Monday, March 27, 2017

Movie Monday ~ Z for Zachariah

There's nothing like a post-apocalyptic, movie to cheer one in these troubled political times. If nothing else, these offerings show us how much worse things could be - will likely be in fact, some future day in the absence of major change  - soon. We watched one such movie a few nights ago (Netflix):
Z for Zachariah. It's a loose (extremely loose , I think) adaptation of the 1974 novel by Robert C. O'Brien.

In a nutshell the story goes like this: nuclear war or accidental nuclear tragedy have left the world - well, maybe the world, but at least the USA, mainly unpopulated due to widespread radiation, and perhaps other ecological calamities.

Some little time has passed since the apocalyptic events. We meet a single survivor in a closely sheltered valley somewhere in eastern USA. We learn that this small valley area has missed the devastation of the rest of the world - or USA, due to a quirk of nature and its unusually sheltered location. There's a clean water supply. Suspension of disbelief is essential here because - what about when it rained ? The hard/ contaminated rain would have fallen there as well as everywhere else.

That aside, we meet a young woman, probably in her twenties, sturdily managing to survive working the small farm of her lost parents. She has enough food from crops, chickens and a cow, a little hunting and fishing to nourish her, clean water from a source not affected by outside radiation, and a faithful dog for company. Winter, though had been hard - without electricity after her generator ran out of fuel, she almost froze to death.

We meet her (Ann) in warmer times, as she is out hunting rabbits, and stumbles into another survivor (John), a black guy mabe a decade or so her senior, bumbling around in a huge hazmat suit with a laden trolley. She watches as he goes to bathe in a pool whose source she knows for sure is contaminated. She manages to alert him, but is too late, then tries to help him survive. Turns out he's a scientist, a quiet type, not easy to understand, but kindly and helpful to Ann.

That's a sketchy idea of the first part of the film, later on a third survivor arrives (Caleb) another male, this a more local fellow, one who turns out to be quite different in nature from John - a little sneaky, generally untrustworthy but not without some native charm.

We know, without benefit of synopsis, that this menage a trois will pose a problem, even in these terrible "end of days" circumstances, human nature remains human nature!

Z for Zachariah can be watched, as we did, head on (as it were), but after I'd read a little on line the next day from past viewers, it turns out there's a whole other way of seeing it: as an analogy. I had suspected there was an underlying Adam & Eve thing going on, but it goes deeper than that. There are biblical references, analogies, hidden hints, and important matters left unfinished, unexplained. One reviewer describes the movie as being a kind of Rorschach test. I agree, after having read through several lengthy threads of commentary about the film. There's mild exploration, if one looks for it, of issues connected to race, gender, class, religion, but in the kind of circumstances we all hope never to encounter.

I enjoyed the movie, but it's a definite slow-burn, needs patience, and maybe even a second viewing to appreciate all possible meanings. Just three characters support it (and a dog) - not a movie to attract those who enjoy lots of fast action, glamour and wall to wall noise. The acting is good to excellent, with Margot Robbie, Chiwetel Ejiofor, and Chris Pine it would be wouldn't it? With a trio of lesser actors this film could have been as disastrous as the times it depicted.

As for the original novel of the same title (which is a nod to a children's book: "A for Adam"), Wikipedia's synopsis tells me that the film adaptation uses nothing but the barest bones of the original story. The novel's tale sounds even harsher, goes where the film declined to go. Ann was much younger in the novel, teenage. Book version John had a rather nasty, controlling nature, wasn't black; and the novel introduced no third party to the scene. The film then has to be regarded simply as a stand-alone piece using a situation and location based loosely on the novel.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Aries Considered

In his book, Astrology published 1964, Louis MacNeice, not an astrologer, but a poet and scholar, gathered together much of interest from a variety of sources, ancient and modern. On zodiac sign Aries, through which the Sun now travels, he wrote the paragraphs below, quoting from some professional astrologers whose works may now be less known by the average astrology fan. Some related links identifying those astrologers are added at the end of this post. The excerpt has been copy-typed by my own fair fingers, rather than copy-pasted from elsewhere on the internet. Illustrations here were added by me.

Though Aries is the first sign of the zodiac, it is the last of this monthly series; for some reason I began, last year, with Taurus. The whole set of 12 posts can most easily be accessed by clicking on "Louis MacNeice" in the Label Cloud in the sidebar.

Aries the Ram
March 21 to April 20

The hieroglyph for Aries looks like a ram's horns (though Morrish says it might just as well represent a fountain). A cardinal fiery sign, ruled by Mars: cardinal in that it serves as the ignition key for the year, fiery in that it symbolizes the explosive suns of spring. This is the sign of the vernal equinox when the ecliptic crosses the equator and day and night are of equal length. To the ancients it seemed natural to begin the astrological year on March 21 with the first degree of Aries (0 Aries), though the people in the southern hemisphere were not consulted about this. That Aries is a "priority" sign in almost every respect is shown by the instructions given in some of the early Hermetic writings as to the use of " Zodiacal plants" for magical purposes: Whatever the plant and whatever other sign is concerned, it should be picked and its juice extracted when the Sun is in Aries.

 Aries by David Palladini
Aries is in general the adventurous pioneer sign and, like all the other signs, has the vices of its virtues. It had been assigned to Mars and its basic character stablized by the time of Ptolemy, and the association of Britain with Aries goes back to that time. The traditional qualities of the Aries man were briefly and clearly outlined by Raphael in he early 19th century: "Aries, the house of Mars and exaltation of the a vernal, dry, fiery, masculine, cardinal, equinoctial, diurnal, moveable, commanding, eastern, choleric, violent and quadrupedian sign." It will be remembered that, apart from the sign that a planet "rules", there is usually another sign in which he feels particularly at home; this is the sign in which he is said to have his "exaltation." So Aries fiery furnaces are kept doubly stoked, by Mars who rules it and by the Sun who is exalted in it.

On the other hand, a planet who is not at ease in Aries is Venus. André Barbault stresses that the fire of Aries, in contrast with that of the other two fiery signs, Leo and Sagittarius, in the PRIMAL fire that both creates and destroys. So the Aries type of person tends to be an impetuous juvenile type taking no thought for the morrow. And not only juvenile but primitive: Ingrid Lind says there is something of the cave man about him.

There is general agreement about the character of the Aries man: He is an enthusiast, tough, rather reckless, impetuous always and irritable sometimes, and he falls in love like a thunderbolt. Aries moves much too fast for the Taurus type and is exasperated by the fussiness and exactitude of Virgo. From early times astrologers have also described his physical characteristics, making him strong, with powerful shoulders, and so on. After a warning about Zodiacal morphology, Barbault suggests that the Aries type does tend to look like a ram (Gleadow writes that "his nose, even when small, has an energetic arch") and notes that he walks rapidly and has a strong, quick hand-grip. He is something of a menace as a driver, and does not like wearing a hat. As for Aries women, in dress they don't wish to follow the fashion but to lead it; on the other hand they are almost aggressive in their non-use of make-up.

 Aries by Erté,
As examples of Aries types, Barbault gives Louis Armstrong (who invented "hot" jazz), Marlon Brando, George Sand ("the first feminist"), Savonalrola, and St. Teresa of Avila. To prove the point that two Aries types can be thoroughly Aries and yet, owing to the positions of the planets, in many ways very different, he contrasts two French writers, Baudelaire and Zola. Each of them had a notable conglomeration of planets in Aries but whereas Zola had the Sun, Moon, Mars and Pluto, and at that in trine (a good relationship) with Saturn, Baudelaire had the Sun, Venus (bad, as just mentioned, in this sign) Jupiter and Saturn - and at that in eighth house, the house of death.

Morrish's evolutionary theory has already been mentioned. According to this scheme - in which the whole Zodiac symbolizes the universal "Wheel of Life and Death" - Aries, the first sign, represents ignorance (at whatever level) in contrast with the last sign, Pisces, which represents universality (at whatever level). Focusing in, Morris makes the first three signs stand for "unit germination." Aries here stands for the male creative impulse (to be quickly followed by the traditionally feminine sign, Taurus, which represents matrix or matter).
Morrish, like many artists, believes in the fertilizing effects of conflict, and stresses the importance of Zodiacal opposites; for example, "in a physical analogy Libra (air) is required to enable Aries (fire) to 'burst into flame' ." As well as making Aries play the male to the female matrix of Taurus, Morrish makes him stand for motion in contrast with the Taurine inertia. This evolutionary scheme of Morrish's, which involves the concept of yoga, is a peculiarly modern outcrop to which we shall return later. But, on the traditional premises, he has not miscast either Aries or Taurus.

Astrologers mentioned:
Morrish (L. Furze-Morrish?)
André Barbault
Ingrid Lind
Rupert Gleadow

Friday, March 24, 2017

Original Arty Farty

Friday's Arty Farty regime here began in 2007. Originally it had a slightly different aim from the way it eventually developed, over the years. My first intentions were simply to display some artworks I'd acquired for display in our home. Flicking back through the first Arty Friday posts I see that several were deleted (by me), having been videos I'd made, and used copyrighted music as backing, or due to fears about other copyright issues. I recall there was a copyright scare going on a few years after 2007.

For a change, this week I've fished out from 2007 what was Arty Farty Friday #6: a look at a couple of our arty acquisitions. The first still hangs in our living room, the second in our bedroom. These have remained favourites of ours.

Clicking on the second image should enlarge it.

I bought the collage, by Anne M. Morris of Moline, Illinois, at an art and music festival in Salina, Kansas, 2005 - The Smoky Hill River Festival.

Composed of small pieces of natural stone, mirror, beads, and wood on a painted background, the collage appeals to me because the shapes can be seen as almost astrological. There are circles, triangles, squares, and rectangles. The mirrored fragments around the outer rim catch the light and appear shaded in a variety of ways at different times, as do true astrological effects.

My husband particularly likes this one for another reason. Square shapes attract him. He looks on the number 4 as lucky for him, too. There's a link somewhere! He was born on 22nd (2+2=4), he has 4 offspring, one of whom was also born on 22nd, as was the offspring's son. He lived for much of his adult life at house number 1313, which adds up to 2x4. He's not in the least superstitious or interested in anything even vaguely "weird" (except, perhaps the author of this drivel), so his attachment to squares and number 4 is rather uncharacteristic.

Here's another of our square acquisitions, titled Harmony, by Lynn Woodmansee. It's a small collage of ceramic fragments. We bought it from a funny little gallery called "Tin Moon" (see last photo, below) in Abiquiu - seemed like the middle of nowhere, in New Mexico. There was no way we (I) could pass a place called Tin Moon without stopping to investigate. There used to be an associated website for Tin Moon, but it is gone now (2017) and I do seem to recall the last time we drove by there we remarked that the Tin Moon looked closed, deserted, defunct - an ex-gallery!

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Pair of Poems by John Ciardi + A Birthday

I've stumbled across another poet not known to me before: John Ciardi. Some of his poems remind me of Ogden Nash's, others have a tinge of Shel Silverstein. I was not surprised, either , when I noticed that some of his books of poems, especially his children's poems, were illustrated by Edward Gorey, about whom I wrote a post a few years ago see HERE.

Here are a couple of poems by John Ciardi as tasters:

Philosophical Poem

The disease of civilization is not tools, citizen.
Ignorance might be closer to it.
Politics closer. But only Money
Will hit the brass tacks everyone wants to get down to
Squarely on the head.

Above all, I have no case against human nature.
Whatever that is, I like it.
I like mechanics with wrenches,
Taxi drivers' photos on licenses,
Drunks lighting cigarettes.
What the hell else is there to like
After you've kissed your wife and gone to sleep?

I like everything but important people being important.
And academic people being academic.
What I like least is bookkeepers
Spending their human eyes on accounts receivable,
Interest receivable, payment due, balance on hand.
And columns of soldiers marching.

Why Nobody Pets The Lion At The Zoo

The morning that the world began
The Lion growled a growl at Man.

And I suspect the Lion might
(If he'd been closer) have tried a bite.

I think that's as it ought to be
And not as it was taught to me.

I think the Lion has a right
To growl a growl and bite a bite.

And if the Lion bothered Adam,
He should have growled right back at 'im.

The way to treat a Lion right
Is growl for growl and bite for bite.

True, the Lion is better fit
For biting than for being bit.

But if you look him in the eye
You'll find the Lion's rather shy.

He really wants someone to pet him.
The trouble is: his teeth won't let him.

He has a heart of gold beneath
But the Lion just can't trust his teeth.

For any passing reader interested in astrology, Astrotheme has John Ciardi's 12 noon natal chart. He was born on 24 June 1916 in Boston MA.

I found it rather odd to see that he had Sun conjunct Pluto, and Venus conjunct Saturn - all in Cancer. That doesn't seem to fit the atmosphere of his poetry at all. Uranus was at 19 Aquarius in harmonious trine to Mercury in Gemini - there's his quirk!

PS Wishing A VERY HAPPY BIRTHDAY today, to my husband Anyjazz!

Speaking of Lions, as the poet was, husband happens to have Leo Moon and Leo rising to go with his Aries Sun - hot stuff!? I should keep in mind these lines from Mr Ciardi, I guess:
"The way to treat a Lion right
Is growl for growl and bite for bite."

Tuesday, March 21, 2017


World Puppetry Day, comes every March 21.

The idea came from the puppet theater Artist Javad Zolfaghari from Iran. In 2000 at the XVIII Congress of the Union Internationale de la Marionnette, (UNIMA) in Magdeburg, he made the proposal for discussion. Two years later, at a meeting of the International Council of UNIMA in June 2002 in Atlanta, the date of the celebration was identified. The first celebration was in 2003.

Well then, all those media puppets whose strings are being pulled by corporations, banks, plutocrats et al, in this part of the world, should feel quite at home today.

What first came to mind when I noticed that it is World Puppetry Day ? This painting by Michael Cheval:

Clicking on the image should bring forth a slightly larger version.

There are other puppet-related paintings by this artist, including a different version of this one. I like this one because, looking closely, we see that even the puppeteers are subject to their own strings being pulled, from even higher up the "food chain".

