Monday, November 30, 2009

Music Monday ~ Randy Newman

His is a familiar name to anyone old enough in the 1970s to have been listening to radio and records....LPs in those days, not cds or mp3s.

Familiar name, yet easily forgotten. It's a frequent occurence, Chez Twilight, for Himself to say, while hearing music in a movie or TV show, "Oh - that was written know....that guy....erm...." I've grown wise to this and am now able to fill in the blank....Randy Newman !

Newman is one of those classy songwriters who writes beautiful poetry and puts it to music, then sings it himself in the kind of voice that only a mother would love. I see him in the same league as Leonard Cohen and Tom Waits, oh, and Kris Kristofferson. He has a good pedigree, his uncles, Al, Lionel and Emil Newman all big names in the business of composing music for movies. His father was a physician, but also wrote songs as a sideline. So , doing what came naturally, Randy went into the family business.

His songs and music spring up all over the place - It's a Jungle Out There, theme song for the TV series Monk, for instance. You Can Keep Your Hat On from British movie The Full Monty. The theme from Toy Story, A Bug's Life, Cars, Seabiscuit and numerous other movies.

I Think it's Going to Rain Today, and Feels Like Home are two of my personal Randy Newman favourites. There are several interesting but rather downbeat, politically oriented, dark-ish ironic songs too, with which I'm not as familiar, but I've investigated some of the lyrics: Short People, Political Science, Mr President Have Pity On The Working Man , Good Old Boys and lots of others on the same satirical theme.

Randy Newman was born on 28 November 1943 at 8.02 pm in Los Angeles (some sources say New Orleans, but Astrodatabank reliably informs that he was born in LA, but early on moved with his parents to New Orleans where his mother's family lived.

Stand-out factor in his natal chart is a clump of oppositions. There are two groups of 3 planets lying opposite each other: Sun, Mercury and Moon at 6, 16 and 25 Sagittarius are opposite Uranus, Mars and Saturn at 6, 15 and 24 Gemini. Because the two signs involved are Sagittarius and Gemini, I doubt that this rather hefty see-saw configuration poses much of a problem for Newman himself, though it could pose a few problems for others. I'd say that of all the pairs of opposite signs in the zodiac, these two have the best chance of blending easily.

Venus, planet of the arts and Neptune (creativity) both sit in Libra, where Venus is comfortably at home in its sign of rulership.

Jupiter, representing publication and luck lies at at 26 Leo, harmoniously trines Moon and sextiles Saturn - two very helpful placings for a guy who relies on the publication of his work (Saturn) for its success.

His Sun Mercury and Moon in Sagittarius indicate a gernerally positive character, outspoken, sense of fun, generosity of spirit etc. Unruly Uranus directly opposite Sun reflects much in his songs that is political and ironic in content - a streak of rebellion there! But Moon and Saturn are closely opposite each other too, bringing in the more disciplined, straighter approach heard in his movie themes. Mercury, communications planet opposite Mars the energy planet signifies the driving force behind his prolific writing. There's a hint of the Sagittarian excess in Newman's nature at this quote from a Guardian UK article by Duncan Campbell (2003) here.

"My first wife and second wife and kids, they know I'm going to do what I have to do," he says. "I don't know how ruthless I am but it's so important to me that I don't care about anyone's feelings. I sometimes wonder whether that is a pose - 'The ruthless writer, he really doesn't care' - but I really do feel that way. If I can get a song out of it, I don't much care about myself or anyone else."

And from the same piece, a kind of echo of that see-saw-like mentality reflecting the oppositions in his natal chart:
"I've never seen anyone whose goal was to make money be happy because of that," says Newman. "They are never satisfied, never. I find myself not liking rich people, even though I am one... well, I never liked myself that much either. All that talk about private planes and Air France first class and lasering their underarms. I hear it but I don't like it much. I like musicians, unless they get rich." He laughs. "And even when they do."

And from JAM Showbiz, more of the Newman see-saw effect here -
It's never a good idea to take Randy Newman at his word.
Mostly because the mordant satirist -- and Oscar-winning songwriter -- has built a career out of saying one thing and meaning the other, making it tough for casual listeners (or uninformed, as is more often the case) to know how seriously they should be taking him.
The answer to that one is, of course, "Very seriously," but only after considering the fact Newman's tongue may be stuck firmly in cheek.

