Sunday, July 5, 2020

Seoul, South Korea - Rome

July 5, 2020 Peace and Good, Well, I made it back to Italy. The trip was long, going from Korea to Doha, Qatar, and then from there to Rome. The first plane was almost empty, but the second was packed to the gills. There was absolutely no social distancing. We had to wear face masks and shields the whole way. I did not know if I would get into Italy because of Coronavirus restrictions. In Seoul, they had to call Italian immigration to make sure they would accept me. That took about an hour and a half to get an answer, and I was really starting to get nervous. Then the thumbs up came and I flew out. In Rome, there was absolutely no difficulty. I do have to make another two weeks of self-isolation, but that is in my own room in Santi Apostoli. Furthermore, I have a beautiful terraza outside my room, so I can do my daily walk there. It has gotten hot in Rome, much more so than in Korea. I will be here in Rome until the end of the month, and then head out again to California. All of my travel plans are tenuous, though, because of rules that change every other day. I have to admit that we Americans don't look that good around the world right now because of our poor response to Covid 19. Korea worked very hard at their infections, and they are down to 20 to 30 per day in the whole country. I have finished some reading: Madamn de Pompadour by Charles River Editors This is a short account of the famous mistress of King Louis XV of France. Although not glamorous nor of the nobility, she managed to become indispensable for the king for a long period of his life (even though he was also married). She used her power carefully, and also served as a procurer of younger and more beautiful women to amuse the king (without ever endangering her hold on his affections and attention). Loos 1915: the Unwanted Battle by George Carrigan This is one of the many pointless and hopelessly lethal battles of World War I. It has a lot of military detail, much more than the casual reader would be interested in considering. Yet, it is good as an example of how cheap life became when one’s goals were out of perspective during a time of crisis. The Fear Index by Robert Harris Robert Harris has become one of my favorite authors. He is the author of a trilogy upon Cicero, a novel about a Tony Blair like figure, of Alfred Dreyfus of the Dreyfus Affair. This novel is a bit different. A brilliant Artificial Intelligence scientist develops a plan to invest money in the stock market based on playing against the fears for some sort of turmoil that the market might be facing. Being an artificial intelligence, though, the machine begins to think and plan for itself. The book is very good. King Edward VI by Hourly History This is a short biography of the son of Henry VIII who took the throne after him. He died a very young man the throne passed to his half-sister Mary who tried to restore Catholicism to England, using considerable violence. The author is clearly prejudiced in his book, cheering every way that Edward worked to make England more Protestant. The Origin of the Wars of the Three Kingdoms by OpenLearn This is a short university course that speaks of the reign of Charles I and the origin of the wars that developed in Scotland, Ireland and England. Each of the rebellions had its own cause. Some of it was based on religion, while other aspects like Charles’ attitude toward his reign (believing in the divine right of kings) played a role, as did the party of Puritans who wanted to make England more clearly Protestant. Boudicca: Warrior Woman of Roman Britain by Caitlin Gillespie This was a warrior queen who rebelled against the power of Rome during the reign of Nero. She and her followers managed to burn three important Roman cities and they fought bravely against the legions of Rome. She died when she was defeated. Boudicca fought the Romans largely because her husband, the king, had left his inheritance to Nero in the hope that the Romans would protect and respect Boudicca and her daughters, but the Romans abused Boudicca and raped her daughters. Have a good and safe week. Shalom fr. Jude

