Pisces and Hands

You don’t need a Pisces Sun or Pisces planetary relationships or placements in your natal horoscope to be Piscean. Pure types have dominant top phalanges on long narrow fingers, smooth joints, conical tips, and loop prints, especially on index fingers. All feeling types have long rectangular palms and long fingers. Pisceans have medium set mildly flexible shapely thumbs, sensitive looking fingers, a combination of round and conical fingertips, long narrow nails, and their head and life lines interwoven at their beginnings. Pinkies with tiny bottom and middle phalanges and no knots symbolize not having any need for physical order or material wealth. Feeling types with inwardly curving pinkie fingers hate emotional confrontation. In my experience, Pisceans tend to have more hand and finger flexibility, more peripheral shallow lines, and less deeply etched basic heart, head, life, and fate lines than Scorpio and Cancer types.

Pisces is a personification for spiritual growth. As the astrological home of Neptune (Poseidon, King Triton), ruler of the seas. Pisces embodies emotion, instinct, personal feelings, and the collective unconscious. Neptune can be a calming or destructive force in nature. The King of the Sea rules substances like prescription and recreational drugs, nicotine, alcohol, caffeine, or anything that alters consciousness, produces illusions, and feeds delusions. Pisces mundane correspondence is religion. Spirituality is its esoteric match. Spirituality without religion is fine. Religion without spirituality is blind.

Pisces is the most sensitive, least acquisitive, and most introverted of all types. She’s often misunderstood because she communicates through a lens of feeling. Less sensitive, more practical Pisces have strong earth, air, fire, and deep clear basic lines, large thumbs, stiff joints, square fingertips, developed knots, broad nails, and arch and whorl fingerprints. When head and heart are balanced, Pisces can be extremely powerful. George Washington was a Pisces. Former CEOs of Citigroup, IBM, Merck, DuPont, and Bank One were Piscean. One intriguing Pisces CEO is Michael Dell of Dell Computer. Like Ariel, daughter of King Triton, ruler of the Seas and the unconscious, Michael imagines whatever he wants as he swims into collective unconscious. He intuitively knows what the public needs and hones in on that. He must keep a watchful eye on Ursula (octopus conglomerate) who lusts for control of his empire.

Pisces is well suited to teaching, human resources, and helping professions. Many are at home in visual arts and music. Hand qualities will vary depending on their natural talents and abilities, decisions, and actions. Piscean strengths include compassion, humility, and faith. Not known for mental or emotional decisiveness, Pisces are private, spiritual, and hard to be intimate with. Their trust must be earned. Impressionable and easily influenced, some Pisces attempt to escape reality when circumstances get too hard. Many become substance abusers like Johnny Cash, Jerry Lewis, and Liza Minelli.My father was Pisces, along with my brother and daughter. I’ll love and cherish them unconditionally for eternity.

Pisces is intimately connected to the collective unconscious and mundane events. Uranus was the only outer planet to pass through Pisces in the twentieth century from 1919 to 1928. Uranus completed its eighty-four year cycle through the zodiac in 2003 and began its path through Pisces, crossing into Aries at the end of 2011. Let’s observe the cultural similarities as Uranus passed through Pisces in the 20th and 21st Centuries.

When World War I ended in 1919, discrimination, immigration, and consumerism grew.  Uranus left the sign of Aquarius and moved into Pisces. A new kind of rebellion began. Over four million steel workers and miners walked off the job to protest too many work hours with “inhumane pay”. Three Presidents held office during Uranus’s first transit through Pisces (Harding, Coolidge, and Hoover). The 30th President, “Silent Cal” Coolidge (born on the 4th of July) said, “The business of America is business”. He told us, “Biological laws tell us that certain divergent people will not mix or blend”, speaking of the “inferior races” of Asia. While focusing on and promoting ‘government business partnerships’, they all put material wealth and unobstructed corporate power in the forefront of the nation’s political, social, and cultural fabric. Government was in bed with big business. On its recent return through Pisces, George W. Bush gave our healthcare Industry to the pharmaceutical and insurance industries, energy to big oil companies, and security for airports and seaports in the hands of private enterprise. He even tried to bequeath our Social Security to the Stock Market.

When Uranus transited into Pisces, traditional thrift and austerity gave way to neo-consumerism and buying on credit. Two out of three Americans had electricity, refrigerators, and washing machines. Spending on recreation tripled. Henry Ford announced cars in Green and Maroon as well as black. Mass produced foods: Rice Krispies, Lender’s Bagels, Mounds Bars, Betty Crocker, and Peter Pan Peanut Butter influenced mass taste. Consumerism and credit created the illusion of an easier more convenient life. Movie houses, chain stores, and radio advertising proliferated. By the end of Uranus’s transit through Pisces, movie attendance had outstripped church attendance. Consumer magazines like Modern Romance challenged moral codes. Many critics believed consumerism was driving Americans into a soulless existence of materiality and conformity. Sinclair Lewis, author of ‘Babbitt’, highlighted the delusion of Uranus in Pisces. He blamed mass production and consumption for “having created a bloodless, loveless, and standardized world”.

The Ku Klux Klan had a resurgence that targeted African Americans, blacks, immigrants, Catholics, and Jews. The Klan marched on Washington DC In 1925 with over 40,000 hooded members. New immigration laws reduced the stream of immigrants to a trickle when congress decided to reduce the flow of immigrants based on quotas of 150,000 new immigrants a year.

Uranus in Pisces symbolizes a conflict between science and religion. Modern science clashed with Intelligent Design and Creationism as Uranus transited Pisces in both centuries. Tennessee legislators voted that it was unlawful for any teacher in a state supported school “to teach any theory that denies the story of man’s creation as taught in the bible”. Man was too intelligent to descend from a lower order of animals. One high school biology teacher named John Scopes taught the theory of evolution. As the defendant in the infamous “Scopes Monkey Trial” legal battle, John Scopes lost.

Culture clashed with school curriculum, obscenity, censorship, race, and sexuality in theater and literature. The German Bauhaus School of Architecture, with its less is more design philosophy, influenced architecture and products around the globe. When I graduated from Carnegie Mellon in 1969 as an industrial designer, ‘intelligent design’ was about making and saving money for manufacturers. No one cared about waste, except for disposal and financial cost. Truly ‘Intelligent design’ is when designers create useful products, choose sustainable resources, determine how much energy will be used in production, know what pollutants are generated, what remedies are available, and how the product will ultimately be disposed of, reused, or recycled.

Common sense is not good sense. The human race has become a race against bad shit happening. Donald Trump has taught us that it’s not what you do, but what you get away with that really matters. Why do we continue to nourish a perverse society with a morbid sense of reality and humor? We can be a lot healthier and happier by taking better care of our planet, ourselves, and each other.

Here are some similarities between the past two transits of Uranus in Pisces:

1919 – The worst baseball scandal (Black Sox) in history occurred when a grand jury brought indictments against eight players from the Chicago White Sox. Accused of throwing the 1919 World Series, they were eventually found not guilty.

2003 – The illicit use of steroids became the biggest scandal in modern baseball.

1919 – The eighteenth amendment prohibited the manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors, which encouraged home brewing and bootlegging.

2003 – George W. Bush prohibited Medicare from negotiating drug prices. A black market for drugs from India and Canada began to thrive.

1921 – First formal investigations of the Teapot Dome oil scandals were initiated.

2003 – USA invaded Iraq under false pretenses in order to secure oil resources.

1924 – The worst tornado in US history obliterated 35 towns in Tennessee, Kentucky, Missouri, Indiana, and Illinois.

2005 – Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans and the Gulf Coast.

Much has happened since 1919. Not much has ideologically changed.

Neptune takes 164 years to completely cycle through our zodiac. Neptune returned to its home base in Pisces on April 4, 2011 and will remain in Pisces until April 1, 2025. It’s hard to predict what Neptune will symbolize in Pisces because Neptune dissolves the illusion of reality. Many astrologers say that Neptune in Pisces symbolizes the dawn of a new age of spiritual enlightenment. This may be true, but it appears we may have to get there the hard way. Our culture must first lose what we value in order to appreciate it.

Pluto transited into Capricorn in 2008. Uranus transited into Aries in 2011. These three outer planets together symbolize a total transformation of business, energy, politics, and religion. I don’t feel comfortable making predictions about Neptune because it’s so nebulous and fickle, but we can already see in six short years how the illusion of power resulting from extreme wealth has nourished a delusion and disillusion of the 99%.

Neptune rules HMO’s, hospitals, and pharmaceutical industries that value profits over people. Prisons have been privatized for profit and packed with predominantly black petty criminals. Religion has abandoned spirituality, becoming more fundamentalist, fanatical, and violent. Even bacteria and viruses have become a lethal threat to the fabric of humanity. The USA has a president who is certifiably insane and cabinet members whose mandates are contrary to the purpose of their positions. Before Uranus leaves Aries in 2018, we could see a religious war, designed to stimulate our economy, fought by the have nots, and created to pack the burgeoning pockets of the haves.

Publicity Stories #2 ~ The New York Times

nyt-artwork

I’d had plenty of press as ‘Guru of Garbage’, but never experienced the ‘power of publicity’ until I was featured on the front page of the ‘City Section’ of the NY Times. The Village Voice article had produced a lot of inquiries, but a small amount of actual business. I realized that today’s news truly is tomorrow’s fish wrap unless you’re waving it in someone else’s face. The significance of the Voice was that other publications and journalists were fishing in my pond for thought-provoking content for their venues.

Manhattan User’s Guide’ interviewed me and created a flow of new clients and parties. Too bad I was selling my time for so much less then. ‘Where NY Magazine’ dubbed me “Weatherman of the psyche”. I liked ‘Whetherman’, but the editor didn’t. Some writers were looking for a free reading. Pitching the article was their excuse. I quickly learned to separate the wheat from the chaff and to avoid questionable press and advertising.

Having fresh publicity facilitated my speaking business. I spoke about the history of palmistry in New York City at the Lower East Side Tenement Museum. The National Design Museum asked me to create a workshop / lecture series on the symbolism of the sun to complement a major solar design exhibition (testimonial). I’d given previous talks at the museum about designing products with recycled materials.

I was a faculty member of the NYC chapter of NCGR (National Council for Geocosmic Research) for nearly 20 years. I spoke at astrological conferences about combining hands and horoscopes. I offered hand reading workshops at the New York Open Center, Learning Annex, Theosophical Society, and East West Books.

As the eighties came to a close, I was switching back and forth between environmental and metaphysical work. I’d designed and fabricated an ‘all natural’ architectural loft for an artist and award winning film editor in Tribeca. When I completed the project, she celebrated by transforming the space into a salon and inviting a unique collection of notable individuals. She was my Gertrude Stein. That’s where I met Robert Lipsyte.

Bob was a celebrated journalist and novelist. As a 25 year old sports writer for the NY Times, Bob wrote about a boxing match between little known Cassius Clay and Sonny Liston, ‘The Champ’. Destiny united Ali with Bob and marked the beginning of two illustrious careers. Ali became king of the ring, while Bob became a famous sports journalist, Ali’s biographer, and friend. Bob met the Beatles on their first American tour with Ali. Bob also won prestigious literary awards for his YA novels and was the Emmy- winning host of the nightly public affairs show on WNET~ The Eleventh Hour.

ali-and-the-beatles

When Bob found out what I did (besides designing and building lofts), his curiosity was roused. A natural skeptic and cynic, he couldn’t wait to challenge my esoteric mind and ideas. Bob hungered for answers to unanswerable questions. My ambiguous responses made him even more inquisitive. He enrolled in my ‘Metaphysics 101’ class at the Cooper Union. That’s when he jokingly started calling me ‘his guru’.

I think Bob wanted to help me become the ‘champ’ of metaphysics. He asked if he could feature me in the weekend edition of the Times. He also asked me to be a guest on The Eleventh Hour. I said ‘yes’ to both. Unfortunately, the TV show was discontinued before my time. PBS gave his spot to Charlie Rose. I’ve lost touch with Bob, but know I can call on him anytime for any reason and he’ll be happy to hear from me.

Newspapers are good for short term publicity. My big surprise was receiving thousands of inquiries within a few weeks. Momentum from Bob’s article expanded my speaking and party businesses and generated even more free publicity.

Personal Publicity Stories #1

guru-of-garbage

In 1989, Sarah Ferguson, a freelance journalist for the Village Voice (NYC newspaper) called to interview me for an article she was writing about hand reading. She’d been to several gypsy fortune tellers and her experience impelled her to choose to expose palmistry as a scam. I’d avoided any publicity prior to her contacting me.

At 42, I’d been quietly practicing palmistry, astrology, and tarot for twelve years. I loved my anonymity, but I wasn’t about to let Sarah write that article without meeting a real palmist and that palmist had to be me. At the time, I was known as the ‘Guru of Garbage’, for my innovative uses of waste and recycled materials. I taught ‘Designing with Garbage’ classes at Parsons School of Design and co-moderated a ‘Design for the Environment’ think tank at The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art in NYC. I was a member of NYC’s Solid Waste Advisory Board, lectured at Universities and museums about designing for our environment, and spoke at community boards about developing better strategies for dealing with community waste. I volunteered for all sorts of eco-projects and preached to the converted for pennies. My design and craft work was exhibited in galleries and museums around the world. I was featured internationally in consumer magazines, newspapers, and on TV. This short video about my recycling and reuse work was featured on Fox, Good Day NY.

After Sarah interviewed me, her story became a feature article and the centerfold of the Voice. My secret and palmistry were out of the closet (so I thought). My good friends were jokingly calling me ‘the word incarnate’. I’d never mixed my design and metaphysics businesses before and was concerned the article would damage my design business. I also imagined people constantly waving their hands in my face. Fortunately, neither of those things happened. The recognition turned out to be positive. Other journalists began calling to interview me for their venues.  That was the start of all sorts of publicity, my obsession with psychic garbage, and the fateful launch of my career as a psychic garbage man. Here’s the article.

How I Created Useful Art from Trash

I’m amazed at the positive response to my Practical Sanctuary post. Here are some more favorite things I recreated from stuff collected from yard sales and our local recycling transfer station. We used to tell our city friends that our country home was furnished in early American white trash. We’ve upgraded the quality of our trash over the years.

Even as a wee tot, Cassie was a hard working apprentice. We designed and fabricated a lot of stuff together. Our first project was a swan mailbox. We transformed a small black plastic mailbox into a beautiful swan by cutting, shaping, forming, and attaching recycled black plastic sheet to the box. Then we spray painted it, pasted our house numbers on the front flap, and placed it on the road. It became a local landmark.

swan mailbox 2Next we built a bunny bench out of recycled plywood, two small branches for ears, three large branches for structure, and reconstituted shrink wrap for seating. The ears didn’t last, so we performed plastic surgery and made matching floppy ears from shrink wrap.

bunny bench

We created a food compost bin out of recycled plywood and reconstituted shrink wrap.

compost bin 2

Cassie raised a baby farm animal each summer. We built a wire pen and an animal hutch out of recycled plywood and plastics. At the end of summer when we had to return to NYC, we gave our creatures to people who would love and not eat them. We got to visit with them over the years. They all remembered Cassie. We got wool from Lilly, our black lamb who became a sheep, and cheese and soap from Zelda, our Alpine goat (my personal favorite) who had an insatiable appetite and babies of her own.

animal hutch

mark & cassie with bunnies

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I made the roof of the bottom story of our tree house from reconstituted shrink wrap. It’s still in great shape after eighteen years of personal wear and tear, tree sap, and weather.

Cassie in tree house 2

Cassie in tree house 3

Our country home was a disaster waiting to happen when we first arrived. It was dark and moldy with low ceilings, an uninsulated slab, horrible plumbing, cobbled electrics, and a leaky roof supported by rotting beams. Our friends were planning to bulldoze it. We convinced them to let us rent it for a modest fee in exchange for transforming it. The first thing I did was to tear out the ceiling in the middle of the space and reinforce the rafters. Metal joist hangers, corner braces, and connecting hardware make the beams beneath the birch plywood ceiling look like an erector set. Prior to paneling, I cut open the roof and created two round sky lights using large plastic bubbles I scavenged from a ‘going out of business’ plastics sale on Canal Street in NYC. The last thing I built was a loft space for Cassie and her friends to play in and have sleepovers.

Cassie in loft space

How I lost my Sanity ~ 6B

Pallet landfill to conference roomClasses were going well. Patients shared their ideas in order to make them more real. I would fabricate parts that were put together by Jim, Juan, and Ethan. Making real objects was great for their self-esteem. Everyone was impressed. The hospital director suggested implementing a pilot project which required redesigning, fabricating, and installing a new office for her. We could recycle materials. Dolores believed this was a perfect opportunity to get brownie points for us. I’d also get approval to design and build a marine and horticultural center in the rehab dept.

 

Greek UrnEverything was falling into place. Ideas began to gel. One valuable lesson I had learned as an industrial designer was that you get more money for fashion. Recalling the shabby green frog vases I’d seen being crafted in ceramic workshops all over the state, I thought, ‘Why not use the same resources and labor to make handsome Greek urns with unusual finishes?’

Sheltered workshops survived by producing plain outdated designs. They could thrive with smart design and well-conceived manufacturing and marketing plans. Ordinary wooden frames could be transformed into exotic frames with fashionable new moldings. Beautiful mirrors and other framed products could revitalize the industry.

I began to see my pre-vocational class as a small corporation having a dozen workers with talents and abilities I could never afford in the real world. I had a captive audience with nothing better to do with their time and energies than work under my direction. I could arrange for them to make money and challenge them to be responsible for their behavior. It certainly seemed clinically sound to me. I fantasized we’d eventually be the design and marketing arm for the entire Underworld State Department of Mental Health.

