Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Beefy Tee-Vee

On a British Ex-pats message board the other day a contributor had asked fellow-expats in the USA, "Do you consider yourself to be living in a free'er country with more freedom?" The questioner mentioned that he/she had recently seen this video scene and it had prompted curiosity. No responses to the poster had emerged at the time. I now see there are two pages of responses - here's a link. I don't contribute there any longer, but if I did, my answer would have been simply: "No!"

I well remember seeing the scene mentioned above, from "The Newsroom" (written by Aaron Sorkin) some years ago, and heartily agreeing with the speaker, played by Jeff Daniels.




Watching that again brought forth from my memory bank another favourite, from "Boston Legal", U.S. TV series written by David E. Kelley.




Woody Allen said (in one of his films) "Life doesn't imitate art, it imitates bad television" . But, but... good television highlights events and attitudes in such a way as to demand more notice from an often politically apathetic audience.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

LIBRA Considered

 Libra by David Palladini
In his book, Astrology published 1964, Louis MacNeice, not an astrologer, but a poet and scholar, gathered together much of interest from a variety of sources, ancient and modern. On zodiac sign Libra, through which the Sun now travels, he wrote the paragraphs below, quoting from a variety of professional astrologers. This extract was not copied and pasted from elsewhere, but copy-typed by my own fair fingers; illustrations added by me.

NOTE: Mr MacNeice uses "he" rather than my preference, he/she, and his seeming separation of male and female Libra-types, in the last paragraph, could be seen as unnecessary these days.



Libra the Scales
A cardinal airy sign, ruled by Venus. One would not expect to find Venus as Libra's ruler (it has little in common with the other Venusian sign, Taurus) but Venus, as we saw in the last chapter, sands for harmony so can promote a proper balance not only between persons but also within an individual. So the Libra type is easy to get on with, being diplomatic, gentle and tolerant. Tucker comments that this type has "many of the traits common to the Chinese race." (This was before China went Red.) Being the other equinoctial sign, Libra is the opposite number to Aries, and we could well imagine that it might do Aries some good. But this is contrary to the opinion of most astrologers who think that any two signs 180 degrees apart must be opposed to each other in every sense, just as planets are when in "opposition." There are, however, a minority who think that such opposed signs would naturally complement each other, and certainly the signs of the spring and autumn equinoxes would seem to be a case in point.

Note that Libra is the only one of the signs that is inorganic; thus it seems quite fitting that Varley summarizes its "elementary notions" as follows: "Libra, independently of its appearing in the world's horoscope, to mediate the Zodiac horizontally, and to balance, as it were, the sign of Aries, has been found to signify straight lines and regular buildings, and the sublime uninterrupted horizon line of the sea; it represents also the blue color of the sky and the distances." We might add, thinking of this blue seascape, that Venus who rules Libra is more the Venus Anadyomene of Botticelli than the sensual goddess who prompted the Wife of Bath.

The picture that emerges of the Libra person is a sociable, cultured, and courteous person, perhaps only too pleased to sparkle in embassies. He seems to be humanist, empiricist, and eclectic, and almost entirely lacking in aggression. He would do most things for peace and finds it very difficult to say no. Perhaps his chief virtue is that he can see both sides of a question; his chief failing that he is too easily influenced. As for the Libra woman, she is extremely soigné:. Barbault includes among Libra types Erasmus, Katherine Mansfield, Gandhi the apostle of non-violence, and, as its typical painters, Boucher and Watteau. Libra could hardly frighten anyone. We now move on to a sign that has long had a sinister reputation.
Astrologers mentioned:
André Barbault
John Varley
WJ Tucker

"Libra could hardly frighten anyone"?
Louis MacNeice hadn't met my mother!

Monday, September 26, 2016

Music Monday - Debatably

The first debate between presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump will be held this evening at Hofstra University in Long Island, New York, aired on TV for the erm...delectation or frustration of viewers, or in our case an experiment in deciding who can tear out most hair - husband or me.

From a piece at Counterpunch by Thomas Knapp:
Election 2016: Of Dog Legs and “Debates”
The Hofstra event and its followups won’t be debates. They’ll be combination beauty contests, “professional wrestling” matches, and campaign commercials. The only proposition either candidate will support will be “I should be president.” The closest thing to an argument either one will put forward will be “because I am not the other person on this stage.”

Yesterday I noticed a #Debate Side Effects thread at Twitter - my favourite entry:
"Yearning for Bernie"



Finding music appropriate to this evening's event - this ditty by Rush is a fairly good fit lyric-wise, though the melody wouldn't be an easy one to whistle on the way to work.

LYRICS to Farewell to Kings, written by Neil Elwood Peart, Gary Lee Weinrib, Alex Zivojinovich

When they turn the pages of history
When these days have passed long ago
Will they read of us with sadness
For the seeds that we let grow?
We turned our gaze
From the castles in the distance
Eyes cast down
On the path of least resistance

Cities full of hatred, fear and lies
Withered hearts and cruel, tormented eyes
Scheming demons dressed in kingly guise
Beating down the multitude and
Scoffing at the wise

The hypocrites are slandering
The sacred Halls of Truth
Ancient nobles showering
Their bitterness on youth
Can't we find the minds that made us strong?
Can't we learn to feel what's right
And what's wrong?
What's wrong?

Cities full of hatred, fear and lies
Withered hearts and cruel, tormented eyes
Scheming demons dressed in kingly guise
Beating down the multitude and
Scoffing at the wise
Can't we raise our eyes and make a start?
Can't we find the minds to lead us
Closer to the heart?






Here's one I could whistle - if I could whistle, that is:

Everybody's Talkin'





I've always liked this one, parts of which are certainly appropriate here: Dave Frishberg's Blizzard of Lies

.....We've got inflation licked I'll get right back to you
It's just a standard form tomorrow without fail
Pleased to meet you, thanks a lot, your check is in the mail
Marooned, marooned, marooned in a blizzard of lies
Marooned, marooned, marooned in a blizzard of lies
Your toes and knees aren't all you'll freeze
When you're in it up to your thighs
It looks like snow but you never know
When you're marooned in a blizzard of lies
You may have won a prize, won't wrinkle, shrink or peel
Your secret's safe with me, this is a real good deal
It's finger lickin' good, strictly by the book
What's fair is fair, I'll be right there, I am not a crook....



Saturday, September 24, 2016

Charting the USA

Astrodatabank has a collection of the various charts used by astrologers to represent the USA. Most popular online astrologers prefer those set for 4 July 1776, Independence Day. These have different ascendants depending on rectification, using important events in the country's history to pinpoint a rising sign.

I'm not completely convinced about the validity of such charts, or of any chart representing an inanimate entity. If there is going to be a chart to represent a country though, it ought to reflect the "feel" of the country in question, even if placements don't coincide exactly with historically important events. So, concentrating only on national characteristics, what outstanding and necessary features would I look for in a chart for the USA?

1. First: Aquarius and/or Uranus ought to be emphasised. The birth of the USA was an Aquarian/Uranian event. The establishment of the Republic is sometimes referred to as "The Great Experiment" - an effort to provide government of the people, by the people, for the people. Whether or not it has worked out as planned, it was a very Aquarian/Uranian vision and proposition. From days of the early pioneers, people of the USA have displayed a determination to create change (Uranus) of one kind or another in their own lives or the lives of others, not always for the good, it has to be said! Aquarius and Uranus are not necessarily forces for good.

2. Sagittarius/Jupiter should have fairly prominent placing. Excess, over-indulgence, "bigness", exaggeration, hyperbole are all recognisable in the overall character of this country, to me as a relative outsider, anyway. Mustn't forget religion, which is also the province of Jupiter/Sagittarius. Many of the original settlers were fleeing their own countries to find religious freedom; religion has been, and still is, for good or ill, an important part of this nation's character.

3. Leo ought to feature in the chart. Leo leads, and the USA thinks of itself as "world leader".

4. Mars should feature: military might, and the will to fight, has been present from the Revolutionary War which spawned the USA, to current debacles in the Middle East, with many between.

All the 4 July 1776 charts have, to my mind, too much emphasis on Cancer (their Sun's position). The same applies to the 2 July chart, which I'd considered a reasonable choice in the past. I really don't see the USA's character in any way Cancerian.

The Signing of the Constitution chart has Sun in Virgo, also inappropriate for the USA, in my view.

The best match I've found is the David Solte 1777 chart:
"David Solte's Presentation of the U.S. chart, data given in San Diego Astrological Society "The Uranian," May 1993, time rectified. He used the minutes of the Continental Congress to narrow down the passage of the Articles of Confederation to a few hours between 11:00 am and 2:00 pm on Nov. 15, 1777, when they were meeting in York, PA. Solte then rectified the chart to 12:46 pm Local Mean Time for the date and time when the Articles of Confederation became effective. The Declaration of Independence had declared that America was a separate entity from Great Britain, but it was not until the Confederation was established that the U.S. became a group of states united under one government.
Quite a few astrologers find that this chart works well for following the fortunes of the US government and the nation as a whole."

(Chart copied from Astrodatabank).

Sun in Scorpio: not ideal, but I can see how passionate, emotional and paranoid stubbornly Fixed Scorpionic traits could fit the USA's national character; passionate about the national flag, staunch patriotism, religion, the "American Dream", American exceptionalism, etc. One of Scorpio's symbols is the Eagle, a much revered USA national symbol. This chart has Aquarius rising. Uranus in Gemini trines and blends with the Aquarius ascendant. Jupiter in Leo, the leader's sign, lies on the descendant angle, a strong chart position, with Sagittarius near midheaven. A cardinal opposition (Cancer/Capricorn) between Mars and North Node of the Moon, a sensitive chart point could show a hint of the nation's propensity to fight at the drop of a hat; Mars in Capricorn sextiles Mercury/Saturn in Scorpio, indication of endurance and the will to work (or fight) hard when required.

No single chart exactly fits my own opinion of a national personality chart for the USA. David Solte's 1777 chart comes near.
[Edited version of a 2008 post]

Friday, September 23, 2016

Arty Farty Friday Guest Post

Guest Post by "JD" who lives in the UK.
Thank you for this JD!


I first saw this painting two or three years ago. It is hanging in The Laing Art Gallery in Newcastle [UK]. The reproductions of it on the net are poor and do not reflect the subtlety of the colours nor the depth nor the mysterious shadowy details upper left. The paint is very thickly applied over most of the surface, especially the whites of the dress which seem to have been almost plastered onto the surface.

A very interesting picture, very visceral and with layers of unknown meanings within it. When I then walked forward to read the label, I was rather surprised to see the name Lizzie Rowe. Surprised because I had previously seen some of her paintings in The Biscuit Factory and they did not engage me at all. I was more impressed by other paintings by Paul Harvey (one of The Stuckists) on display in the same show.

I have not met Lizzie Rowe but I know several people who have and who know her extremely well. On her web page she and others make no secret of the artist's journey from married heterosexual man (and father) to transgendered woman. Knowing the story, or most of it from those who know her, it is obvious that the change was traumatic and very difficult psychologically and this is reflected in part in her paintings. One hundred years from now such biographical details will be but a footnote of little consequence, it is the paintings themselves which are, or should be, the focus of attention.

I went back this morning to have another look at the painting just to see if it still evoked the same response in me. It does. The thickness of the paint is a very striking feature of it. The white semi-circle looks as though it has been applied directly from the tube. The record player, the TV and the ironing board on the right are more vibrant than in the reproductions and the strange ambiguity of the top left is even more mysterious than I remember. Thickly applied paint may suggest a slapdash approach but, in fact, it is very carefully done and the various details are clearly defined.

Last night I was looking through a book called "What Painting Is" by James Elkins. This is one of the best books about painting that I have ever read.

Elkins says that painting is the act of 'smearing coloured mud onto paper or linen' and that is the cold analytical definition but '... it is also liquid thought.'

That is a very profound statement. He goes on to quote the painter Frank Auerbach who wrote, "As soon as I become consciously aware of what the paint is doing my involvement with the painting is weakened. Paint is at its most eloquent when it is a by-product of some corporeal, spatial, developing imaginative concept, a creative identification with the subject."

What he is trying to say there is that painting, or any creative activity, is not a product of the conscious mind but is an unconscious process. Just like walking - learning to walk requires great concentration and much effort but the more you do it the less you need to think about how you do it.

Elkins continues the theme of the difficulty of explaining the thought processes involved in creating a painting- "Things only get harder to articulate when the religious meanings come into focus, and it begins to appear that the studio work - the labour - really is about redemption."

That may sound grandiose but art and religion are inseparable. They have been intertwined since the dawn of time. There is no religion or belief system in history that does not have its artistic expression.

Elkins uses the word 'religious' but I would suggest that 'spiritual' would be a better word. As I said above, any creative activity is an unconscious process which is what Auerbach was suggesting. The artist or the craftsman, and to a lesser extent the artisan and the tradesman, is involved in a strange synthesis of hand/eye/brain with the thing being created. It involves a physical effort in the act of creation and often produces a spiritual elation. The mundane, secular world calls that 'job satisfaction' but that is to trivialise it with its hint of smug self-gratification. It is not that at all, it is the calm or 'inner peace' which is the result of deep concentration and, as Auerbach notes, identification with the subject.

In the painting, the figure at the centre is deep in concentration in the act of gathering together the pearls from the broken string and that gives a stillness to the picture; a moment of calm between the activity depicted on the right and the strange ethereal quality coming from the top left of the picture. Others may have a different interpretation but that is my own reading of it.

With the reference to religion made by Elkins, we reach a point where the modern secular world closes its mind. It is not the done thing to discuss religion. The case is closed - there is no ghost in the machine!

But art is a perfect link between science and religion, between the secular and the spiritual. As the painter, the late Iain Carstairs says-

'Art is that endeavour in which consciousness imposes an otherwise intangible element of itself onto matter in such a way that it can be decoded by others: it is an alchemy which maths can never analyse or create.'

And the physicist Richard Feynman had this to say-

"I wanted very much to learn to draw, for a reason that I kept to myself: I wanted to convey an emotion I have about the beauty of the world. It’s difficult to describe because it’s an emotion.

"It’s analogous to the feeling one has in religion that has to do with a god that controls everything in the universe: there’s a generality aspect that you feel when you think about how things that appear so different and behave so differently are all run ‘behind the scenes’ by the same organization, the same physical laws. It’s an appreciation of the mathematical beauty of nature, of how she works inside; a realization that the phenomena we see result from the complexity of the inner workings between atoms; a feeling of how dramatic and wonderful it is.It’s a feeling of awe — of scientific awe — which I felt could be communicated through a drawing to someone who had also had that emotion. I could remind him, for a moment, of this feeling about the glories of the universe."

Art is the gateway to the world of spirit, to heaven. If you prefer a scientific explanation you could say it is the gateway to what the physicist David Bohm calls 'the implicate order' from which the material world flows and to which it returns.

"Vita brevis, ars longa."
___________________________________________
References:
http://www.lizzierowe.co.uk/Lizzie_Rowe/Reception.html

https://laingartgallery.org.uk/

http://www.thebiscuitfactory.com/

http://www.stuckism.com/

http://www.jameselkins.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=227:what-painting-is&catid=2:trade-books&Itemid=9

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Equinox !

At this early stage of autumn - we're barely through the door - the trees have yet to change into their Fall finery. Here's a link to a map of the USA set to indicate autumnal changes in foliage, week by week. So far, even the highest and most northerly regions are showing only "patchy" Fall color foliage, at best.

When we were out doing errands this week temperature was 99 degrees here, in South-west Oklahoma. Not much chance of Fall color here, for quite a while.