Sunday, June 28, 2020

Seoul - Inchon - Busan - Ilgwang - Daegu - Seoul

June 29, 2020 The Feast of Ss Peter and Paul Peace and Good, I have entered into my last week in Korea. I will leave for Rome very early on Friday morning. As you can see, I have been travelling around the nation visiting the friars. When I took the train with another friar, there were no problems. The only thing is that one is supposed to wear a mask whenever one is in public. The friars have been most hospitable. Theoretically, after I write my report, I am supposed to travel back here to give the report at their chapter in October. I doubt that is going to happen given the requirements for quarantine. I will probably have to give it over Zoom. The weather is warming up. Korea can be very hot and humid in the summer. This week also begins the rainy season. I have finished some reading: Delphi Complete Works of Giotto This is the first of the Delphi collections that I have read. This is a series of books on various authors. It covers their major works, and also reprints major works by art critics on this particular artist. Giotto is famous for passing from the Byzantine style of art to a more modern form with different coloring, more life in the characters, and background rather than static formulas as in Byzantine icons. His work is especially evident in Padua (the Scrovegni Chapel), Assisi (St. Francis Basilica) and Florence. The Apache and Comanche by Charles River Editors This short book deals with these two famous and ferocious tribes from the American Southwest (especially in the area of Texas and New Mexico). It gives the history and major characteristics of the tribes as well as their eventual defeat by American or Mexican (or both) invaders. Incredible Victory: The Battle of Midway by Walter Lord Walter Lord has written many good books on individual topics, such as the sinking of the Titanic (A Night to Remember). This book covers the miraculous victory of American aerial forces against a Japanese invasion of the island of Midway. Much of the victory was due to the fact that the Americans had broken the codes of the Japanese, but much of it was incredible luck for most of the waves of American bombers were shot down without doing any damage. Only a few of the last planes got through, and ultimately the Americans destroyed four Japanese aircraft carriers for the loss of one American one. Dunmore’s War: The Last Conflict of America’s Colonial Era by Glenn F Williams Governor Dunmore was the head of the colonial government of Virginia, and this is the story of how a series of Indian raids (which were often caused by settler encroachment upon their territory) led to an Indian war just before the War of Independence. In fact, news of Lexington and Concord reached the colonial troops during their battles. The book tries to give a balanced view of the events, but it does lean at times to an apologia of the Virginia forces. Patrick Kingsley by Audible Interviews This is an interview with a reporter who has written a book on the refugee crisis in Europe (The New Odyssey). He tries to understand the state of the problem from every viewpoint without being too judgmental. He tells the stories of various refugees whom he has met. Ann Morgan by Audible Interviews This is the author of a book about twins who decide to take each other’s place (Beside Myself), but one of them ends up suffering from mental illness. She hears voices in her head, and has manic and depressive moments in her life. As always, there is a difficult dynamic with members of her own family in dealing with this problem, especially “mother.” Revolutionary Summer by Joseph J. Ellis Joseph J. Ellis is a good author of topics concerning the Revolutionary era of American history, and this book is a good example of that. It deals with the aftermath of the colonial victory at Boston and their defeat in the New York City area. It is honest about the missteps of both the British and American leadership. It is a good read. Have a good and safe week. Shalom fr. Jude

Sunday, June 21, 2020

Inchon - Seoul - Gangwa - Yahgpyeong -- South Korea

June 22, 2020 Peace and Good, I am out of quarantine and doing my visitation of the Korean province. There are about 65 friars, spread out in 8 friaries in Korea and one in the States. They are involved in many different apostolates (parish, care for handicapped children, care for the elderly, retreat house, etc.) Visiting the province is a bit of a challenge, because I must always remember not to apply my US or Roman way of judging. It is a very different culture. I will be in Korea until July 3rd when I head back to Rome. I don't know yet whether I will have a quarantine when I arrive there or not. The weather here is getting very hot. It is also quite humid here in Seoul for it runs along the Han River. The food is very good but you have to like it spicy because it always is. I finished some reading: 1861 Civil War Beginnings by Nick Vulich This is one of the worst books I have read in a long while. Vulich portrays himself as a new type of historian, but some of his writing borders on childish. This is the last book I will read by this author. Ernest Hemingway by Charles River Editors This is easily one of the best biographies that I have read from Charles River Editors. The life and works of Hemingway are treated honestly, showing the talent and the personal shortfalls of Hemingway. The author delves into some of Hemingway’s personal history to explain some of his plots and his self-destructive tendencies. I strongly recommend this particular treatment. Abraham: A Journey to the Heart of Three Faiths by Bruce Feiler I read this book as part of a research for a talk I am giving in Romania in a short while. The author is a Jewish man who studies the story of Abraham and its treatment by Jewish, Christian and Islamic commentators. He sees this common figure in these three religions as a possible starting point in dialog. His treatment of the story is at times creative, and is always well studied and from the heart. Inheriting Abraham by John D. Levenson This is a book which I read as part of a research for a talk that I am giving in Romania. It speaks about Abraham from the perspective of Jewish, Christian and Islamic sources. Part of the premise of the book is that Abraham is not a figure to base an inter-religious dialog upon. He argues that the positions taken by authors of each of these religions has made that type of exercise futile and irrelevant. Many of his arguments are well taken, but some of them are made by taking the most extreme of possible interpreters and then positing that position as exemplary of the entire school of interpretation. Elizabeth and Essex: a Tragic History by Lytton Strachey Essex was a noble in the court of Queen Elizabeth during her last years. This book deals with the queen who could be both capricious and maddingly unable to make a decision, and Essex who was impetuous and sought glory at any cost. Although she madly loved him, she also did things that acted as a red flag in front of this vain and at times foolish man, until he finally chose to rebel against her and she executed him. Two Americans: Truman, Eisenhower and a Dangerous World by William Lee Miller This is a comparison on these two important American figures. The author speaks of how contemporaries judged them (with Eisenhower more popular at the time) and how historians not judge them (with Truman seen as the better president). He deals with how they dealt with the Korean War, the McCarthy Red Scare, the Atomic Bomb, Civil Rights, etc. In all, Miller holds in favor of Truman, even if he is able to recognize his shortfalls. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Saturday, June 13, 2020

