Monday, April 20, 2020

Ellicott City

April 20, 2020 Peace and Good, Like just about everyone else in the US and almost around the world, we are still locked down. This has been a restful time, being in the same time zone for weeks on end. My heart is staying in rhythm, which is very good. I don't know when it will be possible to return to Rome. I have e mailed my travel agent this morning to see if he knows anything. In the meantime, I have started writing a book of minute meditations on Franciscan spirituality. I have done two other of these books on other topics, so I know the style. Spring keeps coming and going these days. One day it feels like summer, the next like winter. But the flowers and the birds are beautiful. I finished some reading: The Dust Bowl by Charles River Editors This is the account of the ecological disaster that occurred when large regions of the West were plowed under during a historic cycle of wet weather, to be followed by a long and severe drought. With the land plowed (and therefore the cover of vegetation removed), massive amounts of dust and dirt was carried into the air on windy days which travelled for hundreds of miles and destroyed crops and killed people through dust pneumonia). This short account gives a good account of the tragedy that so many families faced and their attempts to survive this disaster. Dynasty: the Rise and the Fall of the House of Caesar by Tom Holland This is an excellent treatment of the Augustan dynasty from the time of Julius Caesar to the death of Nero. It gives a balanced account of what happened, informing the reader about rumors (such as the conduct of Livia, the wife of Augustus) without getting into gossip mongering. I would highly recommend this particular volume. The Philippines Campaign of World War II by Charles River Editors This is a short account of the capture of the Philippines by the Japanese at the beginning of World War II (especially concentrating on the capture of Corregidor and the Bataan peninsula). It then treats the recapture of the islands by allied forces in 1944 and 1945. The latter part of the book is a tedious account of the various battles fought in this campaign. Island of Vice by Richard Zachs This is the story of the two years that Teddy Roosevelt served as a commissioner of police in New York City. At that time, New York was under the control of a very corrupt administration. Roosevelt attempted to clean up the police force, but he also proved to be a pedantic enforcer of the laws against selling alcohol on Sundays (which was especially detested by many of the immigrants who were used to enjoying their Sundays at beer gardens in their home countries). The author is able to show the whole picture of Teddy, both his good intention but also his stubborn intransigence. The Vicksburg Campaign by Charles River Editors This is a quick version of the story of the siege of Vicksburg, the last city along the Mississippi that was in the hands of the Confederates during the Civil War. It was conquered by Grant, although after a series of frustrated attempts. The Olmec and Toltec by Charles River Editors This is the story of two early Meso-American cultures which were antecedents to the Mayans and the Aztecs. The story of the Olmec’s is somewhat clearer, even though there is very little written documentation. That of the Toltec is not quite as clear because much that was written about them was produced by the Aztec, and they tended to rewrite history (including the supposed story of the Toltecs) to make their own culture more important. Bad Ass Librarians of Timbuktu by Joshua Hammer and Paul Boehm This is the incredible story of the attempt to preserve a large trove of scholarly documents from the ravages of El Qaida which had captured the ancient city of Timbuktu in the country of Mali. Many of the manuscripts had been kept by families for decades to keep them out of the hands of those who would destroy them (including an Islamist invasion in the 19th century). The man especially responsible for this intervention also received funds from the West for the conservation of the documents which had not been treated kindly for a long time. The manuscripts give evidence to an incredible flourishing academic tradition in this desert city for centuries, an interesting story in itself. The Berlin Airlift and the Berlin Wall by Charles River Editors This is an account both of the Berlin Airlift to bring assistance to the city of Berlin when the Soviets cut of surface access to the city shortly after World War II, and the construction and maintenance of the Berlin Wall in the 80’s, and then the fall of the wall in 1989. It gives a good, balanced version of the events. Stay well! You're in my prayers. Shalom fr. Jude


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