The Thinking 
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The Comtesse D’Haussonville

December 18, 2011



SEVERAL READERS expressed interest in Ingres’s famous 1845 painting of the Comtesse d’Haussonville, which I posted recently without comment. Though the image here does not do justice to the arresting colors and lifelike gaze, it’s still worth a second look. (Click on the image for a larger version.) The Comtesse’s marble white skin is so lovely in this ravishing blue gown against the blue mantel. Her unusual pose was perhaps inspired by classical statues of the muses. Her blue eyes, with unusually large pupils, suggest a penetrating inquisitiveness and detachment. She wears the most restrained of smiles and is not intent on proving  bouyant happiness. On the mantle, in between the classical vases, there are a small pile of visiting cards and pots of pink and salmon-colored chrysanthemums, suggesting feminine busyness. Everything is exquisitely refined and yet she lends it an inviting warmth and unpretentiousness. Read More »


And He Had a British Accent Too!

December 18, 2011


[NOTE: See a reader’s correction below. Hitchens did not have a “British” accent. There is no such thing.]

IN AN entry at VFR, a reader quotes this anonymous online comment about Christopher Hitchens and the tendency of Americans to fall head over heels for glib British intellectuals:

He and Arianna H[uffington] were/are masters of that Oxbridge debating team thing that Americans lap up, remarkably fluid and fluent in their ability to think on their feet or seat. One need only think of the average presidential candidate’s stumbling utterances expressing ugly ideological claptrap to understand why these British-trained contrarians and freethinkers have been embraced as civilized truth tellers. But the downside of such verbal pyrotechnics is glibness and inchoate thinking. Pontificating that fast one doesn’t really know where one’s going and is then obliged to defend one’s half-baked conclusions with ferocious wit as if they were actually well-considered. Hitchens always reminded me of a rich, Public School bully, like the young Steerforth of David Copperfield (before his comeuppance), or, especially, Flashman, the ghastly cad you-love-to hate of Tom Brown’s Schooldays and GM Fraser’s further adventures of the boastful, beastly braggart. I’ll miss him making sport but the world has not lost a great intellectual and humanitarian. 

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More Domestic Wizardry

December 18, 2011


SARAH writes:

After reading Sarah Nelson’s contribution to your site, I would like to make a contribution of my own. We are a family of three (becoming four next year!) and live on a single wage. We have also had foster children in the past.

We rent a small, 60-year-old home and have found our expenses to be incredibly minimal. In fact, we had $5,000 in cash left over this December, just from cinching the belt just a little more. We have never been bankrupt, do not have any loans or debts. We have never missed a payment on a bill. Most families we know struggle on two high paying wages and are always in incredible debt.

Here are a few suggestions. Read More »

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