Sunday, April 25, 2021

Ellicott City, Maryland

April 25, 2021 Peace and Good, I have been in Ellicott City for the past few weeks. I am here to get my covid vaccination, but also to visit a few doctors and dentists. I have been going to numerous appointments ever since I finished my quarantine. This Wednesday I will receive my second Pfizer shot. It would have been all but impossible for me to get it in Italy. I have been doing some zooming in these days (a scripture study group, and a series with the novices). I have also been doing quite a bit of filming for the Companions web site. I am filming a series on the psalms (a ten minute presentation on each psalm). I am also working on a short series on St. Joseph (for the holy year) and on the Eucharist (for the coming holy year in the archdiocese of Baltimore). Finally, I have to do some taping for the daily reflections in these days. I plan to go back to Rome on May 8th. I have finished some reading: The Risk Agent by Ridley Pearson This is the story of a kidnapping of an American and a Chinese agent of a construction company in China, and the attempt by an American and a Chinese (both former soldiers) to find and rescue them. There is abundant confusion, for there are actually many different parties involved in the drama. The story is well written, and there is plenty of action. I would recommend this book. I think that the author is respectful to cultural differences and to character development, which is not always true of swash buckling action authors. A Historian Goes to the Movies: Ancient Rome by Prof. Gregory Aldrete This is a series of lectures by the Teaching Company on movies made about ancient Rome. The professor speaks both of the accuracies and inaccuracies of the film, but also of the cultural context in which the films were made (for there is often a message in the various topics treated by the film maker). The professor is a bit overly dramatic in his presentation, but the information presented is very good. He even treats the sci fi genre and how some recent films (Rollerball, the Hunger Games, etc. are actually loosely based on the gladiator and bread and circus themes of the Roman Empire). The Sixth Extinction by Elizabeth Kolbert There have been five major extinctions since the beginning of life in the world. One of them was probably caused by an asteroid that hit the earth in the Gulf of Mexico. One was caused by the growth of proto-trees that ate up the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere causing a cooling that led to a great ice age (interesting that we are facing the exact phenomenon at this moment). The author explains the mechanisms of the various extinctions. What I found interesting is that most of them occurred in slow motion, over a long, long period of time according to human standards (but according to the standards of the age of the earth, not really so long). Kolbert speaks of the present situation of the earth. At the very least, humans are wiping out the diversity once found in the animal and plant world. At the very least, the Carbon Dioxide level in the atmosphere is exploding. What I like about the book is that the author does not try to be apocalyptic, but she presents the evidence as it is. Simon Schama by Audible Interviews This author wrote several volumes of Jewish history. He started out with the history of the Rothchilds in a period before Zionism. This led to a much more organized series, as well as a ton of other books on various topics (e.g. A History of Britain; The Bastille Falls; Rembrant’s Eyes, etc.) Catalonia by Charles River Editors This is a short history of the area between Spain and France now found in the northeastern section of Spain. The people there have their own language and culture, which is often a mix of the two countries which surround it. They have been part of Spain for centuries, but have tenaciously help on to their cultural identity, even at the cost of persecution. The author also treats the present situation in which the nation of Spain does not want them to leave the union, but it seems as if many of the inhabitants of the region want to do so. Weird Rome by Charles River Editors This is an odd little book in the Charles River Editors book series. It deals with the culture and religion and superstition of Rome, but it never seems to find a common focus. The author simply throws out details and expects them to coalesce on their own. I would not recommend this particular book. Keep safe. fr. Jude


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