To All New Arrivals

In Paris earlier this week, Maxi Jazz performs as the audience watches, seemingly nonplussed. Photo by Danielle Voirin / Planet Waves.

WAKING UP my first morning home in Brussels after sleeping about 15 different places the past couple of months, I dreamed of chaos and riots in the streets.

Horses were coming at me, but I was not scared of them, and I knew they wouldn’t hurt me. The mayhem had spread on a psychic level; everyone seemed to be affected. Even the children were crazed. I remember taking back alleyways and side streets and finally, trekking through the snow, made my way home safely. Along the way, I asked one of the riot police why all of this was happening, and he said because James Joyce had written subversive literature.

In his time, Joyce was indeed a subversive: he was hip to what vicious, hypocritical tyrants the Catholic priests were, and he made literature about it. I told the dream to my friend and she asked me what I was writing right before I went to sleep. Actually, I was pretty shocked by the last thing that happened to be in my notebook, though I responded that I was listening to the new CD by Faithless, called To All New Arrivals.

It is always interesting what constitutes a subversive at any given point in history, and I think that Maxi Jazz, the face and principal voice of Faithless, qualifies for ours. He is not a closet idealist; it seems everything about him, every sentiment and idea, is out in the open. He is a peace and love kind of revolutionary in deeply cynical times, who uses words like “Enron” and “Halliburton” in his song lyrics and proposes that political activism consists mainly in loving and taking care of people.

I discovered Faithless living in London three years ago, basically because I have a habit of buying work by musicians I’ve never heard of when I go to a record store. Their new CD had just come out — called No Roots. I saw a stack of them by the cash register and asked the clerk what she thought. “They’re kind of chill,” she said.

I bought it and have played it hundreds of times since, often the last thing before sleeping. Maxi is one of the most reassuring voices alive, speaking from a place of certainty that has not forgotten its pain; pain that never descends into feeling sorry for itself. Early in the No Roots CD, he calmly explains, in a light rap style which hooks you even if you have no interest in rap:

Whether long range weapon or suicide bomber
Wicked mind is a weapon of mass destruction
Whether you’re soaraway Sun or BBC 1
Misinformation is a weapon of mass destruc’
You coulda Caucasian or a poor Asian
Racism is a weapon of mass destruction
Whether inflation or globalization
Fear is a weapon of mass destruction

Given the current state of the music industry, where most of what’s commercially available is pre-mixed Skippy peanut butter and Welch’s grape jelly on Wonder bread served up as exotic fare, this is some gutsy stuff. In reality, it is the simple, direct truth as told from a personal perspective by one willing to own it. Astonishing, then, that it reached #7 on the UK charts at the peak fervor of Bush War II. The CD entered the charts at #1.

This was at a time when all of the lies about the Iraq war were standing unchallenged and nobody had heard of Valerie Plame. In London, Piers Morgan, the editor of the Daily Mirror at the time, had just been fired for publishing controversial photos of the abuse of Iraqi prisoners by the Queen’s Lancashire Regiment. (It was American investment bankers who pushed him out of his job.) Shortly after he was fired (the very day after, if I recall), the story, if not the photos, was proven to be authentic.

It’s not, however, the political position of Faithless that I find the most appealing, the most calming to my stressed-out sense of responsibility and overburdened conscience: it’s their reckoning of politics with individual existence, their awareness of the supposedly political being distinctly personal. That is, we are all products of our world and nothing happens in a vacuum, and Faithless takes us out of that vacuum, out of that space of meaningless vapor and into a world where we must see the world and feel ourselves.

There is no private life that is not shaped and even dictated by the larger public life. Nothing affects nobody; everything affects all of us. But to live in that space requires awareness, compassion and love.

In the next stanza, immediately related to the idea of fear being a weapon of mass destruction, Maxi gives us the ultimate testimonial not just against war, but bearing witness to its effects:

My dad came into my room holding his hat
I knew he was leaving,
he sat on my bed told me some facts, son.
I have a duty, calling on me
You and your sister be brave my little soldier
And don’t forget all I told ya
Your the mister of the house now remember this
And when you wake up in the morning give ya momma a kiss
Then I had to say goodbye…


Maxi Jazz performs in Paris earlier this week. Photo by Danielle Voirin.

TO ALL NEW ARRIVALS was released in late November, its title a tribute to the birth of a new son to Maxi Jazz. If the album is less immediately accessible and selling a lot further down the charts than its predecessor, perhaps that’s the price for something more artistically evolved, complex, personally challenging and, moreover, irksome to marketing culture.

I played the CD through several times before I started to catch on, then Danielle Voirin sent me the video to the opening song, “Bombs,” which pulled the whole work into focus. The video is a dreamlike interplay between images of ordinary existence and the horrors of war. A cemetery full of white crosses above the graves of soldiers is superimposed over a placid ocean scene. As a family runs along the beach, a mushroom cloud rises on the horizon.

On the same beach, children playing in the sand see the flag-draped casket of a soldier being taken from a transport plane, and buried in the hole they were digging. A school scene is interrupted by soldiers bursting into the classroom.

Behind this is a spacious, ambient musical bed, with a gentle, pulsing rhythm. Here are some of the lyrics:

One bomb, the whole block gone
Can’t find my children and dust covers the sun
Everywhere is noise, panic and confusion
But to some, another fun day in Babylon
I’m gonna bury my wife and dig up my gun
My life is done so now I got to kill someone

MTV refused to air the video, reflective of the reality gap between marketing culture and what is necessary to maintain the existence of that culture. It is interesting that you can flip the channel a few times and end up on CNN, where you can watch ongoing footage of the horrors of war — but the moment you put that imagery into the context in which it needs to be seen, you create a controversy, though admittedly one smaller than Janet Jackson’s nipple.

The reason, I think, is that you can do anything you want, as long as you feed the denial trip that allows hypocrisy to continue. A video called “Bombs” that shows us that our whole lives are torn to shreds by the ongoing persistence of warfare, and that warfare infests every element of consciousness, does just that.

It also shines one of those red laser pointers onto the fact that so few artists in the public eye are willing to speak about what they know is true, precisely because they have such an investment in their own success. You don’t want to risk your record contract, right? Well, Faithless does not have a record contract in the United States even though they’re carried by Sony-BMG in the UK and Europe. Sony has excellent penetration of the US market, but it seems probable they consider Faithless too controversial even with Bush’s approval rating hovering around the 35% mark.

Sister Bliss (Ayalah Bentovim)
takes a curtain call in Paris earlier this week. Photo by Danielle Voirin.

Artistically, the CD dives into the potential of digital sound. The audio landscape created by Sister Bliss (Ayalah Bentovim) opens up world after world, in this work combining layers of richly synthesized music with ordinary sounds, including the haunting use of a cellular phone ring in the song “Last This Day,” sung by Dido. It is more like acoustic cinema than music, more like a documentary of consciousness than anything we might ordinarily consider entertainment.

In one of my favorite moments on the CD, in a song collaborated with Robert Smith (of The Cure), a child of about three years old, presumably Smith’s, is asking questions about devices in the recording studio. Smith explains these are the headphones, through which you can hear your music, from the microphone. “What’s that in the microphone?” A diaphragm, he explains. Then the kid figures out what’s going on. “I speak in the microphone,” he says.

“Hey, you!”

You hear the child call out as the reverb is turned up.

“Hey, you!” he repeats, his voice thundering through the universe.

It is a primal calling out to existence, the echo of God. I immediately flashed to someone listening to the recording 400 years from now, being swept up in the contact with our moment in the world through a child’s self-aware voice hearing itself for the first time.

In “To All New Arrivals,” the title track begins with the ticking of a clock, which morphs into airport announcements in what sounds like an Eastern European or Scandinavian language. Then a kind of nostalgic sound reminiscent of childhood fades in, which is replaced by a solid dance-club kind of beat. It’s called “trance” music for a reason. Into this trance, the voiceover states calmly, “In our world, malaria kills a child every 30 seconds. Eleven million children die every year of malnutrition. In our world, 15 million children have been orphaned by AIDS. Thirty thousand children die of preventable causes every day. In our world, two million children are working in the sex trade at this moment.” And so on. As this goes on, Harry Collier of the British band Kubb, begins the sweetly sung vocals:

To all new arrivals, welcome, bienvenue
To all new arrivals, we love you
We would die for you, kill for you
To all new arrivals we love you
We would die for you, kill for you

Then we hear Maxi’s deep, penetrating and earnest voice: “If there’s a God, be aware: I am a man newly made. My son lies here, and only for him am I afraid. As I gaze into that face, I perceive that which is true. I created him, and we created you.”

Aries Solar Returns, part 4

By Priya Kale with Eric Francis

The Sun trining Pluto on your solar return is giving you all the power and dynamism to be a force of transformation in your life, and consequently of the world around you. This renaissance is as internal as it is external, and what emerges is the essence of you. Pluto, though, is more than a planet representing transformative forces. It is more like Neptune, the planet of imagination, than most astrologers have noted. Pluto works from deep in the unconscious, waiting for us to raise it to awareness. The trine aspect to the Sun is about taking part in that process consciously, doing the work, and keeping your awareness focused all the time.

You are on the brink of or may have recently had a profound encounter with your sense of your power: your sense of how you, by your choices and your will, may change your world, and the world. It may have seemed like a “chance” encounter, something that took you (or takes you) by surprise, and part of that surprise involved how safe you felt taking a real dare.

This is not so surprising. There is a fire burning ever hotter within your soul, beckoning you to delve deeper into what is in reality a journey of self-discovery. Who are you and what is your mission here? Clearly, you have been taught much the past few years by the restrictions you have encountered. Those have pushed you inward. Now that those restrictions are lifting, please continue to take the time to go within and answer some of these questions; to pay attention to your dreams, meditate, or just find time to be by yourself, and allow your motivation and sense of intention to rise to the surface naturally.

Pay attention to what you hear in whispers, as they are driving you forward to pursue your loftiest goals. Where do you see yourself a year from now? The New Moon in Aries, in a direct dialog with Pluto, is giving you that added touch of cosmic grace as you plant seeds for your future. This is an extremely fertile period for you, and whatever your dreams may be, as long as you are willing to tend and nurture them with patience and dedication, there is every chance that you will see them become a reality.

Trine aspects are often said to be “easy,” and this is no virtue. More often they are lazy, taken advantage of as opportunities to coast, or missed altogether. The true virtue of a trine is when we voluntarily pour on the effort and the energy.

What a highly unusual aspect structure in your chart ultimately boils down to is accessing your passion, which as an Aries should be second nature to you — but it would seem you more often skim the surface of your potential. If there isn’t passion you’d rather not bother, but the time has come to not just feel hot, but to walk on the coals.

With Jupiter, Mercury and Saturn making a grand fire trine, there’s an adrenaline rush, and to the world you seem pretty unstoppable right now. The key is to not fall into the trap of patterns that you are familiar with, but rather seek ways to challenge yourself; on the other side of that canyon lies growth.

Chiron and Neptune in a kite formation to the trine (that is, placed in the air signs, in the midst of a grand fire trine) point to ways that you can better harness and focus the energy, also through your imagination. This takes place in your 11th house, suggesting a radical awareness when it comes to your friends and your community. Be mindful of the company you keep; consciously choose those committed to a path of awareness, as opposed to those who leave you with nothing but a hangover.

You may be concerned how far you seem to have strayed from your course over a long period of your life, but if you look again, you will notice how many corrections to your course you’ve made during the past two years, which basically leave you exactly where you need to be. But from where you need to be, you must intentionally choose where you need to go. That is the nature of a trine: it is an opportunity, a talent, a gift: and we have to use it, or lose it.

As with your mission, so with your relationships: avoid chasing your tail. Venus in Gemini, also in a kite position to the fire trine, is compelling you to pause and think about what it is that you really want. When faced with what may seem like a dilemma, align yourself with your center. See what is in front of you as a set of options and not as a feeling of indecision, and trust in your power to make the right decision based on the truth of who you are.

There is an inherent nature of duality right now as this takes place in your solar 3rd house of mental processes and communication, causing you to question all your long-held beliefs. Your ruler, Mars, in your 12th solar house Pisces reinforces this theme, which runs on both a conscious and subconscious level.

Mars in the solar 12th house is worth a moment of reflection, since it’s likely to be associated with the stirring up of your least conscious fears. If indeed you are feeling more fear than usual, be aware that Mars is just reminding you what is always there. But once you have a sense of what that is, you have the opportunity to turn that awareness to peace, on the one hand, or action, on the other. Where there is fear there is energy. Where there is energy, that can take many different forms. There is a fine line between fear and desire, and where one is present, the other is likely to be present as well. And as you start to pay attention to these shades of emotion, you will need to keep an open dialog with yourself about what you are experiencing. Make sure that no relationship, no job, no project, no obsession, no diversion, takes you away from that dialog.

Keep an open discussion with partners as you go through these changes, as you now have the power and eloquence to communicate your feelings. But offer and respond with the same safe space as you listen to how it is they are feeling, and get a better sense of their reality. As long as we keep channels of communication open a lot can be resolved, and a lot of misunderstandings can be avoided.

This is truly a remarkable year for you as you undeniably come into your own power, if you so choose. Be aware that everything taking place around you is also taking place within you. In straddling your conflicts and contradictions with compassion and brutal honesty, you will find the breakthrough that you have been searching for. By this time next year, as Pluto crosses your 10th house cusp, your time of preparation will be complete, and you will be ready to make your mark on this world in a way that is authentic and truly, uniquely your own.

Composite graphic by Anatoly Ryzhenko

Thank you kindly. It’s a pleasure to be with you.
Eric Francis




Weekly Horoscope for Friday, April 13, 2007, #658 – By ERIC FRANCIS

Aries (March 20-April 19)
If you’re feeling like you’re under some unbearable pressure, the time has come for a reality check. Energy from one level of your consciousness seems to be bubbling up in a different form someplace else, or is threatening to do so. The form the energy is currently taking is different than its source. For example, you may experience an intense desire or an intense fear that appears as something quite specific. It may have nothing at all to do with that, and the experience is an invitation to go deeper into your psyche to see what is really happening, or to discover what you’re really feeling. To get this information, you need to ask, and you need to be open to the answer.

Taurus (April 19-May 20)
Two different things seem to be important to you — though you may inquire of yourself whether they are really in competition with one another. The drama about who or what you value appears to be an externalization of an inner dilemma of some kind. Before you go chasing your tail too many times around the block, you may want to consider the dilemma a few different ways: between the old and new; between what you know and what you do not; between whether you identify more closely with what you think or what you feel. The thing about thinking is that it does often substitute for feeling.

Gemini (May 20-June 21)
Innovation and some unusual achievement are blazing in lights from your solar chart at the moment, and it’s an extended moment. Yet for all your drive and passion, I strongly urge you to keep a cool head and take every step based on a strategy. Clearly, reality will not quite match with the steps and plans you outline, but making clear plans will at least serve to get your mind going in a focused direction, as well as giving you a set of reference points by which you can orient. You have a few surprises ahead of you, and you’ll go a long way to making sure they’re pleasant ones by keeping focused and alert, particularly on your inner voice — the one that whispers.

Cancer (June 21-July 22)
Keep an open mind. Every factor in your chart is guiding you in this direction. The more open your mind, the more likely you will be to discover the one odd or seemingly impossible factor that will set you in the direction you need to be going. Pay particular attention when you’re traveling or communicating with people who are far from you. If you’ve ever worked with a spiritual path, this would be a great time to focus on those teachings, remembering the piece about right and wrong being highly specific to one’s immediate circumstances.

Leo (July 22-Aug. 23)
If others are playing the game of life or love fast and loose, I suggest you play clean and fair. If you are tempted to lose sight of your own rules and boundaries, particularly as regards time and money, I suggest you keep them in mind. I can’t exactly say who the source of the chaos is, and I am not saying it’s a bad thing all by itself. In fact, if it’s met consciously and with a sense of the possibilities, the circumstance presents a series of awesome opportunities for progress and profit. Yet how it’s handled makes all the difference. You are the one who must be aware as the developments unfold, share that awareness with others, insist on clear communication, and set the example.

Virgo (Aug. 23-Sep. 22)
You have no way to expect or predict the outcome of a relationship situation, though you really have no reason to. What develops promises to be far more intriguing than any of your ideas of what could be, but at the same time you do face a challenge to your sense of stability and in some respects your grounded sense of identity. You can trust one thing — that the relationship or turn of events will push you into some deep emotional spaces, and one other — that you are ready to go there. Indeed, your experience is only beginning to catch up with your readiness, but then, so too is your awareness.

Libra (Sep. 22-Oct. 23)
When others reflect back to you in what seems to be the mirror of relationships, they are doing so in mirror image. We don’t often stop to consider that the so-familiar reflection that we see every morning and on every elevator is not what other people see; it is the visual opposite. In many respects the same holds true when people reflect our emotions back to us. They look and feel similar to our own; they are usually right-side up. They are a picture that we can look at and learn from. Yet more than look, I suggest you consciously strive to learn something. Don’t take on what is not yours, though I suggest you acknowledge what is.

Scorpio (Oct. 23-Nov. 22)
This is the time to take a few of the risks you know you’ve been wanting to indulge but have found various excuses for holding off on. You may be concerned that you have to watch your reputation with authority figures, or maintain your own authority with the plebes. But what you do in your off time is not only your business, it is your life. The perfect storm of passion and intelligence that’s now coming through is so strong and so vivid this would be the perfect time to plot and scheme your way into making your creative passion the focus of your life rather than always having it take a ride in the side-car.

Sagittarius (Nov. 22-Dec. 22)
A recent opportunity may not have given the return that you wanted or were expecting, but you now have a second chance. Indeed, this is likely to be an opportunity to create something better, or to turn half a step forward into three steps ahead. This time, remember to use your leverage, and put your behind-the-scenes influence to work. Remember to give your doubts a voice, but to make a conscious choice about whether to listen or not. Also, note that you have the support of a key ally or close partner who wants nothing other than your success and peace of mind.

Capricorn (Dec. 22-Jan. 20)
An old friend of mine, then a law student who rapidly became a successful malpractice attorney representing doctors, once dropped a piece of ravioli on his plate during dinner, mid-sentence. The tomato sauce splashed all over his tie and white shirt. He glanced down a moment and without missing a word or commenting on what had just happened, went on speaking. You now need to focus your mind to this degree, keeping clear sight of what matters and what is trivial; focusing on what is valuable rather than what is not; and being ever-mindful of a subtle hint, probably spoken by someone you love, that can in a moment change the direction of your life.

Aquarius (Jan. 20-Feb. 19)
Meaning is relative, not absolute. Remember this if what ‘things mean’ keeps changing. Like the constellations in the night sky swirling around what appears to be a fixed point high above the North Pole, the planets are moving through your chart in relationship to an inner quest that you have little choice but to follow. The outcome is not certain; few are, in our world. But your point of orientation is crucial now, and that is an inner sense of purpose that may be lacking for words but possesses everything for the feeling of magnetism, guidance and even a touch of inevitability. May it be a light touch.

Pisces (Feb. 19-March 20)
There is a way to get what you want — as long as you want it. Events this week will go a long way toward helping you clarify both who you are and in what direction you need to go. I mean the direction you are taking your growth and self-development, and the direction you call home. Due to the movement of Jupiter and Pluto in your solar chart, there is now unusual emphasis on your professional activities and your role in the world. Yet the changes you’re experiencing internally dwarf anything new that may evolve or develop in the world around you, though at a certain point the two intersect. Meantime, choose based on what you know, remembering what you do not know.

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