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The Texas Triffid Ranch Occasional Newsletter and Feed Lot Clearance Sale – #7

(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 February 27, 2019

Okay, so Amanda Thomsen and I were comparing odd tales. Most people know her as the gardening genius behind the book and Web site Kiss My Aster, but like so many of the most interesting people in botany and horticulture, she had a very interesting life before she discovered gardening. It’s not enough to make the observation that the biggest proponents of traditional Japanese gardening were samurai who were tired of war: that works for a lot of us, but not Amanda. I can tell people the tale of how I one-upped Harlan Ellison and his tale of how he was fired from Disney after four hours for joking about a Disney animated porno film with my absolutely true tale of how I got an FBI record for allegedly selling government secrets to the Daleks. (As I told Harlan, I’d NEVER sell government secrets to the Daleks. The Sontarans and Cybermen pay more.) Most people who hear this story just smile, nod, and circumspectly look for anything within reach that could become a weapon. Amanda used to work in the music industry: no matter how disturbing, incriminating, or self-flagellating the story, Amanda will stop for a second, ask you to hold her Dog ‘n Suds root beer (thereby proving her impeccable taste, as she has the old plastic jugs of fresh-poured root beer imported from 1971), and respond. That’s all she does: respond. It’s not her fault that her tales leave most people rocking on the floor, repeatedly screaming “MOMMY DADDY MAKE IT STOP!” She’s only Two Degrees of Francis Bacon from a lot of my musically inclined friends in Dallas, so I just spend my time exclaiming “That was YOU? So how DID he get the airplane seat armrest out?”

This marks the difference between those of us with stories and those without. Those of us With Stories just continue with our little game of nuclear escalation until someone drops the planetkiller, and we all head home and tell ourselves “Good thing that wasn’t me.” Those Without Stories, or without those kind of stories, applaud and exclaim “You should write another book with these stories in it.” Completely misreading the room, they’ll keep asking, too, and drop the writer equivalent of “The Aristocrats”: “It’ll sell really well, too.” Anybody else would respond appropriately, such as jumping up on the table and screaming while trying to hang themselves with their own intestines. Amanda just says “I don’t remember much from those days.” She’s not giving that answer in order to bypass having to explain how the publishing business works, or how anecdote tell-alls haven’t had as much of a market as when calendars read “1983.” She doesn’t remember: whether that’s being diplomatic or that’s a response to years of failed SAN rolls is a point of discussion. My only issue involves my own packrat memory.

The problem isn’t that she doesn’t remember any of the good stories incurred since we started hanging out online a decade ago. It’s that I can’t make the memories go away. I’m not going to tell you about the bobcat and the sleeping bag. I’m not going to talk about how her obsession with Fiestaware left her with the superpower of her teeth glowing in the dark. (When dealing with Girl Scouts, this can be an advantage and a liability, especially when they have night vision goggles and cattle prods, as Girl Scouts are expected to do.) We won’t talk about our comparing notes on how wild sunflower stems practically eat Weedeater line led to our testing the plausibility of the chainsaw duel in Phantasm 2, nor will we talk about the scars incurred when I switched to a hedge trimmer. (A friendly tip: always, ALWAYS use a gas-powered hedge trimmer, because you don’t want to cut into one of those lithium-ion batteries used in the cordless jobs.) There was the riot we accidentally started when an icebreaker questionnaire at the Independent Garden Center conference in Chicago asked “So who’s your favorite Captain: Kirk or Picard?”: she answered “Lochley” and I answered “Rhodes.” There was the midnight run on the Library of Congress to prove to her that the gothic artist Edward Gorey used to illustrate gardening books, and how we got out without breaking any windows or tasering any security guards. Any idiot can set up crop circles, but how many people can recreate Alfonse Mucha paintings in the stock at a commercial mum nursery three days before Halloween? And how that stunt is the reason why all of the fingerprints on her right hand were burned off, and all but the thumbprint on my left?

See, Amanda doesn’t remember any of this. She has a hard enough time remembering when she ran over a post-Christmas poinsettia with a 2011 Accord. She has no memories of our violating a good three dozen FAA regulations and a treaty with Brazil by sending the first kalanchoe to the International Space Station. When the next Mars rover takes photos of the 100-foot Gibby Haynes garden gnome she dropped from low orbit into the middle of Weinbaum Crater, she’s going to be as shocked as the rest of us. When I forget this, all of Amanda’s accomplishments will waft away like fog in a high wind, and that’s completely unacceptable. Please: I beg you. When you come out to one of Amanda’s book signings, don’t just tell her about how her books inspired your life. Show the tattoos. Show the CT scans. Most of all, make sure she remembers one of her greatest adventures by walking up, looking at her completely deadpan, and singing the verse “Crab salad makes you pee blue.” If she really likes you, she’ll show you the Bowie knife she nearly broke taking on a patch of scarlet trumpetvine in 2014, and she’ll tell you about how she disobeyed orders and called off the airstrike with seconds to spare. She may not remember that, but the Dalai Lama does, and he’s eternally grateful.

(Amanda Thomsen’s new book Backyard Adventure: Get Messy, Get Wet, Build Cool Things, and Have Tons of Wild Fun! 51 Free-Play Activities is coming out soon. Buy a copy for yourself, a copy for your best friend, and at least ten for your local libraries. Whatever you do, don’t ask her about the beans.)

Other News

My previous life as a science fiction magazine essayist is one of public record, and some good came from working on and for magazines that were forgotten moments after the last issue saw print. Among other things, if not for a long and very convoluted friendship with one Jeff VanderMeer, I never would have been drawn into the wonderful world of carnivorous plants. This is a roundabout way of saying that this March is a month for anniversaries: thirty years ago on March 9, my first published article, a collection of movie reviews, appeared in a long-forgotten zine. Ten years ago on March 9, the first of my last two books saw print. For the most part, with a few relapses, I’ve stayed away from professional writing since the spring of 2002, and this next month marks the publication of another relapse. Specifically, check out the March 2019 issue of Clarkesworld, and note that this little piece on sorcerers’ gardens may well be the first of many.

Recommended Reading 

If you’d told me back when I was a film critic in the early Nineties that most of the ancillary support industry for motion pictures would be completely obsolete by 2005, I would have laughed and pointed. With video releases a few months or even weeks after a theatrical run, the market for movie novelizations was already dying by the turn of the last century, as was the market for mediocre soundtracks that were the only way to get access to a current hit song. Thanks to streaming services, DVDs and Blu-Ray disks are going the way of Betamax, and with them the huge assemblage of “The Making Of” documentaries that came with the disks. About the only exception to this is the voluminous market for high-end, impeccably printed books on the concept art for films, television shows, and video games, because all of the concept art put together in the early stages of a film production can be just as inspirational as the final product.

Anyway, as someone taking a deep dive at an advanced age into enclosure design, sometimes guides to zoo and natural exhibition design aren’t enough, and it’s time to look at the unnatural. Lately, that’s been a combination of the works of Chris Foss and Syd Mead, classic film designers whose work in the Seventies and Eighties still influence movie set and prop design to this day, and pictorials from Weta Workshop in New Zealand. Lately, the browsing reading keeps coming back to The World of Kong: The Natural History of Skull Island, a pseudobestiary of the concept art from Peter Jackson’s King Kong, and The Art of District 9, which includes concept art and final props from Neill Blomkamp’s 2009 film. Come back in a few months after the next run of new enclosures are complete, and you’ll understand why.

Music

For various reasons, instrumental music is a big part of the background at the Triffid Ranch. While sculpting or repotting while watching video or listening to spoken-word audio is easy, writing or sketching with either in the background is nearly impossible, and even songs with a significant portion of dialogue are impossible to navigate while composing blog posts or essays. This means that instrumental or electronica get a lot of play, especially at the Day Job, and the 21st Century marvel of streaming services means that my horizons are expanded daily. That’s why I’d like to turn everyone to Sarah Schachner: her specialty is game soundtracks, which means setting mood in particular game sequences with pieces that won’t get overly repetitious if a player spends too much time trying to work out how to move forward.

Anyway, I’ve been a fan of Sarah’s work for years (her sister is a longtime online friend), and game design is already a big aspect of inspiration for a lot of Triffid Ranch enclosures, so discovering that Sarah wrote the score for the new game Anthem means that it’s getting a lot of play in the gallery over the next month. (A project that’s still a very long way away is an exhibition of new enclosures that requires smartphones: stand in front of an enclosure and view a browser page that includes essential information about the plants and construction, while the headphones give a unique musical score that cuts off when the viewer moves to the next enclosure. Again, it’s a very long way off, but when the Triffid Ranch is big enough to pull this off, I would love to hire Sarah for the music, because.)

The Texas Triffid Ranch Occasional Newsletter and Feed Lot Clearance Sale – #6

(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 January 7, 2019

The parties are over. The decorations are put up. The Merry Christmas/Happy New Year accoutrements at the grocery store are in the clearance aisle, already marked 50 percent off or more. The shortbread cookie tins are already being used for their second lives as sewing supply containers. At the day job, managers, directors, and executive VPs are coming back from extended vacations, meaning that daily office productivity just took a hit until they rediscover their favorite bright sparkly object or until Memorial Day, whichever comes first. It may be cold and rainy, or cold and snowy, but you can walk in public without a PA system pumping carols and novelty songs at “11”. In other words, it’s time to get busy.

For those of us in horticultural venues, it’s really time to get busy, because we’re already running out of time. Halfway through January, we only have two months before the beginning of spring, which means EVERYTHING has to be done by the time everyone gets the gardening bug. Seedlings. Tissue culture meristems. Unique pots. Tent and booth fees for shows and markets. I won’t say that sleep is overrated, because that’s a cliché. I WILL say that as soon as someone develops an effective and inexpensive cure for sleep, I’m investing in the company.

This time of the year is also when fellow retailers and artists relate their favorite Stupid Human Tricks from the previous holiday season. These can include non-customers who drop their kids off at a store and assume that the staff will act as free babysitters while Mommy and Daddy shop next door, or down the street, or in the next time zone. A lot of times, it includes customers who were the owners’ elementary school teachers 40 years back and expect a special 80-percent-off discount because of that vital connection. (Every jeweler reading this just nodded in recognition.) Others relate the customer who stated “I know the owner, and he told me I get a discount”…to the owner, and she’s never seen this person in her life. And who can forget the screams of “DO YOU KNOW WHO I AM?” and the response “Should I? Are you wanted by the police?”

2018 had a lot of stories like this at the Triffid Ranch. Now, there are the stories where the person involved was understandably mistaken and everyone laughed about it later. These stories should never be shared without permission, and usually with drinks of everyone’s choice in hand. However, there are the stories where the person involved wasn’t a customer, never would be a customer, and whose smirk of “Haven’t you ever heard of ‘the customer is always right’?” should be answered with a sack full of caltrops that reads “WHO’S LAUGHING NOW, JACK? WHO’S LAUGHING NOW?” on the side. Where this sack is inserted, and whether the sack should be electrified, depends upon the intensity of the smirk. It should never depend upon the dollar value of the transaction to be disputed: at the gallery, the worst offenders are bar owners who call to get a very big and very expensive enclosure delivered to their venue for free, because “you could use the exposure.” (Without fail, I read about these venues shutting down in the middle of the night with no warning to landlords or employees, the interior contents sold at about one in the morning to fend off coke dealer beatings, and creditors and the FBI trying to find what assumed name the owner is using THIS time. This is entertainment enough.)

After a while, when retailers get together and relax a bit, we all share our Amazon Showcase stories. This is the equivalent of the famed comedian joke “The Aristocrats,” only without a distinctive opener or punchline. All have the same theme, though: the customer has assumptions that because Amazon or eBay do things a particular way, “you should just” do the same thing. Bookstore friends relate the customers who tell them “You should start selling Kindles here,” and who escalate their assumptions when told that Kindles are an exclusively Amazon product. An acquaintance who worked in a gift shop told me about a customer pointing to a Hallmark Star Trek Christmas decoration from 20 years ago on Amazon and insisted that she could order one at the original retail price, because the Amazon price was far too high.  We all have one variation on the Monty Python bookstore sketch, and we all have a variation on the Lou Costello birthday cake sketch. The Euclidean ideal of these stories is the person who walks in, looks around, and says “Do you know someone who sells something exactly like this, but just not for so muuuuuuuuch?” The most common Amazon Showcase story, though, always involves someone who assumes that a price on Amazon should be the price everywhere else, no matter what. The Triffid Ranch has two versions: the person who bought a dead or dying plant from an Amazon reseller and expects assistance in getting a refund, or an incident that happens about once per month.

(phone rings) “Hello, this is the Texas Triffid Ranch. How may I help?”

“Yes. I’m a (doctor, lawyer, MBA, software development project manager, or other charter member of the Dunning-Kruger Club), and I’m wanting to buy a (Nepenthes rajah, Nepenthes hamata, Nepenthes attenboroughii, or other very rare, very temperamental, and very expensive carnivorous plant). Price is no object.”

“I may be able to help. Out of curiosity, have you kept a carnivorous plant before?”

“No, but I saw one on television today, and I WANT one.”

“Okay, let me check what I have in propagation right now. (Quick search.) I have one right now, in a custom enclosure.”

“I don’t want that. I just want the plant.”

“Oooookay. I can remove it if you’d like. Do you need a pot, or do you already have one?”

“My kid has an old aquarium that I can use. How much is it?”

“Well, considering the size, it would be $Price.”

“That’s completely unsuitable. Do you have any that are smaller?”

“I don’t, but I can recommend other carnivorous plant retailers who may be able to help. Have you contacted X or Y?”

“I already contacted them, and they don’t have one. You’re the only person in the Dallas area who shows up on a Google search, and I NEED one.”

“Sorry, but at $Price, I’m practically selling it at cost.” 

“Well, I KNOW you can do better. I found someone online who’s selling one for (one-fourth to one-tenth of $Price).”

“And who is this? I’m very legitimately curious.”

(Customer gives a URL for an Amazon reseller who allegedly has the plant in question. Yes, it’s significantly cheaper than the cost any legitimate nursery could charge and still make its money back. The posting also has a picture of the plant that was stolen from a legitimate nursery’s Web site, as well as the description. The reseller is also selling such wonders as rainbow rose seeds, guaranteed blue Venus flytrap seeds, and lots of other miracles whose photos have so much of a connection to Photoshop that they’d qualify for alimony if they ever separated. Odds are pretty good that the reseller doesn’t have one of these plants, and likely never will.)

“Sorry, but there’s no way I can match this price, and neither will any other legitimate nursery or retailer.”

“But THEY’RE selling it at that price! Why are you being so unreasonable? Can’t you just cooperate?”

“Again, I can’t.”

“But they’re SELLING it at THAT price.” (Sudden menace over the phone.) “I KNOW you can get one at that price, too!”

“I’ll tell you what. If they’re selling it for that price, why not get a deal and buy it from Amazon?

“Because I want to SEE it first! I don’t want to get ripped off!”

Other News

Sigh. Three months of hype on the 2019 Pantone color of the year, and the horticulture community went into overload on new cultivars and varietals of indoor and outdoor plants that match. They’re beautiful, too. I’m just disappointed. Considering the number of bladderwort cultivars named after H.P. Lovecraft characters, and the number of daylily cultivars with Star Trek references for names, not one breeder, not ONE, could name a cultivar “Rick Grimes” and cash in on millions of non-gardeners who’d be willing to take a chance? Man, I dread the announcement of the 2020 Pantone color, because we’ll probably drop THAT ball, too.

In other developments, Some of you may have already noticed cover stories in the Dallas Observer and Fangoria about the return of Joe Bob Briggs, Official Drive-In Movie Critic of Rockwall, Texas, to video thanks to the Shudder streaming service. More than a few times during my long-defunct writing career and a lot more after I quit pro writing, I was compared to Joe Bob (rarely to his alter ego, John Bloom) in writing style and intensity. That makes perfect sense, as I literally grew up with the “Joe Bob Goes To the Drive-In” column in the late and lamented Dallas Times Herald, starting in spring 1982 with the second column reviewing Mad Monkey Kung Fu. (Sadly, while the Joe Bob columns were published repeatedly in the 1990s, nobody ever put together a collection of John Bloom movie reviews written under his own byline for the Times Herald. This is a shame, because many of his reviews were funnier than the comedies he viewed. A lot of that well-deserved snark transferred over to the Joe Bob columns, and a lot more never made it to print or video: I interviewed him in 1991 for a magazine that promptly went under two weeks after I handed in the interview, and that interview included being backstage during a taping of Showtime’s “Joe Bob’s Drive-In Theater” that included a review of Oliver Stone’s The Doors. You don’t worry about laughing too hard and messing up a take when the camera crew were literally falling down laughing at the same cracks.) Well, now he’s back, he’s back in Dallas, and he’s going to be one of the headliner guests at Texas Frightmare Weekend in May. To quote the man himself, heads roll.

Recommended Reading

A bushel-basket of new references led to a serious fall down an industrial design rabbit hole over the last month, but one to buy now is Typeset In the Future: Typography and Design in Science Fiction Movies by Dave Addey. The book expands extensively on the blog of the same name, which itself started as an analysis of the typography and logo design in the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey. Anyone interested in graphic design, especially logo and icon design, will be drooling over the in-depth discussion of what makes the perfect logo of the future (which, incidentally, is funny as hell), and everyone else will drool over the interviews on what design decisions in Alien, Blade Runner, and Wall-E still hold up, which ones aged horribly, and which ones still affect modern graphic design decades later. On a personal level, Typeset In the Future helped settle an impasse in an enclosure design that had been stuck since the Triffid Ranch was in the old gallery, so expect the end results to premiere at an open house this summer.

Music

As of this month, I have known Texas blues musician Cricket Taylor for 28 years, and she was my neighbor for two of those years when we lived in Dallas’s Exposition Park in the early 1990s. (The artist’s lofts in which we lived had communal restrooms, and one of the only good things about having to get up to go to my day job at the time was listening to Cricket practice new songs in the women’s restroom because she swore it had the best acoustics in the Dallas area.) She’s one of the smartest, most considerate, and most musically talented people I know, and the fact that she’s not packing auditoriums with 30,000 people at a time is a crime. Let’s rectify that, shall we?

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.”

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.

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.

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.

State of the Gallery: September 2018

It’s midway through the month already. We’re now a little over a week away from the official autumnal equinox, and just over six weeks until Halloween. Next thing you know, the calendar will have switched over, we’ll be looking over New Year’s Eve 2631, preparing for the Gorash Annexation to set up outposts and the occasional clearance outlet on the other side of our galaxy, and wondering if it really was such a great idea to de-extinct the moa and let them go feral in the Canadian Rockies…but perhaps I’ve said too much.

Over here at the Triffid Ranch, frantic work for the next open house is the order of the day, especially with the number of outside shows and events between now and the end of the year. After a lot of deliberation, particularly with input from people unable to get free on Saturdays to attend previous open houses, the next open house is scheduled for October 26 from 6:00 to 11:00 CST. Yes, a Friday night. Depending upon the success of this open house, we may try a few mid-week open houses as well, especially as football season gets going and Dallas traffic goes from “typically abysmal” to “blow up every highway in the state and require everyone to ride a bike for a month to learn some humility.”

