Friday, August 12, 2022

Palermo - Rome - Ellicott City

August 12, 2022 Peace and Good, I truly enjoyed the trip to Palermo. We celebrated the opening of a friary for hte care of older friars. The friars also showed me the beauty of Montreale (the most magnificent presentation of medieval mosaics) and Agrigento (a series of Greek temple ruins) and a few other places. I then flew to Rome and took care of finishing off a series of articles on the prophets that I was writing for one of our magazines in Kenya. Yesterday I flew from Rome to Baltimore through London. The first part of the trip was not bad, but the part from London left around 3 1/2 hours late. This has been the pattern all throughout these past few months. I am back in Ellicott City for a series of doctors' and dentist appointments. I will be flying back to Rome on the 24th. It has been hot, hot, hot wherever I go. Italy has been having a terrible drought, as has France. I finished some books: Ripper: the Secret Life of Walter Sickert by Patricia Cornwell This is a book that outlines Cornwell’s proposal that Jack the Ripper was really an artist named Walter Sickert, an artist who studied under James Whistler. Many of the points are well made, but Cornwell becomes repetitive in attacking the forensic inability of the investigators and her tendency to go from “it could have been” to “it must have been.” Washington’s End by Jonathan Horn This is a book that covers the period of Washington’s life from the end of his second term until the time that he died. It deals with his life at Mt. Vernon, and also about his relationship with President Adams (which was not always the best, given Adams’ tendency toward jealousy). The account is rather well developed and organized. The Reislauffer by Charles River Editors This is the story of the Swiss troops that fought throughout the Middle Ages and Renaissance as mercenaries. They were incredibly successful in many of the battles they fought, especially in Italy. There is still a vestige of this group in the Swiss Guard who are the ceremonial guard of the Holy Father. James Moriarty, Consulting Criminal by Andy Weir This is a clever short novel about Moriarty, the archfiend whom Sherlock Holmes fought. Moriarty uses the same deductive techniques as Holmes, but he uses them to further his criminal efforts to become the most powerful criminal in London. Odessa by Charles River Editors This is a short study of the group that is said to be formed after World War II to permit Nazi war criminals to escape from Europe to South America and the Arab world. The author admits that it is not entirely clear that this group actually existed, but given the rather large number of Nazis who escaped, it would appear that they received help from someone. The author also emphasizes how Nazi scientists helped Arabs develop weapons and aircraft to fight against Israel. The Great Mortality by John Kelly This is an excellent treatment of the Black Death in the Middle Ages. The author treats the subject from many different angles. He speaks of the actual plague and what it was (probably a mix of Bubonic and Pneumonic plague. He deals with the literature that was written as a reaction to the event (e.g. that of Boccaccio and Chaucer). He speaks of the anti-Jewish persecution. He deals with the societal effects of the plague. Dietrich Bonhoeffer by Hourly History This is a short account of the life and career of the great theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer. He was a pastor in the Evangelical faith who became a major critic of the Hitler regime. He was eventually executed right before the end of the war. Perhaps his most famous book was the Cost of Discipleship, a treatise which describes how following Jesus is not easy. It requires all one is and has. Blood, Toil, Tears and Sweat by John Kovacs This is an account of Churchill and his speeches at the very beginning of his taking over as Prime Minister in Great Britain and the time of its greatest danger. The author, who is an expert in this period of history, gives good insights into what Churchill said and why he said it. He traces the transition of Churchill from being a little appreciated fool to a great leader. The Martian by Andy Weir I thoroughly enjoyed this particular book about an astronaut who is accidentally left on Mars and who finds ways to survive and eventually to be rescued. The science and engineering described is fascinating. In a course I listened to, the premise of the book is off track a bit (if there were a wind storm on Mars, the atmosphere is so weak that it would not tear things apart and cause a part of the apparatus to impale the astronaut. Nevertheless, the book is very good and I am looking forward to reading more of Weir’s writing. Books that Cook: Food and Fiction by Jennifer Cognard-Black This is a Great Courses series of lectures on the treatment of food and its preparation and earing in literature. The professor is good, but possibly a bit too excited by her topic. She also becomes speculative in her interpretation of various scenes in the books and even the films which she describes. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude


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