Daily Update: Thursday, June 23rd, 2016

06-23 - Midsummer Eve by Edward Robert Hughes

With no Saints to honor, we note that today is Midsummer’s Eve.

The celebration of Midsummer’s Eve was from ancient times linked to the summer solstice. Mid-summer plants, especially Calendula (marigolds), were held to have miraculous healing powers and they were therefore picked on this night. Bonfires were lit to protect against evil spirits which were believed to roam freely when the sun was turning southwards again. In the 7th century Saint Eligius (died 659 or 660) warned the recently converted inhabitants of Flanders against the age-old pagan solstice celebrations. As Christianity entered pagan areas, Midsummer celebrations came to be often borrowed and transferred into new Christian holidays, often resulting in celebrations that mixed Christian traditions with traditions derived from pagan Midsummer festivities. In Great Britain from the 13th century, Midsummer was celebrated on Midsummer Eve (St. John’s Eve, June 23th) with the lighting of bonfires, feasting and merrymaking. Perhaps the epitome of the British celebration can be found in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the 1595 play by William Shakespeare. (Summer’s Eve® is a feminine hygiene product; many years ago, my high school in West Virginia accepted the suggestion of Summer’s Eve for a spring dance theme. Fortunately, someone took pity on the organizers and advised them of what Summer’s Eve was, and they changed the theme to something else.)

Last night Richard gathered up the trash and wheeled the trash bin out to the curb.

I woke up at 8:00 am, did my Book Devotional Reading, and started my laundry. I then read the morning papers while eating my breakfast toast, and then I did my Internet Devotional Reading. I then worked on Ancestry.com for the rest of the morning.

Richard and I left the house at 1:15 pm. We stopped at the Hit-n-Run, but there was a new guy there (perhaps from Pakistan), and all I could gather from his accent was that the Lottery would not be working there for two weeks (I think that’s what he said). So we went to the Valero, where I purchased my Powerball and Louisiana Lotto lottery tickets for Saturday night’s drawing. We ate Chinese for lunch at Peking, and then we went to Wal-Mart, where Richard got groceries and my salad supplies.

We arrived home at 2:15 pm, and I worked some more on my Ancestry.com. I then posted to Facebook that today was Midsummer Eve, finished my laundry, and ironed my Casino pants, apron, and shirts. I then watched Jeopardy!; Richard said he was not feeling well, and went on to bed. I then made my lunch salads for tomorrow and Sunday, then came to the computer to do today’s Daily Update. When I finish with this Daily Update, I will head to bed.

Tomorrow is the Solemnity of the Birth of John the Baptist, and Midsummer’s Day. Richard and I will return to the casino for the start of our work week. On my breaks at work I will continue reading magazines. After lunch I will do a bit more work on my Ancestry.com, but no more than an hour’s work at a time. (It’s amazing how quick the time goes by on that site.)

Our Midsummer’s Eve Afternoon Parting Quote comes to us from Richard Matheson, American author and screenwriter. Born in 1926 in Allendale, New Jersey, he was raised in Brooklyn, New York, and had his first short story published in The Brooklyn Eagle at the age of eight. After high school he entered the military and spent World War II as an infantry soldier. In 1949, he earned his bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and in 1951, he moved to California and got married the next year. Meanwhile, his first novel, Hunger and Thirst, was ignored by publishers for several decades (it was not published until 2000),  but his short story “Born of Man and Woman”, a tale of a monstrous child chained by its parents in the cellar and written as the creature’s diary in poignantly non-idiomatic English, was published in the third issue (Summer 1950) of the new quarterly The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. Later that year he placed stories in the first and third numbers of the new monthly magazine Galaxy Science Fiction. His first anthology of work was published in 1954. Between 1950 and 1971 he produced dozens of stories, frequently blending elements of the science fiction, horror, and fantasy genres. Several of his stories, like “Third from the Sun” (1950), “Deadline” (1959), and “Button, Button” (1970) were simple sketches with twist endings; others, like “Trespass” (1953), “Being” (1954), and “Mute” (1962) explored their characters’ dilemmas over 20 or 30 pages. Some tales, such as “The Doll that Does Everything” (1954) and “The Funeral” (1955) incorporated zany satirical humour at the expense of genre clichés, and were written in an hysterically overblown prose very different from Matheson’s usual pared-down style. Others, like “The Test” (1954) and “Steel” (1956), portrayed the moral and physical struggles of ordinary people, rather than the then nearly ubiquitous scientists and superheroes, in situations which are at once futuristic and everyday. Still others, such as “Mad House” (1953), “The Curious Child” (1954), and perhaps most of all, “Duel” (1971), were tales of paranoia, in which the everyday environment of the present day becomes inexplicably alien or threatening. “Duel” was adapted into the 1971 TV movie of the same name. He was a member of the Southern California School of Writers in the 1950s and 1960s, which included Charles Beaumont, Ray Bradbury, George Clayton Johnson, William F. Nolan, Jerry Sohl, and others. Matheson’s first novel to be published, in 1953, was Someone Is Bleeding. His early novels included The Shrinking Man (1956, filmed in 1957 as The Incredible Shrinking Man, again from Matheson’s own screenplay) and a science fiction vampire novel, I Am Legend (1954, filmed as The Last Man on Earth in 1964, The Omega Man in 1971, and I Am Legend in 2007). Other Matheson novels turned into notable films include What Dreams May Come (1978, film version 1998), A Stir of Echoes (1958) (filmed as Stir of Echoes,1999), Bid Time Return (1975) (filmed as Somewhere in Time, 1980), and Hell House (1971) (filmed as The Legend of Hell House, 1973), the last two adapted and scripted by Matheson himself. (I must confess having read Hell House in the 1970s; talk about your guilty pleasures.) Three of his short stories were filmed together as Trilogy of Terror (1975), including “Prey” (initially published in the April 1969 edition of Playboy magazine) with its famous Zuni warrior doll. Matheson’s short story “Button, Button (1970)”, was filmed as The Box in 2009, and was previously adapted for a 1986 episode of The Twilight Zone. In 1960 Matheson published The Beardless Warriors, a non-fantastic, autobiographical novel about teenage American soldiers in World War II. It was filmed in 1967 as The Young Warriors though most of Matheson’s plot was jettisoned. In 1993 Matheson published a non-fiction work The Path, inspired by his interest in psychic phenomena. During the 1950s he had published a handful of Western stories (later collected in By the Gun, 1993); and during the 1990s he published Western novels such as Journal of the Gun Years, The Gunfight, The Memoirs of Wild Bill Hickok, and Shadow on the Sun. He also wrote a blackly comic locked-room mystery novel, Now You See It …(1995), aptly dedicated to Robert Bloch, and the suspense novels 7 Steps to Midnight (1993) and Hunted Past Reason (2002). Besides his prolific career as an author, Matheson also wrote screenplays for several television programs including Cheyenne, Have Gun – Will Travel, and Lawman. He was, however, most closely associated with the American TV series The Twilight Zone, for which he wrote more than a dozen episodes, including “Steel” (based on his short story of the same name), and the famous “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet” (1963), plus “Little Girl Lost” (1962), a story about a young girl tumbling into the fourth dimension. For all of Matheson’s Twilight Zone scripts, he also wrote the introductory and closing statements spoken by creator Rod Serling. He adapted five works of Edgar Allan Poe for Roger Corman’s Poe series, including House of Usher (1960), The Pit and the Pendulum (1961), and The Raven (1963). He wrote the popular Star Trek episode “The Enemy Within” (1966). For Hammer Films he adapted Dennis Wheatley’s The Devil Rides Out (1968). In 1973 Matheson earned an Edgar Award from the Mystery Writers of America for his teleplay for The Night Stalker, one of two TV movies written by Matheson that preceded the series Kolchak: The Night Stalker. Matheson also wrote the screenplay for Fanatic (1965; known in the United States as Die! Die! My Darling!), starring Tallulah Bankhead and Stefanie Powers. Matheson received the World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement in 1984 and the Bram Stoker Award for Lifetime Achievement from the Horror Writers Association in 1991. At the annual World Fantasy Conventions he won two judged, annual literary awards for particular works: World Fantasy Awards for Bid Time Return as the best novel of 1975 and Richard Matheson: Collected Stories as the best collection of 1989. The Science Fiction Hall of Fame inducted him in 2010. His last novel was Generations, published in 2012. Matheson died just days before he was due to receive the Visionary award at the 39th Saturn Award’s ceremony. As a tribute the ceremony was dedicated to him and the award was presented posthumously (died 2013): “Our world is in profound danger. Mankind must establish a set of positive values with which to secure its own survival. This quest for enlightenment must begin now. It is essential that all men and women become aware of what they are, why they are here on Earth and what they must do to preserve civilization before it is too late.”

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