More Death Valley Days for California?

I didn’t need California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to tell me the Golden State is in the middle of a drought. You can see it in the California natal chart, set for Sept. 9, 1850 in San Jose, at 9:41 a.m. Here’s the chart, thanks to Astrodienst.

Note that dry, constricting Saturn is heading for fertile California’s 16 degree Virgo Sun. Transiting Uranus is currently past an opposition with the Golden State Sun, but it’s moving retrograde, back to an opposition with Saturn in the sky. This will take place in early November at roughly 19 degrees of Pisces/Virgo.

Mars will also make a passage through Virgo, in August, going over the state’s Sun before it opposes Uranus in the sky, a signature for wildfires if I ever saw one. But this could easily be psychological fires as physical ones.

It looks to me like California’s populace could be angry. That may be due to the strain of higher gas prices on residents of a state that has long had a love affair with driving. Driving the Ventura Highway memorialized in the America tune has gotten a lot more expensive in the last year.

Still, with Virgo involved, the state’s civil servants might be up in arms about something or it could be agricultural workers or the truckers who transport produce who rise up in protest.

Few astrological sites are better than Richard Nolle’s AstroPro for predicting wild weather, which is often triggered by new and full moons. Click on his site on my blogroll and when you get to his home page, click on the label that says “futures.” Be sure and do this in the beginning of August if you live in California.

As California goes, so goes the nation. (Sorry, Maine!) A drought in this agricultural state is more grist for the mill of higher food prices. Here’s the link to a story about the governor’s official declaration: http://www.sacbee.com/111/story/990322.html

At the same time that the Governator is proclaiming a drought, the National Trust for Historic Preservation is sounding the alarm about the vulnerability of California’s state park system, citing “deterioration, neglect, and poor public policy.”

Here’s the link: http://www.preservationnation.org/travel-and-sites/sites/western-region/californias-state-parks.html

Saturn in Virgo could also be interpreted as belt-tightening (Saturn) in public parks (Virgo). Although it’s known for its symbol, the Virgin, Virgo is the sign of the worker. He or she takes the family to the park on weekends because it’s a low-cost form of entertainment, not to mention a way to commune with nature.

Protecting California’s land is an issue that has been close to home for me this winter while my husband has been working at one of the 125 golf courses in the Palm Springs area. Of course, you know how these courses stay green in a region that gets two to four inches of rain a year. They’re watered every day, sometimes twice a day.

In the interest of marital harmony, I’m going to reserve comment on the wisdom of this. Certainly, golf courses bring tourists to the desert and that helps the economy, but…

Given the number of swimming pools in the state, perhaps a daily swim could be a state-mandated substitute for a shower or bath. That’s assuming there’s enough water to fill the pool.

Savoring the Long Days of June

Moving from Southern California to New York State on June 1 does have its benefits. Longer days, to name one: 38 minutes longer, if this Web site is correct: http://www.sunrisesunset.com/

That’s the difference between the length of the day right now in New York City, vs. Los Angeles. I’m using these two cities as surrogates for Palm Springs, Calif., and Beacon, N.Y.

What do you do with 38 minutes of extra daylight? Well, if you’re me, you use it to walk to Ron’s Ice Cream on Fishkill Avenue and buy your first ice cream cone of the season. The rule in our house is that if my husband and I are going to Ron’s, we must walk. The thinking is that we will burn up the calories we consume in the ice cream cone during the walk to and from Ron’s, which is about a half-mile from our house.

I love to go out during the so-called magic hour (a term used by cinematographers, which I first learned about in the 1992 documentary Visions of Light). The magic hour is actually a few minutes before the sun goes down, not a whole hour. This period is prized by photographers because the light is diffuse and everything is bathed in a warm, golden glow. The harshness of daylight has disappeared and the sensuality of dusk is approaching.

Some people get a hopeful feeling at sunrise. Not me. I was born a few minutes before midnight, so I think I’m a night owl by design.

I made my magic hour trek to Ron’s by myself because Jim is still in Palm Springs. I ate my Hershey’s Peanut Butter Cup single cone on a bench where I see a Little League game in progress under the lights. No, not the Friday Night Lights, the Monday ones.

When I turned my head in the other direction, I could see the top of Mount Beacon, where patriots set fires during the Revolutionary War to signal information about British troop movements to George Washington, who was headquartered across the Hudson River in Newburgh.

What’s interesting to me in this old mill town is how many people jump in their Jeep Cherokees and Ford Explorers to travel a mile or less to grab a cone at Ron’s or a six-pack or lottery ticket at the corner deli. What is it going to take to get folks out of their SUVs and on their feet? Gas at $5 a gallon? $10?

There is a strange juxtaposition right now in Beacon and maybe in the U.S. On the one side, the tree huggers are apologizing for their carbon footprints and busily establishing compost piles in the backyards. On the other are those who feel that unlimited gasoline usage is their birthright. Is there an in-between in America?

To my mind, this would involve a sensible approach to conservation without finger-pointing from the Greens and temper tantrums from the gas guzzlers. It might also revive the quaint habit of walking to the store, the library, the ice cream stand. The only people who seem to walk in this town are children and senior citizens, though more bicycles seem to have arrived since I left here on Jan. 30.

Can we find a healthy place between self-flagellation for despoiling the planet and mindless consumption? I hope so.

What Would Sharon Stone Say About Iceland?

Pisces Sharon Stone wasn’t thinking too clearly when she publicly remarked that the recent earthquake in China might be the result of “bad karma” because of China’s brutal treatment of Tibet. I wonder what she would say about Iceland, which was shaken on May 29 by a 6.1 earthquake.

I’m no fan of China’s violent suppression of Tibet’s sovereignty, but it’s always dangerous when Hollywood stars start making pronouncements about religion and science. It’s also hazardous to their bank accounts, at least in the short term. Christian Dior has pulled an advertising campaign in China featuring Stone.

Like Rachael Ray (see “Saturn Teaches Rachael Ray a Lesson”), Stone is getting a visit from Saturn. Unlike Ray, who is having Saturn on her Virgo Sun, Stone has Saturn the taskmaster sitting on her Virgo Ascendant. She’s also got transiting Uranus in Pisces lighting up her natal square between Mercury at 26 Pisces and Saturn at 25 Sagittarius.

Here’s Stone’s chart, courtesy of Astrotheme.

With Mercury in the sky now moving retrograde, Stone has backtracked and apologized, according to Reuters.

As an astrologer, I think weather has more to do with planetary transits than it does with karma. And as Ray Merriman points out in his commentary this week, it’s earthquake season here on planet Earth. With Saturn in the earth sign of Virgo heading toward a series of oppositions with volatile Uranus in Pisces, the time of temblors is just getting started.

Here’s a nifty post about California’s birth chart and why the Golden State is so prone to earthquakes, floods, and mud slides.

I can just imagine what pious Jews, Muslims, Hindus, and Christians around the world are going to say when the Big One hits LA: God is punishing Hollywood for all those violent, sex-filled movies. You know, the ones like Basic Instinct, starring…Sharon Stone.

No Sex Please, We’re Astrologers

We may be having a Seventies flashback when it comes to stagflation and rising gas prices, but it’s not a complete rerun of That Seventies Show. To wit: Eric Francis at PlanetWaves notes in his blog that not one of the hundreds of seminars at the United Astrology Conference deals with sexuality.

That certainly wouldn’t have been the case at an astrology conference 35 years ago. I remember that the home where I babysat in the Seventies had The Sensuous Woman by J on the bookshelf right next to Linda Goodman’s Sun Signs. I had many hours of happy reading after I put the kids to bed.

Here’s the link to Eric’s Web, which as I point elsewhere, is too erotic for office viewing: http://planetwaves.net/pagetwo/

My opinion is the trine between Pluto in Capricorn (transformation of business) and Saturn in Virgo (time to clean up the environment) is keeping the 1,500 stargazers gathered at the Sheraton focused on Earth.

I got brought down to earth myself this afternoon after I walked into a dimly lit Starbucks for lunch and missed a step up. The young woman behind the counter exclaimed, “You’re the third person that’s happened to in a week.” Then her manager came out and bought me lunch while I nursed my skinned knee.

More than a few people at the conference are having trouble breathing because of the high altitude in the Mile High City, but I’m short of breath contemplating the disasters that have been occurring around the globe.

You don’t have to be an astrologer to be worried when 163,000 people leave the planet in less than a week — the death toll from the May 12 earthquake in China is at 30,000 while the one for the May 5 cyclone in Myanmar is 133,000. It’s mind-boggling!

I know I sound like a survivalist, but based on what I’m hearing at UAC, I would advise everyone I know to pay off his debts, stock the pantry with water and food, pack a “go bag” with emergency essentials, and stash some cash under the mattress.

The gold bugs have been saying stuff like this for years, but one of these days Chicken Little is going to be right.

Laura Bush Takes the Lead on Myanmar

Laura Bush is a private person, but I know that she’s a force to be reckoned with. Of course she is: Like the previous First Lady, Hillary Clinton, Laura Bush is one tough Scorpio.

I’m not a political animal by any means, but my impression is that Laura Bush has been largely silent during her stay in the White House. The only thing that I can recall her being vocal about is the importance of reading, a subject near and dear to me, by the way, but one that is hardly controversial.

I don’t know who made the executive decision, but the First Lady has suddenly emerged as the point person on the devastating cyclone in Myanmar, the country that used to be called Burma. In between handling the last-minute details on daughter Jenna’s Texas wedding this weekend, she held a press conference at the White House today.

Bush accused Myanmar’s military regime of not doing enough to notify citizens about Cyclone Nargis so they could evacuate. She announced that on May 6 President George W. Bush will award the Congressional Gold Medal to imprisoned Burmese democracy activist Aung San Suu Kyi, a Nobel Laureate. The First lady said the award is a way to “let the people of Burma know that the United States is standing with them.”

In astrology, secondary progressions help us understand how a person’s life unfolds, but I generally look for a strong transit or lunation, especially an eclipse, to thrust someone onto the public stage.

It appears this morning’s New Moon in Taurus occurred quite close to Bush’s Ascendant. It sextiled her compassionate Pisces Moon and formed a T-square with her natal Saturn/Pluto conjunction in Leo and Jupiter/Sun conjunction in Scorpio.

Here’s Laura Bush’s chart, courtesy of AstroDataBank:
http://www.astrodatabank.com/NM/BushLaura.htm

Perhaps the magnitude of the suffering — at least 22,000 dead and a military regime that is dragging its heels in accepting U.S. and other international aid — was too much for her to take. I know she has been an outspoken critic of the country’s junta in the past, but this seems to be her most visible effort to date to support Myanmar’s oppressed people.

If you look at this clip of her White House press conference (http://cosmos.bcst.yahoo.com/up/player/popup/?rn=3906861&cl=7687043&ch=4226716&src=news, she appears to be quite serious and in no mood for political games.

I knew Laura Bush was more than a mousy librarian. But I wonder whose decision it was to put her front and center at a time when America’s international image has been sullied by the war in Iraq, the use of torture in interrogating terrorist suspects, and an arrogant, ignorant attitude toward global warming, to name just a few of our black eyes.

I’m happy to see Laura taking the lead, but I can’t help wondering why her husband isn’t up there. Maybe it’s difficult for him to talk about anything without smirking and making jokes. Who knows? Maybe Laura Bush is taking control. I hope so. I trust her judgment a helluva lot more than her husband’s.

The New Moon of Cinco de Mayo

No question: Today’s New Moon, which occurred at 5:18 a.m. PDT at 16 degrees of Taurus, is a beautiful thing. Of course it is, because Venus in Taurus is part of the picture and there’s a supportive trine with Jupiter in Capricorn. It’s grounding, and it’s taking the edge off of whiny Mars in Cancer, which is past an opposition with expansive Jupiter, thank heavens!

But the Neptune/Node/Chiron lineup in Aquarius, broadly square the New Moon, is bringing big weather and water stories — as many as 10,000 dead and 1 million homeless in Myanmar (formerly Burma) following Cyclone “Nargis,” which I learned from a Pakistani blog is another name for the Narcissus flower. Meanwhile, 1,000 passengers were evacuated to Ventspils, Latvia, from the Mona Lisa cruise ship after it ran aground off the coast of Riga.

For an in-depth New Moon report, click on Star IQ on my blogroll.

I just checked Google Trends to see what the top searches are today. A lot of them have to do with Cinco de Mayo, the Mexican holiday that is used as a major marketing opportunity for Corona and other breweries.

When I was growing up, I was taught that Mexican Independence Day was Sept. 16, also known as Father Hidalgo Day, after the priest who urged Mexicans to rise up against their Spanish oppressors on that day in 1810.

Cinco de Mayo, or May 5, is the day that Mexican forces defeated the French in the Battle of Puebla in 1862. Here, in Southern California and elsewhere, it’s a good excuse for a fiesta, though most of them seemed to be held over the weekend. In general, it’s the day to celebrate Mexican heritage the way that St. Patrick’s Day honors the Irish and Columbus Day recognizes the Italians. On that note, Viva Mexico!

The Microsoft/Yahoo! merger is off for now, but with Uranus in Pisces sextiling Jupiter in Capricorn and sextiling the New Moon, there could be a flip-flop. In the past few days, I’ve heard of people who had accepted new jobs suddenly changing their minds. I got a call for a rush freelance job on May 1, when the Moon in Pisces was conjunct Uranus. I started doing the prep work only to get an e-mail a couple of hours later saying that the company had decided to have someone in-house do the work.

Not the end of the world, to be sure. But as long Jupiter is sextiling Uranus, there could be a few more about-faces in the corporate world. Incidentally, I haven’t studied the charts of either Microsoft or Yahoo so I’m not making a prediction here. I’m just saying don’t be surprised when people, companies, and even countries change their minds over the next few days.

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?