Monday, July 06, 2015

Music Monday ~ Percy Grainger - Stranger and Stranger!

The revised edition of John Bird's biography of Percy Grainger gives a circumstantial account of the life and works of one of the strangest figures in 20th-century music. Behind Grainger's highly original compositional achievements, folksong collecting and glittering career as a virtuoso concert pianist lay a tragic and chaotic personal life - long domination by his mother, unorthodox sexual predilections, an eccentric athleticism, a demonic spiritual drive and wildly inconsistent personal philosophy with Anglo-Saxon obsessions such as his famous Blue-Eyed English.
It seems incongruous to me that a guy who was addicted to flagellation and other kinky practices, who was scarcely more than a spit away from being a full-blown nazi-like fascist, would enjoy collecting and re-arranging lovely old-fashioned folk tunes such as:

Country Gardens

or, arranging Bach in a rather different tone

Lots more at YouTube

Percy Grainger, born on 8 July 1882 in Melbourne, Australia. He left the country of his birth at age 13, studied music in Frankfurt, Germany and later in London. In 1914 he moved to the USA and remained there for most of the rest of his life. He married Swedish artist Ella Ström in 1928. He died in New York in 1961.

More on his biography at Wikipedia and at Classic Cat here. On some of his peculiarities: this piece.

It has been said that Grainger was a composer who felt that his most important compositions were neglected and grew to hate his own most popular pieces (such as Country Gardens). He was a brilliant pianist but hated playing the piano, a racist who counted among his friends many of different races. He was a vegetarian who didn't much enjoy vegetables. He was dominated by his mother until the age of forty, wanted to have his skeleton displayed in a casement on public display, and left documents on his sado-masochistic sexual preferences to be scientifically studied.

From a 2011 piece at The Australian website: Understanding Percy's Progress, by Stephen Downes :

...pianist and composer Percy Grainger (1882-1961) personifies mercurial. Eccentric is too easy a description. .................He wore towelling suits he ran up himself, he at times hiked from one concert to the next and skipped modernism altogether to be sometimes more postmodern than most of the free-form artists of today. No wonder some contemporaries thought he was odd.

He was a loveable larrikin, played footy with the children of his Aussie relatives on visits and once delighted in galloping to the piano and rattling out Yes, We Have No Bananas after a cousin requested it. His self-flagellation is well known, but most music lovers would be less familiar with the torment he suffered trying to convince the world it needed his "free music". He loved jazz, ragtime, Duke Ellington, and wondered why other musicians from the classical tradition didn't share his tastes..............

A mixed bag indeed. Will his natal chart reflect that?

Chart set for 12 noon (birth time unknown) on 8 July 1882 in Melbourne, Australia

Natal Sun closely sextiles Uranus and Uranus is the classic culprit involved in eccentricities. On the other side natal Sun sextiles Neptune, known for creative imaginings and addictions. Those two sextiles alone say quite a lot!

The cluster of slow-moving planets in Taurus (Neptune, Saturn and Pluto) are in the general area of fixed star Algol, in fact Saturn would have been only around a degree away from Algol when Grainger came into the world. Perhaps here was the reflection of his unconventional sexual cravings?
From Skyscript HERE
"This star [Algol] seems to contain immense female passion and power" wrote Bernadette Brady. She added:
"Algol represents a strong consuming passion that may devour you with anger and rage. If one can contain an unconscious compulsion to take revenge, and from that passion return a more productive outcome, Algol is one of the most powerful stars in the sky. Whatever planet it affects in your chart will be charged with strong, intense sexual energy that has the potential to be wonderful, of if repressed, to lead to rage or violence."

Jupiter (planet of excess, expansion, publication) in versatile Gemini is his only Air planet, it shines clearly through his multi-talented, multi-faceted nature - his innate urge to communicate.

His natal Moon would have been somewhere in Aries, and possibly in trine to Venus in Leo, but we cannot be certain of that without a time of birth. Aries Moon, in any case, reflects the boundless energy mentioned often in biographical pieces - his running or hiking from one venue to another, for example.

