Tuesday, October 24, 2017

The Whys? Persist

I read, a couple of days ago, that the search for lost airliner MH370 is, possibly, to be resumed in the near future.
"Malaysia is negotiating a "no find-no fee" deal with a US company to renew the search for downed flight MH370. The government announced in a statement that it was in talks with Texas-based salvage firm Ocean Infinity.
If the deal goes ahead, Ocean Infinity will foot the bill and recoup costs only if it finds the missing plane........."
Wonderings on the mystery of this plane, lost in March of 2014 with 239 souls on board, frequently float around my mind. Media have all but forgotten about the tragedy in these times, when there are many more click-worthy gossip pieces available, highlighting President Trump's regular mis-deeds and mis-speaks.

A more recent mystery, about which media has rapidly gone quiet, but questions remain: what was the likely motive behind recent brutal murders in Las Vegas, by Stephen Paddock, of 58 concert-goers, and injuries to hundreds more? I've been wondering, in kindlier moments if perhaps, media have been asked, or warned, to "go quiet" while authorities conduct inquiries and research in a calmer atmosphere. Or, in more cynical moments, I wonder: is this just another disgusting "shove it under the carpet" deal with the NRA?

Monday, October 23, 2017

Music Monday Birthdays

Two musical birthdays today, 23 October - both singers born in the same year too, and both born in the USA. Music genres are different, but both styles are rooted in the USA: jazz and country.

Dianne Reeves born 23 October 1956, Detroit, Michigan.
Dwight Yoakam born 23 October 1956, Pikeville, Kentucky.

Happy Birthday wishes to both!

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Saturday & Sundry Thoughts on: The Swinish Weinstein

During the time we were away, earlier this month, the Harvey Weinstein story blew up. I didn't read anything on it until a couple of days ago. Just another power-drunk male predator whose cover has been blown - at last, I'd decided. Wondering what to blog about this weekend I wandered around a few astrology websites and blogs to discover their takes on Weinstein. I could've "bet the farm" that I'd come across beaucoup mentions of Scorpio and Pluto - and I did.

Weinstein's time of birth remains an unknown factor, limiting the amount to be gleaned from his natal chart . His time of birth would fix the exact position of natal Moon, quite probably in business-savvy Capricorn, as well as placing a sign, degree, and possibly a planet on the ascendant - i.e. whatever was coming over the horizon at the exact time of his birth. An astrologer (mentioned at astro.com) rectified his time of birth to around 24 degrees of Leo - quite close to Pluto's position - very fitting, though perhaps a tad convenient. I read somewhere else (sorry, link lost) that the first degree of Virgo could, rather surprisingly, be an even better fit. Aries rising with Jupiter near to the ascendant degree wouldn't surprise me, nor would Scorpio rising with Mars on the ascendant.

There are numerous astrologers' takes on Weinstein's natal chart around the internet, most making much the same points - I'll not add to them.

I've been a lifelong fan of movies, so it's always disappointing and saddening to learn, drip by drip, of the dark side that often exists in the process of their production. Let's hope that shining a much needed light on the murkiness will help clear away some of the worst offenders, and teach a few sorely needed lessons.

Harvey Weinstein: His cinematic gifts and his bullying sway over a Hollywood he fascinated and repelled.
by Jeffrey Fleishman

(Weinstein was fired after a bombshell New York Times report published Oct. 8 detailed decades of sexual harassment accusations and settlements against the film producer.)
Harvey Weinstein, the kid from Queens with the diamond-cutter father and the determined mother, was holding court. The sexual harassment and assault accusations that have brought him down were then still innuendo in a town that ran on complicity and silence. He sauntered through the crowd, making small talk, a man of tantrums and voracious appetites who gave us “Shakespeare in Love,” “Pulp Fiction” and “sex, lies, and videotape.”

That was vintage Weinstein, a presence too big for the shadows, a force seldom obscured. ​​​​Among many of those who have dealt with him since the early Miramax days, there’s a realization that what is unfolding now is part of an untameable personality that for decades operated in the open with few restrictions.

He didn’t change, Hollywood did. He was always hiding in plain sight, whether negotiating a contract, belittling one of his staff or dressing-down a director. He loved the drama, the girding for a fight that fed a passion to transform the film business and a raw desire to be a studio mogul out of Hollywood’s Golden Age.

“He’s a two-headed monster,” said Peter Biskind, whose book “Down and Dirty Pictures” focused on Miramax and the rise of independent film. “People have to acknowledge that he put independent film on the map. There would be no independent film movement in America the way there is today if it were not for Harvey.

“But he did a lot of damage too. … The same way that he had an eye of what would sell on the movie screen, he had an eye for people’s weaknesses. He would push their buttons. To work there you had to have a very thick skin and the ability to absorb abuse.”

This cartoon from Jen Sorensen puts the scene in a nutshell


What ought to be happening, and right now, is outlined in a piece by Jonathan Cook at Counterpunch:
Harvey Weinstein and the Politics of Hollywood

SNIPS (My highlighting)

......One can understand why teenage actresses, as [Reese] Witherspoon was at the time, are fearful of speaking out in a system dominated by predatory men who can destroy their careers. One can also understand that, at the very bottom of the Hollywood food chain, they are in no position to organize against the Hollywood mogul class. But none of that is true for the now fabulously rich and well-connected Witherspoon, Jolie, Paltrow, Lawrence, and all the others who have yet to speak out – or for the A-list men who would surely want to be seen publicly supporting them.

Why are they not organising? There are many things they can do. Here is one simple idea. They could set up a union, a sort of women’s Equity, that would allow actresses, in private, to register incidents of exploitation and sexual abuse with the union, naming those who committed the abuse and their modus operandi. By creating such a database, the union and its lawyers would be able to identify serial abusers and discover patterns of behaviour. The victims could then be encouraged to come forward in a group action, knowing that they would not be facing the Hollwood elite on their own. The union would redress, at least in part, the power of these male producers and directors. They, in turn, would grow more fearful of exposure.

That would be a political act of organised resistance to the power of Hollywood moguls It would have much more impact than the trickle of stories from immensely successful actresses bewailing their past abuse. Creating such a union would be loose change for Jolie, Witherspoon, Lawrence, Paltrow and the other A-listers............

As long as these household names nurse their individual pain rather than seek to bring about change through organised action, the next generation of young actresses will face the same exploitation and the same abuse they had to endure in their younger days

I found this long article by David Carr about Weinstein from, I think, 2001 to be interesting as background detail.

The Emperor Miramaximus


Harvey Weinstein's empire is a place of beauty (Gwyneth Paltrow, The English Patient), of bullying ("These all suck, and you're morons for designing them"), of talent, bluster, muscle, and paranoia. He's definitely the largest (in all senses) cultural force in the city. But do his ends justify his means?

Despite an illness*
[Note from Twilight: another article HERE mentions his tracheotomy scar from his Christmas 1999 illness] that took him out of the public eye for three months last year, he looks robust, sitting behind a desk in a blue sport shirt divided by a parallelogram of suspenders. The neck is inferred, not seen.

His coal-hued eyes make me uneasy. They reflect—if the dozens of stories I have heard are true—mayhem in abeyance. But his eyes can also spot Zeitgeist long before it comes over the hill. Which is why a city full of incandescent fabulousness pivots around a man who looks like nothing so much as a bean-bag chair with legs.

Like most titans, Harvey has a legendary sense of self, an annunciatory way of speaking and moving that suggests he knows he's a big deal. He wants to make it clear that his illness last year and his other hobbies may have pulled him out of his sweet spot, but he has returned to making a big deal out of small movies. We play cheery peekaboo around his hiatus—"I'm not going to tell you about the insanity thing," he har-hars—

"I'm back full-time with no diversions. I'm doing all the edgy stuff that I want to do, and I am fucking going to hit some out."

It's meant as a promise, a charming one at that, but like a lot of things that come flying out of his mouth, it sounds like a threat..............

Weinstein buries me in star power and testimonials, making sure that I know he's possessed of a broad streak of altruism. As I'm walking through the Village one day, my cell phone rings. It's Paul Newman, calling to tell me that when he mentioned to Weinstein that the kids at his Hole in the Wall Gang camp needed a gymnasium, Weinstein agreed to pay for it without asking how much it would cost.

When Nicole Kidman calls and says that Weinstein paid attention to her "back when I was just Tom Cruise's girlfriend," it's going into the story, as is her observation that "I like that he gets down in the trenches. He thinks nothing of flying to London for dinner and trying to talk you into a role."

His loyalty prompts reciprocation. When Talk magazine launched, pal Gwyneth Paltrow ended up posing in S&M garb that didn't fit either her career arc or any of her personal needs. Paltrow says that "there were certain favors that he asked me to do that I felt were not exploitive but not necessarily as great for me as they were for him. I brought this to his attention, and he said, 'I will never do that again.' And he's been true to his word.

"I think that for every bad story you hear about Harvey, there are three great ones," says Paltrow. "People are complicated, and nobody's all good or all bad. And I think Harvey is a prime example of somebody who has a temper and is also incredibly loving . . . He's a human being, and all of his acts can be just sort of magnified. He's larger-than-life in every way, so his good qualities are maybe more pronounced—as are some of his bad qualities."

Friday, October 20, 2017

Arty Farty Friday ~ N.C. Wyeth & Family

It's not difficult to identify mini-dynasties, of sorts, among some who make their marks in different spheres of life: political dynasties (Adams; Kennedy; Clinton?) Acting dynasties (Bridges; Douglas; Carradine; Redgrave) etc. Painting/illustration dynasties, in the USA, include the Wyeths.

N.C. Wyeth, in full Newell Convers Wyeth
(born October 22, 1882, Needham, Massachusetts — died October 19, 1945, Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania), American illustrator and muralist.

Wyeth was raised on a farm, and he learned drafting and illustration in Boston before studying with the master illustrator Howard Pyle. He first found success in depicting the American West. During his career he contributed his memorable illustrations to more than 100 books, including a famous series of children’s classics, including Treasure Island, Kidnapped, King Arthur, Robin Hood, and The Black Arrow, and he also produced numerous murals in public buildings. He was the teacher of his son, the painter Andrew Wyeth. [N.C. Wyeth was grandfather of Jamie Wyeth - also a painter.]

My blog-post relating to N.C. Wyeth's son, Andrew, mentions that: His father was a benevolent tyrant, dominating his five offspring while encouraging them to be geniuses by allowing only the best music, the best poetry in the house. Andrew was his favorite, a "daddy's boy."

N.C. Wyeth, described, elsewhere, as a strapping, engaging man, was also said to have suffered from depression and questioned the direction of his life and career. He died on October 19, 1945, in Chadds Ford, when the car he was driving was hit by a train; the automobile also contained a young grandson, who perished as well.

From Wikipedia:

"Wyeth's exuberant personality and talent made him a standout student. A robust, powerfully built young man with strangely delicate hands, he ate a lot less than his size implied. He admired great literature, music, and drama, and he enjoyed spirited conversation"

"Wyeth created a stimulating household for his talented children Andrew Wyeth, Henriette Wyeth Hurd, Carolyn Wyeth, Ann Wyeth McCoy, and Nathaniel C. Wyeth. Wyeth was very sociable, and frequent visitors included F. Scott Fitzgerald, Joseph Hergesheimer, Hugh Walpole, Lillian Gish, and John Gilbert. According to Andrew, who spent the most time with his father on account of his sickly childhood, Wyeth was a strict but patient father who did not talk down to his children. His hard work as an illustrator gave his family the financial freedom to follow their own artistic and scientific pursuits. Andrew went on to become one of the foremost American artists of the second half of the 20th century, and both Henriette and Carolyn became artists also; Ann became an artist and composer. Nathaniel became an engineer for DuPont and worked on the team that invented the plastic soda bottle. Henriette and Ann married two of Wyeth's protégés, Peter Hurd and John W. McCoy. Wyeth is the grandfather of artists Jamie Wyeth and Michael Hurd and the musician Howard Wyeth.[14]"

For some fine examples of N.C. Wyeth's illustrations, please do take a look at the large versions contained in a blog post by Nate Taylor - HERE.

I'll include just one of N.C.'s magazine cover illustrations, from 1921:

In 1945, Wyeth and his grandson (Nathaniel C. Wyeth's son) were killed when the automobile they were riding in was struck by a freight train at a railway crossing near his Chadds Ford home. At the time, Wyeth had been working on an ambitious series of murals for the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company depicting the Pilgrims at Plymouth, a series completed by Andrew Wyeth and John McCoy.

No time of birth is available for N.C. Wyeth. A 12 noon chart for the day of his birth indicates:

"... exuberant personality...robust, powerfully built..." these observations, I'd say relate to natal Jupiter in harmonious trine to his Sun and Mercury on the cusp of Libra/Scorpio.

"...also said to have suffered from depression and questioned the direction of his life and career" - relates, in my opinion, to natal Mars and North Node in occasionally paranoid and intense Scorpio.

There's some orchestrated Fixed sign opposition going on between Fixed signs Scorpio and Taurus, this could account for the description of N.C. Wyeth as a "benevolent tyrant" - extremely fixed ideas on the way his children should develop.

Natal chart for N.C.'s son Andrew is available at the link provided in the post. There's evidence of a Watery Cancerian inheritance from the father - a softer version, strengthened considerably by Leo input and an Aries Moon. Jupiter on his ascendant could also be an inheritance from Dad, a whisper from the Jupiter trine Sun in his father's chart.

 Left to right:  Jamie, Andrew, N.C.

As for Jamie Wyeth (James Browning Wyeth, born July 6, 1946, he might be fodder for some future Arty Farty post; I can see, even from here, that the Watery Cancerian element has seeped through!

Thursday, October 19, 2017

With bells on...

I'm at a loss how to comment, with any good sense, about US politics (or even about British politics, especially Brexit) these days. "Sometimes the only thing you can do is stare blankly."* For now, I'll rely on anyone remaining more clear-headed than I'm feeling:
(*A line from "The Long Earth" by Terry Pratchett & Stephen Baxter - my current read.)

Jim Haygood, a regular in the comments section at naked capitalism, on 17 October wrote, in the afternoon "Water Cooler" segment:

Truthdig has posted an awesome interview of Chris Hedges by WSWS.

Cris Hedges: Politicians like the Clintons, Pelosi and Schumer are creations of Wall Street. That is why they are so virulent about pushing back against the Sanders wing of the Democratic Party. Without Wall Street money, they would not hold political power.

The Democratic Party doesn’t actually function as a political party. It’s about perpetual mass mobilization and a hyperventilating public relations arm, all paid for by corporate donors. The base of the party has no real say in the leadership or the policies of the party, as Bernie Sanders and his followers found out. They are props in the sterile political theater.

These party elites, consumed by greed, myopia and a deep cynicism, have a death grip on the political process. They’re not going to let it go, even if it all implodes.
Bring it, Lord!

INDEEDY! (With bells on!)

I'll add a little more from the Chris Hedges interview, this on identity politics:
Chris Hedges: Well, identity politics defines the immaturity of the left. The corporate state embraced identity politics. We saw where identity politics got us with Barack Obama, which is worse than nowhere. He was, as Cornel West said, a black mascot for Wall Street, and now he is going around to collect his fees for selling us out.

My favorite kind of anecdotal story about identity politics:
Cornel West and I, along with others, led a march of homeless people on the Democratic National Convention session in Philadelphia. There was an event that night. It was packed with hundreds of people, mostly angry Bernie Sanders supporters. I had been asked to come speak. And in the back room, there was a group of younger activists, one who said, “We’re not letting the white guy go first.” Then he got up and gave a speech about how everybody now had to vote for Hillary Clinton. That’s kind of where identity politics gets you. There is a big difference between shills for corporate capitalism and imperialism, like Corey Booker and Van Jones, and true radicals like Glen Ford and Ajamu Baraka. The corporate state carefully selects and promotes women, or people of color, to be masks for its cruelty and exploitation.....The new form of feminism is an example of the poison of neoliberalism. It is about having a woman CEO or woman president, who will, like Hillary Clinton, serve the systems of oppression....

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Being Human in 2049 - and at Other Times

Our recent trip to the High Plains had a science fiction underside - sort of. During much driving time, on often deserted string-straight roads, we listened to an audio version of a volume of short stories by famous sci-fi master, Arthur C. Clarke. One of my favourites, History Lesson written in 1949, can be read in a pdf file HERE.

On the last afternoon of our trip, with a storm threatening, we hopped into a cinema in northern Oklahoma to see Blade Runner 2049.

The original Blade Runner movie, now thought of by many sci-fi fans as "iconic" has melted from my memory, almost completely, apart from the fact that its lead actor was Harrison Ford. I'm not too sure I enjoyed that movie, back in the 1980s, otherwise I'd recall it more easily. The 2049 sequel/update movie might prove to have better staying power in the old memory banks. The new story picks up some 30 years after the original ended.

Were the 2049 movie one of those big, pretentious coffee table volumes, I'd love to wander and linger through the photographs, again and again, ignoring most of the text. The visual interest of the movie far outshone the story-line, for me. Fascinating, yet chilling and easily imagined views of what the future might bring, came one after another, and were made somehow beautiful, while remaining also heartrendingly sad.

Flying vehicles, imagined by the 1980's original story's author Philip K. Dick should have been flying overhead right now - as I type. As in the case of so many early sci-fi writers' flights of imagination , they pre-supposed a much faster rate of progress,in certain areas, than has actually happened. Driverless cars are on the drawing board now, but still will remain earth-bound. Philip K. Dick's ashes, by the way, were buried in a cemetery in Fort Morgan, Colorado, one of our two-night stop-overs.

We both thought there were several iffy assumptions going on in 2049 - unless we'd missed something crucial in the dialogue that is (not at all unlikely!) Ryan Gosling, as I've probably written before in these pages, is not a favourite of either of us, though in this leading role he did....alright. I can't think of anyone who would have better fit this particular character and story-line.

No detail of the plot here from me - spoilers would definitely spoil this one. A quick read through the synopsis of the original Blade Runner, before seeing 2049 wouldn't go amiss, however.

Apparently the deeper layers of Blade Runner 2049, and its predecessor, are meant to relate to the question: what does it mean to be human? Perhaps so... perhaps. For me though, a movie we saw on TV back in the hotel room, later that night, offered another way of seeking the answer to that particular "what?" - Monster's Ball. Wow! There was some really first class+ acting going on in that one, by Halle Berry, Billy Bob Thornton, and the lost, lamented Heath Ledger. All our human faults, failings and yes - our better sides - were on show, and in-yer-face. Some scenes were hard to watch, but all worthwhile. Monster's Ball is an excellent movie, a no nonsense look at our all-too-human frailties!

As I finished typing that paragraph an old post of mine from way back popped into my head - from 2008 - a post about a song. I recall it easily because, at the time, it gathered lots of comments. Are We Human or Are We Dancer? It was memorably performed by The Killers. I don't think the theme of Blade Runner was in the mind of many listeners back then, but maybe now....?