Human Flower Project
Friday, September 30, 2005
Turn Out the Lights, Toss Out the Flowers
A host of feng shui masters say flowers, especially dried ones, don’t belong in the bedroom.
Beware of this bed
If your sweetheart comes home with flowers, well, lucky you. Just don’t spoil things by putting your bouquet on the bedside table.
To our surprise, the Hindustan Times’ feng shui advisor told a reader yesterday: “It is true that flowers and plants are not considered good feng shui in bedroom….” Mohan Deep claims a “scientific basis” for this rule: “The plants and flowers emit carbon dioxide at night,” a compound the Chinese masters called “Sha” and equated with negative energy.
Feng shui, one of the oldest design traditions in the world, is said to promote harmony and prosperity by fitting our environments to their right purposes, easing the way. We would have guessed that beautiful, fragrant flowers would be conducive to loving and rest, but the masters say otherwise. “Add lots of indoor plants in the east, southeast and south areas of your home,” writes one. “But shy away from dried flowers. Especially in the bedroom, such floral arrangements wreak havoc on your love and sex life.”
Dried flowers causing havoc?
This site says that couples who “want children” must “avoid putting flowers in the bedroom. Instead, place a basket of fruits in your bedroom. Fruits, especially pomegranates, are a symbol of fertility.” Yet another site explains “fresh flowers clash with the element of romance, which is Earth.”
By now, you may be leery of even putting on your nightie, but there’s lots more, concerning the proper display of peony paintings, limitation on teddy bears, and location of clothes hamper.
We’ll be sleeping on the couch tonight.
Thursday, September 29, 2005
Niue: “Behold the Coconut”
We’re honored to welcome visitors from the Polynesian island of Niue.
Niue (pop. 2150)
The first time might have been a fluke, but we’ve received yet a second visit from Niue, a beautiful coral island of the South Pacific.
Niue means “Behold the Coconut,” (Captain Cook had a tin ear for the Niuean language and called it “Savage Island”) but we understand that locals (all 2150 of them) refer to their 250 sq. mile home more simply as “The Rock.”
“The agricultural sector consists mainly of subsistence gardening, although some cash crops are grown for export. Industry consists primarily of small factories to process passion fruit, lime oil, honey, and coconut cream. The sale of postage stamps to foreign collectors is an important source of revenue.” You can see why.
Niue, pronounced “new-ay,” is located northeast of Tonga and south of Samoa. It has been independent since 1974, or as one site put it, “self-governing in free association with New Zealand.” In January 2004, Cyclone Heta dashed the island, destroying the “nascent economic programs” there. Since then Niue has relied substantially on foreign aid.
The island’s remoteness, tough on its economy, of course won’t deter tourists, especially when there are whales to see and a friendly island culture. (This headgear for bridesmaids, popular also for the island’s beauty pageants, is especially glorious.)
Warm greetings to our new visitors from Polynesia. We hope to hear from you about the floral customs of Niue.
Wednesday, September 28, 2005
Puerto Ricans mourn the loss of a nationalist leader, killed by the U.S. FBI.
The casket of Filiberto Ojeda Rios passes through Naguabo, Puerto Rico, Sept. 27, 2005.
Photo: Brennan Linsley, for AP
Covered with flowers and a red machete, the coffin of Puerto Rico’s nationalist leader was carried through a village on the eastern edge of the island and buried yesterday.
Filberto Ojeda Rios was shot and killed Friday in Hormigueros by U.S. FBI agents, who allegedly had come to arrest him for a 1983 bank robbery in Connecticut. “The FBI statement did not specify who fired first, saying only ‘there was an exchange of gunfire’ that led to the fugitive’s death and the serious wounding of an FBI agent. FBI agents in Puerto Rico said Saturday that 72-year-old Ojeda Rios fired first. But his wife, Elma Beatriz Rosado Barbosa, who emerged unharmed from the shootout, said the FBI fired first.”
Emblem of Los Macheteros
Los Macheteros (“The Cane Cutters”), formally known as Boricua Popular Army, advocate Puerto Rican nationalism. Some consider them freedom fighters against U.S. oppression while others call them terrorists.
In his book Harvest of Empire, Juan Gonzalez described conditions in the 1930s: “The greed of the U.S. sugar plantations had created a social tinderbox. Wages for cane cutters, which had been 63 cents for a twelve-hour day in 1917, were down to 50 cents by 1932. Forty percent of the workforce was unemployed, yet company profits remained high. During the last six months of 1933 alone, eighty-five strikes and protests erupted, several of them directed against the colonial government.”
The FBI began silencing nationalists some thirty years later. “Starting in 1960s, the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation, as was common in Latin America, infiltrated Puerto Rico’s free press and political circles in order to monitor and disrupt efforts related to the independence movement.” Rios formed the Armed Revolutionary Independence Movement (MIRA) in 1967, the first of several nationalist groups which evolved into Los Macheteros in 1976, “to defend Puerto Rico’s legal process and political evolution from US Government intervention.”
Filiberto Ojeda Rios (1933-2005)
Ojeda Rios, a native of Naguabo, had lived in Cuba and New York. He took part in a 1983 bank heist in the U.S. and had been on the run ever since. But the FBI’s decision to confront him on September 23 proves the US feds intended something more than the apprehension of a criminal. September 23 is Grito de Lares (Cry of Lares), the day in 1863 that Puerto Rican nationalists revolted against Spanish rule. Nationalist sentiments flower each year on this day, and Los Macheteros, who have been fairly quiet in recent years, typically issue a statement at this time.
“Amnesty International called Tuesday for an independent inquiry into Ojeda Rios’ death, saying it’s unclear whether the Justice Department probe would be ‘full, impartial and independent.’
“Independence activists see Ojeda Rios as a martyr whose death will re-energize their splintered movement. A group of men took down the U.S. flag in front of the legislative building Tuesday and replaced it with the green banner of the Macheteros.”
Thanks to the flower-givers for bringing this latest episode in U.S. “world-policing” to our attention.
Tuesday, September 27, 2005
Konyaku—Devil and Angel
From the tuber of a garish plant, native to Vietnam, comes a healthy wonder ingredient of Asian cuisine.
A patch of Voodoo lilies
Photo: University of Connecticut
Amorphophallus konjac goes by several unflattering names in English (Devil’s tongue, Voodoo lily). It puts on quite a bloom-spectacle, with a stalk 2-3 feet high and a flower so hideously stinky it can draw a crowd better than Metallica; Voodoo lily fans just happen to be insects.
Correspondent Tracy Tanji clued us in today that in Japan, the angelic properties of Devil’s tongue are well known and, in fact, savored. “We use this plant for ‘Konyaku,’ for dishes,” and to good effect, Tracy writes.
The University of Connecticut reports that “cone-yuk” (as it’s pronounced in Japan) is used as a thickener for soups and stews, and as the base ingredient for noodles. “The main substance in konjac is called Glucomannan which has a low caloric content but is rich in dietary fiber. Clinical study indicates Glucomannan may be responsible for weight reduction and reducing cholesterol in those who have high cholesterol. It is eaten in Japan to clean the digestive tract of toxins.”
from the tuber of Devil’s tongue
As you’d imagine there are quite a number of firms selling konyaku supplements and extolling its many benefits. We don’t vouch for these claims or products—or necessarily plan to use them ourselves—but find them of interest as human flower projects.
For those who’d rather grow than swallow, here’s a bold gardener with experience raising Devil’s tongue. S/he writes, “I had planned to allow it to continue blooming in the house. After all, just how powerful could the legendary stench be. Today, March 15, I was working near the tuber and still there was no odor. At noon there was a mild odor and I figured I could tolerate this. I laughed at all the fussy folks who grumble about the odor.
“By 3 o’clock in the afternoon, my eyes were tearing. I wondered if it was really the plant or if a dead horse had been dug up in my yard. After two hours of using an industrial exhaust fan, the odor lingers. Tonight the inflorescence is spending the night in the garage.”
Some readers with cholesterol problems might like to give the angelic devil’s tongue a try: here is a site with several recipes. Tracy, and others who’ve cooked with this knockout plant, we especially welcome your suggestions for how to use konyaku in the kitchen.
To begin, we’ve never met a spring-roll we didn’t lilke. So here’s a how-to for harumaki-konyaku spring roll…