The Jupiter/Neptune Conjunction and Celebrity Deaths

I haven’t been tending my blog quite as well as I should be, but I wanted to put up a quick post about how today’s celebrity deaths of Farrah Fawcett and Michael Jackson are triggering a period of national mourning of sorts, fueled by the Internet and social networking.

Depending on what time you use for the U.S. chart, the current Jupiter/Neptune conjunction is either conjunct or quite close to the U.S. Moon, which signifies the people of the nation.

Today, the Moon is in Leo, which often coincides with accidents and surprises, and this is opposing the Jupiter/Neptune conjunction in the collectively-oriented sign of Aquarius. We’re getting upsetting news about celebrities (Leo), who are the closest thing the U.S. has to royalty.

I’d be happy for any other astrological-based comments on the situation.

Saturn in Virgo: Handmade Nation

Folks, something really big is happening out there. As usual, I’m late to the party and I’m going to wax nostalgic about my Army brat childhood somewhere in this post.

First, kudos to Gastriques, my faithful tipster, who sent me a link a few weeks ago about Etsy, a eBay for handmade crafts. Duly noted, but not yet a trend in my mind. Then, last Thursday, while I was reading The New York Times (which used to benefit from the insight of Gastriques), I noticed an article in the Home section about the modern-day mother of Handmade Nation: a crafty chick called Faythe Levine.

So far, so good. Then I noticed that Jim Kunstler, my guru on the post-oil future, has written a book called World Made by Hand, a novel about an apocalyptic future where we’re not knitting sweaters for fun or to express our creativity. Handmade Nation, World Made by Hand: I sense a trend here.

Today, I stopped on Main Street in Beacon, N.Y., to participate in our “Second Saturday,” where there are always lots of gallery openings and other interesting happenings (as they used to say on Mod Squad. I stopped by Paper Presence to admire the window full of origami cranes, a continuation of the dream of Hiroshima victim Sadako Sasaki, and then stepped into a garage-cum-workshop with saws, hammers, and other tools artistically displayed on the wall.

This was the venue of the Handmade Calvacade of Etsy vendors that rolled into Beacon. The vendors were mostly hipsters from Williamsburg, Brooklyn, who had to restrain themselves from rolling their eyes when I asked: “What’s Etsy?” Of course, I knew, but the journalist in me had to play dumb to get information. I bought a couple of really cool tote bags made from embossed Indian burlap sacks and decorated with ribbon and beads.

The Handmade Calvacade seems to be a younger, groovier version of the craft bazaar that is well-known to church ladies and militry wives. I remember in the early Seventies when my Mom complained that the general’s wife at Fort Riley, Kans. was snubbing her because she didn’t knit enough hats for the Officers Wives Club’s Christmas bazaar. Yes, crafty folks can get catty and petty.

What’s driving all this hipster interest in making things by hand? It’s definitely Saturn in Virgo, which is fueling an appreciation for craftsmanship. But I believe this trend is being electrified by the opposition with Uranus in Pisces. By buying something handmade at Etsy, I’m declaring to the world that I’ve rejected the crap at the mall in favor of unique things made by hand, and I’m on the cutting edge.

The handmade movement seems a little more gritty and low-budget than the upscale arts and crafts exhibition held in places like Lincoln Center and Grand Central Terminal in New York. It also seems more political than artsy-fartsy.

Making things by hand can indeed be revolutionary. Think of Gandhi with his spinning wheel, exhorting Indians to reject the textiles made in British mills.

Who is the loser in the handmade movement? Wal-Mart, with all its cheesy Chinese goods. Who is the winner? Wal-Mart, the only store in my neighborhood where you can still buy fabric by the yard, an embroidery hoop, thread, and other tools of the crafty trades.

Let me leave you with my reminiscence of the coolest mall I ever visited. It was in Japan, where peak shopping experiences abound. The mall that blew my mind was near Mount Aso, Japan’s largest active volcano. This was a place where you could drop in unannounced and learn how to make handmade paper, arrange flowers, or do calligraphy. Yes, I was a consumer. I was spending money. But after two or so hours, I left with something I had made by hand.

What did the adults do with the kids? Well, this crafts center mall had day care, a working farm, and a petting zoo!

I’ve got to study Japan’s chart, but I think this nation epitomizes the yen (pun intended!) to make something by hand. I also think the Land of the Rising Sun has a great appreciation for nature and generally knows how to live in a civilized fashion, though I can do without the special slippers for the loo.

I’ve written previously about the Japanese version of Ikea, a store called Muji, which I think epitomizes Saturn in Virgo.

Obviously, the crafts revival has been percolating for quite while in the U.S. It never went out of fashion if you were a member of 4-H and working on a quilt for the county fair. But the handmade movement seems ready to go mainstream in a big way.

What are you making by hand? It’s not too early to start making your holiday gifts because I’m predicting this will be a Handmade Christmas, Yuletide, Saturnalia, Hannukah, and Kwanzaa.

Stew, Meet Tony

You’d think I would be licking my wounds. Tiger Woods came in second at the Masters after I predicted that he would win. No, it’s time to get back on the horse, says my Jupiter in Sag. Yeah, I’m feeling lucky.

Also, the thing about making astrological predictions is that people only remember when you get it right. I’ve gotten no feedback for striking out on my Tiger forecast, but dozens of e-mails from college kids in the Midwest who were amazed that my Kansas NCAA prediction came to pass. No one (except astrologers)  expects astrology to EVER get it right.

Here’s to aiming for the fences when you step up to the plate.  To wit: There’s this quirky musical at the Belasco Theatre in New York called Passing Strange starring a guy from L.A. named Stew. Charles Isherwood of The New York Times loves it, but the show hasn’t caught fire yet. For those tourists who come to town primed to see Wicked, Jersey Boys, or the revival of A Chorus Line, Passing Strange isn’t on the radar.

Stew (he goes by one name alone) and his musical collaborator Heidi Rodewald have cooked up a story that Isherwood has dubbed “a portrait of the artist as a confused young black man,” which the critic hails as “fresh, exuberant, and bitingly funny.” So why aren’t the crowds beating down the doors at the Belasco?

Maybe because they can’t find it. Located at 111 W. 44th Street, the Belasco is farther east than many popular Broadway theaters. But I can guarantee that theater goers will make the trek after Passing Strange, Stew, or both win a Tony.  A bold prediction, you say? It’s a month until the Tony nominations are announced and two months till the awards ceremony. No matter. The ephemeris (a listing of the planetary positions) says that Tony night, June 15, is a red-hot one for Stew.

Nothing’s 100% sure, especially not in astrology, but I’d say at the very least Stew is getting some prime-time TV time. Even in the unlikely situation where he walks away empty-handed, Stew will still have made the aquaintance of all those folks out in TV land.

Stew was born Aug. 16, 1961 in Los Angeles. We don’t have a time of birth. Actually, Stew looks like he should have been playing in a Greenwich Village coffee house that hot August night instead of emerging from his mother’s womb. He has that retro jazz thing going on, à la The Subterraneans. Daddy-o, this cat is cool!

Let’s look at the chart, which, thanks to Astrodienst, you can see here:

Right off the bat, we see Stew is a Leo. He likes to be the center of attention. He’ll steal the show everytime. He commands our attention. More than a mere artist, Stew is a revolutionary who can connect with the public is new and, yes, strange ways (Sun conjunct Mercury, Uranus, and North Node in Leo). Stew is an original.

But he’s kicked around a bit and fame and fortune are taking their time to find him. Why? That Jupiter/Saturn conjunction in the last degree of Capricorn. Talking about waiting around! That’s O.K. because if Stew takes care of himself — doesn’t eat and drink too much and watches his weight — he could end up like B.B. King and be the granddaddy of a musical movement (I’m not sure of the exact term to describe Stew’s “brew,” as Playbill dubs his oeuvre). The Jupiter/Saturn conjunction trines Mars in Virgo, giving him staying power. He could also end up pretty well-off, if he hangs in there.

Stew’s transits are fantastic on Tony night. The transiting Sun/Venus conjunction in Gemini sextiles his natal Leo stellium. Plus, transiting Pluto will have moved back into Sagittarius the night before the awards show, forming a nice trine with Stew’s natal Leo lineup. In addition, transiting Mars in Leo will be lighting up Stew’s Mercury and all those other Leo planets.

Now, Mars can be anger, as well as action, so I hope Stew won’t have to quote Spike Lee and say “We wuz robbed” come Tony night. I’m going to be an optimist and predict that Stew will be howling for joy.

Transiting Neptune in Aquarius is with the South Node and Chiron on Tony night, opposing Stew’s Leo stellium. Neptune, to be sure, can bring disappointment and disillusionment, particularly with the South Node in the picture.  But since Neptune rules music it could be beneficial for Stew. 

I’m going to view this Aquarius lineup as the possibility of too much partying after the show or some issues about credit. Maybe there will be some hard feelings if star of the show Stew doesn’t give Heidi Rodewald her due. You know how touchy folks get about not getting props in awards speeches. Nevertheless, pass the word —Passing Strange is destined for glory!

The Führer’s Filmmaker

Hollywood director Steven Spielberg’s Feb. 12 announcement that he was dropping out of opening ceremonies for the Beijing Summer Olympics because of the mainland’s ties to Sudan got me thinking about another filmmaker inextricably linked to the Olympics: Leni Riefenstahl.

Best known for her Nazi party rally documentary Triumph of the Will, Reifenstahl was at the top of her game when she immortalized the human physique in Olympiad, her film about the 1936 Berlin Olympics.

I was only vaguely aware of Reifenstahl until I saw The Wonderful, Horrible Life of Leni Riefenstahl, Ray Müller’s 1993 documentary (released in German as Macht der Bilder) made on the occasion of her 90th birthday. At the time, I was blown away by Müller’s film, but I haven’t given Riefenstahl much thought since then.

During her life, which spanned more than a century, Riefenstahl was admired for her considerable talents and moxie, envied for her access to Adolph Hitler, ostracized for her involvement in National Socialism, and then accepted for her sheer staying power.

Spielberg’s decision to boycott this summer’s Olympic Games prompted me to do a little reading on Riefenstahl. To learn more about this chameleon who claimed that art trumps politics, I’ve been reading Jürgen Trimborn’s gripping biography Leni Riefenstahl: A Life.

I don’t know much about Trimborn other than what is in the jacket of the book and in the reviews indicating that this 2002 book is the seminal work on Riefenstahl’s life. I found myself wondering whether Trimborn was raised Catholic in light of his assessment that Riefenstahl’s life was incomplete because she never confessed her sins and never apologized for profiting from her association with Hitler and his hate machine. Obviously, an apology is preferable to denial, but it still doesn’t constitute atonement.

I want to read more about Riefenstahl, especially from a psychological point of view. In my estimation, she was both a textbook narcissist and a sociopath. When repeatedly confronted by courts, journalists, and filmmakers with her collaboration (at the very least) and crimes (at the worst), her strategy was: “Deny, deny, deny.”

I was quite eager to run Riefenstahl’s chart and was disappointed that Trimborn’s book didn’t have a time of birth. Biographies are great treasure troves for the astrologer looking for an accurate time of birth. Riefenstahl was born on Aug. 22, 1902 in Berlin, Germany. You can see Riefenstahl’s chart, thanks to Astrodienst, here.

Triumph of the Will could be the subtitle of Leni Riefenstahl’s story because her success, first as a dancer and then as the star of German “mountain films,” was due entirely to her own determination and her ability to attract patrons. The artistic life that she envisioned for herself was not what her parents, particularly her father, had in mind for their daughter. In freedom-loving, modern-day America, it’s hard to imagine the hurdles that Riefenstahl surmounted in a patriarchal society where women were controlled first by their fathers and then their husbands.

The self-directed, athletic life that Riefenstahl pursued epitomizes her Aries Moon, which I’ve seen frequently in the charts of female dancers, gymnasts, trainers, and sports therapists. Riefenstahl wasn’t merely mirroring Hitler’s misguided search for human physical perfection; her celebration of the martial beauty of mountain climbers, soldiers, athletes, and African tribes was part of her own aesthetic. 

If there was a time when Reifenstahl must have felt as if she were standing on top of the world, it was on Hitler’s birthday (April 20) in 1938, when Olympiad had its premiere after two years in the making.  In looking at the transits and progressions for this day, the main thing that jumps out is the opposition of Jupiter in Aquarius to her Leo Sun. Clearly, she was at the apex of her influence.

I’ve been studying astrology off and on for nearly 30 years, but I still don’t understand the significance of “unaspected” planets. Riefenstahl’s Sun is so late in Leo that it doesn’t make any connections to any other planets in her chart. Some astrologers would say the lack of aspects gives the Sun a renegade quality. Certainly Riefenstahl was an original.

What I found interesting in reading Trimborn’s biography of Reifenstahl was how she responded to the transits of outer planets in her life. She was certainly dragged through the depths as Pluto made its way through Leo during World War II. But after the war she grew interested in Africa and studying the isolated Nuba tribe of Sudan as Pluto came to oppose her Sun late Leo. (I’m speaking broadly here.)

Late in her life, as Neptune in Aquarius opposed her Sun, she discovered yet another career, as an underwater photographer, which she pursued until her death.

The 1993 Uranus/Neptune conjunctions in Capricorn opposed Riefenstahl’s Mars at 21 degrees of Cancer. That coincided with the international release of Müller’s documentary. The film in turn precipitated a brutal re-examination of Riefenstahl’s role in the rise of the Third Reich and whether the various tribunals that exonerated her after World War II were told the truth. Indeed, some of the damning documents and footage that Trimborn uses to make his case against Riefenstahl weren’t available until recently.

Although Riefenstahl maintained until her dying day (Sept. 8, 2003) that her films were art, not propaganda, clearly other artists, including Steven Spielberg, understand the dangers of appearing to serve a brutal regime.

Georgia On My Mind

New Mexico is a place that I — and millions of other art lovers around the world — will forever associate with Georgia O’Keeffe. Although she was born on a dairy farm in Sun Prairie, Wis. in 1887, O’Keeffe adopted New Mexico as her home. She began spending summers there in 1929 and bought her first New Mexico home in 1940 on the Ghost Ranch. Five years later, she moved to the hamlet of Abiquiu.

Along with D.H. Lawrence, O’Keeffe helped put New Mexico on the map as a mystical oasis where artists could be left alone to work in peace. Both Lawrence and O’Keeffe were friends with Mabel Dodge Luhan, an art-loving socialite who had a ranch in New Mexico, and both faced criticism for the eroticism of their work.

Lawrence only spent two years in New Mexico (1924-26) and died in 1930 at age 45. O’Keeffe lived to the ripe old age of 98, due to — or in spite of — (depending on who you talk to) the efforts of Juan Hamilton, a mysterious drifter who became her companion in 1973, while Pluto was hanging around her Venus.

Hamilton was also an artist in his own right and his sculpture shows in New York won kudos from critics in The New York Times and elsewhere. Over the years, there was much speculation about the nature of their relationship. Was it mother/son, guru/follower, master/slave?

I think one reason why there’s so much interest in the Hamilton/O’Keeffe collaboration is that it’s the opposite of the Pygmalion tale. Here, the female is the mentor and the male is the protégé. Whatever the relationship was — and it probably evolved over the years — there’s no question that Hamilton was a Plutonian influence in O’Keeffe’s life, controlling access to her and her art.

Although she was an outsider, O’Keeffe made her peace with the Abiquiu locals by gaining the imprimatur of the padre and building a community center for the village’s residents. Many dismissed her as a bruja or witch, but ultimately O’Keeffe gained respect by keeping to herself. New Mexicans like their privacy and as a Scorpio, O’Keeffe was no different from the locals in that respect. 

Only a Scorpio with an instinctive understanding of death could transform a cattle skull into such an icon of Southwestern art that it would become an acceptable piece of home decor, whether in a Taos ranch or a Soho loft. Many of the tchotchkes that are peddled to tourists visiting New Mexico can be traced back to O’Keeffe’s art, which is housed in its own museum in Santa Fe:  

In addition to a Scorpio sun, O’Keeffe had Jupiter in Scorpio, which ultimately brought her substantial material wealth. The Sun/Jupiter conjunction could also symbolize teaching, which is one way that O’Keefe earned a living until photographer Alfred Stieglitz, who became her husband, helped her find buyers for her art. Here’s her chart:

Early in her career, O’Keeffe’s bisexuality and alleged focus on female genitalia in her art generated scandal. Toward the end of her life, in the free-wheeling Seventies, her sexually charged art was celebrated, as were her idiosyncrasies. There are numerous biographies of O’Keeffe. I particularly enjoyed Jeffrey Hogrefe’s “O’Keeffe: The Life of an American Legend.” It’s a bit trashy, but Hogrefe succeeded where many other biographers failed, by getting interviews with the elusive Hamilton.

Throughout her life, O’Keeffe was reported to have gone into trance-like states. This shows up very clearly in her chart with Neptune in Taurus nearly exactly opposing Moon/Mercury in Scorpio. It’s interesting that the wide open landscapes (Taurus) of the West, which she first discovered as a schoolteacher in Texas, often triggered these trances.

There’s a reason why New Mexico’s official nickname is the “Land of Enchantment.” People become absolutely besotted with the place and its never-ending horizons, which I believe on a psychological level must symbolize endless opportunity. Still, the relationship between the newcomers, who are almost always Anglos, and the locals, some of whom can trace their ancestry back to 18th-century Spanish royalty, is not always a happy one.

Please don’t make the mistake of calling New Mexico’s longtime residents “Mexicans.” They didn’t come over the border yesterday; they got to their mesa or arroyo long before the U.S. Calvary. I’m not making any judgments about skin tone or nationality here. I’m merely stating a fact.

Of course, the REAL natives can escape from the gringos by retreating to the rez, and lately have been accumulating undreamed of wealth, thanks to the expansion of Indian gaming. In New Mexico, as elsewhere, Indian-owned casinos have become full-fledged entertainment centers, with concerts, golf courses, and great food, along with the slot machines. A modern-day El Dorado, some would argue.