Tuesday, January 22, 2019

No Walls - Heresy or Freedom of Thought?

An astrolger, years ago, name escapes me, once pointed out that "there are no walls in space". We can't argue with that, though I wouldn't argue against Donald Trump demanding one be built at some future point in time! Graham Greene once said, or wrote, "Heresy is another word for freedom of thought." I'm about to commit the heresy of freedom of thought - on one facet of astrology.

Traditional astrology does build theoretical walls in space - both types of astrology are guilty of this. Sidereal astrology, based on the constellations, widely used in India and the East; and tropical astrology, based on the seasons - the system with which we in the west are familiar. In astrologese these theoretical walls are known as 'cusps' - the divisions between the 12 zodiac signs, Aries to Pisces.

When comparing tropical and sidereal versions of a natal chart, I've found that often both can provide a reasonably accurate interpretation, yet there are around 23 degrees difference between the two zodiac systems.

What if, in both versions of the zodiac, the division into 12 signs, passed to us by ancient astrologers is just too detailed and precise to fit real-life, living breathing mortals in the 21st century? Astrologers tend to look on the system handed down to them in much the same way as Americans look on the Constitution : sacred. Perhaps, after the passing of centuries, both could benefit from some updating and adjustment? Ain't gonna happen, of course, in either case, but it's interesting to surmise.

All widely used astrological systems are based on 12 traditional sign divisions: Aries through Pisces, apart from Uranian astrology and Harmonics, both of which ignore signs completely and concentrate only on planets. I've found that there's proof enough that zodiac signs have value, but I do get the feeling that there is much more "wiggle room" between them than is, traditionally, assumed. Most astrologers, even my favourite astrologers, have declared that the cusps are definite borderlines; one is born on one side of these, or on t'other - no wiggle room allowed, no 'bleeding over' of characteristics, no blending.

I've always thought that astrology has to be based upon natural phenomena, but phenomena as yet not understood. People who look on astrology as a mathematical phenomenon, or in the realm of the spiritual or metaphysical, or those who adhere firmly to the system of the ancients, would not find my view tolerable, this I understand and respect. We don't know any answers about astrological methods for sure - we just don't! If some astrologers were to accept that much and remain a tad more open-minded, it would be helpful.

A "blending in" phase between each cusp would result in a more complex system for sure, but one which would follow the rules of nature more nearly. Nature doesn't move, abruptly, from one situation or stage to another, it does so gradually. Even in the case of what seem to us to be abrupt events: earthquakes, hurricanes and such, the causal factors have gradually built up over a period of time, sometimes centuries, sometimes days, but never instantly, as in on/off.

Using a zodiac of 12 signs, any blending-in phase couldn't account for the 23 degrees of difference between tropical and sidereal systems. While keeping in mind that any theoretical walls in space could have some slight degree of flexibility, I've often thought that natal positions of Mercury and Venus ought to be given more prominence in basic astrological interpretation, and not just labelled as "communication style ", and regarding "art and love".

Sun/Moon/ascendant positions are seen by many as the key trio. While not arguing about that trio's importance, I'd add Mercury and Venus. Mercury can never be more than the space of one sign from the Sun's position; Venus never more than the breadth of 2 signs. These two factors very often bring into a personality 'flavours' of signs adjacent to the Sun sign in a natal chart. It's possible that this might account for the fact that, sometimes, both sidereal and tropical astrology can seem to fit a personality - even discounting the ticklish question of cusps and blending-in periods.

I'm in a picky, prickly mood today, one of those moods when, though my belief that there is validity in some parts of astrology still holds, I do not believe everything the text books and teachers propose as being inarguable. Heresy? Dunno - but I don't "expect the Spanish Inquisition". :)

Monday, January 21, 2019

Music Monday ~ Champions

For the next few weeks an America's Got Talent spin-off (or sequel) of the original show - with the words "The Champions" added to the title, will be airing. Each week, past winners or runners-up of AGT proper, along with winners from "......Got Talent" in other countries (for example, Spain, Russia) will compete to discover who is "Champion of Champions". Voting isn't being done by viewers this time, but by panels of "super-fans" in each of the USA's 50 states - a similar system, I guess, to the voting system of the dreaded, and occasionally hilarious, annual Eurovison Song Contest.

I've always been a fan of talent shows, mainly singing shows, but we've also watched AGT fairly regularly through the years. A few singers or musicians are always included in these shows. My husband has tagged along, watched beside me stuff he never would've watched before we met. I have to say, though, my fandom has been wearing very thin in relation to The Voice recently - so much so that this year we didn't even watch the finale. It remains to be seen whether American Idol will meet with the same fate when it returns later this year.

Anyway - back to AGT the Champions.

Last week a singer new to America, Cristina Ramos, appeared; she was winner of Spain's Got Talent. She sang a great version of "Bohemian Rhapsody", and was one of two contestants voted through to the final.

In the previous week's show we saw, again, Susan Boyle. It has been some 9 years since Susan Boyle first came to the notice of people on this side of the Atlantic - and of most on t'other side too. America's Got Talent, in 2009, was her vehicle, her vocal talent was the power driving her. In The Champions episode she was awarded a "Golden Buzzer" by Mel B, one of the judges, for her rendition of "Wild Horses", so will automatically proceed to the final.

Here it is. If you'd prefer to miss the intros, skip to around the 2 minute spot.

I'd recommend also listening to her album version of the song, linked at the first link below, from 2009.


My first ever post about Susan is at:

A later one is here:

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Saturday & Sundry Thoughts ~Would-be Presidential Ladies: Tulsi Gabbard, Elizabeth Warren & Kirsten Gillibrand

It's early days to be blogging about the USA's presidential election in November 2020, nevertheless I've been interested to read recently of three potential candidates from the Democrats - three ladies who appear to be preparing to throw their hats into the ring, hoping to be part of what's likely to be a crowded platform of candidates. These are: Tulsi Gabbard, who supported my guy, Bernie Sanders strongly in 2016; Elizabeth Warren, who should've supported Bernie in 2016 but didn't; and Kirsten Gillibrand who is an unknown quantity to me, so far. I shall take a quick look at the natal charts of the three ladies, not to interpret their personalities, but to decide, from coming planetary transits, which of them is most likely to experience massive change in the next couple of years.

I suspect that the time is ripe, now, for a female president - perhaps one of these ladies?

Transits of the outer planets, Uranus, Neptune and Pluto, along with Jupiter and Saturn are those I'm looking at in relation to these charts. If any of these planets will be making close contact or aspect to natal planets of one of these ladies, then she'll be the one to watch.

These charts are all set for 12 noon, as no birth times are available, so house positions, rising signs and exact Moon positions will not be accurate as shown.

Between now and early November 2020
Uranus will traverse the last few degrees of Aries and up to 8 degrees of Taurus
Neptune: between 14 and 20 degrees of Pisces
Pluto: between 20 and 24 degrees of Capricorn
Saturn: between 11 and 27 Capricorn
Jupiter: between 11 Sagittarius and 22 Capricorn

Tulsi Gabbard, U.S. Representative for Hawaii's 2nd congressional district since 2013.

Elizabeth Warren, academic and senior United States Senator, Massachusetts, since 2013.

Kirsten Gillibrand, attorney and politician, junior United States Senator from New York since January 2009


No doubt at all in my mind - Elizabeth Warren has the best chance of major change happening after November 2020. Look to her natal Jupiter at 0 Aquarius. Saturn, planet which most signifies profession, public position, law, will be exactly conjunct her natal Jupiter by mid-December 2020, just after the election, and will be close enough, on the date of the election, to be considered conjunct. That signifies, at the very least, some big change in her professional public life; if not the presidency, then at least a move to a more significant position in government.

Time isn't yet ripe for Tulsi Gabbard or Kirsten Gillibrand. Ms Gabbard is probably too left-wing, at this time, for main-stream Democrats, and media characters under control of "big money" (all of 'em), who will put her down in any way they can, or alternatively ignore her completely between now and 2020, as they did in respect of Bernie Sanders candidacy in 2015/16. Main stream Democrats will wish to keep their ties to big money sources, and those sources will look on any truly leftist positions, as set out by Bernie Sanders and his followers, including Ms Gabbard, as an anathema to be opposed at every opportunity.

Elizabeth Warren is definitely the most likely of this trio to do well in the election - if she does choose to run, and that is due to much more than her astrology. She did not support Bernie Sanders in 2016, she supported Hillary Clinton - for which I do not forgive her, but that is a fact main-stream Democrats will have noted. Senator Warren knows the way to the presidency much better than I do, of course - or for that matter, better even than Bernie, whose main aims, always, has been to try to improve things for "we the people" in any way he can.

As weeks and months pass, we'll be seeing more presidential hopefuls throwing their hats into the ring - on both sides. I'll repeat this exercise later on, with a different cast of characters.

Friday, January 18, 2019

Arty Farty Friday ~ Bits & Pieces

Book Lover Arranges Her Huge Library of Novels Into Imaginative Scenes

piece by Emma Taggart, arty fartiness by Elizabeth Sagan.
All book lovers will know that a great story can spark your imagination and transport you to another world. However, rather than keep each fictional story in the confines of their pages, self-described “bookstagrammer” Elizabeth Sagan pays homage to her love of literature by arranging her huge collection into imaginative book art displays.

Question at Quora some months ago:
Norman Rockwell had paintings about the First Amendment. Is there any artwork about the Second?

A reminder of Norman Rockwell's painting "Freedom of Speech"

And this was Frank Langben's jocular answer to the question:

Your pictures on the theme of 'inspiration'

"Each week, we publish a gallery of readers' pictures on a set theme."

A couple of my own, silly, captions for artwork by Modigliani and Mucha respectively:

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Midweek Meander Around the Issue of 'Othering'.

I experienced some synchronicity a few days ago. Synchronicity was once explained by Carl Jung as being “meaningful coincidence”. A Quora friend had recommended to a questioner a very good piece by John Powell, from The Guardian:

Us vs them: the sinister techniques of ‘Othering’ – and how to avoid them.

I decided to read the piece. 'Othering' wasn't part of my everyday vocabulary. Snips from the piece will follow in a mo. Synchronicity occurred that same day when, towards the end of a slow trek, evening by evening, through a streamed sci-fi series (Amazon Prime), Electric Dreams, based on short stories by Philip K. Dick, we reached an episode titled "Kill All Others". There's a review of the episode HERE.

My nutshell synopsis: Philbert Noyce is a quality-control factory worker of the future, one of three in a vast factory powered by robots which needs just 3 humans when it once needed 3,000. Noyce is a decent guy, dislikes the hate speech being offered up by the single presidential candidate on offer - it appears there is in place a one-party political system. What we, in 2019 might consider to be hate speech is always capped by a catch phrase, also used frequently on billboards :
"Kill All Others".
'Others' were anyone who dared not to toe the line in respect of government edicts and approved opinions. No critical thinking allowed!

That experience of synchronicity persuaded me to start scribbling! Following are snips from the aforementioned piece, plus one other article available on line. These helped to clarify, for myself, various aspects of 'othering'. Perhaps any stray passer-by might find them of interest too.

From John Powell's piece, linked above:
Humans can only process a limited amount of change in a short period of time without experiencing anxiety. It’s a natural human reaction – but how we respond to that anxiety is social. When societies experience big and rapid change, a frequent response is for people to narrowly define who qualifies as a full member of society – a process I call “Othering”. An alternative response is seeing the change in demographics as positive, and regarding the apparent other as enhancing our life and who we are. This is what I refer to as “belonging and bridging”.

Othering is not about liking or disliking someone. It is based on the conscious or unconscious assumption that a certain identified group poses a threat to the favoured group. It is largely driven by politicians and the media, as opposed to personal contact. Overwhelmingly, people don’t “know” those that they are Othering.

So while today’s global anxiety has been precipitated by globalisation, technology and a changing economy, demographics play a crucial role in the process of Othering. The attributes of who gets defined as Other differ from place to place, and can be based upon race, religion, nationality or language. It is not these attributes themselves that are the problem, of course, but how they are made salient, and how they are manipulated.

I am therefore particularly concerned with how Othering shows up in today’s power structures: how it is used to divide and dehumanise groups, and capture and reshape government and institutions. For society’s leaders and culture play an oversized role in helping us make sense of change – and so greatly affect our responses to anxiety...........

People don’t just figure out on their own that collectively they need to be afraid of another group. Leadership plays a critical role. Often people who have been living with one another for years are made to feel suddenly that those differences have become threatening..

So how do we respond to our collective anxiety today? Either we “bridge”, reaching across to other groups and towards our inherent, shared humanity and connection, while recognising that we have differences; or we “break”, pulling away from other groups and making it easier to tell and believe false stories of “us vs them”, then supporting practices that dehumanise the “them”......

If we are to combat the rising tide of extremism across the globe, we must actively create bridges across difference, and resist strategic exploitation of our collective anxiety. For when we bridge, we not only open up to others, we also open up to change in ourselves – and actively participate in co-creating a society to which we can all belong.

The opposite of Othering is not “saming”, it is belonging. And belonging does not insist that we are all the same. It means we recognise and celebrate our differences, in a society where “we the people” includes all the people.

From: Otherness 101 - What is Othering?

This psychological tactic may have had its uses in our tribal past. Group cohesion was crucially important in the early days of human civilisation, and required strong demarcation between our allies and our enemies. To thrive, we needed to be part of a close-knit tribe who’d look out for us, in exchange for knowing that we’d help to look out for them in kind. People in your tribe, who live in the same community as you, are more likely to be closely related to you and consequently share your genes. As a result, there’s a powerful evolutionary drive to identify in some way with a tribe of people who are “like you”, and to feel a stronger connection and allegiance to them than to anyone else. Today, this tribe might not be a local and insular community you grew up with, but can be, for instance, fellow supporters of a sports team or political party.

But there’s no doubt that grouping people into certain stereotyped classes, who we then treat differently based on the classes we’ve sorted them into, is a deeply rooted aspect of human nature. Intergroup bias is a well established psychological trait.

Poem by ― Kamand Kojouri (Goodreads)

“They want us to be afraid.
They want us to be afraid of leaving our homes.
They want us to barricade our doors
and hide our children.
Their aim is to make us fear life itself!
They want us to hate.
They want us to hate 'the other'.
They want us to practice aggression
and perfect antagonism.
Their aim is to divide us all!
They want us to be inhuman.
They want us to throw out our kindness.
They want us to bury our love
and burn our hope.
Their aim is to take all our light!
They think their bricked walls
will separate us.
They think their damned bombs
will defeat us.
They are so ignorant they don’t understand
that my soul and your soul are old friends.

They are so ignorant they don’t understand
that when they cut you I bleed.
They are so ignorant they don’t understand
that we will never be afraid,
we will never hate
and we will never be silent
for life is ours!”

― Kamand Kojouri (Goodreads)

I've highlighted two lines which I find particularly striking. We are, all of us as Carl Sagan wrote, made from stardust. We humans came from the self-same ancient batch of that stardust. Once we, as atoms and particles, nestled together on the shores of the universe. It is sad that we no longer choose to remember that, but strive constantly to divide ourselves, one from another.

Monday, January 14, 2019

Music Monday ~ Three Musical Birthdays

I notice that three singers whose voices I'm always glad to hear were born this day, 14 January: Billie Jo Spears, Jack Jones, and Allen Toussaint. They are all of my own generation, born in either 1937 or 1938. Ms Spears died in 2011 and Mr Toussaint in 2015. As far as I know, Jack Jones is still oing strong. I was born in 1939 - amazingly I am still here too, albeit creaking a little around the joints.

A favourite track from each:

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Saturday & Sundry Memories: Mysteries in S.W. USA.

Mention of UFO sightings in a bunch of predictions by a "time traveller", featured in my post dated 2 January 2019 set my mind back almost five years, to a post I wrote in February 2014. I enjoyed re-reading that post myself (inner narcissist coming out) so shall re-air it, lightly edited, for the weekend.

Back in 2014, we had recently watched an "indie" movie on DVD: The Wicksboro Incident. It's one of the genre often labelled "found footage", in documentary style though purely fictional. The film's theme: Wicksboro, a fictional small town in far south-western Texas, disappeared with its inhabitants sometime in the early 1950s. One survivor emerges from hiding decades later to tell his story to two amateur film-makers. His story involves ... aliens. 'Nuf said. A passing reader who stumbles across this blog at some future point might wish to see the movie, I will not spoil it by expanding further on the plot. The film, around 70 minutes long, starts slowly but builds. There's lots of shaky camera work, dark, almost blank screens with voices only, to reassure us that the DVD hasn't stuck in its groove (or whatever).

That film underlined, for me, how an area of south-western United States, New Mexico, part of southern Colorado, and south-western Texas seem to have developed mysterious connections to strange happenings, modern legends, the weird and the would-be wonderful. On our trips, over the years around these areas, we've visited a few locations of mysterious reputation. Roswell, New Mexico always comes to mind first.

We first visited Roswell, New Mexico in 2006, the UFO Museum and Research Center was then situated in the main street, in what appeared to be an old movie theater. A new center for the museum was under construction further down the road.

We read many of the numerous exhibits: newspaper articles, sworn affidavits and other printed material displayed around the walls. The main part of the museum deals, unsurprisingly, with the reported UFO crash near Roswell in 1947. There are, among many other things, reports and signed statements from witnesses who saw evidence of the crash and collected wreckage. Evidence of a request for "child size coffins". In several of the statements, witnesses reported seeing purple colored symbols, hieroglyphic-like, on a strip among the wreckage. There's a statement by a woman medical officer, detailed to take notes at an autopsy of bodies following the crash. She was later sent to England, and subsequently is said to have disappeared - or has not been heard from again.

Who can say how genuine any of the material is, after 60 years have passed? And yet, why would ordinary, everyday people have fabricated such a story, back in 1947 on a summer evening just before midnight, without reason? In those days there were few, if any TV programmes about extra-terrestrial phenomena to ignite the imagination. There were few sci-fi movies. What else but "a happening" could have sparked reports of such a bizarre occurrence as this? We discussed our feelings about the whole Roswell story later, after our museum visit, came to the conclusion that "something" did happen on that night in 1947. The "something" was covered up by lies from those in authority at the time. Lies from government downward are not unknown, even in current history, which fact inclined us to believe at least some of the stories told by witnesses.

On a 2005 trip to see Anasazi cave dwellings at Mesa Verde, Colorado we happened across a UFO Watchtower in the San Luis Valley, near Hooper. The site was run by a friendly lady who told us tales of strange sightings she and others had experienced. She also told us that some Native American tribes believe that their ancestors came from "the stars".

On a later trip, 2011, celebrating our 7th wedding anniversary, in the far north of New Mexico, we intended to see what we could find relating to some strange legends surrounding a tiny town called Dulce, on the border of Colorado and New Mexico, close to the Continental Divide, where altitude reaches 7 to 8 thousand ft at various points. Google search "Dulce, New Mexico" for numerous tales of varying incredibility about Dulce and what lies beneath Archuleta Mesa! We, unfortunately, decided to turn around and head home just before we reached Dulce, due to unexpected wintry weather, altitude (7,871ft), and a few uncomfortable health issues.

One particular little village on Highway 64, Dulce, was going to fascinate yours truly because of stories of UFOs, aliens and a massive 7-layered underground government facility said to be nearby - under a huge mesa. There are also stories/legends of a UFO crash near Aztec village in this area. Again, there's a ton of information, comment from locals and researchers online. Some, if even half-true would be hair-raising. It involves bio-tech experiments (which I can believe), mutilated cattle found regularly around the area (documented), alien cooperation following a firefight between government troops and aliens or "grays" (which I can't believe).

I'd guess that there really is, or was, some kind of underground facility in this area dating from 1950s through 1970s. The fear of nuclear war was fierce then.
The US government, paranoia-filled as usual, could easily have decided to experiment, attempting to plan for all eventualities: mutations, radiation effects, etc. etc. Where better than this wilderness area with plentiful natural underground caverns, easily extended and modified, for use without much chance of discovery? That part of the stories isn't hard to believe, given the atmosphere of those times.

We didn't reach Dulce though. We stayed overnight in Chama, a village 25 miles to the east. The temperature was frigid up there in the mountains, some of what we'd assumed was remnants of the winter's snow remained in the fields and forests over the highest parts of the route.

Neither of us slept a wink that night though. The altitude was probably getting to us both. My husband, restless, decided to get up and play on the laptop. I experienced a severe attack of allergic sneezing which brought on a sharp sinus headache and it simply wouldn't let up. In addition I had developed a troublesome sore on my ankle. We both wondered aloud whether to carry on west or head back to Oklahoma next morning. When we looked outside at about 7 AM we decided at once! Snow had coated the car, and it was still snowing. Probably not at all a surprising find to the locals but a bit disconcerting to southerners like us, spoiled by an unusually warm spring. I hadn't packed any warm clothes. We had to layer up with what we had. It was Sunday, no shops were open to buy warmer clothing - there were no shops around anyway! I'd also managed, somehow, to get myself multi-bitten by an insect (goodness knows what insect would be around in those temps!) I still have 3 itchy bites on my left earlobe, several down the left side of my neck and a cluster of bites on my chest. And they ain't love bites!! We headed home on Sunday morning.

A trip to the Big Bend area of southern Texas in 2012 threw up yet another oddity. In the village of Marfa stories of "the Marfa lights" or "ghost lights" are common. Stange lights, with no logical explanation, have frequently been observed near U.S. Route 67 on Mitchell Flat east of the village. These have gained fame due to some observers having theorised a connection to paranormal phenomena....UFOs, ghostly apparitions etc.
A half-hour drive west of Alpine found us in Marfa, a tiny town made famous by some mysterious lights which appear, intermittently, in the vicinity - Wikipedia explains.

Interestingly the fictional Wicksboro Incident, mentioned at the top of this post, took place in the same general area as Marfa - possibly chosen by its creators because of "the lights"?

I shall remain among the "don't knows" on the topics of UFOs, ghosts, and strange goings-on in general - until I actually experience something to fully convince me otherwise. The experience mentioned below was getting there, it did bring goose bumps. It was an incident unrelated to UFOs and aliens, but still strange. In Santa Fe, New Mexico some years ago, celebrating either my birthday or my husband's.
We had wandered into a hotel lobby thinking it to be the entrance to an arcade of stores. We noticed a bar, still early evening quiet, decided to have a birthday drink there. I considered taking the seat near the wall at the end of the old copper lined bar, but decided it looked rather dark.
I pulled out the next stool along, then felt guilty for leaving a single stool empty, in case a couple might want seats later on - but still, it somehow didn't feel right to move to the end stool. Later in the evening, when some live entertainment was about to begin, it was announced that a beloved regular in this bar, a lady well known in Santa Fe (local singer or musician) had died of cancer a couple of days ago. The seat at the end of the bar had been her usual place to sit. The barman brought her usual drink and placed it there, in her memory. The hairs on the back of my neck began to prickle !

Friday, January 11, 2019

Arty Farty Friday Rabbit-hole (ending on a rainy day in Spain.)

The search for a painter born around this time of year, with fascinating background or life story brought little of interest. My yawns caused me to stumble down an internet rabbit-hole while skimming through the biography of 17th century French painter Jean-Baptiste van Loo (14 January 1684 – 19 December 1745).

One of van Loo's best known paintings is shown in the small image below:
"Triumph of Galatea", and...ooops! Down the rabbit-hole I fell!

A better, larger image of the work is available here.

From Mental Floss website

4. "Galatea," which means "she who is milk-white," refers to three women in mythology. Of the three, the most well-known was the wife of King Pygmalion of Cyprus. Another was a Sicilian nereid, or sea nymph, who was in love with Acis, the son of Faunus and a river nymph. The final Galatea was the wife of Lamprus; she prayed to Leto that her daughter be turned into a son.

5. Jean-Baptiste van Loo's "Triumph of Galatea" is likely a representation of the Galatea who loved Acis. According to the story, the cyclops Polyphemus was jealous of Acis and thus killed him with a boulder. Galatea was distraught over the murder of her love, and so she turned his blood into the river Acis (in Sicily). However, no sources appear to document the inspiration or source of "The Triumph of Galatea."
Alrighty then - but what about Pygmalion? That word brings forth memories of Audrey Hepburn, Julie Andrews, Rex Harrison.

Pygmalion, a play by George Bernard Shaw, named after a Greek mythological figure. In ancient Greek mythology, Pygmalion fell in love with one of his sculptures, which then came to life. The general idea of that myth was a popular subject for Victorian era English playwrights, including one of Shaw's influences, W. S. Gilbert, who wrote a successful play based on the story called Pygmalion and Galatea that was first presented in 1871. Shaw would also have been familiar with the burlesque version, Galatea, or Pygmalion Reversed.

Shaw's play has been adapted numerous times, most notably as the musical My Fair Lady and its film version.
See Wikipedia HERE and HERE.

Who'd've thunk it? Jean-Baptiste van Loo, via Galatea, down a rabbit-hole off-shoot, to this:

Tuesday, January 08, 2019

Midweek Mealtime ~ Italian Restaurants - Red Flags.

Music Monday and Arty Farty Friday have been around this blog for years; along those lines: a Midweek Mealtime, a Tuesday Taste Test, or a Wednesday Whatever? The first title covers more than 24 hours - I shall go with that one!

What are some red flags you're at a bad Italian restaurant?

A question asked at Quora. I've picked out, below, a few points from several answers, illustration added by yours truly.

This topic interested me, having frequently complained to my husband about local "Italian" restaurants, as well as some we've had the misfortune to try, on our travels. I do realise, however, that the owners of Italian restaurants in some areas of the USA (such as Oklahoma) even if Italian by birth or by descent themselves, are limited in how authentic they can be due to difficulties, and expense, of obtaining authentic ingredients.

My own experience of authentic Italian food was during my time in Rome and in my ex-husband's family's home in the North of Italy. That was long, long ago and far away, but I have not forgotten the often mesmerising scents and tastes of properly prepared Italian food. It's never going to be possible to re-create the experience totally, even in the best of the best Italian eateries in the USA - or in the UK - though access to authentic ingredients will have been easier in the UK. Post Brexit - who knows!

I do try to appreciate what is available food-wise, labelled "Italian", as long as it is reasonably tasty and fresh; if it isn't I'll grumble and make a mental note not to darken that restaurant's doors again.

Some of the points made by Quorans, below, are a tad "elitist", but that's not to say they are untrue.
So...the "red flags":

A bad Italian restaurant looks like you imagine it: chequered red and white tablecloths and a flask of Chianti in the window display. A bad Italian restaurant has a menu with all the well known Italian specialities: Carbonara, Bolognese, Amatriciana, Pesto. The worst have also Alfredo and Chicken Parmesan and they give you a good serving of garlic bread and olive oil to put on bread (something completely unheard of in Italy). The bad ones will have an abundance of chicken in the menu: Italians believe that chicken is a very cheap meat and chefs usually avoid to put it in their menu. If there's poultry it should be roasted cockerel (usually whole or half, never just the breast), duck, capon, pheasant or guinea fowl.

The ones that are a dantesque hell will serve pasta and meat on the same plate, or, God forbid!, pasta, meat and seafood on the very same dish.

(From Emilio Trussardi's full answer -there are some argumentative comments beneath it too.)

If you find chicken parmesan or linguini alfredo, there’re no Italians in the kitchen.
But of course it’s all a matter of ingredients. Just a little example: mozzarella.
This iconic cheese from cow or buffalo milk is definitely badly imitated around the world.

(Alberto Formenti)

Examples of bad imitations are provided along with some photos of the real mozzarella

If the Parmesan cheese is on the table in a cheese shaker, there’s a good chance it’s a cheap, store bought brand. Trust the places that grate the cheese in front of you.
I know people from Italy howl when meatballs are served together with pasta, but it’s popular pretty much everywhere except in Italy.
Eggplant Parmigiana should be made with very thinly sliced pieces of eggplant, which is a lot of work. Many places slice them too thick.
Pasta is not traditionally a main course but again, outside of Italy it’s pretty standard to serve it that way.
If any spaghetti-shaped pasta is served cut, run, don’t walk, to the exit. And, of course, do the same if the pasta is cooked anything other than al dente.

(Joseph Panzarella)

Sunday had dinner at a popular Los Angeles area Italian restaurant that would be considered “bad” by purists: bread with butter; thousand island dressing as a salad option; walls covered with pictures of Frank Sinatra and old country Italians. But here’s the thing. The restaurant wasn’t trying to be an authentic Italian restaurant; it was an authentic New York/Chicago style Italian restaurant. ..................those pictures of old country Italians? His family photos, so you may come across a bad Italian restaurant, but that doesn’t mean it will have bad food….(Thomas Barnidge)

Should I find myself looking at the menu and find the Carbonara being made with milk or cream or peas, then it stops becoming a matter of authenticity. The food may still end up tasting good, but I’m not going to walk away saying that I had a great Italian meal. (I give a pass to using pancetta instead of guanciale by the way. The latter is very difficult to find outside of Italy for whatever reason.)
When dining outside of Italy, I won’t be too harsh on a restaurant if it’s a hodgepodge of dishes taken from Italy’s many regions—what I’m getting is basically “the best of.” I don’t mind Arancini being served with Puttanesca, Risotto alla Milanese with Saltimbocca alla Romana as long as they do it right and they stick to traditional recipes.
(Myron Mariano)

Any place that offers greasy cardboard pizza by the slice.
Any place that tries too hard to be hip with the Italian vibe.
Chicken Alfredo leads the menu and the sales. They don't know what penne is.
The chef is skinny.
(William Smith)

If you are outside Italy, that is a red flag from the get go. Yes, I know there are exceptions, but they are few and far between. And yes, I know there are some dreadful restaurants in Italy, but they are few and far between. Another red flag is the following: walk into the restaurant, take a deep breath and smell. If you truly know Italian cooking, you will know immediately if the food is authentic. (Anne Brooks McAdoo)

Monday, January 07, 2019


What have I heard, seen, done during the past week or so that had some musical connection? On New Year's Eve we watched two separate chunks of films on TCM channel, "That's Entertainment # I", and "That's Entertainment # III" - book-ending our other movie viewing that evening, until it was time to raise a glass to 2019. Those shows are such good value - patchworks of old musical movies of the MGM variety. Lots of dancing and spectacle rather than any concentration on purely vocal numbers. The dancing was, of course, perfection. Personally, though, when it comes to movie musicals I prefer the Rogers and Hammerstein types: Oklahoma - of course, Carousel, Show Boat, Kismet, The Student Prince - those kinds of musicals.

We watched a couple of movies with a musical heart during the week: The Jazz Ambassadors, and Lifted, available on Netflix or Amazon Prime - memory fails as to which. The Jazz Ambassadors is an interesting documentary; also been shown on PBS at some point in the past.
The Cold War and Civil Rights collide in this remarkable story of music, diplomacy and race. Beginning in 1955, when America asked its greatest jazz artists to travel the world as cultural ambassadors, Louis Armstrong, Dizzy Gillespie, Duke Ellington and their mixed-race band members, faced a painful dilemma: how could they represent a country that still practiced Jim Crow segregation?
[From IMDb]

Lifted is a movie from 2011, and not our usual fare - it has a blend of 'flag-waver' and Christian-themed story-line. Anyway, we'd started so decided to finish! I didn't hate it, didn't love it. It's the story of a young boy who entered a singing competition hoping to win some money to help with family finances; his father, a reservist, had been called to service in Afghanistan. The boy's mother was a drug addict. Acting was okay, singing was okay, and the story did take a surprisingly odd turn.

Saturday, January 05, 2019

For the Weekend:"...the American id in its underpants"

I Was A Cable Guy. I Saw The Worst Of America.
By Lauren Hough.
A glimpse of the suburban grotesque, featuring Russian mobsters, Fox News rage addicts, a caged man in a sex dungeon, and Dick Cheney.

I heartily recommend reading this, quite long, piece. the writer has an engaging style, it even got past my Attention Deficit Disorder, brought on by too much internet.

When I first read the title I had the job of a cable guy mixed up with a 'lineman's' (as in "Wichita......"). Those guys deserve far more appreciation than they get. It didn't take long to realise that 'cable guy' is a different job, though with its own set of difficulties and dangers.

Tiny snip:
Maybe the next job that day was the guy whose work order said “irate.” It’s not something you want to see on a work order. Not when you’re running late and you still have to pee, because “irate” meant that the next job wasn’t going to be a woman in lingerie; it was going to be a guy who pulled out his penis while I fixed the settings on his television.

I know after that one, I pulled off the side of the road when I saw a horse. Only upside of Great Falls. Not too long ago, Great Falls was mostly small farms and large estates. The McMansions outnumber the farms now. But there are still a few holdouts. I called the horse over to the fence, and he nuzzled my hair. I fed him my apple. Talking to a horse helps when you can’t remember how to breathe.

Friday, January 04, 2019

Arty Farty Friday ~ The Strange Worlds of Yves Tanguy

Yves Tanguy was born in Paris in 1900, son of a retired sea captain. Yves was said to be a very quiet, yet at the same time, anarchistic man. Allegedly, after having visited a an exhibition of the surrealist art of Giorgio de Chirico he spontaneously decided to become a painter, and gravitated naturally to his own version of the surrealist style, more or less untaught.

It's believed that surrealism - painting from the world of dreams and the subconscious mind - may have its roots in the despair felt by the young generations of Europe during and after the First World War. Young artists seemed to be seeking inspiration from their inner mind rather than from what they saw as a failed outer world .

Tanguy moved from France to the USA at the outbreak of World War II, with help from another artist, Kay Sage, who was to become his wife, after divorce from a previous spouse. (For more about Sage, see my 2010 post about the couple).

Tanguy died suddenly in 1955 - a stroke followed an accident.

I'm giving Yves Tanguy's portion of my old post another airing, with some different images included, mainly due to his unusual natal chart.

Tanguy, born in Paris, France on 5 January 1900 at 5:00 am (Astrotheme). I have to confess that Yves Tanguy's natal chart intrigued me more than his paintings. Some of that cluster of symbols occupying the area of Sagittarius and Capricorn are not planets, but they are significant points or bodies (North node of Moon conjunct Chiron, and Part of Fortune). Sagittarius and Capricorn are quite unlike each other, one being expansive, outgoing, optimistic; the other more structured, serious and limiting. I suspect that he was an interesting character, fun - but hard to understand at times.

Outer planets Neptune and Pluto in Gemini, flanking South node of Moon oppose some of the Sagittarius planets. The oppositions provided some much needed balance to the chart, and to his nature. Planet of the arts, Venus was in Aquarius; Moon was in imaginative dreamy Pisces. Venus in harmonious sextile to Uranus, planet of the avant garde and unexpected, reflects his strong attraction to surrealism.

From http://www.surrealists.co.uk/tanguy.php
Tanguy's work is characterised by dreamlike landscapes and is slightly reminiscent of Dali. It can be divided into three stages, 1926-30 was the aerial universe, 1930-48 he painted beaches littered with minerals and after his naturalisation in the United States in 1948, began painting rock formations and the submarine world. Tanguy's slight madness seeps into his artwork as did Dali's, some examples of the more eccentric side of the artist are chewing his socks and marinating spiders in wine. Indeed, he liked nothing more than such novelty in his art, commenting: "I found that if I planned a picture beforehand, it never surprised me, and surprises are my pleasure in painting"

I've picked out a few examples of his work, arranged them in date order. I like the fact that he gave most of his pieces titles - strange as these may be!

 Extinction of Useless Lights (1927)

 He Did What He Wanted (1927)

 Ribbon of Extremes (1932)

 Tomorrow (1938)

 The Satin Tuning Fork (1940)

 My Life, White and Black.(1944)

 There, Motion Has Not Yet Ceased. (1945)

Sept Microbes vus à travers un tempérament  (1953)
I think the title translates to "Seven microbes seen through a temperament".