Monday, October 24, 2016

Music Monday ~ Georges Bizet & Carmen

Tomorrow will be the anniversary of the birth of Georges Bizet, French composer of Carmen.
Bizet died suddenly after the 33rd performance, unaware that the work would achieve international acclaim within the following ten years. Carmen has since become one of the most popular and frequently performed operas in the classical canon; the "Habanera" from act 1 and the "Toreador Song" from act 2 are among the best known of all operatic arias.

Set in southern Spain and tells the story of the downfall of Don José, a naïve soldier who is seduced by the wiles of the fiery gypsy Carmen. José abandons his childhood sweetheart and deserts from his military duties, yet loses Carmen's love to the glamorous toreador Escamillo, after which José kills her in a jealous rage. The depictions of proletarian life, immorality, and lawlessness, and the tragic death of the main character on stage, broke new ground in French opera and were highly controversial.

Clips from brief biography by Rovi Staff at All Music website

Bizet was born in Paris on October 25, 1838, and grew up in a happy, musical family that encouraged his talents. He learned to read music at the same time he learned to read letters, and equally well. Entering the Paris Conservatory before he was ten, he earned first prize in solfège within six months, a first prize in piano in 1852, and eventually, the coveted Prix de Rome in 1857 for his cantata Clovis et Clotilde. .....The two years spent in Rome after winning his prize, would be the only extensive time, and a greatly impressionable one, that Bizet would spend outside of Paris in his brief life. When he returned to Paris, he lost confidence in his natural talents and began to substitute dry Germanic or academic writing for his own developing idiom. ......
In 1863 Bizet's father bought land outside Paris where he built two bungalows, one of which Bizet frequently used as a compositional retreat. He began a friendship (apparently not a physical one) with a neighbor-woman named Céleste Mogador, a former actress, author, courtesan, circus rider, and dance-hall girl. She is said to have been the model for his masterpiece's title role of Carmen. ......
Bizet's corpus of unfinished works is large, and testifies to his unsettled existence and his difficulty in finding a place in France's notoriously hierarchical and conservative musical world. In 1869 Bizet married Geneviève Halévy, daughter of his teacher. The marriage did not turn out to be a happy one, primarily due to her family's history of mental illness. .......
At last confident of his creative vision, Bizet was able to steer his final masterpiece [Carmen] through various obstacles, including the objections of singers and theater directors who were shocked by Carmen's subject matter. When the opera had its premiere on March 3, 1875, it was received barely well enough to hang on for future productions. Although it took audiences only a few weeks to catch on, Bizet died [on June 3, 1875 in Bougival, France] convinced it was a failure.

Astrodatabank has a birth time of 10p.m. for Bizet, but ranked as "DD" (dirty data). I'm ignoring that - if it's dirty, why muddy the waters with inaccurate assumption? Using 12 noon chart will give sufficient broad information for this blog post.

Natal Sun in early Scorpio (erotic) in trine aspect to Uranus (ahead of its time) in Pisces reflects Bizet's daringly erotic (for its day) subject matter of Carmen - the work that eventually brought him the success he craved, albeit posthumously. Neptune (imagination, creativity) in Aquarius trine Jupiter in Libra (the arts) is echo of the same. His Venus in Libra, one of three natal planets in the sign ruled by Venus, speaks to his innate musical sense, becoming obvious from a very early age.

Saturn in Scorpio square Mars in Leo; and Pluto from Aries opposing Venus and Mercury are reflections of the difficulties and challenges Bizet experienced in his professional and personal life.

Without a reliable time of birth Moon's position isn't known, but almost certainly it would have been somewhere in Capricorn, providing the only Earthy, practical grounding in his chart, to balance an Air/Water (mentally/emotionally oriented) nature, unless such was also coming from his unknown ascendant.

Finishing off the post, a very brief clip from a recent British production of Bizet's other well-known opera,
The Pearl Fishers

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Keys to Unlock Astrology

Keywords used in interpretation of zodiac signs and astrological houses are a handy tool, especially helpful to beginners who wish to learn more about the ancient art. There are several websites online offering lists of keywords - for example HERE, under "Introduction to Astrology."
Among astrology-related books lining my shelves is "Astrological Keywords" by Manly P. Hall. The author is described here as:
"One of the metaphysical giants of the Twentieth Century, Manly P. Hall spent decades researching eastern philosophy, occult studies, astrology, and a wide variety of related topics at a time when such subjects were still unknown territory in the western world. It is in no small measure due to his extensive writings and teachings that these subjects are so widely known today.

