Saturday, August 19, 2017

Saturday and Sundry Words and Things: guayabera, Klein bottle, & woke.

I've learned a few new, to me, words this week: guayabera, Klein bottle, and woke.

Guayabera : I came across this one at The Sartorialist, a daily stop on my wander through the streets and back alleys of the internet. It's a garment once, possibly still, favoured by males living in certain countries.
The origin of the garment is something of a mystery, thought to be the result of a mixture of Native American and Spanish styles, developed in the late 18th or early 19th centuries. Various claims for the distinctive style have been made, from Mexico to other Latin American countries to the Philippines.(Wiki.)

Klein bottle : this one appeared in a comment thread on a political website, context of its metaphorical use, in that instance, would be a little too involved to fully explain here, and in any case I'd probably get myself into political trouble. So, just the words. Wikipedia tell us that:
In mathematics, the Klein bottle is an example of a non-orientable surface; it is a two-dimensional manifold against which a system for determining a normal vector cannot be consistently defined. Informally, it is a one-sided surface which, if traveled upon, could be followed back to the point of origin while flipping the traveler upside down. Other related non-orientable objects include the Möbius strip and the real projective plane. Whereas a Möbius strip is a surface with boundary, a Klein bottle has no boundary (for comparison, a sphere is an orientable surface with no boundary). The Klein bottle was first described in 1882 by the German mathematician Felix Klein.

Picture a bottle with a hole in the bottom. Now extend the neck. Curve the neck back on itself, insert it through the side of the bottle without touching the surface (an act which is impossible in three-dimensional space), and extend the neck down inside the bottle until it joins the hole in the bottom. A true Klein bottle in four dimensions does not intersect itself where it crosses the side.

Unlike a drinking glass, this object has no “rim” where the surface stops abruptly. Unlike a balloon, a fly can go from the outside to the inside without passing through the surface (so there isn’t really an “outside” and “inside”).

More detail HERE.

Clear as mud? It was to me too. This little video might help.

Or, there's this (hat-tip HERE)

A German topologist named Klein
Thought the Mobius Loop was divine
Said he, "If you glue
The edges of two
You get a weird bottle like mine."

My own encounter with the Klein bottle was in a metaphorical sense, for which it has much fertile ground (without boundaries!)

It exemplifies the concept of a merging continuum or union of opposites. The Klein bottle embodies the type of paradox that could be incorporated into language to be able to speak into being a world that works for everyone—us and them, old and young, rich and poor, conservative and liberal, black, white, yellow, and brown—at the same time. For the world to work for all, I propose a linguistic structure based in the notion of both/and.

Woke : It's a word, of course, a common one; but it's being used nowadays as a concept.

A David Brooks' piece in the New York Times a few weeks back:
How Cool Works in America Today

Mr Brooks' article begins:
If you grew up in the 20th century, there’s a decent chance you wanted to be like Miles Davis, Billie Holiday, Humphrey Bogart, Albert Camus, Audrey Hepburn, James Dean or Jimi Hendrix. In their own ways, these people defined cool.

The cool person is stoical, emotionally controlled, never eager or needy, but instead mysterious, detached and self-possessed. The cool person is gracefully competent at something, but doesn’t need the world’s applause to know his worth. That’s because the cool person has found his or her own unique and authentic way of living with nonchalant intensity.

He later continues:
I started to look around to see if there might be another contemporary ethos that has replaced the cool ethos. You could say the hipster ethos you find in, say, Brooklyn qualifies. But that strikes me as less of a cultural movement and more of a consumer aesthetic.

A better candidate is the “woke” ethos. The modern concept of woke began, as far as anybody can tell, with a 2008 song by Erykah Badu.

He expands on "woke" individuals:
The woke mentality became prominent in 2012 and 2013 with the Trayvon Martin case and the rise of Black Lives Matter. Embrace it or not, B.L.M. is the most complete social movement in America today, as a communal, intellectual, moral and political force.

The woke mentality has since been embraced on the populist right, by the conservative “normals” who are disgusted with what they see as the thorough corruption of the Republican and Democratic establishments. See Kurt Schlichter’s Townhall essay “We Must Elect Senator Kid Rock” as an example of right-wing wokedness.

To be woke is to be radically aware and justifiably paranoid. It is to be cognizant of the rot pervading the power structures. The woke manner shares cool’s rebel posture, but it is the opposite of cool in certain respects. Cool was politically detached, but being a social activist is required for being woke. Cool was individualistic, but woke is nationalistic and collectivist. Cool was emotionally reserved; woke is angry, passionate and indignant. Cool was morally ambiguous; woke seeks to establish a clear marker for what is unacceptable.

