Sunday, December 13, 2020


December 14, 2020 Well, we are already in the third week of Advent. I have been in Rome for these weeks, and last Wednesday we began our general definitory meeting (which in December is always longer than normal). We go through the end of this week. The weather is cool, but not really super cold. Last week there was quite a bit of rain, which is normal for this time of year. There are a lot of covid regulations given the situation in the country, which is not as bad as the States but nevertheless not all that good. Restaurants, for example, must close at 6 PM, which is very odd for in Italy most people don't eat their evening meal til around 8 PM. We have had some interesting news in these weeks. The custos of Assisi was named a cardinal, and a friar in Turkey was named the archbishop of Izmir in Turkey (Smyrna in the Bible). Both of these men are really fine people. I have been writing a series of six articles for one of our magazines in Kenya. I should finish the project today. Then I have two or three shorter projects to complete. I have finished some reading: City of Light, City of Poison by Holly Tucker This is an account of a series of poisoning murders that occurred during the reign of King Louis XIV. It is possible that his own concubines were involved in some of the plots, including even the possibility of a plot against the king himself. This book also outlines the beginning of an investigative police force in the City of Light. It is quite interesting, but at times seems to devolve to scandal mongering (although given the morality of the time, this does not necessarily mean that what it presents is inaccurate). Midnight at Chernobyl by Adam Higginbotham This is a thorough account of the nuclear disaster at Chernobyl. It deals with the Communist system and how the inefficiencies of that centrally run economic system led to design errors which largely caused the disaster. It deals with the individuals who set off the disaster through their mistakes or their own inefficiencies. It deals with the aftermath of the disaster in terms of the effect on the public and the government response. The book offers a number of personal portraits which makes its reading quite satisfying. The author does not spare the horror of it all, but presents everything calmly and fairly. Jomiini by Charles River Editors This is a short biography of a Swiss expert on warfare who first fought with the forces of Napoleon and then allowed his services to be bought by the court of the Czar in Russia. He was a contemporary of Clausewitz and while some of their theories correspond, others seem to have purposely been proposed in contrast to those of the other. Pandora’s Lab: Seven Stories of Science Gone Wrong by Paul Offit This is a study of some of the proposals made by scientists that have proved to be most damaging. One of the most obvious was the tendency to perform lobotomies on people in the hope to make them more manageable. The author attacks Rachel Carson’s presentation of the dangers of DDT, saying that its banning produced many, many more deaths through Malaria. Interestingly, he says that the proposal that vaping is dangerous is inaccurate, which theory itself has proved to be inaccurate in these past couple of years. The author is not really anti-science, but he is anti-sensationalism. His bottom line theory is that we have to follow the data. Imperial Twilight: the Opium War and the End of China’s Last Golden Age by Stephen Platt This is a very good account of China in the period leading up to and during the two Opium Wars, wars that Britain fought for free trade (but also largely to permit British traders to import opium into China). What I truly appreciated about the book was that it did not get bogged down on war details, but rather painted an extensive picture of the society both of China and of the British traders. I would strongly recommend this book to anyone interested in the era. Before Darkness by Michael Dean This is the story of how the industrialist Walther Rathenau succeeded in business, then as an organizer of material that Germany needed during the First World War, and finally in government after that war as a minister in the Weimar Republic. He was often attacked for the fact that he was a Jew and he was gay. He was eventually assassinated by the far right which saw his actions as a betrayal of Germany at the end of the war (the famous stab in the back theory). May the rest of your Advent be peaceful. Shalom fr. Jude


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