Friday, November 30, 2012


Yesterday's thoughts on PCism reminded me of a complaint of my own, and if I say so myself, it's a valid one, one which matches the original intentions of political correctness: reaching for general courtesy and thoughtfulness for others.

It's a tricky question to ask in the current economic climate, but why is so much emphasis placed on numbers? Numbers are at the top and bottom of most of our common problems, economy-wise, climate-wise, vote-wise and otherwise, but when it comes to numbers of years a person spends on Earth, numbers ought to be accorded less importance.

Among the young and those heading towards middle-age, there appears to be a feeling that sentient life somehow declines and eventually stops soon after the 50th year.

Stereotyping or labelling of any group, generation or individual on the basis of age is illogical. An example of this came up during the recent election circus. A piece by Niall Ferguson at The Daily Beast was basically a tear-down piece of Joe Biden's VP debate performance. Last para:
What we saw last week was not just a contrast between Irish-American political styles. We saw the opening round in the clash of generations that will soon dominate American politics. If Laughing Uncle Joe—who turns 70 this year—has nothing better to offer than “It’s going to be OK,” then I suspect a surprisingly large number of younger voters will turn instead to young Father—and future veep—Paul Ryan.

Apart from the right-wing slant of the whole piece, this pitting of one generation against another bugs me.

Some seem to assume that the accumulation of knowledge, experience and emotional intelligence the average person gathers through time simply degenerates into so much goo, with the hapless individual rapidly descending into vegetative state, just waiting for the journey to the funeral home. Where did this idea come from? I think it comes from the past and should be rapidly updated. People, of whatever age, who cling to this notion are old themselves - in their mindset.

Ageism is one more big "ism" needing to be addressed. In the USA and UK there is legislation in place to combat racism and sexism; the USA also has legislation dealing with age discrimination in employment - I don't know how well that works. I accept that there are many considerations an employer has to weigh, especially in cases where lengthy and expensive training is part of the job, when choosing between a younger person and a person who is nearing retirement. That kind of thing isn't what annoys me. I worked in the department administering Employment Tribunals in the UK for 24 years, and became sharply aware that issues are hardly ever clear-cut in such cases.

What really concerns me is the more social aspect of ageism. People of "a certain age" are expected to accept insults and sneers while ethnic minorities and younger women have some protection of the law against discrimination, slurs and name-calling.

"Ageism is as odious as racism and sexism" - that's a quote from someone called Claude Pepper, but I've said it myself, often. Description of older individuals as geezers, wrinklies, crotchety, blue-hairs, senile, etc. is abuse, as hurtful and degrading as someone being called "nigger", "rag-head" and other such slurs. Many people just don't understand this - or don't wish to understand, or care. This same carelessness and ignorance is, sadly, why legislation became necessary to stem the tide of racism and sexism. Insulting the elderly happens without thought by some, often the same people who are sensitive to racism and sexism.

Chart above is from a website Ageism Hurts.

In the section Seeing Ageism:
Once a person begins to understand the depths to which ageism insidiously infiltrates American (and UK - my addition) society, it is easy to recognize it operating at every level of daily life. The idea that old people are supposed to be frail, incompetent, less than, and laughable permeates culture so thoroughly that it takes real attention to catch the small messages as they slip by..........
A further aspect of ageism is generationism, something I've noticed often, and have blogged about before. The so-called "Boomer" generation often comes under attack by younger writers of Generation X and others. Boomers are blamed for leaving later generations the dreadful mess they will soon inherit. They omit to mention the benefits they've grown up with, due in part to the efforts, courage and expertise of those older generations.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Looking through the non-PCness of Victoria's Secret - to something worse...

I stumbled upon the latest conflict in political correctness yesterday. Anybody who knows me well (not many people these days - they're mostly gone to the big wotnot in the sky) knows that I staunchly defended PC when it first appeared on the scene, many decades ago. Since then, because in certain circles it has been taken too far - farther than it was ever meant to be taken, "PC" has become, along with "socialist", a dirty word to some people.

This current conflict has arisen via a fashion parade by lingerie chain Victoria's Secret, and it's not for the first time something similar has occurred. The bone of contention this time is a Native American/American Indian War Bonnet worn, along with several items of turquoise jewellery of Native symbolism - and a leopard-skin patterned tiny bikini of no relevant symbolism at all. Native Americans have seen this display as being offensive and disrespectful of their culture. A similar thing happened on a previous occasion when Japanese Geisha garb was used, and fell under a similar barrage of accusations - of being offensive to Eastern culture.

I can't possibly feel as those of Native American bloodlines feel on this latest issue. I do, however, respect their hurt feelings and sensitivity. Vic's Secret say they took advice from cultural associations before going ahead with that particular costume in their fashion parade, and were given the go ahead. So there was no blatant disrespect intended - the matter was afforded some careful forethought. I understand they have now apologised and removed the image from any videos.

Lay aside the cultural aspect of this for a moment, the fact that the War Bonnet is a sacred symbol (see Wikipedia for information). Now...see Victoria's Secret's use of the costume as an affectionate, if clumsy, celebration of the beauty in Native American culture. Ask why would a war bonnet of whatever culture be celebrated?

War. War. War.

Killing. Of. Other. Humans. We are supposed to be trying to evolve, damn it! In which case celebrating something - anything - with any connection to killing, is not helpful or wise. War and battles are not to be celebrated, no matter how revered the symbols to any cultural set of humanity, ancient or modern, indigenous or invaders. I'm sorry if that point of view is offensive to Native Americans, but it is how I feel.....that is where this incident hits my own point of extreme sensitivity.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012


"Jesus was born years earlier than thought".......I understand that this was, actually, relatively old news, but brought back to light by none other than The Pope in a new book.
"The assertion that the Christian calendar is based on a false premise is not new – many historians believe that Christ was born sometime between 7BC and 2BC."
I read the above linked article from The Telegraph, along with part of the 90 page comment thread. What kept buzzing around in my mind, and what I've still not established to my satisfaction is: what about astrology? What about the dates used in astrological ephemerides since... for ever? Is the year astrologers think of as 2012 really 2019 or 2014, 2016?

I know that the dating style of BC (Before Christ) and AD (Year of Our Lord) are now mostly replaced by BCE and CE (Before/Common Era/Christian Era), but the dates themselves do not change. Calendar changes resulting from Julian to Gregorian calculation encountered by astrologers when dealing with natal charts of persons born before certain points in the 16th/17th/18th centuries necessitate adjustment of the information contained in astro-ephemerides in common use. Properly, such dates when quoted are noted as being OS or NS (Old Style or New Style).

I've Google searched this. I can find only astrological material discussing any possible conjunction which might have accounted for the brightness of that exceptionally brilliant star allegedly seen by shepherds and The Wise Men; but could find nothing pertaining to my particular query.

So where do we stand as regards this current conundrum? For instance, what about the now famous Mayan end-of-cycle date falling on 21 December 2012 - has that actual time been and gone when we weren't even looking? Was The Year 2000 really the millennium? Does it matter?

Can anyone straighten out the multiple kinks in my brain on this, please? Am I missing something crucial? Is this something akin to searching for one's spectacles when already wearing 'em? I must be missing something really basic, or astrologers would be talking about this issue non-stop, and they're not - as far as I have been able to determine.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Lincoln, William Wilberforce & Abolition of Slavery

We saw the movie Lincoln at the weekend. Enjoyed it a lot. I'll not expand on that, there are already lots of reviews on the net. I'll just say that all praise is well-deserved. There are many super performances from some of movie-land's best.

To access earlier posts touching on Abraham Lincoln and/or his astrology, just scroll down to the Label Cloud in the sidebar and click on his name.

Instead of waxing lyrical further about the USA's famous abolitionist, I decided to give some space to an earlier, British politician whose name is not nearly as well-known as Abe's, but who abolished slavery in Britain, in the early 19th century, some 50 years before events chronicled in the Lincoln movie. This is not written in any "Neener neener, we did it first...." attitude. It's really just to bring a name to the fore that has been too oft forgotten.

William Wilberforce: a book review online described him as ".... the most famous person in the world that no one knows". His name isn't widely remembered outside of the UK, and especially outside of the city of my own birth, Hull aka Kingston upon Hull where he was born, on 24 August 1759, into a fairly well-off merchant and banking family. Hull is a port on England's East coast, and from there his family carried on trade with merchants from the Baltic.

Wilberforce's greatest achievement, as Member of Pariament for Hull, was in winning his crusade against slavery, first against the slave trade itself, then against the owning of slaves. He gave his first speech on the abolition of slavery in 1789; presented his first bill to abolish the slave trade using British ships in 1891. With 12 later bills he fought this issue for 18 years before a bill was finally passed. The Act for the Abolition of the Slave Trade was passed by the House of Lords on 4 February 1807; by the Commons on 23 February 1807, receiving Royal Assent on 25 March 1807. Wilberforce continued to fight for 26 years to see the owning of slaves banned as well. In 1833, just after his death, his bill passed its final reading three days before his death.

If we were to happen upon William Wilberforce in a time warp, today, he wouldn't fit into any known standard political "box". He was, in many ways, the epitome of what's now called progressive or "bleeding heart liberal". Yet in other ways he was a thorough-going right-winger, as befitted the conservative farmers and land owners of Yorkshire who had sent him to represent them in parliament. To place him in historical context these references might help: he met Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, Tsar Alexander of Russia, and the future Queen Victoria, aged 1 year. He was friend and confidant of William Pitt Jr., Spencer Perceval and George Canning. He saw figures raised up or destroyed in twenty three years of war and revolution.

Sickenly horrendous details of the slave trade are these days often skimmed over at best. As a reminder this excerpt from a 1980 biography of Wilberforce by Garth Lean:
Two hundred years ago, Britain was the world's leading slave-trading nation. From Liverpool, Bristol or London her ships sailed for the West African coast; and there gathered their cargo by direct seizure, purchase from Arab traders or barter with local chiefs. Often chiefs would sell the entire population of one of their own, or of a neighbour's, villages. The British officials were just as ruthless. Once, a British military governor delivered up a hundred African guests whom he was entertaining in his fort when the slave captains arrived.

Once captured, the slaves were herded into barracoons to await the arrival of the ships. The fit were branded with their new owner's mark, while the old and deformed were often killed as useless. Many had to be flogged to force them into the canoes which took them through the surf to the slave ship. There, they were chained in pairs between decks on shelves with only two and a half feet head-room. A ship of 150 tons often carried as many as 500 slaves. The crew, who had often been press-ganged into service, generally took their pick of the women.

It was obviously in the slaver's interest to keep their cargo in as good health as possible. When weather permitted, therefore, they were taken on deck and forced to jump around under threat of the whip.

In bad weather, on the other hand, they would lie for weeks in their own filth and the stench could be smelt across a mile of ocean. By the time a ship reached America or the West Indies, ten per cent of the cargo would normally have died, while many others would be desperately ill.

On arrival a few days would be spent tarting them up for market. Their bodies were fattened and oiled, their sores disguised. Finally, they would be paraded naked through the streets and auctioned. Strong men would fetch as much as £40, while the sick and wounded were sold off in cheap lots with the women and children. Families were ruthlessly split up. Those who were too sick to be marketable were left on the quay to die. Nor was that the end of their ordeal. A third of those who survived thus far died from the vicious discipline imposed by their new owners. The process was politely known as 'seasoning'.

Wilberforce's other mission he described as "the reformation of manners".
From biography by Stephen Tomkins:

His other enthusiasms—improving morals and Christian missionary work—amount, by twenty-first-century lights, to censorship (by very punitive measures, including imprisoning and fining poor printers) and cultural colonization. He was anti-war, to be sure, but to keep England safe, he approved the kinds of tactics — suspension of habeas corpus, preemptive military strikes — that today's peaceniks abhor. He exhausted his fortune and advocated laws to improve the lot of poor working people, but he also sought to make trade unions illegal. Loyal to his friends, supportive of his family, humbly self-critical, incorruptible, and implacably abolitionist throughout a nearly half-century-long career, he was a very good man. But he was of his time and station, therefore unacceptably paternalistic to us.

When I first looked at Wilbeforce's 12 noon natal chart (no time of birth is known) I decided that - well - this is one of those times when there's no clear correlation between what we know of the man and what the planetary positions are indicating. I wanted to see some Aquarius emphasis, or prominent Uranus - preferably both. Not so. But then, I wondered whether, in the 18th and early 19th century, if to be a successful radical reformer, would one need to also display certain other qualities in order to reach a status where actions would count for something? This applies today, of course, but to a lesser extent, due to vastly improved education, communication etc. So, perhaps it's the "other" side of Wilberforce that will show most clearly in his chart.


His Virgo Sun at 00 degrees, Moon also in Virgo whatever time he was born, and Mercury there too denote a man of meticulous mindset, excellent communcator - which by all accounts he was: sociable charismatic and popular. Chiron (the wounded healer) lay in Aquarius, but no planet was there. Uranus was at 00 Aries- degree known as "the Aries point", thought to be the strongest degree of that sign - that should count towards his humanitarianism - Uranus being the ultimate radical and revolutionary. The fact that Uranus lies in exact quincunx , an uncomfortable 150* angle to his natal Sun, could indicate the uneasy mix within his political nature and missions.

Jupiter in Capricorn (religion, expansion) and Saturn (conservatism, legislation) in Pisces lay in harmonious sextile and in what astrologers call "mutual reception". Each is in the sign of the other's rulership, bringing about extra emphasis on both planets and both signs.

So....although the social reformer in this chart may not jump out to hit one in the eye at first glance, it is represented there, as is Wilberforce's more conservative side.

I well remember our school class being taken on a day trip, many long years ago, to look around the Wilberforce House and Museum.

Monday, November 26, 2012

My Own Peculiar Twilight Zone?

I'm not at all sure that what follows is worth a post - but I want to get it out of my head so.....

You know the strange feeling that comes along occasionally - the feeling that you need to turn around, and when you do, there's someone staring at you? I experienced a variation on it the other day.

Starting at the beginning with some background or this'll sound even sillier.

A couple or so years ago, I was thinking about my first ever boss - Mr. H. I'll call him. I was always very fond of Mr. H. he taught me a lot, about politics and life in general - no romance though - more "in loco parentis" as he used to say. He died in the late 1990s. Mr. H. had three sons, the eldest of whom I'd met once or twice when he was around 7 years old, then later as a teen (I'll call him RH ). RH emigrated to work in California after university, had some kind of falling out at home I understood, but the rift was healed later on. Anyway, on that day a couple of years ago, thinking about Mr. H. I idly typed into Google's search box RH's name. It landed on a blog written by someone of that name. I read through many entries, soon realising that this was the same RH, son of Mr. H. He even mentioned and described his father's work, and other family members, in some posts. I decided to make myself known, so left what I considered to be a very nice comment, remembering his Dad with affection and admiration, and remembering RH himself as a youth. I expected to at least receive an acknowledgement in response - but nothing. Kept looking back - nothing. I felt a wee bit hurt for a while (sensitive soul that I am) then forgot about it.

A few days ago the incident popped into my mind again - for no apparent reason. "I wonder if RH is still blogging?" Google search box - again. Ahead of the entry for his blog were several obituaries from members of an association of which he'd been a longtime member. RH had died in 2010, in his 50s, after suffering a stroke, recovering and - I assume then suffering a fatal stroke soon after. He had posted entries on his blog just a week or so before he'd died.

I tried to find my comment, but in spite of skimming once more through numerous entries from 2009 and early 2010, I couldn't spot it - wondered even if he'd perhaps removed it, along with the relevant post. What I did notice, but among comments to some obituaries elsewhere, were remarks (including one from his brother) that, though usually an affable guy, RH did have "a dark side". I can only suppose that my comment had hit him on a bad day, on his dark side.

Maybe my urge to look back was a hint from "the universe" or something, or someone, to go back and investigate?

That wasn't the first time something of a similar nature had happened to me. There's always a time lag involved. I don't find out soon after a death - these are not experiences akin to someone's grandmother appearing at the foot of one's bed at the time she died. Different thing. Events years ago, on three different occasions, fall into the same category. On one occasion I discovered that an old friend had died - discovered it via a search on the net for no apparent reason, other than the urge to do so. The other two events, further back in time, were similar but minus The Miraculous Google, and resulted from simple enquiries or a letter, also "for no apparent reason". My own peculiar Twilight Zone?

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Untangling Chains

I've read through yards of comments, this week, relating to articles about the rash of CEOs in the catering or restaurant business whose hackles have been well and truly raised at the prospect of the Affordable Care Act's mandate that they must, if their staff numbers reach a certain level, provide health care insurance cover for full-time employees. A common response from commenters is something which, after a while, began to strike me as tiresomely smug and self-righteous: e.g. "We never, and have never eaten, (alternatively will not in future eat) at Applebee's, Red Lobster, Olive Garden, Denny's, Dairy Queen, Papa John's....." the lists go on. These people obviously must live in urban areas where choice abounds. Usually there are added remarks about the quality of food in the named establishments, words such as "garbage" "swill" appear. The usual internet hyperbole!

Whereas I do fully understand the principle and value (in some cases) of boycott, and acknowledge that people are free to choose their eating places, for taste or other reasons, it does seem kind of counter-productive to boycott all chain restaurants if the main reason for doing so relies on the inhumanity of their CEOs. All that's likely to happen, should boycotts become widespread, is that even more jobs will be lost, more people will become unemployed. It's unlikely that small cafés would suddenly spring up to take up the slack and offer jobs in small local establishments, whose owners would not be required to provide health insurance anyway!

Here's an idea: if a person decides to dine in one of the offending eateries, where the chain is not conducting itself well regarding matters mentioned above, why not carry a personal, signed letter addressed to the Manager or Area Manager, expressing concern at the attitude of their company on the matter of health care insurance provision? Withering remarks could be backed up with a link to an on-line article. Ask that the letter, delivered locally by hand, be copied to the company CEO.

The type of food most chain restaurants dish up is not to the taste of everyone. Some of it is certainly not to my own taste, but most of it, especially in the non-fast food places, couldn't, in all fairness, be categorised as "swill" or "garbage". Unimaginative - perhaps! Some of it is unhealthy too, but then, so is some food served in local, privately-run diners. We frequent chain eateries in the course of our road trips, we have a few favourite venues; a few we routinely avoid when possible, too, for reason of our own tastes.

There are certain advantages to chain eateries. 1: Consistency. You know exactly what you're going to get when you order a certain item - wherever you are in the vastness of the USA. Some might consider that not to be a good thing - but it does have advantages. 2: In most states you can be reliably assured that high standards of cleanliness in food preparation and proper storage are fully adhered to in chain establishments. In independently owned businesses, one cannot always be as confident on this score - if you've ever watched TV's Restaurant Impossible
you'll not need convincing!

Another post of mine about the injustices restaurant staff must endure is HERE.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Arty Farty Black Friday ~ Native American Artist Blackbear Bosin

On this "Black Friday", a look at an artist unrelated to the day except (partly) by name: artist and sculptor Blackbear Bosin.
From Native Arts of
Blackbear Bosin, the renowned Kiowa/Comanche artist, was born on June 5, 1921 near Anadarko, Oklahoma. He was the eldest son of Frank Blackbear Bosin & Ada Tivis (a beadworker). His maternal grand mother Kahchatscha was a Comanche Awl Band medicine woman. At 17, Blackbear helped his father run the family farm. After graduating from Cyril (OK) High school in 1940, he served in the U.S. Marine Corps during world war II. Due to family obligations, Blackbear was unable to accept two university art scholarships. painting in his spare time, Blackbear achieved success with little formal training.

Blackbear made his home in Wichita, Kansas. He worked as a color separator & platemaker, illustrator, commercial artist, gallery owner, sculptor & painter, and was featured in numerous publications, and won many awards.

At the confluence of the Arkansas and Little Arkansas rivers in Wichita, Kansas stands "Keeper of the Plains", a dramatic 44-foot tall steel sculpture of an American Indian, donated to the city by its creator, Francis (Blackbear) Bosin.

From Kansapedia
Although the "Keeper of the Plains" undoubtedly is his most widely recognized work, Bosin expressed himself primarily through his paintings. He was almost entirely self-taught, and his early paintings were strictly representational depictions of Indian life. Over the years, however, his work became increasingly complex and the subject matter more profound. A spirit of Indian mysticism deeply influenced his work, and he eventually became internationally recognized for his vivid watercolors and acrylics.

By the time of his death in 1980 at the age of 59, the inventiveness and imagination reflected in his paintings had earned Blackbear Bosin a prominent place among American artists.

I have no time of birth for Blackbear Bosin, the chart is set for 12 noon on the date of his birth. A brief look, only for factors relating to his art style. Whatever his birth time Sun, Moon and Mars were all in communcative and versatile Gemini, with Venus, planet of the arts in Taurus, coming through clear and unadulterated from its home sign. Venus forms harmonious sextile aspect to the conjunction of Mercury and Pluto in sensitive Cancer reflecting both power and delicacy in the way he expressed himself through his art. Venus also sextiles Uranus in Pisces - the "inventiveness and imagination" highlighted in the quoted text above. In addition Sun sextiles Neptune (creativity).

Examples of his work:

Prairie Fire

Buffalo Hunt

They Moved Without Him

The Owl's Telling

Blackbear Bosin incorporated Native American symbolism and mythology into his design for this logo. "Dust flies and the earth trembles as man and nature collide in America's quest for energy. Here, man is building a nuclear power plant."
--Fort Scott Tribune, May 21, 1977. The Wolf Creek Generating Station logo is a synthesis of man and nature. Its Native American designer used symbolism and mythology to link nuclear technology to the Kansas landscape.

Copyrighted material on these pages is included as "fair use", for the purpose of study, review or critical analysis only, and will be removed at the request of copyright owner.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012


I've always struggled a bit, deciding what to post at this time. It's a holiday that still feels fairly alien to me. I get the general idea of being thankful, for all kinds of things - and it's no bad thing to be reminded that, in spite of all that appears to be hurtling off-track in the world, and in the nation, elements remain for which feelings of thankfulness are appropriate.

I'm wary, though, of writing one of those "what-I-am-thankful-for-this-year" type of posts which can easily end up like some bloated acceptance speech at the Oscars or Grammys. So, wearing my Blogger hat, and with minimalist precision, if a day early, simply say a heartfelt "Thank you" to all passing readers and any and all commenters at Learning Curve OTE. Y'all are highly valued.

The rest I'll leave to guys who knew what they were taking about:

"Thanksgiving comes to us out of the prehistoric dimness, universal to all ages and all faiths. At whatever straws we must grasp, there is always a time for gratitude and new beginnings."
― J. Robert Moskin.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Generals (again).....but these at Gettysburg

On our trip into Arkansas a few weeks ago I bought, for a couple of dollars, a two-tape VHS set of the 1993 movie Gettysburg - 4hours 14 mins long! I let the set remain in our pile of "to watch" items, kept moving it to the bottom, regretted buying it - asked myself why I did. I dislike most war movies - about any war. I think my motive lay in the interests of continued education in things American. Anyway - we watched it - turns out it was $2 well-spent!

Gettysburg, about an epic battle in Pennsylvania during the Civil War, focuses on just three days at the beginning of July 1863, when a mighty confrontation between the Confederacy forces and The Union army took place, a battle which historians say was decisive in the eventual outcome of the Civil war....yet that war went on for another two years.

The film is based on Michael Shaara's meticulously researched 1974 novel The Killer Angels. It has also been shown on TV as a mini-series.

The story is told from the viewpoint of the Generals and Officers on both sides of the north/south divide, rather from the points of view of ordinary soldiers.

Maybe all the talk of Generals during the last week, or reports of secession petitions currently being prepared by several states, subconsciously led me to choose this movie when asked the regular question, "What shall we watch tonight then, there's nothing on TV".

One thing the movie taught me: in 1863 Generals were Generals, with no time for canoodling with their biographers or corresponding with wanna-be whatevers.

Linked Wikipedia articles about the film and the book contain all relevant facts, which I'll not re-hash here; also there are several reviews on-line from the 1990s and later.

I'll limit my own observations to matters I found particularly memorable. Acting honours have to be dished out equally to those portraying all main roles: Martin Sheen, Tom Berenger(whatever happend to him?) Jeff Daniels and Richard Jordan all did sterling work.... as did my old favourite Sam Eliott, looking and sounding as at home as ever in such a setting.

The film's focus is not, mercifully, on blood, gore and severed limbs (though there are some of those). The horror aspect was, while not played down completely, not graphically and obscenely pushed full-on into the audience's faces. Focus was trained on tactics, plans, and motivations. For this reason the movie has been shown in schools, and has proved invaluable to re-enactment groups - many of which were in the supporting cast of thousands. Battle scenes are amazing!

Two things I remember best: the mainly fictional character of "Buster" (name's an anachronism) Kilrain, private in the Union army under command of Colonel Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain (Jeff Daniels). Chamberlain is obviously very fond of the old rascal - nicely played by Kevin Conway with a strong Irish accent. I loved one of Buster's speeches early in the movie. I feel sure it must come directly from the novel:
Yes, it did - found it at Goodreads:

Kilrain ~~~
“The truth is, Colonel, that there's no divine spark, bless you. There's many a man alive no more value than a dead dog. Believe me, when you've seen them hang each other...Equality? Christ in Heaven. What I'm fighting for is the right to prove I'm a better man than many. Where have you seen this divine spark in operation, Colonel? Where have you noted this magnificent equality? The Great White Joker in the Sky dooms us all to stupidity or poverty from birth. no two things on earth are equal or have an equal chance, not a leaf nor a tree. There's many a man worse than me, and some better, but I don't think race or country matters a damn. What matters is justice. 'Tis why I'm here. I'll be treated as I deserve, not as my father deserved. I'm Kilrain, and I God damn all gentlemen. I don't know who me father was and I don't give a damn. There's only one aristocracy, and that's right here - " he tapped his white skull with a thick finger - "and YOU, Colonel laddie, are a member of it and don't even know it. You are damned good at everything I've seen you do, a lovely soldier, an honest man, and you got a good heart on you too, which is rare in clever men. Strange thing. I'm not a clever man meself, but I know it when I run across it. The strange and marvelous thing about you, Colonel darlin', is that you believe in mankind, even preachers, whereas when you've got my great experience of the world you will have learned that good men are rare, much rarer than you think.”

Secondly, and rather surprisingly, there's an English character in the movie: one Arthur Fremantle (Lieutenant Colonel, British Coldstream Guards). He's an interesting character historically (See Wikipedia HERE)

In the film Fremantle is portrayed far too stereotypically, and rather comically, English upper-crust for my taste. No doubt he was all of that - but I doubt he'd have wandered about the camp with a china cup and saucer (little finger ready to be raised no doubt). His accent was painful - in reality I suspect it wasn't quite as bad as that! I understand, too, that there was an error in portraying him wearing the red dress uniform. He had been travelling for a long time, had sold all his luggage at a point earlier. He'd have been dressed in some kind of 19th century traveller's garb - dusty and well-worn. For me this was the single weakness in an otherwise very strong movie.

A quote of Fremantle's (from Goodreads, and the novel)
“The great experiment. In democracy. The equality of rabble. In not much more than a generation they have come back to CLASS. As the French have done. What a tragic thing, that Revolution. Bloody George was a bloody fool. But no matter. The experiment doesn't work. Give them fifty years, and all that equality rot is gone. Here they have the same love of the land and of tradition, of the right form, of breeding, in their horses, their women. Of course slavery is a bit embarrassing, but that, of course, will go. But the point is they do it all exactly as we do in Europe. And the North does not. THAT'S what the war is really about. The North has those huge bloody cities and a thousand religions, and the only aristocracy is the aristocracy of wealth. The Northerner doesn't give a damn for tradition, or breeding, or the Old Country. He hates the Old Country. Odd. You very rarely hear a Southerner refer to "the Old Country". In that painted way a German does. Or an Italian. Well, of course, the South IS the Old Country. They haven't left Europe. They've merely transplanted it. And THAT'S what the war is about.”

Those two quotes come from the novel and the film, and were written by Michael Shaara in the 1970s. He was speaking with a level of hindsight not available in 1863 - that needs to be kept in mind, but in no way de-values the words.

An interesting aside - there's a piece published just last month at Bangor (Maine) Daily News website, by Michael Shaara's son, Jeff:

Michael Shaara identified with Brewer’s Joshua Chamberlain.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Music Monday ~ Terry McDermott & The Voice, Vino Alan & The X-Factor.

TV'sThe Voice and The X-Factor are running side by side at the moment, offering between them guilty pleasures from Monday to Thursday evenings each week. As I've written before, I'm a fan of musical talent shows, but even I am finding this double dose a bit much. For one reason or another, though, we've struggled through most episodes. One stand-out from each show has emerged for me.

From The Voice: a fellow Brit: Terry McDermott, age 35. With wife and child, he's now a US resident, lives in New Orleans. He came here from Aberdeen, Scotland some nine years ago singing and playing with his then rock band Driveblind. More information on Terry can be found at at Wikipedia and Wetpaint

His still boyish looks, assured "never-a-bum-note" performances and his obvious comfort on stage will surely get him into the final, due in a few weeks' time.

Below, Terry's version of The Who's Baba O'Riley (his audition), and Journey's Don't Stop Believin'

Though I acknowledge Terry McDermott is excellent in his genre, he doesn't give me the same goosebumps as my chosen contestant from The X-Factor: Vino Alan.
He's the oldest contestant (40) remaining in X-Factor's top 10. He comes from Missouri, has a son of 15. He sings in concerts for the military - that's all I've gleaned so far. His "Over 25" team mentor is L.A. Reid who had no compunction in initially displaying his distaste for the category he'd been allocated to judge and mentor. I hope that the results of audience votes in the first 2 live shows has shown him that he should not be so dismissive of older artists and their potential audience. The two remaining over-25s in the final 12 or 10: Tate Stevens (37) and Vino Alan have ranked 1st and 3rd respectively, on consecutive weeks, in TV audience voting.

These two older guys appeal to a certain segment of the TV audience who feel somewhat abandoned by musical media these days. Listening to 13, 15, 16, 17 year old kids singing about tragic heartbreak or with overtly sexy innuendo isn't authentic, and at times can even be a wee bit off-putting. We prefer to have someone pour out their heart in song who knows what the heck they're singing about. Why was Sinatra so good? He'd lived it all, and others who had also lived it could recognise its authenticity and relate. Vino Alan isn't a Sinatra, his voice is gritty, edgy, but he has strong appeal to anyone who enjoys a sweet but soul-searing song.

I've enjoyed Vino Alan's singing from his audition onward, but suspected that a combination of his age and numerous tattoos (including all over his head) might prove to be too much for judges and TV audience. I was wrong.

Here he is, singing on the first live show: the old Percy Sledge song, "When a Man Loves a Woman"

Last week ("Diva" week): Tina Turner's "Let's Stay Together"

And from his audition - "Trouble"

I have no birth data for either Terry or Vino, so if any passing readers have information, I'd be very pleased to hear from them, so's I can take a look at natal charts and assess whether the stars are aligning for these guys just now.

Saturday, November 17, 2012


Still playing out: several sites carried casting suggestions for what is an inevitable outcome of the Petraeus Affair and attendant misdemeanors: a movie. Suggestions for "King David": Daniel Craig or Nicholas Cage. Ms Broadwell, Ms Kelley (interchangeable brunettes): Marisa Tomei and Sandra Bullock. General Allen: Bruce Willis. Mrs Holly Petraeus: Judi Dench.

Twinkies, a "delicacy" to which I was introduced briefly by my husband eager to display the dubious delights of his US childhood to a newly arrived Brit - are no more. Texas-based Hostess, makers of Twinkies, and other, equally dubious delights, is reported to be shutting up shop. The shut-down will put 18,500 workers at 33 bakeries and 565 distribution centers out of work. The company blames a bakers' strike. Cynical others (myself included) suspect the following 4-point plan:
1.Ensure company will soon be on the rocks.
2.Force a strike by threatening a variety of unacceptable changes to worker conditions
3.At a moment politically ripe (Democrat returns to White House) file Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings
4.Blame union.

Without a union, Walmart staff are once again cranking up action in readiness for a huge walk-out on Black Friday - the day after Thanksgiving.
More power to them !

In today's Huffington Post: Walmart's Internal Compensation Documents Reveal Systematic Limit On Advancement.

AND an excellent post at Cannonfire What to do about Walmart

A CEO, John C. Metz, who owns numerous franchises - most in the restaurant business in Florida - best nationally-known being several Denny's diners has decided to
levy a 5% surcharge on his menu items,
tell customers it is to cover the increased costs of the Affordable Care Act aka Obamacare. Not a hanging offence and understandable in one way, if a rather excessive amount. But then he also intends to decrease many of his his employees' hours, so as to avoid having to provide health care cover and pay those costs for which he is charging his customers.

"If I leave the prices the same, but say on the menu that there is a 5 percent surcharge for Obamacare, customers have two choices. They can either pay it and tip 15 or 20 percent, or if they really feel so inclined, they can reduce the amount of tip they give to the server, who is the primary beneficiary of Obamacare," Metz told The Huffington Post. "Although it may sound terrible that I'm doing this, it's the only alternative. I've got to pass the cost on to the consumer."
Metz is the franchisor of Hurricane Grill & Wings, which has 48 locations, five of which are corporate owned, and president and owner of RREMC Restaurants, which runs approximately 40 Denny's and several Dairy Queen locations. He planned to use the 5 percent surcharge tactic in all his restaurants starting in January 2014, when Obamacare is fully implemented.
Interesting comment under the HuffPo article:
I have no problem with these right wing fools pushing this BS. This has the potential to push us in two directions. One is of course a push towards a single payer (health care)system, a system that will be much better for the vast majority of our country. The other less obvious one is a push towards working class solidarity that could really lead to the fundamental changes we need to see in our entire economic system. Perhaps even a push to replace the current capital driven system with a worker owned and worker driven system. Look if we get rid of these non-producers at the top of these organizations, people who earn their living off of doing nothing other than exploiting the sweat and effort of others and put the producers (i.e. the employees) in charge then we can get rid of this exploitation cost and put that money in the pockets of the working people of this country, people who will be much more concerned about social outcomes than these current financiers that care only about how much money lines their pockets

Friday, November 16, 2012

Arty Farty Friday ~ Raymond Loewy ~ Revolutionary Designs

Raymond Loewy: not a household name - I'm not even sure how to pronounce it! His work will be familiar to many though. Think of the design on a pack of Lucky Strike cigarettes, a Ritz Cracker box, the US postal service logo, Air Force One, Greyhound buses, jukeboxes and Coca-Cola bottles for a start.

In the first half of the 20th century Raymond Loewy was the most famous industrial designer in the USA. He was born in Paris, France on 5 November 1893 - yes, another Sun in Scorpio his case Sun conjunct Uranus - and it shows! Most of his professional life was spent in the USA. His designs dragged things, items in plain sight and every day use by almost everyone in the USA, into the then modern era, creating for them new streamlined, sleek and imaginative exteriors.

Sun conjunct Uranus more or less says it all for Mr. Loewy. A mention of Neptune conjunct Pluto in Gemini is appropriate too. This era, with two slow-moving planets, one relating to creativity, the other to power, both in Gemini, sign of communication and mental acuity, brought forth some iconic individuals in several spheres. This fact has long been a source of wonder to me, and it's good to find yet another of 'em.

From Wikipedia
An early accomplishment was the design of a successful model aircraft, which then won the Gordon Bennett Cup in 1908. By the following year he was selling the plane, named the Ayrel. He served in the French army during World War I, attaining the rank of captain. Loewy was wounded in combat and received the Croix de guerre. He boarded a ship to America in 1919 with only his French officer's uniform and $50 in his pocket.

In Loewy's early years in the U.S., he lived in New York and found work as a window designer for department stores... in addition to working as a fashion illustrator for Vogue and Harper's Bazaar. In 1929 he received his first industrial-design commission to contemporize the appearance of a duplicating machine by Gestetner. Further commissions followed, including work for Westinghouse, the Hupp Motor Company (the Hupmobile styling), (also the Studebaker "Champion" and "Avanti"), and styling the Coldspot refrigerator for Sears-Roebuck. It was this product that established his reputation as an industrial designer. He opened a London office in the mid-1930s. It is still active
From: Raymond Loewy the Father of Industrial Design
He literally revolutionized the industry, working as a consultant for more than 200 companies and creating product designs for everything from cigarette packs and refrigerators, to cars and spacecrafts. Loewy lived by his own famous MAYA principle - Most Advanced Yet Acceptable. He believed that, "The adult public's taste is not necessarily ready to accept the logical solutions to their requirements if the solution implies too vast a departure from what they have been conditioned into accepting as the norm."
Loewy retired at the age of 87 in 1980 and returned to his native France. He died in his Monte Carlo residence in 1986.
"It all must start with an inspired, spontaneous idea."

"The main goal is not to complicate the already difficult life of the consumer."

"I sought excitement and, taking chances, I was all ready to fail in order to achieve something large."

Raymond Loewy

Some of his best-known designs - more can be seen via Google Image.