Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Ellicott City, MD

September 26, 2023 Peace and Good, I am still stationed at our friary in Ellicott City. This is the provincialate. Every morning I try to work on some project, such as writing or recording daily reflections. I am way ahead on articles for both our magazine in Padua (articles in English) and Kenya. Also, the daily reflections are up to early December. Later this week I hope to begin some research for a book. I had my bronchoscopy last week. I was out for the whole thing, and it went very well. The pulminologist could not have been nicer. The only side effect from the procedure was a light cough and a scratchy throat for that day. By the next day I was back to normal. I am still awaiting the results of the test. They had told me that it would take from five to seven days to find out. We got a bit of the tropical storm here (Ophelia). It was mostly a constant light rain for two days, but it is still cloudy today and still raining off and on. My afternoons are spent on reading and listening to books. I really enjoy this time to study some topics that I have always wanted to research. I finished reading and listening to some books: 55 Mysteries of the Mind by Scientific American This is a series of 55 short articles concerning various topics dealing with the brain. The series is well done, sort of like listening to a series of Wikipedia articles. I can truly say I enjoyed it, and learned something from it. The Ghostway by Tony Hillerman All of Hillerman’s books are worth reading, and this volume was no exception. There is a murder (actually more than one) on the reservation that has ties to a crime network in Los Angeles. Chee, a reservation detective, must investigate the killings, and he must try to protect a young girl who was a witness to some of the events and is therefore in danger. Hillerman has a gift of describing the characters and the background in a very believable way. The Fires of Vesuvius by Mary Beard When I started the book, I thought this would be an account of the famous explosion of the volcano Vesuvius which buried the city of Pompei. Rather, it was a description of life in the city as discovered through a study of the archaeological evidence. Beard is an excellent scholar, and her arguments are quite convincing. Washington’s Farewell by John Avion This is a study on the text and reaction to the farewell address that Washington bequeathed to the nation upon the end of his second term. The author deals at length upon the idea of not getting involved with foreign entanglements, of not exploding the public debt, etc. He is able to show the sources of the address, and how Washington changed what had been proposed by Jay and Hamilton to put his own touch on the topics contained therein. He also shows how the address has been used and abused throughout the ages. The Heron by Don Winslow This is a novella about an accountant who has hidden himself from a crime boss from whom he has robbed a lot of money and with whose wife he had an affair. It is a good story with just enough twists and turns to keep in interesting. The Real History of Secret Societies by Richard Spence This is a teaching company course about various secret societies throughout the ages, dealing with many of the usual topics (the Templars, the Freemasons, the anarchists, etc.) and with groups I had never heard about. Spence gives common characteristics about many of the groups. He makes some questionable conclusions at times, but overall the information is good and the presentation entertaining. Micah (The Two Horizons Old Testament Commentary by Stephen Dempster This is a Biblical commentary on the book of the prophet Micah. It is one of the best commentaries I have read in years. It pays a lot of attention to the original setting in which the book was produced, to the linguistic subtleties, and also to the application of the message in the days of Micah and in our own days. I acquired a number of volumes of this commentary series because they were on sale, but I am very glad I found this gem. The Blood of the Lamb by Michael Lister This is one volume of a multi-volume story of a chaplain at a maximum security prison who had been a private investigator. In this volume he must solve the murder of a young girl, the daughter of an evangelist. The story, as always, is much greater than it seems on the surface. The chaplain is a flawed person, with a drinking problem on which he is working. In this volume, he is slowly getting together with his divorced wife. Amphibious Warfare in World War II by Charles River Editors Like all of the Charles River books, this is a short investigation into the topic contained in the title. It deals with amphibious landings in the Pacific, the coast of North Africa, Sicily and the D-Day landing in France. Anne Boleyn by Kelly Mass This is a short overview of the life of Anne Boleyn, the second wife of Henry VIII. It is more of a bullet point presentation than a real biography, but it is long enough to set the scene and tell the story. The Exodus by Michael Guinan This is a Learn25 course on the Book of Exodus. The professor covers the content of the book and its historicity, based on archaeological and other written texts. He deals with the idea of covenant and how the book is not about objective rules, but rather about a life style in which God and neighbor are central. He also speaks about the influence this book and story have had upon society, and especially various social justice movements, over the centuries. Civil War 101 by Peter Carmichael This is a learn25 course on the Civil War. The author is very balanced in his approach to the topic, never lauding the north too much and never buying into the myths that arose after the war concerning the southern cause. He gives a good outline to the action, the politics, and the social condition of those who participated in the war. He tries not to be too objective, in the sense that he quotes from letters and remembrances of those involved in the fighting to try to show the human dimension and costs of the war. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Thursday, September 14, 2023

Ellicott City, Maryland

September 14, 2023 Peace and Good, I have been at home in Ellicott City these days except for visits to doctors' offices, which is quite a few. I have been using the mornings for writing projects and the afternoons for reading. I have managed to finish 28 articles for two magazines in Padua, Italy and Kenya. The Paduan articles are on the compansions of Jesus, while the Kenyan articles were on the parables of Jesus. I have a CT scan yesterday. They finally discovered why I had a pain in my side. It is a broken rib. I had a small fall a month ago, and I did not realize I had hurt myself like this. Next week I have my bronchoscopy, having a tube put down my throat into my lungs to get a biopsy of the growth they found. I will be asleep, so they can do whatever they want when I am out of it. I have decided to self-quarantine as much as possible, given all the important health appointments I have in these weeks and given the fact that covid is making a bit of a comeback. It is just safer to be careful right now. I finished some reading and listening: European Thought and Culture in the 19th Century by Lloyd Kramer This is a Teaching Company course on the main intellectual movements of the 19th century. It comes across as a post-enlightenment reaction to the main intellectual movements of the previous century. The professors content is well arranged and he is careful to show the links between the various ideas being presented. Henry Knox’s Noble Train by William Hazelgrove At the very beginning of the War for Independence, General Washington sent a book store owner hundreds of miles over winter ravaged land to procure canons from the fort the patriots had taken at Fort Ticonderoga in northern New York State. Knox had no real military training, only what he had read in books in his shop. Yet, he was able to perform a miracle by brining the canons to Boston, an action that forced the British to abandon the city. C.S. Lewis: A Life: Eccentric Genius, Reluctant Prophet by Alister McGrath This is a thoughtful biography of the famous author of so many Christian books of apologia and of the Narnia series. The books speaks of the background and struggles of Lewis, and how he almost backed into the role of Christian apologist by accident. The various persons so important to Lewis, e.g. his brother, Tolkien, etc. are well outlined. The Great Fire of London by Kelly Mass This is a short history of the disaster in 1666 which destroyed most of the city of London, and possibly wiping out the last vestiges of the great plague which had attacked London in the previous year. Confucius, Buddha, Jesus and Mohammed by Mark Muesse This is a teaching company course on comparative religions, especially the lives and teachings of the four men mentioned in the title of the course. I liked the presentation of the similarities of the four figures. I found that the professor sometimes put possibly too positive of a viewpoint on certain elements of the stories of these characters. Furthermore, his presentation of Jesus subtly and at times not so subtly denies his divinity, presenting him as an honored sage. Pierre Currie by Charles River Editors This is a well written short presentation on the husband of Madame Curie. He and she both discovered radium and studied the properties of nuclear radiation. Pierre is presented almost as if he were an absent minded professor, but the story is told with great respect. Marquis de Lafayette by Hourly History This is a short biography of the famous Revolutionary War hero from France who served as a adjutant to George Washington. The book deals with his involvement with both the American and French revolution. Even though it is short, there is quite a bit of material in the presentation. The Cathars by Kelly Mass This is a short history of the reform movement/heresy which began in the Balkans but which grew to fruition in the south of France and neighboring territories. It was dualistic, speaking of two gods, one good and one bad. It rejected the material world. The Church organized a crusade against it which proved to be terribly violent. Vincent van Gogh by Kelly Mass This is a short biography of the famous artists. Because it is so short, it does not really give a great insight into the motivation and the insight of the artist, or into his troubled mind. A Short History of the Vietnam War by DK The DK series of collection of vast treatments on various topics. It is presented almost as it were an album of newspaper and magazine articles on the subject. This particular volume, dealing with the Vietnam War, is well developed and gives insight to what actually happened (in the war, in politics, to the people, to the society, etc.). It is not always a smooth read (between the various sections), but each section by itself is a good read. The Great Penguin Rescue by Dyan deNapoli A ship went down just off the coast of South Africa, and when the fuel bunkers ruptured, oil poured forth into the ocean right around a major breeding grounds of a group of highly endangered penguins. The oil caused the penguins to lose their ability to swim in cold water, and it sickened them when they ingested it while preening their feathers. This is the story of the massive effort to rescue the penguins, cleaning and nourishing them until they could be released into the wild. Four Queens by Nancy Goldstone This is the story of four sisters from southern France who eventually became queens in their own right in various kingdoms during the middle of the 14th century. It deals with a lot of the convoluted politics of the era, involving especially England and France. The book is quite engaging, but one finds that one has to pay close attention due to the numerous names and plots and subplots used in telling the tale. Rizzio by Denise Mina This is a short book which is a dramatic presentation of the murder of Rizzio, the consultant of Queen Mary of Scotland, by a band of nobles and with the contrivance of her own husband. The story is well told, and the characters involved are well outlined. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Friday, September 1, 2023

Ellicott City, MD

September 1, 2023 Peace and Good, I have been in Ellicott City for a bit over a month now. I am feeling much better after having been in the hospital for blood clots on my lungs. It was caused by a Deep Vein Thrombosis which itself, I am sure, was caused by too many flights. I felt it coming on when I was in South Korea on visitation, but I didn't realize what it was. I still have some visits to the doctors in this area. I hope that all of this will be over by the end of the month, but we will have to see. I have been using the morning for various writing and taping projects. I have finished my articles for the Messenger magazine in Padua until March, 2026. I wanted to finish a particular series upon which I was working on the companions of Jesus. Now I have to work a bit for the articles I do for a magazine in Kenya. I have managed to get ahead on my blogs on the daily readings, about a month in advance. The afternoons I am using to read and listen to courses, mostly from the Modern Scholar series. I have finished a number of books: The Graves are Walking by John Kelly This is the story of the potato famine in Ireland during the 19th century. The author speaks of the cause of the famine (both biological and sociological), of the reaction (and often lack thereof) to the suffering of the people by the British overlords, and the mass migration and suffering of those who left Ireland caused by that disaster. The book is well done. It is difficult to come to grips with the magnitude of the disaster, and the often callous response of the British (actually sending grain out of the country while people were starving, as well as expelling people from their fields in the midst of a famine). After Thermopylae by Paul Cartledge The premise of the author is that the battle of Platea (which followed the battles of Thermopylae and the naval battle at Salamis) has largely been forgotten, even though this was the definitive defeat of the Persian invasion in Greece. The problem is that he hardly deals with the battle. He speaks about the oath of Platea, supposedly an oath made to fight well at the battle, but probably a later invention to speak to the needs of a different situation. He speaks of many other things as well, but passes over the actual battle in a cursory manner. I really did not like this book all that much. The Battle of Shiloh by Hourly History This short history of the battle of Shiloh speaks about a battle that Grant and Sherman almost lost, being found unprepared for an attack by southern forces as they moved south after conquering a good part of western Tennessee. Introduction to the Qur’an by Professor Martyn Oliver This is a Great Courses presentation on the central book of Islam, the Qur’an. The professor gives a cursory overview of the history, previous sources, and meaning of this book. Oliver is a bit defensive in his presentation, possibly overemphasizing the idea that the radical Islamic interpretation of the book is not what was intended. Yet, the course offers a number of valuable insights. Joan of Arc by Helen Castor This is a very good biography of this famous French saint. The author speaks of her revelations in a highly respectful manner, never saying that they were definitely supernatural and never disclaiming this proposal. She speaks of the difficulties that Joan overcame in her effort to defend France against her enemies, England and Burgundy. Castor gives a good sense of the culture and history of these times, and also of the eventual overturning of her condemnation by a body of judges who were very nationalistic in their decisions. Horatio Nelson by Kelly Mass This is a short biography of the hero of the navy during the Napoleonic Wars. He was brilliant as a war hero, but less than exemplary in his personal life (having an affair with a married woman, being incredibly self-referential and ambitious). Sam Houston by Charles River Editors This is a short biography of the colorful character and friend of President Jackson who led the fight for independence in Texas and its eventual annexation to the United States. At times he was the president of Texas, its governor, and its senator. He fought the secession of Texas to join the Confederate States during the Civil War (although he himself owned slaves). Italy’s Most Powerful Mafias by Charles River Editors This is a short presentation of the various forms of the Mafia (Cosa Nostra, Ndrageta, etc.). The author speaks of the failure of the central government to deal with the problems which led to the growth of these movements. He even indicts the allies in World War II who used the Mafia to fight the Nazis and Fascists and then allowed the rebirth of the Mafia in Southern Italy (and eventually throughout the world). The History of Wales by History Nerds This is a short presentation of the history of this part of Great Britain from its earliest days until the present. The author gives enough information to have a good sense of the culture and history of Wales, without getting so involved in the presentation that he would lose his readers. Spies of the Balkans by Alan Furst I thoroughly enjoy all of Furst’s books. They all deal with European countries in the 1930’s up to 1945. This particular volume speaks of a policeman in Salonika, Greece, just before the invasion of the Nazi’s. The hero is caught up in resistance activities even before the invasion, helping Jews to escape Nazi Germany and helping a British scientist to escape from occupied Paris. Furst has a talent to paint a picture that is totally foreign, yet totally believable. A History of British India by Hayden Bellenoit This is a Great Courses presentation on the history of the British involvement in India. It goes from the days of the first commercial enterprises until the day of Indian and Pakistani independence. It gives a balanced approach to the story. Even in topics such as Gandhi, the professor goes out of his way to be honest to the talents and difficulties of his approach. I would recommend this book to anyone interested in this topic. Have a good week. Please continue to keep me in your prayers. Shalom fr. Jude