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Life of a Muse 19/12/2012

Posted by zoidion in Hellenistic.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Twin Cities weather report: It’s a little hard to believe: a bright golden disc appeared low in the southeastern sky this morning. I think it was that object known in other seasons as “the Sun.” I even saw it for a few minutes yesterday. Otherwise, the past five days have been gray, gray, gray. At least the clouds keep the temperature up.

After the big snowstorm on the 9th, the temperature dropped as low as 12 degrees on my backyard thermometer. Getting around was difficult for the first couple of days. The commercial snowplow guys were having a grand time, piling up lots of money—as they had no opportunity to do all of last winter. But they were dealing with parking lots, not sidewalks. The buses were jammed on the 10th, and that enabled me to meet a neighbor at the bus stop—he usually drives to work, and I wasn’t about to try riding my bike to my destination, as I usually would.

By the 12th, the Sun was out, and eaves were dripping. In the deceptive warmth of midday, I forgot to take my sweater as I gathered my things in preparation for a couple of days in Duluth.

What a town! More like a string of villages, especially when taking the low road along the St. Louis River, rather than the high Interstate from the Cities. I passed the roadblock for the way to Jay Cooke State Park—parts of the road were washed out back in June, at the same time that the suspension bridge for pedestrians was destroyed. The extreme west end of Duluth is poor, with little in the way of commercial enterprises beyond a gas station, gun shop, and laundromat. Highway 23 here is called Grand Avenue. Not really.

Further on and a bit more upscale, the turn for Morgan Park beckoned—it had been a long time since I’d had a look at the company town built by US Steel (the steel plant long gone), the original workers’ houses all built of concrete blocks, where I’d been part of a documentary photography project in the summer of 1990.

My first full day there this time, I was on a quest for a frame for a photo I’d brought with me, and I pounded the pavement quite a bit. I started out from point zero: the corner of Lake and Superior. As one who loves to explore places, even fairly familiar ones, on foot, the process was mostly a pleasure. But this quest took a while, and without that extra layer, I was chilly by the time I arrived at Chester Creek Books and Antiques, 1333 East Superior. As a book lover from way back, I was amazed I hadn’t found it before. But the sign was small and set just above the snow (less than in the Cities). And the building was a former church.

I told the proprietor what I was after, and he led me through the sanctuary—books and antiques—and down the stairs at the back, past room after room filled with books in cases, to the very end. Near the “employees only” barrier were a couple of cardboard boxes on the floor, filled with picture frames. Mostly quite ordinary, but that was okay: I wasn’t looking for anything artsy fartsy, not for this particular friend, a very down-home kinda guy. I found a perfectly fine one, simple but with a rustic design and finish. Three bucks—cool.

Time to look at the books, for gifts, for me. I had a sad moment when I came upon a couple of cases of books, marked “From the library of Robert Bly.” He’s still with us, but fading.

From another room I found several to take with me: for a high school teacher friend who unwinds by reading Louis L’Amour (don’t give it away!), not a shoot-em-up but The Walking Drum. It’s about a young man in the 12th century AD searching for his father from Brittany through Moorish Spain (referencing al-Biruni’s Chronology of Ancient Nations), along the merchant caravan trail to Kiev, then alone to Constantinople and the climax in the fortress of the Valley of the Assassins in Persia. For myself I bought the late Minnesota writer Frederick Manfred’s The Chokecherry Tree, about a young man in the 1930s returning to his drought-stricken home place in southwest Minnesota, and Francine Prose’s The Lives of the Muses.

It was a curious coincidence, coming upon a chart for Lee Miller, stuck inside the folder of charts I keep on my daughter, returning home today for the holidays. Just the one sheet on Ms. Miller, a noon-calculated natal chart with an approximate solar return for 1945. The comparison date was within a couple weeks of when she was photographed bathing in Hitler’s bathtub in Munich, days after the Fuhrer’s death in Berlin. And there were gloomy indications for that time: Mars on the degree of natal Saturn, and Saturn on the degree of natal Jupiter.

Elizabeth Miller was a beauty, a model for her amateur photographer father, her image at age nineteen splashed on the cover of Vogue during the heyday of the Roaring Twenties. She had already been to Paris, shaken off her chaperones, and immersed herself in the art scenes there: “Lee’s beauty admitted her to circles that would likely have remained closed to the average eighteen-year-old from Poughkeepsie.” (Prose)

Her father had “saved” her from Paris, and soon after, on Fifth Avenue in New York, she was saved while crossing the street by none other than Conde Nast, publisher of Vogue. She couldn’t die so young: she was the New Woman of the time.

Two years later, Miller was back in Paris, boldly announcing to surrealist painter/photographer Man Ray that she was his new student and assistant. She soon was also his lover and muse. Her rise as a photographic subject was meteoric: Time magazine declared that she was “widely celebrated for having the most beautiful navel in Paris,” and a champagne glass maker issued a line based on the shape of her breast.

But she also had talent and ambition as an artistic photographer: fashion was her day job. And muses are averse to jealous lovers. “During those years [with Man Ray], Lee Miller took some first-rate photos that were nothing at all like Man Ray’s or anyone else’s, images that often involve visual surprises brightened by the spark of a highly individual sense of humor.” (Prose)

The weather became tempestuous in 1931, when she fell in love with an older, richer Egyptian, Aziz Eloui Bey, whose wife Nimet was also a prominent beauty and model in the Paris scene—until an affair between the older man and Miller ensued, and Nimet killed herself.

In 1932 she fled back to New York, where, in the midst of the great economic slide, she opened her own studio. Before long, one of her clients was Aziz Eloui Bey, in America on business to purchase railroad equipment. The affair was on again, and Miller surprised nearly everyone by marrying him, ditching her demanding career, leaving the country, and embarking on a leisurely existence in a mansion on the Island of Giza. It took a while, but the tedium took its toll on the restless Miller. By 1937, with war clouds gathering over Europe, she returned to Paris and took up with the painter Roland Penrose, her ticket—as things worked out—to England and relative safety as war broke out.

Miller began taking photos of scenes of resistance and destruction—photos that were later collected in Grim Glory: Pictures of Britain Under Fire. Her artistic style was fully on display in a different context: “These shots of bombed-out London made the war seem to have been orchestrated by a demonic intelligence with an ironic Surrealist humor and a taste for macabre, ghastly tableaux.” (Prose)

She was preparing for entry into the belly of the beast. In December 1942, she was accredited by the US Army as a war photographer, and in July 1944 (age 37), a month after the Allied invasion of Normandy, she teamed with a twenty-five-year-old American photojournalist, documenting the aftermath of the first combat use of napalm, the horrors of Buchenwald, the incongruous bucolic countryside, the plight of refugees, the execution of Hungarian fascist ex-Prime Minister Laszlo Bardossy.

She was drinking a lot, and no wonder. By the time she returned to England, she was a wreck. By May 1947 she had stabilized enough to marry Penrose before, in September, giving birth, at age forty, to her only child.

Lee Miller’s artistry did not die with motherhood in middle age. Based at the family farmhouse in Sussex, England, she occasionally undertook photography assignments, but that was the scene of her social life with visiting artists, embracing gourmet cooking. But for the rest of her life she exhibited signs of being haunted by her wartime experiences. She died 21 July 1977, age seventy years three months, from cancer at home in Sussex.


When the natal chart for Lee Miller is considered in light of the character of her life, the data, posted at Astrodatabank, looks valid. The complications of precocious beauty and artistic talent are poignantly represented in the Libran Ascendant, whose lord, Venus, appears exalted in Pisces but conjunct Saturn, and in the problematic sixth place. Venus is also lord of her Sun sign, Taurus, in the eighth place (fear, torment, death).

What complications, you say? For one thing—one major thing—her attractiveness brought devastating attention: at age eight, she was raped by a family friend. In all likelihood, the experience contributed to her propensity to dissociate mind and body in modeling sessions. And she had had plenty of modeling experience before she was “discovered” by Nast: in addition to receiving technical photographic instruction from her father, she also posed for him, often nude. Not exactly an ordinary, innocent childhood.

This extra-potent father is symbolized by Mars exalted in Capricorn in the fourth place. Professionally, he was an industry executive and engineer—an apt combination of Mars and Capricorn.

Let’s back up a little. The natal chart is for a late-afternoon birth: daytime. It is a diurnal chart. Both Venus and Mars are stronger when placed in the nocturnal half of the sky: below the horizon during the daytime, as they are here.  Nocturnal planets, nocturnally placed, in their signs of exaltation: Venus and Mars are powerful. But that doesn’t mean their significance is of situations necessarily pleasant or easily managed.

Jupiter is also very strong and prominent: a diurnal planet, exalted in Cancer and at the upper meridian, it shows one who would rise to considerable fame in her own right. Jupiter, along with Saturn, is of the diurnal sect, and so is further dignified. (Saturn, however, is below the horizon and thus out of sect.) These are indications of a form of royalty, one who carried a kind of favor and protection—as in the rescue by the publisher on Fifth Avenue.

Closely connected by degree to both Mars and Jupiter, and likewise on one of the two axes of the chart, is Mercury, representing her original and curious mind. Even though it was about to set in the west at the time of birth, it was in diurnal placement in relation to the Sun—that is, Mercury rose before the Sun. Well before the Sun: Mercury appears well out of the Sun’s “beams,” nearly as far from the Sun by angle as Mercury ever gets. All these factors of Mercury’s placement would contribute to her well-documented restlessness, spontaneity and quest for original expression.

There are further corroborating details within other levels of dignities: the triplicity rulers and terms. (Triplicities are the three signs of the same element, and terms are varying sections, five in all, within each sign.) The five-degree Libra Ascendant is within the term of Saturn as well as having Saturn as the daytime triplicity ruler, thus emphasizing the troubles and sorrows that came from having Saturn with Venus.

Similarly, Venus is the daytime triplicity ruler of Pisces, where Venus is placed. But Venus is within the term of Mars, thus linking her erotic life and artistry with drive and force.

More nuances can be gleaned from looking at the other planetary placements in this way.

But what of the Moon, symbol of the emotional body? As domicile lord of Cancer, wherein lies a very potent Jupiter, the Moon is a crucial indicator. Moon is related to Venus by being located in Virgo, where Venus is daytime triplicity ruler, and in the term of Mercury. But Luna is above the horizon, out of sect, and in the twelfth place from the Ascendant: the place of isolation and chronic/long-term health problems. In the natal chart, Luna is about one degree past a sextile with Jupiter: she is moving away, losing the capacity to benefit from whatever Jupiter brings. So it was when Lee Miller returned from the horrors of war, which period followed the playful experimentations of her youth. She sacrificed her safety and sanity in order to experience, document and report on the hell of war. In consequence her emotional body was shattered, and her success could offer no help.

We are left with the image of the beauty of her form and the surreal juxtapositions of her mind on film.



1. Dave of Maryland - 20/12/2012

Hello Pete,

A couple of notes. One, when you see poor, depopulated areas of a town, the reason is sometimes an unresolved psychic mess. There is sometimes one lonely motel, where the management itself does not live, and where no one stays more than one night. Compare this to the neighborhoods around cemeteries, which are similar.

I’ve been meaning to ask someone from the Cities what they thought of the spectacular bridge collapse of a few years ago. I saw surveillance camera video of all four piers giving way simultaneously, which under normal circumstances is impossible. Was there ever talk the structure had been sabotaged?

I’ve been busy shipping Maynard calendars. More than 700 since December 8, with no letup in sight.


zoidion - 21/12/2012

First, happy solstice! About that desolate westernmost stretch of Duluth: I’ve never had any urge to get out of the car. And though I love the city, and it’s always treated me well, I have little intimate knowledge of its history. (I do have one of those “Images of America” books on it, though. The blurb says, “During the 1880s, the New York newspapers believed that within 20 years it would be larger than Chicago.” Guess those New Yawkas had a faulty sense of geography.)

Other parts still look like they haven’t ever recovered from the closing of industry. There’s quite a distinct difference between the western half of Duluth, along the St. Louis River and the heavily industrialized harbor, and the eastern half, on a steep slope overlooking the Lake. (The North Shore–MN side–of Superior is ranked with Big Sur as a scenic coastline.)

As for the I-35W bridge collapse (a few miles from my place), I never heard of any talk of sabotage—-more of a combination of faulty design, inadequate maintenance and inspection, corrosion from heavy use of salt, and overloading in the process of cosmetic improvements at the time of collapse.

Yowee—that’s a whole lotta shippin’. Thanks for sending my copy. At first I wasn’t keen on the spiral binding this time, but then I realized—-hey, it lies flat!


Dave of Maryland - 22/12/2012

I am looking at the Wiki page on the bridge, where the problem was traced to a failure of a specific part at one end. But this does not describe how the bridge actually came down, which was both ends at once, a failure of all four piers. Try it for yourself. Prop up a yardstick and pull the support out of one end. The bridge pivots on the fulcrum of the far end, like a lever. Or it gives way from some central location and what’s left turns into an upside down drawbridge. A wounded bridge will go down in stages. Never, ever, all at once, evenly, from one end to the other, side to side. It was 1900 feet long! The surveillance video made it look only 100 yards long. That vantage point will magnify the difference in the times the two ends gave way. Both ends, 1900 feet apart, failed within one or two seconds of each other. That’s not physically possible. The bridge failed from both ends at the same moment.

The data: August 1, 2007, 6:01:40 pm CDT, Minneapolis. Note the 8th house cusp. The collapse is here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C31IlOHNzbM

Then note:

George W. Bush, July 6, 1946, 7:26 am EDT, New Haven, CT. 8th house of the bridge is exactly George’s ascendant. No wild conspiracy theorist can point fingers based on a casual linkage, but if there was no solid investigation, and with the Republicans coming to town a year later, one has to wonder.

zoidion - 22/12/2012

I’m sure I saw that video soon after the event, and thought it very odd. But also don’t recall much public discussion about it–also odd.
Where did you get that time? I’ve had 6:05 pm, and that’s what Wiki has.

Dave of Maryland - 22/12/2012

I believe it was the original time stamp on the surveillance video. Three minutes later will make no serious difference.

Towards the end of the video two of the four original pilings could be seen. The supports that were on the pilings had been cleanly moved off of them, which would imply the bridge was never actually attached to the concrete pilings to start with (!!?!!) or that the bridge as a whole was pushed sideways five or six feet as the means by which it collapsed. At 1900 feet and looking head-on, the surveillance video will not show such a comparatively slight shift. Go to 1:45 in the video.

2. Dave of Maryland - 22/12/2012

If, as claimed, a plate had given way, then that section of the bridge would have buckled at that precise point, thereby stressing the opposite side of the bridge. It would have gone down at an angle, as viewed looking from one side to the other (not end to end). But instead it came down cleanly, both ends at once, and completely horizontal. You couldn’t drop a sheet of plywood and make it do that.

3. Dave of Maryland - 22/12/2012

If you go the gonzo conspiracy theory, that the bridge was deliberately destroyed by persons who could not be held to account, you are stuck looking for motive. Suppose the military had some nice new weapon that would sever the pylons supporting a bridge, all of them at once, and bring it straight down into the river below, and suppose they needed a really big bridge to test it out on? The question becomes, what bridge would you choose, and why?

You would choose an American bridge (presuming this scenario is not completely absurd) because you could subsequently control the story, control the investigation. You could also have as many of your own people on the scene, before during and after, to prepare, document, and study the result, with no one knowing any better.

This is stupid and worthless and fear-mongering, except for this: When the 110 story World Trade Center towers collapsed, they should have left behind at least two 200 foot high piles of rubble, because that’s how much solid mass there is in buildings of that size. There were 110 floors, each of which was a concrete slab one foot thick. Which is 110 feet of debris all by itself. And no, reinforced concrete will not pulverize, the rebar inside will not let it.

Instead, so little of the WTC towers were left that the tridents, which comprised the first 30 feet of the lobby at the very bottom of the towers, were clearly visible sticking up above the remains. They should have been buried under more than 100 feet of rubble. Given the huge amounts of dust that were generated in the disappearance of these buildings, it would appear that we witnessed a Star Wars disintegration ray, presumably made of very intense microwaves. I am indebted to the Winter Patriot blog for this very creepy observation.

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