Thursday, July 27, 2023

Ellicott City, MD

July 27, 2023 Peace and Good, I has been a nice, quite week. I have been getting caught up with articles for the Messenger Magazine in Padua, Italy (done until March of next year) and of the daily reflections. I'm at the point with both of them that I can put them on the side for a few days at least. I took a trip up to Totowa, New Jersey these days to visit my publisher. It was good to get out of the house and travel a bit, even if there was a tremendous amount of trafic and construction everywhere I went. I have finished one set of medical procedures, and next week I have to arrange for another CAT scan that was requested by one of my doctors. Today we have the birthday of one of the friars at the other friary on the property, fr. Hillary. He is 85 years old. fr. Hillary is as excentric as they come, but a fund excentric. He used to have a lot of adult education courses in the parishes in which he served, and people would flock to the courses. I finished some reading and listening: The Agency: A History of the CIA by Hugh Wilford This is a Teaching Company course on the history of the CIA from the days of its founding (and its predecessor agency, the OSS) to the present. It gives an explanation of how an information gathering agency began to interfere in the policies and governments of other countries (and a spate of spying on its own citizens, something strictly against its own rules). The professor gives a good overview without either overly defending or attacking the agency. Deliver Us From Evil by David Baldacci Two different groups chase after a Ukrainian plutocrat who was a KGB monster, killing thousands and thousands. One of the groups goes after master murderers to kill them for their crimes. The other group is a US government agency concerned that he was selling nuclear fuel to Arab terrorists. They meet and slowly form a united effort. The action is quite good, and the character development is quite good. Cities of Gold by Douglas Preston I usually read the books written by Douglas Preston together with Lincoln Childs. This one was only by Preston and it is quite good. It is the story of his journey with a companion by horse to the sites visited by Coronado when he explored the Southwest looking for the cities of gold. The book is both an adventure story (real and not fictional) and a history lesson of the encounter of the Spanish culture and the Indigenous peoples living there. Unfortunately, it is a tragic story of oppression and misunderstandings. The Culper Ring by Hourly History This is the story of a group of spies that George Washington organized in New York City during the Revolutionary War to inform him of British intentions. They were able to warn him both of a faint that the British were intending and a possible attempt to kidnap and kill him. The Third Chimpanzee: = the Evolution and the Future of the Human Animal by Jared Diamond Jared Diamond’s books are all filled with an incredible amount of information. The third chimpanzee in the title is the human being. Diamond speaks of the various abilities of humans and where they came from (e.g. sight, speech, cultural characteristics, etc.). He speaks of dangers in the past and those which are in the future (nuclear disaster, environmental degradation). I would highly recommend this book and Diamond’s other volumes. The Golden Age (of the Netherlands) by Kelly Mass This speaks of the period of Dutch history when the Netherlands was experiencing a most favorable trade climate and was extending its influence through a colonial empire. As always, these presentations are the bare bones approach to the topic. Eerdman’s Commentary on the Bible: Baruch, Additions to Daniel, Manasseh, Psalm 151 by John Schmitt, etc. This is an exegesis of the above mentioned books. The approach is highly exegetical, and the overall presentation in a number of the volumes in the set of commentaries is not quite as present. I found the presentation on Baruch the most useful. Waking Giant: America in the Age of Jackson by David Reynolds This is an extensive presentation on the history and culture of the United States during the age of Jackson and in the years immediately after his presidency. It covers questions of trade, religion, territorial expansion, treatment of the indigenous, etc. The presentation is very well organized, and the volume definitely worth one’s time. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling I had heard that the later volumes in the Harry Potter series were darker, and that is certainly the truth of this last volume of the series. I found the story good. Harry is certainly presented as a Christlike figure in this book, but the story handles well the conflicted emotions of the main characters as they confront an impossible situation. Red October by Douglas Boyd I thought this was going to be the story of a submarine named the Red October, but it turned out to be the story of the first Red October, the communist revolution in Russia. The author does a great job of presenting the main characters in the drama. He covers the main points of what happened. The only shortfall I felt was that the description of the actual revolutionary days is a bit hasty. Have a good Weekend. Shalom fr. Jude

Monday, July 17, 2023

Ellicott City, MD

July 17, 2023 Peace and Good, It is so good to put just one city in the title of this blog. I have been in Ellicott City, beginning my time of rest before I begin a new apostolate (I don't know what that will be yet). This past Wednesday I had sinus surgery. They had discovered a total blockage in my right sinus when they were doing CAT scans to see what my neuropathy problem was. I could not address it then because the surgeon wanted me to spend three weeks without any flights, and that was just not possible til recently. The surgery went very well, with nothing more than a sore throat and a headache. The staff, the doctor, etc. were all tremendous. I have an appointment with the doctor this coming Wednesday. I will be here in the Baltimore area until mid-August, and then head out to our novitiate in California. There I will spend a few months, writiing a bit and just taking it easy. There have been so many trips in these years that I just need time to physically recover a bit. Already, I have found that several times a day I say to myself that I should get busy and do something, and then I tell myself that I don't have to do it. That is a good feeling. I finished some reading and listening: Executing the Rosenbergs by Lori Clune This book covers the trial and the execution of the Rosenbergs, the atomic spies executed by the US during the 1950’s. The author especially covers the reaction to the execution in countries throughout the world. She does not try to defend either them or the government, being willing to admit that Julius Rosenberg was a spy (the wife was a bit more ambiguous) and that the government mishandled the whole affair, giving the communists a press victory. The Middle East by Wendy McElroy This is a short presentation of the Middle East, especially in the 20th century. Honestly, it is more of a presentation on the history of Israel and its relations with the surrounding Arab nations. The presentation is good, but it is not what it advertises itself to be. John the Baptist by Raymond Collins This is a learn25 presentation on the person of John the Baptist. The professor gives an exegetical presentation from the writings of the New Testament, mentioning those few other early documents that speak of him (e.g. Josephus). The presentations did not give me a lot of new information, but confirmed what I already knew about the topic. George Patton by Hourly History This is a good, short presentation on the highly controversial World War II general who even the Nazi’s considered to be the best general on the Allies side. The short book presents elements of his genius, but also those elements that proved to be self-destructive. It avoids needless speculation on his death (e.g. conspiratorial theories involving the Soviets, the US government, etc.). Between the Rivers: the History of Ancient Mesopotamia by Alexis Castor This is a 24 lecture presentation on the history of the land that today is called Iraq and Syria. The professor is excellent, and she gave a number of lectures that went beyond dates and names. I thoroughly enjoyed the presentation, and learned quite a bit from it. Stonewall Jackson by Hourly History This is a very quick presentation on the life and military career of Stonewall Jackson. In such a short book, it is difficult to really know the person, and this is no exception. The book comes across as an outline rather than a story of the person. The Apollo 1 Disaster by Charles River Editors This is a presentation on the disaster that struck the practice launch of Apollo I A fire broke out in the capsule, and in the oxygen rich environment, quickly killed the three astronauts there. Unfortunately, the author of this presentation simply copied document after document concerning the investigations, making the read quite boring. The Apis Bull by Charles River Editors This is one of those short treatments on a specific topic by Charles River Editors. In this case, it is the story of the Apis bull which was considered to be sacred in ancient Egypt. It had to have certain markings on it, and was kept in luxury until its death, after which it was mummified. Even its mother was treated with great respect. At the end of the Hellenistic era, it took on a new identity as the Serapis. The cult went on until the early days of the Christian era. The Genius of Earth Day by Adam Rome This is a short course from the Teaching Company on the first earth day (what led up to it, what happened that day, and the long term consequences). The author is very much a fan of the movement, but he does not go overboard too much in his account. Dante by R.W.B. Lewis This is a very nice biography of Dante. It does not deal only with the Divine Comedy as many books on Dante tend to do. It speaks of his background, his politics, his reason for writing his various works, etc. It is not a very long book, but it is packed with insight. The Sacco Gang by Andrea Camilleri I have read a number of books by Camilleri. He writes about a police investigator who often has to deal with the Mafia in his home of Sicily. This book speaks about a family that fought the Mafia and who were attacked by them and by the authorities who hid the Mafia deeds for pay. They spent many years in prison for crimes that the Mafia actually committed. Lord Haw-haw by Charles River Editors This is a biography of the life and career of an American (British?) man who served as a propaganda dispenser in English during the Second World War. He hated the British aristocrats (possibly because he could not break into their circle) and berated them and the Jews and anyone else who came into his sphere. He was executed for treason at the end of the war. Jefferson Davis by Hourly History This is a short history of the first and only president of the Confederate States. It does not go into very much detail, especially during the Civil War years when it would have been interesting to know what he thought of his military leaders, etc. Nevertheless, it was a nice outline of his life. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Tuesday, July 4, 2023

