Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Rome - Los Angeles - Castro Valley, CA

January 15, 2020 Peace and Good, This past Saturday we finished our definitory, and Sunday I headed out to Los Angeles. It was a good trip, but very long - 2 1/2 hours to London and then another 11 hours to LA. The weather here is cool. Tonight we are supposed to get some rain. I rested on Monday after the trip, and on Tuesday I went to our Korean friars' friary in Torrence for their canonical visitation. I will be visiting the Korean province in June, and this is the first of the friars living outside of the province that I have visited. This morning I flew into Oakland to visit our friars in Castro Valley. I met with the provincial and the secretary of the province to talk about a number of different situations. I find it is so useful to speak face to face. You get so much done. Tomorrow I will fly out to Clifton, NJ. I will stay with some of our friars there who work with an immigrant Polish population. Then on Friday morning I will head into Totowa (which is nearby) to visit with my publisher. I finished some reading: Killing England by Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard This is part of the “killing” series of Bill O’Reilly. It is well done, informative, but here at there a bit spotty (overlooking inconvenient details that do not mesh well with Bill O’Reilly’s personal politics). Overall, I would rate it a good book to read. Brother Odd by Dean Koontz This is possibly my favorite series of books. Dean Koontz is a good author, using words as an artist would colors. His hero is a young fry cook who sees ghosts whom he helps to continue on to the other side. In this volume, he has sought refuge and peace in a monastery in the Cascades. There is a hospice there for severely handicapped children, often victims of violence. Odd (that is his name) must discover the looming threat that hovers over this place of peace and recovery. The character Odd is kind and generous, and a bit of a smart a.., but always in a gentle way. The Unification of Germany by Charles River Editors This short book deals with the process by which many, many small German states united under the leadership of the Prussians. The genius (some would say evil genius) behind this was Otto Von Bismarck, the Prime Minister of Prussia. He used war as a tool for his diplomatic endeavors. The book covers the period running from the Congress of Vienna until the resignation of Bismarck. The Phaedo by Plato This is another one of those classics which I have read about, but had never read. It purports to me the dialog between Socrates and his friends the last day of his life. It deals with questions about the immortality of the soul, etc. It is always difficult to determine how much is Socrates and how much is Plato, but the dialog is well worth reading (even if some of the arguments presented are not all that convincing since they are tightly tethered to Platonic philosophy). A Gallery of Poisoners by Adrian Vincent This is a collection of stories about people who were convicted or at least accused of poisoning others from the US and Great Britain between the middle of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century. The information is interesting, but the style of writing is highly Victorian. Killer Summer by Ridley Pearson This is a suspense novel set in a resort town in Colorado. There is a mysterious theft, which only leads to more difficulties. The sheriff is the hero of the story. The action is well done. I would not say it was my favorite read, but it was mildly entertaining. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Rome

January 8, 2020 Peace and Good, I am coming to the end of spending almost a month here in Rome. It has been a quiet time until this week when we began a new definitory. We will be meeting until this coming Saturday, and then Sunday I head out to California. Rome has been very cold, near freezing every morning. It has not been raining all that much, but a bit grey. The friars are all cautioning me (half joking and half not) about future travel plans considering that I am a US citizen and Iran is not happy with us at all. I will try to avoid taking the Gulf airlines for the next couple of months until things calm down. Furthermore, my schedule calls for me to be at a friary on the West Bank of the Jordan in Palestinian territory right after Easter. We will have to play this by ear. I finished some reading: Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea by Barbara Demick This is the story of the suffering of ordinary people in North Korea and the attempt of some of them to flee to the South (which is the source of these stories, for no one could have gotten this information except through someone who had already fled). The reach of the totalitarian state is incredible, and their wild disregard for the good of their own people sickening. It is well worth reading an account like this in a time that we are negotiating with this unreliable and evil regime. Kashmir, Gujarat and the Punjab by Charles River Editors This is a short account of these three troubled regions of northern India from ancient times to the present. They have had a mix of different religious populations (Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, Christian). This has led to interminable conflict between Pakistan and India. The British Museum by Charles River Editors This is a short account of the history of the British Museum. It has sometimes been called the largest collection of stolen goods in the world. I visited the museum a few years back, and it is wonderful. But it faces the usual questions of an institution like this: finances, what should be exhibited, what should be repatriated, etc. The Medici by Paul Strathern This is a very, very good history of the Medici family from its origins as a banking clan to its downfall in decadence at the end of the 18th and the beginning of the 19th century. The book speaks of Lorenzo the Magnificent, of the artists who worked for the family, of their role in the Renaissance, of the two Medici popes, of their marriages into European royal families, especially France, etc. The author gives tons of information, but never overloads the account. He gives his opinion on controversies, but never in a judgmental way. I highly recommend this account. Ancient Empires Before Alexander by Robert Dise This is a series of 36 lectures from the teaching company about ancient empires from Mesopotamia, Egypt, the Near East, etc. The lecturer is very talented, and gives a good, balanced account of what happened throughout this era. This is one of the Teaching Company’s better courses. Defending Jacob by William Landay This is the account of the trial of a young boy who is accused of stabbing to death his brutal classmate. The father is an assistant district attorney while the mother is a caring teacher. The boy himself comes across as detached, troubled. He is their only son. The account is painful to read, but in the best sense of the word. A very good book! Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude