Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Ellicott City

March 31, 2020 Peace and Good, Like many of you, I have been closed in at our house in Ellicott City. This has been a great time to get a lot of work written, especially the daily reflections. The friars here have been very welcoming. It has also given me a good chance to read and listen to a number of books. The weather here is changing. The cherry trees are all in bloom, and it is really beautiful. I suspect that I will be here til at least a couple of weeks after Easter. It depends not only on the situation here, but also in Italy which was hit so, so hard in the pandemic. My heart rhythm has been good in these days ever since the last cardioversion. I have finished a number of books: Enemy in the Shadows: the World of Spies by Norman Gelb This is a short history of the use of spy craft during war and outside of war. I have read a book by Gelb on Dunkirk, and have found his style very good. This is not a comprehensive study, but it is more anecdotal and at times entertaining. The Fall of Berlin 1945 by Anthony Beevor Beevor is a great author of the history of warfare, and this is one of a number of his books that I have read, including books on the Spanish Civil War and on the siege of Stalingrad. He is very thorough, giving not only details but also background information about the people involved. His account is very long and very involved, but also very well done. Main Fleet to Singapore by Russell Grenfell This book, written by a British mariner, speaks of the tactical mistakes made by Great Britain before and during the outbreak of World War II concerning the defense of Singapore. It outlines the naval disasters which were largely the result of a lack of preparation for a war which would have a large air component. The author is an outspoken proponent of Empire, and his treatment of Churchill might be stilted by his lack of perspective concerning the need to balance the needs of one theater of warfare against another, but the account is good. The Last Tsar and Tsarina by Virginia Cowles This is a relatively short account of the lives and careers (especially the mistakes) of Czar Nicholas II and his wife Alexandra. The book is not as academic and extensive as the books done by Robert Massie, but it does give sufficient information on the topic. The Hare with Amber Eyes by Edmund De Waal This is a highly artistic account of an attempt by a British artist who works in ceramics and pottery to investigate the travels and careers of his family which began as Russian Jewish traders in grain from Odessa, Russia. They ended up as bankers and businessmen in Paris, London, Vienna, etc. The premise of the book is a reflection upon a collection of netsuke, small carved figures from Japan which the author inherited from his uncle who had settled in Japan. The story includes information on the plight of Jewish families in the 19th and 20th centuries, especially his branch of the family which resided in Vienna when Hitler came to power. The author’s language is elevated and his reflections serve as a source of meditation on art, politics, family, etc. World War II – 1939, 1940, 1941, 1942, 1943, 1944 and 1945 by History by the Hour This is a series of short accounts of the years of World War II. None of them provide deep insight, but they give a good outline of what happened in a particular year and why. Majestie: the Man Behind the King James Bible by David Teems This is the story of King James VI of Scotland, who became King James I of England. It deals with the horrific circumstances of his early years (father killed, possibly in a plot hatched by his mother, Queen Mary of the Scots, and mother beheaded by Queen Elizabeth of England after a series of failed attempts to escape and possibly overthrow Elizabeth). The major part of the book centers on King James’ most important project: the sponsoring of the King James Bible. This bible was produced in an especially fertile era of literary production (Shakespeare, Marlowe, etc.). It was also produced at a time of increasing tension between the Anglican element of the Church of England and that of the Puritans. The author obviously has great affection for the figure of King James, but that never allows him to paper over his almost constant imprudence and decadence. Walt Disney by Charles River Editors This is the story of the famed cartoonist and amusement park mogul from his earliest days up to his death. In his earliest days, he was often in debt and surviving from one cartoon to the next. It was only after Mickey Mouse was invented, and even more when his feature films were issued that he had the money to dream into life his Disneyland. He was not exactly the most attentive of husbands, always being caught up with his projects. Furthermore, he comes across as a distant and at time abusive boss. I am praying for you and your families. Shalom fr. Jude


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