Saturday, July 04, 2015

Trying to Understand "Grexit"

The people of Greece will vote tomorrow on whether to accept a bailout deal to assist in paying the country's debts. A "Yes" vote would bring in even more austerity than they've already experienced, and some reform in exchange for funds desperately needed. A "No" vote could leave them even further up a dangerous creek without the proverbial paddle. It seems they'll be damned if they do, damned if they don't. There have, no doubt been faults on both sides: the Greek government and the Troika (or triumverate) of the EU (European Union) ECB (European Central Bank) and IMF (International Monetary Fund) - the the three bodies dealing with bailout loans within the Eurozone.

Until now I hadn't spent much time trying to understand how the situation in Greece had reached such an obviously dire level. I'd tried, but financial matters beyond a certain point go right over my noggin. I tried once again, this time by Google-searching "Greek crisis for dummies", and among responses found this at the Quora website:

How do you explain the Greek crisis to a layman. What is this crisis all about?

It's clever analogy written by one Evan Colvin, who is a student majoring in economics. He personalises Greece in order to tell his story in terms that ordinary people, like me, can relate to and understand. The comments following his piece help to clarify any remaining queries about metaphors and analogies used. If, like me, you're in the dark on this topic I'd highly recommend a look at Evan Colvin's explanation.

It's difficult to see what would be the better outcome from this referendum. I can appreciate a little of both sides' arguments, but my gut feeling would be that a "No" vote could, though bringing a risky and difficult few years, or even decades in its wake, be a way for Greece to adjust its course for the better. The country has a wonderful tourist industry, natural beauty and ancient history in its favour. I understand it has a shipping industry too, and its location in the world, kind of between east and west, has to have some strategic value....but that's heading towards matters I'm not equipped to be writing about!

Following the tradition of reason and empirical inquiry, the West bounds forward to conquer the world; the East, prodded by frightening subconscious forces, likewise darts forward to conquer the world. Greece is placed in the middle; it is the world's geographical and spiritual crossroads.
-- Nikos Kazantzakis, from Report To Greco

Happy Birthday USA / Open Thread

At the dentist's office the other day reception staff asked,
"Doing anything special for The 4th?"
Me: "Don't think so - we don't usually...oh, well we put out the flag!"
Them: "There ya go!"

So, what are y'all doing?

A few quotes I see as apt for the day, just to help things along.....

America is so vast that almost everything said about it is likely to be true, and the opposite is probably equally true.
~James T. Farrell

The metaphor of the melting pot is unfortunate and misleading. A more accurate analogy would be a salad bowl, for, though the salad is an entity, the lettuce can still be distinguished from the chicory, the tomatoes from the cabbage.
~Carl N. Degler

America! half-brother of the world!
With something good and bad of every land

~Philip James Bailey

I always tell myself: “You can do better than this.” The best slogan I can think of to leave with the U.S.A. would be:
“We can do, and we’ve got to do, better than this.”

~Theodor Seuss Geisel.

Friday, July 03, 2015

Arty Farty Friday ~ Rembrandt

I'm surprised to find I have never featured Rembrandt before on some past Arty Farty Friday but, as far as I can tell, I haven't.

Rembrandt - his name has become familiar enough to roll off the tongue in everyday conversations about art: "He's no Rembrandt, but he does draw nicely..."; "You never know, you might even find a Rembrandt in the attic, or in the junk store on Main Street!"

The most readable potted biography I've found comes from HERE, the National Gallery in London, UK.

This video, running just under 6 minutes, is good too.

Ten of Rembrandt's best-known paintings are featured at this website.


Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn was born in Leiden in the Netherlands on 15 July 1606 (Gregorian) according to Astrodienst. The time of birth mentioned is a rectification, with an 'X' rating (not reliable), so the chart below is set for 12 noon.

 Self portrait
During his fairly short lifetime, he died aged 63 in 1669, he experienced love and loss - three of his children died within a few months of birth; his wife died, possibly of consumption or the plague, shortly after giving birth to a fourth son, who did live beyond childhood, but also died before Rembrandt.

