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Kingston, NY, Friday, Sept. 24, 2010

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Something in the Night
Dear Reader:

Venus and Mars are dancing around in a conjunction in Scorpio. Mars was retrograde in Leo earlier in the year, and now it's moving ahead at full speed. Venus is about to be retrograde, and is moving slowly. So we have a fairly rare condition with Mars, which is further from the Sun, moving faster than Venus, which is closer to the Sun, while the two are neck and neck in a near-conjunction. That will happen when Mars overtakes Venus on Oct. 3. Venus goes retrograde five days later.

This setup puts emphasis on both Venus and Mars. These are planets we feel, and energies we live with consciously from hour to hour. Most of us are aware of the interplay between and among men and women in various configurations, particularly as we respond to our various attributes of gender and sex. Some turn us on. Some piss us off. Some are just there. But there it all is.

Scorpio tends to be competitive and it's a sign associated with power. Putting Venus and Mars in close proximity there may have a feeling of power imbalance, or some struggle to get on top. Of course it could also be a picture of hot and intriguing contact, but that often happens in an environment of competition. We don't have many other psychological or emotional paradigms within which to consider sex, or for that matter, sexual relationships. If you so much as mention the idea that jealousy does not need to rule over our erotic or emotional experiences, most people will look at you like bees are flying out of your mouth.

There are some interesting features to this setup. Mars is in its sign of traditional rulership; Venus is in its sign of detriment (opposite Taurus, one of the signs Venus rules). Mars is direct, and Venus is about to be retrograde. In theory, anyway, these factors all favor Mars energy. Yet Scorpio is really a feminine sign, despite being ruled by Mars, the planet of masculinity. Venus retrograde in a feminine sign represents a kind of extreme yin condition, what you might describe as the paradox of self-penetration. So looked at one way, this is a study in bringing out the yin sides of both Mars and Venus.

All in all, this sounds like an astrological experiment in gender, sex roles and sexual orientation. I would imagine that this ongoing conjunction is having its influence on many or most relationships. Scorpio is sexual, and it's also hormonal, and emotional, and ties into reproduction and DNA. Scorpio is an energy field where power in nearly any form (biological, economic, emotional, erotic, relational) is transacted, exchanged and where it mutates into new forms. This astrology suggests strongly that relationships and the people in them are poised on the edge of some transformation that will occur as part of the conjunction, and as part of the Venus retrograde process. One question is whether we're willing to go along with the process, take it up consciously, or whether we are more prone to resist it.

We're also seeing the latest wave of gender drama unfold in the world. On Tuesday, the Senate, our most enlightened group of leaders here in the United States, voted 56 to 43 to keep in place the "don't ask, don't tell" policy in the military. Originally designed to protect the privacy of those in service, the rule actually facilitates investigations that are used to kick gay people out of the armed forces. A majority of senators wanted to repeal the measure, but they didn't get the 60 that were necessary. So in essence the Senate voted to keep playing charades, and to allow the military to keep playing its mean game of hide and seek.

Planet Waves
Katherine Miller resigned from West Point earlier this year in protest of the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy. She began attending Yale this fall.
We could partly account this to election year politics. Conservatives never want to seem friendly to gay people or their needs, and the conservative movement is fixated on sex (abstinence education, banning abortion, etc.). But it seems like the gay thing has dominated the news for years and years, and it's at a new frenzy now. Isn't it weird that every night there are two or three more gay or lesbian news stories about some story or another? Such as: gay marriage, gay adoption, gays in the military, gays who were recently the boss of the Republican party while it put all those anti-gay constitutional amendments onto the ballot, this Republican senator allegedly not being gay while he taps his foot in a public men's room, what the Bible says about being gay, the gay parade or any other new permutation you can or cannot think of?

You would think there was a gay bar and gay legislative action center on every block, and gay publicists working tirelessly around the clock to bring the latest in gay news to the gay networks and cable news programs. Let's face it. We're obsessed. With our friend, who is gay.

In the past 40 or so years since Stonewall, the event in Greenwich Village that started the modern gay movement, it's true that the definition of gay has expanded from gay to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ). That's an inclusive definition. It may finally include everyone. Who isn't questioning?

My impression, though, is that this fuss we're experiencing/witnessing really isn't about sexual orientation; it's about gender, on a deeply personal level. Venus and Mars in Scorpio are making the issues that much more introspective.

Gender is something we all experience and live with. It's partly biological, partly culturally prescribed and -- as we are seeing -- partly optional. People have experimented with gender for a long time, but usually it was a kind of secret, or private obsession. Men have dressed like women and women have dressed like men, probably for as long as there were differences in clothing.

Planet Waves
Gender bending has been popular for a while -- and not just for Boy George. In 'Tootsie,' Dustin Hoffman played Michael Dorsey, an unemployed actor, who takes on the role of "Dorothy Michaels," a female soap opera actress and later falls in love with the show's leading actress.
We are as a culture going through an ongoing evolution in gender roles; that's one of the identifying factors of our time in history. This has many sources, including the many women's rights movements of the 20th century. (Quiz question -- what year did women first get to vote?) I am sure that one of them is our postmodern phase of history, where the constructions of the prior eras are basically falling apart, losing their definitions and leaving us to figure out what to do. Many men are wanting to be more emotionally present and many women are expecting them to be that way; that's a long stretch from the mandatory silent, stoic image of a man that so many of us were told we had to live up to. Many women are moving into intellectual and leadership roles that were unthinkable even when I was a kid. It is no longer a 'fact' that a woman cannot design a bridge. Not that long ago, many people would have agreed. And yes that is incredible.

When it first came out in the late '70s, The Rocky Horror Picture Show was borderline scandalous. Now it is normal fare, and I think that indicates a process of cultural change on a pretty deep level. Of note, on dollars returned for investment, it was one of the most successful films in motion picture history.

For some this is no big deal. We just go along, watching the show, and perhaps exploring our feelings. But for others who have been forced by their cultures into sex roles and beliefs about what constitutes the one-and-only form of proper sex, it can be terrifying to feel the ground shift, within them and around them. For many people their identity as a man or a woman, and as a partner in a heterosexual relationship, is a key component of their identity. If that changes, there are many people who feel they have nothing. When someone feels that male-female marriage really is the building block of society (and in a sense, they are right), they can get defensive when they read about a gay couple who wants to adopt a kid. And that defensive can go pretty far; it's also subject to being abused by people who themselves don't care, but who see it as an opportunity to harvest it as political power.

Then there is the chemical hormone issue. For many years, scientists have been warning us that the many chemicals that we encounter both in products and as waste disrupt our hormones. These range from actual hormones injected into meat and sprayed on plants, to products to chemicals that act like hormones (such as in plastic) to flame retardants collecting in the fish we eat.

In 1991, a group of scientists met at the Wingspread Conference Center in Racine, WI. They reached a consensus which included the following language: "A large number of man-made chemicals that have been released into the environment, as well as a few natural ones, have the potential to disrupt the endocrine system of animals, including humans." They then listed several characteristics of persistent compounds that accumulate and magnify in the food chain, including pesticides, dioxins and PCBs.

Planet Waves
Plastics which find their way into the environment through dumping and burning are likely candidates to turn up as endocrine disruptors in fish. They also leach directly into food. This scene looks like somewhere in the North Pacific Gyre, probably Hawaii. Photographer unknown.
Nearly twenty years ago, they noted, "Many wildlife populations are already affected by these compounds. The impacts include thyroid dysfunction in birds and fish; decreased fertility in birds, fish, shellfish, and mammals; decreased hatching success in birds, fish, and turtles; gross birth deformities in birds, fish, and turtles; metabolic abnormalities in birds, fish, and mammals; behavioral abnormalities in birds; demasculinization and feminization of male fish, birds, and mammals; defeminization and masculinization of female fish and birds; and compromised immune systems in birds and mammals."

