Daily Update: Sunday, May 17th, 2015

Ascension by Giotto and 05-17 - High School Graduation

Alleluia! Today is the Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord. On this date in 1976 I graduated from Salmen High School in Slidell, Louisiana (Go Spartans!). And today is also the birthday of one of my co-workers at the casino, Tracey, who works on the day shift (1969).

The Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord (Alleluia!) celebrates the Ascent of Jesus to his Father forty days after Easter. The canonical account of Jesus ascending bodily into the clouds contrasts with the gnostic tradition, by which Jesus was said to have transcended the physical realm and returned to his home in the spirit world. It also contrasts with the beliefs of Docetism, in which matter was intrinsically evil and Jesus was said to have been pure spirit. The Latin terms used for the feast, ascensio and, occasionally, ascensa, signify that Christ was raised up by his own powers, and it is from these terms that the holy day gets its name. The observance of this feast is of great antiquity; although no documentary evidence of it exists prior to the beginning of the fifth century, St. Augustine (died 430) said that the feast was of Apostolic origin, and he spoke of it in a way that shows it was the universal observance of the Church long before his time. I am not entirely happy with the decision of the Archbishop of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New Orleans in 1999 (in conjunction with most other Archbishops in the United States) to move the Feast from the Thursday forty days after Easter to the next Sunday (which to my mind, confuses the issue both of how many days are between Easter and the Ascension, and how many days are between the Ascension and Pentecost), but as a reasonably good devout Catholic, I accede to having the Ascension on Sunday. Turning to the secular world, many years ago, back when the earth’s crust was still cooling, I graduated from high school on this date in 1976 (in my transition lens glasses and long hair); we sang our class song, ”Theme to Mahogany”, and the party I went to afterwards consisted mostly of people standing around drinking beer, which was pretty boring. (To date, I have never been to a reunion.) My high school was damaged so heavily by Hurricane Katrina in 2005 that they tore down what the hurricane left and put up a whole new school; I do hope that the school band has a better building now than they did while I was playing clarinet in the band (the Band Building was a portable building out back, and impossible to get into (or out of) during heavy rains). Today is also the birthday of my co-worker at the casino, Tracey (1969).

Yesterday in the Preakness Stakes American Pharoah (the winner of the Kentucky Derby) won by seven lengths over Tale of Verve, with Divining Rod coming in third. So we have a chance at a Triple Crown winner at the Belmont. Turning to LSU Baseball, when Alabama beat Vanderbilt earlier in the day it clinched the 2015 SEC Regular Season Title for LSU. When our #1 ranked LSU Baseball team beat South Carolina by the score of 8 to 1 last night, they claimed the SEC Western Division Title. Our Tigers will next play in the SEC Tournament on Wednesday, May 20th, against the winner of Tuesdays’s Auburn – Kentucky game. (Geaux Tigers!)

I did my Bathroom Devotional Reading, and on our way to work I did my Internet Devotional Reading and said the Third Day of my Pentecost Novena. Before we clocked in we spoke to the Shift Manager and Assistant Shift Manager and got Monday, June 8th and Tuesday, June 9th off from work. When we clocked in Richard was on Three Card Poker, and I was on Blackjack; it was very busy all day, as there had been a concert at the casino the night before.

On our way home I formally requested June 8th and June 9 off for Richard and me on the scheduling software (though we have been assured that we have the time off). Once home I read the Sunday papers and ate my lunch salad. Richard then got on the computer and arranged via Expedia that we will fly from Houston to Boston on Monday, June 8th, and return from Boston to Houston on Thursday, June 11th, with a car rental while we are in the Northeast. I then took a nap for the rest of the day. So, I did not do my Daily Update, I did not print out my Blood Pressure or Blood Sugar logs for my health coach (more anon), and I did not go to the 6:00 pm Mass for the Ascension of the Lord. And the New Moon arrived at 11:16 pm.

Tomorrow is the Optional Memorial of Saint John I, Pope and Martyr. It is the beginning of our work week at the casino, and we will work our eight hours. On my breaks at work I will do my Daily Update for Sunday, May 17th, 2015 via WordPress for Android. After work I will go over to the Clinic for my 11:10 appointment with the Health Coach and pick up a prescription.

Our Parting Quote this on this afternoon of the Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord (Alleluia!) comes to us from Donna Summer, American singer and songwriter. Born in 1948 in Boston, Massachusetts, as LaDonna Gaines, she was one of seven children raised by devout Christian parents. Influenced by Mahalia Jackson, Summer began singing in the church at a young age. In her teens she formed several musical groups, including one with her sister and a cousin, imitating Motown girl groups such as The Supremes and Martha and the Vandellas. In the late 1960s Summer was influenced by Janis Joplin after listening to her albums as a member of Big Brother and the Holding Company, and dropped out of school convinced that music was her way out of Boston, where she had always felt herself to be an outsider even among her own family who ridiculed her for her voice and her looks. She joined the psychedelic rock group the Crow as lead singer, but the group was short-lived as they split upon their arrival in New York. In 1968 Summer auditioned for a role in the Broadway musical Hair, but she lost the part of Sheila to Melba Moore. When the musical moved to Europe, Summer was offered the role. She took it and moved to Germany for several years. While in Germany, where she learned to speak German fluently, she participated in the musicals Ich Bin Ich (the German version of The Me Nobody Knows), Godspell and Show Boat. After settling in Munich she began performing in several ensembles including the Viennese Folk Opera and also sang as a member of the pop group FamilyTree. She also sang as a studio session singer and in theaters. In 1971, while still using her birth name (slightly altered) of Donna Gaines, she released her first single, a cover of “Sally Go ‘Round the Roses”, though it was not a hit. In 1972 she married Austrian actor Helmuth Sommer and gave birth to their daughter in 1973. Citing marital problems caused by her affair with German artist (and future live-in boyfriend) Peter Mühldorfer, she divorced Helmuth but kept his last name, anglicising it to “Summer”. She also worked on an album with keyboardist/producer Veit Marvos in 1972, providing backing vocals on his Ariola records release Nice To See You (where she was credited under the pseudonym Gayn Pierre). Several single releases over the years have included a young Donna performing with the group, even though she often denied ever singing on any of the Marvos releases. While singing background for the hit-making 1970s trio Three Dog Night, Summer met producers Giorgio Moroder and Pete Bellotte. She eventually signed a deal with the European label Groovy Records and issued her first album, Lady of the Night, in 1974. The album was not released in America, but found some limited European success on the strength of the song “The Hostage”, which reached number one in Belgium and number two in the Netherlands. In 1975 Summer approached Moroder with an idea for a song she and Bellotte were working on for another singer. She had come up with the lyric “love to love you, baby”. Moroder was interested in developing the new disco sound that was becoming popular and used Summer’s lyric to develop the song. He persuaded Summer to record what was to be a demo track for another performer. She later said that she had thought of how the song might sound if Marilyn Monroe had sung it and began cooing the lyrics. To get into the mood of recording the song, she requested that Moroder turn off the lights while they sat on a sofa with him inducing her moans and groans. After hearing playback of the song, Moroder felt Summer’s version should actually be released. Although some radio stations refused to play it due to its suggestive style, “Love to Love You” found chart success in several European countries, and made the Top 5 in the United Kingdom. The song was then sent to Casablanca Records president Neil Bogart in hopes of getting an American release. Bogart informed Summer and Moroder he would release the song (now called “Love to Love You Baby”) but requested that Moroder produce a longer version for discothèques. Moroder, Bellotte, and Summer returned with a 17 minute version and Casablanca signed Summer and released the single in November 1975. The shorter version of the single was promoted to radio stations while clubs regularly played the 17 minute version (the longer version would also appear on the album). Casablanca became one of the first record labels to popularize the 12″ single format. By early 1976 “Love To Love You Baby” had reached #2 on the US Billboard Hot 100, while the parent album of the same name sold over a million copies. The song generated controversy due to Summer’s moans and groans and some American radio stations, like several in Europe, refused to play it. The subsequent albums Love Trilogy and Four Seasons of Love both went gold in the US. In 1977 Summer released the concept album I Remember Yesterday. This album included her second top ten single, “I Feel Love”, which reached number six in the US and number one in the UK. Another concept album, also released in 1977, was Once Upon a Time, a double album which told of a modern-day Cinderella “rags to riches” story through the elements of orchestral disco and ballads. This album would also attain gold status. In 1978 Summer released her version of the Jimmy Webb ballad “MacArthur Park”, which became her first US number one hit. The song was featured on Summer’s first live album, Live and More, which also became her first album to hit number one on the US Billboard 200 chart, and went platinum selling over a million copies. Other studio tracks included the top ten hit, “Heaven Knows”, which featured the group Brooklyn Dreams accompanying her on background and Joe “Bean” Esposito singing alongside her on the verses. Summer would later be romantically involved with Brooklyn Dreams singer Bruce Sudano and the couple married two years after the song’s release. Also in 1978 Summer acted in the film Thank God It’s Friday, playing a singer determined to perform at a hot disco club. The film met modest success, but a song from the film, titled “Last Dance”, reached number three on the Hot 100 and resulted in Summer winning her first Grammy Award. Its writer, Paul Jabara, won an Academy Award for the composition. Despite her musical success, Summer was struggling with anxiety and depression and became dependent on prescription drugs for several years. In 1979 Summer performed at the world-televised Music for UNICEF Concert, joining contemporaries such as Abba, Olivia Newton-John, the Bee Gees, Andy Gibb, Rod Stewart, John Denver, Earth, Wind and Fire, Rita Coolidge and Kris Kristofferson for an hour’s TV special that raised funds and awareness for the world’s children. Artists donated royalties of certain songs, some in perpetuity, to benefit the cause. Summer began work on her next project with Moroder and Bellotte, Bad Girls, an album that had been in production for nearly two years. Summer based the whole concept on prostitution (revisiting the theme for 1974′s ‘Lady Of The Night’), even dressing as a hooker herself on the cover art. The album became a huge success, spawning the number one hits “Hot Stuff” and “Bad Girls”, and the number two “Dim All the Lights”. With “MacArthur Park”, “Hot Stuff”, “Bad Girls,” and the Barbra Streisand duet “No More Tears (Enough is Enough)”, Summer achieved four number-one hits within a thirteen month period. These songs, along with “Heaven Knows”, “Last Dance”, “Dim All The Lights”, and “On the Radio” (from her upcoming double-album) gave her eight US Top 5 singles within a two year period. “Hot Stuff” later won her a second Grammy in the Best Female Rock Vocal Performance, the first time the category was included. That year Summer played eight sold-out nights at the Universal Amphitheater in Los Angeles. She released her first (international) greatest hits set in 1979, a double-album entitled On The Radio: Greatest Hits Volumes 1 & 2. The album reached number one in the US, becoming her third consecutive number one album. A new song from the compilation, “On the Radio”, reached the US top five, selling over a million copies in the U.S. alone. After the release of the greatest hits album, Summer wanted to branch out into other musical styles in addition to disco, which led to tensions between her and Casablanca Records. Sensing that they could no longer come to terms, Summer and the label parted ways in 1980, and she signed with Geffen Records, the new label started by David Geffen. Summer’s first release on Geffen Records was The Wanderer, which replaced the disco sound of Summer’s previous releases with more of the burgeoning new wave sound and elements of rock, such as the material being recorded at this time by Pat Benatar. The album achieved gold status in the US, and the title track (released as the first single) peaked at #3 in the US, though subsequent singles were only moderate hits. Summer reluctantly parted company with Moroder after seven years working together as Geffen had recruited Quincy Jones to produce her next album, 1982′s Donna Summer. The album had taken a lengthy six months to record. Problems then increased between Summer and Geffen Records after they were notified by Polygram Records, the parent company of Summer’s former label Casablanca, that she needed to deliver them one more album to fulfill her contract with them. Summer delivered the album She Works Hard for the Money, and Polygram released it on its Mercury imprint in 1983. The title song became a hit reaching number three on the US Hot 100, and would provide Summer with a Grammy nomination. In late 1984, with her obligation to Polygram complete, Summer returned on Geffen Records with her next release. Geffen, wanting to keep the momentum going, enlisted She Works Hard For the Money’s producer Michael Omartian to produce Cats Without Claws. The album, however, was not as successful as She Works Hard For the Money and failed to attain gold status of 500,000 copies sold in the US, becoming her first album since her 1974 debut not to do so. In the mid 1980s she allegedly made anti-gay remarks regarding the