He enjoyed success and calamity, the former, of course, due to his talent as an artist, the latter to his profligacy. He loved to buy artworks and antiques, pieces for use as "props" in his paintings. He lived beyond his means.

Sun at 22 Cancer harmoniously trines Moon at 22 Scorpio. He was a sensitive and highly emotional character, we can be pretty sure of that. His paintings are described by experts as being very warm, human, accessible, in a "warts and all" way. He doesn't sugar coat his portraits and depictions of historical or religious events, but paints them realistically and, seemingly, with an understanding of and affection for his subject.

There's a single Air planet in his natal chart, Venus, planet of the arts, in Gemini. Venus is in uncomfortable square aspect to Neptune (planet of imagination and creativity) in Virgo though - but because both Gemini and Virgo are ruled by Mercury, I'd say this square wasn't as uncomfortable as might be expected. Even so, creative imagination didn't feature greatly in Rembrandt's art - he relied on realism with, in his later works, a new idea - the use of broader brush strokes. Uranus, planet of all things new, including painting techniques, was in semi-sextile to Venus and sextile his Sun, linking into his nature an urge to experiment with new ideas.

So, where do we find Rembrandt's habit of living beyond his means in the natal chart? That'd be connected to Jupiter for sure! Jupiter certainly links well into his general nature: it sits in early Pisces, in sextile to Pluto in Taurus; trine Mercury in Cancer; sextile Saturn in Capricorn. That last sextile, from Saturn, likely brought with it many accounts needing urgently to be paid!

His well spread natal chart is capable of throwing up numerous chart patterns or planetary circuits compatible with both potential success and potential struggle; that kind of contrast does fit his life story pretty well!

Thursday, July 02, 2015

The SCOTUS-9 in the Court of Astrology

A few SCOTUS/astrological-related links:

#1 ~ I recently saved this article from the BBC's website, thought it a nicely done quick run-down on current SCOTUS Justices:
Meet the Supremes: Who are the US Supreme Court justices?
By Taylor Kate Brown, BBC News Magazine.

#2 ~ It'd be a big job to sift through 9 natal charts looking for similarities, I'm not feeling enthusiastic enough for that, but found an astrologer at Ohio Astrology blog who has already done some work in that direction. Included in the linked post is a handy list of justices' Sun and Moon signs, with observations on any chart similarities or peculiarities:
If you want to be a supreme court justice what sign should you be?

#3 ~ Infographic has an illustration showing Sun signs of the SCOTUS 9 ~
Supreme Court Justices by Name & Zodiac Sign

#4 ~ My own brief scribble about Chief Justice Roberts is below, extracted from THIS 2008 post, written when I was still naive about the US brand of politics and justice...can you tell?

US Chief Justice John Roberts has Sun and Mercury in Aquarius, with Aquarius' modern ruler Uranus conjunct Jupiter in Cancer. Jupiter is traditionally connected with law, and government. Incidentally, with his natal Moon almost certainly in Pisces, Sun in humanitarian Aquarius, and that conjunction in sensitive Cancer , I'd say Chief Justice Roberts is a compassionate man, it's good to see such a person occupying that lofty position.(27 Jan. 1955, Buffalo, New York)


Thanks to commenter Bob (see below) for information on date/time of SCOTUS inaugural meeting. Here's a chart, for reference, based on that data: 2 February 1790 at 1:14 PM, in New York City.

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Guest Post: Have You Ever Wondered What Happened To Vlasic Pickles?

Guest Post (or mild rant) by "anyjazz", my husband:

Walmart has had its own “house brand” lines of products as far back as 1993; "Equate", "Dr. Thunder" and "Sam's Choice" to name just three. There are several products from cheese to canned beans now merchandised in their “Great Value” label. That is not so unusual; Homeland has “Best Choice”, Costco has “Kirkland”, Target has “Up and UP” and Safeway has “Lucerne” and others. I read recently that Amazon is expanding their own “Elements” product line, into food items. Do the retailers do this because they want to make less profit on their sales? Of course not.

So Walmart’s “Great Value” line is not a new thing and really not a problem with me.

But there is a problem.

While we shop at Homeland or our local independent grocer as much as possible, there are times we find ourselves in the crowded aisles at our Walmart Superstore. During these shopping visits, I believe I have seen an emerging pattern that annoys me.

The “Great Value” product is packaged similar to the name brand packaging in size and color and design. And worse, there’s more of it. Sometimes the stock of the name brand product you might be looking for has been allowed to deteriorate to nothing, while the “Great Value” product can be found in prominence.

For an example, I went looking for a light bulb for a small night lamp. I found a six foot section of display almost depleted of the Sylvania, Westinghouse and GE brands, while next to it was a fully stocked section of “Great Value” light bulbs.

I found examples where a name brand product had been moved to another location in the store, and in the usual location, instead, was the "Great Value" brand of the item you went to buy. Since the house brand packaging is designed and printed in colors to approximate the name brand, you may not even notice you are getting a house brand.

So the clever Walmart merchandisers are in a deliberate campaign to get their “Great Value” line into the shopping carts by sleight of hand or chicanery or whatever method works. If you pick up their brand by mistake or out of desperation because you can’t find the brand you were shopping for, they don’t care.

No. They do not accidentally, unintentionally run out of anything. Walmart (as do many large retailers) has the most sophisticated perpetual inventory system one can find. They know without visiting each shelf, how much of each product, in each size, color and flavor they have in stock at any given moment. A low stock situation automatically triggers an ordering system to bring the item back to established stock limit conditions. Some stores receive DAILY stock trucks to maintain their inventory.

Walmart ran out of something? Not unless they wanted to.

Sears and Roebuck, the big merchandiser of the past, used to buy huge amounts of stock from a smaller manufacturing company. They would maintain orders for a period and then cease ordering suddenly. The smaller company often went bankrupt because of the loss of projected revenue. Sears would step in and buy the smaller company and resume manufacturing under one of their own brand names like Kenmore, Craftsman, Jaclyn Smith and Country Living.

Now, you don’t suppose Walmart, the world’s largest company, does the same thing? Here is an article describing Walmart’s activity:
“The Walmart You Don’t Know”.

So my problem is, I guess, I am not comfortable with being tricked into getting something I had not intended to purchase.

And here is another article showing the insidious power of the world’s largest company.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

A tower, a titter, a tyre, and more....

We spent last weekend in Bartlesville, in northern Oklahoma. Main attraction in the town, for us, is the Price Tower, mini skyscraper designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. There's more about it, and him, in a 2009 post HERE. After gazing at the gem once again, we spent most of our time in nearby tiny towns of Dewey and Collinsville, where antique/junk outlets fill most of the old stores in their main streets.

Click on any photo to see a larger image.

 The Price Tower

A bit of light creative humour goin' on here:

In Dewey their claim to fame is a connection to vintage cowboy movie star Tom Mix. He wasn't born in Dewey, but did work in the area, and his second wife came from the tiny town. See HERE. There's a Tom Mix Museum in town, and the well pictured below.

The signs on the window shown below aren't too clear (better if you click on image). I'll explain: On the left a sign declaring "We support Our Troops". On the right a sign: "Rick's Custom Slaughtering & Processing". Hmmm.
I'm reflecting on that!

And we reflected some more with a glass of iced coffee -

In one of the antique stores, in a corner at the back was a DeLorean motor car! I think it's a DMC12 (See HERE). You don't often see one of these in an antique store - especially not driven by giant teddy bears!

Oh look - we Aquarians have a drum set named in our honour!

On Sunday morning we were about to set off for home when husband discovered a flat tyre. AAA and Walmart's auto repair department to the rescue, and a couple of hours later we were good to go.

On Monday afternoon our air conditioning broke down - refused to work at all. It had been working on Sunday evening. Sigh - more frustration and discomfort as temperature Monday afternoon was nearing 100 degrees here.

UPDATE: 7:30 this morning husband's son (heat & air specialist) was here, he had been out of town yesterday, and discovered problem: faulty breaker. Fixed, for now. All's well that ends well...once again.