Thursday, February 28, 2013

Separation of Church and American Idol


American Idol is a "guilty pleasure" of mine. The show began its 12th season a few weeks ago. We watched last night's episode and something I've been noticing more and more during the last two seasons was especially prominent: a definite increase in the mention of God, praying, being "blessed" etc. by contestants. Last night even longtime judge Randy Jackson was heard to utter, "Everyone should pray more - prayer works!" I think I'll start a campaign for - SEPARATION OF CHURCH AND AMERICAN IDOL !

Look, religion is personal, we, the TV audience, do not want to know if a contestant "prayed on which song to choose" or "prayed for guidance", or "feels blessed to be here" etc.etc. Are they pandering to the bible-belt audience? Are they trying a bit of one-upmanship, each trying to be more God-fearing than the previous contestant?

Last night's show was all female, tonight's will be all male - I shall count the references to prayer and God and being blessed. Perhaps the guys will be less likely to parade their religious practices on air. I hope so.



Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Oscars 2013, 2000, Seth MacFarlane and American Beauty

I'll refrain from commenting much about this year's Oscars, and the TV presentation, and Seth MacFarlane, other than to say it was nice, for once that three nominated movies were ones we'd actually seen already - never happened before, and Argo, was one of 'em, and won Best Picture among other awards. See HERE for post on that film. As for this year's host, Seth MacFarlane, he made the 4 hours-worth of communal back-patting much easier to take. I think Seth has yet to hit his perfect stride in entertainment. Family Guy isn't it, Ted wasn't it. His CD (now among my favourites) is inching a tiny bit nearer. I'm interested to watch how his career progresses, and perhaps evolves.

Regarding Seth MacFarlane's "We saw your boobs" song/skit, the one getting some women riled up - I'll say just this: if women weren't so eager to show their breasts, scarcely covered, in the course of TV and film appearances as a kind of fashion statement to see who can show most skin, I'd have more sympathy for the voices raised on this. I could've done another verse ...."We saw your boobs all but a quarter inch or so on (whatever) show on TV". Y'all get what you have coming gals! Disclaimer: I am not a feminist with a capital F. I unwaveringly support equality of the sexes and equal pay for women. We now are emancipated enough and strong enough to look after ourselves! It'd be a better plan to quit complaining and compose something as counterpoint, eg:"We saw your dingle dangles"

Enough about 2013.

A little time travelling, back to 2000 when the 1999 movie American Beauty (the one with red rose petals all over the place) won "Best Picture" award. As it happens this film came up in an online conversation with blog-buddy "mike" in commentary to an earlier post (here) on the topic of pedophilia and inappropriate sexual attraction. I'd seen the film years ago but had only a very hazy memory of it, so I acquired an old VHS tape and we watched it a couple of nights ago.

You know, I think American Beauty, clever and satirical as it may have been in 1999, hasn't aged all that well. I wasn't bored by it, but I certainly didn't think it was Oscar material in today's terms.

A laundry-list refresher for any other hazy memories. The film was a satirical look at American suburban life of the 1980s and 90s. Dysfunctional parents, obtuse teenage offspring, focus on materialism, a rather unpleasant portrayal of females, clumsy references to homosexuality, a middle-aged man's unsatisfactory relationship with annoying wife leading to his lusting after a teenaged Lolita-type friend of his daughter; an ex-marine overtly homophobic and controlling husband of a quivering silent wife, father of a teenaged, supposedly soulful and arty, drug dealer son......remember?

Characters and situations portrayed now seem like overly stereotypical caricatures. Much too much of everything. I could easily envisage the whole thing as a Monty Python sketch. Perhaps that was the creators' intention? Perhaps that was what life was like in America back then - a Monty Python sketch? I wasn't here, so I don't know. It wasn't like that in my neck of the English woods - that's for sure!

Best part of the movie, for me, was seeing some actors I've enjoyed in other roles since, doing what they did in earlier days: Allison Janney, the wife of the ex-marine in American Beauty came into her own in TV's The West Wing as White House press secretary and later Chief of Staff, C.J. Cregg. Chris Cooper, the ex-marine character, played numerous supporting roles before and since, he always does sterling work; for me he'll forever be remembered as "July Johnson" (in Lonesome Dove). Annette Bening, who I usually admire, rather over-played her part I thought, but she was nominated in Best Actress category, was beaten to it by Hilary Swank. Kevin Spacey, of course, was highlight of American Beauty, took Best Actor Award too. He has appeared in far too few movies recently in my opinion.....I shall now have to go back and find more of his old stuff.




America has moved on since 1999 and American Beauty. 11 September 2001 changed everything.

American Beauty has, in my opinion, lost whatever lustre it must have had to win the Academy Award. The same cannot be said of all Oscar winning movies, some remain timeless and relevant many decades later. Will Argo be one of those I wonder? Lincoln would've been, Les Misérables might have been.....but longevity is probably not a requisite quality a film must have in order to win an Oscar.

Comparing 2000's "Best Picture" winner with 2013's, is there a link of sorts? American Beauty afforded a critical look at an aspect of American life, Argo presents a story which might cause Americans, especially those connected to Hollywood, to feel proud of an achievement. Another nominated movie Zero Dark 30 which we deliberately didn't see, is also I understand, an attempt to present American, or CIA/military achievement in a complimentary light, and to draw feelings of pride. Different flavours, almost opposites in fact, one self-deprecating, t'other self-congratulatory.
Food for thought.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

ALCHEMY

The subject of alchemy came up in a post last week. How about a look into what's available online about this ancient mystery? Always bearing in mind, of course, that point raised in yesterday's post - that history can be massaged and embroidered to suit the writer. The history of alchemy drifts very far back in time, so what's copied below has to be approached with that in mind. For myself, at one time I'd have discounted alchemy as simply being the beginnings of chemistry as we know it today. Was there more to it though? I don't know, but I'm willing to suspect there might be some discovery in the near future which, while not entirely validating alchemy's every claim, will put it in a kinder light than its current category as "pseudo-science".

Alchemy's basic aim was transmutation: changing something into something else. As generally understood it was the attempt to change base metal into gold; but other transmutations were involved too: of mind and spirit, which I think was why the Egyptians began their quest. Acquiring wealth, and power, would obviously have been strong motivation for some alchemists later on. In their need to understand transmutation, for whatever purpose, ancient alchemists were learning practical metallurgy, how to extract metals from ores, and gathering an understanding of chemical reactions.


Thinking about this ancient art/science I couldn't help being reminded of the TV series we're watching on DVD - Breaking Bad, about a chemistry teacher who uses his skills to make methamphetamine to sell in order to pay huge bills resulting from necessary treatments for his lung cancer (mentioned in an earlier post.) The results of his "cooking" do effect transformation of minds - but I suspect, not in a way which ancient alchemists would have approved.

Coincidentally, when preparing yesterday's post on revisionist history I noticed this at Wikipedia
Alchemy
Science historians are taking a new look at alchemy. Traditionally there was little room in the history of science for alchemy, which famously tried to convert lead into gold (lead oxide has a yellow colour), and it has been seen as closer to magic or mysticism than science. However there has been a revival of scholarship on the field and historians are finding reasons to give at least some alchemy a new interpretation. Alchemists, some historians are now saying, contributed to the emergence of modern chemistry as a science.
The best potted history of alchemy I've found online is HERE - it comes from a book by A. Cockren - Alchemy Rediscovered and Restored.
The extract begins:
To most of us, the word "alchemy" calls up the picture of a medieval and slightly sinister laboratory in which an aged, black-robed wizard broods over the crucibles and alembics that are to bring within his reach the Philosopher's Stone, and with that discovery, the formula for the Elixir of life and the transmutation of metals. But one can scarcely dismiss so lightly the science - or art, if you will -that won to its service the lifelong devotion of men of culture and attainment from every race and clime over a period of thousands of years, for the beginnings of alchemy are hidden in the mists of time. Such a science is something far more than an outlet for a few eccentric old men in their dotage.

What was the motive behind their constant strivings, their never-failing patience in the unravelling of the mysteries, the tenacity of purpose in the face of persecution and ridicule through the countless ages that led the alchemists to pursue undaunted their appointed way? Something far greater, surely, than a mere vainglorious desire to transmute the base metals into gold, or to brew a potion to prolong a little longer this earthly span, for the devotees of alchemy in the main cared little for such things.

The accounts of their lives almost without exception lead us to believe that they were concerned with things spiritual rather than with things temporal................... To appreciate and understand the adepts' visions, it is necessary to trace the history of their philosophy..........................
(Below: engraving by Hans Weiditz: An Alchemist, c. 1520.)

The piece goes on to outline how the doctrine spread, via China, Egypt, the Arab world to Europe and Britain, and how it evolved during the 17th and 18th centuries. The article ends with Our Debt to the Alchemists by Reginald Merton, which I've taken the liberty of copying almost in full (if anyone objects copyrightfully, I shall reduce it or take it down). (I reckon there's more than enough there to provide seed material for one or two movies!) I've added illustration and links to further information about named individuals.
"If there were any of the alchemists who discovered the mineral agent of transformation, fewer still were able to find its application to the human body. Only a very few adepts knew of the essential agent, the sublime heat of the soul, which fuses the emotions, consumes the prison of leaden form and allows entry into the higher world. Raymond Lully (left) made gold for the King of England. George Ripley gave a hundred thousand pounds of alchemical gold to the Knights of Rhodes, when they were attacked by the Turks. Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden had an enormous number of gold pieces coined that were marked with a special mark because they were of "Hermetic origin." They had been made by an unknown man under the protection of the king, who was found at his death to possess a considerable quantity of gold. In 1580, the Elector Augustus of Saxony, who was an alchemist, left a fortune equivalent to seventeen million dollars. The source of the fortune of Pope John XXII, whose residence was Avignon and whose revenues were small, must be ascribed to alchemy (at his death there were in his treasury twenty-five million florins). This must be concluded also in the case of the eighty-four quintals of gold possessed in 1680 by Rudolph II of Germany.


The learned chemist Van Helmont (right), and the doctor Helvetius, who were both skeptics with regard to the Philosopher's Stone and had even published books against it, were converted as a result of an identical adventure which befell them. An unknown man visited them and gave them a small quantity of projection powder; he asked them not to perform the transmutation until after his departure and then only with apparatus prepared by themselves, in order to avoid all possibility of fraud. The grain of powder given to Van Helmont was so minute that he smiled sarcastically; the unknown man smiled also and took back half of it, saying that what was left was enough to make a large quantity of gold. Both Van Helmont's and Helvetius' experiments were successful, and both men became acknowledged believers in alchemy. Van Helmont became the greatest "chemist" of his day. If we do not hear nowadays that Madame Curie has had a mysterious visitor who gave her a little powder " the color of the wild poppy and smelling of calcined sea salt," the reason may be that the secret is indeed lost; or, possibly, now that alchemists are no longer persecuted or burnt, it may be that they no longer need the favorable judgment of those in official power.

Until the end of the eighteenth century, it was customary to hang alchemists dressed in a grotesque gold robe on gilded gallows. If they escaped this punishment they were usually imprisoned by barons or kings, who either compelled them to make gold or extorted their secret from them in exchange for their liberty. Often they were left to starve in prison. Sometimes they were roasted by inches or had their limbs slowly broken. For when gold is the prize, religion and morality are thrown to the side and human laws set at naught. This is what happened to Alexander Seton, called "the Cosmopolitan." He had had the wisdom to hide all his life and avoid the company of the powerful and was a truly wise man. However, marriage was his downfall. In order to please his ambitious wife, who was young and beautiful, he yielded to the invitation extended him by the Elector of Saxony, Christian II, to come to his court. Since Seton was unwilling to disclose the secret of the Philosopher's Stone, which he had long possessed, he was scalded every day with molten lead, beaten with rods and punctured with needles till he died.

The famous alchemists Michael Sendivogius, Botticher, and Paykull all spent part of their lives in prison, and many men suffered death for no other crime than the study of alchemy. If a great number of these seekers were impelled by ambition or if there were among them charlatans and impostors, it does not diminish the fact that a great many of them cherished a genuine ideal of moral development. In any event, their work in the domain of physics and chemistry formed a solid basis for the few wretched fragmentary scraps of knowledge that are called modern science and are cause for great pride to a large number of ignorant men.

These "scientists" regard the alchemists as dreamers and fools, though every discovery of their infallible science is to be found in the "dreams and follies" of the alchemists. It is no longer a paradox, but a truth attested by recognized scientists themselves, that the few fragments of truth that our modern culture possesses are due to the pretended or genuine adepts who were hanged with a gilt dunce's cap on their heads. What is important is that not all of them saw in the Philosopher's Stone the mere vulgar, useless aim of making gold. A small number of them received, either through a master or through the silence of daily meditation, genuine higher truth. These were the men who, by having observed it in themselves, understood the symbolism of one of the most essential rules of alchemy: Use only one vessel, one fire, and one instrument. They knew the characteristics of the sole agent, of the Secret Fire, of the serpentine power which moves upwards in spirals -- of the great primitive force hidden in all matter, organic and inorganic -- which the Hindus call kundalini, a force that creates and destroys simultaneously. The alchemists calculated that the capacity for creation and the capacity for destruction were equal, that the possessor of the secret had power for evil as great as his power for good. And just as nobody trusts a child with a high explosive, so they kept the divine science to themselves, or, if they left a written account of the facts they had found, they always omitted the essential point, so that it could be understood only by someone who already knew
..........................................."


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When the circle, the square and the triangle come together, they form a symbol that is used to denote alchemy. The symbol in question is a circle, within a square, within a triangle, which parallels the great work of the alchemist.
"This figure represents the alchemical Squaring of the Circle, within the microcosm of the Work." D. Stolcius von Stolcenberg, Viridarium chymicum, Frankfurt, 1624. Extract from "The Golden Game", Stanislas Klossowsky de Rola.
The symbol is impeccable as a representation of alchemy, as it shows man's relationship with the universe, the need to transcend the material (the square) towards the sublime quality of the spiritual (the circle), all under the watchful protection of our maker (the triangle).
When one acquires the right knowledge and wisdom, they acquire an understanding, -a gnosis- that enables them to remove the shackles of the material world, achieve oneness with spirit and then harmonize that oneness with the all. (See HERE)

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PS: There's also more information and loads of links to helpful relevances at Library of Halexandria.

Also HERE.

And HERE.

And the Alchemy Website HERE.

Monday, February 25, 2013

"History, that excitable and unreliable old lady"

Revisionist history has to be treated with the utmost caution - heck, in my opinion all historical narrative has to be treated with caution. (Quote in the post heading is from Guy de Maupassant, Sur l'Eau)

What brought this on? A reading of reviews and articles about Oliver Stone's Showtime TV series The Untold History of the United States. I've neither seen the series nor read the book, so am really not in a position to comment on Mr Stone's views in particular. From threads of comment here and there I picked up the idea that Stone has views about World War 2 that conflict with mine. I could be barking up the wrong tree, however. Commenters may be the real culprits. There's quite a bit of the: "Greatest Generation?" That's rubbish!" kind of attitude slung around; I was happy to note, also some intelligent counter argument.

Anyway, thinking again on this issue which has always irked me: historians, even the most fastidious of 'em, can only view events of the past from the perspective of their own time. It is impossible to walk in the shoes of those who made decisions, carried out orders, lived within the situations in the time in question. And this is the kicker: historians always know the end of a story. That makes an enormous difference. Those characters being written about, and oft critcised, did not know how their story would end. Added to that factor, even contemporary with the event there would always have been multiple perspectives of what was occurring and why. There's no single answer to any question about an event in history.

In the case of revisionist history writers the situation for the reader gets worse. Added to the above, revisionists almost always have axes to grind, their own agenda be it political, religious, financial/attention seeking or other. Such authors will tweak and massage, in insidious ways, what has become accepted history - which is already unlikely to be 100% accurate for reasons offered above.

After typing these few lines and mentioning the topic to my husband, he handed me the day's local newspaper and pointed to a half-page article headed Abe Lincoln's Conflicting Views by Walter Williams. In the first paragraph there is mention of the recent Lincoln movie, a book by Thomas DiLorenzo, said to expose the Lincoln myth: Lincoln Unmasked, and another book, Lincoln Uncensored by Joseph Fallon. The last mentioned author is said to have examined 10 volumes of Lincoln's writings and speeches. "We don't have to rely on anyone's interpretation", says Walter Williams. No, we have to rely on anyone's cherry-picking of items to match their agenda - don't we, Mr Williams?
No one can really know the life of his own day, let alone that of times long past. Always the historian sees as in a mirror darkly, the reds and the golds rendered drab by the shadows of time.
~Earl R. Beck, On Teaching History in Colleges and Universities



Saturday, February 23, 2013

Of Fishes, Fascists and Forbidden Fotos.

You know that little "fishy" symbol commonly seen on cars and trucks in this part of the USA? It's carried, I think, as a symbol relating to Jesus Christ. In fact its proper title is vesica piscis/pisces (being translated that means fish bladder). It's a formation found in sacred geometry. There's a very good write-up by Dr. Dan Sewell Ward at his website Library of Halexandria.




Also, Charles Gilchrist, mandala artist, explains with illustration:





And an enterprising You-Tuber has created a video attempting to link the shape of vesica piscis/pisces to parts of the human body (eye, ear, mouth, vagina.....). Whether this is valid linkage, bearing in mind the sign's esoteric meanings other than as a Christian symbol, I'm not certain, here's a link - see what you think:






Does anything in this brief extract ring any bells? There are similarities around in the USA these days. (If nothing rings bells for you see HERE.) The excerpt comes from They Thought They Were Free by Milton Mayer, a book published in 1955 about ordinary Germans during the period 1933-1945. These words from the chapter headed
But Then It Was Too Late. See Info Clearinghouse HERE.
"What happened here was the gradual habituation of the people, little by little, to being governed by surprise; to receiving decisions deliberated in secret; to believing that the situation was so complicated that the government had to act on information which the people could not understand, or so dangerous that, even if the people could understand it, it could not be released because of national security. And their sense of identification with Hitler, their trust in him, made it easier to widen this gap and reassured those who would otherwise have worried about it. This separation of government from people, this widening of the gap, took place so gradually and so insensibly, each step disguised (perhaps not even intentionally) as a temporary emergency measure or associated with true patriotic allegiance or with real social purposes. And all the crises and reforms (real reforms, too) so occupied the people that they did not see the slow motion underneath, of the whole process of government growing remoter and remoter."







Earlier this week I read about a guy who was thrown off a United Airways flight (before take-off I hasten to add) for taking a photograph of a seat. It seems that since 9/11 flight attendants on United Airways (one of their planes was part of the tragedy, remember) have certain instructions to be ultra-watchful and aware of potential dangers. On this occasion things went a wee bit too far. The guy involved is a blogger who specialises in travel articles, and he's a frequent flyer with UA. Impressed by the new aircraft he found himself on, and just before take-off, he was taking a photograph of the back of seat in front of him (showing embedded TV screen), using his phone. The flight attendant noticed and told him to stop, as it is against regulations to photograph the inside of a plane. He tried to explain that he's a professional travel blogger, handed her his business card. Unfortunately, in his explanation he stated, "I'm not a terrorist". YIKES! That t-word can no longer be uttered on a plane, or in an airport. Upshot: Captain was called. He, naturally, sided with his crew member. Passenger was sent off and re-booked on a non-through flight to his destination (a 3 legged journey instead of the straight-through flight). That does seem like a daft outcome - if they suspected him of terrorism, even slightly! Anyway, here's a link to full detail of the story; lots of comments follow the article.

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Forbidden photograph-taking brought to mind one of our experiences; 2005 it was, when in Oklahoma City we were taken to task for taking a photograph of our double-reflection in a rather peculiarly positioned window.
Said photo is at at one of my husband's Flickr pages.
Caption:
Reflections in a forbidden building. As we were standing there doing this shot of our double reflection, a security guard came out of the building and told us to move along, that taking pictures of the building was not permitted since the bombing. The guard was referring to the tragedy at the Murrah Building which stood a few blocks away...a few years ago...
Comments follow, indicating that we were, in truth, breaking no regulation......As if!!

Friday, February 22, 2013

Arty Farty Sculptures at Home

Just for an arty farty change, a bit of chit-chat about three pieces we've acquired during our travels. The first, I found just last weekend while we were in McKinney, Texas. As mentioned in some archived posts about my "Black Magic Woman", she was made by Austin Productions Inc. in 1972 by artist "Morfy". I found another piece from Austin Productions last weekend, one that I could afford - some Austin Prods are priced beyond what I'm inclined to pay. While deciding what else to feature here I discovered we do have yet another Austin Prod. sculpture - and didn't realise it until now.

First a line or two about the company from THIS WEBSITE
"Austin was founded in 1952 in Brooklyn, N.Y., as a museum reproduction company featuring selections from great art collections of Egyptian, Greek, Roman, Asian, African and Contemporary sculpture.

The site in Brooklyn expanded several times before the firm moved its facility to Holbrook, N.Y., in 1971. Although we have expanded the business to include the world of decorative arts, Austin still remains a family owned and operated company with manufacturing facilities in Reynosa, Mexico and Corby, England as well.

With the most extensive collection of sculpture reproductions in the world, a wide range of pedestals, and an extensive line of Garden Sculptures, Austin is the leading manufacturer of decorative, gift and home furnishing accessories."
`

The piece I bought last weekend isn't as old as my Black Magic Woman. The imprinted date on the base is 199?-something.
The trade mark, also imprinted is that newly registered in 1995 "Austin Sculpture", and the engraved name of the sculptor looks like F. Bone (though not 100% sure that's what it says). It stands 15 inches high. The correct name of this shape, or at least of the purpose of the originals from which the style is copied is: finial. The straight definition of a finial in architecture is a sculptured ornament found atop a gable, pinnacle, or other structure, an ornamental "finishing-off piece".


A little about the history of finials - I found this interesting:
From Do It Yourself Network, by Maureen Gilmer (2004)

Sharecropping was big business in old England. If you were lucky enough to own a manor house with extensive landholdings, you needed workers to make it pay. So you gave them a bit of your land to farm and they would return a share of each crop as payment. Problem was that sharecropping peasants weren't always grateful for this often inequitable relationship. They stayed poor as the lord of the manner grew fat and wealthy. He didn't want these workers to get any ideas about land redistribution, so he ruled this miniature kingdom with an iron fist. If someone broke the law on the estate, the lord would exact retribution.

Execution was a favorite form of punishment. Severing heads, per Henry VIII and his wives, was once in vogue. But the lord wanted everyone passing by to feel his wrath and so he took the head, dipped it in hot tar and impaled it on a stake in some high-profile location. Just as Romans used public crucifixion to intimidate their conquered cultures, the lord wanted the criminal's head as a gruesome warning that he meant business.

Design ideas have never come from stranger inspiration. Some garden aficionados in Britain claim this is the reason that ball-shaped finials became so popular in garden design. They got used to the head-on-a-pike in front of the manor house. So when new homes were built, those wishing to emulate all that defined the noble English manor adopted these round accents in stone. Gruesome, yes, but probably true.

A finial can be as simple as the spheres described above or quite decorative in a variety of shapes. Pointed finials created in Chinese porcelain to ward off evil spirits were adopted in western gardens during the popularity of oriental design known as Chinoiserie. Egyptian obelisks inspired a sleek tapered finial. When the pineapple was first imported into England about 1720, it became a highly popular finial design. During the Victorian era finials became impossibly decorative to match the gingerbread detailing on houses.



This owl sculpture, 12 inches high, is also an Austin Productions piece, dated 1976 (or could be 1971). My husband has had it for many years, and before we knew each other. He remembers buying it in a store selling museum replicas. That fits with the information on the company's history (above) that Austin Productions Inc. began business as "a museum reproduction company". I don't know from which culture this particular owlish representation originates - perhaps someone else might enlighten me.

As for owls in general - here's information from THIS WEBSITE:
Although it's impossible to prove, owls probably have had mythic roles as long as humans have existed. Imagine Cro-Magnon families huddled fearfully around a campfire, listening in the darkness to a distant chorus of owl hoots. Or think what must have gone through Neanderthal minds when a rabbit struck by owl talons shrieked to shatter the nighttime silence. Such fearful moments are the stuff of modern day horror films, so it's reasonable that primitive humans associated owls with evil, pain, and death.

According to Paul Johnsgard (North American Owls: Biology and Natural History, Smithsonian Institution Press), Mesopotamian tablets from 2,300 B.C. depict the goddess Lilith as "winged, bird-footed, and typically accompanied by owls," a significant association because Lilith was Sumeria's goddess of death. Pallas Athene--Greek goddess of fertility and power--was also affiliated with the owl, possibly "because of the nocturnal (and especially the lunar) . . . associations between female fertility goddesses and the cycles of the moon."

In Rome, owls were respected for prophetic abilities. Johnsgard reports Pliny's description of fear and confusion when an owl entered the Forum, Virgil wrote of an owl that foretold Dido's suicide, and Horace associated owls with witchcraft. Until recent times, "nailing up of a dead owl or its wings has been widely believed in Europe to help ward off such dangers as pestilence, lightning, and hail."

Native American tribes also have stories about owls--many of which are so similar to Oriental myth that they support the theory of an Asian origin for Amerindian peoples. Oral traditions in most American tribes associate owls with death soon-to-come, and an owl is typically the bearer of the deceased's soul as it passes from this world to the next. In the Carolinas, Cherokee women bathed their children's eyes in water containing owl feathers, believing it would help them stay awake.


Rounding off the trio of decorative sculptures here's one that isn't from Austin Productions, as far as I know. I found this one around 6 years ago in an antique store not far from home. It was standing outside by the door, very heavy, almost too heavy to lift. The store owner told me that she had earmarked it for herself, so would entertain no bargaining effort from me! I liked it a lot, so coughed up the necessary dosh. It has stood in our front narrow strip of garden ever since. I don't know exactly what it's meant to represent -other than it appears to depict an Eastern motif - a prayer to Buddah perhaps?

Thursday, February 21, 2013

GLYPHS

When I began to study astrology in earnest one of my first tasks was to commit to memory the glyphs used to represent the signs and planets. To understand a natal chart the first essential is to recognise the glyphs. Sign glyphs are better known than planet glyphs, they often appear in newspaper and magazine Sun sign columns, because of their relative familiarity they were easy to memorise. Planet glyphs are less familiar, but there are only seven major ones to remember, and Sun and Moon are easy-peasy. I used to draw the shapes continually until I had them locked in. It helps in memorising the planet glyphs to have some idea of why they are as they are. They're not simply shapes dreamed up at random. Each part of the odd looking symbols has significance. Astrologer Alan Oken explained this in his book Complete Astrology, from which I started to dutifully copy before discovering that the work has already been done by astrologer Carole Somerville - SEE HERE.

I've wondered about the origin of planet glyphs. There's not a lot of information available. The glyphs are said to date back to at least mediaeval times. About.com has a piece by Anne Marie Helmenstine, Ph.D on alchemy symbols. It would seem that the link between astrology and alchemy can still be identified from the planet symbols we use. It's interesting to look through the collection of alchemical glyphs, some are strangely beautiful.
See also Wikipedia's page on alchemy.

When considering these things some years ago an old blog friend of mine, Anthony North, commented:

AN: I've often thought that astrology and alchemy are related, in that they came from a similar pre-science that was shared - a kind of instinctual knowing, I suppose. Now if we could track this beginning from the snippets that are left behind - including Hermetica, for instance - then we'd really begin to grasp ancient understanding of the universe.

I replied...
Yes, though I'm not sure whether they are actually related disciplines or whether it was just that the same people who practiced one also practiced the other, and borrowed appropriate symbols. Wikipedia states (tentatively) that alchemy's roots go back to Egypt - 5,000 BCE. There's a wide flung net of mystery that'll never really be solved. A lot of valuable information was lost when the Library of Alexandria was destroyed
It remain intriguing.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The Conceit of Generations

Here we go again: Millennials will save us!
Boomers, Gen Xers and pundits like Thomas Friedman have it wrong: Gen Y's pragmatic idealism can create real change. By David D. Burstein

It's been a while since I last ranted about generationism - time for a review of past thoughts and some current ideas.

Generations are yet another way of dividing the population - as if, in the USA, it's not divided enough already! There's the sharp division of left/right political opinion; racial and ethnic divisions; pro-life/pro-choice; divisions in religious beliefs......do we really need more dividing lines? Is the American mindset bent on a continuing and narcissistic generational conflict? There are serious problems to be faced, problems which affect not only the USA, but the whole planet. Infighting and self-satisfied preening is not going to help solve any of them.

"The Boomers" are the target of anger from age groups labelled Generations X and Y. I belong to none of these three generations. I'm a War Baby with Pluto in Leo (on the cusp of so-called Silent Generation). War Babies have a life memory of World War, and if born in Britain(like myself), or in mainland Europe and Asia we have uncomfortable childhood memories which vividly colour our judgement.

Generations X and Y are said to pride themselves on their wish for peace in the world. How come, then, that they are more than willing to wage war, even if it's simply a war of words, on some of the people closest to them?

The retail market panders to an emphasis on the generations - $$$$$$$$$ again. So the tendency to label generations is not going away as long as it continues to bring in more dosh! Suggested divisions become embedded in public consciousness, they grow, spread, and can develop into ugliness. There's more than enough evidence of that to be found in history.

Getting down to brass tacks (as we used to say in Yorkshire): does one generation really behave and believe differently from another? Generational generalisation is what underpins most articles on the topic. As fans of astrology know (or should) generalisation about, for instance, those born with Sun in any given zodiac sign tells us next to nothing. Yet decades of stereotyping would have us herded: "He's a Leo, she's a Scorpio" etc. Same thing for generational labels: "He's Generation X, she's a Millennial". Labelling is lazy, misleading and generally unhelpful.

Astrologers believe that the three slow-moving outer planets, Uranus, Neptune and Pluto can act as generational "markers", yet these planets have little individual personal importance unless one or more of them is closely tied to a personal planet or point in the natal chart. The three outer planets tend to set an "atmosphere" in the world at large, depending on their transiting positions in the zodiac and relationship to one another, and perhaps to the slower of the inner planets, Saturn, Jupiter. Inasmuch as any group of people born into a certain outer planetary "atmosphere" and in the same part of the world, will have similar experiences because of that "atmosphere", this is likely to shape their outlook as they mature. There could possibly be some definable generational characteristic common to such a group, but it will be heavily modified by individual natal chart, family background and personal experiences.

There are non-astrological factors to take into consideration. A fact pointed out by a commenter, to the article linked at the top of this post, that in the USA - and elsewhere to some extent - in the 1960s/70s there was a "glut" of young people ("Boomers") brought about by the raised birth rate following the end of World War 2. So the 60s and 70s brought changes reflecting the virtues and vices of youth, dynamic and unsophisticated in style. Whereas the generation known as Millennials have lived within a society with a higher proportion of older people. Whether that is particularly relevant I'm not certain, but it's something I hadn't considered.

Much adolescent schoolyard nonsense is tossed around about differences in the generations. The Baby Boomer is most often under attack. In common with every generation since the dawn of time, there are good, bad and indifferent among that labelled group. As a generation their contributions have both helped and hindered, as will the contributions of Generations X, Y and Z, and those who will come after.
"I suppose every generation has a conceit of itself which elevates it, in its own opinion, above that which comes after it." ("The Open Door")”― Margaret Oliphant, The Gentlewomen of Evil. (I'd add "or that which went before it!")

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Exceptionally Exceptional in its Exceptionalism?

Exceptionalism = The theory or belief that something, especially a nation, does not conform to a pattern or norm.(Free Dictionary).

Glenn Greenwald's piece in The UK's Guardian yesterday:
The premises and purposes of American exceptionalism ~ :That the US is objectively "the greatest country ever to exist", is as irrational as it is destructive, yet it maintains the status of orthodoxy, caused a few hackles to rise among the four long pages of commentary there. I didn't do a count but suspect that, on balance, more commenters were in agreement with Mr Greenwald's point of view than rabidly against it , but there were accusations of anti-Americanism slung around from an opposing faction.

I was happy to note that Mr Greenwald mentioned one of my American heroes, Prof. Cornel West:
Last week, the Princeton professor Cornel West denounced Presidents Nixon, Bush and Obama as "war criminals", saying that "they have killed innocent people in the name of the struggle for freedom, but they're suspending the law, very much like Wall Street criminals". West specifically cited Obama's covert drone wars and killing of innocent people, including children. What West was doing there was rather straightforward: applying the same legal and moral rules to US aggression has he applies to other countries and which the US applies to non-friendly, disobedient regimes.

In other words, West did exactly that which is most scorned and taboo in DC policy circles. And thus he had to be attacked, belittled and dismissed as irrelevant.
My own 2011 post on Prof. West is at Dr Cornel West Speaks Out.

As for the myth of American exceptionalism - is that a myth? I think it has always been more propaganda than anything else: salesmanship on a mega-scale, aimed both inward to its captive audience of citizens and outward to anyone on the rest of planet Earth who'd listen. Salesmen are to be avoided, people who accept their spiel without independent investigation into their products are, at best careless and asking for all they'll get; at worst wide open to a descent into bigotry and hypocrisy.
The bitter, of course, goes with the sweet. To be an American is, unquestionably, to be the noblest, grandest, the proudest mammal that ever hoofed the verdure of God's green footstool. Often, in the black abysm of the night, the thought that I am one awakens me with a blast of trumpets, and I am thrown into a cold sweat by contemplation of the fact. I shall cherish it on the scaffold; it will console me in Hell. But there is no perfection under Heaven, so even an American has his small blemishes, his scarcely discernible weaknesses, his minute traces of vice and depravity.
H.L. Mencken
In fact, all that happened, back in the day, is that the USA took over the baton of exceptionalism and title of "The Greatest" after Britain's empire disintegrated, and other European empires were doing, or had already done, the same. Britain, in its turn, had remembered lessons learned long ago, from its time as part of Rome's empire - and so it went, and so it will go.....who'll be next? China? India?

Commenter "riggbeck" aptly quoted Percy Bysshe Shelley adding that, "Empires come and go, and they all think they're exceptional. Shelley had it right".

Ozymandias

I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: "Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown
And wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear:
`My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings:
Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!'
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away".


While reading that poem this scene sprang to mind (from Planet of the Apes)~~


Monday, February 18, 2013

Long Weekend

Brief memo, to myself and anyone else who cares to read, about our very pleasant long weekend in North Texas. We decided to spend a couple (or 3) nights in a medium to big city, McKinney, around 30 miles north of Dallas, and just over 2 and a half hours drive from home. From lists online there appeared to be several interesting antique stores there and plenty of non-chain type shops and eateries.

Something I noticed about McKinney, but perhaps most people wouldn't, was a cluster of rather unexpected British links. There's a British pub and restaurant called Churchill's on the square in the "Historic Downtown" area - the area of towns for which we routinely head. We enjoyed a good meal there - I had my first Yorkshire pudding since leaving England - their "Flat Cap" speciality: a dinner-plate-sized pud filled with piles of veggies, mashed potato and minced beef. YUM! We were there at around 5 PM, Thursday, they were getting ready for their monthly "Psychic Night". Dang, I thought, should've packed my tarot deck - might have made a bob or two here! (Wink.)
(Hat-tip to Where's Chuck blog for the photo.)

Further Brit-links: I also saw a garden sign advertising a "British Builder" as we drove around; and in a wine store/bar one afternoon we were told "that lady over there is from England too", after the very entertaining hostess, Ruby had established my own roots. The English lady in question asked me, "What part of England?". She hailed from Kent, I from Yorkshire. "North and South", said I, and there the conversation ended. Husband laughed quietly, sensing a wee bit of .....something. Yorkshire is known as Gods Own Country to its natives - not unlike Texas to its flock, I don't know what Kent is known as to its natives. For such a small land mass England has vast differences in accents, and in some cases in attitude. Sometimes northerners and southerners look on each other as from different countries (perhaps I'm just showing prejudice?). Yet another loose British link appeared as I read Wikipedia's page on McKinney - an English guy, former pro-soccer player (Manchester United and others) now runs a youth soccer club in McKinney- see his sister's blog
.

After exhausting the city's antique stores, on Saturday afternoon we drove to a trio of nearby small towns. In Princeton I noticed a road sign stating: "World War 2 POW Camp" with an arrow; we followed and found this plaque (click on it for a bigger version):

It's odd that the US would ferry German prisoners all the way across the Atlantic, but it seems that's what happened.


Farmersville - another small town nearby - has connections to 20th century movie star Audie Murphy who spent much of his childhood there. For such a tiny town it boasted an amazing four small but interesting antique stores.

And on to Greenville before turning back to McKinnney. Greenville's main claim to notoriety is this, according to Wikipedia:
The town was also famous (or infamous) for a sign that hung over Lee Street, the main street in the downtown district, between the train station and the bus station in the 1920s to 1960s. The banner read "Welcome to Greenville, The Blackest Land, The Whitest People". The same sentiment was also printed on the city water tower. An image of the sign was available as a postcard. The slogan's original intent was to describe the richness of the area's soil along with the kindness of its citizens. However, the imputed racial overtones caused the later phrase to be modified to "the Greatest People" in the early 1970s.

Weather was volatile - from very warm short-sleeve weather on Thursday to muffled up extreme shiveryness on Friday, then warmer but still chilly Saturday, and back to the 70s again on Sunday. There's no accounting for Texas (and Oklahoma) temperatures. We don't have climate here, we have weather!

We drove home Sunday, after declining the hotel manager's called invitation across the foyer to a church service at 10 AM (ahem!) Being Sunday, most small towns en route home were like ghost towns, so nothing further to report.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Today: Once upon a Time - Feast of Fools


Today, February 17, in ancient Rome marked what was known as the Feast of Fools, it was also date of the Quirinalia. Quirinalia celebrated the Sabine god Quirinus, thought to have been divine incarnation of the city's founder, Romulus. Quirinus was originally part of an archaic Roman triad with Jupiter and Mars. One of Rome's 7 Hills is named for Quirinus - The Quirinal.
(Illustration: Quirinal Hill , one of the Seven Hills of Rome and the location of the official residence of the Italian Head of State. Quirinal Palace was the residence of the king of Italy until the monarchy was abolished in 1946.
(Hat-tip BookDrum)

From Ovid we learn that the day of Quirinalia had  a second name.


Learn too why this day is called the Feast of Fools.
The reason for it is trivial but fitting.
The earth of old was farmed by ignorant men:
Fierce wars weakened their powerful bodies . . .

And round the Forum hang many tablets,
On which every ward displays its particular sign.
Foolish people don’t know which is their ward,
So they hold the feast on the last possible day.


Clarification: The City of Rome was divided into wards (curiae). Each ward celebrated a moveable feast dedicated to its local goddess of the baking-oven, Fornax (festival was called The Fornacalia). These celebrations were set for different dates for each ward, between 5 and 17 February, each ward's date being posted on a tablet in The Forum. Any citizens who missed their local celebration could carry out their dedications in The Forum at Quirinalia, the last date available for Fornacalia, when all 30 curiae could be in attendance. So.... Feast of Fools = the feast for those who, through ignorance or carelessness, had missed the date for their own ward's celebration.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Arty Farty Friday ~ Alfred Agate and The US Ex Ex

A mostly forgotten American artist was born on February 14 - in 1812: Alfred T. Agate. If remembered at all it is because of his sketches and paintings produced during his four-year spell, 1838-42, as a portraitist and botanical draftsman for the scientific corps of the United States Exploring Expedition led by Charles Wilkes. He was around 23 when first hired for the expedition. Agate had previously been a leading miniaturist in New York. The Exploring Expedition was an unprecedented naval operation, especially for a nation with a navy that was less than half the size of Great Britain's. For the young republic of the United States, it was a bold, some said foolhardy undertaking, consisting of six sailing vessels and 346 men, including a team of nine scientists and artists, making it one of the largest voyages of discovery in the history of Western exploration. (See HERE)

So, Alfred Agate sailed the globe documenting plant specimens gathered as the fleet travelled around Cape Horn, through the South Pacific, to the Antarctic, and along America's northwest coast. In addition to creating vivid, meticulous sketches of newly discovered flora, the versatile Agate chronicled shipboard life and the scientific corps's collecting expeditions, and captured likenesses of tribal dignitaries in pencil, watercolor, and oil. Agate was called upon to revive his skills as a miniaturist when Lieutenant Joseph A. Underwood was killed by natives in the Fiji Islands in July 1840. The artist painted a posthumous portrait of the young officer, now at the United States Naval Academy Museum, to be sent to Underwood's family along with a lock of his hair.
From HERE

On Agate's return to the USA in the summer of 1842, he settled in Washington D.C. and prepared his drawings for publication with Wilkes's five-volume Narrative of the United States Exploring Expedition as well as for the government's official report on botanical discoveries, edited by Asa Gray. Agate contributed more than half of the sketches and paintings reproduced as lithographs illustrating the five volumes of the expedition's reports.

Agate married Elizabeth Hill Kennedy in September 1845. His health had suffered severely from the expedition. He died of consumption on January 5 1846, at the age of 34. After the painter's death, his contributions to botanical knowledge were acknowledged by naming a new genus of Violacea "Agatea" in his honor. Agate Island in Fiji was also named for him. Several of his shipmates wrote appreciatively of his kind disposition. His health had always been fragile, he suffered from bouts of illness during the voyage, but it did not prevent him from making several interesting side excursions. Originally hired as a botanical illustrator, on the first leg of the voyage Wilkes assigned him to the ship Relief with William Rich, but eventually artistic services became so much in demand that Wilkes decreed that all scientists were to share Agate's time. In his memoirs, James Dana noted the accuracy of Agate's portraits. See HERE


Interesting here is a 3-planet emphasis (stellium) in Pisces. It nicely reflects Agate's connection to his sea voyages of discovery. Pisces, ruled by Neptune is often called "the seaman's sign". Without a time of birth the exact position of Moon can't be calculated, but it would be somewhere in Pisces, along with Venus (planet of the arts) and Pluto (darkness, death) which also reflects the fatal strain the Expedition put on Agate's health.


Sun in Aquarius in harmonious trine to Jupiter (sign of the traveller) in Gemini is another good fit, as is the Yod linking a sextile between Mercury (communication) and Uranus (invention, discovery) via two 150* aspects to an apex at Jupiter (travel).






The first artists known to have created images of Mount Shasta were part of the United States Exploring Expedition of 1838-1842. This U.S. Exploring Expedition, often called the Wilkes' Expedition, was primarily a major scientific mission (10 years in the planning11) set up to give the U.S. a good understanding of the Pacific Ocean. Eventually the country hoped to establish a more competitive U.S. whaling fleet. The earliest known picture of Mount Shasta was sketched by Alfred Thomas Agate. This picture, entitled 'Shasty Peak', was drawn in 1841 and first published in 1844 as a full page steel engraving in Volume V of the five volume report by the commander of the expedition, Charles Wilkes. (HERE) (For landscape paintings during the expedition Agate used a camera lucida to ensure accuracy.)




Tahitian Girl wearing a Hau (It seems the "hau" was usually worn around the hips during dance performances, so this is a wee bit odd!)


Emmons Party Fording the Yamhill River, 1840 by Alfred Thomas Agate.



King Kamehameha III (King of Hawaii from 1825 to 1854) by Alfred T. Agate


Alfred T Agate's sketch of a Tuvalla man of the Ellice Islands



.....interesting ethnographical observation is rendered in Agate’s “Indian Mode of Rocking Cradle,” engraved by T.H. Mumford. As reported by Wilkes from Port Discovery, Oregon, the “Clalum” tribe’s “children seem to give them but little trouble; in their infancy they are tied to a piece of bark, which is hung to a tree or pole, where it is kept in motion by a string fastened to the toe of the mother, as is represented in the wood-cut at the end of the chapter.”
More HERE

More illustrations and detail on the Expedition and its troubles The Encyclopedia of Earth.
Also see HERE.


Thursday, February 14, 2013

Valentine's Day


The world is indeed full of peril and in it there are many dark places.
But still there is much that is fair. And though in all lands, love is now
mingled with grief, it still grows, perhaps, the greater.

~~ J.R.R. Tolkien,
The Lord of the Rings


How many slams in an old screen door?
Depends how loud you shut it.
How many slices in a bread?
Depends how thin you cut it.
How much good inside a day?
Depends how good you live 'em.
How much love inside a friend?
Depends how much you give 'em.
~~ Shel Silverstein



Valentine's Day - have a good one y'all!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

MOTE, meet BEAM; BEAM, meet MOTE!

Geoffrey Macnab's piece in the UK's Independent is an interesting read: The Catholic Church on film: When the men in black lost their role as the good guys.
Snips:
"Priests were once movie symbols of decency and heroism. Scandals in the Catholic Church have ended that.
(Photograph: Hat-tip Tom Hoopes)

In old Hollywood films, you rarely come across a bad Catholic. Picture Bing Crosby as the kind-hearted Father O'Malley trying to have a school saved from closing down in The Bells of St Mary's (1945) or Pat O'Brien as the priest striving to keep kids away from crime – and his old friend James Cagney's bad example – in Angels With Dirty Faces (1938.)..............
..........It's hardly surprising that priests were given such a positive spin. During the studio era, the American Catholic Church had a strong influence over the kinds of films that were made. The Legion of Decency was an influential body set up by Catholic bishops in the 1930s to police the film industry. When the League took against a film, it could scupper its chances.

The Catholic lobby can still hurt a film. For example, one reason Philip Pullman adaptation The Golden Compass (2007) failed in the US was that the Catholic League called for its boycott. Pullman, the League claimed, was out to “bash Christianity and promote atheism”".
I wrote a brief post on The Golden Compass myself, back in 2007: "The Golden Compass" Reflects Pluto in Capricorn. I didn't see it as anti-Catholic or anti-religion, or anti-Christianity but simply anti-establishment and pro-independent thinking.

A list of films condemned by the Legion of Decency, a United States Catholic organization, and its successor (from 1965), the National Catholic Office for Motion Pictures is at Wikipedia.

And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?
(Sermon on the Mount)

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Hidden Wrongs and "The Essential American Soul"?

While news of the Pope's rather aptly timed resignation has knocked the issue covered in this post out of the headlines , I'll not replace my original theme because it's an issue closer to home and one which ought not to be sidelined.

There is, anyway, an element of hidden wrongs in both the Pope story and the issue brought up below.

As a commenter wrote under Saturday's post, current astrological configurations and transits make it a time ripe for the "outing" of many hidden wrongs. Saturn now transits Scorpio, Pluto transits Capricorn in mutual reception: Saturn is Capricorn's ruler, Pluto is Scorpio's ruler - this serves as a kind of underlining of all that the signs and planets represent to astrologers. Saturn and Capricorn = the establishment, institutions, law. Pluto and Scorpio = secrets, darkness, matters relating to sex and passion, death, the cleansing and transformation of areas where there is decay. The Roman Catholic hierarchy, especially this Pope, both now and before his elevation to Head of the R C Church, have been instrumental in keeping hidden rampant sexual abuse of children by their priests on a worldwide scale. The situation, and astrological time, is ripe for exposure and eventual transformation in areas related to old institutions such as the R C Church and to governmental bodies.

So.....back to my original theme:
Glenn Greenwald wrote last week in The Guardian, on the release of the "assassination white paper" a legal memo from the Obama Department of Justice seeking to justify the assassination of US citizens (not to mention unfortunate murders of non-American citizens) :
The most extremist power any political leader can assert is the power to target his own citizens for execution without any charges or due process, far from any battlefield..............If you believe the president has the power to order US citizens executed far from any battlefield with no charges or trial, then it's truly hard to conceive of any asserted power you would find objectionable.
And yet, according to The Hill's poll based on a nationwide survey of 1,000 likely voters conducted on Feb. 7 by Pulse Opinion Research (Note: Field work for all Rasmussen Reports surveys is conducted by Pulse Opinion Research) ~~
.................of the 1,000 Americans polled (a bipartisan group of likely voters) most were "inclined to support the government in its lethal attacks on citizens and non-citizens it deems to be terrorists."
And continues:
The poll found that 53 percent of likely voters said it should be legal for the U.S. government to kill non-U.S. citizens who meet that description. Meanwhile, 44 percent said it should be legal for the U.S. government to kill American citizens who it believes are terrorists and present an imminent threat.

By contrast, 21 percent of respondents thought such an action should be illegal if the target is a non-U.S. citizen. A slightly higher percentage of voters, 31 percent, thought killing individuals whom the government believes are terrorists should be illegal when the target is an American citizen.

A significant proportion of respondents — 26 percent and 24 percent, respectively — said they were not sure if such attacks should be legal, regardless of whether the target was an American or not.

When asked whether they oppose or back the administration’s drone program, however, a significantly higher percentage of voters voiced their support. Sixty-five percent of respondents said they support the use of unmanned drones to kill “people in foreign countries whom the US government says are terrorists and present an imminent threat,” while just 19 percent of voters said they oppose the policy.

Is that poll trustworthy though? Isn't it possible that questions were skewed in such a way as to obtain a desired result - desired by those paying this polling company, who needed to have the public "persuaded"? The company conducting the poll is in business, making $$$$$$$$, their aim is not necessarily factual enlightenment of the public. People reading, tweeting and Facebooking this poll's results will likely be thinking/writing along the lines of "Look at this all of you doubters! You're wrong! You're extremists and you're anti-American.... see here how many people think it's okay!" Brainwashing par excellence! And the very reason why The Powers That Be (or those behind 'em) are so keen to have control over the Internet. They already have control of TV, yes both Fox and MSNBC - and the rest!

Well-meaning commenters often blame "US voters" or the ignorance of US citizens generally for the dire straits in which the US finds itself morally. Democracy here has been corrupted though, at least in the case of national elections. Voting does nothing but put a rubber stamp on something already designed by the oligarchs - the power behind the curtain. There is no real choice in national elections. US Citizens have, through passivity, apathy, fear or simple misunderstanding allowed things to go rotten, but this has been over a long period of time, more decades than are covered by this present generation of citizens. That, though, is no excuse for continued sleepy passivity and apathy going forward.

The only alternative to that "excuse" for the position of citizens of the USA on the issue involved here would have to be this, as written by D.H. Lawrence in his Studies in Classic American Literature:
The essential American soul is hard, isolate, stoic, and a killer. It has never yet melted.
There are, I'm certain, many, many - perhaps the majority of citizens of the USA who have never killed a fellow-human, or even a fellow-creature of Earth, and yet, if these citizens are willing to stand by without protest and allow their democracy to crumble, allow unjust killings to be carried out in their name....then, I'm sorry to say they really are killers by default. The idea that all's fair in love and war doesn't wash here. There is no declared war. The so-called War on Terror isn't a war - there is no Theatre of War, no battlefield. War on Terror has been nothing short of an excuse. An excuse to continue the attacks and occupations originally being retaliation to the attacks on the World Trade Centre on 11 September 2001.

Peter G. Cohen wrote, concluding his piece CIA Drone Killings Don’t Make Us Safer:
Finally, we must face the fact that many nations are now acquiring drones and some are arming them. If they follow our example, we are creating an international situation in which any nation can kill people in other nations whom they dislike. By destroying the restraints of law, we are encouraging a lawless age. This is a terrible heritage to pass on to our children. Remember, you may not be able to see or hear the drone that is aiming a missile at your home. The smart way to handle drones right now is to pass national and international laws forbidding the use of armed drones away from a battlefield.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Music: Vintage 1908

Commenter "Dan" asked if I'd: "do a post on why 1908 was such a great year for music?" I asked for a little clarification on whether Dan was thinking along the lines of musicians born that year (whose talents would only come to light decades later); or was interested in what was actually going on musically in the year 1908? Reply was:
I am more interested in what was actually going on musically in the year 1908. Two of my favourite pieces were composed that year - Gustav Malher's The Song of the Earth and Gustav Holst's Savitri opus 25. On the other side Arnold Schoenberg started his adventure in atonal music and RCA Victor and Columbia market the flat disc recordings. And among pop music, there is It's a Long, Long Way to Tipperary and Take Me Out to the Ball Game which seem to be everlasting.
Hmmm......and hmmm again.

First thought was that Dan's attraction to particular music originating in 1908 might have reflection in his own natal chart in some way.

Next thought: to take a look at the outer planets' positions for that year, for these can indicate a general overall "atmosphere" for the time in question.

Uranus transited Capricorn in 1908 moving between 12 and 14 degrees with some back-and-forth during the year.
Neptune transited Cancer between 13 and 16 degrees.
Pluto transited Gemini between 23 and 25 degrees.

I think we can discount Pluto when considering matters musical.

In 1908 we see a Uranus-Neptune opposition, Capricorn-Cancer. Bearing in mind that Uranus connects to change, invention, the avant garde; and that Neptune is planet of creativity (among other things), this long-lasting alignment, the two planets around 180 degrees from each other, has significance. Most astrologers, when writing about this opposition, which lasted roughly 1905 to 1912, emphasise division, social class struggle and conflict which would eventually lead to the start of World War I in 1914. None of which takes into account Neptune's link to creativity being dynamically activated by avant garde Uranus.

I see related influence in two of the items "Dan" mentioned: Arnold Schoenberg's adventure in atonal music and RCA Victor and Columbia marketing the flat disc recordings.

Richard Tarnas did touch on how the arts in general reacted during this period of time - (See HERE)
.........the extraordinary confluence of events that coincided with the last Uranus-Neptune opposition which extended throughout the first decade and a half of the twentieth century: the revolution in human self-understanding mediated by depth psychology, especially Jung's archetypal psychology and his deepening of Freud's psychoanalytic breakthrough (which continued its own important evolution during these years); the revolutions in physics and cosmology (Einstein's relativity theory, Planck's quantum theory); in painting and the visual arts (Picasso, Matisse, Braque, Kandinsky); literature (Joyce, Proust, Kafka, Rilke); music (Stravinsky, Schoenberg); philosophy (William James, Bergson, Husserl); spiritual activism (Gandhi, Tolstoy), esotericism and mysticism (Rudolf Steiner, Aurobindo). The remarkable coalescing of these and many other related events and trends precipitated a radical transformation of vision for the entire culture, as well as the seeds for future profound changes in the cultural psyche.
Considering music, without particular astrological links, a rundown of "musical ages" at Bizymoms.com is interesting:

Timelines only quoted here (apart from the period relevant to this post) - full detail at the link.
There are 5 musical periods, which are listed and explained below:

Medieval and Renaissance (0 – 1600 A.D.)
Baroque (1600 – 1750 A.D.)
Classical (1750 – 1820 A.D.)
Romantic (1820 – 1910 A.D.)
With the coming of the industrial revolution, new thinking and new ideas were developing and these came to be expressed in the arts and music as well. Composers such as Berlioz, Schumann, Mendelssohn, Schubert, Brahms, Liszt, Chopin and Tchaikovsky were some of the great composers of the romantic period. Gradually, the style of music writing became broader and more expressive. New techniques of playing were developed and instruments were improved.
In the early 20th century, the late romantic composers like Dvorak, Bruckner, Mahler, Debussy, Strauss, Ravel and Rachmaninoff took music into greater heights and gave it new dimensions. All these great composers developed and maintained their own styles and nationality to their music, though they worked within their frameworks in the musical period.
Modern Era (1910 – Present)
1908 stood at the end of the Romantic Era, on the cusp of the Modern Era. Any remaining Romanticism was to be obliterated by the onset of World War I.

From HERE: Some musical "firsts" from 1908 (among numerous other "firsts" relating to air travel, Ford's model T, communication and sports)
1st performance of Maurice Ravel's "Rapsodie Espagnole"

1908 "Take me out to the Ball Game registered for copyright.

Gustav Mahler's 7th Symphony, premieres in Prague

Brooklyn Academy of Music, opens in NYC

Oscar Strauss' musical "Der tapfere Soldat," premieres in Vienna

Edward Elgar's 1st Symphony in A, premieres

Frederick Delius' "In a Summer Garden," premieres.


One of the pieces of music mentioned by Dan:




CONCLUSION
Perhaps 1908's musical compositions have special appeal to "Dan" due to natal chart configurations. But in general 1908's musical atmosphere reflected the Neptune/Uranus opposition, on the cusp of something different, something new: invention and creativity, gradually changing the Romanticism present during much of the 19th century. I suspect that "Dan", via his natal chart, is particularly sensitive to that atmosphere.

(Illustration: Fluffy ruffles girls rag : characteristic two-step.Composer/Lyricist: Davis, Marian I.Publication: Cleveland :Charles I. Davis Music Publisher, 1908.