A prime example of the visionary Balsamic Moon type, Hall had Sun in Pisces, Moon in Aquarius. He earned an honorary Ph.D. in literature, was a 33rd Degree Mason, was a Rosicrucian initiate, and wrote over 200 books."
Another post on Manly P. Hall, among the archives, can be read HERE.

Astrological Keywords has been re-printed many times from 1958 onward, my copy is the 1978 version. It contains a treasure trove of astrological information. I'm borrowing, here, from the last chapter headed: "Snap Judgment".

Mr. Hall tells us that
"While a detailed analysis of character depends upon a profound knowledge of the science of astrology, the possession of certain fundamental keywords enables the student to arrive at remarkable conclusions, which, while not complete, will adequately demonstrate the accuracy of astrology."
For me, this pencil sketch style can often be far more convincing than pages and pages of scholarly interpretation.

Mr. Hall provides 8 examples to illustrate his point. I'll borrow his snap judgments about three of the best known personalities he features.
"Abraham Lincoln -
Aries rising - courageous, ambitious, idealistic. Sun in Aquarius - humanitarian, religious, progressive, tolerant. Neptune, Saturn and Antares (fixed star) conjoined in 8th house: a tragic and violent death. Mars and Uranus in 7th house: unhappy marriage. Capricorn in mid-heaven: high honor and great sense of public duty and responsibility. Venus opposing ascendant in Aries - features irregular but conveying an impression of beauty, sweetness or kindliness. A glance reveals these elements in the horoscope of America's martyred president, Abraham Lincoln.

Sir Francis Bacon
Aquarius rising with Sun opposite ascendant "spiritual and scientific progressivisim and diplomacy. Sun in 12th house: disgrace or imprisonment. Mercury conjunct Sun in 12th: the brilliance of his mind left unrewarded and obscured by the enmity of his contemporaries. Sagittarius on mid-heaven: high philosophical and religious attainments. Uranus in 10th house: erratic fortune and public place. Mars in Scorpio in 9th house: religious and political intrigue. This is an astrological sketch of the personality of Sir Francis Bacon, Chancellor of the British Empire and father of modern science.

Thomas Edison
Scorpio rising, a scientist. Leo on 10th house, a leader. Sun in Aquarius, a mind turned to Aquarian concerns - an inventor. Mercury in Aquarius, electricity. Neptune in Aquarius an inventor and investigator. Thus we may sum up the outstanding characteristics of Thomas Edison." (Inventor of the light bulb, among other things).
I didn't realise, until I'd finished typing these, that the subjects are all Sun Aquarians. I looked quickly through the other 5 examples in the chapter and oddly there's another Sun Aquarian, an Aquarius rising, a Pisces rising, a Sun Pisces, and a Leo Sun with Uranus in Aquarius. The author, Manly P. Hall, had Sun in Pisces, Moon in Aquarius (as stated in his memorial above). I wonder whether there was a little astrological nepotism going on here? Or are Aquarius and Pisces, for some reason, best able to demonstrate the efficacy of snap judgments? Curious.

[This is a lightly edited post from my earliest astrology blogging days.]

Friday, October 21, 2016

Arty Farty Friday ~ Going Ape

On our recent wanders around antique and vintage stores in Kansas I found another piece of sculpture by Austin Productions. In an antique mall in Emporia KS, this one came as a surprise. I picked it up for a closer look mainly because I liked the idea it represents; turned it around and was very surprised to see "Austin Productions" carved into the base at the back, dated 1962 - quite an early piece for them. We already have four other Austin Productions pieces (see here, here, here, and here).
I bought the piece at a very reasonable price, much lower than is being asked for similar pieces on E-bay and elsewhere.

I wasn't, originally, aware that it is an "homage" piece, or rough copy, of a famous sculpture by 19th century German sculptor
Wolfgang Hugo Rheinhold
(26 March 1853 – 2 October 1900) who was arguably most famous for his
Affe mit Schädel (Ape with Skull), inspired by Charles Darwin's theory of evolution. There have been several variations, copies of, and tributes to Rheinhold's sculpture over the years. Austin Productions was one of the original US manufacturers. The Austin Productions piece differs from Rheinhold's original in fine detail, and in material used.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016


I'm going to be really shallow here (you have been warned). I'm prodded by something written by Ted Rall yesterday in his piece published at Smirking Chimp and at Counterpunch.

From: The 4 things Hillary could do to close the deal against Trump:
........Then there’s her incredibly ugly, unbelievably hideous wardrobe: it’s hard to like someone who makes your eyes burn. But let’s face it. Hillary Clinton, probably like you and definitely like me, can’t do anything about her personality. At 68, that stuff is baked in. Still, there’s a lot she could do to close the deal against Donald Trump.....
(My highlight.)
Google Image offers up several pics of Ms Clinton in her many trouser suits - or as they call 'em on this side of the Pond "pant suits".

These are not some of the most recent creations we've seen during this election go-around, but do illustrate one of my main quibbles about her style - the other quibble was the buttoned up round-necked jackets she was sporting during the primaries. The jacket she wore during the last debate with Trump - the grey job with long, lighter coloured lapels - was a big improvement. However, it's those darn trousers that, for me, take away from any total good look. Most of her trouser legs are too narrow, and almost all are too short. To my eye women's trousers should cover the front of the foot or, if not, show off a nice soft boot top (and she could afford the very best light-weight boots that money can buy!) Those narrow-bottomed trousers are out of proportion; low-fronted "court shoes" are not a good look with trousers. The trousers of the turquoise suit, 4th from left in the first photo above, are about right, but she hardly ever wears them that way. The skinny leg look is fine for slender young things who can get away with just about anything - she ain't one of those. Narrow trouser bottoms with a bit of flesh/stocking showing, on a woman of Hillary's age and size, just look bad. I'm surprised that her advisers don't...well...advise better!

Now...I am no fashionista by any measure, as I've written before when doing a bit of ranting about clothes; do feel, though, that I can tell what looks good, right and proportional.

Oh my - how shallow was that!? What does it matter what this lady looks like and what she wears? It really shouldn't matter at all. If she'd just keep us out of World War 3, I'd be happy enough if she wore an old hempen sack clinched with duct tape, a muddy pair of green wellies on her feet.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Across the Great Divide ("It's where the rivers change direction")

I spent some time yesterday reading what I decided is an excellent and empathetic explanation of what really lies behind the US divide: city vs country, small town vs metropolis. Do take a look, and at the very good collection of comments - so long a thread that I didn't manage to read all.

The piece, by David Wong at, is headed: How Half Of America Lost Its F**king Mind.

Mr Wong explains why so many people are determined to vote for Trump as President of the USA: "Donald Trump is a brick chucked through the window of the elites. "Are you assholes listening now?"

It's the answer Bill Maher was seeking on Friday night. We caught his "Real Time" on the hotel room's TV. I'd not seen Maher's programme for months, we ditched HBO earlier this year. Maher posed the question, why do so many Americans still intend to support Trump in spite of the stuff now being revealed? The answer may lie in David Wong's excellent piece.

Some random lines from a variety of commentary from a 2000+ long thread:

It wears on you, being talked down to and treated like a lesser bc you are just some regular Joe trying to live paycheck to paycheck.

Finally, an article about Trump that isn't just idiotic "Trump is bad, mmmkay" clickbait. This is the analysis we should've had all along.

Wong's correct in the fact that regardless of the results of this election, they're going nowhere. As difficult and frustrating as it is, the liberal progressives need to tap into those bleeding hearts of theirs and show some empathy to the red (myself included) without expecting reciprocation and avoiding condescension. Their plight is real and their anger is certainly not baseless or derived solely from unfettered ignorance.

As someone in England watching everything unfold, I appreciate someone explaining why so many people are voting for him. Someone else mentioned in their comment that it's weird that rural folk like him since he's such an arrogant billionaire, but after reading your article I understand that to them, Trump is their only chance for change. Seeing him through rose tinted, desperate eyes.

On the flipside, I have gone through very well-to-do neighborhoods in my area and have seen a number of Trump signs. This leads me to believe that greed and pure selfishness are simple factors that stand the test of time. These people are cowards who think Trump would let them keep all of the things they think they're entitled to... But Trump can be bought with a pat on the back and an underage girl.

Regarding that last comment excerpt, in the wealthiest "millionaire row" area of our town, in a wooded enclave not too far from Chez Twilight & Anyjazz (our abode exists in a far less rarified atmosphere), we've spied a couple of Trump signs on that "millionaire row" and wondered: "WTF?"

This rural-life/city-life divide isn't peculiar to the USA of course. Same thing applies in Britain, and I feel sure in other nations too. I was born in an English city port known for its Labour credentials, but grew up in small-town rural England where the majority of residents always voted Conservative. Later on, I lived and worked in big cities where Labour held some strongholds. The political atmosphere in England wasn't, in my day at least, quite as highly charged as it is here in the USA. I suspect Brexit could be changing that.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Back to it...

The blog's been on hold for a couple of weeks - what's been goin' on? Nothing terribly inspiring on the political front, for sure!

There was the TV debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump - the one when Trump said Clinton would be in jail if he were to become president. That brought on a wan smile. Then there was the debate between would-be vice-presidents, Tim Kaine and Mike Pence. Well, that one had me yelling at the TV, "Kaine, can you not shut your flippin' mouth for two minutes together and let the other guy speak?!" I was not impressed with Tim Kaine, at all. Mike Pence's politics makes him a no-no for me, but can't argue with the fact that he did come over as far more presidential/vice-presidential than either Trump or Kaine. Clinton darn well ought to be coming over as presidential - she has been aiming for the job her whole life!

Then during last week ...oh dear! But really, was anyone surprised to read about Trump's past unpleasantnesses? Haven't we seen and heard enough over many, many months to realise that, if someone began digging through old records and videos, something nasty would emerge - it'd be more surprising if it hadn't. What has emerged, so far, is nasty, but par for the course from a guy like Donald Trump, I'd have thought. It won't change many minds, nor will anything worse that might be presented for our disgust during the next weeks. I wish all media would be silenced, blinds down, by presidential decree, until 8 November at 10p.m!

What else? During the first week of bloglessness we had a surprise and lightning fast visit from husband's younger daughter, who lives in Austin, Texas. We'd intended taking off for a few days before that, but one or other us us feeling one degree under resulted in our sitting tight for a while longer.

We left last Monday, heading for Kansas, ended up in Hutchinson for a night or two. We really wanted to visit the Cosmosphere there - a museum affiliated to the Smithsonian. We arrived there at around 9.30 one morning, to a car park full to the gills, and two school buses just arrived, also full to the gills. The foyer was heaving, very noisy, with several teachers trying to keep the excited chit-chat down to a dull roar. We thought it best to postpone our visit, and instead drove around a couple of nearby small towns discovering antique, vintage and junk stores. Looked again at the Cosmosphere later in the day, but the car park was still overflowing. Another time, perhaps.

We then moved on to Emporia a little further to the north and east, wandered around that area, taking in some very nice scenery, as far east as Ottawa, Kansas and Baldwin City - not at all the classic Kansas scenery of featureless flatness, more like wooded areas of Missouri. The trees up there have begun to turn orange and deep red - especially the Maples. One little town was preparing for their annual Maple Festival at the weekend.

We arrived home Sunday afternoon, via Ponca City in the northernmost reaches of Oklahoma.

We kept an eye open, during travel, for election lawn signs. There weren't many. It seemed to us that Trump-Pence ones were slightly more in evidence, but still were few and far between. OK and KS are both deeply red states, of course. A few Clinton-Kaine signs were around too. Most lawn signs, by far, were for local and state positions. Perhaps this indicates that nobody, of either persuasion, is feeling particularly presidentially inspired this time around. I know I'm not!

Weather? A whole year's worth in less than a week! We left with temps in the 80s, an overnight storm, then within 24 hours, in Kansas (maybe in Oklahoma too), temps dropped to mid 40s with a knife-sharp cold wind blowing all day. Two days like that, then a slow climb back to the high 80s by the time we reached home yesterday.

I almost forgot - it's Music Monday... and it's a mad world ain't it? Cue Adam Lambert: