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Elvis Presley – The King of Rock and Roll

Image – Wikipedia

Yeah they said you was high-classed
well, that was just a lie

– Elvis Presley, “Hound Dog”

Elvis Aaron Presley (1935-77) was an American rock and roll singer and guitarist, born in Tupelo, Mississippi. He is generally seen as the “King” of Rock and Roll.

Elvis got started singing in a church choir and taught himself how to play the guitar. Sun Records in Memphis soon discovered his talent.

By 1956 his unique combination of country/western and rhythm ‘n blues rocketed him to fame.

His provocative stage persona drove teens into a frenzy of screams, tears and fainting, like the Beatles after him.

But Elvis wasn’t just sexy, charismatic and cool. He was the man of the hour, musically and culturally.

His energized interpretations of songs and sexually provocative performance style, combined with a singularly potent mix of influences across color lines that coincided with the dawn of the Civil Rights Movement, made him enormously popular—and controversial.¹

Elvis made 45 rpm records selling in the millions, including “Heartbreak Hotel,” “Blue Suede Shoes,” “Hound Dog,” “Jailhouse Rock,” “Love Me Tender,” “It’s Now or Never,” “Are You Lonesome Tonight” and “All Shook Up,” to name a few.

Capri Club 2009 - the army home of Elvis Presley

Capri Club 2009 – the army home of Elvis Presley by jorbasa / Barbara via Flickr

On TV he appeared on the major variety shows, including The Steve Allen Show, The Ed Sullivan Show and The Frank Sinatra Timex Show.

Elvis ventured into films with Love Me Tender (1956), Loving You (1957), King Creole (1958), GI Blues (1960) and Blue Hawaii (1961), among many others.

His movie roles were secondary to his music. Apparently film directors never gave him a chance to try a dramatically significant role. Story has it that Elvis wanted to become a serious actor.

Drafted by the Army in 1958-60, his stardom was intact when he returned to the US.

But it didn’t last long. The Beatles and the “British Invasion” swarmed the continent, and Elvis’ career hit the skids. He recorded his last hit single in 1969.

In the 1970s Elvis became a nightclub performer in Las Vegas and many of his tunes took a turn to gospel. During these years he kept a loyal following, but his fan base was much smaller than in his heyday. When I was a kid (born in 62) I remember watching a Vegas era show on TV with a kind of fascinated pathos, as if I was watching a living tragedy.

Soonafter Elvis got hooked on various prescription drugs, took to unhealthy eating habits and died of an apparent overdose in 1977.

Now a legend, the King of Rock and Roll’s twilight years look much better in retrospect.² His 1968 TV appearance was miles ahead of others who would follow “unplugged” in the 80s an 90s.

Like all the greats, Elvis’ star never really faded. He’s become a global icon and admirers make pilgrimages to his home at Graceland.

Behind Mickey Mouse and Jesus Christ, he’s been cited as the third most popular figure on the planet today.

¹ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elvis_Presley

² As an adult I appreciate and enjoy his gospel tunes but as a kid they seemed lame, signifying a dead career. Funny how one’s perspective changes over time.

 Fats Domino: The quiet rock ‘n’ roll rebel who defied US segregation (scroll.in)

 An American Boy: Remembering Tom Petty (stereogum.com)

 New Elvis Presley Book Reveals Shocking Facts behind The King of Rock and Roll’s Image (prweb.com)

 People can’t stop laughing at the new Lady Gaga wax figure that looks nothing like the singer (businessinsider.com)

 Cridlin: Tom Petty was the scruffy Florida boy who helped us feel (tbo.com)

 Most Famous European Musicians (247wallst.com)

 German police retrieve 100 stolen John Lennon items (triblive.com)

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Pisces – Something fishy here?

pisces

Pisces – Peter Tittenberger via Flickr

Before the internet most newspapers had a horoscope section. It might have been a small weekly column or a full-blown page on weekends.

Every morning my family read the local paper. I always managed to get the entertainment and sports sections. And the index. You always needed the index because that’s how you found out where your horoscope was.

Sort of an extra feature, like the comics, the horoscopes were juggled around to fit any blank space in the daily edition layout.

How times have changed… Or have they?

Horoscopes are still popular. Today people read more than a newspaper blurb. Now you can get a complete online reading if, that is, you know your date and time of birth. Press the button and the machine tells your life story.

Why are horoscopes still around?

Science generally says they’re rubbish. Christian theologians don’t like astrology much either (although Hindus consult astrologers during wedding ceremonies).

