Monday, May 22, 2023

Rome - Seoul, South Korea

May 23, 2023 Peace and Good, We had our General Definitory this past week. As usual, we discussed situations from all over the world. I really believe that I should get frequent flyer miles for each of our meetings. On Saturday night I flew here to Korea. I will be here for three weeks doing the Canonical Visitation. I have already done this a few times in Korea, so I know the situation fairly well. The weather here is warm and a bit overcast. Our main provincial house is right near the river and very close to downtown. The Church here is an international parish, Masses in Korean, English, Spanish, Italian and German. After this, I will be flying back to Rome for two weeks of meetings, and then back to the States for good. I finished some reading and listening: The French and Indian War by Christopher Collier and James Lincoln Collier This is a relatively short explanation of what led up to the French and Indian War (the settlements of the colonial powers and their competition). It also gives a quick outline of the major events and the outcome of the war. The Middle East in the 20th Century by Eamonn Gearon This is a very good overview of the events and politics of the Middle East in the 20th century, from the breakdown of the Ottoman Empire to the present time after the Arab Spring and the war on terrorism. The professor quite fair in his presentation and informative. War and Decision by Douglas Feith This is the story of the decision to invade Iraq and its consequences from the viewpoint of one of the advisors to President Bush. He especially tries to prove many of the myths created by the press to have been false from the start. I don’t know if I agree with all of his explanations, but it was good to hear them. Chichen Itza by Charles River Editors This is the history of one of the greatest Mayan city which grew when other cities in its region faded in importance, and which eventually failed itself. The book speaks of the various features of its architecture. The Batavian Republic by Kelly Mass This is a short history of the Batavian Republic (Netherlands and Belgium) during the Napoleonic era. It deals with some of the tensions among the various parties involved. Hero of the Empire by Candace Millard This is the story of how Winston Churchill travelled to South Africa to be a war correspondent during the Boer war. He was captured, and he eventually escaped from imprisonment, providing the British with a hero in a war in which they were not doing all that well. The Sense of Wonder by Rachel Carson This is a beautiful short presentation (more of an essay than a book) recommending to those who raise children to introduce them to the wonders of nature. Carson does not recommend teaching the children the names of things as much as letting them experience them face to face. Tell Me Lies by J.P. Pomare A counselor in Australia has a patient who might be harassing her family and even setting fires first in her home, and then at her business. Se must figure out who it might be and why he is doing this before it endangers her family. There are a number of surprises in the course of the story, and some twists and turns that could easily be called disturbing. Cardinal Wolsey by Mandell Creighton This is a biography of Cardinal Wolsey who worked for King Henry VIII and was eventually treated very poorly by him when he was not able to acquire a divorce for him so that he could marry Anne Boleyn. The author is fair in his presentation, showing his flaws but also speaking of his great talents. The Roman Empire and the Indian Ocean by Raoul McLaughlin This is a fascinating presentation (with a lot of detail) of the commerce that the Romans engaged in during the early centuries A.D. It turns out that this commerce produced a major percentage of tax income for the empire, but it also produced a huge drain on silver and gold, so much so that the currency had to be adulterated. For anyone interested in this period, this is a very informative book. Ancient Greece 101 by Christopher Bellitto This is an overview of the history, culture, and politics of the Greek city states (especially Athens and Sparta). It deals with philosophy and mythology. Bellitto is very entertaining in his presentation. This was a course produced by Learn25. I could easily recommend it to those interested in the era. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Monday, May 8, 2023

Chicago - Rome - London - Rome

May 8, 2023 Peace and Good, I got back to Rome where the weather has now changed. It feels like the beginning of summer. There are still a lot of tourists in town, and this is really the best of times (along with October) to visit the city. I flew to London for two things this past week. I had a meeting with a couple of bishops in Cambridge (which is only about an hour train ride outside of London), and I was there for the opening of an exhibition at the National Gallery on St. Francis. The curators did a tremendous job of putting together the materials. I was very impressed. It is free, and is open through July. This week I am Rome catching up on my daily reflections and my reports to the definitory and my Messenger articles. Next week we have our definitory, and at the end of it I fly out to Korea to do a visitation. I finished some reading and listening: The War of the Roses by History Nerds This is a quick overview of the events that led up to the War of the Roses, the events during the war, and the aftermath to it which influenced English history for a long time (especially during the Tudor era). Lincoln’s Spies by Douglas Waller This is an informative presentation on how spy craft was used by the Union army during the Civil War. It gives a full portrait of the mistakes made by some of the participants (such as Pinkerton who worked as the spy for General McClellan) and the successes in providing information before some of the major battles. One of my favorite stories was that of Elizabeth Van Lew, a Richmond socialite, who helped escaped Union soldiers and then established a spy network that was invaluable to the Union side. Alan Turing: Unlocking the Enigma by David Boyle Alan Turing was one of the experts who helped the British decode the messages produced by the enigma machine. He was sadly troubled by the government for his sexuality (he was gay and that was illegal in Great Britain at that time). Crimes of the Century: A Selective History of Infamy by Richard Spence This is a teaching company course which outlines a number of horrible crimes throughout the 19th and 20th centuries. They include many which are well known, such as the Zodiac and Manson Family killings, as well as accounts that were totally new to me (e.g. the murder of a family in Weimar Germany, the murder of a woman and her daughter in early 20th century France). John Wilkes Booth by Hourly History This is a short biography of the assassin of President Lincoln. An actor from a family of actors, John Wilkes Booth built up a reputation as an adequate actor, but also as a rabid supporter of the south and slavery. His disappointment at the losses suffered by the South led him and a small band of co-conspirators to plot first to kidnap, and eventually to kill Lincoln as well as a number of other key figures in the Northern government. The Persian Corridor in World War II by Charles River Editors This is a short account of the project to ship military goods to the Soviet Union during World War II through Iran. Transportations hubs had to be established from scratch. Factories had to be built to assemble vehicles and tanks and planes. Railroads had to be built and manned to bring materials from the Persian Gulf to the borders of the Soviet Union. The rise of Modern Japan by Mark Ravina This is a Teaching Company course on Japan from the time of the Meiji Restoration, and especially the end of World War II, up to the present time. There were some details in the account about which I had never heard. It is well presented, using the literature and movies of the time to demonstrate changes in mentality and social expectations throughout the period. The Afrikaans by Nick Pirog This is a suspense novel about a group of terrorists who seize a cruise boat in the Indian Ocean and threaten to kill everyone on board if the US doesn’t send massive aid to fight the AIDS epidemic in South Africa. There are twists and turns throughout the book. The action scenes are OK, but not exactly of the same quality as those of an Alan Furst or John le Carre. The King’s Grave: The Search for Richard III by Michael Jones and Philippa Langley This is the story of the search for the grave of King Richard III. He was the king who probably killed his nephews in the Tower of London, and he seized the crown from his deceased brother. He was overthrown in battle by King Henry VII and his body was buried in the Church of the Greyfriars. That church was subsequently destroyed. The author of the book speaks of her search and discovery of the tomb. The style of the book is not all that good, more of a supermarket tabloid style than anything else. Ravenna by Judith Herrin This is a sweeping history of the city on the Adriatic which was so important for the Byzantine governance of their territories in Italy and also for the incredible legacy of mosaic art in its basilicas. It was the most important city on that sea before Venice, and in fact faded from its previous importance around the time of the rise of Venice and of the Empire of Charlemagne (who looted much artwork from it for his new capital in Aachen. The book gives a tremendous amount of information in a very pleasant narrative style. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude