Tuesday, June 20, 2023

Seoul - Rome

June 20, 2023 Peace and Good, I have been in Rome these past couple of weeks, but constantly in meetings. Right now I am taking part of an assembly of half of the major superiors of the Order (the other half met in January). This is taking place at our seminary in EUR, a suburb of Rome. Only a couple of the participants are from the States. The majority of them cam in January. The weather has changed and it is early summer, quite warm. We have had some odd rainy days, odd for this time of year which is usually quite dry. I will be in Rome for a little more than a week, and then back to the States. My first month and a half will be in Ellicott City, Maryland, for some minor medical care. Then off to California where I will help to baby sit our novitiate (for there will be no novice class this coming year). I have finished some reading: The Eighty Years War by Kelly Mass This is a short account of the war of independence that Holland waged against the Spanish Empire which, at that time, was the overlord of the country. It involved religious questions, for the north, which today is Netherlands, is today mostly Calvinist, while the south, which today is Belgium, is mostly Catholic. England got involved now and then, somewhat to protect Protestants, but mostly to annoy Spain. Napoleon: Soldier of Destiny by Michael Broers This is a very long account of the life and career of Napoleon. The author goes into great depth to describe the various political and cultural forces that Napoleon had to deal with. Oddly enough, he ends the book long before the invasion of Russia and the end of Napoleon’s career and life. What he has written about, he has written well. In the Name of Rome: The Men Who Won the Roman Empire by Adrian Goldsworthy This is an account of some of the most important generals in the history of Rome. The accounts are well done. It is typical of one of Goldsworthy’s books, who is an excellent historian on the topic of Rome. He tells who they were, what they did, and perhaps most importantly, why. Attila the Hun by Kelly Mass This is a short account of the life and activities of the famous Hun who is still considered to be one of the most ferocious barbarian to have invaded Europe. The author gives what details are known about Attila, attempting to show which legends are not reliable. World War I: the Sacrifice of a Generation by History Nerds The history nerds put together accounts that are far reaching. They present more a series of factoids than a well developed narrative. Nevertheless, the presentation is well done and provides ample information. Chekhov: 11 Stories This is a series of stories written by the famous 19th century Russian author. I found the narrative filled with endless dialog (which is more romantic phrases than true dialog). I cannot say that I will be looking for more of Chekhov’s writings. The Birth of the Modern Mind by Alan Charles Kors This is a long great courses series on the birth of the enlightenment and thought in the 18th and 19th centuries. The professor says over and over again that his presentation is not based upon what he himself believes, but rather what the character that he is covering believes. He does a very good job of presenting the various authors and movements, especially in Great Britain and France. Slavery and the Coming of the Civil War: 1831-1861 by Christopher Collier and James Lincoln Collier This is a historic account of slavery in the United States and how it was a cause of the Civil War (no matter what some revisionists would say). The series by the Colliers is written to present history in a manner that it is palatable, without too many dates and names that just confound those interested in the topics covered by these authors. White Nights by Fyodor Dostoyevsky This is a short novel about a man with no true goals and no realistic view of the world who meets a woman whom he thinks he wants as his wife. She, herself, is pining for a lost love who returns. I have been readings some of Chekhov’s stories, and both he and Dostoyevsky present dialogs that are flowery and never end. Dictators Without Borders: Power and Money in Central Asia by Alexander Booley and John Heathershaw This is a presentation of the Central Asian dictators (former Soviet Union republics) that are ruled by dictators who use the international banking system to hide their horrendous rape of their countries. They even use systems like Interpol to arrest their political opponents. One of the confusing elements is that those opponents were themselves often thieves who pillaged the country before they were exiled. The presentation is well done. Ancient Rome: the Rise and the Fall of an Empire by Simon Baker This is a long, very well written history of the Roman Empire. Baker is one of those ancient historians who can tell an involved story without ever making it boring. I would recommend this presentation, which was based on a BBC series, to anyone interested in this topic. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Saturday, June 3, 2023

Seoul, Incheon, Gimpo, Yang Suri, Pusan, Ilgwang, Deigon (all in South Korea)