Inchon, South Korea

June 14, 2020 Peace and Good, I am still in quarantine in a hotel near the airport in Seoul, South Korea, but the end is in sight. I will be released on Wednesday morning, and yesterday they sent around a form to ask about my transportation needs. The food has been very good (brought to the room three times a day). The room is nice, although taking my 40 minute walk each day is a challenge. I have had a good amount of time for writing and have finished half of another book ( a children's Bible aimed at 5th and 6th graders). Once I am out of the hotel, I will be doing my visitation of the province. It is about 65 friars, and they have 8 or 9 friaries. I have already visited their friary in California, in Torrence, where they have a chapel to serve the needs of the Korean Catholic population in that region. The weather is nice, and summer is slowly arriving. I have finished some reading: The Rise and the Fall of the British Empire by Patrick Alitt This is a 36 lecture course on the growth and the demise of the British Empire. The professor, while British, is remarkable honest about the positive and negative dimensions of the empire’s treatment of its colonies. He is also entertaining, with a dry sense of humor that makes listening to the courses a joy. The Wonder of Birds by Jim Robbins This is an interesting account of what we can learn from birds, how we can celebrate them, and what we don’t know about them (e.g. how they navigate during migration – is it possible that they are conscious of magnetic or quantum forces that we cannot perceive). It also deals with the value of caring for birds both ecologically and for troubled people who are consoled by the beauty and majesty of birds in flight. World War II in the Arctic by Charles River Editor This is an account of the two wars fought in the Arctic during World War II: the Nazi and Finnish invasion of the far north of the Soviet Union, and the Japanese invasion of the two Aleutian islands of Attu and Kisha. It gives information of how the battles were fought, what the stakes were, and how both invasions ultimately failed. John Connolly by Audible Interviews This author speaks about his book on Stan Laurel from Laurel and Hardy fame. Laurel had been married five times with numerable affairs. His book is historical fiction. This is a bit of a change from his usual topic which is the Charlie Parker detective novels. What is Europe by OpenLearn This essay deals with the question of the identity of Europe and the Europeans. Is it to be a geographic definition, or a cultural one? How tightly united should Europe be, especially in the European Union? Should periferal areas be allowed into the definition, like Turkey or Georgia? The essay does not have many final solutions, but it does speak of unity in diversity as the best policy. Joan of Arc by Helen Castor This is the first book I have read by Castor, but it won’t be the last. The book is a brilliant presentation of the history of the times (the hundred years war). It presents a portrait of John of Arc in as much as we know about her. It is not saccharine or over negative, finding the proper balance in the presentation. It includes account of her two trials (the one the condemned her and a later, posthumous one that overturned that verdict) as well as her canonization. This book is highly recommended for anyone interested in the topic. Living in a Globalized World by OpenLearn This is a short course on how the globalized economy developed. The professor gives a good outline of the historic process and the pluses and negatives involved in the process. For a very short presentation, I feel as if I learned a lot. Aaron Burr by Captivating History This is a short account of this man, one of the Founding Fathers and the third vice-president of the country, who was always known for his blind ambition and very loose sexual morals. He is the one who killed Alexander Hamilton in a duel, and also planned a treasonous act of conquering the western parts of the US and parts of Mexico to set up his own country. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Monday, June 8, 2020

Ellicott City - Seoul, South Korea

June 9, 2020 Peace and Good, Well, I finally left Ellicott City. The friars there treated me wonderfully, but given the peripatetic life style that I have lived in these years, I found it strange to be in the same spot for so long. On the other hand, it was great not to be suffering from jet lag which is often the case with me. I flew to South Korea via Atlanta. It was a long, long flight, especially because there was a screaming young child behind me for almost 15 hours. When I arrived in Korea, I wanted to self-quarantine in our friary where the friars had set aside an isolated room. But the authorities told me that since they were not officially relatives, I would have to stay at the government center. This is actually a hotel that the government is using for quarantine. It is very comfortable, and the only problem with the food is that there is too much. The food is brought to your door three times a day. You open the door, take the food, and close it again. That is the only time you are even close to leaving the room. I will be here until the 17th. It is really not bad at all, and I am getting some work done on my next book, a children's bible for the fifth and sixth grade level. The weather is nice, warming up. Seoul can get very hot and humid during the summer, but it has not yet hit. When I finish the isolation, I will visit the friars in this province to prepare a report for their provincial chapter (this November). I have finished some reading: Misery by Stephen King I had seen the movie with Cathy Bates and James Caan. That was scary. The book is every more so. There are some events that the film could not possibly have recorded which appear in the book. King in an incredible author in painting a scene of absolute terror. I highly recommend this book (and all of his books, which I especially like for the richness of the language used). Gene Miller by Charles River Editors This is a pleasant, short history of the band leader from the 30’s and 40’s. The book speaks about his rise in the music world, his collaboration with other band greats, his success, and his untimely death in December of 1944 in a plane crash over the English Channel when he was serving his country by organizing entertainment for the troops. The Flavian Dynasty by Charles River Editors This is a short history of the dynasty that succeeded Nero (and his immediate, short-lived successors) to take over the Roman Empire. They included Vespasian and his sons Titus and Domitian. The first two are ranked as quite good emperors (especially after the madness of Nero), but the last, Domitian (who may or may not have poisoned his brother, Titus) turned out to be paranoid and murderous. Volcanic Hazards by OpenLearn This is a short university course from OpenLearn (which are free on kindle) concerning the various ways that volcanoes are dangerous with a definition of terms. This particular course is not all that profound in its treatment of the topic. David Baldacci by Audio Interviews This is an interview of the author concerning his new series which revolves around an FBI agent named Atlee Pine. She runs an independent office in the countryside in the West (which involves two Native American Reservations). Exploring a Romano-African City: Thugga by OpenLearn This is a short university course with audio-visual supplements on a particular ancient city in Africa near the border with Mauritania. It shows elements of Roman culture from the time it was incorporated into the empire, but these elements grew as time went by. It is interesting to see at first the imposition of Roman culture and then gradually the tendency of the local population to embrace it (although always retaining certain of their own cultural elements). Stay healthy. Shalom fr. Jude

Sunday, May 31, 2020

Ellicott City, MD

May 31, 2020 Peace and Good, I hope all is going well with you, and that you have been healthy. I have been in Ellicott City for the past few months. The friars here have been great, and made me feel very much at home. Tomorrow it is time to get on the road again. I will be travelling to South Korea for a month. The first two weeks I will be in quarantine in one of our friaries in Gangwa, not too far from the airport. There quarantine is interpreted not only as staying in one place, but actually being isolated in one room. Then I will be doing a visitation of the province as they prepare for their chapter this coming fall. On July 3rd I will head to Italy. I don't know at this time what the rules will be when I arrive there. I might have another two weeks of isolation. I have asked my publisher to give me a project to work on those days. I have already finished one book, a meditation book on Franciscan Spirituality. The new project will be to write another children's Bible, this one for fifth and sixth graders. I have finished some reading: Cemetery Dance by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child This is one of many books I have read by these authors. This one deals with zombies and a voodoo church located at the outskirts of New York City. Inspector Pendergast investigates the murder of one of his friends, which leads to more murders and a kidnapping. The action is well done, and the dialog is brilliant. I sometimes just enjoy hearing some of the vocabulary the authors have chosen. I would recommend any of the books of this series to anyone interested. The Devil’s Punchbowl by Greg Iles This is a story told in Natchez by the great novelist of that part of the south. It is about a gambling boat which is run by Chinese interest by some most unsavory characters. The narrator is the mayor of the city who tries to find out what is going on and stop it, in the meantime protecting his family and friends. The book is very well written. It can be a bit graphic in terms of the violence, so I would not recommend it for everyone. But it made me want to read more of Iles’ novels. Garibaldi and the making of Italy by George MacCaulay Trevelyan This is the story of the revolutionary leader of the forces of Sicily and southern Italy which helped to unite the country in the 1860’s. Garibaldi is presented more favorably in this account. Since this book is written by a British protestant, the view of the Catholic Church is almost universally negative. While the Church was reactionary in certain decisions, the author is non-stopping in his criticism. Overall, the book is interesting, told from a British point of view. Interestingly enough, President Lincoln offered to make Garibaldi the leader of the Union troops during the Civil War. Dunsmore’s War: The Last Conflict of America’s Colonial Era by Glenn Williams Just before the Revolutionary War, there was a series of attacks on settlers to the south of the Ohio River in what today is Kentucky and the western parts of Virginia. The native Americans of certain tribes went to war against settlers whom they believed were encroaching on their hunting grounds. There had been a treaty ceding those lands, but it had been signed only by some of the native groups. Governor Dunsmore organized a punishing expedition against the tribes with whom there were difficulties. It was not a war of conquest as such, for the borders remained the same after the war as before. But there were atrocities on both sides in this brutal episode. Ironically, the militias that went to war served as the core of the very troops that chased Dunsmore out of the colony when it declared its independence. Investigating American Presidents by Paul Rosenzweig This is a series of lectures from the Teaching Company dealing with the history and application of the idea of investigating the actions of a president. It is a most timely topic, and gives much information on such topics as impeachment, investigations, presidential privilege, pardons, etc. The author is a constitutional lawyer, and his treatment of the topic is fair and very, very informative. The Battle of the Atlantic by Hourly History This is a sort overview of the Battle of the Atlantic (submarine and surface vessel warfare) during World War II. The information is good, but the treatment seemed a bit cavalier to me. Take care and keep well. Shalom fr. Jude

