Daily Update: Tuesday, March 7th, 2017

Perpetua and Felicity

Today is the Memorial of Saint Perpetua and Saint Felicity, Martyrs (died 203).

Perpetua was born in 181 to a noble pagan family of Carthage in North Africa, and became a convert to Christianity. She was a wife and mother of an infant, and her maid and friend Felicity was also a convert.  The two (Felicity was eight months pregnant) were arrested with other Christians and thrown into prison; Perpetua was allowed to nurse her infant son while in prison. Her family urged her to reconsider choosing to be a Christian for the sake of her child, but she resisted. Two days before the start of the games, Felicity gave birth to a son in prison, who was adopted by a Christian woman. Perpetua wrote of their imprisonment and their sufferings in the earliest surviving text written by a Christian woman. The Christians were then led out to be torn to pieces by wild animals in the arena; Perpetua’s Acts were finished by another hand, describing their martyrdom. In centuries past, the story of Perpetua and Felicity was so popular that Saint Augustine of Hippo warned against giving it the weight of Scripture. They are the Patron Saints of mothers and of expectant mothers.

Last night our New Orleans Pelicans lost their NBA game with the Utah Jazz by the score of 83 to 88.

I woke up half an hour early, and did my Book Devotional Reading. On our way to work I did my Internet Devotional Reading, and in the fullness of time we signed the Early Out list. When we clocked in, Richard was on Three Card Poker, and I was on a Blackjack table. They had to teach Blackjack +3 to the dealers and floors who were not here yesterday, so we did get out early, but not until 5:45 am. We got home at 6:45 am, and Richard told me to go to bed, and he would stay up, do his laundry, and leave for Baton Rouge at 8:00 am. So I went back to bed, and he went to Baton Rouge to meet with Susan and others dealing with Butch at the Nursing Home.

I woke up (again) at 11:00 am, and finished my project of setting up my May photos for this weblog. I then read the morning paper while eating my lunch salad. Next, I watched MST3K Episode 603 “The Dead Talk Back” (with the short film “The Selling Wizard”) before the movie (spoiler: we don’t get to hear the dead talk back), then I watched MST3K Episode 605 “Colossus and the Headhunters”, which was a dubbed Italian film titled Maciste contro i cacciatori di teste. (According to Wikipedia, Maciste was a strongman utilizing his massive strength to achieve heroic feats that ordinary men cannot, invented for a silent Italian film in 1914, with his name being a synonym for Hercules. The character was in some 26 silent films from 1915 through 1926, and again in about 25 movies made during the 1960s.) Richard called me from Livonia at about 2:30 pm to report on developments, and got home at about 3:00 pm. At 4:30 pm I watched Jeopardy!, then came to the computer. Richard went to bed at 6:00 pm, after sleeping in his chair all afternoon. I will now finish this Daily Update, and watch another MST3K episode or two before going to bed. Our#4 LSU Tigers (9-3, 0-0) will be playing a home College Baseball game with the San Diego Toreros.

Tomorrow is an Ember Day, the first of three for this season of the year, and the Optional Memorial of Saint John of God, Religious (died 1550).  In the secular world, tomorrow is International Women’s Day. I will be doing my laundry and doing the Weekly Computer Maintenance. Our LSU Tigers will be playing an away College Baseball game with the McNeese State Cowboys, our LSU Tigers (10-20, 2-16) will be playing a College Basketball game with the Mississippi State Bulldogs (15-15, 6-12) at the SEC Tournament, and our New Orleans Pelicans (25-39, 3-9) will be playing a home NBA game with the Toronto Raptors (37-26, 12-2).

Our Parting Quote on this Tuesday evening comes to us from Gordon Parks, American photographer, musician, poet, novelist, journalist, activist and film director. Born in 1912 in Fort Scott, Kansas, his father was a farmer, and he went to a segregated elementary school. The town was too small for a separate high school, but black students were not allowed to play sports or attend school social activities. When Parks was eleven three white boys threw him into the Marmaton River, knowing he couldn’t swim. He had the presence of mind to duck underwater so they wouldn’t see him make land. His mother died when he was fourteen; he slept beside his mother’s coffin seeking solace and a way to face his own fear of death, then left home. In 1929 he briefly worked in a gentlemen’s club, the Minnesota Club. There he not only learned the trappings of success, but was able to read from the club library. When the stock market crash brought an end to the club, he jumped a train to Chicago where he managed to get a job as a piano player in a brothel. His song “No Love,” composed in another brothel, was performed over a national radio broadcast by Larry Funk and his orchestra in the early 30s. At the age of 25 Parks was struck by photographs of migrant workers in a magazine and bought his first camera, a Voigtländer Brilliant, for $12.50 at a pawnshop. The photo clerks who developed Parks’ first roll of film applauded his work and prompted him to get a fashion assignment at Frank Murphy’s women’s clothing store in St. Paul, Minnesota. Those photos caught the eye of Marva Louis, the elegant wife of the heavyweight boxing champion Joe Louis. She encouraged Parks to move back to Chicago in 1940, where he began a portrait business for society women. Over the next few years Parks moved from job to job, developing a freelance portrait and fashion photographer sideline. He began to chronicle the city’s South Side black ghetto and in 1941, an exhibition of those photographs won Parks a photography fellowship with the Farm Security Administration (FSA). Working as a trainee under Roy Stryker, Parks created one of his best-known photographs, American Gothic, Washington, D.C., (named after the Grant Wood painting American Gothic). The photo shows a black woman, Ella Watson, who worked on the cleaning crew for the FSA building, standing stiffly in front of an American flag, a broom in one hand and a mop in the background. Parks had been inspired to create the picture after encountering repeated racism in restaurants and shops in the segregated city. Upon viewing it, Stryker said that it was an indictment of America, and could get all of his photographers fired; he urged Parks to keep working with Watson, however, leading to a series of photos of her daily life. Parks said later that his first image was overdone and not subtle; other commentators have argued that it drew strength from its polemical nature and its duality of victim and survivor, and so the photograph has affected far more people than his subsequent pictures of Watson. After the FSA disbanded Parks remained in Washington as a correspondent with the Office of War Information. Disgusted with the prejudice he encountered, he resigned in 1944. Moving to Harlem, Parks became a freelance fashion photographer for Vogue. He later followed Stryker to the Standard Oil (New Jersey) Photography Project, which assigned photographers to take pictures of small towns and industrial centers. Parks’s most striking work of the period included Dinner Time at Mr. Hercules Brown’s Home, Somerville, Maine (1944); Grease Plant Worker, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (1946); Car Loaded with Furniture on Highway (1945); and Ferry Commuters, Staten Island, N.Y. (1946). Parks renewed his search for photography jobs in the fashion world. Despite racist attitudes of the day, the Vogue editor Alexander Liberman hired him to shoot a collection of evening gowns. Parks photographed fashion for Vogue for the next few years. During this time, he published his first two books, Flash Photography (1947) and Camera Portraits: Techniques and Principles of Documentary Portraiture (1948). A 1948 photo essay on a young Harlem gang leader won Parks a staff job as a photographer and writer with Life magazine. For 20 years he produced photos on subjects including fashion, sports, Broadway, poverty, racial segregation, and portraits of Malcolm X, Stokely Carmichael, Muhammad Ali, and Barbra Streisand. Parks composed Concerto for Piano and Orchestra (1953) at the encouragement of black American conductor Dean Dixon and his wife Vivian, a pianist, and with the help of the composer Henry Brant. His 1961 photo essay on a poor Brazilian boy named Flavio da Silva, who was dying from bronchial pneumonia and malnutrition, brought donations that saved the boy’s life and paid for a new home for his family. Beginning in the 1960s Parks branched out into literature, writing his autobiographical novel The Learning Tree (1963), several books of poetry illustrated with his own photographs, and three volumes of memoirs. He was profiled in the 1967 documentary Weapons of Gordon Parks by American filmmaker Warren Forma. Parks had worked in the 1950s as a consultant on various Hollywood film productions and later directed a series of documentaries commissioned by National Educational Television on black ghetto life. In 1969 Parks became Hollywood’s first major black director with his film adaptation of The Learning Tree. It was filmed in his home town of Fort Scott, and Parks also composed the film’s musical score and wrote the screenplay. He completed Tree Symphony in 1967. Shaft, Parks’ 1971 detective film starring Richard Roundtree, became a major hit that spawned a series of blaxploitation films. Parks’ feel for settings was confirmed by Shaft, with its portrayal of the super-cool leather-clad black private detective hired to find the kidnapped daughter of a Harlem racketeer. Parks also directed the 1972 sequel, Shaft’s Big Score, in which the protagonist found himself caught in the middle of rival gangs of racketeers. His other directorial credits included The Super Cops (1974), and Leadbelly (1976), a biopic of the blues musician Huddie Ledbetter. In 1981 Parks turned to fiction with Shannon, a novel about Irish immigrants fighting their way up the social ladder in turbulent early 20th-century New York. In the 1980s he made several films for television and composed the music and libretto for Martin, a ballet tribute to Martin Luther King, Jr., which premiered in Washington, D.C. in 1989 and was screened on national television on King’s birthday in 1990. In 1995 Parks announced that he would donate his papers and entire artistic collection to the Library of Congress. In 1997 the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. mounted a career retrospective on Parks, Half Past Autumn: The Art of Gordon Parks (died 2006): “I suffered evils, but without allowing them to rob me of the freedom to expand.”

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