It seems there’s a middle ground between science and religion that appeals to the public. Something like myth and fantasy. I guess that’s where horoscopes come in.

Anatomical Man in the Duke Berry's Très Riches...

Anatomical Man in the Duke Berry’s Très Riches Heures (Photo: Wikipedia)

Whenever updating the astrology entries at Earthpages.ca I feel like a bit of a fraud. I’ll be honest. I don’t really believe in astrology any longer. Not sure if I ever did.

I know some people do believe and I respect that. We’re all different with unique paths. But for me, the power of God and the Holy Spirit makes any kind of “cosmic force” look small. It’s not that I don’t believe in cosmic forces. I do. It’s just a question of magnitude and relevance.

Let’s for a moment concede that cosmic forces affect the psyche. But what about God, the creator of those cosmic forces? God is infinitely larger and more powerful than any influence of Jupiter or Neptune.

Some astrology believers just don’t get this. They see God as the sum of the observable cosmos, known to thinkers like me as natural pantheism.

Still don’t see what I’m saying?

Let’s try this. Instead of the cosmos acting on mind and body, how about something more immediate, like nutrition.

Most people agree that nutrition is important. The substances we ingest directly influence our minds and overall health. But that’s not the whole story. Jesus of the New Testament tells us that we don’t live on bread alone. It’s the “alone” part that matters. There’s something more. Christians call it the Holy Spirit.

Likewise with astrology. We are not influenced by creation, alone. There’s more. The Creator of creation. Simple as that.

Take another analogy. God made the wind which, although invisible, is a powerful force. I believe in the wind from seeing, hearing, feeling and sometimes smelling its perceptible effects.

However, any good sailor can tack into the wind. We don’t have to be blown around just because the wind exists.

God gave us a mind and the ability to choose.

Well, enough preamable. Rather than rewrite my existing entry on Pisces, I’ll just tweak it.

No need to perpetuate the charade. I don’t believe in astrology. Life is too complex and ambiguous to be boiled down to an arbitrary theory. I’m not saying astrology is totally false. Cosmic forces no doubt exist. And astrology has entertainment, mythic and historical value. But to invest too much in it, I think, falls somewhere between spirituality and superstition.

A juvenile distraction, fine. But for spiritual adults, one hopefully moves on.

Pisces (February 19 – March 21) is the twelfth and a winter sign of the zodiac, symbolized by the fish and associated with the planetary rulers of Neptune and Jupiter. Its element is water.

Astrologers say that from Neptune, Pisces longs for a return to the primal waters; that is, a plunge into the underworld depths of the collective unconscious.

From Jupiter, Pisces is youthful, with all the pros and cons accompanying adolescence.  Astrologers say Pisceans are gentle but with fits of rashness, even cruelty.

Sometimes passive and lazy, Pisceans apparently alternate between lethargy and spells of vigor, enthusiasm and hope.

Prominent Pisces include Johnny Cash, Billy Crystal,  Elizabeth Taylor, Rihanna, Albert Einstein and Justin Bieber.

Pisces – The book of birth of Iskandar – Wikipedia

Related » Astrology

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 Boom time for fortune-tellers and tarot card readers in Italy as economic crisis bites (telegraph.co.uk)

 Venus-Jupiter Conjunction 2017: When, Where and How to See It (space.com)

 Mood Ring Is the New Bushwick Bar Inspired by Astrology and Hong Kong Cinema (grubstreet.com)


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The Pyramids – Afterlife portals or symbols of worldly power?

Inside the Pyramid

Inside the Pyramid: Ricardo Liberato via Flickr

Pyramids are really just a big billboard that says “the richest guy in Egypt is buried here” – Quora

In the 1976 playoffs the Toronto Maple Leafs made it to the semi-finals against the Philadelphia Flyers. This was pretty rare back then because the Leafs had been floundering for years. The fad at the time was pyramid power. All along the Leaf bench pyramids could be seen. The club thought it was bringing them good luck. They lost anyhow.

A couple of years later the British musician Alan Parsons released an album called Pyramid. Pink Floyd had already released Dark Side of the Moon (1973) with a prism – a miniature pyramid – on the album cover.

Pyramids had taken off in pop culture. They moved from an esoteric curiosity to a commercially viable symbol.  Soon after, the 80s New Age movement put a new spin on everything weird and wacky associated with the Egyptian and Mesoamerican pyramids. And whatever was said, there was always a price tag on it. That is, something to buy—a workshop, book or cassette tape.

Louvre – Paris

A whole new mythology about the Egyptian and Mesoamerican pyramids was born in the 70s and 80s. It was a myth intricately linked to consumerism, as we find today.

We only have to turn on the TV or search the web to find out how ETs built the pyramids with special tech unavailable even in the 21st century. Or we might discover some elaborate theory about the End Times, allegedly predicted by the geometry and placement of the pyramids.

Fantastic scenarios aside, it is true that nobody is entirely sure how the Egyptians moved those huge stone blocks. A prevailing theory maintains that wooden sleds were hauled over wetted sand, the added water reducing friction.

What we do have is clear archaeological evidence, through graffiti, that real human work gangs with specific names – like Toronto Maple Leafs or Philadelphia Flyers – not only did the hauling but took pride in their achievement.

So much for ETs and their laser beams.

Aztec human sacrifice, art circa 16th century – Wikipedia

New Age pundits glorifying the pyramids also tend to overlook or rationalize the fact that in Mesoamerica these structures were used for human sacrifice. Moreover, pyramids in Egypt were built for the Pharaoh, not the common people. Egyptian rulers believed a pyramid would facilitate their transit to the afterword. But commoners didn’t get a pyramid of their own. Only those with money could afford such a royal link to the afterlife.

So much for the glory.

Admittedly, the pyramids are impressive. But so is the Roman Colosseum. And we know what went down there. Feeding live Christians to lions. Sickening… nay, horrifying.

The pyramids were mostly about two things: Worldly power and a selfish desire to attain personal immortality. Foreign visitors to Egypt wrote that the pyramids inspired not only awe but fear. These structures spoke clearly about who had power and what would happen if the average gal or guy stepped out of line.

Carl Jung, a Swiss depth psychologist, tends to gloss over the cultural context of historical symbols like the pyramids in favor of developing his theory of the collective unconscious. This isn’t necessary wrong but I think it is incomplete.

Jung believes the architectural similarities among the Egyptian and Mesoamerican pyramids support his concepts of the archetypes and the collective unconscious. However, Raymond Firth questions Jung’s archetypal theory. Firth says any symbol, be it a pyramid, a totem pole or a national flag, conveys as many possible meanings as there are individuals to interpret it.¹

This debate brings to mind the philosophical problem about innate psychological structures vs. regional and individual forms of creativity. Jung had his own way of resolving this issue by differentiating the archetype proper (common, underlying structure) from the archetypal image (cultural expression of that structure). But something still seems a bit too easy with his theory.

Jung, himself, admitted that he didn’t have it all figured out.

So full marks for his honesty.

¹ An anthropologist, Firth emphasizes the immediate, sociological aspects of symbols while not negating the possibility of deeper levels of meaning. See Raymond Firth, Symbols: Public and Private, New York: Allen and Unwin, 1973. Postmoderns like Jacques Derrida would agree with Firth on multiple interpretation. Symbols connote countless meanings. Rarely is anything actually denoted. And even if it is, there is always room for connotation.

Related » Alien Possession Theory, Archaeology, Atlantis, Aztecs, Mythic Identification, Mythic Inflation, Mythic Subordination, Sir William Matthew Flinders Petrie


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Persephone – What can we learn for her plight?

Leighton depicts Hermes helping Persephone to ...

Leighton depicts Hermes helping Persephone to return to her mother Demeter after Zeus forced Hades to return Persepone. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Persephone [Greek Persephone: maiden] is a Greek fertility and underworld goddess, born of Zeus and Demeter.

She is also called Kore [Greek: the girl or maiden]. In Roman myth her equivalent is often cited as Proserpina, with her mother Demeter is Ceres.

Brief Sketch

In the Homeric Hymn to Demeter Persephone is out gathering flowers from a field in Sicily. Suddenly she’s abducted by Hades, the King of the underworld.

Accompanied by a litter of pigs to Hades’ gloomy abode, she is tricked by the dark King into eating pomegranate seeds. Even though she is tricked, Persephone is also punished. She must stay in the land of the dead for, depending on the account, three to eight months each year.

Persephone is not only raped by but also marries Hades. This makes her Queen of the underworld. Homer writes that she mediates between two worlds, the land of the living and the land of the dead. One of her primary duties is to deliver curses to the dead from the living.¹

persephone rising

Persephone Rising by Eddie van W. via Flickr

This kind of story and the notion of an eating/food taboo is so widespread that it arguably supports Jung’s idea of archetypes and the collective unconscious.

S. G. F. Brandon, in his Dictionary of Comparative Religion, says Persephone is linked to the Eleusinian Mysteries and figures in Orphism.² And some contemporary writers believe her myth exemplifies the ethos of the Eleusinian and Orphic mysteries.

Psychological Interpretation

The mythographer Joseph Campbell  elaborates on Persephone’s link with the ancient mystery cults. In a somewhat Jungian style, Campbell believes we can gain esoteric knowledge by risking madness within the depths of the collective unconscious. Some do not survive the experience, and like an ocean diver who dives too deep, they do not make it back to the surface.

It seems that some people do, in fact, become gripped by so-called archetypal forces of the unconscious.

The Extramural Sanctuary of Demeter and Persep...

The Extramural Sanctuary of Demeter and Persephone at Cyrene, Libya (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Again following Jung, one unfortunate outcome occurs when the ego identifies with a psycho-spiritual presence (numinosity) it has discovered and begins to assume the role of the “holy teacher.” Or perhaps in a more Darth Vader kind of scenario, the “holy ruler.”³

We can usually discern false or immature “teachers,” “leaders” and “rulers” when they do not admit to their mistakes and, perhaps, go to any lengths to cover them up. To be human is to err. And whenever someone cannot admit or tries to hide their human imperfection, it should raise a red flag to any sane, sober observer.

Agricultural Interpretation

A more down-to-earth view sees Persephone’s yearly rise and fall as coinciding with the ancient grain crops that thrived in the growing season and yet died when stored underground for the off-season. But considering Persephone is also linked to mystery cults, this view only accounts for half the story.

¹ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Persephone

² Dictionary of Comparative Religion (New York: Scribner’s and Sons, 1970, p. 493).

³ I once had a professor who came to Canada from a communist land who was a bit like the latter. Although his abilities seemed impressive at first, in retrospect he doesn’t look so great. More like a backward, third-rate scholar who tries to control others through fear and intimidation.

Related » Death and Resurrection

 Roman coins show evidence of Hannibal’s defeat, scientists say (telegraph.co.uk)

 Cyclops and Dragon Tongues: How Real Fossils Inspired Giant Myths (livescience.com)

 Exploring the Japanese Roots of ‘Star Wars’ (slashfilm.com)


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Parvati – Loving, terrible and creative, like most deities

The Hindu mother goddess Parvati feeding her s...

The Hindu mother goddess Parvati feeding her son, the elephant-headed wisdom god Ganesha – Wikipedia

Parvati is a central Hindu goddess and the consort of Siva as described in the Puranas.

She is said to be the daughter of the Himalayas and a model for the ideal wife. Sometimes called Devi, Parvati is generally seen as a benevolent, nurturing and protective deity.

In one variant of her mythic cycle, Parvati is the reincarnated Sati, who formerly took her own life. At the request of Vishnu she stops the distraught Siva from undertaking his terrible dance of cosmic destruction.

Some regard Parvati as the exemplary shakti. Shakti is a Sanskrit term for female power, sometimes called ‘serpent power’ because it is believed to rise upwards like a serpent through the chakras of the meditating yogi or yogini.

Like many deities, Parvati has a dark side and it would be incomplete to describe her as entirely benevolent.

Several Hindu stories present alternate aspects of Parvati, such as the ferocious, violent aspect as Shakti and related forms. Shakti is pure energy, untamed, unchecked and chaotic. Her wrath crystallizes into a dark, blood-thirsty, tangled-hair Goddess with an open mouth and a drooping tongue. This goddess is usually identified as the terrible Mahakali or Kali (time).[43] In Linga Purana, Parvati metamorphoses into Kali, on the request of Shiva, to destroy a female asura (demoness) Daruka. Even after destroying the demoness, Kali’s wrath could not be controlled. To lower Kali’s rage, Shiva appeared as a crying baby. The cries of the baby raised the maternal instinct of Kali who resorts back to her benign form as Parvati. In Skanda Purana, Parvati assumes the form of a warrior-goddess and defeats a demon called Durg.¹

Kali trampling Shiva. Chromolithograph by R. Varma. – Wikipedia

Shakti also refers to a general principle of creative, cosmic energy. Some believe that when this energy is personified it takes the form of a goddess, such as Parvati or Krishna’s playmate, Radha. Others, of course, say these goddesses are real, in themselves, and not mere personifications of some general principle.

In one Purana (a Hindu religious text), Parvati is the mother of all other goddesses, universally worshiped with many forms and names. Her appearance and form depends on her overall cosmic purpose or, as Wikipedia suggests, on her “mood.”²

Personally, I think this Wikipedia take is too small a perspective considering the depth and breadth of Hindu myth, philosophy and religion.

¹ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parvati

² Ibid.

Related » Hinduism, yoni, linga


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The Parthenon – Portal To The Past

Athens - Acropolis: Parthenon (West Side)

Athens – Acropolis: Parthenon (West Side): wallyg / Wally Gobetz (see photo at flickr for excellent notes)

The Parthenon is a Greek temple designed by the architect Iktinos and built in 477-433 BCE. It sits on top of the acropolis at Athens.

A stunning example of Doric architecture, the pure marble sanctuary was dedicated to goddess Athena, originally containing at center a massive gold and ivory statue of the deity.

Later transformed into a church, then a mosque, it was damaged in 1687 from an explosion while the Turks were at war with the Venetians.

Today the Parthenon is recognized as a world heritage site.

Despite the best efforts of Greek officials to preserve this magnificent portal to the past, its very survival is threatened by acid rain and automobile pollution.

Myself, I haven’t visited the Parthenon in person. After graduating I had a couple of years to peruse travel videos, so have a pretty good idea what it’s about. Wikipedia has this interesting animation, showing what the Parthenon looks like—(probably) then and now.

Image – Wikipedia

Tastes have changed. To me it looks a bit gaudy. The old version I mean. Same thing with Egyptian reconstructions. Most people think of the windblown monochrome look that pervades today. But in the past, things were much more lively.

Related » Acropolis, Pericles


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Willard Quine – My unapologetic simplification

Willard Quine (1908-2000) was an influential American mathematician and philosopher who rejected Kant’s analytic-synthetic distinction¹ and advocated a form of holism.

English: The OWNER of this passport picture of...

Passport picture of Willard Van Orman Quine (Photo: Wikipedia)

Quine argues that empiricism contains “two dogmas.” One dogma is the distinction made between intellectual constructs and facts.

The second dogma is reductionism—that is, the belief that naming and meaning are the same.

Quine’s thought has been variously championed and critiqued. It seems that whatever way we look at the issues Quine addresses, we encounter the same problem. Language (and arguably all symbols, to include numbers) has conceptual and descriptive limits. It can never be entirely precise nor complete.²

The relationship between symbols and reality is an age old debate with no definitive answer. The discussion can go along ‘horizontal,’ conceptual lines or veer off into deeper, ‘vertical’ lines (as with Carl Jung‘s view of the archetypal image).

The discussion can also exist in a kind of matrix. That is, one could argue – as I do – that all words carry a potential numinous power. Numinosity isn’t something restricted to religious or mythological symbols.

In sociology, Quine’s thought appears in discussions about reification and also about the relation between scientific truth claims on the one hand, and ideology, the profit motive and social power on the other hand.

Healthcare Costs by Images Money via Flickr

Admittedly this is the briefest of brief sketches about Quine. When it comes to Western philosophy, it seems everyone has their own take on what these complicated thinkers are trying to say.³ My interest in Quine is mostly in trying to get people to think critically about scientific truth claims.

Science is becoming a new kind or medieval-style religion. The initial assumptions, selectivity, biases, interpretations and extrapolations built in to science are so glossed over or taken for granted that the average person tends to see science as “truth” and doesn’t even want to discuss any further.

In other words, science has a pretty firm grip on the minds and actions of many people. Too see this in action, we don’t have to look any further than some of the facile placards in the recent “March for Science.”

Making a religion out of science is misguided, authoritarian and dangerous. I think humanity can do better. So that’s how I justify simplifying Quine. I’m taking a poststructural approach. Something that I think everyone does. Although not everyone might be aware of it (or admit it, if they are).

Image by Becker1999 via Flickr

Need I say more?

¹ Kant devised a distinction between analytic and synthetic propositions. Analytic propositions are said to contain the predicate in the subject. Synthetic propositions do not contain the predicate in the subject. An example of an analytic proposition is, “All squares have four sides.” An example of a synthetic proposition is, “All men are athletic.”

² Along these lines the ancient Greek, Heraclitus, once wrote said that we cannot step into the same river twice. So what is a “river?”

³ Not to imply that Eastern philosophy is necessarily simpler or less open to interpretation. Just look at some of the Buddhist logic schools, for instance.

Related » Science, scientism