Related news: partly to improve opportunities for people to see the latest Triffid Ranch enclosures outside of open houses and appointments, and partly to help fill a niche with the best damn reptile and amphibian shop in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex, the Texas Triffid Ranch is now partnering with DFW Reptarium in Plano to offer new carnivore enclosures at the Reptarium. For those who haven’t visited it already, the Reptarium is a  herpetophile’s joy, starting with the store’s mascot: an absolutely stunning crocodile monitor named “Whisper” who lives in the front window. In addition to the store’s assemblage of panther chameleons, arrow-poison frogs, emerald tree boas, and the world’s most mellow frilled dragon, the Reptarium now has the Nepenthes bicalcarata enclosure “Hans-Ruedi,” and more will be available based on customer response. In other words, this holiday season is going to be VERY busy.

In the interim, October also features an outdoor show on October 13, thanks to the Garland Urban Flea in, unsurprisingly, Garland, Texas. This marks the first Triffid Ranch show ever held in Garland, and the weather should be absolutely stunning. The October Urban Flea runs from 9:00 am to 4:30 pm, so feel free to stop by for the last of the season’s Venus flytraps and threadleaf sundews.

And for those who might be coming across these missives via Facebook, be warned that a Triffid Ranch Facebook presence is shrinking and will continue to do so. The constant push to boost FB page posts was already becoming annoying, as they still weren’t reaching the people who chose to receive page updates. Now, new posts disappear immediately after entering them, only to pop back up days or weeks later. And then there’s Facebook’s page messaging system, which penalizes page owners if they don’t respond to any message sent to the page within minutes. This means either hiring someone to manage a social media presence (which I suspect is the hope), or get dinged for getting a message minutes after going to bed for the night and answering it only after waking up. Either way, it’s once again time to note that no such problems exist with the Texas Triffid Ranch Occasional Newsletter and Feedlot Clearance Sale, of which a new installment will be out very shortly. Go forth with the clicky to get newsletter-exclusive news and commentary, and occasional cool and educational prizes.

Well, back to the linen mines. Expect a few new enclosure premieres before the end of September, including a fun little commission: it’s either ramping up the enclosure releases or having a really slow holiday season. And on the holiday season, expect some extra surprises with this year’s Nightmare Weekends Before Christmas events. It’s absolutely amazing how much you can get done when you’re not unpacking from an unscheduled move…

The Great Texas Triffid Ranch Newsletter Subscription Drive

Two separate phenomena, seeking convergence:

One. Thirty years ago, I purchased an anthology written by one of my favorite authors at the time. The author was Harlan Ellison, the volume was Angry Candy, and the theme was death. Specifically, Ellison was 54 when I purchased my copy, and every story had been conceived and finished at a time when it seemed as if all of his friends and cohorts were dying. To look at the timeline he included with his introduction, he wasn’t kidding: childhood heroes, contemporaries, students…it was a horrendous chronicle of funerals and eulogies, and they seemed to concentrate within the previous three to four years. Three decades later, I understood the logic behind that pattern: when you’ve lived long enough to have a large assemblage of friends and acquaintances, you run into a convergence of demographics, mortality statistics, and confirmation bias that really appears to be an active effort to kill off everyone you know.

Again, it took me three decades to understand the feeling, especially after losing several people I knew and admired at the time I was reading Angry Candy. Harlan’s death this year just added to the sensation of feeling big chunks of your old life peeling off like old scabs, with twinges of pain and interesting new scars. One of the big messages the scars leave is that once you get to a certain age, if you’ve made an active effort to go in a different direction, you can look back and mark the exact year and month that your life diverges from Before to After. A lot of people never do: these are the people on Facebook desperately nagging about high school class reunions and how “you really need to be

there, because you’ll regret not getting back in touch.”

Two. For the most part, I love living in the future. The thought of going back to where things were in 1998 or 1988 (much less 1978) brings on waves of nausea instead of nostalgia. Every once in a while, though, reviving a nearly-dead concept has its merits. In the case of the eternal Port-o-John fire that is Facebook, it works less and less at what it was originally intended to do: stay in touch. Between the ever-changing algorithms determining what users may and may not see, the ever-increasing push for businesses to pay for willing subscribers to see posts (and then watching as those posts are buried in the main timeline under idiot memes and political diatribes), and Facebook’s lackadaisical attitude toward personal privacy, it’s once again time to back off and consider the brevity and efficiency of email newsletters. The reader opts in, the writer provides regular updates, and no interruption from that grade school classmate who sees messages to and from the reptile men from Arcturus in contrail patterns.

The phenomena converge:

About a decade ago, a big scab came free when I sold off the majority of my writing library on eBay. This was a matter of getting rid of reference materials, review copies (you’d be amazed at how many critics will hang onto advance reading copies of books because of that one neckbeard who claimed “you never actually read it!”, just to recite line and verse as to passages that justified a particular review), magazines containing published articles, and the innumerable books read, or that should be read, while building a voice. The vast majority went out early, only to discover that particular books are only valuable if someone is willing to pay the price, and that there’s a huge disconnect in perceived value between a book that can stay on a shelf or in a bookseller’s transport box until it finds a buyer, and a book that has to move within a week in an online auction.

In a subsequent evaluation of current library needs, though, I came across a cross-section of Harlan Ellison collections that escaped the original slaughter. It already was time to find them new homes, as I already know the stories by heart, and rereading them just doesn’t work when too much new reading keeps intruding. This came at a time when younger friends complained about the unavailability of much of Ellison’s work, both between earlier books being out of print and later books being snapped up from used bookstores and hoarded until the inevitable estate sale. That gave me an idea directly involving a much-needed relaunch of the Texas Triffid Ranch newsletter, and one where everyone wins.

In essence, here’s the deal. I’m looking for subscribers, and I have a big pile of Harlan Ellison books that need new homes. For the next nine weeks, this is the scenario that runs every week:

Numero Uno: Subscribe to the Texas Triffid Ranch email newsletter. It’s free, it’s going to come out once per month or so, you can unsubscribe at any time, and none of your personal information will be shared with ANYONE. (That’s why I’m putting out word about the subscriptions here. As easy as it would be to sign up friends and acquaintances, I refuse to do so without their permission and prior knowledge.)

Numero Two-O: Every Sunday starting on August 12, five lucky subscribers will be picked from the general subscriber pool, contacted for a mailing address, and given a randomly selected book from the pile. Said book will come with various magazines, flyers, stickers, and other cultural detritus to be determined, and the recipient gets it all delivered for free. This will run every week while supplies last. (Incidentally, signing up early means a better chance of winning at the beginning of the giveaway, so jump in now while you have the chance.) This applies worldwide, so anyone reading this from Antarctica is in for a serious surprise.

Number Three-O: You get a new (to you) book, including the possibility of rare volumes, I get more bookshelf space, and everyone wins.

Now, as to what is involved, the photos list most of it, but I’d like to point out a few extras. Among others is an autographed copy of one of Ellison’s early novels, Spider Kiss, when it was first published under the title “Rockabilly!” There’s also a copy of Six Science Fiction Plays edited by Roger Elwood, containing what was the only publication of Ellison’s original screenplay for the Star Trek episode “City on the Edge of Forever” for twenty years. Likewise, the paperback edition of Wandering Stars contains Ellison’s classic short story “I’m Looking For Kadak,” still one of my favorite stories. While Ellison’s recounting of the nightmare of being the story editor for the Canadian television series The Starlost is well-known, Ben Bova’s The Starcrossed was a barely fictionalized comedy about his involvement as the science advisor for The Starlost, with Ellison slightly fictionalized as “Ron Gabriel” and included on the front cover. A rare copy of From the Land of Fear contains what may be the cigarette ad that inspired his essay “Driving In the Spikes” on personal revenge. (For those unfamiliar with the situation, the ad was a violation of Ellison’s contract with the publisher, and when the publisher ignored the contract, things culminated with Ellison mailing the publishing company’s comptroller a dead gopher, sent Fourth Class Mail.) This includes several copies of The Glass Teat and The Other Glass Teat, including the first printing of The Other Glass Teat published only after Spiro Agnew left the White House. (And that was a story in itself.) Finally, the collection includes a limited-edition slipcased hardcover of A Lit Fuse, the Ellison biography published two years ago. What’s not to like about this?

So again, subscribe and get free stuff. Better, feel free to let friends and cohorts know, so they can get free stuff as well. Best of all, if I really hate you, if I really, really loathe you and want you to suffer, you could get the booby prize: one of two volumes from a notorious fourth-rate Harlan Ellison impersonator from the 1990s. If that doesn’t clean out your lower GI tract all at once, I don’t know what will.

State of the Gallery: August 2018

The days end the way they begin: covered with glue, paint, epoxy putty, and random bits of styrofoam. First comes the watering, and you don’t want to know how much water moves through the gallery on a weekly basis. The floor of the gallery is a concrete slab, and yet you’d swear that it listed back and forth like a sailing ship deck. Either the sundews have evolved speaking apparatus or the sleep deprivation has reached the point of no return, because their conversations are so BORING. And then there are the people wanting to come by at 3 in the morning, and I have to explain “I don’t care if you’re from D magazine! I don’t have any coca plants here! No, wait, I don’t have any at all! No flowers in this town: only carnivorous plants.” And that’s when I start screaming “The floor is LAVA!”, because I’ve wandered outside into the parking lot and lava isn’t anywhere near as hot. At what point will the heat break and my brain stop impersonating a toasted marshmallow?

Oh, hi. Um, never mind me. Just getting things ready for the next gallery open house. Just do me a favor and look behind you. Do you see my dead grandmother crawling up your leg with a knife in her teeth? Cool: so it’s not just me.

A bit more seriously, the best analogy for August in Dallas comes from what the late author Harlan Ellison described as “the hour that stretches.” Apparently space-time is as bent and warped by overstressed air conditioners as by gravitic anomalies, because you wake up one morning and figure “Oh, I have five weeks to get everything done, and I’m not going to slack off, so I’m going to start now.” Look down for a second and then back to the clock,  and everything has to be finished in an hour before everyone arrives. You KNOW you’re working, and you KNOW you’re making better progress than ever before, and it’s still not fast enough to deal with that hour that stretches. Hence, after this gets published, it’s back to the workspace, because carnivorous plant enclosures don’t make themselves. I know this from experience.

The biggest news, of course, is that the Triffid Ranch celebrates three years as a gallery this month, which means it’s time for another open house. Specifically, the Texas Triffid Ranch Third Anniversary Open House starts at 6:00 on Saturday, August 18, and ends pretty much when everyone goes home. Besides the novelty of the event itself (I look at pictures of the first ArtWalk at the old Valley View location and jawdrop as to how far everything has come since 2015), this open house includes the premieres of new enclosures, a custom cake designed and baked by the one and only Angela Nelson, and samples of that horsecrippler cactus ice cream mentioned last month. This is, of course, in addition to the opportunity to take home your own carnivorous plant enclosure or talk about commissioning a custom enclosure. As always, Triffid Ranch open houses are family-friendly events, too, so don’t feel obligated to leave kids at home.

As far as outside events and shows are concerned, one of the best things about living in North Texas is that autumn lasts until the end of the year, and as soon as the heat starts letting up in September, everyone rushes outside to breathe fresh air. (Every vendor familiar with outdoor Dallas shows can appreciate the Ray Bradbury novella Frost & Fire, because it hits all of the notes on show setup and teardown.) This means that everyone waits until the middle of August to get word on acceptance into big shows in late October. Since we’re not quite there yet, the wait for word from several local shows in October is almost painful. In the interim, though, the next three big shows in which you can expect to see the Triffid Ranch booth include:

Blood Over Texas Horror For the Holidays 5: November 11 in Austin. It may be a one-day show, but the Horror For the Holidays events have three things going for them: the people running them, the people attending them, and Central Texas when the heat breaks. Not only is this a chance to say hello to a lot of Triffid Ranch regulars who can’t always get up to Dallas for every event, but it’s a perfect time to get out of town for a road trip without worrying about the plants cooking on the way down. (It also revives good memories of when the litcon Armadillocon used to run opposite Texas/OU Weekend, instead of just before fall classes started at UT-Austin, back when the convention actually encouraged attendees under the age of 60.) Of course, that’s not the only reason to come out: if you’d told most anybody of the untapped potential for dark and dire gifts before the release of The Nightmare Before Christmas 25 years ago, they’d have laughed and pointed. Horror For the Holidays just screams back “WHO’S LAUGHING NOW?”

Dallas Fantasy Fair: November 24 and 25 in Irving. A quarter-century ago, the autumn Dallas Fantasy Fairs served a very specific purpose for those of a certain bent: when the house was full of distant relations, the television full of either Christmas specials or football, and most public venues full of Dawn of the Dead cosplayers, it was a chance to get away from the house, talk to people who wanted to talk about something other than work or raising kids. Things have changed a lot since then, as the internet was just getting going when the last Fantasy Fair ran in April 1996. Sometimes you have to let something go fallow for a while in order for it to come back stronger and better, and nearly 23 years should be plenty of time.

Texas Frightmare Weekend: May 3 through 5 at DFW Airport. Every year, I look at the lineup of guests and events and figure “There is NO WAY that the Frightmare crew will be able to top what they’ve accomplished here. NO WAY.” Every year, the Frightmare crew comes by my table and laughs and points over my assumptions. That’s fair, because at the rate Frightmare exceeds the previous year, we may get a panel with special guest speakers Lon Chaney Sr., Mary Shelley, Clark Ashton Smith, and Lemmy in 2020. In the meantime, the 2019 Frightmare gets Tim Curry as its headliner guest, which means I have even more to accomplish over the next nine months than ever before. (For those unfamiliar with Tim Curry’s horticultural accomplishments, his hacienda garden in Los Angeles is world-famous, and he’s also a leading authority on agave cultivation and propagation, so I will NOT be caught flatfooted in 2019 if he decides to come by the Triffid Ranch booth to look around.) And this is just the first guest announcement after opening up ticket sales: the next nine months are going to be interesting.

In other developments, expect a much more enthusiastic schedule for the poor neglected newsletter, partly because of the ongoing Port-O-John fire that is Facebook. The other reason is that I’ve missed email newsletters, and I’ve missed the community that invariably sprouts up with them. Because of that, it’s time to do a proper relaunch, and that includes free surprises for randomly selected subscribers. Expect details within a few days, but trust me: it’ll be worth it.

Finally, for those in the Dallas area or those sympathetic to the area, it’s time to vote in the Dallas Observer Best of Dallas Awards. This isn’t a plea to enter the Triffid Ranch for any number of categories. I won an award last year, which was more of a surprise to me than anyone else, and that’s good enough. Instead, it’s a matter of letting everyone outside of Dallas know what we have going for us, and that the cliché of big hair and shopping malls is one we’re killing one inch at a time. Besides, the last five years drastically changed my view of the Observer: it’s not the smarmy entitlement farm that it was back at the turn of the century, and I bow to no one in my admiration for dining critic Beth Rankin‘s articles and essays. (As far as I’m concerned, the biggest and best example of the paper’s change was with her recent essay on why she wouldn’t and couldn’t take publicity freebies sent her by various restaurants for ethical reasons: those who remember the paper around 2000, especially with the film and music sections, can understand why this was such a big deal.) Now go vote.

Electronic Rubberbands and Other Extravagances

Back in the 1980s, a regular joke among political science majors was that every major advance in weapons technology was sold as a way to make us all safe from the previous advance, culminating with what the Texas comedian Bill Hicks referred to as “Musket repellent!” Mass media work much the same way, but sometimes they go a bit backwards, like a river in flood seeking a new path. The original evolutionary progression from cave paintings was supposed to run from print to Web site to blog to social media posting, all forgetting that the gatekeepers in charge of each new medium had control until they were either supplanted or bypassed. Every single time, they were supplanted and bypassed by what seemed like a fad or frippery until it was far too late to do anything, and many of those fads and fripperies were misidentified as backwards. From that decay grew new verdance, covering the wreckage of the institutions that assumed they would survive it all. Evening newspapers, video rental stores, CD-ROM magazines, GeoCities, MySpace: the vast majority of those wrecks are ones that could have kept going if they hadn’t either assumed that they could tell customers how information was to be consumed or didn’t think this made a difference. Every single time, it didn’t seem like a pushback so much as a gradual retreat: tsunamis generally aren’t big overwhelming waves but a sudden rise in the ocean, and by the time you notice the water on previously dry land rising up to your knees, you’re probably already dead without knowing it.

Right now, that’s the situation with social media: Facebook has done an excellent job at choking off or assimilating any competitors, but it was already a mess for businesses that couldn’t afford the incessant boosts necessary for their followers to know about new developments. Twitter is turning into a specialist’s dream and nightmare, where it’s possible to cross-pollinate with a thousand experts AND leave in disgust because of one Cat Piss Man with nothing better to do that day. As for small businesses such as the Triffid Ranch that just want to pass on new developments without being drowned by algorithms that assume your Uncle Malvert’s contrail ravings are more important to you, it’s already time to look for something new. Or, in our case, something retro.

There’s a lot to be said about E-mail newsletters: a full quarter-century after people stopped asking “what’s that weird thing under your phone number on your business card?”, they’ve become the postcard of electronica. They’re dependable, they’re viewable in just about any environment and on just about any device, and so long as it has actual content as opposed to incessant “BUY MY BOOK” salesflummery, they’re the only form of push media that people actually want. That’s why the Triffid Ranch is proud to announce the opportunity to go back to the Twentieth Century in the hope of riding out the inevitable Facebook crash, and possibly get in some entertainment as well.

So here’s the situation. Sign up for the new Triffid Ranch newsletter either via the link below or via the “Newsletter” page in the main site menu, and you’ll get at least four notices about upcoming developments per year. This includes upcoming Triffid Ranch events and gallery shows, news related to carnivorous plants, and other developments, and will NOT be an excuse for ads. The standard privacy notice applies: your E-mail address or personal information will not be given or sold to any third party under any circumstances without specific written permission. If you like what you read, feel free to pass it along to others. If you decide that you’re done, feel free to unsubscribe without any hard feelings. Any way you look at it, it certainly beats having to sidestep Uncle Malvert to find out what’s going on, doesn’t it?

Make with the clicky

(A quick notice: if you sign up and don’t receive a confirmation email, you didn’t do anything wrong. Between the number of individuals of dubious ethics signing up everyone in their contact lists without permission, and the number of individuals of equally dubious ethics getting mailing lists from elsewhere and spamming everyone in sight, a lack of response may be less due to any error with signup and more with mail servers that have reason to assume any MailChimp mailings are spam. If you don’t get a confirmation within 24 hours, try again, but after checking any spam or junk email folders for the lost wayward confirmation. It’ll be a little traumatized and shocked from being trapped with Bitcoin and Russian dating site spam for so long, but it’ll eventually recover and thank you for saving it from that electronic Lagerstatten. One day, it might return the favor.)