Friday, August 27, 2010

A mell of a hess

Ah yes, the August garden of a May and June gardener; worse, the late August garden of a May and June gardener. I am one of those people who looks forward eagerly to every tiny sprig of green in March and April, delights in the first woodland and garden perennials of May, enjoys June while tut-tutting at the vanished colors already, and then gets kind of bored by mid-July. I also have a ridiculous habit, extremely amateurish, of not weeding very much. Have you ever read garden blogs whose authors peek over their amateur neighbors' fences, look at something gone wild, and ask, "why would you let anything get like that?"

I'm the neighbor. I hate to pull up a green growing thing, even if it is smothering other things I wanted and paid money for. I reason that if the thing can grow there, it must belong there. It's found its niche. My sister in law, the master gardener, says, if "it" -- whatever you are looking at in puzzlement -- reaches waist height and you're not getting anything from it (no flowers), get rid of it. Sensible advice, which I vow I'll follow next year. Just as, every year in about April, I vow to myself: a better garden this year. I've got plenty of time.

But here we are at the end of August. Someone really ought to see to these castor bean plants, being twined about by morning glory. But at least morning glories flower -- I get something from them, reliably.   

And one really ought not to let one's coleus flower. The plant would have been fuller without it. I didn't even realize it was happening.

Perennial red fountain grass, Pennisetum alopecuroides 'Red Head #1.' This may be exactly what I need: the permanently unmowable, no-fuss lawn. 

Of all things, the philodendron, future houseplant and in fact my favorite kind of houseplant (so wild looking!) looks promising.

In the background below are gigantic goldenrod, from my sister-in-law's own garden as it happens, which seem not to be getting enough sun. How they stoop and strain for more! But if and when they flower, they'll be beautiful massed yellow. And native, too.

I never can understand why woods and meadows always look good, while letting one's garden run riot never seems to replicate nature's effortless beauty. Perhaps this entire hobby is just not my forte. Perhaps at the very least I've never fully realized that my yard lies in almost perpetual shade, and that this has an effect on what will thrive.

It's a good thing the internet is full of gardens we may virtually visit, gardens whose masters don't make such a hash of it. Do go and see, just for a start:

India Garden (spectacular butterflies)
The Green Garden Gate (from Denmark; flowers are the same in any language)
Garden History Girl
Dragon Fly Garden (from Miami)
Japanese Garden

And doff your garden hat in the profoundest admiration.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

It's happened

It's happened. I've looked and looked again, checked and double-checked. I've waited a day, a week, and checked again.

Remember the "Woo-hoo demographic"? Remember my unscientific monitoring of the mommy-bloggers who all loved and voted for Barack Obama, and kept his blue and red Hope badge on their sidebars forever? Do you remember my worry at the way they utterly ignored him after the twin joys of election day and inauguration day, my fear that they constituted a huge demographic able to put him back in office in 2012 no matter what, precisely because they loved the hope and the excitement and novelty, loved the idea of a better future, loved Michelle and the girls and didn't care about anything he actually did? ("Thank God it's over. I'm BORED. I need a new toaster.") I said that I waited and watched, looking for some sign that even they might at least be paying attention to his behavior, his words. Something. This was back when his returning of the Churchill bust was still a bit of a shocker, at least for those of us outside the woo-hoo demographic. What kind of ill-bred infant needs to make a gesture like that? And so much more to come.

I waited for one mom blogger in particular to take his badge down from her site. Of all of them, I followed her most, and saw her as probably among the truest-to-type of that happy, energetic, good-souled troop of people. I thought, when the day comes that she takes the Hope badge down, it may indicate that the Great God has lost someone significant, or lost people like her in significant numbers. Perhaps both. 

She's taken it down. Perhaps she just got bored with her sidebar after roughly two years, and it's silly and meaningless of me to plumb depths there. But it's happened. It was the change I was waiting for. Boo-yah.

Hello, mom bloggers! Someone? Anyone? (March 2009)

Friday, August 20, 2010

Hey, Jude! Yesterday, Eleanor Rigby and Lucy left home on Penny Lane, and went to Strawberry Fields with the fool on the hill while fixing a hole on the long and winding road with a little help from their friends

Or, what gets engraved in your brain while listening to the Muzak piped into a grocery store every day. Lord have mercy, how I do loathe the Beatles. And who decided that only their most depressing songs are slow enough to please the morning shoppers, who tend to be elderly and (I suppose) in need of nice slow music to keep them maundering along the aisles and absently filling their carts with more stuff? Who, I ask?

Someday I want to own a grocery store where we pipe in Saint-Saens' Bacchanale the moment the doors open at 7:00 a.m. I don't know what other music, but certainly that.   

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The single greatest movie scene, ever

All right, perhaps it's not the absolute greatest. Professional movie connoisseurs will gasp in derision and point to the Odessa steps scene in Battleship Potemkin, or the chariot race in Ben Hur, or anything from Citizen Kane, or the burning of Atlanta or who knows what else.

But I pick this one, so we'll just call it my favorite movie scene, ever. It's from Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds. Tippi Hedren, as the impossibly blond and rather too smirky Melanie Daniels, climbs into a little rowboat fitted with an outboard motor and chugs across Bodega Bay to drop off, all in secret, a cage of lovebirds at Mitch Brenner (Rod Taylor)'s house. She is dressed in her best traveling-to-the-boondocks-from-San-Francisco clothes: pencil skirt suit, hose, high heeled pumps, scarf, fur coat -- three quarter length, mind you -- bag, and gloves. And of course she must carry the ultimate whimsical accessory, the birdcage.

The scene begins when she writes, left-handedly, "To Cathy" on the envelope that she will drop off along with the birdcage. (The birds are a putative gift for his little sister.) She pops the envelope into her handbag, jumps into her adorable roadster, and roars down from Bodega Bay proper to the pier where her hired skiff is waiting. She climbs down the rickety ladder tacked to the dock, heels, skirt, fur, bag, scarf, gloves, and all, and steps in. It rocks alarmingly. The man in charge of the thing helps with the cage, gets in too, starts the motor for her, then climbs out. She is on her own.

Off she putts across the bay, a well dressed little figure who would drown in a moment if the slightest mishap should occur on the water. ("Can you -- handle an outboard motor?" the nice man asks at the general store before he reserves this conveyance for her. "Of course," she says.)

When she gets close to "the Brenner dock" she cuts the motor and paddles her way in. What I like about the rest of the scene is the way Tippi Hedren has been trained to look proficient at handling the boat. Who knows, maybe she knew how anyway. She does things in all the right order, things that I certainly wouldn't know how to do. You see, you pull up to the dock, lay the paddle on the floor of the boat, and loop a rope from the boat around a post on the pier first; then you step out to the pier. In heels, skirt, hose, gloves, bag, scarf, and three-quarter length fur. Plus birdcage.

She trips along smilingly up the pier, across the muddy yard, and into the empty house. Mitch is in the barn, and so as she delivers her surprise and the explanatory envelope and then leaves the way she came, all is suspense and tiptoeing and a dozen looks over the shoulder, as the camera's eye -- her own -- pans farther and farther away from the terrifying but exciting open barn doors. Then, it's back to the skiff, and all the correct actions in reverse. You step in, pick up the paddle, steady yourself on nothing but your own strong legs and those stiletto heels, and use the paddle to push and turn the boat's nose out toward open water. The actress is willing herself to stay upright and yet look natural and excited about her practical joke -- which helps make the scene natural, in its way. Lastly she sits down, pulls the securing rope off the big wooden post, and heads out. I'd be the landlubber type who would frantically try to push off with the rope still stupidly looped to the pier, or before that, the type to try to emerge from the boat without tying it up first.

And all in that skirt, hose, heels, bag, gloves, scarf, and gorgeous but not too ostentatious and wintry fur. The greatest movie scene, ever. It was 1963. Don't tell me feminism came after this, and made things better. This woman could outclass just about anybody, thank you so much. 

Image from

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Summer grays

Saturday, August 7, 2010

For ye be villeins (another California decision)

It's the illogic of it that ought to stand out, even for those of us who have been cajoled into supporting the right of homosexuals to "marry," mostly because we want to be good-natured, and because for fifty years our civilization has accepted that no discourse can possibly be more exalted than civil rights. The illogic of the judge's decision consists in this, that at some point, gay marriage activists will have to slam the door behind them, on all the other people who will want this right too. If marriage can be expanded to include same-sex partners, a thing no human society has ever dreamed of any more than it has ever dreamed of legislating that cats shall be dogs or day shall be night, then there is no logic in closing off "marriage" to anyone. Brother and sister, adult and child, more than two partners -- who shall say any joining is incorrect? Today's activists will have to either return to the notion of human taboo in order to shut the gates, hardly a sophisticated argument (albeit enough to have trumped them), or follow through in their moral posturing, open the gates fully, and announce that all sexual behavior is good and laudable.

The first alternative would prove them self-serving hypocrites and the second, collective sociopaths. They won't want to accept either alternative. They like the here and now, and their celebration here and now proves that the point of the gay marriage drive has always been to assault common people's beliefs, and morality itself, for the sake of assault.

I don't know what the upshot will be. If I were a fiction writer I would notice the current trend of young men and women living together without marriage, and put into my books something about youth no longer sullying itself with a polluted institution. Or I'd think about a futuristic tax revolt -- about some enterprising software engineer starting work, this very moment, on a computer program that would enable retail stores to bypass the automatic collecting of state sales taxes, for example. Cheaper goods would mean a satisfied and surging customer base, that is, until the authorities noticed and came with their handcuffs and their jail sentences. Then there might be the plot line of the mass of ordinary citizens simply choosing not to file. Why willingly pay the salaries of our oppressors?

Would a fiction writer think also of sketching in some details about violence -- revolutionary violence? Is there any logical precedent, would it feel emotionally right and in keeping with characters, motivations, etc.? What if army units abroad should begin to decide that events at home, at the highest levels of leadership, are totally unacceptable?

I suppose for the maker of fiction it all depends on fictional characters and fictional motivations. The Jacquerie rose, you know, and lots of other peasants at other times and places. And who was it who made an agreement with them and then broke it, sneering, "for ye be villeins, and villeins ye shall remain"? "Whether you like it or not" is the modern translation. It was some king, I think. 

Liberty and Tyranny by Mark Levin

The Vision of the Anointed: Self-Congratulation as a Basis for Social Policy by Thomas Sowell