Calling All Rick Astley Fans

Before I tracked down Kathryn Cassidy’s post at Collaborating With Fate on the Internet phenomenon known as “rickrolling,” I e-mailed Marjorie Orr and asked her to take a peek at singer Rick Astley’s chart. I asked Marjorie if she could see any reason for the boomerang of his 1987 hit Never Gonna Give You Up, thanks to Internet pranksters.

Marjorie has responded to my request and has posted her interpretation of Astley’s chart, which is somewhat hindered because we don’t have a time of birth. You can read it here. Scroll down if you don’t see it.

Give Paul Simon a Break Already

I was born too late for the heyday of Simon and Garfunkel, but I’ve been a big Paul Simon fan ever since the release of There Goes Rhymin’ Simon in 1973. The Brooklyn Academy of Music recently put together a three-month festival celebrating his songs, Love in Hard Times, but alas, I wasn’t in town for it.

I’ve been catching up on the media coverage of the show, including a piece in New York magazine complaining that Simon exhibited the “enthusiasm of a postal clerk on tax day” during his performance. Sounds like Virgo, I thought. So I did a little legwork and found his birth chart, which has a 6 degree Virgo rising.

Here’s the link to Paul Simon’s natal chart.

Be careful with this site. You may need to have Java running. Anyway, be prepared for a slight delay to look at Simon’s chart, set for Oct. 13, 1941 at 2:33 a.m. in Newark Heights, N.J.

One thing that I’ve never understood is why Simon has been criticized for bringing music from other cultures and countries to the attention of the masses. He hasn’t stolen or plagiarized, but he’s been unfairly accused of exploitation, in my opinion, particularly for his South African tribal-infused works on Graceland.

This kind of Simon-bashing is particularly annoying to me in the age of rap and hip-hop, where the sampling of earlier works is accepted and even encouraged. As a suburban teenager I wouldn’t have learned about the Dixie Hummingbirds if it weren’t for their vocals on Simon’s Loves Me Like a Rock on Rhymin’ Simon. This is his Venus in Sag at work, evincing a love of other cultures and sharing it with others.

Why am I such a Simon defender? Maybe it’s because his Neptune at 28 degrees of Virgo is right on my North Node, which symbolizes a collective and healing experience. His songs have always resonated with me, from America to Homeward Bound to Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard.

I’ve always felt that Simon (and Art Garfunkel) captured the ennui and disillusionment in a land of plenty. In my view, the seminal moment was Mrs. Robinson as the theme song to The Graduate, which debuted in New York on Dec. 21, 1967, according to the Internet Movie Database. At that time, electrical Uranus was at 29 Virgo, conjunct Simon’s Neptune, and transforming Pluto was slightly behind, at 22 Virgo. Expansive Jupiter was at 5 degrees of Virgo, smack on Simon’s ascendant.

Over the years, Simon has continued to work his alchemy on the American psyche. At the same time, he was woven classical riffs, African tribal melodies, and a Caribbean beat, to name just three influences, into the tapestry of his music. Like fellow Libran Bruce Springsteen, Simon has served as the poet of his generation. In Simon’s case, the collective consciousness crystallized with the Uranus/Pluto conjunctions of the late Sixties.

Here’s one of my favorite tunes of this troubled troubadour, recorded during a 1974 appearance on The Dick Cavett Show : Paul Simon’s American Tune

(This is my first music link, coming just a few days after my first photo link. Can you tell that stationing Neptune is trining my natal Jupiter in Sag, which is being opposed by a slow-moving retrograde Mercury?)

What sums up the American experience right now better than these words?

We’ve lived so well so long
Still, when I think of the road
we’re traveling on
I wonder what went wrong
I can’t help it, I wonder what went wrong

If you know the answer, please let me know. I’m still trying to figure it out.

American Idol: David vs. David

What do you do when you’re stuck in the Houston airport besides watching CNN all day? You run the charts of David Archuleta and David Cook, the two remaining contestants on American Idol. I wish had birth times for both of the singers, but I don’t. Both of these charts look so auspicious for May 21, 2008, the night the winner is announced, that it’s tough to make a call.

What’s interesting is that both rivals for the American Idol crown have their progressed Suns near 24 degrees of Capricorn, even though Cook is a Sagittarius and Archuleta is a Capricorn and they were born eight years apart.

Cook, the older and grittier performer of the two, was born Dec. 20, 1982 in Houston. Unlike many Idol competitors, he plays an instrument, the guitar. Here’s his natal chart, with progressions and transits for May 21, courtesy of Astrodienst:

Archuleta was born Dec. 28, 1990 in Miami. He kind of reminds me of the boys from Menudo. He’s one of those Latin heartthrobs that is the stuff of teenybopper dreams. Even though he’s going to be 18 this December, he seems younger to me. Sexy, but safe enough for parents to encourage the infatuation.

Here’s his chart, with transits and progressions:

After pondering both charts, I’ll predict that Archuleta wins, but by an eyelash. Even though I expect Archuleta to be the victor, based on both astrology and the rationale that tweens have nothing better to do than cast their electronic votes for the next American Idol, I think that Cook has a very promising career ahead of him. He may end up as runner-up, but he definitely won’t be a has-been after Idol is over.

The Stage is Set for Stew to Win a Tony Award

I’ve been on the road in New Mexico so I’m just catching up with the nominations for the Tony Awards, which were announced May 13.

I was gratified to see that Passing Strange garnered 7 noms, including best musical, best original score, best book of a musical, and best performance by a leading actor in a musical. Last month, I wrote that Stew, the Leo star of Passing Strange, and his collaborator Heidi Rodewald have a good shot at taking home a Tony or two (“Stew, Meet Tony,” Apr. 17, 2008). You can find the story under African-Americans, to name one category where it’s stored. 

There’s no question that the competition is keen. In the Heights, another funky musical, scored the most Tony nominations (13), while the classic musical South Pacific earned 11 noms. The Tony Awards ceremony will be broadcast on June 15. Whoopi Goldberg will be the emcee of the event. For more information, click here: http://www.tonyawards.com/en_US/index.html 

I like the fact that Whoopi will be hosting the awards. Stew’s powerful Leo stellium falls in her seventh house, where she has got a powerful Jupiter/Pluto conjunction in Leo. Sure, her stellium in Scorpio squares Stew’s Leo lineup, but squares can be quite dynamic. Maybe Whoopi will be Stew’s good luck charm! Here’s her chart:

http://www.vegaattractions.com/celebrity/stars/whoopi_goldberg.html

All I Wanted Was a Word with Michael Caine

I’ve had the good fortune to interview lots of interesting people in my life and to hob-nob with celebrities. It’s an unspoken law that when you attend a star-studded “after-party” that you don’t introduce yourself to Madonna, unless you’re also a diva.

Mere mortals wait for the star to introduce herself or for a publicist or mutual acquaintance to do the honors. I’ve usually abided by the rule in social settings, but there was one time when I couldn’t help myself.

It was at a New York party for the Oscars in 1999. Michael Caine was there, and not in Hollywood, because he was shooting Curtain Call with Maggie Smith in the city. Fortified by a couple of flutes of champagne, I walked up to him and looked straight into his blue eyes. He’s 6 foot, 2 inches and I’m that tall in high heels. “I know you’ve heard this hundreds of times, but I adored you in Alfie,” I gushed.

I admit that l felt a little ridiculous mentioning a film that had come out more than 30 years earlier. I didn’t want to imply that the rest of his oeuvre wasn’t worthy of my admiration.

Always the charmer, Caine replied, “Thank you very much. Don’t worry. I never get tired of hearing how people appreciate my work.” I walked away knowing that I could now die happy.

Mind you, I was only 6 years old when Alfie was released, but when I saw it for the first time in my 20s, it knocked me out. If there were ever a film that symbolized the ethos of London in the Swingin’ Sixties, this was it. I loved it when Alfie talked to the camera, letting the audience in on the secret. And I was astounded by Caine’s emotional range.

Even though I’m a fan of Jude Law, I wasn’t surprised when his 2004 remake of Alfie got a ho-hum reception. As far as I’m concerned, and evidently a lot of other folks agree, there is only one Alfie.

Speaking of Alfies, isn’t it interesting that Caine played Batman’s butler Alfred Pennyworth in Batman Begins and in the upcoming Batman film The Dark Knight? There’s a branch of astrology that looks at the thousands of name asteroids up in the sky. Perhaps there’s an asteroid Alfred that was conjunct Caine’s Sun when he was born.

Michael Caine is also one of my husband’s favorite actors. His favorite Caine films are Zulu, The Italian Job, and The Man Who Would be King, which also starred Sean Connery and Caine’s wife, Shakira.

