Sunday, April 29, 2018

An Anniversarial Dither

Tomorrow, 30 April, will be the 14th anniversary of the day husband and I were wed, back in England. Our habit, over the years, has been to celebrate with a wee trip. Departure dates have often been changed, due to adverse weather forecasts at this time of year in Tornado Alley. This year it's reported that tornado season in Oklahoma is having a very late start, but some rather iffy storms are forecast for Oklahoma and surrounding states during the coming week, as hot weather builds to the east of us and cooler air remains to the west. We're dithering on the question of anniversarial celebration. Anyway, come what may, I'll put the blog on hold now, for a few days, whether we eventually stay, or go, or just continue to dither a lot, which seems highly likely at present. I'm still not 100% back to normal comfort, not yet free of dressing-type stuff on my left-side top half, after recent medical adventures, so there's that too. Hitting the road for any major trip right now might not be ideal. Maybe a few short day trips will be the way to go. We shall see.

Friday, April 27, 2018

Arty Farty Friday ~ Films & Photographers

Watching Kodachrome on Netflix earlier this week had me remembering other movies where a photographer, real, fictional or a blend of both played a leading part.

In Kodachrome, a record company executive (played by Jason Sudekis of Saturday Night Live fame) joins his estranged dad (played by Ed Harris), a famous photographer who is dying, on a road trip to Kansas to find the last lab still developing Kodachrome film. The movie pays little attention to the father's actual photographs until the last few minutes of the story. The story centres on a much used theme - a father neglecting family life, concentrating instead on his talents and profession earning, instead of love, bitterness and hostility from his offspring later in life.

Another movie that comes to mind where a photographer plays a leading role is one of my all time favourites: The Bridges of Madison County. It's love story about a photographer on assignment, from National Geographic, to shoot the historic bridges of Madison County, Iowa. He meets a housewife, whose husband and children are away on a trip to the State Fair. Say no more! Oh my - I get a lump in my throat even thinking about some of the movie's last scenes! I've read the novel of the same name by Robert James Waller too, as well as several of his other novels. He's an excellent story teller - there's little wonder that the movie is so memorable. We also took a trip to the covered bridges of Iowa some years ago - my blog post is here.

Fur is more of a faux documentary film, about the imagined career of real-life photographer, Diane Arbus . We saw the film, but no special memories of it come to mind, though I think I had some reservations about it and didn't write a blog post after having seen it. I had written about Ms Arbus herself earlier though - LINK

The only other movie I recall seeing, involving photography as a main theme, rather than a photographer, has a sci-fi or time-warp theme : Time Lapse. Three friends discover a mysterious machine that takes pictures twenty-four hours into the future, and conspire to use it for personal gain, until disturbing and dangerous images begin to develop.

There are several lists online naming a few dozen other movies, fictional, bio-pic or straight documentary style, featuring photographers. Linking here to a straight-forward text-only list.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

War & Human History

 From 2001 A Space Odyssey
Humans have been making war since...for ever. Early on it was mainly a matter of raiding to obtain access to more of everything - plunder, pillage and rape, rather than any effort to change societies or cultures. Later, things changed - or did they?

In a piece from two years ago David Covucci wrote:
The Oldest Instance Ever Of Humans Doing War On Each Other Was Just Unearthed
When was the first war, though, the first time humans saw other humans and were like, chilling with those dudes would be cool, but bashing their heads in with sticks would be even chiller?

The answer is 8,000 BCE, according to scientists at Cambridge University. Skeletal remains of a group of foragers massacred around 10,000 years ago on the shores of a lagoon is unique evidence of a violent encounter between clashing groups of ancient hunter-gatherers, and suggests the “presence of warfare” in late Stone Age foraging societies.

The fossilised bones of a group of prehistoric hunter-gatherers who were massacred around 10,000 years ago have been unearthed 30 km west of Lake Turkana, Kenya, at a place called Nataruk.
Good stuff, humans. Kill everybody. All the time. As hard as you can.
I'm not often given to writing about war, as a topic, but a question at Quora the other day had caught my eye.
What was the most important war ever fought in human history?

Predictably several answers to the question offered up World Wars 1 and 2. I was interested in some other ideas though, ideas about wars from further back in time, and the likely outcome for human history had victory gone the other way.

Matt Le Page suggested the undeclared Anglo-Spanish war of 1585–1604, specifically the English defeat of the Spanish armada in 1588.

If the English lost, the Spanish would have likely landed an invasion force and succeeded in overthrowing Elizabeth I, thus obliterating the Anglican church. Rather than becoming the most formidable sea power in Europe and, thus, being able to project that sea power, England would have become a Spanish vassal, making it much easier for Spain to “rub out” Protestantism in the rest of Europe. Furthermore, the notion of “Great Britain” would be strangled in its bassinet.

In alignment with this, England most certainly would never have been able to colonize areas in the New World, chiefly around what is now the United States’ east coast. Spain would have colonized the coast from St. Augustine northward, discovering and settling the eventual cash-cow of Virginia, as well as the strategic New York harbor/lower Hudson River region. There also most likely would never be a “New England” and subsequent “Great Migration” to British North America. It would also mean no “New Netherland” as the nominally Protestant United Provinces would be absorbed into the Spanish-Hapsburg network, their autonomy and naval forces neutered.
In essence, what we would see is Spanish empire from the Tierra del Fuego to Greenland. Let’s also not pretend the Spanish would let there be a “New France”, either. The massacre at Fort Caroline is evidence of this.

So, we’re talking about a world with no United States or Canada. Seems like this would have rewritten history completely.

Eric Zimmermann argued for the Battle of Thermopylae.
The Battle of Thermopylae was fought between an alliance of Greek city-states, led by King Leonidas of Sparta, and the Persian Empire of Xerxes I over the course of three days, during the second Persian invasion of Greece..................Had not the Spartans, Thespians, and Thebans held the pass and allowed the other Greek forces the ability to muster a defense against the invading Persians it is entirely likely that Alexander the Great would never have had Aristotle as his tutor, and never have spread Hellenization to the known world resulting in the rise of classical culture and the offshoots it created.

All of Western civilization depended on this one band of Greeks holding the pass to Thermopylae and they did it successfully.

Further back in time still, others suggested the 8th century Umayyad invasion of Gaul - had the Umayyads won this war, most of Europe would be eventually conquered, Islamified and would be speaking Arabic. Or, The Second Punic War (218–201 BCE), one of the deadliest wars in European history, led to the end of the small scale republic and formation of the Roman Empire whose cultural impact is still existing.

It's a fascinating thread of answers!

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Astrology - The Mystery

This was my first ever blog post, dated 11 August 2006, when it was unlikely to have been read by anybody. I repeated it 5 years later in 2011, and feel inclined to give it another re-airing today, illustrations added. My views still haven't changed.

I don't know how astrology works. Nobody does. Most astrologers find some way of explaining it. Some are unacceptable, even to me. This is how I see it:

The Universe is full of energies, forces, elements of which we know very little, if anything. More and more is being discovered as the years pass. I believe there are "energies" for want of a better word, or perhaps a better description would be "a kind of atmospheric soup", to which our human bodies react, starting with our first breath after birth, as a separate entity from our mothers.

With our first breath we are "imprinted" (again for want of a better word) with a pattern or blueprint based on the mix of energies at that very minute, in that particular place. This imprint blends with the genetically inherited flesh and blood from which we are formed. From centuries of observation, it would appear that these "energies" have some connection with the planets and lights (Sun & Moon) in our solar system, and their movements around the ecliptic. The planets themselves could be acting, to our eyes, in a way akin to the hands of a clock, indicators of cycles of time, overlapping cycles, repeating cycles - a complex network of cycles.

As we grow, the planets and their movement - transits - continue to have relevance, because our imprinted circuitry is sensitive to them, especially as the planets pass over certain areas. From my own experience, this occurs on a much lesser scale than the text books indicate. The outer, slow moving planets can affect our lives to varying degrees at a few specific points in any life span...but not every day, every week, or even every year. Most of the time we are free-wheeling, following an inborn blueprint, living our lives using free will, making our own mistakes, enjoying our own triumphs. A few times in a life, though, the Cosmos steps in and a particular configuration of planets trigger the imprint and re-direct matters. Even then it remains in our hands as to how we react to this re-direction. These especially sensitive configurations occur cyclically.

Astrology has a long, long history, reaching back further even than we can know. Knowledge passed down through centuries might well have become mangled, mis-translated, or politically censored and manipulated from time to time, a similar fate will have applied to the Bible and other holy books.

In ancient times people tried to understand the unknowable in the best way they could. They used fables, deities, archetypes, and strange symbolic glyphs to describe ideas which could not otherwise be explained. Generations of astrologers have updated these ancient concepts using modern expression, but the unwritten core of astrological knowledge remains within its modern understanding.

The notion that planets, and various accurately measured points on an astrological chart can affect our lives may seem incredible, yet there ARE patterns. Just as the planets move in regular defineable cycles, there are rhythms and patterns in all our lives. There are patterns of personality which can be seen to emerge based on positions of the planets and the angles they make with one another at the time of birth. There are patterns in the stages of our lives. There is a rhythm, in time to the slow dance of our planets.

COMMENTS from 2011
I agree, T, what we know amounts to a head of a pin in the scale of the universe.

Gian Paul This post of yours, Twilight, merits to be published not only once every 5 years, but every year. Make it a habit!

A personal reflection: it's all larger than just human destiny. Admittedly our own life/life experiences are the best ground for observation, but many other entities (states, corporations, associations, even conspiracies etc.) obey astrological patterns. What's created has by definition an hour of birth, hours of peaking or bottoming out, of death and renovation. So it's not only us little human individuals who are concerned.

mary beth
this is, by far, the very best articulation of my own position on astrology and its gratifying to see it out here in print. may many see it.


This is how I missed my subway stop last night. There was a voice in my screaming: Astrology really works! I was reading the article in the Mountain Astrologer on the Wikileak founder Assange and was looking at the transits when he supposedly "raped". Huh, Venus Mars conjoined his natal Uranus/Pluto and much more... It does work, but there are no two same ways of how we'll accept it, because it's not just mental, it's emotional, archetypal, social...

James Higham
I don't know how astrology works. Nobody does. Most astrologers find some way of explaining it. Some are unacceptable, even to me.

You seem to have a fair grasp of it now though.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Music Monday ~ Composer of Opera & "the Caruso of Rock" - Two Birthdays.

Is there any reason to compare Leoncavallo and Roy Orbison ? It's an unlikely pairing. Both were born today, 23 April, 79 years apart - is that where similarity ends?

Ruggero Leoncavallo 23 April 1857 – 9 August 1919) was an Italian opera composer and librettist. Although he produced numerous operas and other songs throughout his career it is his opera Pagliacci (1892) that remained his lasting contribution, despite attempts to escape the shadow of his greatest success. Pagliacci owes its continuing success in part to the composer’s ability to balance humour, romance, and darkly violent moods. My post on Leoncavallo from 2012 is HERE.

Born 79 years later, in Texas on 23 April 1936:
Roy Orbison
Roy Kelton Orbison (April 23, 1936 – December 6, 1988) was an American singer-songwriter known for his distinctive, impassioned voice, complex song structures, and dark emotional ballads. The combination led many critics to describe his music as operatic, nicknaming him "the Caruso of Rock" and "the Big O". While most male rock-and-roll performers in the 1950s and 1960s projected a defiant masculinity, many of Orbison's songs instead conveyed vulnerability. His voice ranged from baritone to tenor, and music scholars have suggested that he had a three- or four-octave range. During performances, he was known for standing still and solitary, and for wearing black clothes, to match his dyed jet black hair and dark sunglasses, which lent an air of mystery to his persona.

"Caruso of rock" eh? Something there to consider? A quick look at both natal charts.

Leoncavallo born 23 April 1857 in Naples, Italy at 4 PM (Data from Astrodienst)

Orbison born 23 April 1936 in Vernon, Texas, USA, at 3.50 PM (Data from Astrodienst)

The very obvious similarity: lots of emphasis in both charts on Taurus, sign ruled by Venus, planet of the arts. Leoncavallo had Sun conjunct Pluto (darkness and intensity), Venus and Mercury conjunct Uranus (the unexpected and/or modern) along with Mars nearby also, all in Taurus.

Orbison had Sun conjunct Uranus, with Mercury and Mars conjoined, all in Taurus.

What they were thought to share - that gravitaion towards a classic style with operatic tone - where's the astrological signature? I could be wrong on this, but I'd look towards Saturn for this kind of thing. Orbison had Saturn in Watery, emotional Pisces somewhat uncomfortably yet workably semi-sextile Venus in Aries, and helpfully sextile Mercury and Mars in Taurus - so Saturn does link to his personal planets.

Leoncavallo's Saturn was also in a Water sign, Cancer and linked to Mercury and Mars in Taurus by helpful sextile. So both men had a Watery Saturn making aspect to personal planets.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Saturday & Sundry Thoughts on PLUTO in TRANSIT

I shall blame this post on the fact that transiting Pluto is currently sitting smack dab on my natal Mercury in Capricorn. I knew, from previous experience when transiting Pluto sat on my natal Venus in Sagittarius some 15 or so years ago, that I'd be experiencing something out of the ordinary, and transformative. Back then I was, eventually, catapulted from the UK to the USA - how transformative was that!?

As passing readers might recall from recent posts, yes, something out of the ordinary has happened - again with Pluto again conjunct a personal planet. A diagnosis of breast cancer. Thankfully the discovery was early, via mammogram, and dealt with by a quick surgery procedure (lumpectomy). There had been no spread to lymph nodes and margins. That experience was plenty scary and, to a point, transformative too! These words from astrologer Jan Spiller's brief piece on Pluto hits home:

The goal of PLUTO : to experience total self-mastery and fearlessness in any situation. This can only happen when you accept the process of passing through your personal terror for the sake of Right Action.

From a piece at Kepler College website:
In modern parlance it is common for people to look at important changes – relationship or marital status, professional change or moving, even starting a yoga class on Tuesday nights, as “transformative.” However, these changes seem more part of normal life and normal adult development and they usually occur within other defined structures; they are therefore more like “first order change” – there is alteration but the organism or individual, maintains its continuity. This is not the kind of change to consider when we describe astrology’s Pluto.

The word “transformation” is defined as a change in form, shape, or appearance. Its Greek equivalent is “metamorphosis” and, we know from Ovid’s famous poem of the same name, metamorphosis not always an improvement. Positive transformation is rare in our lives.

Most transformations or metamorphoses are kindled from life-shattering events: Near Death Experiences, visitations from angels or aliens, warfare, imprisonment or becoming a victim of a violent crime, natural disasters, grave economic collapse, life-threatening illness or disability, or when one loses loved ones and home, like when the tidal wave and nuclear disaster happened in Japan or when Hurricane Katrina hit..... Here we encounter life’s essential fragility, sometimes the impinging presence of evil, including that which is within us. These are involuntary changes that are more like “fate”.

From an excellent piece Doing Pluto by astrologer Eric Francis, of Planet Waves
Mythology and astronomy cast Pluto as the lord of Hell, but astrology tells another story. No astrologer, it is safe to say, underestimates Pluto or takes him for granted, or none does so for long. Largely thanks to the work of Jeffrey Green and his spiritual mentor, Yogananda, we recognize Pluto as the evolutionary engine in the astrological chart. While society may twist and crumble, and while emperors may rise in power, on the inner level, Pluto is the ultimate influence we cannot deny. Anyone who has consciously gone through a Pluto transit have seen and this at work: Pluto is the uncompromising force for change, the catalyst for growth, and the slowly moving point of no return. Once Pluto has been through our lives, and it does not happen often, nothing is quite the same.

Scrolling down further:

Unforgettable Fires

When Pluto makes contact with degrees where it or other planets were when we were born, we get a phase of direct experience, called a transit. It is simple to pick these times out of the ephemeris and the most hardened skeptic would agree that something was up. At such times, we have always reached a limit.

The limitation Pluto imposes has less to do with adhering to outer structure, expectations, or following a programmed sense of inner responsibility (like Saturn), but rather imposing the necessity to follow one's evolutionary path. This is to say, under Pluto's guidance, we are compelled to respond to the necessities of our soul's journey. To do this, we are presented with circumstances that teach us we indeed have a soul, and that it actually has a mission. However you may feel, these ideas turn out to be beyond the grasp of most people, who simply wonder why they are in pain and don't get what we now call the lesson. For this reason, we can get a sense of why the world so often feels like it is devoid of soul energy, of the expression of meaningful inner truth. And we can see why so many people require incredibly painful experiences in order to grow or wake up.

Speaking of waking up, Pluto deals with the subject of sex on the hormonal, orgasmic and control-based levels, the ones we usually prefer to ignore, or to ignore the power of. These issues will come up as real-life circumstances; we get to choose how we handle them.

There's plenty of advice around the net on "surviving Pluto transits". While these are well-meaning, and no doubt can prove helpful to some readers, I avoided them. The first time I even considered searching for pieces on the topic was in preparing this post. I was aware of the Pluto transit to a personal planet of mine, that was all I needed to know. I find other peoples' experiences and other astrologers' ideas on coping to be less helpful than just doing what comes naturally to me, myself and I - hoping that'll be enough!

I am not going to obsess about the remaining time Pluto will be around my chart, nor will I think too far ahead to the time Pluto will visit natal Sun. It's quite likely, anyway, that by then, there will have been the call: "Come in Twilight - your time is up!"

Astrology is a fascinating and useful tool, but at times like this it feels more comfortable, to me, to put my chart on the top shelf, out of my direct line of daily vision.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Arty Farty Friday ~ A.A. Milne, E.H. Shepard, Christopher R. & Winnie the P.

Watching a DVD of the 2017 biographical drama film "Goodbye Christopher Robin" this week reminded me that here was another of those magical collaborations we encounter from time to time, partnerships which bring forth something that becomes almost legendary. I've mentioned a few such partnerships in past the top of my head: Billie Holiday and Lester Young, Billy Strayhorn and Duke Ellington. Author A.A. Milne and artist E. H. Shepard make up another such pair. In this case though, sadly, it is said that neither man was too happy about the success of their collaboration, because it overshadowed their other work. Milne's famous son Christopher Robin was also unhappy about his involvement. That does seem a tad ...erm... ungrateful all round, doesn't it? Perhaps, from their point of view, their lives were taken over in ways they had neither planned nor foreseen - they were all taken in directions they would rather not have pursued. Still, millions of children and adults have reason to be grateful for what emerged.

This set of first editions is priced $16,500

The film, by the way is well worth a look.

My 2009 archived post on A.A. Milne is HERE. I'm curious to see A.A. Milne's natal chart against that of E.H. Shepard. Both charts are set for 12 noon as birth times are unknown. Click on chart image for larger version.

A.A. Milne born in London, England on 18 January 1882.

Milne's is a very Earthy natal chart: Sun, Moon and Venus in Capricorn. Saturn, Neptune, Jupiter and Pluto in Taurus. Uranus in Virgo. Air enough to crank up his writing skills came from Mercury in Aquarius and Mars in Gemini. A Grand Trine in Earth links Uranus to Neptune & Jupiter to Venus, perhaps to Moon also. Moon's position isn't exact as shown, due to lack of a birth time.

Shepard's chart isn't as Earthy, his Sun and Mercury are in Fiery Sagittarius, but there's still emphasis on Taurus from Neptune and Pluto, with Mars there too. Uranus is in Virgo in both charts, so the pair shared an Earthy generational tone, along with millions of others.

Both men had served in World War I, they suffered from memories of the horrors they had experienced. I'm tempted to connect their ease of collaboration to Chiron (the mythological Wounded Healer) in Taurus, sign ruled by Venus, planet of the arts. Chiron is conjunct Jupiter and Neptune in Milne's chart; conjunct Neptune and Mars in Shepard's. Their writing and drawing collaboration could well have afforded a means of healing their mental wounds.

E.H. Shepard born in London, England on 10 December 1879.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Bicycle Day

Filed under "Trivia":

Today, 19 April, is Bicycle Day - as Sir Michael Caine would say, "Not a lot of people know that!"

"Bicycle Day does not, as one might expect, celebrate the ubiquitous two-wheeled mode of transport, beloved of city- and country- dwellers alike the world over. Rather, it celebrates a particular historical event that involves a trip on a bicycle.

‘Trip’ is the operative word here, as Bicycle Day commemorates the first time Dr. Albert Hofmann intentionally took Lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) having accidentally discovered it three days previously. Following the deliberate 250mcg dose he started to feel a little odd, so decided to ride his bicycle home. What happened on that trip would lead to LSD becoming a very popular recreational drug – not without its problems though, which is why taking LSD is not a recommended way to celebrate Bicycle Day.

Instead, why not read Ken Kesey’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest while listening to ‘Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds’? Trippy, but perfectly safe."

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

USA in the 1950s

A soupçon of synchronicity was experienced at the weekend. On Saturday I was led, via a link at naked capitalism, to some photographs:
20+ Rarely Seen Photos Of America In The 1950’s Show How Different Life Was Before

Monika Brazaitytė wrote:
"The 1950’s are often viewed as a golden era in U.S. history, a time of happiness and prosperity, despite the threat of nuclear annihilation, racial segregation and the looming Cold War.

While most photos from the time are in black and white, color photography was still a relative novelty at the time and the film was quite expensive for regular people, the photos below are in glorious color. This means that they are more relatable, and makes the period feel closer to us than ever.

Many of the photos were collected by Denis Fraevich, a New Yorker of Russian descent who loves to bring the era back to life. “The pictures were found at auctions, flea markets and yards, digitized and posted on the Internet,” he told Bored Panda........"

An interesting collection of photos!

Later the same day we decided to rent a handful of DVDs for weekend viewing. One of my choices, watched the same evening, was picked purely due to director and cast members: Suburbicon. The movie, directed by George Clooney, was originally a Coen Brothers vehicle from the 1980s, but was shelved until Clooney came along, re-wrote parts of it and took over direction. Matt Damon and Julianne Moore have starring roles. How bad could this be?

It was, in fact, pretty bad! Synchronicity? Well the story is set in much the same era as depicted by those photographs I'd looked at just hours before. In fact it was almost as though some of those photographs were coming to life before my eyes.

Suburbicon is a mess of a movie, although it did hold our interest. The storyline didn't go where we initially thought it was going, there were continual deviations along with a fumbled attempt to weave two separate themes together.

The ultimate message, for viewers who managed to stay with the film to the end, was that back in the 1950s, racial hatred in the USA was so intense that it could blind the seriously prejudiced to such an extent that pure evil, going on right under their noses, was able to pass, almost without notice.

After watching Suburbicon, those photographs mentioned at the top of the post didn't seem at all "Golden Age-ish". The 1950s, in the USA anyway, had distinctly creepy underpinnings!

Monday, April 16, 2018

Music Monday ~ "Pickin' up good vibrations"

We accompanied husband's daughter and son-in-law to see a Beach Boys tribute band perform on Friday evening - Woodie and the Long Boards. The concert was housed in an event/ballroom area rather than the usual theatre setting. Dance enthusiasts were able to enjoy their nostalgia both mentally and physically.

Unsurprisingly, dancers were mostly "of a certain age", but quite adept at swingin' those hips and doing all the cool gestures and....well...whatever. You can probably tell from this that I'm not, and never have been, much of a dancer myself. A bit of square dancing and the odd shuffle to a last waltz has been my lifetime limit. My brain might co-ordinate with my fingers for writing or typing purposes, but it refuses to co-ordinate with my feet for dancing purposes. Anyway...

I realised fairly quickly that The Beach Boys must have written many more songs than I'd ever realised. My knowledge extends to what was played by BBC disc jockeys, back in England in the 1960s and 70s, and later by older disc jockeys suffering from chronic nostalgia.

Good Vibrations is Beach Boys' gold standard, Gold Only Knows, Barbara Ann; my own favourite, not written by the band, but a traditional song of the Bahamas Sloop John B, and all their other hits were played, along with some more obscure to all but dyed in the wool Beach Boy fans.

Glancing at the lyrics of Fun, Fun, Fun this morning I realised why, in spite of their great, well-polished sound, The Beach Boys never managed to outshine The Beatles in the UK (for some, they didn't mange to do so even in the USA) :

Well she got her daddy's car and she cruised through the hamburger stand, now
Seems she forgot all about the library like she told her old man, now
But with the radio blasting goes cruising just as fast as she can now
And she'll have fun, fun, fun till her daddy takes the T-bird away
(fun, fun, fun, 'till her daddy takes the T-bird away)

In the UK, back then, we didn't have T-birds for daddy to take away. We were lucky if we had a bike on which to ride to the railway station to catch a train to school, or to work. We couldn't relate, nor I feel sure could some of the poorer families in the USA at that time. We understood Beatles' lyrics, though, we'd lived'em!

Woke up, fell out of bed
Dragged a comb across my head
Found my way downstairs and drank a cup
And looking up I noticed I was late
Found my coat and grabbed my hat
Made the bus in seconds flat
Made my way upstairs and had a smoke
And everybody spoke and I went into a dream...

I read the news today, oh boy
Four thousand holes in Blackburn, Lancashire
And though the holes were rather small
They had to count them all
Now they know how many holes it takes to fill the Albert Hall
I'd love to turn you on......

This is not to say that I was a great Beatles' fan back then, but with this amount of hindsight I can see that while The Beach Boys offered the feel of a privileged and slightly exotic lifestyle, The Beatles, for us were like a familiar plate of fish and chips, with just the right amount of salt and vinegar added.

Woodie and the Long Boards entertained the crowd on Friday evening, in spite of a rather dodgy sound system. It was good to hear lots of foot-tappingly familiar music, and to watch some of our near-contemporaries shakin' their thang on the dance floor.

The real thang for Music Monday:

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Saturday and Sundry Thoughts on Communicating Massively

There are still a few of us around who are able to recall life before computers, and therefore before the internet. Heck - I can even remember life before television! Mass communication, in those days, came via newspapers and radio, and to a lesser extent via film and newsreels at the cinema. First time I saw a TV working was for the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953. A few neighbours, my parents, grandparents and I piled into the home of a local business woman who had the only set in the village where my grandparents lived.

I do remember when the very first mention of computers reached my delicate ears, in 1966/7. I'd been working for a few months for a local Devonshire (south-west England) 'bus company in the accounts office. One of the senior employees had been sent on a training course, on his return he regaled us with tales of the binary system leaving our brains limp and imaginations reeling. All we had to work with in those days were very basic mechanical adding machines, one step up from the abacus. Having, out of necessity, trained my non-mathematical brain to add long columns of figures in hotel ledgers during the few years previous, I often opted to "do it in my head" rather than tackle the awkward adding machine.

None of us could have possibly envisaged the amazing developments we've seen during ensuing decades. Online banking, shopping, social networking, the dreaded Facebook, smartphones, ipads..... spam, porn sites, viruses, malware, Twitter - the good, the bad and the ugly of it all. I am well aware that my own life turned in a very unexpected direction, all due to the internet, for it was through the net that husband and I met.

There's a downside to these developments and changes though, there's always a downside.

Television should be the last mass communication medium to be naively designed and put into the world without a surgeon-general's warning.
Alan Kay

Over roughly the same time span: from TV sets becoming commonplace, followed rapidly by computer development, up to the present, corporate power has risen in tandem. Now multinational corporations own media, at least they do in the USA and have tentacles worldwide. TV has become a major arm of the corporations' mass brain-washing system. Oh, they'd been doing it before TV, but the opening up of mass communication made it so much easier! As more time has passed evidence has continued to emerge that we are under constant surveillance. Recent developments relating to Facebook's gathering of personal information is disquieting to say the least. Perhaps nobody senses danger if all the stolen information is used simply to target a few adverts for shoes, bandages, bras, toasters - whatever it was we were searching for online last. But the feeling that there could be other, darker, uses for the information gathered is not a happy one. Facebook is currently at the centre of discussions on this front, but Google and others are also quietly gathering our personal data, and have been doing so for years.

The solution? For ordinary souls such as I, and passing readers who do not wish to divest ourselves completely of access to television, computer and internet, all we can do is be aware of the potential "weaponry" in our living rooms, remain vigilant, never forgetting possible sub-text, and remember to keep in mind, always, this question: who is "paying the piper"?

When discussing this topic, several years ago, and before Facebook became the monster it now is, a friend observed that as we become increasingly under cyber influences, man-made (or manipulated), the structure of the human psyche will probably transform - over time. Sensibilities will increase and entirely new avenues might open up. Aquarian Age stuff to come?

My view: humans will, almost certainly, evolve psychologically due to the highly technological world they've been born into. We are at the slimmest end of the science fiction wedge of that eventuality right now. It must be happening, week by week, year by year, decade by decade.

My husband's opinion:
"Follow the money!" You can tell which industry is making the most money by the number of TV spots they are running. These ads can cost as much as a million dollars a minute. Cars, pharmaceuticals, insurance, smartphones, political candidates; who’s on top tonight?

I read a piece about the rise and fall of a country once. The one thing that I remember most is that the aggressor took over mass media first. Radio, newspapers, criers to internet... mass communication is first to go. So, money has taken over our mass media. Have we been conquered?

Friday, April 13, 2018

Arty Farty Friday ~ 2 artists born 13 April, both with "scandalous" reputations.

Glancing down the list of births on 13 April, through the decades, I noticed two artists whose work had been considered by many as scandalous: James Ensor and Pierre Molinier. The two artists were born 40 years apart, Ensor in Belgium in 1860, Molinier in Agen, France, in 1900.

In his final decades, James Ensor was an international celebrity showered with official honors in his native Belgium. But in the 1880s and 1890s, the young Ensor was a scandalous and defiant figure.

This was a period of great social and political unrest in Belgium, and also of incredible cultural ferment. Bursting with mad creativity sparked by the latest developments in the avant-garde, Ensor freely mined artistic sources both high and low, old and new, familiar and exotic, and oscillated unpredictably between painting, drawing, and printmaking. From an advanced mode of naturalism in step with broader European trends, Ensor's art quickly morphed into something so fantastic, bizarre, grotesque, and satirical that even his avant-garde peers had difficulty accepting it. To this day, Ensor's art continues to baffle in its psychological complexity, internal contradictions, and sheer eccentricity.

An account of French artist Pierre Molinier’s colourful life reads like that of the protagonist in an Oscar Wilde novel. A product of France’s oft-fictionalised fin de siècle degeneration, Molinier defied all societal norms to live a life of hedonistic excess. Both homosexual and a transvestite in an era when both were frowned upon – he asbcribed himself the title of ‘lesbienne’ – Molinier pursued fetishism and the latent eroticism of the subconscious mind to its most extreme degree......................
By 1955 Molinier had begun a fruitful correspondence with André Breton, the founder of Surrealism, who dubbed him 'the magician of erotic art' and decided to include his sensual, and at times violent, works in the International Surrealist Exhibition. This marked the artist’s official induction into the movement, and he soon earned a reputation as an artist who would dare to execute the ideas his reputable contemporaries, who included the likes of Salvador Dalí, only dreamt of.

His investigation into fetishism and depravity, both through painting and photography, steadily gathered momentum, culminating in an extensive series of portraits and self-portraits in which Molinier himself often features as a many-limbed woman, a dominatrix, or a devil. When his dwindling health prompted his death at the age of 76, it was executed with the all the charisma his character would suggest; a great lover of guns, he died from a single self-inflicted gunshot wound.

James Ensor, 13 April 1860, Ostend, Belgium at 4.30AM.

Pierre Molinier, 13 April 1900, Agen, France at 8.00AM.

There aren't many clear similarities. The obvious factor in Ensor's chart, reflecting his rather rebellious and uncompromising style is Venus(planet of the arts) conjunct Uranus (planet of the unexpected and the rebel). In addition Neptune, planet of creativity, dreams and the mysterious was sitting right on his rising degree - if time of birth is correct at Astrodatabank - it has AA rating so is reliable.

In Molinier's case, data from Astrodatabank, also AA rated, look at the chart shape as a start! It's made up of oppositions forming a cross, and involving the important points in a natal chart: the ascendant/descendant, mid-heaven and nadir! Oppositions can signify irreconcilable differences in a personality, or sometimes a kind of balancing act, an effort to reconcile opposites. Molinier had Pluto (eroticism, intensity) sitting close to his Gemini rising degree, with Venus and Neptune in Gemini also - what better "trade mark" for his style? In opposition to the Gemini planets are Uranus and Jupiter, an excess of the unexpected/futuristic, perhaps attempted balancing of the artist's runaway sexual intensity with an excess of the unexpected, using avant garde methods of photography.

Their common Aries Sun position seems secondary!

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Personal Magnetism

My old copy of R.H. Naylor's "Home Astrology", more than 70 years old, pages yellowing and brittle, is still a source of interest, as part and parcel of the history of popular astrology; opening it at random I see these words:

"Some people are naturally magnetic, i.e. others are blindly attracted to them. This power of attraction often appears to be entirely independent of physical appeal or character".

Mr. Naylor goes on later to warn that,
" There is no greater enemy of personal magnetism than the modern passion for imitation. The young people of today are so busy trying to model themselves upon their favourite film star, theatrical celebrity or public figure, that they forget to be themselves."

Ah! Mr. Naylor (wherever you are - in some great astrology conference in the sky), it was ever thus, and will be for ever more, I suspect!

"BE YOURSELF" he says "The real you is quite unlike anybody else, and for just that reason, it is naturally attractive."

Digging deeper into astrology than the Sun Sign, it becomes blindingly obvious how unique - and I do mean unique in its literal sense - each of us is. Nobody else is born in exactly the same place at exactly the second you took your first breath. Not even your twin, if you have one. Every living thing on this Earth is unique. Every dead thing, too, come to think of it.

It's hard advice to take, for a young person though - not to imitate others. Imitation is part of how we, as humans, and creatures of the Earth learn. We watch our parents and siblings, and imitate them. Later we read and watch, and imitate when we write our first letter, or draw our first scrawly piece of artwork. Almost every great writer or artist has been inspired by someone else. That's just the way life is.

I clearly recall, in my schooldays, trying to copy somebody else's style of handwriting, because my natural style didn't please me. The school mistress fairly quickly recognised what I was up to, and gave me a lecture along the lines of Mr. Naylor's advice. I felt squashed and embarrassed for a while, but little by little I adjusted my handwriting, until, though it did retain whispers of the style I'd so admired, it was different, and solely my own.

Mr. Naylor advised that, however much we might admire and wish to emulate another person, we should not aim to become a carbon copy, photocopy, or clone of that person, losing our own identity in the process.

Within our individuality, we do have close astrological relationships with some around us. It's not at all surprising that we sometimes latch on to a certain style - or a certain smile - attached to someone whose planetary blueprint complements our own in some way. What I find absolutely fascinating is how this can happen without knowing anything about the other person. That's the "magnetism" of which Mr. Naylor writes.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018


Therapy: treatment intended to relieve or heal a disorder. Originally from from modern Latin therapia, from Greek therapeia ‘healing,’ from therapeuein ‘minister to, treat medically.’

It's a nice-sounding word, rolls off the tongue satisfyingly; I've decided to pronounce the word 'ther-happy' during coming weeks and months, as I begin a (theoretical) five years of hormone therapy as a preventative measure against breast cancer returning. The oncologist I met last Friday advised that, due to my advanced age, and the fact that the cancer was found early, radiation and chemo-therapies would not be used, going forward. She did strongly advise, however, hormone therapy. This treatment, just one small tablet per day, blocks any estrogen in the body; cancer cells feed on estrogen if certain markers were present in the lab tests performed on tissues and blood samples obtained over past weeks.

I'm hoping that known side effects from these tablets will not be too severe. The doctor has already ordered a bone scan, as bone density loss is one side effect of this treatment, and I have been on the border of osteoporosis for many years. Other possible side effects are higher cholesterol levels, potential for blood clots, joint aches and pains, and sundry other unpleasant-sounding stuff. Not all women experience severe difficulties, however. I guess much depends on one's age group, and on how much estrogen was skidding around the body to start with. Regular check-ups will follow, next meeting with oncologist in 6 weeks to see how I'm coping with the tablets, and to note results of the bone scan.

So, I'm nearing the end of this 6-week "adventure", which began with a mammogram on 27 February. From now on it'll be a matter of taking the tablets, taking some exercise - walking more regularly will help; eating well - plenty of fresh veggies; taking my regular calcium + VitaminD3 and magnesium, and - above all - maintaining a positive attitude .

I could not have asked for a better outcome than this, other than to have been told that the mammogram result was an error - which it wasn't !

I'm truly thankful, and very, very grateful to all the doctors, specialists and nurses I've encountered along the way. Their attitudes, personalities and approaches have helped me to cope with this highly unexpected, and disconcerting, adventure more than I could ever express, added to which, of course, the constant support of my husband.

Some additional personal therapy will follow: finding a comfortable bra, once I'm told that I can be rid of the pesky elastic bandage currently binding my chest.

Monday, April 09, 2018

Music Monday ~ Remembering Paul Robeson

Paul Robeson, born this day, 9 April, in 1898, was one of the greats, a true supporter of the workers of the whole world, including the Welsh and Scottish miners of the UK, with whom he felt deep connection.

Happy Birthday Paul Robeson! Yes, the struggles go on!

Brilliant and multi-gifted, Paul Robeson gained prominence as athlete, lawyer, concert singer, actor, and social activist. Born to an African-American minister and his wife in Princeton, New Jersey. Robeson's mother died when he was just 6 years old. The family underwent difficult economic times when their father resigned from his ministry position because of pressure by the white financial supporters of the church. After nine years of low paying work, Robeson Snr. accepted appointment to the parsonage of another church. Paul attended New Jersey schools, and by high school had proven himself an outstanding student and athlete. He won a four-year scholarship to Rutgers, despite efforts by the high school principal to prevent him from taking the qualifying exam.

Because he was excluded from living at the Rutgers dormitory, Robeson lived with a black family during his college years. His athletic talent earned him a place on the school’s football team, where he had to overcome physical assaults by teammates in attempts to keep him off the team. When the team travelled, he roomed with the coach, rather than members of the team. By the end of his college years, he attained 14 varsity letters in football, basketball, baseball, discus, shotput and javelin. He also excelled in other college activities, becoming a prize-winning debater, and a glee club member. Robeson’s academic achievements culminated in his nomination and acceptance into the Phi Beta Kappa Society and Rutgers’ honor society, Cap and Skull. At graduation, his classmates selected him as class valedictorian. In his valedictorian address, he called upon his classmates to work for equality for all Americans.

After graduating from Rutgers, Robeson entered Columbia University Law School, supporting himself by working as a professional football player, a job as a postal worker, positions in athletic coaching, and acting jobs. Although he attained his law degree, Robeson pursued a career as a performer because the law firm where he was hired barred his representation of clients.

Paul starred in several theater performances, and rose to prominence in the Harlem Renaissance movement. With his powerful baritone voice, he transitioned from acting to concert vocalist, opening in solo concerts by the mid-1920s.

Making his home base in London, he associated with many followers of socialist thought, including George Bernard Shaw. He toured the United States and Europe extensively as a concert performer.

When World War II began, he returned to the United States, with a commitment to overcoming fascism. Despite his political statements, Robeson remained a popular performer. However, after the war ended and the red-baiting McCarthy era evolved, Robeson became target of various government probes. He announced in 1947 that he would retire from his career as a concert performer to devote his time to overcoming racism and fascism.

During the 1950s and 1960s, Paul Robeson continued his political activities, which were intensively scrutinized by the U.S. government. FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover declared him a national security threat, and Robeson’s passport was cancelled. This caused international protest. He regained his right to travel eight years later. He returned to Europe, and made journeys to the Soviet Union and Africa. After extensive travels, he expressed interest in returning to the United States to join the Civil Rights Movement.

Paul Robeson died in January 1976, he left a legacy as an extraordinarily gifted actor, singer, and political activist.

Here's a rendition by Paul that I'd not heard before - "Mood Indigo" music composed by Duke Ellington and Barney Bigard with lyrics by Irving Mills.

And...his tribute to the Welsh miners