All Eyes on Oscar

I’m back in California and made the mistake of going to a Trader Joe’s this afternoon in Cathedral City to fill up the refrigerator and the freezer. (My progressed Moon in Taurus is activating my Ceres and all of a sudden I’m eating nothing but fresh produce and fish.)

What was I thinking? Every Baby Boomer in the Coachella Valley had decided to go shopping for his or her Oscar party tonight. As I said to my husband, in California, the Oscars are viewed the way the Super Bowl is in the rest of the country.

I made it back home in one piece. Barely. Meanwhile, here’s a rehash of the Oscar predictions that Pamela Cucinell and I made on AstroChatterRadio a couple of weeks back with some brief astro explanations.

Slumdog Millionaire — Best Picture and a slew of other awards. Why? Look at India’s independence chart. It’s being lit up like a Christmas tree by today’s stellium in Aquarius, which opposes the Independence Sun.

Remember how in the film everyone is watching Who Wants to be a Millionaire on TV, from the slums to the posh skyscrapers of Mumbai? It will be that way with the Oscars. A collective roar will emanate from the Subcontinent when this rags-to-riches tale brings home the gold.

According to the Wiki, Los Angeles is 13.5 hours behind Mumbai. So by my calculations, the cheer will go up around 10:30 a.m. in Bollywood (India’s answer to Hollywood) since Best Picture is usually announced close to midnight Eastern time.

Kate Winslet — Best Actress. The Aquarius stellium trines her natal Libra lineup. I did a double-take in the Houston airport yesterday when I saw Winslet on the cover of Time with the headline “Best Actress.”

Until I read the deck on the headline, which made it clear that the magazine thinks she’s the best actress whether she wins the Oscar or not, I thought I was in some kind of time warp.

Mickey Rourke — Best Actor. I’m going out on a limb here. Everyone thinks Sean Penn is a shoo-in for Milk, a gay-themed picture that is a favorite with the Hollywood crowd. Also boosting Penn’s chances is the fact that the transiting Aquarius stellium opposes his Leo Sun, guaranteeing a high-profile night for the actor.

However, I think dark horse Rourke, who’s getting the Saturn/Uranus opposition in Virgo/Pisces on his Virgo Sun, could walk away with an award for his comeback performance in The Wrestler.

As someone very wise said to me in the past week, 99% of the people in the audience are waiting for their comeback. Aren’t most of us?

Footnote: Slumdog won eight Oscars tonight and the Times of London is crowing “Hail Britannia.” I still think this is a victory for “In-ja,” as the Duke of Windsor referred to the former British colony.

My next prediction? That Bollywood-style dance classes will take the U.S. by storm. It’s already starting to happen, according to this article from an Indian newspaper.

Here’s a fun clip with the stars of Slumdog Millionaire dancing to Oscar-winning song Jai Ho on the set of The Ellen DeGeneres Show.

Enter the Ragamuffin

slumdogmillionaireIn some earlier posts, I’ve been musing about watching what films and fashions are entering the zeitgeist as Pluto is in the earliest degrees of Capricorn.

Luxe and lifestyles of the rich and famous are dead, thanks to a 40% decline in the stock market last year and fraudsters like former Nasdaq Chairman Bernie Madoff and Satyam Computer Services Chairman B. Ramalinga Raju.

So what’s haute now? The “ragamuffin look.” There’s even a new line called Born as a Raggamuffin that I discovered at the blog I Like Her Style. (The fashion firm spells its name with two g’s, not one, for you sharp-eyed readers out there.)

So who’s everyone’s favorite ragamuffin right now? Jamal, the hero of Danny Boyle’s Slumdog Millionaire, the rags-to-riches tale of a Bombay orphan.

I went to see Slumdog last week with my new BBF (Blog Best Friend) SFMike from Civic Center. Maybe if I’m a very good girl, he’ll introduce me to Princess Sparkle Pony one day!

Starlinked: An Online Matchmaker with Stellar Insight

When I came back from a six-week tour of India in summer 2004, I began another odyssey: I started reading Vikram Seth’s A Suitable Boy. The 1,488-page opus chronicles the widow Mrs. Rupa Mehra’s hilarious and heart-rending search for a husband for her daughter Lata.

In India, as you may know, marriages are still arranged by families. But before prospective spouses and their parents agree to a betrothal, an astrologer determines the compatibility of the couple.

That’s right: Close to 1.1 billion people believe in consulting an astrologer before they tie the knot. (Of course, not all of India’s citizens are Hindus who follow Vedic astrology. Still, there are plenty of Indians living outside the Subcontinent who rely on astrology to find a mate.)

We’re just joining this party in the West, but we’re harnessing the power of technology. Under the auspices of Astrology Explored’s Beth Turnage, I’ve learned about a new Web site called Starlinked that uses astrology to help you find your soulmate.

Starlinked’s president, Kurt Grandis, was kind enough to do a Q&A with Astrology Mundo via e-mail. What follows is an edited transcript of our “interview.”

What is Starlinked?
Starlinked is an online astrology-based matchmaking service. We are dedicated to providing high-quality astrology-based information to our members to help them find that special someone. While the inner workings of our compatibility engine are grounded in traditional astrological techniques the entire user experience is designed for [someone] who may not have much experience with astrology.

Actually, Starlinked is often the first foray into astrology beyond daily horoscopes for many of our users. Our goal is to bring the benefits of sophisticated astrological techniques in evaluating relationships to people less familiar with the power of astrology. We recognize that technology alone can never replace a personal reading by an experienced astrologer, so we plan to incorporate features that will help our members connect with qualified astrologers in their area.

How long has it been in existence?
The Starlinked idea has been floating around for awhile now. Active development on the site and its underlying technologies began about eight months ago and we just launched in October 2008. We took our first couple of weeks to focus on North Carolina, where we are located in Mebane, but are now beginning to roll out into the rest of the U.S.

Are there competing sites that use astrology to match up people?
There are a few other sites out there that do some form of astrological matchmaking, but most reduce it to something along the lines of sun sign matching. We are proud to be able to go leaps and bounds beyond that and base our compatibility measures on real astrological techniques.

You are not just 1 of 12 buckets we sort out. The matches we find for you are entirely personalized to the exact time and place you were born.

How do you make sure people aren’t lying about their ages?
Great question! This is something we are obviously concerned about since we wish to ensure the integrity of our compatibility measures. We do our best to balance the integrity of our natal information and the privacy of our users. We explain the importance of accurate birth dates and also offer our members the option to hide their age from others. This provides less incentive to “tweak” their birth year.

What if someone doesn’t know when he was born? What happens then?
This is often the case for our first-time visitors, who haven’t had astrological consultations before. We allow folks to come in and make a rough guess if they have some idea (e.g. sometime in the evening) or just plain-old say “I don’t know.” At the same time we record the data confidence or quality (like a Rodden Rating [pioneered by AstroDataBank founder Lois Rodden]). This way users can enter the system and get started without knowing their exact birth time.

Their compatibility scores are initially penalized due to the uncertainties associated with the data. Once they’ve had a chance to call Mom or check their birth certificate they can lock in their actual birth time.

What compatibility factors does your program look for? I’m thinking of Sun/Moon conjunctions, trines between Venus and Mars, and contacts involving Saturn, often the “glue” in long-term relationships?
Our compatibility engine runs a number of analyses in order to calculate each individual pair’s overall score. We look at a number of planetary interactions, including the ones mentioned, the nature of the aspect, its orb among other things. We consider composites as well as synastry.

For the time being, we have minimized Saturn’s influences due to some of its interpretive subtleties. To cater to our users with more astrology experience, we plan on incorporating features to allow more advanced users to customize the factors involved in their compatibility calculations. There is still a lot to do and this will likely not be our first priority, but we take these kinds of concerns seriously and will work towards the most comprehensive matching possible.

What other factors besides astrology are used to match people?
At this time we are focused on identifying matches based solely on astrological factors. This is in part a conscious choice; we want to differentiate ourselves from other matchmaking services that require users to answer so many questions to find their matches. We always encourage feedback from our members and will respond if people express a desire to consider other factors as well, but ultimately it is our intention to keep the site focused on astrology-based factors.

How does the system work?
As soon as a new user registers on the site, our compatibility engine calculates match scores for all members within 50 miles. New members are encouraged to fill out their profile information, but can immediately start reviewing their matches if they choose. If you don’t find someone right away, Starlinked can notify you of new matches as often as every day, once a week, or once a month if you prefer. Once you find your match, simply fill out a few forms to subscribe and start communicating with as many other members as you want.

Does it cost money to join?
It is free to sign up, create your profile, and view your matches. Then you can subscribe to the Starlinked service when you are ready to contact other members. A Starlinked subscription is $29.99 a month or three months at $19.99 a month.

Who are the brains behind Starlinked and what are their credentials? I’m particularly interested in the astrological credentials.
Starlinked, before it was named as such, came to me after watching a number of friends and family use online dating and matchmaking sites. It just seemed like an astrology-based solution should be available.

Then, as a classic Mars in Taurus, I considered working on the project, poked at it, and found myself spending more and more time on it until finally the floodgates opened and BLAM: Starlinked! I’ve had tremendous help from people along the way. I think we have built quite a pool of energy behind this project.

One thing I am particularly excited about is using the collective wisdom of the community to refine the compatibility engine. For instance, what happens if I take five astrologers and ask them to tell me about a potential relationship between two people? What happens is that the same major planetary aspects and contacts tend to make appearances, but everyone weights and interprets their importance and influence slightly differently.

Rather than hide, ignore, or run away from those variations, as some other computerized analysis systems do, we embrace them and use some powerful computational techniques to harness that information. In the end we are able to provide results that best resemble the opinions of the community.

We don’t claim that these numbers are the end-all and be-all of astrological compatibility, but rather a great place to start based on some real traditional techniques. And look, you just met someone with whom you’re probably pretty compatible…why not chat?

It seems to me that more women than men are interested in astrology. How will you get around that?
I think this is definitely the case when you are talking about astro-savvy people who are interested in the inner workings and methodologies of astrology. Take a few steps back and consider folks with a casual interest who might not know what a rising sign is, but do check their daily horoscope. You still have more women than men, but the gap has definitely closed. At one point Match.com reported about 60% male membership. We hope women will strong-arm their guy friends into creating profiles 🙂

Does the system match gay people?
Starlinked does match gay people using the same compatibility system used for straight relationships. Since we are not relying solely on sun signs and are considering numerous other types of (common) planetary interactions the potential differences in relational interpretation should be tempered. I know there has been and continues to be a lot of research done this area and I would certainly like to see Starlinked’s matches reflect that work.

What do you think Astrology Mundo’s readers should know about Starlinked?
As I mentioned earlier, for many of our users Starlinked is their first real exposure to astrology beyond their daily horoscope. For these people we encourage them simply to register, review their matches, and start getting to know people with whom they are astrologically compatible.

For people with more astrology experience, there are plenty of opportunities to get involved with the project from authoring introductory relational astrology articles to participating in research to improve our compatibility engine. We are also working on establishing a consultancy or referral program for astrologers; when a user wants more detailed or personalized information, about a match or maybe regarding their own natal chart, they can select from a number of professional member astrologers offering their services.

We are excited about Starlinked and love to hear from our users on how we can improve the system. We have a number of things in the works and are always glad to take some direction from our community. Come on by and check us out!

Kashmir in the Crosshairs: The View from Brazil

Here’s the latest post from our intepid Brazil bureau chief, Gian Paul. While we’ve been fretting about the gyrations of the stock market, GP has been thinking about the land where the saffron grows.

It’s interesting that Gian Paul, who is Swiss-born, is fixated on Kashmir because it reminded me of Switzerland, with its chalets and snow-capped mountains, when I visited there in 2004.

Kashmir is also the homeland of the family of Neel Kashkari, the 35-year-old that Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson has named to oversee the $700 billion bailout fund. Like his boss, Kashkari has piercing eyes and a shaved head. The Indian papers are calling him the “$700 billion man.”

But Kashkari is another post. Here are Gian Paul’s thoughts on Kashmir, part of an Indian state called Jammu and Kashmir, and how it may be affected by the ingress of Pluto into Capricorn on Nov. 27. Over to you, GP:

Pluto was discovered on Feb. 18, 1930 by Clyde Tombough. The former planet’s sidereal revolution is almost 250 years. Consequently astrologers have little statistical data on Pluto’s effects.

In an effort to understand more, I’ve been sifting through astrological charts that I have accumulated over time. The most striking discovery I’ve made is related to the chart of the moment when World War I started.

The assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria, on June 28, 1914, in Sarajevo, was marked by the ingress of Pluto into Cancer. This is exactly opposite where Pluto will be transiting at the end of November.

