Wednesday, November 30, 2011

SINCLAIR LEWIS :" I love America, but I don't like it"

SINCLAIR LEWIS was born 7 February 1885 in Sauk Centre, Minnesota.

A well-worn line, mistakenly believed to have been his, is quoted by writers, bloggers and commenters frequently:
When facism comes to America it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross.
It's not impossible that Lewis uttered something along those lines in conversation, but it remained undocumented. Something very similar, though with no reference to "the cross" was said/written in 1938 by Professor Halford E. Luccock, then repeated and embellished by Huey Long, Louisiana's legendary populist Governor, U.S. Senator and favorite son. For any passing reader who'd be interested in following the trail of evidence on this, see:

Sinclair Lewis was a satirical novelist with an almost scary level of prescience. His satire had serious purpose. On reading extracts from his novels a wide smile kept creeping in - the guy was a textbook Aquarian. Not many born when Sun is in Aquarius can claim that!

After a short period of unsuccessful novel writing, financed by mundane desk jobs and working as a journalist, Lewis eventually found his signature style. It was one which fits beautifully with his astrology. His style might be described as 'dispelling myths and unveiling hypocrisy.'

His central characters are the pioneer, the doctor, the scientist, the businessman, and the feminist. The appeal of his best fiction lies in the opposition between his idealistic protagonists and an array of fools, charlatans, and scoundrels - evangelists, editorialists, pseudo-artists, cultists, and boosters.(From The Quixotic Vision of Sinclair Lewis by Martin Light, 1975)

Sinclair Lewis was one of the first American writers to address feminism. In his 1920 novel Main Street, a classic satire of small-town America, he tells the story of young Carol Kennicott who arrives in Gopher Prairie, Minnesota, with dreams of transforming the provincial old town into a place of beauty and culture. She runs into a wall of bigotry, hypocrisy and complacency. The book was the first bestseller to attack conventional ideas about marriage, gender roles, and small town life, establishing Lewis as a major American novelist.
Main Street is available to read on-line.

Reading a few chapters again, after not having seen the book for many years, I was struck by Lewis's firm yet delicate writing style. He seems to understand women, has an innate understanding of life in general, and expresses himself lightly and easily without pretentious wordiness (Mercury in Capricorn?)

Lewis was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1930 - the first American writer to be so honoured. In 1925, his novel Arrowsmith, about a young scientist and medical student won the Pulitzer Prize, which he refused to accept. He wrote
"I wish to acknowledge your choice of my novel Arrowsmith for the Pulitzer Prize. That prize I must refuse, and my refusal would be meaningless unless I explained the reasons.

All prizes, like all titles, are dangerous. The seekers for prizes tend to labor not for inherent excellence but for alien rewards; they tend to write this, or timorously to avoid writing that, in order to tickle the prejudices of a haphazard committee. And the Pulitzer Prize for Novels is peculiarly objectionable because the terms of it have been constantly and grievously misrepresented.

Those terms are that the prize shall be given "for the American novel published during the year which shall best present the wholesome atmosphere of American life, and the highest standard of American manners and manhood." This phrase, if it means anything whatsoever, would appear to mean that the appraisal of the novels shall be made not according to their actual literary merit but in obedience to whatever code of Good Form may chance to be popular at the moment."
You can smell Aquarius in every line!

An Aquarian writer worth his salt is going to approach politics at some point. Sinclair Lewis didn't disappoint. He wrote It Can't Happen Here (1935), the book from which the mis-attributed quote mentioned at the top of this post was thought to have originated. It's a tale of newspaperman Doremus Jessup struggling against the fascist regime of US President Berzelius "Buzz" Windrip. It serves as a warning that political movements akin to Nazism can come to power in countries such as the USA when people blindly support their leaders.

Oh my!! Was Sinclair Lewis a prophet, or not?

Although he ridiculed the values, the lifestyles, and even the speech of his characters, there is affection behind the irony. In some ways I see in Sinclair Lewis the novelist who describes in words what Norman Rockwell expressed pictorially. Lewis, however, saw things through a rather more jaundiced eye. Both men were Sun Aquarians.

Lewis is said to have taken to excessive drinking, and died alone, in Rome, at the age of 66.

I admire Sinclair Lewis even more now than I did back in the 1950s when I first read an example of his writing. His wisdom and courage still shine through, his work remains as meaningful as ever.

12 noon chart - his time of birth isn't known. Rising sign will not be as shown, nor will exact degree/sign of Moon position.

I suspect Mars so closely conjunct Lewis' Aquarian Sun added vigour to the way he expressed his views. He was said to be always "angry". He tilted at sexism, religious bigotry, political hypocrisy, small town attitudes, materialism, and anything else which offended his code of equality and fairness.

A Scorpio Moon (if he were born before 5:00 PM) would have added passion bordering on obsession into his natal blueprint. Born after 5:00PM Moon in Sagittarius would bring in a philosophical bent and penchant for speaking/writing his mind, no punches pulled (which he undoubtedly displayed). It's possible to make a case for Moon in either sign. I prefer Sagittarius, on balance, that would bring in some elemental Fire - something else that is fairly obvious from his writing.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011


Sun is now in Sagittarius - as it is each year between 22 November and 21 December - with lee-way of a day in either direction. I thought I'd already completed a year of excerpts from Ingrid Lind's out-of-print little book Astrology and Commonsense, but on checking I find I've still a couple of signs to go before completing the zodiac - I began in January with my own Sun sign, Aquarius.


Quality: Mutable
Element: Fire
Ruler: Jupiter

In the last sign, Scorpio, I made no attempt to carry on the imagery of the gradual progress or development through the signs; but I hope it was made clear that the complexity reached through inharmonious mixing of quality, element and ruler had reached a high level.

In Sagittarius we have a respite and the explanation is easy to understand when we look at the ingredients of this sign. It is not hard to think of a fire as mutable, and Jupiter expands or exaggerates whatever it contacts. This gives us exaggerated fire and mutability which in a phrase describes Sagittarius, the mutable or adaptable expression of an ardent temperament.

Thus Sagittarians are friendly, impulsive, impatient, light-hearted and optimistic. They feel warmly in love but acknowledge the need for freedom; and where Scorpio will be bogged down in emotional thraldom, Sagittarius will detach himself, his eye cocked for the next adventure. At a high level of adventure he is the philosopher who has learned the value of non-attachment and the futility of fear and suffering; and even if he has not advanced as far as this mentally, he knows instinctively the value of laisser-aller. (Note = letting go)

It will be remembered that the first five signs all had different ruling planets and that each sign was strongly of the nature of that ruling planet; when we talk of Mars we might as well be talking of Aries and so on for these first five. Then came Virgo, Libra and Scorpio, all with ruling planets in conflict with either quality or element. In Sagittarius we once again have a ruling planet in complete accord with the sign, and what is written later under the heading Jupiter applies to Sagittarius. But Sagittarius is in no sense a primitive sign. Its diverse ingredients combine harmoniously, giving power of relaxed enjoyment, and Jupiter gives the "big" quality that enables the Sagittarian to see things from a distance. Intuition is stronger than intellect, but there is no weakness here: it is more that the mind ranges beyond the confines of reasoning, or book knowledge.

Sagittarian Qualities
Dignity without pride

Sagittarian Faults
Over-heartiness (which can be very boring)
Trusting to luck
Over-impulsiveness, impatience, irritability.

My main thought on this is to remember that Sagittarian-types vary widely, depending upon how much planetary emphasis there is on neighbouring signs of Scorpio and/or Libra, and where Sagittarius' ruler Jupiter is found in the chart, for those born with Sun in Sagittarius. The piece can also apply, in part, anyone with Moon or ascendant in Sagittarius, or with a cluster pf planets in the sign. The above, excellent assessment though it is, is not a cut-and-dried prescription, it will almost certainly need to be watered down, heated up, blown around or given some grounding for each individual.

PS~~~There are several archived posts on Sagittarius, easily accessible by scrolling down to the Label Cloud in the sidebar, then clicking on "Sagittarius".

Monday, November 28, 2011

Music Monday ~ Bruce Channel, Donizetti, & Josh Krajcik

Well-known musical peeps born today, 28 November, are few and far between. Bruce Channel, is one, born 1940 in Jacksonville, Texas, known for his 1962 one hit, million-seller Hey Baby! He and Margaret Cobb wrote the song.
Interesting tidbit with a connection to The Beatles. From Wiki
Channel toured Europe and was supported at one gig by The Beatles, who were then still unknown. John Lennon, who had "Hey! Baby" on his jukebox, was fascinated by (Delbert) McClinton's harmonica (on the recording). A popular urban legend has it that Lennon was taught to play harmonica by McClinton, but by that time, Lennon had already been playing the instrument live for some time. The harmonica break in "Hey! Baby" inspired Lennon's playing on The Beatles' first single, 1962's "Love Me Do", as well as later Beatles records

Hey Baby! video: see YouTube HERE

Back in the mists of time - 1797 - on 29 November (tomorrow), Gaetano Donizetti was born in Bergamo, Lombardy, Italy....I'd best not call him a "one hit wonder", but his opera Lucia de Lammermoor is the only work of his even vaguely familiar to this Philistine.
From bio HERE

Donizetti was a friendly and sincere man, supportive of fellow composers and other artists, and loyal to his long-time mentor Mayr. Unfortunately, he endured great tragedy in his personal life. Donizetti had met his wife Virginia Vasselli while he was in Rome in the 1820's and married her in 1828. They had three children, none of whom survived. His parents died in the mid 1830s. A year after his parents' death, his wife succumbed to a cholera epidemic. Donizetti himself suffered from cerebro-spinal syphilis. Symptoms of his illness became evident as early as 1843; by 1845 his condition deteriorated to the point that he was institutionalized for almost a year and a half. His friend from Vienna, Baron Lannoy, interceded with Donizetti's nephew to have the composer moved to a Paris apartment where he could be cared for and receive visitors. Verdi came to see him there and was deeply saddened by his colleague's condition. Friends in Bergamo finally arranged for Donizetti to be brought back to his home town, where he stayed at Baroness Scotti's palace until his death in 1848.
Such a sad life, punctuated by many tragedies! I don't see much indication of that in his natal chart, at least not using the time of birth stated at Astrotheme (7:30 AM). Possibly they used a sunrise chart, though it's not tagged as such. Astrotheme ususally indicates "time unknown" when that is the case.

There are challenging aspects (90* squares) to his Sun and Moon from Uranus and Saturn respectively, and Pluto in Aquarius is in close harmonious trine to Mars in Libra. So the potential "baddies" among the planets are all significantly linked, one way or another, which could, I guess, be interpreted as an indication of a difficult life pattern.

At YouTube: Maria Callas,Giuseppe di Stefano: from Lucia di Lammermoor. Live 1955 - SEE HERE

Appropos of nothing but the fact that we think this guy should win X-Factor USA, the only video I'll embed today ~~~

Josh Krajcik, now one of 7 remaining contestants and reportedly received more than one third of total votes last week, when he sang the Rolling Stones' Wild Horses. It's about time somebody took this beautiful song, written by Keith Richards and Mick Jagger, and did it justice. In my opinion nobody has, so far. I don't dislike like Susan Boyle's interpretation, but really it needs a voice like Josh's; female little girly voices just don't fit, and most rock stars tend to ride roughshod over the lyrics. I hope they get Josh into a recording studio pronto. I'd buy any CD of his right now!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Learning Curve on the Politic

I often get to wondering why some of us feel as intense we do regarding left and right stances in politics. A post: : aux armes? by al loomis (no capitals - ever), at Open Salon the other day reminded me of reasons for my own strongly left-leaning political ideals.

These lines, from al loomis, regarding his family history, shed light on why some things in my own ancestral memory bank are significant:

...... participants in the great depression are nearly all dead now, but my father grew up in a farm destroyed by the dust bowl, and had to leave home at 14, driven by hunger. his story was quite typical. for half of america, conditions then were vastly worse than now, but still the elite kept control of american society. socialism appeared but was subsumed into the democrat party, and strangled.

compared to the events of the 30's, calling ows a revolutionary movement is self-delusionary. yet it is not useless: this generation of unhappy people have to learn transformational politics the hard way, like everyone else.
In Britain, long before the 1930s, in the late 1800s in fact, my paternal grandfather was born in Suffolk, England, amid the beautiful pastoral landscape beloved of painter John Constable. There, in those days, wealthy landowners paid farm labourers such as those from the family background of my Grandfather, pittances to toil long hours on their estates and farms, with womenfolk as maidservants in their sumptuous households, under serf-like working conditions.

Grandad and his sister, both still very young, with their mother somehow found themselves in a workhouse in a neighbouring county: Essex. Details of how this came about remain unknown to me, as does identity of the children's father. As soon as Grandad was old enough he set off to walk northward to find work. Eventually, after many stops on the way, taking months or even years, picking up temporary farm work wherever he could, he reached Yorkshire, England's biggest county - English version of Texas I always think. He got a job as shepherd on a large farm, met my Grandmother who was then a servant to some branch of local landed gentry. They married, lived in the modest cottage provided for the shepherd. Children came in rapid succession, two daughters, then my father and, eventually, seven more assorted siblings.

1914: World War 1 - it changed the scene. Grandad served in the army, suffered injury to his leg, which though often painful didn't seriously restict his walking. On return home he began work as a postman (mailman), a job he carried out for the rest of his working life. His five daughters, when of age, had to take the only option of work available: domestic servants to the local wealthy. His four older sons, including Dad were obliged to leave school around age 14 to help provide for their siblings. My father had had ambitions of working in the local railway offices, or in the post office, but that wasn't possible without longer schooling. He eventually took apprenticeship to a local baker. Dad met and married my mother who was working as a domestic servant to some local dignitary or other. Once wed, they moved to Brighton in the south of England to seek better opportunities. Dad got a decent job as foreman in a big bakery, while Mum became domestic servant to a journalist on a swanky magazine, sadly only a minor improvement for her. In late 1938, before World War 2 began, my maternal Grandmother persuaded my parents-to-be to "come back home" to Yorkshire. They did, and happily my Dad soon got a job as manager of a big bakery in Hull, with Mum managing one of their shops, which had a house, for us, adjoining.

A few years after World War 2, my parents adventurously struck out in business on their own. They rented a property, previously a house and butchery business in a small market town in East Yorkshire. They equipped a bakery as best they could, using their own handiwork and what capital they had (very little) to buy equipment sufficient to transform the place into a bakery and update the shop, improving and modernising as soon as profits allowed. Through years of hard work and long hours, just the two of them, providing excellent bread and confectionery, they eventually made a comfortable living, and gathered experience to move on to other types of small business. For several years, before they retired, they ran sub-post offices in a variety of locations. My Dad's early wish to work behind a post office counter, had at last come to fruition. They had ridden the "spiral of time" through the worst of times and into a more comfortable era - for a while at least.

For a long time the lives of servitude of my earliest forebears didn't strike me as anything unusual or something to question. Unions and workers' rights had then been unknown in our part of the world. The wealthy were in charge, that was a simple fact of life, it had never been different. Bowing and scraping to those seen as "one's betters" was the done thing.

Thoughts on politics for me, as a teenager, were non-existent, in spite of some hints from a distinctly socialistic history mistress, whose habit it was to wear a bright red overall during lessons, I remained "in the dark" about politics in general.

My parents were mainly apolitical, but, as I recall, voted Conservative (until Maggie Thatcher's reign anyway), probably for the same reason people in that part of the world still vote Conservative; and for the same reason people in this part of rural mid-USA still vote Conservative/Republican. They didn't/don't "get it", in spite of family backgrounds, which in many cases include generations of servitude to the wealthy.

The light of understanding, for me, began to penetrate by degrees, with benefit of input from a well-respected first boss, who hailed originally from the cotton mill-towns of Lancashire. There Friedrich Engels, friend of Karl Marx, had long ago conquered hearts and minds with his efforts to raise awareness of injustices, and improve the conditions of mill-workers. My boss, steeped in Labour politics, influenced his young assistant to think more deeply on things political.

Later, Bill, my well-loved late significant other enlightened me further. His background was very different from my own. His mother had been the daughter of a very conservative, rather snobbish family in Northern Ireland. To the family's utmost chagrin, she had married an engineering blacksmith, one of the leaders of his trade union and activist in the local Labour party: Bill's father. Hearing about his father's ideals and good works, the light flooded in, I realised exactly what I felt about it all. The darkness has never descended again.

As al loomis points out in his post (linked above) things now are quite different from the way things were for our parents and grandparents. Similar patterns do remain though. History is rhyming again! Instead of landed gentry and wealthy industrialists we have corporations and oligarchs ruling the roost. The spiral of time and history has brought us to another point, via some helpful periods during which things seemed to improve for ordinary folk, back again to a pattern that is becoming suspiciously recognisable.

When I write on politics, or discuss politics with my husband, I get an instinctive feeling of a supporting, encouraging presence of those gone before, both loved and unknown, who suffered indignities themselves, or who have understood the crux of poliical problems. (Note: I am not normally given to such fanciful ideas!)

If matters are allowed to slip back, as they appear to be doing, into a 21st century version of serfdom or indentured servitude for the masses, to last for decades, we shall be doing ourselves, and those who will follow when we're gone, the greatest possible disservice. Surely a return to an old darkness, albeit a newer version of it - akin to one of those unfortunate Hollywood re-makes, need not be inevitable? Surely we do not need World War 3 to force us to turn a corner into the light again? Surely we have learned some lessons?

And that is why my political views are as they are!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Arty Farty Friday ~ George Segal, Artist and Sculptor

George Segal (not the movie star, the artist) was born 26 November 1924 - tomorrow would have been his birthday. He died in 2000. Segal is considered to be one of the founders of the 1960's Pop Art movement. His works include abstract paintings, pastels, very large portraits, but possibly best known are his reliefs of human figures and plaster scupltures.
"My teachers were abstract painters. But I was overwhelmed by the necessity of reality-by the real world."
It was this philosophy that separated Segal from his fellow Pop artists. Segal surpassed their focus on wit and sophisticated attachment, in favor of displaying the human condition, its solitude and fragility. He placed his sculptures in modern, everyday settings and situations and gave them an eery feeling of isolation. It is this look that gives his figures a humane quality. Segal is quoted as saying in The Christian Science Monitor:
"I note [my subjects'] gestures. I depend on my language [plaster] to communicate anguish. I really am interested in provoking a state of compassion."
He drew inspiration from everyday life, but also from film, literature, and the Old Testament.

From Wikipedia: In place of traditional casting techniques, Segal pioneered the use of plaster bandages (plaster-impregnated gauze strips designed for making orthopedic casts) as a sculptural medium. In this process, he first wrapped a model with bandages in sections, then removed the hardened forms and put them back together with more plaster to form a hollow shell. These forms were not used as molds; the shell itself became the final sculpture, including the rough texture of the bandages. Initially, Segal kept the sculptures stark white, but a few years later he began painting them, usually in bright monochrome colors. Eventually he started having the final forms cast in bronze, sometimes patinated white to resemble the original plaster.

From the 1950s until his death Segal lived on a chicken farm in South Brunswick Township, New Jersey, and used the location for displays of his work.

More detail HERE.

George Segal, born on 26 November 1924 in New York. No time of birth is known, a 12noon chart is shown below. Rising sign will not be as shown and exact position of Moon remains unknown.

Sun, Mercury and Jupiter in Sagittarius, with Moon also in that sign, with a birthtime after 6:00 AM, otherwise in late Scorpio. Jupiter is in its sign of rulership here, George Segal likely fitted well most textbook descriptions of Sagittarius: optimistic, good humoured, straight-talking, philosophical. There's little online about the private side of his personality, all we can be sure of is what shines through his artwork. He was certainly unafraid to say (through his sculptures) exactly what he thought on contraversial topics...which would be seen as typical Sagittarian bluntness in any other context. His work indicates a definite philosophical mindset too.

However, in addition to Sagittarian Fire there's a strong showing of the element of Water in Segal's chart. Saturn in Scorpio, Mars/Uranus in Pisces and Pluto in Cancer - all Water signs and in harmonious trine, together form a Grand Trine in Water - signifying a depth of emotion, empathy and intuition that is quite apart from the Fire optimisim and straight-talking of Sagittarius. This emotional strength shows through clearly in many of his sculptures and choice of subjects - see below.

Rush Hour

The Fireside Chat (FDR used radio talks to speak directly to the American public).

Breadline Words etched on wall to left of sculptures are worth copying here: "The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much, it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little."

Woman on White Wicker Chair

Street Crossing

The Holocaust

In Memory of May 4, 1970: Kent State-Abraham and Isaac ~ created in response to the shooting of anti-war demonstrators by the National Guard, on the Kent State campus during the Vietnam War. Segal used the idea of Abraham's willingness to sacrifice his son Isaac in order to complete God's will, to represent the National Guard's willingness to sacrifice American people to make a point. The sculpture shows Isaac on his knees in front of Abraham, seemingly begging for his life. This work was considered to be politically controversial and rejected by its comissioner Kent State for being "unpatriotic". The sculpture is now part of Princeton University's modern sculpture garden.

Farewell to Ishmael (Abraham bids farewell, embraces Ishmael with deep regret. Hagar's expression is grim, almost like controlled panic at what is virtually a death sentence for herself and her son. Sarah watches, half-hidden, as the anguished farewells are made.)

Gay Liberation


Circus Acrobats

Couple On Two Benches

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Retro Thanksgiving

A Happy Thanksgiving to everyone who will be celebrating on Thursday.

As we enter a Mercury Retrograde period, it seems appropriate to dip into the past for some echoes from a bygone era.
I found these postcards in an antique store in Purcell, Oklahoma. They are postmarked, 1919, 1914 and 1920, from Kansas (Bison, Wichita and Hutchinson) and carry short personal Thanksgiving greetings addressed to surnames Bieber, Wulfmeyer and Boruff, in either Horsington Hospital, or "City". My husband enlightened me on "City". In days-gone-by the post office accepted this on any piece of mail addressed to the same city in which it was posted.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Altus Quinque to the Zodiac Signs

Thinking back, a long, long way back, to my schooldays in England I recall our school motto: Laetus Sorte Mea, which, translated = Happy In My Lot. We, pupils of the Bridlington High School for Girls, carried it on the pockets of our green/black/white striped blazers and a smaller version on our green, and hated, hats.

High School/Grammar School in England back then was quite different from High School in the USA....I'd venture that it was a much more serious undertaking for pupils. We experienced no such entertainments as Prom Nights, ego boosting graduation ceremonies, or undue emphasis on sport - just solid work and a high degree of discipline much of the time. From Junior Schools at age 11 pupils had to pass "the eleven-plus exam", which was supposed to separate the more academically inclined kids from more practical souls. I somehow managed to pass into mini-academia, had to travel 12 miles by train to attend to the girls' High School in Bridlington.

The lovely old school building has now been converted to apartments. Education moved on apace from those days of academic and gender-segregation, without, as far as I could see, any improvement in quality.

Anyway - back to business: why not a Latin motto for each zodiac sign? Here are a few appropriate ones, offered in some cases with tongue in cheek:

Primus inter pares - First among equals
Ex tempore - Off the cuff, without preparation

Consuetudinis magna vis est - The force of habit is great.
Difficile est longum subito deponere amorem - It is difficult to suddenly give up a long love.

Audio, video, disco - I hear, I see, I learn
Facilius est multa facere quam diu - It is easier to do many things than to do one for a long time.

Veni, vidi, volo in domum redire - I came, I saw, I want to go home.
Est queadam fiere voluptas - There is a certain pleasure in weeping.

Magister mundi sum! - I am the master of the universe!
Veni, Vidi, Visa - I Came, I Saw, I Shopped.

Mens sibi conscia recti - A mind conscious of its rectitude.
Abutebaris modo subjunctivo denuo - You've been misusing the subjunctive again.

Pro et contra - For and against.
Audiatur et altera pars! - Let us hear the opposite side!

Nemo me impune lacessit - No one provokes me with impunity.
Corruptio optimi pessima - Corruption of the best is worst.

Primum viveri deinde philosophari - Live before you philosophize, or Leap before you look.
O diem praeclarum! - Oh, what a beautiful day!

Pecuniate obediunt omnia - All things obey money.
Labor omnia vincit - Work conquers all things.

Omne ignotum pro magnifico est - We have great notions of everything unknown.
Vox populi - The voice of the people.

Pulvis et umbra sumus - We are dust and shadow.
Poeta nascitur, non fit - The poet is born, not made.

PS Altus Quinque as in post title = High Five

Monday, November 21, 2011

Music Monday ~ Dr John

We're contemplating the last few sips of Sun in Scorpio now. Sun will move into Sagittarius after tomorrow. There's a Music Monday subject among these final dregs, known best to the public as Dr. John - proper name: Malcolm John Rebennack. Dr John's a talented boogie/blues pianist and gravelly-voiced singer of R&B with a touch of Cajun thrown in courtesy of his native New Orleans. His signature style has been termed "voodoo music" by some, but he's also known for great renditions of more traditional blues forms, pop, jazz and Zydeco.He has appeared in several movies: Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, The Last Waltz, Candy Mountain, The Blues Brothers. He also wrote and performed the score for the film version of John Steinbeck's Cannery Row and his hit song Right Place Wrong Time was used extensively in the movie Dazed and Confused.

Dr John has been on the music scene since 1950 - not always high profile. In the late 1950s he was playing sessions with Joe Tex, Frankie Ford and Professor Longhair. In the 1960s he began a long and productive solo career, peaking with a 1973 hit single Right Place Wrong Time. Nowadays he devotes a lot of attention to aiding victims of Hurricane Katrina and the BP oil spill both of which devastated his native area. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame this year.

Born 21 November 1940 in New Orleans. His time of birth is not known, so a 12 noon chart shown below - rising sign will not be accurate, nor will degree of Moon in Leo.

He has planets at both ends of Scorpio: Sun at the far edge at 29* and Mars (Scorpio's traditional ruler) at the gateway 00*. Mercury is found around mid-sign. Thats a potent dose of the old Scorpio tincture! It manifests, in Dr John's case in his draw to the voodoo elements of his New Orleans background. Voodoo, with its dark mysteries links to Pluto, Scorpio's modern ruler. Venus, planet of the arts is in Libra, a sign known for its musical traits, and ruled by Venus, planet of the arts. Creative Neptune, in discerning Virgo and in helpful sextile to his Scorpio Sun plays into his songwriting talent (also on the darker side to the pitfalls of addiction, which at various times he has encountered).

There are three planets in Earthy Taurus (also ruled by musical Venus) opposing his Scorpio trio and helping to "ground" his more outlandish aspirations - and his feet, helping his career towards a longevity which might otherwise have been swallowed up by Neptune's addictions. Ah - but Uranus, the eccentric one is there in Taurus. Taurus can ground even the eccentricities of Uranus - I'm here to prove it!

Below, two videos of Dr John performing: first with a fellow-Scorpio-Sun-type, Ricky Lee Jones, on Makin' Whoopee, second playing Swanee River Boogie (if you don't tap your feet to this one you're asleep!)

Saturday, November 19, 2011

SATURDAY-SUNDAY SUNDRIES (Occupy; kinky; Pleasantville.)

A comment I noticed the other day struck me as funny yet clever. It was after this week's police crackdowns and occasional rough behaviour towards Occupy protesters, and it went something like this: "We pay our taxes - the taxes go to pay the police - the police beat us and rough us up - that's kinda kinky when you think about it!"

On another level of "kinky" altogether, X Factor USA is beginning to make me feel a wee bit queasy at times. Last week was supposed to be Rock Week, only one singer (our favourite, Josh Krajcik) actually sang any valid rock, but that's by the way. I'm increasingly concerned about the way the very young contestants are being treated. I'm not sure that the Stones' "Satisfaction" was a suitable song for a 13-year old Rachel Crow to be singing on national TV. Nor was it very edifying to see a 15-year old rapper brought to tears by remarks made by Simon Cowell and L A Reid. Admittedly the young lad, "Astro", had displayed rather too much arrogance (but he's a teen for goodness sake - what do we expect?)

The minimum age for X-Factor is far too low in my view. If a talent show for teens is what they want, it'd be preferable to market it as such, keep it separate from shows for adult performers; give the kids age-appropriate songs to sing, and not use them as cynical publicity stunts!

Among some VCR tapes I bought for $1 each recently was Pleasantville, picked at random, I knew nothing about it. We watched it on Friday night; it happened to be on top of the "pending" pile, room too dark to read the sleeve. What a treat! A fun but still thought-provoking movie.

Released in 1998, written and directed by Gary Ross (a Sun in Scorpio person by the way, who also wrote screenplays for movies Big, and Dave). Pleasantville stars Toby Maguire, Reese Witherspoon, Joan Allen and Jeff Daniels among others.

It's a fable, parable, allegory, piece of subversive satire, fairy story, fantasy - it defies exact categorisation. The more I think about it the more I see in it, the more amazed I am at the layers within layers of insight. It's not only relevant to the late 20th century but also to today - truly, moreso today. It only takes a tiny amount of squinting the mental eye to see it as having been written last week!

In a nutshell: two present-day (1990s) teenage siblings, squabbling over the TV remote, he wanting to watch his favourite nostalgic sitcom, about which he knows facts, figures and detailed trivia ready for an upcoming quiz, and she, rather more worldly, wants to rock to MTV. They are magically pulled, against their wills into the world of the nostalgic TV sitcom with the help of a TV repair man - played by Don Knott (a bit of mischievous casting there).

Their 1990s sensibilities contrast wildly with the two dimensional black and white images of the sitcom brought to life. There are so many clever hints and tricks throughout the movie, too many to list. The real meat and potatoes doesn't begin to reveal itself until around half-way through. I had one of those "sharp intakes of brreath" as I recognised what it was all really about, and even more amazing, how it still can be applied today, with slight adaptation (history rhymes, not repeats - remember!)

Resistance to change, closed minds, fear of change and what some will do to avoid change is at the heart of the message. There are multiple inter-related messages coming at the viewers throughout the movie....and not preachy messages.

The soundtrack is excellent, from Dave Brubeck's Take 5, Miles Davis' So What, Randy Newman's Suite from Pleasantville to, towards the end of the movie the Beatles' Across the Universe sung by Fiona Apple: "Nothing's gonna change my world.....nothing's gonna change my world........"

I later scooted through a few comments about the movie from several different websites. I was amused, but not too surprised to see some strong opposition to the movie's themes, and on a couple of Christian-based websites were comments raging about certain "sinful" parts of the movie, and concentrating on "biblical themes" it presented. The movie did indeed present some biblical images: the apple, the burning bush (or tree) for instance, but it rapidly moved beyond them as part of an overall evolution of attitudes.

I shall watch the tape again, there's far too much to take in at one viewing, once one cottons on to the movie's intended theme it's too late to catch all the references.

Highly recommended!

From a selection at some examples of signs carried at Occupy protests: