Saturday, September 29, 2018

Saturday & Sundry Words on this Week's Kavanaugh Circus

Although I've lived in the USA for 14 years, I still retain innate Britishness - sufficiently so to agree with the following piece on this week's Supreme Court nomination circus. I worked for a quarter century in a government department, in the UK, where judges and lawyers were main players. I gained a sincere and abiding respect for those people. Measuring them against the types in high office in the courts here, I shudder.

The Kavanaugh Hearings Encapsulate the Rampant Emotionalism of American Politics
by Benjamin Studebaker.

Opening paragraph:

The British have a visceral hatred for Donald Trump. It’s not because of his positions on immigration or tax policy–there are plenty of European politicians who are at least as far right as Trump is, substantively. No, it’s because of the way Trump presents himself. He’s combative, he gets angry, he makes flippant, emotional remarks. When British politicians show emotion it exposes them as weak, out of control, and unstable. If a British politician shouts or cries in public–especially in a formal setting–it’s embarrassing. It’s not proper behaviour. Everyone in Britain knows, from an early age, that this is just not how politicians are supposed to behave. They like their leaders calm, stoic, controlled. This is less true than it used to be–for a time, Tony Blair got away with wearing his heart on his sleeve. But there were always those who made fun of it, who thought it “un-British”. Whenever a British politician makes an emotional display and gets away with it, there is a chunk of British people who write nervous columns about creeping Americanisation. Having spent some years in the UK, I can spot the kind of American politics they hate a mile off. And it has never been so blatant, so in-your-face, as this senate hearing for Brett Kavanaugh...............

Closing paragraphs:

That’s the level at which we’ve been making personnel decisions as a country, and it’s landed us a congress full of emotionally manipulative con artists, a president who knows nothing about statecraft, and now a judicial nominee who helps presidents torture people and then lies about having done that to save his own skin. And the only question senators are asking themselves as they consider whether or not to vote for this reactionary patsy is “Do the voters at home like Kavanaugh? Do they think he’s a nice guy? Would they have a beer with him?”

Disgraceful. Disgusting. Despicable.

Still on the Kavanaugh issue, this excellent answer at Quora to the question
Why is Brett Kavanaugh a bad choice for the Supreme Court?
was written by Judy Klass, Truman Scholar, D.Phil Political Science/Latin American Studies. Ms Klass has kindly given me permission to post her words here.

Before any women stepped forward, Kavanaugh reminded me of Clarence Thomas. He’s that shallow and callow. His repetitive, weaselly, evasive answers to Senators’ questions annoy me. There are some men (John Roberts comes to mind) most of whose opinions on the Court I violently disagree with, and yet they have gravitas and comport themselves with dignity; they at least seem smart and thoughtful enough to be Supreme Court justices. Before we heard about the binge drinking of Kavanaugh, and the gambling addiction (all that money spent on baseball tickets? Really?), and him damaging someone’s truck while a drunken senior at Yale and refusing to apologize or pay for it, and the sexual allegations — before we’d heard all that, there was a snotty, bratty, inauthentic quality to Kavanaugh that I found quite off-putting. I went to prep school in the 1980s. I watched him and thought: I went to school with that kid. I know that type. Yuk.

Senator Leahy and others exposed the ways he lied before the Senate at earlier confirmation hearings for a lower judgeship — how he lied about whether he’d been part of W. administration conversations about the legality of torture (he said he wasn’t part of those talks and he was) and his disingenuous answers about illegally obtained information on Democrats that was shared with him … It just left a bad taste in my mouth.

Then I learned that he was the one pushing the garbage story about Vince Foster. Vince Foster battled depression, and was used to the more gentle, small-town feel of political life in Arkansas, and was overwhelmed by life in Washington DC, and was smeared by the Wall Street Journal, and committed suicide, and it caused his family great pain when Republicans pushed the BS story that the Clintons killed him. We learned during Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearings that Kavanaugh was pushing that BS story about Foster harder than anyone; he wouldn’t let it go. And then we learned he was the one pushing for both President Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky to be forced to answer graphic, detailed, humiliating sexual questions about a consensual relationship that she initiated, he broke off and that they both preferred to keep private. That sewer bilge that was such a distinctive part of (college rapist enabler) Ken Starr’s investigation … apparently, a lot of it originated with Brett Kavanaugh.

If you watch Monica Lewinsky’s TED talk, she talks about how being publicly slut-shamed ruined her life. She compares herself to the Rutgers student who was gay and had his first sexual encounter, then learned his roommate had filmed and broadcast it — and the student who had been humiliated jumped off the George Washington Bridge. It was Brett Kavanaugh and Ken Starr who played the roommate’s role in her life, not the Clintons; Starr and Kavanaugh slut-shamed her and President Clinton, both. I’ve been thinking about that for the last few days: about Julie Swetnick’s statement that Kavanaugh loved to talk in crude, ugly, sexual terms, and talked about women in demeaning ways … and I thought of that TED talk when I read how Kavanaugh’s freshman college roommate said it would be totally in character for Kavanaugh and his crowd to have gotten Debbie Ramirez drunk on purpose and done what she says he/they did to her.

One of these personas was his prep school/frat boy incarnation, and one was his self-righteous, hyper-partisan, moralizing Republican lawyer incarnation — but are the two personas really all that different? Each persona adds up to a shame-challenged, potty-mouthed guy, an enemy of human privacy and dignity, into rude, crude humiliation games …

It’s unprecedented that Republicans refused to release SO MANY documents about Kavanaugh’s time in the W administration for Senators to consider before voting on his nomination. And the way they are refusing to have the FBI investigate credible claims of sexual assault is equally unprecedented — and a testament to how little faith they have in him, and how much they think they and he have to hide.

Seeing him yelling at the start of the hearing today, a hearing he asked for, calling it a disgrace, wallowing in self-pity, snippily scolding Democrats, showing no respect for US Senators … It was the same callow brat, just demonstrating more of his ugly side in public. He’s a Republican Party stooge, a party hack, a man who was all for destroying a president for purely partisan reasons, who then, with breathtaking hypocrisy, did a 180 and said oh, a president could commit any crime and still should not get prosecuted for it while in office … He’s Trump’s safety, his Get Out of Jail Free card, and it stinks to high heaven.

And if Republicans go ahead and hustle him through, and confirm this lying, boorish, unstable, contemptible creature to the United States Supreme Court, I won’t be a bit surprised.

After I'd prepared the above yesterday, what happened next?

Senate Republicans voted to advance the confirmation of US supreme court nominee Brett Kavanaugh after an extraordinary display of 11th-hour drama that saw a key Republican senator break ranks and call for an FBI investigation into the sexual assault allegations against Donald Trump’s pick for the Supreme Court.

Just before the Senate judiciary committee voted 11-10, along strict party lines, to send Kavanaugh’s nomination to the floor for the full chamber’s consideration, Republican Senator Jeff Flake (Arizona) announced he would support a “limited” FBI investigation and threatened to oppose Kavanaugh if there was no further examination of the allegations against him.

President Donald Trump said he has ordered the FBI to "conduct a supplemental investigation to update Judge Kavanaugh’s file" but clarified that he wanted it "limited in scope and completed in less than one week."

So on we go, the circus remains in town for another week.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Still Equinoctially Inclined - Tracking Inequality

A question at Quora on Saturday had me shuffling through my archives to discover what I was doing 5 years ago from that day (22 September). In 2013, 22 September must have been a Sunday, I hadn't written a post, so I couldn't answer the question, as asked. However, on Saturday 21st September I'd posted a lengthy screed which brought forth some interesting comments. As we're still in equinoctial territory, I'm going to add, here, a summary of that 2013 post and some of the comments, because on re-reading I found it all quite interesting - perhaps another stray passing reader will, also. I'll add a link to the full 2013 post + comments lower down. This a longer post than usual, so will cover the whole of mid-week.

Thoughts at Equinox - Who Laid the Tracks?
(Summarised version).

The USA's version of "middle class" is different from the UK's version. Here in the USA the middle class seems to refer to anyone not living in actual poverty, but not of the 1% of elite bankers, financiers, corporate CEOs, "celebs", multimillionaires and billionaires. In the UK, middle class is understood to relate to the professions: doctors, lawyers, professors, scientists - that sort of thing. Ordinary folk, tradespeople, craftsmen, office workers, factory workers, store assistants etc. are the working class. Bearing that difference in mind, I recntly read an article by Edward McClelland at Salon website.

RIP, the middle class: 1946-2013
The 1 percent hollowed out the middle class and our industrial base. And Washington just let it happen

For the majority of human history – and in the majority of countries today – there have been only two classes: aristocracy and peasantry. It’s an order in which the many toil for subsistence wages to provide luxuries for the few. Twentieth century America temporarily escaped this stratification, but now, as statistics on economic inequality demonstrate, we’re slipping back in that direction.

At this time of equinox, and balance in the natural world, doesn't it seem peculiar that any kind of equinox or balance has never, ever existed for humans - anywhere on Earth? Balance, even partial balance, of the distribution of wealth and bounty of planet earth?

We, in the west at least, have moved in cycles of vicious feudalism/slavery, to a much milder disguised form of the same, back to a variation of the more intense form, under a different name.

Why is this? Why does it have to be like this? Karl Marx and others throughout history must have asked the question and tried to answer it. Their solutions didn't take, anymore than it would be feasible to try stopping a toy train on circular track and causing it to take a different route where no tracks existed.

But who laid those tracks in the first place? The elite (for want of a better description of the planet's early rulers). How did they become rulers, and capable of doing this? Why did they think it was the right thing to do?

If astrology works at all, it has to be something inherent in humans due to our physical position in our solar system. Our very nature must drive us along these already laid tracks, and divides us very unequally into rulers and ruled. I wonder where it says that in planetary language? Is it due to the Sun's rule over life itself? That could explain the need for leaders - a ruler: king, emperor, president, whatever, but it doesn't explain why things are, and have always been, so unbalanced; or when efforts to bring about even minor adjustments are made, results are short-lived at best. We soon veer back to the same old tracks. The part of DNA relating to greed for wealth and control must be fairly rare but very, very powerful.

That little lot spewed, unbidden, right off the top of my head and could well be utter rubbish. I needed to let off some steam.

Some interesting points made by commenters

From "mike"

mike said...

I suspect it's the "survival of the fittest" part of our DNA. We humans have become domesticated and "civilized", but our primal DNA still rules. Seems that all animals have a physically superior alpha-type that aggressively asserts fiefdom over the lesser.

With "civilization" has come the ability to compete with our brain rather than brawn. The ability to out-smart, cheat, lie, steal, and out-maneuver rivals pays dividends and allows an individual to amass superior resources, hence a social dominance. An honest and clever individual will easily succumb to a dishonest and clever individual...particularly when the underlings judge the dispute. Underlings are easily swayed by manipulation and deceit. Just look at how politics are only matters what doubt can be instilled in the public's opinion of an honest individual. Truth does not matter with a manipulated public.

With every group of people, there is always a need for several individuals to assert themselves and vie for leadership. I have seen this need for superiority and desire for leadership at every job I've ever had and within every group I've been a member. We humans and most animals assemble ourselves in a hierarchy.

You said, "The part of DNA relating to greed for wealth and control must be fairly rare but very, very powerful." I think this is a very COMMON attribute of humans. There are leaders and there are followers.

It's ironic that the powerful usually feel superior and condescending toward the followers and lesser individuals. The followers and lesser individuals usually feel contentious and resentful of the powerful. Yet, one begets the other.

Recent findings regarding the neanderthals indicates they were a much more peaceful species than us sapiens. So, maybe the sapiens' DNA is particularly tainted.

There are and have been cultures where leadership did not equate to power, except for collective decision making. Many of the more primitive tribes (hunter-gather) on Earth today, of which there aren't many remaining...most are in S.America's rainforest, and the original Native American tribes did not possess the knowledge of wealth and ownership...they did know rival-tribal warfare, though.

I responded
mike ~ The "survival of the fittest" accounts for part of the story, as it relates to the masses, I agree. Any group of ordinary people does tend to eventually form some kind of hierarchical pattern.
Native Americans had tribal chiefs, as I suppose do other early tribal groups elsewhere in the world.

Perhaps the king/emperor-rulers/peasants pattern has to be just an extension and perhaps, in some ways, a corruption of that innate hierarchical pattern of ours.....maybe dictated by the planets.....maybe not.

Ideally the leaders should protect the followers. In the past there was some of this going on. Now, not so fact not at all. The pattern has been corrupted.

I like your last point - that homo sapiens DNA come have become somehow tainted; neanderthals, derided as they usually are, could have, if they had survived, aeons later might have brought us to a better place.

"LB" said, quoting from Ronald Wright, A Short History of Progress :

"Civilization is an experiment, a very recent way of life in the human career, and it has a habit of walking into what I am calling progress traps. A small village on good land beside a river is a good idea; but when the village grows into a city and paves over the good land, it becomes a bad idea. While prevention might have been easy, a cure may be impossible: a city isn't easily moved. This human inability to foresee -- or to watch out for -- long-range consequences may be inherent to our kind, shaped by the millions of years when we lived from hand to mouth by hunting and gathering. It may also be little more than a mix of inertia, greed, and foolishness encouraged by the shape of the social pyramid. The concentration of power at the top of large-scale societies gives the elite a vested interest in the status quo; they continue to prosper in darkening times long after the environment and general populace begin to suffer. (109)"

LB - I think mike makes some good points about some (not all) of society's more successful leaders and the ways in which we're easily manipulated, at least initially. Whether it's politics, business, medicine, church, or even within our chosen spiritual or social-groups, studies have suggested people lacking conscience (those with sociopathic/psychopathic tendencies) are more likely to hold positions of power.

Which isn't to let those of us who are led completely off the hook. Sometimes, though not always, there's a choice involved. We often most admire those self-made men and women (frequently ruthless) who've risen to the top, holding them up as shining examples of self-sufficiency and what it takes to make it in our world.

Or, we readily mistake charm for character and/or place a higher value on quick fixes that promise us MORE of something -more convenience, more power, more money, more success, more happiness, more immediate gratification- and in the process lose sight of a longer range vision that includes truth, personal integrity and compassion, a vision that honors our connectedness by including and caring for *all* members of society - especially the "least among us". Nothing worthwhile is ever gained without restraint and sacrifice, words we seldom like to hear.

I responded
LB ~ You wrote studies have suggested people lacking conscience (those with sociopathic/psychopathic tendencies) are more likely to hold positions of power.

This has to be the crux of what I see as a corruption of the old straight-forward leader/follower pattern. Maybe the occasionally sociopathic tendency found in humans is what defines homo sapiens as against neanderthals, maybe that was the "gift" sapiens gave us.

As you say, those being led bear some blame for allowing corruption to spread, by being naive, lazy or manipulated by brain-wash.

Wouldn't it be wonderful to have a time-lapse-type movie of history from the very first leader/king we know of, to discover how he came to be king or leader, and follow through all of history until now, in a chosen group of countries - those which would best illustrate how it all developed. Massive, impossible job, though, delving too far back into mists of time to be in any way accurate.

From "Juno"
A good friend of mine (much older and wiser, in his mid 60's now) said back in the 90's when NAFTA passed, "They are not satisfied - not until they destroy the middle class." He has referring to the corporate elite and the politicians that colluded with them. My friend, an old Labour type, saw teh beginning of the end when the Soviet Union collapsed, because the U.S. no longer had to present an alternate economic model. Marx may have promised a worker's paradise, but here in the U.S. we actually had it.

I responded
Yes, I've come to understand from my husband that "things were not always like this here". Which means, logically, that things will not always remain as they are now , because we do move in cycles.

Let's hope that we're experiencing a relatively short cycle which could end with another collapse somewhere, somehow (I hope it will not be our own collapse, but....)


“Equality may perhaps be a right, but no power on earth can turn it into a fact.”
― Honoré de Balzac
“If human equality is to be for ever averted — if the High, as we have called them, are to keep their places permanently — then the prevailing mental condition must be controlled insanity.”
― George Orwell, 1984

Monday, September 24, 2018

Music Monday's Ups and Downs

We are currently making our way through sets of DVDs of that old British TV series from the early 1970s, Upstairs Downstairs. It's a far better series, in my opinion, than the much-lauded Downton Abbey - a series that might never have existed without inspiration from its predecessor.

For Music Monday, do take a listen to the pleasant theme music from the show. It was composed by Alexander Faris, who died some three years ago, aged 94. An obituary piece from The Independent is HERE.

The rather courtly, early part of the theme reflects the times depicted in Upstairs Downstairs - London, around the turn of 19th/20th centuries. At 1 minute 36 seconds in, there's a change of rhythm and a more jaunty, cheeky theme develops - an echo of the song, "What are we going to do with Uncle Arthur?"
sung in the show by "Sarah", played with much verve by Pauline Collins.

Clips of the song:

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Equinox is Here Again!

Are we there yet? We are indeed - but you wouldn't know it, in Oklahoma. It'll be many more weeks before the leaves begin to turn colour and fall, or before temperatures start to tumble too. Yet, officially we are here...

“But when fall comes, kicking summer out on its treacherous ass as it always does one day sometime after the midpoint of September, it stays awhile like an old friend that you have missed. It settles in the way an old friend will settle into your favorite chair and take out his pipe and light it and then fill the afternoon with stories of places he has been and things he has done since last he saw you.”
― Stephen King, 'Salem's Lot

Here's an autumnal equinox-related oddity I hadn't not come across before - from the ancient Roman world:

Equinox and medical theory

The Aëtius parapegma is an almanac that appears as a chapter in the 6th-century Tetrabiblos of Aëtius of Amida. It treats the rising and setting of constellations, weather forecasting, and medical advice as closely intertwined, and notes of the equinox (placed on September 25) that -
There is the greatest disturbance in the air for three days previous. Thus it is necessary to be careful neither to phlebotomize, nor purge, nor otherwise to change the body violently from the 15th of September through the 24th.
The passage is presented as advice for physicians, based on the principle that "the bodies of healthy people, and especially those of sick people, change with the condition of the air".

So, blood-letting and purging are not recommended. Alrighty then!

Friday, September 21, 2018

Arty Farty Friday ~ Merciless Pursuit of Colour

Two interesting articles, about past methods of creating the colours yellow and blue, have lingered in my bookmarks, awaiting a suitable Arty Farty Friday.

The Murky History of the Colour Yellow, by Kelly Grovier. The full piece, available from the link, contains images of relevant paintings, and tells that:
Yellow is the cruellest colour. Long before it came to signify cowardice sometime in the middle of the 19th Century (the later insult “yellow-bellied” is from the Jazz age), yellow was the colour most often reached for by Medieval and Renaissance artists when cloaking the callous betrayer, Judas Iscariot, whose duplicitous kiss singled Christ out for the tortures of crucifixion.

If legend is to be believed, some of the most memorable instances of yellow in art history – from the transcendent shimmers of JMW Turner’s lucent landscapes to the troubled music of Vincent van Gogh’s whorling constellations – are caked in cruelty, said to be fashioned from the sickly urine of malnourished cows.

The waste of wasting beasts that had been force-fed nothing other than mango leaves in the Bengalese city of Monghyr was reputedly caught in terracotta pots and clarified to a syrup over an open flame. Believed to be filtered, dried, and clenched into pigment clumps called ‘piuri’ that were then sold to artists, the chalky spheres were crumbled onto the palettes of every artist from Turner to Van Gogh, who in turn smeared their lurid lemony luminescence across the surfaces of their iconic canvases and into cultural consciousness.

All that glistens is not gold

Allegedly born of abuse, surviving vestiges of so-called 'Indian Yellow' glisten with an obscene poignancy from the walls of museums all around the world. When seen in such unsettling light, masterpieces such as Turner’s The Angel Standing in the Sun (1846) and Van Gogh’s The Starry Night (1889) take on a different sheen, appearing to be steeped in the enduring residue of bygone brutality. No longer merely a metaphor for inner unrest, Van Gogh’s whorling stars, painted a month after the artist admitted himself to the Saint-Paul asylum in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence in May 1889, become gritty and real in their aching yellow glister.
...... the process was finally outlawed in Bengal and its use abandoned in Europe....

The second piece:

"The Bible described it as the perfect, pure blue. And then for nearly 2,000 years, everyone forgot what it looked like"
By Noga Tarnopolsky
Forty-nine times the Bible mentions a perfect, pure blue, a color so magnificent and transcendent that it was all but impossible to describe. Yet, for most of the last 2,000 years, nobody has known exactly what “biblical blue” — called tekhelet in Hebrew — actually looked like or how it could be re-created.
At the time of the Second Temple, which towered above Jerusalem until it was destroyed by the Romans, a blue dye of the same name was used to color the fabric used in the clothing of the high priests. Jewish men are still commanded to use a tekhelet-tinted thread in the knotted fringes of their prayer shawls, though what that might look like remained unclear for years....

A possible clue to the ingredients that combined to make tekhelet came from the Talmud, the canonical body of rabbinic texts, in which a man named Abaye asked an elder “this thread of tekhelet, how do you dye it?” He was told that “the blood of the snail and chemicals” (apparently caustic soda or sodium carbonate) had to be boiled together to create the dye. Knowing that the dunes of Dor Beach, a popular spot on Israel’s northern Mediterranean shore, hid ruins of ancient dyeing vats and unexplained mounds of discarded snail shells, the explorers set off in the mid-1980s to identify the species of sea snail they believed might hold the key to finally revealing what tekhelet looked like.

Dor Beach’s Murex trunculus snails seemed promising, but the purplish ink produced by secretions of their glands ended up dyeing cloth yellow. It fell to Otto Elsner, a chemist at the Shenkar College of Engineering and Design near Tel Aviv, to discover that when the ink extracted from the snails was exposed to the sun, it transformed into “deep sky blue.”

Was it, finally, tekhelet? With a blue similar to that of a flawless sapphire, tekhelet was an arresting hue, and everyone seemed satisfied that the mythic color had finally reappeared......

From earliest human history, from the Levant to North Africa, blue has been considered a lucky color. It is still common to see shutters or rooftops painted bright blue as a protective amulet. One legend has it that as the evil eye descends toward Earth, a flash of sky-blue disorients it, sending it away. The superstition reached Europe, and from there the New World. An 1898 compilation of British customs published in the quarterly journal Folk-Lore explains that the “something old” and “something blue” a bride wears “are devices to baffle the Evil Eye,” without which the malevolent forces would “render her barren.”........

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Accelerated Pace!

Further to yesterday's post...

Our trip to the Hospital in Oklahoma City went smoothly and more speedily than we expected. Left home 7 AM, arrived at the hospital around 8.35 AM. Registration was fairly quick; not long after 9 AM we were already in the Cath Lab, Himself in hospital gown and socks waiting for a catheter to be fixed up. No blood work was needed (contrary to our expectations). After a wait of about an hour the doctor who was to perform the procedure - a very pleasant guy he was too - came to have a few words with us (husband, me and K. - husband's daughter). After another short wait husband was off to have his pacemaker "seen to".

We joined our other companion, K's husband, for a wait of some 30 minutes, then returned to the Catheter Lab to await husband's return. The doctor came first, reassured us that all had gone well, according to plan, and confirmed that, after an hour or so, husband would be able to leave.

Amazingly, we were back home by 3 PM, after having a spot of lunch at a Greek restaurant on the way out of The City. Husband has to take it easy on his left arm for a day or two, and should be alright to drive after a couple of days.

So all's well. Husband has a new companion too, a magic 'box' which somehow monitors his pacemaker and sends messages, once every 24 hours, to some place beyond the back of beyond. Ideally it is to be kept close to his bed. If by any chance he's not around his bed when box attempts to contact his pacemaker, sometime in the early hours, it will "search for it" - and for him. Yeah - I know!

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Pace Changing... Again

What's happening, for us, today is a sequel to what was described in this post from October 2010, some 8 years ago:

Change of Pace for Mañana

Around 10 days ago husband's pacemaker went into "safe mode" - he noticed, when monitoring his blood pressure, that his heart rate was always spot on 65 - this went on for several consecutive days. We looked for information online and discovered the likely reason: new pacemaker battery/generator needed!

First stop was at our family doctor's office, husband was given an appointment within a couple of hours, then and referred straight away to the nearby local hospital where, fortunately, a cardiologist was present, on one of his duty days there. The cardiologist confirmed that our findings were correct. Next step was to get the pacemaker "interrogated" by a representative technician from the pacemaker's manufacturer. This was done the next day, a quick job, just to confirm there was no malfunctioning going on.

An appointment to have a new generator inserted was made. This has to be done at a hospital in Oklahoma City - as was the case in 2010. So, that's where we'll be today. Husband's daughter and son-in-law will drive us to The City. We understand the procedure will be fairly routine, with local aesthetic this time, small incision - out with the old bits, in with the new. Including registration, waiting time, and a bit of bed rest and monitoring for the husband afterwards, it'll be an all day job - 9 to 5 at least.

Husband's pacemaker has given sterling service for the past 8 years; we shall be wildly optimistic and with glass half full say, "Here's to the next 8!" (Husband was 81 in March by the way.)

Monday, September 17, 2018

Music Monday ~ Willie & Beto

Texas senatorial candidate Beto O'Rourke (Democrat) joined Willie Nelson onstage to play and sing "Will the Circle be Unbroken" among other numbers at Nelson's annual July 4 Picnic in 2018.

"In two weeks’ time, Willie is scheduled to be one of the headliners for an O’Rourke rally in Austin -- the first time in the singer’s long career, according to Rolling Stone magazine, that he’s done a public performance for a political candidate."

Willie's Republican fans are not impressed
Fox News headline:

"Willie Nelson fans furious over announcement that he'll headline a rally for a Dem candidate."

I like many of Willie's songs but I'm not an avid fan, Merle Haggard and Waylon Jennings were more my cup o' tea - and I'm probably as left as they come, politically, in this 'ere Bible Belt of the USA. When my country music fandom was honed, back in England, I had no knowledge of American politics, didn't care a jot about that, I loved what I heard, that was the end of it - still is, where music is concerned.

As it's Music Monday, here's one of Willie's lesser known renditions - a Bob Dylan song. The lyrics are kind of apt for current circumstances.

Gotta Serve Somebody

Full lyrics HERE


You may be an ambassador to England or France
You may like to gamble, you might like to dance
You may be the heavyweight champion of the world
You may be a socialite with a long string of pearls

But you're gonna have to serve somebody, yes
Indeed you're gonna have to serve somebody
Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you're gonna have to serve somebody............

Saturday, September 15, 2018


Maria Adams at Quora posted the following in response to the question:
What's the best Donald Trump joke you have heard?

She added, with regard to its source:
Source: unknown. Whoever knows the source of jokes?

Donald Trump meets with the Queen. He asks her, "Your Majesty, how do you run such an efficient government? Are there any tips you can give to me?"

"Well," says the Queen, "the most important thing is to surround yourself with intelligent people."

Trump frowns. "But how do I know the people around me are really intelligent?"

The Queen takes a sip of tea. "Oh, that's easy. You just ask them to answer an intelligence riddle."

The Queen pushes a button on her intercom. "Please send Theresa May in here, would you?"

Theresa May walks into the room. "Yes, my Queen?"

The Queen smiles. "Answer me this, please, Theresa. Your mother and father have a child. It is not your brother and it is not your sister. Who is it?"

Without pausing for a moment, Theresa answers, "That would be me."

"Yes! Very good," says the Queen.

Back at the White House, Trump asks to speak with Vice President Mike Pence.

"Mike, answer this for me. Your mother and father have a child. It's not your brother and it's not your sister. Who is it?"

"I'm not sure," says the Vice President. "Let me get back to you on that one."

Mike Pence goes to his advisers and asks every one, but none can give him an answer. Finally, he ends up in the men's room and recognizes General McMasters' shoes in the next stall.

Mike shouts, "General! Can you answer this for me? Your mother and your father have a child and it's not your brother or your sister. Who is it?

General McMaster yells back, "That's easy. It's me!"

Mike Pence smiles. "Thanks!" and goes back to the Oval Office to speak with Trump.

"Say, I did some research and I have the answer to that riddle. It's General McMaster."

Trump gets up, stomps over to Mike Pence, and angrily yells into his face,
"No, you idiot! It's Theresa May!"

Friday, September 14, 2018

Arty Farty Friday ~ Modigliani

Amedeo Modigliani was both sculptor and painter. I much prefer his sculptures -they have an almost African or Egyptian look.
For me, his portraits (which form the bulk of his best known work) all appear much alike. His subjects have the same elongated oval faces and long necks, they stare back at you with vacant expressions, they could easily all be related, so alike do they appear. Occasionally one can see a person in real life who resembles a Modigliani portrait, it's an odd sensation - a feeling that you've met them somewhere before. Google Image displays many examples, HERE.

This Italian-born artist was the stereotypical, romantic and poverty-stricken bohemian who pursued his art amid a haze of drugs, alcohol and dissolution in the Paris of the early 20th century. It has been said that he worked as wildly as he lived, in spite of his excesses in the alcohol and drugs department - not to mention his women.One biography states " It seems his whole life was a series of protests: against the bourgeois smugness of his family of businessmen, and against a society that failed to recognize and reward his talent."

He died in squalor in January 1920 at the age of 35, discovered by a neighbour. He was in the final throes of tubercular meningitis, bed strewn with bottles of alcohol and cans of sardines, his mistress Jeanne Hébuterne nursing him. She hadn't thought to call a doctor, but her devotion to her lover was so great that, two days after his death, she threw herself backwards from a fifth-floor window. She was nine months pregnant with their second child.

Modigliani was born on 12 July 1884 in Livorno, Italy at 8.10 am (Time according to Astrotheme)

His Cancer stellium of Sun, Mercury and Venus, together with Moon in Pisces indicate an ultra-sensitive, emotional character. Pluto and Saturn in Gemini are in 10th house of career. Neptune, planet of creativity and imagination is right at midheaven, if time of birth is accurate - the midheaven angle is one of the strongest positions in the chart. Neptune can also relate to addiction. It has been said that his excesses of drugs and alcohol did not diminish "his great desire to work" - the two planets in 10th house relate to this trait. He had Neptune trine Uranus as had many of his contemporaries, but additionally Modigliani had natal Uranus and Mars within 4 degrees of each other on cusp of first/second houses. Firmicus gives the following interpretation of Mars in the first house :"makes men bold, clever, emotional; wanderers, unstable in every way;... whatever they undertake flows from their hands and their inheritance is wasted..."

 Self portrait

Thursday, September 13, 2018

American Politics

This question at Quora recently brought forth several lengthy responses:
Why is there so much turmoil in American politics today?

The illustration, right, plus a succinct 2-sentence answer by Mason Kelsey, former Computer Programmer, now Retired say all that needs to be said, in my opinion. I quote Mr Kelsey:
Democratic Party forgot to stay based in grassroots liberal and progressive values. The Republican Party allowed the influx of Tea Party racist, neo-Nazi members who took over the party.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018


Ray Bradbury was something of a philosopher, similar to ancient story-teller, Aesop and his fables. Some of Bradbury's tales will set readers trembling, some will leave them curious and wondering. A select few of his stories could cause serious re-thinks of a reader's previous attitudes.

Two of Ray Bradbury's stories, adapted to short TV dramas, have reminded me of something that self-help guides have often dictated, but without the same impact, i.e. that attitude is everything. These two stories paint pictures, a far more effective strategy than mere paragraphs of advice and instructions.

First story The Toynbee Convector:
The inventor and time traveller at centre of the tale comes from a time of imminent environmental collapse - and an economically and creatively stagnant late 20th century society. In his time machine, The Toynbee Convector, he travels forward one hundred years. On returning to the 20th century he shows evidence in films and other records of his trip. One hundred years hence man had managed to develop a beautiful world - better life style, and a restored natural environment.

Initially, the people, unable to disprove validity of the records brought from the future, are inspired by the prospect and begin projects likely to fulfill the vision and create the world the time traveller has seen.

A hundred years later, that more perfect world has come to pass. On a day the public has been told to expect to see the young time traveller arrive to meet his aged self, the time traveller recounts his story to a reporter, during the first interview he has ever granted. He reveals what really happened many years ago: "I lied."

Suspecting that the world's people had it in them to create a better world, he brought them the illusion of one, to give humanity a goal, and a hope. The imagined future became reality. After his admission, the time traveller dies, but leaves with the reporter proof of what he has told him, expecting the reporter would tell people the truth. They would understand that they had actually saved themselves. But the reporter decides to maintain the illusion, destroys the evidence the time traveller left for him to reveal.

Second story, The Day it Rained Forever, tells of three men who have been living in an old hotel in an Arizona desert ghost town for more than 20 years. Oppressive heat, dust and constant drought is the norm, rain comes at most once a year, and is eagerly awaited as the story opens. This particular year has been exceptionally hot. The men bemoan their fate constantly; one of them retires to his bed and intends to remain there, without sustenance until he dies. Towards evening, with no prospect of rain appearing on this day when it was historically expected, a car approaches. The woman driver, a lady no longer young stops her vehicle, and in the process damages the already aged and battered car, which is carrying a covered oddly-shaped object on the roof rack.

The woman introduces herself and chats to the two men. They invite her into the hotel for a meal. They seem to immediately start feeling better, spruce themselves up a bit, and over dinner she tells them she is a musician. She waxes lyrical about her love of music. The object atop her car is a harp. They bring it into the hotel and she plays - a beautiful melody. As she plays she seems to become younger, more beautiful. The attitude of the two men changes from depressed to uplifted. The woman goes to the third man, who hopes to die, and offers him soup. He refuses. Later it starts to rain heavily. It's as though the changed attitudes of the two men had caused the helpful and much wished-for change in the weather.

These two tales, were placed one after the other, on a DVD, part of a set we have in our collection: The Ray Bradbury Theater. It took a moment, but I realised that their message is one and the same: a change of attitude can change many things.

PS: For more about Ray Bradbury, and his natal chart, click on link to read my post from 2009.

Monday, September 10, 2018

Music Monday - Stars Being Born - and Re-born

A Star Is Born has been re-made yet again. The 2018 version stars Lady Ga-Ga and Bradley Cooper. I usually feel distinctly cynical about re-makes, they can often be vehicles for the sole purpose of depositing more dosh into the pockets of film industry magnates. This story though, more than most, does lend itself to being re-done - adjusted to fit the current generation's musical tastes and the way the entertainment industry is perceived and experienced.

A Star is Born has a long history. It didn't, as I had suspected, originate as a novel, but began as a 1937 American Technicolor romantic drama film (not a musical) produced by David O. Selznick, directed by William A. Wellman from a script by Wellman, Robert Carson, Dorothy Parker, and her husband Alan Campbell. Nice to see Dorothy Parker's name there! The original film had themes picked up, polished and expanded upon, from a 1932 film What Price Hollywood?

A Star is Born has been re-born three times since 1937, when it starred Janet Gaynor and Frederic March. Each re-make does carry the flavour of its time: the 1954 version starred Judy Garland and James Mason; in the 1976 version Barbra Streisand and Kris Kristofferson led the cast, and in 2018 Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper take the starring roles.

I've seen the 1954 and 1976 versions, though not the original. One reviewer of all three films considered the original to be the best of the lot, mainly due to its superior dialogue and writing.

As it's Music Monday, let's re-listen to a song from the 1976 film, enjoy the sound of Streisand and the sight of Kristofferson - young again !

The new version of this story will be on release in October, we shall see how it measures up, in due course.

Saturday, September 08, 2018

Saturday and Sundry Horse Sense

On Beating Dead Horses

Dakota tribal wisdom says that when you
discover you are riding a dead horse, the best strategy is to dismount.
However, in organizations like large companies, government, hospitals,
school districts, etc. we frequently try other strategies.
These can include the following:

Buying a stronger whip.
Changing riders.
Declaring, "this is the way we've always ridden this horse."
Appointing a committee to study the horse. Arranging to visit other sites to see how they ride dead horses.
Increasing the standards to ride dead horses. Creating a training session to increase riding ability.
Appointing a 'tiger team' to revive the dead horse.
Passing a senior management resolution that the horse is not dead.
Blaming the horse's parents and/or environmental conditions when it was a colt.
Harnessing several dead horses together for increased speed.
Declaring that, "no horse is too dead to beat."
Providing additional funding to improve the horse's performance.
Doing a study to see if outside contractors can ride it cheaper.
Declaring that the horse is "better, faster, and cheaper" dead.
Forming a quality circle to find uses for dead horses.
Revisiting the performance requirements for horses.
Saying this horse was procured with cost as an independent variable.
Promoting the horse to a supervisory position.

Horses and Men in Rain by Carl Sandburg

LET us sit by a hissing steam radiator a winter’s day, gray wind pattering frozen raindrops on the window,
And let us talk about milk wagon drivers and grocery delivery boys.

Let us keep our feet in wool slippers and mix hot punches—and talk about mail carriers and messenger boys slipping along the icy sidewalks.

Let us write of olden, golden days and hunters of the Holy Grail and men called “knights” riding horses in the rain, in the cold frozen rain for ladies they loved.

A roustabout hunched on a coal wagon goes by, icicles drip on his hat rim, sheets of ice wrapping the hunks of coal, the caravanserai a gray blur in slant of rain.

Let us nudge the steam radiator with our wool slippers and write poems of Launcelot, the hero, and Roland, the hero, and all the olden golden men who rode horses in the rain.

“There is a lot of folklore about equestrian statues, especially the ones with riders on them. There is said to be a code in the number and placement of the horse's hooves: If one of the horse's hooves is in the air, the rider was wounded in battle; two legs in the air means that the rider was killed in battle; three legs in the air indicates that the rider got lost on the way to the battle; and four legs in the air means that the sculptor was very, very clever. Five legs in the air means that there's probably at least one other horse standing behind the horse you're looking at; and the rider lying on the ground with his horse lying on top of him with all four legs in the air means that the rider was either a very incompetent horseman or owned a very bad-tempered horse.”

― Terry Pratchett, I Shall Wear Midnight

 Neptune's Horses by Walter Crane

Horse sense is the thing a horse has which keeps it from betting on people.
~W.C. Fields

It was none the less a perfectly ordinary horse, such as convergent evolution has produced in many of the places that life is to be found. They have always understood a great deal more than they let on. It is difficult to be sat on all day, every day, by some other creature, without forming an opinion about them.

On the other hand, it is perfectly possible to sit all day, every day, on top of another creature and not have the slightest thought about them whatsoever.

― Douglas Adams, Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency

Why did this animal that had prospered so in the Colorado desert leave his amiable homeland for Siberia? There is no answer. We know that when the horse negotiated the land bridge... he found on the other end an opportunity for varied development that is one of the bright aspects of animal history. He wandered into France and became the mighty Percheron, and into Arabia, where he developed into a lovely poem of a horse, and into Africa where he became the brilliant zebra, and into Scotland, where he bred selectively to form the massive Clydesdale. He would also journey into Spain, where his very name would become the designation for gentleman, a caballero, a man of the horse. There he would flourish mightily and serve the armies that would conquer much of the known world.
~James Michener

Friday, September 07, 2018

Arty Farty Friday ~ The Night

This question at Quora:

"What is the best depiction of the night in painting?"

brought forth, from contributor John James Morton, a fascinating and wide variety of images of famous paintings depicting 'the night'. Click on the link to browse through them.

Wednesday, September 05, 2018

Investigating Mercury, Ruler of Virgo and Gemini.

To write his book, titled simply Astrology, Irish poet and playwright Louis MacNeice must have spent many hours of painstaking research, as befits his own natal Virgo Sun/Mercury/Venus. He cites much material from ancient sources which can serve, in many cases, to clarify how we got to where we are in interpreting the planets and signs. For me, this is part of the fascination of astrology. The Kalendar of Shepherds, from which he quotes below was published in 1507, translated from (I think) a French version of some years earlier.

Here's part of what Louis MacNeice discovered about Mercury.

"The fair planet Mercury", says the Kalendar of Shepherds is "very full and dry of nature and is lord of speech, as the Sun is lord of light......Who is born under Mercury shall be subtle of wit....(that is and always has been Mercury's first characteristic) and shall be very crafty in many sciences....He shall ever follow and resort to them that be of good manners, and shall be fortunate on the sea to use the course of good merchandise."

Mercury is the traditional patron not only of intellectuals but of merchants. He is also the patron planet of transport. The illustration below, borrowed from Astrology shows a French Bank advertisement for travellers' cheques. In both astrology and mythology Mercury is considered to be the patron of commerce and transport.

But the Mercury man, according to the Kalendar, will not have it all his own way.

"He shall be very gracious, and he shall have harm by women, and when he is married, men shall not set so much by him as they did before." All the same, "he will have great love to ladies and gentlewomen, but yet they shall not be masters over him. He will be a very good man of the church or a religious man, and he shall not love to go to a warfare...He shall love well to preach and to speak fair rhetoric language, and to talk of philosophy and geometry."
The Kalendar details other intellectual, artistic and commercial activities and ends:

"He shall be servant to some great lord or else a receiver of his money." (The original god Mercury himself had been something of a lackey on Olympus, always running errands for the greater gods.) "He shall have a high forehead, a long visage, black eyes, and a thin beard. He shall be a great pleader in the law and will meddle with other men's deeds if they do not well and say against it."

There has been general agreement that Mercury stands for the intellect and for most types of communication, whether mental or physical. Not surprisingly, however, he is undependable; astrologers have named him "the chameleon among planets" (compare the adjective "mercurial") and have explained that he is neutral because, in the aspects, he takes color from other planets but does not give color in return. This idea goes back to Ptolemy, who says that Mercury is "generally speaking in nature like whatever of the planets may be associated with him." By Ptolemy's time he was also firmly established as the ruler of two signs, Gemini and Virgo. Astrologer Rupert Gleadow, who called him a "sexless planet", points out that both these signs are "somewhat lacking in emotion".

Mercury can make you a genius; he can also make you a crook. The original god had been both, as is shown by the early Homeric "Hymn to Hermes" in which he is described (in Shelley's translation) as

A schemer subtle beyond all belief;
A shepherd of thin dreams, a cow-stealing,
A night-watching and door-waylaying thief
who yet, while still an infant, went on to invent the lyre, killing a tortoise to use its shell for the purpose.

The planet Mercury, like Venus, owing to its actual nearness to the Sun, is always seen from earth as lying in a sign near the Sun. Consequently Mercury and Venus are comparatively often found in conjunction."

As for aspects, it is generally considered that Saturn, having such a different and therefore complementary nature, is the best influence on Mercury.

Some of my own thoughts on planet Mercury. As ruler of mental processes, Mercury really does have influence over everything in human life. It travels so fast, no time to make its individual transits felt, but it very frequently touches everything in the charts of all of us. Mercury's journey around the Sun takes 88 days, whereas Saturn's takes over 29 years.

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

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

Tuesday, September 04, 2018

Happy Birthday L.A. !

Los Angeles, California, was founded on September 4, 1781, by Spanish governor Felipe de Neve, so - Happy Birthday to L.A.! The city will be 237 years old today. It became a part of Mexico in 1821 following the Mexican War of Independence. In 1848, at the end of the Mexican–American War, Los Angeles and the rest of California were purchased as part of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, thereby becoming part of the United States. Los Angeles was incorporated as a municipality on April 4, 1850, five months before California achieved statehood.

L.A. is the second-most populous city in the United States, after New York City, and the most populous city in the Western United States. With an estimated population of four million. (Wikipedia.)

Once upon a time though, it looked like this:

More recently:

While Sun in Virgo doesn't immediately say "Los Angeles", Neptune conjunct Venus in the Venus-ruled sign of Libra fits it to a "T"! Neptune = dreams, creativity, film-making. Venus = the arts. Could there be any more appropriate signature for L.A./Hollywood? The USA can be criticised on many fronts, but the country has led the way in film-making, and has given us a treasure trove of iconic movies. Also, astrologically, with Pluto in Aquarius in harmonious trine to Neptune/Venus in Libra new ideas and novel approaches were always destined to emerge in this city's future.