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It’s still a week until April Fool’s Day, but I’m nonetheless hoping that this is all some kind of terrible hoax:

LONDON – Princess Diana’s former home, Kensington Palace, will be rebranded “The Enchanted Palace” Friday to lure tourists from other popular London sights, like Madame Tussauds waxworks and the Tower of London, where the Crown Jewels are displayed (behind very thick glass).

In this interactive age, it’s not enough for a stately palace to offer royal art, staid banquet rooms, and roped-off thrones, so curators have opted for fashion, performance art, and a bit of Alice in Wonderland fantasy. The exhibit, meant to draw viewers into the lives of past palace residents, uses intense lighting, actors and musicians to set the mood. One man even coaxes sound from a saw with a violin bow.

The tone is set by the Room of Royal Sorrows. No, it’s not about Diana and her fractured fairytale marriage to Prince Charles; it’s a dramatization of the emotional torment of Queen Mary II as she tried in vain a produce an heir. It is set in her bedchamber, giving the display an unsettling authenticity. On the bed is a figure of the queen, dressed in blue, face hidden.

“The first time you walk into the room, it has an aura of sadness, but also incredible beauty,” said designer Marcus Wilmont, part of the team that decorated the room and came up with the outfit worn by the mannequin representing Queen Mary. “She tried really hard, but she had many miscarriages. She was a very loved queen, and we wanted to try to capture her spirit.”

The somber tone is set by dozens of antique glass bottles known as “tear catchers.” In times of mourning, tears were put in the bottles “to catch the sorrow” even though they would soon evaporate, Wilmont said

Visitors are given a chance to leave a handwritten note stating the last time they cried.

Not every display is laced with tragedy. One of Diana’s elegant ball gowns is on display, and Vivienne Westwood, one of Britain’s most revered designers, came up with a fanciful — and fantastic — dress designed to be worn by a rebellious princess.

The room where British kings met with advisers, foreign diplomats and occasionally the public has also been redone, with a colorful new throne that visitors are encouraged to try out. A Room of Enlightenment features a bust of Isaac Newton topped by a Stephen Jones hat that includes a mock red apple, covered with rhinestones, to commemorate Newton’s moment of illumination.

The exhibit also includes The Room of Royal Secrets and the Rooms of Lost Childhood, all to evoke the bittersweet nature of real royal life as lived, not imagined. Many royals are portrayed as lonely and isolated despite the magnificent sweeping views of Kensington Gardens and the multimillion dollar art collection that lines the interior palace walls.

“We really wanted to try something completely different that gave us a way to take a fresh look at the palace’s history and the lives of the people who lived here,” said Alexandra Kim, one of the curators of the two-year show. “We want people to connect with the emotions.”

In other words, the House of Windsor, already subjected to the tragedy of getting itself mixed up with that train-wreck of a Spencer woman (Kensington isn’t even “her” home, dammit), is now to be subjected to the farce of Disneyfication.

I begin to think that maybe the Jacobites were right and God really did abandon the monarchy when the Stuarts were pitched out, although He took His time about it.

Erm…..From the Department of Dubious Ideas, Silly Stunts Division comes 3-D Catholic TV:

BOSTON (AP) — Avatars and Mad Hatters are already performing before American audiences in 3-D, and Shrek is coming soon. Now, a national Catholic television network is throwing priests into the mix.

CatholicTV debuted 3-D programs Tuesday in an effort to reach younger people and to make the faith message more vivid. The network posted several 3-D shows on the Internet, released its monthly magazine in 3-D – complete with glasses – and said it will eventually broadcast some programs in 3-D.

CatholicTV’s director, the Rev. Robert Reed, said he’d been planning to introduce 3-D well before the success of James Cameron’s movie “Avatar” or the 3-D “Alice in Wonderland.”

“It’s a way for us to show that we believe the message we have is relevant, and we’re going to use every possible avenue to bring that message to people,” said Reed, whose network reaches 5 million to 6 million homes nationwide through various cable providers.

Stephen Prothero, a religion professor at Boston University, applauded CatholicTV for taking a risk with technology to attract a broader, younger audience. Evangelical Christians are typically far more adept at that outreach, he said.

But if the 3-D shows aren’t compelling, he said, it could backfire by reinforcing the notion that the Catholic Church is out of touch.

“In some ways, it’s better to look like retro 2-D than bad 3-D,” he said. “Hip is a moving target. James Cameron is up more on that than Pope Benedict.”

CatholicTV, based in Watertown, Mass., is jumping into 3-D in a year when an unprecedented 19 3-D movies are scheduled for release, including the latest Shrek sequel. This month, 3-D went small screen when Samsung and Panasonic began selling their first 3-D television sets for about $3,000 each.

“It’s just a hot technology,” Reed said. “So I don’t see any reason why we shouldn’t use it for the purpose of connecting with younger people.”

I tend to agree with Prof. Prothero.  Far better for the Church to concentrate on bolstering orthodoxy than to squander its energy on fly-by-night trends trying to be more “relevant”.  (See Dance, Liturgical.  See, also, Episcopal Church, Decline and Fall Thereof.)   And as for the hip, new technology angle, I’ve got a baaaaaad feeling that the results will bear a very close resemblance to SCTV’s Dr. Tongue:

“Would you like some more…..Body and Blood??!!”

Really scary, huh, kids?

Staring out the kitchen window this morning, I noticed the forsythiae blooming in the garden.  As has been the case for the past six or seven years at least, rather than the big blaze of color one hopes for, they have come out again in rayther half-hearted, anemic handfuls of yellow flowers.

My fellow port-swillers, I tell you truly that I am sick and tired of this hedge.  I know all about how forsythia blooms on new wood.  I have tried hogging it back in mid-spring, I have tried leaving it alone.  I have tried feeding it and I have tried not feeding it.  It’s not that the plants themselves aren’t healthy – they regularly grow to twelve feet and leaf out very thickly.   It’s just that come spring they just don’t seem to feel like putting any effort into flowering.

Bloody welfare cheats.

Pondering this lack of enthusiasm, I resolved that I am going to take sterner measures this year.  Usually, I’ve cut them back to a height of about four feet or so after they’ve finished blooming.  Evidently, this is not enough, so this time around I’m going to raze them right down to within a foot or two of their lazy-behinded root systems.

See if I don’t.

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