Thursday, August 31, 2017


John Steinbeck, from A Russian Journal (1948), written in the cold war era but likely still relevant:
“It seems to us that one of the deepest divisions between the Russians and the Americans or British, is in their feeling toward their governments. The Russians are taught, and trained, and encouraged to believe that their government is good, that every part of it is good, and that their job is to carry it forward, to back it up in all ways. On the other hand, the deep emotional feeling among Americans and British is that all government is somehow dangerous, that there should be as little government as possible, that any increase in the power of government is bad, and that existing government must be watched constantly, watched and criticized to keep it sharp and on its toes.”
Whatever current political attitudes of the everyday Russian-in-the-street may be, we're all the same, at core - really we are - even when out shopping and taken by surprise...look -

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Too Many of Us ? What's to be done?

Overpopulation - of planet Earth: a delicate, yet important, subject. Articles pushing the need for population control are persuasive, but without much searching, an article dismissing those needs can be found. I have to remain a don't know on this issue, though I do lean towards voluntary control of family size. In truth, nobody knows for sure how the matter of overpopulation will develop; in known history, on an Earth-wide scale, overpopulation hasn't happened before. In extremity, would nature itself step in? I do wonder!
Sir David Attenborough, naturalist (born 1926):
“The human population can no longer be allowed to grow in the same old uncontrolled way. If we do not take charge of our population size, then nature will do it for us.”
It makes sense that couples ought to voluntarily limit the size of their families, for numerous reasons, and not only environmental. This has happened in recent history already, without regulation being needed. Families of 10 or more were not uncommon a century or so ago. Life spans were considerably shorter then, even for those who survived childbirth, childhood diseases, and went on to live a reasonably healthy life. My father's parents brought forth 10 children, but none of those ten have parented more than two offspring apiece. As a very loose pattern I'd guess broadly similar applies generally, both in the UK and in the USA ( excluding families whose religion dictates life choices).

Also, on this topic, an archived post from 2012:
Every Sperm is Sacred - or so they say.

Overpopulation is a concern oft approached by writers of dystopian speculative fiction, and film makers of that ilk. We watched one such movie, via Netlix last week :
What Happened to Monday? In that movie, set in the year 2073, the world is in turmoil, a Child Alloocation Act dictates and enforces (without pity, and with Gestapo-style tactics) a one child per family mandate. Any surplus children are rounded up to be (euphemistically)"cryogenically frozen until overpopulation is solved"...for "frozen" read the opposite! Glenn Close plays the evil leader in charge of all this unpleasantness.

What Happened to Monday proved to be something of a collage of ideas already used in several other movies in the dystopian genre. This movie's trade mark, though, is somewhat shared with a TV series, Orphan Black, in that one actress, in this film Noomi Rapace, plays several different personalities of identical physical appearance. She plays seven siblings, septuplets born during a spate of multiple births thought brought about by various environmental or food-related factors. The seven girls' grandfather has named them after days of the week - Monday is girl number one, and she goes missing.

I found the movie interesting, but suspension of disbelief was severely taxed, particularly in the premise that, in order to protect themselves, the seven girls could act as if they were the same person, while undertaking the same employment, one day at a time. Passing on necessary information on work and relationship issues, by word of mouth, to one another each evening. In my view that was just, well, silly - far beyond belief that such a plan could be workable.

Afterwards, I got to remembering a couple of other overpopulation tales in film. First to come to mind, one from the 1970s Logan's Run (my blog post here is relevant). That film could sorely use a good re-make! In the year 2274, the remnants of human civilization live in a sealed city contained beneath a cluster of geodesic domes, a utopia run by a computer that takes care of all aspects of their life, including reproduction. The citizens live a hedonistic life but, to maintain the city, at age 30 all must undergo a ritual, when they are "renewed" a.k.a. vaporized. Population size and consumption of resources are maintained by killing everyone who reaches age 30.

Also from the 1970s, Soylent Green, set in 2022 (today that's just around the corner!) Dying oceans and year-round humidity due to the greenhouse effect, result in suffering from pollution, poverty, overpopulation, euthanasia and depleted resources. 40 million people live in New York City; housing is dilapidated; homeless people fill the streets; many are unemployed; those few with jobs are only barely scraping by and food and working technology are scarce with most of the population surviving on rations produced by the Soylent Corporation. Their latest product is Soylent Green, a green wafer advertised to contain "high-energy plankton" from the World Ocean, more nutritious and palatable than its predecessors "Red" and "Yellow" but in short supply. Most passing readers will know the true content of the green wafer!

There's also The Thinning (2016) I've yet to see this one. Synopsis tells that in the year 2039, Earth's resources are nearly depleted by overpopulation, so the United Nations declares that all nations must cut their population by 5% each year. While some countries remove their elderly, others enforce a one-child policy. The United States implements a policy known as 10-241 or the "Thinning", a standardized test taken from first grade to twelfth grade. Those who pass continue to the next grade, while those who fail are executed. This film's story is set in Austin, Texas.

Margaret Atwood, novelist (born 1939):
“The world is finite. For everybody in the world to have the same lifestyle that we [in the West] have now, at only six billion people, would take four additional Earths [in resources].”

Monday, August 28, 2017

Music Monday ~ The Poet and Janis

Patricia Spears Jones, African American award-winning poet, born in Arkansas in 1951, has lived most of her adult life in
New York. One of her poems:

Swimming to America—Half-moon Sky

Esther Louise and I were talking about Janis Joplin. We were talking about
how Janis Joplin sang as if she found a pain so wide it wounded her.
She sang loud and harsh. But the wound was big. The wound would not heal.
She sang as if nothing nothing could cauterize that wound.
She sang as if only only she knew the way to heal this wound was to burn.
Daily dousing flames from her mouth. Daily striking matches to her mouth.
She sang as if the only only way she could make her face
remove every trace of plainness was to burn burn burn.
She sang so hard and long and loud she came as close as she could
to the pain of those songs made in boxcars, juke joints
outside vaudeville tents home to deviants degenerates and the generous
family of hustlers, some of them women torched by the freedom of the road.
Oh yes, Esther Louise said, “that white girl can sing the blues.”
Janis sang as if only only she could sweep away dry Texas air and burn
out like a nova leaving traces of wild hair, Indian bracelets all the
way up her arm. Her neck wrapped in layers of beads from Persia,
beads from Navaho land, beads from West Africa.
When I first saw Ntozake Shange, I thought, Janis Joplin.

From Bomb Magazine.

Link to the poet's own website:

I felt sure I'd written a post about Janis Joplin, with astrology, but if so it has sunk without trace, wrongly tagged perhaps, in the archives. Janis was mentioned in a post I wrote after husband and I had visited his younger daughter and grand daughter in Austin, Texas, years ago - that one is HERE.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Saturday & Sundry Moments from The Week That Was - French Style

Gallic-flavoured momentary discomforts: the qu'ils mangent de la brioche: "let them eat cake!" moment, combined with a mauvais quart d’heure, (as well as having fifteen minutes of fame, one can also have a “bad quarter of an hour” — a brief but embarrassing, upsetting, or demoralizing experience) - this week's related shaming award goes to Louise Linton, labels-loving wife of Steven Mnuchin, US Treasury Secretary. She replied condescendingly to an Instagram poster about her lifestyle and belittled the woman, Jenni Miller, a mother of three from Portland, Oregon for having less money than she does. Thereafter Twitter and the rest of the net did what they do best (or worst depending on one's viewpoint).
BUT... what would Madame Defarge have done?

Our plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose moment (the more things change, the more they stay the same) came with President Trump's speech on 22 August : more troops to Afghanistan.

Blackwater founder says Trump's Afghanistan plan is 'Obama-lite'
By Ellen Mitchell

Linked to that is our après moi, le déluge moment: “after me, the flood.”

Stephen Bannon was removed, one way or another, from the White House -

After Bannon, Do Hawks Rule the Roost? By Miles Mogulescu
Without Bannon’s strategic guidance, it’s likely that Trump wouldn’t be President. There’s a special place in hell for that.
But there was another side to Bannon that has been lost in the turmoil over his departure from the White House. The New York Times characterized him as the White House’s “resident dove. From Afghanistan and North Korea to Syria and Venezuela, Mr. Bannon… has argued against making military threats or deploying American troops into foreign conflicts.”

Loosely linked also - another recent exit from The White House: that of Anthony Scaramucci, he of the colourful language and tale-telling proclivity. Sadly we lost him before he could delight us further. This was, no doubt at all, our
pour encourager les autres moment. “So as to encourage the others”— that's the straight translation, but this actually, and obtusely, refers to an action carried out to discourage any future episodes of similar behaviour, unhelpful to The Powers That Be.

Lastly, not an actual moment but a famous (in Britain) French phrase, seldom uttered, often seen as legend on isignia: honi soit qui mal y pense - "shame on him who thinks badly of it". In English, used to discourage preemptively or unjustly talking something down. Dates from the early Middle Ages. Tongue in cheek cartoon (at right) could represent a imagined recent honi soit moment for Queen Elizabeth II.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Arty Farty Friday ~ Dorothea Tanning, artist & writer.

Dorothea Tanning, American surrealist painter, print-maker, sculptor, writer, and poet. She was born on this day in 1910, died in 2012, aged 101.

She certainly had a way with words, as well as paint! This sample of her writing from an article/interview HERE:
Now the doors are all open, the air is mother-of-pearl, and you know the way to tame a tiger. It will not elude you today for you have grabbed a brush, you have dipped it almost at random, so high is your rage, into the amalgam of color, formless on a docile palette.

As you drag lines like ropes across one brink of reality after another, annihilating the world you made yesterday and hated today, a new world heaves into sight. Again, the event progresses without the benefit of hours.

The application of color to a support, something to talk about when it’s all over, now holds you in thrall. The act is your accomplice. So are the tools, beakers, bottles, knives, glues, solubles, insolubles, tubes, plasters, cans; there is no end ...
(Dorothea Tanning)
I considered this the best presented YouTube video featuring Ms Tanning's work. Titles of her paintings are included, making it easy for interested viewers to easily search for a larger version of any which particularly attracts them.

Extracted from one of the many obituaries available online this from The Telegraph:
Dorothea Tanning was born on August 25 1910 to Swedish immigrants who had made their home at Galesburg, Illinois. At the age of five she developed a gift for weeping while reciting tragic poetry, leading her mother to hope that she might make a career on the stage. Two years later, however, she had made up her mind to become an artist.

In her autobiography she recalled that her devout Lutheran parents had been alarmed by a perverse bohemian streak that first manifested itself when, as a child, she always lusted after the villain in Westerns. Aged 15, despite never having heard of Surrealism, she horrified her family by painting a naked woman with leaves for hair.

She left home at 20 and moved to Chicago where, after dropping out of art school, she worked as an artist’s model, an illustrator, and a marionnettist at the World’s Fair, and claimed to have dated a gangster who was called away and murdered while she waited at the bar.

In 1936 she moved to New York, where she supported herself by working as an illustrator. The same year she visited an exhibition of Fantastic Art, Dada and Surrealism at the Museum of Modern Art: “I thought, Gosh! I can go ahead and do what I’ve always been doing,” she recalled.

In 1939 she travelled to Paris, armed with letters of introduction to several prominent artists, Ernst among them, but found that most had fled the city, which was on the brink of war. After a short spell with her father’s family in neutral Sweden, she returned to New York on the last boat.

After 31 Women, Dorothea Tanning had her first solo exhibition in 1944, at the Julien Levy Gallery in New York. By then she and Ernst were living at Sedona, where they confronted lizards, scorpions and snakes and played host to a bohemian cast of visitors including George Balanchine (for whom she would design ballet sets and costumes), Henri Cartier-Bresson, Marcel Duchamp, Truman Capote and Dylan Thomas.

To escape McCarthy era restrictions, they moved to France in 1957, ultimately settling at Seillans, a hilltop village in Provence, in a house designed by Dorothea. During the 1960s and 1970s her work was exhibited regularly at galleries in America and Europe. It was in France, too, where she “lived a lot in my own language”, that she developed her writing skills as a “way of talking”. She and her husband never discussed art, she claimed — “We just had fun.” Unlike some critics, Ernst always allowed her independence, never referring to her as “my wife” but always as Dorothea Tanning.

After his death she returned, in 1979, to New York. Alongside her writing, and following a stroke in the mid-1990s, she embarked on a series of 12 flower paintings – lush, dark works which were subsequently collected in a book entitled Another Language of Flowers.

Just one example of her painting:

 Palaestra = (in ancient Greece and Rome) a wrestling school or gymnasium.


Born on 25 August 1910 in Galesburg, Illinois. No time of birth known. Chart set for noon.

A scant few points, because lack of birth time leaves rising sign unknown as well as exact Moon position. I suspect her rising sign might light up the whole picture and bring it more into focus.

I do see her writing talent: three planets in Mercury-ruled Virgo, one at the beginning of that sign, one mid-sign and one in the last degrees of the sign: Sun Mars and Mercury respectively. Natal Mercury links to Uranus (planet of the unusual and unexpected) by harmonious trine (120 degrees) which probably explains the drive to surrealism in her painting. She has the generational opposition of Uranus-Neptune, so with personal planet Mercury in trine to Uranus that draws in the Uranus/Neptune eccentricities of dreamlike imagination. Ideally I'd have expected Venus, planet of the arts to have been hooked up to that in some way, but not so. Venus is in Leo - maybe that Venu/Leo flavour harks back to her early indication of possessing some acting talent (mentioned in the clip above).

Natal Moon at noon was at 7 Taurus - ruled by Venus, but I guess (not sure about this) there's an outside chance that Moon could have been in the very last minutes of the last degree of Aries, if her birth time had been extremely early. At noon natal Moon was uncomfortably close to Saturn, which didn't feel right to me, from the impression I've gleaned of this lady.

Underlining, again, her writing talent I'll finish with one of her poems Are You? This opens her poetry collection A Table of Content (2004), and is a.... profound statement about identity and self-reliance. This comes from an obituary in The Guardian.

If an expatriate is, as I believe, someone
who never forgets for an instant
being one,
then, no.
But, if knowing that you always
tote your country around
with you, your roots,
a lump
… that being elsewhere packs a vertigo,
a tightrope side you cannot
pass up, another way
to show
how not to break your pretty neck
falling on skylights:
… then, yes.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Who is Robert Mercer ?

Robert Mercer? Who's he? He hadn't entered my mental card index until a few days ago. Seems he's been one of the shadowy figures lurking behind The Donald, The Bannon; and with sticky fingers in The Brexit too; reputed to be on the edge of billionaire-dom, and a longtime computer whiz. A whirl around the net's back alleys threw up some detail. From a fellow-blogger:

Robert Mercer, Cambridge Analytica, and Why It All Matters
by Robert Selth at his blog Sea Wolf.

First paragraph:
Over the past several months, a series of three articles by a journalist named Carole Cadwalladr have appeared in the Guardian. These articles detail the connections between the US billionaire Robert Mercer (now notorious as the money behind Trump), the data firm Cambridge Analytica (which he owns), and a vast, extraordinary campaign of psychological profiling and manipulation, conducted over the internet, and intended to alter beliefs and voting behaviour on a massive scale. The articles touch on a remarkable range of problems and questions, from the probability of large-scale intervention in the Brexit referendum and 2016 American election by a small nexus of reactionary individuals centred around Mercer, to the landscape of international cyberwarfare and how cutting-edge technology is evidently being used to sway elections in unprecedented and frightening ways.

Yikes! Big big money is one thing but "psychological profiling and manipulation"? Up with that we should not put - not ever!

 Click on image for clearer view

There's lots of stuff around the internet about Mercer and his doings. I looked for specific information on his personality, as seen by those who know him. Here are some snippets I gleaned:

He's a man of few words.
The Guardian called Mercer "brilliant but reclusive." Newsweek's headline declared him "mysterious." Bloomberg: "Secretive." You get the idea. In a 2010 book, Mercer referenced a 40-minute speech he gave and said it was "more than I typically talk in a month." That same year he told the Wall Street Journal, "I'm happy going through my life without saying anything to anybody."

One source told the New Yorker that Robert believes “human beings have no inherent value other than how much money they make. A cat has value, he’s said, because it provides pleasure to humans. But if someone is on welfare they have negative value. If he earns a thousand times more than a schoolteacher, then he’s a thousand times more valuable.”
Robert has also been described by people who know him as brilliant, but also weird. Apparently one of his favorite things to do is walk around and whistle, and the same source told the New Yorker, “He can barely look you in the eye when he talks.” (HERE)

His personality is very interesting. Mercer is the co-C.E.O. of Renaissance Technologies, which is among the most profitable hedge funds in the country. A brilliant computer scientist, he helped transform the financial industry through the innovative use of trading algorithms. But he has said little about his political views.

Through a spokesman, Mercer declined to discuss his role in launching Trump. People who know him say that he is painfully awkward socially, and rarely speaks. “He can barely look you in the eye when he talks,” an acquaintance said. “It’s probably helpful to be highly introverted when getting lost in code, but in politics you have to talk to people, in order to find out how the real world works.” In 2010, when the Wall Street Journal wrote about Mercer assuming a top role at Renaissance, he issued a terse statement: “I’m happy going through my life without saying anything to anybody.” According to the paper, he once told a colleague that he preferred the company of cats to humans.

He seems like he has Asperger's syndrome, a.k.a. high-functioning autism.

According to another former employee, RM also apparently believes that the nuclear bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki made Japanese people away from the blast zones healthier.

RM also supported Jeff Sessions as Attorney General, and he claimed that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was a big mistake. That employee claims that RB believed that black people were better off before that act, and also that there are now no white racists in the US, only black racists.

NP also recalls clashes with RM about climate change -- RM does not believe that it is real, and that if it is real, it would be beneficient.

Unpleasant, bordering on repulsive then!

A little astrology:

Data from Astrodatabank: Born 11 July 1946 in San Jose California at 4.25 AM

Sun and ascendant in Cancer - and Saturn too! I need look no further to discover how such an an obscenely wealthy and technologically brilliant guy is seen as reclusive and introverted. Cancer - symbolic crab of the zodiac - values, above all, the protection and isolation afforded by its shell. Ultra sensitive, cautious and quite oddly and unnecessarily shy, there is no way someone with Sun and rising sign in Cancer would ever be an ebullient extrovert. Show me one and I'll take that back! Mercury in Leo might have helped Mercer overcome addiction to his shell but Mercury in his case is conjunct Pluto, planet of (among other things) secrecy, darkness, control - even, possibly, manipulation.

Mercer's natal Moon is in Sagittarius - his emotional core is quite different from his outer nature. His family and closest friends would likely have a different take on his personality, having felt benefit of the warmth and joviality of Jupiter-ruled Sagittarius.

There's what astrologers call a T-square in Mercer's chart: two challenging square angles linking to an opposition, forming a triangle. Here we have the opposition from Sagittarius Moon to the conjunction in Gemini, with squares from both to Mars in Virgo. First interpretation of this coming to my mind is a kind of echo of the contrast between Mercer's Sun and Moon. The Airy and warm sides of his nature constantly challenged, held in check, by Mars (energy, aggression) in critical, down to Earth Virgo.

What about Mercer's technological brilliance ? We look to astrological Air (mental acuity) for that, and find his North node of the Moon conjunct Uranus in Airy Gemini; Jupiter also in Air, in Libra, links to the Gemini emphasis via harmonious 120 degree trine aspect. There lie his credentials as technological virtuoso.

It all fits - as does the overall "shape" of planets in his chart: all planets are grouped within just half of the zodiac circle. Astrologers call this a "bowl" shape. Astrologer Bob Marks interprets thus:
When one half [of the zodiac circle] is empty, it seems to give painful recognition that something is missing, that there is an area of existence from which they are excluded, and the entire life may be spent trying to fill that void. This is why those with Bowl horoscopes frequently seem to be on a mission. And they do have a tendency to get involved in causes.
Whatever the causes driving Mr Mercer, I'll wager they're never for the good of The Great Unwashed - to the absolute contrary in fact!

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

White Nationalism ~ "the primal fault"

A quote from one of the better diatribes I've read during the past few days, on the issue of racism, white supremacy etc. It comes from Stonewalling Washington: Trump pushes leftist view of US racism further than Obama or Clinton, by Ramin Mazaheri at
The Saker blog.

"For true leftists – I don’t see how Trump’s comments can’t be seen as a major positive! The idea that Trump is fomenting White Nationalism in America is like being worried about rain falling in the ocean."
Those words immediately brought to mind lines from a favourite poem by
A.E. Housman: Stars, I have seen them fall:
The toil of all that be
Helps not the primal fault;
It rains into the sea,
And still the sea is salt.

The piece by Ramin Mazaheri begins:
I feel sorry for Americans – they have such lousy leaders they feel compelled to defend.

I don’t mean Trump or Obama or Clinton or even JFK – I mean George Washington.

It’s really gotta be a blow to the national pride when Americans have to admit, if only to themselves: “Trump makes a fair point: the father of our country, George Washington, was a slave-owning bastard, just like Confederate leaders Stonewall Jackson and Robert E. Lee.”

LOL, Trump deserves some sort of leftist medal: “Unwitting Service to the Advance of Leftism Despite Overwhelming Idiocy,” or something, because his recent statement has done more to push a truly leftist analysis of American history than anyone could have hoped.

Racist, imperialist, bourgeois, repressive, anti-worker, pre-modern…this describes all of the US leaders Trump mentioned. A true leftist must be a wall of stone on this point, so…kudos to Trump, no?
Please, do go read the full piece.

In July of 2012 I blogged about a little-known Canadian film, adaptation of a stage play by playwright David Gow : Steel Toes. I titled my post HATRED "the madness of the heart (words borrowed from Lord Byron). The film's content in August 2017, five years later, is relevant to current issues. I'd bought the DVD of Steel Toes during my search for films in which a favourite actor of mine, David Strathairn, had appeared.

In Steel Toes , set in Montreal, but would be equally relevant in any location, anywhere in the world, a liberal Jewish lawyer, Danny Dunckelman (David Strathairn) is appointed to represent a white supremacist, neo-nazi skinhead, Michael Downey (Andrew Walker). Downey is on trial for the racially motivated attack and murder of an East Indian immigrant.

There could be no clearer illustration of what hatreds can lead to than the first, barely watchable, scene of this film. Downey, crazed by hatred kicks to the edge of death - wearing steel-toed Doc Marten boots - an Indian cook, who has accidentally splashed Downey's clothing when throwing out some liquid.

90 minutes of dense and intense dialogue take viewers through opposing mindsets, beliefs and embedded hatreds of the skinhead and the lawyer. The lawyer, professionally bound to defend this man whose beliefs he finds alien and despicable, needs to delve deep into his own background and the teachings of his father, to face his own dormant hatred before he can begin to find a way to assist the neo-nazi to understand, and come to terms with, his own emotional excesses.

The lawyer understands, and tries continually to explain in some way to Downey, that the struggle against evil is primarily an internal one. Downey's failure and downfall was to externalize his struggle and inner fears by identifying specific scapegoats. Immigrants, for him, were The Enemy of "besieged" white men. Taking a broader view, outside of the film's scenario, instead of (or as well as) immigrants, targets could have been gays, any non-white people, or conversely from a "black" point of view any white people, muslims, the 1% (I must watch myself!), political right-wingers, left-wingers, women, men.....the beat of hatreds, both deep and shallow, goes on.

Strathairn and Walker give exemplary performances in what must have been seriously difficult roles for both: Strathairn isn't Jewish, and Walker, in real life, is worlds away from the skinhead neo-nazi mentality. The actors needed to acquire in depth insights into the beliefs of the film's two central characters. In interview at the end of the film David Strathairn explained that he, though not Jewish, had attended Temple and read parts of the Torah in preparation for the role.

Before the injured man died in hospital from internal bleeding he had made a statement, written for him by his wife, detailing his loss of sight, inability to walk or sit resulting form the brutal beating he received from Downey, but offering Downey compassion and forgiveness. Dunckelman repeatedly makes Downey read this document aloud until a change occurs and crazed hatred and anger begin to subside.

The film will long remain in my memory, especially lawyer Danny Dunckelman's words in the last scene of all as he examines his father's prayer shawl (Wiki has the proper term for this shawl = a tallit). I recalled a phrase used by the commenter I had quoted earlier in the post: "....our social fabric is frayed..." Danny Dunckelman says, echoing earlier meditations (and I admit to not really understanding the words, but still finding them beautiful) :
These seven threads comprise a cloth: spirit, light, time, space, birth, death, and the seventh thread, which is the mystery of the universe. This seventh thread is also the opposite of spirit, the opposite of light, the opposite of time, the opposite of space, the opposite of birth, the opposite of death. The seven threaded dimensional cloth, which is the very fabric of the unnameable. The fabric extending out from any point of our universe. This movement, this animation, this extension in the cloth is the divine dance of eternity.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Eclipses on Music Monday

What journalists have been calling "The Great American Eclipse" will occur today. In Oklahoma we're not in the direct track of the solar eclipse - we're a little too far south, but I think it'll be happening in full sight, at the nearest point to us, at around 1PM.

Eclipses of the Sun are dramatic events, fertile ground for imaginative writers, they have featured in a few novels and movies - Wikipedia has a list. I do recall "A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court": Bing Crosby (playing a time traveller to the past) convinced adversaries of his power by using knowledge of an imminent solar eclipse.

There's another story involving an eclipse of the Sun in Borodin's opera "Prince Igor", set in Russia. The synopsis goes something like this:

The Prince is mobilizing his army against the Polovtsians (a nomadic people) who have been attacking and raiding the Russians' territory and carrying away their people into slavery. There is an eclipse of the Sun, the sky grows dark.

The people see this as a bad omen and plead with Prince Igor to abandon his mission. Igor sees it as an omen - but whether good or bad is yet to be seen. His wife, Yaroslavna, begs him to stay home but he is not persuaded. He must defend his and Russia's honor. Things go badly, Igor's brother plans to depose him in his absence, Igor and his son are taken captive by the Polovtsians. In the end though, Igor escapes and returns to his wife and to defend his city. There's a sub-plot involving his son's love affair with the daughter of the Polovtsian leader.

So....there was bad news, and there was good news, after that eclipse. I understand that Igor's story is based on historical events. See HERE -
"There was apparently opposition to this campaign among members of Igor's retinue. On May 1, 1185, there was an eclipse of the sun, which the Nikonovskaya Chronicle describes: "A Portent. That same year, in the month of May, on the fist day, there was a portent in the sun; it was very dark, and this was for more than an hour, so that the stars could be seen, and to men's eyes it was green, and the sun became as the [crescent] moon, and from its horns flaming fire was emitted; and it was a portent terrible to see and full of horror." Although the Russians interpreted this phenomenon as an evil omen, Igor insisted that the campaign continue, saying, "No one knows the mysteries of God. God is the maker of this sign and of the whole world. And whether that which God does to us is for good or for ill, this too we shall see."

Regarding outcome of the current eclipse, for good, for ill or SNAFU: "this too we shall see".

It's Music Monday, music from Borodin's Prince Igor fits the bill today. First the original, then a slightly more modern variation of part of the piece, as used in the 1953 movie Kismet to form the song Stranger in Paradise.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Saturday and Sundry Words and Things: guayabera, Klein bottle, & woke.

I've learned a few new, to me, words this week: guayabera, Klein bottle, and woke.

Guayabera : I came across this one at The Sartorialist, a daily stop on my wander through the streets and back alleys of the internet. It's a garment once, possibly still, favoured by males living in certain countries.
The origin of the garment is something of a mystery, thought to be the result of a mixture of Native American and Spanish styles, developed in the late 18th or early 19th centuries. Various claims for the distinctive style have been made, from Mexico to other Latin American countries to the Philippines.(Wiki.)

Klein bottle : this one appeared in a comment thread on a political website, context of its metaphorical use, in that instance, would be a little too involved to fully explain here, and in any case I'd probably get myself into political trouble. So, just the words. Wikipedia tell us that:
In mathematics, the Klein bottle is an example of a non-orientable surface; it is a two-dimensional manifold against which a system for determining a normal vector cannot be consistently defined. Informally, it is a one-sided surface which, if traveled upon, could be followed back to the point of origin while flipping the traveler upside down. Other related non-orientable objects include the Möbius strip and the real projective plane. Whereas a Möbius strip is a surface with boundary, a Klein bottle has no boundary (for comparison, a sphere is an orientable surface with no boundary). The Klein bottle was first described in 1882 by the German mathematician Felix Klein.

Picture a bottle with a hole in the bottom. Now extend the neck. Curve the neck back on itself, insert it through the side of the bottle without touching the surface (an act which is impossible in three-dimensional space), and extend the neck down inside the bottle until it joins the hole in the bottom. A true Klein bottle in four dimensions does not intersect itself where it crosses the side.

Unlike a drinking glass, this object has no “rim” where the surface stops abruptly. Unlike a balloon, a fly can go from the outside to the inside without passing through the surface (so there isn’t really an “outside” and “inside”).

More detail HERE.

Clear as mud? It was to me too. This little video might help.

Or, there's this (hat-tip HERE)

A German topologist named Klein
Thought the Mobius Loop was divine
Said he, "If you glue
The edges of two
You get a weird bottle like mine."

My own encounter with the Klein bottle was in a metaphorical sense, for which it has much fertile ground (without boundaries!)

It exemplifies the concept of a merging continuum or union of opposites. The Klein bottle embodies the type of paradox that could be incorporated into language to be able to speak into being a world that works for everyone—us and them, old and young, rich and poor, conservative and liberal, black, white, yellow, and brown—at the same time. For the world to work for all, I propose a linguistic structure based in the notion of both/and.

Woke : It's a word, of course, a common one; but it's being used nowadays as a concept.

A David Brooks' piece in the New York Times a few weeks back:
How Cool Works in America Today

Mr Brooks' article begins:
If you grew up in the 20th century, there’s a decent chance you wanted to be like Miles Davis, Billie Holiday, Humphrey Bogart, Albert Camus, Audrey Hepburn, James Dean or Jimi Hendrix. In their own ways, these people defined cool.

The cool person is stoical, emotionally controlled, never eager or needy, but instead mysterious, detached and self-possessed. The cool person is gracefully competent at something, but doesn’t need the world’s applause to know his worth. That’s because the cool person has found his or her own unique and authentic way of living with nonchalant intensity.

He later continues:
I started to look around to see if there might be another contemporary ethos that has replaced the cool ethos. You could say the hipster ethos you find in, say, Brooklyn qualifies. But that strikes me as less of a cultural movement and more of a consumer aesthetic.

A better candidate is the “woke” ethos. The modern concept of woke began, as far as anybody can tell, with a 2008 song by Erykah Badu.

He expands on "woke" individuals:
The woke mentality became prominent in 2012 and 2013 with the Trayvon Martin case and the rise of Black Lives Matter. Embrace it or not, B.L.M. is the most complete social movement in America today, as a communal, intellectual, moral and political force.

The woke mentality has since been embraced on the populist right, by the conservative “normals” who are disgusted with what they see as the thorough corruption of the Republican and Democratic establishments. See Kurt Schlichter’s Townhall essay “We Must Elect Senator Kid Rock” as an example of right-wing wokedness.

To be woke is to be radically aware and justifiably paranoid. It is to be cognizant of the rot pervading the power structures. The woke manner shares cool’s rebel posture, but it is the opposite of cool in certain respects. Cool was politically detached, but being a social activist is required for being woke. Cool was individualistic, but woke is nationalistic and collectivist. Cool was emotionally reserved; woke is angry, passionate and indignant. Cool was morally ambiguous; woke seeks to establish a clear marker for what is unacceptable.

Postscript: A couple of my own archived posts on the subject of old-fashioned "cool": HERE (2009) and part 2 is HERE; there are some comments too.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Arty Farty Friday ~ Tejal Patni's Photographs

In searching for something, or someone, not featured in Arty Farty posts in the past, I stumbled upon this piece:
Photographer Mixes High Fashion And Zodiac Signs In Stunning Calendar (Photos)
by Kaylin Pound at Elite News, in 2015. At left is a small image of his version of one zodiac sign - astro fans will easily guess which one it represents!

Photographer is Tejal Patni, Indian born in Mumbai [Bombay]. I haven't found any date of birth for him, but he appears to be a fairly young guy. There's little detail about him online at present, other than lots of his beautiful work. An interview at The Floating Magazine, by Payal Khandelwal provides some enlightenment, and some of his photographs. First paragraph :
Tejal was born and brought up in India and moved to Dubai in the 1980s. He graduated from Sir JJ School of Applied Arts in Mumbai, and later studied film making at the London Film Academy. Over the years, he has worked with some of the biggest fashion brands across the world including Harvey Nichols, Bloomingdale’s, Caprese, and magazines like GQ, Grazia, Harper’s Bazaar, etc. The annual calendar he creates for the Middle East’s premium fashion brand Splash has been highly instrumental in getting him a much deserved wider recognition. And that’s not surprising at all because his sharp instincts, his inspirations and his unique vision – all come together on the stage of Splash calendar every year to give a spellbinding performance.

The Splash calendar is featured in the first link above - the one relating to zodiac signs. Splash, by the way is (Wikipedia) India's largest fashion retailer[citation needed] and part of the Landmark Group,one of the biggest retail conglomerates in the Middle East and India.

Scrolling down the photographs in the first link above gives some idea of Patni's style - though I'm not convinced he had the best astrological advice about the signs, in some cases.

Do also take a look at some of Patni's other work - I enjoyed the zodiac-related photos, but prefer others :

I'll borrow a single example. This photograph comes from his 2017 Splash calendar. Personally I, with Sun in Aquarius, think something along these lines would have better represented Aquarius than the Aquarius photograph in the zodiac-related calendar linked at the top of the post.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Will He Do his "You're F...d" routine, or not? + UPDATE

Lawmakers Demand Donald Trump Fire Top Aides, Saying They Encourage White Supremacists

“Americans deserve to know that white nationalists, white supremacists, and neo-Nazis are not in a position to influence U.S. policy.” By Sam Levine.

It begins:
The heads of Congress’ black, Hispanic, Asian and progressive caucuses sent a letter to the White House on Monday demanding the dismissal of top aides Steve Bannon, Stephen Miller and Sebastian Gorka, saying their presence in the White House has emboldened white supremacists.

Here's a link to my post on Stephen Bannon, from November last year:

Stephen Bannon - Trump's Right-hand Man (for now)

As I wrote then, "The only hope I can imagine is that, after the new President get his "feet under the table", he will stop feeling the need for this guy's support, and prove it in an early "You're fired!" session. Wishful thinking though, that!"

Bannon's natal chart is in that post. Amazingly my post comes up on Google's first page. That was before their new algorithm started gnashing its teeth. I didn't have a birth time for Bannon, but at noon his Moon was at 28 Leo - a degree from the solar eclipse due on 21 August, and from Trump's Regulus and ascendant. It's unlikely that his Moon was really at exactly 28 Leo, but it could be within a degree or two of that. Significant? We shall see.

UPDATE Friday 18 August 2017 12.20pm

An early-working eclipse? One out of three ain't bad - now for those other two?

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Ghastly White

White supremacism:
"The doctrine that white people are superior to other peoples, and should therefore have greater power, authority, or status; advocacy or practice of such a doctrine." Dreadful events in Charlottesville, Virginia at the weekend caused me to look up the exact definition of that term. The second word is frequently watered down, somewhat, to "nationalism", in attempts to appear less contemptible.

White supremacism, as a movement, has been bubbling under for some time, here and in Britain and Europe. Memories of the horror of World War 2 (live ones) become fewer by the month as participants and onlookers die off. White supremacism is a close cousin of Nazism, which "subscribed to theories of racial hierarchy and Social Darwinism, identifying the Germans as a part of what the Nazis regarded as an Aryan or Nordic master race." (Wikipedia). Lack of living memories of World War 2 could be one strand, among multiple others, as to why this malicious "cult" has been able to press back into headlines.

I wondered what fellow-expats from Britain were thinking at this time, so had a quick look at the forum, and among a few comments much in line with my own thoughts I read, from one "Lion in Winter" commenting archly: This country can be deeply primitive. If that wasn't tongue in cheek, I have to wonder, only "this country"? How about his and my own native country?

List of British Far Right Groups since 1945:
Many of these parties stem from either the legacy of Sir Oswald Mosley's British Union of Fascists, or the political views held by either John Tyndall, Andrew Fountain, Eddy Morrison, Ian Anderson, Colin Jordan and A.K. Chesterton, along with those of their parties like the British National Party, National Front (United Kingdom), National Socialist Movement (1960s) and National Democrats (United Kingdom) over the last 40 years.
It was pointed out on some thread of comments, to which I regret I've lost the link that, back in the day, "white" was a label manufactured during Colonialism to separate the European ethnicities from the Native Americans, Africans and others. Before the New World, Europeans considered themselves separate races: Germans a separate race from French from Spanish from British from Dutch, etc. And, it should be kept in mind that Europeans (including British) are to blame that some civilizations have ceased to exist as entities. Another commenter in the same thread added that we are hardly "in a position to take the moral high ground because we had better guns".

Human nature, at root, is to blame. I'll resist, though, entering an astrological rabbit hole at this point.

reddit - a website I seldom frequent had this question:
What is the end goal of white supremacy? What happens in a society in which there are only white people left? Would they argue over which of them are whiter than the others?
One response was:
Yes, in an entirely "White" society eventually tensions develop based on other measures of "otherness". See British vs Irish vs Welsh, and Serbs vs Croats, or Spanish vs Castilians.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Music & Movie Monday ~ Ear-worm...Once There Was a Way to... SING

Searching for something nice to watch on Netflix - something to take away the nasty taste of Trump-flavoured "fire and fury"; and white supremacist malice, I hit on "Sing", an animated story featuring a singing contest. I'd seen a preview, during a cinema visit, some time ago and quite fancied the idea. I've been a fan of singing talent shows from long before the birth of Pop Idol in Britain (parent of American Idol et al). I suggested "Let's give this one a whirl - how bad can it be?"

We thoroughly enjoyed the movie!

Sing left me with an ear-worm - not an unpleasant one, but an insistent one. The film begins with a phrase from a Beatles song, from their now iconic Abbey Road album: Golden Slumbers.

 Nana Noodleman
The film ends with lines from the same song too, probably giving birth to my ear-worm.

Some good cover versions of well-loved pop-songs are scattered through the film, sung by cast members, some well-known, some less so. In the clip above, that's Jennifer Hudson singing, as Nana Noodleman; Jennifer herself is a product of American Idol - a rather nice tribute to the show which has had its share of sneers and brickbats over the years. Other well-knowns as singing characters include Reese Witherspoon, Scarlett Johansson and Seth MacFarlane (yeah we knew he could sing - I have his CD to prove it, but am still mysteriously blocked from his Twitter feed.)

A current acting fave of mine, Matthew McConaughey, has a leading, non-singing role as the talent show's presenter.

Back to my ear-worm. I guess that, by now, almost everyone knows that some Golden Slumbers lyrics in Paul McCartney's song were "borrowed" from a centuries old piece of poetry, "Cradle Song" by Thomas Dekker (1572 –1632). I recall Golden Slumbers being known as a lullaby back in my schooldays in England. The first time I heard the Beatles' version, I well remember exclaiming the equivalent of: "WTF Beatles! We sang that in school donkeys' years ago!" We sang it to this tune:

In several online forums members have chewed over the meaning of the Beatles' song, as patch-worked together by Paul McCartney. Theories range around the idea that Paul was grieving over loss of his mother and childhood family life, putting his grief to music; or regretting the upcoming inevitable break-up of the Beatles as a band, another kind of family; or even a general life to death ditty - carrying that weight; or a fit-all soliloquy on how one can never get back to...whatever.

Personally, I love the first bars of the song - the "Once there was a way to get back home(ward)" - I wish Paul had continued with his own words, not those of some long ago writer. And yet... you know... that thought brought forth a theory, a bit left-field perhaps: We've heard and read, often, that the 1960s and early 1970s brought us some of the best popular music ever, and this has been put down to the then ubiquitous use of mind-altering drugs such as LSD.
Well...say the influence of LSD, or similar drug, sends the mind out there, where the buses don't run, but (tin-foil hat time) where everything that has ever been heard on Earth still remains in the ethers. Consider that things heard, albeit unconsciously, during these "flights", out where the buses don't run, might return inadvertently, when the mind is back on all-fours, on Earth. The story goes that Paul read the lyrics of the lullaby Golden Slumbers from among his step-sister's piano music, even so, he didn't copy the music, he didn't know how to read music then. The music he created, to mix with the centuries-old words sounds kind of classical to me. It has been said, too that the music of Eleanor Rigby sounds akin to the Gregorian chant style. And how come famous symphony orchestras can make Beatles' songs sound like classical compositions? Because they have classical DNA collected out where buses don't run? Tin-foil hat country? Possibly, but I enjoy that thought.

I should really post Paul McCartney's original version of my ear-worm song, but I'm not a dyed-in -the-wool Beatles fan. I have, though, come to appreciate much of their music when performed and arranged by others. So, I'll wind up with a YouTube video I particularly enjoyed: a mix of two Beatles' songs, the second is my ear-worm number, sung by The Seattle Ladies Choir :

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Saturday and Sundry Visuals - Then & Now

He ventured to wonder if they ever thought back to when things were just old-fangled or not fangled at all as against the modern day when fangled had reached its apogee. Fangling was indeed, he thought, here to stay.

That was what technology was doing. It was your slave but, in a sense, it might be the other way round.

(Raising Steam by Terry Pratchett)


From Twitter:

Feudal Internet

From College (Caldwell Tanner & Julia Lepetit & Jacob Andrews) :

Nightmares...then and now

From Thinks Happen (one of husband's blogs)link in sidebar:

No pics, but a link to these revelations:
Lots of photographic comparisons of "cebebrities" we know and...well, something....

Most surprising were then and now comparisons of Ryan Seacrest and of Russell Brand. Have to say that Tom Cruise having his teeth done was one excellent decision! How about Simon Cowell's great hair! Some of the best looking guys, initially, have managed to age gracefully: Robert Wagner, Morgan Freeman, Burt Reynolds, Colin Firth. Women - at least those pictured here - not so much.

Closer to home - here's your friendly neighbourhood blogger, first in the early 1990s, before living in the USA was even part of a wildest nightmare; then in a London hotel, the summer of 2004, just after she'd received her first visa to come live in these "United" States; then just after receiving US citizenship in the summer of 2008; and last, a pic taken earlier this year. Well...I survived, the hair dye didn't!