Friday, April 30, 2010

Arty Farty Friday ~ Takashi Murakami, Super-Aquarian

When words such as anime, manga and okatu passed before my eyes I read through them, assuming I could grasp their meaning from context. Before launching this post I checked my guesswork. Okatu is, in western terms fandom, fan culture; often in Japan its focus is anime, the peculiarly Japanese style of animation peopled by cute, big eyed characters enmeshed in all manner of fantasy adventures. Manga is the print version of these animated stories -in the west we'd call them comics or graphic novels. I needed to be clear about these terms before investigating the art and astrology of a contemporary Japanese artist: Takashi Murakami. This Tokyo-born guy is part artist part very astute businessman. He set out to study traditional-style art but soon began to see it as "irrelevant to Japanese life".

There's an excellent 2003 article by Jeff Howe: The Two Faces of Takashi Murakami ~ He's high art. He's low culture. He's a one-man mass-market machine. These are extracts:
Takashi Murakami is often billed as the next Andy Warhol. Like the American pop art icon, he fuses high and low, pulling imagery from consumer culture to produce visually arresting, highly original work. He is vigorously, ingeniously self-promotional. In the past few years, Murakami has swept across the US and Europe, receiving fawning media attention and exhibiting at big-name museums. Just shy of 42, the charismatic artist even lives and works in what he calls a factory. How much more Warhol can you get?

But there's a key difference. Warhol took from the low and gave to the high. With ironic detachment, his work - paintings few could afford, films few could understand - appealed to an audience in on the joke. Murakami, on the other hand, takes from the low and gives to the high, the low, and everything in between. He makes paintings, sculptures, videos, T-shirts, key chains, mousepads, plush dolls, cell phone caddies, and, last but not least, $5,000 limited-edition Louis Vuitton handbags. Murakami's work hits all price points..... he plans on selling plastic figurines packaged with bubble gum - a Murakami for $3. Warhol died before a T-shirt company licensed his soup cans and made a bundle. Murakami, who reads Bill Gates for management tips, knows better than to make that mistake......"I set out to investigate the secret of market survivability - the universality of characters such as Mickey Mouse, Sonic the Hedgehog, Doraemon, Miffy, Hello Kitty, and their knock-offs, produced in Hong Kong," Murakami wrote for a 2001 retrospective of his work.

Now, as president of Kaikai Kiki, Murakami presides over an art-making corporation that operates from a campus of buildings known as the Hiropon Factory, outside Tokyo, as well as a studio in Brooklyn. ......... Hardly a reclusive artist toiling in his garret studio, he employs 25 assistants to perform specialized tasks, and he uses technology in pragmatic, labor-saving ways.

Each creation begins as a sketch in one of numerous pocket-sized notebooks. Full-size drawings are then scanned into the computer. From there, Murakami "paints" his works in Adobe Illustrator, tweaking the composition and cycling through thousands of colors until at last he hands the finished versions off to his assistants. His staff then prints out the work on paper, silk-screens the outline onto canvas, and commences painting. Without this embrace of technology, Murakami says, "I could have never produced this many works this efficiently, and the work wouldn't be as intense."

The fusion of art and computing led Murakami to a pictorial style that rejects the illusion of depth and perspective. Dubbed superflat, the approach isn't entirely new - Warhol's paintings often read flat - but Murakami has something else in mind. Superflat captures the aesthetics of our technological age: PDAs, digital billboards, flat-screen TVs....... "Superflat also refers to the leveling of distinctions between high and low. Murakami likes to flaunt that he can make a million-dollar sculpture and then take the same subject and crank out a bunch of tchotchkes."

Tsk...had to look up another word "tchotchke": (Yiddish) an inexpensive showy trinket. As I have to keep saying, I live and learn!

Born on 1st February 1962 in Tokyo, Japan. 12 noon chart shown as no time of birth is available. Moon degree and ascending sign will not be accurate.

Here's another of those super-Aquarius folk, born with a big cluster of planets in that sign. Other well-known super-Aquarians are Garth Brooks, Clint Black, Sheryl Crow, Axl Rose and Eddie Izzard. During a few days in February 1962 planets gathered in the sign of Fixed Air, co-ruled by Uranus and Saturn which represent opposite ideals: the status quo = Saturn; the avant garde = Uranus. Both sign rulers were not in Aquarius at the time though. Uranus was in the last degree of Leo, only likely to be reflected as its eccentric self if closely aligned/aspected by one of the Aquarius planets or other personal point. Otherwise, traditional Aquarius traits of mental acuity, logical thought and social awareness would likely dominate, though tempered by rising sign, and Moon sign and degree.

In the case of Takashi Murakami Sun and Venus (the arty planet) are conjoined and flanked by Mars in Capricorn, the stray from the Aquarius cluster, in the sign of business. That's a nicely apt astrological signature for this artist who has used his art in tandem with sharp business acumen to bring sucess.

The Aquarius trait I see in this artist that particularly appeals to me (I have a lone Sun and re-located ascendant in Aquarius) is his aim to pull together the "high" and "low" - putting art into everyday things for everybody, not only for the elite and attempt to bring about equality. I see that as an Aquarian trait not often mentioned in those terms. He doesn't leave out the wealthy completely though, he caters for them too: see his designs for Vuitton.

Natal Moon would have been in Sagittarius whatever his time of birth, and very likely in harmonious sextile to some of the Aquarius planets. Moon in Sagittarius translates as someone with wide horizons, big, generous ideas and ideals and an optimistic outlook. That seems to fit what we can know of Takashi Murakami.

Louis Vuitton 5th Ave. Store Design by Takashi Murakami

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Okie Horror & Astrologers' Words of Wisdom #5 ~ "Hold the Light"

Sometimes I'm left wordless by the actions of those in power in this god-forsaken state in which I live. God-forsaken in the midst of the Bible-belt? Yes. If there is a god he/she will long ago have de-camped from this land of hypocrisy.

The Oklahoma Legislature voted Tuesday to override the governor's vetoes of two abortion measures, one of which requires women to undergo a mandatory vaginal ultrasound procedure (inserting a tiny camera into the vagina), and listen to a detailed description of the fetus before getting an abortion. Though other states have passed similar measures requiring women to have ultrasounds, Oklahoma's law goes further, mandating that a doctor or technician set up the monitor so the woman can see it and describe the heart, limbs and organs of the fetus. No exceptions are made for rape and incest victims. A second measure passed into law on Tuesday prevents women who have had a disabled baby from suing a doctor for withholding information about birth defects while the child was in the womb.

These same legislators fought the health care reform bill - a bill pathetic enough after weak-kneed Democrats failed to fight for what was really needed.
Oklahoma legislators want to bring more unwanted children into the world but fail to provide for their health later on, and will happily send them, when fully grown, to snuff out other civilian lives - women and children - in foreign countries. Pro-life? I think not. Pro death penalty. Pro-gun (an instrument with one purpose only : death).

A couple of comments from beneath the Huffington Post article linked below:

Eighty percent of Oklahomans call themselves Christian fundamentalists. Southern Baptists and Church of Christ members (the two dominate religions in Oklahoma) are taught that women should be submissive to their husbands. This may explain why Oklahoma leads the nation in domestic abuse. If you see women as inferior it is easy to take their rights away and treat them as incompetent fools. The saddest thing about all this is that it was female legislators pushing these bills in Oklahoma. The brain washing begins in Sunday School. I know because I was told there that girls are just not meant to be leaders.

The ground was being prepared for these anti-women actions for years by a right wing religious culture which was given credence by so called moderate democrats and the moronic media accepting the intrusion of religion into government. Now we have a president who openly flirts with these reactionary preachers and has prayer days with them and many of these so called pro-life men are just women haters. This is the beginning of a blooming theocracy.

And one, more positive, comment which links to my original post, Astrologers' Words of Wisdom #5 which follows:
This country is full of overt and closet racists. This was bound to happen with a first non-white president. Let it all shake out. There's no turning back now. I may be in the minority but I have nothing but good feelings about the future of inter-racial harmony in America and on Earth.

From the late Maya del Mar in 2003:

Excerpt from a special message
"Future Note: The State of the World".

Maya died in November 2006.

Her words echo down the years.

"In the 50's, how many of us expected the revolution of the 60's, which loosened up the whole tightly wound society? It was a huge breath of fresh air, and it was strongly resisted by the power structures. At that time we had a big outer planet conjunction—Pluto and Uranus meeting. Pluto is transformation and Uranus is revolution, so together they started a major reform cycle.

We are approaching the first big turning point of that cycle. Uranus will square Pluto from 2010-2012, and the push for change will be irresistible. This process begins with Pluto entering the cardinal sign of Capricorn in January 2008, and continues with Uranus entering the cardinal sign of Aries in May 2010. Cardinal signs mean action, and we will be caught up in a whirlwind of activity. Uranus in Aries means a new beginning in the assertion of independence.

Hold the light!"

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Wednesday Woo Woo #1 ~ John Keel

Woo woo (or just woo) is a slang term used by skeptics to describe concepts or beliefs that are based on little or no evidence, or mysterious or unproven forces. I suppose skeptics consider astrology the ultimate woo-woo. Well they would, wouldn't they?

This is first of what may turn out to be a fairly brief Wednesday series about some well-known characters whose lives revolved around investigating mysterious phenomena and the unexplained. I'll be watching for any common factors in their natal charts.

First up: John Keel.

I came across him recently via a movie shown on HBO: The Mothman Prophecies. I'd never heard of Keel's book of the same name from which the movie is a loose adaptation. I was surprised to find later that events portrayed were based on fact. I'd watched the movie thinking it was going to be a fantasy-cum-horror tale. From comments on-line it appears that Keel's book contains much more information, and proves to be even more mystifying than the movie. Details of the story available HERE.

(Disclaimer - ish: I've become generally cyncical about such material, especially when it's written for presentation in book form, for profit. That's not to say I disbelieve eveything presented, but I do suspect that facts are embroidered and embellished quite a lot to entice readers and cause a stir.)

John Keel, American journalist and writer died last summer. The UK's Telegraph newspaper published a detailed obituary. An extract follows:

One of ufology's most widely-read and influential authors, Keel became an original and controversial researcher, and is credited with coining the term MIB (Men In Black), sinister and threatening entities who assume human form to confront ufologists and UFO witnesses.

Of particular importance was Keel's analysis of patterns. His work on "windows" (specific hot spots of combined phenomenal appearances), "waves" (cyclic appearances of the phenomena) and the "Wednesday phenomenon" (the theory that a disproportionate number of UFO events occur on that day of the week) influenced scholars and followers of the genre alike.

In his much-acclaimed second book, UFOs: Operation Trojan Horse (1970), Keel suggested that many aspects of modern UFO reports, including humanoid encounters, often paralleled ancient folklore and religious visions, and directly linked UFOs with elemental phenomena.

The Mothman Prophecies was Keel's account of his investigation into sightings in West Virginia of a huge, winged creature called the Mothman. Loosely adapted into a 2002 film starring Gere and Alan Bates, who played two parts of Keel's personality, the book explored the problems facing a UFO investigator when he becomes personally caught up in the unfolding of paranormal events.

The Mothman – so named by an excitable newspaper subeditor – was reportedly first encountered in November 1966, and again, repeatedly, the following year. Sightings dwindled following the collapse of a nearby bridge during the evening rush-hour in December 1967, in which 45 people were killed; the red-eyed apparition is popularly believed to presage or even cause disasters.

As well as producing novels such as The Flying Finger of Fate (1966), Keel began writing articles for Flying Saucer Review, a British-based publication which claims to number the Duke of Edinburgh among its readers.

Also in 1966, Keel became a full-time investigator of assorted paranormal phenomena, and for the next four years interviewed thousands of people in more than 20 American states. At first he sought to explain UFOs as extraterrestrial visitations. But a year into his investigations, Keel realised that this hypothesis was untenable.

"I abandoned the extraterrestrial hypothesis in 1967, when my own field investigations disclosed an astonishing overlap between psychic phenomena and UFOs," Keel wrote. "The objects and apparitions do not necessarily originate on another planet and may not even exist as permanent constructions of matter. It is more likely that we see what we want to see and interpret such visions according to our contemporary beliefs."

Born 25 March 1930 in Hornell New York state. (12noon chart shown below in the absence of time of birth. Ascendant and Moon degree not accurate.)

Hmmmm - thought as much! Uranus close to natal Sun in Aries - sandwiched between Sun and Venus as it happens. Mercury is nextdoor in the last degrees of imaginative Pisces. This is interesting. Had Mercury been found in Aries or Taurus I wonder if Mr. Keel would still have been drawn towards this particular genre?

Digressing for a moment - I read an exchange on the forum at the other day concerning "confirmation bias". Confirmation bias means that, in any circumstance, people will tend to see things which match their own mental bias. I guess confirmation bias could indeed come into play when looking at a natal chart, yet if a factor isn't there - it ain't there, simple as that, you cannot invent it. Planets and other chart factors have reasonably limited interpretations, can be interpreted in a limited number of ways. You cannot "make it up" to suit your wishes. If it is there, it's there! Emphasis can be put one thing more than another if it fits the context, but if we seek something specific, such as Uranus being closely involved with a personal planet - it either is there or it isn't.

Uranus close to Sun allied with Mercury in Pisces are key here, I think. As an added extra there's Jupiter in Gemini the writer's sign. Jupiter is known as planet of expansion and publication and is in helpful sextile to the three Aries planets.

Whatever time of day he was born, Moon would have been in Aquarius, the sign ruled by Uranus, and quite likely in sextile to the three Aries planets. Aquarius isn't necessarily the whacky or rebellious sign some astrologers make it out to be - it all depends on Uranus. What Aquarius always does represent is mental acuity and an analytical mindset. From what I've read about John Keel, that certainly applied to him. Whether he tended to get carried away in his enthusiasm, allowing Jupiter's exaggerating influence to get in on the act, has to be up to the reader to decide.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Idol Indications

Last week a commenter suggested taking a look at an astrological chart of planetary placements for date and time of the announcement of this year's American Idol. It could be interesting to compare it with natal charts of current leading contestants, to see whether there are clues to success, and if so whether those clues work out in real life.

The finale, with results of the the competition's last round, will take place on Wednesday 26 May 2010, in Los Angeles. The show begins at 8:00/7:00 PM central and will last, according to FOX, 127 minutes. The winner is usually announced during the last minutes of the show.

Chart below is for Wednesday 26 May, Los Angeles at 10:05 PM (allowing 2 mins for the closing razamatazz.) Trouble is though: the time zone thing! Here in central time zone the show will run from 7:00 to just after 9:00PM. In eastern and Pacific (western) time zones it'll start at 8:00 PM. In Los Angeles though, when it's 7:00pm central it'll only be 5:00 PM. How does that work out? It's live (allegedly). I can only assume that it's recorded and broadcast at 8:00 PM in the Pacific time zone. I might be wrong about this though. Anybody know?

As an initial experiment I'll use a chart for 10:05 PM, Los Angeles.

Natal charts of Crystal Bowersox (clear favourite as things stand now); Lee DeWyse, Siobahn Magnus and Casey James, the four contestants currently favoured by bookmakers are below. Two of these contestants, though, will have been eliminated before this final performance on 25 May.


As I don't have a birth time for any of the four, this isn't going to be an ideal experiment, but it will throw up any good or bad aspects between transiting planets and some personal planets. Without exact Moon position and rising sign degree we could be missing something crucial. Still - let's see how this works out:


Crystal's natal Moon could be anywhere from 20 Pisces to 3 Aries - that is the area transiting Uranus and Jupiter are around right now: Uranus = change, Jupiter is thought of as helpful and lucky. Transiting Saturn is opposing Uranus/Jupiter though, and therefore also likely to be opposing Crystal's natal Moon. This isn't necessarily bad for her chances of winning, but is probably indicative of the hard work and challenges facing her (as a single mother) if she does win.


Lee had Jupiter transiting his natal Mercury in the weeks leading up to the finale, giving him a helpful boost. At the time of the announcement of the winner (if my assumption on time zones is correct) Capricorn will be rising at around 5 degrees with Pluto right on the ascendant and conjunct Lee's natal Mars/Neptune conjunction. I cannot guess whether this is fortuitous or not. Pluto = transformation. Mars/Neptune = energy and creativity. Something is going on here.


Her Sun/Mercury at 24/21 Pisces are close enough to transiting Uranus/Jupiter to be thought significant. This is similar to the transit to Crystal's Moon, indicating change and some helpful luck, but affecting Sun/Mercury rather than Moon. Again though, Saturn is in opposition to the transiting planets and Siobahn's natal Sun, indicating some challenges to come. Additionally, transiting Pluto is within a few degrees of her natal Uranus in Capricorn - again, not sure whether this is significant or not, but it's worth a mention.


Casey, I think, has the least help from the planets. His natal Sun at 10 Capricorn is within a few degrees of the finale's rising degree, but I doubt that's enough to predict him as winner. Even so, his chart is least affected by the transiting Saturn-Uranus opposition - could this be a good thing ? We shall see.

CONCLUSION : Crystal and Siobahn's charts seem most helpful of the four, but with the Saturn opposition and Uranus involved, an unexpected event could still upset the proverbial apple cart.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Music Monday ~ Shania Twain

Although her songs are categorised as "country", I've never thought of Shania Twain as part of country music's "inner circle". She doesn't seem to fit into that tight Nashville clique. Her songs do have a country feel, but I see her more as a cross-over artist in the same vein as Kenny Rogers. And that doesn't go down too well with country's elite crowd! Still, it hasn't done Shania's career any harm at all.

Shania Twain was originally Eilleen Regina Edwards, became Twain after her mother's re-marriage. She later changed her first name to Shania - an Ojibwa Indian word which means "on my way".

The family was poor, often struggling to find enough to eat. Shania, from the age of 8, helped to earn money for the family by singing in clubs and bars after 1:00 AM when they stopped serving alcohol and minors were allowed in. Her father taught her to play guitar, by age ten she was writing her own songs. After leaving school in the early 1980s she moved to Toronto, sang with rock and pop bands there. In 1987 both her parents were killed in an accident. Shania, then 21, took responsibility for her three siblings, aged 13 to 18. Fortunately she was able to continue singing at a nearby vacation resort, a steady job with regular pay.

Once her siblings were away and independent, Shania was able to pursue her singing career in earnest. She eventually met the guy who would become her husband, a successful record producer, Robert John "Mutt" Lange. They worked together on recordings, fell in love and married.They have one son.

With Shania's talent and Lange's expertise and connections her career took off internationally. She became the star we know today with numerous hits and awards to her name. The pair were said to be very different characters. She outgoing, always in the public eye. According to a biography (here) Lange hates the public eye so much he has bought the rights to nearly every photo taken of him and has refused interviews for decades. The couple adhered to an Eastern religion called Sant Mat, which includes spiritual practices such as daily meditation and abstinence from alcohol and drugs. They're also vegetarians.

Sadly, after 14 years the marriage faltered when Lange started an affair with Shania's friend and assistant. Divorce followed, in 2008, leaving Shania devastated and out of the public eye for some time. She's back now though, with a new TV show on the Oprah Winfrey Network. She has also acted as a guest judge on American Idol this season and will act as mentor in tomorrow night's show when the contestants will be singing some of her songs.

Her astrology
Born on 28 August 1965 in Windsor, Ontario, Canada (no time of birth available so chart set for 12 noon).

(NOTE: In an archived post "Virgo Sings Country" I discovered that Shania was one of four female country singers with natal Sun in Virgo, and a few other similarities.

Without a time of birth Moon's position is in question. If born before 8am it was in Virgo, later than that, in Libra. Her looks lead me to suspect Libra- ruled by Venus planet of beauty and the arts including music.

Sun in Virgo, ruled by Mercury links to her natural talent for songwriting, aided by communications Mercuy in Leo the outgoing show-bizzy sign.

Shania was born with an opposition between Saturn and Uranus similar to the one we are experiencing currently, but in 1965 Pluto was conjunct Uranus adding extra weight to this challenging aspect. Shania's natal Sun is loosely conjoined to these two outer planets (9 and 10 degree orbs are a bit wide, but significant with Sun involved). This alignment involving Uranus, planet of the unexpected, could well connect to the upsets in her life story. After a poverty stricken childhood, the accidental death of both parents; after a happy 14-year marriage the shock of her husband's infidelity leading to divorce. Mars (the fighter) in its own sign Scorpio is in harmonious sextile to her natal Sun, reflecting a resilience and determination to overcome obstacles and heartbreak.

Out of curiosity I looked at her ex-husband's chart too. He was born 11 November 1948 in Mufulira, Zambia. This bi-wheel shows both sets of natal planetary placements. Look at the similarities in emphasis, allowing a scant few degrees latitude, which is acceptable: His chart on the inner circle hers on the outer ring. (Click on image to enlarge).

Her Sun 5 Virgo - his Saturn 5 Virgo
Her Mars 5 Scorpio - His Mercury 1 Scorpio
Her Venus 10 Libra - his Venus/Neptune 12/14 Libra
Her Mercury 18 Leo - his Pluto 16 Leo
Her Jupiter 27 Gemini - his Uranus 00 Cancer
Her Neptune 17 Scorpio - his Sun 18 Scorpio.

LIVE IN CHICAGO (Love this one!)

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Matthew Arnold & Dover Beach

Matthew Arnold, born on 24 December 1822 in Laleham, Middlesex, England, was poet, critic and schools inspector - not a combination you see every day! From his natal chart (set for 12 noon in the absence of a time of birth) it's clear that the man's personality was dominated by Earthy traits. (Click on chart to enlarge).

In Capricorn (cardinal Earth) was Sun/Venus/Neptune/Uranus/Mars - the first four being conjoined and providing a classic signature for a poet. Sun(self) Venus(the arts) Neptune (creativity, imagination) Uranus (inventiveness and change).
Earthy Taurus Moon (whatever his birth time) and Saturn in Taurus harmoniously in trine with his Capricorn cluster, contributes even more innate Earthiness translating as practicality, stability (Capricorn), love of nature, sensuality (Taurus).

From Matthew Arnold's portrait he has the looks traditionally associated with Capricorn: craggy, lean, a little harsh.

His career as schools inspector, and literary & social critic was driven by rigidly structured Capricorn with a severe and practical Saturn in trine from Taurus. His alternative poetic self was surely driven by Taurus Moon and the Venus/Neptune conjunction. It's an unusual combination in a personality, but it worked for him!

My favourite poem of his, one we studied in school long ago: Dover Beach. My school was on the north-eastern coast of England, so nowhere near Dover Beach in the south, but we too were no strangers to the sea, its tides and its moods. This poem was written, we are told, while Matthew Arnold was on honeymoon, in mid-19th century Britain. The industrial revolution was then in full swing, bringing changes to all areas of life. It's not hard to imagine how unsettleing that must have felt.

Imagine Mr. Arnold, with his new wife, gazing on the scene from an open window in their hotel, he philosophising, trying no doubt to impress his beloved. He sees the sea and its tides as a metaphor for life: its beauty is obvious but there are underlying problems and dangers in its cycles. As he perceives it, an outgoing tide of faith has left the world "in a darkling plain swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight, where ignorant armies clash by night". We can relate to that still, here in 2010, far as we may be from Dover Beach.

By Matthew Arnold

The sea is calm tonight,
The tide is full, the moon lies fair
Upon the straits; on the French coast the light
Gleams and is gone; the cliffs of England stand,
Glimmering and vast, out in the tranquil bay.
Come to the window, sweet is the night air!

Only, from the long line of spray
Where the sea meets the moon-blanched land,
Listen! you hear the grating roar
Of pebbles which the waves draw back, and fling,
At their return, up the high strand,
Begin, and cease, and then again begin,
With tremulous cadence slow, and bring
The eternal note of sadness in.

Sophocles long ago
Heard it on the Agean, and it brought
Into his mind the turbid ebb and flow
Of human misery; we
Find also in the sound a thought,
Hearing it by this distant northern sea.

The Sea of Faith
Was once, too, at the full, and round earth's shore
Lay like the folds of a bright girdle furled.
But now I only hear
Its melancholy, long, withdrawing roar,
Retreating, to the breath
Of the night wind, down the vast edges drear
And naked shingles of the world.

Ah, love, let us be true
To one another! for the world, which seems
To lie before us like a land of dreams,
So various, so beautiful, so new,
Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,
Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;
And we are here as on a darkling plain
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
Where ignorant armies clash by night.

Dover Beach.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Babel & Mercury Retrograde

Periods of time when Mercury appears to move backwards (due to optical illusion) are known in astrological circles as Mercury Retrogrades. We are passing through one of these periods now, and until 11 May. During these times its thought that communication and travel difficulties become more common.

Communication. It's crucial. We take it for granted though and don't think much about it until something goes wrong.

That point was brought home to us this week as we watched one of the DVDs I bought in a junk shop on our last trip. Babel. It tells four interwoven tales of problems, tragedies, chain reactions brought about through lack of communication. It has to be said that there were some thoughtless and stupid decisions involved too. Babel could almost be sub-titled Mercury Regrograde !
The movie's title is a clue to the storyline. According to the Bible's Book of Genesis, Babel (the tower of) was built by Noah's descendants, probably in Babylon. They intended it to reach up to heaven; God foiled them by confusing their language so they could no longer understand one another. Man's different languages and dispersal around the Earth was, the story goes, a consequence.

a 2006 movie directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu and written by Guillermo Arriaga cleverly intertwines four very different themes, set in different parts of the world. It's pointed out again and again how lack of communication, not only between those speaking different languages, but between people using the same language, can lead to tragedy. There's political allegory involved too. The countries involved are Morocco, Mexico, USA and Japan. Guess which nationalities fare best with the happiest ending to their tales? Guess why!

I watched without first reading the blurb on the DVD cover, and was ready to throw in the towel after a slow first 15 minutes or so. I'm glad my less impatient husband felt we should wait a while longer. It's a movie watchable on more than one level. It can be appreciated simply as four adventures which have a common factor. That's the way we thought about it initially. Messages about lack of communication and political allegories sank in later.

After we'd watched the movie together my first comment to my husband was, "Four sets of people, all good, well intentioned folk, no malice involved, yet they managed to bring about some bad outcomes". "Yes", said he, "and what was at the meeting point of all four stories? A GUN!"

Babel is the third film of a trilogy (known as the Death Trilogy) by the same director/writer. The other two movies are also based on multiple but linked storylines (a format known as Hyperlink Cinema): Amores Perros and 21 Grams. I've already secured a cheapo used version of the latter for future viewing.