Since that time, the science has become clearer what is going on, and the stories coming in from nature have been increasingly weirder. So, we are swimming in chemicals that alter our internal gender characteristics, by messing with our hormones and our DNA. And this, I think, is influencing our perception of both gender and sex, as well as our emotional experiences of both.

So in our chemical environments we live in hormone chaos. Personally I think everyone is actually experiencing this as some degree of gender anarchy. We can feel the effects, however subtly, and when you combine them with other movements in society, the sensation can be extremely unsettling to those who are camped out in traditional gender roles and don't want to budge.

We can also factor in one last thing -- our imaginations. The Internet has created a giant field of gender variability. One website specializing in role-play games (RPGs) reports that, "Men are 3-5 times more likely than women to gender-bend" in such games. "The demographic that is most likely to gender-bend are men over the age of 25. We know that 85% of [RPG] players are male, so if you do the math, at any given moment, half of all female avatars are actually being played by men."

Planet Waves
How we see ourselves in our fantasies is anyone’s guess, and will often surprise us. Often it does not fit the prescribed model of what our gender is supposed to be. Photo by Eric Francis / Book of Blue.
Then there is cosplay, which is playing roles of comic book and graphic novel characters in full costume. This is apparently a wide-open space for gender exchange, called crossplay. The UK Guardian reported on this recently:

"Allison, an American cosplayer from Georgia, enjoys crossplaying (dressing as a character of the opposite gender), in part because 'it's really satisfying when you play your part so well that an observer doesn't realise you're a crossplayer until you speak'. Fans such as Allison challenge gender presentation in their fan communities, illustrating the fluidity of gender in the context of their subcultures."

And finally there is what happens in our actual erotic imaginations. Most people are curious about sex and that curiosity can lead to various thoughts that we could file under the general heading 'bisexual'. Those thoughts can be pretty hot, they can slip into the oddest moments, and at the same time they can threaten our ideas of what our relationships are supposed to be.

We don't really account for the extent to which this thing known as heteronormative is like a house of cards within which our identities live. Even those of us who are a little more flexible, and a little more experimental, can basically be deeply identified with heteronormative ideas, and when these start to shake or quake or vibrate, even a little, the feeling can be unsettling. But magnify that into outright terrifying if you believe, or if the people around you believe, that you're going straight to hell.

And this is one reason why, in our current moment of history, it's so easy to make political hay out of the gay thing, and why the reactions are so strong. Everybody's feeling, experiencing or at the very least noticing what you might call the global gender shift. At the same time, there is a sense of inevitability that we will have to accept the gay thing as normal even if we don't like it. To some, even a mild experience of gender dysphoria will feel like their heterosexuality is melting like salt. That's not what's really happening. Something else is, but the fear doesn't quite speak that language.

So now we have Venus and Mars about to do their gender experiment in Scorpio, and in particular, Venus, which is poised for a kind of introspection rarely seen in our world. This is going to be a journey, and it goes deeper than all the superficial expressions of sex, gender and relationship roles that I've described. We will be feeling some aspects of this viscerally, and others will stir up material from the deep unconscious. Scorpio is not just what we see, and it goes deeper than what we feel. You could say that on some of the deepest levels we can actually reach, it's about how we become who we are -- that mysterious process, that we often try to keep secret from ourselves.

Yours & truly,
Eric Francis

When Reality Bites | Political Waves

It's been more than a decade since populist policy came easily; actually much longer than that, had any of us noticed. Even the Clinton years proved an uphill slog against the Republican culture warriors and their "Contract With America." With the help of Clintonistas like Rahm Emanuel, Larry Summers and Tim Geithner, the infamous triangulation tactic that prompted Rachel Maddow to call Big Bill a "Republican president" was born. We might have raised an inquiry over Clinton's welfare reform and NAFTA legislation, but we didn't. Monica was the distraction of the moment, and the economy seemed sound, so we let it go. Then the bubbles began to pop, the jobs went overseas, the Supreme Court picked our next president for us, and any hint of progressivism disappeared.

While Dubya played commander-in-chief, hunting imaginary WMD -- and adding well over a trillion dollars to our military debt, another 1.3 trillion for his tax cuts and 1.5 trillion for Medicare D -- his Congress passed six years of laws that favored business over public interest. When the economy tanked three years ago, the least affected were the upper-class, who continue to reap the rewards of corporate welfare and laws designed to protect them. This is an example of the dreaded 'redistribution of wealth' eschewed by conservatives everywhere, but don't mention that to the average class-conscious Republican, who thinks redistribution is only about giveaways to welfare recipients.

The basis of trickle-down economics is a collection of unproven, fanciful myths that play well to uncritical media. Myth #1 is that the business class deserves those big breaks in order to keep opportunities trickling down. Myth #2: top-loading the profits keeps the American Dream alive, even as the disparity between the high rollers and a growing underclass widens. Myth #3, biggest of them all, is that we need those business advantages because some of us plan on winning the lottery some day in the form of founding the next Apple Computer. This is known as "when our ship comes in."

At a time when one in every seven Americans lives in poverty and a fourth of our families are identified as "near poor," the notion that we must keep the rich swimming in dough lest they refuse to throw us a crumb from time to time is ludicrous. Statistics show that the trickle-down nonsense promoted by St. Ronnie the Reagan really IS the elusive 'voodoo economics,' named by Poppy Bush. In fact, very little trickles back down the pyramid because the rich traditionally keep their money, favored by laws that give them latitude to tuck it into some convenient tax shelter.

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Please click on the page and "like" us. This used to be called "join" but Facebook changed that recently. Also -- there is another option, to invite your friends, and I'd appreciate if you spread the word by doing just that.

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PPS, In this recent edition of Astrology News, I publish an interview with one of the big gaming websites about my feelings on Facebook. I thought I would share it with you -- it's the second article down, at this link.

Planet Waves
Weekly Horoscope for Friday, September 24, 2010, #832 - BY ERIC FRANCIS

Aries (March 20-April 19)
Venus and Mars in Scorpio are all about desire. But it looks like you want that desire to hunt you down by scent and give you what you need without having to say or do anything. Depending on who you are, this planetary setup might work that way, yet at the moment more pragmatic matters of relationship seem to be interfering with your hormonal drives. The two seem to exist as realities apart from one another, which is often the situation given our society's concepts of relationship that dependably honor human needs only to the extent of providing air and water. I suggest you make peace with yourself about how a situation with a partner, or your ideas about what constitutes a proper relationship, may be entirely different than some deep elemental needs you also have. This feeling will be stronger if you're feeling trapped, which does not make it invalid: to the contrary, this just emphasizes the point.

Aries Birthday Audio by Eric Francis is available. Check this link for more information.

Taurus (April 19- May 20)
It would appear that you're trying to remember what you want from a relationship, from life or from both. It's one thing to let others do the wanting for you; that's the safe option, because if they are wrong, you are not; and if they are right, you benefit. So step one is to make a commitment to wanting what you want. Just slow down and want whatever that might be, not for its own sake, but for yours. Don't forget that Pluto in Capricorn is helping you stir up/burn up about 100 lifetimes worth of religious guilt, and that may be one of the things you're tripping over. If you happen to slip right from desire to guilt, be grateful for the efficiency of that, and notice the sequence. Be grateful that you're enlightened enough to know that liberating yourself from guilt is vital to both enjoying the life you have and creating the life you want. You can do it -- though it will take active, articulate honesty.

Taurus Birthday Audio by Eric Francis is available. Check this link for more information.
Gemini (May 20- June 21)
You may feel that your wounds are still tender and that your psyche is still fragile. That's a good reminder to tread lightly on the Earth, as you gradually make your way up the other side of the rather deep place you got yourself into the past few weeks. You are still going over old territory, but you're doing it with a new perspective and a new purpose. That is to say, you have the potential now to benefit from your errors and to learn from your own personal past. But more to the point, you are taking important steps in your journey of transcending the past of the people who came before you. We forget that we stand on the slag pile of history left behind by our ancestors. Yet we also forget their living spirits. You might try contacting those ancestors, in their realized form, where they can guide and support you. They are watching, and they are aware.

Gemini Birthday Audio by Eric Francis is available. Check this link for more information.

Cancer (June 21- July 22)
Keep moving. Do what you need to feel good and stay visible. Part of you is being pulled back into your cave; part of you knows it's high time to get yourself more involved with the activities of life and actually create or achieve something that is meaningful to you. You will need to address that dual impulse more or less continuously. Make sure you get enough rest. Make sure you get enough time alone. Then, whether you're feeling certain about it or not, go out and engage the world. You don't need to impress anyone; you need to be present, alert and sincere. This is a low-energy output mode. It's actually easy; you can listen more than you speak, but don't hesitate to speak when necessary. Meanwhile, Mercury has spent a month making various weird moves in your house of words and ideas. It's now moving forward at a steady pace. Writing is your best friend right now. I promise.

Cancer Birthday Audio by Eric Francis is available. Check this link for more information.

Leo (July 22- Aug. 23)
You may be seeking a balance of opinions or trying to please everyone, but soon you're going to come up against a natural limit and be forced to make a decision. Think way ahead to that time and decide what elements of your plan are the most important and which elements are the ones you can forego. Do the same with others. You can actually reach a compromise here, but it's going to be a creative one and that mainly means that you don't want to be doing it under pressure, on the spot. Don't announce your proposal until the end, but make sure that you know what it is, that you know what your options are and you understand what's the most meaningful to whom. There are a good few elements that are part of the fringe, not part of the core; but certain points are the meat and bones. Protect those; don't compromise on what you know is actually useful.

Leo Birthday Audio by Eric Francis is available. Check this link for more information.

Virgo (Aug. 23- Sep. 22)
Finding oneself is so much work, it's amazing anyone would manage to lose themselves again after they do so. However, what we call self tends to change, when we're healthy; which is to say, not stuck. And there are times that change can feel plenty uncomfortable, vulnerable and pushed up against limits. You have pushed back against those limits lately, and stretched open your potential. I suggest you not be so fast to fill the space up. Rather, look and feel for what's there. Consider the new dimensions of your psychic interior, and see if you can notice changes in how you relate to the exterior landscape as well. That would include your physical environs and your emotional landscape: in a subtle way, everything is different; you are different; all your relationships have shifted. I suggest you notice the changes that appeal to you and emphasize them, steering clear of old patterns and old feelings.

Please stay tuned...and thanks for your patience.

Planet Waves

Libra (Sep. 22 - Oct. 23)
Shifting your emotional perspective requires those moments of discomfort, the ones that tell you that you have something to process. Move through them quickly and get into the new space, more like a backstage costume change than a session with a psychiatrist. Expect a quick series of these encounters over the next few days -- take them in stride, adjusting rapidly. After about a week of this you'll see that this series of small adjustments offers you a small clue to your mental orientation, and then after several you can deduce where you stand with yourself and with others, particularly those you're inclined to think of as authority figures. This method of adaptation is preferable to some of the other methods that you have experimented with in recent seasons, where outer circumstances showed up all at once and compelled you to adjust instantly. This is more your style -- progress in meaningful, manageable increments.

Scorpio (Oct. 23- Nov. 22)
Part of our shifting psychic landscape has involved the revelation of how androgynous so many people are. Even those who don't quite admit it are feeling the shift (hence, the vast homophobic backlash of our era). For you, from one perspective, the gender-blending quality feels natural. From another, it's odd and disorienting. Yet you're in a particularly rich moment of embodying your gender and sexual opposites. The more you emphasize one polarity, the more you're likely to encounter the other. If you're paying attention you will notice many subtleties and nuances, particularly when receiving sensation and acting on desire. At times you may encounter the seeming paradox of needing to fertilize yourself, and having to stretch across certain beliefs and seeming physical barriers. That is one of the great themes of the spiritual and creative history of our era. At first the territory can seem impossible to navigate, then after a while it can seem entirely natural, with many variants in between. Yet that sense of exploration is unlikely to abate, particularly after we've all spent so much time seeking inspiration and contact outside ourselves.

