Sunday, August 31, 2014


For the book, see HERE.

From D.J. Rivenburgh's review of the book:

Jonathon Porritt's fascinating book takes us on a journey looking back from the year 2050 to paint vivid images of what we got right, what we missed and how different life can (and will) be in the future. "The World We Made" is written as if from the perspective of 50 year old Alex McKay, a community college history teacher describing the changes he's seen in the world over the previous 30 plus years. (McKay would be in middle school today.) Far from science fiction, this book tells of innovations, experiences, successes and failures built on systems, discoveries and power structures in existence today. Images throughout the book help us visualize possibilities. The interconnectedness of global economic, environmental, social, religious and political forces cannot be denied.

One of my favorite parts was reading about the 2018 Enough! movement, where young people throughout the world rise up to rebel against high unemployment, climate-induced disasters, war, poverty and the growing wealth gap to demand change and create "A Manifesto for Tomorrow." There isn't a country or industry left untouched by the future. This book should be read by executives, teachers, students, advocates, community leaders and politicians.

While some might be quick to label this book in a "green" category, I see it as being highly useful for business, governments, education and leaders in all sectors. Porritt's examples, made personal through a college professor's story, explore banking, agriculture, water, energy, wellbeing, health, education, democracy, capitalism, religion, population growth, innovation, communities and more.
(About Jonathon Porritt)
Also HERE.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Stars and Hermits

Robert Frost's poem Choose Something Like A Star will probably appeal to poetry lovers who also love astrology. The poet appeals to the star, "Say something to us we can learn by heart....", a plea an astrologer might make when contemplating an astrological chart! I'm particularly fond of the last five lines of the poem.
(Illustration: The Hermit card from The Ancestral Path Tarot . Artist: Julie Cuccia-Watts)

O Star (the fairest one in sight),
We grant your loftiness the right
To some obscurity of cloud --
It will not do to say of night,
Since dark is what brings out your light.
Some mystery becomes the proud.
But to be wholly taciturn
In your reserve is not allowed.

Say something to us we can learn
By heart and when alone repeat.
Say something! And it says "I burn."
But say with what degree of heat.
Talk Fahrenheit, talk Centigrade.
Use language we can comprehend.
Tell us what elements you blend.

It gives us strangely little aid,
But does tell something in the end.
And steadfast as Keats' Eremite,
Not even stooping from its sphere,
It asks a little of us here.
It asks of us a certain height,
So when at times the mob is swayed
To carry praise or blame too far,
We may choose something like a star
To stay our minds on and be staid.

"Keats' Eremite"... ?

Eremite is another word for hermit. This is, I understand, a reference to an excerpt from a poem (Bright Star) by John Keats. Keats wanted to take a blissful moment with his lover and store it way like a hermit hides from civilization, to make it last forever. So when Robert Frost says "and steadfast as Keats' Eremite/ not even stooping from its sphere", in the poem Choose Something Like a Star, he's describing the star's constant place in the sky for us to focus on in difficult times. (HERE)

The poem by Keats:
Bright Star
By John Keats

Bright star, would I were stedfast as thou art—
Not in lone splendour hung aloft the night
And watching, with eternal lids apart,
Like nature's patient, sleepless Eremite,
The moving waters at their priestlike task
Of pure ablution round earth's human shores,
Or gazing on the new soft-fallen mask
Of snow upon the mountains and the moors—
No—yet still stedfast, still unchangeable,
Pillow'd upon my fair love's ripening breast,
To feel for ever its soft fall and swell,
Awake for ever in a sweet unrest,
Still, still to hear her tender-taken breath,
And so live ever—or else swoon to death.

Back to THE HERMIT of the Tarot deck, card # 9 of Major Arcana:

Astrologically Hermit links to Saturn, Aquarius and Virgo & the Earth element. Numerically Hermit connects to its card number: 9 (produced by 3 engaging with itself: 3 x 3).

Generally interpreted as a withdrawal into solitude, or retreat from the everyday world, seeking wisdom, self-reflection, introspection, hopefully finding guidance. Negatively, a running away from people or things, leading to loneliness.

In art, a hermit:

 St Anthony the Hermit by  Albrecht Durer

More about St Anthony - several of them in fact, HERE.
I rather like Anthony the Great, but I guess the image above is, as titled,
Anthony the Hermit (c.468–c.520).
I suspect legends of all Saints, St. Anthony included, become entangled over time.

Temptation of St Anthony (or one of 'em) was a popular subject for painters of centuries long gone. Here's an example, this by Bernardino Parenzano (c.1494). Click on image for bigger version.

 The Temptations of St Anthony

Finally: last lines of a poem, Hermits, by James Galvin. The full poem is at
Poetry Foundation, here.
When hermits die
They close their eyes. They never hear
The parson sermonize how somewhere
There is hope where no hope was.

A chance to be alone for a chance to be abandoned,
Everything is lost or given.

Hermits never know they’re dead till the roof falls in.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Arty Farty Friday ~ Syd Hoff

I took the long way around when deciding which artist to feature today. Should it be Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres (born 29 August 1780) French portrait painter and sketcher of the great and good - and bad - and wealthy tourists in 19th century Rome? Or Paul Kane (3 September 1810), Irish-born Canadian artist and intrepid traveller of the frozen wastes of Canada, sketching and recording indigenous peoples of the area, then, back at home producing paintings from his sketches, containing information which might otherwise have been lost for ever? Or should it be another street photographer, similar to last weeks' Henri Cartier-Bresson: Helen Levitt (31 August 1913) American photographer - she photographed the streets of New York?

Much as I have to admire all of these, I wasn't really feeling 'em, for one reason or another. Then I found Syd Hoff, born September 4, 1912 in New York City, a Jewish-American children’s book author and cartoonist. He died in 2004.

The name didn't ring a bell for me, but husband recognised it immediately and handed me a volume of cartoons from The New Yorker (1950-55), pointing to a couple of examples of Hoff's work.

While in high school, Milt Gross, a popular 1930s cartoonist, told Syd Hoff that "Kid, someday you'll be a great cartoonist!" At 16 he enrolled at New York's National Academy of Design. At 18 The New Yorker first bought one of his cartoons. He would eventually, from 1931 to 1975, sell a total of 571 of them to the New Yorker.

Americans are likely to be familiar, also, with his 150 plus children's books (such titles as Sammy the Seal and Danny and the Dinosaur), now also translated into many different languages. His comic strips and cartoons were featured in all the top magazines of the 20th century; his comic strip Tuffy, about a little girl who did funny stuff, was declared essential for national morale during WWII by William Randolph Hearst.

Hoff worked in other genres too. He was associated with Alfred Hitchcock and Ellery Queen as a contributor of short fiction writing; was awarded national advertising commissions for large companies ( Chevrolet, Maxwell House Coffee and others). He even had his own TV show, Tales of Hoff on CBS. He traveled the world as entertainment on cruise ships and entertained children and teachers in schools and libraries .

Syd Hoff's official website HERE covers all facets of his work.

What particularly endeared Hoff to me? His work under a pseudonym A. Redfield. While contributing to The New Yorker magazine and other mainstream publications as Syd Hoff, he was also contributing to the Daily Worker and New Masses as A. Redfield, the pseudonym adopted for his radical work during the 1930s. The Ruling Clawss (1935) is a compilation of over 150 cartoons originally published in the Communist Daily.
In “Social Satire,” an essay by Hoff (as Redfield) included as an afterword, the artist argues that most contemporary satirists are not sharp enough: “Today we have a new group of satirists who, at the same time that they bite the bourgeoisie, use only their lips, but not their teeth” ...He praises only Art Young, “the greatest satirist of his day.” Everyone else falls short. They “are talented and funny, but . . . their comedy is all too often a whitewash for people and conditions that, in reality, are not funny” (See Nine Kinds of Pie blog HERE)

More at the Redfield website HERE.

Some of his Redfield cartoons are as apposite today as they were when he drew them:

Hoff's niece, Carol Edmonston has remarked that:

"Syd often said that ‘Society is divided into two classes: the oppressed and the class of the oppressors — [the] bourgeoisie,’"

His main astro signature, I think, in relation to his work, would be:
Venus (planet for the arts) conjunct Mars (somewhat energetically challenging) in helpful sextile to Jupiter in its own sign Sagittarius (humour, publication, philosophical). All aided and abetted by Sun in Virgo and Moon somewhere in Gemini - both ruled by communications planet Mercury.

NOTE ~ Apologies for errors and/or omissions - this post was completed away from home, using lap top and iffy connection.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Up Mystery Creek ...with a table and no paddle

Your heart's desire is to be told some mystery. The mystery is that there is no mystery.
~ Cormac McCarthy, "Blood Meridian, or the Evening Redness in the West".

Husband, during a chat about his grandparents, whom he hardly knew, described a stray memory he has retained, involving his grandmother - and his mother. In his childhood, one evening, they took him along to a family gathering; it'd have been sometime in the mid to late-1940s. The gathering took place in a long room lit by rows of old fashioned camping lamps. About a dozen relatives were there, seated around a very large circular wooden table - of the style with one huge central "stem" holding up the tabletop. Husband, and the rest of his relatives were asked to place their finger-tips of both hands on the table top. His mother told him he must think hard on the words, "Table lift !...Table lift!" He still recalls that he squeezed his eyes closed and concentrated very hard on those words of command.

The table lifted.

Coming from husband, I found this a strange story. He has, and as far as he knew his mother had, no interest whatsoever in such things as spiritualism, the mysteries, psychic phenomena...even astrology (pshaw!)

After typing that, I searched and found a video depicting one such experiment. This one was conducted by a professional magician. A few commenters on this video have the trick solved, it appears. If a similar thing had happened in the case of husband's childhood experience, he must have had a magician and assistant among his relatives!

I have no such tabular experience to relate, though I've always had an interest in mysteries of all kinds.

Excerpt from a June 2008 post:
In my younger years, in the UK, I experimented with spiritualism, attended several different spiritualist churches and meetings. I was moderately interested in it all, but not sufficiently so to continue the experiment for more than a year or two. I do understand its attraction, but it just wasn't right for me. One side of me was drawn to it while the other side remained too doubtful to accept it.

I remember an occasion, when working in a previously unvisited part of the UK, I sought out a spiritualist church, attended an evening meeting. Several of the congregation eyed me with suspicion, making me feel decidedly uncomfortable. After the meeting members approached me and asked if I was representing some monitoring or "watchdog" body from a governing association. I immediately set them straight. The incident did bring home to me how insecure the people felt. I doubt that established traditional churches have watchdogs monitoring their proceedings. It's an example of how people who follow ideas and beliefs outside the mainstream can feel vulnerable. I guess this kind of thing can happen to professional astrologers too.

And, from 2012, which was part of a re-posted item from 2007
(blogs have cycles too!):

Any evidence to prove to me that certain areas of mystery, such as clairvoyance, using crystal ball, tarot, spirit world, etc. have actual validity, has been scant, but there have been a few scattered experiences of that nature - albeit spanning a very long period. These have been just sufficient that I can't quite close the door, and my mind, on the idea that there is something mysterious going on, other than human wishful thinking and vivid imaginations. For instance, I can find no logical explanation for any of these:

1 ~~~ A tarot reader, who was probably also a medium in the 1960s, in Devonshire, UK, told me that someone was speaking to her, and that he had a peculiar way of using the expression "it was real" in his conversation (meaning that something was very good). I immediately recognised this person. He wasn't anyone close, simply an acquaintance, but his idiosyncratic way of using the word "real" always used to amuse me. He had died in a car accident some years before. I hadn't even thought about this person much, but was very surprised to recognise him immediately from the reader's description.

2 ~~~ Many years ago (1970s), I persuaded my late partner to accompany me to a spirtualist meeting. The speaker there pointed to him during the meeting and said, "Do you know Peter, wearing RAF uniform?" He gasped, "Yes". "Well, he is saluting you", the speaker said. I knew already that my late partner had had a close friend called Peter, in his youth, during WW2, in the Royal Airforce. Their plane was shot down over France and they escaped together. Sadly, Peter's wife had been unfaithful while he was away in the forces, and he commited suicide just after the war ended.

3 ~~~ Many Moons ago, when I was still a young teenager, a fortune-teller told my mother that I would marry someone "from over the sea, and end my days abroad". That wouldn't sound too unusual nowadays, but in the 1950s before air travel was common, computers still unheard of, it was extraordinary! Anyway, the prediction has been vindicated three times. The second time wasn't a marriage, but a 33 year relationship. # 1 husband was from Italy. # 2 from Northern Ireland. # 3 current husband is American. And here I am, ending my days abroad (hopefully not too quickly). I'm pretty sure that this wasn't what's known as "a self-fulfilling prophecy". I did harbour thoughts of retiring to Spain, which might have been seen as such, I guess. I never could have envisioned what actually did happen!

4 ~~~ A fortune teller told me, back in 1973 or thereabouts, that there would be 3 men in my life. I was already aware of two - an ex-husband and a current partner. This prediction worried me for a long time. I took it as a sign that I'd somehow lose my partner. I did, but not for another 30 years! Then # 3 appeared.
Nature, at times leaves footprints of its inverted sense of humor leaving only hope to laugh at its mysterious humor.
~ Rangam Thoitak Chiru

NOTE ~~~ Our air conditioning system bit the dust yesterday - hottest day of the year too: 100* and likely to stay that way for at least 2 or 3 more days! Posts could be intermittent for a while, until we can get system replaced (Yikes!) We will probably de-camp to a motel shortly, my northern blood protests too much, can't think straight! Perhaps we'll take a wee trip while husband's A/C expert son does the necessary for us. Haven't decided yet where or when. We'll have a laptop with us, so maybe I'll scribble something here and there.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Monday Movie ~ Code 46

I can never resist a dystopian tale, I haven't seen or read 'em all yet, but I'm getting there. Code 46 , released in 2004, was a new one to me. I picked up the VHS tape in a junk store for $1 recently, we watched it on Friday evening. It's different overall, but still with a few similarities to other movies of its genre, and with a weird echo of a well-known Greek tragedy embedded.

Code 46 is a British written and directed movie, but doesn't come over as British in any way.

Michael Winterbottom directed, Frank Cottrell Boyce wrote the screenplay. They are both northern English guys, born in Blackburn and Liverpool respectively. (She chuckles)... the Beatles, from Liverpool, wrote about Blackburn, Lancashire once, remember:
I read the news today, oh boy
Four thousand holes in Blackburn, Lancashire
And though the holes were rather small
They had to count them all
Now they know how many holes it takes to fill the Albert Hall

But I digress.

I enjoyed Code 46 but was left with numerous questions. I wish it had been a novel adaptation, so I could go read the detail I felt was missing in the film. As one reviewer wrote, "For at least half the movie, you need a code book a few inches thick to decipher Code 46." That's exactly how I felt, but a novel would suffice.

Code 46 is set, we are led to believe, in the "near future". The impression I got was that the setting had to be much further ahead than "near" - at least 50 years or so ahead, maybe more. Budget restrictions probably dictated that background scenarios couldn't be CGI'd to appear much different from today - so what we have is the perception of simply more of the same, more of everything in cityscapes, less of everything outside of those.

The film's theme uses current issues, current fears, extrapolating them into a futuristic scenario which still looks uncomfortably familiar, but sounds odd. Dialogue is a mix of English with liberal splatterings of Spanish, French, Arabic and other languages. It's as though characters had swallowed several tourist phrase books!

Writer and director use the Code 46 version of dystopia to highlight our well-known class struggles, cultural boundaries, personal identity crises and various "freedoms" or lack of them. It's clever and thought provoking - much more so than some other, high budget CGI-filled offerings.

In Code 46's dystopic world cities are heavily controlled, accessible only through checkpoints. Outside of the cities we see only miles of desert wasteland and ragged struggling refugees eeking out an existence in shanty towns - people without papelles. "Papelles", a futuristic version of the passport/visa are essential for travel. Counterfeiting of these valuable items has been discovered and is the focus of an investigator's trip to Shanghai from the USA.

William, the investigator (Tim Robbins), has the advantage of using an "empathy virus" to enhance psychic insight and emotional sensitivities - and perhaps also, in the process, breaking down his learned societal inhibitions. He investigates a corporation, "Sphinx", where papelles are produced. He is able to identify the counterfeiter, Maria (Samantha Morton) quickly, then proceeds to have a love affair with her. He provides cover for Maria's crimes on his return to Seattle. Later, ordered to return to Shanghai, he discovers Maria has disappeared. He uses his authority to locate her in a medical facility, only to find that her memory of him, and their affair, has been "wiped".

Greek tragedy element coming up!

Maria had been pregnant, following the pair's brief affair. She had undergone a forced abortion and memory removal because, unknown to both of them, they are genetically related. Maria is a genetic clone of the investigator's mother, one of a set of 24 (I read this later in a synopsis). But why, I asked myself, would this future civilisation be cloning humans when the habitable areas of the planet seemed already overburdened with the natural variety? Anyway, Code 46 is the rule, or law, which states that genetically related humans must not be allowed to reproduce together, or even conduct relationships. That has been informal rule in our world for centuries. We, though, have always (or almost always) known exactly who are our close genetic relatives, thus avoiding problems arising from in-breeding. Cloning, especially if carried out in secret, could open a veritable Pandora's Box on this front.

The love story between William and Maria is the film's main theme. William is married, by the way, back in Seattle, with a young son. There was never going to be a happy ending for all. For more detail of the film's plot see Wikipedia's page linked at the top of the post.

Whether wholesale cloning, viruses designed to infect humans with such things as empathy or (another one mentioned in the film) rapid learning of a language, will be part of humanity's future remains to be seen by our youngest generation, or their kids and grandchildren. Life on a planet whose habitable surface has shrunk to a fraction of that we know, through climate change or war damage, or bio-hazards, yet still with technological know-how, lends itself to many scenarios, some of which have been explored already in novel and film. It's a never-ending source of fascination to me.

In closing, I feel like harking back to the Beatles. They were already mentioned, earlier, as the film screen-writer's fellow Liverpudlian Merseysiders. With no need for an empathy virus in 2014, most (not all) of us understand the deep-rooted truth which can soothe some weird and increasing feelings of dis-ease. The Beatles sang it for us, years ago:
"All you need is love".

RIP ~ Richard Attenborough. He died Sunday, aged 90. Below, in his part from one of my favouite movies The Great Escape. I think all the Great Escapers are gone now - the greatest escape of all, one could say; some went long ago, some more recently.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

VIRGO ~ Sign and Type.

 Virgo from Erté's Zodiac Sign Collection
As the Sun reaches the Leo/Virgo cusp, a look at a few less commonly chanted traits of the sign through which the Sun is about to glide during the next four weeks: Virgo. Virgo's planetary ruler is Mercury. Mercury also rules Gemini.

Digressing for a moment, and considering the mystery of sign rulerships. I don't understand why communications planet Mercury doesn't rule the Air signs (Gemini, Aquarius, Libra). Air is thought to be the most mentally oriented of the four astrological elements: Earth, Water, Fire and Air.

Everything we humans do is initiated in the brain, even what seem like emotional responses, though coloured by Moon and the Watery element, actually do begin in the mental realm. As I see it, we ought to pay more attention to Mercury in the natal chart - equally as much as to Sun, Moon and ascendant.

In an Aquarian-driven, typically obtuse version of astrological rulerships, I propose that Saturn could rule the Earth signs (Taurus, Virgo, Capricorn). Fire signs(Aries, Leo, Sagittarius) would be ruled by Mars. Water signs by Venus (Cancer, Scorpio and Pisces). Mercury would rule the Air signs Gemini, Libra and Aquarius. But then, what would Jupiter do? Jupiter would have to rule over-all, in true Jupiterian expansionist fashion! It would be acceptable for Sun and Moon not to rule signs, they are luminaries, different from planets. The outer planets, Uranus Neptune and Pluto are too far away to rule anything, they will simply make themselves felt in transit when connecting with, or aspecting, personal planets.

Mercury's rulership of Gemini seems obvious: the consummate communicator, teacher, the all-round information collector. As ruler of Virgo, Mercury must be reflected as less abstract, more tangible. Virgo seeks and usually achieves near perfection in just about anything undertaken. Gemini roves around in the world of words and ideas, gathering them together, regurgitating them, sometimes in light-weight haphazard fashion, offering them back to a usually enthusiastic audience. Virgo is quite capable of doing this too, but with a far greater emphasis on accuracy and presentation - a more serious approach.

I do think Mercury's rulership of Virgo to be rather strange. To my mind strict, structure-loving Saturn would seem more compatible with perfection-seeking sign, Virgo. I'm probably missing something at a deeper level.

More on Virgo then...

I'm guided by 20th century British astrologer C.E.O. Carter and his piece

 By David Palladini (1970)
Mr Carter sometimes sounds as though he considers there's a person who, born between two specified dates, could properly and proudly carry the label "Virgo" on his or her tee-shirt. I'm pretty sure this well-respected astrologer thought nothing of the sort. Urged to write or speak on individual zodiac signs, as he often must have been, he decided to take the easiest way out.

As I've said, many times in these posts, "there's no such thing as "a Virgo", "a Leo", "a Scorpio" or any other such zodiac sign-labelled individual. Those are sign labels not people labels!

A person could have Sun in Sagittarius, or any other zodiac sign, and still exhibit many Virgo attributes due to a variety of combinations of planetary placements, points, and aspects in their chart. He or she could then be called a Virgo-type, if one insisted on attaching a label, as could a person with Sun in Virgo, if the traits fit - and they don't always.

So, passing reader, it's my opinion that we should look on whatever astrologers write or say, when using that sign-label type of shorthand ("a Leo" "a Virgo" etc.) as simply writing or speaking of a particular type who may or may not have Sun in the sign in question, but demonstrates a majority of character traits related to that sign.

And so...eventually...a few less commonly mentioned Virgo-type traits as listed by Mr Carter within his piece linked above, which is a good read in full by the way:

Whilst Leo and Virgo are as different as chalk from cheese,
with only a few exceptions, Virgo and Libra [the next adjoining sign]
have a good deal in common...both, for example, have taste in literature and art
and dislike rough and uncouth things.

... interested in dietetics and often have their private fads
and fancies in that respect.

... their alleged sensitiveness. Most Virginians
have a pose of being sensitive. It is, of
course, the sign of the inferiority complex, although this
is not to say that all natives of Virgo are afflicted in
this way or that all so afflicted are born under Virgo.
Still, in principle I think Virgo stands for this sense of
personal inadequacy, which in a world as complex and
difficult as ours has become, with ever higher standards of
efficiency set before it, is an easily understood

Another point is that by their very nature the Mercurials
notice and think a lot about details and what seem to your
Jovian to be trivialities. This may appear to be
sensitiveness to some, and in other cases one must dub them
fussy and for ever making mountains out of mole-hills.
This tendency is best sublimated by their taking up some
occupation that entails much attention to small matters,
such as watch-mending or embroidery.
So much for the maiden-archetype in its everyday

In a higher (presentation), it is the virgin mother of the new-born Sun,
since the constellation Virgo rises in the east at midnight
at the winter solstice when the sun is "in the tomb" for
three days before beginning afresh his climb into northern

The sheaf of corn would imply that Virgo is often and
agriculturalist. This is probably true. We do not come
across many nativities of farmers, since they are a race
that is as a rule too occupied with the soil to aspire to
understand the heavens, but I suspect we should find plenty
of Virgo in most of their maps. This would agree with the
liking that many, but not all,Virgos show for small animals,
traditionally up to and including the ass, but not the horse.

Still talking of animals, I am reminded of Benjamin, the
donkey in Orwell's Animal Farm. Being invited to admire the
goodness of the Creator who had thoughtfully provided him
with a tail wherewith to flick away flies, Benjamin remarked
sourly that he would have been more impressed if there had
been no flies and no need for tails. This is a very true
specimen of Virgo philosophy.

A virtue often ascribed to Virginians is a capacity for
hard work, especially routine drudgery such as Leo and Libra
would soon tire of. I regret to say that I have known
Virgos who were anything but industrious. The only sign
which really likes hard work is Scorpio.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Arty Farty Friday ~ Photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson

Henri Cartier-Bresson, born this day
August 22, in 1908 (died in 2004) has been called "greatest photographer of the twentieth century" and "father of photojournalism". A pioneer of shooting photographs in the 35 mm format, his career spanned more than sixty years.

Cartier-Bresson recorded the drama of his era's news stories best by often choosing to focus his lens away from the main event and towards ordinary people, catching their reactions. He produced iconic portraits of notable personalities such as Matisse, Picasso, Coco Chanel, Truman Capote and Gandhi; but his portraits of unknown characters often prove far more intriguing, their fleeting emotion captured for ever by his gifted eye, aided by a camera lens. He also made films with Jean Renoir and others, and a 1937 documentary on Republican Spain; he co-founded the photographic cooperative, Magnum. During the Second World War, he was captured by Germans; after two attempts, he escaped in February 1943. Throughout his long career as photographer he travelled widely, recording diversity of life all over the world. In 1975, twenty-nine years before he died he abandoned photography and turned his attention to drawing and painting. (For a piece on this see Artes Magazine HERE)

The photographer's own words from his book The Mind's Eye:
"To take photographs means to recognize -- simultaneously and within a fraction of a second -- both the fact itself and the rigorous organization of visually perceived forms that give it meaning."

"A velvet hand, a hawk's eye - these we should all have."
He was an artist in every sense of the word, his main tool, not a brush or pencil (though he wielded both at times) but a camera.

I haven't been able to glean much information about Henri Cartier-Bresson's personality. In the video at the end of this post he admits to being very impulsive. He appears to have been something of a romantic - had an intense affair with the wife of an American ex-patriate, Harry Crosby. Crosby said of him that he "looked like a fledgling, shy and frail, and mild as whey." He married twice, was described by one of many biographers, Pierre Assouline, briefly thus:
"His taste was classical: he needed that kind of order to counter the vulgarity of the world outside" & "In affairs of the heart, he was a seductive romantic."
Wikipedia's page on Henri Cartier-Bresson and a fairly brief piece at give further detail of his life and career.

A look at his natal chart, then at a few of his many photographs.

Henri Cartier-Bresson born on 22 August 1908 in Chanteloup-en-Brie, France, at 2:51 PM (Astrodatabank AA)

Astrologically, Neptune is said to represent photography. Here we have Neptune conjunct Venus (planet of the arts) and Moon (inner emotional self) all in emotionally- sensitive Cancer - what better signature for a great photographer?

Another cluster, or stellium, in Leo/Virgo involves Sun, Mars, Jupiter and Mercury. This cluster represents his driving force, the engine sending him around the world (Jupiter), the energy and enthusiasm for it all (Mars), and the ability to communicate his thoughts with photographic precision (Mercury).

Two sides - both essential to his art.

Outside the two clusters are Saturn and Uranus, in Aries and Capricorn respectively. Uranus, from Capricorn, opposes Neptune/Venus/Moon, challenging that emotionally sensitive group to be business-like and forward looking - he used best new technology available.

Saturn, from Aries, squares Uranus as well as Neptune/Venus/Moon. I'm not sure how to interpret this. Saturn represents limitation, reality, keeping feet on ground - that kind of thing. Perhaps Saturn is controlling what might otherwise have been an airy-fairy mess of emotional pourings, into something practical: a set of photographs to be appreciated over time, for centuries. Saturn likes that kind of thing.

The T-square - that red triangle - it pulls together the opposition and squares I've mentioned. In some cases such a configuration might be difficult to handle - it doesn't seem to have hindered Henri Cartier-Bresson at all!

There are so many photographs of his, it was difficult to know which were most representative of HCB's work - so I chose a few which particularly appealed to me, for more photographs, there's an excellent slideshow at Magnum Photos HERE, and in the video below.

For sharper versions - better resolution - please click on images.

 La danse Alloeng Kotjok, Sayan, Bali, Indonésie.

 New Year's Eve, NYC

And, finally, HIGHLY RECOMMENDED a video featuring his photographs, narrated by the photographer himself:

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

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Unintended Consequences....Breeding Resistant Varieties?

 (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
I'm musing again on the issue raised in Tuesday's post: militarization of US police forces, and on part of a comment beneath this related piece at Common Dreams.

Part of that comment, made by Garrett Connelly, which widens the topic somewhat but poses an interesting theory:

.....Totalitarian dictatorship always fails for the same reason, they cut themselves off from distributed human intelligence and become too stupid to exist. Imagine a few months of killing on a military scale, by militarized patriot civilian police warriors; they are happily maintaining homeland security in, for example, Saint Louis, when word comes through that their families were collateral damage back home. How many years before repression and brainwashing breed resistant varieties?
Response from "Plank"
Yes, there is some credence to the theory of an act causing the opposite to be created. Hegelianism in which and idea evokes its opposite to form a new complete self sustaining loop.
I looked up Hegelianism but didn't find in my brief, limited search that it relates to an act causing the opposite to be created. Perhaps it went over my head - not hard to do!

When considering cyclic movement, there has to be a point when extremes meet, resulting in opposite actions, ideas...whatever taking over. Mike mentioned this effect (the Ouroboros) in a comment on Monday's post on current movie The Giver.


"The Ouroboros or Uroboros is an ancient symbol depicting a serpent or dragon eating its own tail.

 The Ouroboros often symbolizes self-reflexivity or cyclicality, especially in the sense of something constantly re-creating itself, the eternal return, and other things such as the phoenix which operate in cycles that begin anew as soon as they end. It can also represent the idea of primordial unity related to something existing in or persisting from the beginning with such force or qualities it cannot be extinguished. While first emerging in Ancient Egypt, the Ouroboros has been important in religious and mythological symbolism, but has also been frequently used in alchemical illustrations, where it symbolizes the circular nature of the alchemist's opus. It is also often associated with Gnosticism, and Hermeticism."

Another good post on Ouroboros, at Crystalinks, is HERE.

Any thoughts on acts causing opposites to be created, Hegelianism, Ouroboros, unravellings when extremes meet, and so on ?

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Julian Assange

Julian Assange, founder of WikiLeaks is in the news again this week, with a message that he “will be leaving the Embassy soon”. (HERE). He was granted asylum in the Ecuadorean Embassy two years ago, and has remained there. There are rumours of declining health, but also indications that he has denied these. We shall see.

To refresh memories, and to take another look at his natal chart, a re-run of something I wrote about Assange in 2010:

Writings and comment on Wikileaks and Julian Assange has filled cyberspace and other public spaces this week with the most words written on a single topic since the BP oil spill.

My (very personal) view of the situation varies from most others I've read. I have a strong feeling that all is not straightforward. There's "something else", some secret motivation ? I don't know. But I can't raise the same level of enthusiasm and support for him this time around. Gut-feeling.

Something about the latest release of hundreds of thousands of diplomatic cables, embarrassing to those in power, but not in the same league as previous whistle-blowing efforts, doesn't strike the same note for me, and I get to wondering.

It's not that I don't have great respect for the courage of Julian Assange and what he had done before the latest scenario. In fact I wrote about earlier Wikileaks "exposures" in a post headed Wikileaks, Pluto & Galactic Center. At that stage Assange's birth data was a mystery, it is now available.

A similar Neptunian fog surrounds Assange as that surrounding President Obama. There's a lot of Neptunian fog around in general just now in the USA. Neptune connects to mystery, illusion and delusion - mental fog. Assange is supposed to be trying to clear foggy areas, but in the process causes the mists to swirl dangerously.

Assange's natal chart ought to provide some clarity on his true personality. The rape charges he faces only add to the fog; they have been, more than likely, "trumped up".

Numerous astrologers have already published interpretations of Assange's natal chart. It does not behove me to argue with what any of them have written. Instead I'll offer links to several pieces I've come across so far, and let any passing reader who has missed these make up their own mind on the matter.

Some articles by astrologers interpreting the natal chart of Julian Assange:

ERIC FRANCIS.....(also Mr Francis's responses to skeptics in this respect at Boing Boing)

MARY PLUMB at Mountain Astrologer ....And a second one relating to the birth time


Below is the natal chart of Julian Assange constructed from data available. His date and place or birth are said to have been taken from official documents, so ought to be reliable. Even so, I retain a wee bit of doubt, he being in the business he's in! The birth time is the most open to question, but as it's the only one available I've included it below.

My single comment here is to note that (if birth time is near correct) foggy Neptune lay in Sagittarius in the first house of self as he came into the world. Neptune was within a few degrees of Jupiter (the publication and exaggeration planet and ruler of Sagittarius), though in the adjacent sign, Scorpio. For me this is the most significant factor in the chart.

Believe nothing you read and only half of what you see in matters relating to Mr. Assange.

Recent transits touching Assange's personal planets do indicate a challenge or change of some kind. Pluto now opposes his natal Cancer Sun. Saturn in Scorpio was transiting his Moon at the end of last year and now heads towards natal Jupiter, as does transiting Mars. Uranus was transiting natal Chiron during this spring (health changes?)

Any more, mike - or anyone?

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Kucinich on Ferguson

When things get weird it's good to have someone like Dennis Kucinich around. He's the most
under-appreciated and wrongly ridiculed politician and former politician in this cockeyed country.

His piece on the situation in Ferguson, Missouri is, as all his writing always has been, astute, calm, persuasive.


Militarized Police and the Threat to Democracy.

Kucinich should have been, if not president, then holding some post of importance in the administration. Instead, what did he get? Gerrymandered out of his congress seat. Most people would have said "F..k you!" found a teaching post or retreated into the background to write non-fiction or novels. Not he. You can take Kucinich out of the state, but you can't take the statesman out of Kucinich.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Monday Movie ~ The Giver ~ “We gained control of many things. But we had to let go of others.”

We saw The Giver at the weekend. Having read the novel a few months ago (my post on it is HERE) , the story was fairly fresh in memory. I'd read a couple of early reviews of the movie, so was ready for most of the changes made to the original.

(Beware spoilers!)

Main change was in the age of the leading character, Jonas, from a 12-year old boy to a youth of around 16. He was selected to train with the Giver to become the new carrier of historical memory for the whole community. Something indefinable was lost through this age change, I felt. Hollywood, however, needs to put bums on seats to keep filling its coffers. Bums on seats requires romance, sex, and action these days - or any days. Hollywood hasn't often gone for subtle allegorical items, it likes to hit the audience sharply up side of head with film themes. Consequently we have the addition of a budding love relationship to the tale of The Giver, along with a chase involving a (shock horror) drone towards the movie's end. I could definitely have done without that drone! How come all memories of drones hadn't been wiped out, eh? Eh????

The film mostly stayed within the novel's broad storyline, adding visuals which may or may not match those seen in the imagination of readers. The movie depicts a community living upon a synthetic looking plateau or mesa top - something I'd not seen in my mind's eye when reading the book. The dwelling places, clothing, and Giver's house were much as I'd imagined though. I'd imagined the Giver himself to be much frailer than the burly and still handsome Jeff Bridges. This movie had been Bridges' dream to bring to the screen for some 20 years though, he was entitled to take a lead part. In an interview on Letterman's show recently, Bridges said that long ago he'd wanted to film The Giver with his father, Lloyd Bridges in the Giver role. It wasn't too difficult for me to re-assess Giver's appearance, but I did feel that Jeff Bridges put a lot of what he, personally, had gleaned from the novel into the part - maybe rightly, maybe not.

We enjoyed the film overall. It sparked a long conversation later, as we listened to some music. Any film that can cause husband to converse about societal issues while jazz greats are playing in the background has to have much to recommend it!

Basically, the novel and film, set way, way into the future (I wish some indication had been made of exactly how far) contrast human nature, when allowed to follow its natural instincts, versus human nature controlled and reined in. There was, we were led to believe in the novel, an important reason for the control of society in this manner, but it wasn't explored in any depth. An event, or set of events known as "the ruin" had, at some point in the past been about to lead to an inevitable extinction of the human race, or so we assumed, connecting the dots. "Sameness" had been imposed, long ago, on groups of survivors. Advanced technology must still have been available to them. This "Sameness" brought about, by mass manipulation, a society with no individuality, no sense of seeing colour, no memory of past history, no fear, no pain, no war, no violence, no strong emotion, no lies, and using only precise language. I came to the conclusion that these impositions had been placed on the surviving groups of people not from some fascistic attempt to control, or a yen for power, or wealth (money seemed not to exist), but as a way to save the human race. The reining in, we discover during the novel and film, involved genetic manipulation, euthanasia, and not to mince words, the murder of a proportion of babies. These things, presumably, had been necessary evils early on, perhaps to keep population control in place while climate was controlled, and a new form of civilisation developed and took shape. As in every endeavour in which we humans take part though, all had gone too far. We never know when to stop do we? But human nature is not capable of being so severely reined in for ever, or even for long.

Keeping society in check was the job of a council of "elders" led by a cringe-inducing Maggie Thatcher-like Chief Elder played by Meryl Streep. A line of Chief Elder's:
"If people have the freedom to choose, they choose wrong...every single time."
By the way, we are not told how the council of elders had managed to escape the "Release" (euthanasia). Probably a case of "not what you know but who you know"?

The film's ending strayed a little from the novel's ending. The novel's ending left it open for an allegorical comparison to bible and other religious/spiritual stories : an individual sacrificing everything for the good of all. By Jonas crossing the boundary into Elsewhere, the people of Sameness would recover memory, colour, emotion and all that entailed. The baby Jonas carried with him on his escape was named Gabriel.....I wonder why?

Last lines of the novel (below), after Jonas had "broken the spell" as it were, by breaking through the boundary, but by now he and the baby were freezing, to the point of death:
"Suddenly he [Jonas] was aware with certainty and joy that below, ahead, they were waiting for him; and that they were waiting, too, for the baby. For the first time, he heard something that he knew to be music. He heard people singing. Behind him, across vast distances of space and time, from the place he had left, he thought he heard music too. But perhaps it was only an echo."

(In the film more words were added to these, to provide a less "final" ending.)

Hmm - "across vast distances of space and time" ? That could indicate moving across the "Sameness/Elsewhere" boundary was actually an exercise in time travel! I hadn't quite grasped that. Somehow, through highly advanced technology, had the Sameness community sped on into the future, through many centuries, while the "old" world remained, as it was before, warts and all? Or maybe I'm going just too sci-fi far on that tack.

Lois Lowry, author of The Giver:
"A lot of people I know would hate that ending, but not me. I loved it. Mainly because I got to make the book happy. I decided they made it. They made it to the past. I decided the past was our world, and the future was their world. It was parallel worlds."
The Giver is well worth seeing, whether before, after or instead of the novel. Similar ground has been covered before, in a variety of ways, but never quite like this.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

"And prompt me, that my tongue may utter forth"

A few random prompt questions from the soon to close Plinky Prompts website. These come from last summer's prompts. I think responders are meant to write a few paragraphs, but for me, here, and any who wish to add their two penniworth in comments, just a few words or sentences will suffice.
(Quotation in title is from Shakespeare's Titus Andronicus: V, iii)

Can anything be funny, or are some things off limits?

There are some things which ought to be off limits for joke-making. Yes - I know all about the benefits, and there are many, of Free Speech. I realise that what some consider to be off limits remains material and an easy target for some comedians - that doesn't make it funny! Joking about a person with any kind of disability, for instance is unkind and obnoxious. I particularly dislike the use of the word "spazz" or spastic, which sadly is heard in that recent offering from Weird Al Yankowich, ironically titled "Word Crimes", and has put me off him completely. I found the whole thing unfunny, smug and faintly elitist.

Another prompt along the same lines:
Is political correctness a useful concept, or does it stifle honest discussion?

You might as well say "does courtesy stifle honest discussion?" At its root, political correctness is old fashioned good manners, courtesy, empathy, sensitivity to the feelings of others.

And something completely different:

Have you ever had a random encounter or fleeting moment with a stranger that stuck with you?

The wording of this prompt was a bit odd! One responder had spotted that, changed the "that" to "who".

The prompt reminded me of that lovely old film "Brief Encounter", story of a random meeting of a man and woman at a railway station, and how they fell in love against their better judgment.

Life is filled with random encounters, or fleeting moments with strangers, that or who either stick with you or disappear into the wide blue yonder within minutes. I've had many experiences of each type over the years, too many for this post, most of them pleasant enough, some even memorable. The one unpleasant random encounter with a stranger I remember well, happened when I was in my early twenties, as I walked from a bus stop to the hotel where I was working. The hotel was a re-purposed old (17th century) mansion, some 200 yards from the main road across fields, but accessible by a narrow roadway. It was around 9.30 pm in wintertime, dark. I became aware of someone walking just to my right and a little behind me. As he passed me he invited me to please "touch him" in a place he was demonstrating in the, ahem, flesh. In other words, he begged me to feel his exhibited penis. I was a little shocked, but even more annoyed, replied, "Don't be so bloody silly!!" Increasing my speed to a near-jog, I turned to approach the hotel from across the field, a much shorter distance than taking the longer roadway. The fellow was probably quite harmless - but you never can tell.

And different again:

It’s the year 2113. A major museum is running an exhibition on life and culture as it was in 2013. You’re asked to write an introduction for the show’s brochure. What will it say?

What will it say? From my vantage point in 2014, I don't know - it'll be in Chinese.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Arty Farty Friendship : Leonard Baskin and Ted Hughes, The Artist and The Poet.

 Hat-tip BBC
American artist, Leonard Baskin, creator of fine woodcuts, water colours, etchings, powerful sculptures, prints and book illustration collaborated with English poet Ted Hughes to illustrate books of his poetry. The pair, born 8 years and 2 days apart, in mid-August, became firm friends - described by some writers as "soulmates" - platonic, I think. I'm concentrating on Baskin mainly here, but comparing the two natal charts could be interesting - see later in the post.

So that Ted Hughes isn't ignored completely, a poem of his from the Crow series. Ted Hughes was married to poet Sylvia Plath until her suicide. Their son also committed suicide. Hughes died in 1998.

Crow's Fall

When Crow was white he decided the sun was too white.
He decided it glared much too whitely.
He decided to attack it and defeat it.

He got his strength flush and in full glitter.
He clawed and fluffed his rage up.
He aimed his beak direct at the sun's centre.

He laughed himself to the centre of himself

And attacked.

At his battle cry trees grew suddenly old,
Shadows flattened.

But the sun brightened-
It brightened, and Crow returned charred black.

He opened his mouth but what came out was charred black.

"Up there," he managed,
"Where white is black and black is white, I won."

From a piece by Bob Duggan, HERE:

Baskin credits the fact that both he and Hughes were “crow-haunted and death-involved” as the genesis of their collaboration on "Crow". Despite coming from wildly different backgrounds, Hughes and Baskin arrived at an “affinity,” as Baskin calls it, that develops into “a relationship of presence” rather than “a relationship of influence.” Both artists are inalienably present in every work. Neither simply derives ideas from the other. Hughes imagined his crow character as a “generalized character” taking on trickster elements and other bits and pieces of mythology from all around the world. Baskin similarly saw the crow as a symbol of something despised, maybe even as an emblem of the plight of African-Americans seeking equality at the time. All of those ideas coalesced through collaboration into the illustrated poems of Crow. The illustrations, just like those Baskin later did for other collections of poems by Hughes, resist the too-common temptation to act as what Baskin derides as “visual nomenclature” for poems. Instead, they extend and illuminate the poems, standing on their own, but standing even taller for the poems they accompany.
Baskin's subject matter, in general, ranges from mythological characters, birds of prey (symbolic, to Baskin, of humankind's base instincts), self-portraits, depictions of women (often emblematic of stoical suffering), allegorical representations of death, Jewish subjects and a series on Native Americans. Baskin's interest in classical mythology and Biblical subjects manifest in his work depicting guilt and redemption, good and evil, life and death. Social consciousness and sensitivity to moral issues, a reverence for human life underline all his work. (HERE)

The Complete Prints of Leonard Baskin has an introduction by Ted Hughes - a snip from it:
This rich inwardness of Baskin's art has many components. Some of the more accessible of these, maybe, can be seen in his graphic style itself, which is so like a signature, so unique to him and so consistent, that it might well interest a graphologist. But the oddities of it hint at other sources. As if a calligraphy had been improvised from the knotted sigils and clavicles used for conjuring spirits, those bizarre scratch-marks of the arcane powers, such as we find in practical grimoires. This element of his draughtmanship is no more than a trace, but it peers from every interstice, and suggests a natural psychic proclivity, enough to attune his operation, perhaps, to certain freedoms familiar in Jewish mysticism. A passport between worlds usually kept closed to each other. It is one of the essentials of his work's power to disturb, and of it's weird beauty too.


 Man of Peace

 Sybil's Hands

 African American Subject

Re Baskins's Holocaust Memorial in Ann Arbor, Michigan

"It’s ambivalent. The figure is in some sort of misery, wrapped up entirely in himself." Baskin said the fist "portrays deep and powerful anger," the other arm is "far more felicitous, raised possibly in mercy, forgiveness, tenderness, gentleness, all of those qualities." (HERE)

Leonard Baskin died in 2000. From an NYT obituary HERE
In an art world given to changing styles and continually updated aesthetic agendas centering on abstraction, Mr. Baskin remained steadfast in his belief in the superiority of figurative art and the importance of mortality as a theme. His convictions brought him honors and important commissions, including those for the bas relief of a funeral cortege that he created for the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial in Washington (see here) and an anguished, heavily draped seated cast-bronze figure, seven feet tall, for the Ann Arbor Holocaust Memorial in Michigan.

Widely read and articulate, he could be acidly funny, referring to Pop Art, for example, as "the inedible raised to the level of the unspeakable." Or he could pontificate in biblical sonorities, as in a frequently quoted statement published in Time magazine: "Our human frame, our gutted mansion, our enveloping sack of beef and ash is yet a glory. Glorious in defining our universal sodality and glorious in defining our utter uniqueness. The human figure is the image of all men and of one man. It contains all and can express all."


Leonard Baskin born 15 August 1922 in New Brunswick, New Jersey. 12 noon chart. No birth time known.

Ted Hughes born 17 August 1930 in Mytholmroyd, UK at 1.12 AM Rated "B" - from a biography.

Born 8 years and 2 days apart, on different continents, yet it's easy to see why these two would feel an affinity.

Natal Suns were bound to be close, in Leo; not so for natal Moons, but in all probability both had natal Moon in Taurus, an artistic Moon (degree not certain for Baskin without a time of birth). Both had creative, imaginative Neptune close to Sun, in Baskin's case, conjoined; in Hughes' case, just outside a conjunction, but close in early Virgo.

Both have Mercury in Virgo and Venus in Libra - artistry and meticulousness.

Baskin has a cluster of planets in Libra, which possibly reflected a rather more balanced, less intense nature than Hughes'.

Natal Mars: these are sited opposite one another in Sagittarius (Baskin) and Gemini (Hughes). I don't see these two signs as nearly as incompatible as are some other opposite signs. The two friends, when disagreements arose, would be likely to have found easy ways to compromise.

Baskin's chart has a Yod (Finger of Fate) linking Neptune and Jupiter by sextile and both to Uranus by quincunx.
I translate that as his wide ranging creativity being manifested in both philosophical and unexpected ways.

Where's that common "darkness" though? Both men seemed keen to exhibit it in their works. I'd usually look to Pluto or Scorpio to find that kind of thing. Baskin has no planet in Scorpio, but his Pluto and Moon (if Moon degree is within orb) form a Yod with Mars at its apex. Scorpio might have been rising, I guess, but no birth time is known. Hughes had Pluto within 9 degrees of natal Jupiter; and again, no planet in Scorpio.

Their compatibility as friends is easy to see; the "dark" feeling of much of their work, not as easily found - so far.