Have a Great Weekend

The last weekend before things start getting really interesting for 2019, and we have a soundtrack for everybody:

State of the Gallery: January 2019

January skies: cold and dark

Coming up on the new gallery’s second anniversary, the main theme around the Triffid Ranch this month is…cleaning. Lots of cleaning, shifting, moving, sorting, cataloguing, and launching into the sun. Pots and containers that almost made sense when they were originally purchased three years ago but simply can’t cut the mustard today. Glues and other adhesives that didn’t age well.  Electrical fixtures purchased years before the gallery originally opened that are now desperately obsolete based on today’s technology. Equipment and supplies purchased for big projects that fell through, usually when the client only wanted to pay in exposure. Items that fell literally between the cracks in those frantic days during and after the move from Valley View Center. Combine this with a renovation of the actual toolspace, and the gallery is as close to ergonomic as it’s been since the beginning of 2017. You know, when the space was empty. 

(Seriously, folks, take it from a professional: DO NOT STOCKPILE GLUES. Buy what you need when you need it, or what you reasonably think you can use within a month. Most of your cyanoacrylate superglues will last longer, but there’s nothing quite like desperately needing silicone sealer for a project, slapping a presumably fresh cartridge into the caulking gun, cranking it up to put down a bead of fresh silicone, and getting instead a bead of what looks and feels like transparent cottage cheese with no adhesive properties whatsoever. Don’t even get me started on wood glues: old wood glue looks like snot, it smells like snot, and it has a third of the holding power of snot. Not only will your projects fall apart, but then everyone visiting will assume that your workspace does double duty as a preschool.)

That’s the situation at the moment: with everyone still recovering from holiday stress, the best thing to do is get everything around for the rest of the year, and that’s very nearly literally complete. I can’t say that previous visitors won’t recognize the new gallery, but it definitely has a lot less of the Doctor Who/The Red Green Show mashup feel than in previous months. Well, I SAY that, but you should see some of the odd Halloween pots picked up when a Pier One distributor shut down their local showcase office two years ago. And this applies until it’s time to restock glassware after selling everything during the spring show season.

As far as events are concerned, we had to make a tough decision earlier this week, and the Triffid Ranch won’t be at All-Con in the middle of March. This wasn’t done lightly, and it mostly involved schedule conflicts with the day job, which is why we really had no choice. The schedule is going to be filled with more one-day events through the rest of the year, but four-day events aren’t going to be an option for the foreseeable future. The Oddities and Curiosities Expo at Dallas’s Fair Park on March 30 is still on, though, as well as other events to be announced very shortly.

Likewise, we’re still on for the Perot Museum of Nature & Science’s Social Science: Wild World 21+ event on January 25: the flytraps and North American pitcher plants are dormant for the winter, but the Mexican butterwort blooms in the gallery make up for it. For those who have already picked up their tickets, the Triffid Ranch exhibit will be on the fourth floor, not far away from the Protostega skeleton. If this works well, negotiations are ongoing about returning for the Social Science: Science Fiction show on April 26: between this and Tim Curry’s guest appearance at Texas Frightmare Weekend the very next weekend, I’m honestly looking forward to fictional carnivorous plant references that don’t involve people yelling “Feed me, Seymour!” over and over and my inevitable response.

Oh, and another benefit of the final gallery cleanup: besides freeing up room for new projects, this also allows the opportunity to restart a program put on hiatus after the Valley View exodus. Some of you may remember Sid, the Nepenthes bicalcarata pet at the long-defunct and much-missed Role2Play gaming store in Coppell, and it’s time to expand the rental program that allowed Sid to make such an impression. Bookstores, dentist offices, classrooms, business lobbies: Triffid Ranch enclosure rentals offer the opportunity to show off unique carnivorous plant displays without having to deal with maintenance and upkeep. Keep checking back, because the details will be available very soon, or feel free to drop a line to become an early implementer.

Have a Great Weekend

Experiments: Hylocereus megalanthus

Hylocereus megalanthus (yellow dragonfruit)

Contrary to popular opinion, the Triffid Ranch doesn’t focus solely on carnivorous plants. The last ten years have been a boot camp on care and propagation of two species of the Hylocereus climbing cactus known commonly as “dragonfruit.” Getting seeds for the two most common species, white (H. undatus) and red (H. costaricensis), was exceedingly easy as dragonfruit continue their rise in popularity in American markets. (An extra surprise for those wanting to buy carnivorous plant seeds: since dragonfruit seeds are almost identical to Venus flytrap seeds, scammers sell a lot of dragonfruit seeds all over Amazon and eBay.) Every reference I could find about the yellow dragonfruit cactus, H. megalanthus, though, noted that it was very hard to find outside of Central America, and a business trip to Nicaragua turned up other species growing under live oak trees but no fruit. By last New Year’s Eve, I’d given up on finding any, so guess what happened when my wife pointed out a new entry at our local Asian market?

Hylocereus megalanthus (yellow dragonfruit) -sliced

Getting one home, several things presented themselves as I went to work with a knife. Firstly, these fruit were imported from Ecuador, suggesting either that Ecuadorean farmers are competing with the big red and white dragonfruit farms in Vietnam, or that there’s something about megalanthus propagation that makes growing them in the Americas much easier. Secondly, as compared to the firm and crunch flesh of other species, megalanthus fruit is just pulpy enough that they’re shipped in the same padded netting used for Asian pears to keep them from bruising during transport. Thirdly, while most Americans are disappointed by the very delicate flavor of red and white dragonfruit (that delicacy, incidentally, is why I love them and could eat them all day), megalanthus fruit has a very distinctive sweet flavor, much like the syrup in canned fruit cocktail. Get the word out to chefs and bartenders in the States and Europe, and Ecuador will have to quintuple dragonfruit production just to keep up with demand.

Yellow dragonfruit (Hylocereus megalanthus) seeds in propagation

Oh, and the most interesting part besides the color of the peel? Yellow dragonfruit seeds are HUGE compared to those of other Hylocereus species. They’re still perfectly edible, and they add a very satisfying crunch when inhaling the fourth yellow dragonfruit of the night, but this suggests further research on which animals are used as vectors for those seeds: I’m putting down early money on lizards and tortoises as well as birds. On any case, most of the remaining fruit went into propagation, using techniques that are very productive for the other commercially grown Hylocereus species: tall pots under a propagation dome, with the fruit scraped out of the rind, spread out atop potting mix in thin strips, and more potting mix put on top to facilitate decay of the pulp. In about a month, we’ll learn if this worked: wish me luck.

The Texas Triffid Ranch Occasional Newsletter and Feed Lot Clearance Sale – #5

(The Texas Triffid Ranch Occasional Newsletter and Feedlot Clearance Sale is a regular Email newsletter, with archives available on the main TTR site at least a month after first publication. To receive the latest newsletters, please subscribe.)

Originally published on December 18, 2018

Okay, so the holiday season is going full tilt, with the expected diminishing of daylight hours in the Northern Hemisphere. All of the temperate carnivores, particularly flytraps and Sarracenia pitcher plants, should be in full dormancy by now, and stay there until at least the middle of March. Nepenthes and Cephalotus pitcher plants may not need a similar full dormancy, but they certainly won’t mind a relative rest, and giving them lowered daylight hours increases the odds of their blooming in spring if they’re mature enough. Orchids, gesneriads, aloes, euphorbias, citrus…all of these definitely appreciate a bit of rest during the winter months. The trick is knowing HOW much of a rest, and of what kind.

 For most, the rest period is determined by photoperiod, the number of light hours a plant receives per day. (One could argue that thanks to axial tilt, winter light intensity is diminished alongside the number of hours, but we’ll leave that out of the conversation for now.) As far as carnivores and protocarnivores are concerned, even species generally considered to grow all year around could use a photoperiod rest through the winter, with either decreased light or cooler temperatures or both. Tropical carnivores such as Nepenthes pitcher plants and bladderworts use photoperiod as a cue to store up energy for blooming in spring, and the tuberous sundews of Australia use photoperiod to prepare for emergence in the monsoon season. Want really spectacular blooms in spring with tropical sundews and bladderworts? Give them a rest now by matching the photoperiod of plants under lights with the outside dawn/dusk cycle. If that’s not practical, at least cut plant light to nine to ten hours per day.

With both plants under lights and ones in a windowsill, make sure to protect your plant from excessive artificial light outside of that winter lighting schedule. Moonlight is generally too weak to affect plants, and they’re already adapted to it, but street lights, porch lights, living room lamps, kitchen lights, and even nearby nightlights can adversely affect some plants’ ability to bloom. Poinsettias are an extreme example: getting those brilliant red bracts in time for Christmas requires putting them into a closet or other lightproof space at night. One flashlight, one open closet door, one porch light turned on at the wrong time before the poinsettia is ready, and you’re going to have to wait for next year.

 The worst part of this is that it seems counterintuitive, especially for those of us with SADS. Right at the time when we’re craving more and more energetic lights, photoperiod-dependent plants are asking for a cessation of hostilities. Yes, not being able to enjoy them in winter is aggravating, but come spring, when they’re exploding with blooms, you’ll be glad to have let them sleep in.

What You’ve Missed:

Oh, dear. It’s been a little while since the last newsletter, with more than a few shows and updates since then. Recent updates to the web site include:

Enclosures: Hans-Ruedi II (2018)

Enclosures: Hoodoo (2018)

The Aftermath: Blood Over Texas Horror For the Holidays V

The Aftermath: Swizzle’s Hawaiian Holiday Popup 2018

Personal Interlude: The Honeymoon Wall

Other News

 Well, never let it be said that the Triffid Ranch doesn’t jump onto a social media trend a half-decade after everyone else does. For those who have lovingly nuhdzed me for the last two years about setting up an Instagram account, go check out @txtriffidranch right now. For those who haven’t, head over there anyway.

Recommended Reading

Because it’s that season, it’s time to look back on the basics. Both for beginning carnivorous plant enthusiasts and those experienced growers wanting to expand their range, you can’t go wrong with the 20-year classic, The Savage Garden by Peter D’Amato. You can get more detail on carnivorous plant morphology, relationships, and ecology with the Redfern Natural History volumes, but as far as good growing tips and propagation methods, you can’t beat D’Amato’s tried and true techniques. While the original 1998 edition is still a valuable guide, the recent updated version is worth the money, especially if you to get an autographed copy.

Music

Some of you fellow Eighties brats may remember the British metal band Bad News, either for the two pseudodocumentaries on the BBC’s The Comic Strip Presents, its live tour, or its sole album. A few may have specific opinions about lead singer and guitarist Vim Fuego, guitarist Colin Grigson, bassist Den Dennis, and drummer Spider Webb Spider Webb (as played by Adrian Edmondson, Rik Mayall, Nigel Planer, and Peter Richardson), and a few might even notice significant similarities between the two pseudodocumentaries and a pseudodocumentary that came out a year later about a band named Spinal Tap. For everyone else, it’s time for you to become familiar with a criminally overlooked vestige of Twentieth Century heavy metal history, if only for a celebration of the thirtieth anniversary release of the greatest holiday metal song ever written, “Cashing In On Christmas.” 

The Texas Triffid Ranch Occasional Newsletter and Feed Lot Clearance Sale is copyright 2018 by Paul Riddell, and may be reproduced in its entirety and forwarded at will. The Texas Triffid Ranch is Dallas’s pretty much only carnivorous plant gallery, located in scenic Richardson, Texas, and is open by appointment. More information is available at www.txtriffidranch.com. With the announcement of Pantone’s new color for 2019, I now want to breed a rose that color, and name the cultivar “Rick Grimes.”

Have a Great Weekend

And only 75 days until the first day of spring!

Have a Great 2019


When I was in high school, I read a comment in a magazine from a neurologist stating that “pain is the body’s way of keeping you from dying of tetanus from stepping on rusty nails all day.” One of the many regrets of my feckless youth was that I didn’t write down the magazine’s name nor the doctor’s name, because this statement should be the Triffid Ranch’s mission statement. When you think of all of the important advice given by the wise to the young, most of it may sound as if it’s intended to avoid death. Go back to all of the important advice given by parents, family, teachers, co-workers: it’s not intended to avoid death, but to avoid pain. Don’t run with scissors. Don’t pick up the cat by the tail. Don’t stick your fingers in a light socket. Don’t hold firecrackers in your hand and then light them with a sparkler. Unplug the lawn mower spark plug before reaching underneath. Always cook dried beans for a while before eating them. None of these may kill you outright or even quickly, but it’s amazing how mind-searing pain will make you choose differently with subsequent decisions. I’d tell you how I know this, but let’s just say that I had no fingerprints on my right hand between 1984 and 1987. (I won’t even talk about why I avoid New Year’s Eve festivities, considering that one New Year’s Eve 25 years ago led to a slew of bad decisions that cascaded and replicated into the 21st Century. An assemblage of the alternate individuals I’d be today if I’d just stayed home at the end of 1993 could populate a reboot of Orphan Black.)

 In lieu of the usual look back on the previous year with hope of learning lessons from it, let’s look at 2019 with the idea that we all learned something from 2018. It doesn’t have to be much, but the desired goal is to note what causes us blinding agony, and, you know, maybe avoiding said agony for the duration of one’s lifespan. If it’s a particularly pertinent lesson, maybe it’ll become impressed into myth and legend: “You see how that person stops everything and silently cries every day at noon for an hour? DON’T DO WHAT THEY DID.” Likewise, if the action or lack thereof led to a significant cessation of pain or even an overload of joy, this deserves at least as much attention.

Numero Uno: It’s time to drop nostalgia. The new book Typeset in the Future: Typography and Design in Science Fiction Movies by Dave Addey came out a couple of weeks ago, and the chapter on the future realism of 2001: A Space Odyssey contained a gem about the videophone shown near the beginning of the film. Bell Telephone had originally premiered the videophone in 1964, with the intention of introducing videophones across the world based on the exceptional response it received at the 1964 World’s Fair. The problem was that the perceived demand didn’t actually exist except among a few executives looking for an excuse to launch it: the alleged ecstatic survey results came from people who attended the World’s Fair, who made their way to the Bell demo, who tried the videophone, and then stated that they’d be willing to pay for video calls if videophones were available. Nobody ran research of how many people would be willing to pay for videophone service who didn’t see the demo at the World’s Fair, or even if they’d run in the other direction and start communicating with carrier pigeons if videophones were the only other option. Bell finally gave up after spending millions of dollars on pushing a videophone solution that just didn’t appeal to any but a very few, and a solution that was a lot more expensive than existing phone options at the time with no obvious must-have bonus. (It’s very telling that Skype and other video apps only took off when the price of a video call dropped to nothing, and when the technology necessary to make said calls was easily folded into other technology that was easy to access and transport.)

That, in a nutshell, summed up a lot of attempts in 2018 to revive events and venues that died in the 1990s. Either it’s easy to forget that the people who keep nagging about reviving a dead venue have no obligation to put down money on it, the people organizing it are so attached to fond memories from decades past that they assume that everyone else must be as into it as they are, or the intended audience has simply grown past or expects more. If more than ten years have gone by between the last time the venue was open and its revival, the odds are pretty good that its original audience is too distracted to notice its return, and training a new audience as to why This Is A Big Deal may take too long. More than 20 years, and the bright young kids that made the event or venue what it was are probably grandparents by now. What appeals to them probably won’t to their grandkids, and any attempt to revive a venue has to take those grandkids into account.

This may be a roundabout way to explain why you shouldn’t expect to see a Triffid Ranch tent at the Woodstock 50th anniversary event next year (mostly because “lectures by noted futurists” bring on horrible flashbacks of being trapped in a broom closet with Bruce Sterling in 1999), but it’s also a warning not to expect to see the tent at other revivals. There’s just not enough of a return, and new events and venues are a lot more fun.

Numero Two-o: Forget Facebook. 2018 was an experiment in getting more word out about Triffid Ranch events and open houses via social media, and the final tally is a resounding “meh.” Sadly, Facebook is the one that’s getting cut out more and more in 2019: the pressure to boost articles on Facebook Pages in order for readers to see them is getting ridiculous, more people are either leaving or cutting back on Facebook because of its much-publicized security and privacy issues, and then there’s the whole problem with trying to gauge commitment based on a medium that has no expectations tied to it. The money spent in 2018 on trying to reach new attendees via Facebook is better spent on signing up for more local shows, and if I want to go with ads again, I’ll go with a more effective medium, like AM radio.

Numero Three-o: Focus on home. The very good news about the gallery is that the move to the current location means that a lot of the perceived stigma of being at Valley View Center is gone. (At least now I no longer get people bellowing “But the mall is going to be torn down!” when I pass on the new address.) Now the trick is to get the word out to people already well-trained to ignore ads. Thankfully, the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex has a simply incredible number of one- and two-day markets and shows scheduled through 2019, so the plan is to set up at as many as weather allows. This includes forays into Austin and Houston as well, because I miss friends, customers, and cohorts south of Dallas.

Number Four-o: Don’t forget the little people. When friends finally get a major return on years of hard work with a new book, a movie deal, or a museum show, I always tell them “Now, don’t forget us little people when you’re accepting your Nobel.” I’m only half-joking: not only do I have faith that they WILL get that Nobel Prize, but it’s a reminder to me. I haven’t spent enough time thanking all of the people and organizations that helped get the Triffid Ranch off the ground and where it is, and 2019 is the year where that goes into overdrive. To everyone who came out to a gallery show, stopped by a booth at one of 2018’s shows, or who simply keeps reading site updates while waiting for a new episode of Starcher Trek, thank you, and I’m going to do my utmost to repay the kindness. Now let’s put 2018 in its grave before it can bite one last time.

Have a Great Weekend

16 years of marriage as of today, and it just keeps getting better. Considering that most of the dead pool bets were around “six months,” I sometimes wonder if we should have taken a dive at the end of 2003, divorced, collected the money, and continued to live in sin.

Nightmare Weekends Before Christmas 2018: The Aftermath

Well, the 2018 holiday season is nearly over, and the Triffid Ranch open houses are definitely done until 2019. On behalf of Caroline and myself, we’d like to thank everyone who came out for this year’s Nightmare Weekends Before Christmas open houses, because all of you made them work. For those who couldn’t, January is dedicated to inventory and reorganization before the spring show season, as well as to the construction of new enclosures, so make room on your calendars for the Groundhog Day open house on February 2. We’re going to have a lot to show off by then.

The Texas Triffid Ranch Occasional Newsletter and Feed Lot Clearance Sale – #3

(The Texas Triffid Ranch Occasional Newsletter and Feedlot Clearance Sale is a regular Email newsletter, with archives available on the main TTR site at least a month after first publication. To receive the latest newsletters, please subscribe.)

Originally published on September 17, 2018

So it’s been raining a bit in the Dallas area this September. A good thunderstorm on Labor Day is so common that nobody is particularly surprised, but then we usually go for about three weeks of heat and dry until one good cold front passes through, bringing a classic Texas gullywasher with it. After that, we enter traditional Texas autumn, which generally runs until the end of November. Warm and dry in October is expected: the last time we actually got cold at Halloween was in 1993, where temperatures surprisingly went below freezing and we had probably our only serious fall color in a generation. This September, though, the rains keep coming. We got the usual Labor Day downpour, and then we kept Houston-level humidity interspersed with flash rains.

One of Dallas’s more entertaining meteorological phenomena is our propensity toward very compact and very intense storms forming out of nowhere, so anyone driving along Central Expressway in the late afternoon would have seen the east side of Central with a bare misting of rain and the west side so inundated that visibility was close to zero. That’s before the rains really picked up: by midnight, we received a full six inches (15.24 cm) at the greenhouse, and the rain kept coming all Saturday. We could at least blame that on the remnants of a tropical storm blasting through, but the rest of the week? Abnormally (and much appreciated) cool temperatures AND a nearly constant misting, with no significant breaks for the immediate future.

Naturally, the Sarracenia are beside themselves with joy.

As a rule, North Texas has two growing seasons, separated by the lead smelter exhaust we fondly call “summer.” The spring growing season starts somewhere between the end of February and the middle of March, depending upon how many sudden cold snaps, surprise frosts, and occasional ice and snow storms interrupt the progression. With only a couple of exceptions in the last 50 years, the St. Patrick’s Day weekend is the point of no return, where the odds of another killing freeze drop to close to nothing. The cold frames and cloches go into storage very quickly, as April temperatures rapidly turn these into vegetable steamers. All cold-weather crops such as spinach are long-dead by the beginning of May, and everything generally stops by the middle of June. At that point, we’re both too hot and too dry for much growth of any sort, and all of the indigenous flora either burns off or goes dormant for the rest of the summer.

Autumn is when everything comes back, and that particularly applies to carnivores. Pretty much all temperate carnivores react to the change in weather by growing new leaves and traps, but Venus flytraps and North American pitcher plants go overboard in both size and color. Even pitcher plants with a mediocre appearance in spring tend to have brighter colors in autumn, but white pitchers (Sarracenia leucophylla) make up for lost time in September and October. And that’s under a typical Dallas autumn, with long dry interludes between rainstorms. This September, combine abnormally cool temperatures with a long and steady mist, and the leucophylla are going berserk. At this rate, they’ll be pulling their roots up and going for walks by October 1, and they’ll keep this up well past Halloween, or until night temperatures approach freezing, whichever comes first.

And the absolute best part of the boon in good carnivore weather? Both Sarracenia pitcher plants and Venus flytraps fluoresce strongly under ultraviolet light at about 380 nanometers, but some carnivores fluoresce across a wider range than others. Sarracenia leucophylla in particular fluoresces under moonlight, which helps explain why its trap contents tend to contain an inordinate number of moths, click beetles, and other completely nocturnal prey. With the Harvest Moon on September 24 and the Hunter’s Moon on October 24, anyone in the Dallas area with leucophyllas in their carnivorous plant collections are going to be blown away. With the number of Datura stramonium flowers growing alongside the Triffid Ranch greenhouse, the effect of the full moon at zenith will quote a rather popular film at the gallery: “it’s so dark, it’ll blind you.” That is, if the storm clouds ever fade.

Recent Updates

Recent updates to the web site:

New enclosure: “Raptor” (2018)

New enclosure: “Tezcatlipoca Blues” (2018)

New Article: “Shoutout For a Friend”

New Article: “State of the Gallery: September 2018”

Other News

Firstly, those who participated in the drawing for free Harlan Ellison books should have your randomly selected paperbacks or hardcovers, along with other neat items for neat people. Well, with the exception of you, Volly. You got the best of the lot: autographed copies of The Last Dangerous Visions and the autobiography Working Without A Net, as well as DVDs of the first four seasons of Cutter’s World. Hang onto those, because they might be  valuable one of these days, right alongside the twentieth anniversary issue of Science Fiction Eye.

And for those who came to the newsletter by way of the recent Harlan Ellison giveaway, I’d like to note that Harlan Ellison Books is putting out not one but FOUR new books, including the definitive Blood’s A Rover collection. One of the collections contains the just-rediscovered scripts and synopsis for Man Without Time, a TV series intended to star Leonard Nimoy after the cancellation of Star Trek, and the story of how it was found is just as intriguing as the series concept. Preorder now so you don’t get disappointed when it sells out within minutes.

For those in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, September doesn’t just mean “a welcome break from the soul-crippling heat of summer.” It also means “reptile show season,” particularly with the NARBC reptile and amphibian show at the Arlington Convention Center on September 22 and 23. The Triffid Ranch won’t have a booth this year (although I’m thinking very long and hard about September 2019), but just look for the albino with the Triffid Ranch T-shirt on a mad quest for cork bark, Tillandsias, and axolotls.

And speaking of reptiles, it is my great pleasure to announce that the Texas Triffid Ranch just entered a partnership with DFW Reptarium in Plano to exhibit and sell Triffid Ranch carnivorous plant enclosures. Right now, we’re starting small, with the opportunity to view the big Nepenthes bicalcarata enclosure “Hans-Ruedi,” but expect a lot of exclusives as business picks up.  At the very least, DFW Reptarium is without doubt the best reptile and amphibian shop available in the Dallas-Fort Worth area in the last 20 years, so come in to view Nepenthes and stay to look over panther chameleons, frilled dragons, arrow-poison frogs, and an absolutely beautiful crocodile monitor named Whisper. Whisper is worth making a lunch break trip just on her own.

Recommended Reading

Inside the Sideshow Studio (2015, Insight Editions, ISBN 978-1-60887-476-1)

Finding this in big piles at the local Half Price Books doesn’t diminish its value: this is a book that didn’t reach the audience that needed to see it. While the layout suggested that this would be a nice “look at how cool our workplace is compared to your horrible open office nightmare” press release, this is actually a very illuminating view of the organization necessary when a creative company grows beyond the “two people in a garage” stage. Just about anybody in book publishing, magazines, comics, games electronic and print, collectibles, Web content sites, and weekly newspapers has tales of venues and businesses that went under because one or two people simply couldn’t let go of an area wildly outside of their expertise, or who figured that continuity between products or product lines was unnecessary. Yes, the book has a lot of photos of employees’ work areas as all of the cool toys and accoutrements found on pretty much every desk of every tech job of the last twenty years. No, there’s nowhere near enough of an explanation of the essential tools and resources and how they differ from the office toys. That said, the book emphasizes the different essential departments in a successful licensed property company, from packaging art to publicity to shipping, by noting how everyone works together for a successful release.

Music

I could say a lot about the musical adventure that goes by the name of Ego Likeness, and add a few notes about side projects like Stoneburner and Hopeful Machines, but that would be cheating. A decade ago, I came across my first sample of the brilliance of Steven Archer and Donna Lynch thanks to a mixer CD containing the song “Water to the Dead” and “16 Miles,” and their work is a regular part of the Triffid Ranch workshop soundtrack. Sadly, I have yet to see a live Ego Likeness show: although Austin and San Antonio have a firm appreciation of Ego Likeness genius, no venue in Dallas is willing to take a chance on a booking. Let’s fix that, shall we?

The Texas Triffid Ranch Occasional Newsletter and Feed Lot Clearance Sale is copyright 2018 by Paul Riddell, and may be reproduced and forwarded at will. The Texas Triffid Ranch is Dallas’s pretty much only carnivorous plant gallery, located in scenic Richardson, Texas, and is open by appointment. More information is available at www.txtriffidranch.com. And in a reality very close to ours, every film starring Mel Gibson has his parts replaced by Mel Brooks, and vice versa. Let’s see if anybody notices.

Have a Great Holiday

Okay, so nobody gets a Doctor Who Christmas special this year. Good thing that Canada’s analogue was prepared for this eventuality, eh?

The Texas Triffid Ranch Occasional Newsletter and Feed Lot Clearance Sale – #4

(The Texas Triffid Ranch Occasional Newsletter and Feedlot Clearance Sale is a regular Email newsletter, with archives available on the main TTR site at least a month after first publication. To receive the latest newsletters, please subscribe.)

Originally published on October 12, 2018

Maclura pomifera

Right about now, phone lines and Google searches are full of questions across North Texas, both from new transplants and a few longtimers. Namely, they find strange green fruit about the size of a softball lying all about the place, with strange folds and grooves evocative of a human brain. Congratulations: you’ve just come across Maclura pomifera, also known throughout North Texas as “Osage orange,” “bois d’arc,” and “Didn’t I tell you kids to clean up that crap off the yard before it starts to smell?” As with oranges, apples, and avocados, now is the perfect time to enjoy Osage oranges as nature intended: most people use them as balls in impromptu skittles and cricket matches, and a few lobbed over a fence are great for murdering swimming pool and hot tub filters in the middle of the night. They float, they roll, they split open on impact when overripe: they’re the perfect symbol of Texas autumn. Why we don’t build giant parade floats shaped like them is beyond me.

Because of their ubiquity, I’m regularly asked about what to do with them: the tree’s wood is famous for constructing longbows and fraternity hazing paddles, but most people are at a loss with what to do with the fruit when the Google searches don’t include pie recipes. Because the Triffid Ranch strives to be a horticultural authority, below are the most commonly asked questions about the noble Osage orange and answers that may or may not be useful:

How do you locate an Osage orange tree before it starts dropping fruit?

Since the natural tendency of Osage orange trees is to freeze and wait for a predator to leave before getting up and prancing away, you have to outthink them to find them. Consider taking a bath, brushing your teeth, changing your underwear, reading instead of watching television, and turning off your phone while driving. Such contrary and antisocial behavior will confuse the Osage orange tree, causing it to display its natural phosphorescence, where it will be easy to catch and tame.

Another guaranteed way to find them is to look along sidewalks and bikepaths. Since Osage orange branches feature three-inch thorns, they’re regularly planted in suburban thoroughfares to discourage invaders and pedestrians. Whether allowed to grow foliage over a sidewalk or to have that foliage trimmed off and dropped on a bikepath, such “John Galt gardening,” if applied regularly, encourages joggers and bicyclists to find alternate routes, and is easier to camouflage than broken glass or caltrops. In this case, look for blood trails, discarded bicycle inner tubes, and yuppies screaming “I didn’t know it would take off MY face!”

Are Osage oranges edible?

Osage oranges are edible, and even tasty, if you happen to be a Columbian mammoth or a ground sloth. If you are, report at once to your local Time Agent mobilization center, because you’re really, really lost. For everyone else, the interior of an Osage orange is essentially a ball of sisal rope packed full of cotton and then soaked in lime juice, with a few sunflower seeds for flavor. If chowing down on old baseballs is your way of getting enough fiber in your diet, knock yourself out.

What do Osage oranges taste like?

Despair, depression, and unwashed feet. They’re the fruit equivalent of a Cory Doctorow novel, only with more depth and nuance. But please: don’t let me dissuade you from trying a big fibrous bite for yourself. I love watching dogs pick up toads in their mouths and then have to drag their tongues across the lawn to remove the taste of toad urine, too.

When Osage oranges fall from their tree, are they ripe?

Now that’s a stupid question. Osage oranges reproduce much like crows: when the young leave the nest, the parent will stick around to watch, but won’t actually help if the youngster gets in trouble. That’s why, for the first six months of life, Osage orange fruit have venomous quills with barbs that stick in the flesh. Early on in their history, this was to hitch rides on dinosaurs and uintatheres so their seeds were spread hundreds or possibly thousands of kilometers away from their original dropping grounds. Now, it’s so the seedlings have a ready and available source of nitrogen as their new host reaches the end of its travels and the corpse starts to rot.

Why do squirrels tear up fallen Osage oranges and leave a horrible mess in my yard?

Surprisingly, it’s not because squirrels hate you and want you to suffer. Well, that’s a factor, too, but not the only one. It has everything to do with the great squirrel god BROOOOOOOON: when squirrels pick a new king, any that can pronounce their god’s name without passing gas are automatic contenders. The next test is to seek the key to the Squirrel King’s Bedroom, which is hidden in an Osage orange bud at the beginning of the year and the fruit allowed to grow around it. Any who possess the Key and then spend a year as king are then transmogrified into the next stage of rodent evolution: the Fratbro. Leaving horrible messes in your front yard and getting indignant when called on it is just a matter of preparation for larger messes later.

How do I plant my own Osage orange tree?

The bad news: it involves blood, stolen organs, and bitter tears. The good news: it doesn’t necessarily involve YOUR blood and stolen organs.

I heard that Osage oranges could be used to repel cockroaches. How does that work?

Just follow these three steps:

Numero Uno: Hold the Osage orange over the roach to be repellled. 

Numero two-o: Aim so that the Osage orange lands near but not on the roach.

Numero three-o: Release the Osage orange, note the big thick meaty thud as it hits the ground, and watch the roach run off in the opposite direction. You would, too, if one of these nearly hit you in the head.

Okay: can you use Osage oranges to KILL roaches?

Also absolutely: if you have a good fastball, you could kill mountain lions, rhinoceroses, nematodes, lampreys, and the occasional 300-pound Samoan attorney, too. It’s all about proper application.

How do I remove an Osage orange tree from my yard if I decide I don’t want it any more?

Oh, now you’re in trouble. Osage oranges imprint on their owners, and will try to track them down when abandoned. This may involve traveling great distances, which explains how they became invasive in New Zealand. (This, incidentally, is why New Zealand has such an extensive program to prevent the introduction of exotic intruders. Osage orange/kauri pine hybrids are a wily breed that regularly knock over garbage cans, destroy dams, and interfere with orc industry. Worse, a recent cooperation with introduced Australian brushtailed possums and indigenous keas may leave most of South Island uninhabitable by humans by 2040, to an unknown purpose that may involve local sports journalism.) You now have two real choices, because saturation nuclear bombing just encourages new growth: move to Antarctica sometime in the early Jurassic, or spend more than two months in a highrise loft or other area that sets off the tree’s natural fear of heights and plastic people.

Is this accurate advice?

Let’s put it this way: come over here so I can pull your other leg, because otherwise you’re going to walk in circles for the rest of your life.

Recent updates to the web site:

New enclosure: “Woodrue” (2018)

New Article: “State of the Gallery: October 2018”

Other News

At the time of this writing, the newsfeeds are full of aftermath video now that Hurricane Michael has passed through, and the damage in the Florida Panhandle has a personal stake. Sixteen years ago, I took a job in Tallahassee that literally changed my life, and spent a lot of time in Panama City and Wakulla Springs as well. While it’s every individual’s choice as to whether and where to send aid, but the site Charitywatch has a list of recommended charities both vetted for their legitimacy and their efficiency. Me, I still owe the people of Tallahassee a debt I can never repay for their kindnesses and friendliness when I moved there, but I’m going to do my best.

In lighter discussions, the big Harlan Ellison package giveaway was a big success: everyone who responded has received their package of swag, with the exception of two friends in Canada and Australia. (To mail to them requires getting to a US Post Office during office hours in order to fill out Customs paperwork, but theirs are going out this week.) Obviously, doing this on a regular basis isn’t practical without taking another side-job, but the idea of sending off little messages-in-a-bottle on a regular basis has appeal. (Yes, you can tell I grew up during the zine days of the Eighties and Nineties, where casual acquaintances would send off 20-kilo packages of random cultural detritus for no other reason than to share the wealth.) Details will follow, but expect both random giveaways to both subscribers signing up after the previous newsletter and to the whole of the mailing list. See? I TOLD you it would be worth the effort to subscribe.

And on completely different subjects, the Spectrum Awards, which honor the best of fantastic art, just opened for the 26th annual awards, and this is the first year the Triffid Ranch submits photos. The original plan was to do so at the beginning of 2017, and then the move from the Valley View gallery got in the way, and a lot of life intruded on doing so in 2018. Next year’s Spectrums, though, are an option: I have no delusion of winning any category, but I’d like to know that I’d qualify for inclusion in the big annual volume. And so it goes.

Recommended Reading

For the last ten years, Stewart McPherson and the rest of the crew at Redfern Natural History has set the standard for the ultimate in books on carnivorous plants and carnivorous plant habitats, and most of us had no idea that he was only getting started. Redfern Natural History’s guides to Sarracenia and Nepenthes pitcher plants usually contain personally witnessed information only released to the public weeks or even days before the publication of new books (the Nepenthes guides have been rendered obsolete by McPherson’s own research to the point where Redfern has published paperback booklets on the newest available information), and Redfern’s guides to Heliamphora pitcher plants may not be exceeded in this century. At the gallery, the carnivorous plant reference library was a very small shelf before Redfern Natural History came along, and now I need more room. This is all preamble for the much-anticipated Redfern volume on Cephalotus follicularis, the Australian pitcher plant, coming out at the end of the year. Buy it NOW, before the preorders are sold out.

Music

In a better timeline than the one that we’re in now, I wouldn’t have to tell you about Hail Sagan. Talent should tell, and darkwave would be leading a renaissance in terrestrial and satellite radio, especially for those of us who survived radio in the Eighties. However, since we’re stuck with the Paratime level we’re on, we can make up for this disgrace by getting word out. And as soon as the band tours again, you WILL know about any tour dates near Dallas.

The Texas Triffid Ranch Occasional Newsletter and Feed Lot Clearance Sale is copyright 2018 by Paul Riddell, and may be reproduced in its entirety and forwarded at will. The Texas Triffid Ranch is Dallas’s pretty much only carnivorous plant gallery, located in scenic Richardson, Texas, and is open by appointment. More information is available at www.txtriffidranch.com. And in yet another parallel reality, a 61-year-old Sid Vicious is strapping on his bass guitar and going on stage in Branson, Missouri…to open for Scott Weiland.

The Texas Triffid Ranch Occasional Newsletter and Feed Lot Clearance Sale – #2

(The Texas Triffid Ranch Occasional Newsletter and Feedlot Clearance Sale is a regular Email newsletter, with archives available on the main TTR site at least a month after first publication. To receive the latest newsletters, please subscribe.)

Originally published on August 30, 2018

Okay, so it’s been a little while since the last newsletter, but life intruded. Honest. Let’s see: several gallery open houses, including our recent third anniversary event on August 18. Lots of wrangling on new enclosures, including some custom commissions and a literary-themed Mexican butterwort enclosure inspired by the Ernest Hogan novel Smoking Mirror Blues, and preparation for more by mid-October. There was the big carnivorous plant workshop at Curious Garden near White Rock Lake, and medical issues around Texas Frightmare Weekend that still give me creaks in my left ankle. (Ever get your teeth into a really good chunk of gristle in chicken or beef and decide to crunch down? That’s what I hear in my left ankle and right knee on rainy nights.) The author Harlan Ellison died, and the carnivorous plant expert Adrian Slack died. I could just send you to the main Web site for all of those details, and that’s probably the best option for rehashes and updates The newsletter is best for new content.

 As for all of you new subscribers, welcome. The purpose of this little missive isn’t just to pass on news and information about Dallas’s pretty much only carnivorous plant gallery, although that’s going to be about 70 percent of its weight by volume. Its stated purpose is to become a replacement for the old Triffid Ranch Facebook page, particularly by sharing information that won’t disappear in your news feed or that doesn’t have to be boosted in order to be seen by more than ten people. It’s also a great way for readers to hang onto links and recommendations and act on them if desired: how often have you been ready to click a link for a new book or event, only to have Facebook reload the page and lose that link forever? None of that here. This is for sharing with no expectation of return, not to goose someone’s stock prices. Hence, why the recommendations and referrals appear on the bottom, so you’re more likely to act on them.

Other News

A lot has happened in the last few months, and one of the most bittersweet involves local artist Larry Carey, the creator of that incredible Triffid Ranch mandala featured on posters and T-shirts for the last five years. I worked for and with Larry for three-quarters of a decade, and our coffee-break conversations about innumerable subjects were an inspiration for research that still surprises me to this day. Anyway, Larry is leaving the Dallas area (I’m not at liberty to say where just yet, but he’s apparently much happier already), and without his inspiration and encouragement, the Triffid Ranch wouldn’t be anything close to what it is today. Godspeed, Larry, and thank you for my having to triple-research everything before I made a statement.

In other developments, the Dallas Observer Best of Dallas Awards nominees for 2018 are out, and voting continues for the final awards until September 8. Now, it’s not necessary to write in the Triffid Ranch for “Best Carnivorous Plant Gallery” because it won last year’s Best Of Dallas Award (but feel free to do so if you’re having fun with the concept), but vote for the other entries anyway. I’m feeling rather protective of the Observer as of late, and it’s time to let its current crop of writers and artists know that we appreciate them.

Recommended Reading

Concrete Utopia: Architecture in Yugoslavia, 1948–1980

Bogdanović by Bogdanović: Yugoslav Memorials through the Eyes of Their Architect

Both volumes are supplements to the current Toward a Concrete Utopia exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. The exhibition was spurred by online interest in the modernist memorials misrepresented as Communist tributes instead of war memorials, and both books go into both the inspirations for these massive constructs and their current situations. Some were destroyed in war after Yugoslavia tore itself apart, others were neglected, and many are undergoing restoration and reconstruction as a tribute to the past. Considering how little information existed on the entire movement in the West until very recently, and how many of them were designed to weather and age with their environments, I’m recommending them as essential references for both general landscape and green rooftop designers, especially those who like their statements BIG.

Music

With the sheer range of music available through Apple Music or Spotify, it’s hard not to fall down a rabbit hole when encountering genres or movements, and I’ve been a sucker for interesting movie and television soundtracks since the late Seventies. It’s hard to tell if the Epic Score crew is responsible for a particular feel in soundtracks (the group’s work is regularly heard in movie trailers and game demos) or if it’s highlighting existing trends, but you’ll swear that you’ve heard at least one track in a big movie within the last ten years. Either way, the most recent hybrid action album, Prometheus Rising, is quite handy in the gallery as background music while sculpting and painting, and the album Distorted, Vol 1 is a perfect soundtrack for weeding in the greenhouse.

Because Jack Skellington Had the Right Idea


A little over a quarter-century after the movie’s premiere, only one thing still bugs me about The Nightmare Before Christmas. It’s not the idea of Jack Skellington appropriating Christmas, or his not listening to Sally’s advice, or even the lunacy of his entrusting Santa Claus’s care to Lock, Shock, and Barrel. It comes from the movie’s resolution: you’re trying to tell me that in all of the world, there wasn’t ONE kid refusing to give back Jack’s presents? Not ONE CHILD anywhere who would have guarded that bat puppet or haunted wreath with his or her life, and anyone trying to take it back would pull back fewer fingers than they started out with? Or one adult who grew up with Aurora movie monster models and Alien action figures who wouldn’t be asking Santa “You know, if they don’t want their toys, could I have them?”

In a roundabout way, this helps explain why the Triffid Ranch will be open on Christmas Eve from 6:00 to 9:00, and not just for those last-minute shoppers who aren’t going to find carnivorous plant satisfaction at the local home improvement superstore. This is also for us who would have left coffin-shaped cookies for Jack Skellington if we could. Come on out, grab a Vernor’s ginger ale, and take home a plant, in the only place in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex where you can do so, because it’s nothing but us weirdos all the way down.

Have a Great Weekend

Just a friendly reminder that the last of the 2018 Nightmare Weekends Before Christmas open houses starts on Saturday at 6:00 pm, and this will be the last Triffid Ranch open house for the year. (If you can’t make it but still need that gift that everyone will talk about for years, please feel free to set up an appointment.) Until then, music.

The Texas Triffid Ranch Occasional Newsletter and Feedlot Clearance Sale – #1

(The Texas Triffid Ranch Occasional Newsletter and Feedlot Clearance Sale is a regular Email newsletter, with archives available on the main TTR site at least a month after first publication. To receive the latest newsletters, please subscribe.)

Originally published on April 23, 2018

Okay, so a newsletter? An email newsletter in 2018? Did the clock shift back two decades and return to a day where CD-ROMs and CRT monitors are still the standard? Don’t you know that social media is THE way to reach customers, vendors, and interested passersby? Are you still using a flip phone or something?

Ahem. Here’s the explanation for the item you currently have in your email archive. As a concept, social media is great, but it’s getting, well, a little high-strung. It’s a great group of places to lose a few hours while waiting for the UPS guy to sneak up and leave a “We couldn’t reach you!” Post-It, but it has so little of the oomph for business that it had at the beginning of the decade. A lot of this was inevitable: with over a billion people on Facebook, so much will fall off the radar just because it doesn’t meet one of Facebook’s new algorithms. By 2018, sharing new content on Facebook makes money and attracts customers for Facebook, and that’s about it. By way of example, an absolutely unexaggerated and hyperbolic description of a day on Facebook:

(Wakes up early and chipper, spends an hour sifting through requests and comments before starting the day.)

Me: “I have a thing!”

(Crickets.)

Facebook: Your recent post is getting more responses than 90 percent of the posts on your Page!  Would you care to pay $50 to boost it so it can be read by more people?”

(Contemplates whether it’s important enough to get out there, decides “Yes.”)

(Posts a news article on a topic of interest to the Page readership: crickets.)

(Five notices on Facebook Messenger from acquaintances, all with the subject “OMG Did You See This?” Every last one is of the article posted five minutes earlier.)

Facebook: “You didn’t respond quickly enough to your messages. Respond faster to turn on the badge!”

(Note more messages, all from the same person within a 5-minute period, demanding to know if the gallery is open at 2 in the morning. Discover that the person in question was parked in front of the gallery, having stopped by at 2 ayem on the way back to Abilene, absolutely furious that the words “Open By Appointment” aren’t synonyms for “Open 24 Hours.”)

New message: “I bought a fern at Walmart six months ago, and it’s dying! HELP ME!!!!!!!”

New message: “I see that you wrote about a plant you saw in Nicaragua four years ago, and I need to come by and buy one. Don’t tell me to buy one online, because I don’t buy anything online.”

New post on the Page: “I have Venus Flytrap seeds for sale! Real flytrap seeds: not weed seeds at all! Buy them at Ebay, seller name ‘AbsolutelyNotScammer’.”

(Suddenly realize that Facebook changed its preferences AGAIN, and anybody can post. Lock down page again.)

New Message: “I wanted to let everyone know about the garage sale I’m running this weekend, and I can’t post it on your Page. FIX IT!”

Response to original “I have a thing!” posting:  “Did you see this?” (Blanketbombs fifty people with the same bad video about Venus flytraps biting some neckbeard’s tongue and drawing blood.)

Me: “Ummmm…That’s not quite accurate. In fact, it’s not even remotely accurate.”

Idiot: “YES IT IS! LOOK IT UP!”

(Go back to read an interesting post shared by a friend of a friend, only to have Facebook reload the news feed and cause the post to disappear forever.)

New Message: “Hello? I need to let people know about my garage sale in Boise! I have a couple of flowerpots for sale!”

New Message: “I bought Venus flytrap seeds from a seller on Ebay, and they turned out to be weed seeds. How are we going to get my money back?”

New Message: “I bought a Venus flytrap at Walmart, and I don’t know anything about it. Tell me everything I’ll ever need to know about caring for it, right now.”

(Respond with a collection of links that should answer all of the questions.)

New Message: “No, I want YOU to tell me. And right now, because I have to get to work.”

Response to original posting: “I’m having a garage sale, and you’re all invited!”

New Message: “My post about the Venus Flytrap seeds for sale is gone. Fix!”

New Message: “I’m a doctor/lawyer/real estate executive, I just read about this incredibly rare and exceptionally hard-to-raise pitcher plant that I HAVE to have for my office, and nobody in North America has one for sale. Do you take Bitcoin?”

Response to original posting: “ANYBODY WHO DOESN’T AGREE WITH MY POLITICS NEEDS TO DIE!”

New posting: “Is Facebook turning into LiveJournal circa 2010, or into CB radio circa 1976?”

Response to new posting: “THEY NEED TO DIE!”

Facebook: “Would you like to boost your new post?”

(Goes to bed.)

Meanwhile, over at Twitter, one of the platform’s biggest strengths is consolidating scientists and researchers to where they can cross interdisciplinary boundaries thirty times before breakfast:

(Innumerable people much smarter than I’ll ever be sharing their latest research)

“Hello? I have a thing!”

(Take in their research for the next six hours, flabbergasted at the variety and range of subjects being discussed, and trying not to cry “I suck! I suck!” every fifteen seconds.)

“I’m going to go over here for a while, but I have a thing if you’re interested.”

(Spends the next two days working on cheap and effective time travel in order to go back to 1989, confront my previous self about his lack of ambition, and beat him to death with a cricket bat.)

And that’s the “why” behind “why a newsletter?” It serves multiple purposes: it might be buried in an email box, but it’s more likely to be read than a newsfeed that’s completely reconstituted with the push of a “Back” button. A newsletter format allows a lot of extra related topics to be shared without separate postings, it’s amenable to being converted into print form for shows and events, it’s easy to archive for those wanting to fall down a rabbit hole on a dull Sunday afternoon, and it’s remarkably hard to hijack. It’s been a decade since the Triffid Ranch had a newsletter, and this should be an interesting project. After all, if my friend Alan Robson can keep a fun and useful newsletter going for the last two decades, maybe it’s time to jump back in.

Developments and Projects

For those who haven’t been to the Web site for a while, the Enclosure Gallery section is a bit loaded, and expect to see more in the next few months after the spring show season ends. Of particular note is a new enclosure that premieres next month, as a culmination of several months of very, VERY precise and tedious glasswork. Of course, the real fun involves the next two, where the lessons imparted by the first help cut down on development time on the second and third.

Gallery Shows

Thanks to the vagaries of Texas climate, the last two Triffid Ranch gallery shows had the unfortunate habit of coinciding with extreme weather. Back in February, the pre-Valentine’s Day Date Night opening came with ice storms to the north and west; April’s show had tornadoes to the north and hailstorms to the south, with lots of rain in the center. (Recovering from bronchitis the latter weekend meant having to skip out on the final day of the Deep Ellum Arts Festival, which was only then draining dry from the three to five inches of water under every tent in the festival.) The plan for next June’s gallery show is to avoid anything other than THE INSIDES OF MY LUNGS ARE ON FIRE heat (better known as “the end of June” in Dallas), and take advantage of the attractions of nighttime activities and air conditioning for those not wanting to leave over the extended Fourth of July/Canada Day weekend. Expect details soon.

Out-Of-Gallery Experiences

This being the middle of April, the biggest Triffid Ranch show of the year starts the first weekend of May when Texas Frightmare Weekend opens, and that’s not all that’s planned. The annual trip to Austin in November for the Blood Over Texas Horror For the Holidays gift show happens the weekend of November 11, and I’m currently awaiting word from several other art shows in North Texas over autumn. Meanwhile, Frightmare is the important show, with a worldwide pool of attendees and vendors to match. Carnivorous plants aren’t the sole reason for coming out to Frightmare, but they add a particularly appropriate spice, so expect a lot of photos up on the main site after it’s all done.

Soundtrack

One of the interesting side effects of so much time in the gallery and the commutes to and from the site is getting caught up on intriguing music in a way that would have been impossible in the days before streaming services. (Seriously, anybody with a nostalgia for the 1980s wasn’t there, especially when it came to buying or listening to music. Do you really want to go back to the days when the only options in most areas were shopping mall music shops like Musicland and Sound Warehouse, where asking for anything other than Phil Collins or Huey Lewis got sneers of “We don’t carry anything that isn’t from a major label”? I bet you get nostalgic for Waldenbooks, too.) Combine that with the ability for fans of particular styles and genres to get together in ways that were equally impossible 30 years ago, and we have whole new genres and subgenres exploding like unwatched trumpetvine.

Such is the case for Austin-based One Eyed Doll: twenty years ago, if you’d said “Hey, I really have a hankering for goth music that’s laugh-out-loud funny,” you might have been pointed in the direction of Voltaire and that’s about it. In that intervening time, the pairing of guitarist and vocalist Kimberly Freeman and drummer “Junior” means a range of everything from hilarious (“Because You’re a Vampire”) to ultraserious (“Eucharist”) that becomes more listenable with every album. Live shows are a trip, too, and the band plays often enough in Dallas that it might be time to see about getting together a Triffid Ranch crowd for the next tour.

Shoutouts and Kickbacks

Those brand new to the Triffid Ranch may not know this, but fifteen years of carnivorous plant cultivation was preceded by 13 years of professional writing career, starting with long-dead and unlamented zines and culminating with long-dead and unlamented national magazines and weekly newspapers before the decision was made to leave early to avoid the rush. Some friendships didn’t survive the transition, but two friendships were vital in escaping the urge to backslide.

The first, Jeff VanderMeer, might be a name that you recognize, thanks to the movie adaptation of his novel Annihilation that saw release back in March.  My friendship with Jeff was a pivot in my life without realizing it: after quitting pro writing in 2002, my life was at serious loose ends, and when a company I didn’t know called about a technical writer position in Tallahassee, Florida, I asked the one person I knew from Tally “So what’s it like?” His “Oh, God, you aren’t going to be my NEIGHBOR, are you?” whimper didn’t dissuade my packing up my old Plymouth Neon and moving halfway across the continent, and while the job that brought me out there imploded after three months, the addiction to carnivorous plants that started 24 hours after arriving in town continues stronger than ever. For that, I can never repay Jeff’s kindness, including asking me “Give me one good reason why I should let you live” the first time we met face to face. (I was raving about seeing my first tree frog outside of a zoo enclosure to someone who had lived with them all of his life, so I definitely don’t blame him.)

Anyway, this is a roundabout way of saying that the paperback edition of Jeff’s novel Borne just saw release, with all sorts of extras in the back. (It’s been a while since I bought any books that weren’t nonfiction, so it’s a pleasant surprise to find study and reader group guides, additional glossaries and pictorials, and other extras as an inducement to buy a trade paperback edition.) Borne is enough of a read, full of ecological collapse, ribofunk technology, and a Godzilla-sized venomous flying bear named Mord, among many other joys. Jeff is currently on tour to promote the paperback version, so if he should drop in your vicinity, just walk up to him with your newly purchased copy and ask him “So what the hell is the problem with that plant guy in Texas?”, just to watch the expression of utter collapse and defeat before he starts screaming into his hands. Trust me: Jeff will thank you for it.

And because we need to focus on the other side of North America, let’s look at Arizona. My friendship with Ernest Hogan started with his justifiably beating on film reviews he described as “ecstatic press releases,” and the hits just kept coming. Ernest and his wife Emily Devenport are both exemplary writers and serious natural history enthusiasts, spending much of their free time in the desert, and neither of them have given me much grief for nearly thirty years of abuse. Ernest’s third novel, Smoking Mirror Blues, was just reissued in an expanded E-book edition through Amazon, and Em’s newest novel Medusa Uploaded is coming out in May. Make sure to buy copies for all of your friends (the covers on both gave me ideas for upcoming plant enclosures for months), and if they both hit the New York Times Bestseller List, maybe Em will finally forgive me for the “Stimpy” joke.

Errata

That’s about it for now. As promised, this newsletter is irregular, and neither will you be overloaded with too many, but your privacy is paramount. It’s the least we can do.

Have a Great Weekend

The first Nightmare Weekend Before Christmas open house of 2018 is Saturday starting at 6:00, so we’ll see you then. Until then, music.

Just Planting Seeds

For your consideration:

The Aftermath: Swizzle’s Hawaiian Holiday Popup -1

I was warned. “The weather may keep a lot of people from attending,” they said. “The crowd for the holiday popup is a fraction of the spring popup show,” they said. “Parking can sometimes be an issue,” they said. Oh, if only other shows this year had gone so well. Many thanks to everyone who came out, asked questions about the carnivores, and took home carnivores and dragonfruit, and expect a return for the spring show. If the last non-gallery Triffid Ranch show of 2018 is a harbinger for next year, 2019 is going to kill me.

The Aftermath: Swizzle’s Hawaiian Holiday Popup 2018 – Introduction

Okay, so Swizzle’s Hawaiian Holiday Popup at Industry Bar was a risk. Several tiki bar enthusiast friends had good recommendations, and since any good tiki bar really needs plants for the ambiance, why not encourage a Nepenthes pitcher plant as an addition to the flora? Between this and the unmitigated disaster of the previous Triffid Ranch show, Saturday morning was spent loading up the van for a jaunt into Dallas’s South Street Station area, with no expectations whatsoever.

  • I should mention that the Saturday in question was cold and sloppy, and I was warned that the holiday show only had a small fraction of the attendees of the big spring show. If that’s the case, the attendance of the spring show will probably kill me. As it was, the holiday popup show was loaded with the most enthusiastic crowd I’ve seen in a one-day show this side of the Blood Over Texas Horror for the Holidays audience, and that’s saying something.
  • Naturally, half of the fun with gonzo shows such as these is meeting the customers halfway. It was high time to introduce more of Dallas to the joys of Hylocereus costaricensis, the red dragonfruit cactus, and the gallery dragonfruit shed several ready-to-root branches when moved inside for the winter. They won’t be able to stay in tiki glasses forever, but they’ll definitely be very happy getting established over the winter.
  • …to be continued…