This morning, I opened a book I’ve had on my Kindle for a while, Twelve Years a Slave, a memoir by Solomon Northrup an African American freeman, who was tricked into slavery for twelve years. As books go, this was a quick read for me as I am used to much more complex and nuanced history. However, a memoir is a memoir…one person’s accounting of his or her experiences over some finite period of time.
As I have not seen the movie, I have no idea if it follows he book’s story line, but think the book would make excellent reading for high school and above kids. Some have worried about the violence in the book, however, given the level of violence in modern culture, this book is tame.
I found nothing in the book I had not already discovered reading US history of this period. The book caused a great deal of outrage at the time Northrup wrote it, and for good reasons.
Several things struck me:
1/ Mr. Northrup was better read than many people are today. He writes in the beautiful nineteenth century style reminiscent of Jane Austen, the Brontes or Gorge Elliot (Mary Ann Evans). Although he is not descriptive of interior psychology as Austen, his characterizations (appearances) of individuals is excellent down to the shades of skin and eye color. Moreover, he is very cognizant of his milieu and describes in great detail, food, clothing, flora and fauna as he is sent from Washington DC to Virginia and south to Louisiana and Texas.
2/ Mr Northrup appears to have survived his ordeal without undue anger towards Whites or fellow Blacks as a group. He thinks the peculiar institution of slavery is abominable, but has kind words for each person who helped him along the way. He also overcomes attacks by fellow slaves and even reports the whereabouts of some fugitive slaves (who attacked him) at one point.
3/ He is not a racist. He has great regard for his country and takes the words of Jefferson, whom he quotes, quite seriously … “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal and endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights” …
4/ He is learned and quotes Wordsworth and other poets in his memoir. For example, speaking of a child who grows up to become a bully, he says, “the child is father of the man.”
Although I am not partial to memoirs, I was very impressed by the book.
I probably won’t see the film, however.
On a lighter note, this morning, I had the second in a series of three shots of Hyaluronic acid. Doctor McConnell said this drug mimics only one of the components of synovial fluid and designed to provide lubricant to the knee-joint. He also said, the third shot will be it… If I find myself in much pain a couple of months after the third shot the only recourse is knee-joint replacement surgery.
Okay, that was not very cheerful so how about this … the Robins are back and singing their hearts out. I discovered a Mockingbird on the suet feeder. And the US Park Service announced when the Cherry blossoms will bloom in April.
As we are experiencing record cold. My plan was to spend the day reading. But nothing goes according to plan, does it?
I managed to read another 5 percent of my new book, Saving Italy: The Race to Rescue the Nation’s Treasures From the Nazis, by Robert Edsel. I also plan to read The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves, and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History, by Edsel, and the basis for the new George Cloony film of the same title. I don’t generally watch many of the new films, but this film sounds promising.
About mid-morning David and I began the arduous task of sorting through the bits and bobs of paper collected in several big piles on the desk in his room. David says he wants me to prepare the 2013 taxes, which I’ll do, using Turbo Tax of course.
When David sold real estate, I insisted he do the job of tax preparer, because his activities complicated our tax return. Now that real estate is in our past, I can do them again. Besides, I need to understand what’s going on. Just this morning, I found a W-2 form for a check he said he knew nothing about. After trying to ascertain the truth for several hours via phone, he drove to the bank to discuss the matter with someone face to face.
Now that our taxes are straightforward, I think it’s better to begin the process and file early, rather than wait until April 15, the tax filing deadline. Every year David likes to wait until the last moment to complete the tax returns, then stand in line at the Post Office with all the other procrastinators.
Also, I am setting up a filing system for tax year 2014. No more piles of papers gathering dust. From now on they get filed as they come in, just like the business offices where I once worked.
Years ago, after training at a business college, I worked as a bookkeeper for various concerns. My first husband was military, so I found jobs wherever we were stationed, and at different times I was employed by a large drug chain and several small businesses.
I was primarily a sociologist (demographer) after I returned to school and finished several degrees. Then, I switched from bookkeeping to economics to earn a living. Rather than doing payroll, inventory, business taxes, and recording receivables for advertising and promotion accounts, I worked in the Finance Department handling requests for information from government regulators preparing studies for the marketing department and developing economic and demographic forecasts for the Business Plan (later on, managing those who did).
Along the way, I learned about computers. Bell Labs developed Fortran for the Department of Defense, so I learned how to program in Fortran, a scientific language used internally by AT&T. Fortuitously, I also used Fortran in grad school, so I took courses on this software at George Washington University.
(Remember the Hollerith cards? Henry Hollerith, who devised the card, was a director at the Census Bureau before he left to become a principle with IBM.)
When I went to work for the Census Bureau, I discovered the technology was:
1/ way behind the private sector in terms of sophistication (they were using main frame computers for everything), and
2/ esoteric, or unique (the CB had its own computer language).
Mastering CB technology was like learning Greek (i.e., returning to an antiquated past), but with much hard work, I did it.
In the 1990s, the government was “reinvented” under the Clinton Administration, and employees received personal computers and learned computer languages developed in the wider business community, such as SASS and Word Perfect.
Under both the Clinton and Bush Administrations, agencies were directed to contract out many jobs formerly done by government employees.
With each change I had a leaning curve to master, and managed to do it until I finally reached a point where my body and brain said “enough already” and I had a heart attack and three years later a stroke.
I retired and went back to graduate school and finished an M.A. in History with an A- average in 2012. I don’t intend to work again, I’ve paid my dues. Now I want to do whatever I want.
But, David wants me to prepare our taxes. He says it’s time I learned. Ha Ha. I suppose so, but I didn’t tell him he will have to do some of the cooking while I work on them. I know a lot about computers, but am a lousy cook!!
David and I have grown weary of feeding the squirrels expensive bird food. Oh what to do? We have tried almost everything including baffles, feeders in cages and slippery poles. Finally, we might have stumbled onto something thanks to neighbor … Continue reading →