Postscript: A couple of my own archived posts on the subject of old-fashioned "cool": HERE (2009) and part 2 is HERE; there are some comments too.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Arty Farty Friday ~ Tejal Patni's Photographs

In searching for something, or someone, not featured in Arty Farty posts in the past, I stumbled upon this piece:
Photographer Mixes High Fashion And Zodiac Signs In Stunning Calendar (Photos)
by Kaylin Pound at Elite News, in 2015. At left is a small image of his version of one zodiac sign - astro fans will easily guess which one it represents!

Photographer is Tejal Patni, Indian born in Mumbai [Bombay]. I haven't found any date of birth for him, but he appears to be a fairly young guy. There's little detail about him online at present, other than lots of his beautiful work. An interview at The Floating Magazine, by Payal Khandelwal provides some enlightenment, and some of his photographs. First paragraph :
Tejal was born and brought up in India and moved to Dubai in the 1980s. He graduated from Sir JJ School of Applied Arts in Mumbai, and later studied film making at the London Film Academy. Over the years, he has worked with some of the biggest fashion brands across the world including Harvey Nichols, Bloomingdale’s, Caprese, and magazines like GQ, Grazia, Harper’s Bazaar, etc. The annual calendar he creates for the Middle East’s premium fashion brand Splash has been highly instrumental in getting him a much deserved wider recognition. And that’s not surprising at all because his sharp instincts, his inspirations and his unique vision – all come together on the stage of Splash calendar every year to give a spellbinding performance.

The Splash calendar is featured in the first link above - the one relating to zodiac signs. Splash, by the way is (Wikipedia) India's largest fashion retailer[citation needed] and part of the Landmark Group,one of the biggest retail conglomerates in the Middle East and India.

Scrolling down the photographs in the first link above gives some idea of Patni's style - though I'm not convinced he had the best astrological advice about the signs, in some cases.

Do also take a look at some of Patni's other work - I enjoyed the zodiac-related photos, but prefer others :

I'll borrow a single example. This photograph comes from his 2017 Splash calendar. Personally I, with Sun in Aquarius, think something along these lines would have better represented Aquarius than the Aquarius photograph in the zodiac-related calendar linked at the top of the post.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Will He Do his "You're F...d" routine, or not? + UPDATE

Lawmakers Demand Donald Trump Fire Top Aides, Saying They Encourage White Supremacists

“Americans deserve to know that white nationalists, white supremacists, and neo-Nazis are not in a position to influence U.S. policy.” By Sam Levine.

It begins:
The heads of Congress’ black, Hispanic, Asian and progressive caucuses sent a letter to the White House on Monday demanding the dismissal of top aides Steve Bannon, Stephen Miller and Sebastian Gorka, saying their presence in the White House has emboldened white supremacists.

Here's a link to my post on Stephen Bannon, from November last year:

Stephen Bannon - Trump's Right-hand Man (for now)

As I wrote then, "The only hope I can imagine is that, after the new President get his "feet under the table", he will stop feeling the need for this guy's support, and prove it in an early "You're fired!" session. Wishful thinking though, that!"

Bannon's natal chart is in that post. Amazingly my post comes up on Google's first page. That was before their new algorithm started gnashing its teeth. I didn't have a birth time for Bannon, but at noon his Moon was at 28 Leo - a degree from the solar eclipse due on 21 August, and from Trump's Regulus and ascendant. It's unlikely that his Moon was really at exactly 28 Leo, but it could be within a degree or two of that. Significant? We shall see.

UPDATE Friday 18 August 2017 12.20pm

An early-working eclipse? One out of three ain't bad - now for those other two?

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Ghastly White

White supremacism:
"The doctrine that white people are superior to other peoples, and should therefore have greater power, authority, or status; advocacy or practice of such a doctrine." Dreadful events in Charlottesville, Virginia at the weekend caused me to look up the exact definition of that term. The second word is frequently watered down, somewhat, to "nationalism", in attempts to appear less contemptible.

White supremacism, as a movement, has been bubbling under for some time, here and in Britain and Europe. Memories of the horror of World War 2 (live ones) become fewer by the month as participants and onlookers die off. White supremacism is a close cousin of Nazism, which "subscribed to theories of racial hierarchy and Social Darwinism, identifying the Germans as a part of what the Nazis regarded as an Aryan or Nordic master race." (Wikipedia). Lack of living memories of World War 2 could be one strand, among multiple others, as to why this malicious "cult" has been able to press back into headlines.

I wondered what fellow-expats from Britain were thinking at this time, so had a quick look at the forum, and among a few comments much in line with my own thoughts I read, from one "Lion in Winter" commenting archly: This country can be deeply primitive. If that wasn't tongue in cheek, I have to wonder, only "this country"? How about his and my own native country?

List of British Far Right Groups since 1945:
Many of these parties stem from either the legacy of Sir Oswald Mosley's British Union of Fascists, or the political views held by either John Tyndall, Andrew Fountain, Eddy Morrison, Ian Anderson, Colin Jordan and A.K. Chesterton, along with those of their parties like the British National Party, National Front (United Kingdom), National Socialist Movement (1960s) and National Democrats (United Kingdom) over the last 40 years.
It was pointed out on some thread of comments, to which I regret I've lost the link that, back in the day, "white" was a label manufactured during Colonialism to separate the European ethnicities from the Native Americans, Africans and others. Before the New World, Europeans considered themselves separate races: Germans a separate race from French from Spanish from British from Dutch, etc. And, it should be kept in mind that Europeans (including British) are to blame that some civilizations have ceased to exist as entities. Another commenter in the same thread added that we are hardly "in a position to take the moral high ground because we had better guns".

Human nature, at root, is to blame. I'll resist, though, entering an astrological rabbit hole at this point.

reddit - a website I seldom frequent had this question:
What is the end goal of white supremacy? What happens in a society in which there are only white people left? Would they argue over which of them are whiter than the others?
One response was:
Yes, in an entirely "White" society eventually tensions develop based on other measures of "otherness". See British vs Irish vs Welsh, and Serbs vs Croats, or Spanish vs Castilians.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Music & Movie Monday ~ Ear-worm...Once There Was a Way to... SING

Searching for something nice to watch on Netflix - something to take away the nasty taste of Trump-flavoured "fire and fury"; and white supremacist malice, I hit on "Sing", an animated story featuring a singing contest. I'd seen a preview, during a cinema visit, some time ago and quite fancied the idea. I've been a fan of singing talent shows from long before the birth of Pop Idol in Britain (parent of American Idol et al). I suggested "Let's give this one a whirl - how bad can it be?"

We thoroughly enjoyed the movie!

Sing left me with an ear-worm - not an unpleasant one, but an insistent one. The film begins with a phrase from a Beatles song, from their now iconic Abbey Road album: Golden Slumbers.

 Nana Noodleman
The film ends with lines from the same song too, probably giving birth to my ear-worm.

Some good cover versions of well-loved pop-songs are scattered through the film, sung by cast members, some well-known, some less so. In the clip above, that's Jennifer Hudson singing, as Nana Noodleman; Jennifer herself is a product of American Idol - a rather nice tribute to the show which has had its share of sneers and brickbats over the years. Other well-knowns as singing characters include Reese Witherspoon, Scarlett Johansson and Seth MacFarlane (yeah we knew he could sing - I have his CD to prove it, but am still mysteriously blocked from his Twitter feed.)

A current acting fave of mine, Matthew McConaughey, has a leading, non-singing role as the talent show's presenter.

Back to my ear-worm. I guess that, by now, almost everyone knows that some Golden Slumbers lyrics in Paul McCartney's song were "borrowed" from a centuries old piece of poetry, "Cradle Song" by Thomas Dekker (1572 –1632). I recall Golden Slumbers being known as a lullaby back in my schooldays in England. The first time I heard the Beatles' version, I well remember exclaiming the equivalent of: "WTF Beatles! We sang that in school donkeys' years ago!" We sang it to this tune:

In several online forums members have chewed over the meaning of the Beatles' song, as patch-worked together by Paul McCartney. Theories range around the idea that Paul was grieving over loss of his mother and childhood family life, putting his grief to music; or regretting the upcoming inevitable break-up of the Beatles as a band, another kind of family; or even a general life to death ditty - carrying that weight; or a fit-all soliloquy on how one can never get back to...whatever.

Personally, I love the first bars of the song - the "Once there was a way to get back home(ward)" - I wish Paul had continued with his own words, not those of some long ago writer. And yet... you know... that thought brought forth a theory, a bit left-field perhaps: We've heard and read, often, that the 1960s and early 1970s brought us some of the best popular music ever, and this has been put down to the then ubiquitous use of mind-altering drugs such as LSD.
Well...say the influence of LSD, or similar drug, sends the mind out there, where the buses don't run, but (tin-foil hat time) where everything that has ever been heard on Earth still remains in the ethers. Consider that things heard, albeit unconsciously, during these "flights", out where the buses don't run, might return inadvertently, when the mind is back on all-fours, on Earth. The story goes that Paul read the lyrics of the lullaby Golden Slumbers from among his step-sister's piano music, even so, he didn't copy the music, he didn't know how to read music then. The music he created, to mix with the centuries-old words sounds kind of classical to me. It has been said, too that the music of Eleanor Rigby sounds akin to the Gregorian chant style. And how come famous symphony orchestras can make Beatles' songs sound like classical compositions? Because they have classical DNA collected out where buses don't run? Tin-foil hat country? Possibly, but I enjoy that thought.

I should really post Paul McCartney's original version of my ear-worm song, but I'm not a dyed-in -the-wool Beatles fan. I have, though, come to appreciate much of their music when performed and arranged by others. So, I'll wind up with a YouTube video I particularly enjoyed: a mix of two Beatles' songs, the second is my ear-worm number, sung by The Seattle Ladies Choir :

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Saturday and Sundry Visuals - Then & Now

He ventured to wonder if they ever thought back to when things were just old-fangled or not fangled at all as against the modern day when fangled had reached its apogee. Fangling was indeed, he thought, here to stay.

That was what technology was doing. It was your slave but, in a sense, it might be the other way round.

(Raising Steam by Terry Pratchett)


From Twitter:

Feudal Internet

From College (Caldwell Tanner & Julia Lepetit & Jacob Andrews) :

Nightmares...then and now

From Thinks Happen (one of husband's blogs)link in sidebar:

No pics, but a link to these revelations:
Lots of photographic comparisons of "cebebrities" we know and...well, something....

Most surprising were then and now comparisons of Ryan Seacrest and of Russell Brand. Have to say that Tom Cruise having his teeth done was one excellent decision! How about Simon Cowell's great hair! Some of the best looking guys, initially, have managed to age gracefully: Robert Wagner, Morgan Freeman, Burt Reynolds, Colin Firth. Women - at least those pictured here - not so much.

Closer to home - here's your friendly neighbourhood blogger, first in the early 1990s, before living in the USA was even part of a wildest nightmare; then in a London hotel, the summer of 2004, just after she'd received her first visa to come live in these "United" States; then just after receiving US citizenship in the summer of 2008; and last, a pic taken earlier this year. Well...I survived, the hair dye didn't!

Thursday, August 10, 2017

North Korea; Rex Tillerson, Secretary of State, & Astrology.

Angry words have been flying hither and thither on the North Korea issue. Should we worry? This from the BBC website yesterday is only vaguely reassuring, bearing in mind that a solar eclipse, mentioned in Tuesday's post, will occur on 21 August, and will, unusually, be visible across the USA, and has links to President Trump's natal chart.

North Korea-US tensions: How worried should you be?

For further reading (if any passing reader has the stomach for it) I'd recommend the posts dated 8th and 9th August, (Is the Korean war scare real? and Reviewing the Unthinkable) at a blog called Sic Semper Tyrannis, written by a retired military colonel:
Colonel W. Patrick Lang is a retired senior officer of U.S. Military Intelligence and U.S. Army Special Forces (The Green Berets). He served in the Department of Defense both as a serving officer and then as a member of the Defense Senior Executive Service for many years.

I'm re-posting, here, my February blog about Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson. He was briefly in the news this week, commenting on the North Korea situation. I decided to do a re-post after using Google search to find out if and where my February post had landed, after being mangled and spat out by that mysterious Google algorithm. I searched "Rex Tillerson, astrology". It didn't show up at all on first try, in the 14 or so pages, but when I clicked on the link available the end of the last page, it led to a fuller list including posts omitted as being "similar" to those listed; my old post then came up on page 2. Perhaps because my post received too few hits and no comments it didn't warrant initial inclusion - but how the heck are readers ever going to find the post if it's not there?

Anyway, this seems like a reasonable time to re-post it - here it is again:

A look at the natal chart of the USA's new Secretary of State: Rex Tillerson, noting a few pointers from online sources as to the kind of guy he is, as perceived by those who know him.

Two key factors routinely mentioned by commentators are Tillerson's long career in ExxonMobil - at retirement at the end of last year he was the company's CEO; and that, via his Exxon career, he has crafted close ties with Russia's President Putin. Neither factor is seen as being beneficial by many Democrats. He does consider that climate change is real - that's an improvement on the ideas of some of his colleagues in President Trump's cabinet. However, he qualifies his belief: “The increase in greenhouse gas in the atmosphere is having an effect. Our ability to predict that effect is very limited,” he answered to a question posed in his confirmation hearing.

What little I've gleaned about Secretary Tillerson's personality from a handful of articles online tells of a man who quietly projects power, discipline and control (NPR). Those who know Tillerson consistently describe a disciplined and effective communicator with an engineer’s logical approach to solving problems and the ethical compass of a Boy Scout. “What you see is what you get,” said John Stuart, a longtime Dallas banking executive who has known Tillerson for a decade. “He’s a straightforward, honest, honorable person.”

Tillerson is an Eagle Scout himself, and a longtime booster and national leader of the Boy Scouts organisation. He helped to engineer a recent change allowing gays to join the Boy Scouts.

From Dallas News:
More than 40 years after Rynd and Tillerson met, the memories that stand out for Rynd surrounding his former housemate revolve around one central concept: work. The Tejas Club was an old house that needed many repairs, and Tillerson would organize the projects, then complete them.

“He wasn’t just a delegator. This sounds corny, but he led by example. There was no project that was beneath him or too hard for him,” Rynd said. “He was busy -- if not busier than the rest of us. ... If it needed to be done, Rex signed up and got it done.”

Tillerson graduated in 1975 and weighed a higher-paying offer at a steel company. But in Exxon, he found a company whose highly regimented approach mirrored his own.

“It’s very demanding and competitive,” said Coll, the author. “It’s a very rule-driven institution. But it also requires something on the dealmaking side, a little bit of a sense of subtlety and resilience because most of these places where they work, these things don’t come easily.”

Tillerson worked for Exxon’s upstream division -- the rough-and-tumble business of exploring and developing new resources. His early days found him in East Texas, a time he later described as “sheer joy” in solving complex problems out on the oilfield.

He steadily rose through the ranks and by the 1990s, he landed career-defining assignments in places like Yemen and post-collapse Russia. theory that all sounds like good news! Does his natal chart reflect the above?

Born on 23 March 1952 in Wichita Falls, Texas. No time of birth known, chart is set for 12 noon.

Without knowing his time of birth only a sketchy outline is possible, Moon's exact position and rising sign cannot be established. First thing I noticed - no planets in Earth signs, I found that surprising. The unknown rising sign might provide an Earthy footing.

His lifetime career closely connected to oil is nicely represented by Saturn and Neptune close together, close enough to be termed conjunct, in Libra. Saturn links to career, Neptune links (among other things) to oil.

His natal Sun, Mercury and Jupiter are all in Aries, sign known as the initiator, with the Saturn/Neptune conjunction opposite, providing a balancing, steadying factor to any native Aries impulsiveness. Mercury conjunct Jupiter in Aries reflects the important part international travel (Jupiter) has always played in his career, and will continue to do so as Secretary of State.

I see that, in his natal chart, there are two challenging square aspects to Uranus, planet of the unexpected and eccentricity - in Secretary Tillerson's case this is no bad thing. We have quite enough eccentricity and unexpectedness emanating from President Trump - we need no more, and especially not from the Secretary of State! It's interesting, though, to note that transiting Uranus, at 21 Aries, is currently conjunct Tillerson's natal Mercury/Jupiter. Change is, indeed, visiting his life, both planet-wise and in reality!

At 12 noon on Secretary Tillerson's date of birth Moon was at 5 Pisces; for natal Moon to have been in Aquarius his time of birth would need to have been in the very early hours - not a lot later than 1 AM; it seems most likely that natal Moon was in early Pisces, reflecting a more gentle and imaginative inner-self than his dynamic Aries core-self.

Due to comments on his personality quoted above, I'd bet on a solid Earthy rising sign (Capricorn, Virgo or Taurus), alternatively Saturn in Libra sitting on the ascendant with Neptune close by.

Wednesday, August 09, 2017

Facing F-Book

"The inexorable growth of Google, Facebook, and Amazon has raised fears these giants are becoming too powerful. Here's everything you need to know":


The piece is reasonably brief yet informative on issues which are only recently starting to be addressed.

With reference to just one of the three entities discussed in the piece linked above, Facebook, and its burgeoning power, this problem has more, and even more dangerous, tentacles than simply making outside competition difficult or impossible. Below is a single paragraph from another piece, long but well worth the time:
You Are the Product by John Lanchester at London Review of Books.
(My highlighting)
....What this means is that even more than it is in the advertising business, Facebook is in the surveillance business. Facebook, in fact, is the biggest surveillance-based enterprise in the history of mankind. It knows far, far more about you than the most intrusive government has ever known about its citizens. It’s amazing that people haven’t really understood this about the company. I’ve spent time thinking about Facebook, and the thing I keep coming back to is that its users don’t realise what it is the company does. What Facebook does is watch you, and then use what it knows about you and your behaviour to sell ads. I’m not sure there has ever been a more complete disconnect between what a company says it does – ‘connect’, ‘build communities’ – and the commercial reality. Note that the company’s knowledge about its users isn’t used merely to target ads but to shape the flow of news to them. Since there is so much content posted on the site, the algorithms used to filter and direct that content are the thing that determines what you see: people think their news feed is largely to do with their friends and interests, and it sort of is, with the crucial proviso that it is their friends and interests as mediated by the commercial interests of Facebook. Your eyes are directed towards the place where they are most valuable for Facebook.
That highlighted phrase is, or should be, chilling. It doesn't take much imagination to understand what could be possible, stemming from it, at some time in the near future. It's also not too comforting to read that Facebook's creator, Mark Zuckerberg has further aspirations - of becoming US President, there's some evidence that he is considering becoming a candidate in 2020's presidential campaign.

Tuesday, August 08, 2017

Temporary Darkness

There was a lunar eclipse yesterday, at around 15 Aquarius. A more interesting eclipse, solar, will occur on 21 August, at around 29 Leo, and will be visible across the USA - something that doesn't often happen. What makes the 21 August eclipse interesting is that it "hits" the position of Regulus, the "Royal Star" on President Donald Trump's Leo ascendant. Astrologers are quite clear that they are expecting...well...something; if not immediately then within coming months; some say perhaps as long as a couple of years hence. That latter prediction seems a bit of a cop out though. Anyone, without benefit of astrology, could confidently foresee that something of importance affecting President Trump will happen between now and mid-2019. Heck, the way things have been trending, something happens affecting the Prez in each 24-hour period! He himself sees to that!

This piece is a good read, it's by by Max Kuttner (not an astrologer, but he quotes several):

The Solar Eclipse Could Mean Disaster for Trump, According to Astrologers

I'm not generally a fan of astrological predictions based on eclipses, they seldom bear as much fruit as expected. I suspect astrologers try to be too precise - looking for trees instead of forest, but even so, I'll be watching to discover if this particular eclipse, on 21st, with its specific features seeming to relate to the USA, and to President Trump, provides some kind of evidence - maybe it'll change my mind! We're already plodding through a pretty deep forest, politics-wise, perhaps once the eclipse has passed lighter days will emerge. Oh dear - was that my inner Pollyanna peeping out? Maybe so. There's a poem titled "Eclipse" by Azubuogu chinwendu chukwudi (HERE), and it begins with a similar thought:
The eclipse does not become endless night
The reappearance of light is the same as the survival of soul
The eclipse
Such indeed a character of the historic hour through which
the world was passing

Monday, August 07, 2017

Music Monday ~ Nimrod : Word, Music, Why We Cry

Nimrod, the classical piece, part of Elgar's Enigma Variations, used in countless movies, most recently in the final scenes of Christopher Nolan's Dunkirk, raising lumps in many throats. The piece is also played every year on Remembrance Sunday at the London Cenotaph, and is often heard during funeral services.

Who or what is, or was, Nimrod?

Once upon an Old Testament Time Nimrod was a mighty hunter, leader, founder of the city and tower of Babel and, rebel "against the Lord". He was son of Cush; grandson of Ham, and great-grandson of Noah. There's a good read about him, written by Shaul Wolf in a lighthearted style: The Life and Times of Nimrod the Biblical Hunter. I've mentioned Nimrod myself in an archived post about Sir Edward Elgar HERE.

In more recent times the name Nimrod has been given to ships and a fighter plane; but has also, overtime
gathered moss and become somewhat less "mighty". In modern American English the term nimrod has come to be used to describe a dimwit or stupid person, thanks in great part to cartoon character Bugs Bunny. Bugs ironically refers to hunter Elmer Fudd as "nimrod", as being an incompetent hunter (I guess!) Personally I have never heard the term used in this way exactly....except, perhaps, that a very dear one of mine, now long gone, did occasionally, and I should add affectionately, call me "Nimrod" as a nickname. I was unaware, at the time, of the name's origins and - I'm guessing - so was he!

Back to Nimrod the music. It's a piece that evokes emotion, not only because of the circumstances of its use, but due to something within the form of the music itself. I found partial explanation on the internet via "Guardian Answers". I hope I'm not overstepping fair use regarding copyright rules by including here two answers, from newspaper readers, to the question: Why do some tunes, like Nimrod from Elgar's Enigma Variations, make you want to cry?

SOME music arouses sad or happy emotions because of past events that we associate with it (the 'Listen, darling, they're playing our tune' syndrome) but this doesn't account for the fact that some tunes seem to have the power to affect different individuals' emotions in an apparently similar way, even when the people concerned have no shared history of experience to account for this reaction. Music scholars and philosophers have long disputed whether or not music actually 'means' anything, and if so, what. The late Deryck Cooke comes closest, in my view, to explaining this contentious area of musical aesthetics. In his book, The Language of Music (OUP, 1959), Cooke suggests that all composers of tonal music from the Middle Ages to the mid-20th century have used the same 'language' of melodic phrases, harmonies and rhythms to evoke the same emotions in the listener. If true, this could account for the fact that Nimrod seems to communicate the same feeling of melancholy to different people. This is a hideous oversimplification of Cooke's complex theory. He argues that it should be possible to compile a dictionary of musical idioms and their corresponding 'meanings' to identify which sequences of notes convey joy, grief, innocence, erotic love, etc. (Linda Barlow, Reading, Berks.)

IT IS a very rare tune which would cause a listener to want to cry. But a harmonised piece of music can very easily do so. Music often depends for its interest on creating and resolving tension. Tension is given to a passage by, for instance, moving away from the key in which the piece started. When the 'home' key is returned to it comes with a feeling of resolution. The classical sonata form is basically an exercise in waiting for the return of the tonic key. Composers started to use devices such as a long dominant pedal (signalling that we are about to return to the home key) and then delaying the final resolution longer than expected, giving added weight to the home key when it is finally reached.

Another way of creating and resolving tension is through dissonance. Two or more notes that do not sound pleasant together are changed for some that do. The more dissonant the interval, the more it can make you physically tense up (I find my neck and shoulders tightening). And probably the simplest trick of all is like a rhetorical device much loved by Hitler - start quietly and get louder. If you're really out to milk the emotions you are more subtle and reach the loudest point about nine-tenths of the way through and subside back to peacefulness.

Nimrod uses all of these tricks. The theme itself is harmonised using dissonances (some of which resolve into further dissonance, heightening the effect); it starts quietly and gradually builds up; just before the final statement of the theme there is a long roll on a timp while the brass extend the feeling of 'here we go back to the tonic key' by waffling in the dominant, and after the loudest bit of all it recedes to a quiet conclusion. Music can also make you cry if it is crap.
(P S Lucas, Birmingham 18.)
And's the version of Nimrod used in the movie Dunkirk, now doing the rounds, and which I blogged about last week HERE. The movie's full original score was composed by Hans Zimmer, who arranged Elgar's iconic piece to fit in seamlessly for the final scenes.

Friday, August 04, 2017

Arte Farte Friday, Saturday & Sundry Evidence that Commedia dell'arte Lives on in the White House!

Searching for an artist to feature for Arty Farty Friday, I noticed among early August birthdays the name of Douglas Lionel Mays. Not a household name by any means, but I decided to take a look. He was a British illustrator with a goodly collection of book covers, magazine covers and vacation posters to his name. One of the latter, showed a Punch and Judy puppet show on a British beach, and took me down one of those pesky, winding, internet roads.

 Hat-tip HERE

I don't know how well Punch and Judy shows are known in the USA, but this particular style of mobile puppet show has been part of British, and particularly English, tradition since at least the 17th century. Samuel Pepys, we are told, noted seeing such a show in Covent Garden, London, performed by the puppet showman Pietro Gimonde from Bologna, Italy. Punch and Judy, for centuries a British favourite, isn't British in origin, but Italian. The show's characters' earliest ancestors derive from commedia dell' arte, as does another British tradition: pantomime.

For anyone unfamiliar with Punch and Judy, do take a look at a couple of brief videos from THIS website.

The photograph below was taken in 2004, by my husband during the year or so he stayed with me in England, at my home on the East Yorkshire coast. We regularly walked several miles along the cliff tops outside of town. One one summer afternoon we came upon a Punch and Judy show.

Back to Punch's ancestral line: Commedia dell' arte - humorous theatrical presentations performed by professional actors who travelled in troupes throughout Italy in the 16th century, possibly even before that, for I suspected some more ancient tradition is embedded in the concept. Encyclopedia Britannica does tell of Fabula Atellana, the earliest native Italian farce, presumably rustic improvisational comedy featuring masked stock characters, known to have existed during 1st century BC.

Performances of commedia dell'arte took place on temporary stages, mostly on city streets, but occasionally even in royal court venues. Music, dance, witty dialogue, and all kinds of trickery contributed to the comic effects. Subsequently the art form spread throughout Europe, with many of its elements persisting into present-day theatre.

If any passing reader saw and can recall a movie from the 1950s, Kiss Me Kate (a version of Shakespeare's Taming of the Shrew), the group of travelling players depicted within that plot was part of commedia dell' arte.

A troupe of strolling players are we,
Not stars like L.B. Mayer's are we,
But just a simple band
Who roams about the land
Dispensing fol-de-rol frivolity.
Mere folk who give distraction are we,
No Theater Guild attraction are we,
But just a crazy group
That never ceases to troop
Around the map of little Italy.

We open in Venice,
We next play Verona,
Then on to Cremona.
Lotsa laughs in Cremona.
Our next jump is Parma,
That dopey, mopey menace,
Then Mantua, then Padua,
Then we open again, where?

How does any of that relate to Punch and Judy? Well, Punch is a character based on one of the stock characters of commedia dell' arte. Originally the name was Pulcinella, which over time became anglicised to Punch. Commedia dell' arte's stock-in-trade was a package of archetypal groups and characters, for instance: The Servants (zani), The Masters (vecchi), The Lovers (innamorati). Within those groups were individual stereotypical figures such as
Snipped from HERE
The Doctor (il Dottore, Graziano): No, (probably) not that Doctor. Often an Absent-Minded Professor type; often the father of one of the innamorati. ....A parody of the Bolognese laureate intellectual (Bologna has one of the world's oldest universities). .....
Pantalone: Often the father of the other innamorato/a. Rich and miserly.... the Dirty Old Man. Sometimes an Unsympathetic Comedy Protagonist. Based primarily on the stereotype of the rich Venetian merchant. Has a peculiar, shuffling walk, because he's always wearing Turkish sandals.
The Captain (il Capitano): Blowhard, thinks he's God's gift to women, will turn out to have Feet of Clay. Often serves as the Romantic False Lead. If the innamorato's biggest rival for the innamorata's hand isn't his own father, it's this guy. Typically a disliked foreigner, often from Spain (as Spain, the superpower of the time, held political sway over Italy). Usually has an Overly Long Name (very common in Spanish nobility). A variant is Scaramuccia.

Erm...did anyone catch that reference to Scaramuccia? Thought so! We've been there, done that though, last week. He's been and gone has our Scaramuccia!

Moving on...a piece, by Scott Parker HERE, weaves in another character we know, and do not love:

A Real Life Capitano
The spirit of Commedia is embedded in the way we critique and question society and now more than ever we need this in our contemporary theatre, film and comedy. Let me be clear, Commedia is not a protest form, it doesn’t demand, but in a grotesque way it holds the mirror up to life. Commedia stock characters persist continue to give us this reflection of real life. As far as stock characters go history repeats on an endless cycle. Today we see a Zanni in the office worker walking around our CBD. Politicians in Canberra are as bombastic as a Dottore. Pantalone emerges from Gina Rinehart and Donald Trump gives us a real life Capitano.
Trump is a boaster and braggart. He’s never wrong except when he’s wrong and then he pretends it never happened. He plasters his name on everything, tells outlandish stories that are so excessive they’re stupid. He obtains his power by worming his way into positions of influence. He likes to believe his power gives him free access to women, but they will always get the better of him. He feigns bravery and blusteringly threatens those who oppose him, but really he is a notorious coward.
I, of course, am giving you a stock character breakdown of Il Capitano, the imposter from Commedia dell’Arte but for all purposes here I describe The Donald himself. Here Commedia plays out again on a global scale.

That winding road I wandered onto at the top of the blog took me from a 20th century British illustrator's work, to a 21st century, real-life American Capitano, via English beaches and Italian theatres...quite a scenic and interesting trip!

Wednesday, August 02, 2017

Enter John F. Kelly, White House Chief of Staff

A quick look at the natal chart of President Donald Trump's new Chief of Staff, John F. Kelly, a retired 4-star General in the US Marine Corps, and had previously served as United States Secretary of Homeland Security.

The new Chief of Staff faces a somewhat shambolic White House, after a string of firings or resignations of prominent figures. The former General's new boss, whose other title is Commander in Chief, has not always portrayed his own best side (if he does, in fact, have a best side). President Trump does appear to respect Generals though, so perhaps that offers a gleam of hope for calmer days ahead.

I know nothing of Secretary Kelly's reputation, or his personality, save what little I've read about him, and what might be revealed by his natal chart. Adjectives I've encountered in descriptions of the retired General include "firm but benevolent", and "solid". His natal chart does indicate those attributes. Sun and Mercury in steadfast, stoic but stubborn Taurus, with Mars (planet of energy and aggression) in harmonious trine to his natal Sun, from meticulous, critical Virgo; Saturn, planet of discipline and framework is also in Virgo. I think Kelly definitely has the skill set needed for the tricky job he has been handed.

Without a time of birth Moon's position can't be pinpointed exactly. At noon Moon was at 21 Pisces - if J.F. Kelly were born very, very late in the day I guess Moon could have been close to the Pisces/Aries cusp; otherwise it would have been somewhere in mid-Pisces. Jupiter, anyway, is in early Pisces (conjunct my own natal Jupiter as it happens - but that signifies nothing at all). If Kelly's Moon were to be natally in Pisces, along with Jupiter, that would signify a softer more emotional or philosophical side to his nature, as contrast to his practical, no-nonsense Earthy side from Sun, Mercury and Mars. His natal Venus in Aries adds a touch of astrological Fire to the mix. I'd say this dose of Aries underlines, in a slightly different tone, due to Aries' naturally straightforward attitudes, Kelly's no-nonsense, no "ass-licking", potentially blunt, but potentially fair approach indicated by Taurus/Virgo. At least, that's what most lookers-on will be hoping for!

Kelly's rising sign remains unknown without a time of birth. Guessing, in this case isn't easy, but considering the greater part of his adult life has been spent in the military, perhaps Mars close to the ascendant - which would give Virgo rising. Not willing to bet on that!

President Trump and his Chief of Staff are in no way alike - that's needless to say, for even without benefit of astrology it has to be obvious. It'll take all the former General's skills and tactics, honed in war, to bring order out of 2017's White House chaos, without risking being one of the next group of those being shown the door.