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


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