Tuesday, December 20, 2022


December 20, 2023 Peace and Good, I have been in Rome for the past couple of week (except for a day trip to Assisi). The weather has changed, and it is cool and a bit rainy. The Italians are thrilled about the rain for they have been suffering from a drought all summer. We have a long definitory meeting in December - about two weeks. This one is that long, but with a number of gaps in the schedule because some of the members of the definitory have other important meetings, etc. We will finish it up on the 23rd. We have two big meetings in January, the week of the 9th and the week of the 16th. After the second meeting, I will be flying to Baltimore for some vacation. I have not really had a decent vacation for about 10 years, so it is time to slow down and rest a bit. I have finished some reading: We Put the Spring in Springfield by Justin Sedgwick This is a humorous account of the best years of the Simpsons, at least according to this author. He considers their willingness to deal with edgy topics, their use of guest stars, their willingness to portray movements in society, etc. The account is well done and entertaining, but also thought provoking. A History of France by John Julius Norwich This is a rather long, brilliant overview of the history of France from its pre-Roman days up to the end of the Second World War. This is not the first book by Norwich which I have read, but it is one of the best. He has some ties to the country, having a father who served as ambassador to it right after the Second World War, and having vacationed there often. One can hear his love for the country in the account, without becoming dreamy or obsequious. Czar Nicholas II by Hourly History Like all of the hourly history biographies, this is a short, well-written account of the life and the career of Russia’s last czar. There are no great discoveries, but it is a pleasant read. Uxmal by Charles River Editors This is the history of the rise and the fall of the ancient Mayan city Uxmal. Not a lot is known about the people who lived there, but from some of the archaeological evidence, the author was able to discuss the monarchy, theology, and social relations of the people. What continues to be a mystery is why it and other Mayan cities in its area suddenly ceased to be occupied. Charles Dickens by Kelly Mass This is a short biography of the famous 19th century English author who portrayed the true situation of the common people. He became wildly famous both in Great Britain and the United States. His marriage history is a bit mixed, having divorced his first wife. Kelly Mass has an odd way of telling the story, for she attempts almost to enter into a dialog with some of the major characters of his books, which can be a bit confusing. Shattered Sword by Jonathan Parshall This is an historic re-reading of the battle of Midway, one of the turning points of the war between Japan and the United States during the Second World War. The author gives a very good account of what led up to the battle and the battle itself. He is very good at speaking of the battle from the Japanese point of view. The only difficulty with the book is that he goes out of his way to disprove other people’s theories, and then glories for page after page on how his account is more historic than theirs. The Crusades by Abigail Archer This is a medium size book which goes through the history of the crusades. Archer gives all of the pertinent information, and her account is well done. It is not a book for those who wish to go into the topic in depth, but it is good for an overall vision of things. Apollo 8 by Jeffrey Kluger This is the account of the first NASA flight to circle the moon. The author deals with the choice of the crew, the previous history of Apollo flights (including the tragic accident of Apollo 1 which killed three astronauts), the strengths and weakness of the individual astronauts on this particular flight, the reaction of their families, and the reaction of people around the world. It was a very good listen. The History of Rum by John Donoghue This is a course from the Teaching Company concerning this particular liquor which served as an easy way to ship the end product of sugar production, but which also gave rise to a slave culture that was most deadly. Donoghue deals with rum in the context of its use by pirates, native Americans, colonial Americans, etc. The course is quite informative. The Battle of Fort Sumpter by Captivating History This is a quick history of the siege of Fort Sumpter, a battle that turned the Civil War from a possibility into an active conflict. The author gives a good background into what led up to the war, why the fort was so important (both in strategic and symbolic ways), and how the battle actually was fought. It was certainly not one of the deadliest battles of the war (only one man died in an accident after the battle had actually ended), but it was one of the most meaningful. The Battle of Stalingrad: Hitler vs. Stalin by Francis Hayes This is a book which speaks of the climatic battle between the forces of Hitler and Stalin at Stalingrad. It goes into the personalities and histories of the two main protagonists, the beginning of the war, the battle itself, and the aftermath. Merry Christmas fr. Jude


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