Thursday, February 10, 2011

Exit Through the Gift Shop

I just watched the wonderful film Exit Through the Gift Shop, and it has left me spinning with excited archetypal awareness. It is a film about the emerging street-art scene of the the last decade, and focuses on one frenchman living in LA, Thierry Gueta, and his obsession with filming nearly every moment of his own life. He constantly has his video camera turned on, and the people around him get used to the omnipresent filming. He starts to document the work of graffiti artists that he encounters, and he becomes obsessed with filming the work of the most celebrated underground artists of our time. The most famous, and most illusive, artist that he pursues is the british phenomenon known as Banksy (his actual identity is not known). Banksy is a kind of artistic Robin Hood Zorro figure, who with stencils, often under the cover of darkness, creates anti-establishment artistic statements in public places. His fame became more pronounced in 2005 when he managed to paint nine images on the Israeli West Bank barrier wall, one depicting children digging a hole through the wall.

Through a series of fortunate connections Gueta finally tracks Banksy down and earns his trust. We see him accompanying Banksy on his night-time missions to leave his artistic mark on various cities around the world. What is fascinating about the film is that it starts out being a film about Banksy and other guerrilla artists, but gradually the most fascinating chararacter becomes Gueta himself, who at a certain point in the film decides to start creating street art of his own. Gueta is the one making the documentary, but Banksy (who we see in the film always with his face and voice obscured) turns the camera around to focus on Gueta's art. What unfolds is an exciting drama that raises many questions about the nature of art, the nature of fame, and the exploitation of art and artists for financial gain.

For me as an archetypal astrologer it is quite a process watching a film like this. There are so many levels and angles of possible archetypal/astrological interpretation that I can take. I can focus on the collective alignments that might be relevant; I can look at the director's chart (and his/her transits); or I can focus on any of the actor's charts/transits. Sometimes it is challenging to discern what the most prominent emerging archetype is, and it can be hard to know where to look for it. In this case a number of things jumped out at me, and I want to share them here.

The first thought I have, given the mass popularity that this film is achieving in the recent period --it is one of the most talked about documentaries of the past year, it has a 98 percent approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and it has also been nominated for the Best Documentary Oscar-- is that it is archetypally reflective of the powerful collective Jupiter-Uranus conjunction that is currently in the sky. The most dominant archetype of the film is the Uranus principle. This is a film about rebels, pranksters, tricksters, and law-breakers, and these are all qualities that Uranus is said to rule. In the case of this film there is a very specific form of the Uranus archetype that seems to be dominant, and this is the Jupiter-Uranus combination that has been in the sky during the period of the film's widespread popularity.

The Jupiter-Uranus archetype is the combination that celebrates and honors (Jupiter) the rebel energy, and it is also the successful revolutionary archetype (as we are seeing so clearly in Egypt this past week), and this is a film that celebrates and honors the successful law-breaking artists that are featured. It is also fitting for the Jupiter-Uranus combination that this is a film that has itself been very successful and is receiving many honors, including the Oscar nomination. It is also about the huge success and wealth that these street artists have begun to achieve in recent years. The historical art tradition that is most referenced in the film is that of the Pop Art phenomenon of the 1960s, and the work of Andy Warhol. That scene decisively emerged with Warhol's first exhibitions during the Jupiter-Uranus opposition of 1962 (which was overlapping with a Uranus-Pluto alignment, as is the current Jupiter-Uranus conjunction).

As in the 1960's, the current collective energy is also informed by the Uranus-Pluto archetype (in the 1960's there was a conjunction, and now there is a square). And this energy is also clearly present in the film. One of the main qualities that the film conveys, besides all of the rebel prankster energy, is that of the extreme adrenaline-pumping danger that these artists are experiencing all the time. These guerilla artists work under cover of darkness, often climbing up buildings and over roof-tops, precariously perching on risky footholds, and all the while having to stay on the lookout for the cops. This is Pluto's realm, that of the underworld and the thrill of living life on the edge. And so the film perfectly conveys the combination of Uranus and Pluto coming together in the world of art.

Unfortunately, most of the main artists that are featured in the film, including Banksy and Gueta (who gives himself the name "Mr. Brainwash" once he actively starts creating street art) do not have available birth data. When I see a film like this my heart breaks that I can't look at the charts for the featured personalities, and now Banksy and Mr. Brainwash are right at the top of my "most wanted birth data" list. I don't think it is very likely that we will ever know Banksy's chart, as he is such a motivated trickster when it comes to concealing his identity, but it is possible that we may eventually get Gueta's data, and that is going to be quite a fascinating chart to study along with this film.

The one person featured in the film whose data we do have is the artist Shepard Fairey. This is the person who became known for making the famous Barack Obama "Hope" poster (and that brought him much legal controversy concerning whether he stole the image from an AP photographer). In the film we see some of Fairey's early street-art campaigns featuring his well-known Andre the Giant images. Gueta befriends Fairey in the film, and it is this connection that eventually leads him to Banksy.

If we can take Fairey's chart as a kind of representative for all of the street artists featured in the film, it is quite illustrative. When I study his chart, I am, of course, going straight for his natal Uranus, and I can see that he has two major Uranus hard aspects. He is born two months after the decade of the 1960s ended, in February 1970, when there was still a very powerful Uranus-Pluto conjunction in the sky, and it seems very fitting that he would be born with this aspect. He is born with the conjunction, and he becomes a successful and well-known artist (with his natal energy in resonance with the zeitgeist) as the collective square comes into alignment.

Fairey is also born with Mars opposite Uranus, and this is another archetype that is really consistent with the themes of the movie. I've heard Rick Tarnas refer to this combination as the "street-fighting-rebel archetype," and the "prankster archetype," and it really fits the energy that many of these artists are embodying in the film. These are individuals who are aggressively (Mars) pushing the boundaries of what is considered acceptable by society. Mars-Uranus is also a risk-taking energy, and it is really consistent with the way Fairey and others are practicing their art on the edge of danger, often risking their safety in the places that they do their work.

In conclusion, I want to share another meta-level to my archetypal experience of this film. It is important to note that I personally had a very strong response to this movie, and therefore it is necessary to also reflect on what it is archetypally in me, that had such a powerful experience. I really love watching films about rebels, and the rock-and-roll side of me just delights in seeing people breaking the rules (with the graffiti in this case) and getting away with it. I also love the combination of art and rebellion, and I have always been drawn to revolutionary artists. Watching artists pushing the boundaries, and performing social commentary in such a radical way as this film portrays just totally satisfies a deep part of myself. Now, I'm sure there is probably a way in which the themes of this film have a kind of universal appeal, and archetypally they will resonate with the Uranian spirit that lives in every human psyche, but it is also the case that some people will love this film more than others.

And so here I must bring in my own personal astrological chart to this blog for the first time. I was born in 1969 with a Venus-Uranus-Pluto triple conjunction (with Venus in between Uranus and Pluto), and it is this part of me that is in total resonance with this movie. As I was watching it I could feel this part of me waking up and coming to life. These three planets together perfectly capture the energy of this film. We have already explored the Uranus-Pluto archetype, and its relevance, and it should be clear why Venus would amplify the themes we have already explored here. Venus is the goddess of art and beauty, and when combined with the revolutionary energy of the Uranus-Pluto archetype, it really captures the major motifs that are at work in this movie.

It is very common for someone who is born with a particular archetypal combination to be attracted to works of art, literature, music, and film that are expressive of that combination. We see this all the time. There seems to be some kind of magnetic field of attraction that draws similar expressions of the archetypes into each other's orbit. In this case, as soon as I heard a little bit about what this movie is about I was immediately drawn to it, and then when I actually started watching it I was just completely enthralled by it. The psyche delights in seeing its own potential mirrored back to itself, and that was certainly my experience with Exit Through the Gift Shop. I may have to go buy some spray paint.

Shepard Fairey's birth data is from Wikipedia, no time, so chart is cast for noon.

My own chart is an exact-timed chart, with the birth time coming from my birth certificate.

All images (except for Shepard Fairey's Hope poster) are photographs of artwork attributed to the artist known as Banksy.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Christopher Nolan's Inception

Another film that got a lot of attention this past year is Christopher Nolan's Inception. The film is nominated for the Best-Picture Oscar, and today the Writers Guild Awards gave Nolan the award for best original screenplay. I loved the film, and I thought it was one of the most inventive movies that I have seen in a long time. I also hugely enjoyed watching the film from an archetypal perspective. I knew going into the movie that Nolan was born with a Mercury-Saturn-Neptune t-square, and it was remarkable to see how many different ways that that the film is an expression of that archetypal combination.

Inception is the science fiction story of a character named Cobb (played by Leonardo Dicaprio) whose job it is to use a form of consciousness technology to illicitly enter into another person's dreams and then steal valuable information that is revealed in the dream-state. The film opens with Cobb attempting one of these dream-heists, but with him failing in the attempt. The person who Cobb tries to steal from (Saito, played by Ken Watanabe) turns the tables on him and then offers him another job. Instead of trying to steal information, this time Cobb is now tasked with inception: the implanting of an idea within the dream-mind of another person. Saito hopes to perform the inception so he can manipulate his victim for business purposes. This is an incredibly difficult job, but Cobb ultimately accepts it because the reward he is offered would allow him to return home from his criminal's life on the run, and allow him to be reunited with his children.

As the story unfolds we discover that both Cobb and his wife Mal (played by Marion Cotillard) had become deeply engaged with the dream technology, and at a certain point they got trapped in a kind of dream-limbo that it took years (of dream-time) to escape from. They got so lost in the technology that they ultimately struggled to stay in touch with reality. Even when they were no longer trapped in the dream-world, Mal became convinced that they were still dreaming, and she concluded that the only way to wake up to reality was to kill herself (in what she felt was still dream consciousness). And so the film is pervaded with the profound grief of Cobb's character who has tragically lost his wife to this technology, and is now separated from his children. I will assume from here on that everyone who is reading this has seen the film, and I won't say anything more except that by the end of the film all of the above exposition is thrown into question, and the viewer is left feeling very much like Cobb and Mal in limbo, questioning what was real, and what was a dream.

This film is obviously very Neptunian, and we would expect the filmmaker to have significant Neptune aspects. Neptune, of course, is the planet that rules dreams, and it is Neptune that is the god who is present at the moment we drift from waking consciousness into sleep and dreaming consciousness. Neptune also rules consciousness itself, and it relates to altered-states and experiences of confusion and disorientation. In this case, Christopher Nolan has a t-square of Mercury, Saturn, and Neptune, and in this piece I want to especially explore both the Mercury-Neptune square that he is born with, and his Saturn-Neptune opposition.

I associate both the Mercury-Neptune archetype and the Saturn-Neptune archetype with people who regularly do dream-work of different sorts. You see Mercury-Neptune in the charts of people who like to write (Mercury) down their dreams (Neptune), and who are looking to find a communication (Mercury) from their unconscious mind within the dream (Neptune). In this film the Mercury-Neptune fits both the use of the dream technology (Neptune) to steal valuable information (Mercury), as well as the process of inception where an idea (Mercury) is planted inside the mind of the dreamer (Neptune).

Saturn-Neptune is associated with dream-work for different reasons. Saturn is the principle that has to do with discipline and hard-work, and so you see it in people who are disciplined with a dream practice, and who work hard to bring their dreams (Neptune) back into waking reality (Saturn). Thus the Saturn-Neptune archetype has something to do with the hard work of integrating dream messages into our everyday waking consciousness. In the film, Saturn-Neptune is consistent with the main character's attempt at mastery (Saturn) over their own dreams, and the dreams of their target.

There are many other Saturn-Neptune motifs that are present in the film as well. The whole struggle with the nature of reality that is central to the film is a classic expression of the archetype. I've often heard Rick Tarnas refer to this combination as the "Is it real or isn't it?" archetype. Saturn can be seen as the reality principle, and Neptune can be confusion, illusion, or delusion, and often when the two are in hard aspect you will get people who have moments where they struggle to stay in touch with reality. Thus it is an archetype that sometimes can relate to madness or grappling with insanity, and we see several characters in the film struggling to stay in touch with reality.

Saturn-Neptune also has a lot to do with grief and melancholy, and you often see it present when there is a significant mourning process (consider Elisabeth Kubler-Ross who is born with a Saturn-Neptune square and who wrote extensively about the grief process). In extreme cases, Saturn-Neptune is also an archetype that seems to relate to suicidality, or with people whose cosnciousness (Neptune) is consumed with death (Saturn). In this film we have characters who utilize death as a way to escape from their dreams, but in the case of Mal we have someone who is confused, and thinking she is still trapped in a dream, accidentally takes her own life.

Saturn-Neptune is also associated with illness and infectious diseases, and one of the great archetypal quotes that I love from this film is when Dicaprio's character asks "What is the most resilient parasite? Bacteria? A virus? An intestinal worm? An idea. Resilient...highly contagious. Once an idea has taken hold of the brain it's almost impossible to eradicate." Saturn-Neptune is the infectious parasite, and with Mercury it is the idea that is infectious.

Saturn-Neptune also really fits the whole theme of dream-building in the film, where Saturn brings the architectural dimension to the dream landscapes that the characters have to construct in advance of their mission. It is also the archetype of sleep-problems, insomnia (note that one of Nolan's previous films is titled Insomnia), nightmares, and the potential for becoming trapped (Saturn) in a dream state.

Another film that is archetypally similar to Inception is the 1998 Alex Proyas film Dark City. It is another case where you have characters struggling with the nature of reality and who have their consciousness manipulated while sleeping. It is directed by Proyas who is born in 1963 with Saturn square Neptune, and is released in 1998 under the next collective Saturn square Neptune (The Matrix also has some similar motifs and comes out under that same alignment in 1999). Note that there was a tight (within 2 degrees) collective Saturn-Neptune quincunx in the sky when Inception was released last July.

Mercury-Neptune is an archetype that has a big potential for mental (Mercury) confusion (Neptune), and this is a theme that is clearly explored here in this film (and also explored to great effect in Nolan's earlier film Memento). Mental confusion is also a state of consciousness that many film viewers experienced both during and after watching the film. The film is so multi-layered (and the dreams are so multi-layered) that the viewer must struggle to keep track of what is happening. And thus the film induces in the viewer the feeling of the Mercury-Saturn-Neptune energy that Christopher Nolan is born with. Also consider how difficult (Mercury-Saturn) it must have been for Nolan to write this incredibly complex screenplay. I've heard that he had to construct diagrams (like the characters in the film) to keep track of all of the multi-levels of the dream realities in order to make sure all the puzzle pieces fit together.

The film is radically ambiguous, and many different interpretations are possible. It is conceivable, for example, that it is actually Dicaprio's character who is the recipient of the inception process, and it is he who is being manipulated in the dream landscape from the very beginning of the film. But there is not a definitive interpretation, and like the nature of the poetic Mercury-Neptune archetype, we are left in a dreamy state of reflection in the end. Thus, the film performs a kind of inception on the viewer, and like the characters in the film we are left asking ourselves: what is the nature of reality, and are we currently awake, or are we dreaming?

Christopher Nolan birth data is from Wikipedia, no birth time, so chart is cast for noon.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

The Word-Play of Edward Lear

Today I found a blog post written by Roger Ebert on the anniversary of Edward Lear's death, and it peaked my archetypal interest about this man. I wasn't that familiar with Lear's work, but as I read more I saw that he is most famous for writing the children's poem The Owl and the Pussycat, which I remember loving as a young boy, and that he popularized the limerick form of poetry in the 1800s. He delighted in made-up words, puns and word- play, and became known for his absurdist sense of humor. His first collection of limericks was called A Book of Nonsense.

All of this started to set off archetypal alarm bells for me. These are all classic symptoms of the Mercury-Uranus archetype. And when I looked up Lear's chart I was pleased to find that he was born with Mercury in a tight opposition to his natal Uranus (and also configured with his Sun, which fits his really shining with the energy and being famous for it).

Mercury of course relates to language, words, and communication generally, and Uranus is the principle of invention, playfulness, the unexpected, the trickster. When people are born with Mercury and Uranus in major aspects you often get people who, like Lear, have a gift for language, a quick wit, a capacity for inventing new words. Rick Tarnas gives many examples of people born with Mercury-Uranus aspects in his book Prometheus the Awakener: Oscar Wilde, James Hillman, e.e.cummings, and John Updike, amongst many others, all famous for their inventive use of language.

I particularly like the case of Anthony Burgess (born with Mercury conjunct Uranus), who wrote A Clockwork Orange. Burgess invented an entire slang language for that book, called Nadsat, with words and phrases like "droog," "gulliver," and "the old in-out." Another great example is radio broadcaster Howard Stern (born with a tight Mercury-Uranus opposition) who is famous for his quick-wit and trickster-rebel use of language.

There was a Young Lady whose bonnet,
Came untied when the birds sate upon it;
But she said: 'I don't care!
All the birds in the air
Are welcome to sit on my bonnet!'

My experience as an archetypal astrologer was that I first had to learn a basic foundational understanding of each individual combination (Moon-Pluto, Mars-Neptune, Sun-Uranus, etc.), and I needed to have another astrologer who had already developed a sophisticated archetypal eye (for me this was Rick Tarnas) describe the astro-logic for each archetypal tendency (like with this case how Mercury-Uranus often correlates with word play and inventive use of language). But most importantly I needed to be shown many examples of famous individuals born with each combination in order to bring that archetype to life.

There was an Old Person whose habits,
Induced him to feed upon rabbits;
When he'd eaten eighteen,
He turned perfectly green,
Upon which he relinquished those habits.

The astro-logic is important, but once I was able to connect a particular archetype to a real-life example (whether to a famous person, or to someone I knew personally, or to my own lived experience of a transit or natal aspect) then the archetype began to become an embodied form of knowledge. With each new example I experience a form of "archetypal triangulation" where I can look at the archetype from multiple angles and vivify a deeper awareness. With each new embodied encounter with an astrological synchronicity my archetypal eye grows wider and I am able to see and recognize a particular archetype with greater clarity.

There was an Old Lady whose folly,
Induced her to sit on a holly;
Whereon by a thorn,
Her dress being torn,
She quickly became melancholy.

This example of Edward Lear now goes into my personal databank of experience with the Mercury-Uranus archetype, and every time I encounter that combination in the future I will be able to drawn upon a richer understanding. I will be able to remember the playful energy of The Owl and the Pussycat and the archetype will be alive in my consciousness.

Edward Lear's birth data comes from Rodden's Astrodatabank and is rated B data (the time comes from Lear's own personal communication).

The three quoted poems, and the images with them are Lear's, and are from his A Book of Nonsense, 1862.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Bill Keller Reveals the Behind-the-Scenes Wikileaks Drama

I read Bill Keller's excellent essay "Dealing With Assange and the Secrets He Spilled" in the New York Times Magazine today. Keller is the executive editor of The Times, and he describes the behind-the-scenes process during the period they were reporting on the Wikileaks story this past year. It also addresses the aftermath of the reporting and readers response to the release of such sensitive information. The essay gave me great insight into the power and responsibility of the press, and is also a fun read about a very dramatic news story. Keller describes what it was like for The Times to work with Julian Assange during the reporting process, and it is great to read about the secretive dealings with this fascinating man. Keller writes about what it was like after the newspaper was first contacted by Assange and offered access to the Wikileaks documents:
The adventure that ensued over the next six months combined the cloak-and-dagger intrigue of handling a vast secret archive with the more mundane feat of sorting, searching and understanding a mountain of data. As if that were not complicated enough, the project also entailed a source who was elusive, manipulative and volatile (and ultimately openly hostile to The Times and The Guardian); an international cast of journalists; company lawyers committed to keeping us within the bounds of the law; and an array of government officials who sometimes seemed as if they couldn’t decide whether they wanted to engage us or arrest us. By the end of the year, the story of this wholesale security breach had outgrown the story of the actual contents of the secret documents and generated much breathless speculation that something — journalism, diplomacy, life as we know it — had profoundly changed forever.
What is cool for me as an astrologer is how this essay provides insight into different dimensions of the Mercury-Pluto archetype, and it is striking to find all of the Mercury-Pluto connections to the story. Keller himself is born with a Mercury-Pluto opposition (with Mars), and this is classic for someone who must make the ultimate decisions regarding the responsible use of the power (Pluto) of the press (Mercury). He is describing the role of journalism in a democracy and how newspapers provide the balance between the governments natural impulse to try to control and keep certain information secret, and the people's right to know how the government is functioning.

He describes what he sees as a healthy natural struggle for the power over the free-flow of information. This is a classic Mercury-Pluto dynamic: the struggle over dangerous and powerful secret information. It is an archetype that seems to have a lot to do with spying (in the case of Keller's essay, both the spying government, and the government being "spied-on" by Wikileaks), and I have often heard Rick Tarnas refer to the combination as "The Spy Thriller" archetype. You see the combo in the charts of many spy thriller novelists (like Ian Flemming who has the conjunction or John Le Carre who has the square). Interestingly, Keller describes Julian Assange (who has a tight Mercury-Pluto sextile) as being like a character from a Stieg Larsson novel, and Larsson is born with a Mercury-Pluto conjunction.

Keller's essay basically explores the dialectic between the naturally secretive government, and the powerful press that helps correct for the potential misuse of government power. Keller quotes the Supreme Court ruling on the Pentagon Papers situation during the Vietnam War: "The government's power to censor the press was abolished so that the press would remain forever free to censure the government. The press was protected so that it could bare the secrets of government and inform the people."

But Keller also explores how the press can misuse their own power, and he describes the great lengths that the New York Times and other papers went to protect the lives of people who might have been harmed by the release of the Wikileaks documents. Mercury-Pluto is an archetype that often brings an initiation into the power of words and the power of information, and it has something to do with how that power can either be used nobly or irresponsibly. The Mercury-Pluto archetype relates to how dangerous the Wikileaks documents could be (dangerous for the US government, dangerous for The New York Times, dangerous for Julian Assange, but especially dangerous for people whose names were contained in the documents), and Keller explores just how damaging they could have been if they were mishandled.

The most recent Wikileaks drama unfolded when The Times and other papers released the diplomatic cables documents on November 27th, 2010. There was a Mercury-Pluto conjunction (with Mars) in the sky at the time, and the conjunction has been operative the whole time that the story has been big in the news. We have had a particularly long Mercury-Pluto conjunction these past couple of months (due to Mercury stationing and going retrograde when it was in an exact conjunction with Pluto), and it is only now starting to move out of orb as Keller is publishing this essay (which is part of a larger book that is about to be released). Thus we have a classic Mercury-Pluto drama which has unfolded under a collective conjunction in the sky, and which is being described and reported on by a man who is born with a Mercury-Puto opposition.

Bill Keller's birth information comes from Wikipedia. No time of birth, so chart is cast for noon.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Louis CK's Hilarious

Louis CK has become one of my favorite comedians, and last night I watched his excellent new concert film called Hilarious. One of the things that stands out about CK's comedy is his material about the challenges of being a parent. He has two young daughters, and he is extremely funny when he talks about how difficult it is to be a good parent to them.

CK has a Moon-Mercury-Saturn T-square (we don't know his birth time, but because the alignment is so precise at mid-day, we know it is an operative configuration the whole day that he was born), and this alignment comes through again and again in the themes and tenor of his comedy.

We see it in a generally existential tone to his work, with many jokes about death, aging, and a sense of life as being mostly filled with suffering and banality. This is particularly related to his Saturn-Moon square which, when problematic, can be the "Life Sucks and then you Die" archetype (Jean Paul Sartre is born with the conjunction). It has something to do with the Saturn-Moon's tendency to meet hardship (Saturn) when trying to satisfy one's emotional needs (Moon). Often people with Saturn-Moon will have faced significant deprivation (Saturn) in their childhood (Moon), and this can be such a powerful imprint that it forms a kind of poverty consciousness. Interestingly, this archetype can manifest in a totally opposite way (as is often the case with archetypes), and it is also the combination you see in very emotionally mature (Moon-Saturn) people who have worked very hard (Saturn) to learn how to get their emotional needs met, and are able to take responsibility for those needs (rather than blame the world for not meeting them). But I digress...back to CK's comedy.

In one very funny bit we see CK describing a conversation he has with his seven-year-old daughter. His daughter asks him "Daddy will the Earth always go around the Sun forever?" And before he can catch himself he responds "Well no, at some point the Sun is going to explode." This of course is very upsetting to her, and she starts crying. In an attempt to comfort her CK adds "Oh honey, this is not going to happen until you and everyone you know has been dead for a very long time." This is not helpful, and CK realizes too late that he has traumatized his daughter with the confrontation with her own death, the eventual death of everyone she knows, and the eventual destruction of the Sun (CK's Sun-Pluto conjunction).

Note the many Saturn-Moon themes: the child's innocence lost, the child confronting death, the sad little girl, the failure to protect the child from the existential dimensions of life, the parent making mistakes. It is also clear in this bit as well as other parts of the film that CK takes his responsibility as a parent very seriously, and that he feels the burden of that responsibility as a great weight. This is all classic Saturn-Moon material. When it is more positive, Saturn-Moon can be the responsible committed parent archetype: the hard-working parent willing to endure great hardships to protect and provide for their children.

It is also classic that CK's conversation with his daughter would happen when she is seven years old. Seven years is of course a Saturn cycle, with Saturn moving ninety degrees every seven years. And it is classic for confrontations with the more existential dimensions of life to happen in coincidence with the Saturn cycle. The first Saturn square natal Saturn transit occurs around age 6 or 7, and it is very typical for a child to have their first really serious confrontation with the existential dimensions of the adult world at that age. The Saturn cycle can bring the experience of "forced maturation," and here we have a story of a little girl forced to grow up too fast.

Here is a great clip from one of CK's previous comedy films where he again explores some of the challenges of being a parent. There are many examples of CK's Saturn-Moon here, but at the end of the clip we can really see the full T-square with Mercury coming through. CK is trapped in a conversation (Mercury-Saturn) with his child who won't stop asking him questions. Mercury-Saturn can be the negative thought loop, the being stuck in a constantly repeating phrase, the experience of being unable to solve an intellectual problem. In the course of answering her questions he makes reference to many Saturn-Moon themes: his being neglected by his own suffering parents, his parents lost youth, the fact that we are all alone in the universe, that no one cares about us, and the inability to solve the ultimate existential questions of life.

CK does a lot of comedy bits where he is making fun of his own stupidity or someone else's, and Mercury-Saturn is the combination of critical self judgement about one's intelligence. With the Moon, it really fits how he makes humor out of describing what he sees as the stupidity of young children (and his own stupidity as a parent). In his new film Hilarious he describes a fight he has with his daughter who insists that Fig Newtons are actually called "Pig Newtons," and again he is trapped in a meaningless conversation with a child having a stupid argument.

If we combine the Moon with each of the other planetary archetypes we get all of the various dimensions of what it can be to be a parent. CK is particularly possessed by and focused on the Saturnian dimensions of parenthood: the challenges, the responsibilities, the existential hard realities, but of course, there are many other experiences that being a parent can bring. Parents with the Jupiter-Moon combination might be more aware of the joy laughter and emotional richness that comes with parenting. Someone else who has Uranus-Moon might be particularly aware of the unpredictability of children, their disruptiveness as well as their precocious trickster playfulness. The Neptune-Moon parent might be more aware of the spiritual connection that can exist between parent and child, the sensitivities of children, the boundary issues in families. The Pluto-Moon parent might be particularly focused on the power dynamics that can exist between parent and child, the shadow dynamics within families, as well as the primal intensity of love that drives the parent-child bond.

The gift that astrology, and the archetypal perspective generally, can bring is the awareness of when we are trapped in a limited archetypal perspective. We can come to realize that we are possessed by an archetype, and then we can do work to move beyond the limits of that particular god's point of view. As we move towards wholeness we are able to appreciate the full range of the human experience, and not limit ourselves to the projections of one narrow perspective. We may be born with a particular alignment (like CK's Saturn-Moon) that has a very strong hold on us, but as we work with that energy and integrate the fuller range of its potential, we are able to move beyond the possession state and own the fuller range of archetypal potential that exists within each of us.

Louis CK's birth data found on Wikipedia (no time, noon chart).
I don't know how long it will be there, but the film "Hilarious" is currently posted on YouTube.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Pacific: WWII miniseries

I'm a big fan of war films when they are done right. I love films like Saving Private Ryan, The Thin Red Line, Platoon, and many others. I love the heroism that is often on display in these movies, and I appreciate the drama and intensity that I am able to experience from the safe distance of the movie theater. I think these films resonate with my own natal Mars square Jupiter (aligned with my ascendant), which can be the archetype of the principled (Jupiter) warrior (Mars), and the celebrated war hero/ the honored soldier (someone like John F. Kennedy has a Mars-Jupiter conjunction and it fits his war hero status and his barrel-chested confidence). Mars-Jupiter is an archetype that is drawn to adventure and when I watch these films that part of me is deeply satisfied.

In this past week I have been taking in Tom Hanks and Stephen Spielberg's powerful miniseries The Pacific on BluRay, and I have been deeply impacted by it. I think it is probably one of the most intense portrayals of the intensity and horror of war that has ever been filmed. It focuses on the stories of three Marines and their experiences in the pacific theater of World War II. We get to know these marines intimately and we are able to see how deeply they are transformed by their experiences on the battlefield. It is very moving. The battle sequences are as intense as the famous sequences in Spielberg's Saving Private Ryan, but here they are sustained over the full period of a ten hour mini-series.

The war genre in film is most related to the Saturn-Pluto complex, and Richard Tarnas explores this archetype at length in Cosmos and Psyche. The history of major wars regularly coincides with major hard aspect alignments of Saturn to Pluto, and Tarnas gives many examples of this. World War I began under a conjunction, World War II under a square, The Cold War under the next conjunction, The Vietnam War escalates under the next opposition, and more recently 9/11 and the beginning of the War on Terror began under the last Saturn-Pluto opposition. We also regularly see the release of major films about war either under collective Saturn Pluto hard aspects, or they are directed by people born with Saturn-Pluto hard aspects.

Saturn-Pluto can be one of the harshest combinations and it has something to do with the confrontation with the darkest dimensions and potentials of the human psyche. It can be the journey into the "heart of darkness," and the confrontation with evil. It also seems to deal with such themes as trauma and the journey to overcome trauma. All of these themes are explored in The Pacific, and we see the main characters deeply impacted by their confrontation with the relentless horrors of the battlefield. Saturn-Pluto can be an archetype that is often present when an individual or a collective has a loss of innocence and is forced to face the harshest realities of life, and we see the Marines in this series transform from innocent boys to deadly serious men in the course of a few hours of battle. Saturn-Pluto is also the archetype of "gritty realism," and often it is behind some of the most brutally realistic portraits of fear and violence, as it is in this miniseries.

Both Tom Hanks and Stephen Spielberg are born with tight Saturn-Pluto Hard aspects (Spielberg is born with the conjunction in 1946, and Hanks is born under the next square in 1956). They formed a deep bond during the filming of Saving Private Ryan, and then they wanted to continue to shine a light on the drama of World War II and so together they produced the first miniseries Band of Brothers, focusing on the war in Europe. This series was first televised on HBO starting in September of 2001 just days before 9/11 under the Saturn opposite Pluto that was then coming into an exact alignment. It is striking that they would make this next miniseries The Pacific, under the very next Saturn-Pluto alignment, this time the square of 2008-2011. The miniseries was first aired on HBO in March of 2010 with Saturn tightly square Pluto in the sky. Thus both of the major producers of the two series are born with tight Saturn-Pluto hard aspects and they release the two series under subsequent Saturn-Pluto alignments. It is remarkable how these things are orchestrated, and it never ceases to amaze me.

It is worth noting that prior to Band of Brothers perhaps the most celebrated television miniseries to focus on World War II was called The Winds of War, and that series was first televised in February of 1983 under a tight Saturn-Pluto Conjunction.

I think it is also important to note that both Spielberg and Hanks also have Jupiter-Pluto hard aspects (Hanks has the conjunction, and Spielberg the square). And their projects all powerfully have the stamp of that archetype as well. It can be the archetype of "Moral-Power" (Jupiter has to do with higher moral principles, and Pluto brings the deep power), and all three of Hanks and Spielberg's WWII projects could be summarized as moral power being confronted with the the human potential for shadow/evil: in some cases succumbing to the shadow, and in other cases triumphing over it. It is also important to stress that the positive Saturn-Pluto potentials are also on display in these works. Saturn-Pluto at its best has something to do with extreme potentials for strength, fortitude and courage in the face of overwhelming ordeals. It can be the archetype of sisyphean torment, but it is also precisely the strength and endurance necessary to meet the challenge.

The Social Network and Jupiter-Uranus

I watched The Social Network last night for a second time, and it is a really fun film. I think it is a great example of our current collective Jupiter-Uranus conjunction coming through. This is a classic case where an archetypal combination is informing a film on multiple levels and striking a chord with the collective zeitgeist. The movie is released under the current Jupiter-Uranus conjunction, it is based on a book written by Ben Mezrich who is born with a Jupiter-Uranus conjunction, it is directed by David Fincher who is born with an opposition, it stars Jesse Eisenberg who is born with a conjunction, and it is about the founding of Facebook which happened in 2004 under the most recent Jupiter-Uranus opposition.

There are many themes that the film explores that are classic expressions of the Jupiter-Uranus archetype: sudden rapid success and expansion (the "Striking It Rich" archetype), celebration of technology, success with technology, the celebrated genius, successful rebellion/revolution, the quantum leap to overwhelming success, the successful birth, the arrogant rebel, etc.

Also, the whole energy of the film has this quality of manic electricity which can be a form of the archetype. I've heard Rick Tarnas use the word syncopation to describe the editing style used by Oliver Stone, and he connected this to Stone's Sun-Uranus square aspect. Similarly, I think David Fincher, who also has Sun-Uranus (a conjunction), achieves an electric syncopation vibe in this film. Syncopation is achieved when the musical note (or film image) that is expected is replaced with an unexpected surprising note (or image). The effect is one of unexpected movement and excitement that keeps you on the edge of your seat delighting in the next quick-cut surprise. The movie just carries the viewer along with its energetic backbeat pulse, and it has a classic Uranian "wow" energy.

What is somewhat puzzling to me is that Mark Zuckerberg has an unaspected Uranus. We don't have a birth time for him, and so it is possible that he has Uranus rising, or Uranus at the Midheaven, but without the time we can't know. There are a number of aspects in his chart that fit qualities that the film conveys. His Mercury-Pluto aspect really fits his powerful intellect, as well as the power dynamics he gets into with his mind and self-destructive communication style (his sarcasm) and his being a part of a mass scale (Pluto) communication tool (Mercury). The Mercury-Pluto alignment also fits his controversial (and secretive) impulse towards control of Facebook members private information. The strong Saturn alignments (conjunction to Moon and Mars, opposition to Venus) potentially fit his being known for having controlled/armored personality (as well as his groundedness and serious work ethic). But that Uranus is a bit of a mystery to me. It is tight on the Jupiter-Saturn midpoint, but I expected it to be more strongly aspected. Hopefully we will get his birth time at some point, and more will be revealed.

All charts are cast for noon (no birth time) and are based on birth data from Wikipedia.

Monday, January 17, 2011

The King's Speech

I saw The Kings Speech last week, and it is definitely one of my favorite films of this past year. It was also a great film to watch from an archetypal perspective. I knew in advance that the film explored the true story of a speech impediment (a strong stammer) suffered by England's King George VI, and so I took a brief look at his chart before going to the movie. I'm always excited to see bio-pics, as they often afford great opportunities for an astro-correlation junkie like myself to find amazing links to the real person's birth chart. I wondered whether King George VI was born with a Mercury-Pluto aspect, as this is the combination I most associate with stuttering, and indeed when I saw the chart he had a tight Mercury-Pluto opposition that was aligned with his Sun (classic for someone who would shine -the Sun- with a particularly vivid form of the problem, and who would become famous for having the condition).

I often call the Mercury-Pluto hard aspect combination the "Finding Your Voice" archetype, and I cannot think of a more vivid example than this film. Colin Firth plays the king, and throughout the film we see him engaged in what appears to be a life and death struggle with a crippling stammer. His being born into the royal family is a particularly cruel fate, as duty often demands that he give public speeches, and as it becomes clear that he must take on the responsibility of becoming King, his burden becomes exponentially more difficult. He engages the services of a speech therapist, played wonderfully by Geoffrey Rush, and the drama of the film plays out as Rush's character struggles to assist the king in overcoming his stammer.

Mercury, of course, is the planet that rules speech, communication, and the voice. And Pluto is the archetype of struggle, intensity, life and death drama, and the dialectic between repression and the cathartic release of the repressed. Pluto, at the problematic end of the spectrum, can relate to things that are totally repressed, controlled, and -in a sense- held captive in the underworld. And this is what we see in the film with regard to the King's ability to communicate clearly (Mercury).

The film also makes clear that the root causes of the King's stammer stem from painful wounds suffered in childhood (many of which having to do with parental power and control manipulations), and this clearly relates to the Pluto archetype as well. Pluto can be seen as our own personal underworld of repressed pain (Freud's Id), and with Mercury it fits that in this case the King's personal underworld erupted symptomatically in the form of his strong stammer. It really fits that King George VI has the Mercury-Pluto alignment on his Sun as we see that so much of his pain stems from painful wounds with major male figures (his brother and his father). Sun-Pluto can be the "Powerful Father" archetype, and it also really fits his own struggle to come into his power as a leader.

Mercury-Pluto at the positive end of the spectrum is the "Powerful Communicator" archetype, and you often see it in great public speakers (like Winston Churchill who has the opposition). Pluto at its best brings empowerment and a capacity to tap into a force of nature, and with Mercury it can empower the voice. And thus we see King George's journey from the shadow side of the archetype at the beginning of the film to the most positive form of the archetype at the end. It is a great example of how a hard aspect alignment can be very difficult, but can ultimately be worked with until a much more positive form of the archetype is manifested.

It is striking to me that during the entire theatrical run of this film (the film opened on December 10th) we have had a collective Mercury-Pluto conjunction in the sky. This is quite a rare thing for a Mercury-Pluto conjunction like this to last so long, and only happens when a Mercury retrograde cycle happens to overlap with a Mercury-Pluto conjunction, as has happened here. Also striking is that Colin Firth has the Mercury-Pluto archetype strong in his natal chart as well. In his case it is a mid-point configuration: his Sun is at the Mercury-Pluto midpoint. His is a particularly powerful midpoint configuration as it is also basically a broad triple conjunction with Mercury and Pluto 10-11 degrees on either side of his natal Sun.

King George birth data: AA data according to Rodden Astrodatabank.
Colin Firth birth data: no birth time, just date of birth from Wikipedia. Noon Chart.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Black Swan

Last night I finally got to see "Black Swan," Darren Aronofsky's new film staring Natalie Portman. This was a remarkable film to watch from an archetypal perspective. Portman stars as Nina, an extremely disciplined ballerina who is striving to move from one of the supportive players in the ballet troupe to the role of prima ballerina. Her dancing is very precise and masterful, but she is lacking passion and the ability to surrender to a more free form of expression. However, she is able to convince her director to let her star in a newly imagined production of Swan Lake, where she will play both the roles of the White and Black Swans. The White Swan role is meant to embody purity and innocence, and a dancing style that is more precise and graceful. This is a role for which she is perfectly suited. But the Black Swan role requires that she be able to channel a more passionate and sexually charged energy, and this is exactly what she is lacking as a dancer. Other members of the dance troupe see her as cool and aloof, frigid and asexual. And thus her journey in the film is to move from her inhibited perfectionism towards the discovery of a more primal energy.

For me as an archetypal astrologer the ultimate moment is the scene when Nina finally breaks past her cool perfectionism and is finally transformed into the plutonic Black Swan. It is an awesome moment. Aronofsky does an excellent job with the filming of Portman dancing up until this point. You never see her move beyond her cool perfectionism, and therefore her dancing is never very striking, and so when she finally is able to surrender to a more passionate performance it is truly impressive. And it impresses so much because the character is embodying the transformation of someone who has managed to overcome her defenses against a particular archetype (in this case Pluto), and has managed to integrate that archetype.

The archetypal combination most associated with ballet is the Venus-Saturn combination, and both Aronofsky and Portman are born with it (Aronofsky has the conjunction and Portman a tight square). Venus, of course, is ruler of art dance and music, but with Saturn it is associated more with classical art, classical music, and classical dance (Saturn's association with older things, traditional forms). And it also really fits ballet because of Saturn's association with discipline and precision, and ballet's reputation for demanding rigorous extremes of discipline (discipline of the body, discipline with food, etc.).

But for me as an astrologer, the most striking correlations are found in Portman's transits. The film started shooting in late 2009 when the Saturn square Pluto in the sky was tightly crossing Portman's natal Saturn square Venus. She was getting her exact Saturn return, and transiting Pluto was (and is) opposing her natal Venus and squaring her natal Saturn. Portman has shared that this was the most difficult role of her life. It required many months of extreme dance training and dieting, and once filming began, 16 hour days of non-stop work where she was never able to really get out of her character. Many reviewers are saying this is Portman's most mature performance, and she is very likely to receive an Oscar nomination for it.

This is all classic for her Saturn return transit, which is very often a period when you see an artists most mature and sophisticated work emerge. It is also classic for the Saturn return to bring a work situation which is extremely demanding, but which forges the full adult potential for the career. Note that Portman also began a relationship with her dance trainer from the film, and is now pregnant with his child and engaged to be married. This is all classic Saturn return stuff: the serious relationship, the taking on of the serious adult responsibilities of marriage and parenthood.

But what is really striking are the Pluto transits. It is just so classic that Pluto is crossing her natal Saturn-Venus square, as it so perfectly captures the drama and struggle that her character in the film must go through. The natal Saturn-Venus is the energy her character is possessed by (or I should say the problematic potential of Saturn-Venus is what she is possessed by). When Saturn-Venus is problematic it can be a cold-hearted armored energy which can be very perfectionistic (the perfectionistic artist, the self-critical lover), and it can also have difficulty opening to human intimacy: all qualities that Nina embodies. Pluto can intensify whatever it combines with to an extreme degree, and this is what we see in this film. Portman's character (and also Portman as an actress) takes the Saturn-Venus theme of the disciplined artist to an extreme. Also the Saturn-Venus tendency towards the armored heart is taken to a much more intense level with Pluto in the alignment, and we see Nina struggling in agony with her inability to open to passionate dance and passionate intimacy. We also really see the Pluto-Saturn archetype coming through with her slave-driving tortured discipline, and her blocked sexuality.

We see Portman embodying the Pluto-Venus archetype in many different scenes in the film (the power dynamics with the other dancers, the jealousy and envy, the forbidden sexuality with her director, and the lesbian love scene with one of the other dancers), but ultimately it comes through most powerfully in the scene I described above when she is transformed into the Black Swan. This is the moment her character moves beyond the possession state that the Venus-Saturn archetype has her in, and is able to integrate the passionate animal energies of Pluto. Of course in this case the film is a tragedy, and so Pluto also manages to destroy Nina (Venus abducted by Pluto and taken to the underworld) in the process, but still we are able to admire the courage of a character willing to give everything to move towards integration.

We have no birth time for Portman, therefore the chart above is cast for noon.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Ted Williams: The Homeless Man with the Golden Voice

Some of you may have seen the recent story of Ted Williams, "The Homeless Man with a Golden Voice." A video of Williams went viral in the last couple of days and his life has completely changed. Williams has an amazing voice, and has worked as a radio announcer, but became homeless and jobless due to his struggles with drugs and alcohol. In the video he says that he has been sober for the last two years, however, and now his life is turning around. Due to the millions who saw his video in the last few days Williams has received an enormous amount of attention and good fortune.

He was interviewed by the Today show this morning, he was able to reunite with his estranged 90 year old mother, and the Cleveland Cavaliers NBA basketball team offered him a house and a job as an announcer.

According to Wikipedia, Williams was born in Brooklyn on Sept 22 1957. There are many correlation that could be explored here. He has a Mercury Pluto Moon triple conjunction which really fits the powerful communication ability. Mercury-Pluto can be the powerful voice, the deep voice, and the Mercury-Moon aspect brings the capacity to forge emotional connections with the voice. Also, the Mercury square to Saturn fits the professional communicator as well as the obstacles that have prevented him from using his voice recently: Saturn brings delayed gratification, the hard-won success at the end of a long hard road late in life. Williams also would have Saturn square his Moon for most of the day (no birth time), and this would really fit his being estranged from his mother and the rest of his family (he has nine children) during the years of his active addiction. Of course it also relates to his homelessness, with the Moon relating to the experience of one's home, and Saturn bringing the potential for suffering.

But what is really striking are Williams transits. I wondered how the Jupiter Uranus conjunction would be hitting his chart, as this is such a classic Jupiter-Uranus story: the clear qualities of rebirth, the amazing rapid happy turnaround, the striking it rich, the success mediated by technology. I speculated that Williams might have the Jupiter-Uranus hitting his Sun, as this is such a clear case of the successful hero, and with all of the positive attention, the instant fame, the association of his name (Sun) with gold (Jupiter). And indeed when I saw the chart there it was: Jupiter-Uranus just two degrees opposite his Sun (and with Mars it fits the job offer from a sports team). Amazing!

Williams also has transiting Pluto starting to square his natal Jupiter which you sometimes see when people have periods of enormous expansion in their lives, and when you see triumphant movements from the underworld to the mountaintop peaks. He is also still in the period of transiting Saturn conjunct natal Jupiter which can be the "rags to riches" combo. We'll have to watch and see how things play out for him, but he certainly has some helpful archetypal energy coming his way.