then-relatively new disease, AIDS, which as a result had a significantly negative impact on her career and saw thousands of her records being returned to her record company by angered fans. In 1987 Summer returned with the album All Systems Go, which did not sell well, becoming her second consecutive album not to achieve gold status. It featured the single “Dinner with Gershwin” (written by Brenda Russell), which was only a minor US hit, though it peaked at #13 in the UK. Geffen decided not to release her next album, entitled Another Place and Time, and Summer and Geffen Records parted ways in 1988. The album was released in Europe in March 1989 on Warner Bros. Records, which had been Summer’s label in Europe since 1982. The single “This Time I Know It’s For Real” had become a top ten hit in several countries in Europe, prompting the Warner Bros. subsidiary company Atlantic Records to sign Summer in the US and pick up the album for a North American release soon after. The single peaked at #7 on the Hot 100 in the US, and became her twelfth gold single there. It was also Summer’s final Top 40 hit on the American pop charts. In 1990 a new compilation, The Best of Donna Summer, was released on Warner Bros. Records. It featured some of Summer’s biggest hits from the 1970s and 1980s. The album achieved gold status in the UK, where “State of Independence” had been re-released to promote it. In 1991 Summer released the new jack swing style album Mistaken Identity. It did not sell well, but did contain the #18 R&B hit “When Love Cries”. In 1993 Polygram Records released an extended greatest hits collection entitled The Donna Summer Anthology. It included 34 songs, totalling over two and a half hours of music. It not only included songs from the Polygram-owned labels of Casablanca and Mercury, but also material from Atlantic and Geffen Records as well. In 1994 Summer returned with a new album on Mercury/Polygram, a gospel-influenced Christmas album entitled Christmas Spirit. It included classic Christmas songs such as “O Holy Night”, “Joy To The World”, and “O Come All Ye Faithful”,and a stiring rendition of Amy Grant’s “Breath Of Heaven”, as well as some original songs. Also in 1994 Polygram would release yet another Summer compilation album entitled Endless Summer: Greatest Hits, containing 18 songs which were mainly the radio versions heard at the time of their release (as opposed to the Anthology album the year before which contained many longer versions of the songs). During this time, Summer was offered a guest role on the sitcom Family Matters as Steve Urkel’s (Jaleel White) Aunt Oona. She made a second appearance in 1997. In 1998 Summer received a Grammy Award for Best Dance Recording, being the first to do so, after a remixed version of her 1992 collaboration with Giorgio Moroder, “Carry On”, was released in 1997. In 1999 Summer taped a live television special for VH1 titled Donna Summer – Live and More Encore, producing the second highest ratings that year for the network, after their annual Divas special. A CD of the event was released by Epic Records and featured two studio recordings, “I Will Go with You (Con te partirò)” and “Love Is the Healer” which reached number one on the Billboard Dance Charts. Summer continued to score top ten hits on Billboard’s Dance Chart in the new millennium. In 2000 she also appeared on the third annual Divas special, dedicated to Diana Ross, though Summer sang her own material for the show. In 2004 Summer was inducted to the Dance Music Hall of Fame alongside The Bee Gees and Barry Gibb as an artist. Her classic song, “I Feel Love”, was also inducted that night. In 2008 Summer released her first studio album of fully original material in 17 years, entitled Crayons. Released on the Sony BMG label Burgundy Records, it peaked at #17 on the US Top 200 Album Chart (her highest placing on the chart since 1983), and achieved modest international success. The songs “I’m a Fire”, “Stamp Your Feet”, and “Fame (The Game)” reached number one on the US Billboard Dance Chart. The ballad “Sand on My Feet” was released to adult contemporary stations and reached number thirty on that chart. On December 11, 2009, Summer performed at the Nobel Peace Prize Concert in Oslo, Norway, in honor of United States President Barack Obama. She was backed by the Norwegian Radio Orchestra. In August 2010 she released the single “To Paris With Love”, co-written with Bruce Roberts and produced by Peter Stengaard. In October 2010 the single reached #1 on the US Billboard Dance Chart. Also that month Summer appeared in the PBS Television Special Hitman Returns: David Foster and Friends. In it, Summer performed with Seal on a medley of the songs “Unbreak My Heart / Crazy / On the Radio”, before Summer closed the show with “Last Dance”. On September 15, 2010, Summer appeared as a guest celebrity singing alongside rising star Prince Poppycock on the television show America’s Got Talent (died 2012): “God had to create disco music so that I could be born and be successful.”

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