Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Rome

August 13, 2019 Peace and Good, We have begun our regular definitory meetings here in Rome. We met yesterday, and will meet again today and tomorrow. Then a number of the definitors have to be off on the road again. I will be staying here in Rome until the end of the month. Then, a long series of trips will begin. It has been hot, hot, hot here in Rome. August has to be the worst month of the year to visit Rome, but the city is packed with tourists. I went to lunch with a couple of friars on Saturday, by foot, and I thought I would get heat stroke. For the first time in my life, I bought a Panama hat. I usually don't wear any type of hat. The government is chaotic, and it seems as if it is ready to fall. The push is from Salviati, a minister from the right who is against immigration. I can really understand a bit of it for the country is much more populated than our own, and there are many, many migrants coming in from all over. But the speeches of the right sound a bit too fascist for my taste. I have finished some reading: All the Shah’s Men by Stephen Kinzer This is the story of how the British and American governments conspired to overthrow the legitimately elected Prime Minister of Iran during the 1950’s. He was accused of being a friend of the Communists. His real crime was that he was a nationalist who took over the oil production in the country previously owned by the British. It is true that some of the reaction was due to a panic lest the Soviet Union get a foothold in this terribly important petroleum rich country. The book leaves one feeling ashamed for what we sometimes did to other peoples for our own purposes. The People from Here: the History and Legacy of the Washoe by Charles River Editors This is a short history of the Washaw people in the Northwestern part of the country. Unlike most other tribes, they were never that organized. Part of this was their choice, and it was partly due to the depredations of other tribes which had adopted horse warfare (for the Washaw never really used the horse). They were a simple, peace-loving people. The latter part of the book deals with their difficulties in being recognized as an authentic tribe by our government. Liar Temptress Soldier Spy: Four Women Undercover in the Civil War by Karen Abbott This is an amalgam of stories about certain women who worked as spies during the Civil War, two Confederates and two Union. The two Confederates acted as spies against the union forces, crossing the no man land between the two armies to present their information to the Confederate army. One of the union spies was a woman who dressed like a man to serve in the army. The other was a spy in Richmond who obtained information through a slave she sent to work in the house of Jefferson Davies, and she also shielded union soldiers who has escaped from prison. Niels Bohr: the Life and Legacy of the Influential Atomic Scientist by Charles River Editors This is a short biography of the famous nuclear scientist from Denmark who was part of the team that developed the idea of the atom that we now use and who worked for the production of the atom bomb. He later fought the use of the bomb. The story is not spectacular, but it is interesting. Bloodwork by Michael Connelly This is a detective story of an FBI agent who retired for health reasons. He needs a heart transplant which he received. The sister of the heart donor asks him to investigate the murder of her sister. As he does this, he discovers a series of murders of people having the same blood type, which happens to be his as well. This brings on the accusation that he himself had killed the sister to obtain her heart. The story has a number of interesting twists and turns. Pacific by Simon Winchester This is almost an anthology of unconnected stories and issues concerning areas in and around the Pacific Ocean. Winchester is a very good author, and he presents an abundance of information. The topics treated include the situation in North Korea, the loss of the coral reefs, the situation in Australia, a Hawaiian attempt to reproduce a voyage made in a traditional method of the Polynesians, etc. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Friday, August 2, 2019

Ellicott City, MD - Rome

August 3, 2019 Peace and Good, I have returned from my vacation in the States. The trip was as good as can be expected, although the departure from Baltimore was almost two hours late. (Thanksfully, I had a long layover in London, so I did not miss my connection. I have learned that the layover in London is better for summer travel which often gets delayed.) The weather here is hot and surprisingly there was quite a bit of rain yesterday. It is rare to have rain in August here since we have the classical Mediterranean climate. The next few days are dedicated to recovery after my usual jet lag. Then on the 12th we begin a definitory. August in Rome is usually quite slow since many of the locals clear out of town because of the heat. They either go to the sea or the mountains. A number of restaurants even close up for the month. In the early afternoon, there is the saying that the only people walking around are mad dogs and Englishmen. I finished some reading: The City by Dean Koontz This is a very interesting, very entertaining book about a young African-American boy who has an incredible talent playing piano. He has a sainted mother, and a listless father who abandons the family. This is the late 60’s, and there is a plot by some people living in the same apartment block to rob and commit terrorist acts. There is also an interesting figure in the story, the city, who is represented as a woman who intervenes occasionally in the story. I highly recommend this book. It has much the same spirit as the Odd Thomas series written by this same author. Ancient Rome: the Rise and Fall by Simon Baker It seems as if British scholars do an incredible job on ancient Roman history, from Gibbons on. This book is no exception. It is well done, contains enormous amounts of information, and is entertaining. I would recommend it to anyone interested in this topic. The Song of Songs: Interpreted by Early Christians and Medieval Commentaries by Richard Norris This is a collection of commentaries on the Song of Songs. This poem which celebrated matrimonial love (possibly as a marriage song) which came to be interpreted in spiritual terms. The interpretation of early Christians and medieval commentators are very imaginative in the school of Origen, the North African exegete. They are not the easiest read, but they are worth seeing at least once in one’s life. Medieval Europe: Crisis and Renewal by Teofilo Ruiz This is a series of lectures from the Teaching Company on the period of history in Europe from around 1300 to 1500, dealing especially with the changes in government and society throughout this time. This is not the first series of lectures by Ruiz that I have followed. He has some good information, but he often produces a revisionist history which is based on the latest politically correct ideas. The one thing which I do not appreciate is the fact that he tends to be highly anti-clerical whenever he gets a chance. The Devil’s Chessboard: Allen Dulles and the Rise of America’s Secret Government by David Talbot This is a history of the involvement of Dulles in the CIA and American intelligence efforts (and efforts at overthrowing governments along the way. The portrait presented is not all that complementary. Dulles is seen as a tool of the military industrial complex who would stop at nothing to further the needs of his rich friends. In the early days, that involved moments of what seemed to be collaboration with the Nazi’s magnates, and then protection of war criminals. Later, it would involve the overthrow of the president of Guatemala and the prime minister of Iran during the 50’s. The author makes a good argument that Dulles was somehow involved with the assassination of JFK and his brother. It is worth reading, even if the conspiracy theory presented is sometimes a bit difficult to accept (or accepted, a bit shocking). Anubis: the History and Legacy of the Ancient Egyptian God of the Afterlife by Markus Carabas and Charles River Editors This is a highly technical account of Anubis, one of the Egyptian gods of the dead. The author shows how his legend grew, and also how it was borrowed by other societies in the ancient world. The account quotes ancient sources extensively, which makes the narrative difficult to follow. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude