Friday, November 24, 2017

Arty Farty Friday ~ So Much More Than Sun Signs

For the past few weeks I've been reading and occasionally contributing answers to questions at Quora, particularly to any questions on astrology there. I've been disappointed to note how ingrained what I call Sun sign astrology short-hand has become in people's minds. I'd hoped that, due to so much free astrology information on the internet, more readers would have become enlightened enough to realise that we are not our Sun signs! There's no such creature as "a Taurus" or "an Aquarius", "a Scorpio", "a Capricorn" and so on. I'm suspecting that social media, rather than the internet in general, has contributed greatly to this ingraining effect. Astrology message boards and forums of the past were doing a good job in educating readers as to the deeper, finer points of astrology. Much of that appears to have been forgotten now, or perhaps has never even been encountered by some of the youngest generation of astrology fans who have grown up using only Facebook.

Anyway...with the point that "we are all so much more than our Sun signs" in mind, and as it's Arty Farty Friday, and one of the artists featured was born this day,
24 November, in the 19th century, a re-run of a loosely relevant 2008 arty-farty post follows.

Before we run away with the idea that Sagittarius is all happy-clappy sunbeamy optimism, a look at two artists' lives and stars could give us pause. The two artists: Edvard Munch and Toulouse Lautrec.

Almost everyone, art lover or not, recognises Edvard Munch's painting "The Scream" (left). Perhaps because it strikes a chord in the hearts of us all - a feeling we recognise. His other works are less known. Many of them uncover the story of an artist filled with despair. Munch was born on 12 December 1863. What happened to the Sagittarian joie de vivre?
'My art is rooted in a single reflection: why am I not as others are? Why was there a curse on my cradle? Why did I come into the world without any choice? My art gives meaning to my life'.
His mother died from TB when he was five years old, and by his 14th year he had to watch his sister, his elder by a year, die from the same disease. Early paintings reflect his tortured recollections of these events. His anxiety related to women in general seems to have continued until, in his mid-forties he suffered a despressive illness which kept him in a Danish sanatorium for eight months. On recovery, he began painting more ordinary subject matter, and said that he had foresworn alcohol and women, for both had contributed to his depressive state.

Toulouse Lautrec another Sun Sagittarian artist, born 24 November 1864, also led a less than joy filled life. He was born into an aristocratic French family, but suffered physical defects which sprang from interbreeding. His bones were weak, and his growth stunted.
"The family soon realized something was wrong with the clever, audacious Henri: he was undersized, weak, and frequently ill. Then when he was twelve he broke his left thighbone by simply standing up from the sofa. The injury took months to heal, and just as he was starting to get better, he broke his other leg.

Toulouse-Lautrec would never be the same. His legs essentially quit growing. The rest of his body continued to develop--he had a full-size torso, large head, oversized hands, and bony wrists, all perched precariously on skinny, stumpy legs. For the rest of his life, wherever he went he was sure to hear the laughter of children and see the pointed fingers of men and women mocking his odd dwarf-like appearance."

Lautrec dealt with his problems differently from Munch. He leaned on Sagittarian love of excess.

What astrological factors appear to be significant in each artist's chart? Women are a common denominator in both their art and their lives, but perceived and treated quite differently. For Munch, due to his early trauma, women appear to have been a source of anguish, whereas Lautrec regarded them with understanding, friendship and as a source of joy. Position of Moon (the feminine) in each chart might be significant to this difference in attitude - Munch's Moon in serious Capricorn ruled by Saturn, Lautrec's in easy going Libra, ruled by Venus.

Edvard Munch - natal chart, unknown time of birth, so set for 12 noon. Ascendant and exact degree of Moon not accurate, but Moon would have been somewhere in Capricorn whatever the birth time.

Personal planets are bunched into four signs, Libra to Capricorn. The outer planets are opposite, in Aries to Gemini. Symbolically this comes across as "Munch against the rest of the world". His Sun and Mercury in Sagittarius sit uncomfortably next to three Scorpio planets. These two signs are not good companions, wherein might lie much of the source of his anxious discomfort. Sagittarius prefers to be jovial, happy-go-lucky, while Scorpio leans toward paranoia and secret obsession. Sunny Sagittarian vibes are symbolically drowned.

Munch's steady Capricorn Moon must have afforded some grounding, and possibly came into its own in his later years, as he recovered from a serious bout of depression.

South Node of the Moon, a sensitive point in the chart, is in Taurus and conjunct malefic Fixed Star Algol. North Node is conjunct Mars, in its own sign, Scorpio, there's extra emphasis on this angry planet. Anger and depression are closely linked. The nodal axis, with Algol at one end and Mars at the other indicates, to me, a pair of negative triggers for planets passing over the nodes in transit.

Some extracts from a biography at, with added illustration of relevant paintings, provide some insight into Munch's dis-ease:

"Munch perceived sex as an ineluctable destiny, and few of his works represent Woman (capitalized as usual) in a favorable light."
"In Puberty a skinny young girl meditates, sitting naked on her bed beneath the threatening form of her own shadow, while in The Voice a young woman, alone in the woods, attends to some inner whisper; these are the most sensitive representations of woman in Munch's work.In another iconic image, the Madonna (right), of which he painted various versions between 1893 and 1902, overtly offers her ecstatic sexuality and yet remains inaccessible. Why inaccessible? A lithographic version suggests the answer: around the frame which encloses the seductress the straggling spermatozoa wriggle in vain while, in the lower left-hand corner, a pathetic homunculus, a wizened and ageless wide-eyed fetus, lifts its supplicant gaze toward the goddess."

"Munch's lithograph verges on irony, to which he was not averse. Even so, modifying the well-known phrase, we may wish to suggest that 'irony is the courtesy of despair'. Munch's art represents women in the light of trauma.

Seduction itself is a source of anxiety; satisfaction brings remorse (Ashes, left), and jealousy and separation are experienced as terrifying and depressing events."

Toulouse Lautrec

Astrotheme has his time of birth at 6am, putting his three Sagittarius planets (Sun, Jupiter in its own sign, and Mercury) into first house of self, reflecting that life of excess he is reported to have led in the fleshpots of turn of century France. There's a Grand Cross in his chart formed by square aspects and oppositions (see small diagram) - here is much of the challenge in his life story. There's an additional opposition between Mercury and Mars - more tension and energy, here linked to communication/painting style, which is certainly bold in colour and content. His Scorpio ascendant clearly connects to the eroticisim surrounding his lifestyle. Lautrec lived fast and died young, at 36.

He is described by David Sweetmen in his book "Explosive Acts":

"Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec is known as the disfigured and dangerously self-destructive artist who recorded prolifically the louche world of sexy night-club dancers, lounging whores, and drunken bohemian merriment. Both in his life and art, he is thought to embody the climate of inebriated hilarity and excess of the fin de siecle. But as David Sweetman,
the noted biographer of Vincent van Gogh and Paul Gauguin, shows in this definitive work, there was another Toulouse-Lautrec, a committed and concerned man who moved in a secret community of anarchist revolutionaries, whose work betrayed a deep concern for human suffering, an artist who etched his sympathy for fallen women and lesbians into his portraits, and who remained loyal to the disgraced Oscar Wilde when the poet was abandoned and reviled by most."

He certainly lived up to Sagittarius's reputation for excess!

"Over time, all the hard living started to take its toll. Friends watched as walking became more and more difficult; in time, he could only go a few steps without stopping to rest and catch his breath-although he always came up with some excuse, such as a pretty girl to ogle. He probably had syphilis, which reached pandemic levels in the brothels, but it was the alcohol that was really killing him. For more than a decade, Toulouse-Lautrec happily drank his friends under the table and then arrived at the print shop cold sober. But in the late 1890s, his productivity dropped sharply with the artist often too drunk to work. When raging paranoia set in and he started shooting at the walls to kill giant imaginary spiders, his family finally stepped in and had him confined to a mental institution.

He dried out quickly, and in less than three months he was released."

A lesson to be learned from all of the above, if any passing reader has managed to stay with me thus far, is to remember that there is a heck of a lot more to a person than their Sun sign. We're wise not to forget, also, that there's a lot more to a person than their astrology!

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Wishing all in the USA...

“True thankfulness is being thankful not only for what you have, but for what you don’t have to have!"
~ Debbie Croley

And, as I've said myself, in more than one past Thanksgiving blog post - albeit with questionable grammar, preposition-wise :
In a world in which there often seems little (or nothing) to be confident about, there's still a lot to be thankful for.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Texas Tidbits

Last week we travelled into deepest Texas to visit husband's younger daughter who now lives in Killeen, it's a city just a little northwest of Austin. Here are a few choice Texas sightings from husband's camera. (Clicking on the photographs should bring up larger or clearer versions.)

You know you're in Texas when the hotel chain has had thousands of yards of carpet woven, just to make sure you know it!

On turning a corner one day, I wasn't too sure we were indeed in Texas! Maybe a fellow British ex-pat lives in that house.

I'm always happy to see junk transformed to art!

I suspect this little collage was unintentionally arty - or maybe not:


A car junk Christmas tree - nice!

It was a surprise to see this guy in the hotel bar one evening. He was in semi-civvies, but instantly recognisable: the Killeen Mall Santa of some 18 years' experience.

The old Baker Hotel in Mineral Wells has deteriorated further since we first passed by some years ago. It was once, long ago, a popular vacation destination for "the beautiful people" - its story is available in several places on the internet, including at Wikipedia, HERE.

The city of Mineral Wells, as a whole, now seems depressed and down-trodden, reflecting the dismal state of its once-prized hotel .

In a very, very junky junk/antique store in town we saw a few remnants of the Baker Hotel's brighter days.

LOL! Almost home, but still in Texas:

The Remains of the Day (apologies to Kazuo Ishiguro for use of his book title).

Monday, November 20, 2017

Rhapsodic Music Monday

I'm not an avid fan of 20th (or 21st) century pop/rock, but a handful of songs of that genre did appeal to me. I was always was drawn to, and still have on my favourites list: Bohemian Rhapsody (Queen)- see below; MacArthur Park (Richard Harris), Whiter Shade of Pale(Procul Harum), More Like the Movies (Dr. Hook), and Baker Street (Gerry Rafferty).

The first three songs have a whisper, or echo, of classical about them that I enjoy, the fourth, I like just because; and the fifth - I lurve that saxophone!

With regard to Bohemian Rhapsody, I read a couple of interesting responses to questions about the song, at Quora a while ago:

From Neil Anderson
I’ve heard a number of people suggest it’s about AIDS. It absolutely isn’t. The song was released in 1975. AIDS wasn’t even spoken about until the early 80s and Freddie wasn’t diagnosed until 87.

There’s an idea that it’s about coming out.

This sort of works in the first verse, as a man telling his mother he’s gay and had killed his old self. The rest of the song doesn’t work so well with this for me, but I accept it’s plausible.

There’s a version released with album notes saying it’s a cosmic argument between God and the devil over the soul of a murderer. Hmmm.

For me it’s a tale of murder. It does what it says.

A man kills someone for reasons we don’t know. He confesses to his mother and tries to run, but the police arrive and he’s taken away.

The operatic section is complex.
Scaramouch is a clown character. He’s comparing himself to a tragic clown. The hemp fandango is slang for the twitching of a hanged man. He’s asking if he’ll be hanged.

He’s tried for murder and there’s a court case which is hotly debated and/or a public outcry about his position and whether he should be tried and executed when he’s a victim of circumstance. The legal profession feel he should, but many don’t agree.

Meanwhile he feels abandoned by his family and/or lover who refuse to engage with him.

We leave before we know what will happen, but the protagonist realises that life and death for people like him are so meaningless that he doesn’t care whether he lives or dies.

It’s a cross between a tragic opera and a murder ballad.

Freddie was candid about it and often said it’s about what you want it to be about. He’s also said that much of it was nonsense.

Freddie wasn’t always truthful.

It’s what ever you want it to be.

Someone had also asked:
What is the meaning of Bismillah in "Bismillah, no! We will not let him go!" Noam Kaiser replied:
Originally the question asked was "Who is Bismillah".
It isn't a "who", it's a "what".
Bismillah" is a term in Arabic meaning "in the name of Allah" and the beginning of the most common Islamic prayer.
"No, in the name of god, we will not let you go".
It was a nod at Freddie Mercury's upbringing in majority-Muslim Zanzibar.
The meaning of the usage of the term is vague and has been interpreted as trying to spare either the young man's (depicted in the song) life or his soul.

Monday, November 13, 2017

If only, if only.....

It was good yesterday to find this piece, by Keith Burris, at The Blade:
Kucinich: I know why Trump was elected.
We don't hear nearly enough from Dennis Kucinich these days. He was my first choice of US politician during my early years here in the USA. There are numerous posts about him, accessible via the Label Cloud in my sidebar.

If only...if only!

Mr Burris wrote:
"Kucinich was Bernie Sanders long before Bernie..."
I know what he meant but they have both been around in politics, fighting the good fight, for a long time. Americans in general remained too blinkered (or too something) to give them the credit, and the support, they deserved - until 2016 in Bernie's case.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Eleventh Month, Eleventh Day, Eleventh Hour...

“If one were to stand on a street corner at 9 A.M. and watch the spirits of the British dead march by four abreast, the column would be 97 miles long and would take twenty hours, or until five the next morning, to pass. The French dead would take an additional fifty-one hours and the Germans another fifty-nine hours. Considering all the dead on the western front, this parade would last from 9 A.M. Monday to 4 P.M. Saturday and stretch 386 miles, roughly the distance from Paris halfway through Switzerland or from New York to Cleveland.”
~Joseph E. Persico, Eleventh Month, Eleventh Day, Eleventh Hour: Armistice Day, 1918.
“The living owe it to those who no longer can speak to tell their story for them.”
~ Czesław Miłosz, The Issa Valley.
"As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them."
~ Joseph Campbell.