The Mighty Equinox

Dear Friend and Reader:

Earlier this week, we experienced the first Libra equinox with Pluto in Capricorn: Sun square Pluto in the cardinal signs. This is the most recent of many firsts associated with this still-new Pluto transit. In a few weeks Saturn will enter Libra and we’ll experience another major event: Saturn in Libra square Pluto, one of the true stand-out sluggers in the vast aspect repertoire of astrology. If you want to understand the astrology, check out the news: a global climate summit in New York, the G20 erupting into massive protest and certifiably creepy police response, wildfires and floods and the weather going mad — what’s a girl to do?

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Not Burning Man. The worst dust storm in decades swept across Eastern Australia on Wednesday, blanketing Sydney and snarling transport as freak conditions also brought earthquakes, giant hailstones and even a tornado. Photo: The Standard.

All of this is associated with the Aries Point — the potent first degree of the zodiac — because the planets involved are poised in the first degrees of the cardinal signs (Aries, Cancer, Libra or Capricorn). That puts them right near the Sun (i.e., conjunct, square or opposite) any time there is a change of seasons; for quite a while, these seasonal turning points will seem bigger than usual, and as they are today, come with concentrations of wide-reaching news that actually matters to us as individuals or feels like it should. For a while, every season will feel like another year; and with each passing season the news becomes more personal.

Even as President Obama was addressing the United Nations climate change summit, the cover of CNN included news of a drowning mother caught in a Georgia flood; wildfires that raged in California and a state of emergency was declared; Sydney, Australia, was swarmed with a dust storm that made it look like a Martian landscape; and Sanjay Gupta, CNN’s medical correspondent, caught H1N1.

At the UN, Obama also raised an issue we haven’t heard about in a decade: nuclear nonproliferation. He warned that, having evaded disaster in the Cold War, we now face the threat of regional nuclear arms races (India versus Pakistan; Israel versus Iran) and “loose nukes,” of which there are many as a result of the decomposition of the USSR. [Text, video of Obama’s presentation at this link]

“No longer do we have the luxury of indulging our differences to the exclusion of the work that we must do together,” he said, which gave me an instant aha as I saw him say the words: exploiting differences and conflicts is a way to avoid the important work that we as humanity have to do. This is the game of stopping the conversation about health care reform by accusing someone of being a socialist; on one level, all of our red herring arguments amount to the admission of being too lazy to do anything, or too invested in another values system but not willing to admit it outwardly.

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Unsuspecting New Yorker reads the cover of the fake New York Post outside Grand Central Station, which announces: We’re screwed. Photo by Eric Francis / Planet Waves.

When I got back from the city Monday night, I stopped in at a local bar to deliver some copies of the fake New York Post that went out that day, created by the Yes Men. This is the edition designed to focus the conversation of climate change on real issues. The bartender said she wished she could do something about climate change, but she had to work three jobs. I asked her why she had to do that, and she said, to pay her mortgage and also that she liked to go shopping and take expensive vacations. Let’s see: carbon footprint 101.

Often, getting involved is not a luxury. It just kinda happens to a person. As David Byrne said, the world crashes into your living room. Or you feel a calling; an assignment or calling chooses you and all the excuses (lack of time, lack of motivation, etc.) vanish.

As powerful planets gather around the Aries Point, we’ll experience things that cramp our particular let’s call it “middle class” style, disrupt the usual patterns of our lives or call us into action: maybe all three at once. There are also social movements coming, more sophisticated cooperatives (fuel, food, medical), new kinds of housing arrangements that will consist of small, focused communities more efficient than the current choices, and if we can say nothing else, options will be opening up. In work, technology, rrelationships, child rearing and family structure. Dust off your old copies of the Whole Earth Review — we will need them.

Said astrologically, we will be and in fact currently are witnessing and experiencing many consequences of powerful planets coming into focus with the Aries Point. The star of the show will be the revolutionary planet Uranus entering Aries next spring, making a T-square with Saturn and Pluto. By early next summer, the aspects involve a conjunction of Jupiter and Uranus in the first degree of Aries, which always — always — brings an exciting year of progress. Let’s tag this the cardinal sign T-square, so that it has a name. A T-square involves planets at three points of a cross; the sign supposedly missing is Cancer, but there is in fact something there, an odd point called Kronos (another conversation, truly, but it involves authority and taking authority). Uranus and Pluto will remain in a square through around 2016, making seven exact contacts and representing a sequence of events that, simply put, rock the world.

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Yes Men Mike Bonanno and Andy Bichlbaum pose in their “Yes Men faces” for a photo-op outside the UN. They orchestrated the creation and distribution of 100,000 copies of a counterfeit “New York Post” warning about the effects of climate change, as scores of heads of state and environmental ministers arrived in town. Photo by Eric Francis / Planet Waves.

And we are getting a taste of those vibes right now. (Of potential interest, I’ve so far neglected to mention that Uranus in Pisces and Saturn in Virgo are both square the Galactic Center in Sagittarius. I did a lot with Pluto conjunct the GC in ’05 thru ’07 but noticed the current aspects to the Galactic Core about a thousand times after I saw them with my eyes.)

Add it all up and you’ve got a before-and-after scenario where it’s one kind of world now and it will be another kind of world when these aspects start to pass us by. I’ve said before that this is astrology that makes the Sixties look like a walk in the park. Why, exactly? When the same three planets lined up around 1966-67, causing all kinds of uproars, they were in the mellow, slow-acting mutable signs Virgo and Pisces. When they align continuously along the run-up to 2012 and beyond, they will be in fast-acting, high-impact cardinal signs, closely aligned with the Aries Point.

This setup seems to be located a few seasons into the future, but in truth we are experiencing the dynamic now and have been for well over a year. Human consciousness takes a while to figure out what’s already been going on for a while.

The effect of anything aspecting the first degree of the zodiac is to turn big things personal; world events are arriving with the reality of having direct impact on our lives.

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Most New Yoprkers just seemed puzzled when they read the cover of a New York Post which mysteriously had a conversion experience and was taking up environmental issues rather than celebrity gossip. Photo by Eric Francis.

To wit, a major climate change summit at the United Nations, in preparation for the main event in Denmark that will occur around the time of the first Saturn-Pluto square. Anyone who thinks this is just another meeting of world leaders has not read enough science fiction. This is occurring concurrently with a meeting of the G20 in Pittsburgh, where the leaders of the world’s major economic powers will be grappling with many of the same issues. The G20 protests exploded into protests the like of which we have not seen since Seattle in 1999, including some very dark conduct by law enforcement.

Human consciousness has another problem: we tend to separate cause and effect. We believe in effects without a cause and we think that all this stuff we’re doing is never going to have a result or consequence of any kind; and most of us are pretty certain we’re ineffective.

Yet in our moment, we have the ability to influence the future in a way that has never happened in recorded history; or as the case may be, to abdicate our potential to make the future better for our children and for many generations to come. That is, as long as we’re not too busy paying for vacations.

My pre-equinox day spent on the move with the Yes Men (Monday from 4 am, starting at the Empire State Building, well into the afternoon) was incredible fun, good for journalism and introduced me to the climate change issue in a new way. The question some people may be asking is, is this kind of thing useful? Or is it just fun and games? Well, estimating that two or three people read each of those precious copies of the fake Post, I would say that now an extra quarter million people — some of them in actual positions of power — now have new information. Many, many people on the ground have new information. Lots of folks got involved and spent the day making a difference, and having fun (the two work well together).

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Outside Grand Central Station, Ana White, a former fashion model, declares herself an oil painter in a one woman-protest. This is not indicated in her sandwich sign; she would explain the “I’m an artist” part if you talked to her. Photo by Eric Francis / Planet Waves.

When we think that something is ineffective, or if we don’t want to get involved (or are scared to get involved), it’s likely that the issues are internal; that is to say, personal emotional or psychological hooks. The growth piece is, for example, learning how not to tell yourself that you’re ineffective, but rather, committing to learning how to be effective (and cheerleading your own accomplishments). It’s about creating relationships that support your values, rather than undermine them. If you find yourself telling yourself “you can’t fight City Hall” there is something here about your worldview and your relationship to your parents; and exploring that is the growth piece — the personal empowerment piece — of participating in your community.

Of course, once you do get involved, you’ll get a tour of the human personality and its tendency to make its own affairs as political as possible. It’s wise to avoid organizations and causes that politicize themselves, internally, but then we always have the challenge of learning how to work with one another in a productive way. There is the challenge of learning how to be an individual in any kind of collective environment.

One thing I love about the Yes Men is that they come from a tradition of theater and art. They’re the jesters, telling the truth. Their leadership and the respect they receive are based on their talent, commitment and the strength of their human bond. Their whole scene was groovy in the way that they focus on having fun and never missing a good laugh; and they’re spontaneous in addition to being extremely organized. People they invited to distribute the fake New York Post had no idea what they were getting involved with until turning out to the Empire State Building at 4 am Monday — that is trust. They drew the sweetest, most easygoing bunch of New Yorkers you can imagine.

Their classy approach included black, screen-printed New York Post satchels for utility and the perfect prop. The Yes Men were able to do what few other protesters are able to accomplish: get a coherent message into the hands of the people in power (at least some of them) and also out to the public, then have the whole thing picked up by the media in a way that repeated the correct message: we have to pay attention to climate change, and do what we can about it.

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Mom-daughter team at the Empire State Building, 4:30 am Monday, ready to give out copies of the climate-change edition of “the New York Post.” Photo by Eric Francis / Planet Waves.

Activism (I prefer to think of it more descriptively as participation) involves social networks and also self-directed individuals who collaborate. Here, we’re into Aquarius territory. There has been plenty of planetary activity in this sign peaking this year (and continuing into next year), concentrated on Chiron’s and Neptune’s long journeys through it. Chiron’s presence, in particular, is challenging us to wake up and function as an individual with and within a collective.

While there are conflicting viewpoints on whether we’re in the Age of Aquarius yet, there’s one property of the times we’re experiencing that distinctly has that quality: we get into patterns that it’s very difficult to get out of. As the Aquarian Age persists, this will become more palpable; and the sooner we get out of our negative patterns, the better.

They seem to be about routine, obligation and responsibility, but in truth they are mental patterns: ideas, concepts and habits of thought that can leave us with the feeling that we can never change — until something comes along and forces us to adapt. I really and truly wonder: how many people who got laid off recently wanted to get a new job and kept telling themselves that?

The change we are going through, and about to go through, may not be convenient, but regardless, it’s upon us, calling on us to get involved rather than to get a job.

Yours & truly,
Eric Francis


The Best Medicine -- Lighten Up!
By Judith Gayle | Political Waves

We live in funny times. No, I’m being serious (wocka wocka!) If we weren’t so absorbed with the need to make sense out of all the garble and nonsense, draw some conclusion about this surrealistic void-space in our transition from one era to another, we might be able to relax and find a few laughs. Lord knows we need some; the shifts and stressors of this period have the ability to create us as brittle, vulnerable and humorless. That is, of course, a choice and we’re seeing a number of citizens make it. Bummer, as we used to say; and not part of any productive solution to our challenges.

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Laughter Tablet. Photo: My Pinoy Humor Blog.

I’m not so sure we are capable of making sense out of everything in this moment, anyhow; some of it is absurd to the point of brain-freeze, and not nearly as tasty. It takes an increasingly light touch to get through the day and a suspension of the myriad judgments we used to make when we thought we knew what we were about. I’m not suggesting that we let go of that thread of rationality that binds us all in common purpose; I’m proposing that those of us who have already taken the lay-line of this new landscape stop agonizing over the map and have a bit of confidence that we’re on the right track. Shift is sweeping us all along, the astrology is opening doors to vaster consciousness and the collective spiritual intention has put all of humankind on a remarkable journey; those of us who will come out on the other side of the tunnel with a smile on our face are those who cultivate one now. Indeed, our choice of optimism, hope and humor is our protection and safety net.

Do you need something to tickle your funny bone? I’ve heard it said, and rightly, that laughter is an orgasm triggered by the intercourse of sense and nonsense. As the world is lush with nonsense at the moment — what can be said of a political climate that has prompted many news articles to come with this disclaimer: this is NOT an Onion article — it shouldn’t be difficult to spot an opportunity to lighten up. For whimsy, how about Pee-Wee Herman (Paul Reubens) showing up on Jay Leno’s new nightly spot to show off his Abstinence Ring? For cutesy, take a peek at this collection of Green commercials. For farce, consider the oh-so-serious lecture given by an aide to Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn at the recent Values Voter Summit, that proclaimed Playboy magazine a recruitment aid for homosexuality. For satire, the faux-ad done by Will Ferrell and others — Hollywood speaks out to help insurance companies — has been picked up by MoveOn and spread around the nation. This last proves the wisdom of Francoise Sagan’s notion that, “One can never speak enough of the virtues, the dangers, the power of shared laughter.”


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It's A Small World After All

There was a time when an event like the G20 economic summit would stir the interest of a comparatively small group of die-hards: Policy wonks, finance majors, journalists working the international relations beat, and maybe a handful of protestors from fringe groups leery of a single world government.

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Students marched past a coffee shop in Pittsburgh on Wednesday ahead of the G20 economic summit meeting. Photo by Gerald Herbert / AP.

Well, the G20 summit is being held in Pittsburgh right now, and things are a little more … lively. With protestors of all stripes converging on this Pennsylvania steel town, the city and federal government expected to spend $19 million on security during the conference, which started Thursday and ends today.

Expect similar scenes at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, Denmark, from Dec. 7-18 of this year. Many groups are expected to arrive and protest the deliberations there — even some that support reduction in carbon emissions but think government and energy companies are hindering progress.

What’s changed, that these once-esoteric events have become hotspots for mass protests? Our awareness, that’s what. With information becoming more and more easily available all over the world, thanks especially to the Internet and the 24-hour news cycle, more people are aware of what is being dealt with at these conferences. And that means more minds are pondering the significance of every detail of those negotiations, and their consequences.

Some might decry this trend of protest-ization of virtually every international issue or conference. Do the images we see on television and in newspapers — often depicting opposing groups of protestors struggling over barriers, waving signs and screaming insults at each other — cloud the bigger message of these meetings: That these governments, however imperfect, are at least coming to the table to discuss the pressing issues of the day?

Truly, it’s hard to say. But one thing can certainly be taken away from this trend: More people, in more places, are aware of how even the most technical elements of international relations can impact the lives of individuals. And that awareness has also resulted in movements like microfinance, increased education of women, protecting rain forests and overstressed fish populations, and many more. People around the world have grasped the big picture, in other words, and in the long run that’s most likely going to wind up good for the planet and its inhabitants.


The Original Lord of the Rings

That would be Saturn, the majestic sixth planet of our Solar System, whose rings have fascinated stargazers for centuries. Thanks to NASA’s Cassini-Huygens spacecraft, in orbit around the gas giant for five years now, it is possible to appreciate those colossal rings in a whole new light.

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Of the countless equinoxes Saturn has seen since the birth of the solar system, this one, captured here in a mosaic of light and dark, is the first witnessed up close by an emissary from Earth … none other than our faithful robotic explorer, Cassini. Image credit: NASA.

The magnificent photos that NASA recently released provide the best view yet of Saturn’s rings, which is perhaps best viewed in this slideshow. But it wasn’t just spectacular photography that was reaped from this mission — scientists also picked up new information about the rings, themselves.

That’s because in August, Saturn reached its equinox, which happens twice during its 29.7-year orbit, just as it does during an Earth year. With the rings lit directly edge-on, the images taken by Cassini revealed that they are not as uniformly flat as previously expected; instead, they appear corrugated, like a tin roof.

Furthermore, scientists noted that there are some “bumps” along certain rings that cast long shadows over their neighbors when illuminated by the equatorial sun. If “bumps” is the right word for something that would have to be as tall as the Rocky Mountains, by NASA’s estimates.

“The biggest surprise was to see so many places of vertical relief above and below the otherwise paper-thin rings,” Linda Spilker, deputy project scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said in a news release on the website. “To understand what we are seeing will take more time, but the images and data will help develop a more complete understanding of how old the rings might be and how they are evolving.”

Added Carolyn Porco, a Cassini imaging team leader at the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colorado: “We thought the plane of the rings was no taller than two stories of a modern-day building and instead we’ve come across walls more than 2 miles [3 kilometers] high. Isn’t that the most outrageous thing you could imagine? It truly is like something out of science fiction.”



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Weekly Horoscope for Friday, September 25, 2009, #785 – BY ERIC FRANCIS


Planet Waves

Aries (March 20-April 19)
You appear to be in some kind of struggle between work and relationships, manifesting any one of several ways; for example, as something within working relationships, or between your ‘work life’ and your ‘relationship life’. Actually, it looks like what you’re grappling with is insecurity. In other words, with doubt, with questioning yourself, and with the feeling that your apparent limitations will never allow you to accomplish anything truly significant. This is more likely to be an issue if you actually want to do something meaningful, so you can at least credit yourself with that. I suggest, in everything you do and feel, that you ask yourself: is this supporting my purpose, or fighting it? That will open two doors: contact with your sense of mission; and assessing everything on a simple metric — if you remember.

Planet Waves

Taurus (April 19- May 20)
If your mind releases a flood of ideas and passionate desires, notice whether you resist or go with the flow. There is a difference, and I suggest you get good at discerning it. What you normally offer yourself is a litany of excuses for not taking action, based on presumed consequences, ungrounded expectations and, in a word, fear. One of the things you fear is making a decision from which you cannot turn back. This is always true, in any event. Making any decision is a risk, and risk is the most important thing to become friendly with right now. Life goes like this: you take a chance and see how it works out. Then take another, and see how it works out. Then you do it again. Being mired in conflict is a temptation but not a viable option.

Planet Waves

Gemini (May 20- June 21)
You seem to be stuck on an emotional point. You may also not know that’s what’s going on; it’s difficult to identify the true nature of a hangup when you’re in the midst of it. If you’re obsessing over finding ‘the right strategy’, that is a sign that you’re snagged. But how do I know the issue is emotional? Well, that’s what your solar chart suggests. Here’s what else: you are secretly trying to negotiate with one or both of your parents; to do what you think would impress or please them. This has been going on for a while, but not so blatantly as at this particular moment. Issues lingering from childhood usually go away when we want them to, so here is a question: what purpose is it serving? Clue: it’s a huge distraction.

Planet Waves

Cancer (June 21- July 22)
You have a right to not express yourself. You don’t owe the world any explanations, and you don’t need to explain anything about yourself that you don’t fully understand. You might want to explore the position of giving no excuses, reasons or rationales to everyone. Let every statement be some form of, “This is what I am doing.” If someone asks you why, reply with some form of, “This is what I am doing,” or don’t reply at all. I also suggest you try doing a few things that you want to do, which specifically defy the will of others. Try pushing against the world in a way that lacks your usual diplomacy, but which specifically fulfills one of your goals.

Planet Waves

Leo (July 22- Aug. 23)
Several factors suggest strongly that you take a gander at discerning whether you are making certain choices based on what is important to you, or what is important to others. I say this because it’s a significant step in the kind of sorting out of priorities that you’re up to lately. It’s fine to work to impress others, as long as you know you’re doing it, as long as it supports the relationship, and as long as you’re conscious and willing. Problems arise when others run your life by what amount to unspoken expectations, which may have no validity at all. Pay particular attention to the issue of ‘how you are supposed to get things done’, meaning, pay careful attention to your methods. How you do things, literally the steps you take, represent an important value that is yours and yours alone. Collaborating is one thing; being ruled by a silent dictator is another.

Planet Waves

Virgo (Aug. 23- Sep. 22)
Why are you so obsessed with analyzing your motives? I suggest you make a short list of all your possible intentions and work from there. That is to say, resolve the issue in a tangible way, in logical, black-and-white terms. You are entirely too suspicious of yourself, which leads to internal misunderstandings. This in turn leads you to blame yourself and others for issues that don’t exist, while missing many opportunities to connect with people on clear, simple terms. For that to work, you need to simplify the terms of your relationship with yourself. If you are in conflict, there is likely to be something you are denying. It will come out in vivid colors when Mercury changes direction next week, but you don’t have to wait till then.

Planet Waves

Libra (Sep. 22 – Oct. 23)
The Sun is now in your birth sign, but this may not be granting the renewal, relief and sense of awakening that it usually does. It’s difficult to overlook the feeling that something huge is lurking behind the scenes of your existence, something over which you have no control. There’s a bit of an exaggeration going on for you; what you’re feeling is impending change. Remember though, this isn’t the kind of change you can plan. It’s the kind you must embrace when the time comes; and it won’t arrive all at once. The adjustments that will significantly improve your existence will arrive in a series of decisions. This information can relieve you of the need to plan, though I suggest you experiment with ideas for what you want.

Planet Waves

Scorpio (Oct. 23- Nov. 22)
Chiron pioneer Melanie Reinhart once described this era of history as being about “breaking the taboo on God.” I suggest you break the taboo by describing God in detail. Make a list of the attributes, powers, motives and agenda of God as you perceive or experience he/she/it. Second, look closely at what you were told about God, by parents, religious instructors, teachers, television and other external sources. Make an accounting of what they believed, and note how it’s influenced what you believe. This is all by way of making your many thoughts and ideas conscious rather than having them lurking in the background. If you were raised in a ‘non-religious’ or ‘atheist’ household, that merely means that the concepts are buried that much deeper. Get them out in the light, where you can see them.

Planet Waves

Sagittarius (Nov. 22 – Dec. 22)
Continue to exercise the utmost care and patience where your career goals or projects are concerned. At the moment, you may have a number of reasons to think that things are going badly or are delayed beyond any hope of a meaningful outcome within a timeframe where it matters. Proceed gently and focus your mind on solving old, seemingly small problems rather than blazing ahead. Issues that now seem intractable will unravel themselves over the next two weeks. A few significant obstacles that you perceived as impossible to surmount will reveal that they are smaller and less daunting than they seemed over the next two months. When they move, the main thing you will notice is how much you have accomplished over the past couple of years; those achievements are the foundation that you will build on.

Planet Waves

Capricorn (Dec. 22- Jan. 20)
You are, at the moment, getting a look at what will be possible in the future. What is possible in the future is usually possible now, but several things can intervene: one might be a sense of readiness. Another might be the availability of resources or other people. Yet these things are more often ideas than actual obstacles; you already have your strategy in place, and you would be wise to assign anything you’re considering in the distant future as something you can do more immediately. With the Sun now crossing the most public angle of your solar chart, you need to see yourself as a leader, as an innovator and as a person of action; simply put, that is what you are.

Planet Waves

Aquarius (Jan. 20- Feb. 19)
Your world is getting bigger. Finally and at long last, you have a sense of what is possible, as a feeling more than as a list. This feeling is crucial because it’s the experience of granting yourself permission to dance with your own potential. Aquarius is the sign of the zodiac that is about mental patterns. Many astrological factors have been conspiring to get you off the tracks and out of the mental maze that you’ve been calling a personality. In truth, your unconscious has sent you just about every kind of signal and given you the opportunity to experience just about every kind of test that’s available. Yet there are few experiences so powerful as stepping outside the door and recognizing that you can do anything you want.

Planet Waves

Pisces (Feb. 19- March 20)
You are the lucky sign that gets to have Libra as your 8th solar house. The 8th house is one of the most challenging; most people associate it with jealousy, power struggle and with crisis. But taken Libra style, the powerful relational attributes of the 8th house come out: for example, the desire and willingness to have authentic exchanges with people; to share, though in a beautiful and creative way; and the capacity to experience your changes in a way that is elegant and compassionate. The Sun’s course through this sign for the next month is a kind of live-action preview, which will offer you many rich possibilities. The gears fully engage when Saturn ingresses Libra in late October.

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