Monday, March 20, 2017


“Spring has many American faces. There are cities where it will come and go in a day and counties where it hangs around and never quite gets there. Summer is drawn blinds in Louisiana, long winds in Wyoming, shade of elms and maples in New England.”
Archibald MacLeish

A few more thoughts, from far better writers than I will ever be, on the matter of springtime's hide and seek games:

In the spring I have counted one hundred and thirty-six different kinds of weather inside of four and twenty hours.
Mark Twain

Spring is the time of year when it is summer in the sun and winter in the shade.
Charles Dickens

Winter lingered so long in the lap of Spring that it occasioned a great deal of talk.
Bill Nye

The first day of spring is one thing, and the first spring day is another. The difference between them is sometimes as great as a month.
Henry Van Dyke

Lifeless in appearance, sluggish dazed spring approaches They enter the new world naked, cold, uncertain of all save that they enter.
William Carlos Williams

And...on Spring and the Vernal Equinox in general:

It was such a spring day as breathes into a man an ineffable yearning, a painful sweetness, a longing that makes him stand motionless, looking at the leaves or grass, and fling out his arms to embrace he knows not what.
John Galsworthy

Oh, what a catastrophe for man when he cut himself off from the rhythm of the year, from his unison with the sun and the earth. Oh, what a catastrophe, what a maiming of love when it was a personal, merely personal feeling, taken away from the rising and the setting of the sun, and cut off from the magic connection of the solstice and the equinox!
D. H. Lawrence

Easter occurs on different dates each year because, like the Jewish Passover, it is based upon the vernal equinox, that dramatic moment when the hours of the day-light and the hours of darkness at last draw parallel and then the light finally and triumphantly wins out. Thus Easter is always fixed as the first Sunday after the first full moon following the spring equinox. It's a cosmic, solar, and lunar event as deeply rooted in religious traditions originating from sun-god worship as one could conceivably imagine.
Tom Harpur

I've always assumed that every time a child is born, the Divine reenters the world. Okay? That's the meaning of the Christmas story. And every time that child's purity is corrupted by society, that's the meaning of the Crucifixion story. Your man Jesus stands for that child, that pure spirit, and as its surrogate, he's being born and put to death again and again, over and over, every time we inhale and exhale, not just at the vernal equinox and on the 25th of December.
Tom Robbins

For Vernal Music Monday: George Harrison and "the other" Paul (Simon) with
Here Comes the Sun

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Resistance - 14th Century Style

When The People as a whole feel sufficiently oppressed, reach that mystical thing called the "tipping point" they act. Famous examples of this phenomenon leap out from pages of history books - here's an early example:

Backtracking a century or six:
The Peasants' Revolt in England.

Without the aid of Twitter, Facebook, the Royal Mail, telephone or cellphone, tens of thousands of peasants in England managed to achieve solidarity sufficient to rebel against their noblemen masters, march on England's capital city and cause chaos.

The Black Death, a devastating pandemic, had ravaged England and Europe in 1348/9 greatly reducing the labour force available to the Lords of the Manors and other noblemen of feudal England. Labourers, who were little more than slaves, began to demand improved terms and conditions: higher wages, fewer hours. Some even asked for their freedom from serfdom. The government attempted to curb this by pegging wages and restricting the mobility of labour. Additional cause of resentment was the poll tax ("poll" in this context meant "head") every person was subject to this taxation. The then monarch King Richard II, only 14 years old, was largely "under the thumb" of a corrupt group of officials, possibly the crux of the problem - or maybe not, we have no way of knowing.

Uprisings began in the south and east of England. In early summer of 1381 leaders emerged: Wat Tyler, John Ball and Jack Straw. They led a march of tens of thousands on London arriving on 12 June.

The rebels stormed the Tower of London and executed the Lord Chancellor, Archbishop Simon Sudbury, and the Lord Treasurer. Peasants looted the city and set fire to numerous buildings. Wat Tyler was stabbed to death by the Lord Mayor William Walworth in a confrontation at Smithfield, thus ending the revolt. Nobles quickly re-established their control with the help of a hastily organised militia of 7000. Most other leaders were captured and executed, including John Ball and Jack Straw, who was beheaded.

The Peasants' Revolt did not succeed in its aims, but it did show the nobles that the peasants were dissatisfied and quite capable of wreaking havoc. The Revolt was, eventually, instrumental in bringing an end to serfdom, and in the even longer term, helped to form a radical tradition in British politics.

Wondering about the astrology of it all - a snip from the ephemeris for June 1381:

It's interesting that on 12 June 1381 Moon (representing The People) was in late Aquarius - sign of rebellion; Mars (anger, aggression)was in communicative Gemini, and in harmony with Aquarius Moon.

Final thought from Carl Sandburg's "The People, Yes" (Chapter 75)

Hunger and only hunger changes worlds?
The dictate of the belly
that gnawing under the navel,
this alone is the builder and the pathfinder
sending man into danger and fire
and death by struggle?

Yes and no, no and yes.
The strong win against the weak,
The strong lose against the stronger.

And across the bitter years and the howling winters
the deathless dream will be the stronger,
the dream of equity will win.
There are shadows and bones shot with lights
too strong to be lost.......

Friday, March 17, 2017

Arty Farty Friday ~ Russian Artist Mikhail Vrubel

Mikhail Vrubel, Russian artist, was born this day in 1856. He painted during the art nouveau period and has been credited with introducing the art nouveau style to Russia. As well as painting in oils he was a skilled majolica craftsman, and talented in theatrical design.

Vrubel's life appears to have been rather wild, troubled and comparatively short (he died aged 54). He suffered mental disease brought on by syphilis, but left behind some superb work, sadly not as well-known in the USA as it deserves to be.

For a selection of his artwork, in large sized images, I recommend a visit to this website, at a piece headed
10 paintings from Russian artist that battled demons in art and life - author:Ksenia Isaeva, RBTH. From brief biographical detail there:

"Soviet art critic Nina Dmitrieva compared Vrubel’s creative life to a three-act drama with a prologue and an epilogue, with the transition between stages happening sharply and unexpectedly. The prologue would be his younger years spent studying and choosing his vocation.
The second act was his Moscow period, which began in 1890 with the famous painting “Demon Seated” and ended with the painting “Fallen Demon” (1901) and the artist’s hospitalization.
The third act was from 1903-1906. During these years, Vrubel battled mental illness and his physical and intellectual abilities were in decline. The epilogue was his final years until his death in 1910.
It is said that Mikhail Vrubel sold his soul to the devil. So, it is no coincidence, that all his problems and tragedies began when he was working on the “Fallen Demon” painting.
A son was born to the Vrubel family when “Fallen Demon” was being painted. He was a good boy – but he had a birth defect, a cleft lip. Vrubel himself started hallucinating. He was put into a mental clinic. That, however, was not the end of his misfortunes. A year later his son died. "
As syphylis progressed, Vrubel went blind. He died of pneumonia after deliberately exposing his body to the cold, and declining to fight for life. He died in the mental clinic.

This short video (less than 5 minutes) offers a quick look at a range of Vrubel's works.

I like many of his stylised paintings - I see echoes of Gustav Klimt in some of them, espsecially those portraying females.

Fascinated by Lermontov’s long poem, The Demon (1829-39), Vrubel repeatedly portrayed the image of the devil on canvas. These paintings became his most famous. Vrubel’s demon became symbolic of the artist’s own struggles with mental illness.

Vrubel's demons are rather dishy to my eye! But then, I guess that's how a demon manages to beguile and tempt ya - it'd be no use at all for a demon to have a face "like the back end of a 'bus" (as my Gran used to say).

 Flying Demon
 Tamara & Demon

 Sadko (Majolica ware)
Sadko is the principal character in a Russian medieval epic Bylina. He was an adventurer, merchant, and gusli musician from Novgorod. (More at Wikipedia)


Born on 17 March 1856 in Omsk, Russia. Chart set for 12 noon, time of birth unknown.

From Russkiy Mir foundation website

 Self portrait, 1885

A few pointers as to his personality:
An aspiring artist L. Kovalskiy from Kiev described his first encounter with 24-year-old Vrubel, who just came to start working on Kirillovskaya church: ..... The scene was more than exciting: against primitive hills of Kirillovskoye behind my back stood a fair, almost white young blonde man with a very notable head, small moustache, almost white. Not too tall, very balanced body type, dressed in black velvet suit, short underdrawers and half-boots. No one dressed like that in Kiev and I was impressed. It was a young Venetian man from the paintings of Tintoretto and Titian”.

From this article by S.E. Hecker, regarding his "Demon" paintings:

To understand these demons, one must know how the subject came to be such a fascination to Vrubel. Vrubel’s first major commissions as an artist were for the restorations of St. Kirill’s in Kiev. His participation here would lead to the development of a Byzantine style that would be seen in all of his subsequent work. During his stay in Kiev, Vrubel developed a tendency to drink too much, throw away money, and participated in numerous amorous escapades which led him to disappear without warning. This lack of self-discipline and loose manner of living created unusual patterns of thought and temperament bringing about extravagant behavior. Because of this behavior he committed numerous offenses against societal conventions and had lapses with reality, such as a belief in his father’s death, and a growing frequency of migraines. Despite this, his work never showed signs of it. Also, while in Kiev, he began a lifelong fascination with creating images akin to classic Russian folktales. More importantly, however, Kiev was the place in which Vrubel saw Anton Rubenstein’s opera The Demon for the first time, giving him his initial inspiration for the subject that would be a constant throughout his artistic career.

