United Astrology Conference 2012 Recap
The conference was wildly successful, although it was such an intense week that many attendees were kind of burnt out afterward, and so a lot of the reviews of the conference have been trickling in slowly over the course of the past month.
At this point I think that it has been long enough since the conference ended that the majority of the coverage is in, and so the purpose of this article is to try to give a recap of the conference by providing links to a variety of different reports and other media related to the conference from around the internet.
Let’s start off with some basic stats on UAC 2012:
- It was held at the Marriott hotel at 555 Canal Street in New Orleans, Louisiana, which turned out to be a pretty good hotel.
- The final estimate put the attendance at 1,458 astrologers, including about 200 speakers (also including the free speech lecturers).
- A total of about 295 lectures over the course of the week, plus 22 pre and post-conference workshops.
- There were five sponsoring organizations: the American College of Vedic Astrology (ACVA), Association For Astrological Networking (AFAN), Council of Vedic Astrology (CVA), International Society for Astrological Research (ISAR) and National Council for Geocosmic Research (NCGR).
- The three head coordinators of the conference were Madalyn Hillis-Dineen (NCGR), Linda Lehman (AFAN), and Gisele Terry (ISAR), who have to be given a lot of credit for successfully pulling off such a large and memorable conference.
Social Media at UAC 2012
UAC 2012 was a milestone from a technological perspective, because it was the first major conference in which participants were really actively engaged in sharing what was going on through social media websites.
If you do a search for UAC on Google right now you will find hundreds of pictures, videos, audio recordings, tweets, Facebook posts, and other types of media that was generated during the week of the conference. As a result of that, this was one of the first conferences where even if you didn’t actually attend, you could still get a pretty clear picture of a lot of the things that happened that week, just by following the trail of social media that emanated from the conference.
In particular, I would like to mention the Postcards from UAC project, which played a very active and important role in encouraging attendees to post reports from the conference, and then organized and aggregated them in a central location.
The founder of the project and the main organizer was Robin Dalton, who sadly wasn’t able to attend the conference, so she used several different social media sites in order to collect reports from conference attendees. Here is part of the call to (digital) arms that her group sent out just before the conference:
UAC, the world’s largest gathering of astrologers, is being held in New Orleans from May 23 to 29. We will miss every single one of you who cannot make it… which is why we’re going to do our best to bring the party to you! In a divinely chaotic grassroots effort, we’re encouraging all tech-savvy UAC attendees to send your images and videos out to our astro friends around the world as “Postcards from UAC.” We’ve organized a worldwide network of volunteers to collect your postcards and share them with the global community.
Robin and the others involved in the project worked tirelessly that week, and even in the weeks after the conference, and the result is a pretty fantastic collection of media from the event. If you are interested in checking it out then here are the websites associated with the Postcards from UAC project:
Speaking of social media, one of the things that was interesting about the conference is that this was the first UAC in which smartphones were almost ubiquitous, and so there were a number of people who were posting tweets about the conference as events were happening.
Most of the tweets were being coordinated with the hashtags
#uac2012 and #UACPostcards, which unfortunately are essentially blank now if you look them up on Twitter, although both were filled with hundreds and perhaps thousands of reports that week, many of which you can still see on the UAC Postcards Twitter page where many of them were re-tweeted.
Coverage by Astrology Blogs
There were a number of blog posts and reviews that were written in the aftermath of the conference. One of the things that is interesting about some of the blogs is that they gave reviews for some of the lectures that the writers attended, in addition to some coverage of different things like things they saw in New Orleans, what they thought of the hotel, etc.
What follows is a sampling of some of the blog posts that I’ve come across at this point. If you happen to find any other articles then please let me know by posting a link in the comments section at the end of this article.
Jeff Jawer had a great writeup of UAC on Tarot.com, talking about it from the perspective of someone who has seen the astrological community grow and change a lot in the last few decades.
April Elliot Kent posted a two part series, detailing both her experience of New Orleans as well as the conference itself and some of the lectures she attended.
Sunny Dawn over at Slushpile Astrology posted a three part series in which she also talked about the city and some of the highlights of the conference, as well as some of the particular lectures that she attended. Her series is useful because she provides reviews and recommendations for those who are contemplating whether or not to get the recordings of certain lectures.
Barry Perlman posted an excellent article with some introspective reflections about the nature of the conference, and in it he makes some particularly humorous and insightful points about the deeper meaning of this weird elevator system that confounded many of the conference attendees.
I hope I can sufficiently convey how utterly strange these elevators were. I’m a fairly well-traveled guy, but I have never experienced elevators quite like these. See, on the inside of these elevators, there are no standard numbered buttons for every floor—only door-open and -close buttons, and the ones for emergencies. Instead, when you call the elevator, you type your floor number into a keypad, and then the digital display flashes you which elevator (labeled by letter and identified by sign) will be taking you to your floor. Once the designated elevator arrives and the door opens, you can see on another digital display along its side which floors it will be stopping at. The travel slate has been set; you are carried onward.
At the busiest transit moments, with eager elevator-riders massing expectantly around, the elevator’s computer would get apparently overwhelmed: When someone typed in their desired floor-number, the digital screen would simply offer a flashing question-mark, then go dark, no further direction given, like a magic 8-ball reporting: The timing is not right. Ask again later. The only reasonable response was a chuckle. I’m sure many of my colleagues (at least the ones who don’t know my style too well) thought I was a bit bonkers when I’d mention offhand that my greatest spiritual teacher at UAC was the elevator, and that I intended to write an essay about it when I returned home.
Elsewhere, Karen Starich over at Zentrader did a writeup of her experience of UAC from the perspective of a financial astrologer, and she summarized some of the views expressed by those in the financial astrology community at the conference.
Joyce Mason also wrote a four part series on her UAC experience on her blog The Radical Virgo, and she has some great descriptions of some of the events and entertainment that occurred at the conference.
Radio and Podcast Coverage
Eric Francis of Planet Waves did some excellent coverage of UAC, and in particular I would recommend checking out some of the podcasts and interviews that he did with various astrologers during the course of the conference.
Andrea Gehrz did a recap of UAC on her radio show as soon as she got back home from the conference, while many of the memories were still fresh in her mind.
Video Coverage and Interviews with Astrologers
There were a few different people who were recording video interviews, or producing other types of videos during the course of the conference.
Kelly Lee Phipps recorded an interesting round table discussion between Steven Forrest, Gisele Terry, and David Cochrane where they discussed some of the challenges arising from the current state of diversity in the astrological community, resulting from the multiplicity of traditions and approaches.
Elsewhere, investigative journalist Art Harris worked with Astrology News Service in order to record several interviews and segments on specific topics at the conference, and they have recently started releasing some of those videos through the ANS page on YouTube. Here are a few of those clips:
- David Railey and Jiyun of Sina.com on the recent rise of interest in western astrology in China
- Lee Lehman and Enid Newberg of Kepler College on astrology and education/academia
- Roy Gillett of the Astrological Association on astrology and skepticism
- Bruce Scofield on the Mayan calendar and the hubbub surrounding 2012
Nadiya Shah did a nice video on her experience of UAC, and some of the sights and sounds of New Orleans. She also did some interviews with various people, which she has been posting on her YouTube page. Here is a sampling of a few of the interviews:
- Christopher Renstrom (about his website Ruling Planets)
- Tim Bost (on financial astrology)
- Corrine Kenner (on astrology and tarot)
A crew from the astrology section of the Chinese media website Sina.com was conducting interviews and doing reports on the conference all week, and they have an entire page on their website dedicated to UAC 2012 coverage. You can browse the site in English using Google Translate. There are actually some really great pictures and video clips from the conference on their site, if you take some time to explore it for a while.
The Sina interviews were conducted by Jiyun, who is the head editor of the astrology section of the website. Here are a few clips:
- Interview with Rob Hand, asking him the question “what is the real astrology?”
- Interview with Alan Oken
- Interview with Noel Tyl
- Footage from the Regulus Awards
- Footage from the amazing Astrology et al bookstore in the trade show
- Other miscellaneous clips
Mainstream Media Coverage
There was a fair amount of coverage of the conference by the mainstream media during the course of the week. A lot of it seemed to focus on the presidential election, even early in the week before the presidential panel had even taken place, and then especially after the panel was over as well.
I will provide some links to articles that were published after the panel was over later in this post, but for now here are a few articles that came out earlier in the week, more towards the beginning of the conference:
- Reuters: No need to wait for November to know election outcome (May 26)
- Associated Press: Astrologers Predict Outcome Of Presidential Race (May 24)
- Associated Press: Astrologers predict outcome of presidential race (video)
- USA Today: Astrology Gathering
On the night of Saturday, May 26 the Association for Young Astrologers threw a combined party along with the cast of the play that Michael Lutin put on earlier in the evening, titled OMG, The Mayans Were Right!.
That night marked the official transition of power between myself and Austin Coppock, who officially became the new President of the Association for Young Astrologers that night. At one point we did a toast to AYA, and to the future of astrology.
Austin has some big plans for the organization, and I look forward to seeing where he takes it.
Photo credits here go to Wonder Bright, who did an amazing job of taking pictures throughout the course of the conference and then sharing them through the Postcards from UAC project.
The Final Kepler College Graduation
Kepler College lost its accreditation in 2010, and so the last class of students to receive degrees from Kepler had their graduation ceremony during the conference, on the night of May 27.
Speeches were given by Enid Newberg, Chris Brennan, Lynn Bootes, Bernard Jordan, and Kenneth Miller.
You can watch the video or read the transcript of my commencement speech from the Kepler College graduation here.
Robert Hand recorded his charge to the graduates, which was actually quite good, as usual, and you can watch the video below:
The Banquet and Awards Ceremony
Several of the sponsoring organizations gave out individual service awards in order to recognize members who had made major contributions to their respective communities.
Each person who received an award gave a brief acceptance speech, although unfortunately a lot of people in the crowd were being kind of loud at that point, and so it was kind of difficult to hear what was being said towards the back of the room. Nonetheless, the awards were significant, and here are the winners:
ACVA Lifetime Achievement Award
- Dennis Harness
AFAN Jim Lewis Service Award
- Jack Fertig
CVA Lifetime Achievement Award
- Chakrapani Ulla
ISAR Service Award
- Richard Smoot
NCGR Sisyphus Award
- Madalyn Hillis-Dineen
NCGR–PAA Excellence in Astrological Educatin
- Kaye Shinker †
After the organization service awards were handed out, the Marion D. March Regulus Award ceremony began. These awards are easily the most prestigious in the astrological community. Here are the winners:
Discovery, Innovation and Research:
- Robert P. Blaschke †
(See Mary Plumb’s recent post on the TMA blog where she points out some significant transits that were coinciding with Blaschke’s natal chart on the night that he received the award.)
- Ena Stanley
Theory and Understanding
- Nick Campion
- Joyce Levine
- Chris McCrae
Lifetime Achievement Awards
- Michael Lutin
- Ray Merriman
2012 US Presidential Election Panel
At the very end of the conference there was a panel on the 2012 presidential election in the US. The panel was moderated by Ray Merriman, and it featured five astrologers from different traditions who issued predictions about the outcome of the November election.
At UAC in 2008 a similar panel took place, and the astrologers on it were unanimous in predicting that Obama would win the election. As a result of that precedent, expectations were high for this panel.
The panelists included:
- Gary Christian, representing Uranian astrology and Cosmobiology.
- Edith Hathaway, representing Indian or Vedic astrology.
- Nina Gryphon, representing Medieval and Renaissance astrology.
- Claude Weiss, representing Modern western astrology.
- Chris Brennan, representing Hellenistic astrology, on behalf of the writers of the Political Astrology Blog.
In the end, the five panelists were unanimous in predicting that Obama would win the 2012 election.
For more detailed coverage of what happened on the panel, including a video recording of most of it, see the UAC 2012 presidential panel article on the Political Astrology Blog.
The presidential panel got a decent amount of media coverage once it was over, and in fact most of the media coverage earlier in the week before the panel even took place was largely focused on the election. Here are the two main articles that were published once the panel was over and then widely circulated by the media:
- Reuters: Astrologers say celestial charts favor Obama over Romney
- USA Today: Panel of astrologers predicts Obama victory
The day after the panel, Nina Gryphon was interviewed about it live on CNN’s Headline News, just after 2:00 PM EDT. A bunch of us who were still at the hotel at that point watched the interview live on a television in the lobby. Unfortunately I haven’t been able to find a clip for that yet.
It was a great conference. Despite the length of this article, I’ve probably only really scratched the surface of everything that occurred that week.
There were so many important events that occurred, but one thing I can’t really capture the essence of here or properly report is the many conversations that were had or the connections that were made during the course of the week. In many ways this is probably the most important aspect of these types of conferences.
All other events aside, to the extent that UAC brought together 1,500 astrologers in one place for a week and gave them the opportunity to meet and interact, I would say that the conference was a rousing success.