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data  (pl.n.)  Factual information, information that has been organized for analysis or use, or translated into a form that is more convenient to move or process.

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Saturday
Oct252014

Scorpio: la femme fatale 3

PICASSO (b. 25 Oct 1881): Now that his pictorial innovations are neither obstacle nor surprise, his love-hate relationship with the opposite sex has become his defining characteristic. Here is an early blue period self-portrait with whore, and his breakthrough painting of five prostitutes.

As a manufacurer of Scorpionic icons his death obsession must also be given its due:

Georges Bizet 1838: Composer of Carmen, archetypal femme fatale. “The production of Bizet's final opera, Carmen, was delayed because of fears that its themes of betrayal and murder would offend audiences. After its premiere on 3 March 1875, Bizet was convinced that the work was a failure; he died of a heart attack three months later [at 37], unaware that it would prove a spectacular and enduring success.” wiki

 

       The role of Carmen was introduced by mezzo-soprano Celestine Gilli-Marie (born in November). It was said that at the 33rd performance Galli-Marié had a premonition of Bizet's death while singing the cards scene in Act III, and fainted when she left the stage; the composer in fact died that night. (W. Dean, Bizet)

Agnes Baltsa (17 November 1944) is a leading modern exponent of the role.

Celestine Gilli-Marie and Agnes BaltsaAs a musician I tell you that if you were to suppress adultery, fanaticism, crime, evil, the supernatural, there would no longer be the means for writing one note.~Georges Bizet

 

 

 

 

 

 

Friday
Oct242014

Scorpio: la femme fatale 2

Pornographic entertainer Tila Tequila was born on this day in 1981: "Because any way you look at it, Tila Tequila is quite possibly the most famous hobag in America. She is incapable of doing anything that isn’t drenched in sexuality, from her show, to her awkwardly graphic music videos, to her records (one tastefully titled The Sex EP), to her constant posing for men’s magazines, and plenty of nude photographs online." Patrolmag.com

. . . . As of December 2006, Tequila had a total of ten tattoos on her back, neck, and wrists, the first being a scorpion she received at the age of fifteen. . . . . On December 20, 2009, Tequila announced she was currently having a surrogate pregnancy for her brother. . . . . Only a month after announcing that she was engaged to be married to heiress Casey Johnson, Johnson was found dead. . . . While performing at an Illinois rock concert in 2010 she was attacked with stones, broken bottles and feces by two thousand Insane Clown Posse fans. . . . Her boyfriend/manager tried to kill her and then won a 2 million dollar suit against her. . . . Her attempted suicide brought on a brain aneurysm during which she had a near death experience (NDE).

Born in Chicago on Oct. 24, 1890, Paris-based haute couturier Mainbocher brought underwear into the open in his scandalous 1939 presentation of the corset, one of the femme fatale's most characteristic garments.

Thursday
Oct232014

Scorpio: la femme fatale 1

DIANA DORS  

Born on this day in 1931. The classic “sexpot” repeatedly in Persephone/Pluto relationships: exploited and financially victimized by a succession of boyfriends and lovers, twice forced into unwanted abortions for the sake of career; yet she sailed through it all, triumphantly poised and ever popular with the sympathetic British public.

Also born on this day in 1844 SARAH BERNHARDT: The great tragedienne and seductress, known for her reckless affairs and morbid flamboyance. For instance, sleeping in a coffin. As a toddler she fell into a fire and was “thrown, all smoking, into a large pail of fresh milk”. As a child, on a histrionic impulse, she flung herself in front of her aunt’s carriage and broke her arm in two places. She beat her classmates and cried herself into life-threatening fevers. She assembled a little zoo of lizards, crickets, and spiders, which she gleefully fed with flies. Later she married an abusive man who was one of the models for Dracula in the novel by Bram Stoker (b. Nov. 8, 1847).

 

Also born on this day, the French pornographer Restif de la Breton in 1734: writer who haunted the mysterious underworld of prostitution in pre-revolutionary France. Nicolas Edmonde Rétif wrote 44 books published in 187 volumes. His 1775 work "Le Paysan perverti" was a breakout popular success. The author strolled nightly through Paris to watch people. The main objects of his attention were the lower classes, their sexual lives and above all, women’s feet. He maintained an incestuous relationship with one of his daughter for many years.

Tuesday
Oct212014

Certain Librans

Watteau Oct 10, 1684Putin Oct. 7, 1952

Eminem 17 October 1972
Jacques Tati 9 October 1907

Giacometti 10 October 1901Wallace Stevens 2 October 1879

Saturday
Oct182014

Hands of Gemini 15: Irving Penn

Photographer Irving Penn (June 16, 1917)

Two women with tarot cards and hand-reading chart.

One of them was his wife, model Lisa Fonssagrives.

Thursday
Oct162014

Hands of Gemini 14: The Case of Aby Warburg

The great bibliomane and iconologist Aby Warburg was born on June 13, 1866, under Gemini, sign of the Twins. Scion of a wealthy family of German Jewish bankers, he ‘famously made a deal with his brother Max to forfeit his right, as the eldest son, to take over the family firm, in return for an undertaking on Max’s part to provide him with all the books he ever needed’. His brother Max was precisely one year younger, also born on June 13, thus also a Gemini, as if a twin displaced by one yearly cycle. Warburg’s great accomplishment, the creation of the Warburg Institute (now threatened) was achieved in spite of psychological disabilities including an often incapacitating dread of astrological coincidences, which he believed pursued him as he himself pursued the scholarly study of the persistent life of classical imagery. To this day the staff of the Warburg repels approaches from practicing astrologers. Perhaps the Institute would be in better shape if it participated in the reality of ancient imagery rather than sequestering it in musty antiquarianism. The campaign to save the Warburg Institute has adopted as its emblem one of the most popular images in the collection, a hand apparently engulfed in dire circumstances, waving for help, bearing the letter W in its sinews. In the classic melathesia of Zodiac to parts of the body, the Hands are of course the Twin’s. More Geminian Hands are here:http://astrodreamer.squarespace.com/blog/category/hands-of-gemini

Saturday
Oct112014

Leos are too much.


Two Leos,  Melanie Griffith and Antonio Banderas are divorcing. They met on the set of "Too Much" and they made one last film together, "Automata".  They will remember each other always tho as they bare matching heart tattoos. (The heart is, of course, the bodily organ ruled by Leo.) Griffith's predeliction to share her bed with lions showed up early. Here she is, age 17, with her family's pet lion, Neil.

Doing the mane thing.

Sunday
Aug312014

Houdini: Red Aries # 39

Did Houdini (26 March 1874) actually favor a bright red robe? I don't know, but he started his career as a child magician in red woolen stockings. He and Brody (14 April 1973) are both Aries; Brody has been obsessed him since childhood. Houdini edited a newspaper supplement called Red Magic printed entirely in red ink. The escape imagery is, of course, a reiteration of the birth experience, Aries being the first sign . . .



 



David Blaine, b. 4 April 1973

Friday
Jun132014

Gemini show of hands (12)

Updating Hands of Gemini


Damien Hirst -- his signature camera pose (7June65)

Tom Daley (21May94)

Durer: May 21, 1471

 a self-portrait and his 

iconic praying hands.

more Durer hands below

 


Elsa Maxwell (24May1883)


Jim Dine (16June1935)  

Jim Dine diptych


Boyfriends and Instagram buddies:

Andy Cohen (2June68) & Anderson Cooper (3June67)


Continued at Hands of Gemini 

Wednesday
Oct102012

A Ramble with Aries Philosopher

Tuesday
Apr102012

Red Aries #38

Bette Davis, 5 April 1908

Marc Jacobs, 9 April 1963

Tuesday
Apr102012

Red Aries #37: Lips

James Franco, 19 April 1978

Tim Curry, 19 April 1946

Heath Ledger, 4 April 1979

Marcel Marceau, 22 March 1923

Monday
Apr022012

Red Aries #36: Francisco Goya

Another great court portraitist, (like Anthony VanDyck, Red Aries #18), Francisco Goya, born on March 30, 1746, had a penchant for bright red, especially as an accent: red cape, red ribbon, red collar, red corsage, red boutonniere, red cuff, feather, box, flag, flame, hat, pants, ember, blood. He painted the Duchess of Alba twice, once in a white dress and once in a black one, each with a red sash. The painting above, Goya's most beloved, unites the color with his favorite theme, childhood. At the lower left, his frequent touch of the macabre, the three cats ready to pounce on the bird.

Here he equates the Aries bodypart, the head, and the Aries color.

The haunting portrait of Count Floridablanca is profound meditation on identity. The ostensible Subject is the central figure in bold red, but his existence is diffused, appearing also in his oval portrait dimly looming above him. There is also a self-portrait of the artist, humbly dressed on the left, whose profile is 'fortuitously' highlighted, while the individuality of an insignificant secretary seems to have struck the artist as more interesting than the Count, who is comparing his painted image with his image in a mirror. So there are at least six self-images present or implicit. Other important Aries images in Goya's work: Boy on a Ram, The Disasters of War series, The Massacre, and the hacked and bloody butcher's still life, "Head and Quarters":




Monday
Apr022012

Red Aries #35: Grayson Perry

Grayson Perry (born 24 March 1960), provocative English artist /perfomer, here in male costume -- note: the Aries sign is a phallus!

 

Red bow!


Red shoes! (c.f. Aries in Red #21: Hans Christian Andersen)

"Himself"

Sunday
Apr012012

Red Aries #34: Brenda Starr

Brenda Starr, flaming red-head reporter, created by cartoonist Dale Messick, born April 11, 1906.

Sunday
Apr012012

Red Aries #33: Cynthia Nixon

Taking a page from Lady Gaga's (#32) playbook, Cynthia Nixon (April 9, 1966) in a red leather dress!

Monday
Nov142011

Lunar menstrual synchronization

This paper: Knight, Chris; Camilla Power & Ian Watts (1995). "The Human Symbolic Revolution: A Darwinian Account" (PDF). Cambridge Archaeological Journal 5 (1): 75–114. presents this interesting diagram:

to demonstrate how the synchronization of the human menstrual cycle with the lunar cycle led to the development of symbolization and civilization. In fine scientific fashion, the theory led to an hypothesis and a prediction: something arcane about the use of red ochre in imitation of menstrual blood, and where it would be found at Paleolithic sites. The prediction came true, like a wish in a fairy tale, hence the entire anecdote has been printed in the Cambridge Archeological Journal and is a respected scientific concept, and a plausible element in a theory of the relationship between astronomology and early hominid development.

The authors consider themselves "radical archeologists".  They were arrested in England last April for trying to upstage the Royal Wedding with a public orgy.

Wednesday
Aug242011

A ramble with Aries philosophers

 

 1. Aries, the first sign, the pioneer, the warrior, the bully, Miles Gloriosus, the planet Mars, the color red.

         The first thing I bring forth about Descartes is his Mars quality. He carries a silver sword, unenlisted he attends battlefields, he philosophizes in the barracks, he contributes to the science of ballistics, the technology of munitions. On the Orleans road he disarms a rival lover.  Famously, on a ferry in the Lowlands he disarmed brigands who were plotting his murder. As De Quincey put it in his immortal essay On Murder, Considered as One of the Fine Arts: ". . . if ever one could say of a man that he was all but murdered—murdered within an inch—one must say it of [Descartes]. . . "

      Frans Hals paints him as a dashing swashbuckler,  his simian brow concealed in bangs, a veritable D'Artagnan with blazing eyes, a confident sneering smile and intimidating eyebrows. He has contempt for the past, the intellectual authority of the scolia, Aristotle, dead languages, books in general.

 

[....Not that I really give a shit about the horoscope crap but I did notice that all of the coolest MFers on this site are Aries. All of you Aries people come in here and show yourselves and the board will see what I mean.   http://www.boxingscene.com ]

 

         In the Discourse, Descartes uses the metaphor of battle: "Or perhaps we should make the comparison with army chieftains.... for to try to conquer all the difficulties and errors which stand in our way when we try to reach the truth is really to engage in battle; and to reach a false conclusion on an important issue is to lose the battle."

         To facilitate the goal "to make ourselves masters and possessors of nature" he calls for this, perhaps his most tangible forecast of modernity, the organized campaign of science:

 "Truth can be discovered only little by little . . . . It is true that as far as the related experiments are concerned, one man is not enough to do them all; but he could not usefully employ other hands than his own, unless those of workers or other persons whom he could pay. Such people would do, in the hope of gain, which is a very effective motive, precisely what they were told."

 

          In other words, he calls for a mercenary army of researchers. He rejects volunteers, whose assistance would be "at a net loss" for among other reasons "they would infallibly expect to be paid . .  in compliments and useless conversation which would necessarily consume much of the time needed for investigation."

         There is a touch of testy impatience; it's also the Generalissimo barking Do it now! He feels pressure to see the practical results that will alleviate and transform Humanity. He's particularly concerned to expand human lifespan "as much as a thousand years," if not "prevented by the brevity of life." Descartes's contemporary, Aries Andrew Marvell gives a vivid glimpse of this side of the Aries temperament: "But at my back I always hear/Time's winged chariot hurrying near."

         Blood flows around him. For a time, he purposely lives near a slaughterhouse. "I have spent much time on dissection during the last eleven years, and I doubt whether there is a doctor who has made more detailed observations than I." He is joined in this pursuit by several other Aries natives of genius and energy excited to pioneer in studying the mechanism and vitality of the physical body. Sanctorius, the widely published physician born 35 years before Descartes, proposed that the body is a machine, and measures its temperature, rejects scholasticism. William Harvey, 18 years Descartes's senior establishes the circulation of the blood. Descartes, disagreeing with Harvey about the heart's activity, cuts out part of the heart of a live dog and measures the pulsations along the aorta with this bare hand. He vigorously defends vivisection. He is credited with writing the first textbook of physiology but it follows on Sanctorius and Harvey; a team of Aries invade the body.

         He frightens his neighbors and is thought to be an atheist. Pascal seems to takes him for such (for practical purposes) in his well-known remark:

"I cannot forgive Descartes; in all his philosophy, Descartes did his best to dispense with God. But Descartes could not avoid prodding God to set the world in motion with a snap of his lordly fingers; after that, he had no more use for God."

 

2. Cogito ergo SUM

         Descartes himself admits that the Cogito is not a piece of reasoning. Paul Valery calls it "a fist coming down on a table . . . . the explosion of an act, a shattering blow . . . If the cogito turns up so often in Descartes work, if it is found again and again in the Discourse, the Meditations, the Principles, it is because it is an appeal to his essential egotism. He takes it up as the theme of the lucid Self; it is the clarion call to his pride and the resources of his being. . . . . I say that the real method of Descartes ought to be called egotism: the expansion of consciousness for the purposes of knowledge."

          Aries comes infant naked and with the passionate energy of newly discovered self-hood it must clothe itself in individuality, and defend its unique, unshareable position in space-time, and its creativity is born of that need. Aries is urgent and distinct, never bland, often noisy.

I shall never be silent. Never.   Samuel Beckett

I am here to live aloud.    Emile Zola

         It is a truism that Descartes introduces the Subject to philosophy. Aries invokes the immediacy of the nascent I, the human being-as-subject, im-mediately in agonic relations with both the source-of-being, Nothing, and the context-of-being, the World, striding frantically forth with a cry in a state of emergency (and usually picking up the nearest weapon).

         Astrology does not presuppose a simplicity of origin, but recognizes in birth the agony and terror, as well as the miracle. In choosing a point representing the start on a circle or cycle, the necessary arbitrariness is a violence which provokes or uncovers a crisis-state. Descartes's I AM immediately confronts the Other, (or does he defer the encounter by creating this) Doubt, the all-powerful Demon, and then opens a Pandora's box of dualisms, which are dealt with for centuries: mind/body, subject/object, self/other, conscious/unconscious, certainty/doubt.  Not the least of them is progress/regress. The terror of regression, back into an imprisoning non-being, fuels Aries pre-emptive aggression with pre-rational force.

         This first-person singular Descartes, this "I" that was born and thinks, that dissects eyeballs and fetuses (competing, again with Harvey, for a "father of embryology" award), who dreamed of living a thousand years and determining the "cause of the position of every fixed star" is the hero figure of intellectual modernity. Or the villain: overreaching, insecure, power-mad fantast, imperialist colonizer of infinity, self-declared origin. At any rate, for the next 250 years after Descartes's birth, there was no need for another Aries in the philosophical sphere.

         Not until the Aries Edmund Husserl (born 4/8/1859), who explicitly embarks on a new Cartesian-style beginning (and is similarly forced to deal with solipsism). That Husserl’s philosophy goes straight back to Descartes is widely accepted. Descartes is "the original founding genius of all modern philosophy," he wrote. (See The Cogito in Husserl’s Philosophy, Gaston Berger, 1972. And Paul MacDonald, in Descartes and Husserl: The Philosophical Project of Radical Beginnings, refers to “Husserl’s repeated insistence on the importance of the Cartesian point of departure” and “the abundance, even superfluity, of commentaries on this avowed influence." 

         The next Aries of highest regard is J. L. Austin: Is the Cogito not par excellence the speech-act, or performative utterance, inaugural of European thought for 300 years . . . sort of?  (A cadre of language philosophers and logical positivists exist in the Taurus/Scorpio polarity. Austin is the only one who wanders into neighboring Aries territory. In a list of the 40 most important philosophers of the last 200 years, compiled from 600 contributors Husserl and Austin are the only Aries.)

         On the other hand, outside philosophy, Descartes's researches into the mathematical physics of motion, force, energy, heat, light were extended rapidly by crucial figures born under Aries: Huygens, Euler, Laplace, and Fourier. I doubt that four names of equal importance to the development of theories of physical energy can be found together under any other zodiacal sign, certainly not within 200 years of Descartes's birth.

         There is, however, one other canonical philosopher born under Aries, and contemporary with Descartes, namely the "menacingly terse" Thomas Hobbes, whose long life encompassed Descartes birth and death. If Descartes originates the philosophical Subject, Hobbes does so for the political Subject. Hobbes is the man of two clear and distinct . . . not even sentences, clauses only: "And the life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short" and "the warre of each against all".  At the same time that Descartes is devising methodical doubt in the Meditations, Hobbes assumes the same strategy in his Human Nature: "intending not to take any principle upon trust, but only to put men in mind what they know already, or may know by their own experience." They each dissect primitive concepts of physical extension, motion and force. Hobbes regrets coming too late to a familiarity with geometry. Extended discussions of similarities between these two figures that reinforce the Aries theme occur in Hoffman, Piotr, The Quest for Power: Hobbes, Descartes, and the Emergence of Modernity and Farrell, John, Paranoia and Modernity, Chapter 7: "The Demons of Descartes and Hobbes".  From Farrell I would quote this about Hobbes: "Hobbes is one of the style-setters of paranoid modernity . . .  His ironic empiricism and satirically reductive materialism were to become central instruments in the arsenal of the modern, perennially available for deployment against idealistic opponents whenever they might emerge."

         I think of Hobbes as Descartes's henchman. De Quincey's quintessential essay examines a list of major philosophers on the point of their 'murderability'; Hobbes he calls "a man who was always dreaming of murder."

"Hobbes, but why, or on what principle, I never could understand, was not murdered. This was a capital oversight of the professional men in the seventeenth century; because in every light he was a fine subject for murder, except, indeed, that he was lean and skinny; for I can prove that he had money, and (what is very funny,) he had no right to make the least resistance; for, according to himself, irresistible power creates the very highest species of right, so that it is rebellion of the blackest die to refuse to be murdered, when a competent force appears to murder you. However, gentlemen, though he was not murdered, I am happy to assure you that (by his own account) he was three times very near being murdered. . . . . "


3. Aries and atheism

         It can hardly be denied that Cartesian, mathematical, scientific materialism is implicitly atheistic. Aries Laplace famously remarked to Napoleon of God, "I have no need of that hypothesis." Laplace, like Descartes, is accompanied by his Demon, and the demonic is one version of atheism, in its most simplistic form. The Demon is lively; Aries atheism is not so much a logical position as an expression of rebellion, contrariety, anti-authoritarianism, pugnacity, and can have an underlying streak of vitalism or animism.

Like Descartes, and with even more justification is Hobbes pursued for atheism, called "the monster of Malmsbury". (". . . the K. hath at length banisht from his court that father of Atheists, Mr Hobbes".)

         Aries pugnacity produces a unique style of hard-line atheism.  All of the four so-called Horsemen of the New Atheism, Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, Daniel Dennett and Sam Harris are Aries and notably belligerent. Dawkins with his selfish gene theory promotes a Hobbesian position, and as Oxford's Professor for Public Understanding of Science, he carries the sword of Descartes and the cudgel of Hobbes into the battle for the hegemony of science. At the same time his attitude towards DNA is distinctly animistic and even mystical.

         Aries atheists seem to clump together like clotting red-blood cells. Hitchens biographizes Thomas Jefferson, atheist author of a secular Bible (supernaturalism removed).  Another Aries, British philosopher John Grayling recently gave us his own secular Bible, and is himself biographer of the pugnacious Aries atheist William Hazlitt (best known for his classic essay "On Boxing"), as well of Rene Descartes himself. Another Aries philosopher I've noticed is John N. Gray, with much in common with Hobbes. Certainly, being of one particular sign does not force one to a particular side of any issue. That said, Gray's evisceration of Grayling was clear, distinct, nasty, and not too long. Madalyn Murray O'Hair was an Aries.

 

4. Aries and parturition

         I've noticed that Aries often has something to say or hide about the circumstances of her birth that is formative of her concept of herself.  We know quite a bit about the earliest days of both Hobbes and Descartes.  Hobbes told Aubrey that  "His mother fell in labour with him upon the fright of the invasion of the Spaniards." He told it himself in Latin verses (here is a contemporary anonymous translation):

 

In Fifteen hundred eighty-eight, Old Style,

When that Armada did invade our Isle,

Call'd the Invincible; whose Freight was then,

Nothing but Murd'ring Steel, and Murd'ring Men;

Most of which Navy was disperst, or lost,

And had the Fate to Perish on our Coast,

April the Fifth (though now with Age outworn)

I'th' early Spring, I, a poor worm, was born.             (l. 1-8)

 

 . . . .  For Fame had rumour'd, that a Fleet at Sea,

Wou'd cause our Nations Catastrophe;

And hereupon it was my Mother Dear

Did bring forth Twins at once, both Me, and Fear.   (l. 25-8)

( . . .  geminos, metque metumque simul.)

         Hobbes clearly situates his emergent self with the scene of murder, drowning, catastrophe, and the great early modern spiritual rift of Catholic vs. Protestant forces. Early maternal symbolizations arise in any psychological parsing of Aries. The neofreudian discourse of the role of the pre-Oedipal mother  (the good-enough mother, the good breast/bad breast mother, the dismembering, cannibalistic mother), in the formation of the Self, derives from two Aries head-shrinkers,  Melanie Klein, and D. S. Winnicott.

         Descartes's birth circumstances present parallels: his father, a Protestant of Poitou, his mother a Catholic of neighboring Touraine, the two families separated by the often crossed river Creuse. Descartes reported that his mother died at his birth. He seemed to have forgotten that she died when he was fourteen months old, after giving birth to a short-lived brother. A forgetting as good as a remembering, poignantly evoking  a distressing infancy of unutterable loss and fratricidal fantasy. At any rate, there is a suggestion of some emotional wreckage around the Cartesian womb. Attention is drawn to the re-enacted birth experience, the enigmatic episode of the visionary dreams in the "stove". Even his life-long idiosyncrasy, the inability to get out of bed in the morning, has been traced by psychoanalytic students of Descartes to a mother-fixation.

         The greatness then of both Descartes and Hobbes derives in part from  their opportunity and ability to be shaped by the alignment of the purely personal agony of birth (from which Aries never entirely dissociates), with the geo-political agon of his time: Protestant vs. Catholic

         Of course, the philosophy of mind is rooted in Descartes's Aries self-discovery or assertion. Consciousness, self, mind-body dualism, etc. I'll try not to get in over my head, but observe that, to a layman, the top-seeded players on this court are Daniel Dennett and David Chalmers. Stepping back a bit, the first scientist to programmatically measure subjective processes? Aries Gustav Fechner. And the first to measure processes inside the human body, Aries Sanctorius. Fechner was a vitalist, and so in a way are Chalmers and Dennett with their various approaches to "emergence" and the Will, some sort of unceasing birthing or creation "to emerge" etym: 'out of mother or ocean'). I would sidestep neurophilosophical tangles here and give some Aries illustrative of emergence:

 

Vincent Van Gogh, an inexhaustible self-portraitist, writes: "There is only a constantly being born again . .  a constant going from darkness into light."

Harry Houdini  with his compulsion to repeat the act of escape, especially from water (along with an abnormal attachment to his aged mother).

Poet Paul Verlaine. In a drunken rage against his mother, he once smashed the glass jars containing the preserved fetuses of his still-born siblings.

Lady Gaga, flamboyantly re-enacting her birth from a gigantic egg.

         Touching on the present, we must now call a spade a spade, a sword a phallus, thanks in part to the most prominent neo-neo Cartesian, Jacques Lacan, solipsistically absorbed in the subject of the Subject that is always already split, defective, in conflict, dismembered, yet-to-have-been mirrored, and so forth. He and his Aries acolyte Slavoj Zizek continually interrogate the Subject, Zizek bringing the violence of Hobbes back into the picture. Casting a backward glance on the portrait of  Descartes as a swashbucking swordsman, from the viewpoint of Lacan's panphallicism, I am reminded of a string of record-breaking Aries rakes: Aretino, Casanova, John Wilmot Earl of Rochester, Lacan himself, Marlon Brando, Warren Beatty, Hugh Hefner.

 

5. Aries the macabre.

 

         If Descartes set walking the powerful illusion of the unified ego, Lacan sets out to ambush it in any way possible, for instance with the shadow concept of the fragmented body.  "The infant perceives its own body, which lacks motor coordination, as divided and fragmented. His anticipation of a synthetic ego is constantly threatened by the memory of this sense of fragmentation which manifests itself in images of castration, emasculation, mutilation, dismemberment, dislocation, evisceration, devouring, bursting open of the body which haunt the human imagination.” (An Introductory Dictionary of Lacanian Psychoanalysis, Dylan Evans, pg. 67)

         Among David Chalmers many colorful maneuvers is his philosophizing about zombies, repeating the idea of the mechanical body of Descartes and Sanctorius, not to mention the spooky legend of Descartes's mechanical daughter. There is a creepy, ghoulish vitality to Aries, in its affiliation with demons, zombies, automata, self-replicating DNA, selfish genes, ceaselessly activity and strife. It sometimes manifests in the separate  career of severed body-parts: Van Gogh’s ear (in the mail), Gogol’s nose. Charlie Chaplin’s body (robbed from its grave), the memorial bust on Houdini’s tomb (stolen).  Pieces of the body of the outspoken 17th century Aries Spanish mystic, Teresa of Avila, spread throughout the catholic world immediately after her death and now reside in  reliquaries all over Europe and South America. The skulls of both Haydn and Raphael were stolen and became peripatetic momenti mori. Philoprogenitive J. S. Bach’s skeleton disappeared. Madalyn Murray O'Hair was dismembered, along with her son and granddaughter.

          Descartes himself was virtually canonized in the 18th century, a sort of rationalist saint, and, like Teresa's, his skeleton and skull were circulated, moved several times in Sweden shortly after his death there, divvied up and carted around northern Europe and France, ideologically freighted, and finally cherished as relics of the new religion of rationalism. (See Descartes' Bones, by Russell Shorto.)

Other aspects of this topic: on Aries, atheism and violence, here:

http://www.philosophical-investigations.org/The_Four_Horsemen_of_Aries_essay

 

 

 

Monday
Aug012011

Some Gemini poets and Joseph Brodsky's Urania.

" I believe in the fable that the Fates fell in love with Hermes. "  Emerson

" Mediator. Mediation. There is nothing else; there is no Immediate known to us. "    Emerson

" A good symbol is the best argument. . .  The value of a trope is that the hearer is one; and indeed Nature itself is a vast trope, and all particular natures are trope ... All thinking is analogizing, and 'tis the use of life to learn metonymy. "    Ralph Waldo Emerson

  "O please don't start in on the Zodiac."  Joseph Brodsky, Gorbunov and Gorchakov


         The Twins, the third sign of the zodiac, first one of the element Air, associated with the Messenger Deity Mercury/Hermes, houses the Sun at the births of many writers. It is the first sign that has language at its disposal.

         The symbol of the Twins denotes any and all copula, their functions and manifestations,  from the intimate to-and-fro of personal interaction, to any generalized form of mediation, transition, re-presentation, specularity, iteration, duplication or multiplication, mimesis or similarity. Hieroglyph, stylus and pen, typeface, word, the mirror and the mirror neuron, metaphor, language, dialogue, translation, figuration, photography, all spring from the Twin's mutual address. Gemini, the third sign, looks back and sees only two things, the majestic parental binary of Aries and Taurus, and channels all its creativity through the revelation of AND.

         Dante Alighieri  in Paradise honored the "glorious Twins" thus:

                                          . . . .  o stars
   

                           impregnate with great strength,

                  to whom I owe whatever genius

                  I possess, with you the sun
   

                           arose and set when first

                  I 
breathed sweet air of Tuscany.

          Each of the three books of the Divine Comedy ends with the word "stelle." Dante taxes us to experience pre-Copernican astronomy and astrology not yet fully separated.  In Dante's comprehensive vision anything believed of the heavens, mythological or geometrical, signifies spiritually.

          Ralph Waldo Emerson, a translator of Dante, reaches for the stars continually:

         "Astrology interested us, for it tied man to the system. Instead of an isolated beggar, the farthest star felt him, and he felt the star. However rash and however falsified by pretenders and traders in it, the hint was true and divine, the soul's avowal of its large relations, and, that climate, century,  remote natures, as well as near, are part of its biography."                                                                (The Conduct of Life: Beauty)

         "Every astronomical fact interested him," Emerson's nephew recalled, but his perspective was entirely symbolic. "I think," he wrote, " I could have helped the monks to belabor Galileo for saying the everlasting earth moved." According to a friend: "The majesty of planets and suns and systems, in their ordered courses, especially appealed to Emerson from youth. . . .  In the years between 1835 and 1845 his journals, and the scattered fragments of "The Poet" show how constantly he sought "the sweet influence of the Pleiades" and "Arcturus and his sons."

                                    Divine inviters, I accept

                           The courtesy ye have shown and kept

                           From ancient ages for the bard.

                           .     . .     . .     . .     . .     . .     .

                           I watch your course,

                           Who never break your lawful dance

                           By error or intemperance.

                           O birds of ether without wings!

                           O heavenly ships without a sail!

                           O fire of fire! O best of things!

                           O mariners who never fail!

                           Sail swiftly through your amber vault,

                           An animated law, a presence to exalt.

 "I am part of the solar system. Let the brain alone, and it will keep time with that, as the shell with the sea-tide." Emerson  looks to the stars with a philosophical yearning and a poetical mood and a downright belief in sympathetic influence that have little to do with astronomy. 

     America's first popuylar astrologer, William Chaney, adopted Emerson's "Hitch your wagon to a star" as his motto.

 W. B. Yeats casts horoscopes obsessively. His Geminian Sun murmurs "Mirror on mirror mirrored is all the show." He was enamored by the idea of a generative principle which he called the "antithetical self", as unreachable as the image in the mirror. (cf. A Vision)

                Gay Gemini poet Walt Whitman reaches out to "Poets to come!" Gay Gemini poets reply in echo: Garcia Lorca (Ode to Walt Whitman), Allen Ginsberg ("What thoughts I have of you tonight, Walt Whitman . . ") and Portuguese poet Fernando Pessoa (Salutacion a Walt Whitman), who left trunkloads of unpublished astrological papers, pleads (in English):

          With the higher trifling let us world our wit

         Conscious that, if we do it, that was the lot

                  The regular stars bound us to, when they stood

                  Godfathers to our birth and to our blood.

 

          Somehow Gemini Joyce Carol Oates added a name, or two, to the list of Pessoa's hundred-odd heteronyms. In a Yeatsian trance, a "real or imagined 'possession'", she "translated" fully 22 stories (a satisfying Gemini number) by (yet another) imaginary Portuguese author, Fernandes de Briao, collected in the volume "A Poisoned Kiss". In explanation Oates cryptically invokes Yeatsian antitheses.   "Everything about her had two sides to it," Oates wrote in her most famous story, and in her natus the Gemini itself is one side balanced against another, a powerful Persephone archetype). Her novel based on the life and death of Marilyn Monroe, also a Gemini, was written under the working title Gemini, then renamed Blonde; Oates' antithetical autobiography in a way.  

      Allen Ginsberg relished his birthstars, as here:

          This universe a thing of dream
               

                  substance naught & Keystone void
                                                              

vibrations of symmetry  Yes   No
                                              

                  . . . . all the way down to the first Wave
               

                  making opposite Nothing a mirror

         which begat a wave of Ladies marrying

         waves of Gentlemen till I was born in 1926
 

                  in Newark, New Jersey under the sign

                                                               sweet Gemini ---

            .          .          .          .          .          .

          . . .  I correspond with hopeful

          messengers in Detroit, I am taking drugs

and leap at my postman for more correspondence, Man is leaving

          the earth in a rocket ship,

there is a mutation of the race, we are no longer human beings,

          we are one being, we are being connected to itself,

it makes me crosseyed to think how, the mass media assemble

          themselves like congolese Ants for a purpose

                  .          .          .          .          .                                                     

          communicate with me

          by mail post telegraph phone street accusation or scratching at my window

          and send me a true sign I'll reply special delivery

             DEATH IS A LETTER THAT WAS NEVER SENT   

                                                                                Allen Ginsberg

         As promised by its title, Joseph Brodsky's "To Urania: Collected Poems 1965-1985" inclines to astrology. The title poem responds to the 1960 "Homage to Clio" of Brodsky's mentor, W. H. Auden (n. b. not a Gemini). Late Auden is permeated with this discouraging shibboleth: 'poetry makes nothing happen'. In "Homage to Clio" Auden submits to the realpolitic  of history (whose Muse is Clio), to rationalization and disenchantment.  He rejects Zodiacal illusions for good: "We may dream as we wish / Of phallic pillar or navel stone // With twelve nymphs twirling about it, but pictures / Are no help".

         In Brodsky's youthfully Geminian, optimistic counterview the very ubiquity of limitation and division in the sub-lunary world privileges Urania's  transcendental exploration over Clio's scrolled archive. Gemini is ever the gadfly to the realist. Urania's profounder Self ("the/body's absence") is a spiritual giant who strides the upper atmospheres like Dante ascending (or a passenger in an airplane), observing Earth's majestic shifts from above.

To Urania

          Everything has its limit, including sorrow.

A windowpane stalls a stare. Nor does a grill abandon

a leaf. One may rattle the keys, gurgle down a swallow.

Loneliness cubes a man at random.

A camel sniffs at the rail with a resentful nostril;

a perspective cuts emptiness deep and even.

And what is space anyway if not the

body's absence at every given

point? That's why Urania's older than sister Clio!

In daylight or with the soot-rich lantern,

you see the globe's pate free of any bio,

you see she hides nothing, unlike the latter.

There they are, blueberry-laden forests,

rivers where the folk with bare hands catch sturgeon

or the towns in whose soggy phone books

you are starring no longer; farther eastward surge on

brown mountain ranges; wild mares carousing

in tall sedge; the cheekbones get yellower

as they turn numerous. And still farther east, steam

dreadnoughts or cruisers,

and the expanse grows blue like lace underwear.

 

         So Brodsky rejects Auden's dispiriting obeisance to necessity. Having known prison he is not one to chip away at the possible meanings of freedom, but will keep faith even if narrowed to a twinkling point.

         Auden doesn't think Clio reads his poems, or should, while Urania leans over Brodsky's shoulder as he writes. She pops up often, indirectly in the collection's first poem, May 24, 1980, which is the poet's fortieth birthday -- and two days before Pushkin's birthdate. (Urania implicitly attends all births.) The brotherhood of Brodsky and Pushkin is common critical currency. They are the Castor and Pollux of Russian literature, as the two Geminis, Emerson and Whitman, are of American, and May 24, 1980 is a compendium of Pushkin/Brodsky resemblances, in tone, meter, rhyme scheme and incident. The Dantesque enters as well: "From the height of a glacier I beheld half a world, the earthly / width."

          In Lithuanian Nocturne Brodsky plunges into the most obvious Gemini terrain. In a teleported visitation, with allusion to Girenas and Darius, a legendary pair of doomed Lithuanian airmen, Brodsky address fellow poet his distant friend Thomas Venclova on the subject of their shared literariness: "Our inkpot alliance! It's splurge!/ . .  Our imprints!" Then a full outcry of the Twin's need to pair:

  Thomas, we are alike;

We are, frankly, a double:

. . . We're a mutual threat,

Castor looming through Pollux,

We're a stalemate, no-score,

Draw, . .

Echoes tracing in vain the original cry . . .

In Stanza XV Urania appears in her glory (and to the disadvantage of Clio). Brodsky's thoughts of Venclova, transcending political boundaries, unite in the upper atmosphere with Venclova's thoughts of Brodsky to become 

  A specter . . .

simply note in this faint apparition a kin

or an aspect of air--like these words, with their fear of the morning,         

Scattered thinly at midnight by some slurring voice --

. . . . but in which

ever-naked Urania is to rejoice!

In Stanza XVII, Brodsky addresses Urania  again: "Muse of dots lost in space! Muse of things one makes out / Through a telescope only!") and sings to her  a "little aria," actually four dithyrambic stanzas, on the subject of Air, Breath and Speech, which resounds with the afflatus, pneuma or prana of the element Air at the roots of indo-European astrological imagery.

  In the kingdom of air!

In its equality of

gulps of oxygen to our syllables! . . .

. . . our O's

shape the vault of the palate,

where a star gets its shine from the vat

of the throat! That's how the universe

breathes.

          Two memorable times in his youth, Brodsky experienced "astronomical illuminations" while gazing at the stars, and he regretted (to an interviewer in 1988) that they had never recurred. In The Fifth Anniversary, a dejection ode, the poet tries to talk himself out of silly beliefs. It opens:

                   A falling star, or worse, a planet (true or bogus)

                  Might thrill your idle eye with its quick hocus-pocus.

                  . . .  there are no enigmas, signs in heavens."

Yet Gemini is compelled optimistically to his Penmanship: "Scratch on, my clawlike pen, my pilgrim staff, my salvage!"

Again, in one of his Christmas poems he is disillusioned with the stars: "well after hours, blinking . . . and a thoughtful gaze can be rested on none of these." 

         Astrology is confrontational in Gorbunov and Gorchakov, Brodsky's important novel-in-verse, a poetic genre which few but Geminis attempt. (I name Pushkin, of course, coupleted Pope ("Why did I write? What sin unknown / Dip't me in ink, my parents or my own?"), Thomas Moore, more recently Vikram Seth, Anne Carson.) The most extended of Brodsky's several conversation poems, it contains the astonishing Canto V of "He said"s (A Song in the Third Person), an x-ray of dialogue. The subject of Canto X is the primacy of language:

                           "And so it's not the sea that surges in-

                           to shore, but words are overlapping words."

                           "And words are sort of holy relics." "Yes."

The two protagonists are political prisoners in a mental ward. Gorchakov is Brodsky, an intellectual, Gorbunov, his antithetical self, a peasant. Gorbunov consults the stars, Gorchakov mocks them. Gorbunov describes himself in astrological terms, then asks

                                             "And you, What is

                           your sign?" "Well, I belong to Gemini.

                           Born under Gemini, in May."  "I guess

                           that makes you warm."  "I guess." . . .

  Our normally garrulous and provocative Gorchakov is suddenly laconic, unresponsive. His contempt for astrology is belied by his all-too obvious Geminian qualities. He knows Gemini fits him to a T, a final blow, it  stops his words. Gorbunov argues with Uranian metaphor (she always represented with a compass):

                                                               "You're

                           forgetting that, although the radius

                           is scorned in life, the compass will endure

                           forever, Gorchakov."

          The usual allowances for problems of translation aside, Brodsky still makes good points, often with fabulous, if slightly accented language.  Nothing perishes faster in translation than the sheen of an intricate rhyme scheme, except perhaps delicate conversational gradations of Slavic irony and mood. The notorious "untranslatability" of Brodsky (echoing that of Pushkin) is a fitting part of his Geminian literariness, and added to his labors and his substance as a personage.  He was not only his own translator, but editor and collaborator with a stable of colleagues. Brodsky is a hero of border-crossing, so charmingly grateful for the freedom offered by the West that we English reader generously excuse the inevitable awkwardness. We lean forward to understand -- what communicator could ask for more? 

                           "Indeed, a star that climbs above the field

                           seeks out a brighter interlocutor."

To unite the beginning and the end of this essay, and justify my eccentric practices, I submit quotes from Brodsky and Emerson:

"The surest defense against evil is extreme individualism, originality of thinking, whimsicality, even — if you will — eccentricity."   JB

"I would write on the lintels of the doorpost, Whim. I hope it is somewhat better than whim at last, but we cannot spend the day in explanation."  RWE

Addendum: Other poets born under Gemini: Thomas Moore, Mark van Doren, Harry Crosby, Josephine Miles, Gwendolyn Brooks, Nikki Giovanni, John Yau, Lucie Brock-Broido, Paul Muldoon, David Lehman, Anne Carson

 

                                                               --- Mark Shulgasser

 

                                                      astrodreamer.squarespace.com

                                                               wkkbooks@localnet.com

 

 

 

 

 

 


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Saturday
Apr022011

LEE HOIBY 1926 - 2011

   

 New York Times obituary   

 

"Where the Music Comes From" words & music by LH

"Evening"  from 'Evening without Angels' by Wallace Stevens

"Jabberwocky" by Lewis Carroll