Saturday, May 9, 2020

Ellicott City, Maryland

May 9, 2020 Peace and Good, I am still in Ellicott City awaiting permission to travel. I spoke with the Minister General this week, and I am planning to fly to Korea on June 1st. The schedule of this visit is arranged in such a way that even if I must spend two weeks in quarantine, I will still have enough time for the visit. Then I will be heading back to Italy, the first time that I will have been there in a long, long time. I have been working on a minute meditation book for Catholic Book Company. I have most of the text done, and will be editing it on Monday is all goes well. One of the things that I have found in these weeks in Audible which is a division of Amazon. Not only can you buy their books on audio, you can also acquire a good number of books and articles for free (e.g. articles from Foreign Affairs). There is plenty of space in this property to take long walks, which I really appreciate. I have finished some reading: The United States Camel Corps by Charles River Editors This is one of those short books put out by Charles River Editors to deal with a well-defined topic. In this case, the topic is the use of camels that was explored just before the Civil War. A good number of camels were brought over to the States, but the use of camels (for transport of goods, of soldiers, etc.) never really caught on here, and the advent of the Civil War sapped any energy for this type of experiment. Collapse by Jared Diamond This is a masterful treatment of the collapse of various societies throughout the ages. Diamond accumulates a wealth of information about particular societies, e.g. Easter Island, the Viking population of Greenland, Australia, etc. and speaks of how the group either degraded their environment or managed to deal with it in a way that allowed for the culture’s continuity. He then speaks of the modern era and lessons to learn from what we are doing today. I strongly recommend this book for anyone interested in anthropology, or environmental science, or sociology. It is so rich that it covers all of these areas well. Traitor to His Class by H. W. Brand This was a short biography of Franklin Roosevelt. I thought it would deal more with his relations with members of his social class, but in spirt of the title, it dealt mostly with what he did and how he decided to do it. While I consider Roosevelt to be a great president, I do not always like his character and his gamesmanship with those who sought to do his will. The Story Luke Tells: Luke’s Unique Witness to the Gospel by Justo Gonzalez I enjoyed this short overview of the Gospel of Luke. The author deals with the most important topics. Only occasionally does he allow his own interpretative background color his evaluation of the message of the text. It found this book useful as a meditation on what I mostly already knew, but which was useful to review. Nixon and Mao: the Week that Changed the World by Margaret Macmillan This book deals with the journey of Nixon (and Kissinger) to China during the closing years of Mao and the Cultural Revolution. Nixon had been known as a staunch anti-Communist, so he was a most unlikely character to open up relations between the two countries, but it was his very conservatism that allowed him to do it (since it quieted many of those who would have been opposed if he had been more liberal). This book brings out the duplicitousness of Kissinger and his incredible need for power (all but side-lining George Rogers, the Secretary of State). It also brings out the good and the bad of these initial negotiations (especially how they caught some of our most important allies by surprise). This is a very good account of that era. The Republic of Genoa by Charles River Editors The city of Genoa, a port city on the northwest coast of Italy, was a major force during the Middle Ages (and in fact was a major rival to Venice for many years). While not exactly the most beautiful city in Italy, the author of this book nevertheless speaks of it being a city worth the effort of visiting and exploring. The Marquis de Lafayette by Charles River Editors This is a short biography of the Marquis de Lafayette. He arrived in this country to fight for our independence as a very young man. At first discounted, he eventually proved himself a good soldier as well as a constant friend of the cause of the American Revolution (intervening with the king of France to help our cause). After our revolution, he lived through the confusing time of the French Revolution (with which he sympathized at the beginning) and Napoleon. I am praying for all of you. Shalom fr. Jude