau.

Alexander Pushkin

Alexander Dumas

Jean Etienne Liotard


Also from writings of contemporaries to make that more black and colored people lived in Europe than they appear, writes Codfried. So was it written that someone “the milk of a black woman would have drunk” or “chocolate” would have eaten. Also, blacks by their surroundings as “the chimney sweeper” called. Or it was said that those “bad complexion” or had always “a burnt head”. Codfried: “Many portraits show pure white faces while it is established that the person sometimes black or chocolate brown was, as Constantijn Huygens, Charles II Stuart, Madame de Stael, Baron Aarnoud Joost van der Duyn and Pierre-Alexander Dupeyrou. Moreover it is known that the famous classical composer Ludwig van Beethoven was quite black and nicknamed “the black Spaniard” bore. Habsburg emperor Leopold I, Holy Roman Empire was Swinburne described as “a short, big black man.” His portraits show “the dancing emperor” as a black man with very thick lips and a forward lower half of the face. Duchess Charlotte Sophie of Mecklenburg Strelitz (1740-1818), queen of George III of England and grandmother of Queen Victoria, had, according to her physician a “true mulattengezicht” . In this case show the paintings by Sir Ramsay clearly a woman of color. ”

Maurits Huygens

sophie von mecklenburg

van Beethoven

Codfried’s research is important, pioneering work. And though his book is now and then a little messy reading, it is nevertheless quite convincing. Mainly because of the dozens of images. Concepts of racism occasionally creep in, with all the talk about lip thickness, nose width, eye color, color, curliness of hair, the distance between the nose and upper lip, the protrusion from the bottom of the face, and so on. This raises associations with the skull measuring the Nazi “scientists”. On the other hand the theory, if you proceed, is justified in that there are many more black and colored people living in the Netherlands and Europe than normally assumed. Codfried is fortunately very clear that he is only comparing the appearance of people, and that he does not believe in the existence of “races”. “Skin color and ethnicity are in some ways more artificial social constructs than biological realities, but like other social structures such as gender or nobility very decisive for the individual,” he writes.

reprised from “Black and colored nobility stashed away”
and the Afro-Europe International blog

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Some interesting info on egg-based drinks I’ve never heard of, such as “possett” in addition to the one I love, eggnog!

Why'd You Eat That?

You will all be happy to know that I survived the Christmas office party. But only barely.

I don’t wanna talk about it.

Anywho…

As I’m writing these posts, I’m seeing a trend:

I hate many of these traditional items.

But that’s probably because I’ve only ever tried the commercialized versions. For example, eggnog. I hate eggnog. I think it’s thick and goopy and disgustingly sweet. I’ve only tried the commercialized kind so perhaps that’s why.

Eggnog (or egg nog, whichever one you prefer) is a thick, rich holiday drink made from beaten eggs, spices, cream, sugar, and alcohol. Lots and lots of alcohol.

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re-posted from Dr. Taylor Marshall’s blog Canterbury Tales
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The Dark Night of the Soul

According to Saint Paul and Saint John of the Cross and the masters of Mystical Theology, such as John Tauler, the spiritual life consists in three ages:

Beginners (Purgative Way)
Proficients (Illuminative Way)
Perfect (Unitive Way)

Incidentally, by Perfect we mean not absolute perfection (like the saints in Heaven) but relative perfection. These three ages mirror natural human life: Childhood, Adolescence, Adulthood.

Just as these three stages are transitioned by a crisis, so also progress in the spiritual life is marked by crisis.

St. Jean de la Croix

Saint John of the Cross, the Doctor of the Church with regard to Mystical Theology, teaches that the transition from the Purgative to the Illuminative is occasioned by the “Dark Night of the Senses” and the transition from the Illuminative to the Unitive is occasioned by the Dark Night of the Spirit.

Beginners (Purgative Way) Dark Night – Senses
Proficients (Illuminative Way) Dark Night – Spirit
Perfect (Unitive Way)

The Dark Night of the Senses is the crisis in which God purposefully withdraws consolations of the senses. Warm fuzzies in prayer. Discursive pictorial visions in the imagination, physical comfort, lack of external distraction.

This is very difficult because the Christian begins to worry that he is regressing or has done something to lose God’s favor. Instead, God is preparing him to enter more deeply in the love of God. The soul learns to seek the God of consolation, but not merely the consolations of God. Perhaps this Dark Night of the Senses is one of the most misunderstood elements of daily Christian living.

Padre Pio with stigmata

The Dark Night of the Soul is a crushing desolation where the soul learns to love the cross of Christ. With a desire to be more like Christ and to share in His life, the perfect learn to love persecution, humiliations, disgrace, and other problems in life since they see in them a perfect conformity to God. Two well known modern examples are Saint Pio and Saint Therese.

We also see this is a state of perfection in the Apostles:

“And calling in the apostles, after they had scourged them, they charged them that they should not speak at all in the name of Jesus. And they dismissed them. And they indeed went from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were accounted worthy to suffer reproach for the name of Jesus.” (Acts 5:40–41, D-R)

Saints Peter and John rejoiced in their sufferings. This is not something naturally, but something utterly supernatural – it is a sign of the unitive way. The Apostles, we might say, went through the Dark Night of the Senses from Good Friday till Easter, [during which their Master Jesus was still with them in physical person, even though scourged and lying dead] and the Dark Night of the Spirit from the Ascension to Pentecost [after which Jesus physically left this earthly plane and only the Holy Spirit communicated through the disciples hearts and faith]. This, at least, is the position of Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange.

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I encourage anyone interested in learning more about these subjects, to check out the informative blog of Catholic author Dr. Taylor Marshall Canterbury Tales.

However, sometimes it’s easy to get lost in the dialectical polemics, and to lose sight of the original heart of the issue, which is that deep pit of despair, which is often one of the experiences of the human condition.

Tour guide Mara Vaughan in Luxor, Egypt has shared her discovery of Eckhart Tolle’s words on “The Dark Night of the Soul”. Let me repeat them:

Eckhart Tolle on the Dark Night of the Soul

Q: Have you ever experienced the dark night of the soul?

A: The “dark night of the soul” is a term that goes back a long time. Yes, I have also experienced it. It is a term used to describe what one could call a collapse of a perceived meaning in life…an eruption into your life of a deep sense of meaninglessness. The inner state in some cases is very close to what is conventionally called depression. Nothing makes sense anymore, there’s no purpose to anything. Sometimes it’s triggered by some external event, some disaster perhaps, on an external level. The death of someone close to you could trigger it, especially premature death, for example if your child dies. Or you had built up your life, and given it meaning – and the meaning that you had given your life, your activities, your achievements, where you are going, what is considered important, and the meaning that you had given your life for some reason collapses.

It can happen if something happens that you can’t explain away anymore, some disaster which seems to invalidate the meaning that your life had before. Really what has collapsed then is the whole conceptual framework for your life, the meaning that your mind had given it. So that results in a dark place. But people have gone into that, and then there is the possibility that you emerge out of that into a transformed state of consciousness. Life has meaning again, but it’s no longer a conceptual meaning that you can necessarily explain. Quite often it’s from there that people awaken out of their conceptual sense of reality, which has collapsed.

They awaken into something deeper, which is no longer based on concepts in your mind. A deeper sense of purpose or connectedness with a greater life that is not dependent on explanations or anything conceptual any longer. It’s a kind of re-birth. The dark night of the soul is a kind of death that you die. What dies is the egoic sense of self. Of course, death is always painful, but nothing real has actually died there – only an illusory identity. Now it is probably the case that some people who have gone through this transformation realized that they had to go through that, in order to bring about a spiritual awakening. Often it is part of the awakening process, the death of the old self and the birth of the true self.

Theology can be exciting, eh?! lol.

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excerpt from the YouTube post:

A LOVE STORY
In what was called, the belly of the beast, John of the
Cross
wisely more silent than the prophet Jonah,
dealt not with men but with God alone, waiting
patiently for a divine answer that would end the dark
night of his soul.

In the end; The Religion that would Police him could
not disturb the ecstasy of one who had been carried
so far into the light that he was no longer troubled at
the thought of being rejected even by those who
would hold themselves up to the world as being Holy!

No one can become a saint without solving the
problem of suffering. No one who has ever written
anything, outside the pages of Scripture, and no one
has given us such a solution to the problem as St.
John of the Cross.

In the end they consciously did everything they could
to remove St. John of the Cross from a position in
which he would be able to defend what he knew to be
true.

While sanctity alone is perhaps the living solution of
the problem of suffering. Still suffering continues to
be suffering; But it can cease to be an obstacle in our
life, and to our mission or our happiness, in which we
can find refuge positively and concretely in faith, hope
and love.

John of the Cross does not reveal when or how his
answer came, but when John of the Cross made his
miraculous escape during the octave of the
Assumption, in 1578, he carried in his pocket the
manuscript of a poem which critics have declared to
be far superior to any other in the Spanish language,
if not the world. The writings of John of the Cross
during his dark night of the soul.

In total darkness John of the Cross finds only light, in
cold only warmth, in desperation only Hope, in Hope
only Faith, in Faith only Love. Love being greatest of
all. Stronger than Fear. Stronger than Evil. Love – The
ultimate Protector. Love – The ultimate Motivator.
Love – The ultimate Weapon.

*****

John of The Cross

O Living flame of love
That, burning, dost assail
My inmost soul with tenderness untold,
Since thou dost freely move,
Deign to consume the veil
Which sunders this sweet converse that we hold …
And O, ye lamps of fire,
In whose resplendent light
The deepest caverns where the senses meet,
Erst steeped in darkness dire,
Blaze with new glories bright
And to the loved one give both light and heat!

*****
The Christ of St John of The Cross is the first of two extraordinary crucifixions painted by Dali in the early 1950s. In a cosmic dream the secret of Christ is revealed. This later confirmed by a drawing of the crucified Christ by St John of the Cross, the 16th-century Spanish mystic, in which Dali discovers a triangle (Trinity) nested inside of a circle (of life).

*****
Music – Loreena McKenitt
Title – The Dark Night of the Soul
Lyrics – Loreena McKennitt – John of the Cross
Art – Salvidor Dali – “The Christ of Saint John of the
Cross”
Video – Clover Studio

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Salvador Dali, “Christ of St. John of the Cross”, 1951

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The Christ of St John of The Cross is the first of two extraordinary crucifixions painted by Dali in the early 1950s.It depicts Jesus Christ on the cross in a darkened sky floating over a body of water complete with a boat and fishermen. Although a crucifixion, it is devoid of nails, blood, and a crown of thorns, because, according to Dalí, he was convinced by a dream that these features would mar his depiction of Christ. His depiction of the crucified Christ, is later confirmed when Dali discovers a drawing

St. John’s sketch

by St John of the Cross, a 16th-century Spanish mystic, of a triangle (Trinity) nested inside of a circle (of life). Dali’s composition is also based on a triangle and circle (the triangle is formed by Christ’s arms; the circle is formed by Christ’s head). The triangle, since it has three sides, can be seen as a reference to the Trinity. Dali explained, “In the first place, in 1950, I had a ‘cosmic dream’ in which I saw this image in colour and which in my dream represented the ‘nucleus of the atom.’ This nucleus later took on a metaphysical sense; I considered it ‘the very unity of the universe,’ the Christ!”

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St. John of the Cross

Of all of the human conditions, it is probably hardest to explain why God would allow suffering. Yet it is often suffering, and not enjoyment, which brings the soul away from the distractions of life, to focus on it’s relationship to God.

Born in Spain in 1542, St. John of the Cross learned the importance of self-sacrificing love from his parents. His father gave up wealth, status, and comfort when he married a weaver’s daughter and was disowned by his noble family. After his father died, his mother kept the destitute family together as they wandered homeless in search of work. These were the examples of sacrifice that John followed with his own great love — God.

When the family finally found work, John still went hungry in the middle of the wealthiest city in Spain. At fourteen, John took a job caring for hospital patients who suffered from incurable diseases and madness. It was out of this poverty and suffering, that John learned to search for beauty and happiness not in the world, but in God.

After John joined the Carmelite order, Saint Teresa of Avila asked him to help her reform movement. John supported her belief that the order should return to its life of prayer. But many Carmelites felt threatened by this reform, and some members of John’s own order kidnapped him. He was locked in a cell six feet by ten feet and beaten three times a week by the monks. There was only one tiny window high up near the ceiling. Yet in that unbearable dark, cold, and desolation, his love and faith were like fireand light. He had nothing left but God — and God brought John his greatest joys in that tiny cell.

After nine months, John escaped by unscrewing the lock on his door and creeping past the guard. Taking only the mystical poetry he had written in his cell, he climbed out a window using a rope made of strips of blankets. With no idea where he was, he followed a dog to civilization. He hid from pursuers in a convent infirmary where he read his poetry to the nuns. From then on his life was devoted to sharing and explaining his experience of God’s love.

His life of poverty and persecution could have produced a bitter cynic. Instead it gave birth to a compassionate mystic, who lived by the beliefs that “Who has ever seen people persuaded to love God by harshness?” and “Where there is no love, put love — and you will find love.” — excerpt

In fact, the importance of the cross in the life of the true Christian disciple became St. John’s maxim: “Do not seek Christ without the cross.” For St. John, innocent and voluntary suffering embraced in the way of the cross becomes an avenue to sublime intimacy with the Risen Lord. Therefore, suffering with the Savior is one key to the lofty heights of contemplation, which opens the door to the loving embrace of the Holy Spirit, transforming pain into unheard-of joy. While such a concept is quite foreign to contemporary society, it is entirely compatible with the Gospel. – excerpt

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