June 3, 2023 Peace and Good, I have been travelling through Korea these days visiting the friars. I have gone from near the border with North Korea to the southern port of Pusan. The Koreans show an incredible hospitality and deference. They have a good spirit, and I am trying to work up a report to help them as they prepare for their provincial chapter in the fall of next year. The weather has been overall good. It is warming up, especially yesterday and today. Korean food is very spicy. I like that, but not everyone would. One group of friars took me out to a buffet restaurant which had Korean, Chinese, Japanese and other types of food. It was one of the best meals that I have ever had. I have one more house to visit on Monday and Tuesday, and then meet with the definitory on Wednesday for my preliminary report. Then on Thursday late at night I head back to Rome. I have finished some reading and listening: The Best and the Worst Presidential Cabinets in U.S. History by Lindsay Chervinsky This is a Great Courses presentation on presidential cabinets throughout the history of our country. She speaks of the cabinet of George Washington (how he invented the system), of Abraham Lincoln (the famous team of rivals) and of other presidents. She presents the best and the worst and even the most corrupt of those who were in the various cabinets. She speaks of presidents who used the expertise of their cabinets, and those who all but ignored their advice. Consider the Fork by Bee Wilson This is a very entertaining book about the tools that one would find in a kitchen throughout the centuries. It gives accounts of the birth of various tools such as the fork, knife, spoon, pots and pans, etc. It is obvious that the author is a good cook who truly enjoys her hobby. The Dutch Empire by Kelly Mass This is an account of the conquests of the Dutch people in the New World and Africa. It deals with their successes, and then the reasons why they lost most of their conquests rather early (with the exception of Indonesia which was not lost until after World War II). Even though the Dutch are often considered to be a kind and generous people, that was not really true of their treatment of the people in their colonies. The Iranian Revolution by Charles River Editors This is a short account of the fall of the Shah of Iran. It deals with his relationship with the Western powers, especially the US, and his attempt to “modernize” his country. This ran head long into the religious beliefs of his Shiite Muslim country. Even though the presentation is not long, it gives a good amount of information. Eerdman’s Commentary on the Bible: First and Second Maccabees by James Dunn and John Rogerson This is an exegesis of the two books of Maccabees. They are found in the Catholic and Orthodox Bibles, but not the Jewish and Protestant Bibles since they were written in Greek (and the Jews and Protestants only accept those OT books written in Hebrew or Aramaic). The book is very technical. For someone like me (a Bible student), this is good. But it is not the type of book that someone who is someone interested in the topic would enjoy. Moscow 1941 by Rodric Braithwaite This is the story of the invasion of the Nazi forces in the summer of 1941, and their advance to the gates of Moscow. It deals with the strategy of both parties. The author is brutally honest on the murderous regimes of both Hitler and Stalin. He proposes that this battle, the first where the Nazi’s suffered a severe setback, was actually the turning point of the war. The death of Hitler’s War Machine by Samuel Mitcham This is an overview of the last year of World War II on the European front. It gives good treatment to the war in the East and the West, a little bit less so with the war in Italy. Occasionally he falls into citation of regiment numbers at length, but that is not the normal patters. The Spy with no Name by Jeff Maysh This is a short book about a Czech secret agent in London who presented himself as a long lost Danish child who had been put up for adoption after World War II. The book is good and it gives insight to the world of spycraft. Mark Twain by Hourly History This is one of those short biographies about Twain. I have to admit that it was full enough that I learned things about him that I had never heard before. It presented some of his tortured personality, especially in his family relations and toward the end of his life. The Looming Tower by Lawrence Wright This is a very, very good book which gives an overview of the career of Osama bin Laden and his movement. It speaks of the successes and failures of the government’s attempt to track and intercept terrorism. Maybe of the failures were due to the fact that various investigative bodies refused to share critical information with each other. The author tries to give a full picture of the personalities and rationale of the parties involved. The End of Tsarist Russia by Dominic Lieven This was a very thorough overview of Russian and European politics just before World War I which led to the overthrow of the Tsarist regime. He describes the near paralysis of the Russian government due to the weakness of the monarch and the varied talent of his various ministers. Interestingly, most of the book is spent on the period before the Russian Revolution and not during and after it. The Princes in the Tower by Charles River Editors This is the story of the disappearance of the sons of Edward IV from the Tower of London (most certainly murdered, most probably by their uncle Richard III). The new king Richard had thrown their paternity into doubt and took the throne himself. He was eventually defeated by Henry VII, who used his treatment of his nephews as one of his justifications. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude