Sunday, December 31, 2017

Shank of the Year

We're once more at what's been termed "the shank of the year". Predictions of what the future year might hold are plentiful, offered by political pundits, philosophers, psychics, astrologers, not to mention a few odd-bods scattering entrails of beast or bird across their back yards for inspiration. Your friendly neighbourhoold blogger has a tried and true prediction:

MY PREDICTION : 2018 (and years yet to come) will be filled with some good, some bad, and interludes of the mercifully indifferent.

Friday, December 29, 2017

Arty Farty Friday ~ William Eugene Smith

William Eugene Smith, born on 30 December 1918 in Wichita, Kansas, was a photo-journalist, famous in his time, and some say in his methods and output, born way "before his time".
Snips from, HERE
The war in the South Pacific, a country doctor in Colorado, victims of industrial pollution in a Japanese village — all of these were captured in unforgettable photographs by the legendary W. Eugene Smith. No matter where, what, or whom he was shooting, Smith drove himself relentlessly to create evocative portraits that revealed the essence of his subjects in a way that touched the emotions and conscience of viewers. The works of this brilliant and complicated man remain a plea for the causes of social justice and a testament to the art of photography. Smith learned about photography from his mother, Nettie. By the age of thirteen he was committed to the craft, and by twenty-one he had been published in dozens of magazines. A breakthrough for Smith came during World War II, when he received an assignment to cover the war in the Pacific. In the spirit that characterized his lifelong approach toward his work, Smith threw himself into the action. He photographed on land, in the sea, and in the air, hoping to get to the center of the experience of war, and, in his words, “sink into the heart of the picture.”
After the war Smith became one of the leading lights in LIFE magazine, with a variety of projects such as
“Nurse Midwife,” the story of Maude Callen, a black woman working in an impoverished community in the rural South, Smith wanted his essay to “make a very strong point about racism, by simply showing a remarkable woman doing a remarkable job in an impossible situation.”

Smith relied heavily on alcohol and amphetamines to keep up with the demands he made on himself. He was a perfectionist's perfectionist in his approach to photography. The volume of his work is astounding: tens of thousands of photographs on each project, with months, even years of research to reach a proper understanding of each subject.

 The kind of photo-essay for which Smith became  famous

From an article in The Guardian:
...Even at this early age, Smith was an unpredictable and self-sabotaging individual. At Newsweek, he was fired for repeatedly using a small-format camera that the magazine’s photo department prohibited. He quit Life a decade later after a row about how they had presented one of his images of the Nobel prize-winning physician and humanitarian campaigner Albert Schweitzer.

Controversy dogged him even after his death: what many consider his most powerful photograph, Tomoko Uemura in Her Bath (1971), a starkly intimate portrait of Ryoko Uemara bathing her naked daughter, Tomoko, who has severe deformities from the effects of mercury poisoning, was withdrawn from further publication in 1997 at the wishes of Tomoko’s family.

Throughout his career, Smith railed against authority, often alienating the very editors whose imposed boundaries he needed when his obsessive quest for perfectionism became self-defeating. “Whatever demons that drive him were certainly not appeased by the alcohol and amphetamines,” says Stephenson. “One of the themes that I hope is apparent in the book is the sense that he needed care and attention in order to get his work done. Mostly he didn’t have it in his life, because he was so hard to work with. It is one of the great ironies of his life that he alienated the people – editors, assistants – who would have helped him the most.”
In the later years of his life (he died aged 59) Smith lived in a loft in New York City, where artists, jazz musicians and other luminaries of the time would gather. There is a huge collection of photographs from that era, as well as another huge collection of audio tapes.
More startling still are the 1,740 reels of audio tape, which were made by Smith between 1957 and 1965 in his previous loft apartment in 6th Avenue near West 28th Street. They contain around 4,500 hours of mostly ambient recordings often caught clandestinely on microphones he draped on dangling leads throughout the loft and in its stairways. These tapes reveal Smith’s seeming desire to document everything going on around him – and not just through photographs.

I like the photograph of Smith's shown below. I'm wary of posting more here due to possible copyright infringement - anyway, it's impossible to get good quality representation of his photographs via Blogger's platform.

Dream Street   © The Heirs of W. Eugene Smith

ThisYouTube presentation on Smith (18 mins long) is well worth a look; it includes images of some of his best-known photographs.


A few of my own thoughts only - not a full interpretation.

Born on 30 December 1918, Wichita, Kansas, USA. No time of birth is known, chart set for 12 noon, so Moon position and ascendant will not be exactly as shown.

After reading about Smith, his unpredictability, his kicking against authority, and his social conscience, before ever looking at his natal chart, though his birth date told me he had natal Sun in Capricorn, I had a little bet with myself that there would be some Aquarius (eccentricities, social conscience) highlighted. Yes! Uranus, ruler of Aquarius is there in its home sign, and so is natal Mars.

In a photographer's natal chart, quite often, either Pisces or Neptune is prominent in some way, both sign and planet are said to relate to photography (among other things). Without Smith's time of birth his natal Moon's position is uncertain, but it is likely to be in early degrees of Sagittarius, and if so, would be in very nice harmonious trine aspect to Neptune at 8 Leo.

Smith's main personality trait, picked up from online sources, was his obsessive perfectionism with regard to his art and his craft, also his urge to produce an excessively large volume of output for each project. Perfectionism, in astrological terms, links strongly to Virgo. There are no planets in Virgo, but it's possible that Virgo was the ascending sign at the time of his birth, though that cannot be established. Another facet of his perfectionism was his obsession with it. Obsession often links to Scorpio and/or Pluto. Smith, had no planet in Scorpio (unless Moon happened to have been in the very last minutes of that sign, or Scorpio were rising at the time of his birth). Natal Pluto, though, was conjunct Jupiter in Cancer and in opposition to his Sun and Venus in Capricorn. Translating that from astrologese to plain language, His "feet on the ground", ultra-practical, economical Capricorn side was in constant struggle with an obsessive urge for excess, all of which was aided and abetted by Mercury (and probably Moon) in Jupiter-ruled Sagittarius.

There's another significant opposition in Smith's chart, Saturn (Capricorn's ruler)is in opposition, from Leo, to Uranus (Aquarius' modern ruler) - an additional indication of contrast and conflict in his nature.

There's a Yod (Finger of Fate) formation in Smith's chart - I like these! A helpful sextile aspect between Moon (if somewhere near the noon position) and Mars, links via two quincunx aspects (150 degree angles) to Pluto/Jupiter at the apex of the formation. This adds extra emphasis to the obsessions for perfection and excess, so prominent in the nature of William Eugene Smith.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

WORDS - odd to the ear

'Widdershins', when I hear that word, or read it, for some reason it brings to mind witchcraft.
Wikipedia tells me that it: a term meaning to go counter-clockwise, to go anti-clockwise, or to go lefthandwise, or to walk around an object by always keeping it on the left. Literally, it means to take a course opposite the apparent motion of the sun viewed from the Northern Hemisphere, (the centre of this imaginary clock is the ground the viewer stands upon). The earliest recorded use of the word, as cited by the Oxford English Dictionary, are from a 1513 translation of the Aeneid, where it is found in the phrase "Abaisit I wolx, and widdersyns start my hair." In this sense, the "to start widdershins" means "to stand on end".
Wiki also goes on to say that
Because the sun played a highly important role in older religions, to go against it was considered bad luck for sun-worshiping traditions....It was considered unlucky in Britain to travel in an anticlockwise (not sunwise) direction around a church, and a number of folk myths make reference to this superstition...

In much the same 'ballpark' as they say in these parts, another odd-sounding word I've come across occasionally in the USA relating to direction: 'cattywampus' meaning misaligned, askew, oblique, diagonal:
"I bumped into the bookcase and now the books are all cattywampus".

Also, somewhat related: cater-corner often corrupted to 'catty-corner' or 'kitty-corner' meaning of, or pertaining to, something at a diagonal to another - diagonally opposite.
"The store is catty-corner to the park."

Quite unrelated to the above, but a nice example of a bit of mind twisting fun with the English language:

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

The Case for Good Memories

In the unlikely event of any stray passing readers finding themselves lacking in reading matter, this link to a recent essay by Keith Pandolfi:
The Case for Bad Coffee,
at a website called, comes highly recommended by yours truly.

The essay makes one stop to think about one's own coffee-stained memories, or cheapo wine quaffing recollections, or flavourless economy meals with precious remembrances firmly attached. Nothing is ever bad or cheap or flavourless in certain circumstances - what really matter are those precious moments, forever imprinted in our memory banks.

Monday, December 25, 2017

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Saturday & Sundry Thoughts on ....well, look at the date!

I spent a while looking back over the Christmas posts of my early blogging years yesterday. My, how the years have flown by! In December 2006, 11 years ago, I wrote:
It's coming up to my third Okie Christmas-time. I no longer feel amazed when I see houses in town bedecked with zillions of lights in the shape of angels, reindeer, Christmas trees, and any other conceivable symbol of this time of year. Some front yards are veritable works of art at night.

Christmas starts earlier here. As soon as the Thanksgiving turkey is off the table, lights are lit for Christmas. Whether they stay lit, or even stay up all year is a matter of culture, as Gretchen Wilson pointed out in her song "Redneck Woman":
"Cause I'm a redneck woman
And I ain't no high class broad
I'm just a product of my raisin'
And I say "hey y'all" and "Yeeee Haw"
And I keep my Christmas lights on, on my front porch all year long
And I know all the words to every Charlie Daniels song"

In most cases those lights go out as soon as Christmas Day is over. In England the Christmas holiday spreads over until New Year's Day for most people, with Boxing Day on 26th December, a special time for many families, and one I always enjoyed - it's totally unknown here. I think the differences in custom stem from the fact that the USA celebrates Thanksgiving quite close to Christmas, so what the British lose then, they make up for on Boxing Day, and try their best to make the holiday stretch to New Year - it'd be a shame not to !

As I wrote in a later Christmas post, Christmases really are akin to those re-makes beloved of movie makers. Nothing major has changed in Okie Christmases some 11 years on from the above. There are still some dramatically lighted houses around - though I do suspect there are rather less of them now than then. Re-makes allow for subtle differences! Perhaps, as children grew up, left home for college, or for employment, remaining family members didn't retain sufficient enthusiasm for the effort of putting up and taking down Christmas lights. Younger, newer families might find the practice too expensive for a limited budget.

Outside of Okie-land, G.W. Bush and Barack Obama have come and gone as Presidents of the USA since Christmas of 2006, leaving us with the disaster that is Donald Trump. What a very unsubtle, not to mention unsuitable, cast change in the re-make that has turned out to be! In the UK in 2006, Brexit was not even a twinkle in a disaffected Brit's eye!

Ah well...
Remakes are always a challenge and they always are sitting ducks.
(Nicolas Cage)

There are a lot of wrong reasons to do a remake, but there are some good ones. I think it's human nature, in many ways, to retell our favorite stories. We do it in the theater, all the time. I've seen four different Hamlets, and every one has given me something different.
(Joel Kinnaman) [I remember him - he was the reason I watched the whole of the TV series "The Killers" twice!]

Friday, December 22, 2017

Arty Farty Friday ~ Arnold Friberg

Arnold Friberg, a once widely popular artist of historical and religious scenes, with a painstaking quest for stunning realism. His quest led him to Valley Forge, on a winter’s day to paint what became a famous portrait of George Washington praying in the snow. Friberg died in 2010 in Salt Lake City, aged 96.

 The Prayer at Valley Forge

Arnold Friberg was born on Dec. 21, 1913, in Winnetka, Illinois, where his Swedish father and Norwegian mother had immigrated three years before he was born. When he was 3 the family moved to Arizona, where they converted to Mormonism. By age 13, he was earning a living as an apprentice to a sign painter.

Keeping it brief today - any stray readers will no doubt have seasonal matters to attend to!

Just one more painting by Arnold Friberg, one with seasonal relevance, and a part of the Christmas Story that I find always fascinating:

 Following the Star

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Clearing the Way

Time to get cynicism about Christmas trappings out of our system - Winter Solstice coming up, can't be cynical about that! Let's indulge in a mini cynic fest today:

“Oh look, yet another Christmas TV special! How touching to have the meaning of Christmas brought to us by cola, fast food, and beer.... Who'd have ever guessed that product consumption, popular entertainment, and spirituality would mix so harmoniously? ”
― Bill Watterson, The Essential Calvin and Hobbes

“I am sorry to have to introduce the subject of Christmas into these articles. It is an indecent subject; a cruel, gluttonous subject; a drunken, disorderly subject; a wasteful, disastrous, subject; a wicked, cadging, lying, filthy, blashphemous, and demoralizing subject. Christmas is forced on a reluctant and disgusted nation by the shopkeepers and the press: on its own merits it would wither and shrivel in the fiery breath of universal hatred; and any one who looked back to it would be turned into a pillar of greasy sausages.”
― George Bernard Shaw, Dramatic Opinions and Essays, volume 2

“It's supposed to be jolly, with mistletoe and holly... and other things ending in olly.”

― Terry Pratchett, Hogfather

“As joy dwindles with the years
I wistfully recall
When the Christmas tree
Looked ten feet tall
And the presents under it
Seemed endless
And more
Than mere wrapping paper.”

― Justin Wetch, Bending The Universe

To perceive Christmas through its wrapping becomes more difficult with every year.
― E.B. White, The Second Tree from the Corner

Deep breaths......

“The rest of the year, I wondered if the point of Christmas was just spending money and getting fat and opening gifts. Indulging.
But when Christmas finally comes, and that warm, tingly, mints-and-sweaters-and-fireplace-fires feeling gathers in the bottom of your stomach, and you're lying on the floor with all the lights off but the ones on the Christmas tree, and listening to the silence of the snow falling outside, you see the point. For that one instance in time, everything is good in the world. It doesn't matter if everything isn't actually good. It's the one time of the year when pretending is enough.”

― Francesca Zappia, Made You Up

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

THE CROWN ~ A pleasant surprise!

For some reason, a couple of weeks ago, husband and I started watching the Netflix series
"The Crown"
Wiki's first paragraph on the series:
The Crown is a biographical drama television series, created and written by Peter Morgan and produced by Left Bank Pictures and Sony Pictures Television for Netflix. The show is a biographical story about the reign of Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom. The first season covers the period from her marriage to Philip, Duke of Edinburgh in 1947 to the disintegration of her sister Princess Margaret's engagement to Peter Townsend in 1955. The second season covers the Suez Crisis in 1956 through the retirement of the Queen's third Prime Minister, Harold Macmillan, in 1963 following the Profumo affair political scandal, and also the birth of Prince Edward in 1964.
From that description the series sounds less than fascinating! We were both amazed at how much we both enjoyed "The Crown". We watched season 1 and season 2 at the rate of two or three episodes per evening. Bear in mind that I am not, and have never been any kind of royalist, so my interest was not based in nostalgic rememberings of "the old country". The series is so well done and, to be honest the story is such an engaging one when seen, like this, in hindsight. There are times when I was thinking "you couldn't make this up!" It's a good story, by any yardstick. Historical facts are retained faithfully, intact; fictional parts of the script are, of necessity, conversations between the characters, in their private lives.

Casting and acting are excellent, for the most part. Claire Foy and Matt Smith (aka Dr. Who) lead as Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip. John Lithgow does a creditable Winston Churchill in spite of the fact that he's way too tall for the part. Vanessa Kirby gets Princess Margaret, I think, "just right". My only doubt, so far, has been the way the Queen Mother (wife of the late King George VI) is portrayed. Victoria Hamilton plays the part. It's not her acting at fault, it's more the lines she's given. I always saw the Queen Mum (as she was known) as one of the most warm, human and humane of the lot of 'em. So far she has not come across as such. Also, Jackie Kennedy, portrayed by Jodi Balfour, came across as a bit of "a mean girl", but also as a much weaker character than I'd have expected; and JFK didn't look anything like JFK. There are numerous internet reviews and articles fact-checking, and touching on all aspects of the series, so I'll not expand further.

We shall await season 3 eagerly, though it'll have an entirely different cast, all characters will have aged some - and it will be at least a year, perhaps more, before it "hits the screens". Anyway, I heartily recommend seasons 1 and 2 to anyone who hasn't seen this series already.

"The Crown", by the way is very likely the reason for some frequent extra hits on a post of mine from 2010:
Royally Beloved in the Time of Scorpio

Monday, December 18, 2017

Music Monday ~ Veni, Veni....

There's a particular piece of beautiful music that brings back memories of High School assemblies, long ago in England. On icy December mornings, we out-of-town students hurried from the railway station to our school, in double-file - a 10 minute brisk walk - we were not allowed to run, even if the train had been late. The train was often late during winter weather. We didn't have the luxury of "snow days" leave of absence, a common occurrence in the USA, or of being driven to school - we were a hardy generation!

On these early December mornings, at last arriving in school, hanging up our warm coats and changing winter boots for indoor shoes, we'd shuffle into our rather elegant assembly hall. Morning business had, quite often, already begun, and the choir, up in the organ gallery, would be singing..."O come, O come Emmannuel...." - my favourite Advent hymn.

These days I'm not into religion; it wasn't always the case, so distant whispers do remain. In a strange way, I now view New Testament Christmas, and other stories in similar light to another interest of mine - astrology. In both cases there was/is "something going on", though probably not exactly what we were/are told, and not exactly what some people would hope and like to believe, or would like others to believe, but, nevertheless... "something".

Anyway, less waffle, more music. Here are two gorgeous versions of O come, O come....(Veni, Veni...) . This wonderful music is centuries old, some surmise it came from 12th century manuscripts, though it wasn't associated with the words of the Advent hymn until mid-19th century.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Saturday & Sundry Limericks etc.

From a selection found in a 1975 book of wit and whimsy: ~

The limerick packs laughs anatomical
Into space that is quite economical.
But the good ones I've seen
So seldom are clean
And the clean ones so seldom are comical.

There was a young lady names Bright
Who travelled much faster than light.
She started one day
In the relative way
And returned on the previous night.

There's a wonderful family called Stein,
There's Gert and there's Epp and their's Ein;
Gert's poems are bunk,
Epp's statues are junk,
And no one can understand Ein.

A tutor who tooted the flute
Tried to tutor two tooters to toot,
Said the two to the tutor,
"Is it harder to toot, or
To tutor two tooters to toot?"

A maiden at college, Miss Breeze,
Weighed down by B.A.'s and Lit.D's
Collapsed from the strain,
Said her doctor, "It's plain
You are killing yourself by degrees."

PLUS a couple of groan-worthy riddles :

What's the difference between a bird with one wing and a bird with two wings?
A difference of a pinion.

What is the difference between a king's son, a monkey's mother, a bald head, and an orphan?
A king's son is an heir apparent, a monkey's mother is a hairy pareant, a bald head has no hair apparent, and an orphan has nary a parent.

And a trio of wise(ish)cracks:

In politics the paths of glory lead but to the gravy.

Immigration is the sincerest form of flattery.

Lend your neighbour a garden rake and he'll come back for mower.

And a bit of wise advice:

Never break your bread or roll in your soup.

Friday, December 15, 2017

Arty Farty Friday ~ the Anomaly that was Thomas Kinkade

When I think of paintings reflecting the traditional flavour of Christmas, other than Nativity paintings that is, the first painter's name springing to mind is Thomas Kinkade. When I first wrote a blog post on Mr Kinkade, in December of 2009, Thomas Kinkade was still with us; he died, however on April 6, 2012, in Monte Sereno, California. Here's my post, edited slightly to reflect the artist's demise.

As we're closing in on the annual beanfeast known as Christmas, a look at an artist whose paintings, many of which depict winter and Christmas landscapes, are well-known in the USA, and elsewhere. They appear on Christmas cards, calendars, and death knell of a "proper" artist, chocolate boxes. Thomas Kinkade, self-styled Painter of Light is this week's seasonal arty-farty subject.
(Photo by John Storey/Corbis)

I cannot put hand on heart and say I like Kinkade's paintings, but they are very recognisable, and that has to be a plus for artists of any stripe. He was way too twee for yours truly. Yet having carried out a spot of light research, it appears in real life Mr. Kinkade was anything but twee. Ruthless business man, prone to "inappropriate" behaviour, yet said to be a devout Christian

The Los Angeles Times reported that some of Kinkade's former colleagues, employees, and even collectors of his work said that he has a long history of cursing and heckling other artists and performers. The Times further reported that he openly groped a woman's breasts at a South Bend, Indiana sales event, and mentioned his proclivity for ritual territory marking through urination, once relieving himself on a Winnie the Pooh figure at a Disney site while saying "This one’s for you, Walt." Kinkade denied some of the allegations, and accepted and apologized for others.

In 2006 John Dandois, Media Arts Group executive, recounted a story that on one occasion ("about six years ago") Kinkade became drunk at a Siegfried and Roy magic show in Las Vegas and began shouting "Codpiece! Codpiece!" at the performers. Eventually he was calmed by his mother. Dandois also said of Kinkade, "Thom would be fine, he would be drinking, and then all of a sudden, you couldn't tell where the boundary was, and then he became very incoherent, and he would start cussing and doing a lot of weird stuff."
(At Wikipedia)

A devout Christian who called himself The Painter of Light, Kinkade traded heavily on his beliefs and said God has guided his brush - and his life - "for the last 20 years".
"When I got saved, God became my art agent," he said in a 2004 video biography, genteel in tone and rich in the themes of faith and family values that have helped win him legions of fans, albeit few among art critics. But some former Kinkade employees, gallery operators and others contend that the Painter of Light has a decidedly dark side.

In litigation and interviews with the Los Angeles Times, some former gallery owners depicted Kinkade as a ruthless businessman who drove them to financial ruin at the same time he was fattening his business associates' bank accounts and feathering his nest with tens of millions of dollars.

Kinkade - whose solely owned Thomas Kinkade Co. was based in Morgan Hill, Calif. - denied these allegations. Later, however, a three-member panel of the American Arbitration Assn. ordered his company to pay $860,000 for defrauding the former owners of two failed Virginia galleries. That decision marked the first major legal setback for Kinkade, who won three previous arbitration claims. Five more followed. (LA Times)


So...what should be found in the natal chart of this artistic anomaly? Certainly some indication of his acute business sense, there's no denying that. Wikipedia tells us
He is self described as "Thomas Kinkade, Painter of Light" (a trademarked phrase), and as "America's most-collected living artist". Media Arts, the publicly-traded company that licenses and sells Kinkade's products, claims that 1 in 20 homes in the U.S. feature some form of Thomas Kinkade’s art."

There should be some link to creativity and artistic skill - whatever one's taste, it has to be admitted that the man could paint a picture. There's going to be a hint of the obtuse, or unexpected too, I'd guess.

Born on 19 January 1958 in Sacramento, California. No time of birth available so 12 noon chart has to suffice. Rising sign and Moon 's degree will not be accurate as shown. If born after 4pm Moon would be in Aquarius, before that, in Capricorn.

Sun and Mercury in Capricorn - Capricorn, the sign of the businessman. That fits! Whether Moon was in Capricorn or Aquarius that would still be a good fit too. Venus is already in Aquarius, reputed sign of the oddballs of this world. In his case Venus, planet of the arts lies there. I wouldn't call his art oddball, or in any way Aquarian, but it is odd and unexpected (another Aquarian trait) given the kind of guy he's said to have been. Uranus, ruler of Aquarius lies in Leo in opposition to Venus - here's a second hint as to the unexpectedness of the type of art this painter produced, and the anomaly of his Christian beliefs with his reported actions.

Neptune, planet of creativity is conjunct Jupiter planet of excess in Scorpio, and is in helpful sextile to Mercury, communications and mental process planet. That link-up brings together mental process, creativity, and the wide marketing of his prolific output of artwork.

Saturn and Mars are conjoined in Sagittarius - sign known for its excesses, these two planets traditionally thought of as malefics, and are magnified in Sagittarius. Could this account for a streak of ruthlessness in Kinkade's nature?

Examples of his Christmas/Winter-related pieces. The Kinkade website is HERE.

 Christmas in New York

Christmas Glow

 Christmas, St Nicholas Circle

 Hometown Christmas Memories

 Christmas Homecoming

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Dorothy Parker - In the American Manner

I stumbled upon this poem by Dorothy Parker the other day:

Poem In The American Manner

I dunno yer highfalutin' words, but here's th' way it seems
When I'm peekin' out th' winder o' my little House o Dreams;
I've been lookin' 'roun' this big ol' world, as bizzy as a hive,
An' I want t' tell ye, neighbor mine, it's good t' be alive.
I've ben settin' here, a-thinkin' hard, an' say, it seems t' me
That this big ol' world is jest about as good as it kin be,
With its starvin' little babies, an' its battles, an' its strikes,
An' its profiteers, an' hold-up men—th' dawggone little tykes!
An' its hungry men that fought fer us, that nobody employs.
An' I think, 'Why, shucks, we're jest a lot o' grown-up little boys!'
An' I settle back, an' light my pipe, an' reach fer Mother's hand,
An' I wouldn't swap my peace o' mind fer nothin' in the land;
Fer this world uv ours, that jest was made fer folks like me an' you
Is a purty good ol' place t' live—say, neighbor, ain't it true?

She was in full sardonic, sarcastic, satiric mode there, under cover of a bit of the good ol' folksy. Though her sentiments were rooted in her own century - the 20th - nothing changes!

Dorothy Parker has always been worth a second look, so here's something I blogged some years ago:

These days Dorothy Parker is remembered most for her witty and cynical poetry. She was not particularly proud of the poems, but they have survived in public memory long after her short stories and other writing has been forgotten. Some of her screenplays have survived. The screenplay of A Star is Born was her work, and nominated for an academy award. Three different versions of the story have been made, and have entertained three different generations. It's a bittersweet tale, the kind she knew well from experience.

Dorothy's poems are mainly reflections of her own disappointments and frustrations. She had a sad childhood, losing both parents at an early age. This shadow followed her throughout her life. Her lovers and spouses only seemed to add to her distress. Dorothy attempted suicide 3 times, eventually took to alcohol, and died alone in a New York hotel, aged 73. The New York Times printed one of its longest ever obituaries as a tribute. She left her estate to Martin Luther King Jnr, though she had never met him, and he had never heard of her! She supported many left-wing causes, civil rights campaigns and at one point joined the communist party, and found herself on the US government's blacklist.

DOROTHY PARKER Born 22 August 1893, West End, New Jersey, at 9.50 PM.

According to a couple of sources on-line Ms Parker's birth time was 9:50 PM, putting the ascendant angle in Taurus. It's said that the ascendant can give clues as to personal appearance. In this case it doesn't. Dorothy Parker is described as fragile looking, doll-like, almost elfin, quite the opposite of the sturdiness of Taurus. From what I've read about her personality, Taurus seems to have been well-eclipsed by Virgo and Gemini.

The Sun had just passed into Virgo, at 00 degree when Dorothy Parker was born. There are 2 other planets at 00 degree: Venus at 00 Libra, and Jupiter at 00 Gemini. Some astrologers consider that the first and last degrees of a sign carry more of the "pure essence" of it, which could be of some significance here, especially in the case of Virgo and Gemini. Dorothy's legendary sharp tongue, naturally critical and acidic attitudes are typically Virgoan. The two signs, Virgo and Gemini, both ruled by Mercury, provide her writer's "signature". It was as though the Sun and Jupiter had struggled to get into their proper places just in time for the birth - or she had waited to emerge until they were properly placed!

Sun is conjunct Mars - novelist Sinclair Lewis had Sun conjunct Mars too (he who said "When facism comes to America it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross"): two writers of the same generation who were not averse to expressing controversial views. Writers with a fighting (Mars) spirit! Sun in Virgo, Mercury in Leo are in mutual reception in Dorothy's chart too (each lay in the sign of the other's rulership), which adds even more emphasis to the astrological picture, showing a born writer.

Moon in Capricorn and Sun/Mars in Virgo, both in Earth signs forming a wide harmonious trine. This I find somewhat surprising. She doesn't seem to have been the solid, stable Earthy personality it indicates. However, Moon is in challenging square aspect to Saturn in Airy Libra, and Sun is square to Jupiter in Airy Gemini. Two Airy challenges stirring up dust! Without these square aspects people might never have remembered the name and personality of Dorothy Parker.

One of her best-remembered darkly cynical poems:


There's little in taking or giving,
There's little in water or wine;
This living, this living, this living
Was never a project of mine.
Oh, hard is the struggle, and sparse is
The gain of the one at the top,
For art is a form of catharsis,
And love is a permanent flop,
And work is the province of cattle,
And rest's for a clam in a shell,
So I'm thinking of throwing the battle ---
Would you kindly direct me to hell?

Her self-chosen epitaph: "Excuse my dust."

Monday, December 11, 2017

GUEST POST ~ by "Anyjazz" on Music Monday

What follows comes from a post written by my husband on his blog "Thinks Happen" in 2008. I stumbled across it in searching for something else and decided the post ought not to be wasting away, hidden in the depths of defunct blogdom. In its original setting the piece can be accessed via the link at the foot of this post.

The camera tried hard to get a shot for me but the lighting and the inept operator gave only a marginal result. The shutter was open too long and Alison Young moved.

That’s okay. The memory of listening to her play live comes back just as well with this shot as with any other. As my wife and others will attest, when I hear a really talented musician or a really wonderful performance, I tend to weep. Yes, I know.

As I sat in the dark at an after-hours jam session during an Ottawa Jazz Festival, I was often a bit misty eyed. Talented musicians, relaxed before a small audience, played as they felt, often only for their own appreciation. Good stuff.

One such night, a young fellow played an alto sax solo backed with rhythm and piano. His technique was good, polished; his chorus was fresh and welcome. Then as he finished, he unhooked the alto from its neck strap and handed it to a red-haired girl standing just out of the spotlight. After a couple hearty solo piano choruses, 19 year old Alison Young stepped into the light and began to play that same alto sax. And tears came instantly to my eyes. Yes, I was impressed.

It was the same saxophone but nothing else was the same. Her tone and range set her apart. Her attack and enthusiasm made it fascinating. Most of all, her inventiveness kept the listener sitting up straight. I’ll never forget it. When she finished we all realized we had been holding our collective audience breath.

Every moment of our lives has that possibility to connect with someone. Each moment has that ability to be an important moment in someone’s life.

Perhaps as a race we are losing that capability to empathize with our fellow humans. We have become protectorates, isolationists in our own being. We fear or loath connection so much that we avoid sharing any of ourselves. We only perceive the surface of others, not the warmth within.

A child knows how. A child has the ability to freely observe moments from everything, collecting, mimicking and blending. But just like the fairy tales and goblins, this talent fades away as adulthood comes jack booting down the life path.

We can rail on about conservation and brotherly love. We can preach about faith and hope and charity. We can be reliable or lie and make work or leisure for ourselves. We can vote and debate and scoff and complain.

But in the final analysis: we are all we have.

Saturday, December 09, 2017

Saturday and Sundry Rant-worthy Thoughts

So many issues currently in the news are eminently rant-worthy - shall I count the ways? Brexit; Trump; Republicans; Democrats; monopolies; men who harass; comedians who are unnecessarily gross, not to mention unfunny; creeping crapification of - just about everything; "smart" stuff encouraging us to speak to inanimate objects as a way of life. Sigh.

There's yet another, more personal, irritant: people who, at the mention of the word 'astrology' pounce eagerly, ready to question the mental capacity of anyone who is, in their estimation, "irrational" enough to give astrology even an inch of headroom. This happened to me a few days ago at a blog which shall remain nameless; it has happened many times during past years on the net, and is tiresome - putting it mildly!

On most occasions, when an urge to intervene with any mild reference to astrology arises, I turn "chicken", shrink from mentioning it, or my interest in, and study of the ancient art. Among those people with no interest in astrology, and in some cases with a definite abhorrence of it, such an interest marks one as a gullible nitwit and totally irrational.

Do rationality and astrology mix? I contend that they can, given the right approach and a mind open enough to see serious failings in both camps, but failings which completely negate neither.

For many people astrology has no relevance at all. I do get that. Football, baseball, basketball and other sports have no relevance to me, but I don't go around denigrating fans of those pastimes. So...why can't astrological skeptics simply ignore astrology and any mention of it? It's almost as though they feel threatened by it!

I remember reading some relevant observations years ago, written by Darin Hayton (link is now defunct). Mr Hayton asked:

"And what really is at stake in this enduring battle between science and astrology? Are astronomers [for instance] afraid that their funding will suddenly go to astrologers? Does the fate of the free world or the rational mind or science depend on refuting astrology? Given the characterization of astrologers and believers in astrology as simple-minded, uneducated, irrational dupes, what threat do these people pose to astronomers and scientists? Does belief in astrology stand for a purported, societal-wide irrationality that threatens the entire practice of science? That seems a bit apocalyptic, but maybe. And what is served by the denigrating rhetoric typically used to brand astrologers frauds and charlatans? Surely it would be more effective to adopt a more conversational approach rather than labeling astrologers and their customers irrational, superstitious dupes..."

Ten years ago, in my early days of blogging - when, even then I found astrology skeptics to be rant-worthy, a commenter "Velvet Blade" wrote:
I used to love those people who would come into an astrology shop and say, "Prove it to me". Why? Because I was once that person. Skeptics are GREAT, as long as they have an open mind. Otherwise, they are not skeptics at all, just stubborn folks who believe that everyone should think the way they think... Hmmm... Ringing any bells in politics???

True skeptics believe what they have found to be true for themselves. The don't close their minds and shut down, with no hope of opening.

True skeptics always make the BEST astrologers. They won't accept anything as true until they have seen it for themselves.
To allow my BP to return to what passes as normal, a quiet ponder upon a couple of quotes:

“The world,” he said, “grows hourly more and more sceptical of all that lies beyond its own narrow radius; and our men of science foster the fatal tendency.
~ Amelia B. Edwards, ("The Phantom Coach").

And, from Sir Terry Pratchett:
Sometimes, if you pay real close attention to the pebbles you find out about the ocean. ("Lords and Ladies").

Friday, December 08, 2017

Arty Farty Friday...with goosebumps

Today, 8 December is the anniversary of the day John Lennon was murdered.

At around 10:50 p.m. (EST [Eastern Standard time]) on 8 December 1980, lone gunman Mark David Chapman shot Lennon in the back four times in the archway of the Dakota as Lennon and Ono returned to their Manhattan apartment from the Record Plant. Lennon was rushed in a police cruiser to the emergency room of nearby Roosevelt Hospital, where he was pronounced dead on arrival at 11:00 p.m. (EST). Earlier that evening, Lennon had autographed a copy of Double Fantasy for Chapman.

Chapman avoided going to trial when he ignored his attorney's advice and pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and was sentenced to 20-years-to-life. In 2016, he was denied parole for a ninth time.

Today is also Arty Farty Friday, so focus will go onto another talent of John Lennon. He loved to draw, and did possess a certain quirky cartoon-like talent in that direction (well... anything Lennon would be quirky by default, wouldn't it?) Some of his sketches remind me of James Thurber's work.

Oh my! I've just retrieved a link to an old post of mine with a few of Thurber's sketches included, for comparison, and see that....
James Thurber was born on 8 December (in 1894) in New York City. John Lennon was killed on 8 December 1980 in New York City. That brought forth a few goosebumps!

A few examples of John Lennon's artwork:

You Might Well Arsk

 Remember Love

 Sijin (poet)

 Come Together

Borrowed Time

 A Happy Life (John, Yoko, and their son Sean)

Two to match the coming season:

See more via Google Image HERE.

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