Monthly Archives: June 2013

Have a Great Weekend

Every summer, I get nostalgic for the old midnight movie runs of my sordid youth, and then I remember that the only midnight shows out here any more involve incessant reruns of “The Goonies” and “The Room”. Truth be told, even back in the AMC chain days, every movie worth watching was outnumbered four-to-one by something that was already in saturation play on cable at the time. Even so, it’s occasionally nice to do something on a late Friday night that doesn’t involve alcohol.

A moment of perfect beauty

toad_1_61413

For the last couple of years, we’ve had a semiregular visitor to the greenhouse in the form of a very young toad taking advantage of the moisture and the insect bounty. He (she?) disappeared last year, and I was afraid the drought got him, but that was before I started working around the stump from the silverleaf maple that came down last November. The little monster promptly moved into the rot hole in the center of the stump and camped out along the side, coming out in the evening to feed.

toad_2_61413

Considering how rare amphibians, especially toads, are getting in the Dallas area, he’s welcome to stay here as long as he wants. I just have to remember to flush out the stump hole from time to time, just to keep it moist enough so he’ll stay. Who needs a big elaborate toad house when a silverleaf maple stump works as well?

Review: Gardening In Miniature by Janit Calvo

(A bit of context. This blog features regular reviews of books, horticultural products, and interesting related items, under this proviso. All items reviewed will be purchased by the reviewer in advance, at full retail price, in order to prevent any conflict of interest. Information about upcoming releases is greatly appreciated, but receipt of advance copies or samples will be announced well in advance and will not influence the final review. The world has enough Jeff Craigs and Maria Salases as it is.)

Cover: Gardening In Miniature by Janit Calvo

Gardening In Miniature: Create Your Own Tiny Living World by Janit Calvo

ISBN-10: 160469372X
ISBN-13: 9781604693720
Published: Timber Press, 2013
Pages: 256
Language: English

Time for full disclosure. I’ve known Janit Calvo of Two Green Thumbs Miniature Garden Center for the last five years. We’ve been comparing notes on miniature garden design and care for at least that long, and we’ve commiserated for nearly that long on the joys and horrors of running your own business in this foul Recession That Just Won’t Quit. It’s not fair to tell of her further exploits, such as the days when she was a monopole fabricator out on the deserts of Seven-Gamma-Flame or when she managed to scare hell out of a pack of Tarrask gene-raiders, mostly because that’s still five years in her future and it’s not fair giving her that much of an edge. The woman’s enough of a force of nature right now, you know? Oh, and don’t ask her about New Orleans. Ever. I mean it.

With that kind of background with someone, especially when remembering how she nearly broke my arm in a friendly game of full-contact chess (and you should have seen what she did to Morphy), reviewing that friend’s book starts to move into uncomfortable territory. How can you do justice to a friend’s words when everyone agrees that she should have killed you when she had the chance? Or when you know that on a little world out on the outer edge of the Lesser Magellanic Cloud, a race that won’t exist for a billion years yet found a copy of this book and used competitive miniature gardening design as an alternative to saturation nuclear bombardment when settling border disputes?

Yeah. I won’t even talk about how samples of her DNA were gathered by about three dozen races in your own galaxy and merged with their own to produce gardeners with skills far exceeding any that they had on their own. Nobody should learn that their writings are as famed as a basis of civilization as anything written by Hammurabi, Gandhi, Joey Ramone, or Drak-Zil Ruuuuuman in their lifetimes, because it just makes the head go POP.

Now that I’ve set the stage, know that Gardens in Miniature is Janit’s first book. It’s also the first serious book on the concept of miniature gardening published in decades. This is the book to guide you into the concept and the basics, instead of the fourth volume, which explains the particulars of…but I’ve said too much. This is the book that explains why Janit’s techniques aren’t exactly bonsai or penjing, but borrow from the same concept, as well as from model railroading, diorama building, and a smidgeon from ship-in-a-bottle builders. Since she’s writing for a beginning audience, not the experts who fuse their own custom containers from the ash of Mount Rainier in tribute to her, she takes the time to explain the importance of picking the right container and the right plants. She also takes the time to explain scale, and how a miniature gardener should always take scale into account when mixing plants and accessories in a miniature garden arrangement. (I really want to tell her about the roadways of the Deltrau Array and the literal kilometers of miniature gardens set up in her memory, all lovingly attended by novices in the hope that they might achieve the same level of grace, but that just wouldn’t be fair. She’d ask to see them, and then why should she strive any further upon seeing such beauty?)

It’s inadequate, but the only thing I can say about Gardening in Miniature is “snag a copy now, in any format you can, and get it autographed, stamped, or brain-wave-imprinted while you have the chance.” It’s not that you’ll have a family heirloom for yourself, or even for your great-great-grandchildren. It’s that if this “review” brought up images of fantastic, otherworldly miniature garden arrangements, go ahead and make them and then show them to Janit. After all, you’re going to do it anyway, so it’s not like you’re ruining the timeline or anything. Besides, for some of you, she’ll put images of them into her next few books. I won’t tell you whom, though, because that wouldn’t be right. Masters need to start out as novices, or else the whole space-time continuum falls apart, as Janit and I learned the hard way. But that’s another story.

“Aside from that, Mrs. Kennedy, what do you think of Dallas?”

So, about last week. Between plant and Day Job obligations, a big smiling reminder of my old writing days arrived last Tuesday in the form of Australian author Stephen Dedman, and poor Stephen got the barest beginnings of a Dallas tour. That is, he got a firsthand experience with the insane sprawl of the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex, as with how our roadways were inspiration for those in R’lyeh. Even worse, he had to deal with my babbling about minutiae on Dallas, from the geology and palaeontology (we drove within spitting distance of the Arlington Archosaur Site) to the backhistory of the Fair Park area to our current surreal impending celebration of the assassination of John F. Kennedy. That’s when Stephen inspired a particular bit of japery for the end of November.

For the last fifty years, anything involving John Kennedy in Dallas has been a circus. There’s the actual assassination, of course, as well as the tourist industry that built up around it. Then there’s the backstory, which entities such as the Dallas Morning News want to bury and pretend didn’t happen. Then there’s the current effort for a massive panegyric the weekend before American Thanksgiving, simply entitled “The 50th”, which intends to “celebrate the life of Kennedy” without, you know, actually saying what happened to end it. Complete with efforts to make sure that nobody “extreme” gets anywhere near it. If there’s one thing any good circus needs, because it already has plenty of clowns, it’s costumes.

So here’s the idea. It’s a dangerous vision, but one that should be the maraschino cherry atop this gigantic, indigestion-inducing banana split of an event. It’s open to everybody who wants to participate, and it won’t cost a thing.

The idea: on November 22 of this year, Dallas gets a flood of time travelers. Famed travelers from fiction alongside ones brand new to the continuum, with outfits to match. Before you know it, the streets of Dallas are full of temporal explorers, cartographers, and marauders of all sorts, all asking the same question: “Which way to Dealey Plaza?”

At this point, half of the fun will be the responses. After all, if time travel is possible, then (barring the Morphail Effect, of course) an event as big as the Kennedy assassination should be so flooded with time travelers that they should outnumber the temporally static by a thousand to one. There’s no reason to believe that you wouldn’t have visitors planning to change the time line, keep it static, or take out anybody trying to do either. That’s why, when asked by reporters or passersby as to what’s happening, just hinting “I’m here to see history” is a good start.

The punchline comes around 12:20 Central Time, as the streets continue to flood with the Displaced. By this point, there should be more Daleks on the streets of Dallas than on those of London in 2100, and I won’t even start with the Yithians. At that point, everyone looks down the road where Kennedy’s motorcade drove a half-century ago, pulls out watches, clocks, sundials, chronometers, and hourglasses, and all exclaim at once “Right time, but WRONG YEAR!” before evacuating downtown.

And the best part? We can do this every November 22. We can even retire from the field of ostentation to hang out at the best party in town that weekend afterwards. What say you?

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Cat Monday

Leiber

Have a Great Weekend

A single perfect moment of beauty

Mystery cactus

And before anyone asks, no, I have no idea how well these flowers fluoresce under ultraviolet. That’s because not only will this cactus only open its blooms during the day, but it only opens them in full direct sunlight. Move it to a shady spot to test UV fluorescence, and the blooms close up tight within moments. One day, though.