Monday, June 30, 2014

Music Monday ~ Jeff Wayne's War of the Worlds

For stretches of time I forget all about Jeff Wayne and his musical version of H.G. Wells' 1898 novel, War of the Worlds, then something reminds me - and I'm amazed by it all over again, and covered in goosebumps. This time the reminder came when I noticed that Jeff Wayne's birthday will be tomorrow, 1 July, he'll be 71. Dang!!
Happy birthday Jeff Wayne!

Here we go then, I cannot let an opportunity to post at least the best known segments from this wonderful album - the original 1978 version, with Richard Burton narrating, Justin Hayward, Julie Covington, Phil Lynott, David Essex and Chris Thompson singing. Jeff Wayne composed the music and conducted the orchestra. The album itself spent 290 weeks in the UK album charts. It was in the top 10 in 22 countries and reached #1 in 11 countries. Most of the lyrics on the album were written by former Elton John lyricist Gary Osborne. There is a more recent do-over of the album featuring Liam Neeson narrating and various other vocalists, better known to today's younger generation, singing the parts. I've listened to some of what's available on YouTube, and declare the 1978 version to be my preference in every way.....but if the newer version helps to filter this music into the consciousness of today's youth - it has to be a good thing.

I'll limit myself to three snips of the best known pieces : Eve of the War; Spirit of Man; and Forever Autumn.

Eve of War ~ Richard Burton:
"Never before in the history of the world had such a mass of human beings moved and suffered together. This was no disciplined march – it was a stampede – without order and without a goal, six million people unarmed and unprovisioned, driving headlong. It was the beginning of the rout of civilisation, of the massacre of mankind."

Spirit of Man ~ Julie Covington, Phil Lynott, David Essex:

There must be something worth living for,
There must be something worth trying for,
Even some things worth dying for,
And if one man can stand tall,
There must be some hope for us all,
Somewhere, somewhere in the spirit of man.
(As a commenter at YouTube remarked, "The Spirit of Man" something that's going to be tested severely over the next few decades.)

Forever Autumn ~ Justin Hayward, with Richard Burton narrating:

Journalist: For three days I fought my way along roads packed with refugees, the homeless, burdened with boxes and bundles containing their valuables. All that was of value to me was in London, but by the time I reached their little red brick house, Carrie and her father were gone.

The summer sun is fading as the year grows old,
And darker days are drawing near,
The winter winds will be much colder,
Now you're not here

I watch the birds fly south across the Autumn sky,
And one by one they disappear,
I with that I was flying with them,
Now you're not here...................

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Pesky Grand Cross, plus Bits & Pieces.

First, a wee bit of reporting back, regarding that pesky Grand Cross formation of late April this year. In my post about the formation I mentioned that my own natal Saturn at 12.55 Aries would be hooked up in the Grand Cross pattern which linked planets in cardinal signs at around 13 degrees. At the time I couldn't relate anything personal to me other than having recently changed computer operating system after some 10 years, from Windows XP to Windows 7.

Shortly after those Grand Cross days of late April I began to be aware of a problem with my scalp - itching, scaly, getting gradually worse. I'd experienced a similar condition before, back in the 1990s in the UK. I wasn't unduly alarmed because then it was reasonably quickly cleared up using a particular shampoo (Nizoral 2%), and a mild corticosteroid liquid scalp treatment. This year's version eventually grew more virulent though, possibly it was seborrhoeic dermatitis rather than a simple fungal scalp infection. My hair began falling out in places where the problem was at its worst.

The Grand Cross involved my natal Saturn in Aries being conjoined by Uranus, squared by Pluto and Jupiter and opposed by Mars. Aries in medical astrology rules the head face and eyes; Capricorn rules knees, joints and hair, Saturn, Capricorn's governor rules the skin and bones. (Information from here) So, did the Grand Cross reflect its challenges in my scalp and hair problem? Any ideas?

I think - hope - that I now have the problem under control, I'm fairly optimistic that the lost hair will grow back in time, in the meantime I can cover the loss by some judicious combing...or by wearing a hat! I cannot, though, risk carrying on with my visits to the hairdresser every 2 months or so for a dye job. It could even be that my scalp, at last, had rebelled against some element of that treatment. I won't mind the white/grey - it's time now. ...some would say past time!

This is clever!

Quick & Animated History of the English Language

"That lucky old sun has nothin' to do
But roll around Heaven all day"

Russell Brand taking on Fox News - perhaps his accent might confuse some US viewers - I'll translate where needed, just ask!

Lastly ~

Ever wondered why, in a universe as vast as we are told it is, we Earthlings have never been contacted by beings from somewhere out there? There's an entertaining and enlightening article titled The Fermi Paradox at an always interesting website:
Wait But Why.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Arty Farty Friday ~ Mystery Pic...Escher, Schuiten?

This picture is a mystery and a fantasy - Neptunian then! It's all about buildings and structure though, so in another way it's Saturnian. I found this large (36"x28"), nicely framed print in 2006, in a junk-cum-antique store in a nearby town. It was marked "Unique print, frame and mat alone are worth the asking price". True enough. The print has been tastefully framed and triple matted by someone, who at some time obviously loved and valued this picture. (Image might enlarge if clicked upon - not sure though).

When I first saw the print I was immediately attracted by the light in the window of the building in the foreground, the architecture of the doorway and windows reminded me of a building where I once worked. But the entire fantasy cityscape was and remains a mystery. I've been unable to find any information as to its artist or source. It's a good quality print. I've wondered if it might originally have been part of an even larger illustration, it sometimes gives that impression.

Those hilly structures are reminiscent of Italian hill towns, but there is no hint of vegetation or trees in the picture, and there are just too many buildings to fit that theory. The architecture is definitely European though, but not British. The picture reminds me of some of Escher's early work which depicted Italian landscapes. At right is the first lithograph ever made by M.C. Escher -"Goriano Sicoli, Abruzzi" (1929). Escher's illustrations were, as far as I know, in black and white, or occasionally black with some other colour. I doubt that our picture is a print of an early Escher illustration, but the artist was almost certainly influenced by Escher.

Perhaps my picture illustrated the artist's idea of a city of the future, or from another dimension? Whenever I gaze at it I always come back to the lighted room in the foremost building - perhaps someone in there was dreaming.......

I posted the photo of the picture on my blog in 2007, with request for ideas. Only one comment was received, from Ariana, remarking that, "It feels very Dutch & medieval, out of a fairy tale".... Indeed!

My husband posted a photo of the picture on his Flickr page, asking for ideas. He received the suggestion that it looked like something Francois Schuiten might have created. A flurry of research ensued. It does look like Schuiten's style, in his Les Cités Obscures (literally The Obscure Cities, but initially published in English as Cities of the Fantastic). It is a graphic novel series set on a Counter-Earth, created by Belgian comics artist François Schuiten and his friend, writer Benoît Peeters in the early 1980s. In this fictional world, humans live in independent city-states, each of which has developed a distinct civilization, each characterized by a distinctive architectural style. (From Wikipedia)

I've been unable to trace anything of Schuiten's that is even near to similar to the city in my picture, despite continuing to search over the years since 2006. One would expect, that if it had been produced in large format for framing, then it would be one of his well-known popular images, and would turn up online somewhere. Many of his illustrations contain similar colours and shades to those in my picture, and his drawing style is very similar, even though subject matter differs a lot. It's the nearest we've come to solving the mystery.

If any passing reader recognises the picture or the style, or can add any further information at all, I'd be delighted to hear from them.

UPDATE - Many thanks to commenter "Kidd" for information leading to this discovery:

AND Googling further I found a video with (I think) Jean Pattou himself appearing and taking over at around 3.31 mins.
My schoolgirl French isn't up to following the presentation, but more of the artist's works pop up to the bottom right of the video as the presentation proceeds.


Thursday, June 26, 2014

Imagine there's no nationalism, it isn't hard to do.....

In several articles lately authors comment on a rise in nationalism in certain countries of the world, on all continents. See THIS from the Guardian, and HERE, just two examples. A recent blog post (24 June) at Infidel 753, titled Cultural Nationalism is an interesting read too.

The UK, land of my birth and of which I'm still a citizen, in duality with the USA, is in the throes of increased feelings of nationalism. A passionate anti-European Union movement now exists; this is disappointing, though in some ways understandable. Rather than leaving or destroying the Union, wouldn't it be preferable to at least attempt to fix it? Scotland wants its independence, England, or factions in it, stomp around waving the flag of St. George rather than the Union Jack, and object loudly to more immigrants entering English shores from parts of Europe, and the Commonwealth. "Backward, backward!" instead of "Onward, onward!" is the cry these days then? We know where that backward march would lead, don't we? Or have we forgotten so soon?


I so wish that people of countries who consider themselves to be enlightened, including the UK and the USA, would desist from encouraging an increasingly nationalistic, jingoistic and insular mindset.

H.G. Wells reminded us, long ago, that "Our true nationality is mankind". John Lennon wrote, and sang, "Imagine there's no countries, it isn't hard to do." And in a piece at Counterpunch the other day,
Beyond the Abyss, Winslow Myers in his essay about chaos in Iraq and Syria, but applicable generally wrote:
".....look up at the stars: Look at who you really are, a descendent of these trillions of galaxies. We are one species.........This felt sense of oneness is the great message that bears in upon us from both our biggest challenges and our biggest opportunities — challenges like ocean acidification, rain forest destruction or nuclear proliferation, opportunities for vast networks of communication and understanding represented by the Internet. Global climate chaos encompasses not just physical weather but spiritual weather as well. .....................Great possibilities are known, but the wrong voices are loudest. Let us listen for the smarter, smaller, softer, kinder ones."

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Down the Rabbit-hole with Saturn & Myth

Down the internet rabbit hole, keeping out of the sun and heat, I came across, via an astrology forum, a long video narrated and compiled by David Talbott:
Symbols of an Alien Sky. The video is a hour and 20 minutes long, so not for the faint-hearted. At the link provided, rather than directing straight to YouTube, there's more information and some illustrations. There are, apparently, two further video episodes on the topic, I haven't yet investigated those.

Just watching a few minutes of the video gives some idea of its content. I watched it in full, was as intrigued as I was many, many years ago, when I read Erich von Däniken's first book Chariots of the Gods. With his subsequent books my fascination turned to cynicism though, perhaps the same might happen in this case. Sometimes, when an imaginative author finds a fascinating theme, which might in fact have some ghostlike validity, the author tends to keep flogging the horse with follow-ups until it's....well - dead.

For anyone unable to watch the video, there are articles available on the "Saturn Myth" at its heart - basically it proposes that long, long ago Saturn was Earth's sun, and the configuration of planets was different from the orbits we know today. Three examples of such articles: HERE, HERE, and HERE. Numerous others appear on line, both supporting and rubbishing the theory.

The video mentioned above concentrates on how ancient petroglyphs in many countries of the world can be seen to match proposals put forward, and how world myths might have grown up out of planetary events far back in time, beyond current human knowledge.

David Talbott's ideas, which closely follow theories of Immanuel Velikovsky propose that Saturn, Mars and Earth were once in the far, far distant past in alignment, and outside of the current Sun's heliosphere, probably for millions of years with Earth inside Saturn's plasma sheath. When the Saturnian system entered the Sun's Heliosphere, Saturn began flaring, Venus was ejected from Saturn and the ring system was born and the beginning of the breakup, and much of Human mythology began. Things ripped apart, planets found new orbits by exchanging electrical discharges until it settled into the system of planetary orbits we know today. Our current understandings of physics and cosmology are, apparently not yet advanced enough to fully understand these things. Proposals involve the addition of electrical factors ("The Electric Universe".) The planets, it is thought, were held in alignment electro-statically countering effects of gravity. The breakup left the system electrically "dead", gravity took over as primary system force.

Just as I'd wished to believe what Erich von Däniken proposed about early space travel and visits from other worlds, I'd love to believe what David Talbott and others propose about the origin of certain world mythologies, religions and the formation of our current planetary configuration. I've often pondered about the origin of myths. Was there more to it than, in the case of our best-known Greek variety of myth, sages and philosophers getting together to concoct a set of fictional stories of gods and goddesses for the delectation of listeners and readers, with maybe just a hint of moral or philosophical truth embedded? Were those sages actually carrying on, in different form, more acceptable, accessible and likely to survive as religion or myth, tales of planetary change and catastrophe handed down from...from whom though? Perhaps the origin of such knowledge was lost, along with much else, in the burning of the Ancient Library of Alexandria, but some special knowledge, known to a select few, had been passed on by word of mouth?

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Liberally Confused

A headline at Huffington Post the other day caught my attention : Paul Haggis: I Wrote 'Crash' To 'Bust Liberals'. Included in the piece is a brief video of an interview in which those words are spoken by Haggis.

At first I felt puzzled. I looked back to my own post about Crash and a couple of other Paul Haggis movies. :

Clip from my post of March 2013:
Crash, set in Los Angeles, puts the focus squarely on racism in the USA. The embedded message applies equally elsewhere, of course. Crash uses what I think of as "the tangled net" method of story-telling. A number of totally unconnected characters are introduced, and by the end of the movie we find they are linked in some way to at least one of the other characters, often to several. The Crash characters all have different ethnic backgrounds: African American, Middle-Eastern, Asian-American, Mexican, Caucasian, Latin-American (hope I didn't forget any). There is heavy stereotyping, and that is a drawback, but in this film it was necessary to get a point across in limited time. Each incident and reaction is drawn in extreme terms - cartoonish in fact. After I'd watched the film my first reaction was that it wasn't at all true to life, it was more like distilled version, keeping only the strongest flavours intact. It reminded me a bit of the way people sometimes train a puppy not to soil the living room carpet by rubbing its nose in the mess. Our noses were rubbed in the mess we sometimes make of relationships with others of different background from ourselves.

So as not to end on a completely negative note, Paul Haggis made sure that he did show that most characters though their bad traits were horrendous, had a decent, or even heroic, side too. Whether this was a cop out to stop audiences hating the movie I cannot say. I saw only one truly decent guy in the film - a Mexican locksmith.

I watched the video presented with the HuffPo article and confusion cleared. In the video Haggis clearly states, when asked, that he is "left of liberal" - which would have been my guess, though I wasn't 100% certain considering that most commenters to the Huffington Post article seemed to assume that Haggis is conservative, giving his liberal opponents a poke in the eye. I thought that perhaps those commenters knew something I didn't know. I was wrong.

People, or most, in the USA don't seem to get that there is a fair land left of liberal, and that liberalism, at least as it plays out in the USA, ain't always what it's cracked up to be. The kind of liberalism Haggis is pointing out is just a mini-step away from what I consider conservative-lite, and sadly there's a lot of it about.

Anyway, I did get a wry chuckle out of my own confusion, and the clear misunderstanding of those commenters who had obviously not taken the trouble to watch the video before making their observations.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Evolutionary Astrological Music Monday

A relevant song to lead me into today's post: "In My Next Life" sung by Merle Haggard, written by Max D. Barnes.

Last week the topic of planetary nodes came up in commentary on this post.
While searching online for more information on planetary nodes, a branch of astrology known as Evolutionary Astrology kept cropping up. I've investigated this branch of the astrological family tree before, and have tried to feel enthusiastic about it, due to a few well-known popular astrologers being involved. I couldn't quite do enthusiasm, curiosity was the best I managed.

Aspects of reincarnation - it plays a major part in Evolutionary Astrology - have been featured in past posts linked below, they're worth a look, also for commentary there. I'd like to feel confident about past and future lifetimes being possibilities for us all, but I can't, and remain, probably for ever, a student of the Don't Know School.
Archived posts touching on reincarnation:

Reincarnation - Another Look at Tallan
Wednesday Woo-woo: Past Lives

During my search the other day I found a long, painstakingly thorough and even-handed, piece by astrologer & therapist Glenn Perry on the topic of astrology's role, or lack of it, in reincarnational thinking:
A Critical Review Of Reincarnational Astrology. A paragraph from the piece is quoted below:
One might anticipate that evolutionary astrologers will argue that their stories work precisely because the South Node symbolizes karma from past lives. Yet, it cannot be overstated that all one can actually know about the South Node is that it appears to correlate to a deeply ingrained, inborn pattern of feeling and behavior, just as the Sun, Moon, and Ascendant correspond to deeply ingrained, inborn patterns. This is all that we can actually observe. Over time, one might notice a shift in behavior from what is more familiar (South Node) to what is less familiar (North Node), and back and forth, until the polarity is maximally integrated over the course of the life. Astrologers can embellish this simple observation with all sorts of esoteric meanings and karmic entailments, but it doesn't change the fact that all we can know is what we can observe. To claim any more than this is to draw a dogmatic conclusion from ambiguous data.
I see Moon's Nodes as just sensitive points and/or cyclical markers, in a natal chart, nothing more than that so really, I stand a few steps back even from Mr Perry's view.

Part of the author's concluding paragraphs:
The commercialization of reincarnation through the sale of astrological readings, books, and computer-generated reports casts a tawdry shadow over the entire field. The law of karma is at the core of virtually every spiritual tradition that has exerted influence throughout recorded history and is arguably the deepest, most profound of all moral teachings. Likewise, the doctrine of reincarnation refers to the immortality of the human soul and outlines the means by which the psyche finds its way home—reunited with the source of its own being. For astrologers to commercialize these sacred doctrines for personal profit through a pretense of transcendental knowledge is ethically indefensible. Merely believing in reincarnation does not entitle one to make up stories of past lives and then sell this information to the gullible masses. Such a practice exploits the credulity of clients by fraudulently portraying the astrologer as having knowledge not actually possessed.................

Standing ovation on this:
....The best remedy against the seductive but ultimately false security of self-sealing doctrines is critical thinking, without which astrology will remain forever in danger of contamination by noxious and spurious claims. False prophets abound in fields situated in the heavenly realms. And true believers are their life-blood. Every individual astrologer needs to take special pains not to become either one—neither a false prophet, nor a true believer.

I began with a song, and will end with one - this song seems to be looking back to a past life rather than onward to a next life....but who knows where or when?"

Saturday, June 21, 2014

SOLSTICE - or in Ancient Rome, Day of Ill Omen

Solstice Greetings! (Intoned with an underlay of sorrow). I've whinged, more than once, at this time of year, that I heartily dislike Oklahoma's summers. For those in more northerly climes or in the southern hemisphere where winter's comin' in, or for those mortals who love the heat, the bugs, and avoid attendant allergies: have at it (as they say)! I shall celebrate come Autumn.

To sidetrack my own negativity I decided to investigate Ancient Romans' customs for signs of Summer Solstice celebration.

Ancient Romans were no slouches when it came to festivals - no excuse was too small, no deity too insignificant to honour if it meant a bit of legalised carousing! However...although there were several days of celebration during June in Ancient Rome, a festival specifically to mark the astronomical Summer Solstice didn't happen.

Sources online tend to copy others' words (and errors). I'm not sure how true it is that Solstice in the time of Ancient Rome fell on 24 June, when Romans celebrated in honour of goddess Fors Fortuna - but in any case, that festival was nothing to do with the position of the Sun at that time of year.

A days-long festival, Vestalia, was held, lasting from June 7 to 15, in honour of Roman Goddess of the Hearth, Vesta. At these times married women could to enter the Shrine of Vesta. At other times of the year only vestal virgins were permitted inside. Again, this festival had nothing at all to do with the position of the Sun in the sky.

The month of June was named for Roman goddess Juno. Several festivals were held in her honour, but no major celebration of Juno took place in June, and certainly none to mark Solstice.

Something I discovered which could have a bearing on why 21 June wasn't a day filled with rejoicing in Ancient Rome: it was known as Black Day, a day of ill omen, being the anniversary of the defeat of the Romans to Hannibal in 217 BC. Roman armies, led by Gaius Flaminius, were ambushed and defeated at the Battle of Lake Trasimene.
Snip from HERE
The historians Polybius and Livy recorded that about 10,000 Romans and allies managed to survive the Carthaginian ambush. At least 15,000 Romans were killed in the battle or drowned trying to escape. About 6000 Romans managed to escape through the fog, but were caught the next day. The Carthaginian commander offered them safe passage if they would surrender their weapons and armor. After doing so, however, the Carthaginians took them prisoner and the Romans soldiers were sold as slaves. Any Roman allies among them were sent back to their hometowns; Hannibal hope to destroy the system of alliances the Romans had created with allied and conquered towns. The Carthaginians then sold the confiscated equipment to merchants, who sold the armor and weapons back to the Romans.

Carthaginian losses were reported at 2500 killed with several hundred more men dying of their wounds in the weeks to come. Hannibal and his army were now the masters of central Italy. Rome was panic-stricken and expecting the enemy at its gates any moment.
It would seem that celebration of the Summer Solstice specifically due to the Sun's position in the sky around 21 June was peculiar to more northerly countries in Europe. When Romans invaded and occupied Britain they'd have come across various Druidic practices and rituals, one of which must have surely been Solstice celebration. Romans probably wrote this off as something only "savages" got up to. Sources have reported that human sacrifice was performed as part of Druidic ritual, though this has been rejected by modern Druids (they would, wouldn't they?) In any case, though, Romans had no business looking down their well-hewn noses at human sacrifice - we know all about their nasty habits!

Friday, June 20, 2014

Arty Farty Seasonal Friday

As Summer Solstice approaches and the season turns, it's an apt time to feature some artists' impressions of seasons personified.
(For larger versions please click on the images)

 Allegory of the Four Seasons by Bartolomeo Manfredi, c.1610.

Manfredi's picture has been interpreted as an allegory of the Four Seasons, linked to the iconography of the Five Senses and explained as the four ages of man exemplified by various phases of love. There can be little doubt that its primary theme is the Four Seasons. The four figures, crowded behind a stone slab laden with fruit, are clearly identifiable as Spring (a young woman crowned with roses and playing a lute), Autumn (the young man adorned with a Bacchic crown of grapes), Summer (a bare-breasted woman who turns and stares directly at the viewer) and Winter (a shivering old man in a fur hat who is wrapped in a blanket). Nevertheless, their arrangement does not suggest the normal progression of the year and their interaction suggests a second level of meaning.

The rich array of fruit carefully placed before the figures is composed entirely of autumnal produce: grapes, pears, apples, figs, a pomegranate and a squash. This is clearly the domain of Autumn, who kisses the lute-playing Spring but at the same time embraces Summer, who wears a sprig of his wheat in her hair. Summer holds a small round transparent mirror as a symbol of the Origin of Love. Autumn's kiss and embrace signify that music is born of love, while Winter's exclusion is a sad reminder that in old age one is less inclined towards amorous sentiments.

Manfredi's facial features and tightly compressed composition find close parallels in Caravaggio's Musicians. The brightly illuminated fruit, so carefully displayed on cold, grey stone, and Summer's frank confrontation of the viewer over her bare shoulder seem to recall Caravaggio's Sick Bacchus explicitly. Although two other versions of Manfredi's Four Seasons are known, he painted no other allegoric subjects.
(From HERE)

Helios & Phaeton with Saturn & the Four Seasons by Nicholas Poussin, c.1635.

On the painting the sun-god, having Apollo's appearance and attributes, sits on a cloudy throne framed in the zodiacal belt, a lyre beside him; Phaeton kneels in front of him.In Greek mythology Phaeton was the son of Helios, the sun-god. (To the Greeks the nature and functions of Apollo and Helios were distinct and separate. Apollo's identification with the sun was a later development, and was particularly associated with his cult in Roman times.) Helios drove his chariot daily across the sky. Ovid tells of the palace of Helios and his retinue - Day, Month, Year, and the Four Seasons and so on. Here Phaeton presented himself and persuaded an unwilling father to allow him for one day to drive his chariot across the skies. The Hours yoked the team of four horses to the golden car, Dawn threw open her doors, and Phaeton was off. Because he had no skill he was soon in trouble, and the climax came when he met the fearful Scorpion of the zodiac. He dropped the reins; the horses bolted and caused the earth itself to catch fire. In the nick of time Jupiter, father of the gods, put a stop to his escapade with a thunderbolt which wrecked the chariot and sent Phaeton hurtling down in flames into the River Eridanus. He was buried by nymphs. Phaetons's reckless attempt to drive his father's chariot made him the symbol of all who aspire to that which lies beyond their capabilities.
(See HERE)

 The Four Seasons by Giuseppe Arcimboldo, 1572-3

 The Seasons by Alphonse Mucha, 1896.

Due to their popularity other versions of The Seasons were painted by Mucha, among them these, in 1897 and 1900.

 Masque of the Four Seasons by Walter Crane, c.1903-09

The final two paintings are by Albert Moore (1841-1893) - (thinks:I should do a Friday post on him). The first was painted just 10 days before he died. The second is very appropriate for our time of year.

The Loves of the Winds and Seasons

"The Loves of the Winds and Seasons" is said to reveal the eternal cycles of life. Despite its glorious colours and optimistic message, it was Moore’s last picture, painted from his death-bed.

 Midsummer.  1887.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Unexcited Brit at Curmudgeon Corner

I find myself this morning at Curmudgeon Corner - I'll probably visit here again the next time something irritates me sufficiently.

I'm not sure whether this current irritant is simply another example of what I see as the American habit of out-of-place hyperbole. This one seemingly has spread across the pond too. Or is it another "meme-ish" copycat thing? Why do some people, when attempting to describe their state of mind when looking forward to an event, or action by them or others, describe themselves as "Being excited to......" whatever, when the circumstance would appear scarcely to even warrant a sincere "I'm looking forward to...."

Devaluing words - again. I've whinged about the use of "hilarious" in the past, when attached to something that is, at best, mildly amusing.

What is going on here though? What causes overstatement? Is it a form of verbal one-upmanship, lack of vocabulary - or what? What'll happen when the next generation or "in-crowd" needs to go even one better than "I'm so excited to..." ?

Perhaps I'm still suffering from after effects of culture shock, being a Brit an' all, and therefore having been more used to understatement than overstatement for most of my life, pre-internet. The British - or perhaps more accurately - the English, have the reputation of being overly polite, self-effacing, and of uttering "thank you" or "sorry" several times at inappropriate moments. There are lots of examples of this in a Twitter feed, "Very British Problems" (@SoVeryBritish), I follow it among a scant handful of Twitterers because its entries almost always raise a chuckle of recognition, so much so that I've ordered the accompanying book. A passing reader might get the general idea from the following samples:

"I'm sure it'll be fine" - Meaning: This can only end in disaster

Being mistaken for a shop assistant and simply assuming the role as best you can

Never feeling more uncomfortable than when instructed to "make yourself at home"

Saying, "It's nothing, really" to indicate you're remarkably close to losing consciousness

Nearly washing the skin off your hands so as not to pressure the person using the hand dryer

Being unable to pay for something with the exact change without saying "I think that's right"

"With all due respect" - Translation: You have absolutely no idea what you're talking about

Ordering one of the specials so the waitress won't have wasted her time reciting them

Debating whether to open the train window or quietly succumb to heatstroke

Being unable to help saying, "At least I hope so!" after telling someone they're on the right train.

Punishing people who don't say thank you by saying "you're welcome" as quietly as possible

Becoming incandescent with rage when Microsoft Word corrects your spelling to American English

More here too.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly....

Moments from our weekend trip to Kansas ~

(Click on images for bigger versions)


 Solar panels at Eisenhower Presidential Library, Museum, and Boyhood Home in Abilene KS

Related: I've just received a "Tweet" from Al Gore with a link to his piece in the current issue of Rolling Stone magazine, it's much less depressing than many I've read. (Run Al, RUN!!)

 20,000 Re-cycled local newspapers exhibit


" You've got to ask yourself a question: 'do I feel lucky?' Well, do ya, punk?"



Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Re Violet Jessop, "Miss Unsinkable"

Following mention in a comment under my previous post, out of curiosity I've brought up a natal chart for:
Violet Constance Jessop, who was an ocean liner stewardess and nurse who achieved fame by surviving the disastrous sinkings of both the RMS Titanic and the HMHS Britannic in 1912 and 1916 respectively.

Born: October 2, 1887, Bahía Blanca, Argentina....set for 12 noon as her time of birth isn't known.

To peruse:

Jupiter semi-sextile Sun! More?

On-going Mystery

I think CNN has stopped mentioning it now - so I will take up the slack.

This year's biggest mystery, so far, hasn't yet been solved: the disappearance of Boeing 777 #MH370, more than three months ago, with 239 passengers and crew on board. I've followed news stories over the weeks during extensive searches in the Indian Ocean: the discovery of pieces of debris, later proving not to be parts of the plane , the complex mathematical calculations drawn up by experts to establish the likely route and crash area using satellite "handshake pings"; the other kind of pings heard in the ocean in a likely crash area, originally thought to have been the last signals from MH370's black box equipment - doubt has now been cast on even this piece of "evidence".

There have been reports of possible sightings of the flight, from a guy on an oil rig; from some villagers on a island in the Maldives early on; and more recently from a British woman sailor on a yacht in the general area of the plane's possible route, who didn't believe her eyes when, close to the horizon she saw a large plane with what appeared to be orange lights beneath it, trailing black smoke. She didn't report the sighting immediately, three months ago, due to her disbelief.

Conspiracy theories have free range now but, strangely, the longer it goes before something definite is found, the less likely most of the theories become. Ideas about a terrorist hijack and subsequent plans to ransom passengers has become highly unlikely now, as has a possible plot to steal the plane, re-paint it, to use for dastardly deeds in the future - but what about those 239 people on board? Was the plane shot down by some over-keen military? Possible, I guess, but a plane shot down would certainly have left debris, some would have washed up or been seen by now. Lack of debris seems to indicate the plane sinking intact, or with minimal debris which sank soon after.

The most likely scenario remaining, other than fire in the cockpit or hold (which kind of makes the several known hours of onward flight unlikely) is that either one of the crew or a passenger re-routed, or caused the re-routing of the plane, but for what reason? If a passenger with sufficient expertise was involved, perhaps the reason could have been to divert the plane in order to crash it somewhere in a populated area, thus causing a 9/11-like tragedy. The captain might have been able to save this from happening by ensuring the plane would be out of range of all populated areas. Or... another scenario: if the plane's captain had held sufficient grudge against his company, or his country, and was in an emotionally unbalanced state at the time, he might have decided to "teach them a lesson" by taking the plane to sink it where it might never be found, thus causing huge expense and effort - and ensuring insurance payments would have to be made? There is some evidence that such a story might fit, but people who new the captain well have said that it seems highly unlikely, because loss of the lives of so many others was involved.

The search will continue in the Indian Ocean after the seabed has been mapped in detail. Expert search companies are currently being tendered, to continue what will likely be year(s)-long searches later this summer.

Recently it was reported as follows HERE:
Grieving relatives of passengers on board missing flight MH370 is offering a $3 million (£1.8m) reward for a whistleblower to come forward and give key information into the flight's investigation.

After three months of failed search efforts, families have become convinced the authorities are concealing the truth about the disappearance of the Boeing 777 and will launch the crowd-funding campaign Indiegogo in a bid to get answers

Latest as of 16 June: When search resumes the Inmarsat "hotspot" will be a key focus.

The emotional pain the families and loved ones of those lost have been enduring is unimaginable. I hope there will be closure for them, and soon.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Music Monday ~ Briefly Mulling over McCartney

It'll be Paul McCartney's birthday this week - he was born on 18 June 1942 in Liverpool, UK. His natal chart is available at

Apart from his massive contribution to the music of The Beatles, I've always loved a song from 1977 he recorded with his "other" band, Wings: Mull of Kintyre. The song is a tribute to a location in Scotland where McCartney has owned a farm since 1966. The song was a hit in the UK and in several other countries, but excluding the USA for some reason. It was written by Paul McCartney and Denny Laine. The music video below was filmed on location at McCartney's farm on the Kintyre Peninsula and was directed by Michael Lindsay-Hogg. The film features Wings members Linda McCartney and Denny Laine as well as the Campbeltown Pipe Band.

Paul became a Kennedy Center Honoree in 2010, Steven Tyler paid tribute with a super performance of some of Paul's songs:

A couple of archived posts feature Paul McCartney himself (rather than his work with The Beatles):

Divorce of the Week
When Jane Told Paul

Saturday, June 14, 2014

The "crackpot mystery in the half-light...."

An old article in "TIME" written in 1988, 26 years ago, by journalist and author Lance Morrow: "The Five-and-Dime Charms of Astrology" , is now available in full only via log-in. I mentioned the piece in a 2008 posting, recently checked the link and....hmmm....did more searching and found some extra quotes from the piece. Mr Morrow's words are worth another look, and a wry chortle or two. I admire his writing style if not entirely his feelings about astrology, though must admit I do have sympathy with some of his points. He began:
"Astrology has something frowsy about it. It comes to the door in hair curlers. It looks through the screen with squint-shrewd eyes. The caller who rang the doorbell stares in at crackpot mystery in the half-light, and senses there a kind of disreputable plausibility. The dogs on the porch get restless and slink away. A universe of surreal connections unfolds......."

I expected to feel incensed by the article, but was drawn in to read it from start to finish by the expert and entertaining writing style of Mr. Morrow.
"The American character alternates between Ahab and Starbuck -- the grandiose obsessive and the commonsense skeptic. Astrology plays to the Ahab. It offers a seeing of the unseen, and hears pitches of significance that the ear cannot detect. An elaborate counterworld whispers its order into the human mess."
You were getting a wee bit warm there Mr. Morrow!

Extra quotes from HERE; I'm not sure whether these ran consecutively in the piece itself, but I've run them together here anyway:

What next? A little magic. Astrology, a radiance in pink housecoat and mules, looking eerily like Shirley MacLaine, dances from the shadows, out the door, and floats into a previous life. That's entertainment.
Astrology was once a statelier business. ... Astrology had a sheer mythy size, a consequence that could make Caesar or Lear look up to the heavens. The skies were full of promises and dangers. In February of 1524, Europeans lived in terror that a conjunction of all the planets in the watery sign of Pisces would bring a deluge.

Astrology was the machinery of the universe. All the details of the world were wired to the vibrations of the heavens. The membranes of history thrummed to astral music. How cozy that stars and planets should intervene so intimately on earth. But in its modern incarnation, astrology has become both charming and ridiculous. Somehow the old portentous shrinks down toward the bathos of the fortune cookie and the UFO. The earth is not the center of the universe. Democracy has a hard time sustaining the cosmic drama -- the stars must busy themselves with the fates of hairdressers as well as rulers. Astrology degenerates to advice that runs on the feature page slightly to the left of Garfield and the Wizard of Id.

The Reagans' enthusiasm for astrology comes as a small, slightly goofy revelation, an old Hollywood side of them that has turned up in Washington, a detail endearing and unbidden and embarrassing. Ronald Reagan has always been a lucky man. Perhaps he and his wife find that the zodiac is a means to codify, organize and predict his luck. Movie stars are suckers for astrology, partly because their business is even less rational than the rest of American life. Great egos need great horoscopes.

The pedigree of astrology in ancient times had a certain splendor. But astrology has been intellectually weightless since Isaac Newton. Yet it accomplished a miraculous revival around the turn of the century. King Edward VII (Scorpio) and Enrico Caruso (Pisces) consulted astrologers. The '60s, the dawning of the Age of Aquarius, brought in the great age of astral tourism.
I cannot find it in my heart to dislike Morrow in the way I dislike Richard Dawkins or Randi and his clan of skeptics. Mr. Morrow would benefit greatly from having dinner with a select few astrologers and astrology bloggers (I'll be serving the wine and listening in to the conversation!) I guarantee that Mr. Morrow would be able, next day, to write an altogether different piece on the subject of astrology. He might even feel inclined to characterize it as something crisper, cleverer, searching for answers, rather than as a squint-eyed frowsy!

Lance Morrow probably wouldn't thank me for looking at his own natal chart again; suffice to say that he was born on 21 September 1939 , a War Baby like me, but born on the safe side of the Atlantic Ocean. This means he could have that somewhat grounding Earth Grand Trine in his chart - the one which tends to anchor our War Baby feet firmly on Mother Earth, preventing too many flights of fancy. We have been known to hover at low altitude on occasion though! His Grand Trine in Earth is more powerful than mine. His draws in Sun, Mercury and Neptune in Virgo trining Uranus and Mars in Taurus and Capricorn respectively. (My own comprises Neptune, Mercury and Uranus). Adding to the Earthy tone of Morrow's chart is Moon in Capricorn. It's really no surprise that Lance Morrow looks askance at astrology and New Agey stuff in general. The Earthy circuit of his Grand Trine is not conducive to the appreciation of things intangible.

PS: Lance Morrow has written 14 books, the best known is probably
"Evil: An Investigation".

Friday, June 13, 2014

Arty Farty Friday ~ Wm. Butler Yeats ~ The Second Coming

Irish poet William Butler Yeats was born this day,
13 June, in 1865. His natal chart and brief biography are at William painted in words - his father, John Butler Yeats, was an artist in the more traditional sense.

Rather than concentrate on the story of W.B. Yeats, his life and loves, I'll ponder upon one of his poems. This is a poem containing several memorable phrases which tend to pop up here and there, in quotation marks, in the work of other writers, so evocative have they become.

The poem: The Second Coming, written in 1919, published in 1920. The title could imply a Christian theme, but Yeats was a mystic and occultist, not particularly impressed by organised religion, including Christianity. The poem goes deeper.

When Yeats wrote The Second Coming the world in general was in a state of shock in the aftermath of The Great War (1914-1918). His own, Irish world, was in the throes of upheaval as Irish revolutionaries, many of whom he counted as friends and/or lovers, attempted to rid Ireland of centuries of British rule. Those facts indicate the poet's state of mind and emotions as he wrote. This poem, though, can be enjoyed like a painting from which each viewer draws a slightly different meaning, or like some modern song lyrics which, on the surface, seem nonsensical, but from which each listener is able to find their own meaning.

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

The gyre, at the heart of this poem refers to something those keen on astrology's principles understand well - cycles - here further expanded to the form of an ever-widening sprial. The gyre reaches a point wide enough that a symbolic falcon flies beyond control of its keeper and becomes destabilised. Astrology's 2,100-year Ages fit the gyre imagery, I think.

Yeats had lived through the opening of the 20th century - 2,000 years from the birth of Christ - and speculated that a new "coming", or awakening, or major change of some kind, was to be expected, though not an exact repeat of the last one. I understand that Yeats' book A Vision details his beliefs in this direction.

"Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold": each generation might see a different reference there. Things going too far....too much excess, too much progress, too much control, too much technology, more and more until..... "mere anarchy" emerges (the word 'mere' is used here in its ancient meaning of pure and unadulterated).

"The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity." We can all relate those words to something familiar today, to apathetic and passive citizens as against the overly intense on both sides of the political divide, for instance.

The second part of the poem proceeds to speculate "what next then?" The poet has a vision of what seems like the Sphinx in the desert, birds wheeling overhead, but representing what? Life as it was lived before Christ - a pagan world? Then darkness fell as Christianity emerged to bring about change? 2,000 years on Yeats expected another "coming", some as yet unknown event or "beast" to emerge and change things yet again, as Christ's coming had changed things last time around.

The "slouching" imagery indicates to me a slow, murky advance with no glorious overtures. I can easily identify that something coming, advancing slowly, while the best of us lack all conviction, and the worst are full of passionate intensity; something which will, inevitably, change things for us all.

See? Time has given the poem a potential new meaning, something which Yeats could not have envisioned in detail. An original meaning is still there, but exists a little further back on the loop of that ever-widening gyre. As the gyre continues to widen still further, scenes change.

Thursday, June 12, 2014


What if Al Gore were to run in the 2016 presidential campaign? Oh my! Now that would ensure my support, and interest, which would have been yawning in a corner somewhere if the race were to be between Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden and even, disappointingly, Elizabeth Warren and/or Bernie Sanders. Al Gore could get me going again! I seem to recall my urging him to "Run Al, run!" in 2007/8. There are around 20 archived posts mentioning him (see Label Cloud in sidebar).

Al Gore is a very wealthy man (something most detractors hold against him). CBS News estimated his net worth at around $200 million, a few months ago. That is puny compared to the combined $72 billion fortune of Charles and David Koch, but it's still a lot of dosh. Even so, Gore has always seemed more populist than elitist to me, and I do get the sense/instinct that he's genuine and sincere. I know he's no leftie - that, sadly, is a rare to unknown species in this country. I'm amazed that so many, even Democrats, in the US dislike Gore so vehemently. The minute his name comes up in an article, derision and hate oozes through threads of comment.

Today I feel like repeating part of what I wrote in May 2007 - so I shall, while keeping in mind astrologically that his natal Sun, at 10.55 Aries, was close enough to be involved in this April's Cardinal Grand Cross formation sandwiched between two eclipses, which could mean....well... something?

(Al Gore's natal chart is at HERE.)
Al Gore has a Sun/Neptune cardinal opposition in his natal chart - Sun 10.55 Aries, Neptune 11.39 Libra. In "Planets in Aspect" published 1974, Robert Pelletier says about this aspect (among other things which seem irrelevant in this case)
"You are afraid of challenges because you doubt your own capabilities. When threatened you tend to back off and allow others to benefit from opportunities that you saw as obstacles........." AND
"Direct your goals towards fulfilling some important social responsibility."
In a post of June 2006, around the time "An Inconvenient Truth" hit movie screens, astrologer Mary Plumb wrote:
"Many astrologers over the years have noted the dignity inherent in Gore’s Aries Sun in mutual reception (and trine) to his Mars in Leo. May that warrior-like nature help keep us moving towards a better future of passion and activism for the earth."
I add my voice, and my hopes to Mary's, with this quotation from a respected American statesman of the past:"We travel together, passengers on a little spaceship, dependent on it's vulnerable reserves of air and soil, all committed, for our safety, to it's security and peace. Preserved from annihilation only by the care, the work and the love we give our fragile craft." (Adlai E. Stevenson)

Run, Al, run!
And in 2014, I'm still writing, with even more insistence than before:

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Gemini and Planet "Z"

Carl Payne Tobey (1902-1980) was one of the few astrologers who strove to validate his astrological claims via dedicated research. Today's post relates to something I noticed when glancing through what he had to say about zodiac sign Gemini in his book Astrology of Inner Space. He was also a mathematician, and sometimes described as an iconoclast - a person who criticizes or opposes widely accepted beliefs and practices. That characteristic originally drew me to his writings. One of his proposals, or speculations, was that, because the ancient system of two "rulers" per zodiac sign didn't sit well with him, in his estimation two planets beyond Pluto - he called them "Y" and "Z" - could provide single "rulerships" for Taurus and Gemini, the two zodiac signs still sharing "rulers", with Libra and Virgo respectively. I'm putting inverted commas around "ruler" because I'm not sure it gives us the exact idea we ought to have. I think it was Robert Hand who once wrote that "ruler" in this context has more to do with the foot-rule kind of ruler than a king or dictator.

Tobey's feelings about "Z" and Gemini began to surface when he noticed that some clients he refers to as "Gemini people" were often mistaken by him as "Pisces people". He kept noticing a definite "compassionate side" in them, something he didn't easily associate with the sign Gemini. I assume he was referring to Sun signs Gemini and Pisces, which leads to my initial wariness of his proposal.

The author goes into too much detail to copy here, but suffice to say that he came to the conclusion that perhaps the true "ruler" or "co-ruler" of Gemini is "Z" - out there in the far distant reaches of our galaxy. He speculated that "Z" could have been in the Watery sign of Pisces at the time he and most of his clients with this puzzling Gemini/Pisces flavour came into the world. "Geminis of my own age seemed very definitely to have the necessary Pisces characteristics."

Tobey then proceeded to take notes about persons born in different years and deduced that by the mid 1960s "Z" must have been close to the end of Pisces, about to enter Aries. He had worked on his file of notes for 30 years, but hadn't mentioned his work on it to others. He then began seeing things in his client "Gemini people" he didn't recognise - again : a restlessness professionally, in marriage, and in many areas of life.
As he ends the chapter :
"The data suggests the possibility that "Z" is not too far into Aries as this is written (early 1970s), and that it will be in Aries for the rest of most people's lives. If so, all the new Geminis born after the late 1960s will be an entirely different breed, will be pioneers, and will use their talents in an entirely new way.
This is highly speculative but will give students something to study and test........."
I half like Carl Payne Tobey's theory, and most of his writings in general, yet as already said, I balk at this "Geminis" label. What immediately sprang to mind as I read chapter XIII was that many people with Sun in Gemini have planets (especially Mercury and/or Venus) in the adjoining sign, Cancer. Cancer, with its emotional sensitivities could be mistaken for a "Pisces feel" could it not? Perhaps Mr Tobey cross-checked the natal charts of his clients for this possibility, and others, such as Moon in a Water sign or Water sign rising or a cluster of planets in a Water sign - but if so, it isn't mentioned in his book.

I'm not sure what to think about "rulerships", there's a recent related post, Ruling Principles, on the topic. Although the two signs per "ruler" thing seemed rather too convenient, it did work most of the time, possibly due to the elemental factor: Aries the Fire/Cardinal side of Mars, Scorpio the Water/Fixed side; Taurus the Earth/Fixed side of Venus, Libra the Airy/Cardinal side, Capricorn the Earth/Cardinal side of Saturn, Aquarius the Airy/Fixed side...etc etc etc. If planets discovered in more modern times were interpreted only when in aspect to personal planets (any of them), things might have remained somewhat clearer, and possibly more reliable. Astrologers will be astrologers, they do love to play around with the pieces, and that's not always a bad thing.

Illustration of astrologer is by Scott Gustafson

(References to Carl Payne Tobey in past posts can be accessed via clicking on his name in my sidebar.)

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