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.