Sunday, July 24, 2022

Mesilla Rark, New Mexico - Ellicott City, MD

July 24, 2022 Peace and Good, I finished up a very hot week in New Mexico. It reached 106 degrees some day. It was a dry heat, but when it gets that hot, it feels like an oven. The Provincial Chapter of Our Lady of Consolation Province went very well. There was very much a family environment. Their province is one of the most committed to social justice of the four in the county. They made a commitment to study and live the lessons of Pope Francis' encyclical Laudato Si (which speaks of how we use/abuse/honor the environment. They also recommitted themselves to planning for their most important site, Mount St Francis. I am now in Ellicott City for the week, but it is going to be quite busy. I have a series of doctors and dentist appointments. Then on the 30th I head back to Europe, to Palermo in Sicily. I finished some reading: Poland, 1939 by Roger Moorhouse This is a book that records the history of the Nazi and Soviet invasion of Poland in 1939. This is probably one of the most painful books that I have read, but it was well worth reading. The author speaks especially from a Polish point of view, showing how the Poles fought bravely but were outclassed by both the Nazis and the Soviets (who invaded later in the process and claimed to be liberators, which was never their intention). The Soong Sisters by Emily Hahn This is the story of three sisters who all had important roles in China. One was the widow of Sun Yat-Sen. The second was the wife of a rich industrialist. The third was the wife of Chaing Kai-Shek. While this is the theory of the book, it actually turns into a fawning biography of the third women. It is an apologia as to the goodness of Soong Mai-ling, this third woman, up to the end of World War II. I would not exactly recommend this book for a good read. Leyte 1944 by Nathan Prefer This is an extensive account of the American invasion of Leyte during World War II. It goes into great detail, so it would be the sort of book that would please only those who want to know all the story (at a larger level and the individual level). Stay Tuned by Jeffery Deaver This is a short novel about a woman who is endangered by her fiancĂ©e. This occurred many years after an incident at the same lake where this event happened. She lost a good friend to a murderer. The question becomes whether the deceased girl actually helped the protagonist escape danger. Odd Thomas by Dean Koontz This is the first of a series of books about a young man named Odd who has the gift/curse of seeing ghosts who wish him to help them on some task before they go to the other side. The whole series is incredibly well written. Odd shows a humility and a sense of service that is astounding. This volume deals with his attempt to stop a mass killing by a Satanic group. The Rise of the Rome by Gregory Aldrete This is a series of 24 lectures on the rise of Rome from its founding until the end of the Republic under Augustus. This is not the first course by Aldrete that I have heard, and he is quite good. He presents quite enough information without being overwhelming. The Egg and Other Stories by Andy Weir This is a series of nine short stories by the author who wrote the Martian. Each of the stories leads one to think one thing and then ends with a turn that one did not in any way expect. These stories made me want to read more of his writings. War Beneath the Sea by Peter Padfield This is a long and very detailed account of submarine war during the Second World War (German, Japanese, British and American). It is quite long and it probably would not be of interest to anyone who is not fascinated with this particular period of history and this particular topic. In spite of this, the book is well done. The 1906 San Francisco Earthquake by Captivating History This is a short account of the earthquake that all but destroyed the city of San Francesco and also spawned a fire which destroyed even more of it. It deals with the initial disaster, of the response of those responsible for the city (local and national), the plights of the refugees, etc. The Great Divorce by Ilyon Woo This is a story that takes place in the early days of the 19th century in New York and New England. A man who has a history of alcoholism and visiting prostitutes decides to convert and join the Shakers. He wants his wife and three children to join him. She does not want this. Although she wants a divorce, it is all but impossible for her to obtain it. Furthermore, the Shakers help the husband hide her children for her (for at this time, the husband had total rights over children during a separation or divorce). A major topic is the fight for women’s rights. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Monday, July 18, 2022

Los Angeles - Baltimore - El Paso and New Mexico

July 18, 2022 Peace and Good, I finally tested negative for covid and was able to travel back to Baltimore for the provincial chpater of OLA province. The week I was in quarantine, I attended the St. Bonaventure Chapter in Chicago by zoom. The chapter in Baltimore was held in the Maritime Center, a former Merchant Marine Academy which is now a convention center. The spirit of the chapter was very positive. Many of the younger friars made significant contributions during the week, and a number of them were named as guardians for their friaries. The main topic was the need for a spiritual rebirth, and the friars responded to it well. Saturday I flew into El Paso and travelled to Mesilla Park, just across the border in New Mexico. It is very hot, beyond 100 today. The humidity is very low, but it is still hot. We begin the chapter this afternoon and go on to lunch on Friday. I will fly back to Baltimore on Friday for a long series of doctor and dentist appointments next week. Then at the end of the week I fly to Palermo, Sicily, for the dedication of a building for the senior friars of that province. These weeks have been very productive for writing. A friar who is charge of a magazine in Kenya asked me to do a series of articles for them, and in the past six weeks I have been able to finish 14 of them. I finished some reading: American Monsters by Adam Jortner This is a Great Courses series. It deals with the question of why certain manifestations of the abnormal surfaced at particular times of our history. The professor shows how these were heavily influences by social and political developments at particular eras. The course covers witches, ghosts, sasquatch, aliens, etc. I was not too sure when I first saw the title, but I was most pleasantly surprised as I listened to the lectures. Verdict on Vichy by Michael Curtis This is an account of the actions of the Vichy government in France during World War II. It is especially interested in the governments involvement in the persecution of Jews (sometimes following Nazi orders, sometimes establishing policies which were more severe than theirs. Yet, after the initial trials of collaborators, little was done to bring people to justice for what they had done (some even entered into subsequent French governments). Agent 6 by Tom Rob Smith I have read a couple of books by this author in the past. This volume is as good, if not better, than those. It is about a KGB plot and its effects on a family of a former agent. It goes from the early days of the 60’s to the war in Afghanistan. The story is exciting, filled with action and suspense. I could easily recommend this book to anyone who likes suspense novels. Ancient Skies by David Weston Marshall This is an account of the ancient (and some modern) names of the constellations of stars in the night sky. It gives the stories of the various mythic figures who are said to be depicted in the form that one sees. It is not a book on astrophysics as much as a light account of how people connect the heavens with their lives. Jeff Shaara’s Civil War Battlefields by Jeff Shaara Jeff Shaara is a famous popular historian. He has written on Civil War and World War II topics. This account is an overview of the major battlefields of the civil war. He tells what happened during the battles. He then speaks of what is left of those battlefields, giving suggestions on how best to tour the sights. Tobacco: A Cultural History of How an Exotic Plant Seduced Civilization by Iain Gately This is the history of the use of tobacco, from its use among Amer-Indian cultures to the modern days. It deals with the acceptance of the use of tobacco in various countries, the invention of cigars and cigarettes, the big companies and their advertising campaigns, and the anti-tobacco movement. 1967 by Tom Segev This is the story of Israel during this climatic moment in the history of Israel. The main event that year was the six day war in which Israel defeated the forces of Egypt, Jordan and Syria. This book goes much further than just dealing with that battle. It gives an account of the situation in Israel before the war (recession, discrimination against the Jews born in Arab countries, a flight of Jews leaving the country) and after the war ( a new sense of being the chosen, pride in their accomplishments, new immigration, but also an arrogance due to their victories). It also deals with the personalities that lead the country, as well as what was happening at the grass roots. This book is very well done. The Battle of the Tanks by Lloyd Clark This is the story of the great battle of Kursk in which the Germans tried to regain the initiative in the summer following the loss they had suffered at Stalingrad. They gathered an enormous tank army with which they hoped to crush the Soviet resistance. Unknown to them, the Soviets had gathered an enormous defensive army for they knew that this attack was coming. They had also built layers upon layers of mines, strong points, etc. The German attacked and attacked, and their loses were much smaller than those of the Soviets, but nevertheless they were losses they could not afford. This was the last great attack by the Nazis on this front. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Wednesday, July 6, 2022

Los Angeles

July 6, 2022 Peace and Good, Well, I got through my covid experience. It took me 11 days to test negative. I really only had bay symptoms at the start (like a very bad cold). The last few days there were no symptoms, but I kept testing positive. Finally Saturday I got a negative test. I was supposed to fly to Baltimore last Sunday, but I had to cancel it because of the covid. I am lucky I did, for my flight called me to change planes in Chicago, and with all the delays and cancellations, I doubt that I would have made it. Today's flight is direct to Baltimore, so I hope things will go well. The weather here has been magnificent. Even when it climbs to the low 80's, it is with a very low humidity. I have been doing a lot of zooming in these days to get the work done that could not wait. I finished some reading: The Kitchen God’s Wife by Amy Tan This is the story of the relationship between a Chinese woman and her daughter, but it is really the story of the horrible life of the mother when she married her first husband who was cruel and brutal. That marriage occurred in the early days of the Japanese invasion of China during the Second World War. The story speaks of how women were treated as objects, expected to expect anything that their husbands or the husband’s mother dished out to them. The book is well done, if a bit painful to read. The Dragon Seekers by Christopher McGowan This deals with the first discoveries of dinosaur skeletons in Great Britain. An unsung hero of this movement was Mary Anning. She made her living digging up the skeletons long before others even realized their meaning. She is the woman behind the saying, “She sells sea shells by the sea shore.” The book especially with the question of the scientists dating of the materials and the question of evolution vs. creationism. A Storm in Flanders by Winston Groom Winston Groom is the author of Forrest Gump. He has also written a series of history books, mostly dealing with topics concerning war from the Revolutionary War up to the days of World War II. He manages to deal with the larger issues while still given accounts from the words of individual soldiers. It deals with the horrible battlefield in Flanders that led to the death of thousands and thousands of Germans and Brits. Both, at times, fought a 20th century war with 19th century tactics. Great Ideas of Classical Physics by Steven Pollack This is a series of lectures from the Teaching Company dealing with physics from the days of Isaac Newton to the beginning of the 20th century. The professor is informative and the lectures, in spite of the fact that it deals with a heavy topic, is understandable. The Rise of Athens by Anthony Everitt Everitt is a tremendous historian of the ancient world, and this book is one of his masterpieces. It goes from the founding to the city to the period when it became irrelevant except as an education center. He gives an enormous amount of detail in an entertaining manner. I thoroughly enjoyed it. The American Revolution by Robert McDonald This is a Learn25 course. It deals with the causes, major occurrences, and effects of the American Revolution. The professor who offers the course is well informed, but he does not pile on more detail than is needed. I would recommend this course. A Faint Heart by Fyodor Dostoevsky This is the story of two young men in St. Petersburg. It takes place around the middle of the 19th century. One is a scribe who is contracted to do a large job copying documents. He has just gotten engaged, but he is far behind on his project. It eventually causes him to have a nervous breakdown. The story is filled with dialog, typical of Dostoevsky’s style. China’s Long March by Jean Fritz This is the story of the long march of the communists (and specifically the group that followed Mao) from southern to northern China when war broke out between the communists and the forces of Chang Kai-Shek. It is a bit fawning, making the communists into great heroes and all but ignoring their atrocities (e.g. the starvation of millions during the Great Leap Forward). 10 Women who rule the Renaissance by Joyce Salisbury This is a series of accounts about famous women from throughout the world during the time of the Renaissance. It is an odd choice. Some of the women lived what could be called very disreputable lives (violence against others) and yet they are presented as heroes of feminism. I have to say I was a bit disappointed in the fawning approach toward these particular women. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude