Saturday, February 28, 2015

Mercedes de Acosta - Writer, Lesbian, Lover of the Stars.

While searching for, perhaps, a poet to feature on this February/March cuspy weekend, I came across mention of one Mercedes de Acosta. I'd never heard the name before, but read through a little of what's available about her on the net. Well...poet she was, and author of books of prose, and scriptwriter - but her gifts in those spheres must have paled in comparison to her sexual attraction - and to her own gender. She's remembered, these days, for her many passionate love affairs with some of the most celebrated and beautiful women of her generation, including Isadora Duncan, Marlene Dietrich, Eva Le Gallienne, and Greta Garbo. She was openly bisexual years before what has become known as the sexual revolution . In 1920, she married painter Abram Poole, the marriage survived for 15 years, though perhaps with husband and wife living apart for much of that time.

It is reported to have been a boast of Mercedes de Acosta that she could "get any woman from any man." I guess it could be said that Mercedes' sexual prowess was aided by her hot Latino bloodline. She was born into an affluent New York family , youngest of eight children, on 1 March 1893 in New York City. Her father, Ricardo de Acosta, was of Cuban and Spanish descent; her mother, Micaela Hernández de Alba y de Alba, was Spanish and reportedly a descendant of the Spanish Dukes of Alba. The family lived in a wealthy area of the city; the good and the great of those times were often entertained as family guests. Her sister, Rita Lydig, became a well-known, fashionable socialite.

During the 1920s, Mercedes was a well-known figure in New York's high society circles, but also in some of its lower dives - drag clubs and speakeasies. In her own words: “These were years guided by the spirit of the New. We were on fire with fire, with a passion to create and a daring to achieve.” She became a student of eastern religions, a strict vegetarian and an early feminist. Mercedes would have none of the era's uncomfortable female fashions - she quite often favoured trousers.

According to a source :
As a young child, Mercedes firmly believed she was a boy. She was raised Roman Catholic and tended toward the extremes. Mercedes played with boys, believing she was just like them, until age seven, when she realized her anatomy differed from her friends'. According to Hugo Victors, author of Loving Garbo, de Acosta recalled of that moment, "[E]verything in my young soul turned monstrous and terrible and dark." She was sent to a convent to adopt more feminine ways. She often ran away, claiming she could not be defined as either boy or girl but perhaps as both. This flexibility extended to her spirituality, whereby she proclaimed to have no belief or faith in dogma, but rather is reported as saying, "I believe in taking the essence from all religions and arriving at your own creed." Unfortunately, her confusion often led to bouts of depression.

Robert A. Schanke, Mercedes' most recent biographer, after extensive research, acknowledged that Mercedes was "flawed and imperfect, a complex woman who impaired several of her relationships and failed to achieve her professional and romantic aspirations." But the author also reveals her to have been an exceptionally lively, intelligent, and dynamic person who had many devoted friends. She was, he argues, a brave lesbian of her times and a person of integrity who remained kind and loyal to most everyone with whom she crossed paths. He suggests that the many denigrating portrayals of her may derive from the deep homophobia of her generation. (See here)

Mercedes spent her last years poor and lonely. Paying many medical bills resulting from various illnesses and surgeries, had impoverished her to the point where she'd even had to sell her diamonds. Her 1960 autobiography, Here Lies the Heart, alienated many of her friends, who claimed the book to be wildly exaggerated and even blatantly untrue.

Mercedes de Acosta died in May 1968, aged 75.

A very good website of biographer Robert Schanke has lots more detail in several sections, and many photographs.


Born on 1 March 1893 in New York City. No time of birth is known, chart is set for 12 noon.

Pisces Sun (self) was in harmonious trine to Uranus (avant garde) in Scorpio (sex, eroticism) - a clue!

Sun also sextile Mars (the masculine), with both planets linking via quincunx (150*) to Saturn - possibly indicates an innate but scratchy relationship of a female/masculine self funnelled through Saturn (work - her writing)? Saturn in Libra, the apex of that Yod, also links harmoniously to the generational Pluto/Neptune conjunction in Gemini, combining creativity and sexiness/darkness.

What else? We can't know Moon's position without a time of birth - was it Leo or Virgo? Leo seems most fitting, but Virgo is ruled by Mercury and Mercedes was a writer. So - take your pick!

Venus, planet of love and art in Aquarius links to her avant garde nature and Venus lay in helpful sextile to Jupiter in Aries, which, being translated = a whole lot(Jupiter) of love (Venus).

Friday, February 27, 2015

Arty Farty Friday ~ John Tenniel, Alice & Political Cartooning

(Sir)John Tenniel was born in Bayswater, London, England on 28 February in 1820. His father was a dance teacher, the family lived in what has been described by a biographer as "genteel poverty", a state which afforded John a minimum of early formal education. Aided by his father's tuition he learned and polished some athletic skills - fencing, dancing and riding. His fencing practice resulted in an accidental blinding of his right eye. He attended the Royal Academy but soon removed himself, unimpressed by the quality of teaching there. Some of his artwork was exhibited when John was about 16 years old, which led to early recognition of his talent. Commissions began to arrive, a significant one was to create a fresco for the House of Lords (a division of the British Parliament).

In 1850 Tenniel joined the staff of Punch magazine as principal political cartoonist, he held that post for some 50 years. His work drew the attention of Charles Dodgson (aka Lewis Carroll) who approached the artist with a request that he should illustrate a book, Alice's Adventures Under Ground. The book was published, in 1865, as Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, it contained 34 beautifully engraved line drawings, by John Tenniel, and became a classic. Tenniel later provided illustrations for Through the Looking-Glass(1872).

John Tenniel's work as cartoonist was always his natural preference, though his fame to this day, some 145 years later, stems from his "Alice" book illustrations. The reason being, I guess, that his political cartoons were "of that moment", and soon lost much of their relevance. They remain interesting, as pieces of history, though.

John Tenniel died on 25 February 1914.

A few examples of his cartoons, along with some of his best known illustrations.

In an arena formed of cotton bales, President Lincoln (still shown as clean-shaven) and the newly-elected President of the Confederate States, Jefferson Davis, square off as gladiators before an audience comprised of black slaves, one of whom sits in imperial state [cf. April 29, 1865]. The caption’s reference to “Emperor Caesar” may be ironically intended, as Caesar was a popular slave name.

The two combatants are armed with Bowie knives rather than the Roman gladius short swords. Each also has a pistol tucked into his belt, reflecting European perceptions about American violence and lawlessness (in many countries it was illegal for ordinary citizens to carry firearms). Lincoln holds a shield emblazoned with a representation of the national flag of the United States, while Davis’ shield bears the “Stars and Bars” flag. (See HERE)

  Widespread sympathy was felt in Britain for the grief  of the United States after Lincoln's assassination

 Father Neptune: Look here, my lass! You used to "Rule the Waves" but if you mis-rule 'em, as you've done lately, by jingo there'll be a row!!!
Britannia I'm sure I don't know who's to blame Papa dear!
Father Neptune: Don't know !!!  Then pipe all hands and find out!!!


Born in London on 28 February 1820. No time of birth available, chart set for 12 noon.

Sir John Tenniel had a natal Pisces/Aries blend - not as easy-going a blend as Pisces/Aquarius I'd have thought. Creative dreamer blended with enthusiastic initiator. His Aries bits must have felt like a regular alarm bell constantly waking him from dreaminess. In his early years he did train, under his father's tuition, in a variety of athletic activities - this relates well to the Aries flavour in his chart. I haven't read much about the kind of man he was - or was perceived to be. From his artwork we have to assume he had a continuing sharp interest in political matters, and put this to use via his undeniable talent for drawing. His "Alice" book illustrations, though they brought him fame, were not really what he was about. Cartooning and politics seem to have been his first loves.

Sun, Mercury and Jupiter lay in Pisces, sign ruled by Neptune, and reflect his creativity, whether via his drawings of Alice's adventures, or illustrating the vagaries of political life in 19th century Britain and elsewhere.

Natal Saturn (law, authorities etc.) at 0 Aries, degree known as The Aries Point, a powerful degree, might offer a clue to his keen interest in political matters and interpretation of them in satirical fashion. Neptune conjunct Uranus on the Capricorn/Sagittarius cusp, though in itself a generational aspect, because the conjunction lay in helpful sextile to Tenniel's natal Jupiter, which conjoined his Sun/Mercury, adds a touch of the unexpected (Uranus) to this artist's creative (Neptune) gifts.

Without a time of birth Moon's exact position isn't known, other than that it would have been in Leo or Virgo as he was born. I don't have a reasonable guess to offer!

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Mysterious movie turned out to be subtle but sneaky propaganda.

We chose, at random, the other night, to watch Doonby, a 2011 independently produced film available via Netflix. From the very brief outline of its theme it sounded to be a wee bit mysterious, and unlikely to be filled with the slam-bang element we both dislike.

If anyone is likely to want to watch Doonby, do stop reading this now, because spoilers will follow.

The film's theme is focused on a drifter, a guy probably in his late thirties or early forties (played by John Schneider, best known for his role in Dukes of Hazzard). He arrives in a small town in Texas, looks for work and finds it in the local bar. As the story unfolds the drifter, Doonby, becomes a popular member of the local community, manages to save the day on a few occasions when calamity or tragedy could well have been the result had he not been present. He displays a fine talent for guitar playing and blues singing, which adds to his popularity - and a wee bit of jealously from certain quarters. He falls in love with the town's wealthiest guy's daughter who is, what's commonly termed in these parts, "a piece of work".

An air of mystery hangs around Doonby. His background is vague, misty. Flashbacks to his childhood are interspersed showing him as son of a single mother, whom he adored, even though she left him to an orphanage so's she could run away with her lover.

A turning point in the building mysterious atmosphere of the film comes as Doonby meets his girl friend's father, a doctor, for the first time. Doonby reels away in horror from the guy, for no apparent reason - very strange, and seemingly out of character.

Okay, I'll cut to the chase now.

All those flashbacks depicting his mother, ending in her leaving him to an orphanage while she ran off, they dissolve. In their place, more than halfway through the film, we see a different flashback of an alternative past (or not) for Doonby. His mother, a pregnant teenager who has a chance to run off with a guy who will not countenance a child as part of their lives, seeks and finds a doctor to perform an abortion. Guess who that young doctor was ? He's now the father of Doonby's girlfriend!

Is the mist clearing? It did for me at the moment Doonby's girlfriend fell out of love with him and repeated again and again in answer his plea "What do you want me to be?"

"I don't want you to be. I don't want you to be.
I. don't. want. you. to. be", she screamed.

The penny dropped.

Doonby magically disappeared, the room where the couple had been conversing changed back to an empty dirty old barn (it had been painted, furnished and made homey by Doonby ). The child Doonby had saved from being killed was dead. The bar he had brought to life with his good humour and his playing and singing was now empty, the staff miserable, the bar's owner, an old blues singer was dead because Doonby had not been there to save him from a bullet.

Get it?

The film was little more than propaganda for the pro-life people. It was clever - sneaky, though. Only thing... what if Doonby (anagram of Nobody) had turned out to be a serial killer, or a dirty brutal cop, or Dick Cheney, or an abusive husband? The idea the film peddles doesn't hold up to scrutiny.

Note: I'm not pro-abortion, but I'm also not pro- anyone telling or even suggesting to other people what they should do with their bodies and their lives. It's nobody's business but those few directly involved in any decision.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Correlation does not always imply causation - sometimes it might...

Astrologers these days tend to reject the idea that the planets exert direct "energy" upon humans on Earth. Cause-and-effect astrology has become terribly unfashionable. In books written around a century ago though, it was common to see descriptions of "planetary rays" affecting life on Earth. I suppose vitriolic criticism from the skeptical brigade put paid to that. Modern astrologers use other explanations, less open to ridicule, to try to explain why astrology works. Resonance with, or reflection of planetary movements and cycles; synchronicity; or plain "don't know" are now the responses most astrologers favour. I retain, from personal experience, suspicion that movement of certain celestial bodies, or the area of celestial "atmosphere" they mark and travel in, might have some direct physical effect on humans - on this human anyway.

When Mars transits through Aquarius, and within around 5 or 6 degrees of my natal Sun, it has seemed to affect my sleeping pattern. I'll go to bed tired, fall asleep quickly but wake again after about 90 minutes, only to toss and turn, wide awake for most of the early hours. It's something for which I've found no other explanation. More than once I've noticed the pattern, looked up position of Mars and found it close to natal Sun. What happens, in my case, is not just a random bad night or two, the effect continues with peculiar regularity for at least a week, keeping the same pattern for several days, then gradually wears off. Hand on heart - I do not keep regular check on planetary positions in relation to my own chart, that's not my way of using astrology. I haven't ever been waiting for, or expecting this pattern to recur.

I've also noticed that when the Moon is full...yes, I can already hear husband chuckling, I have been known to become over-emotional. My natal ascendant is in Cancer, ruled by the Moon, which could be significant. I don't actually keep tabs on where the Moon is day by day, so this effect is no self-fulfilling prophecy. It's not noticeable at every single Full Moon, but enough times for me to suspect a pattern.

So, if these two instances mean anything, it could be indicating some kind of physical effect exerted upon humans, or on some of us, at certain times, related to movement/position of some celestial body. Note that I did write "could" and "some"!

Blinded by Starlight by Frank McGillion sits in a prominent place on my bookshelves. There's a post about the book from my early blogging days HERE.
From that post, an extract from Garry Phillipson's review:
"The book's central thesis is as follows -

The pineal gland is an important factor in the way we perceive the world and act in it; the pineal produces its effects by secreting melatonin; it has been demonstrated in laboratory conditions that magnetic fields and exposure to light affect the production of melatonin; therefore anything which affects light levels or changes magnetic fields on Earth (which of course includes some celestial phenomena) may be linked to human character and behaviour; if scientists were less blinkered they would pursue research into correlations between celestial and terrestrial influences; the pineal gland is a promising place to start such research, because by examining responses in the pineal to celestial phenomena we could, so to speak, cut out the middleman - avoiding the need to isolate significant behaviour patterns in large groups by going directly to (some of the) causes of that behaviour - light and magnetic fields, and their effects on the pineal..........................."

Using the book's index, searching under "Mars", a few interesting points emerge. In alchemy, Mars traditionally links to iron, silver to the Moon. In chemical experiments, when solutions of silver salts are mixed with solutions of iron salts, iron displaces the silver from solution because it is more active chemically. However, when Moon and Mars come into certain degrees of angular contact the reaction appears to slow down.......the author writes:
" what are we to make of this. If these experiments are accurate, and the planets are in some way altering the chemistry of metals in 'sympathetic' manner, it would quite literally transform our view of things.......Many have reported positive results that appear to justify the claim that there's some mechanism whereby planets can seemingly influence the chemical activity of metals in solution, be it subtle planetary rays, an unconventional, or hitherto unknown form of electromagnetism, some sort of symbolic correspondence, or wishful thinking."

So ... could there perhaps be some kind of knock-on effect on the pineal gland function, connected to the Mars/Moon position - a slight reduction in melatonin production for a time ?

Then.... from Wikipedia's page on the subject of melatonin, it appears that this is a significant ingredient in the regulation of sleep cycles.

Treatment of circadian rhythm disorders

Exogenous melatonin taken in the evening is, together with light therapy upon awakening, the standard treatment for delayed sleep phase syndrome and non-24-hour sleep-wake syndrome. It appears to have some use against other circadian rhythm sleep disorders as well, such as jet lag and the problems of people who work rotating or night shifts.
Taken 30 to 90 minutes before bedtime, melatonin is put into the blood earlier than the brain's own production and acts as a mild hypnotic.
A very small dose taken several hours before bedtime in accordance with the phase response curve for melatonin in humans (PRC) doesn't cause sleepiness but, acting as a chronobiotic, does advance the phase slightly and is additive to the effect of using light therapy upon awakening."

There are diverse pieces of a puzzle here which could be capable of being put together in such a way as to give a reason for my wakefulness when Mars (or the area of atmosphere/time/space marked by planet Mars) is close to astrological position of my natal Sun. These thoughts would leave me open to ridicule among skeptics, I guess. Never mind. A bit of ridicule never did anyone any harm!

(Note: The above is an edited and re-hashed combination of two archived posts from 2009)

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Temperamental Ponderings

The more I think about astrology, read what astrologers and others have to say about it, the more I feel the urge to stand back, throw away the magnifying glass, and instead take a kind of x-ray view of it all, to study its bones. From that perspective one key factor emerges first, very clearly: the elements, and next the qualities and polarities - bones - building blocks of astrology.

It's good to purge the mind of detail, once in a while, and gaze on an outline sketch, which can, when well-drawn, sometimes tell as much as a finely detailed portrait.

Earth, Water, Fire, Air.
Cardinal, Mutable, Fixed.
Positive, Negative.

Those are the bones of astrology. It's best to keep in mind what these factors can draw for us, when their proportional emphasis, and accepted keywords, are considered for any exact date, time and location. It will be a description of the prevailing astrological atmosphere of that exact time. What will emerge will primarily be the chart of the birth of a moment in time. Astrologers, and astrology fans, believe that a human - and perhaps other creatures born in that exact moment - carry within their DNA, their molecules, a replication of the elements and qualities of that moment's atmosphere.
It was the Greek philosopher-mathematician Empedocles (c. 450 BCE) who first established the system of the four primary elements, fire, air, water and earth. Drawing on the work of his predecessors, his proposal was based very simply and rationally on observation of the qualities of the physical world, which fell into two pairs of opposites: wet and dry, hot and cold. Fire was considered to result from the combination of dry and hot, air was created from the hot and wet, water from the cold and wet, and earth from the cold and dry. Each of the four elements was also associated with one of the four seasons.
From natal proportions of the astrological elements and rest of the nine factors listed above, in a person's birth chart, it'd be possible to produce an outline sketch of its owner's temperament, based on selections of keywords devised over many decades. I was about to type, just now, "sketch of of its owner's personality" when I remembered reading something to the effect that personality and temperament are not the same thing. The sketch would be, as well as a description of the prevailing astrological atmosphere, an outline of how that atmosphere could broadly manifest in human temperament.

In an excellent article by Dorian Gieseler Greenbaum:
The Well-Tempered Astrologer - Using an Ancient System in Modern Astrology, the author explains:
Temperament is often confused with "personality” or “character.” How are these three different? First of all, temperament is innate whereas both character and personality can have external components. Personality, in fact, combines both internal and external factors,and some dictionaries define it as “behavior as a whole.” But the term “personality” (which didn’t even come into use until the end of the 19th century) uses the Latin word persona, which means “mask” — as in the masks worn by characters in a play — and thus implies the outward expression of a person. “Character” comes from the Greek word charaktēr, a stamp, something used to make an impression on wax or metal; today we take “character” to mean both the features that distinguish one form from another and a person’s moral nature. In modern connotation, character can be both internal and external, but the Greek definition implies something imposed from without (parental or societal) rather than from within.

Temperament, by contrast, falls on the “nature” rather than the “nurture” side of the spectrum. We are born with our temperaments, as any mother of more than one child can tell you. We may have overlays to our temperaments at various times in our lives,but temperament is our default position, what we naturally fall back on when faced with new situations. What you’re born with is what you keep.
That whole article is a "must read" !
There are also some excerpts from a book by the same author, (Temperament - Astrology's Forgotten Key) at Skyscript website.

Our four astrological elements, Earth, Air, Fire and Water do link to the ancient theory of the four humors/humours or temperaments (sanguine, choleric, melancholic, and phlegmatic) central to the articles mentioned above. The humours, and ways they were thought to manifest in human temperament, were used as an aid to medical diagnoses and treatment of ailments, long ago.

From Greek
Agents of Metabolism
The Four Humors are the metabolic agents of the Four Elements in the human body. The right balance and purity of them is essential to maintaining health. The Four Humors and the elements they serve are as follows:
Blood - AIR; Phlegm - WATER; Yellow Bile - FIRE; Black Bile - EARTH
All four of these humors, or vital fluids, are present in the bloodstream in varying quantities:
Blood, or the Sanguine humor, is the red, hemoglobin-rich portion.
Phlegm, or the Phlegmatic humor, is present as the clear plasma portion.
Yellow Bile, or the Choleric humor, is present as a slight residue or bilirubin, imparting a slight yellowish tint.
Black Bile, or the Melancholic humor, is present as a brownish grey sediment with platelets and clotting factors.

The Psychological Effects of the Humors

The Four Humors are not just gross, physical substances. They also pervade the whole organism as subtle vapors, even affecting the mind, thoughts, and emotions. And so, the Four Humors also have psychological effects, making them capable of affecting both body and mind:
Blood promotes a feeling of joy, mirth, optimism, enthusiasm, affection and well-being. (Sanguine/Air)
Phlegm induces passivity, lethargy, subjectivity, devotion, emotionalism, sensitivity and sentimentality. (Phlegmatic/Water)
Yellow Bile provokes, excites and emboldens the passions. Being inflammatory, irritating and caustic, it provokes anger, irritability, boldness, ambition, envy, jealousy and courage.(Choleric/Fire)
Black Bile makes one pensive, melancholy and withdrawn. It encourages prudence, caution, realism, pragmatism and pessimism. (Melancholic/Earth)
The Four Humors tend to have negative effects on the mind and emotions only when they're excessive or aggravated. Otherwise, they can also strengthen positive aspects of character.

 Hat-tip HERE
So, when we apply keywords attributed to the 4 astrological elements, the related humour is represented too. What we come up with, as an outline sketch, using natal chart and astrological elements, is the prevailing astrological atmosphere with related innate temperament of a human subject. Innate temperament will not necessarily be exactly the same as the subject's personality, nor their character.

A couple more layers of shading for our outline sketch should be added: astrological qualities (Cardinal/Fixed/Mutable) and polarities (positive/negative), allocated thus:

(Thanks to Kepler College website for this helpful diagram.)

The following images are from a book of mine: Astrology, written and compiled by Louis MacNeice. The sketches are interesting, but I wouldn't bet on their close relationship to reality!

I can't get my own head around the last diagram. There's no additional information in the book, so maybe Mr MacNeice couldn't get his head around it either. Why does each sign have three (or 2) colours? One colour obviously relates to the humour connected to that sign, the other one or two must relate to the signs' traditional ruler(s)...there's this at Skyscript

and this from HERE

Ah well, at this point things have become a tad murky - maybe I've delved too deeply, or not deeply enough - I'm now stumbling around among those building blocks of astrology!

Monday, February 23, 2015

Bordering on Limitation Here, There and at The Oscars

Around this date, 23 February, in a couple of previous years (here and here) I've rambled on about Roman god Terminus, god of boundaries and his festival, Terminalia, held this day in ancient Rome.

Boundaries...these can be physically marked by borders, signs, guards etc. or psychological and inter-personal in effect. Astrologers have something to say about the latter type of boundary. Saturn is master of boundary-related issues in astrology, while part of Neptune's area of interest covers the dissolving of boundaries. February 23, at the beginning of Sun's journey through Neptune-ruled Pisces, in our 21st century eyes, seems pretty inappropriate timing for celebrating the god of boundaries! Romans marched to a different drummer though, a different calendar and different astrological ideas.

For some astrological theories on boundaries psychological and inter-personal see the following:

The 3 Major Ways of Setting Boundaries—Which Type are You? - an article by Dr Brian Grady carried at Donna Cunningham's astrology blog.

Working With Saturn: Internal Boundaries by Hiroki Niizato

Pisces: The Dissolution of Boundaries by Sean at The Clestial Observer

We made it through the Oscars last night - not a lot of boundaries crossed there this year. Lots of pretty frocks on the ladies of course, but the guys are so timid about crossing traditional boundaries where their evening "uniform" is concerned. Hundreds of bog standard (though probably horrendously expensive) black tuxedos, bow ties, white shirts, with a smattering of white or ivory tuxedos, one navy blue one (Eddie Redmayne's), one dark red one with matching vest (David Oyelowo who plays MLK in "Selma"); a few black shirts and ties (seems to be the in thing just now outside of formal ceremonies); and a pale blue suit (Jared Leto)- bravo! Late addition: my newest favourite actor, Matthew McConaughey, giving out the last Oscar - for best female actor - sported an elegant metallic pewter tuxedo. Knew he wouldn't let me down by being "ordinary"! Aw..riight!

There seemed, to my ears, to be a boundary when it came to applauding the movie about Edward Snowden, "Citizenfour" when it won an award for...something. I thought the reception very subdued compared to the standing ovations given to "Selma" and "American Sniper". Isn't Hollywood supposed to be liberal to the core? Their liberalness has boundaries, obviously! Maybe, as in the case of "Selma", it'll take 50 years for Snowden's efforts to be fully appreciated and warrant a standing "O". Tsk!!

Music Monday's offering appropriate to ideas of the god Terminus, and boundaries? Hmmm... there's a song I've always liked and its sub-title or alternative title happens to be Exordium et Terminus (which, translated = beginning and end). The song's main title: In the Year 2525 was a 1969 hit by American pop-rock duo Zager and Evans. There's an archived post about it and them here.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Title Tittle-tattle

Novels, short stories, non-fiction, articles in magazines and newspapers all benefit greatly from thoughtfully chosen titles. The title becomes a "greeter" with power to attract and draw in readers, either by clear indication of what content follows, or by shrewdly thrown poetic mist which can arouse curiosity. Choosing a title is not easy, I dare say that at times it can be more difficult than actually writing the novel or article. Authors over the years have pitted their wits against the ordinary and predictable to come up with something attention-grabbingly different, yet pertinent to content.

Some authors have leaned on work of their predecessors, extracting a nugget of wisdom from finely crafted words, found to be obliquely applicable to their own piece of work. Somerset Maugham favored this method when he chose titles for The Painted Veil and Of Human Bondage, both lifted from old texts. The former from an 1818 sonnet by Percy Byshe Shelley:
Lift not the painted veil which those who live
Call Life: though unreal shapes be pictured there,
And it but mimic all we would believe
With colours idly spread, - behind, lurk Fear
And Hope, twin Destinies; who ever weave
Their shadows, o'er the chasm, sightless and drear.

The latter was borrowed from one of the books of the 'Ethica' by 17th century Dutch philosopher, Baruch Spinoza. Translated = "Of Human Bondage, or The Strength of the Emotions".

Those are both apt titles, once one is familiar with the storylines, but they presupposed a certain amount of literary knowledge on the part of the reader.

Harper Lee's famous title, To Kill a Mocking Bird came from an old proverb telling that "it's a sin to kill a mocking bird". The author used it as metaphor for the novel's storyline. It's clever, but without prior knowledge of the old proverb, or subject matter of the book, a potential reader might feel puzzled when confronted with the title on a library shelf, but it's intriguing enough to invite investigation.

A few more, old and newer, titles interestingly drawn from literature:

Band of Brothers (book and TV mini-series)

From Shakespeare's Henry V

This story shall the good man teach his son;
And Crispin Crispian shall ne'er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remember'd;
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne'er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition:
And gentlemen in England now a-bed
Shall think themselves accursed they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin's day.

No Country for Old Men (novel and film)

From Sailing to Byzantium by William Butler Yeats

That is no country for old men. The young
In one another's arms, birds in the trees
– Those dying generations – at their song,
The salmon‐falls, the mackerel‐crowded seas,
Fish, flesh, or fowl, commend all summer long
Whatever is begotten, born, and dies.
Caught in that sensual music all neglect
Monuments of unageing intellect.

Vanity Fair (novel and magazine title)

From The Pilgrim's Progress by John Bunyan

Emerging from the wilderness, Evangelist meets Christian and Faithful and congratulates them on overcoming their obstacles. Evangelist says they will soon enter a powerful enemy city where one of them will die. The narrator identifies this city as Vanity, home of a great and ancient festival called Vanity Fair, where tawdry products are traded and Beelzebub is worshipped. (HERE)

Where Eagles Dare (book and film)

From Shakespeare's Richard III

"The world is grown so bad, that wrens make prey
where eagles dare not perch".
(Act I, Scene III).

From Here to Eternity (book and film)

From Rudyard Kipling's poem Gentlemen-Rankers

We're poor little lambs who've lost our way,
Baa! Baa! Baa!
We're little black sheep who've gone astray,
Gentlemen-rankers out on the spree,
Damned from here to Eternity,
God ha' mercy on such as we,
Baa! Bah! Bah!

Grapes of Wrath (book and film)

From Battle Hymn of the Republic

Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord;
He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored;
He hath loosed the fateful lightning of His terrible swift sword:
His truth is marching on.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Arty Farty Friday ~ George Widener, Gifted "Outsider"

Stumbling upon a couple of articles discussing what's known as "Outsider Art" (see Wikipedia), I discovered George Widener, self-taught artist and calendar savant, whose Asperger/Autism Spectrum Disorder syndrome developed into a passion for mathematical computation, statistics, data, and especially calendars. An obsessive habit to translate every number that he encountered into a calendar date led to his transforming his findings into artwork.

George Widener was born in Covington, Kentucky, USA. His childhood was scarred by his father's death when George was 9 years old, followed by his mother's alcoholism and confinement in an institution. By age of twelve he was living with grandparents, later with with an aunt. He attended a specialised school where he showed definite aptitudes for mental arithmetic and drawing, and exceptional memory capacity.

In 1979 he joined the US Air Force as a technician. He spent his free time drawing, and collecting ideas for future artwork. Subsequently, unstable psychological episodes led to stays in psychiatric institutions.

"While George Widener suffers from a certain form of autism, he also possesses outstanding computational skills and extraordinary memory for names, facts and dates. His artistic work deals with complex inventories, diagrams, charts, codes and ciphers, which he inscribes in ink upon paper napkins, pasted together in multiple layers. Widener’s accumulations of calendar dates appear as an attempt at finding some sort of regulating principle, an occult formula of universal causality, his own answer to the enigma of Infinity and Eternity."
From Art Brut

In 1994 Widener began studying liberal arts at the University of Tennessee. He now lives in Asheville, North Carolina. As an introverted young adult he could hardly have predicted a career for himself in the elitist world of contemporary art, but his casual doodles on napkins and scraps of paper in libraries and restaurants – scribbles which, at times, seemed to explain and/or predict a plane crash or other event - eventually drew attention.

Widener has stated (see HERE):
"[In my art] I am using the dates as the medium. I wondered if I could create a pattern of [dates of] disasters or of weather, and start predicting. Hypothetically, if everything adds up but there is one [date] missing and a future date fits in, does that mean there will be storms? That fascinated me.

I began to get a bit obsessed with things like numbers as a child. They calmed me down in my times of stress. I sort of regressed. I started to retreat. I was filling my notebooks up with the dates. I had dozens of notebooks in a backpack.

Eventually, I was put in hospital and diagnosed with Asperger/Autism Syndrome, after which I became more able to accept myself and control my obsession with dates. I consider certain 'runs' of numbers in dates to be telling a undiscovered story. These runs will eventually say something to future machine life forms, and I am always looking"


Most sources give George Widener's year of birth only: 1962. Wikipedia states his date of birth as 8 February 1962, with a reference to source as follows:
Darold A. Treffert, Islands of Genius: The Bountiful Mind of the Autistic, Acquired, and Sudden Savant (Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 2010) p179.

How reliable that information is I can't tell, but if correct it's certainly significant, falling slap-bang in the midst of 1962's famous Aquarius mega-conjunction. Below is his natal chart using that date, at 12 noon, in Covington, Kentucky. Some sources state place of birth as Ohio - perhaps the discrepancy arises due to his enforced moves during childhood. His natal Moon's degree will not be as shown, and rising sign remains unknown without a birth time.

"A date", George Widener says, "has four variables: day, month, year, day of the week. Feeling the symmetry of these numbers, he says, is a beautiful experience, almost like a drug. Those who want that experience must pay the price". (HERE)

Words seem superfluous! All personal planets except Moon lie from mid- to late Aquarius, the Air sign astrology links to analytical skills, logic and general mental acuity. Moon would be in Aries, whatever time of day George Widener was born - that, along with Uranus, Aquarius' modern ruler in Leo adds a dynamic thrust to all that mental energy.

A thought occurs - if George Widener were to study astrology, then cast his amazing mind towards astrology research ...what might be revealed?


George Widener's artwork must really require close-up viewing, but to give some idea, a few images chosen at random from Google Image

Widener notes that certain types of incidents have occurred on the same day of the week, and so that very day may engender similar incidents in the future. When Widener was a teenager, he came across a passenger list of the Titanic and discovered that one of the victims coincidentally shared his name. This large drawing translates his fascination for this history. Even though the ship sank on a Monday, here he emphasizes that it was “mourned on Tuesday.” Every Tuesday for seven hundred years, starting on April 16, 1912, is included by date; the number of Tuesdays approximately corresponds to the number of people rescued from the sinking ship. (See HERE)

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Year of the Sheep

We're entering
Year of the Sheep. There's plenty of information available about astrological matters related, I'll not add to the clutter. Instead, a couple of sheepish old photographs from husband's vintage stash, others from his camera; then a link and taster to a nice short story concerning a sheep herder's wondrous experience (no, not that famous biblical one).

Disinterested Ram

Man and two sheep

Baa baa, multicolored sheep.
Lucky Ewe

  2 from our collection of Artesania Rinconada animal sculptures

Short story. Are y'all siting comfortably? Then I'll begin....

"Lambing Season".

First published in Asimov’s Science Fiction,2002 (nominated for a Hugo Award for Best Short Story and a Nebula Award for Best Short Story), written by Molly Gloss (born November 20, 1944). Ms Gloss is an American writer currently best known for historical fiction and science fiction. The story is re-printed in Clarkesworld magazine, and available to read at the website HERE. There's an audio version available too.


.........She had about 800 ewes, as well as their lambs, many of them twins or triplets. The ferocity of the Churro ewes in defending their offspring was sometimes a problem for the dogs, but in the balance of things she knew it kept her losses small. Many coyotes lived on Joe-Johns, and sometimes a cougar or bear would come up from the salt-pan desert on the north side of the mountain, looking for better country to own. These animals considered the sheep to be fair game, which Delia understood to be their right; and also her right, hers and the dogs, to take the side of the sheep. Sheep were smarter than people commonly believed and the Churros smarter than other sheep she had tended, but by mid-summer the coyotes had passed the word among themselves, buen’ carne, and Delia and the dogs then had a job of work, keeping the sheep out of harm’s way......

..........When she had come about halfway down the hill she lost footing and slid down six or eight feet before she got her heels dug in and found a handful of willow scrub to hang onto. A glimpse of this movement—rocks sliding to the bottom, or the dust she raised—must have startled the dog, for it leaped backward suddenly and then reared up. They looked at each other in silence, Delia and the dog, Delia standing leaning into the steep slope a dozen yards above the bottom of the draw, and the dog standing next to the Sputnik, standing all the way up on its hind legs like a bear or a man and no longer seeming to be a dog but a person with a long narrow muzzle and a narrow chest, turned-out knees, delicate dog-like feet. Its genitals were more cat-like than dog, a male set but very small and neat and contained. Dog’s eyes, though, dark and small and shining below an anxious brow........