Monday, December 22, 2014

Music Monday ~ Craig Wayne Boyd is The Voice

We watched this season's run of The Voice on NBC without much enthusiasm; it reached its finale last week. My longtime love of musical talent shows is waning (pun unintended) these days. More and more there's an undercurrent of producer manipulation - if that was always part of the genre, it must have been more skillfully hidden in the past, or perhaps we were more naive.

The one good thing about this season's Voice : the right guy won! Craig Wayne Boyd, age 35, country music artist, originally from Mesquite, Texas, based in Nashville for many years, but had not been able to make the breakthrough - until now.

From commentary online, before the finale and announcement of the winner, it seemed inevitable that one of the other, younger more pop or "indie", singers would beat Craig Wayne Boyd who, though being way ahead of them on stage presence and experience, wasn't to the taste of much of the young demographic at which the show is aimed. One should never discount the loyalty of country music fans though - they are the most dedicated, and mixed age group, of any music fans. I used to be one of them, back in the UK even. I still swing back and forth between disliking the overtly political leanings of some country music artists, but then thinking, what the heck it's about the music not the politics. If they'd only leave it at that, and not push away would-be fans who happen to be of different political persuasion. In that way country music could move out of the virtual strait-jacket of south USA and other conservative rural areas to a far wider and varied community.

I hope that Craig Wayne Boyd's stars align for him now - he seems to me to have more in common with some of the traditional country music artists I've loved for years, than with a more recent crop of pop-cum-country singers. I shall support where I can, buy his first album anyway, and hope to watch his rise to fame be similar to that of Carrie Underwood's. She won American Idol years ago, and is now one of country music's "royalty".

I wish I knew Mr Boyd's date of birth. He's 35 which means he was born 1979 - I think - and in one of his Tweets he said that he loves 31 December because the whole world throws a party for him. I take that to mean it's his birthday. If he was indeed born on 31 December 1979 he'd have Sun in Capricorn, Moon in Gemini, Mercury in Sagittarius, Venus in Aquarius; Mars, Jupiter and Saturn all in Virgo. That's a nice mix of Earthy practicality with enough Fire and Air to keep things interesting. It was emphasised again and again by his coach/mentor, Blake Shelton, what a dedicated hard worker Boyd had been throughout The Voice competition, as well during his long years of striving for success. If my calculation and guesswork on his date of birth is right, that'd be his Capricorn and Virgo clearly showing through!

Here he is, from earlier this season, singing Johnny Cash's I Walk the Line -

And in the finale show last Tuesday singing Sweet Home Alabama, with Lynyrd Skynyrd -

Saturday, December 20, 2014

The Zodiac's Fairytale/Pantomime Characters

Attempting to be seasonal, Christmassy and astrologistic at the same time is tricky, and can be repetitive. During previous "Holiday" seasons I've attempted to link zodiac signs to various styles of a couple of seasonal items - Christmas cards and Christmas tree decor. What's left for that kind of treatment ? Not much. Another seasonal regular, in Britain, is the pantomime. My archived post on that tradition is HERE. General definition of pantomime: theatrical entertainment mainly, but not exclusively, for children, with music, topical jokes, satire and slapstick. Gender of actor/character is often reversed (i.e. male plays female, female plays male). Themes are from fairy tales or nursery stories. Panto productions are usually produced around Christmas-time, in both amateur and professional mode, the latter starring at least one "celeb" performer.
I haven't tried to link popular pantomime characters to zodiac types.....yet.

I realise that any passing reader in the USA will be unfamiliar with pantomime, but they'll surely recall the fairy tales upon which irreverent pantomimes are based. Let's see - for instance, who's the Cinderella of the zodiac? Or who is the zodiac's Sleeping Beauty, Jack of the Beanstalk tale, Puss in Boots, Dick Whittington, Aladdin, or Beauty, and naturally, the Beast?


Aries - enthusiastic, impetuous, energetic, aggressive. How about Jack of Jack & the Beanstalk ? Story is HERE

 Illustration by Walter Crane 1875

Taurus - reliable, steadfast, artistic, earthy... probably not one of the lead characters in fairy tales or pantomimes, more a supporting part. In pantomime, a father, as in Baron Hardup (Cinderella's dad), or maybe Buttons, usually an audience favourite, the Baron's servant and loyal, loving friend of Cinderella.

 Illust: Margaret Tarrant

Gemini - the communicator, social butterfly, trickster. There are lots of tricksters in fairy tales and pantomimes. I like Puss in Boots for Gemini! Story is here

Cancer - caring, sensitive, sentimental, clingy, often taken for granted.....doesn't that say Cinderella?

Leo - ambitious, likes to lead, loyal, vain, pretentious... lots of these types in fairy tales and panto too, surprisingly not usually the lead character though. Snow White's vain and wicked stepmother with her magic mirror qualifies for the darker side of Leo. Peter Pan, the eternal boy, has Leo connection too, Leo holds sway over 5th house of pleasure and children.

 Sculpture by George Frampton in  Kensington Gardens London.

Virgo - conscientious, meticulous, precise, fussy...Cinderella's Prince Charming springs to mind; his meticulous search for a foot to fit the glass slipper is nothing if not Virgoan!

Libra - peaceful, indecisive, gracious, diplomatic
Scorpio - passionate, loyal, suspicious, obsessive
Tongue firmly in cheek... my first thought for Libra and Scorpio was Beauty and the Beast! I'd never been clear about the full story of B and the B - it's here:

Sagittarius - independent, adventurous, a traveller, kindly, optimistic (sometimes overly so).
Sagittarius has the makings of the hero or heroine of of any fairy tale or pantomime. Aladdin (re the flying carpet) or Dick Whittington?

Capricorn - responsible, ambitious, serious. As with Taurus, I don't see Capricorn as taking the lead in a fairy tale or pantomime, the sign's characteristics better fit supporting roles such as merchant (as in father of Belle in Beauty & the Beast), or a landowner, aristocrat, employer etc.
 Photograph from 2014 French film of  ‘Beauty and the Beast’ (La belle et la bête).
Belle played by  Léa Seydoux, her father,  the merchant, by  André Dussollier

Aquarius - inventive, stubborn, political, logical. Aquarius can share Dick Whittington with Sagittarius. Dick did become Lord Mayor of London, and that's about as political as fairy tales ever get!

Pisces - compassionate, dreamer, sensitive, imaginative...Pisces represents the fairy in fairy tale (Tinkerbell, Fairy Godmother etc). Alternatively, Sleeping Beauty? It wasn't her fault, still....she was dreaming!

AND~~ Sunday 21 December is Winter Solstice this year for us in the north, Summer Solstice for the southern hemisphere....

Friday, December 19, 2014

Arty Farty Friday ~ The Santa Side of Thomas Nast

I can't let this Arty Farty Friday - last one before Christmas - go by without taking a look at 19th century illustrator and cartoonist Thomas Nast. As well as being one of the USA's first influential (and controversial) political cartoonists he was the true originator of the image of Santa Claus we've grown used to seeing all our lives. Some people contend that Haddon Sundblom should be credited with the creation of today's best-known Santa image. His version is the one Coca Cola still uses. Sundblom was born more than 50 years after Nast though - he was not the originator, but was clearly inspired by Nast's Christmas illustrations.

Thomas Nast was born in Landau, Germany, on
27 September 1840, relocated to New York with his family six yeas later. His natural talent for drawing showed up early, by age 16 he was a draftsman for The Illustrated Newspaper. Three years later his work appeared in Harper's Weekly where he illustrated a report exposing police corruption. He soon became famous for cartoons castigating dishonest politicians, the Klu Klux Klan, and anarchists, while supporting the rights of Native Americans, African Americans, and conservation of wildlife.

Another of Nast's creations was the Democrat donkey, it appeared in an 1870 Harper's Weekly cartoon and was intended to represent an anti-war faction with whom he disagreed. The donkey symbol caught the public's imagination so the cartoonist continued using it to indicate some Democratic editors and newspapers.

His Christmas-time illustrations of Santa Claus, inspired by Clement Moore's well-known poem, The Night Before Christmas, must have provided Nast with a much-needed breather from constant political angst! His love for his wife and family show through in his Christmas drawings, his children appear in some of them, and settings reflect Nast's home in Morristown, New Jersey. It is thought that tales of St. Nicholas heard in Germany as a child also inspired his perception of Santa Claus, a perception that changed and developed as time passed. One of his early drawings of Santa depicted a small, almost elfin, character dressed in brown; another, from Civil War days is below. (Click on any image for a larger, clearer view.)

Thomas Nast: born in Landau, Germany on 27 September 1840. Chart set for 12 noon as no time of birth is known.

With Sun, Mercury, Venus (art) and very possibly Moon in Venus-ruled Libra; also Neptune in socially conscious Aquarius harmoniously trining the planets in Libra, it's no surprise to find a socially conscious artist emerge! Where's his Santa-vibe though? Is it quirky Uranus in dreamy Pisces in trine to expansive, generous Jupiter in secretive Scorpio? I think so! Santa can be the world's best kept secret.

A few more examples of Thomas Nast's Santa side:

He illustrated books published by McLoughlin Brothers such as A Visit From St. Nicholas, Santa Claus and His Works, and provided Harper's Weekly with annual Christmas drawings until 1886. In 1889 his popular Christmas drawings from Harper's were published in a book: Christmas Drawings for the Human Race.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Watching Freebies

We haven't been to the cinema this week. A couple of weeks ago husband inadvertently clicked on something at Amazon and received a free month of Amazon Prime, which includes access to their library of films and TV shows (similar set up to Netflix). We've been exploring the freebie opportunity, using Roku, and have found lots to entertain us. We've binge-watched a season each of The Good Wife and Justified (starting from season where previous rental DVDs ended). We've just begun watching season 1 of Warehouse 13 - new to us. It's a fun sci-fi/fantasy series with echoes of The X-Files, and Raiders of the Lost Ark. We also found a couple of decent movies, as well as one we considered not so decent and decided it did not deserve the acclaim it had received.

One of the most enjoyable films was Hachi- A Dog's Tale. A tale about a dog? I can never resist one of those, never have been able to since first seeing Lassie Come Home, long ago and far away when I was very young. Hachi was a new one to me. It's based on a Japanese true story of a lost puppy, found and cherished, with much doggy loyalty in return. The story reminded me a lot of an old Scottish doggy story, Greyfriars Bobby.

Tears are almost always par for the course in doggy movies - a foregone conclusion. Gratuitous sentimentality abounds, tissues will be to hand, and were essential for Hachi!

The movie we didn't much like, but struggled complainingly through because, well, "Scorsese can't be too bad can he?" (Yes!) : The Wolf of Wall Street with Leonardo DiCaprio as Jordan Belfort. Talk about gratuitous - not sentimentality this time - soft-porn-ish sex scenes, one every few minutes it seemed like. Boring repetitious bad language, the word "fuck" loses all impact when repeated again and again... and again as part of every sentence uttered. The film is based on Jordan Belfort's memoir, so presumably it is at least partly true. Even with Scorsese at the helm, The Wolf of Wall Street, for us, didn't come anywhere near the quality of Oliver Stone's 1987 film Wall Street, with Michael Douglas as Gordon Gekko.

On we go then, there are lots of freebies still to sample!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Saturn versus Saturnalia

17 December, in the Roman calendar, marked the beginning of Saturnalia, a two-week festival celebrating the god Saturn. Because, in traditional astrology, Saturn the planet has been labelled a malefic - the "greatest malefic" in fact, one might find it puzzling that Romans celebrated so enthusiastically the god after whom the planet has been named. Or, conversely, why the farthest visible planet from Earth was so named, and accredited as malefic when its godly namesake had been so obviously revered.

In her book Mythic Astrology, astrologer Liz Greene began a chapter on Saturn thus:
The Golden Age is an ancient and indestructible human dream. Not only the bible, but the myths of the Sumerians, Babylonians, Greeks and Romans describe it, each with its own story of a Fall when divine law was transgressed by erring humans. And we conjure up the dream of the Golden Age now, whenever we turn to the past and glimpse the shining vision of a time of law and order, when human beings lived in harmony with the cycles of nature and had not yet degenerated into violence and corruption. In Hesiod's Cosmogony this Golden Age was under benign rule of the stern but just Greek deity, Kronos, whom the Romans called Saturn. He was god of earth, not of heaven, and he governed the orderly cycles of the seasons, the irrevocable passage of time, and the laws by which men and women might live in accordance with nature and their own mortality. As patron of agriculture and lord of the harvest, he symbolized the fertility of the tilled earth and conferred the rewards of honest effort. He was a working god and a wise king, who taught men and women how to press the olive and cultivate the vine. To those who obeyed his laws of discipline, time and mortality, he was a generous ruler who offered peace and abundance. To those who sought to impose their own will on the laws of life itself, he was a merciless and implacable judge. The Romans worshiped his friendly face at the year's end through the two-week carnival of the Saturnalia, which even Rio, in Brazil, has never succeeded in surpassing. It has been suggested that the name Saturn comes from the Latin 'sator', meaning to sow; and on the most profound level this god symbolized the dictum that as we sow, so shall we reap.

In Louis MacNeice's book, Astrology, I found the illustration below - click on it for a sharper image:
15th-century German allegorical picture of Saturn and some of the types of people associated with this planet. Saturn, depicted as aa horseman, rides in the sky above his two Zodiac signs, Capricorn and Aquarius. To astrologers, Saturn's influence is mostly malignant, causing misfortune, disease and death - indicated here by the criminals in the stocks and on the gallows and the hobbling cripple. Some less unfortunate Saturn types portrayed are the farmer (plowing), the gardener (digging), and the tanner (skinning a horse).

Saturnalia was in no way malignant, apart perhaps from a few nasty hangovers after days of carousing. During the long festival all social hierarchies and obligations were temporarily suspended, creating a period of chaos, a world upside down, symbol of renewal.

From Winter Solstice Traditions. Hat tip HERE
The Romans called it Dies Natalis Invicti Solis, the Birthday of the Unconquered Sun. The Roman midwinter holiday, Saturnalia, was both a gigantic fair and a festival of the home. Riotous merry-making took place, and the halls of houses were decked with boughs of laurel and evergreen trees. Lamps were kept burning to ward off the spirits of darkness. Schools were closed, the army rested, and no criminals were executed. Friends visited one another, bringing good-luck gifts of fruit, cakes, candles, dolls, jewellery, and incense. Temples were decorated with evergreens symbolizing life's continuity, and processions of people with masked or blackened faces and fantastic hats danced through the streets...... Roman masters feasted with slaves, who were given the freedom to do and say what they liked (the medieval custom of all the inhabitants of the manor, including servants and lords alike, sitting down together for a great Christmas feast, came from this tradition). A Mock King was appointed to take charge of the revels (the Lord of Misrule of medieval Christmas festivities had his origin here).
So... Saturnalia was a reverse of the Saturnian norm, an annual loosening of daily demands, bonds and customs. Sounds like a good idea! As Mick Jagger is credited as having said though, "It’s okay to let yourself go, just as long as you let yourself back." That is a fairly Saturnian statement to my mind. Hmmm. Well, well, well, whad'ya know? Jagger has Saturn in his first house, could be quite close to his ascending degree. (See HERE.)

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Perfectly Ideal

In C.E.O. Carter's Encyclopaedia of Psychological Astrology paragraphs headed "Idealistic Temperament" had me agreeing, then puzzling -
"The idealistic temperament has least affinity with Saturn and the earthy element, and most with the fiery (especially Sagittarius) and with Libra and Aquarius. At the same time idealism cannot be limited to one type, nor can we say that any sign invariably produces it. ...."
Nothing to argue with so far, except perhaps to point out that Saturn can be Airy as well; it was traditional ruler of Aquarius, a sign often linked to idealistic tendencies.

This, at first glance, was more surprising:
"Possibly Virgo and Taurus are the least idealistic and most matter-of-fact, but exceptions can undoubtedly be found even under them........"
Virgo-types, I'd have though were most likely of any to strive for the ideal...or is their tendency to perfectionism something different? Do perfectionists aim for THE ideal, as opposed to AN ideal?


Perfectionism relates to practical matters rather than airy fairy philosophical ideas and ideals. So yes, while some Virgo-types could be both perfectionists and idealists, that is not likely to be found in the majority of cases. Meticulousness, precision, practicality and attention to detail are commonly associated with Virgo, all are ingredients of perfectionism.

Perfection does not exist in doing extraordinary things, but in doing ordinary things extraordinarily well.--Angelique Arnauld

Conversely, while Sagittarius-types, Libra-types and Aquarius-types could be both idealists and perfectionists - it's not going to be the norm for them. They tend to live in their minds, or within their own philosophies of life and visions of an, often unrealistic ideal world, where fastidiousness about practical details fades into the background.

“Imagine there's no countries
It isn't hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace

You may say that I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope someday you'll join us
And the world will be as one”

― John Lennon, Imagine

When investigating a particular facet of personality, the whole chart has to be taken into consideration, Sun sign alone doesn't tell the whole story, nor does a combination of Sun/Moon/ascendant. In the case of idealists especially, the position of Neptune could merit attention. Neptune's reputation for illusion or delusion could contribute to some overly idealistic visions, especially if closely linked by aspect to a personal planet.

Perfectionism and idealism can both be veritable pains in the ass; I lean more towards the latter than the former, but a fragile strand of perfectionism within me tells me that any ideals I embrace are fairly unrealistic...still, it costs nothing to embrace 'em.

Leonard Cohen says it best:

The birds they sang
At the break of day
Start again
I heard them say
Don't dwell on what
Has passed away
Or what is yet to be

Ah the wars they will
Be fought again
The holy dove
She will be caught again
Bought and sold
And bought again
The dove is never free

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That's how the light gets in

We asked for signs
The signs were sent:
The birth betrayed
The marriage spent
Yeah the widowhood
Of every government
Signs for all to see

I can't run no more
With that lawless crowd
While the killers in high places
Say their prayers out loud
But they've summoned up, they've summoned up
A thundercloud
And they're going to hear from me

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That's how the light gets in

You can add up the parts
But you won't have the sum
You can strike up the march
There is no drum
Every heart, every heart
To love will come
But like a refugee

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That's how the light gets in

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That's how the light gets in
That's how the light gets in
That's how the light gets in