I'm spoiled for choice as to which video to post. I cannot restrict myself to just one! Two songs then, but two versions of one of 'em. Here's Randy singing his own song I Think It's Going To Rain Today, then a version of the same song by Neil Diamond (my favourite). Last video features Randy Newman on piano with Bonnie Raitt singing "Feels Like Home" (this one always has me in tears). The song comes from his musical "Faust", later it was featured in the movie "The Notebook".

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Sunday Supplement (no astrology): TITLES

Books, blogs, articles and short stories all benefit from titles with the power to attract and draw in readers. Choosing a title is not easy. Authors over many decades, and bloggers for a lesser time, have pitted their wits against the ordinary and predictable to come up with something sparklingly original, yet pertinent to content.

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

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

Those are both apt titles, once one is familiar with the storylines, but they presuppose a certain amount of literary knowledge on the part of the reader....unless like me, in the 21st century, they are able to "do the Google".

Similarly puzzling for anyone unfamiliar with it's source, is Harper Lee's famous title "To Kill a Mocking Bird". The author took that from an old proverb telling that "it's a sin to kill a mocking bird", and used it as a metaphor for the storyline of his novel. It's clever, but without prior knowledge of the old proverb, or subject matter of the book, a potential reader might feel puzzled when confronted with the title on a library shelf. Still, it's intriguing enough to be a draw.

The above titles fall into the category of "deep & meaningful". There's another category worth sampling: "the jaw-droppingly bizarre" - a few of which are discussed by James Bradshaw at the Globe And Mail Arts section. These are mainly non-fiction....I assume!

Nuclear War: What's In It for You?
Old Tractors and the Men Who Love Them
How to Avoid Huge Ships or I Never Met a Ship I Liked
Knitting With Dog Hair
Bombproof Your Horse
How Green Were the Nazis? Nature, Environment and Nation in the Third Reich.

And how's this for a page-turner:

Some more at HERE

BLOGS: I don't remember how I chose the name of this blog. I was wet behind the ears, blog-wise, it was quite likely the first thing I thought of. In retrospect I wish it could've been shorter and simpler. I can think of some much better ones now, but hesitate to make a change - horses, mid-streams and all that!

Blog names at their creative best can be brilliant reflections of their master blogger. A good name always draws me in, even if only for a single visit.

The most successful blogs such as:Gawker, Boing Boing, Crooks & Liars, Freakonomics, have easy names to remember. I enjoy finding catchy blog names among the more "cottage industry" type blogs. From my own sidebar links for instance: Out the Comet's Ass is a favourite from the astrology list. I like the simplicity of my husband's blog name: Thinks Happen. Google doesn't get it though; when I input Thinks Happen, it politely asks me "do you mean things happen?"

A few more nice blog names: The Typing Makes Me Sound Busy; I Probably Don't Like You; Ungirdled Passion; Converstations; nanopolitan; The Invisible Edge; Where Am I Going and Why Am I In This Handbasket? And, simple but effective, Bloggity Blog.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Ed Harris's Links to Pollock

As today is the birthday of Ed Harris, I'm re-airing a post of mine from 2007, tidied up and with a few additions:
An actor/director and a maverick artist born a generation + a couple of months apart: Ed Harris born 28 Nov 1950 Englewood, New Jersey. Jackson Pollock born 28 January 1912, Cody, Wyoming.

Ed Harris starred in and directed the 2000 movie "Pollock". We're told that Harris's father once bought his son a book about Jackson Pollock. He felt that Ed bore a strong resemblance to the painter. That book no doubt kick-started the actor's apparent fascination with the artist.

Jackson Pollock's art is very much an acquired taste. From biographical notes, and from the movie, it appears that Pollock was a veritable poster boy for Aquarius Sun. His natal Uranus, modern ruler of Aquarius, is very close to his Aquarius Sun - just barely in Capricorn, in the last minutes of the sign, and his Sun is at 7.31 Aquarius. That's close enough to combine forces.

Pollock was never satisfied with the status quo, always trying for something different. I used to think of those later Pollock works, the paint splatter ones, as a cynical money-grabbing exercise. I changed my mind, after seeing one or two originals on visits to art galleries. There's a lot of skill involved - more than one might initially appreciate. These pieces have a regular "rhythm", yet Pollock danced around his canvas on the floor, slinging paint hither and thither in seemingly random fashion - even so, the finished product looks somehow planned - the colour distribution, the clever choices and mixes of colours. An example:
"Lavender Mist"

It seems logical that the actor/director would need a deep understanding of the real-life character he portrays, and that somewhere in the natal charts of the two men there'd be a link. There are several.

(The inner chart is Ed Harris's, the outer that of Jackson Pollock. Click on image to enlarge.)

I can find no time of birth for Pollock. Astrodatabank gives 5.32am for Ed Harris.

I think Ed Harris's natal chart indicates a kinder and warmer character than Jackson Pollock seems to have been. Still, there ought to be some link which enabled Harris to give such an outstanding portrayal of the artist on screen. The actor seemed to understand Pollock's oddball nature so well.

Pollock said several times that he couldn't separate himself from his art. Not knowing much about modern art when I began to read about him, it was much more his persona - his struggles as a human being - that was interesting to me.
(Ed Harris).
Harris's Mars and Pollock's Mercury are both at 16 Capricorn.

Pollock's natal Venus lies at 9 Sagittarius. Ed Harris's natal Jupiter at 9 Sagittarius.

Ed Harris's natal Venus is at 28 Sagittarius Jackson Pollock's Jupiter at 29 Aquarius- in harmonious sextile aspect.

Their natal Suns are at 7 Aquarius and 5 Sagittarius (also sextile).

Harris's natal Moon at 17 Cancer is close enough to be termed conjoined to Pollock's natal Neptune at 21 Cancer. The Cancer/Capricorn opposition in Pollock's chart, Mercury/Neptune is echoed in Harris's by Moon/Mars.

These connections must surely have significance. The "feel" of a connection is there for me, without resorting to individual interpretation of the links.

I reckon that astrology is stranger than anybody realises - stranger even than Jackson Pollock.


Friday, November 27, 2009

Arty Farty Friday ~ Berlin Cabaret Then & Now

As a change from art as in painting or photography, this Friday it's art as theatrical presentation. Sort of!

The mini furore this week following Adam Lambert's risqué performance at the American Music Awards led me to ponder on the artistic roots of the chosen style, which was also apparent through much of the rest of the show. There was a distinct feel of 1920s Berlin Cabaret....updated for the 21st century.

Cabaret involving sexual innuendo and eroticism was a part of Parisian culture for decades. After World War I, in the loosened atmosphere of the 1920s, the cabaret culture spread across Europe, but became particularly popular in Germany, where the Weimar government had relaxed all forms of censorship. Movies such as "Cabaret" and "The Blue Angel" depict something of the German cabaret scenes of that era. Within a few years though, Hitler's rise to power in Germany changed everything. Cabaret's subculture was supressed.

From Berlin Cabaret by Peter Jalevich (Amazon)

Interestingly, during most of the 1920s Uranus (planet of all that's new and inventive) was transiting Pisces - it happens to be doing the same thing at present. In those days though Neptune, planet of creativity, wasn't transiting Aquarius as it is now, it lay in Leo, and for most of the decade in fairly tight quincunx to Uranus, signifying a rather uncomfortable mixture of avant garde fantasy played out on stage. At present Uranus and Neptune are transiting each other's home signs and in semi-sextile aspect, the characteristics of each one blends quite comfortably into the other. Avant garde fantasy is now the norm rather than a why on earth Adam's performance should have caused upset is beyond me. Perhaps he did ratchet it up a notch too far for TV with an audience of millions. Some parts of the USA are culturally, after all, a far cry from Berlin in the 1920s.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

The Other Side of Thanksgiving. (No astrology)

As a secular harvest festival, I enjoy the idea of Thanksgiving. When I delve into the background history of the holiday's origins, I'm less enthusiastic.

The Puritans who travelled, under great difficulty, to these shores from my own old homeland, England, were not a set of people I'd feel comfortable with. I pity the Indian tribes who first encountered them. The English Puritans were religious fundamentalists of the worst sort. They disagreed with the rituals of the Church of England , and were victims of bigotry themselves, in their own homeland. But as abuse begets abuse, so bigotry begets bigotry, and they became, if possible even worse bigots than their abusers.

Following many false starts and difficulties, a group of Puritans set sail for America in 1620, after first travelling to the Netherlands and living for some time in the more broad-minded atmosphere there. As it turned out it was far too broad-minded for the strait-laced Puritans.
They believed in the imminent occurrence of Armegeddon in Europe and hoped to establish in the new world the "Kingdom of God" foretold in the book of Revelation. They diverged from their Puritan brethren who remained in England only in that they held little real hope of ever being able to successfully overthrow the King and Parliament and, thereby, impose their "Rule of Saints" (strict Puritan orthodoxy) on the rest of the British people. So they came to America.

The Puritans/ Pilgrims saw themselves as the "Chosen Elect" mentioned in the book of Revelation. They strove to "purify" first themselves and then everyone else of everything they did not accept in their own interpretation of scripture. Later New England Puritans used any means, including deceptions, treachery, torture, war, and genocide to achieve that end. They saw themselves as fighting a holy war against Satan, and everyone who disagreed with them was the enemy. This rigid fundamentalism was transmitted to America by the Plymouth colonists, and it sheds a very different light on the "Pilgrim" image we have of them.

This, by Mather the Elder, is an example of their views. He gave special thanks to God for the devastating plague of smallpox which wiped out the majority of the Wampanoag Indians who had been the Puritans' benefactors. He praised God for destroying "chiefly young men and children, the very seeds of increase, thus clearing the forests to make way for a better growth".

So, I'll continue to look on Thanksgiving as a simple harvest festival, rather than pretending to celebrate something connected with a group of people whose attitudes I consider odious. I'll feel thankful for all that Mother Nature offers us, every day, in spite of our careless mistreatment of her.

See Thanksgiving Information for sources.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

An Astro-Meme-ish Day

In the archives of Sunday Stealing,
a blog where the speciality is finding, stealing (with credits) and modifying meme-ish items from other blogs, I found "Sassy Meme" (January), see original at link. My own version of Sassy Meme, is much different from the original - that's evolution for ya!

Sassy Astrological Meme + my tongue in cheek responses in purple.

1. If you could say anything you wanted to say to a person with prominent Scorpio in their astrological makeup, what would you say?
....Lighten up. They are NOT out to get you!

2. If you had to be the parent of a Sun in Gemini with Gemini Moon and rising or a Sun in Pisces with Pisces Moon and rising , who would you choose and why?
Pisces, because a triple Gemini would wear me out and compete too energetically with my Aquarian clever-clogs mentality.

3. Is there a planet that you wish had a more, or less, prominent place (stronger or weaker by position) in your natal chart? If so, which one?
I would like it if Pluto were out of my first house where it opposes my Sun, and probably cramps my style.

4. A fairy taps you on the shoulder and tells you that you can have either Scorpio magnetic eyes, gorgeous Leo hair or a slim wiry body like Gemini for the rest of your life. Which do you choose?
Decisions, decisions! If I choose Gemini body do I get ratty hair and crossed eyes though? I'll stay as I am and put up with it, I might be worse off - and that's saying something!

5. If you could have been born with Sun in any sign of the zodiac different from your own, which would you choose? I'd like to have Sun in Sagittarius.

6. If you could go back and visit one astrologer who is now dead, and ask one question, what would that question be?
I'd visit Grant Lewi and ask him why his interpretation of Aquarius Sun with Aries Moon is so crappy, and what did someone with those placements ever do to upset him.

7. If you had the choice to age forward (like we are now) or aging backwards (think Benjamin Button) which would you choose and why?
Age forward, but with the ability to fast-forward a few decades then come back again. I'm very curious to see how things will turn out after I'm gone.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009


We've moved into the zodiac sign of Sagittarius (November 22 - December 23 give or take a day, as it can vary year by year).

If I had to pick a favourite sign, this would be it.
Sagittarius the sign mind you, not "A Sagittarius" the shorthand form for a person born with Sun in Sagittarius. Such a person might well be an embodiment of all that's best in the sign. Then again, they might have conflicting astrological input bringing in a whole different tone. That particular Sun Sagittarian might seem like a stranger in a strange land.

Sagittarius, the sign, seems to have all the advantages with none of the negative draw-backs other signs seem to suffer from. One slight problem though is its neighbours. Intense Scorpio on one side and strict disciplinarian, Capricorn on the other. This means that natives of Sagittarius land - those already mentioned, born when the Sun was in this sign, might find themselves with Mercury and/or Venus in Scorpio, and/or Capricorn. This would put a distinct damper on their general 'Saggie' air of bonhomie and devil-may-care.

My aunt Lil was the only Sun in Sagittarius person I've known well, and I wrote about her last year. This year I'll borrow a brief description of Sun in Sagittarius from a British astrologer of long ago, Llewellyn George, as set out in his book "Student Chart Reader" (1934).

In Sagittarius the Sun gives a jovial, bright, hopeful, generous and charitable nature: self-reliant, active, enterprising, frank, outspoken, honest, ambitious, persevering and not easily discouraged. Loves liberty, freedom and out-of-doors sports; dislikes a master and will not be driven. Generally has a strong will and is sincere, honorable, earnest, aspiring, energetic, and what he says goes right to the mark. Shows reverence for philosophy and science, has good calculation and foresight and is usually prophetic as to the outcome of movements or enterprises.
Jupiter is planetary ruler of the sign Sagittarius.

Those are all admirable qualities aren't they? The only one I'd question, just a wee bit, is "persevering and not easily discouraged" - which smacks more of a Fixed sign, whereas Sagittarius is Mutable. Perhaps in Sagittarius' case this trait springs more from optimism than doggedness of purpose, as it does for Fixed signs, Aquarius, Taurus, Leo and Scorpio. Interest in religion is part of Sagittarius which in the above brief assessment was probably covered obliquely by "reverence for philosophy".

I see quite a few similarities between Aquarius and Sagittarius. Sagittarius is a Fire sign though, warm, physical and outgoing in general whereas Aquarius is cool and reserved, mentally oriented. Otherwise I think they are probably more alike than almost any other two zodiac signs. But that's just the way I see it - others would probably disagree.

English professor and novelist C.S. Lewis, author of The Chronicles of Narnia and The Space Trilogy, as well as many other works, was born with Sun, Mercury, Venus, Saturn and Uranus in Sagittarius. Religion, Christianity, played an important part in his life. Its values were fed to his young readers in easily accessible form, though perhaps often unrecognised as such. (Look - there's Sagittarius, the centaur in the illustration below!)

A quote of C.S. Lewis which sums up, for me, the optimism of Sagittarius:
This is one of the miracles of love: It gives a power of seeing through its own enchantments and yet not being disenchanted.

Monday, November 23, 2009

MUSIC MONDAY ~ Tom Waits. Adam Lambert.

Tom Waits, born 7 December 1949 at 7:25 am in Pomona, California. (Astrodatabank).

This singer, songwriter, composer and occasional actor doesn't immediately strike me as a Sun/Mercury Sagittarian with Sagittarius rising. His demeanor, his broken-down, hard-lived-in crackly voice, and the unrelenting melancholia seeping through his songs seems far too downbeat for bright and breezy, extravagant Sagittarius.

Neptune (creativity) sextile Sun is a helpful link for a song writer/composer. Jupiter, his Sun's ruler is in Aquarius conjoined with Venus, planet of the arts . Perhaps an Aquarian penchant for the unusual and unexpected is playing into the picture via his stage persona. Aquarius can be sensed in some of his more socially concerned lyrics too. This article refers: "Tom Waits and the Return of the Political Ballad"

Mars conjunct Saturn (a rather difficult combination of two planets often seen as having negative connotations) in Virgo form a challenging square (90*) aspect to Tom's natal Mercury, planet of communication. This Mars/Saturn link could well account for his draw towards the downbeat of life. His natal Moon in sensitive, moody Cancer just five degrees from Uranus, planet of the unexpected and rebellious echoes the peculiarly dismal impression Tom Waits projects.

The best way I can think of to describe Tom Waits' singing, to anybody who hasn't heard it, is "like the sadder, darker side of Louis Armstrong". Yes, unexpected!

I recall once, back in the UK, when my husband was staying there with me, we came across a recording on-line of Tom Waits singing "Somewhere" from West Side Story. We were fascinated! The husband copied it at once, sent it to his son (a graduate music major) with a note saying "You've never heard this song sung like this before!" I've found that one on YouTube, as well as my favourite from Tom Wait's repertoire:

"Tom Traubert's Blues"



We watched (well, semi-watched) the AMA Awards last night, toggling back and forth between the Awards and MASH repeats. I only really wanted to see Adam Lambert's performance, which closed the show, but we saw bits and pieces of the rest during commercial breaks. Not a lot to interest us, although Lady Ga-ga's number was fun, and as Himself said "It's so bad it's good and I like it!" Adam's number, "For Your Entertainment" was way over the top, risque - verging on "nasty". His voice didn't come across as the powerhouse it really is, and although I enjoyed hisnumber as a bit of fun (and that's what entertainment is supposed to be) I think he can do so very much better. The audience didn't seem too enraptured, and he flipped a finger at the end of his number. Not good. He's getting a lot of bad press today, I do hope he hasn't blown it (no pun intended).

Well - that's Aquarius/Aries for ya.

I note that Saturn in early Libra was opposing his Aries Moon yesterday - not exactly at the time of the show, but near enough to symbolise a bit of bother. He's appearing on Letterman's show tonight and promises to show us a different side of himself in the number he will sing.

Funny thing I've just noticed - Adam Lambert has Aquarius Sun & Aries Moon, so do I, and so does Alan Alda of MASH . One of 'em was watching t'other two last night.

Sunday, November 22, 2009


The dear husband noticed me looking bored and blank at the computer, devoid of inspiration. Helpful as always, he invited me to partake of his subscription to "You're part of the family", he reminded me. Yes indeed! I'd have been the last of my line if I'd tarried in Yorkshire, a childless gal and an only child myself. Now, by marriage I'm part of a chain again - albeit a link late and loose - a link nonetheless.

I began with some misgivings, for my father's side of the family I'm missing essential information. I'm not sure exactly where my paternal grandfather was born. Never mind. I made a start on the easy ones, two fairly unusual surnames from my mother's side made tracing back to the early 1800s and late 1700s fairly painless, though a little confusing at times. They had such big families in those days, ten and upward was the norm. Common first names tend to be repeated a lot in families too (John, Elizabeth, Mary, Sarah, Edward, Charles.....) It's very easy to get into a muddle. A sad sidelight was how many infant deaths there were. One family line I noticed had three successive offspring marked "died as infant".

Nothing very exciting emerged though. Nobody famous or infamous, apart from two men with my maternal grandfather's fairly unusual surname shipped to Australia on a prison ship for "machine breaking". My ancestors were sons and daughters of the soil, the lot of 'em, at least until my grandparents and their offspring found their metaphorical feet from the mid 20th century on. Still, as a researcher into one of my family names quoted:
"Whoever could make two ears of corn or two blades of grass to grow upon a spot of ground where only one grew before, would deserve better of mankind, and do more essential service to his country, than the whole race of politicians put together." (Jonathan Swift)

My forebears came from Hampshire, Wiltshire, Yorkshire, and possibly Suffolk, not a townie among them. Agricultural workers, ploughmen, grooms, labourers, domestic servants, cooks, farm manager, and a flour miller. Offspring from my parents' generation changed all that though. As far as I know, not one of my many cousins is still engaged in farming, instead there's a doctor, a couple in teaching, secretaries, an actuary, a couple of government workers. Improved opportunities in education and better health care for all after World War 2 in the UK were instrumental in opening wider opportunities to the Great Unwashed (eg: National Health Service, free higher education, nationalised public transport and utilities.) Scared of socialism anyone? It worked well then, for us.

Others have been researching their family history for years, in depth. Some can reach as far back as the Middle Ages in England. One of my family's surnames belonged to a rather swisher class, way back - landowners and Lords of the Manor types. I think my particular branch of that clan must have peeled off onto a side road somewhere and got themselves seriously lost!

One individual of the same surname as my paternal grandmother had gone as far as having his genome analysed. Apparently the Y chromosome he carries (it's carried only by the male line) links back to some of the original farming tribes of humankind. I'm more than a bit wary of this, to be honest, but dutifully did a little more research.

Cambridge DNA Services has an interesting website explaining in simple terms background information on DNA, Mitochondrial DNA, Mitochondrial Eve, Y chromosomal Adam, and Ancient Migrations. The slideshow of maps tracking early migrations is particularly fascinating.

It's pretty mind-blowing to consider that we've all, every one alive on this planet today, descended from a relatively small group of humans. It's useful to keep in mind though, when we start investigating and magnifying our differences.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Arty Farty Encore ~ Edward Steichen

It's good to get requests now and then - makes me feel a bit like a DJ, gives me illusions of grandeur ! A reader's request has led me to investigate the work of Edward Steichen, artist and photographer.
(Self portrait, left.)

I wasn't familiar with the work of this artist/photographer, but having seen some of it on-line, I'd definitely want to visit any available exhibition featuring it.

Edward Steichen was born on 27 March 1879 in the tiny Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, which lies between Germany, Belgium and France. His place of birth is recorded as Bivange, a town of around 600 inhabitants which doesn't appear in my software's atlas, so I've taken the nearest town I could find in southern Luxembourg as basis for his natal chart. His family moved to the USA in 1881, settling in Michigan. Steichen became a US citizen 19 years later. An apprenticeship in lithography led to his earliest artistic endeavours. He took up photography from around 1895, but continued to paint as well. Steichen was one of the first photographers in the US to experiment with colour photography.

He travelled in Europe connecting with some other now famous artists and photographers. World War One brought Steichen the opportunity of involvement with aerial photography. The experience of seeing the horrors and devastation on the Western Front from the air persuaded him to concentrate in future on realism rather than his former love of impressionism.
"I am no longer concerned with photography as an art form. I believe it is potentially the best medium for explaining man to himself and his fellow man."

Between the wars he concentrated on commercial and fashion photography, his work was often seen in glossy magazines of the time. After World War Two his organisational abilities came to the fore. Steichen became Director of Photography at the Museum of Modern Art, New York. In 1955 he organised what became the most popular exhibition in the history of photography, The Family of Man. This was a huge, thematic presentation. To organize the extravaganza, Steichen spent more than three years sorting two million photographic submissions. The 502 photographs he selected represented the work of 273 photographers from 68 counties.

His biographer, Dorothy Norman wrote:
"At a time when the atomic bomb's potential for total world destruction made life seem fragile and uncertain, he affirmed the essential oneness of humanity and the universality of everyday experience. By underscoring the shared values and experiences of humankind and thereby erasing the distinction between 'us' and ''them,' Steichen sought to further world peace. It was a message that spoke powerfully to the postwar world."

In 1964 the Edward Steichen Photography Center was established in the Museum of Modern Art.

On his 90th birthday Steichen is reported to have said:
"When I first became interested in photography, I thought it was the whole cheese. My idea was to have it recognized as one of the fine arts. Today I don't give a hoot ...about that. The mission of photography is to explain man to man and each man to himself. And that is no mean function. Man is the most complicated thing on earth and also as naive as a tender plant."

Edward Steichen died in Connecticut, in 1973.

His natal chart is set for 12 noon, in the absence of a time of birth. Moon before 8pm would have been in Taurus, if born later than that, Moon would have been in early Gemini. If pressed, I'd guess Moon in Taurus.

Sun conjunct Saturn in Aries doesn't immediately say "artist" to me. It says scientist , mathematician or lawyer. A little further research brought the answer to this astrological puzzle. Steichen began looking for inspiration in the natural world, following advice from his friend the sculptor, Auguste Rodin. This led him to an intense study of the mathematical ratios of plant growth. He taught himself plane and solid geometry and read complicated theory in his quest to discover nature's "golden mean." He had come to believe through his mathematical studies that a rectangle, when dissected into three triangles, each in extreme and mean ratio, represented nature's golden mean. He even conceived a children's book based on this principle(Right: He created Le Tournesol (The Sunflower) in the years after World War I, when he painted, photographed, and gardened at his home in Voulangis, France. The geometric patterned background reflects his studies). This is how Saturn conjunct natal Sun manifested in Steichen's case. Later in his career he displayed a very Saturnian flair for organisation - of art and photography for exhibitions.

Steichen is said to have been a keen gardener, breeding new varieties of delphinium and raising sunflowers and other blooms - a reflection of his three planets on the Earthy sign Taurus.

Venus, planet of the arts lies at home in Taurus, one of its rulerships, a clear pointer to his path in life, especially so as Neptune, planet of creativity and photography, lies within 6 degrees of Venus. Jupiter in its traditional home, Pisces, the sign ruled by Neptune in modern astrology, makes a helpful sextile aspect to Venus and a nice art/photography linkage!

Mars, planet of drive and energy in Aquarius makes a helpful sextile to Sun/Saturn in Aries. Aquarius represents the avant garde, and a draw towards social reform. Here his early experimentation with color photography is reflected, as well as his social conscience coming to the fore in his tour de force "The Family of Man" exhibition.

Spartacus Educational
National Gallery of Art (Le Tournesol)
Book Rags
The City Review:Art Museums



THE POND - MOONLIGHT 1904 (World's most expensive photograph. In February 2006, a print of the photograph sold for US $2.9 million, at the time, the highest price ever paid for a photograph at auction.)




Painting: MARSHES

Friday, November 20, 2009

Arty Farty Friday ~ Richard Lindner

"Who?" you say. So did I, at first.
(Left:"Hit", by Richard Lindner. 1971)

I settled on writing a few lines about Richard Lindner after considering first Egon Schiele (too porny and horny for a family blog), then Lucian Freud (nudes can get so boring), and finally found something of interest in Mr. Lindner's artwork. Investigating examples via Google Image, the style seemed kind of familiar. It had a general "feel" of The Beatles about it - think of those Yellow Submarine images. Lindner's style seems reminiscent of much from the early 70s, even though some of his work was painted well outside that time span - perhaps it provided the inspiration for later artists.

My feeling of a link to the Beatles was triumhantly justified when I happened upon some websites showing the famous cover of their Sergeant Pepper album.

Richard Lindner is one of the numerous faces featured there, the cover was said to be a kind of homage to people they admired.....Lindner's face is behind George Harrison - not immediately behind, but the next one up, and below a female face.

Back to the astrology of artist du jour: Richard Lindner. He was born in Hamburg, Germany on 11 November 1901. His family moved to Nuremburg , later Lindberg studied in Munich but at the rise of Hitler and the Nazis he escaped to Paris, then in 1941 traveled to New York, where he worked as illustrator for various glossy magazines. He became an American citizen in 1948. He later taught at the Pratt Institute and Yale University.

His natal chart is set for 12 noon as no time of birth is available.

It's another of those distinctive-looking charts, with all personal planets clustered within just 3 zodiac signs: Scorpio, Sagittarius and Capricorn. Two outer planets Pluto and Neptune lie roughly opposite. Some astrologers class this type of configuration as a fan or bucket pattern, the "odd" planets form the handle. In this case, because the handle planets are outer, slow-movers which relate to whole age groups, I'm not so sure this applies.

What we can say about his personal planets is that though they are clustered close together, they still present a fairly well-balanced picture, element-wise and mode-wise. In a nutshell Lindner's Sun, and Moon (whatever time of birth) in Scorpio indicate an intense character, one with the ability to see through pretense and get to the core of things. A spot of Sagittarian exaggeration from Mars seeps into all of his art - it's his trademark in fact, along with the bright garish colors, as can be seen below. Venus Jupiter and Saturn all in Capricorn reflect a basically practical, rather than whimsical nature - and perhaps the strange flatness of his paintings comes from the Capricorn and Saturn in his nature, both link to limitation and structure. He lets himself go on color and content but limits himself in depth and perspective.

In this quote his art is described as "erotically drawn" (Scorpio) "highly defined", "mechanistic"(Capricorn/Saturn):

His work has been described by art critics as "mechanistic cubism." Infused with personal imagination, his style has overtones of the "Cabaret-Berlin" culture of the 30's, with flat areas of often garish colors, separated by highly defined edges. His subjects, too, seem to come from that era. His women, archetypal in this respect, are often corseted, erotically drawn in a garish and generic, rather than individuated way. Streetwalkers, continental circus women, and men in uniforms populate the Lindner landscape

Richard Lindner died in 1978.