Alrighty then! Not far to search for indication of excess in his nature - Neptune (creativity and potential for addiction) conjunct Jupiter (excess) 8 degrees from natal Sun (self), all in Pisces ruled by Neptune. Potential for trouble comes via a square angle from Saturn in Gemini to these planets.

Mercury and Venus conjunct in Aquarius and in trine to Saturn were, possibly, redeeming features preventing Vrubel's immediate complete slide into darkness and incompetency. In fact, there's a Grand Trine -in Air (mental acuity)- a harmonious circuit linking Venus to Saturn and Mars.

A Yod (Finger of Fate) links the sextile between Saturn/Jupiter and Uranus, by two 150 degree angles to Mars, again, I think, drawing in a little Airy balance to the somewhat extreme and unexpected facets of his nature.

In the end, though, it would seem his penchant for excess eventually overcame the rest, leading to a too early demise.

Chiron ("The Wounded Healer") was in exact and challenging square aspect to Pluto (death and darkness)at Vrubel's birth; this could be seen as a link his frequent painting of demons used as somewhat of a healing aid.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Another Broken Reed ~ Rachel Maddow

She ain't kidding - and in more ways than one!

From investigative journalist Robert Parry's excellent piece:
When ‘Disinformation’ Is Truth, yesterday. It begins:
The anti-Russian McCarthyism that has spread out from the United States to encompass the European Union, Canada and Australia has at its core an implicit recognition that neoliberal economics and neoconservative foreign policy have failed.

Later in the piece, under section heading New McCarthyism and Maddow:
But it appears now that many liberals and even progressives are so blinded by their hatred of Trump that they haven’t thought through the wisdom of their new alliance with the neocons — or the fairness of smearing fellow Americans as “Putin apologists.”

Meanwhile, mainstream news organizations have abandoned even the pretense of professional objectivity in their propagandistic approach toward anything related to Russia or Trump. For instance, I would defy anyone reading The New York Times’ coverage of Russia to assess it as fair and balanced when it is clearly snarky and sneering.

It also turns out that this New McCarthyism has become profitable for its leading practitioners. The New York Times reported on Monday that the ratings for MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow are soaring with her frequent anti-Russian rants.

“Now, rattled liberals are surging back [to network television], seeking catharsis, solidarity and relief,” the Times wrote, citing a Kentucky woman explaining why she has become a devotee of Maddow: “She’s always talking about the Russians!”

Frankly, for the past dozen years, I’ve wondered about Maddow. I first heard her on the radio in August 2005 when she was a summer fill-in at Air America reporting on President George W. Bush’s Katrina fiasco, which she partly blamed on the deployment of Louisiana National Guard units to Iraq, so they couldn’t help evacuate flooded New Orleans.

It was clear that Maddow was talented and her excoriation of the Iraq War was on point, although – by summer 2005 – it didn’t require a huge amount of journalistic courage to slam Bush over the Iraq War. As I watched her career rise through a regular Air America gig to her show on MSNBC and then to stardom as an anchor on the network’s election coverage, I always wondered whether she would put her lucrative corporate acceptance at risk and go against the grain at a tough journalistic moment.

Now, Maddow’s behavior in becoming a modern-day mainstream-media Joe McCarthy has put my doubts to rest. She is riding high in the ratings by keeping her whip hand coming down hard on the bash-Russia steed. She is putting her career or her politics ahead of journalism.

Like so many other Democrat/liberal/neocon activists, Maddow not only ignores the evidentiary gaps in the Russia-did-it conspiracy theory but she seems oblivious to the dangers of her opportunism. By stirring up this McCarthyistic frenzy, she and her “never-Trump” allies make a rational policy toward nuclear-armed Russia nearly impossible. Thus, she is contributing to the real risk of a hot war with Russia that could lead to the annihilation of life on the planet.

So Ms Maddow, in my estimation too, has traced a downward spiral since 2008, when I wrote, still somewhat starry eyed:

Rachel Maddow: One For The Future? (9 Sep. 2008)

I wonder who'll be on the political scene in the USA around 10 years from now, say for the elections in 2016 and 2020? One name in the future's political headlines which wouldn't surprise me a bit would be Rachel Maddow. She's 35 now, in ten years she'll be just about the right age to run as a presidential candidate, or be chosen as VP, having perhaps done a stint in the House or Senate in intervening years.

Rachel's new TV show, which has all the hallmarks of being "the one to watch" for those keen on politics, was aired for the first time last night. She has been seen fairly regularly on MSNBC all year, doing pundit duty along with Olbermann, Matthews, Buchanan and the rest, as well as presenting a regular radio show on Air America. She strikes me as the type of person for whom US politics is crying out. She oozes confidence, speaks and debates with a no nonsense clarity, clear grasp of issues, but never loses her calm, friendly approach.
After astrological meanderings on her natal chart:
It'll be interesting to watch Rachel Maddow's progress from here on.

