Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Geneva - Ellicott City

May 4, 2016 Peace and Good, I spent the beginning of last week at a meeting of the Board of Directors in Geneva. When we first arrived the Thursday before, the weather was quite nice. Then a cold front came down from the north and it was rainy and cold the rest of our stay. Franciscans International is an NGO for the Franciscans at the UN. They bring human rights issues to the floor, especially in the four year evaluation of human rights issues for each nation. On Tuesday I flew into Baltimore. We had a series of meeting here over this past weekend. Also, on Thursday I went to the dentist and found out that I needed two root canals. I had that taken care of yesterday. I was in the chair for about four and a half hours, but the dentist and the staff were great at making sure that it was as painless and comfortable as possible. Today I head down to Norfolk to baptize my grant nephew tomorrow. It will be good to see the family. Then Saturday I fly out to Rome for another definitory. We had a couple of friars from Rome here for the meetings over the past few days. Both of them are from the Gdansk province in northern Poland. One of them is the vicar of the Order, while the other works in the office of the treasurer. I finished some books: The Darkest Summer: Pusan and Inchon 1950 by Bill Sloan This is the story of the invasion of South Korea by the North Koreans. It presents the desparate struggle to maintain a toehold around the southern city of Pusan lest all of the allied forces be pushed out of Korea. Then there is the landing at Inchon near Seoul, one of the most brilliant invasion moves organized by Douglas MacArthur. The book also covers a bit of the later period when MacArthur defied civilian authorities and was fired by President Truman. This is a military history which depends on the exploits of many of the individual soldiers who fought there. It is a very good example of this type of book. The Victors by Stephen Ambrose This is the story of the GI’s who fought in Europe under the command of Eisenhower. Ambrose is usually a very good author, but I got the impression in this book that he had taken odds and end of research he had done over the years and pasted them together. He has a lot of information on D Day and the Battle of the Bulge, but then he passes over enormous amounts of time and material and all but ignores it. Yet, what he had was good and worth reading. It just is not a complete treatment of the topic. The Devil’s Alliance: Hitler’s Pact with Stalin, 1939-1941 by Roger Moorhouse This is the account of the Ribbentrop Mollatov Pact which on the surface was a non-aggression treaty between Hitler’s Germany and Stalin’s Soviet Union, but the secret addendum also included how the two intended to divide up Eastern Europe, and especially Poland, between these two nations. We see the rationale for each of the parties in joining the treaty, and we see how successful it was and wasn’t. It brought on incredible suffering for millions who were persecuted for race or religion or nationality or previous activities. The author goes into the financial aspects of the treaty. It is a really well written book, and anyone who is interested in this particular era in history would do well to read it. China Road by Rob Gifford This is the story of a journalist who is leaving China after having been assigned there for a number of years. He goes off on a journey on route 312 which goes from Shanghai to the border with Kazkachistan. A good part of the route, from Zian to the border, is what was considered the old Silk Route. Along the way, he speaks with normal Chinese and minorities. The discussions and the conclusions are fascinating. He speaks of a society that has lost its moral foundation (having discarded Confusionism and now having effectively ignore Communism). Everyone does what they want, which can create a lot of difficulties. He speaks about the past, present and future of this immense power. It is a better book to get a pulse of the nation than many academic studies. Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie I believe that this is the first detective novel that Agatha Christie published. The hero is Hercule Poirot the Belgian detective, who is able to sort through all the clues in the poisoning death of an elderly rich woman. The problem in this case are that there are too many clues, and too many that point to the chief suspect. Poirot’s British friend helps him as much as he can in the process, but he finds himself befuddled and a bit resentful that he cannot follow the logic of Poirot in determining who the killer is. It is an enjoyable book, a good book upon which one could launch a career. I hope you have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude


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