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


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