Anyone who has followed Caine’s career or who has read his 1992 autobiography What’s It All About? knows that he has had some tremendous highs and lows in his life. And though Caine may have shared some character traits with Alfie (a working-class background and a love of the “birds”), being a slacker wasn’t one of them.

Caine was long called “the hardest-working man in Hollywood.” He’s honed his craft and fattened his bank account by appearing in less-than-memorable films like the The Swarm and Jaws: The Revenge. Along the way, he has showcased his considerable comedic talents and won more mainstream fans with such films as Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, a classic collaboration with Steve Martin. Caine never phones it in. Even if the movie is a piece of junk, he always delivers a professional performance.

Some of my favorite Caine films, like Educating Rita and Mona Lisa, involve the British class system, which at first stymied the actor’s ambitions. He’s been a critic of the system over the years, though he’s obviously not a radical or he wouldn’t have agreed to be knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 2000. For key dates in Caine’s life, see his Web site.

If you’re a music person, don’t miss this ode to Caine from the Eighties ska band Madness. You’ll see that I borrowed from the lyrics (“All I wanted was a word or a photograph to keep at home”) for the headline to this post.

Caine’s biography is laugh-out-loud funny, especially to an astrologer. Born Maurice Joseph Micklewhite on Mar. 14, 1933, Caine is a Pisces, whose symbol is the fish. So what was his father’s trade? He was a fishmonger at Billingsgate!

Having visited some of Caine’s restaurants and knowing about his keen interest in food and nutrition, I suspected there was a strong Cancer aspect in his chart. Sure enough, there is. His 23 degree Pisces Sun makes a favorable trine to Pluto in Cancer in the second house of earned income. With that aspect, Caine can actually make money in the restaurant business, unlike most actors who try their luck in the kitchen.

Caine’s Pluto in Cancer is also squared by Uranus in Aries, a picture he shares with other members of his generation, but one that has led to considerable upheaval in Caine’s life — first being evacuated from London and separated from his family during World War II only to return to the city and witness bombing by the Germans, almost dying of a rare strain of malaria after serving in Korea, being sent to jail for not paying child support when he was destitute, to name just a few.

I’ve run the natal chart for 10:05 a.m. in London because Caine says in his book that he was born “a few minutes after 10 o’clock in the morning.” I’ve seen the chart elsewhere with a 10:10 birth time, but 10 minutes seems like more than “a few” to me.

You can see Michael Caine’s chart here, courtesy of Astrodienst.

Throughout his book, Caine notes how fortunate he has been during his life and that he sometimes has felt as if he had a guardian angel watching over him. This makes perfect sense. Besides the Sun, he’s also got the North Node and Venus in spiritual Pisces. This lineup is opposed by a stellium in Virgo — Mars, Neptune, and Jupiter. This is a lucky man, indeed.

In addition to the natal chart, I’ve included the transits for Aug. 24, 1966, the night that Alfie premiered. As you can see, the revolutionary Pluto/Uranus conjunction in Virgo was sitting on Caine’s Jupiter, turning him into an international superstar and bringing him big money, seemingly overnight.

Caine’s Gemini rising is ruled by Mercury the trickster. The Gemini ascendant forms a T-square with the opposing stelliums in Pisces and Virgo. The result? Caine is a chameleon par excellence. The Gemini rising has been opposed by transiting Pluto in the last few years, bringing Caine magician roles in The Prestige and the upcoming Is Anybody There?

So much has happened to Caine since he wrote his biography in 1992 that he could write another one. Since then, he’s won the best supporting actor Oscar for The Cider House Rules (he had previously won one for Woody Allen’s Hannah and her Sisters) and delivered a stunning performance in The Quiet American, which brought him an Oscar nomination for best actor and the BAFTA award (Britain’s answer to the Oscars) for best actor.

Here’s a coincidence of sorts: Some top actors passed on the original Alfie because they didn’t want to be in a film with an abortion scene. John Irving’s book The Cider House Rules also had a story line that included abortions, which was dropped for the film adaptation.

The astrologer in me sees that emphasis on infant life and death as another manifestation of Caine’s Pluto in Cancer trining his Sun. Pluto in Cancer is a generational signature, but because it makes an aspect to Caine’s Sun, it’s very powerful in his life. Indeed, both his wife Shakira and his daughter Natasha had serious health problems shortly after Natasha’s birth.

I haven’t done the research, but I seem to remember there was a disagreement between Caine and the distributors and producers of The Quiet American, Miramax Films, then run by Harvey and Bob Weinstein. I can’t remember exactly what the story was. Was it that Caine didn’t think he was getting enough support from the Weinsteins to win the best actor Oscar? Or was it that the Weinsteins didn’t want to put the film in competition because they didn’t think Caine could win? Whatever the power struggle was, it sounds like a manifestation of Pluto crossing Caine’s descendant and squaring the Sun.

As transiting Uranus moves across his Sun over the next year or so, Michael Caine could get a jolt. He could deliver a revolutionary performance that recalls the glory of Alfie. He could finally win the best actor Oscar. (So far, he’s only taken home the golden statue for best supporting actor.) Caine was recently honored by the Film Society at Lincoln Center with a tribute night. With Uranus and then Jupiter coming to conjunct his Sun, a lifetime achievement Oscar is another strong possibility, in late February or early March 2010.

Michael Caine still has a few tricks left up his sleeve.

The Church Gets Its Groove Back

I was talking to a friend yesterday who lives in New York. Like me, she’s a closet astrologer. She was marveling at the Pope’s lovefest at St. Patrick’s Cathedral and the good vibes coming from Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who was raised Jewish, throughout the whole thing.

My observation was that with Neptune, the North Node, and Chiron moving closely together in Aquarius, that it’s a good time for the church (Neptune) to heal its wounds (Chiron) with the public (North Node). Why was Bloomberg in the mix? He was on born on Valentine’s Day, which puts this transiting Aquarius stellium smack dab on his Sun.

Here’s Bloomberg’s chart, thanks to AstroDataBank: http://www.astrodatabank.com/NM/BloombergMike.htm

Those who know Bloomberg observe that his tastes are ecumenical, to say the least. With a group of Aquarius planets in his seventh house, he thrives on mixing with all kinds of people, not just the tribe he was raised in.

In another manifestation of the current Aquarius lineup, we’ve got pilgrims flocking to the Italian village where the body of Padre Pio has been exhumed. Here’s the link to that story: http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20080424/lf_nm_life/italy_saint_dc

It doesn’t stop. Here’s a news story from Britain about a trio of Roman Catholic priests who have signed a recording contract. Neptune in Aquarius could be seen as favorable to religious music and certainly the North Node is about connecting with the public. Here’s the link to that article:

http://music.guardian.co.uk/news/story/0,,2275794,00.html

Takes me back to my childhood and “The Singing Nun.”

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:

http://www.astro.com/cgi/chart.cgi?cid=41laaaa19347-s971800598&lang=e&gm=a1&nhor=202&nho2=11&btyp=24&mth=gw&sday=15&smon=6&syr=2008&hsy=-1&zod=&orbp=&rs=0&ast=

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!

Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans?

I’m reading 1 Dead in Attic, a compilation of columns that Times-Picayune columnist Chris Rose wrote in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Rose was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in 2006 for the essays and shared the Pulitzer for public service that the newspaper won. 

In the winter of 2006, he self-published 1 Dead in Attic, and sold 65,000 copies before Simon & Schuster bought the rights. S&S published its trade paperback edition in August, 2007, two years after the hurricane that irrevocably changed life in the Big Easy.

I rescued 1 Dead in Attic from the pile of rejected books at my day job last summer. Evidently, nobody at work wants to read about Katrina anymore, except me. 

Rose’s stories are making me laugh and cry, sometimes within minutes of each other. Here’s an example:

“When I look back on the year 2005, nothing comes to mind more than the opening line of Dickens’s A Tale of Two Cities: ‘It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.’

Except for that ‘best of times’ part, it describes New Orleans perfectly.”

Rose has a knack for finding irony in the smallest of details. I learned that the “Desire” bus line, which superseded the famous Streetcar Named Desire,  was scrapped after Katrina and replaced by the “Sullen” line. That pretty much says it all, doesn’t it?

In the genre that Rose has dubbed “history in a hurry,” this book is right up there with Edna Buchanan’s “The Corpse Had a Familiar Face,” the Miami Herald columnist’s tragicomic musings on covering the crime beat.

As an astrologer, I’m always combing books and blogs for birth times that can be used to calculate horoscopes. My feeling about astrology is: “Garbage in, garbage out.” The more accurate your time, the better your intepretation. And to those cynics who say astrology is all garbage, you’re on the wrong blog!

In a column called “The Surreal City,” Rose observes:

“If Salvador Dali showed up here, he wouldn’t be able to make heads or tails of it. Nobody could paint this.

He did that famous painting of the melting clock, and our clocks melted at 6:45 the morning of August 29.”

Why did this grab my attention? Well, most of the charts out there for Katrina are set for 6:10 a.m., when the hurricane made landfall in Buras, La. Here’s that chart, courtesy of AstroDataBank.

I would argue that the 6:45 time is the defining moment for New Orleanians and their experience of Katrina. Using this time produces a much more dramatic chart than the 6:10 time.  Here it is, courtesy of Astrodienst.

This chart has the Sun in Virgo opposing Uranus in Pisces straddling the Ascendant/Descendant. In astrological parlance, the opposition is much more “angular” than in the 6:10 chart. In Uranian astrology, the Ascendant or Rising is the environment or experience of the native. And most astrologers, regardless of their “school,” would describe the Descendant or the seventh house cusp, as what’s coming at you.

In this chart, the Sun on the Ascendant is the physical body of New Orleans, represented by Uranus in Pisces, an apt aspect for a Category 3 hurricane that led to deadly floods.

Other highlights of the chart: Mars in Taurus, Mercury in Leo, and Neptune in Aquarius in a fairly tight T-square, highlighting the confusion, helplessness, and anger about the evacuation of N.O. residents. At first, New Orleanians, to use Rose’s words, thought they “dodged a bullet” because Katrina was weaker at landfall than expected. It wasn’t until later that the threat posed by the levees breaking started to sink in (no pun intended). The problem wasn’t the hurricane, it was the subsequent flooding of the city, much of which sits below sea level. Those residents who hadn’t left town and hadn’t heeded the advice to keep an ax in their attic were in great danger.

The Venus/Jupiter conjunction in Libra in the second underscores the cultural wealth of the city and the helping hand that artists have lent to relief efforts. The Venus/Jupiter conjunction trines Neptune in Aquarius, which I believe points to the financial outpouring from religious institutions, not to mention the hands-on assistance of church groups from across the country in replacing the housing stock of the city. I’m sorry to say that I didn’t go down to N.O. and help clean up after Katrina, but I did clean out my pantry that fateful weekend and contribute to a food drive that my local church was having. As The New York Times has pointed out, “faith” has helped rebuild New Orleans. Amen!

Some people might wonder why I’m thinking about Katrina and the Big Easy nearly three years after the storm. That’s a question I’ve asked myself. I’m not from New Orleans and I didn’t go to Tulane, as some of my friends did. During the late 1980s, I had the opportunity to attend the JazzFest several years in a row and see great artists like Dr. John, Irma Thomas, Bonnie Raitt, John Hiatt, Harry Connick Jr., and the Neville Brothers (not listed in order of importance).

One year at JazzFest, I was sure I had died and gone to heaven: I got to see Mavis Staples belting out the soundtrack of my youth, with Pop Staples (he was still alive then) backing her up on keyboards.

I love the egalitarian nature of JazzFest. Anybody with a general admission ticket can tramp through the mud (it always rained the day before I arrived) at the fairgrounds to a tent and score a seat for an amazing concert by a gospel choir.  In those days, the Gospel Tent at JazzFest was sponsored by black-owned Rhodes Funeral Home, which had a side business of renting limos. Before the music would start, a voice would come over the sound system and say: “Rhodes: They’re with you when you’re sad, and they’re with you when you’re glad.” I don’t know why, but that just cracked me up.

(From reading Rose’s book and surfing the Net, I gather that Rhodes was one of the many N.O. businesses dislocated by Katrina.)

For a little sample of New Orleans, click here: http://www.wwoz.org/listen.php. Radio station WWOZ is live at the French Quarter Festival broadcasting Amanda Shaw’s “Pretty Runs Out” right now (11:25 a.m. PDT on April 13) and will be at JazzFest ( http://www.nojazzfest.com/) from Apr. 25-May 4.

Evidently, there is a competition to operate the concessions at JazzFest. There was a bakeoff of sorts among all the church ladies in the city, who whipped up their best jambalaya, shrimp gumbo, and crawfish Monica to win a place at the fairgrounds. During one JazzFest when I was particularly obsessed about my weight, I stepped on the scale when I arrived in the Big Easy and just before I headed to the airport. When I announced to our host that I had gained 10 lbs. in the course of a single weekend, he replied in good ole’ boy fashion: “Honey, this ain’t no spa.”

Music, food, and drink, with a little voodoo thrown in: New Orleans is my idea of paradise. So it’s no surprise that the weekend that Katrina hit found me curled up in the fetal position, alternating between crying and sleeping.  This infantile reaction makes perfect sense to me: Katrina and I share a Cancer Moon. I was left prostrate by the impotence of our leaders  in the face of her fury. The conspiracy theory that the government allowed this to happen as part of a plan to turn multicultural N.O. into New White City sounded hollow to my ears. This was flat-out incompetence, not some neo-Aryan strategy.

Unlike Rose of the Times-Picayune, who holds the Army Corps of Engineers responsible for the levees breaking, I place the blame squarely on the shoulders of President George W. Bush.

One of the many mistakes that GWB made was putting unqualified cronies in key government positions and injecting politics into the civil service. In this case, his ill-advised decision to name Mike Brown to head the Federal Emergency Management Agency was lethal. Brown was forced to resign Sept. 12, 2005, but it was too late for the 1,836 individuals who died because of Katrina. (The figure comes from the Wiki on Katrina.) 

It’s popular in this country to be anti-government, but the U.S. has one of the most efficient — and until the arrival of the Bushies — honest cadre of government employees in the world. O.K., maybe Britain and France have a better educated government workforce than we do. But visit Latin America or Africa, where you have to grease the palms of the customs inspectors and baggage handlers to get out of the airport, and you’ll have a new appreciation of how well things work here.

Katrina was a turning point for the Bush Administration. America woke up and began to see that the emperor had no clothes. The resources that we had diverted to Iraq hindered the ability to respond to a domestic emergency such as Katrina. No amount of cheerleading was going to get us out of this one.

Now that we’ve explored my visceral reaction to Katrina and the failure of leadership, let’s look at why this problem isn’t going away. Saturn has been hanging around the Sun of the Katrina chart since late last year and will make its last pass on Friday, July 18. Saturn is the authority figure so maybe the government (federal, state, or local) will announce some measure to speed up the reconstruction of New Orleans around that time.

But since the Sun represents the life force of the Big Easy’s residents, I would say the city will continue to be depressed and that it is unlikely to return to anywhere near its former size until Saturn leaves Virgo in October, 2009. According to the Census Bureau, N.O.’s population declined by more than half in Katrina’s wake — to 223,388 on July 1, 2006, from 452,170 a year before.

Last month, city officials challenged a July, 2007, Census Bureau estimate that New Orleans had 239,124 residents.  Mayor C. Ray Nagin says the number is closer to 300,000, citing studies by the Greater New Orleans Community Data Center, which was assisted by the Brookings Institution. This isn’t a matter of haggling over statistics. The official population numbers affect the amount of federal government funding that the city receives.

Closer to home, I was dismayed when I sent a contribution to the Bush-Clinton Katrina Fund late last year and I received a letter that the fund was closed because its work was done. (I don’t have the letter in front of me so I’m paraphrasing here.) I haven’t been to New Orleans since Katrina, but based on what I read and hear, there is still much work to be done there, particularly in the area of community policing and witness protection. Such measures would help stop the crime wave that threatens to engulf the city.

This national treasure shouldn’t be left to rot because its laissez les bons temps rouler philosophy doesn’t mesh with America’s puritanical self-image. Of course, the images of New Orleanians trapped in the Louisiana Superdome didn’t do much to help the cause. Katrina survivors were portrayed as a bunch of lushes, lechers, and leeches not deserving of our help or sympathy. But if you put 10,000 Wall Streeters in the New York Stock Exchange with not enough food, drinking water, or toilets, not to mention rain coming through holes in the roof, things would get pretty ugly in that bastion of civilization too.

When I was killing time in the Houston airport last week, I was subjected to a rant about how Big Easy transplants have debauched the city. If I had brought 1 Dead in Attic with me, I would have passed it along to my friendly New Orleanian-basher. Maybe reading about folks who committed suicide because they couldn’t face starting over after Katrina would give him a little compassion for those who were looking for a handout in Houston. “And the way those folks ran up their FEMA credit cards, can you believe it?”

Funny how you don’t hear people complaining in airports about the government’s bailout of Bear Stearns. John Kenneth Gailbraith’s quote that “In America, the only respectable form of socialism is socialism for the rich” has been cited more than a few times lately in the blogosphere, but it’s worth repeating. 

Along the same lines, I love Don Henley’s observation in the 1980s song “Gimme What You Got” that “A man with a briefcase can steal more money than any man with a gun.” You’d think they would get that in Houston, the headquarters of Enron. Wouldn’t you?