Today is the First Friday of the month, dedicated to devotions to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. With no Saints to honor today, those of us old enough can recall where they were on this date in 31 BCE, when in the Battle of Actium the forces of Octavian defeated the combined forces of Mark Antony and Cleopatra on the Ionian Sea near the Roman colony of Actium in Greece. Today is also the first day of the three-day Louisiana Second Amendment Sales Tax Holiday.
At Actium Antony’s fleet numbered 500 ships, of which 230 were large war galleys furnished with towers full of armed men, and the rest were Egyptian warships led by Queen Cleopatra of Egypt; he led these through the straits towards the open sea. Octavian’s fleet of about 250 warships was waiting beyond the straits, led by the experienced admiral Agrippa. Prior to the battle, one of Antony’s generals, Quintus Dellius, had defected to Octavian, bringing with him Antony’s battle plans. The battle raged all afternoon without decisive result. The majority of Antony’s warships were quinqueremes, huge galleys with massive rams, that could weigh up to three hundred tons. Antony’s ships were often furnished with grappling irons, which were effective if hurled successfully; but, if they failed, were apt to damage the ship, or to cause so much delay as to expose the men on board to the darts from the smaller vessel. Unfortunately for Antony, many of his ships were undermanned; there had been a severe malaria outbreak while they were waiting for Octavian’s fleet to arrive. Making the best of the situation, he burned those ships he could no longer man, while clustering the remainder tightly together. With many oarsmen dead, the powerful, head-on ramming tactic for which the quinqueremes had been designed failed. Octavian’s fleet was largely made up of smaller, fully manned Liburnian vessels, armed with better-trained, fresher crews. Octavian’s ships were generally smaller, but more manageable in the heavy surf, capable of reversing their course on short notice and returning to the charge or, after pouring in a volley of darts on some huge adversary, able to retreat out of shot with speed. Shortly after midday, Antony was forced to extend his line from the protection of the shore and finally engage the enemy. Cleopatra, in the rear, could not bear the suspense, and in an agony of anxiety, gave the signal for retreat to her ships, which they did without engaging. A breeze sprang up in the right direction, and the Egyptian ships were soon hurrying out of sight. Antony had not observed Cleopatra’s signal, and believing that the battle was already lost, transferred to a smaller vessel with his flag and managed to escape, taking a few ships with him as an escort to help break through Octavian’s lines. Those ships that remained were captured or sunk by Octavian’s forces. With the end of the battle Octavian exerted himself to save the crews of the burning vessels, and had to spend the whole night on board. Next day, such of the land army as had not escaped to their own lands submitted or were followed in their retreat to Macedonia and forced to surrender, and Antony’s camp was occupied. It was all over, and the Empire had a single master, who became Augustus Caesar and the First Citizen of Rome. The next year Antony stabbed himself, believing that Cleopatra had been captured and killed; he was taken to the mausoleum in which Cleopatra was shut up, and there died in her arms. After Mark Antony’s death, Cleopatra eluded the vigilance of her guard Epaphroditus and committed suicide eleven days later. Today is also the first day of the three-day Louisiana Second Amendment Sales Tax Holiday, with a two percent exemption on the sales tax covering individuals’ purchases of firearms, ammunition and hunting supplies on the first Friday through Sunday of each September.
Last night, in their last Pre-Season NFL game of the season, our New Orleans Saints, playing at home against the Baltimore Ravens, lost by the score of 14 to 23. Our Saints will now rest up to play their first Regular Season NFL game, a home game against the Oakland Raiders on Sunday, September 11th.
I was awakened by a text from Deborah telling me that she was having to take Virginia to the ER, even after an ambulance crew assured her she was just having anxiety. I did my Book Devotional Reading, and on our way to work I did my Internet Devotional Reading. I also requested We Are Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler from Overdrive and the Lafayette Public Library. When we clocked in, Richard was on Three Card Poker, and I was on Mini Baccarat except for one hour after 7:00 am when the dealer on Pai Gow asked to switch with me (she had a difficult guest). Deborah, who had to call in to work, reported that they had diagnosed Virginia with post-operative anxiety, given her some Xanax, and gave her a prescription for Xanax. On my breaks I continued reading The Man Who Was Thursday by G. K. Chesterton via Overdrive on my tablet.
When we clocked out Richard picked up a prescription at the Pharmacy. When we got to our town he got my salad supplies and pizzas for tomorrow (more anon) from Wal-Mart, and at the Valero he got gas for the truck while I purchased my Powerball and Louisiana Lotto lottery tickets for tomorrow’s drawing. He then went to Winn-Dixie for some Stella Artois. When we got home I made my lunch salads for Saturday and Sunday, and ate a salad (one of the ones I had just made, actually, saving the one that was already made for Saturday) while reading the morning paper. Richard had sent a text to Michelle asking if she could come over tomorrow (more anon), but Michelle reported that she is working tomorrow. I called Texas and left another voice mail, and worked on Advance Daily Update Drafts for this weblog. (I did not do any First Friday devotions.) At 4:30 pm we watched Jeopardy!, and then I came to the computer to do today’s Daily Update, and when I finish this Daily Update I will go to bed.
Tomorrow is the First Saturday of the month, dedicated to devotions to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Tomorrow is the Memorial of Saint Gregory the Great, Pope and Doctor (died 590); it is also Papa Was A Rolling Stone day. And tomorrow is also the second day of the three-day Louisiana Second Amendment Sales Tax Holiday, held on the first consecutive Friday, Saturday, and Sunday of September. We will work our eight hours at the casino, and I will continue reading The Man Who Was Thursday by G. K. Chesterton via Overdrive on my tablet. After lunch I will go to the Adoration Chapel to do my Weekly Hour of Eucharistic Adoration. When I come home I will do my Daily Update, then I will settle down with Richard at 2:30 pm to watch our #5 ranked LSU Tigers play their first game of the season, an away game with the Wisconsin Badgers at Lambeau Field in Wisconsin. I will report the score of the game in Sunday’s Daily Update. (And I regret to say that I will not be doing any First Saturday devotions.)
Our Parting Quote this Friday afternoon comes to us from Frederik Pohl, American science fiction author. Born as Frederik George Pohl, Jr. in 1919 in New York City, New York, his father was a salesman, and the family moved a lot, settling in Brooklyn, New York when Pohl was around seven years old. He attended high school, but dropped out at age seventeen. While a teenager, he co-founded the New York–based Futurians fan group, and began lifelong friendships with Donald Wollheim, Isaac Asimov and others who would become important writers and editors. He also published a science fiction fanzine called Mind of Man. During 1936, Pohl joined the Young Communist League because of its positions for unions and against racial prejudice, Adolf Hitler, and Benito Mussolini. He became president of the local Flatbush III Branch of the YCL in Brooklyn. Pohl began writing in the late 1930s, using pseudonyms for most of his early works. His first publication was the poem “Elegy to a Dead Satellite: Luna” under the name of Elton Andrews, in the October 1937 issue of Amazing Stories, edited by T. O’Conor Sloane. Pohl started a career as a literary agent in 1937, working part-time. After the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact of 1939, the Communist party line changed and Pohl left the Young Communist League. His first story, “Before the Universe”, written in collaboration with C.M. Kornbluth, appeared in 1940 under the pseudonym S.D. Gottesman. From 1939 to 1943, Pohl was the editor of two pulp magazines, Astonishing Stories and Super Science Stories. Stories by Pohl often appeared in these science fiction magazine, but never under his own name. Work written in collaboration with Cyril M. Kornbluth was credited to S. D. Gottesman or Scott Mariner; other collaborative work (with any combination of Kornbluth, Dirk Wylie or Robert A. W. Lownes) was credited to Paul Dennis Lavond. For Pohl’s solo work, stories were credited to James MacCreigh (or, for one story only, Warren F. Howard.) Works by “Gottesman”, “Lavond”, and “MacCreigh” continued to appear in various science fiction pulp magazines throughout the 1940s. During this time he became associated with James Gunn. He served in the United States Army from April 1943 until November 1945, rising to sergeant as an air corps weatherman. After training in Illinois, Oklahoma, and Colorado, he was mainly stationed in Italy with the 456th Bombardment Group. After the war he became a full-time literary agent, and for a short time, he was the only agent Asimov ever had, though his agency did not succeed financially, and he closed it down in the early 1950s. Pohl worked as an advertising copywriter and then as a copywriter and book editor for Popular Science, and began publishing material under his own name, much in collaboration with his fellow Futurian, Cyril Kornbluth. A good many of his stories took a jaded look at the advertising industry. Pohl co-founded the Hydra Club, a loose collection of science fiction professionals and fans which met during the late 1940s and 1950s. Though the pen-names of “Gottesman”, “Lavond” and “MacCreigh” were retired by the early 1950s, Pohl still occasionally used pseudonyms, even after he began to publish work under his real name. These occasional pseudonyms, all of which date from the early 1950s to the early 1960s, included Charles Satterfield, Paul Flehr, Ernst Mason, Jordan Park (two collaborative novels with Kornbluth) and Edson McCann (one collaborative novel with Lester del Rey). From the late 1950s until 1969, Pohl served as editor of Galaxy Science Fiction and Worlds of if magazines, taking over at some point from the ailing H. L. Gold. Under his leadership, if won the Hugo Award for Best Professional Magazine for 1966, 1967 and 1968. Pohl hired Judy-Lynn del Rey as his assistant editor at Galaxy and if. He also served as editor of Worlds of Tomorrow from its first issue in 1963 until it was merged into if in 1967. He was a frequent guest on Long John Nebel’s radio show from the 1950s to the early 1970s, and an international lecturer. In the mid-1970s Pohl acquired and edited novels for Bantam Books, published as “Frederik Pohl Selections”; notable titles were Samuel R. Delany’s Dhalgren and Joanna Russ’s The Female Man. He also edited a number of science fiction anthologies. He became involved in 1975 with what later became Gunn’s Center for the Study of Science Fiction at the University of Kansas. There he presented many talks, recorded a discussion about “The Ideas in Science Fiction” in 1973 for the Literature of Science Fiction Lecture Series, and served the Intensive Institute on Science Fiction and Science Fiction Writing Workshop. In the 1970s Pohl reemerged as a novel writer in his own right. He won back-to-back Nebula Awards with Man Plus in 1976 and Gateway, the first Heechee novel, in 1977. In 1978 Gateway swept the other two major novel honors, also winning the Hugo Award for Best Novel and the John W. Campbell Memorial Award for the best science-fiction novel. Two of his stories have also earned him Hugo Awards: “The Meeting” (with Kornbluth) tied in 1973 and “Fermi and Frost” won in 1986. Another award-winning novel is Jem (1980), winner of the National Book Award. He wrote his autobiography, The Way the Future Was, in 1979. His works included not only science fiction, but also articles for Playboy and Family Circle magazines, and nonfiction books. For a time he was the official authority forEncyclopædia Britannica on the subject of Emperor Tiberius. (He wrote a book on the subject of Tiberius in 1960, as “Ernst Mason”.) Starting in 1995, when the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award became a juried award, Pohl served first with James Gunn and Judith Merril, and since then with several others until retiring in 2013. Pohl received the second annual J. W. Eaton Lifetime Achievement Award in Science Fiction from the University of California, Riverside Libraries at the 2009 Eaton Science Fiction Conference, “Extraordinary Voyages: Jules Verne and Beyond”. In 2009 he also received an honorary diploma from his old high school in Brooklyn. Pohl’s work has been an influence on a wide variety of other science fiction writers, some of whom appear in the 2010 anthology Gateways: Original New Stories Inspired by Frederik Pohl, edited by Elizabeth Anne Hull (who was Pohl’s fifth and last wife). Pohl’s last novel, All the Lives He Led, was released in 2011. By the time of his death, he was working to finish a second volume of his autobiography The Way the Future Was (1979), and to expand his original biography (died 2013): “There is no greater dark than the dark between the stars.”