We could design products for manufacture, arrange preferential buying plans with other state agencies, and create products for the mass market. I was crafting a timely script, a sequel entitled ‘The Dirtiest Dozen’; how the discards from hell became social heroes. I know it’s grandiose, but I envisioned managing a manufacturing and marketing empire from an asylum; like in ‘Crazy People’ with Dudley Moore and Daryl Hannah. Once we succeeded in the world of mental illness, new doors would open to sheltered workshops all over the state. They’d come to be dependent on us for sustenance and nourishment.

There was hardly anyone to share my ideas with. My family was supportive, but believed I’d gone off the deep end back when I decided to work with this population for peanuts. My peers on the job found me metaphysically weird. Sharing anything with them would be a contribution to hospital gossip. My good friends supported me, but they were not a mastermind group. I’d just have to stay focused, moving forward, one step at a time. Every thought and idea could bring me closer to my goal.

Love Bugs

Over the next several weeks, both groups came up with some exciting new concepts. Betsy had an idea for a line of stuffed toys for children that were perfect items for sheltered sewing shops. She called them `Love Bugs’. They were insects like spiders and scorpions. You’d be terrified if they were crawling on you, but instead, they were soft, cute, and cuddly.

modular building blocksDavid and Jim came up with a unique new idea for modular interconnecting building materials. They were kind of like Legos or Lincoln Logs and could be fabricated from recycled materials. We created several prototypes of quarter scale furniture with them. Potential markets were open.

 

 

TrojanJack and Virginia created a gimmicky `Women’s Liberation Survival Kit’ ~ a cloth bag made from a military looking khaki material, sewn and silk screened, and featuring a collection of already filled pockets and compartments. These pockets contained things like packs of condoms, a small canister of pepper spray, a compressed air horn, female paraphernalia, cosmetics, and other assorted goodies.

 

On my own time, I made appointments with buyers from major department stores in order to get feedback and gain additional insight into our products and planning. A few buyers wanted to know when they could purchase some. One buyer expressed doubt about connecting merchandise with mentally disabled criminals. He thought it might detract from their salability. ‘Manufactured by forensic psychiatric sheltered workshops’ was not a great selling point. Our team felt this wasn’t an obstacle. We’d suppress any bad news and glamorize the good news. I was motivated. Patients felt inspired and passionate. Positive behavioral changes were taking place. Everyone began to notice as we made ourselves ready to negotiate with hospital administrations and sheltered workshops across the state. I couldn’t believe how well everything was moving forward.

Stay tuned as everything begins to go south…

How I Became the Guru of Garbage – part 2

Necessity truly is the mother of invention.  I hadn’t anticipated how hard it would be to make money while trying to make a difference in the world. I needed to generate more income. While working in my tiny study in the back of our apartment one afternoon, I began thinking about how many people have small living spaces and how much stuff they have. It’s not easy to stay organized and uncluttered. Even though I’d given up designing products for the sake of fashion, I figured I could still design something useful, environmentally correct, and hopefully make money at the same time.

Many people work out of their homes and don’t have a private work space. It’s a good idea to conceal your work when you’re not working, even if it’s already separate from the rest of your living space. I estimated that a 6’ X 6’ X 2’ deep box can hold a small home office and also open out to become a room divider. I sketched a few possibilities and then tested various materials and manufacturing processes. When I felt confident that my idea would work, I presented it to Lisa Smith, a successful furniture designer. Lisa liked the idea and offered to let me use her model making shop, photo studio, and furniture industry contacts in exchange for a partnership on the project.

Lisa and I fabricated scale models out of natural long lasting materials like jute, hemp, and homosote. We approached major office furniture manufacturers like Knoll and Steelcase, who nibbled on our bait, but didn’t bite. We were told that it would take a minimum $50,000 investment to fabricate full scale prototypes and test market them. Nobody was willing to advance the money. We had hoped to walk away with a deposit and a royalty contract. Unfortunately, our back burners were already overflowing with unrequited projects like our ‘Office in a Box’.

OFFICE in a BOX

Office in a Box

Office in a Box 2

I mentioned earlier that I have very strong Scorpio symbolism in my horoscope. Saturn and Pluto straddle my Midheaven, conjunct in the sign of Leo. Pluto rules Garbage. Saturn is the Guru. NY Newsday, Metropolis Magazine, and Fox TV – ‘Good Day NY’ serially dubbed me “The Guru of Garbage”. Garbage was a weird distinction, but I figured if the shoe fits, “Recycle, Reuse, or Recreate” it. I became internationally known for my innovative uses of recycled materials. I was the focus of numerous magazine and newspaper articles and television appearances. I participated in panel discussions, spoke at universities, gave workshops, and presented my creations in museums, galleries, and traveling exhibitions around the world. I was featured as a successful ecological designer in German and Japanese newspapers, magazines, and television.

During my seven year tenure as Guru of Garbage, everyone wanted to contribute to my cause by giving me his or her unwanted trash. Manufacturers began sending samples of their manufacturing waste. I received everything from truckloads of trimmings of cork and various plastics and composite materials, to barrels of greasy sludge. They thought I could perform alchemy and make treasure from their trash. I appreciated the sentiment and valued the challenge, but the process of turning trash into treasure is lot more work than reward, except for the high esoteric value. Trash to treasure is a metaphor for transforming liabilities into assets. Saturn (Lead) can be turned into (Gold) the Sun.

I forgot to mention that my Guru of Garbage days coincided with the birth of my daughter, Cassie, and her early childhood. I hoped to make a better world for her. Even at two years old, Cassie was well aware of my preoccupation with trash. As we walked along the streets of NYC together, she’d constantly be bending over to pick up some gross and disgusting thing that some person had thrown on the sidewalk. “Here daddy!” she’d exclaim. I’d thank her, then walk to the nearest trash can and throw it away. The best part was when others noticed. They were either inspired or shamed into picking something up off the sidewalk. They’d always look and smile at us as we acknowledged their good deed with a nod of approval. Sometimes, I wondered whether I was blessed or cursed by my obsession to make a difference.

The following several pages contain pictures of trash that I transformed into treasure.

Pallet landfill to conference room

Reincarnated lamp and mirror

Thrown

Odds and Ends

One day I was driving down a country road in upstate NY and noticed a couple of weathered farmers sitting in front of a broken down barn. I was searching for old wooden planks that they’d be willing to sell. They took me up to an old hay loft and showed me a stack of dusty rough cut lumber that had probably been laying there for at least thirty years. I had no idea what kind of wood it was, but it was heavy. I felt sure it was some kind of hardwood. I bought the whole stack for $10. They helped load it into my station wagon. When I got back to my workshop, I ran the rough lumber through the wood planer. It turned out to be beautifully aged solid cherry with a lot of rough edges and ends and lots of knots. Most woodworkers cut these defects away in the process of furniture making. I decided to design defective furniture from the get go. I found the imperfections very beautiful and used them as design elements. My client was in the recycling business and loved my creation!

Cherry Desk

It’s rewarding to transform something useless into something useful. It’s also great to be loved and appreciated by family, friends, colleagues, students, and clients. Without real financial support, however, it can be extremely challenging. I found myself delving more deeply each day into the mother of all garbage – Psychic Garbage.

My first paid speaking engagement was for the IDSA (Industrial Design Society of America). They said I could speak about anything, so I decided to talk about design and metaphysics. As an industrial design student, I had studied how hands relate to products. Now I would share with my peers how the same hands relate to character and behavior.

The Esoteric Power of the Sun

Sun

Solar Talisman MugOne dreary mid-winter day in 1998, I sat quietly drinking peppermint tea from a cobalt blue mug with a radiant orange and yellow sun surrounded by stars. It had been a gift for speaking at a National Council for Geocosmic Research (NCGR) educational conference for astrologers in NYC. The horoscope in the hands was my topic. I’d been a faculty member and resident palmist for over 20 years. I needed more sun energy in my life and decided to transform my sun mug into a talisman to help me acheive that goal.

 

I felt inspired and rummaged around for an appropriate mug shot of myself. After cutting out my face, I carefully glued it to the center of the sun. Over that I applied several layers of crystal clear film. As I burnished down the edges, I imagined myself as Apollo, the Greek Sun God. When I finished, I raised the cup in my left hand to observe my handiwork. The phone rang. I picked it up with my right hand. “Hello, I’m the Public Program Coordinator for the National Design Museum. We’re curating a major Solar Energy Exhibition in June and are wondering if you’d be interested in conducting the Lecture / Workshop series on the symbolism of the sun?”

I almost fell out of my chair. I’d experienced synchronicity, but this seemed impossible. How could a talisman work that quickly? Confidently, I replied, “You’ve come to the right place.” The magic of the sun had materialized the moment I combined the esoteric power of the sun with my clear desire, intent, and action. My life instantly became sunnier.

Speaking of mugs, back in the early ‘80’s, a manufacturer of drinking mugs asked me to design a collection of astrology mugs for upstairs department stores like Bloomingdale’s and Macy’s. The six masculine sun signs were printed in 24 carat gold and six feminine signs in platinum. Customers loved the mugs, but began returning them soon after they were damaged in the dishwasher, even though they had been merchandised as ‘wash by hand’ only. My collection was discontinued despite my unrequited pleas to the manufacturer to try again with dishwasher safe inks.

Astrology Mug Collection

Hex SignA talisman is anything (including a simple piece of paper) with a scribble on it that’s symbolic of something you want to impress on your psyche to create change or reinforce something that needs to be strengthened. Amulets and hex signs are solar symbols used for protection. You see a lot of Amish hex signs blessing barns and homes and protecting livestock from harm.

These are some of the sun’s many correspondences. The sun in Leo (July 23 – August 23) rules the fifth house of the natural horoscope. The Sun’s day is Sunday. The Sun’s hour is noon. Gemstones besides diamonds that the sun rules are amber and topaz. In Kabala, Tiphareth corresponds to the Sun and the number six, which balances the tree of life. The Crown Chakrah is ruled by the sun. The heart is the organ ruled by the sun. Solar archetypes exist in every culture: GREEK – Apollo and Hercules, JUDAIC – Samson, EGYPTIAN – Osiris, AFRICAN – Anansi, INDIAN – Narasimha, HINDU –Vishnu, PERSION – Mithra, JAPANESE – Amaterasu, NORSE – Odin, IRISH – Lugh, and   ARTHURIAN – Percival. The Lion King and Goldilocks are solar fairy tales. Lots of Leos are myths in their own minds. Musical links for the sun are the key of C and most instruments. Solar trees are citrus, walnut, bay, and palm. Solar herbs, plants, and scents are sun flower, yellow poppy, saffron, marigold, cinnamon, pepper, peony, musk, honey, frankincense, rice, and all aromatic herbs. Aroma of Frankincense (Christ and the Nativity) when used in ritual magic brings good health, wealth, success, acclaim, mental clarity, fearlessness, confidence, and spiritual awakening. Gold and diamonds worn on a ring finger are marriage magic. Pyrite, fool’s gold, eases anxiety, frustration, and depression. Pyrite is wise man’s gold when charged with clear vision and pure intention to attract wealth, boost self-esteem, aid communications, and enhance appreciation.

It’s best to create your own talisman. The more tuned you are to your intent, the more powerful your talisman will be. The more esoteric correspondences you use, the more potent the talisman’s effect will be. After my mug experience, I was inspired to create a  small metalworking shop where I could make talismans to my heart’s content. Specific metals, minerals, and gems are incorporated for specific purposes on specific months, days, and times of day. Everything matters. Even facing the right direction, smelling the right incense, and hearing the right musical vibration while you’re creating your talisman can enhance its potency. I made the four talismans below for myself.

talismans

As you can see, ‘Grounding’ is a bit beat up. I wear it often because I need a lot of grounding. It works for me because I created it with the clear intent of becoming whole, centered, and peaceful. Copper represents Venus and earth and is grounded in practical reality. Silver symbolizes feelings and emotion. Gold promotes clear thinking, passion, intuition, and inspiration. Square shapes within circles add structure, discipline, and focus. Circles within circles help center, inspire, and empassion. The rest is the quest.

‘Energizing’ is solid bronze with an opal in the center. There was a huge crack in the casting. I almost chucked it, but decided the crack was like a bolt of lightning and an important pathway from the outside of the circle to the opal. When I finished polishing the talisman, it felt perfect for me and my purpose.

‘Strengthening’ was created on a picture-perfect day in May (Taurus). Horns remind me to be determined and persistent. This talisman helps me think with my head and feel with my heart. Being mainly bronze, it’s a blending of copper, tin, zinc, and lead. Alchemically, it blends Venus, Jupiter, and Saturn in order to balance ambition and compassion with order and action. A solid foundation helps a healthy framework become a powerful structure.

‘Centering’ consists of circles within circles, heart (copper) surrounded by mind (gold) and emotion (silver). Six small outer circles within two large inner circles represent masculine (gold) and feminine (silver) principles and twelve aspects of my character I must balance: behavior, values, thinking, feelings, will power, health, relationships, creativity, philosophy, purpose, hopes and dreams, and spirituality.

In case you’re not convinced of the power of the sun, let’s look at how religions, politics, governments, dictatorships, and corporations use the power of the sun to magnetize and mesmerize the masses with their ideologies, products, and services.

Target

Circular logos and iconic names like $tarbucks are no coincidence

Solar Symbols 2

Solar Symbols 3

Solar symbols 4

Products to Services

 

SunLeo rules the Sun, which rules the MC (Midheaven) of my astrological chart. The MC is the cusp of the tenth house, the zenith of a horoscope. The MC symbolizes a person’s career and purpose and illuminates the relationship between father and child. Wherever Leo is in your astrology chart, you need to shine like the Sun. Saturn and Pluto are planets that closely straddle my MC in the sign of Leo. Ancient astrology books define that combo as a recipe for disaster. When I was 29 and Saturn returned to its natal position by transit, my father suddenly and unexpectedly died at age 54. At the times in my life when Saturn or Pluto was transiting my natal Saturn Pluto conjunction; a devastating fire destroyed my candle factory; partners with alcohol, drug, and gambling addictions ruined our businesses; a cotton crisis wrecked my opportunity for success; and one more great opportunity was demolished by a hurricane. I felt like my career was a tragedy waiting to happen.  Any person with Saturn conjunct Pluto in Leo needs to be crystal clear in their intent, disciplined, structured, focused (Saturn) and willing to let go and change (Pluto). Lead is transformed into gold when Saturn and Pluto are employed in the service of the Sun. Real alchemy is metaphysical, not physical.

mark seltman rt hand smI never foresaw any catastrophic events in my hands. Even with 20/20 hindsight, I’d never have predicted misfortune. I have an overlapping break in my fate line for this period, but that could easily have been interpreted as a transition from one career to another. Hand reading is best for identifying basic character. Astrology is useful for gaining insight into a person’s motivations, behavior patterns, habits, and timing. Tarot cards are good for getting at unconscious issues. It’s nearly impossible to be fully objective about oneself.

Everyone plans. No one can truly predict their future.

solar symbolMy intention had been to become a rich and famous designer. I was grandiose, hungry for power, and positive that I’d eventually design some product that everyone wanted or needed. I began wondering if maybe I wasn’t supposed to be doing what I thought I was supposed to be doing.

 

 

After my light filtering window shade fiasco, I became anxious about money. I hadn’t a clue where the next influx would come from. The owner of a butcher block factory who I had designed kitchenware for recommended my design services to a friend who manufactured wooden paddle-ball paddles for a large sports design and marketing company. This guy was rudely awakened when he was told that if he didn’t lower his prices, the company he was supplying would go to Taiwan to purchase their paddles. Making someone else’s paddles was already not all that profitable, so he decided that he needed to create his own proprietary product line and retained me to come up with new design ideas. His company was morphing from being the hired help to becoming the competition. I designed a dozen or so graphic treatments which he felt were too outrageous to speculate on. He asked me several times to go back to the drawing board until he ended up with imitations of the original paddles he had been producing with minor decorative variations. Here are a couple of my efforts and the results. I made a few thousand dollars in the process.

Paddle Ball Paddles

Meanwhile, Avraham and I weren’t about to give up. We tried to “think and grow rich” several more times as our business schemes became even more grandiose.

Hopscotch“Twister” was a very popular floor game at the time. It was printed on a vinyl mat. We did our homework and found that a “Hop Scotch” mat had never been marketed, so we fabricated a prototype. Our challenge was to find a way to protect our investment. Anyone with a piece of chalk owns hop scotch. There was no way we could patent, copyright, or trademark the name. There was also no way we wouldn’t get knocked off by a large player in the game industry if we were to become successful. Then there was the potential insurance liability if anyone slipped and broke their neck or was injured in any way while using our product. We decided there were just too many obstacles to proceed. We also agreed that maybe it was time to put our product ideas on the back burner and try something new, so we stuck our restless toes in the tumultuous waters of the service industry.

“AMERICAN AUTOMOTIVE WARRANTIES CORP” was our attempt to provide new car owners with the maintenance insurance that the automotive industry had recently taken away. We courageously designed and marketed our new concept, initially sending out thousands of carefully crafted brochures to new car buyers. Unfortunately, we were way out of our league and unable to accumulate enough money in escrow to become an insurance company. We tried to find investors, but ultimately had to return the money to customers who had sent us checks.

Our next concept was a bona fide winner, although we ended up being losers. New York City was in a major financial crisis in the mid 1970’s. Avraham and I had an epiphany during one of our many brainstorming sessions. NYC was losing a fortune by not attempting to collect their out of state non-moving traffic violations. We formed NATIONAL TRAFFIC VIOLATION SYSTEMS, INC. and designed official looking stationary informing violators that they had been caught red-handed. We decided that NYC would be a perfect test market for the idea. Other large cities would follow.

It was a slippery slope because a summons is not a judgment and because no one had ever figured out how to quickly and easily trace out of state license plates to drivers. We did. We assumed that enough people would be scared or paranoid enough for us to make a respectable living. We contacted the department of motor vehicles in NYC. They nibbled on our bait by asking for more information on how to pull the idea off. We assumed we could trust them and revealed our entire plan to them. We waited patiently for several weeks for a response. The next thing we knew, we were reading in a Pittsburgh newspaper about how New York was preparing to collect fifty million dollars in non-moving out of state traffic violations.

Needless to say, we were pissed. With plenty of registered letters and correspondences with officials of New York City in hand, we planned to fight for our rights. It’s not how we had hoped to make our money, but it was better than nothing. We showed up in NYC and tried to find a law firm to represent us. Many of the largest law firms had conflicts of interest. NYC was or had been a client of theirs. They told us to let go – to give up. It would be extremely expensive and ridiculously difficult to squeeze a cent out of NYC during their financial crises. NYC was close to bankruptcy. Adding insult to injury, we ended up having to pay the NYC parking violations we’d accrued on our path to failure.

Avraham and I finally decided to throw in the towel. We’d continue to do our own things and be friends and sounding boards for each other. It’s been nearly forty years since our last attempt to do business together. We still speak frequently and still share grand ideas. I was recently walking in the woods with Avraham when he turned to me and said, “I used to dream that I’d be successful and own all sorts of stuff and I do. I’m glad I proved to myself that I could do it and am happy to report that I no longer need any of it to be happy”. I immediately challenged him to let go of it. I doubt that’s going to happen.

After Avraham and I parted ways, I went through a kind of dark period in my design thinking. Punk Rock was popular and there was a kind of fatalism in the air. I designed a collection of printed beach towels that looked like broken glass, rusty nails, hot coals, and a bunch of other stuff that no one would ever want to lie on. Here are a few.

Beach Towels

I’d been designing mugs for a large drinking mug manufacturer when I approached them with my punk-like designs below. I figured that there had to be a market for novelties of this type. They weren’t interested. Since I’d already done the design work, I thought I’d try placing my artwork on a different kind of product. I approached a novelty toilet paper manufacturer who was already printing money and faces of prominent people on toilet paper. I really thought they’d go for my idea. Instead, they told me to “take my socio-political statements elsewhere”.  I didn’t get it. Maybe I’d try t-shirt manufacturers next. I wasn’t sure what to do with my frustration.Mug and toilet paper designsThis is a self-portrait I created during this time. I call it the twelve phases of darkness.

round self portrait

Let There be Filtered Light

AvrahamI met Avraham several years before I moved to New York City. He’s a Leo. Avraham has an Intuitive hand shape with rectangular palms and short stiff fingers and thumbs. His headline and lifeline are joined at his thumb. Avraham grew up on a busy commercial street in a wealthy Jewish community. His father died when he was four. His mother was obese and in poor health. She loved Avraham, but unfortunately for him, she remarried a horrible man who became his evil stepfather. I had no idea who he was, but I used to see this creepy guy at funerals. He was a professional mourner, hired by the local funeral home to lament the dead at funerals. He was a mean spirited man and treated Avraham as an unwanted stepchild in his own home, which was a tiny shabby apartment located above a smelly local butcher shop. While other kids wore monogrammed shirts, English Leather cologne, and drove fancy cars, Avraham looked over his shoulder to make sure no one was watching as he climbed the dingy stairs to his impoverished depressing world.

Avraham’s short index finger and crooked pinkie and middle fingers make for an interesting tale. Despite low self-esteem and his depressing circumstances, Avraham decided at an early age that he would not be poor when he grew up. His bible became ‘Think and Grow Rich’ by Napoleon Hill. John Lennon was his favorite hero. Avraham studied diligently to become a lawyer. I’ve read many hands of lawyers with crooked pinkies. It’s very easy for them to bend the law. Avraham was as clever as the best of them, however; he chose to embrace rather than twist the law. “We’re all guilty until proven innocent”, he’d say.

Other lawyers, who didn’t know Avraham, saw him as another greedy ‘ambulance chaser’ with questionable ethics. Avraham was the first lawyer in town to post billboards at the scene of regular car accidents and to advertise on local TV. There was nothing illegal about what he did. Avraham was actually a pioneer and a very clever marketing person who put his clients’ needs and interests first. He eventually became very wealthy.  Avraham would say, “It doesn’t take too many good cases to make a decent living”.

At the time Avraham and I met, I was designing and subcontract manufacturing mushroom lamps and a variety of other plastic widgets and fighting with my business partner over his gambling addiction. Ready for change, I viewed Avraham as an opportunity for me to make a lot of money ‘the easy way’ (or so I thought).  At the time, large manufacturers of plain white roll-up vinyl window shades were competing with each other for pennies (still are). Avraham became my partner and our attorney in the window shade business.

We created the ‘stained glass window shade’ and applied for a patent on a clear vinyl roll-up shade that looked like real stained glass when daylight passed through it. We hoped to license Tiffany’s designs, but Tiffany didn’t want any part of cheapening their image with plastic. We should have known better. Instead, we retained a stained glass artisan and made exquisite prototypes of our own. When we presented them to the ultra-conservative buyers at Sears, J.C. Penney’s, Montgomery Ward, and other retail chains, they told us, “Stained glass is for churches, consumers won’t buy them”. We weren’t about to give up.

stained glass window shades

There were mainly cheap plain white vinyl shades on the market. We figured that there were more than enough ugly views from windows to make a fabulous living. Our primary challenge was to pay for expensive materials, tooling, setup charges, and minimum production runs. We traveled all over the USA, trying to license our stained glass window shade concept to the shade industry. There were seven major players at the time. We heard ‘NO’ seven times for a variety of reasons. We had gotten a fascinating education, but could no longer afford to speculate on our idea. We hadn’t sold enough shades in two years to meet our minimum financial requirements. Our patent was still good for another 15 years. Frustrated, but hopeful, we waited for a sign from the Cosmos. Our beloved Stained Glass Window Shade was on a back burner.

Avraham and I strolled in the woods, which was our office at the time. Why weren’t decorative window shades everywhere? Our pondering led us to a variety of challenges. Window shades were dirt cheap. Our concept was to increase the value of the plain white shade with fashion. We figured that producing more elegant translucent shade materials and utilizing inexpensive beautiful printing methods would appeal to consumers, buyers, and the logic of shade manufacturers. We’d say, “You get more money for fashion”. They’d reply, “You have to make a lot of shades to pay for your mistakes”.

Window Shade departments were the most mundane utilitarian department in the home furnishings industry. They were nearly as bad as trying to locate palmistry books in bookstores. If you looked for the drabbest, remotest, most inconvenient corner of the bargain basement, you’d find plain white shades in different lengths stacked in vertical bins under cutting machines. Many little plastic bags of shade hardware hung above.

Our research revealed that seven major textile mills controlled upscale department store markets for sheets, comforters, blankets, towels, table cloths, curtains, draperies, and upholstery fabrics. JP Stevens & Co was the leader of the seven. We approached them with our coordinated shade idea and licensed their most successful patterns; polka dot, gingham, calico, and denim. Seemed like a lot of money for squares, squiggles and dots, but we were now married to a powerful octopus with many very long tentacles. Our plan was to purchase short production runs of printed cotton sheeting which we’d then coat with vinyl resin and convert into window shade cloth. We’d produce them by piggy backing production runs of their most popular patterns and tacking on a few thousand yards for our product at the end of their run. We needed to sell a lot of shades to break even, but assumed that JP Stevens’ retail customers would gratefully purchase our shades.

Our next challenge was finding the best way to approach retail shade buyers. It would take some serious alchemy to transform their dowdy merchandising to chic. We begged buyers and merchandise managers for ten square feet of floor space in the drapery department with electricity to illuminate our product. We provided JP Stevens and department store buyers with pictures of coordinated shades for bed and bath product merchandising, advertising, and promotion. I designed the display fixture below. The picket fence swung open to reveal narrower width shades which were stored inside. We convinced Bloomingdale’s and Federated Department Stores to take a chance on us.

Fashion Shade Display

We prototyped Wamsutta’s Ultracale fine cotton bedding collection.

Wamsutta Ultracale Collection

We chose designs for kitchens, family rooms, and children’s rooms.

Shades for Kitchen, Family Room, and Kid's Room

We converted upholstery fabrics to window shade cloth and designed shade housings.

There are more windows than beds

We were feeling pretty good about the progress we were making, but realized that we were still at the starting line of our obstacle course. We cut the children’s patterns loose   because the royalties and minimum guarantees were ridiculously exorbitant. The shades would have cost a small fortune before they even reached the consumer. We decided that we would negotiate a better deal later. We contracted with a large shade manufacturer who was willing to produce, package, and deliver shades made from our materials for a very reasonable price. They were selling utility. We were selling fashion. We figured that they’d buy our shade business from us when we proved ourselves.

We were chomping at the bit to get started. I collected a $50,000 initial purchase order from A&S Department Stores and another $10,000 order from Bloomingdale’s. That’s when Murphy’s Law galvanized like a lightning bolt from hell. When we contacted JP Stevens to purchase yard goods, we were told that there was a cotton crisis and they didn’t have enough sheeting to supply their own needs. We suggested that they print our product on muslin, but they still had the same problem. Meanwhile, A &S was getting nervous because they realized that the shade patterns would be visible from the outside of the windows, especially at night when shades were lit from the inside. We’d anticipated that some people wouldn’t buy the shade for that reason, but didn’t consider that to be a huge problem. We had looked into laminating a translucent white vinyl film onto the back of the shade cloth. It added substantially to the price of the finished shade. It also created a possibility that the shade might curl inward instead of hanging flat in the window. Both sides must be laminated to create proper lay flat. We considered printing the patterns on vinyl shade film, but it was cost prohibitive to purchase expensive rotogravure print rollers for minimum production runs.

We contacted the department stores, explaining that we were unable to deliver their orders on time. We let each other off the hook. Meanwhile, the Burlington Domestics Bedroom Scenic Collection had become the hottest selling patterns in the market place. With a burst of inspiration I thought, ‘Why not offer consumers natural sheets with real nature scenes?’ I rendered up a batch and showed them to department store buyers.

My bedsheet designs

Closet accessoriesI also sketched some closet accessories to match and then met with the president of Burlington Industries domestics division. He told me that “they were unable to do a project of this nature at this time”. He told me that a person with my creativity should be working on “new ways for people to sleep”. That was a nice compliment, but it didn’t help me pay my rent.

 

Avraham let go of window shades to pursue more lucrative projects at that point, but not me. I was at my wit’s end when I came up with what I believe was my most brilliant window shade idea. If shade manufacturers, buyers, and consumers wanted plain white vinyl shades, I’d give them plain white vinyl shades. Elegant patterns could be illuminated when daylight passed through translucent shade materials that had been printed with an opaque white ink that matched the vinyl. I created prototypes and licensed the idea to Kenney Manufacturing Company. Dick Kenney was my favorite CEO in the shade and drapery hardware industry. It felt like a perfect match. I named my collection ‘Reflections’.

This is how the plain white shades looked when daylight passed through them.

white on white shade collection

I also created a unique collection of illuminated pattern designs which I called

New Early American Folk Art

New early american folk art

Hurricane HugoOnce again, we were all set to go when disaster struck. Hurricane Hugo hit Kenney’s shade manufacturing plant in Charleston, SC and completely destroyed it. Dick Kenney called and apologized to me while I offered him my sympathies. My most important project was once again reluctantly placed on a back burner. I was mind boggled. Every time I got close to what I wanted, it was ripped from my grasp by outside circumstances. Stay tuned for more of my physical and metaphysical misadventures.