Monday, March 12, 2012

Celebrity Moon Sign Series: Mad Men's Jon Hamm

Jon Hamm (2008)

While I typically avoid hometown shout-outs here on Drunken Astrology, I can't pass up the chance to boast about growing up in the same city as Jon Hamm, who plays the starring role of Don Draper on AMC's Mad Men. Though a prolific actor in a variety of roles, Don Draper is certainly Hamm's most iconic role. His distinctly aloof but profound acting style, charismatic presence, and the fact that the scotch never runs dry all match up quite well with Hamm's Pisces Sun. The Sun, as our ideal self-image, our vitality, our ego, always factors into an actor's career quite dramatically (couldn't resist that one). But, as is often the case, it's the moon sign that offers insight into what actors are really feeling, and what personal experiences have shaped their acting career. For Jon Hamm, we can look to his moon in Virgo to learn more.

Hamm was born March 10th, 1971, in St. Louis, Missouri. In astrological interpretation, the moon sign is often a strong indicator of tendencies in childhood (sometimes stronger than the sun sign!). Though dabbling in some of the Piscean-approved creativity of acting roles in school, Hamm participated more in sports (a practical and healthy pursuit more befitting his moon in Virgo). Hamm went on to pursue a degree in English, teaching drama briefly before relocating to Los Angeles.

Moving to Los Angeles brought Hamm's Sun-Moon combo truly to the fore: the idealism of his Pisces sun encouraged him to pursue a career as an actor, while his Virgo moon forced him to maintain his practical side (which consequently meant waiting tables). As the frustration of spending years seeking a career in acting mounted, his Virgo moon intervened, as can be summed up well in the following quote:

"The last thing I wanted to be out here was one of those actors who's 45 years old, with a tenuous grasp of their own reality, and not really working much. So I gave myself five years. I said, if I can't get it going by the time I'm 30, I'm in the wrong place. And as soon as I said that, it's like I started working right away."

You couldn't engineer a better statement that addressed both the Piscean pitfalls of frustrated ideals and Virgo's clear-cut demands on practicality and deadlines. The balance of these energies paid off quickly for Hamm, who was cast in a variety of roles from 2000 to 2007, when he obtained the breakthrough role of Don Draper.

Much like Morgan Freeman's stabilizing Mercury in Taurus (read the post about him here!), Hamm's moon in Virgo (another earth sign) provides a solid foundation for his creative Pisces Sun. Even the character of Don Draper seems to exemplify Hamm's sun-moon combination: flashes of brilliance and creativity between libations, with a detail-oriented and critical approach to others bringing everything back down to earth. It's no wonder that Don Draper is Hamm's most successful role and has garnered him multiple awards.

Hints of Virgoan concerns appear in other parts of Hamm's life, as well. Virgo, as well as the sixth house (which it rules) are associated with health, service, and animals or pets. Hamm and his longtime girlfriend Jennifer Westfeldt both advocate animal rescue, and their pet dog Cora was adopted from an animal shelter. Small personal details like this can demonstrate the ongoing role that one's moon sign plays in their lives, even while the associations of their sun sign "steal the spotlight".

While Jon Hamm's charismatic screen presence is undoubtedly a product of his Pisces sun, we may just have his moon in Virgo to thank for the practicality and determination that got him there. Practical determination is a skill we could all work on- but it's also important to relax as well. So pour yourself a scotch and go watch Mad Men.
Readers: Do your sun and moon signs help each other out? How do your sun and moon signs manifest in your life? Leave a comment!

Bogs, Booze, and Climate Change, part 1

Tscaz olkrus ubt
Beer: Perhaps the world's most audible source of C02 emissions (*belch*)

At first glance, it might be difficult to see how a frosty pint of beer could relate to climate change. Believe me, when I find myself discouraged by the daunting future of our changing planet, I expect an icy libation to help me forget about these problems. Beer, however, has a rich history that is tied quite intimately with the environment.

In Europe, there's a distinctive "line" separating areas with a beer-drinking heritage and those of a wine-drinking heritage. Not surprisingly, this line divides the Mediterranean areas of thriving grape production from the temperate areas of diverse herbs and plants that have been used throughout the history of beer-making. The only one of these herbs still widely used today is hops, which can be about as finicky as grapes when it comes to climatic requirements. It thrives around the 45th parallel, which corresponds to Oregon in the U.S. and Germany in Europe, both of which produce many of the world's best-known hop varieties.

Before hops, a proprietary blend of preservative and flavoring herbs known as gruit was used in brewing beer (read a little more about gruit and brewing in my latest post on gruit ale here). The selection of herbs used in gruit varied widely ("I'll bet these berries are only a little poisonous..."). But in general, one of the most commonly used ingredients was a small shrub known as bog myrtle. Like grapes and hops, bog myrtle prefers a specific environment (though it's not quite as picky as grapes and hops...). Bog myrtle likes peaty soils, high in acidity and organic matter. As its name suggests, it grows in bogs.

You may wonder: why do we digress into bogs when we should be discussing beer and astrology? Have I had one beer too many? The boggy peatlands, as it turns out, are a big factor in European history, in the development of beer, and in climate change (to be discussed in part 2). Here's a map showing some of Europe's libation geography:

Though perhaps not 100% exact, you can see the general range of plant habitats. Wine doesn't do terribly well in Lithuania, and bog myrtle doesn't have much luck on the Sicilian coast. Hops falls in the middle, and sure enough parties with everybody. Germany, a country in which hops and wine overlap, is known for both outstanding hops and world-renowned wine production. England, where hops and bog myrtle's peat-bog home overlap, was an area of intense conflict when hops began to compete with gruit herbs back in the middle ages. Stephen Harrod Buhner, in an article here about the fall of gruit ale, quotes a complaint made by a distraught medieval brewer to the mayor of London:

"a deceivable and unholesome fete in bruying of ale within the said citee nowe of late [that] is founde in puttyng of hoppes and other things in the said ale, contrary to the good and holesome manner of bruynge of Ale of old tyme used. . . . Pleas it therfore your saide good lordshyppe to forbid the putting into ale of any hops, herbs, or other like thing, but only licour, malte, and yeste."

Although hops had become standard in Germany and the Netherlands, the brewers of medieval England stayed loyal to their gruit heritage (for a short time, anyway. Southern England eventually embraced hops with beer styles such as the India Pale Ale). Scotland and Scandinavia, too far north for hops to venture, are home to some really interesting pre-hop brews (including heather ale and a gruit brewed with juniper berries). To this day, Scottish-style beer is characterized by very toned-down hops. Bog myrtle is used in Scandinavia in modern times as an ingredient in home-made liquor infusions. It's inescapable- the effects of climate and environment on drinking culture endure.

That drinking heritage may be facing changes, though. Climate transformation, rising temperatures and freak weather are affecting grapes and hops alike, and the vast peat bogs around the world's northern latitudes are a ticking timebomb of carbon emissions. Read more about these changes and what the future may hold in part 2!

Readers: what do you think about climate change? Do you ever consider the history of your favorite libations? Leave a comment!