Saturday, November 1, 2014

It's Time: the Passing of Gough Whitlam


 ‘He was a man. Take him for all in all, I will not look upon his like again’Shakespeare (Hamlet)
‘Dying will happen sometime. As you know, I plan for the ages, not just for this life’
Gough Whitlam, 11 July 1916 to 21 October 2014


The passing of Edward Gough Whitlam, on 21 October 2014 at the age of ninety-eight, has divided the nation into Gough enthusiasts and detractors while generating a tumult of emotions from both camps - an almost spooky re-enactment of the 1975 Dismissal. Whatever the triumphs or shortfalls of his government were, it’s difficult to dispute Whitlam’s role in our country’s development. Labor politician, Tanya Plibersek, stated that it was fitting that Whitlam was Australia’s twenty-first prime minister because it marked our nation’s coming of age. Under Whitlam, Australia changed the way it saw itself, helping to create an open, inclusive, and compassionate society.

In its three short years (1972 to 1975), the Labor government under Whitlam activated, with lightning speed, the policies that engineered social change, dragging Australia into the modern era. For those who remember a pre-Whitlam Australia will recall a dreary and insular period of the White Australia policy, protectionism, and social conservatism; a sleepy, cultural backwater wangled by the Menzies government in the 1950s. Australia bypassed the 1960s altogether. While hippies experienced free love and wore flowers in their hair in San Francisco and other parts of the world, Australia was comfortably slumbering in a social and cultural coma. To give a clearer picture, 1960s Australia went something like this:
  • left wing political movements were under routine surveillance
  • James Joyce’s novel, Ulysses, was banned, as was Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
  • there was no film industry to speak of
  • the music scene was a joke
  • talented Australians such as Germaine Greer, Clive James, Barry Humphries, Brett Whitley, and The Easybeats left the country to gain recognition elsewhere
  • the contraceptive pill was only available to married women
  • abortion was illegal
  • single mothers, homosexuals, and lesbians were ostracised from mainstream society
  • women and children abused in toxic nuclear families were invisible and lived lives of quiet desperation
  • women in general were treated as second class citizens and were denied the social and financial opportunities gifted to men
  • indigenous and new Australians (Italians, Greeks, and Lebanese) were low on the social and political rung (Aboriginal land rights were not recognised and indigenous people did not have the vote)
Need I go on?

By the early 1970s, social change was germinating. The Labor party's 1972 campaign’s catchphrase, It’s Time, adds up to 32/5, which signals a shift in consciousness. Whitlam was extolled as an Agent of Change (Uranus bi-quintile the Ascendant/Uranus quintile Jupiter on the Midheaven/Moon semi-square Pluto). A psychically loaded birthdate – 11 July – expresses Messiah-like qualities. Such was his persona that he was applauded for introducing reforms that were already in place (such as no-fault divorce and the removal of troops from Vietnam). A mythological figure with a penchant for cherishing ideals that weren’t always practical, Whitlam reached for a higher ground (first house Neptune square Jupiter on the Midheaven). An influential 26/8 life path denotes a visionary leader of Roman God proportions with the ability to direct the Australian Labor Party out of the wilderness of twenty-three years of conservative rule.

 
A Stellium of planets in Cancer (Sun, Mercury, Venus, Saturn, and Pluto) indicates a strong humanitarian streak. Whitlam was genuinely interested in and concerned about people. He cared deeply and intensely about his country, and had the ability to regenerate it (Scorpio Moon as chart ruler in the fourth house). A fourth house Scorpio Moon can dramatically end certain life phases, as illustrated by the dismissal of Whitlam’s government on 11 November 1975 (transiting Sun eclipsed his natal Moon). Altruism is expressed via the Jupiter conjunct Midheaven quintile Uranus aspect:
‘In spite of repeated disappointments, he never lost that faith in humanity. This, above all, made him such an attractive human being’Mungo MacCallum, political journalist
The Whitlam family’s own experience of living in the post war electorate of Werriwa highlighted the disadvantages in education, health, housing and infrastructure that were prevalent in Sydney’s western suburbs. Whitlam tried to correct the deficiencies that Australians in the new suburbs such as his were facing (even up to the 1970s, Sydney’s outer areas such as Blacktown and Penrith lacked sewerage systems, for example). For Whitlam, government was an instrument to improve life for all Australians. He took public service seriously (Sun conjunct Saturn sextile Jupiter on Midheaven).

As a politician, Whitlam was incorruptible (Jupiter conjunct Midheaven). He shaped public opinion and didn’t pander to focus groups or big business (Jupiter conjunct Midheaven quintile Uranus square Moon semi-square Pluto/Moon quintile North Node). Whitlam possessed an independent mind and a unique way of looking at the world. Quick witted and good with words, he had a wide variety of interests and an impressive body of general knowledge (Mercury sextile Jupiter/Mercury conjunct Pluto), qualities severely lacking in our current batch of political leaders. He also believed that education was the key to equal opportunity.
A highly physical Taurus in Jupiter sits on the Midheaven. Liberal frontbencher, Malcolm Turnbull, states that what people remember most about Whitlam is ‘a bigness, a generosity, an enormous optimism’. Indeed, at 194 centremetres tall, he was an inescapable human tower of power and fortitude. Smugness is often associated with this aspect. Modesty was never Gough Whitlam’s strong point:
‘He was someone who, whether in a small room … or at a public event, everyone else seemed to fade to black and white, while this giant of a man – physically, intellectually – appeared in full colour and dominated wherever he was’Anthony Albanese, Labor politician.

To list and elaborate on the changes brought about by the Whitlam government would require a sizeable amount of blog space. I don’t need to regurgitate what is already (better) articulated across the internet and in modern history books. But I do want to mention Whitlam’s commitment to culture (Stellium in Cancer/Venus conjunct Pluto/Venus sextile Jupiter-Midheaven), because it’s one of those formative things that shaped me as a young person, especially the birth of one of his more exciting ventures, that of a youth radio station in 1975 - Double J (now Triple J).

 
Idealistic young Australians in the late 1970s and 1980s enjoyed the opportunity to form bands and develop their craft free from exorbitant financial constraints. Punk rock, with its anti-establishment philosophy, gained momentum in the mid-1970s as both a musical genre and a lifestyle choice. This newly found DIY culture influenced kids from the suburbs to create some of Australia’s most innovative and experimental music. Double J was instrumental in giving this underground scene a voice. In retrospect, it’s difficult to believe that the following bands – some of them considered unlistenable – were given air time:
 
~ Severed Heads ~ Tactics ~ Boys Next Door ~ The Birthday Party ~ Radio Birdman ~ The Scientists ~ The Saints ~ SPK ~ The Riptides ~ Machinations ~ Laughing Clowns ~ The Triffids ~ The Go Betweens ~ David Virgin ~ Primitive Calculators ~ The Stems ~ Died Pretty ~ Sekret Sekret ~ Sardine ~ Do Re Mi ~ X ~ The Eastern Dark ~ Wet Taxis ~ The Celibate Rifles ~ The Sunnyboys ~ Cosmic Pyschos ~ The Hard-Ons ~ The Plunderers ~ Pel Mel ~ Mark of Cain ~ La Femme ~ The Riptides ~ Makers of the Dead Travel Fast ~ The Numbers ~ Toys Went Berserk ~ The Moodists ~ Box of Fish ~ Scared Cowboys ~ XL Capris ~ TISM ~ The Whitlams (of course) …
 
 
Love or hate him, it’s almost impossible to feel indifferent about Gough Whitlam. I’m not alone in my yearning for that era when politics was open, positive, and about governing citizens instead of managing the economy at the cost of civil liberties. The Whitlam government certainly had its flaws, but it always pushed the boundaries of stifling conservatism. Before fear and greed kicked in, vision was still considered an honourable quality in a leader. Gough envisioned that Australia could be a progressive, exciting, and benevolent society where equality of opportunity belonged to everyone. Oh, how far we have fallen. In the name of Edward Gough Whitlam, we need to maintain the rage.

Vale, Gough.

Friday, October 10, 2014

The Return of Kate Bush


‘Kate Bush is that old-fashioned thing: an artist’Mark Radcliffe, BBC broadcaster


Kate Bush’s return to the stage with her Before the Dawn concerts in London feels like the second coming. Not surprising, considering that her first and last performance was in 1979. Apart from brief spikes in commercial success over three decades, Kate has avoided the entertainment industry machine. She is an anathema in the music business because a) she is serious about her craft, b) she loathes celebrity culture, and c) she plays by her rules. You don’t get a lot of a), b) or c) in these market-driven times.

 
I remember seeing Kate’s celebrated video for Wuthering Heights on the Saturday morning music show, Sounds, in 1979. I was mesmerised by its entirety: her impressive vocal range; her gypsy-inspired outfit; those witchy, agile dance moves; Dave Gilmour’s whiny guitar riff … like many people of my generation, Kate Bush never really faded from my consciousness; a testament to her multi-faceted capacity to create exceptional music.

Kate’s resurgence amongst the refuse of BeyoncĂ©-type divas is timely, thanks to the current Jupiter transit which touched her natal Leo Sun-Uranus conjunction in mid-August, prior to her concert series commencing on 26 August. Jupiter entered Leo on 16 July 2014 for a thirteen-month residency. The giant planet prompts us to expand our experience. It represents optimism, joy, and abundance. With Jupiter in Leo, we gain opportunities to blossom through creative self-expression. Kate said that her decision to return to live performance was based on a ‘real desire to have contact with the audience that still like my work’. Radio2 broadcaster, Michael Ball, who attended the final concert in early October, described it as ‘sublime towering artistry’.

 
Jupiter in Leo tends to focus on image, and the subject of Kate’s physical beauty as a young woman is unavoidable (natal Jupiter in Libra conjunct her North Node). Fortunately, her Aquarius Moon accentuates originality (and possibly eccentricity) and counterbalances any egocentricity her Leo Sun holds. Her Sun, Uranus and Moon combine with Mars in Taurus and Neptune in Scorpio to form a Grand Cross in Fixed signs. The Sun-Uranus link is indicative of ingenuity. Uranus in Leo on the point of a T square makes Kate a trailblazer with a tendency for obstinacy (she split from her first record company, EMI, because she wanted more control). She needs to work toward her Libra Jupiter-North Node conjunction and learn to compromise a little. Mental intensity comes courtesy of a Virgo Mercury-Pluto conjunction. Taboo subjects are explored with intelligence and weaved through ephemeral vocal and instrumental arrangements that draw on folklore, esotericism, and sensuality (Mars-Neptune opposition). Her 1982 song, The Dreaming, is a great example of this:

 
It isn’t surprising that due to an overwhelming response to her long-awaited comeback, Kate Bush has been nominated for two Q Awards: Best Act in the World Today and Best Live Act. She became the first female artist to have eight albums in the UK charts at the same time. Her songs have been covered by a diverse range of musicians, from Futureheads and Placebo to Coldplay and Tina Arena. It’s as if the world is celebrating her universal appeal under the Leo Jupiter cycle. Deservedly so.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

20,000 Days on Earth



20,000 Days on Earth is a fictitious account of the 20,000th day of the life of Australian musician-songwriter-author-screenwriter-composer-actor-national treasure, Nick Cave. Filmed during the recording of his 2013 album Push the Sky Away, this documentary blurs the line between fantasy and realism; gently mocking the modern anathemas of reality television and social media, and our insecurities of having to document every sordid detail of our dreary lives for the approbation of others.
 
On the surface, it appears that 20,000 Days evolved organically: casual encounters with ghosts from Cave’s past; spontaneous dialogue with Bad Seed member, Warren Ellis; a stilted session with a Freudian psychoanalyst; and nostalgia for a particular moment in time while rummaging through archival material. The film is, in fact, a carefully structured collection of staged scenarios in which Cave and his contemporaries improvise within the boundaries of a storyboard.
 
What I surmised from this stylish documentary is that Cave is a stable and secure individual in synch with the creative process. At age fifty-six, he should be. Cave is portrayed as a self-assured and slightly pompous figure, but we can forgive him for that. After all, he is Nick Cave. He describes Boys Next Door and Birthday Party members, Rowland S Howard and Tracey Pew (who have passed away), as ‘being born already formed’; a fitting juxtaposition for himself who hints at only having just arrived. Cave has grown into his Sun in Virgo and it shows throughout the film.
 
 
Through the viewfinder that is 20,000 Days on Earth, I see the man with a Stellium of planets in Virgo (Sun, Moon, Mercury, Mars, and Pluto). There is concentrated power within a Stellium. It provides the individual with focused energy, perhaps even with tunnel vision. Indeed, 20,000 Days omits the big picture. It concerns itself with routine, and the lens captures Cave’s fondness for the nitty-gritty of writing ingeniously. He is the office worker in a respectable suit, stabbing keys on a manual typewriter like a Luddite. Words are scratched in blue ink and highlighted with fluro marker pens in bulging notebooks containing typed notes cut and pasted in the old school way. Cave’s cosmic DNA confirms that he values the practical details of work, a point not entirely missed by the filmmakers.
 
 
For me, the highpoint was Cave’s stopover at Warren Ellis’ home in France, where they share a meal of eels and black tea. It is through Ellis’ amusing anecdote of singer Nina Simone (and her addiction to champagne, cocaine, and sausages) that I grasp how meaningful and fertile their relationship is.
 
You have to marvel at Nick Cave. He has successfully covered ground in various art forms, yet remains a marginal and mythical figure in the music industry. 20,000 Days on Earth dispels some of the myth by showing a grounded side to the man many revere as a Goth God or whatever. With tight Moon-Pluto and Venus-Neptune aspects in his birth chart, we need to keep believing in the mythology of Nick Cave (a point that he touches on during the driving scene with the actor, Ray Winstone).
 

Friday, September 5, 2014

Spiritual Conversations with Punks

 
I was invited by the lovely zinester, Tamara Lazaroff (Prisoner of Macedonia fame), to be part of this panel titled Spiritual Conversations with Punks at the Zine and Independent Comics Symposium (ZICS), Brisbane in August 2014. I almost chickened-out due to nerves, but was glad to finally go through with it, as it was an irrational fear that I needed to conquer sooner rather than later.
 
The panel consisted of Bianca Valentino, creator of the zine Spiritual Conversations with Punx, Andy Paine who has a radio show on Brisbane's 4ZZZ (and who creates a truckload of spiritual DIY material), and the wandering seer of Brisbane, Sarah Muller, who writes and publishes the most eloquent poetry you'll ever read. I'm flattered that Tamara thought I was punk enough to be on this panel. The discussion covered the often overlooked topic of spiritual content in zine making. The talk was well-received by a supportive and interested audience. That hackneyed phrase is true: feel the fear and do it anyway.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Astrobabble goes to Repressed Records

 
Due to disappointment and lack of support, I have ceased dealing with all Australian zine distribution centres. I wish them well on the rocky road to zine-hipster Hell.

On a lighter note, issues nine and ten of Astrobabble are available at Repressed Records in Newtown, Sydney. Repressed and Red Eye Records are now the only two stores on the planet stocking my zine. Sure, I've shrunk my readership base to less than zero, but it is easier for me to manage zine distribution entirely in my home city while I work on getting a life.

 
Repressed Records is located at 413 King Street Newtown and is staffed by the irrepressible Nic Warnock, who I hear is a bit of a legend in the Sydney music scene. Oh, those young people and their rock 'n' roll ...

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Astro Shite for April 2014

Aries
The much talked-about (by me) Cardinal Grand Cross peaks on 23 April. Your quest to take on and complete various projects fails, thanks to being pulled in four directions (and not in a sexual way, I might add). This transit teaches you that multi-tasking is severely over-rated. Do the unthinkable: choose one task and complete it. What?! The period between 5 April and 3 May is one of your most spiritual. Escape the daily grind by grinding fair trade coffee beans in the Byron Bay Hinterland while loosely draped in cheesecloth. Mercury enters Aries on 7 April, awkwardly coinciding with the Section 18C amendment. Say no more.
Aries superfoods: onions, tomatoes, chilli

Taurus
Mercury enters your sign on 23 April followed by the New Moon in Taurus on 28 April. These cycles set the scene for slow and steady movement. Savour the moments and be grateful for them. Revitalise a stagnant undertaking, like that failed two-minute noodle perm, under the Mercury-Jupiter-Pluto connection, and watch it spring to life. Expect unexpected down time around 2 April, as Uranus activates your house of retreat and lowers your blood pressure in one fell swoop.
Taurus superfoods: beans, peas, carrots

Gemini
Venus’ affirmative energy helps you shift old zine stock and provides inspiration to create fresh DIY masterworks. You’ll be in a gregarious mood until 23 April. Your social experiences get (even more) twisted and unpredictable between 2 and 14 April, crashing Instagram with your snapshots of alternative uses for dental floss. Eeeek! You’ll have time to reflect on your dickhead actions at the end of the month when you’re ostracized by the Gods to the house of prisons, hospitals, and mental asylums out of embarrassment.
Gemini superfoods: asparagus, sprouts, mushrooms

Cancer
The Sun, Mercury, and Venus highlight work issues on 2 April. Your slippery boss may have wet dreams of replacing you and the rest of the staff with androids while he organises his trip to Tahiti, but fortunately, Venus steps in to steer you in the direction of teaching, writing, and some healthy zine-making activity. Yay! The New Moon in your social sector on 28 April gives you the green light to expand your network by moving in creative circles.
Cancer superfoods: fish, lettuce, parsley

Leo
Uranus generates restlessness from 2 April, urging you to stowaway on a ferryboat to see where it takes you: terminus #8 at Circular Quay, I presume. Experiment with unconventional philosophies such as Compatibilism and Cannibalism, but watch your cholesterol level. The Sun, Mercury, and Venus combine in your professional zone to help you make your mark with that inevitable Leo stamp - lipstick. Nobody can pucker a pout for success the way a Lion can.
Leo superfoods: eggs, raisins, lentils

Virgo
Your most romantic period begins on 5 April. You’ll radiate desirability in an office administrator kinda way. Comprises are negotiated and others are content to meet you halfway in the open-plan office behind the stationery cupboard. You get an extra dose of lovin’ on 12 April when Neptune joins in. Fine wine, scented candles, and that tin of Catholic biscuits reserved for the executive department help set the scene for a special rendezvous. Late April is an excellent time to broaden your world by activating the right side of the brain with wanky-arty pursuits.
Virgo superfoods: beetroot, figs, almonds

Libra
The Full Moon in your sign combined with the Cardinal Grand Cross adds tension to a nagging issue. This is not the time to sweep your dirty laundry under the carpet or to air the two birds in your bush. In fact, this cycle asks that you avoid idioms altogether. They’re a dime among the pigeons. The Moon and Mars fly the flag for peace, while Venus and Neptune provide compassion. Ask what you can do to improve the planet without tapping a tambourine with your hip. Look to fellow Librans - Ghandi and Simon Cowell - for inspiration.
Libra superfoods: celery, corn, spinach

Scorpio
Creativity peaks for many Scorpions between 5 April and 3 May, thanks to the artistic force that is Venus. You’ll be bursting with ideas for zine creation. Get excited and share your passions with kindred spirits. This transit demands that you quit your usual scheming and scamming and have some fun for a change. Oh, I forgot; scheming and scamming is your idea of fun. Silly me!
Scorpio superfoods: rhubarb, kale, liver

Sagittarius
Between 17 and 24 April, values surrounding money and how it’s distributed amongst family will weigh heavily on your mind like Gina Reinhart on a ski lift. The days of frozen TV dinners stuck to the kitchen ceiling are over now that Venus is adding her personal touch to your seedy share house. Expect an interesting twist to your love life between 2 and 14 April when you’re greeted by your concubine with a Chinese burn. Despite the discomfort, you go about your business with the zest of an orange. Avoid spray tans.
Sagittarius superfoods: red cabbage, parsnips, oats

Capricorn
There is change on the domestic front for the Goat between 2 and 14 April. You are drawn to the Vortex hot spots of Sedona, Montserrat, and Rooty Hill RSL. The New Moon on 28 April sparks a creative surge. Traditional art techniques are resurrected as you ditch the Modbook Pro for a Goat Hair Mop 3/4. Relationships will have an exaggerated but transformative quality between 17 and 24 April, thanks to the Pluto-Jupiter tango and some seriously sexy Bomba rhythms.
Capricorn superfoods: cheese, prunes, rye

Aquarius
‘Abundance’ is the keyword under the Venus transit between 5 April and 3 May. The hot action money date is 12 April when you hit the local TAB and blow two weeks’ pay. You’ll want to lounge around your abode more than usual under the New Moon of 28 April. Get you living space sorted by weeding, cleaning, and purifying it. You may not believe it, but undertaking housework is an act of magic. Ask any witch.
Aquarius superfoods: barley, apples, figs

Pisces
You’ll be at home in your watery element when Venus and Neptune occupy Pisces from 5 April. Immerse yourself in the ocean and reconnect with your cosmic environment. April is the month for self-care, so be gentle with yourself. Financial matters are emphasised on 15 April. Cluey detective work unearths hidden capital lodged inside your Converse Chuck Taylors. I love it when the Universe solves those perplexing money mysteries.
Pisces superfoods: bilberries, cucumbers, dates

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The Cardinal Grand Cross

April 2014 heralds a rare astrological event. The ongoing square between Uranus in Aries and Pluto in Capricorn peaks when Jupiter in Cancer and Mars in Libra participate to form a Cardinal Grand Cross. These planets create a stressed, crucifix pattern: two pairs oppose each other and two pairs square each other. This challenging configuration indicates a demand to confront and transform established social and political structures that are corrupt and broken.
 
 
The Cardinal Grand Cross is shaped by these aspects and plays out in the following way:
  • Uranus square Pluto: radical social, economic and political upheaval, national debt crises, sexism and gender issues, racism and ethnic cleansing, intolerance
  • Jupiter opposite Pluto: extreme philosophies, fundamentalism, megalomania
  • Jupiter square Uranus: dangerous ideas, cult leaders, religious instability
  • Mars square Pluto: power struggles, military action, destruction, enemies
  • Mars opposite Uranus: impulsiveness, rebellion, ambushes, explosions
  • Mars square Jupiter: risk taking, tactless manoeuvres, rash actions, accidents and injuries
The T-Square of Jupiter, Uranus and Pluto lasts all of April, peaking on 23 April 2014. Any restlessness caused by Uranus will be exaggerated by Jupiter. Pluto will intensify this transit further, resulting in a crisis of sorts (observe the political conflicts in Syria, Egypt, Iraq, Sudan, and the Ukraine, for example).
 
Moreover, the climax of this Cardinal Grand Cross takes place between two eclipses: a Lunar Eclipse on 14 April 2014 followed by a Solar Eclipse on 28 April 2014. Traditionally, the Lunar Eclipse is a time to release old wounds and fears, and transcend negative patterns that delay personal development. The Full Moon in the Air sign of Libra is reflecting the light of the Sun in the Fire sign of Aries. This Eclipse is about acknowledging others (Libra) and recognising that they mirror our own actions, beliefs, and expectations (Aries). Gandhi’s quote, ‘be the change you wish to see in the world’, applies now. It’s a call to Humanity to set aside our differences and embrace our commonality to create the society we want to live in.
 
The Solar Eclipse on 28 April 2014 is a time to reflect on how past actions have influenced present circumstances. Both the Moon and Sun are in the Earth sign of Taurus, bringing determination, focus, and an old school work ethic to achieving goals. As we move into this New Moon, creating a ‘gratitude list’ of the things that make us ‘wealthy’ (both material and spiritual) and how we can share that wealth with others is worthwhile. Making this commitment to share our wealth, however we define it, creates a practical vision for an ideal world.
 
We are already witnessing a groundswell of change. The March in March event which took place in major Australian cities around 16 March 2014 is one example. Frustrated by the status quo, ordinary people showed their distrust and disgust with current social, political and religious frameworks by taking to the streets in peaceful protest. Despite bias reporting by mainstream news agencies, it wasn’t a Big Day Out for the lunatic fringe but the coming together of all people demanding ‘outings of truths’ within religious organisations, global corporations, and political institutions.
 
 
It's crucial that a docile society such as Australia cultivates the art of galvanising radical change before we lose what freedoms we have left. Transformation doesn’t happen overnight. The struggle for individual rights will endure possibly until Pluto’s ingress into the constellation of Aquarius in 2023. In the interim, progress is possible if we resolve old problems with new methods. Nowhere is this message stronger than in the workings of the Cardinal Grand Cross.