Saturday, July 26, 2014


Kicking off with a (slightly edited) patch from my 2008 archive:
Collective nouns can be fun and creative. For a collection of them, see here. From that list I like these deviations from the more common herd, flock, swarm: a congress of baboons, a scold of jays, an exaltation of larks, a nuisance of cats, an ostentation of peacocks, a murder of crows, a murmuration of starlings.

Just for fun, I've chosen twelve new collective nouns - one for each zodiac sign, for descriptive use in a natal chart where a cluster (collective noun = stellium) of planets appears in one zodiac sign; alternatively these could be used by followers of Sun sign astrology, to describe a group of people who share the same Sun sign.

A rush of Aries
An affluence of Taurus
A chatter of Gemini
A nest of Cancer
A parade of Leo
An exactitude of Virgo
An arbitration of Libra
A collusion of Scorpio
A magnification of Sagittarius
An institution of Capricorn
A current of Aquarius
A mirage of Pisces

And to pull together the whole caboodle:
A cadence of zodiac signs!

Whenever we're out and about, on the road, and notice an old decaying house, husband stops to take a photograph. There are several of these in his Flickr section "Rust and Ruin". Three such photographs inspired him to write a few lines of suitably melancholy prose, which I especially admire. He's not normally a melancholy guy, but gazing on the houses in his photographs, what other reaction could there have been?

Here they are:

We Moved Away

We built our house, we made our home;
Of laughing sounds and cookie smells,
Of warming thoughts and gentle touch.
We had such lovely plans to stay.
And then,
We moved away.

Time Was.

She sat quietly a moment longer. His gaze drifted to a shadowed corner of the room.
The summer air shuffled the sounds of the day through the open window, somehow adding to the awkward density of the moment, adding to the pale silence between them.

Finally she stood, her hands dutifully smoothing the wrinkles in her skirt. “I must leave now,” she said. “I must go.” She forced a smile and turned toward him.

He continued to stare at a faded spot in the wallpaper.

In her mind she was already walking away.

Another day.

Dusty sunbeams filtered through the uneven window blinds beside his bed. He sat up and rubbed his eyes with his palms. There was a dark and heavy pain inside him. It was the loneliness he knew would grow and consume him before day’s end. He hoped again that this would be the last day, just as he had hoped yesterday and the day before and the weeks before.

As the edges of his reality warmed to the day, he told himself to think of something else; anything else. But he was already thinking of her.

The 2014 entry on The Arrow of Time is up now - if you haven't seen this from my links in previous years, take a look now - it's fascinating, and sweet.


While snooping around husband's Flickr page I noticed this vintage photograph from his collection - it reminded me immediately of a painting featured in yesterday's Arty Farty post on Maxfield Parrish:


What a clever idea for passing on important messages/lessons! I'm wondering what else, related to modern technology (and otherwise), could be passed using variations of this idea..

Final patch ~ How do you know you're shopping in Texas?

Oops!! In my love-hate affair with Texas, one of the things I love about Texans is their ability to laugh at themselves.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Arty Farty Friday ~ Maxfield Parrish

Maxfield Parrish was briefly mentioned in the post relating to the Golden Age of Illustration. He deserves something more, on the anniversary of his birthday.

Maxfield Parrish was born into an old Quaker family on July 25, 1870, in Philadelphia. Frederick was his given name; he later adopted Maxfield, a family name, as a middle name. His parents encouraged his artistic pursuits, exposing him to great literature, art, and music. His father, Stephen Parrish, was also a painter, but came from a strict Quaker upbringing where painting was considered sinful. Stephen had to resort to painting secretly in the attic. He therefore fostered his son’s painting abilities in any way that he could. The young man spent two years, 1884-6, in Europe with his parents, attended classes at Dr. Kornemann’s school in Paris; continued his education at Haverford College, followed by classes at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in the early 1890s.

Parrish became a highly successful illustrator, sought after by well-known magazines of the day. He illustrated books, calendars, covers, advertisements, painted murals, as well as producing the paintings for which he remains famous.

Parrish married Lydia Austin, an instructor at the Drexel Institute in 1895. They eventually established a permanent home in Cornish, New Hampshire. Some detail of a personal nature is mentioned in a blog, Illustration Art, Artists in Love Pt 1.

Maxfield Parrish was 33, a successful illustrator living on a grand country estate, when he first met Sue Lewin. She was a 16 year old girl from a nearby farm town hired to help Parrish and his wife care for their two young children. Because Parrish's wife would no longer pose for him, he drafted their young nanny to pose in fairy tale costumes.
Lewin soon became his muse, modeling for his most famous illustrations.
Eventually Parrish moved out of the mansion where his wife and children stayed and set up residence in his art studio so that he and Lewin could work closely together. Not long after that, Parrish's wife began taking their children away on extended trips.

I'm tempted to add a Pythonesque "nudge nudge, wink, wink" here. The rest of the tale is available at the link provided.

Parrish has been called "Master of Makebelieve" - it's easy to see why. Many of his pieces remind me slightly of the paintings of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood in Britain in the 19th century. Their work is rather more sensual, but I felt certain he was influenced by them; this was confirmed in a brief biography HERE

"(Parrish)was particularly drawn to such contemporary English artists as the Pre-Raphaelites, Rossetti, and Lord Leighton. Parrish took an immediate interest in Leighton's art, his lifestyle, and this shaped Parrish's artistic vision, and most certainly contributed to the creation of his curious blend of naturalism, fantasy and romanticism."

The painting below is one of Lord Leighton's.
Idyll (c.1880)

Parrish painted serenity, using glowing tones. He achieved a luminous glow by a particular method: applying thin layers of paint and varnish one atop the other. I'd love to see some of the originals, because the computer screen, though a wondrous accessory, will reflect only a general idea of the "feel" of the real thing. It seems, even from what can be seen on-line that his paintings did capture light wonderfully well.

He referred to himself as "a mechanic who paints." The "props" - vases, columns etc. used in his paintings - were made in his machine shop and carefully lighted before he began to paint. He was a meticulous draftsman, his work has an almost photographic quality. His technique, use of color and choice of subject matter add the touch of mythical unreality, suitable to his serene idyllic themes.

He painted until age 90, died, aged 95 in 1966. He is reported to have said:"There are countless artists whose shoes I am not worthy to polish - whose prints would not pay the printer, the question of judgment is a puzzling one." The general public knew what it liked, and relied on its own judgment - it liked Maxfield Parrish's work.

Samples of Parrish's paintings. As mentioned already, I doubt the true quality of his talent in depicting light and colour is properly evident from online images, but - these'll have to suffice for now.


 Lute Players


The Young King of the Black Isles



 Top Farm - Winter


Born 25 July 1870 in Philadelphia PA at 6.00pm (but gives this time a DD rating (unreliable). There's an alternative time mentioned, of 5.20 AM, recorded as "available in an old file" .

Or, here's the chart for a 5.20 AM birth - take your pick!

Either natal chart shows a clear "funnel" configuration, with Saturn in Sagittarius at the business end. He has been referred to as a "businessman with a brush" as well as "Master of Makebelieve". Capricorn (ruled by Saturn) rising at 6 PM underlines his instinct for business.

There's a Yod (two quincunx aspects joined by a sextile) involving the sextile between Pluto and Uranus with Saturn at the pointy end of the Yod formation - Saturn in focus on two counts, and a Capricorn ascendant would bring in a third. If born at 5.20 AM Leo would have been rising; the 5.20 AM chart puts Moon in Gemini rather than Cancer. I'm not sure which I prefer...on balance, I think I prefer the 6 PM chart, but an argument could be made for either.

Neptune (imagination and fantasy) in Aries trines Saturn in Sagittarius and sextiles Venus. Venus Mars and Moon form a stellium, albeit Venus is in the last degree of Gemini while Moon and Mars are in Cancer. Neptune's harmonious links are reflected in the artist's nickname "Master of Makebelieve".

Parrish's penchant for depicting androgynous figures rather than voluptuous feminine, or overtly masculine figures may be symbolised by the grouping of the Moon, Mars and Venus in his (6 PM version) natal chart. Masculine Mars sandwiched between feminine Moon and Venus, with just a degree or so between - an androgynous mix!

It's interesting that Parrish's first painting was titled "Moonrise". His Moon at home in Cancer (at 6 PM) would be one of the stronger placements in his chart. Sun at home in Leo is also strongly placed. It seems significant to me that the two celestial bodies which are major givers of light, strong in his natal chart, reflect clearly in his paintings always lauded for their unusually clear depiction of.....light!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

....But in battalions

When sorrows come, they come not single spies
But in battalions.

(From Shakespeare's Hamlet)

Two more plane crash tragedies - what is going on?

A Transasia Airlines ATR-72 down in Taiwan with around 50 passengers/crew lost, reportedly amid heavy rains.
(See here.)
And a plane of a Spanish/Algerian Airline now lost over Mali, en route to Algeria from Burkina Faso. The plane disappeared from radar early Thursday after heavy rains were reported, according to the plane’s owner and government officials in France and Burkina Faso. 110 crew and 6 passengers are so far unaccounted for. (See here)

It seems pointless to offer heartfelt condolences to all relatives, surviving passengers and loved ones affected in these, and the previous two major losses involving Malaysian Airlines (MH370 and MH17), nobody involved will ever read this, but I simply wish to put such thoughts into the ether in these dark, dark circumstances for so many.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

American Holidays and their Astrological Parallels

Another copy-typing marathon from my volume of The Best of the Illustrated National Astrological Journal, 1933-1935, edited by E.A. Wagner (1978).

I found this article interesting, but perhaps to people born in the USA, and who are astrology buffs, it will be "old news". It is old anyway, from the 1933 section of the volume. I discovered, by the end of the piece, that the inspiration for writing it arose from the establishment of a "President's Day" on 30 April 1933 - something which didn't survive - for clues as to why, please read on!

The American Holidays - Their Parallels to the Forty-eight Constellations of the Ancients
by Elbert Benjamine (- aka C.C. Zain)

The Ancients pictured for us, by means of forty-eight constellations, the parallels which exist between things on the earth and the influences in the sky. Each ancient constellation pictures either one of the twelve signs of the zodiac, or one of the decanates into which each sign is divided. These stellar pictures reveal not merely the physical, but also the spiritual, significance of the particular section of the heavens occupied by a planet.

To illustrate this principle, all too frequently neglected by astrological practitioners, I shall here apply it to the persistence of the strictly American holidays.

Astrologers are wont to say that if a child is born when the vibrations in the heavens, as shown by the birth-chart are different from the vibrations of the child's character, the child will not live. The same holds true of any church festival, or even of a national holiday. Unless the holiday is born, and observed, when its character is the same as the chief influence in the sky, that holiday will die; that is, be discontinued.

The chief influence in the sky, insofar as holidays and kindred things are concerned, is indicated by the sign and decanate in which the Sun is found. The significance of the particular place where the Sun is thus found is revealed by the constellation which pictures the sign, and the constellation which pictures the decanate, or ten degrees subdivision of the sign. If, for instance, any astrologer were to be asked which zodiacal sign rules the home and the homeland, he would answer the sign Cancer.
Now our Fourth of July is observed to commemorate the establishment of a homeland. And on that date the Sun is in the sign Cancer.
We do not celebrate the Fourth by prayer and thanksgiving; but by firing cannon,  exploding fire-crackers, and other pyrotechnics, both physical and vocal, calling for expostulations from the press to try to make it more safe and sane. These are all Mars expressions. And on this day the Sun has passed into the Mars decanate of Cancer.
Both the Crab which pictures Cancer, and Hydra, picturing the decanate, warrant further consideration. But, because such treatment would require a whole article, let us move forward to Labor Day.

Our Labor Day has not the same purpose, nor is it celebrated the same as May Day in Europe. It is a day commemorating the efforts of the common people. The common people are ruled by the Moon. Monday is the day of the Moon. Consequently Labor Day is observed on Monday. The first Monday in September.

Astrological usage allots the sixth house and its zodiacal correspondence, the sign Virgo, to labor, and the Sun at this time has moved into the sign Virgo.

It is the second decanate of Virgo, pictured in the sky by the constellation Hercules. Now Hercules is not renowned for reciting verse or attending Sunday school, he is famed for his great labors. The observation of a day when the Sun is in the section of the zodiac pictured by this great hero is a tribute to the tremendous importance of the work of the common people in the world's affairs.

Thanksgiving comes next in the national calendar. It is a day of prayer and feasting. the religious sign of the zodiac is Sagittarius, and its ruler, Jupiter is the religious planet. The festival is held on Thursday, the day of Jupiter, when the Sun is in the devotional sign Sagittarius.

To each sign and decanate astrologers have given a key-word denoting the most significant influence. The key-word of the first decanate of Sagittarius, where the Sun is found on this day, is Devotion. It is pictured by the constellation Lyra, the Harp, signifying praise being offered to God in music and song. It pictures the thanksgiving decanate of the zodiac.

Sagittarius is pictured as a huntsman. The turkey is American in origin, and the early settlers obtained it by hunting. Even today, in many sections, the occasion is observed by a Thanksgiving Day hunt.

Jupiter is the planet of abundance. He likes a bounteous spread, and this is the day when the table groans under the weight of sweets and viands, and is traditionally adorned by the largest American game bird. The turkey obtained in the market is slightly removed from those that still run wild.

On the twelfth of February we celebrate Lincoln's birthday. He was the great humanitarian, and the Sun is in the humanitarian sign Aquarius, pictured as a man pouring blessings from an urn upon the earth.

The Sun is in the last decanate of Aquarius, pictured by Cetus, the Whale Monster. This monster devoured the fairest youths of Greece, and fair Andromeda was chained to a rock for this vile creature to destroy. But she was rescued by Perseus. The key-word of this decanate is Repression.
Lincoln is revered not for military exploits and not for cunning. He is honored for destroying the monster of slavery. Even as Perseus slew the hideous creature and released Andromeda, so Lincoln slew the greedy institution of human slavery. He loosened the shackles and abolished one terrible type of Repression.

Washington was the founder of a nation, and its first ruler. That he had the wisdom and unselfishness to establish it as he did makes him a great character.

His birthday is observed the twenty-second of February, at the time when the Sun has entered the first decanate of the sign Pisces. Pisces is a sign of restriction, and it was these restrictions that Washington removed.

The decanate is pictured by Cepheus, the King; and Washington became the ruler of an independent country. The key-word of the decanate is Verity. It expresses the time worn thought that The Truth Shall Set you Free. The type of rulership established by Washington set a precedent, and most of the western world followed it by adopting the republican form of government.

Thus have we passed over the five main American holidays. But, perhaps, this year we have established a sixth.

April thirtieth, 1933, was observed as President's Day.

On that day the Sun passed into the second decanate of the sign Taurus. Taurus, as every astrologer knows, is associated with money. And this day was set apart to do homage to the man who is making so valiant a struggle to free his people from the afflictions of a money-mad world.

The second decanate of Taurus, where the Sun is on this day, is represented by the constellation Orion. A mighty bull is pictured in the sky, pitching down upon Orion to pin him with his horns to the earth, even as the money powers have pinioned the people in poverty for the last few years. Orion wields a great club and does battle with the Bull.

The key-word of the decanate is Struggle. And the day commemorated the struggle of our president against the powers of money greed. He uses the "big stick" quite as effectively as does Orion.

To most, the Hebrew version of this combat is more familiar than the Greek, for the Greek Orion is none other than the Hebrew Moses.

Moses came down from Mount Sinai and found his people worshiping a golden calf, representing this same greed for wealth. Even as our president has set aside many out-moded laws, so Moses was wroth and broke the tablets of the law which he had with him.

Moses did not permit this greed for gold to destroy his people. He smote the golden calf, broke it in pieces, burned it in the fire of political purification, and strewed it on the life-giving waters of a wide and sympathetic distribution.

Nor did he fail to use this bull, or calf, or wealth for some good purpose. For he made the Children of Israel all drink of its purified ashes. He distributed the wealth among all the people, nor left it in the hands of a paltry few.

And if our president, following the example of Moses, as pictured in the sky, leads his people out of the wilderness of this depression; if he smites the sacrilegious idol of Mammon, and causes wealth to be widely distributed and freely circulated, we shall have another national hero.

If he successfully follows the footsteps of the constellation in the sky which depicts this present struggle, we may be sure of a new and permanent holiday.

Hat-tip HERE

From Wikipedia
When Franklin D. Roosevelt was inaugurated March 4, 1933, the U.S. was at the nadir of the worst depression in its history. A quarter of the workforce was unemployed. Farmers were in deep trouble as prices fell by 60%. Industrial production had fallen by more than half since 1929. Two million were homeless. By the evening of March 4, 32 of the 48 states – as well as the District of Columbia – had closed their banks. The New York Federal Reserve Bank was unable to open on the 5th, as huge sums had been withdrawn by panicky customers in previous days. Beginning with his inauguration address, Roosevelt began blaming the economic crisis on bankers and financiers, the quest for profit, and the self-interest basis of capitalism....

 Wall Street's Bull sculpture

Tuesday, July 22, 2014


I found it necessary to look up a word the other day: panglossian. A writer or commenter, I forget which, described President Obama as panglossian or "a pangloss". Skipping tactfully over politics involved, and whether or not the adjective or noun was a hat that fits, I found the word comes from the satirical French novel, Candide (1759), by Voltaire.
As Dr. Pangloss, Candide's tutor and mentor explained, whatever happens, happens for the best in the best of all possible worlds (“Tout est pour le mieux dans le meilleur des mondes possibles.”)
noun: One who is optimistic regardless of the circumstances.
adjective: Blindly or unreasonably optimistic.

After Dr. Pangloss, a philosopher and tutor in Voltaire's 1759 satire Candide. Pangloss believes that, in spite of what happens -- shipwreck, earthquake, hanging, flogging, and more -- "All is for the best in the best of all possible worlds." The name is coined from Greek panglossia (talkativeness). Earliest documented use: 1794.


"Master Pangloss taught the metaphysico-theologo-cosmolonigology. He could prove to admiration that there is no effect without a cause; and, that in this best of all possible worlds, the Baron's castle was the most magnificent of all castles, and My Lady the best of all possible baronesses...

"It is demonstrable," said he, "that things cannot be otherwise than as they are; for as all things have been created for some end, they must necessarily be created for the best end. Observe, for instance, the nose is formed for spectacles, therefore we wear spectacles. The legs are visibly designed for stockings, accordingly we wear stockings. Stones were made to be hewn and to construct castles, therefore My Lord has a magnificent castle; for the greatest baron in the province ought to be the best lodged. Swine were intended to be eaten, therefore we eat pork all the year round: and they, who assert that everything is right, do not express themselves correctly; they should say that everything is best."
- Candide, Ch.1

The novel is about a series of disasters and misfortunes that befall Pangloss, Candide, and the the company that they gather, during their adventures.

The novel is a satire. It satirizes philosophy, religion, academia, the political order - basically most of the dominant institutions.
(See HERE)

It's difficult to be or to feel panglossian these days, maybe that's why the word isn't oft encountered.

A couple of other adjectives originating from literature's characters, not used much in speech, but occasionally in writings are:

Stentorian from Homer's The Iliad. Stentor was a herald in the Greek army during the Trojan Wars, and had a loud, thundering voice. His name has been bequeathed to the adjective stentorian = loud and thundering voice.

Gargantuan from Rabelais' The Life of Gargantua and of Pantagruel, a bawdy 16th century work with scatological references. Gargantua, in Rabelais' novel, is born calling for ale, and with an erection a yard long.

Hmmm. I shall be careful how I use the latter word - if I ever do use it!

On a different note there's Pickwickian
1. Marked by generosity, naivete, or innocence.
2. Not intended to be taken in a literal sense.

After Samuel Pickwick, a character in the novel Pickwick Papers (serialized 1836-1837) by Charles Dickens. Mr Pickwick is known for his simplicity and kindness. In the novel Mr. Pickwick and Mr. Blotton call each other names and it appears later that they were using the offensive words only in a Pickwickian sense and had the highest regard for each other.

Another term that arose from the book is Pickwickian syndrome, which refers to a combination of interlinked symptoms such as extreme obesity, shallow breathing, tiredness, sleepiness, etc. The character with these symptoms was not Mr. Pickwick, but Fat Joe, so the term is really coined after the book's title. The medical term for the condition is obesity-hypoventilation syndrome.

From again

Lots more examples of the same type of word, obscure and otherwise, at Wiki
List of eponymous adjectives in English

Monday, July 21, 2014

Music Monday ~ Tales of Tunnels, Fables of Fiddles

Tunnels, connecting the earth to the 'underworld' or 'Hades', can be found in Greek, Roman, and earlier myths. Passing through a cave or tunnel and arriving in a different land exist in German and Eastern European folktales. In modern times, in science fiction, we read of holes in space - space tunnels which lead to other dimensions or other galaxies, other universes.

In Britain, myths about a musician's tunnel survive in various locations around the country. In these stories a musician enters an underground passage and is followed, above ground, by people listening to his music, which suddenly stops. The musician usually has a dog with him. The man is never seen again, the dog leaves the tunnel seeming frightened. Such myths are sometimes connected to a 'barrow' (underground burial place). One such a story is linked to Binham, a working Benedictine Priory between 1091 and 1539 in Norfolk.

Information from Myths and Legends.
The Fiddler, the Alchemist and the Black Monk

Secret places hold a special fascination. History, and legend, have stories involving secret tunnels connecting different places in this world, and in other worlds.

Binham Priory was built in the 12th century in North Norfolk, it has a mysterious past, with rumours of a secret underground passage from the Priory to Little Walsingham. The tunnel is said to be the place of a haunting and a strange disappearance.

At Binham, some of the monks sold off the Priory's silver. William de Somerton, who lived in the 13th century, was one of the worst offenders. He was an alchemist , alchemy was an early form of chemistry, then considered as sorcery or magic . In his efforts to find the secret of turning base metal into gold William needed money to fund experiment. He sold off much of the Priory's gold and silver artifacts, leaving the Priory with what was, back then, a huge debt.
Concurrent to William's misdeeds and experiments, another monk, Alexander de Langley lost his mind - went mad through too much study. He was flogged, chained and imprisoned alone in a cell until he died, then buried in his chains. Shortly after this, rumours circulated describing a black monk, said to walk over ground, following the route of an underground tunnel on moonless nights. It was thought the ghost might be that of the mad prior or the alchemist sorcerer.

The tale continues:
"One day a fiddler and his dog came to the village of Walsingham and offered to explore the tunnel, solve the mystery and put to rest once and for all tales of ghostly happenings. He was a smart fellow and explained that, as he moved along the tunnel, he would play his fiddle so that the gathered crowd could hear him as he made his way along.

The fiddler entered the tunnel and for a while the villagers were able to hear the distant strains of his music and followed happily above ground. However, when the fiddler reached the site of an ancient bronze-age barrow, suddenly the music stopped. The villagers stood around, puzzled. What had happened to him? Had he fallen foul of the alchemist's evil magic? Or had he, perhaps, met the unhappy ghost of the black monk, still wrapped in his chains?

The villagers were far too scared to enter the tunnel but waited at the entrance for his return. Some hours later, out of the tunnel came the fiddler's little dog shivering, whining and clearly terrified with its tail firmly between its legs. The fiddler never reappeared.

That night, a violent storm broke out and the following morning the villagers woke to find the passage entrance had been destroyed. The little dog had vanished. Nobody knew if it had returned to the tunnel to look for its master before the storm took hold or simply run away. The brave fiddler was never heard of again. Exactly what had caused his disappearance remains a mystery, for no one ventured that way again."

The fiddle music would have sounded something like this...

Ancient dance tunes played by Barry Hall on the vielle. The vielle is a medieval fiddle, an ancestor of the modern violin. Vielles are more primitive in design than violins - they use plain gut strings and have a flat soundboard and back, rather than the arched top and back used on more modern instruments. When these instruments were popular, there was very little standardization of size, shape, number of strings, or tuning. This particular instrument has five strings, is similar in size to a viola, and was made by Ethan James (RIP) the renowned hurdy-gurdy player. More of Barry's music here.