Daily Update: Thursday, December 1st, 2016

12-01 - Sweet Baby James Day

With no Saints to honor today, we note that today is Sweet Baby James Day. Early Voting continues today for the Louisiana Open Election and Congressional Election on December 10th.

“Sweet Baby James” is a song written and recorded by James Taylor that serves as the opening and title track from his 1970 breakthrough album Sweet Baby James. It was released as the first single from the album but did not chart. Nonetheless, it is one of his best-known and most popular tunes, considered a classic, and Taylor is reported as saying it was his best song. The song was written by Taylor for the son of his older brother Alex, who was also named James (and indeed was named after him). Deliberately a cross between a cowboy song and a lullaby, it was first thought up by Taylor as he was driving through Carolina to meet his infant nephew for the first time. The second verse of the song begins:

Now the first of December was covered with snow
and so was the turnpike from Stockbridge to Boston
Though the Berkshires seemed dreamlike on account of that frosting
with ten miles behind me and ten thousand more to go
There’s a song that they sing when they take to the highway
a song that they sing when they take to the sea
a song that they sing of their home in the sky, maybe you can believe it if it helps you to sleep
but singing works just fine for me

As a longtime fan of James Taylor, I am happy to celebrate this day. Early Voting continues today for the Louisiana Open Election and Congressional Election on December 10th.

Last night I finished reading Bright-Sided: How Positive Thinking is Undermining America by Barbara Ehrenreich.

Before I woke up Richard gathered up the trash and wheeled the trash bin out to the curb. I woke up at 9:30 am, adjusted the date on my watches, did my Book Devotional Reading, and flipped to the new month in my three wall calendars. I then read the Thursday papers; Richard is still recovering from his cold, and said that he would help me put up Christmas stuff next Wednesday. I next put my spare Galaxy Note 4 battery into my phone, downloaded the Ebook for Precious and Grace by Alexander McCall Smith, did my Internet Devotional Reading, said the Third Day of my Novena to the Immaculate Conception, cleared the browsing data and searches from Wikipedia, Google Play Store, and Facebook, cleared out my phone call list and voicemails, deleted my Google search history, and did screenshots of my Galaxy Note 4 phone home screens. I then downloaded the Ebook for Gathering Blue by Lois Lowery. I then did my Book Review for this weblog and for my Goodreads and Facebook accounts for Bright-Sided: How Positive Thinking is Undermining America by Barbara Ehrenreich.

I left the house on my own at 1:00 pm; at Peking I ate Chinese for lunch and started re-reading March by Geraldine Brooks. At Wal-Mart I got some groceries and household items and got my salad supplies, at the Corner Store (Valero) I purchased my Powerball and Louisiana Lotto lottery tickets for Saturday night’s drawing (and won $4.00 from my last batch of tickets), and at McDonald’s Drive Through I got lunch for Richard at his request. I arrived home at 2:30 pm. The Casino Scheduling approved me to take Tuesday, December 20th, off, but not to take Saturday, December 24th, off. I then uploaded my November 2016 photos from my phone to the computer. I made my lunch salads for Friday and Sunday, we watched Jeopardy! at 4:30 pm, then we lit the Advent Candle. And, having done everything (just about) that I needed to do today, I will take a bath, do some reading, and then go to bed.

Tomorrow is the First Friday of the month, dedicated to devotions to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. We again have no Saints to honor; instead we will note that tomorrow is the International Day for the Abolition of Slavery. Early Voting continues tomorrow for the Louisiana Open Election and Congressional Election on December 10th. Richard and I will return to the casino for the start of our work week, and on my breaks I will be reading books and / or magazines. After lunch I will go over to the Chapel to do my First Friday devotions. Tomorrow evening our New Orleans Pelicans (7-12, 0-3) will play a Home NBA game with the Los Angeles Clippers (14-5, 2-0); I will note the score of the game in Saturday’s Daily Update.

Our Parting Quote on this Thursday afternoon comes to us from Christa Wolf, German literary critic, novelist, and essayist. Born as Christa Ihlenfeld in 1929 in Landsberg an der Warthe, Brandenburg (in what is now Gorzów Wielkopolski, Poland), after World War II Wolf and her family, being Germans, were expelled from their home on what had become Polish territory. They crossed the new Oder-Neisse border in 1945 and settled in Mecklenburg, in what would become the German Democratic Republic, or East Germany. She studied literature at the University of Jena and the University of Leipzig, and married her fellow student, the writer Gerhard Wolf, in 1951. After her graduation she worked for the German Writers’ Union and became an editor for a publishing company. She joined the Socialist Unity Party of Germany in 1949 and left it some 40 years later; Stasi records found in 1993 showed that she worked as an informant (Inoffizieller Mitarbeiter) during the years 1959 to 1961. The Stasi officers criticized what they called her “reticence”, and they lost interest in her cooperation. She served from 1958-59 as editor of the journal Neue Deutsche Literatur. She was herself then closely watched by Stasi for nearly 30 years. During the Cold War Wolf was openly critical of the leadership of the GDR, but she maintained a loyalty to the values of Karl Marx and opposed German reunification. Her Moskauer Novelle (1961) was awarded the Artist’s Prize of the city of Halle, and in 1962 Wolf moved to Kleinmachnow near Berlin and began writing full-time. Wolf’s breakthrough as a writer came in 1963 with the publication of Der geteilte Himmel (Divided Heaven). At first celebrated as a new talent of GDR literature, Wolf came to be viewed from the 1960s on as a “loyal dissident,” critical of the regime but maintaining her belief in socialism as a better alternative to the capitalist west. Eventually she extended her critiques to the deforming effects of technology and patriarchy, always concerned to defend the human subject against any form of instrumentalization.  Subsequent works included Nachdenken über Christa T. (The Quest for Christa T., 1968), a work that, while briefly touching on a disconnection from one’s family’s ancestral home, was concerned with a woman’s experiencing overwhelming societal pressure to conform, Kindheitsmuster (Patterns of Childhood, 1976), Kein Ort. Nirgends (1979), Kassandra (Cassandra, 1983), perhaps Wolf’s most important book, re-interpreting the battle of Troy as a war for economic power and a shift from a matriarchal to a patriarchal society, Störfall (Accident, 1987), Was bleibt (What Remains, 1990), describing her life under Stasi surveillance, she wrote it in 1979, but it was not published for eleven years), and Medea (1996). Auf dem Weg nach Tabou (Parting from Phantoms, 1995) gathered essays, speeches, and letters written during the four years following the reunification of Germany. Leibhaftig (2002) described a woman struggling with life and death in 1980s East-German hospital while awaiting medicine from the West. Central themes in her work are German fascism, humanity, feminism, and self-discovery. Wolf’s works have sometimes been seen as controversial since German reunification. West German critics argued that Wolf failed to criticize the authoritarianism of the East German Communist regime, whilst others called her works “moralistic”. Defenders have recognized Wolf’s role in establishing a distinctly East German literary voice. Wolf received the Heinrich Mann Prize in 1963, the Georg Büchner Prize in 1980, and the Schiller Memorial Prize in 1983, the Geschwister-Scholl-Preis in 1987, as well as other national and international awards. Since reunification, in 1999 she was awarded the Elisabeth Langgässer Prize and the Nelly Sachs Literature Prize, and Wolf became the first recipient of the Deutscher Bücherpreis (German Book Prize) in 2002 for her lifetime achievements. With Ein Tag im Jahr: 1960-2000 (One Day a Year; 2003) Wolf offered important documentation of her biography as well as of the everyday life and history of the GDR and the ten years following its demise (died 2011): “When someone dies, everything dies with them. Everything they’ve experienced and thought, everything. I find that inconceivable. It doesn’t help to forget as little as possible. That doesn’t stop the person from being gone. Especially people who lived a full, rich life, who gathered so much inside them and then took so much of that with them to the grave. I can’t help it, that’s when I find death especially unacceptable. It’s terrible, everything that dies with a person. Maybe writing is the only thing you can do against it.”

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