Rome - Ellicott City, MD

July 4, 2023 Happy Independence Day, The last couple of weeks in Rome were grueling with two week long meetings, the first a definitory with a meeting of the presidents of the federations throughout the world and the second a meeting with half of the provincials of the world at the half way point in the present six year terms of the Minister General. On the 28th, I flew back to the States through Germany. Fortunately, we were only about 45 minutes late, compared with the incredible delays so many have suffered in these days. I will be at Ellicott City until August 16th, and then fly out to California for some R and R. On the 13th of this month I have a minor operation on my sinuses which I have been putting off due to the travel requirements I had as Assistant General. As of July 1st, I am finished with that responsibility. I don't really know what the long term future holds, but the next months have to be recovering from the wear and tear of 13 years of constant travel. We had the funeral of one of our friars yesterday at Annunciation Parish in Baltimore, fr. Joseph Bayne. He did suddenly of a heart attack. He did great work with runaway young men in Buffalo for years, and recently had been the assistant at our Postulancy program in Chicago. I finshed some reading and listening: European Thought in the 20th Century by Lloyd Kramer This is a teaching company course that speaks about major philosophical movements in Europe during the 20th century, from the isms to the post-modernistic era. The professor does not advocate one position or another. He simply presents the ideas and the major proponents of those ideas. Ben Gurion by Simon Peres This is a biographical account of the first leader of Israel. Ben Gurion is presented with his strengths and his flaws. Those who worked with him often found him to be autocratic, but some of that was needed in the crisis of the early years of Israel’s existence. Peres, who himself became a prime minister, gives an inside view of many of the events that made Israel what it is today. The Death of Caesar by Barry Strauss Strauss is one of three authors on Roman history whom I truly enjoy. He gives a tremendous amount of background information without ever becoming pedantic. He paints a picture that explains the what and the why of whatever happened. I could easily recommend this volume. The Mongols by Kelly Mass This is a short history of the Mongols who proved to be such a horror to the nations which they assaulted. They came out of the Mongolian plateau at the end of the 12th century AD, and conquered much of the Muslim world, reaching the doors of Europe before they finally turned back. Unlike many other conquerors, they never really intended to set up and govern an empire as much as put the surrounding states in tribute to them. Christ, the Heart of Creation by Rowan Williams This is one of the most profound books I have ever read. He deals with high metaphysics and very esoteric theories, but he does so in a brilliant manner. This is the first time I truly understand the Hypostatic Union, not as a joining of two separate natures but as the divine subsuming itself in the human (for the divine contains everything that exists). I had to read this very slowly to understand as much as I could, which was probably no more than 1/3, but I would gladly read anything Rowan Williams (the former Archbishop of Canterbury) again. The Joy of Science by Robert Hazen This is a very long (60 lectures), very good overview of the modern conception of the scientific view of the universe. It deals with innumerable topics, from atoms to evolution to the history of science to the most modern conceptions of science. The professor is good and clear in his presentations, even though I had to really think about some of the topics (e.g. quantum physics). A Wicked War: Polk, Clay, Lincoln and the 1846 US Invasion of Mexico by Amy Greenberg This is a long consideration of the reaction of the people of the States to the initiation and fighting of the Mexican American war. It was clearly a war initiated by the States in order to conquer territory (most of the southwest and California, for Texas had already been annexed). It deals with the main figures involved in the debate, Clay and Polk and a newly elected representative named Abraham Lincoln. The book mentions the fighting, but the real drama is on the home front. Fatal Remedies by Donna Leon Donna Leon is clearly one of my favorite authors. She writes about a police investigator in Venice. Brunetti has a wonderful relationship with his wife who is a college professor in literature. He is not a super sleuth, but rather an honest, insightful investigator. This volume deals with questions about sex tourism and drug manipulation. It also has a good read of the complexities of the Italian bureaucracy. It is, as always, a great read. The Maroons by Charles River Editors This is an account of the communities of run away slaves at the edge of civilization in any country that imported a large number of African slaves. This includes the US (Virginia, Florida, Louisiana), Brazil and Jamaica. At times, the run aways established large communities that were loosely associated with neighboring plantations, etc. Most of these communities were built on land that no one wanted (swamp land, the mountains, etc.). The Russian Civil War by Hourly History This is the account of the warfare between the forces of the white (anti-Bolsheviks) and the reds (Bolsheviks). The whites were aided by outside powers, especially Great Britain, the US, and Japan. The war was incredibly bloody, and also disastrous for the people who needed a dependable source of food, especially after the lack of food during the First World War. Sulla and Gaius Marius by Charles River Editors In the first century B.C., there were two Roman empires who seized power through the use of their legionary armies. Maius was mostly known as a populist. He was a very good general who defeated barbarian invasions in the north. But he despised Sulla, and he killed many of his followers. In revenge, Sulla, one of the upper class, conquered Rome and killed many, many of Marius’ followers (as well as anyone who was rich enough to want dead). He made himself dictator for life, but then resigned not many years after that. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude