Friday, 30 October 2020

tendencies for everybody

Via Strange Company, we learn that our preoccupation with royal births and impatience for the latest (or perhaps yet to come) gossip has informed the daily horoscope column.

As one shrewd editor found himself short on reporting with the birth of another grandchild of the monarch, the Sunday Express decided to engage celebrated astrologer R.H. Naylor (their second-choice after a mystic called Cheiro, after cheiromancy—that is palmistry—had to turn down the newspaper) to do a forecast for the yet-unborn Princess Margaret (†2002, appearing in print three days after her birth in August 1930—I surmise she was a Leo) and as it were tell her adventurous (the Queen’s younger sister lived up to these predictions vague and universally applicable as they were) life backwards and let her age into her fortune. Using the commission to develop his nascent technique of solar signs—that is a simplified method based on one’s birth and the house of the zodiac that the sun was in, Naylor was able to offer readers both a general personality assessment and a daily prognostication. After having predicted the crash of an airship, Naylor was criticised for failing to forecast World War II. His column nonetheless remained popular and spawned many imitators.

Sunday, 31 May 2020

anthroposophy and apogee

Acknowledging the esoteric dangers that have emerged from the pseudo-scientific disciplines that arose towards the end of the era of Enlightenment just on the cusp of Modernity that try to reconcile the onslaught on evidence that the Cosmos is far older and complex than we can account for with the Bible and founding mythologies, Geoff Manaugh introduces us to the writing of one Sampson Arnold Mackey by leaning heavily into the paradoxical nature of such ethnography and theosophy that it’s in the effort of nailing down a narrative that brings up the problematic nature of speculation and amateur pursuits.
Never going away just repackaged and given a different sheen, we look at impossible epochs and receding events that disappear from the archeological record dredged up from archetypal memories and leading down pathways—some branches potentially problematic, either in fiction, espousing dangerous ideology or adopting thinking that rejects any achievement outsized in the mind of the beholder technically or sensibly has to be the work of the supernatural and one is left to deal with various theories that state the Pyramids of the Ancient Egyptians and Nazca Lines were the work of aliens. Mackey’s The Mythological Astronomy in Three Parts published in 1827 is no different than modern day disaster movies that gainsay the slow creep of environmental degradation with something dramatic like the flipping of the Earth’s magnetic poles and makes a deep and earnest investigation into a pet theory relating to the procession of the zodiac—that we’ve moved on from the Age of Pisces to the Aquarian one, except that Mackey hoped for more cataclysmic and drastic transitions—plunging humankind from an time of general prosperity into an “Age of Horror” plunging the world into deep enduring winters and arid droughts. Life and culture are driven so far as we know by stability and not swings between extremes, however distance that time out of mind may be. The work presents calculations, and like trying to pinpoint the primordial flood that haunts and informs our collective memory is a way to privilege one original story over another and suggest in was the deluge that formed the Mediterranean, for example, or makes some similar loaded and elaborated assumption—which again seems to be the overreach of amateurism that breeds more fables—but still invites one to ponder if these larger, unfathomable cycles might not have some bearing on belief and behaviour and constitution and how disaster imprints and lingers and that instinctual awareness of a pendulum fuels dread and hope.

Monday, 3 February 2020

fuku mame

Literally seasonal division and more properly denoted as Risshun, today marks the festival of Setsubun (็ฏ€ๅˆ†) the eve of the beginning of Spring in Japan and a signal to perform ritual cleaning of one’s household to drive out the misfortune of the past year and welcome in good luck for the year to come.
Originally associated with the Lunar New Year, its date has now been fixed and the chief ceremony involves the scattering of the titular luck beans called makemaki (่ฑ†ๆ’’ใ) where a family member born in the corresponding zodiacal year is charged with roasting soybeans and tossing them out of the threshold of the home (a variation includes another family member discharging the duties of a loitering demon and being pelted with the beans)—shouting “Demons out—luck in!” Like the New Year’s custom of eating black-eyed peas, people will also eat a number of soybeans for each year that they have been alive plus one extra for good luck.

Friday, 3 January 2020


In what’s become a nice beginning of the solar, civil new year tradition in anticipation of the coming lunar one Spoon & Tamago (see previously) present a selection of designer greeting cards (nengajo, ๅนด่ณ€็Šถ) to welcome the Year of the Rat, the first zodiacal animal in the cycle of twelve to kick off a new decade. We especially liked this one from design studio Enokoro that features all species of rodents from shrews to hamsters to capybaras—not forgetting our friends the naked mole rats. This year of the White Metal Rat begins on 25 January and runs through 11 February 2021.

Monday, 28 October 2019

argos navis

By way of a rather glum article on an extinct species of bird related to but far lesser known than the dodo, we are introduced to the concept of superannuated constellations (see previously)—the most veteran being the asterism of the Southern Hemisphere named after Jason and the Argonauts’ ship, itself developed from the Egyptian identification as the Boat of Osiris and named by the classical astronomer Ptolemy as one of the chief forty-eight described in his Almagest.  Due to the large patch of sky it occupied, it Argos Navis was broken up in mid-eighteenth century charts to its constituents parts Puppis (the poop deck or stern), Vela (the sails) and Carina (the hull).
Like a syllabary of obscure and unused emoji characters, there’s quite a listing of obsolete groupings from the century prior, many named by botanist, amateur astrologer and quack John Hill (*1714 – †1775) whose name sadly isn’t inscribed among the stars, much like our dead dodo’s cousin Turdus Solitarius (Rodrigues solitaire). Others that are now dissolved, merged or incorporated into presently accredited constellations, speaking to their age, include Globis ร†rostatiscus (the hot air balloon), Dentalium (tooth enamel), Sciurus Volans (flying squirrel), Phล“nicopterus (pink flamingo) and Officina Typographica (the printshop). Sadly too none of these fall within the tropics of the Zodiac.

Wednesday, 23 October 2019


trick-or-treat: communities in race to best each other with increasing draconian ordinances regulating Halloween

huzzah: the utopian ideals behind Renaissance Fairs

dog whistle/bull horn: critiquing Facebook for the low quality propaganda platform it is, via Marginal Revolution

starchitecture: pairing Zodiac houses with their representative designers

your trial period has expired: how free storage drove every thing out if the archives and mandated everything be always available, via Duck Soup

world unique promotional product identity & emotion: the strange world of Vater Abraham, author of the Smurfs’ theme song among a few others

noir: Bruce McCorkindale’s Art House Muppets for Inktober

Wednesday, 10 April 2019

Via Kottke, we learn that premium members of an on-line retail giant are pitched a monthly horoscope that pairs one’s sign to recommended products and promotions.
This peculiar merger of astrology with cloying capitalism is moving into its fourth month so there seems to be a serious commitment to the service, penned by an editor who holds a master’s degree in existential phenomenological therapeutic psychology whose by-lines also include a magazine for teenagers and Pokรฉmon, presumably the augmented reality experience. What do you think about that? Is it just in good fun or is it earnest, and is it even possible to be cynical about something that’s not real? Though possibly a late-comer to the booming revival in interest for pseudoscience and guidance no matter what form it comes in, the ploy is symptomatic of a much larger and lucrative trend that Americans are particularly eager to embrace and export.

Friday, 22 February 2019

pon de replay

Currently trending (which is a terribly presumption thing to say and assuredly no longer the case with as quickly as we are on to the next thing) is to find one’s abiding mood and moral compass by conducting an image search with Rihanna plus one’s birthday (day and month) to find the celebrity’s sighting that coincides with that day—and while I quite liked the results that I got of the Barbadian artist spotted on the set of the heist film Ocean’s 8 and think there’s nothing nefarious in this fun—I think it might make for a better daily horoscope if one went with the current date’s paparazzi photo—like this one of her leaving a private bash at Mayfair’s Novikov in 2010.

Friday, 13 July 2018


In 1975, electronic and experimental music pioneer Karlheinz Stockhausen (*1928 - †2007) composed twelve melodic character pieces representing the twelve signs of the zodiac, structured in a mathematically interesting manner and originally arranged for music boxes, though it can be played on any suitable instrument or even sung. Contracting with a Swiss manufacturer (which is one of the last firms specialising in making music boxes), Stockhausen made the custom music boxes commercially available and continued to be sold through the 1980s with later commemorative editions. Learn more and listen to other performances at the link above. Here’s a rendition of my sign, Skorpion, by clarinettist Liam Hockley below:

Tuesday, 9 January 2018


Since the late nineteenth century, Japan’s official civil calendar has followed the Gregorian, Western one but retains many traditional elements of the luni-solar cycle, including dispatching new year’s greeting cards, often based on the zodiacal character of the coming year.
Beginning 16 February, we leave behind the Fire Rooster and enter the time of the Earth Dog. Spoon & Tamago have nearly completed a whole cycle of animals, having rung in the season by posting an assortment of post cards for a decade and among their selection this time, we really liked this salutation from Individual Locker whose kanji arrangement of the characters for 2018 suggest a rising sun over Mount Fuji.

Friday, 14 July 2017


Of course we’re hurtling towards the moment (accelerating, I suspect if the US Federal Communication Commission gets its way and kills net neutrality) when the whole on-line experience and thus the way our personalities and world-view is informed will just be one vanity mirror to reaffirm our ignorances and prejudice, we are probably not quite there yet.
One platform that’s helping us lurch closer to that sort of dumb, narcissistic Singularity, essayist Paul Bisceglio writing for The Atlantic, explores at length with a rather brilliant, cautionary look at the personality quiz in all its incarnations—which, like many things, has taken a bit of a sinister, prying turn in the digital age. Not to spoil the fun and perhaps something insightful to be learned by which spirit-animal, Disney princess, or silent film star one is, but all these data-points feed algorithms that are destined when mediated through bogus psychologically projective tests inevitably become unreliable, judgmental and often flawed or dangerous. Couched in uncertain and unscientific terms as they are, such demographics are irresponsible and ought not be captured for marketers and political-handlers to use but that’s stopping no one from collecting that information and manipulating digital scenery with it. Instead, if one needs to indulge in some reflection, I’d advise one to stick to the horoscopes—and preferably by hard-copy.

Friday, 6 January 2017


In what’s become a sort of annual tradition, Spoon & Tamago are featuring a gallery of some of their favourite New Years’ postcards (ๅนด่ณ€็Šถ, nengajล) for this upcoming year of the Fire Rooster. Although since 1873 Japan has officially adhered to the Gregorian calendar and celebrates the new year on 1 January, tradition still has a place for the lunisolar procession of the Chinese zodiac—which heralds in the year (and a second inflammatory one) of the rooster on 28 January with a week of festivities. Let’s hope that we’re getting an especially lucky sign this time around.

Monday, 3 October 2016

constellation prize

Although not entirely a brand new proposal (having first hinted of chaos in the skies back in 2011 but no horoscope columns have adopted the change yet), NASA has apparently formally recognised the fact that the Earth is not ruled by the tidy twelve zodiacal houses (presiding over thirty degrees of the celestial sphere each) but rather thirteen, with this johnny-come-lately Ophiuchus, the snake-handler pushing aside all the other months to make room.
This is particularly bad news for fellow—or rather ex-fellow—Scorpios (see the link up top) as I’ve now become a scale as of just now, and my Mom is a snake-wrangler according to NASA. The havoc is a point of contention, however, because although the sun and the planets move through different constellations (canonical and otherwise) and NASA was prompted to stir the cauldron since the skies have changed in the three thousand years since the Babylonians invented the divining art, astrology in the Western tradition was never based on the march of the heavens in that sense but rather on tropical tilt through the seasons. There’s no need to discount out of hand what you thought the stars had in line for you.

Friday, 19 August 2016

synchronicity or does not divide the sunday from the rest of the week

What if the first thing that Sky Net changes is not eliminating humankind in order to save the environment but rather something more insidiously straightforward like reforming the calendar and the naรฏve, inherited way to reckon time?
While I am sure that computers, even without being imbued with intelligence, can handle the foibles of human time-keeping, it would probably be more efficient to dispense with all of those sabbaths, zodiac-signs, leap-years and Moon-sightings—and even weekends since the wicked get no rest. What do you think? Maybe even deference to our home-star might be discounted, since a robotic workforce’s clockwork don’t respect circadian-rhythms and perhaps recognise that there’s little tribal utility and investment left in keeping the weekend sacred or holidays holy. What would machine punch-cards look like?

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

commutative property or sixth happiness

Perhaps I was a bit prematurely to dismiss the new year as numerically unremarkable. I heard an India fortuneteller on the radio this morning, prefacing her words and prognostications with the pronouncement that all numbers are indeed lucky, that this year, broken down as 2+0+1+3 yields six, the number of harmony in some circles and duty or domestic relations in others.

Personally, though I don’t buy into this sort of resonance and extra properties of digits wholesale and without reservations, I do often catch myself noticing a four (creation and rebirth) buried in a string of numbers all the time—though I use every mathematical operator I can think of to get to four, mixed multiplication, division along with addition and subtraction. I have notion from somewhere that four was my auspicious number, though I can’t recall what brought me there. I suppose that there would be no harm in it if I have been mistaken all these years and my lucky number turns out to be five instead. Also, when possible, I always try to remit a payment that works out to four, 82,00€, $48.00, £62.00. It is all a bit mad, I’m sure, and I guess a little bit maddening—look! It's a four, but it seems to me that vast outpouring of bills is a pretty flat landscape, dominated by zeroes and ones, and maybe a little packet of good fortune can be wired out as well. It’s a bit like ones choice for postage stamps, when bills were still mailed out, and payments usually were franked with grim and plain stamps, or else a bit of the evil-eye and just the opposite.

Thursday, 14 October 2010


My mother also has an extensive holy collection, icons, monstrances, crucifixes, and Jesuses--a Jesus Corner.  Once, in what may well be an apocryphal episode but still a cute story nonetheless, a visitor, a neighbor, studying the assemblage, remarked, "Gee, you have so many Henrys."  Henrys?  "You know, 'Inri."  The INRI is the initialism for Iesus Nazarenus, Rex Iudaeorum, Jesus from Nazareth, King of the Jews that was hung above the Cross.  In some places and at certain times, one hears the phrase "Jimminy H. Christmas" or "Jesus H. Christ" flung around like His middle name was Henry or something, whereas the H is actually a majuscule Greek letter Eta, one form of the definite article, the.  Incidentally, the once secret fish symbol for Christians, the Ichthys, probably originated itself because Jesus' birth fell at the dawn of the zodiacal age of Pisces, the Fish.

Thursday, 24 December 2009


Some weeks ago, at the kick off to the Christmas season, Saint Nickolaus brought us these great, giant zodiac mugs with our star signs.  I am not a strong adherent of astrology, but as with the curious describtors and biographies printed here, I am always wont to ask, how did they know.  Now if some wandering swami or other type of zodiacal pollster were to ask me what my favourite food is, I probably would not automatically respond "onions and garlic" like the mug says but I feel like that is probably more accurate than any spontaneous answer I would give, especially when H asks me what I want for dinner.  Scorpios generally get a bad reputation, astrologically speaking, and are characterized as cold, jealous and secretive, but that's probably pretty spot on as well.