Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Dramatically Speaking.......... of Mad Men, MLK, 1968. & Another Anniversary, A Niner!

Mad Men is the only TV drama we currently follow "live" (as against on DVD). We caught up on the first four seasons via DVD, then went "live" last year, with attendant frustration caused by plentiful commercial breaks. Mad Men, though we're mildly hooked on it, really is no more than a polished time-warp of a soap opera. It does try, and sometimes succeeds, in being a bit of an arty-farty soap opera, using barely hidden metaphor and crafty insider references, which simple-minded dum-dums like me have to discover later from reviews.

Action of classic soap operas, at least those with which I was familiar in the UK (Coronation Street, everyday story of working class folk in the north of England; Eastenders, everyday story of working class folk in London's East End; Emmerdale Farm an everyday story of country folk in Yorkshire for example) took place in the present day. Real world disasters and dramatic events had to be factored in in retrospect, if at all. Mad Men, an everyday story of advertising folk in New York is set in the 1960s. In Season 6, now showing, the year is 1968.....yes THAT dark and dreadful year for the USA! Matthew Wiener and his writers have the luxury of hindsight - long distance hindsight at that. They now are aware of how those dramas and tragedies of 1968 fit in to the pattern of action in ensuing years and decades. That fact is a good thing in some ways because, after all we're watching fiction, not fact; in other ways though, treatment of such events as the murder of Martin Luther King is necessarily going to be affected by "what we know now". It's something akin to revisionist history, I guess. Revisionist historians know how the story ended, those playing their parts during events in question didn't. Key factor!

Sunday's episode of Mad Men had MLK's murder as its set piece. I cannot say how true to life or how skewed the depiction of reactions of the Mad Men gang were. I was living in the UK at the time, in a small apartment, no TV, only a portable radio whose batteries blacked out regularly, and I seldom bought newspapers. My only source of news from the USA was from chat at the office with my boss or visitors from other departments. I have no memory at all of the reporting of MLK's murder, whereas I do still recall where I was when JFK was shot around five years earlier. I asked my husband if he could recall where he was when MLK was shot - he couldn't, but like me he had clear memories of where he was when JFK died.

Now, and for many years, Dr King's death has become such a key event in our consciousness, everyone, not only African Americans have seen and appreciated the full weight and worth of his teachings and speeches. So, if Mad Men did portray its characters' reactions differently from how they would truly have been, or if the writers felt uncertain, then it's easily understandable. In this episode there was hushed shock at a radio announcement during an advertising executives' gala dinner. There were people wondering next day whether offices should be closed as a mark of respect. The couple of fairly newly added African American cast members were shown, accurately I'm sure, in states of numb shock and despair. One secretary responded warmly to her female boss's hug, while another seemed coldly unable to respond to a similar show of condolence. In another scene lead character, Don Draper, took his son to the cinema to see Planet of the Apes as a distraction from the sadness of events that day. The now almost iconic final scene of that movie (y'all know it) added even more pathos for we viewers in 2013 than it would have in 1968: All the time it was... we finally really did it. [screaming] YOU MANIACS! YOU BLEW IT UP! OH, DAMN YOU! GODDAMN YOU ALL TO HELL! (camera pans to reveal the half-destroyed Statue of Liberty sticking out of the sand).

What I craved immediately the episode drew to a close was to see Across the Universe again. I remembered the very same day in 1968 being a part of that movie too, but in a different context, and using songs written by those (Lennon, McCartney, Harrison) with personal knowledge of the dramatic 1960s years. So, as husband never refuses a chance to hear Beatles music, we watched our DVD once more. This is one scene from the film and aftermath of that fateful day in 1968:

Actors: Martin Luther (singing) and Jim Sturgess


Today, 30 April = 9th anniversary of the day Himself and I married in 2004, back in the UK. The civil ceremony was held in a room at the Town Hall of the coastal town where I then lived, and was streamed over the internet. My husband's family members, in the USA, were able to watch the proceedings over breakfast at 8am, in the UK it was 2pm. Just him, me, car driver and photographer who acted as our witnesses, that was the cast. No grand wedding, none of the usual fal-de-ral (never did go for any of that, even in my youth). The music I chose made up for other lack of grandeur:

Thanks for 9 lovely years....and counting, Anyjazz!

Monday, April 29, 2013

Left-over Thoughts: George Jones ~ Chernobyl

A couple of unrelated thoughts left over from last week:

#1 ~ RIP George Jones. He died Friday aged 81. That was a good innings for someone who reportedly had hit the bottle hard for much of his life. I was an avid country music fan for years, and living in the UK, at that, where country music fans were looked on then as something of a lunatic fringe. George Jones' style never did grab me as much as Merle Haggard's, Waylon Jennings', Kris Kristofferson's and a few others', but I was always fascinated by one particular song of his, first recorded in 1970: A Good Year for the Roses. Some rare lyrics there (written by Jerry Chestnut) which ought to, and probably did, fire up feminists. Actually, the song just makes me laugh, especially lines I've highlighted. The guy in the song had no doubt contributed to what had brought about his utter despair, he then he says, "Well, dang.....to hell with it all - anyway, the roses have been nice this year". Sometimes in life, that's the only way to remain sane.

I can hardly bear the sight of lipstick
On the cigarettes there in the ashtray
Lyin' cold the way you left them
At least your lips caressed them while you packed
And a lip print on a half-filled cup of coffee
That you poured and didn't drink
But at least you thought you wanted it
That's so much more than I can say for me

But what a good year for the roses
Many blooms still linger there
The lawn could stand another mowin'
It's funny, I don't even care
And when you turned and walked away
And as the door behind you closes
The only thing I know to say
It's been a good year for the roses

After three full years of marriage
It's the first time that you haven't made the bed

I guess the reason we're not talkin'
There's so little left to say, we haven't said
While a million thoughts go runnin' through my mind
I find I haven't spoke a word
And from the bedroom those familiar sounds
Of our one baby's cryin' goes unheard

But what a good year for the roses
Many blooms still linger there.....etc.

Here he is singing it:

#2 ~ We watched what turned out to be a truly horrible movie on HBO Thursday evening: Chernobyl Diaries. Next morning I realised why the film had been included on HBO's schedule: 26 April was the anniversary of the disaster, it happened in 1986. The movie had not a single redeeming feature. I'd hoped it might be at least educational, but no - well....it warned teens and twenty-somethings not to go off on hare-brained excursions to potentially dangerous places. A movie to be avoided, not even in the category of "it was so bad that it was good"!

From a piece at The Independent Blogs, by Thom Davies (July 2012) The Real Chernobyl Diaries: Notes from Ukraine
......What struck me the most about the film ‘Chernobyl Diaries’, which I had put off for as long I could, was the shameless insensitivity it shows towards the hundreds of thousands of people who have suffered and continue to suffer from the 1986 nuclear disaster. The film portrays Chernobyl’s victims as deformed flesh-eating zombies who haunt the abandoned city of Prypiat, which lies near the destroyed reactor in north Ukraine.

They skulk in the darkness, and in a plot-less mess of disaster-porn, devour a group of annoying American tourists. However, for people like Olga and many others I have met over the last few years, Chernobyl is a very real and very painful part of their lives.

In some ways it is no surprise that a bad-taste horror flick has been made about Chernobyl. The facts themselves read like a classic dystopian science fiction novel; nuclear meltdown, post-apocalyptic abandonment, scientific unknowns.

Except Chernobyl is no fiction.

It led to the forced-relocation of over 350 000 people. That’s more than the entire population of Iceland. The myriad implications for these environmental refugees have been devastating, with severed social-networks, divided families and joblessness. Many people I have interviewed even suggested that “the stress of evacuation is worse than the threat of radiation”, with some choosing to move back to their polluted villages.....

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Death Penalty

In following online writings and comments this week touching on the investigation of the Boston Marathon bombings and charges against the younger Tsarnaev brother, it bothered me - a lot - to read so many demands for Dzhohkar Tsarnaev to receive the death penalty. Having spent most of my life in Britain, actually in England, where capital punishment was abolished for murder in 1965, it feels, for me, like a step back into the dark ages. Last time the subject came up here, in 2011, regarding a GOP primary debate when the audience gave a rousing ovation to Texas governor Rick Perry's stance on the death penalty, his record number of 234 executions, and his response that he "does not struggle" with the possibility of executing an innocent person, I wrote: "Ye gods!!!! Blood pressure rising......What is this, the New Old West or what? Don't these people evolve at all? They don't believe in evolution do they? That answers a lot."

What shocks me, too, is that politicians I'd looked on as more evolved, such as Al Gore and Chuck Schumer, have voiced open support for retaining capital punishment in the USA. What is wrong with these people? It seems like some disease of which a symptom is chronic blood-lust.

There is no doubt at all that Dzhohkar Tsarnaev should be imprisoned for life. There would be some hope that during his imprisonment he could realise how evil his actions had been, and over the years he might possibly be in a position to, say, write a book or in other ways convince other young would-be terrorists against supporting further atrocities.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Arty Farty Friday~ Delacroix ~ Liberty Leading the People

Today, 26 April in 1798 French painter of the Romantic school, Eugène Delacroix was born. One of his best known paintings, now almost iconic having been used on French postage stamps and paper currency is Liberty Leading the People. Romantic style painters focus on emotionality - the full spectrum of human emotion. Look at any of Delacroix's paintings and at the heart of it will be depiction of an emotion - anger, courage, despair, love, fear.......

Liberty Leading the People was painted a few months after the Paris uprising of July 27 - 29 1830, that same uprising described in Victor Hugo's novel Les Misérables and its various adaptations to stage and film. The figure of a youth, to the right of Lady Liberty, is said to have been inspiration for the character of Gavroche in Victor Hugo's famous novel.

The 1830 rebellion and political upheaval overthrew reigning monarch, Charles X (brother of the beheaded Louis XVI) who had been planning to reinstate systems of pre-Revolutionary France. After pledging one billion francs to the aristocracy in reparations for property lost during the Revolution, he abolished free press and the legislature, and curtailed suffrage rights.

There's symbolism in the painting - in the detail as well as in the general feel of it. In this uprising the middle class - the bourgeoisie - joined with the working classes to oppose the ruling aristocracy. The two figures on the left of the painting symbolise this, one wearing a top hat, vest and jacket, the other in working gear of a labourer.

The dead man on the left in the painting's foreground is wearing a nightshirt - indicating he had been dragged from his bed by royalist soldiers - a reference to the despised practice of royal troops who spread terror by murdering suspected revolutionary sympathizers in their beds and then dragging the bodies into the streets as a warning. The dead man on the right appears to be a royalist soldier.

Dominating figure is Liberty, the personification of freedom, aka Marianne in France. She rushes forward from a pile of bodies and debris of the barricades, bare-footed and bare-breasted, carrying the Tricolore and a musket. She wears a Phrygian cap, widely recognized symbol of liberty during the original French Revolution.

The painting was first exhibited in 1831 but was not met with plaudits. Critics disliked the way Delacroix had depicted Liberty who, they said looked like a working class woman, a fishwife, or perhaps even a harlot. But this was Liberty actually "on the job" and not the "at ease" version represented by the Statue of Liberty presented by the people of France to the USA in 1886. Naturally enough, in 1831 the potential for such dramatic proletarian power must have seemed highly dangerous, so dangerous in fact that Delacroix's masterpiece was not put on view to the public until 1855. Photo (right) is included to give some idea of the size of the painting.

Delacroix died in 1863, aged 65.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

5 (+1) Young Males, Agents of Atrocity and Pain ~ Astrological Links.

Five names we wish we could wipe out of recent history: Cho Seung-Hui, James Holmes, Adam Lanza, Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. Agents of atrocity and pain.

Putting on my amateur astrologer's hat again, I thought it worthwhile to show natal charts of the five young males together in order to highlight any similarities. The simplest similarities, those I see as most significant are ringed in red.

Chart images follow a few notes:

In the natal charts of Cho Seung-Hui and James Holmes Mars and Pluto are conjoined in Scorpio. Mars and Pluto, two of astrology's potentially most malign and explosive factors in their ruling sign!

In the chart of Tamerlan Tsarnaev Sun is in loose out of sign conjunction with Pluto in Scorpio. So - Pluto and Scorpio featured prominently again, and in connection with Sun (the self). His natal Moon (though we don't know exact degree without a birth time) is likely to be in harmonious trine to natal Mars in Aquarius.

Adam Lanza and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev both have Uranus and Neptune conjoined in Capricorn, a generational aspect for those born in the early 1990s, but in these particular cases the conjunction links to personal planets. In Tsarnaev's case the Uranus/Neptune conjunction links to Mars in Virgo by trine aspect and in Lanzas's to Mars in Pisces by sextile aspect. That potent linkage to Mars again!

It seems significant that linkage of outer planets to Mars could, when other factors are in place, hold potential for.......well, we only have to look again at those five names. 20th century British astrologer C.E.O. Carter wrote that:
"Hate is one of the most extreme Martian vibrations, through Scorpio rather than Aries, and probable generally with an admixture of Saturn or Uranus. The last-named is often violent in its antipathies, and, like Scorpio, may remember slights and insults after long periods. In maps (natal charts) capable of nourishing hatred and revenge the benefics are usually obscurely placed."

I must add that dire outcomes such as those I'm highlighting here will not be the case in every instance where outer planets are linked to Mars. Additional factors such as environment, family background, adverse experiences, and general health, mental and physical, would need to be clearly and negatively involved in order to turn an astrological potential towards the worst possible manifestation. The "astrological atmosphere" of the times these individuals did their deeds will come into the equation too. In four of the five cases featured here, the events took place while Pluto is transiting Capricorn in square aspect to Uranus in Aries (one of the signs ruled by Mars).
Just on the face of it that sounds like a fertile atmosphere for trouble.

While preparing this post it struck me that the generation with a Uranus-Neptune conjunction in Capricorn in their natal charts could prove to be an interesting study in future years, as they continue to mature and come into their power. The eccentricity and unexpected change which connects to Uranus combined with the foggy delusion for which Neptune is famous, in the sign of Capricorn known for its ties to the establishment, status quo, business etc. could prove to be one of astrology's oddest and possibly "iffiest" combinations. The last time the two slow-moving outer planets conjoined in this sign was in the 1820s, so the generation born then would have seen, and been involved in, the mushrooming of the industrial revolution - arguably the biggest change humanity had experienced for centuries.

The five charts:
Birth data for Lanza, Holmes and Seung-Hui taken from Astrodatabank, for the two Tsarnaevs it was gleaned from available sources, so may not be 100% accurate. Charts set for 12 noon where birth times are not known.

 Cho Seung-Hui (Virginia Tech massacre 2007) born 18 January 1984, Seoul, S. Korea

 James Holmes (Aurora theater shooting 2012) born  13 December 1987, San Diego, Ca.

 Tamerlan Tsarnaev (Boston Marathon bombing 2013)  born 21 October 1986 in Kyrgyzstan

 Adam Lanza (Sandy Hook elementary School shooting 2012) born 22 April 1992, Kingston, NH.
 Showing link to Mars - sextile aspect

 Dzhokhar Tsarnaev (Boston Marathon bombing 2013) born born  22 July 1993  in Dagestan

 Showing link to Mars - trine aspect

Postscript: Yet another ill-famed young male had slipped my memory while preparing the above: Jared Lee Loughner, born September 10, 1988. (Shooting in Tucson, Arizona, on January 8, 2011, shot and severely injured U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords, his target, and killed six people.)

Not as clear a similarity here, but there's still at least one Mars/Pluto link. From the small chart a Yod (Finger of Fate) can be seen with Pluto at its apex linked to Jupiter and Mars by two 150* aspects. Astrologers would interpret that as the "energies" of the two sextiled planets, Jupiter (in Gemini) and Mars (in its own sign Aries), being channeled through Pluto (in its own sign, Scorpio) at the apex.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Abominable Events Took Place Last Week, Not 1 But 3.

There were three monstrous events in the USA last week, one of them took up most media space and time, the others remained largely buried beneath what were seen as more screen-worthy dramas.
Pierre Tristam pinpointed one of the other two abominations; here's the last paragraph of his piece Gun Worship’s Perversion: Just Don’t Call 10,000 Murders a Year “Terrorism”,
Last week’s enduring moral isn’t authorities’ swift and commendable ability to hunt down two amateur terrorists. It’s the shame of a nation that has perverted the meaning of violence. There is the unacceptable kind. That’s “terrorism.” And there is the acceptable kind. That’s the 30 daily murders by gun. The kind the Senate said there’s no need to do anything about. The kind we cannot allow to interfere with gun worship and the NRA’s five-times-a-day call to prayer.
Gary Younge's piece at Common Dreams echoed the same feelings:
On Wednesday the Senate declined to pass even the most anaemic gun control measures in response to the Newtown shootings. Twenty children, aged between six and seven, are slaughtered in school and the American polity takes five months to decide do nothing. Unable to break the filibuster limit, it didn't even come to a vote. Hiding behind the National Rifle Association's (NRA) talking points, gun rights senators cloaked themselves in the constitution, insisting support for gun control would violate the second amendment "right to bear arms".
The greatest threat to US citizens is not one-off terror attacks, but the menace that comes with mass gun-ownership.
Hat tip to http://thepoliticalcarnival.net/tag/u-s-senate/ for illustration

We could not do even "the least we could do", could we? Why? Because our representatives no longer represent us.

The third tragedy was highlighted by Dave Lindorff: The Real Terrorists are the Corporate Execs Who’ve Bought the Regulators.
The way I see it, we had two acts of terrorism in the US this week. The first took place at the end of the historic Boston Marathon, when two bombs went off near the finish line, killing three and seriously injuring dozens of runners and spectators. The second happened a couple days later in the town of West, Texas, where a fertilizer plant blew up, incinerating or otherwise killing at least 15, and injuring at least 150 people, and probably more as the search for the dead and the injured continues. The villains in the West Fertilizer Co. explosion can be much more easily identified: the managers and owners of the plant.

West Fertilizer was built starting back in 1962 in the middle of the small town of West, TX, a community founded in the 19th century and named after the first local postmaster, T.M. West. It makes no sense, of course, to locate such a facility that uses highly toxic anhydrous ammonia as a primary feed stock (a compound that burns the lungs and kills on contact, and that, because it must be stored under pressure, is highly prone to leaks and explosive releases), and one that makes as its main product ammonium nitrate fertilizer, around lots of people. Ammonium nitrate, recall, is the highly explosive compound favored by truck bombers like the Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh. It was the fertilizer, vast quantities of which were stored at the West Fertilizer plant site, which caused the colossal explosion that leveled much of the town of West.

Building such a dangerous facility in the midst of a residential and business area, and allowing homes, nursing homes, hospitals, schools and playgrounds to be built alongside it, is the result of a corrupt process that is commonplace in towns and cities across America, where business leaders routinely have their way with local planning and zoning commissions, safety inspectors and city councils. Businesses small and large also have their way with state and federal safety and health inspectors too.

I gleaned from comments at a blog called Lawyers Guns and Money where the issue was being discussed a few days ago, that the owner of the plant is a man in his 80s, he bought it a decade ago. He is a well respected member of the community and owns other businesses in the area. Obviously the plant owner, unlike the terrorists in Boston, had no intention of killing people - and yet, and yet - he, or his managers, did not appear to have the safety of people in their community high on their list of essentials.

What happened in West, bad as it was, now known to have killed 14 first responders, voluntary firefighters and medics, could have been very, very much worse had local people not received early warning of a disaster about to happen. On another occasion in another place, in a similar situation a warning might not be possible. Terrorists of the known kind are a known danger - this is an equally dangerous but largely hidden situation which would benefit from a similar amount of attention and force of authority as was seen in Watertown last week.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Amazing Grace Connection (& not forgetting Earth Day)

Until I recently watched a DVD of the 2006 film Amazing Grace about William Wilberforce's long struggle to abolish the slave trade in the British Empire, I had no idea that the song Amazing Grace had connection to his story. It does - though in real life probably a tenuous one and not nearly as directly as the movie implies. Still, the dramatic license involved helps the movie along nicely. It's a very good movie, well acted and well directed by Michael Apted who was also director of the wonderful "Up" series ( post on that series is HERE).

My post about William Wilberforce, from last year, around the time the movie Lincoln was released is at Lincoln, William Wilberforce & Abolition of Slavery. A commenter then reminded me about Amazing Grace, the biographical movie on Wilberforce, who was born in the same East coast English city port as I was, and was Member of Parliament for Yorkshire in the late 18th early 19th centuries.

Words of Amazing Grace, the song/hymn were written by John Newton, English seaman turned slave ship captain, turned poet, turned clergyman. As a seaman in the 18th century he was involved in the Atlantic slave trade, he had captained slave ships. After almost drowning in a storm at sea Newton became a devout Christian, but continued being a part of slave trading for years afterwards. Inferences in the movie Amazing Grace that the poem from which the song Amazing Grace sprang was written as a direct result of Newton "seeing the light" and repenting his connection to the slave trade are a wee bit skewed. The hymn was written around 1772, but Newton didn't begin to regret his part in the horrendously ugly slave trade until 1780 and didn't begin to speak out and fight for its abolition until 1785. (See Snopes entry HERE)

Movie trailer:

I'm a longtime fan of Il Divo - here's their version of the song/hymn:

AND....not forgetting that today is Earth Day

 Written by Joe Miller for a children's book illustrated by  Wilson McLean

I found this on a notice board on one of our trips, cannot recall where exactly, it was around 7 years ago. I'd saved it, came across it again when looking through a back-up disc from my old computer. Apt for Earth day, is it not?

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Thank Goodness for the "All Clear".

I doubt I'd have normally been drawn into media coverage of events later in the week, following bombings at the Boston Marathon. I went off TV news presentation and talking heads some time ago. On Thursday night, though, we went to bed 15 after midnight, but I was unable to sleep - it happens occasionally. At around 2.30 AM, I got up. On such occasions I switch on either the computer or the TV, to make my eyes so tired they can't stay open a moment longer. This time, for no particular reason, I chose the TV. A random choice of channel brought up scenes of all hell breaking loose on city streets somewhere. Information appeared on screen about a manhunt taking place in the outskirts of Boston, and a female presenter doing her best to get a grip on the situation. So....three and a half hours later I was still wide awake, Watertown and other surrounding areas were in complete lock-down, the place looked like a war zone with SWAT teams, hundreds/thousands of police, sniffer dogs and goodness knows what else. I flicked channels regularly and found that most commentators were not at all sure what was what. Conflicting reporting and opinion added to the fascination. I eventually fell asleep on the sofa for a couple of hours. When I woke, things on the muted TV screen were much the same. City still in lock-down, house to house searches being carried out by teams of police. Now I was hooked on what would happen next, even though suspecting all the while that what was unfolding seemed like so much overkill when just one single 19-year-old guy was either hiding, possibly wounded, maybe even dead, or maybe had escaped altogether out of the area. Hours of searching every house threw up not a single clue. One 19-year old guy could cause all of this? Lock-down was eventually lifted sometime after 5 PM.

We went to the flicks Friday evening to see "42" - good movie by the way - and a pleasant release from TV and internet coverage of "events" in Watertown upon which I'd become fixated by their utter hysteria and media saturation. When we got home around 9.30PM - relief - second suspect was in custody, in hospital, after being found, bloodied, just outside the lock-down area hiding in a boat in somebody's yard. The "all clear" had sounded! A reporter was extolling how brave "we" had been, how calm in the face of danger and terrorism. Ahem! If that was calm I'd hate to see it when "we're" frenzied!

Now will come the wait for clarity, which might ensue if second suspect lives. First the "whys?" Answers to such questions as why did they target the Boston Marathon? Were they connected to some terrorist group? Is this about Chechnya or Islam or some personal issue? What had turned the brothers, who had been in the USA for around 10 years, from reasonably normal-seeming guys into terrorists?

Friday's drama blocked out virtually all other news for almost 48 hours, even drowning most reporting of the explosion near Waco, Texas which had killed many more people. I hope they'll be doing some catch-up on that matter soon.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

April's Dark Days

Yet another tragedy has to be added to April's list for the USA: the terrible explosion at a fertilizer plant in West, near Waco, Texas last night. It'd be insensitive to seek to lay blame at this point, when many families are devastated by loss of lives, injury, loss of homes, school, jobs. There'll be time enough to talk about regulation, negligence, zoning, or lack of it in due course. Enough today to send thoughts, condolences, heartfelt wishes for peace of mind, and return to health and normality as soon as possible to everyone in the affected area.

As I've mentioned before, the month of April has a dark reputation in the USA

Lincoln assassinated: April 14, 1865.
Texas City, TX explosion, April 16,1947.
MLK assassinated: April 4, 1968.
The Waco seige, April 19, 1993.
Oklahoma City bombing, April 19, 1995.
Unabomber's last victim killed: April 24, 1995.
Columbine, April 20, 1999.
Virginia Tech shooting, April 16,2007.
BP oil spill, April 20, 2010.
SF Earthquake, April 18, 1906.
Boston Marathon bombs, April 15.
West, Texas explosion, April 17.

I've searched before, too, for some astrological explanation. It smacks of Fixed Star Algol, but that particular star of ill repute is not involved in the USA chart. There are, in fact, no planets in Aries or Taurus in the US chart. Asteroid Chiron is the only likely clue - it sits at around 20 degrees of Aries - opposite Saturn at 14 Libra. I don't know enough about Chiron, especially in relation to mundane charts, to draw a conclusion from that placement, but it's the only likely astrological explanation I can spot. Anyone out there have ideas?

Unwittingly Prophetic Authors

An article by novelist Tom Lonergan at Huffington Post this week, My Novel Predicted Boston Marathon Attack reminded me of an old post of my own. Synopsis from cover of Lonergan's Heartbreak Hill (2002):
"The trouble with most terrorists is they think too small. This is the message Boston police receive days before fifteen thousand runners and two and a half million spectators descend on the city for the marathon........."

An edited version of my 2006 post follows:


James Michener seemed to have amazing foresight. Several of his novels featuring a particular country, in depth, were each followed some years later by the same countries coming into prominence on the world stage. In a long interview here: , he said
"I think that some of us have a deep seated sensitive antennae about what is going to happen. And somebody the other day, a fine professor, made an introduction of me, which I had not thought about, but which I had thought about a great deal since. At that time, in the world, there were about a half dozen trouble spots: the Near East, the Jewish-Arab relationships, South Africa, revolution in Poland, the emergence of Japan, the absorption in the United States of two outlying territories like Hawaii and Alaska and four or five other things. And he pointed out that I had written full-length books about all these areas before they came into prominence. And I did! There they are. Look at the dates. Now this cannot be because I was exceptionally brilliant. I am not brilliant. I'm something else. I don't know what the word would be, but it isn't brilliant."

Nevil Shute, author of one of my favourite books A Town Like Alice, wrote a couple of novels which later seemed to have been prophetic. No Highway, published in 1948 dealt with what might happen due to metal fatigue in aircraft. His ideas came close to fact with the Comet disasters of the 1950s. Another novel, What Happened to the Corbetts also published as Ordeal was written just before the start of WorldWar 2. It tells how badly aerial bombing affected a town similar to Southampton, in the south of England, and how the bombing of civilians became a major part of the war. British people of a certain age will have no trouble recognising this as fact! His novel On the Beach, a story of the world ending as a result of the explosion of atomic bombs, thankfully has not yet proved prophetic. It could still be "pending", should people forget the warning bells it rang! Shute also touched on a slightly supernatural theme in a novel called Round the Bend in which an aircraft mechanic becomes the mystical leader of a religious movement.

Seeing some correspondence between Michener and Shute, I searched around for other instances of novels which, without purporting to be science fiction, portray events which later came to pass in real life.

American author Morgan Robertson produced an early example in his story Futility. He told of a ship called Titan which sank in a way eerily similar to The Titanic sinking, 14 years later. When this book was written there were no ships of such enormous size being built. Robertson also appeared to be crystal-gazing when he later(1914) wrote Beyond the Spectrum in which he described a war in the future, fought using aircraft which dropped "sun bombs" on their targets. These were powerful enough for a single bomb to destroy a city. When this book was written, aircraft were small, flimsy, and unreliable machines capable of carrying one person. Nuclear weapons were still unimagined. Robertson's war began in the month of December, as did the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor which brought the USA into World War 2.

Michener was born 1907, Shute 1899 and Robertson 1861.

There are, of course, common sense explanations for the authors' seeming futuristic vision. These writers were not deliberately trying to predict events, as far as we know.

Michener didn't foresee actual events, but was drawn or inspired to write about countries which later came to prominence for one reason or another. He was widely travelled, highly intelligent, politically minded and had lived in all the countries he wrote about. Common sense would say that he was intuitively "putting two and two together"

Shute was a skilled aeronautical engineer as well as novelist. He had technical knowledge more than sufficient to foresee possible outcomes where the area of his expertise was involved. "An accident waiting to happen", in the case of metal fatigue, and some extrapolation of known facts in the case of aerial warfare ?

Robertson was the son of a ship's captain and spent some time as a cabin boy himself, so the sea was "in his blood", he had no doubt heard some tall tales from the old salts he must have encountered. These, with a little embroidery, might have helped him to invent his ship Titan. His Beyond the Spectrum published in 1914 is harder to explain.

Open-minded readers, sensitive to peculiar coincidences like these, might see different explanations. Novelists and short story writers continually tap into vast resources of imagination. For hours at a time, on a regular basis, their minds are "elsewhere", concentrating outside of the mundane. Isn't this akin to meditation? Could it be that as they concentrate so intently in realms of the imaginary, coloured by factual knowledge stored in their memory banks, they somehow inadvertently seep through a time barrier or into another dimension?

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

When It's Time To Say RIP to PCs , Will the Next New thing Be Techlepathy?

Below is an extract from a 2004 article by George Dvorsky, originally on a website called "Better Humans", still available at 21st Century Radio :Evolving Towards Telepathy. The full article is well worth reading. I admit that it does smack a bit of science fiction, but might something similar be waiting in the wings for us? Astrologers and others have spoken about an evolutionary step for mankind being imminent. It didn't seem to occur in December 2012 as some hopefuls had suspected. Such evolution would be incredibly slow, so that at first nothing would be apparent to us, but the seed could be there, no longer dormant, but ever so gradually beginning to germinate.

I thought about the article mentioned (extract follows) when I read a piece at Salon last week : Yes, the PC is Dead. What's Next? I don't think the PC is dead or even on its death-bed yet. It might be feeling its age, but then, aren't we all? In time, though, something will almost certainly supersede computerised communications generally, just as motor vehicles superseded the horse and carriage.

Back to George Dvorsky's article and.....what could (maybe) be next, when PCs (and Macs) do actually become totally defunct.
" (Chuck)Jorgensen and his team (@ NASA’s Ames Research Center) developed a system that captures and converts nerve signals in the vocal chords into computerized speech. It is hoped that the technology will help those who have lost the ability to speak, as well as improve interface communications for people working in spacesuits and noisy environments.

The work is similar in principle to how cochlear implants work. These implants capture acoustic information for the hearing impaired. In Jorgensen’s experiment the neural signals that tell the vocal chords how to move are intercepted and rerouted. Cochlear implants do it the other way round, by converting acoustic information into neural signals that the brain can process. Both methods capitalize on the fact that neural signals provide a link to the analog environment in which we live.As I thought further about this similarity it occurred to me that the technology required to create a technologically endowed form of
telepathy is all but upon us. By combining Jorgensen's device and a cochlear implant with a radio transmitter and a fancy neural data conversion device, we could create a form of communication that bypasses the acoustic realm altogether.

I decided to contact Jorgensen and other researchers about the prospect of such "techlepathy." While I have always entertained the idea that we'll eventually develop telepathy-enabling technologies, the optimistic responses I received from these researchers startled me nonetheless. And as I suspected, the technologies and scientific insight required for such an achievement are rapidly coming into focus—an exciting prospect to be sure.

The dream of mind-to-mind communication and the desire to transcend one's own consciousness is as old as language itself. You could make a strong case that there's a near pathological craving for it, a tendency that manifests through the widespread belief in paranormal telepathy.

ESP aside, it seems that this craving will soon be satisfied. Several advances in communications technology and neuroscience are giving pause about the possibility of endowing us with techlepathy. As we continue to ride the wave of the communications revolution, and as the public demand for more sophisticated communications tools continues, it seems a veritable certainty that we are destined to become a species capable of mind-to-mind communication.

This prospect is as profound as it is exciting. Such a change to the species would signify a prominent development in the evolution of humanity—a change that would irrevocably alter the nature of virtually all human relations and interactions. "

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

"For Hate is Strong"

It never ends does it? Man's inhumanity to man. The dreadful events, deaths and horrible injuries in Boston yesterday are the latest addition to a blood-soaked list of tragedies here in the USA, and let us not forget, in countries abroad - some at our own hands.

I've written before about the darkness of this month in recent US history: 19 April 1995, the Oklahoma City bombing when 168 people, including children, died at the hands of home-grown terrorists; then the shootings at Columbine High School, Colorado on 20 April 1999; and April 16 2007 was the date of the Virginia Tech. massacre when 32 people were killed by a gunman, fellow student of those he murdered.

There's no rational explanation for this growing cluster of horror in what ought to be a happy and optimistic time of year, long winter behind us, trees greening - but .......
And in despair I bowed my head;
"There is no peace on earth," I said;
"For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!"

(From Longfellow's Christmas Bells)

Monday, April 15, 2013

Keeping Heels, Heads and Grace Notes High - American Idol Vintage 2013

Whether by producer-manipulation, pure quality, or a bit of both, American Idol's remaining five contestants this year are all female. That's never happened at this stage before, as far as I know. I suspect that, if a wee bit of tweaking and twirling went on by production staff, then it was very early on, maybe even before TV viewers entered the picture at audition time. We got to see a handful of decent-ish male vocalists but they were picked off steadily over past weeks, and were definitely several notches below these gals in the talent stakes.

Once female contestants do win on American Idol, they seem to find more lasting careers in The Biz: think Kelly Clarkson (80 number ones on the Billboard charts; 11 number one singles worldwide), Carrie Underwood (numerous national awards in the country music genre), and Jennifer Hudson (who didn't even win but came 7th - made her film debut in Dreamgirls (2006), it won her an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress, a Golden Globe Award, a BAFTA Award, an NAACP Image Award and a Screen Actors Guild Award.)

This year's top 5, with a note for the astrologically inclined:

Top- left to right: Angela, Candice, Kree.
Bottom- left to right: Amber, Janelle.
(Hat-tip to Hollywood News for the photograph)

Angela "Angie" Miller (born February 17, 1994) from Beverly, Massachusetts (Sun Aquarius, Moon Taurus)

Candice Glover (born November 22, 1989) from Beaufort, South Carolina currently lives in St. Helena Island, South Carolina. (Sun Sagittarius, Moon Virgo or Libra)

Kree Harrison (born May 17, 1990) from Woodville, Texas. (Sun Taurus, Moon Aquarius, or if born after 10PM Pisces)

Amber Holcomb (born March 17, 1994) from Houston, Texas. (Sun Pisces, Moon Taurus or Gemini)

Janelle Arthur (born December 12, 1989) from Oliver Springs, Tennessee (Sun Sagittarius, Moon Gemini)

Candice is, I think, current favourite to win. She has been consistently excellent in classic "diva" style, but able to bend her vocal skills to encompass gospel, blues, ballads as well as modern styling. Amber, though "the whole package" of great looks, figure, legs up to here, and super voice in similar style to Candice, hasn't been as consistently excellent, and seems to lack a solid fan base. Angie's a singer songwriter type, best when she sits at the piano, plays and sings. Good voice but tends to be over theatrical - a tad high school pageantish when just singing with mic in hand. Janelle's a cheery, pretty down-home type country gal, strong traditional-syle country voice and engaging personality. Kree: another great voice, consistently good, able to swing either country-ward or to standard ballads or modern styling.

I see Candice and Kree as likely to be fighting it out in the May finale - though somehow I cannot see either of them reaching the heights of earlier Idol gals Kelly, Carrie or Jennifer, but do hope I'm proved wrong.

Here's the performance by Candice the judges raved about on Wednesday last week. She sang the Cure's Lovesong in the segment "Songs I Wish I'd Written".

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Peering Through The Overton Window

The Overton Window is a political theory which describes as a narrow "window" the range of ideas the public will find acceptable, and states that the political viability of an idea is defined primarily by this, rather than by politicians' individual preferences. It is named for its originator, Joseph P. Overton, a former vice president of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. At any given moment, the "window" includes a range of policies considered politically acceptable in the current climate of public opinion, which a politician can recommend without being considered too extreme to gain or keep public office.

A selection of comments I've read this week follow. These relate, broadly, to the "chained CPI" Social Security issue (mentioned in Thursday's post) which might turn out to be the first proposal to find trouble squeezing through that Overton Window. What will it take for the people of the USA to finally wake up? Maybe we shall find out soon. Links to relevant article is included, where still available. The Digby piece has, oddly, disappeared from Common Dreams, where some of these comments appeared so a link to Digby's own website - Hullabaloo, instead.

Obama is presiding over the single biggest shift in the Overton Window in history. He's doing far more damage in that capacity than Romney would have done. At least with Romney everyone would know who to blame. But this master propagandist and manipulator has a lot of people fooled, and those who are not fooled are scared into voting for him by virtue of the corps putting up even crazier more far right people as the alternative. It's classic and expected and all going according to plan.(Steve Purcell's comment from Digby article, when published on Common Dreams).

Obama slaughters a bunch of Afghan children, and lefties turn a blind eye because he might support gay marriage or appoint a "liberal" supreme court justice like the pro-Monsanto Kagan or the former prosecutor and corporate lawyer Sotomayor. Obama decides to cut social security and democrats accept it because why?

When millions of so-called "liberal" democrats won't stand up against the mass murder of innocent Muslim children, women, and men, how can you expect them to have any political impact? Same with social security.

I also agree with Mr. Faux's observation of a seething cauldron of resentment among the lower classes that will explode one day. And I agree that because we have no functioning left in this country, when it explodes it could explode in a nasty far right wing way.
(One of Tom Carberry's comments on piece by Jeff Faux "Where's the Change?" at Common Dreams.)

It's hard to imagine what Obama and the Democrats in Washington could do to finally persuade liberals and some progressives that they never gave a crap for a truly liberal and progressive agenda. If you take away his speeches, all you have left in Obama is a non-Tea Party Republican and a hardcore liar.

Liberal and progressive supporters of Obama: wake up. It's one thing to say that you have to keep the Republicans out of the White House, but if you think Obama actually cares about what you care about, then you are deep in self-delusion. On war, whistleblowers, support of dictators, drone killings, indefinite imprisonment without charge, enriching Wall Street and corporations, and just generally sticking it to the working class, I defy you to tell me that Obama is actually better than your regular garden variety Republican.

Yes, his speeches are progressive. But there's only one word to describe someone who believes Obama speeches are more real than his actions: delusional.
(Comment from Geez Jan also on Digby piece, when at Common Dreams)

Commenter, "Jimbo" at Common Dreams a few weeks ago presented a list of some of the achievements of the Democrats during what he termed "Obama's Lesser Evilism Reign of Terror Traveling Road Show." The list is not exhaustive by any means.
The Overton Window has proved no barrier to any of the following:
Used an Executive Order to create a Cat Food Commission stacked with anti-Social Security/SocialProgram corporatists.

White House was opposed to bringing back Glass Steagall

Possibility for a Public Option or Universal Health Care killed off for at least another generation

Blocked re-regulation of big banks and credit cards

Expanded Drone assasinations

Reinforced provisions of the Patriot Act

Warrantless wiretapping of American citizens, Indefinite detention
without charge or trial, Targeted killings of suspects by drone,
without any pretense of due process (even if they are US citizens)

Bernanke - Geithner - Holder

Monsanto @ FDA

Linking Social Security to the Deficit

Attacks Whistleblowers, a la Bradley Manning & WikiLeaks

Employee Free Choice Act killed in the crib

Shielded BP after its Gulf Disaster

Pushes through the Trans Pacific Partnership

Supported the right of mining companies to strip mine everywhere, including on government lands

20,000 Airstrikes in the President's First Term Cause Death and Destruction From Iraq to Somalia

Signed the NDAA into law - making it legal to assassinate Americans w/o charge or trial.

Initiated, and personally oversees a "Secret Kill List"

Waged war on Libya without congressional approval

Started a covert, drone war in Yemen, escalated the proxy war in Somalia, CIA drone war in Pakistan

Sold $30 billion of weapons to the dictatorship in Saudi Arabia

Signed an agreement for 7 military bases in Colombia; opened military base in Chile

U.S. troops sent to Niger to set up drone base

Approved $50 million to assist France in Mali.

I'll include this final comment because it's food for thought:

The plan that was in place all along. If you don't believe that "Package O" was put in office by the corporate elite, you have you head somewhere the sun doesn't shine. He was sold like last year's i-phone. A billion dollars buys a lot of mind washing advertising propaganda.

Election 2008 was designed for him to win, running against a worn out Vietnam vet and an airhead ex-governor that quit her job.

Election 2012 was a sure thing as his 'opponent' this time was a Wall Street Millionaire and a radical conservative. Exactly what was NOT going to be elected.

2008-2012 was to set up the Police State by Executive Orders and Midnight New Years legislation.

2012-2016 is to take down the social safety net which could only be done by a handsome, intelligent, black Democratic president that didn't have to be concerned with re-election. And to finish the takeover of the internet and all banking activities prior to the collapse.

If there is an 'election' in 2016, the winner has been already selected. If O succeeds in his part of the project, the next prez will be a Republican who will finish off what O started. The alternate plan is a world war - and O never leaves office in 2017. Wait and see. (Comment by Makati1 on the Digby piece when at Common Dreams.)

Friday, April 12, 2013

Arty Farty Friday ~ Thomas Hart Benton

I'd never heard of Thomas Hart Benton until, one day, wandering around an antique store in Nocona, Texas Husband picked up an old 78 rpm record set in an album-type binding with a black and white illustration on the cover.
"Look! Thomas Hart Benton!"
"He's a famous American artist - painted a lot of murals."
Husband bought the record set. See image (below) and link to caption HERE.

Saturday Night at Tom Benton's
Most of the night he sat up trying to tease a tune from his four-year-old son's harmonica. Annoyed when he couldn't he went out next day, bought a 10¢ book on harmonica playing. Thus Painter Thomas Hart Benton started on his music-making hobby. He bought more manuals, tootled away for hours when it was too dark to paint.

Before long his painting students were bringing their harmonicas to his Manhattan studio. For those who couldn't read notes he worked out a special harmonica notation system. He dug up 17th Century music from libraries. 

I stumbled upon Thomas Hart Benton's name again the other day in a list of 20th century artists, while seeking inspiration for a post. Decided he was the man for this Arty Farty Friday noting that he was born on 15 April, anniversary coming up on Monday. Full birth data 15 April 1889 in Neosho, Missouri; died in January 1975. There's no shortage of information on this artist on line, but I could find nothing on his astrology, not even an entry at Astrodatabank. So I'll be donning the old amateur astrologer's hat again later in the post.

Nutshell information on the artist and his works:
From the book description at Amazon of Thomas Hart Benton: A Life by Justin Wolff.
Born in Missouri at the end of the nineteenth century, Thomas Hart Benton would become the most notorious and celebrated painter America had ever seen. The first artist to make the cover of Time, he was a true original: an heir to both the rollicking populism of his father’s political family and the quiet life of his Appalachian grandfather. In his twenties, he would find his calling in New York, where he was drawn to memories of his small-town youth—and to visions of the American scene.

By the mid-1930s, Benton’s heroic murals were featured in galleries, statehouses, universities, and museums, and magazines commissioned him to report on the stories of the day. Yet even as the nation learned his name, he was often scorned by critics and political commentators, many of whom found him too nationalistic and his art too regressive. Even Jackson Pollock, his once devoted former student, would turn away from him in dramatic fashion. A boxer in his youth, Benton was quick to fight back, but the widespread backlash had an impact—and foreshadowed many of the artistic debates that would dominate the coming decades.

There are dozens of examples of his work on the net, I've picked just a few representative of his "American life" murals and paintings (I'm never sure which are part of larger expanses of murals and which are single paintings); then a few of his controversial set of 8 "Year of Peril" paintings relating to World War II.



Arts of the West

 Thomas Hart Benton's The Sources of Country Music portrays 17 nearly  life-sized figures and illustrates the various cultural influences on  country music, including a train, a steamboat, a black banjo player,  country fiddlers and dulcimer players, hymn singers and square dancers.  The painting memorializes entertainer Tex Ritter as the singing cowboy  on the right.

From Year of Peril series:

From the New York Times:
In the wake of Pearl Harbor, Benton decided to create gigantic propaganda pictures to be hung in Kansas City's Union Station. He wanted to jolt "the milling travelers" to comprehend the evils of fascism. Working at breakneck speed,
Benton within six weeks painted eight brutal works of unbridled violence that are collectively known as the "Year of Peril" series: the 8 titles- Starry Night; Again; Indifference; Casualty; The Sowers; The Harvest; Invasion; Exterminate! There's a slideshow of all the Year of Peril paintings, including brief explanation of content, at Mizzou Wire website HERE



The Sowers


Gleaned from a variety of articles online I discovered that Thomas Hart Benton represented his natal chart rather well. Aries Sun & Mercury in opposition to Libra Moon and Uranus. (Chart is set for 12 noon, but Moon was in Libra whatever his time of birth by the way). His artistic talents are reflected in Venus (planet of the arts) found in its own sign Taurus, along with Mars (ruler of his natal Sun).

He was an amateur boxer in his youth and quick to fight back on many fronts in his later years- classic Aries-ness! In a review by Holland Cotter in the New York Times of Justin Wolff's biography of Benton, I found these paragraphs. I have highlighted lines which, for me, describe his Aries/Libra opposition:
Benton’s character, as depicted by Wolff at this point, will remain consistent: a combination of combative self-­confidence and profound uncertainty. In Paris, he played the roustabout bohemian to the hilt, wearing artsy clothes, acquiring a mistress, reading Ruskin and Hippo­lyte Taine, drinking all night, getting into fights. But his painting was shaky, as he tried out a range of styles — Impressionism, Pointillism, Cubism, abstraction, one after the other, often in combination — with dispiriting results. Whenever he felt he was on to something, he slapped himself down, in a self-destructive pattern that would take other forms later on.

It would be hard to guess, for example, from a 1922 self-portrait by Benton in which he appears buff, bare-chested, Hollywood-­handsome and towering heroically over his wife, that he was about 5-foot-6 and had had to bat away “little man” taunts all his life. Nor would you know from photo­graphs of a scowling, proto-Stanley Ko­walski Pollock that he was a cripplingly self-doubting mama’s boy.

Leery of partisan ideology and ever sensitive to personal assault, real and imagined, Benton kept shifting his politics, from left to right and back, eventually hovering in a quasi-libertarian zone where, speaking in today’s terms, the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street might meet. But then, everything about him was conflicted. He was an avid reader and writer who vilified intellectuals. He was critical of all centralized authority except his own autocratic theories of what art should or should not be. (It had to be rooted in social experience; it couldn’t float free, be about itself.) He condemned capitalism but decorated corporate walls and presidential libraries. He claimed that his work honored the average American, yet his murals are laced with satirical figures of working people.

The more out of fashion he became, the more he drew attention to himself through words. He couldn’t keep his mouth shut. In 1941, he was fired from his teaching position at the Kansas City Art Institute after describing the typical art museum as “a graveyard run by a pretty boy with delicate wrists and a swing in his gait.” And this homophobic slur was mild compared with others he made over the years.

Thomas Hart Benton in his own words:
"I have a sort of inner conviction that for all the possible limitations of my mind and the disturbing effects of my processes, for all the contradicting struggles and failures I have gone through, I have come to something that is in the image of America and the American people of my time. This conviction is in me pretty deeply. My American image is made up of what I have come across, of what was ‘there’ in the time of my experience- no more, no less."