However, by June 2012 I wrote in a post HERE:
I no longer watch MSNBC (bad for my BP!) In the days when I did watch, when Rachel Maddow's show first aired, in 2008, I wrote a post about her and her natal chart. That was before the political scales dropped from my eyes. I still enjoy hearing Rachel speak when interviewed outside of her show, but feel now much as Nick Gillespie indicated. He accused Maddow and Maher of being partisan. Well DUH!! They are. Maher gave President Obama's campaign fund $1 million cheque recently. In Maddow's professional eyes Democrats and President Obama can do no wrong. We have no means of knowing how she really feels....................................................Talking heads - all of them, including Bill Maher, Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert as well as the MSNBC and Fox crowd are there to serve a single purpose - support for the two political establishments in the USA, to keep the controversy going, keep the country divided.

Broken reeds - so many of 'em to left and to right, so many I used to admire, but now see the error of my starry-eyed ways!

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Calling (the other) Saul

Some writers and commentators who lean right-ward politically used to offer it as A Bad Thing that former President Obama and once Wannabe President Hillary Clinton were, in their youth inspired and influenced by the views and writings of Saul Alinsky. From what I've gleaned about Alinsky's views, I see it as a great pity that Clinton and Obama weren't more deeply influenced by them than appeared to be the case.

When I read about US radicals of yesteryear: John Reed, Abbie Hoffman and Alinsky, I'm inwardly yelling, "Where are their counterparts now, when this country, soured by the greed of corporations, badly in need of a fresh direction, needs 'em?"

From Who2Biographies

Tough, pragmatic and a lover of humanity, Saul Alinsky pioneered a method of helping poor and working-class people organize themselves to improve their communities. Combining urban social theories he had learned at the University of Chicago with street smarts he had earned growing up in that city's Jewish ghetto, Alinsky first worked in prisons and as a juvenile delinquency researcher. Then, starting in crime-ridden Chicago neighborhoods in the late 1930s, he helped unions, churches and other social groups unite and win everything from jobs to streetlights and garbage collection. He would immerse himself in the neighborhood, listen to ordinary people's troubles and needs, assess where power lay, and empower previously divided groups to seek common goals by standing up to government and corporate machines. With financial backing from department-store heir Marshall Field III, he established the Industrial Areas Foundation, which helped him extend his work to several U.S. cities. He had little patience for militants, Communists or dreamy liberals, saying he was a community organizer because he believed in American democracy and because "I can't stand to see people pushed around."

The idea that Alinsky is a huge influence on the left, or has ever been so, is a myth of the right-wing media, a talking point for the masses who chatter in their sleep, a ploy to keep the country's armchair politicians busy and divided on yet another front, while those really in charge get on with filling their coffers.

Lordy lordy! If only former Democratic presidents had followed Alinsky's teachings there wouldn't be hungry children collecting sachets of tomato ketchup to take home, add water and make soup as something to eat when there's no food in the house; or families in bankruptcy due to a hospital bill, or without a family member because they couldn't afford to buy sufficient treatment and medication. Ye flippin' gods!!!!! This country can be as cold-hearted as any envisioned by Orwell or Bradbury.

Where are today's equivalent of US radicals of yesteryear: John Reed, Abbie Hoffman and Alinsky ?

A look at Saul Alinsky's natal chart. He was born in Chicago on 30 January 1909. I can find no time of birth for him so a 12 noon chart has to suffice. Rising sign and Moon degree will not be accurate.

Now here's a chart that fits like a glove! Sun and Mercury in intellectually-driven Aquarius; but more significant is rebellious, revolutionary Uranus tightly conjunct Venus, in pragmatic Capricorn.

Natal Sun sextiles business-like Saturn in go-getting Aries on one side and energetic Mars in expansive Sagittarius on the other.

Unless born in the very first minutes of 30 January Moon would have been in communicative Gemini, somewhere between 1 and 12 degrees, and quite likely in harmonious trine to his Aquarius Sun.

I'd say that little lot is a recipe for exactly what manifested in Saul Alinsky.

The following exchange came towards the end of an interview with Alinsky published in Playboy magazine in 1972 (link to its full content is now defunct).

PLAYBOY: You seem optimistic. But most radicals and some liberals have expressed fear that we're heading into a new era of repression and privacy invasion. Are their fears exaggerated, or is there a real danger of America becoming a police state?

ALINSKY: Of course there's that danger, as this whole national fetish for law and order indicates. But the thing to do isn't to succumb to despair and just sit in a corner wailing, but to go out and fight those fascist trends and build a mass constituency that will support progressive causes. Otherwise all your moaning about a police state will just be a self-fulfilling prophecy. That's one of the reasons I'm directing all my efforts today to organizing the middle class, because that's the arena where the future of this country will be decided. And I'm convinced that once the middle class recognizes its real enemy -- the megacorporations that control the country and pull the strings on puppets like Nixon and Connally -- it will mobilize as one of the most effective instruments for social change this country has ever known. And once mobilized, it will be natural for it to seek out allies among the other disenfranchised -- blacks, chicanos, poor whites.

It's to that cause I plan to devote the remaining years of my life. It won't be easy, but we can win. No matter how bad things may look at a given time, you can't ever give up. We're living in one of the most exciting periods of human history, when new hopes and dreams are crystallizing even as the old certainties and values are dissolving. It's a time of great danger, but also of tremendous potential. My own hopes and dreams still burn as brightly in 1972 as they did in 1942.
Saul Alinsky died a few months after the interview, on June 12, 1972. I can't help but wonder what would be his thoughts on our situation in 2017.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Music Monday & Mapping

Weather, immigration, history, earthquakes - mapped and animated for your delight; then a tune!

A different kind of weather map

Immigration history map

The map as history

Earthquake map - past 15 years

Music Monday's mapping song is by Mark Knopfler, telling of Mr. Mason and Mr. Dixon - famous mappers of that long ago "Line":

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Saturday & Sundry Thoughts about Downton Abbey

As evidenced by my post of January 2011, Downton Abbey - Julian Fellowes, we watched an episode or two of Downton Abbey when first shown on PBS in the USA. I was not unduly impressed back then, gave the show a wide berth thereafter. When I noticed it now available via Amazon Prime, and having exhausted many other choices of binge-worthy TV series there, and on Netflix, we decided to give Downton another chance.

Perhaps I've mellowed some since 2011. On this sampling I'm enjoying the series, if still feeling a tad scratchy about it in places. After many nightly binges of 2 or 3 episodes a time we've finished season 4 already!

Wikipedia's page on the show has all manner of interesting detail. Among the information there's mention of complaints levelled at various aspects of the production: anti-Irish allegations, anti-Catholicism and some lack of general authenticity. As to the Irish and Catholic issues, I can understand where complainants were coming from, but when depicting a specific period, I guess it's not always possible to be both authentic and politically correct to standards often expected now. As to general authenticity, though, I agree with this:
Fellowes tries to be as authentic in his depiction of the period as he can. Despite this, the show features many linguistic anachronisms. The accents of characters have also been questioned with the Received Pronunciation of the actors who play the wealthy characters described as "slightly more contemporary" than would be expected among early-20th-century aristocrats, however, this "elicited more natural and unaffected performances from the cast."
The servants' accents are reasonably accurate for north of England in general. These servants are not necessarily native of Dowton's surrounding area. I often find, in TV drama, that Yorkshire accents tend to be drawn as from West Yorkshire, a quite different accent from East and North Yorkshire, but I suppose it takes a native to detect the subtle differences. In the USA, I think British accents are heard as all more or less the same: just "English".

The aristocrats in Downton Abbey are smoothed and sweetened versions of the real thing, essentially made palatable for the TV viewers - pleasant enough that their evening glass of ale and fish and chips would not have to be spluttered over. Even Lady Violet, played by the wonderful Maggie Smith, supposedly a class-ridden virago of the first water, is given a warm twinkle to go with her only mildly offensive one-liners.
I commented to my husband while enjoying one of Violet's acerbic exchanges, "I want to be like her!" His response: "But you are dear, you are!"

My main complaint is that, though Downton Abbey and a large part of the action outside of it takes place in Yorkshire, not a single real Yorkshire backdrop is used - at least from what I've read so far. How could that possibly be right? Downton Abbey is supposed to be in North Yorkshire, near to Ripon, Thirsk and York. There's much wonderful scenery in that area, lots of beautiful old towns and villages, numerous grand estates. But no - the writer and producer chose to use houses and backgrounds in the south of England! If that was his plan, or if that became a necessity for whatever reason, why not set the story in the south? I feel particularly miffed about this, being a Yorkshire gal by birth, more especially because many of my own ancestors came from that very area of Yorkshire; most of 'em were servants and labourers to the area's landed gentry and aristocrats, not far removed from Downton's Crawleys. For instance, my maternal great grandfather was a groom at Burton Agnes Hall in East Yorkshire - a beautiful grand old stately home, much older than that used to depict Downton Abbey.

We shall soldier on with the Crawleys and their pals, as far as Amazon Prime allows. Having trudged through World War I, numerous beginnings and endings, lives, loves, adventures and deaths, we've now reached the point, in the mid-1920s, where some aristocrats are losing their palatial homes and brigades of servants - an eventuality bound to put a smile on this particular viewing virago's face!