Sagittarius (Nov. 22 - Dec. 22)
Pretend you're a politician running for office and Election Day is rapidly approaching. You're probably not running for office and you likely never would, though I suggest that this is the time to keep your focus on your actual goal and the many small steps you need to get there. Unlike in recent months, you see, those steps are likely to go well. You can work with the version of Murphy's Law that says, "anything that can go wrong already has," and if it hasn't something close to it has, so you know what to do when a new variant arises. With a focus on your goal, with determination and most of all with truth in your heart, there is nothing that can stop you. The one place your chart suggests you bring out a little more energy from the reserve tanks is that seemingly elusive, arguably nonexistent thing called creativity. Don't let it elude you and don't forget that you have a lot of the stuff. Use it liberally and remember -- if you do, it will never run out.

Capricorn (Dec. 22- Jan. 20)
There's a subtle tipping point involved in your quest for leadership and professional success. I cannot emphasize the point strongly enough that, no matter how much chaos the world is in, and regardless of how much inner tension you may feel, and how much is unresolved, you're the person most capable of leadership in your environment. As you embrace that role you will see that it's a fairly large environment we're talking about, certainly more meaningful than the Thursday night scene at the local bar. I mean real success, whatever that actually says to you. Yet this calls for collecting yourself and focusing on your independence, particularly emotional. Your success is balanced on your becoming a person independent of the emotional traps of the past and the people in your environment. This will allow you to focus what may feel like an uncomfortable amount of energy on your inner development. Feel for that balancing point and lean gently into the changes.

The Capricorn Audio Birthday Report is now ready. This is more than an hour of astrology for Capricorn and Capricorn rising, covering the cardinal T-square from a personal perspective. I've also included a 20-minute tarot reading using the Voyager Deck. For instant access, order here for Capricorn and Capricorn Rising. Only $14.95, this also makes a meaningful and economical gift.

Aquarius (Jan. 20- Feb. 19)
The Sun moving into your solar 9th house -- Libra -- says it's time to start considering your longterm vision in a new way. It may be that as soon as you get any momentum here, you come up against some idea of why something cannot happen, or what is in the way. Therefore I suggest you abandon the logistical angle and stick strictly to the sketch. Draw the building you want to design from the outside in; consider its shape and size. To do this you'll have to give your analytical mind a rest and activate the illustrative aspect. With Jupiter and Uranus conjunct in Pisces, that ought to be pretty easy, and you'll like it. Keep making those sketches until your vision has a life of its own. At a certain point you'll start to awaken to the inward aspects of the concept: the specifics of how to develop what you want. I am sure you follow the logic of proceeding in this order, which is to maximize encouragement and allow a sense of creative freedom.

Aquarius Birthday Audio by Eric Francis is available. Check this link for more information.

Pisces (Feb. 19- March 20)
Feed the Pisces in you, whatever that means. Fertilize your creativity. Focus on emotional movement, ideas and comfort. Jupiter and Uranus are continuing to hold a long and rare conjunction in your birth sign, which to me suggests a seeding phase. Both are retrograde, which is a clue that your mission is to become so familiar with yourself that you always feel confident being you, no matter what the circumstances that surround you. This is also a time to take in worldly learning, in whatever form you want. The art you see, the books you read and the music you hear will profoundly influence the person you are becoming, so choose well and select on the basis of what feels nourishing, inspiring and which offers you a sense of freedom. The same is true of the people you meet; don't be so eager to take anyone into your life, but keep a keen eye for the ones who you know can truly feel you.

Pisces Birthday Audio by Eric Francis is available. Check this link for more information.

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