So I proceeded to draw the chart of Pluto’s ingress into Capricorn. It will happen on Nov. 27, at 01 hours GMT. I drew the map for London, quite near to Greenwich, where the day begins.

The ascendant of the Pluto ingress is 24 degrees of Virgo, within 3 degrees of a conjunction to Saturn, which will be opposing Uranus. Coincidentally or not, the rising in the Sarajevo chart is just two degrees away, at 22 Virgo.

Looking beyond the financial concerns of the moment, I dug up the charts of the creation of modern India and Pakistan, as I suspect that things there have reached explosive proportions.

Pakistan is practically broke and has less than one month’s reserves to cover imports. The risk is that the government will start some stupid military initiative related to neighboring Kashmir to distract the Pakistanis from the financial problems.

A fertile highland wedged between Pakistan and India, Kashmir was put under “indefinite curfew” by India on Oct. 5.

As students of the subcontinent know, Kashmir has been a source of contention between India and Pakistan ever since the two nations were created in 1947. When Britain divided the region in two, it left the Kashmiris with three options: Merge with India, merge with Pakistan, or remain independent.

Kashmir’s then-ruler decided to go with India, though the population of Kashmir is 80% Muslim and has more in common from a religious standpoint with Pakistan than with India. Though India has many religions, the Hindus have dominated politics since the departure of the British.

For the past decade, Kashmir has been a hotbed of guerrilla activity, as Islamic militants have crossed the border from Pakistan and the Indian military has put the region under virtual house arrest.

This has nearly destroyed Kashmir’s valuable tourist trade, which dates back to British colonial times, when it was fashionable to vacation on colorfully painted houseboats on Lake Dal outside Srinigar. Most of the tourists in the area today are young Israelis, who aren’t put off by the Indian military presence or the possibility of a terrorist attack by an Islamic militia.

The problems in Kashmir might appear at first glance to be a local matter between India and Pakistan until we remember that both nations have nuclear weapons.

What’s astrologically striking about the birth charts of both nations (set for 0 hours on Aug. 15, 1947) is that Mars is at 0 degrees 35′ of Cancer. This is where Pluto was at the beginning of World War I. By the end of November, Mars will be getting the opposition of Pluto when it moves into Capricorn.

To paraphrase U.S. President John F. Kennedy, who once declared, “We are all Berliners now,” are we all about to become Kashmiris? We may have to indeed, to prevent the province from becoming a staging ground for the worst fears of mankind.

Overheard at the United Astrology Conference

I’ve long been an avid eavesdropper, and the wireless revolution has created more opportunities for me to engage in this fascinating pastime as people have personal conversations in public places on their cell phones. Early this morning, I was sitting in the lobby of the Denver Sheraton, where 1,500 astrologers from 48 countries have gathered for the United Astrology Conference.

The subject of my interest was a meeting between an astrological software developer and a venture capitalist for an astro matchmaking service that comes with social networking features. I did a quick Google search and it does appear that some dating sites have tried to incorporate astrology, but nothing big-time jumped out at me.

Of course, in India, where no one marries without consulting an astrologer, I’m sure something like this already exists. But what these guys were talking about was e-Harmony meets MySpace and AstrologyZone. The only problem I anticipate with something like this is the tendency of people, particularly those past the age of 30, to lie about their age.

Case in point: One of my former sweethearts gave me a birthdate of July 30, 1931. Based on this information, I calculated a composite that I thought was a beautiful thing. I even threw a birthday party for him for a special year. Fast-forward through four years of entanglement in a complicated triangle and his license falls out of his wallet one day.

As I picked it up and say, “What a nice photo this is for a license,” his face turned white. I didn’t look at the birthdate because I had no reason to believe he was lying. As I handed the license back to him, he confessed that he had shaved two years off of his life and that his real birthday was July 30, 1929. You gotta love those vain Leos!

If memory serves me correctly, the new composite had Sun square Neptune, the planet of disillusionment and deceit in it.

So good luck to any astrological dating service that accepts a date of birth without supporting documentation!

Ratan Tata (Still) Rising

Ratan Tata, chairman of the $50 billion Indian conglomerate Tata Group, has been all over the news lately, with Pluto and Jupiter in Capricorn magnifying the billionaire industrialist’s Capricorn sun.

On Mar. 26, Tata Motors, one of his many ventures, agreed to acquire British car brands Jaguar and Land Rover from Ford Motor for $2.3 billion. This is sweet revenge, indeed. The Indians are buying the operations of their former rulers, the Brits.

As high profile as this acquisition is, it’s just a footnote to Tata Motors’ Jan. 10 launch of the $2,500 Nano, a “people’s car” that will get thousands of Indians off their bicycles and motor bikes and into cars. Concerns that safety might be an issue with a price tag that low and the prospect of thousands and possibly millions more cars on the nation’s already clogged roads didn’t dampen the enthusiasm about the Nano’s launch at the New Delhi auto show.

Tata Motors trades on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol TTM.  You can look at the chart for the stock and see company financials here: http://investing.businessweek.com/research/stocks/snapshot/snapshot.asp?symbol=TTM If the Mar. 26 trading session is any indication, Wall Street is skeptical that Tata Motors can make money on Jaguar and Land Rover, something Ford wasn’t able to do consistently.

Tata Motors isn’t the only part of the Tata empire that has been grabbing headlines lately. The other is Tata Consultancy Services. TCS is a leading player among Indian’s outsourcing shops, which handle back-office operations, customer service, and increasingly software design for many Western companies. TCS is one of the Indian companies that has been scrutinized by Congress for its use of H-1B visas. Foes of this visa program claim that it’s being used unfairly to replace American workers. 

Ratan Tata was born in Mumbai on Dec. 28, 1937. From the looks of his Wiki bio, he had an unhappy childhood, not unusual for a Capricorn. The many hours spent alone are used to map out the plan for world domination. Think I’m kidding? I’m not. One of my favorite axioms about Caps is that they come out of the womb with a “to-do list a mile long.” That’s not mine, but I can’t give credit because I don’t remember where I read it.

Already one of the world’s wealthiest men, Tata shows no signs of slowing down even though he just celebrated his 70th birthday. Somewhere in India there’s an astrologer or two who knows the time of Ratan Tata’s birth. Maybe in this Internet age we live in, someone will e-mail me Ratan Tata’s birth time or post a comment to my site.

In the meantime, I’m going to do my back-of-the-envelope calculations with the help of Astrodienst and say that Ratan Tata is a Sagittarius rising and that his chart ruler, Jupiter in Aquarius, sits in the second house of earned income. It’s square Uranus in Taurus, which opposes Moon in Scorpio.

I’m guessing he was born around 5:35 a.m because that would give him a MC/IC of 19 Virgo/Pisces, where he’s got a Neptune/Saturn opposition. I think Uranus at 19 degrees of Pisces is lighting up the Neptune/Saturn opposition, allowing him to make major breakthroughs, i.e. the Nano and the Jaguar/Land Rover deal.

Even if I’m wrong about the birth time, it doesn’t change his Sun/Mercury conjunction in Capricorn, which sextiles Moon in Scorpio and sextiles Mars in Pisces. This is a very energetic guy, and women play an important part in his life.  Here’s the chart: http://www.astro.com/cgi/chart.cgi?rs=3;btyp=w2gw;cid=41laaaa19347-s971800598;nhor=189;nho2=189

Ratan Tata’s got some challenges coming up, with the Saturn/Uranus conjunction in Virgo/Pisces this November and further down the road with the big cardinal grand cross in 2010. I don’t think the safety concerns about the Nano are going away anytime soon.

If I were Ratan Tata, I might mark June 26, 2010 on my calendar. That’s the day of a lunar eclipse at 4 degrees of Capricorn that is conjunct Pluto and activates a grand cross involving the Sun, Mercury, Jupiter, Uranus, the Moon, and Saturn — all within 5 degrees of the world axis at 0 degrees of the cardinal signs — Aries, Cancer, Libra, and Capricorn. With his Sun at 5 degrees of Cap, Tata’s chart will be lit up like a Christmas tree by this eclipse.

That’s a lot of squares, but squares produce action. Maybe 2010 will be when Tata Motors acquires General Motors or Chrysler. In the case of the latter, Cerberus Capital Management might be ready to unload it by then.

Speaking of Cerberus, why would a private investment firm name itself after the creature who guarded the gates to Hades? Is it because they make life a living hell for the workers at the companies they acquire? I hope not.