Wednesday, March 27, 2024

Ellicott City

March 27, 2024 Living here in Baltimroe, yesterday was a huge shock with the destruction of the Francis Scott Key Bridge. This was one of the landmarks of the city. It was incredible how quickly it fell into the river. I have watched a series of presentations from the Teaching Company on Engineering disasters over the years and I therefore understand some of the dynamics of what happened. Still, it leave you gasping. Thank God it happened in the middle of the night and not at rush hour. I am slowly gaining strength, but it is a slow process. Monday I began my immunotherapy. This involves one IV per month for a year, and it is intended to help the immune system to fight any traces of cancer that might remain in the body. I feel a reaction to the first dose in these days, but it is not terrible. Little by little. I am starting to feel well enough to begin booking a few things in about a month's time by which time I should be feeling quite a bit better. The first thing will be a workshop on the letters of St. Paul to our postulants in Chicago. This is something that I have been offering for a number of years, and I really enjoy the time to share scriptural insights with the young friars. Spring is here and yet it seems tenuous. Again, this is something over which I have to be patient. I am hoping to have enought strength to go up the hill tomorrow for the Holy Thursday celebration at the Shrine. I will have to play it by ear. I finished some books: The Assassination of Reinhardt Heydrich by Charles River Editors Heydrich was one of the worst Nazi war criminals. He was made the head of the government over the conquered Czech republic during the war. The SOS in Great Britain and the head of the government in exile, Benes, decided to try to assassinate him. That was highly controversial because his death led to horrendous persecution of the Czech people. The author of the account is highly suspicious of the motives of Benes, holding that maybe he pushed the assassination of Heydrich to cause this backlash and thus force the Czech people to take a stand against the Nazi’s. The Mexican-American War by Charles River Editors This is a short account of the Mexican American War, a war that was considered to be highly controversial even in its own times. While the causus belli of the war was a problem with the definition of the border between Texas and Mexico, the real purpose of the war was to conquer extensive amounts of Mexican territory. Furthermore, politics entered into the conduct of the war (the president opposed his own main general because he belonged to a different political party). Picasso by Arianna Stassinopoulos This is a long, detailed account of the life and career of the famous Spanish artist Pablo Picasso. The book does not go into his art extensively, but it does go into his personality. I have to admit that after reading this account, I have an incredibly negative view of the person. He was misogynist, sadistic, manipulative, hateful, etc. If I were someone who worked for the MeToo movement, I would be demonstrating in front of Museums that displayed his artwork. Dreamers and Deceivers by Glenn Beck This is an anthology of the stories of dreamers (great people who made a significant contribution to society, e.g. Alan Turning, one of the inventors of the computer) and of deceivers (e.g. Ponzi and his Ponzi scheme). The author gets a bit political at times, e.g. in his presentation of the Alger Hiss story, but overall the presentations are fair and entertaining. Total War: World War II and Its Lasting Legacy by Mark Polelle This is a Modern Scholar course dealing with the causes, the conduct, and the consequences of World War II. It is largely a Europocentric presentation. There is nothing especially new, but it does give a good background to the topic. Rashi by Elie Wiesel Elie Wiesel is the famous concentration camp survivor who wrote “Night” and won the Nobel Peace Prize. This is a biographical sketch of a famous rabbi from the Middle Ages. He is portrayed as brilliant, conscientious, and gentle. The one area of thought that was treated harshly was any reference to Christians, given that many of his compatriots were killed in the previous years by rampaging crusaders on their way to the Holy Land. The portrait is sympathetic, but not strictly academic. The Dead Sea Scrolls by Gary Rendsburg This is an excellent Teaching Company course on the discovery, background, content and importance (even now) to the discovery of these scrolls near the Dead Sea, at a place known as Qumran. The professor draws upon Jewish and ancient Middle Eastern teachings. He speaks of the archeology of the site and deals with the question of whether or not they were written and stored by the Essenes. This is a course that I would strongly recommend. The Temple of Solomon by Charles River Editors This is a quick study of the temple built by King Solomon. His father David had been forbidden to build it by God, but he did collect enormous amounts of material that Solomon then used. He, in a sense, subcontracted with the king of Lebanon, Hiram, to do the actual construction. The author shows how the temple was like and unlike pagan temples. Unfortunately, the author occasionally gets caught in a stream of consciousness argument that had little to do with the actual topic. 10 Great Events of the Old Testament that Shaped Jewish and Christian Identity by Daniel Smith-Christopher This is a Learn25 course, a series of lectures about 25 minutes long, concerning those turning points in the Old Testament. The treatment of those episodes is not especially deep, but the presentation is very well done. It gives an overview to major movements in the Jewish faith and how moments of crisis often sparked new understandings and new fidelity to the call that the Chosen people had received. The Second Oldest Profession: A World History of Espionage Part One by Jeffrey Burds This is a Modern Scholar course on the history of espionage. The author goes through various historic epics and speaks of the attempts to spy and counter-spy. The presentation is well done and never filled with polemic. The Safety Net by Andrea Camillieri This is a novel set in a town in Sicily. In this volume, there is a break in to a local school with what seem to be terrorists threatening students. There is also the mystery of why a man who is now deceased filmed the same wall outside his house for years on end on the same date. The books in this series are very well written and enjoyable. They make you feel as if you are visiting Sicily. King Solomon by Charles River Editors This is a short biography of this King of the Jewish people right after David. On the positive side, one sees his wisdom which was known about in foreign lands (e.g. the Queen of Sheba). On the negative side, there is his syncretism (building temples for his foreign wives to worship their ancestral gods). Great World Religions: Islam by John Esposito This is a Great Courses series on Islam. It presents the life and teachings of Mohammad, the early years of the Islamic caliphate, and the various governments that held sway over the Islamic world. It speaks of Islamic legal interpretation, local customs practiced in certain but not all countries, etc. It deals with the negative image often projected upon Islam in recent years and whether terrorism is an authentic interpretation of the Quran. Have a Wonderful Easter. Shalom fr. Jude


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